Religion has always been a significant element of almost every society, modern or ancient. It explained everything, including the seasons, the rise of the sun in the morning and the moon at night. The gods protected people from their enemies, the forces of nature, and fought alongside them during times of war. The gods were ever-present in their folklore and temples were built to honor them. Sacrifices were made to win the gods’ blessing. Prior to the rise of the monotheism of the Judeo-Christians, most cultures worshipped a multitude of gods. There was a god of war, a god of the harvest, and even a goddess of fertility. The Roman Empire was no different.
To the early Romans religion and faith, especially during the early years of the Republic, offered reassurance and protection to the people. It was a major component in every aspect of life; few decisions were made without appealing to the gods. Roman religion, however, was not individualistic as Christianity, for example; it was communal. There was no holy text or creed; there was only the pax decorum or peace of the gods. Through rituals and prayer, the Romans curried favor with the gods and thereby evaded his or her wrath. And, while the Romans were often tolerant of the religion of those they conquered (often absorbing an occasional new god or two), they remained protective of the official state religion and were suspicious of anything that might undermine their power structure. This suspicion was the underlying cause of the persecution of both the Jews and Christians during the reigns of Nero and subsequent emperors. This protection would enable Jupiter and his fellow Olympians to survive from the Etruscans, through both the Republican and Imperial Eras, and up to the rise of Christianity.