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Religious beliefs of the Romans from ancient times until official acceptance of Christianity in the 4th century AD. The Romans believed that everything was subordinate to the rule of the gods, and the object of their religion was to secure divine cooperation and benevolence. Prayer and sacrifice were used to propitiate the gods and were often carried out at temples dedicated to particular divinities and presided over by priests (seeflamen). The chief Roman priest, head of the state religion, was known as the pontifex maximus; notable among the other groups of priests were the augurs, who practiced divination to determine whether the gods approved of an action. The earliest Roman gods were the sky god Jupiter, the war god Mars, and Quirinus; other important early gods were Janus and Vesta. Many other deities were borrowed from Greek religion or associated with Greek gods, and the stories woven into Roman mythology were often taken directly from Greek mythology. Domestic shrines were devoted to divine ancestors or protectors, the Lares and Penates. Dead Roman emperors were also raised to the status of divinities and were regarded with veneration and gratitude.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Roman religion, visit Britannica.com.
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