It accepted the gods of all the nations that composed the empire, and placed them in the Pantheon, even Mithra, the Persian sun-god, and the Isis and Osiris of the Egyptians, to whom sacrifices were made by those who worshipped them at home. The Roman religion was more practical and less poetical than the Greek religion. Every Roman god had something to do, some useful office to perform. Several divinities presided over the birth and nursing of an infant, and they were worshipped accordingly, for the benefits which they were supposed to bestow. There was an elaborate "division of labor" among them. A divinity presided over bakers, another over ovens. Every vocation and every household transaction had its presiding Roman gods and goddesses.
Differences between Greek and Roman Religion - The Roman Pontiffs and Auspices
The Romans established a college of pontiffs (religious leaders) to regulate worship and perform the higher ceremonies, which were complicated and minute. The pontiffs were presided over by one called Pontifex Maximus, a title shrewdly assumed by Julius Caesar to gain control of the popular worship. There were more superstitious rites practised by the Romans than by the Greeks, such as examining the entrails of beasts and birds for good or bad omens. There were augurs and haruspices to discover the will of the gods, according to entrails and the flight of birds. The ceremony and function of the Augur and the Auguries was extremely important to the Romans and the powerful augurs would be consulted prior to any major undertaking in Roman society, both public and private, including matters relating to war, commerce, and religion. Great attention was given to dreams and rites of divination.
Roman Household Gods - Penates and Lares
The Roman household gods were of great account, since there was a more defined and general worship of ancestors than among the Greeks. These were the Penates, or familiar household gods, the guardians of the home, whose fire on the sacred hearth was perpetually burning, and to whom every meal was esteemed a sacrifice. These included a Lar, or ancestral family divinity, in each house. There were Vestal virgins to guard the most sacred places.
Greek and Roman Religion - More Roman Festivals
The festivals were more numerous in Rome than in Greece, and perhaps were more piously observed. About one day in four was set apart for the worship of particular gods, celebrated by feasts and games and sacrifices. The principal feast days were in honor of Janus, the great god of the Sabines, the god of beginnings, celebrated on the first of January, to which month he gave his name. There were also the Roman feasts in honor of the Penates, of Mars, of Vesta, of Minerva, of Venus, of Ceres, of Juno, of Jupiter, and of Saturn. The Saturnalia, December 19, in honor of Saturn, the annual Thanksgiving, lasted seven days, when the rich kept open house and slaves had their liberty. The feast of Minerva lasted five days, when offerings were made by all mechanics, artists, and scholars. The feast of Cybele, similar to that of Ceres in Greece and Isis in Egypt, lasted six days. These various feasts imposed great contributions on the Roman people, and were managed by the pontiffs with the most minute observances and legalities.
Greek and Roman Religion - Names of Greek and Roman Gods
Greeks and Romans alike were willing to receive from other nations the legends regarding their gods, and to incorporate them as well as they could with their own. Therefore in the mythology of the Romans we frequently find a Latin and a Greek name for one imagined divinity. In this way Zeus, of the Greeks, becomes in Latin with the addition of the word pater (a father), Jupiter Kronos of the Greeks appears as "Vulcanus" of the Latins, "Ares" of the Greeks is "Mars" of the Latins, "Poseidon" of the Greeks is "Neptunus" of the Latins, "Aphrodite" of the Greeks is "Venus" of the Latins.The Romans found in Greek literature a god of fire and smithery, they transferred his name "Hephaistos" to their own old god "Vulcanus," who had the same duties.