Roman Places of Worship
Roman Temples - Gods and Goddesses
The Romans built temples to worship their Gods and Goddesses. Romans had hundreds of different gods, for all occasions. A group of twelve of the main gods and goddesses called the Dii Consentes were worshipped at the temples. The names of the main gods and goddesses were Jupiter, Juno, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Minerva, Vesta, Ceres, Diana, Volcan, and Apollo. Other important Gods and Goddesses honoured at the temples of the Romans included Janus, Saturnus, Flora, Pomona, Portunus, Fontanus, Bacchus, Cupid, and Pluto.
Prayers at Roman Temples
Prayers were offered to the relevant deities. In matters of love the Romans would pray in the temples to Venus. Roman Soldiers would pray to Mars the God of War and so on. Some temples were even dedicated to the Emperors who had been proclaimed as gods. Many Roman Temples were commissioned by Roman Generals to thank the Gods for the generals' victories. The majority of Roman Temples were dedicated to specific gods and goddesses.
Facts and Features of Roman Temples
Facts and Features of Roman Temples. Temples were large, ornate and numerous. Roman temples featured some, or all, of the following:
The temples were located in important positions such as at one side of the forum or alongside one of the major roads
Roman Temples had a gabled roofs
Temples had a deep porch called a portico with high columns
A frontal staircase giving access to a high platform was called a podium
The distance between columns of rectangular were proportional to the diameter of the column (Roman Columns)
New materials were used in the construction of Roman Temples such as concrete with brick and stone facing and marble veneers
Walls were painted in Fresco - the frieze often depicted Roman life
Sculptures of Gods and Goddesses were used as decoration in the form of free standing statues
Treasures were sometimes kept in the underground chambers of the temples
Some Roman temples were round, notably some of the Temples dedicated to Vesta
Sacrifices at Roman Temples
In Ancient Rome a fundamental basis of the religion was the belief that if the Gods and Goddesses were happy then they would receive good fortune. It was therefore important to worship the Roman deities on both a daily basis and by special pilgrimages. Sacrificial offerings were made to the gods. The types of sacrifices were very specific. The sex of the animal had to correspond to the sex of the god or goddess to whom it was offered. White animals were sacrificed to the gods of the upper world whereas black animals to the underworld. Outside the Roman temples various traders sold small birds and animals for the Romans to offer.
Famous Roman Temples
The ruins of many famous temples can be seen in Rome today. These include the following:
- The round temple of Vesta dates to the time of Numa Pompilus
- Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum
- Temple of Saturn
- Temple of Vespasian
- The Temple of Julius Caesar
The ruins of many ancient temples can be found in the countries that were conquered by the Romans. In London St. Pauls Cathedral was built on the site which once housed a Roman Temple which was dedicated to the Roman goddess Diana. Another temple, dedicated to the God Apollo, once stood at Westminster and in 1954 the Roman Temple of Mithras was discovered in London, the remains or ruins of which can be viewed at Bucklesbury House in Victoria Street. The re-constructed Roman temple is now on an elevated platform some six feet above street level.
The Decline of the Roman Temples and Gods
In 312AD the emperor Constantine the Great believed he had received a sign from the God of the Christians in a dream on the night before an important battle. The battle was won and the Emperor Constantine showed his gratitude by converting to Christianity. Eventually the whole of the Empire followed the lead of their emperor and the great Roman Temples and their gods and goddesses began their decline.