Typically, when one thinks of Roman religious belief, one thinks of the Olympian Gods. Jupiter, Juno, Mars, etc. While early religious beliefs certainly did follow those lines of thought, things began changing as Rome moved from being a republic to being an empire.

As Rome expanded, it acquired not only territory and new wealth, it also acquired new people and many of their ideas of religious belief. Any number of religious imports made an appearance within the Roman Empire. But two in particular, had a significant impact.


Originally imported from Persia, it under went a fair amount of change before it made it to Rome. For example, within Persia there were no stories of Mithras ever killing a bull. Rather it was an evil god by the name of Ahriman that did it. By the time Mithraism made it to Rome in the first century BCE, it had become accepted belief that Mithras had indeed done the deed.

Mithraism came into Rome with the return of its soldiers from various wars in the east. From there it spread throughout the roman military establishment. And from the military into Roman society at large.


Judaism as a matter of official concern came with the acquisition of Judaea. Because Judaism and therefore Judaea would not willingly accept any other God or authority beyond that of Torah, Judaea was a constant problem for the Roman Authorities. Even when Judaea had home rule as a client kingdom, the idea of Rome being the supreme authority rankled Jewish sensibilities, and consequently rebellion was an ongoing fact of life between Jews and Romans.

Possibly making matters worse, Judaism was already scattered beyond the bounds of Judaea and had spread into the Roman Empire itself, acquiring any number of the proselytes attracted by the idea of a just, monotheistic god. When Rome finally decided to raze Jerusalem and destroy the second temple in the year 70, it was too late to destroy Judaism by scattering people around. Jews, who had already been living a scattered existence since Babylonia, were only strengthened by the loss of potential physical vulnerability.

Ultimately however, Judaism's biggest impact on the Roman empire would be the result of one Judaism's last great teachers. A person who had already lived, taught and died. A person known as Jesus of Nazareth

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