How did the ideas of fate and the gods affect the lives of people in ancient Rome?

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wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
To put it bluntly, these ideas effected everything. The Romans built their entire culture upon the belief that the gods controlled various aspects of their destiny. Even the founding of Rome itself wasn't attributed to it's people but to it's gods (check out the second link below for more information. If you scroll down to the article "Founding of Rome" you will see a summary of the myth). Roman people based their lives on the will and moods of the gods. For example, let's say a farmer's crops didn't grow well last year. He would look at what he did to offend the god/goddess of the harvest. Then, he would make sacrifices or offerings at the temple of that god. Our modern culture would tell us to look at the crop or the weather rather than a mythical being. But, remember that the Romans didn't have all the science and technology we have today. The gods were a way of explaining the world around them. If there was lightning, the god of the thunder was throwing it. Now we know the science behind such forces of nature. We can even recreate some of them, but we donor believe we are gods. Think of how strange and frightening the world might be if you didn't understand how things worked or why they happened. Fate was a comforting idea for the ancient people. They felt calmer believing that their life was already planned out and in the hands of the gods. Everything that the people ate, drink, or did was believed to be the will of the gods. In this way, the ideas of fate and the gods permeated almost every aspect of Roman life and culture.
arwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To those living in ancient Rome, the will of the gods controlled the destinies of all. There were deities for nearly every aspect of life such as a god of the hearth, Vesta, to keep the fire burning. There was a god of love, Venus. There was a god of war, Apollo, and multitude of other gods who controlled the lives of the people. At the same time, those gods were prone to the same emotions and feelings attributed to humans. For example, if a human were to anger a god in some way by not praying or sacrificing to that god, then that god could take favor away from that human. Ancient Romans had the comfort of believing that as long as they properly propitiated the gods, then the gods would treat their lives fairly.

Whenever Rome as a country was suffering, then the people believed they had not properly propitiated the gods. To ensure that the gods would keep favor on the country, there were temples built and strict laws for obeisance by the priests and priestesses. For example, the priestesses for Vesta, Vestal virgins, dedicated their lives to the worship of Vesta, and any priestess breaking from the bonds of her service to Vesta would face ultimate death. Service to the gods was necessary for life in Rome to ensure the gods would supply a good fate.

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