Religion played a very important role in Ancient Egypt. Their religion was a stable system, which fiercely resisted any changes. “Egyptians did not question the beliefs which had been handed down to them; they did not desire change in their society. Their main aim throughout their history was to emulate the conditions which they believed had existed at the dawn of creation”¯ (David, 81). Egyptian religion was based on polytheism, or worshiping to multiple gods.
Religion explained the origin of the world and men and gave explanations to all events, which occurred in this world.
Religion controlled all spheres of Egyptian society. “The entire civilization of Ancient Egypt was based on religion, and their beliefs were important to them. Their belief in the rebirth after death became their driving force behind their funeral practices”¯ (Budge, 75). So-called Divine kingship, or the legend about the divine origin of Pharaoh, was an essential component of Egyptian religion. The Pharaoh was treated not only like a political leader, but also as an incarnation of god and his will was indisputable and he had unlimited power.Ā Priest also possessed much power and had big impact on people.
Religion had a very big influence in Ancient Rome. It was used to explain all events in the world. People of Rome believed that multiple gods controlled their lives and defined their destinies. This fact can explain why all those who had religions authority used to have an immense power in the Roman society. Roman religion consisted of cult practices and derived from animistic tradition. Different gods and spirits were responsible for different aspects of heavenly and human activities. Beliefs in ancestors’ power and worshiping to them were another aspect of Roman religion. Sacrifices also were the part of religious practices in ancient Rome. These sacrifices were made in order to receive a grace of angry goods. Interconnection with other countries added to Roman Pantheon of Gods. Many gods and goddesses of Ancient Rome were borrowed from Greek religion. Great influence of religion on all aspects of life in ancient Rome is perfectly illustrated by the concept of the divinity of the Emperor. Roman Emperors had the positions of Pontifex Maximus, the head of Roman Religion, and represented the highest religious authorities. “TheĀ Achievements of the Divine Augustus”¯, which are two large bronze pillars in Rome inscribed with the deeds of Augustus, roman coins where the Emperor is portrayed with a halo or divine glow, temple inscriptions such as “Divine Augustus Caesar, son of a god, imperator of land and sea”¯ (MacMullen, 69).They used religion in order to enhance their political authority. Emperors were the bearers of religious traditions. They were obeyed and worshiped like godlike creatures.
Christianity became the dominant religious during the Middle Ages in Western Europe. Most part of Europe became Christianized during this time. Geographically, Christian religion was divided between the West and the East. This separation gave birth to the development of two branches of Christianity, such as Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity accordingly.
During the early history of Christianity the Church remained independent from any political influence but the situation has changed with the flow of time.
Gradually Christian leaders became closer to the politics. In the middle age it was considered that the power of kings derived directly from God and in this way they became bearers of Christianity in Europe. This made the position of the lords stronger and gave additional value to the church. The Catholic Church gradually became a powerful organization, which had own lands and big influence in the West European countries. In addition, it had the right to impose taxes. This gave the Church additional sources of income. Gifts and donations composed another significant part of income.
“The power of the Catholic Church grew with its wealth. The Catholic Church was then able to influence the kings and rulers of Europe. Opposition to the Catholic Church would result in excommunication. This meant that the person who was excommunicated could not attend any church services, receive the sacraments and would go straight to hell when they died”¯ (Rosenwein, 81). During the Middle Ages Christian Church became a powerful organization, which had great social and political influence in Western Europe.
As we can see, religion had great influence in Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt and Middle Age Europe. In ancient world people could not give reasonable explanations to the world around them and religion became that mean, which gave them all necessary explanations. Ignorance and fear made people obedient believers and religion was an instrument of political power. The legend about divine origin of the Emperors in Rome and Pharaoh in Egypt made their power very strong. Ancient times became that period, when religion had the greatest impact.
If we compare three civilizations, we will see that it had the stronger influence in ancient Egypt. There are several reasons for such big impact. Being not able to explain things and events, people were afraid of them. Religion was the only source of information and thus became a defense and hope for all people. In addition a religion was not divided from the state power in ancient civilizations like Egypt. Pharaoh in Egypt presented not only highest political authority, but also was the source of religious power. That made religion especially strong during that time. Fear and ignorance made people obedient and open to any kind of religion and those, who were in power used this factor.
During the Middle Ages people possessed more knowledge about the world around them and new religion, such as Christianity has replaced pagan religions. Christianity, based on the ideas of love and liberty, appealed to many people, who lived in misery. Despite Christianity was based on other principles in comparison to pagan religion, it was still used as powerful means to control people. The Church was a strong and powerful organization during the Middle Ages and it was a power, which political leaders could not ignore. During many centuries religion was used as a political instrument and helped to control people.