Greek And Roman Beliefs In Religion And Politics History Essay

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There is no ancient history without the mention of Greek and Roman civilizations. Ancient civilization was part of the history that formed the basis of the world we know today. Many people would ask why Greek and Roman civilizations became so popular in the world. In Western culture and identity, Greeks occupy a very prominent place in conception. The Greeks have made generations of influential writers and scholars especially due to their Hellenic culture. Roman civilization on the other hand was founded in 800BC on an Italian peninsular (Spielvogel, 2008). Roman civilization, which is a mighty empire, started as a monarchy and then shifted to a republic before becoming an empire. Much of ancient Rome culture got inspiration from ancient Greece (Mahaffy, 2009).

In the book "The sociology of philosophies: a global theory of intellectual change" Collins Randal points out that "culture begets itself". He points out that culture is autonomous and that culture explains its changes, terms and forms (pg 9). Collins points out that, culture beliefs such as religion, ethnic consciousness and political ideologies are not correlated with social variables such as class. Collins says that intellectual activity is basis of intellectual communities. The various aspects that make up intellectual activities include religion, social knowledge and intellectual networks.


Greeks and Roman are intellectual communities that believed in religion. Greeks believed that religion was important because it made their lives better. They believed in many gods and goddesses (polytheistic). They believed that gods would take care of them both when they were living and when they died. The Greeks believed that their gods and goddesses were very powerful that they controlled everything from the winner of a race to waves in the ocean (Mahaffy, 2009). Each god or goddess had one or two specific roles they performed and controlled in life. The Greeks built beautiful temples for their gods where they used to go pray, worship and offer sacrifices in form of animals. The Greeks prepared festivals in honor of the gods whereby they sacrificed animals as gifts to their gods. The Greeks made large festivals that included a feast with music, plays and dancing after which they paraded and made sacrifices. An example of a Greek goddess is Athena (goddess of wisdom and war). A temple known as Parthenon, built for the goddess stands to date.

The Greeks believed that Mount Olympus was where all their gods and goddesses lived. Examples of some of the gods the Greeks worshipped and their specific roles include; Zeus-supreme leader of the Gods, Hermes-messenger of the gods and Poseidon- god of the sea. Collins stated that one of the intellectual activities relating to religion is giving intellectual rituals (p 28).Greeks showed their solidarity through religious ritual of animal sacrifices and festivities.

The Romans later worshipped the same gods as Greeks but under different names (Guaitoli, 2006). The Greeks could not worship at the temple only but there were holy sites referred to as "oracles". The Greeks believed their gods used signs in nature to answer their questions. They used their priests to ask their question and listen to the answers through signs.

Romans just like Greeks believed in religion and attached great importance to it. Just like the Greeks, they were polytheistic, they believed that their gods were responsible for their creation and controlled their lives. Romans classified religion in to state religion and household religion (Spielvogel, 2008). Household religion involved worshipping the gods that protected the family and house. Roman houses contained a sacred place regarded as altar where every family prayed to the gods each morning. Just like the Greeks, The Romans believed in gods and goddess that they believed controlled everything in life from killing for food to falling in love.

Just like the Greeks, Romans honored their gods and goddesses by building grand temples. They also offered animal sacrifices to the gods and gave them gifts that they thought would please them. They believed that if the gods were happy with them, they would in return receive good luck but if they were angry with them, something would go wrong.


City-states divided Ancient Greece with Athens as the largest city-state (Liberati & Bourbon, 2002). City-states were many small areas sub-dividing the state. The mountainous ecology of Ancient Greece separated the city-states making it very difficult to travel from one city-state to another. Everyone believed that their city-state was better than the other was although they all worshipped the same gods and had similar traditions. Initially a few wealthy men ruled the city-states before a government system was introduced.

Each city-state had its own government who ruled through democracy. The democratic government allowed people to rule and to vote for their leaders. Athens subdivided their people in to three classes; the upper class that consisted of male citizens born in Athens, middle class consisted of male citizens not born in Athens while the lower class consisted of slaves. Voting in ancient Greece took place in public assemblies and only males born in Athens voted. The upper class group discussed the laws that benefited ancient Greece but not the middle class or lower class.

Ancient Rome was an empire that had emperors as the leaders. Just like Greece, a government headed by an emperor ruled Rome. Caesar Augustus and Julius Caesar are Examples of famous Roman emperors. The power of the government in Rome was balanced between three branches; the executive, the legislative and the judicial (Guaitoli, 2006).The executive branch consisted of two leaders (consuls), elected by the upper class to serve for one year. Their role was to order Roman army during wars and supervise the senate. Mayors, tax collectors, city police among other superior person in cities formed part of executive branch.

The senate consisting 300 male citizens who owned the land formed the legislative branch. The men appointed by the consuls controlled the consuls by telling them how much to spend and on what activities. The judicial branch consisted of six judges that decided on the punishments the criminals would receive. The judges' elections occurred after every two years (Guaitoli, 2006). In Rome only adults had permission to vote and just like the Greek system, males who owned the land could only do amendment or criticize law.


Similarities in Religion

Both Greeks and Romans believed in gods and goddesses(polytheistic)

They believed that their gods and goddesses controlled everything in life, from creation, their lives and everything that goes on

Both Greeks and Romans believed that their gods took care of them both when they were living and when they died.

They both offered sacrifices to their gods and goddesses. They both offered animal sacrifices to gods and goddesses as gifts to honor them

They both built temples for their gods where they used to pray and offer sacrifices

They believed that their gods answered their prayers and questions through signs in nature.

Each of their gods or goddesses had a specific role they played.


Although they both had gods and goddesses they named them differently

Greeks believed their gods and goddesses lived in Mount Olympus(Sansone,2004) which was not the case with Romans

Romans classified their religion as either state or household religion while Greeks did not have classifications

Greeks had holy sites known as 'oracles' while Romans has 'altars' in their houses.

Similarities in Political Institutions

Both Greeks and Romans believed in a government rule.

They both voted for a leader to head the government

Both Greeks and Romans only allowed only male from upper class born in the country to criticize and have a say on the law.

Only citizens above 18 years were allowed to vote

In both countries, only males had permission to vote.

Differences in Political Institutions

The Greeks believed in democracy while the Romans it depended on the political leaders chosen.

The Roman government consisted of three branches, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary while the Greek government all people ruled.

Greece had subdivision called city-states with each city-state having its own government while Rome there was only one government with three branches that rules the land.


Roman and Greek civilization form a part of ancient history of the world. They both greatly influenced the Western culture as some of the beliefs and culture followed today got inspiration from them. When we compare the two cultures to the Collins theories of intellectual activity, it is evident that the two cultures were rich in culture intelligence. They had deep respect in religion and rituals that brought them together socially (Collins, 2000, p 28). The social problems the two cultures exhibit is division in to classes only males who are citizens by birth are allowed to vote. Women are not mentioned anywhere in any political decisions showing gender biasness. Just as most historians suggest, Greek culture highly influenced Roman culture. In terms of religion and political institutions, the two cultures can be classified as 'socially intelligent' despite of social division and gender inequality.