Paganism in Ancient Rome
by Tom Roswell
IN THIS video I look at some pagan temples and statues and mosaics of pagan gods to get an idea of what pagan practice was actually like in Ancient Rome. I visit the Pantheon in Rome and several temples in the Roman town of Herculaneum. The video ends with a visit to the Mithraeum beneath The Basilica of Saint Clement.
* * *
Declaratio Religionis Romanae
(The Declaration of Roman Religion; by a modern Classical pagan group)
In the course of spiritual practice, it is necessary for persons aspiring to common ideals to form a clear foundation for their religion. It is also proper that they should declare their religious tenets to the world for consideration and remembrance.
We hold the ideals expressed herein to be basic and integral to our faith, that Roman Pagans may be united both in act and spirit. Pagan religion provides a spiritual heritage which embodies the basic nature of Western Civilization. It is both a historical faith and a living faith, which preserves the spiritual past even as it progresses into the future. Here we establish the structure and basic nature of Roman Pagan Religion so that it may be preserved, while allowing for future growth and freedom of individual expression.
We hold that a Roman Pagan may be defined as a person who actively performs rites, rituals, and/or prayers to any or all of the gods and goddesses of ancient Pagan Rome as the majority of their spiritual involvement. We acknowledge also that individuals may at times work with Roman deities without considering themselves as Roman Pagans.
We affirm that the Roman Pagan Religion embodies the spiritual beliefs, practices, virtues and philosophies of ancient Pagan Rome. These constitute and express a clear and separate form of religion and spirituality that is unique and different from all other spiritual paths. We hold that our practices today are the spiritual successor of the ancient ways, reborn anew.
We affirm that the historical basis of our spirituality comes from the Pagan religions of the ancient Roman Republic and Empire. The core of this history proceeds from the founding of Rome in 753 BC, to the removal of the Altar of Victory from the Roman Senate in 394 AD. Our historical basis also includes pre-Roman Latin and Etruscan roots, and Pagan survivals into later periods of history.
We hold that the Roman Pagan Religion is open to all people, regardless of nationality, race, gender, sexuality, spiritual affiliation or other individual circumstance.
We affirm that the Roman Pagan Religion belongs to no one race or nationality, but is instead a common founding heritage of all Western civilization. It is further a universal spiritual current which throughout the centuries has influenced all peoples and nations of the world, either directly or by the legacy of its history, philosophies and practices.
We also affirm that the Roman Pagan Religion is compatible with, and may be practiced alongside all other forms of religion and spiritual expression, without diluting or diminishing its basic ideals and spiritual identity. In the ancient world Roman religion was practiced alongside Celtic, German, Greek, Egyptian, Persian, and Oriental faiths, to the enhancement of all. This syncretistic approach to other religions remains basic to the Roman Pagan spiritual world view.
We affirm that the Roman Pagan Religion itself embodies many forms of rite and worship. These include the ancient Roman festivals, the rites of both Roman state and private religion, cults of the various deities, divination, the ancient Mystery religions, and Roman Pagan philosophy as well as other forms of ancient religious expression.
We further affirm that rites and worship within the Roman Pagan may be approached in many ways. In this manner the spiritual needs of all practicing individuals may be fulfilled. These various approaches may include group or individual worship, philosophical practice focusing on prayer and contemplation, purely historical reconstruction of ancient ritual form, as well as forms of modern rites and worship that adapt ancient practices and ideals.
We affirm that the Roman Pagan Religion shall be an organized and structured faith. In addition to purely individual involvement and the organization of autonomous groups, its form may contain the reestablishment of historical religious institutions. These may include established physical temples, mystery schools, priesthoods and religious colleges, and coordinating bodies such as a Senate formed among practitioners of Roman Pagan Religion.
We affirm that the Roman Pagan Religion was and is a civilized faith, empowering family, community and state to positive virtue and beneficial effect. The rites, virtues and philosophies of Roman Pagan Religion are by nature benign and lawful, serving to facilitate piety toward the gods, and understanding and cooperation among all people.
We affirm that the spiritual duty of the Roman Pagan Religion is to restore, maintain and promote the worship of the ancient Roman Goddesses and Gods. We seek to rebuild their influence in the world, and through piety and action preserve the sacred link between the ancient deities and humanity.
We affirm that the earthly responsibility of the Roman Pagan Religion is to preserve the basic ideals of Classical spirituality and civilization, that they may continue to be a positive force in society. We seek to renew the principles, philosophies, history and culture of the ancient Roman Pagan world, and make them available to all persons wishing to incorporate them as a modern spiritual path.
These religious ideals and tenets are set forth and adopted under the approval of the gods and goddesses of ancient Rome, and in remembrance of our ancient Roman Pagan spiritual forebears. Through them we are focused and united. Let them stand as an affirmation of our intent, faith and practice.
* * *