An Introduction to Ancient Rome

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Part 8: Religion and the Arts

Roman religion began as a carbon copy of Greek religion. The Romans adopted most of the Greek gods and goddesses and just gave them different names. For example, the Greek god Zeus was Jupiter to the Romans. This was not always true, however: Apollo was Apollo to both the Greeks and the Romans.

The Romans began as intolerant to other religions. In time, they accepted and adopted the teachings of the religions practiced by the people they conquered. A major exception to this was Christianity. For many years, the Romans delighted in torturing Christians. However, Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Empire in the 4th Century A.D.

The Romans enjoyed philosophy and drama. One of the most famous philosophers was also a playwright: Seneca. His dramas are well-known to Roman scholars. Plautus and Terence wrote Roman comedies that audiences found very funny.

Other forms of enjoyment in Roman society involved death and destruction. The main attraction for many Romans was the "games" in the Colosseum, a huge outdoor theater. Gladiators were slaves or former soldiers who fought in the Colosseum and in other arenas, against other people or against animals. These "games" were often fatal to the participants.

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