The Religions of Ancient Rome: A Six-Part Course with Dr. Darius Arya

The Religions of Ancient Rome: A Six-Part Course with Dr. Darius Arya


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Religion constitutes one of the most important features of ancient Roman culture. It did not exist in its own, separate context, but, rather, was instrumental in conducting war, elections, governing the empire (under both the Republic and the emperor), and central to domestic and public life. Religion, as manifested in laws, buildings, statues, paintings, coins, and inscriptions, is the main vehicle that will generate a broad and far-reaching discourse on what the Roman believed and how they manifested their beliefs.

This six-part course explores the basic components of the Roman religions through art and its meaning in context, exploring both its continuity and change as Rome rose and fell through a general chronological framework, with case studies. In the process the course also seeks to define what is Roman about Roman religion, essentially an eclectic, synthetic mix of beliefs and traditions from other cultures, primarily from Italy (e.g., Etruria, Latium) as well as various areas of Greek culture, acquired with the expansion of the Roman empire. The course will consider bronze and marble sculpture, state relief sculpture, portraiture, mosaics, and wall paintings, in their original architectural contexts, whenever possible.

Through in-depth, on-site investigations (i.e., the various gods worshipped by the Romans, the priests, worshippers, their dedications, festivals, and temples) in archaeological sites and museums, the course will examine in detail the social-political history of the city from its beginnings to its decline and transformation into a Christian center. From the nitty-gritty of belief to devotion to festivals, and sacrifice in Rome and throughout the empire. The course will also examine both the development of the “savior” cults of pagan Rome and the rise of Christianity in the city, from the first through the sixth centuries AD.

 

Lecture 1: The "Polytheism" of the Romans - How it All Worked

Roman religion is different from our religions of today. This lecture will take a look at daily life in Rome through the lens of worshiping and living with the gods to understand the essential components of the religious belief system in Rome.

Lecture 2: The Gods Are in the House

The gods were present in the household, of every social class, in every aspect of daily life. This lecture discusses the constant presence: no aspect was exempt in private life, from meals to education, from the kitchen, even to the bathroom. In every corner, the gods lurked and were acknowledged as part of a daily routine.

Lecture 3: Public Worship: Calendar, Festivals, Games, Sacrifice, Gladiators- Entertaining the Gods

Roman gods were also present in every aspect of public life. Honoring them included events and activities to entertain the masses: music, theater, chariot racing, and gladiator fights. This lecture will examine the many festivals and cults in the Roman calendar.

Lecture 4: Priests and Priestesses of Rome: From Pontifex to Vestal Virgin, and the Worship of the Emperor

Who were the men and women that organized and led the procedures and practices of Roman religion? How were they selected? What did they do? Lecture 4 allows a deep dive into the lives of the priests and priestesses of Rome.

Lecture 5: Mystery “Savior” Cults of Ancient Rome

Sometimes the traditional gods were not enough. An individual sought something more, due to their background or profession, and they appealed to gods that required ritualized initiation. This lecture will examine the practice of the so-called mystery cults, including Mithras, Isis, and Ceres.

Lecture 6 The Rise of Christianity: Integration and Conflict with the Old Gods


How did Christianity insert and assert itself into the Roman religious system? How did it survive and ultimately thrive, to take over the entire pantheon of the Roman gods? Our final lecture will take a look at Christianity’s tenacity that also borrowed from many of Rome’s religious beliefs.

Darius Arya is a Ph.D. archaeologist, public historian, social media influencer, and TV host based in Rome, Italy. He works around the globe, with a focus on Rome and the Roman Empire. He directs educational programs, leads lecture series and heritage preservation initiatives, specialized tours, and features in or hosts TV shows for US, Italy, and other European programs.

 

How does it work?

This is a six-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on Roman religion, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $210 for six lectures.

Is a recording available?

In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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Customer Reviews

Based on 2 reviews
50%
(1)
0%
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0%
(0)
50%
(1)
0%
(0)
S
S.
Disappointing
S
S.
Learned so much in one session