Ancient World: Roman Religion (CLA2510)

StaffDr William Michael Short - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The purpose of this module is to introduce you to the very different world of Roman religion, primarily as practiced in the city of Rome during the Roman Republic. The module is organised in loose chronological fashion; we take our starting point in iron age Rome and proceed until the time of Caesar Augustus. We will study the concepts of Roman religion, forms of worship and cult, priests, places, and selected themes of interest. These include the nature of Roman festivals, attitudes toward foreign deities, the question of decline in the Late Republic, and the religious reforms of Augustus. You will obtain an overview of the elements of Roman religion and its place in Roman society and culture. We will work extensively with the written and material sources of Roman religion, and learn some of the history of the Roman Republic along the way.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. What the broad characteristics of Roman religion, Roman gods, cult practices are
  • 2. How the ancient evidence of Roman religion, literary and material, may be interpreted
  • 3. How Roman religion changed over the centuries of the Roman Republic

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Learn to appreciate the distinctness of ancient Greco-Roman, pre-Christian religions
  • 5. Become acquainted with the sources of ancient Roman history
  • 6. How to analyse these sources and use them critically
  • 7. Use the library resources for Classics and Ancient History, including electronic resources
  • 8. Achieve academic standards in presentations and essays in Classics

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. How to approach religion and religious difference critically
  • 10. How to conduct independent research (in the library)
  • 11. How to use published scholarly literature critically
  • 12. How to present material effectively before an audience of peers
  • 13. To participate in group works
  • 14. To write in a professional, analytical manner

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction and Formalities
  • Concepts: What is Religion?
  • Roman Gods
  • Ritual and Sacrifice
  • The Calendar and Festivals
  • Vows, Temples, and Games
  • Roman Priests
  • Auspices and Prodigies
  • New Gods in Rome
  • Curses, Spells, and the Occult
  • Decline, Restoration, and/or Change

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching44 x 1 hour seminars
Guided independent study124Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation1010-15 minutes1-3, 5-8, 9-13Mark and written comments
Essay402000 words1-3, 5-8, 10-11, 14 Mark and written comments
Examination502 hours1-6, 9, 14Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-3, 5-8, 10-11, 14 Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-6, 9, 14Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Set texts: 

  • Beard, M., J. North, and S. Price. Religions of Rome, Volume 2: A Sourcebook. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Scheid, J. An Introduction to Roman Religion. Trans. J. Lloyd. Edinburgh University Press, 2003. 
  • Turcan, R. The Gods of Ancient Rome: Religion in Everyday Life from Archaic to Imperial Times. Trans. A. Nevill. Edinburgh University Press, 2000.

Further reading:

  • Ando, C. (ed.). Roman Religion. Edinburgh, 2003. 
  • Beard, M. and J. North (eds.). Pagan Priests: Religion and Power in the Ancient World. London, 1990. 
  • Beard, M., J. North, and S. Price. Religions of Rome, Volume 1: A History. Cambridge, 1998. 
  • Bispham, E., and C. Smith (eds.). Religion in Archaic and Republican Rome and Italy. Edinburgh, 2000. 
  • Bodel, J. and S. M. Olyan. Household and Family Religion in Antiquity. Oxford, 2008. 
  • Brill's New Pauly: go here and select the subject area "Classics"; scroll down to "New Pauly Online." 
  • Cornell, T. J. The Beginnings of Rome 1000-264 BC. New York, 1995. 
  • Dickie, M. W. Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World. London, 2001. 
  • Feeney, D. C. Literature and Religion at Rome: Cultures, Contexts, and Beliefs. New York, 1998. 
  • Luck, G. Arcana mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts. 2nd edition. Baltimore, 2006. 
  • North, J. A. Roman Religion. Greece and Rome. New surveys in the classics, no.30. Oxford, 2000. 
  • Rasmussen, S. W. Public Portents in Republican Rome. Rome, 2003. 
  • Rüpke, J. (ed.). A Companion to Roman Religion. Blackwell, 2007. 
  • Rüpke, J. Religion of the Romans. Trans. R. Gordon. Cambridge, 2007. 
  • Ryberg, I. S. Rites of the state religion in Roman art. Rome, 1955. 
  • Scheid, J. Quand faire, c'est croire: les rites sacrificiels des Romains. Paris, 2005. 
  • Schultz, C. E. Women's Religious Activity in the Roman Republic. Chapel Hill, 2006. 
  • Scullard, H. H. Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. London, 1981. 
  • Szemler, G. J. The Priests of the Roman Republic. Brussels, 1972. 
  • Takács, S. A. Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion. Austin, 2008. 
  • Taylor, L. R. Party Politics in the Age of Caesar. Berkeley, 1949. 
  • Versnel, H. R. (ed.). Faith, Hope, and Worship: Aspects of Religious Mentality in the Ancient World. Leiden, 1981. 
  • Weinstock, S. Divus Julius. Oxford, 1971. 
  • Wissowa, G. Religion und Kultus der Römer. Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaften 5,4. Munich, 1912. 
  • Ziolkowski, A. The Temples of Mid-Republican Rome and their Historical and Topographical Context. Rome, 1992.

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