CLA2510 - Ancient World: Roman Religion

2011/2 Module description

Lecturer(s)Dr John Dillon
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.50
Duration of ModuleTerm 1
Total Student Study Time150 hours, to include 11 x 1-hour lectures, 8 x 1-hour seminars/study-groups and 130 hours private study.

Module aims

The purpose of this module is to introduce students to the very different world of Roman religion, primarily as practiced in the city of Rome during the Roman Republic. The module is organised in loose chronological fashion; we take our starting point in iron age Rome and proceed until the time of Caesar Augustus. We will study the concepts of Roman religion, forms of worship and cult, priests, places, and selected themes of interest. These include the nature of Roman festivals, attitudes toward foreign deities, the question of decline in the Late Republic, and the religious reforms of Augustus. Students will obtain an overview of the elements of Roman religion and its place in Roman society and culture. We will work extensively with the written and material sources of Roman religion, and learn some of the history of the Roman Republic along the way.

Intended learning outcomes

Module-specific skills

(1) what the broad characteristics of Roman religion, Roman gods, cult practices are;
(2) how the ancient evidence of Roman religion, literary and material, may be interpreted; and
(3) how Roman religion changed over the centuries of the Roman Republic.

Discipline-specific skills

(4) learn to appreciate the distinctness of ancient Greco-Roman, pre-Christian religions;
(5) become acquainted with the sources of ancient Roman history and
(6) how to analyse and use them critically;
(7) the library resources for Classics and Ancient History, including electronic resources; and
(8) academic standards in presentations and essays in Classics.

Personal and key skills

(9) how to approach religion and religious difference critically;
(10) how to conduct independent research (in the library) and
(11) to use published scholarly literature critically;
(12) how to present material effectively before an audience of peers;
(13) to participate in group works;
(14) and to write in a professional, analytical manner.

Learning and teaching methods

1. Hour-long lectures
2. Group seminars
3. Study groups meeting independently to prepare for seminars
4. Seminar presentations, whether individually, in pairs, or in groups


One 2,000 word essay.


(1) The essay assignment (40% of whole module mark),ILOs - 1-3, 5-8, 10-11, 14
(2) one two-hour examination, comprising one question on sources and a choice of one essay question (50%) ILOs - 1-3, 4-6, 9, 14.
(3) Oral Presentation (10%)ILOs - 1-3, 5-8, 9-13

Syllabus plan

1. Introduction and Formalities
2. Concepts: What is Religion?
3. Roman Gods
4. Ritual and Sacrifice
5. The Calendar and Festivals
6. Vows, Temples, and Games
7. Roman Priests
8. Auspices and Prodigies
9. New Gods in Rome
10. Curses, Spells, and the Occult
11. Decline, Restoration, and/or Change

Indicative basic reading list

Indicative basic reading list:
1. Set texts:
Beard, M., J. North, and S. Price. Religions of Rome, Volume 2: A Sourcebook. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Scheid, J. An Introduction to Roman Religion. Trans. J. Lloyd. Edinburgh University Press, 2003.
Turcan, R. The Gods of Ancient Rome: Religion in Everyday Life from Archaic to Imperial Times. Trans. A. Nevill. Edinburgh University Press, 2000.

2. Further reading (at Exeter):
Ando, C. (ed.). Roman Religion. Edinburgh, 2003.
Beard, M. and J. North (eds.). Pagan Priests: Religion and Power in the Ancient World. London, 1990.
Beard, M., J. North, and S. Price. Religions of Rome, Volume 1: A History. Cambridge, 1998.
Bispham, E., and C. Smith (eds.). Religion in Archaic and Republican Rome and Italy. Edinburgh, 2000.
Bodel, J. and S. M. Olyan. Household and Family Religion in Antiquity. Oxford, 2008.
Brill's New Pauly: go here and select the subject area "Classics"; scroll down to "New Pauly Online."
Cornell, T. J. The Beginnings of Rome 1000-264 BC. New York, 1995.
Dickie, M. W. Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World. London, 2001.
Feeney, D. C. Literature and Religion at Rome: Cultures, Contexts, and Beliefs. New York, 1998.
Luck, G. Arcana mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts. 2nd edition. Baltimore, 2006.
North, J. A. Roman Religion. Greece and Rome. New surveys in the classics, no.30. Oxford, 2000.
Rasmussen, S. W. Public Portents in Republican Rome. Rome, 2003.
Rüpke, J. (ed.). A Companion to Roman Religion. Blackwell, 2007.
Rüpke, J. Religion of the Romans. Trans. R. Gordon. Cambridge, 2007.
Ryberg, I. S. Rites of the state religion in Roman art. Rome, 1955.
Scheid, J. Quand faire, c'est croire: les rites sacrificiels des Romains. Paris, 2005.
Schultz, C. E. Women's Religious Activity in the Roman Republic. Chapel Hill, 2006.
Scullard, H. H. Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. London, 1981.
Szemler, G. J. The Priests of the Roman Republic. Brussels, 1972.
Takács, S. A. Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion. Austin, 2008.
Taylor, L. R. Party Politics in the Age of Caesar. Berkeley, 1949.
Versnel, H. R. (ed.). Faith, Hope, and Worship: Aspects of Religious Mentality in the Ancient World. Leiden, 1981.
Weinstock, S. Divus Julius. Oxford, 1971.
Wissowa, G. Religion und Kultus der Römer. Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaften 5,4. Munich, 1912.
Ziolkowski, A. The Temples of Mid-Republican Rome and their Historical and Topographical Context. Rome, 1992.

Indicative web based resources e.g. ELE:
- We will make extensive use of ELE throughout the year.
- The resources available in Exeter's Electronic Library include the Cambridge Companions Complete Collection (very useful for research and bibliography), JSTOR, and The New Pauly (a lexicon of the ancient world). Follow this link:

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