Using the following sources and your own knowledge, discuss the importance of religion and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Religion and death was an important part of everyday life in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Romans, like the Greeks and Egyptians were polytheists who worshipped a variety of gods. This is evident in the temples, household shrines, cults and tombs that were found in the cities. Proper worship of the gods was believed to ensure peace, fertility and prosperity.
All citizens were expected to be involved in religious rituals as they were believed to be necessary to win the favour of the gods. The Roman State Cult was centred on the worship of the gods Jupiter, the protector of the state, Juno, protector of women and Minerva, patroness of craftsmen. From the time of Augustus, an imperial cult developed under the influence of Greek hero cults and concepts of divine kingship. The emperor was worshipped at both Pompeii and Herculaneum and Augustales, who were the priests of Augustus, were appointed to administer the cult.
As the empire grew, Romans were exposed to a variety a foreign cults introduced by traders, soldiers, migrating craftsmen and slaves. The cult of Isis was popular among Pompeians as she was the protector of women and children. At the Temple of Isis, there were daily prayers and rituals and throughout the year there were great festivals commemorating Isis’ rescue and restoration of Osiris. In both Pompeii and Herculaneum, evidence has been uncovered of the cult of Sabazius, a god of from Trace (northern Greece) and Asia Minor.
Socrates (470-399 BC) Socrates was born to a poor Athenian family in 470 BC He spent most of his time teaching others. One of his pupils was Plato. Socrates was a believer in absolute truth rather than relative truth. His main interest was the process by which people learned how to think for themselves. He would usually talk to whoever would take the time to listen. He asked many questions and ...
Objects associated with the cult were uncovered in Pompeii which included two hands holding a figure of Sabazius. Not only were gods worshipped at temples, but the lares, who were the household gods, were also idolised because they were associated with places of crossing or entry. The shrine of the lares was often placed in the entry of the house, in the atrium. Each day the paterfamilias was responsible for leading the household prayers and for carrying out rituals to ensure the protection of the spirits. Offerings of incense flowers, fruits and special cakes were made at the shrines.
As well as their worship of the gods, the Romans believed that the deceased entered into a shadowy existence in the underworld after death. Those who were happy successfully made the journey from the land living to the land of the dead. Many graves were dedicated both to the individual person buried and more generally to the spirits of the dead. At Pompeii, tombs were located outside the city walls, as required by the Roman law. The dead were usually cremated. The ashes were placed in an urn which was then placed inside the tomb or buried underground i the sacred enclosure within the tomb.
Family rites were performed before the burial, but the paterfamilias then had the responsibility to ensure that the deceased received proper burial rites. Funeral processions included musicians and professional mourners. Family members wore wax masks of the ancestors s so that the protectors of the family line were present, thus retaining the link between the living and the dead. The importance of religion and death is shown throughout the various gods and goddesses, cults and tombs in Pompeii and Herculaneum. They all show how the cities have changed and adapted their styles of worship over many years.