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Roman Superstitions


Nightmares, black cats and even stumbling upon a doorstep- a mere incident for us today, right? However this wasn’t the same viewpoint of the Romans during the Roman Empire. The Romans were very superstitious when compared to our society today. They believed in many superstitions and omens that could be a hindering factor in their everyday lives. Many of these superstitions were part of other civilizations as well in an evolved way. Many of their superstitions would seem obscure to us today, yet the Romans held strong beliefs in them.

For example, Romans believed that spilling thinks like water, wine or oil were a signal of misfortune.

Roman’s believings

Romans wore amulets and lucky charms to protect themselves from the evil eyes of society. Romans believed in their superstitions until Christianity was adapted and made them change their viewpoints towards their superstitions. The relationship that the Romans had to their gods was very strong and the Romans were able to link themselves to their gods through the belief in their superstitions.

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To begin with, the Romans had a very strong belief in the superstition if the Fates. The Fates were three sisters that were the goddesses of the duration of a person’s life.

The three sisters were Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. They were weavers that spun and cut the life of a Roman whenever they wanted. Clotho was the spinner meaning she was the one that initiated a life. Lachesis was the measurer that measured how long the life of the Roman would be.

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Atropos was the cutter of the thread, which meant the death if the Roman person. Together these three sisters made up the birth, life duration and the death of a Roman individual. The Fates were also called the Moirai. The Fates were not subject to any god and worked on their own without any interference from another deity.

The daughters of Zeus and Themis

The Fates were said to be the daughters of Zeus and Themis. They were described as loving upon their birth, but later were called hags dressed in white robes. Romans believed the Fates to be very powerful and even capable of killing gods. The thread that was spun by them was very thin, yet strong, only destroyable by Atropos. The superstition of the Fates played a major role in the lives of the Romans because of their belief that their life expectancy was dependent on only the Fates. In 114 BC, a vestal virgin was struck by lightning. The Romans believed that the gods wanted to rid of spiritual life.

This occurrence leads to the belief that those who are struck by lightning are people who have broken their vow of chastity, or the resistance from sexual intercourse. Being struck by lightning was a way of being punished by the gods. Even natural disasters were considered to be divine disapproval, that the gods did not accept a certain action or citizens. An owl represented death and weren’t respected. A strange superstition was if you moisten your finger with saliva and rub it across the skin being your ear, you are allowing yourself to have unpleasing thoughts.

The bad omens

If one stumbled upon the doorstep when leaving the house, it was considered a bad omen and he or she would spend the day home as a result. They would have to make sure they step out with their left foot. The north seas were said to be full of all types of sea monsters. Some of these creatures were said to have half man-half monster qualities. The bodies of the dead were watched over during the time before they were buried because people believed that witches and vampires would rob and disfigure the corpse by, for example, eating its nose. A house that had been a scene of a death is believed to be visited by ghosts at some point.

Many would avoid the area if this happened. Romans also believed that objects could possess spirits. Although the Romans seemed very superstitious compared to the modern society, the educated upper class were generally more enlightened. It was the uneducated and lower classes of the society that mainly feared these superstitions. Superstitions were created in place for the explanations to certain events that pertained to darkness or fear. It is interesting to see how obscure some beliefs were, considering the fact that our society today wouldn’t think of such explanations to be the reasons for events.

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Roman Superstitions. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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