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Roman Characteristics

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The Romans were a more disciplined, less imaginative people. They more highly valued feats of engineering than verbal images created by the poet. They built and, more amazingly, maintained a vast empire for centuries. They valued war and the warrior much more than the Greeks did. They were also great borrowers from other cultures; not only from Greece. At times, in Rome, Egyptian religions had huge followings. The Romans hoped for a better life in the next world. A variety of mystery religions (of which Christianity was only one) promised this for the common man. For the powerful, becoming a god was an option; one which many emperors took. Many religions actually coexisted, incorporating the traditional worship of the household gods. The state religion which helped hold the empire together, the many mystery religions promising life after death, and a plethora of foreign imports.

Traditional Roman religion was practical, if unimaginative. It was tightly woven into everyday life, so that normal activities were connected with their "worship". Gods looked after most important tasks, plowing fields, cutting wood, maintaining hearth fires, and so forth. They had little personality, often not even a sex was determined. There are few written mentions of these gods and no literary tradition. It is not surprising that the colourful Greek Myths won the imagination of the educated elite.

The Romans adopted the Greek Myths pretty much in their entirety, changing many Greek names to those of pre-existing Roman deities, which continues to cause confusion. The relative importance of a god might shift considerably. The best example is that of the god of war. For the Greeks, Ares was not very bright and a bit on the coarse side. In the most famous Greek myth about him, he is caught in an act of adultery and soundly embarrassed by a cripple; no less. Rather undignified for a god! The Romans transformed him to the mighty god Mars, a prestigious figure.

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