Ancient Rome: Religio's Improper Religion

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During the time of the Roman Empire, Romans were polytheistic, meaning that they believed in multiple gods; they had a god to serve each aspect of their life. The Roman identity was constructed through proper and improper religious activity through certain groups. There had always been distinctions between the main religion in the Roman Empire as well as small cults who did not follow along (Beard, 214-215). However, in the Roman Empire religious rights were contingent on political rights; religion was not separate from politics during this time. Consequently, Romans defined themselves, especially men, based on their religious views. The Romans thought Christianity was a superstitio because it was an improper behavior that deviated from…show more content…
However, the Romans described the way that day-to-day life should be run by using the terms “religio” and “superstitio”. Religio was a regular aspect of self-description for Romans since it means the worship of the true god. Romans prided themselves in worshipping to the socially correct gods, so much so that they would describe themselves in terms of religio. Religio, as well as superstitio were different ways of discussing different forms of human relations with the gods. Religio also refers to the traditional honors paid to the gods by the state, for example, the observation of the games and earning the favor of the gods. “Our state has always considered the religio takes precedence over everything else..” (Beard, 216). Emperors were described based on their use of religio; good emperors had “outstanding care and religio towards public rituals”, bad ones were described as those who ignored the gods (Beard,…show more content…
Superstitio was not a false religion, but a powerful practice that could threaten the stability of the Roman Empire since its roots were deeply held in religion. The symbol of Christianity, the cross, was not adopted until late due to its negative connotation. Christianity was a small underground movement for two hundred years because of the legal system; it was illegal to be a Christian. Since Christians could not have their own churches, they had ekklesias, which were a gathering of people creating a sacred space for Christianity during this time. The earliest Christian communities didn’t have public buildings, so there services were held in meeting places usually in houses of ordinary Christians. These meeting places could include but are not limited to warehouses, shops, or out in the countryside where they remained secretive (Class Notes). By Christians having to hide their religion and not fully embrace it was another step in showing that Christianity was a superstitio. Instead of making religion an everyday part of life, Christians had to hide their religion, almost like a “closet religion”. The Romans would see this as a superstitio because Christians are straying far off the path of the common religion. Consequently, since the Romans would rather classify improperness by individuals instead of groups, they would not have recognized this Christina

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