Religion in the Roman Empire


Like the ancient Greeks, the Romans worshipped many gods. The most important was Jupiter. Like Zeus, he was the king of gods and the god of thunder. Almost every Roman city had temples to worship the gods. Sometimes emperors were made gods. It helped to make people more loyal to them.

Romans wanted to have a good relationship with their gods, who they believed had magical power. Gods were responsible for the growth of good crops and a good harvest; they watched over the family and brought favorable weather. People made sacrifices to gods and in return they hoped for their blessing. When the Romans conquered other territories they worshipped local gods of that area.

Important Roman gods and goddesses

  • Jupiter – god of the sky
  • Juno – Jupiter’s wife; she looked after women
  • Saturn – father of Jupiter
  • Neptune – Jupiter’s brother , god of the sea
  • Minerva – goddess of wisdom and knowledge
  • Mars – god of war
  • Venus – goddess of love


In ancient Rome, there was a strong connection between religion and government. Priests were officials elected by the government. Pontiffs were high religious officials who oversaw festivals and laid down the rules for worship .The highest priest was the pontifex maximus. In times of the empire the emperor automatically held this position.

Astrology and the ability to foresee future events were important in Roman religion. It was necessary to find out what the gods wanted and how people could please them.

During the last centuries of the Roman Empire many people turned to Christianity. The Roman government considered this to be a threat to their religion and persecuted Christians for a long time. By 300 A.D. Christianity became the main religion of the empire. Emperor Constantine became the first ruler to convert to Christianity.

Life expectancy in ancient Rome was not very high. People started to worry about death from an early age on. Romans believed that after a person died their spirit would descend to the underworld.




The Roman Empire - Table of Contents


The Roman Empire - Exercises





  • ability = skill, talent
  • ancient = old
  • astrology = the study of how the positions of the stars may affect the lives of people and how they behave
  • blessing = when god protect or helps you
  • century = a hundred years
  • conquer = to move into a country with an army and stay there for a longer time
  • consider = think
  • convert = change your religion
  • crops = a plant, like rice or wheat, that farmers grow and use as food
  • descend = go down
  • emperor = a person who rules over many countries and lands
  • favorable = good
  • foresee = to see what will happen
  • harvest = when crops are brought in from the fields
  • life expectancy = the number of years an average person is expected to live
  • local = here: the gods of a certain area
  • loyal = faithful, trustworthy
  • necessary = important
  • official = person in a high position
  • oversee = control
  • persecute = to treat someone badly, or maybe even kill them, because of their religion
  • please = make them happy
  • responsible = the reason for
  • sacrifice = to offer an animal or a person to a god
  • spirit = soul
  • threat = danger
  • thunder = the noise that you hear during a storm; it occurs together with lightning
  • wisdom = being very wise and intelligent because you have had more experience in life
  • worship = pray to; say words to