Roman religion in ancient times played a large part in every day life. Gods were greatly honoured and many decisions would rely on them. One of the most important aspects of religion was the personification of piety and devotion to duty – pietas. These Roman values differ from the Greek in many ways and Vergil, as a Roman writer, effectively expresses these in the epic, The Aeneid. Vergil’s epic includes various references to gods, religious practices, and other religious observations. From this information it is possible to obtain a deeper understanding of the Roman views on religion and the concept of doing one’s duty to the gods, the state and one’s family.
Religion was an essential part of Roman society and was one of the main foundations on which the organisation of a Roman family was built. The main purpose of Roman religion was to gain the approval of the deities and to remain noble to ensure individual and family success and prosperity. Ethical and moral behaviour was not a factor of concern, only the correct observance of the rituals.
The Romans feared the gods, and sought to win their favour or ask for their help. Prayers and offerings at temples would take place to give thanks for their support. Offerings would range from coins and brooches from the poor, to silver statues from the wealthy. Food and drink were also sacrificed, as well as animals. In altars, incense was also burnt to show the Romans’ gratitude. The Romans however, only worshipped those gods and spirits most closely associated with their own lives.
Family relationships as well as religious observances were governed by the principle of pietas. A Roman owed a debt of pietas to the gods and their family. Pietas in religion was satisfied by strict observance of ritual and precise observance of sacrifice at the right time. Nearly every activity was reliant on the deities, some being gods and others defined spirits and the gods were consulted before any