Ancient Roman Cult Practices – Temples and Votive Offerings

The Imperial Cult of ancient Roman days allowed politicians and emperors to strengthen their connection to the people by using the traditional gods of Rome to their benefit. The Imperial Cult also served as a way that people could prove their allegiance to Rome. In this article, you will learn some of the practices associated with this ancient cult.


During the ancient days when Roman paganism was practiced, followers often chose a temple for their place of worship. It was here that sacrifices would occur at an altar located outside of the temple instead of inside – to prevent messy clean ups and allow as many people as possible to attend the ceremony. It's important to note that Roman temples weren’t very spacious and were just large enough to house cult statues, which resided in a main room known as the 'cella.' The cella may also feature a small altar used for burning incense. Behind the cella, a room or rooms served as a place for the attendants to store equipment and accommodate offerings.

Ancient Romans visited temples to pray and make ritual offerings of worship in the form of small gifts or animal sacrifices to the gods they wished to please. The most popular gods and goddesses included Jupiter (King of the Gods and the God of rain, thunder, and lightning); Juno (Queen of the Gods and the Goddess of women and childbirth); Neptune (God of the Sea and Storms); Venus (Goddess of Love and Beauty); Pluto (God of the Underworld); Apollo (God of Prophesy); Mars (God of War); Mercury (Messenger of the Gods associated with trading and thieves); Saturn (Father of Jupiter); Uranus (Father of Saturn); Diana (Goddess of the Hunt); and Cupid (God of Love, who happened to be the son of Venus).

Votive Offerings

A votive offering, also known as a votive deposit, was an object left behind in a sacred location for the purpose of conducting a ritual. In an attempt to appease supernatural beings, the items represent the society at the time. While votive offerings have a place in ancient Roman and Greek days, similar acts continue to exist in the present day. An example of this is seen whenever someone tosses a coin into a fountain or wishing well. Interestingly, another modern ritual that has ancient roots is the concept of topping off (or topping out), where a ceremony is held for the last beam situated on the top of a building.

Curse Tablets

Consisting of metal scrolls, curse tablets were a way in which ancient Romans wrote spells as a way to get their revenge regarding misdeeds, which often involved thefts of money, clothing, or animals. Most recently, these kinds of tablets have been uncovered in Britain – close to ancient Roman temple sites.

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