What was the classical religion of Ancient Rome like, in practice?
Did they literally think Zeus/Jupiter lived ontop of a mountain and threw lightening or was it allegorical? What were the practices? Were there sacred texts or was it more of an oral tradition?
They definitely believed in the gods, but they weren't really dogmatically faithful as a modern person would understand faith. They believed the gods required certain rituals and respect, but not much else besides that. It wasn't important to spread the word of Zeus or Athena or whatever, as much as it was important to make sure there weren't any dead birds in Athena's temple and that the statues were in good condition.
It was actually a collection of sects focused almost exclusively on making sure that the gods were never pissed off.
What I mean is that in many theistic religions, there's a focus on constant worship, whether the gods were happy or not. In the grecco-roman sects, worship happened seasonally unless you felt the gods were pissed at you and then you worshiped extra hard but, for the most part, you lived your daily life with a belief of the gods and just a general hope that they wouldn't shit on you.
1) Romans worshipped a lot of gods prior Christfaggotry. Usually imported religions like Eastern Mystic shit like Isis or Mithras or the religion of their conquered peoples.
2) Roman native religion consists of two things
-Veneration & Worship of the Gods
-Worship of one's Ancestors.
Roman Gods were very much centered on what the Romans considered the most important aspect of life: Law.
Appointing officials, waging war, signing a treaty, making a deal. All of these things needed to be done right and the gods needed to be given the proper amount of prayer and offerings to make sure they were successful and that nobody was offended, Gods included. To do otherwise was an insult to the State.
They took their omens and blessings very seriously. Because of this the position of Pontifex Maximus wasn't just a major religious position but a great political one.
No, that was the Greeks. The Romans were very very superstitious, even the most atheistic of Romans was bound to be spiritual and superstitious. They had gods they sacrificed to and rituals to be done when having elections, opening doors, closing doors, completing construction of a building, slaughtering an animal, beginning a meal, etc. Of course many of these (particularly relating to doors and other very common daily actions) were ignored by most except during important events (a marriage, or leaving home to an important meeting, etc.).
There were also the lares, guardian gods of a community, or a crossroads, or a family, and more.
The Romans also believed in numina, the spirits of things. Trees, rocks, animals, the stones and beams of a building, all those and more had their own numina that had to be satisfied once in a while, or might become angered. A man who tripped on a stone might believe that its numina was angered for some reason.
It bugs the shit out of me when people say that the Romans copied the Greek religion. Of course they are in some ways similar, being Indo-European, but in many ways they are far apart. The Romans copied mostly off of the Etruscans, if anything.