Nova Roma is an organization dedicated to the study and restoration of ancient Roman culture. The centerpiece of the activities of Nova Roma is the Religio Romana; the ancient faith of the people of Rome. Also important is the Via Romana; a general revival of Roman culture, arts, and most especially what are known as the Roman Virtues.
The Religio Romana began as the simple earth-based faith of the farmers of the village of Rome. Influenced by their Etruscan (and later Greek) neighbors, the Romans developed a complex State Religion that emphasised duty to the Gods (pietas) and serving them through exactly prescribed rituals. It is a faith that demands steadfastness and devotion to duty. It involves working in harmony with the eternal gods and with universal order, for the benefit not only of ourselves but also the world around us; with right action and attitudes towards the gods, both the State and the individual will prosper.
The Romans believed that as long as rituals were performed correctly and the Gods were not blasphemed, the individual was encouraged to explore and form a bond with the deities suitable for his or her own specific needs and desires. This accounted for the tolerance and inclusiveness that existed in ancient Rome.
The ancient Romans believed that numina (spirits) were omnipresent and influenced every aspect of daily life; therefore the attention to worship was paramount for a successful and happy life. These numina were considered to be divine manifestations, both earthly and celestial, and emanated from aspects of nature and human characteristics.
In very early Rome, all religious rites were performed in the home. The paterfamilias, or head of the family, presided over rituals at a lararium (altar) near the hearth fire to meet the daily needs of the family. Critical needs included beneficial weather, health and welfare of the family members and abundant harvests. As the needs of the family grew to include the needs of the community and then the State, a hierarchy of priests was established to supervise the calendar of festivals and religious holidays that embodied ancient Roman life. State priests would conduct public rites to maintain good relations with the Gods on the state level.
The Roman ritual clearly distinguishes two classes of gods, the di indigetes and the de novensides or novensiles. The indigetes were the original gods of the Roman state, and their names and nature are indicated by the titles of the earliest priests and by the fixed festivals of the calendar; 30 such gods were honored with special festivals. The novensides were later divinities whose cults were introduced in the historical period. Early Roman divinities included, in addition to the di indigetes, a host of so-called specialist gods whose names were invoked in the carrying out of various activities, such as harvesting. Here is a small sample:
Jupiter was the Roman sky god, the equivalent of the Greek god Zeus. The cult of the Jupiter Optimus Maximus ("the best and greatest") began under the Etrucan kings, who were expelled from Rome around 507 BC. At first, Jupiter was associated with the elements, especially storms, and lightning, but he later became the protector of the Roman people and was their powerful ally in war. The games held in the Circus in Rome were dedicated to him.
Saturn was an ancient Italian corn god, the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Cronos, though he had more in common with goddess Demeter. He was believed to have ruled the earth during a lost Golden Age. His festival, the Saturnalia, was celebrated in Rome over seven days and was held at the end of December.
Mercury was the Roman messenger god, and was also the deity who watched over trade and coomerce, as his name suggests. He was associated with peace and prosperity. He was apparently imported from Greece around the fifth century BC. Mercury is usually depicted in the same way as his Greelk counterpart Hermes, with a winged hat and staff.
Juno was the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Hera and was considered the Roman supreme goddess, married to the ruling god, Jupiter. She is believed to watch and protect all women and was called by the Romans "the one who makes the child see the light of day". Every year, on the first of March, women hold a festival in honor of Juno called the Matronalia. To this day, many people consider the month of June, which is named after the goddess who is the patroness of marriage, to be the most favorable time to marry.
Vesta was the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Hesta, who was the goddess of the hearth. Vesta, however, was worshipped both as the guardian of the domestic hearth and also as the personification of the ceremonial flame. Ceremonies in her honour were conducted by the vestal virgins, who were young girls from noble families who took vows of chastity for the thirty years during which they served her. Vesta's chief festival, the Vestalia, was held on 7 June.
Romulus and Remus , founders of Rome in Roman mythology, were the supposed sons of the god Mars and the priestess Rhea Silvia. Romulus is considered the first King of Rome.
Their mother, Rhea Silvia, had been forced to become a Vestal Virgin by her uncle, Amulius, because he had overthrown her father, Numitor, and wanted to ensure she would not have any sons that might attempt to overthrow him. However, the god Mars came to her in her temple and of him she conceived her two sons, Romulus and Remus. When they were born, Amulius ordered Rhea Silvia to be buried alive (the standard punishment for Vestal Virgins who did not remain celibate) and ordered a servant to kill the twins, but the merciful servant set them adrift in the river Tiber.
Romulus and Remus, however, were found by Tiberinus, the river god, and nursed by a female wolf underneath a fig tree, according to the myth, and were able to survive.
Romulus and Remus were then discovered by Faustulus, a shepherd, who brought the children to his home. Faustulus and his wife, Acca Larentia, raised the boys as their own. According to Livy, some said that Faustulus' wife had been named Loba, and that she had suckled the twins ("Loba" being related to the Latin lupa, "female wolf").
Upon reaching adulthood, Romulus and Remus killed Amulius and reinstated Numitor, their grandfather, as King of Alba Longa, then they built a settlement on the Palatine Hill on April 21, 753 BC (Varronian date). Remus then mocked the short height of the walls and Romulus killed him. He then named the city Rome and made himself king, marrying Hersilia. The violent tone of Rome is said to have been set in this first violent act at its founding.
Romulus attracted a population to his city by inviting exiles, refugees, murderers, criminals and runaway slaves. They aquired women by inviting the Sabine men to a festival While the men were gone the Romans stole the women. Eventually, the Sabines accepted Romulus as their king.