Romans (Latin: Romani) are an ethnic group native to Italian peninsula and citizens of the Roman Republic. They are largely based around the Mediterranean Sea, specifically below the Arno and Reno rivers on the peninsula. Romans near-unanimously follow Jovism as a religion, and the religion plays a large part in daily life. Romans speak Latin, the only surviving Italic language and the parent of many languages in the region.

A small Roman diaspora exists throughout Europe and in minor enclaves all throughout the world. During Rome's near three thousand-year history, its people have contributed greatly to the fields of philosophy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, medicine, engineering, linguistics, the social sciences, law, literature, the visual arts, music, and film. It could even be argued that the Romans have founded many of these very fields of study, science, and art.


File:A portrait of a Roman priestess.jpg

Nearly all Romans follow Jovism, a denomination of Paganism, as the polytheistic ethnic religion of Rome. While modern adherents use the religion to define themselves as a people, early Romans adopted the religious practices of peoples brought under and integrated into Roman rule, such as the Etruscans or Greeks.  

The earliest of Rome's religious institutions could be traced to its founders, particularly Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome, who negotiated directly with the gods. This was the foundation of the mos maiorum, "the way of the ancestors" or simply "tradition", viewed as central to Roman identity. Eventually, the religion of the Romans underwent extensive reformation in the 3rd century based on the life and teachings of Apollonius, who lived two centuries prior.

During his life, Apollonius denounced decadence and greed, healed the sick, gave to the needy, spoke as a law-giver, was condemned by Roman authorities, and following his disappearance, he was seen as the savior of the world, sent by the gods to guide the world.


Romans follow the well-known, international Furian calendar. The Furian calendar is a solar calendar with 12 months and normally, 365 days. Although the length of the year, month, weeks, and days are the same in every nation which uses the Furian calendar, the name of the months and days vary from culture to culture.

Name (English) Name (Latin)
Spring Ver
Summer Aestas
Autumn Autumnus
Winter Hibernum
Equivalent Name (English) Name (Latin) Remarks
January Month of January Mensis Januarius Named after Janus, the god of transitions; beginning and ending.
February Month of February Mensis Februarius Named after the Febura, an archaic Roman festival that was eventually subsumed into the Lupercalia.
March Month of March Mensis Martius Named after Mars, the god of war, men, and destruction.
April Month of April Mensis Aprilis Named after Aphrodite, the Greek name for Venus, the goddess of love and beauty.
May Month of May Mensis Maius Named after Maia, the mythological mother of Hermes, the Greek name of Mercury; who is the god of speed, communication, and commerce.
June Month of June Mensis Junius Named after Juno, the goddess of women and queen of the gods.
July Month of Julius Mensis Julius Named after Julius Caesar, a popular general-politician who played a vital role in the creation of the Roman Empire.
August Month of Augustus Mensis Augustus Named after Augustus, the first and grandest Roman emperor.
September Seventh Month Mensis September Means the seventh month of the year.
October Eight Month Mensis October Means the eighth month of the year.
November Ninth Month Mensis November Means the ninth month of the year.
December Tenth Month Mensis December Means the tenth month. In very ancient days, Februarius was originally the last month of the year, and Martius was the beginning of the year. The change is attributed to Numa Pompilius, the semi-legendary second king of Rome.
Equivalent Name (English) Name (Latin) Remarks
Monday Day of the Moon Dies Lunae Named after Luna, the divine personification of the Moon.
Tuesday Day of Mars Dies Martis Named after Mars.
Wednesday Day of Mercury Dies Mercurii Named after Mercury.
Thursday Day of Jupiter Dies Jovis Named after Jupiter, the god of the sky, king of the gods, and chief deity of the Romans.
Friday Day of Venus Dies Veneris Named after Venus.
Saturday Day of Saturn Dies Saturni Named after Saturn, the god of time.
Sunday Day of the Sun Dies Solis Named after Sol, the divine personification of the Sun.


The Romans are renowned for their relatively large amount of holidays occurring all throughout the year; during which work is preferably avoided. The most famous of which, Saturnalia, is held at the end of the year, in December. Many holidays are held in honor of deities such as Janus, although some may be secular, such as the Regifugium. Holidays can generally be either formal, with visits to temples and held with family; or celebratory and merry, held in public with friends and the community.

Some holidays are held monthly, such as first day of every month, the Calends. These days are sacred to Juno, the queen of the gods. The second monthly observance are the Ides, which are sacred to Jupiter. The Ides are held on the fifteenth day of longer months and the thirteenth day of shorter months. Like other holidays, work is preferably avoided on the Calends and Ides.

Mensis Januarius (January)

  • 1: Calendae Januariae - Calends of January - Traditionally, any high-ranking politician, official, or magistrate within the Roman Republic is inaugurated on this date, accompanied by public vows for the protection of the Republic.
  • 3–5: Compitalia - A smaller festival celebrating the specific god or goddess that watches over a community.
  • 9: Agonalia - A holiday dedicated to dedicated to Janus.
  • 11: Carmentalia - A holiday dedicated to females and Carmenta.
  • 15: Idus Januarii - Ides of January
  • 16–19: Feriae Latinae - Latin Festival - A large festival held exclusively in Rome, which the entire Senate and Consul attends. 

Mensis Februarius (February)

  • 1: Calendae Februariae - Calends of February
  • 13–22: Parentalia - A long religious observance during which the Romans honor relatives who have passed.
  • 23: Lupercalia - A lively festival dedicated to Faunus. Completely in the nude, young men run around striking bystanders with light leather straps. 
  • 24: Regifugium - A celebratory holiday commemorating the expulsion of Rome's last king.

Mensis Martius (March)

Mensis Aprilis (April)

Mensis Maius (May)

Mensis Junius (June)

Mensis Julius (July)

Mensis Augustus (August)

Mensis September (September)

Mensis October (October)

Mensis November (November)

Mensis December (December)

  • 1: Calendae Decembres - Calends of December
  • 15: Idus Decembres - Ides of December
  • 17–23: Saturnalia - An observance held to honor Saturn. Saturnalia is both the most lively and widely-observed festival by the Romans. In addition to vibrant celebrations, friends and family exchange gifts on the last day of the festival.



File:An illustration of a Roman wedding by Angelo Todaro.png
On the morning of a Roman wedding day, the bride is dressed by her mother at her house. The bride's garments consist of a colorful veil, which is worn over a long, white wedding stola (long dress). The most important part of her wedding dress was a belt, tied around her waist in the "knot of Hercules", since Hercules is considered the guardian of wedded life; and only the husband could untie this knot. The groom on the other hand, prepares by dressing in his finest toga. Throughout the entire wedding, the bride is accompanied by the pronuba, a young mother, and normally one of the bride's close friends.

The wedding itself is typically held at the home of the bride's family. The ceremony itself commences with a sacrifice to Vesta, the goddess of marriage, by a priest or priestess. After the sacrifice, the marriage contract is signed by the fathers of the groom and bride, normally in the presence of ten witnesses. Once the contract was signed, the pronuba takes the right hands of the couple and places them in each other. The bride then gave consent to the marriage: "Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia" (Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia). The origin of this vow is deeply rooted in the lucky meaning of the name Gaius. With the ceremonial formalities over, the long, lively banquet, consisting of the main course, cake, and wine, begins.

After the banquet, in the evening, the bride is escorted to the house of the groom's family by her own family and anyone invited to the wedding is welcome to join the procession. Upon reaching the groom's house, the groom pretended to force the bride from her mother, and the bride's mother pretended to resist, a custom tracing its roots to the Kidnapping of the Sabine Women. The groom then sweeps the bride from her feet and carries her in his arms through the door of his house. She repeats the vow of consent once more: "Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia", afterwhich she was carried off to bed, where the marriage was consummated and the wedding comes to an end.


Roman funerary practices include the Ancient Romans' religious rituals concerning funerals, cremations, and burials. They were part of the Tradition (Latin: mos maiorum).[1]

Roman cemeteries were located outside the sacred boundary of its cities (pomerium). They were visited regularly with offerings of food and wine, and special observances during Roman festivals in honor of the dead. Funeral monuments appear throughout the Roman Empire, and their inscriptions are an important source of information for otherwise unknown individuals and history. A Roman sarcophagus could be an elaborately crafted art work, decorated with relief sculpture depicting a scene that was allegorical, mythological, or historical, or a scene from everyday life.

Although funerals were primarily a concern of the family, which was of paramount importance in Roman society, those who lacked the support of an extended family usually belonged to guilds or collegia which provided funeral services for members.

When a person died at home, family members and intimate friends gathered around the death bed. In accordance with a belief that equated the soul with the breath, the closest relative sealed the passing of spirit from the body with a last kiss, and closed the eyes. The relatives began lamentations, calling on the deceased by name. The body was then placed on the ground, washed, and anointed. The placing of the body on the ground is a doublet of birth ritual, when the infant was placed on the bare earth.[4] Male citizens were then dressed in a toga, and others in attire appropriate to their station in life. Men who had earned a wreath wore one in death,[5] and wreaths also are found in burials of initiates into mystery religions.[6] After the body was prepared, it lay in state in the atrium of the family home (domus), with the feet pointed toward the door.[7] Other circumstances pertained to those who lived, as most Romans did, in apartment buildings (insulae), but elite practices are better documented.

Although embalming was unusual and regarded as mainly an Egyptian practice, it is mentioned in Latin literature, with a few instances documented by archaeology in Rome and throughout the Empire where no Egyptian influence can be assumed.[8] Since elite funerals required complex arrangements, the body had to be preserved in the mean time.[9]

Other customs[edit]

"Charon's obol" was a coin placed in or on the mouth[10] of the deceased. The custom is recorded in literary sources and attested by archaeology, and sometimes occurs in contexts that suggest it may have been imported to Rome as were the mystery religions that promised initiates salvation or special passage in the afterlife. The custom was explained by the myth of Charon, the ferryman who conveyed the souls of the newly dead across the water — a lake, river, or swamp — that separated the world of the living from the underworld. The coin was rationalized as his payment; the satirist Lucian remarks that in order to avoid death, one should simply not pay the fee. In Apuleius's tale of "Cupid and Psyche" in his Metamorphoses, framed by Lucius's quest for salvation ending with initiation into the mysteries of Isis, Psyche ("Soul") carries two coins in her journey to the underworld, the second to enable her return or symbolic rebirth. Evidence of "Charon's obol" appears throughout the Western Roman Empire well into the Christian era, but at no time and place was it practiced consistently and by all.

Disposal of the body[edit]

Tomb of the Scipios, in use from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD

Although inhumation was practiced regularly in archaic Rome, cremation was the most common burial practice in the Mid- to Late Republic and the Empire into the 1st and 2nd centuries. Crematory images appear in Latin poetry on the theme of the dead and mourning. In one of the best-known classical Latin poems of mourning, Catullus writes of his long journey to attend to the funeral rites of his brother, who died abroad, and expresses his grief at addressing only silent ash.[11] When Propertius describes his dead lover Cynthia visiting him in a dream, the revenant's dress is scorched down the side and the fire of the pyre has corroded the familiar ring she wears.[12]

Ultimately, inhumation would replace cremation; a variety of factors, including decreasing levels of urbanization and changes in attitudes to the afterlife, would contribute to this marked shift in popular burial practices. The care and cultivation of the dead did not end with the funeral and formal period of mourning, but was a perpetual obligation. Libations were brought to the grave, and some tombs were even equipped with "feeding tubes" to facilitate delivery. (See below.)

Funeral rites[edit]

Funeral rites took place at home and at the place of burial,[13] which was located outside the city to avoid the pollution of the living.[14] The funeral procession (pompa funebris) transited the distance between the two.

A professional guild (collegium) of musicians specialized in funeral music.[15] Horace mentions the tuba and the cornu, two bronze trumpet-like instruments, at funerals.[16]


See also: Funeral oration (ancient Greece)

Fragment of a relief from a sarcophagus depicting stages of the deceased's life: religious initiation, military service, and wedding (mid-2nd century AD)

The eulogy (laudatio funebris) was a formal oration or panegyric in praise of the dead. It was one of two forms of discourse at a Roman funeral, the other being the chant (nenia).[17] The practice is associated with noble families, and the conventions for words spoken at an ordinary person's funeral go unrecorded. While oratory was practiced in Rome only by men, an elite woman might also be honored with a eulogy.

For socially prominent individuals, the funeral procession stopped at the forum for the public delivery of the eulogy from the Rostra.[18] Thus a well-delivered funeral oration could be a way for a young politician to publicize himself.[19] Aunt Julia's Eulogy (Laudatio Juliae Amitae), a speech made by the young Julius Caesar in honor of his aunt, the widow of Gaius Marius, helped launch his political career as a populist.[20]

The epitaph of the deceased in effect was a digest of the eulogy made visible and permanent,[21] and might include the career (Template:Cursus honorum) of a man who had held public offices. In commemorating past deeds, the eulogy was a precursor to Roman historiography.


After the body was carried to the cemetery, a sacrifice was performed in the presence of the corpse. Until the time of Cicero, it was customary to offer a sow to Ceres, a sow also being a characteristic offering to chthonic deities. The sacrificial victim was then allotted for consumption among the participants. The portion for the deceased was put on a spit and cremated with the body. Ceres' portion was burned on an altar. The family ate the portion that was due the living. A family of lesser means offered a libation of wine, incense, produce or grain; the allocation of these offerings is not recorded.[22] After this apportioning, the deceased had transitioned and could no longer share in the meals of the living and the domestic gods; he now partook of what was appropriate for the spirits of the dead, the Manes.[23]

The so-called Togatus Barberini in the Capitoline Museums may represent a senator holding two ancestral funerary portraits (imagines)



On the ninth day after the person died, the funeral feast and rites called the novendialis or novemdialis were held.[24] A libation to the Manes was poured onto the grave. This concluded the period of full mourning.[25]

Festivals of the dead[edit]

In February, the last month of the original Roman calendar when March 1 was New Year's Day, the dead were honored at a nine-day festival called the Parentalia, followed by the Feralia on February 21, when the potentially malign spirits of the dead were propitiated. During the Parentalia, families gathered at cemeteries to offer meals to the ancestors, and then shared wine and cakes among themselves (compare veneration of the dead in other cultures). Tombs for wealthy, prominent families were constructed as "houses", with a decorated room for these banqueting festivities.[26]


Epitaphs are one of the major classes of inscriptions. An epitaph usually noted the person's day of birth and lifespan.[27] Information varies, but collectively they offer information on family relationships, political offices,[28] and Roman values, in choosing what aspects of the deceased's life to praise.

Philosophical beliefs may also be in evidence. The epitaphs of Epicureans often expressed some form of the sentiment non fui, fui, non sum, non desidero, "I did not exist, I have existed, I do not exist, I feel no desire,"[29] or non fui, non sum, non curo, "I did not exist, I do not exist, I'm not concerned about it."[30]

Funerary art[edit]

See also: Roman funerary art


Molded mask of a girl with funerary inscription from Roman Gaul

Mummy portrait of a girl wearing a gold wreath, from Roman Egypt

See also: oscilla

Noble Roman families often displayed a series of "images" (sing. imago, pl. imagines) in the atrium of their family home. [34] There is some uncertainty about whether these "images" were funeral masks, busts, or both together. The "images" could be arranged in a family tree, with a title (titulus) summarizing the individual's offices held (honores) and accomplishments (res gestae),[35] a practice that might be facilitated by hanging masks.[36] In any case, portrait busts of family members in stone or bronze were displayed in the home as well.[37]

Funeral masks were most likely made of wax and possibly molded as death masks directly from the deceased. They were worn in the funeral procession either by actors who were professional mourners, or by appropriate members of the family. Practice may have varied by period or by family, since sources give no consistent account.[38]

The display of ancestral images in aristocratic houses of the Republic and the public funerals are described by Pliny, Natural History 35, 4-11.[39]

Since references to "images" often fail to distinguish between commemorative portrait busts, extant examples of which are abundant, or funeral masks made of more perishable materials, none can be identified with certainty as having survived. The veristic tradition of funerary likenesses, however, contributed to the development of realistic Roman portraiture. In Roman Egypt, the Fayum mummy portraits reflect traditions of Egyptian and Roman funerary portraiture and the techniques of Hellenistic painting.


Main article: Ancient Roman sarcophagi

The funerary urns in which the ashes of the cremated were placed were gradually overtaken in popularity by the sarcophagus as inhumation became more common. Particularly in the 2nd–4th centuries, these were often decorated with reliefs that became an important vehicle for Late Roman sculpture. The scenes depicted were drawn from mythology, religious beliefs pertaining to the mysteries, allegories, history, or scenes of hunting or feasting. Many sarcophagi depict Nereids, fantastical sea creatures, and other marine imagery that may allude to the location of the Isles of the Blessed across the sea, with a portrait of the deceased on a seashell.[40] The sarcophagus of a child may show tender representations of family life, Cupids, or children playing.

Relief panel from a 3rd-century marble sarcophagus depicting the Four Seasons (Horae) and smaller attendants around a door to the afterlife[41]

Some sarcophagi may have been ordered during the person's life and custom-made to express their beliefs or aesthetics. Most were mass-produced, and if they contained a portrait of the deceased, as many did, with the face of the figure left unfinished until purchase.[42] The carved sarcophagus survived the transition to Christianity, and became the first common location for Christian sculpture, in works like the mid 4th-century Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus.[43]


Wealthy vs. Commoners[edit]

Ancient Rome has become an excavation site known for its rather extravagant cemeteries. All in all, the commoners and wealthy families of Rome were buried in the same cemeteries; the wealthy, however, had more elaborate tombs. The tombs of the wealthy were typically cut out of bedrock and rectangular in shape.[44] These rectangular tombs resembled the Ancient Roman's house structure, having doors, and many different chambers.[45] Of these chambers, one of them was used to hold the dead's memorial ceremony. During this ceremony, the family of the deceased would get together and have dinner. Other chambers were used to house anything thought necessary for the person laid to rest – including portraits of the deceased and any paraphernalia needed for the memorial ceremony that had yet to come.[46]

Wealthy and prominent families had large, sometimes enormous, mausoleums. The Castel Sant'Angelo by the Vatican, originally the mausoleum of Hadrian, is the best preserved, as it was converted to a fortress.[47] The Tomb of the Scipios was the family tomb of the Scipios, located in an aristocratic cemetery, and in use from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD. A grand mausoleum might include bedrooms and kitchens for family visits which would include feasts. For the wealthy middle class, smaller mausolea lined the roads from cities, many of which still remain in the Tombs of Via Latina, along the Appian Way, and elsewhere. The Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker is a famous and originally very ostentatious tomb in a prime spot just outside the Porta Maggiore, erected for a rich freedman baker around 50-20 BC.[48] The tombs at Petra, in the far east of the Empire are cut into cliffs, some with elaborate facades in the "baroque" style of the Imperial period. The less wealthy made do with smaller tombs, often featuring relief busts over a lengthy inscription. Cheaper still were the Catacombs of Rome, famously used by Christians, but also by all religions, with some specialization, such as special Jewish sections. These were large systems of narrow tunnels in the soft rock below Rome, where niches were sold to the families of the deceased in a very profitable, if rather smelly, trade. Decoration included paintings, many of which have survived.[49] The exterior of the tomb resembled that of a garden. Beautiful flowers and plants decked the outside of the tombs and made them more flattering to the eye. This was probably were the tradition of bringing flowers to a loved one’s grave site began. Other items were also added to the outside of the wealthy’s tombs to make it more decorative. The burial chamber of the deceased was above ground and stocked with relics that were important to the deceased Roman.[50] Lack of relics found in excavated tombs was most probably due to grave robbing.

In the Christian period, it became desirable to be buried near the grave of a famous martyr, and large funeral halls were opened over such graves, which were often in a catacomb underneath. These contained rows of tombs, but also space for meals for the family, now probably to be seen as agape feasts. Many of the large Roman churches began as funeral halls, which were originally private enterprises; the family of Constantine owned the one over the grave of Saint Agnes of Rome, whose ruins are next to Santa Costanza, originally a Constantinian family mausoleum forming an apse to the hall.






Romans speak Latin, a language belonging to the Romance language family. The modern Latin language evolved directly from Classical Latin, and has since changed very little since then for several reasons. Throughout history, and espicially following the fall of the Roman Empire, literacy, even among the poor and lower class, was a sign of Romaness. This was in clear contrast with regions of Europe north of the Great Wall, where even the nobility and rulers lacked the ability to read or write up until the fourteenth century.


Roman names are quite unique, distinguishing the Romans from other people. Roman names consist of a combination three personal and family names, conventionally referred to as the tria nomina. In order, the first name of a Roman is their given name (praenomen). Most of the time, only family and close friends may call a Roman by their given name. The second name of a Roman is their clan name (nomen); Romans are only called this name by acquaintances or colleagues. The third name of a Roman is their family name (cognomen), which is only used during formalities. Few Romans have nicknames (agnomen), which are gained through personal achievements or distinct physical characteristics. In the case of adoption, a person's original nomen would become the basis of their new agnomen, formed by adding the suffix -anus or -inus to the stem.

















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