First Advisor

Brian Turner

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Social Science and University Honors


Social Science




Rome -- Religious life and customs, Pontifex maximus, Rome – Religion, Rome -- History




Ancient Roman history is heavily defined by an evolving relationship with Romans and their gods. Between the Monarchy (753 BCE – 509 BCE) and Republic (509 BCE – 27 BCE), religion developed into an interconnecting web of institutions that performed rituals to ensure appeasement of the gods in various Roman affairs. Fostering a productive relationship with the gods equated to what the Romans called maintaining pax deorum or peace with the gods. This thesis explores the moments in which the influence of religion played a key role in the developing periods of the Monarchy and Republic leading up to the close of the Second Punic War (218 BCE – 201 BCE). Traditionally, modern scholars have acknowledged religion to have played an elemental role in Roman affairs. This thesis further expands upon previous research to revisit how the historical accounts of Livy, Plutarch, and Polybius portrayed religion’s role in society. The primary focus of analysis will examine the role and depiction of the lives and careers of the men who held the title of head priest known as the pontifex maximus. What is found is that the qualifications and character demanded of the pontifex maximus did not fit any one mold. Initially, the responsibilities of the pontifex maximus related to maintaining an adherence to proper religious ritual in the affairs of the Roman community. As Roman territory expanded by means of conquest and war, the role of the pontifex maximus began to expand and integrate into military affairs. This thesis further explores the evolution of the definition of pax deorum in the eyes of the Romans. Romans utilized ritual to honor the gods, which they perceived to be a key factor in the pursuit of prominence and glory. As they sought to obtain these objectives, Romans transitioned from soliciting the approval of the gods to requesting active intervention.


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