In ancient Roman religion, Roma was a female deity who personified the city of Rome and more broadly, the Roman state. She embodied Rome in complex ways and symbolized the ideal woman in society. Roman political and religious ideas were portrayed through Roma in the different forms of media: coins, sculptures and designs on architecture. Roma was a construction of Roman state patronage. Though her depictions have been influenced by other goddesses at the time, such as Minerva and Tyches in general, Roma stood out as a symbol of Rome.
In Roman art and coinage, she was usually depicted with a military helmet, and often other military equipment, although in the Greek-speaking east she more often wore a mural crown, signifying Rome's status as a loyal protector of Hellenic city-states. She survived into the Christian period, joining the Tyches of other cities, now as a pure personification. In groups of these she can usually be distinguished by the helmet, as the others wear mural crowns representing their city walls. She often appears on coins, and her depiction seated with a shield and spear later influenced Britannia. Roma was also depicted on silver cups, arches, and sculptures in the city, including on the base of the column of Antoninus Pius.
Problems in earliest attestation
A helmeted figure on Roman coins of 280-276 and 265-242 BC is sometimes interpreted as Roma but the identification is contestable. Other early Roman coinage shows a warlike "Amazon" type, possibly Roma but more likely genius than dea. Ennius personified the "Roman fatherland" as Roma: for Cicero, she was the "Roman state", but neither of these are dea Roma. Though her Roman ancestry is possible - perhaps merely her name and the ideas it evoked - she emerges as a Greek deity.
The goddess Roma was represented throughout ancient Rome through different images and sculptures. In the late first century CE, she was represented on a silver cup. In the town of Boscoreale, Italy she appears helmeted, her foot resting on a helmet and wielding a spear. These depictions of Roma had to be accurate as they presented an 'official' image of Rome. An example of this is during the Punic Wars. Rome issued coins that had the head of Roma on one side and the figure of victory on the other. Current scholarships believes Romans thought doing this would encourage the idea that Rome would prevail over her enemies. In other works, the Gemma Augustea sculpture by Dioscurides, Roma is sat in state beside Augustus in military apparel.
The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century CE honorific arch, located south-east of the Roman Forum. Roma is depicted on the keystone of the arch and is in fully panoply on the left side of the archway, where she is escorting the emperor on chariot. The representation of Roma on the Arch of Titus is constant representation of her throughout the Roman empire. In other arches of Septimimus Severus and Constantine, she is depicted the same.
The depictions of Roma throughout Roman history, mimic the representations of Minerva. The images of Roma all portray characteristics that represent Rome: intelligence, dignity and military strength. Roma's imagery was made to depict what Rome is and the idealized view of Romanitas. This was the Roman personification of its virtues.
Roma in the Greek world
The earliest certain cult to dea Roma was established at Smyrna in 195 BC, probably to mark Rome's successful alliance against Antiochus III. Mellor has proposed her cult as a form of religio-political diplomacy which adjusted traditional Graeco-Eastern monarchic honours to Republican mores: honours addressed to the divine personification of the Roman state acknowledged the authority of its offices, Republic and city as divine and eternal.
Democratic city-states such as Athens and Rhodes accepted Roma as analogous to their traditional cult personifications of the demos (ordinary people). In 189 BC, Delphi and Lycia instituted festivals in her honour. Roma as "divine sponsor" of athletics and pan-Hellenic culture seems to have dovetailed neatly into a well-established and enthusiastic festival circuit, and temples to her were outnumbered by her civic statues and dedications. In 133 BC, Attalus III bequeathed the people and territories of Pergamon to Rome, as to a trusted ally and protector. The Pergamene bequest became the new Roman province of Asia, and Roma's cult spread rapidly within it.
In Hellenistic religious tradition, gods were served by priests and goddesses by priestesses but Roma's priesthood was male, perhaps in acknowledgment of the virility of Rome's military power. Priesthood of the Roma cult was competed among the highest ranking local elites.
In contrast to her putative "Amazonian" Roman original, Greek coinage depicts Roma in the "dignified and rather severe style" of a Greek goddess, often wearing a mural crown, or sometimes a Phrygian helmet. She is occasionally bareheaded. In this and later periods, she was often associated with Zeus (as guardian of oaths) and Fides (the personification of mutual trust). Her Eastern cult appealed for Rome's loyalty and protection - there is no reason to suppose this as other than genuine (and diplomatically sound) respect. A panegyric to her survives, in five Sapphic stanzas attributed to Melinno. In Republican Rome and its Eastern coloniae her cult was virtually non-existent.
Very little remains of Roma's cult temples in the Eastern Mediterranean world. Four altars survive, and one deliberately mutilated statue.
Roma in Imperial cult
|O: draped and cuirassed bust with radiate crown||R: Roma seated left on shield, holding Victory and scepter
|silver antoninianus struck by Philip the Arab in Rome, AD 247
ref.: RIC 44b
The assassination of Julius Caesar led to his apotheosis and cult as a State divus in Rome and her Eastern colonies. Caesar's adopted heir Augustus ended Rome's civil war and became princeps ("leading man") of the Republic, and in 30/29 BC, the koina of Asia and Bithynia requested permission to honour him as a living divus. Republican values held monarchy in contempt, and despised Hellenic honours - Caesar had fatally courted both - but an outright refusal might offend loyal provincials and allies. A cautious formula was drawn up: non-Romans could only offer him cult as divus jointly with dea Roma.
Two temples were dedicated for the purpose. Roma was thus absorbed into the earliest (Eastern) form of "Imperial cult" - or, from an Eastern viewpoint, the cult to Augustus was grafted onto their time-honoured cult to Roma. From here on, she increasingly took the attributes of an Imperial or divine consort to the Imperial divus, but some Greek coin types show her as a seated or enthroned authority, and the Imperial divus standing upright as her supplicant or servant.
The Imperial cult arose as a pragmatic and ingenious response to an Eastern initiative. It blended and "renewed" ancient elements of traditional religions and Republican government to create a common cultural framework for the unification of Empire as a Principate. In the West, this was a novelty, as the Gauls, Germans and Celts had no native precedent for ruler cult or a Roman-style administration.
The foundation of the Imperial cult centre at Lugdunum introduced Roman models for provincial and municipal assemblies and government, a Romanised lifestyle, and an opportunity for local elites to enjoy the advantages of citizenship through election to Imperial cult priesthood, with an ara (altar) was dedicated to Roma and Augustus. Thereafter, Roma is well attested by inscriptions and coinage throughout the Western provinces. Literary sources have little to say about her, but this may reflect her ubiquity rather than neglect: in the early Augustan era, she may have been honoured above her living Imperial consort.
In provincial Africa, one temple to Roma and Augustus is known at Leptis Magna and another at Mactar. On the Italian peninsula, six have been proven - Latium built two, one of them privately funded. During the reign of Tiberius, Ostia built a grand municipal temple to Roma and Augustus.
In the city of Rome itself, the earliest known state cult to dea Roma was combined with cult to Venus at the Hadrianic Temple of Venus and Roma. This was the largest temple in the city, probably dedicated to inaugurate the reformed festival of Parilia, which was known thereafter as the Romaea after the Eastern festival in Roma's honour. The temple contained the seated, Hellenised image of dea Roma - the Palladium in her right hand symbolised Rome's eternity. In Rome, this was a novel realisation. Greek interpretations of Roma as a dignified deity had transformed her from a symbol of military dominance to one of Imperial protection and gravitas.
Roma's position could be more equivocal. Following the defeat of Clodius Albinus and his allies by Septimius Severus at Lugdunum, Roma was removed from the Lugdunum cult ara to the temple, where along with the Augusti she was co-opted into a new and repressive formulation of Imperial cult. Fishwick interprets the reformed rites at Lugdunum as those offered any paterfamilias by his slaves. It is not known how long this phase lasted, but it appears to have been a unique development.
In a later, even more turbulent era, a common coin type of Probus shows him in the radiate solar crown of the Dominate: the reverse offers Rome's Temple of Venus and dea Roma. While Probus' image shows his monarchic Imperium, Roma displays his claims to restoration of Roman tradition and Imperial unity.
In the New Testament
Some assert that Roma is depicted in the Book of Revelation as the Whore of Babylon. Others have suggested that in 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and the Sibylline Oracles, "Babylon" is a cryptic name for Rome. Reinhard Feldmeier speculates that "Babylon" is used to refer to Rome in the First Epistle of Peter (1 Peter 5:13). In Revelation 17:9 it is said that she sits on "seven mountains", typically understood as the seven hills of Rome. Although some scholars recognize that Babylon is a cipher for Rome, they also claim that Babylon represents more than the Roman city of the first century. Craig Koester says outright that “the whore is Rome, yet more than Rome.” It “is the Roman imperial world, which in turn represents the world alienated from God.” James L. Resseguie says that Babylon “is not merely a representation of the Roman Empire.” It is “the city of this world” and a cipher for “the tyrannical ways of evil.”
Comparisons with Other States
Not only was the depiction of Roma important to Rome but also women living in the society. Roma's 'femaleness' showed that she was a consort to the emperor and protector of the Roman people. This is shown through her revealed breasts which signified her virtue. Lillian Joyce, wrote Roma and the Virtuous Beast where she mentioned that throughout Rome, Roma has been depicted with revealed breasts. Her breasts were the symbol for her maternal nurture of the Roman people. Roma is the mother of the Roman people, therefore, her maternal beauty was sculpted throughout the various forms of media.
In Greek cities, the depiction of Roma is similar to the iconography of Tyches. Tyches was the goddess of Greek states and is said to be the daughter of Aphrodite and Zeus. Similar to Rome, many Greek states dedicated temples, altars, statues to Roma. But since Greek cities also worshipped Tyches, her attributes also was adopted in Greek depictions of Roma. Some of these attributes include Tyches' mural crown and cornucopia. Other similarities between goddess include Athena. Romans considered Athena to be the Hellenic equivalent to Minerva, therefore she was often seen in Roman culture too. An example of this is Roma's seated pose. This seated pose of Roma appears in 69 percent of the known images, which is influenced by the established imagery of Athena. Like Athena, Roma is represented as a masculine-female who has the personification of empires built on conquest and war. The difference in the two goddesses is the clothing worn. Athena does not show legs or bare breasts.
Roma was also depicted in the city of Corinth. The presence of Roma is found in the Panayia Domus which is related to the statues of the goddess on Temple E in Corinth. It served as a reminder that Corinth was a capital of the Roman province of Aschaia. Again, Roma is shown as a strong indication of Rome's dominance across is region. The symbol represents the strong sense of conquest.
In Lucan's poem, Pharsalia, Roma is also depicted as a strong woman that represents Roman values. It is a poem that details the civil war between Julius Caesar and the forces of the Roman Senate, led by Pompey the Great. Early in the epic Julius Caesar repudiates Roma herself, Caesar does not share the ideas of the goddess of Roma. His destructive progress through the poem inevitably ends with a mistress in Egypt. The poet identifies Roma and the res publica with the Roman matrona, a man who rejects either one is not truly Roman. However, a good Roman man loves a virtuous Roman woman because she embodies Roman virtues, and this is what Roma represents-Roman virtues.
"As personification, as goddess or as symbol, the name Roma stretches from classical Greece to Mussolini's Fascist propaganda... Roma has been seen as a goddess, a whore, a near-saint, and as the symbol of civilization itself. She remains the oldest continuous political-religious symbol in Western civilization." Ronald Mellor, Introduction, The goddess Roma.
- Mellor, 956.
- Joyce, Lillian (2014). "Roma and the Virtuous Breast". Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. 59/60: 1–49. ISSN 0065-6801. JSTOR 44981971.
- Mellor, R., "The Goddess Roma" in Haase, W., Temporini, H., (eds), Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt, de Gruyter, 1991, pp 60-63.
- From "Sear Roman Coins & their Values (RCV 2000 Edition) #25" at www.wildwinds.com  (accessed 22 June 2009): but see Mellor, 974-5 for a more tentative approach to early helmeted figures: other possible identities have been speculated, such as Diana or the Trojan captive Rhome, who may be a mythic-poetic personification of Gk. rhome (strength). (For Rhome, see Hard, R., Rose, H.J., The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, 2003, p586: limited preview available online: .
- Mellor, 963, 1004-5.
- Bond, Robin P (January 1, 2001). "The City in Roman Satire with Special Reference to Horace and Juvenal" (PDF). Scholia. 10: 77–91 – via Sabinet.
- Tacitus, Annals, 4.56
- The Roma cult did not displace cult to individual Roman benefactors. The Hellenophile general Flamininus was given divine honours jointly with Roma for his military achievements on behalf of Greek allies: Plutarch, Flamininus, 16, gives the ending lines of what he describes as a lengthy Chalcidian hymn to Zeus, Roma and Flamininus: available online at Thayer's website  (accessed June 29, 2009)
- Mellor, 967.
- Mellor, 958-9.
- Mellor, 965-6: In the East - as later in the provincial West - Roma's priests were probably elected.
- Mellor, 960-3.
- Roman cult to Fides was instituted in the Late Republic: Cicero, De Natura Deorum, 2. 61.
- English and Greek versions in Powell, Anton, The Greek World, Routledge, 1997, p369: limited preview available - 
- Mellor, 972.
- For a summary of modern viewpoints on the religious sincerity of Ruler cult see Harland, P.A., Introduction to Imperial Cults within Local Cultural Life: Associations in Roman Asia, 2003. Originally published in "Ancient History Bulletin / Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte" 17 (2003):85-107. Available online: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-30. Retrieved 2009-05-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Ando, 45.
- Roma may have had joint (but unattested) cult with Augustus at the three colonial Arae Sestianae of the Iberian peninsula, probably founded shortly after 19 BC: see Mellor, 989.
- The cult altar was inaugurated in 10 or 12 BC: Fishwick favours 12 BC as both practical and a particularly auspicious date for Augustus
- Fishwick sees the persistence of Roma's Hellenic seniority as dea (over the Augustan divus) in Western Imperial cult.
- Mellor, 990-993: Mellor finds Roma an essential companion to the Augustan and later Imperial divi, based on the surmise of Imperial cult as less one of obedience than a Romano-Hellenic framework for co-operation and acculturation: emperors of the Principate claimed to represent and sustain the "senate and people of Rome", not to dominate them.
- Priests at the Lugdunum complex were known by the Greek title of sacerdos. Most others were flamen who - contrary to Roman tradition - served a number of deities. In general, female Imperial cult honorands (such as the living or deceased and deified Empress and state goddesses) were served by a priestess. Some were wife to the cult priest, but most may have been elected in their own right. One priestess is rather confusedly flamina sive sacerdos - Western Imperial cults show remarkably liberal interpretations of cult and priesthood: some appear to be unique. However, with only one possible exception (at Toulouse) dea Roma was served by priests, as in her Hellenic cult. See Fishwick vol 1, 1, 101 & vol 3, 1, 12-13, & Mellor, 998-1002.
- Mellor, 1002-3.
- Beard et al, vol 1, 257-9.
- Mellor, 963-4.
- Fishwick, Vol. 3, 1, 199.
- Examples of Probus' coin types are shown at Doug Smith's website Archived 2009-12-24 at the Wayback Machine
- Women in scripture: a dictionary of named and unnamed women in the Hebrew
- *L. Michael White, Understanding the Book of Revelation, PBS
- Helmut Köster, Introduction to the New Testament, Volume 2, 260
- Pheme Perkins, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, 16
- James L. Resseguie, Revelation Unsealed: A Narrative Critical Approach to John's Apocalypse, 138
- Watson E. Mills, Mercer Commentary on the New Testament, 1340
- Nancy McDarby, The Collegeville Bible Handbook, 349
- Carol L. Meyers, Toni Craven, Ross Shepard Kraemer Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew, p. 528
- David M. Carr, Colleen M. Conway, Introduction to the Bible: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts, 353
- Larry Joseph Kreitzer Gospel Images in Fiction and Film: On Reversing the Hermeneutical Flow, 61
- By Mary Beard, John A. North, S. R. F. Price Religions of Rome: A History,
- David M. Rhoads, From Every People and Nation: The Book of Revelation in Intercultural Perspective, 174
- Charles T. Chapman, The Message of the Book of Revelation, 114
- Norman Cheadle, The Ironic Apocalypse in the Novels of Leopoldo Marechal, 36
- Peter M. J. Stravinskas, The Catholic Answer Book, Volume 1, 18
- Catherine Keller, God and Power: Counter-Apocalyptic Journeys, 59
- Brian K. Blount, Revelation: A Commentary, 346
- Frances Carey, The Apocalypse and the Shape of Things to Come, 138
- Richard Dellamora, Postmodern Apocalypse: Theory and Cultural Practice at the End, 117
- A. N. Wilson, Paul: The Mind of the Apostle, 11
- Gerd Theissen, John Bowden, Fortress Introduction to the New Testament, 166
- 2 Esdras/4 Esdras; see the article on the naming conventions of the Books of Ezra
- 4 Ezra 3:1–2, 28–31
- 2 Baruch 10:1–3, 11:1, 67:7
- Sibylline oracles 5.143, 159–60
- Lester L. Grabbe, Robert D. Haak, ed. (2003). Knowing the End From the Beginning. A&C Black. p. 69. ISBN 9780567084620.
- Reinhard Feldmeier (2008). The First Letter of Peter. Baylor University Press. p. 41. ISBN 9781602580244.
- (the King James Version Bible—the New International Version Bible uses the words "seven hills")
- Wall, R. W. (1991). New International Biblical Commentary: Revelation (207). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
- Bratcher, R. G., & Hatton, H. (1993). A Handbook on the Revelation to John. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (248). New York: United Bible Societies.
- Davis, C. A. (2000). Revelation. The College Press NIV commentary (322). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub.
- Mounce, R. H. (1997). "The Book of Revelation." The New International Commentary on the New Testament (315). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
- Beckwith, Isbon T. The Apocalypse of John. New York: MacMillan, 1919; reprinted, Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001.
- Craig R. Koester, Revelation, Anchor Yale Bible 38A (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), 684.
- Koester, Craig R. (2014). Revelation, Anchor Yale Bible 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 506.
- James L. Resseguie, The Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 221.
- Heather f. Sharpe (2014). "Bronze Statuettes from the Athenian Agora: Evidence for Domestic Cults in Roman Greece". Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. 83: 143. doi:10.2972/hesperia.83.1.0143. JSTOR 10.2972/hesperia.83.1.0143.
- e. v. Mulhern (2017). "Roma(na) Matrona". The Classical Journal. 112 (4): 432–459. doi:10.5184/classicalj.112.4.0432. JSTOR 10.5184/classicalj.112.4.0432.
- Mellor, 952.
- Ando, Clifford, Imperial ideology and provincial loyalty in the Roman Empire, illustrated, University of California Press, 2000. ISBN 0-520-22067-6
- Beard, M., Price, S., North, J., Religions of Rome: Volume 1, a History, illustrated, Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-521-31682-0
- Fishwick, Duncan. The imperial cult in the Latin West: studies in the ruler cult of the western provinces of the Roman Empire. Brill, 1987–2005.
- Mellor, R., "The Goddess Roma" in Haase, W., Temporini, H., (eds), Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt, de Gruyter, 1991. pp 950–1030. ISBN 3-11-010389-3
- Media related to Dea Roma at Wikimedia Commons