The Roman Empire played a major role in the rise of Christianity, even though Christianity suffered persecution when it first arrived in the empire; the conversion of Emperor Constantine made Christianity became the number one religion in ancient Rome.
But before then, there were other religions in the empire to meet up the spiritual needs of the people.
And those religions are what we are going to discuss in this scholarly article.
What was the first religion in ancient Rome?
A single religion has not been recognized or spotted as the first religion in ancient Rome because when different cultures began to settle in ancient Rome, which is today known as Italy, polytheism, which is known as the worship of more than one God was predominant in the Empire.
What was the official religion in the Roman Empire?
Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire after the Edict of Thessalonica was issued by Emperor Theodosius in 380 C.E.
It is however worth noting that Emperor Constantine was the one who officially made Christianity the religion of Rome after his conversion in 312 C.E. Afterwards other Emperor toed his path of maintaining Christianity as the pffiial religion of the Roman Empire until Emperor Theodosius issued the edict that finally kept it official to this day.
Religions in the Roman Empire.
Below are some of the religions that can be figured out in the Roman Empire:
- Nature religion.
- Mystery religion.
- State religion.
1. Nature Religion.
In nature Religion, supernatural power was being sought in mountains, lakes, Rivers, the sun, and the moon, in certain animals and men.
The worshippers of this religion honored forces in nature and believed in the power of charms and amulets.
Beyond these, they also believed in ancestors, good and evil spirits, and gods who they believed controlled the destinies of men.
Every nature religion had its own myths and rituals; as well as a special class of men called priests, who were able to recite the myths and perform ritual ceremonies.
Personal elements were largely absent since nature religion was always seen as a group religion.
For this reason, this kind of religion was unable to satisfy those in a simple agricultural, fishing, or herding society.
Because these people needed religion in which the supernatural was more personal, and they could experience it in their troubled lives.
This need was met by the mystery religions.
2. Mystery Religion.
Mystery religion offered its worshippers the opportunity of fellowship with the divine, which was obtained by certain ceremonial acts.
The first of these was baptism, be it with water or the blood of an animal.
Worshippers believed that baptism washed away uncleanness and made fellowship with the gods possible.
The sacred meals often accompanied the baptism, as well as led to enlightenment.
During the sacred meal, the new believer received the knowledge of the God into whose fellowship he had been baptized.
This enlightenment also helps the believer dedicate himself to the service of god.
This knowledge then will enable the believer to live in peace and die in reconciliation with his god.
Followers of mystery religion were forbidden to reveal the secrets of baptism, meal fellowship, and enlightenment.
For this reason, the religion was called the mystery religion.
Mystery religion had a long history in the East in India, Persia, Babylon, and Egypt.
It was strong in the empire when Christianity began to spread. For some time a form of mystery religion known as Mithraism was a strong competitor with Christianity.
Roman armies favored this religion so much.
3. State Religion.
As the name implies, state religion had strong political aspects.
The chief element of this religion was the making of sacrifices to the emperor.
In the earlier years of this religion, sacrifices were made to dead emperors. Later, living emperors began to be worshipped with sacrifice.
The emperor was seen as the God who gave order and prosperity to the state. The state religion was therefore regarded as uniting great diversity of people and tribes into one loyal community.
Any religion that recognized the emperor as a god, and did not interfere with good order in the state was regarded as a legitimate religion.
However, state religion lacked warmth, fellowship, union with the divine, and especially salvation.