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Roman Religion - 10 credits (HS3331)

Staff: Guy Bradley

Roman religious rituals appear utterly traditional, yet were in fact subject to constant change and development, to influence from the Greek world, and to control by the state. The module studies religion in Rome and Italy from the regal period to the death of Augustus. Principal topics of study include the main features of religious beliefs and practices as they originated and as they developed during the period when Rome became a major world power, how Rome reacted to contacts with other religious systems.

Optional for: all Ancient History degrees
Availability: spring semester in alternate years
Teaching: 10 lectures and 2 seminars
Assessment: one essay (50%) and one 1-hour examination (50%)

Syllabus content

  • the social anthropology of religious belief
  • the fundamentals of Roman religion
  • Indo-European elements in Roman religion
  • religion at the time of the monarchy
  • the pre-Roman religions of Italy
  • the influence of Greek beliefs and practice
  • domestic and rural cults within Italy
  • the supposed 'decline' of Roman religion in the late Republican period
  • the changes to Roman religion under Augustus.


To promote understanding of the main features of Roman religious beliefs from its origins to the death of Augustus and the way in which those beliefs originated and developed.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, the student will demonstrate:

  • a knowledge of the evidence for the main structures and practices of Roman religion and an ability to use this evidence to understand elements of Roman beliefs.
  • an appreciation of the religious mentality of the Romans and how this developed in parallel with the growth of Rome's power and reaction to contact with other systems of cult practice and belief in the Republic and Early Empire.
  • an awareness of the modern historical debates on this subject.
  • an ability to discuss these issues in written work with coherent and logical arguments, clearly and correctly expressed.

Preliminary reading

C. Ando (ed.), Roman Religion (2003)
M. Beard & M. Crawford, Rome in the Late Republic (1985), chapter 3
M. Beard, J. North & S. Price, Religions of Rome, vols 1–2 (1998)
K. Dowden, Religion and the Romans (1982)
J. North, Roman Religion (2000)
R. M. Ogilvie, The Romans and their Gods (1969)
J. B. Rives, Religion in the Roman Empire (2007)
H. H. Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (1981)
J. Scheid, An Introduction to Roman Religion (2003)
R. Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome. Religion in Everyday Life from Archaic to Imperial Times (2000)

Related modules

Prerequisite modules: HS2102 Archaeology of the Greek and Roman World or HS3102 Introduction to Roman History

Other modules to consider taking in conjunction with this one:

HS3330 Gods and the Polis

HS4358 Life in Ancient Rome