Ancient RomansQUESTION: Did the ancient Romans believe in an afterlife?ANSWER:
Yes, the ancient Romans did believe in an afterlife. They believed in the immortality of the soul and had a complicated belief system about life after death. The ancient Romans believed that when one died, one was met by Mercury, the messenger god and son of Jupiter and taken to the river Styx, that flowed nine times around the underworld. There they paid the ferryman, Charon, a fee to cross the river where they were met and judged by Minos, Aenaeus, and Rhadymanthas.
However, the ancient Romans did not believe in eternal damnation. Therefore, after one was judged he was sent either to the Fields of Elysium, if one was a warrior or other type of hero, or to the Plain of Asphodel, if one was an ordinary citizen. However, if one was judged to have committed a crime against society, one would have been sent to Tartarus to be tortured by the Furies until such time as one's debt to society was deemed to have been paid in full. At that time, one was released. All three areas of the underworld were ruled over by Pluto, brother of Jupiter.
In order to prepare the deceased for the afterlife, the ancient Romans buried their loved ones with a variety of artifacts. Of most importance was the inclusion of a coin on the body with which the soul would pay Charon, the ferryman, for passage across the river Styx. Other objects entombed with the deceased could include food, cosmetics, and jewelry. The sarcophagus was usually decorated with images of the deceased. The ancient Romans believed that it was very important that their loved ones have a proper burial for if they did not they would be denied entrance into the underworld and spend eternity in a purgatory-like existence.