• What kind of gods did Romans worship?

    At first, Romans believed in many different gods and goddesses. These gods were like people, but with magical powers. The Roman gods were part of a family. People told stories or myths about them. Each god or goddess looked after different people or things.

    These are a few of the old Roman gods:

    Saturn: once king of the gods, his place was taken by his son (Jupiter). Saturn was the god of seed-sowing. A merry Roman holiday or festival, the Saturnalia, was named after him.
    Jupiter: god of the sky, he was the most important god.
    Juno: Jupiter's wife, she looked after women.
    Neptune: Jupiter's brother, he was the god of the sea.
    Minerva: goddess of wisdom and women's work, such as weaving cloth.
    Mars: god of war, though originally god of farming.
    Venus: goddess of love, she was the lover of Mars.

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  • Why did the Romans borrow new gods?

    The Romans often borrowed new gods from people they conquered. They hoped these new gods would make them stronger. They borrowed gods from Egypt, for example, such as the goddess Isis. Roman soldiers worshipped Mithras, a god from Iran. A soldier going on a journey might ask Mercury (god of travel) for help, as well as Mithras the soldiers' god and he might also make a sacrifice to Neptune (the sea god) if he had to travel by ship!

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  • What went on a Roman temple?

    People worshipped the gods in special buildings called temples. Inside the temple was a statue of a god. Priests looked after the temple. People went there to make sacrifices or offerings of food, flowers or money. Sometimes the priest killed an animal, such as a bull, as part of the sacrifice ceremony. Some Emperors said they were gods too, so everyone had to make a sacrifice to the Emperor.

    Romans also had gods at home. They believed in household spirits that protected the family. They had miniature temples, or shrines, in their homes. The family would make offerings of food and drink to the household gods, and pray for good luck and protection.

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  • Did Romans believe in life after death?

    The Romans believed that a person's spirit went to the underworld after the person died. To get there, the dead needed to cross the River Styx. The dead person's family would leave a coin on the dead body, to pay the ferryman, whose name was Charon.

    Some of these old beliefs changed when Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD. Before then, Christians got into trouble because they refused to worship the emperor as a god. Some Christians were arrested and put to death.

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Fun Facts
  • During the Saturnalia holiday, rich Romans were supposed to wait on their slaves.

  • Janus, the Roman god of doorways, had two faces! One faced forwards, the other backwards. The month January is named after Janus.

  • Neptune, the sea god, had a son called Triton who was half-man, half-fish.

  • Where did the Romans put a coin so a dead person wouldn't lose it on the way to the underworld? In their mouth, of course!

  • The Romans believed people called soothsayers or augurs could tell what the gods wanted and foretell the future by cutting open dead animals and looking at the insides.

  • Romans believed every boy and girl had a guardian-spirit to watch over them.

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Jump to: A-D | E-G | H-L | M-O | P-Z

A to D

Acropolis [a-CROP-olis]
The Acropolis is a large hill in the centre of Athens. On top of it were many temples and other buildings, the remains of which can be seen today.
A place like a stadium, where Romans went to watch animals and people fighting.
A system of pipes and channels used to bring water into towns.
archaeological site
A place such as a ruined fort studied by archaeologists.
People who study the past by looking at old things, often found underground.
Studying the past by looking at old things, often found underground.
Aristophanes [aris-TOF-a-neez]
Lived in Athens in the 5th century BC. He wrote comedies for the theatre in Athens.
Aspasia [as-PAY-zia]
Was a woman to taught public speaking in Athens. She was the partner of the famous general Perikles. Aspasia had much more independence than most women in Athens.
A person who lived outside the Roman Empire, seen by Romans as violent and uncivilized.
A large building where town business was carried out (like a modern Town Hall).
The Assembly was the public meeting of the giovernment of the city. All citizens could take part and vote there.
The patron goddess of Athens. A huge statue of Athena stood outside the Parthenon.
Attica [A-tik-a]
The region around Athens.
aulos [OW-los]
A wind instrument with a reed similar to a modern oboe.
capital city
Main city of a country, the centre of government.
A machine that threw rocks or burning tar at the enemies. In Latin it was called an onager.
Soldiers who fight on horseback.
Cart with two wheels pulled by horses. Romans raced chariots, and Celtic warriors rode into battle on them.
People who lived in Europe, including Britain, and who fought the Romans.
An officer commanding about 80 legionaries.
Person with special rights such as the right to vote and own property in the Roman Empire. Only men could be full Roman citizens.
There were ten cohorts in a legion.
Weapon like a bow and arrow, only the string is pulled back by turning a handle and the bow is fired by releasing a trigger. In Latin it was called a ballista
The priests of the old Celtic religion.

E to G

Process where people vote to choose the people they want to be in charge.
A large area with many people ruled by one strong leader, called an emperor.
An open space in the middle of a town for markets and meeting people (like a market square). It was the centre of Roman town life.
A building with walls to keep out enemies, used by soldiers.
Firm base for a road or building.
leader of an army, the soldier giving the orders to everyone else.
A person trained to fight other gladiators or animals in amphitheatres.
The ruler of Roman Britain, who worked for the Roman Emperor.

H to L

Roman central heating. Hot air from a furnace (fire) flowed through gaps between walls and flooring
The language spoken and written by the Romans
The officer commanding a whole legion.
The main battle unit of the Roman army, its soldiers were called legionaries. There were between 4,000 and 6,000 legionaries in a legion.
A story made up about people in the past

M to O

A pattern made from coloured pieces of stones and pottery.
A made-up story, often about gods and spirits, told to explain things such as why the sun rises and sets every day.

P to Z

Money paid to a retired worker or soldier.
people who lived in Scotland
A country without a king, queen or emperor. The Roman republic was ruled by the elected Senate. Most countries today are republics.
Something that is believed to be holy and to have a special connection with a god or gods.
Roman book, written on a long strip of paper rolled around a stick.
The Roman government, made up of senators.
A person elected to the Roman Senate who helped run the government. Some countries today, like the U.S.A., have senators.
Dirty water and toilet waste which flows into sewers from drains and toilets.
Pipes or tunnels that carry away sewage.
Someone who can be sold to another person to work for nothing. A slave is not free and has no rights.
Weapon for throwing stones, made from a long strip of leather and whirled around by the thrower.
Roman army emblem, a pole with special decorations (such as a metal eagle) carried by a soldier. Each legion had its own standards.
the metal holder for a rider's foot. Attached to a horse's saddle by a leather strap.
A metal object used in Roman baths to scrape sweat, dirt and excess oil off.
A metal pen for scratching words into soft wax on wooden tablets.
Money or items taken by the government from people, to pay for things like the army, wars, emperor's palaces and building roads.
Thatched roofs
Roofs of buildings made from bundles of straw or reeds.
Machine like a big wheel inside which slaves walked round, to turn the machine.
A group of people who live in one part of a country and are ruled by a chief.
A teacher who gives lessons to a student at home.
A gloomy place where Romans believed your soul went after you died.
A large house in the country. Some Roman villas were farmhouses and some were like palaces.
A trained soldier, someone used to fighting in wars.
A ring or crown made of leaves or flowers.