Religion in ancient Rome combined several different cult practices and embraced more than a single set of beliefs. The Romans originally followed a rural animistic tradition, in which many spirits (gods) were each responsible for specific, limited aspects of the cosmos and human activities. The early Romans referred to these gods as numina. For example, there were different numina for ploughing, for horses, and for cattle.
The Etruscans provided the context out of which Roman culture and religious beliefs evolved. See Etruscan mythology. Another aspect of this animistic belief was ancestor worship, with each family honouring their own dead by their own rites.
Early in the history of the Roman Republic, foreign gods were imported, especially from Greece, which had a great cultural influence on the Romans. In addition, the Romans connected some of their indigenous deities with Greek gods and goddesses.
As the Roman Empire expanded, and included people from a variety of cultures, there were more and more gods.
The legions brought home cults originating from Egypt, Britain, Iberia, Germany, India and Persia. The cults of Cybele, Isis, and Mithras were particularly important.
Along with this, the ancient Roman beliefs and practices continued, especially in and around Rome itself. This included the worship of the lares and penates (spirits specific to a family, with altars in the home), festivals such as the Lupercalia and Saturnalia, and a complex system of lucky and unlucky days.
Another important aspect of religion in Roman times was the divinity of the Emperor. More than just being the Pontifex Maximus (the head of the Roman Religion), Roman Emperors endorsed the various popular cult religions.
In an effort to enhance political loyalty among the populace, they often called subjects to participate in the cults and revere the emperors as gods. Examples of this include "The Achievements of the Divine Augustus", which are two large bronze pillars in Rome inscribed with the deeds of Augustus, roman coins where the Emperor is portrayed with a halo or divine glow, temple inscriptions such as "Divine Augustus Caesar, son of a god, imperator of land and sea..." (Roman Temple Inscription in Myra, Lycia).
Eventually, Christianity came to replace the older pantheon as the state religion.
The origins of Christianity spring from Judaism. Christianity originally developed as an offshoot of Judaism with the followers believing that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah.
Judaism of the Roman era was comprised of four distinct sects;
1. Sadducees; aristocratic Jews who cooperated with the Roman government;
2. Pharisees; Strict adherents to the Jewish law;
3. Essenes; Messanic group which lived a communal lifestyle and wrote many books including the "Dead Sea Scrolls";
4. Zealots; Militaristic group which was openly hostile to the Roman state and led the revolt of 66 AD which resulted in destruction of Jerusalem and the massacre at Masada.
Jesus of Nazareth is proclaimed the messiah by his followers. Life of Jesus is outlined in the Gospels. He was born in Bethlehem (C. 3 BC). Raised as a carpenter. Early years are undocumented but many feel he spent some years in Egypt and was possibly educated by the Essenes. He was a follower of John the Baptist. The teachings of Jesus are unusual for the period of time and appealed to all segments of Roman society.
Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Messanic prophecy. All humans are created equal. One should serve his fellow man. Only God could - and should - avenge wrongs. Humans should respect earthly law. Violence of any kind is wrong.
Jesus was martyred. He angered the Pharisees by his teachings. Charges of heresy were brought against Jesus by the Pharisees during Passover Week. The Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, was pressured by the Pharisees to execute Jesus after the Jewish court (Sanhedrin) refused to try him. Jesus was crucified by the Romans (C. 30 AD). He was labeled the "Christos" (Anointed One) after his followers claimed he was resurrected.
The immediate followers of Jesus (Apostles) are also martyred for their beliefs.
Paul, a converted Jew, is the man most responsible for spreading the Christian faith throughout the Roman empire. Almost 1/3 of the books of the New Testament is attributed to him. Born Saul of Tarsus, he had a conversion on the road to Damascus. His special mission became the conversion of the non-Jew (Gentile) to Christianity.
Religious ceremonies develop slowly into the now accepted Sacraments of the Church.
Early Christianity was influenced by other religions.
2. Mithraism; A Persian religion associated with Zoroasterianism which had become the unofficial cult of the Roman army. Open only to men, Mithraism seems to have had an impact on early Christian practices including Celebration of Dec. 25 as Jesus' birthday; Celebration of Sunday as the sabbath; (C) Concept of the baptism of the blood.
3. Stoicism; Acceptance of fate regardless of circumstances was evident during Christian persecutions.
4. Neo-Platonism; Revival of Plato's concept of reality of "ideas" and his concentration on the "last days" affected Christianity.
Early Church organization copied the leadership pattern of the Roman Empire.
Early persecutions of Christians, although sporadic, were cruel.
Early heresies concerning the nature of Jesus threaten the new beliefs of the Christian church.
Church Councils are held to settle many of the questions of early Christianity.
Several church leaders help form the doctrine and theology of the early Christian church.
Symbols of the early church develop over many centuries.
Monasticism and Asceticism develop as important movements in the early Christian church.
The reasons Christianity succeeded while others failed:
Excellent job you have done with your thread. I do have 1 conflicting viewpoint on the info.regarding the names of the Apostles. There was the Apostle Peter in the original group,but there is no record of his ever setting foot in Rome.That "Peter" was Simon-Peter ,the Maji. He was the former High-Priest of neighboring Samaria. When he first approached the group,he acted as if a devoted student.He was made welcome until he approached with a request to receive a full Apostleship. He was told that this was not possible.He then tried to buy Apostleship and was refused and then run off by the group.So he left the region determined to start his own religious following.As history records, he set up shop in Rome brandishing his own version of religion.HE was the "Peter" that founded the Roman Catholic religion that was born from a devotion to the God "Oannes"- the "Fish-God" whose "high-priest" wears a open-mouth fish-head hat!, and the symbol used to identify this God?, the "double-fish"/Pisces symbol !
Also I would like to point out that the real Peter ,the Apostle was of the House of Judah. I would also point out that as an Apostle,his followers would never let him suffer the indignity of burial in a foreign land,especially not a pauper's grave. He would have been brought back to his homeland if it was really him,with all the pomp and ceremony due his station in life. Trust me on that one friend.
But taken into account that it really was just Simon-Peter,and not the real Apostle Peter,then everything pretty well falls into place with what I've come to understand of events back then.
Once again,great job! :)