An Introduction to Roman Religion

An Introduction to Roman Religion

John Scheid, edited by Translated by Janet Lloyd. John Scheid
Distribution: Canada and United States of America
Publication date: 08/05/2003
Format: Paperback 1 bibliog., 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21660-1
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Choice Outstanding Academic Title (2005)

Written by one of the world’s leading scholars of the Roman world, An Introduction to Roman Religion offers students a complete portrait of religion in Rome during the late republic and early empire. It draws on the latest findings in archaeology and history to explain the meanings of rituals, rites, auspices, and oracles, to describe the uses of temples and sacred ground, and to evoke the daily patterns of religious life and observance within the city of Rome and its environs. The text is usefully organized around major themes, such as the origins of Roman religion, the importance of the religious calendar, the structure of religious space, the forms of religious services and rituals, and the gods, priests, and core theologies that shaped religious observance. In addition to its clear and accessible presentation, Roman Religion includes quotations from primary sources, a chronology of religious and historical events from 750 B.C. to A.D. 494, a full glossary, and an annotated guide to further reading.

Author Bio

John Scheid is Director of Studies in Ancient History at the École pratiques des hautes études in Paris.


“Lacking (apparently) a native mythology or images of its gods, Roman religion has always seemed barren to scholars. Without anything much to interpret, interpretation has regularly fallen into minutely descriptive lists of gods and rituals. Among recent efforts, Beard, North, and Price's Religions of Rome (CH, Feb'99) offers both sources and interpretations, but is essentially a reference book. Robert Turcan's The Gods of Ancient Rome (2000) offers an innovative and historically grounded interpretation (without the lists), while Valerie Warrior's Roman Religion (2002) sticks to sources without the history. Scheid (ancient history, École (Ecole) Pratiques des Hautes Études (Etudes) , Paris), one of the most distinguished scholars of Roman religion, now offers a brilliant, historically grounded interpretation that will interest scholars as well as the students (French, originally) for whom it was written. The theme of each chapter—methodology, structure, rituals, actors, interpretations of Roman religion—is carefully developed. A chronology and bibliography support the whole. Lists of facts, questions (with concise, informative answers), and original sources are inset at appropriate places in the main text. Scheid is insightful, concise, and original. This is an indispensable text for the study of Roman religion and all fields that intersect with it. Summing Up: Essential. All libraries.April 2004”
 — C. M. C. Green, University of Iowa

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Table of Contents

Translator's Notes
List of Text Boxes
Part I: Questions of Methodology
1. Problems and Problematics
2. Definitions, Concepts, Difficulties
3. Ritual and Its Formulations
Part II: Structures
4. The Division of Time: Calendars, Rituals, Regular Festivals
5. The Division of Space: Temples, Sanctuaries and Other Sacred Places
Part III: Religious Rituals
6. Sacrifice
7. Auspices and Rituals of Divination
Part IV: The Actors
8. Priestly Figures
9. The Double Life of the Roman Gods
Part V: Exegeses and Speculations
10. Interpretations of Roman Religion