John Schied's INTRODUCTION TO ROMAN RELIGION is a fantastic short beginner's guide to the complicated beliefs and practices of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. Scheid concentrates on the civic aspects of the religion and how the culture's dependence on rites and omens shaped the society around it. The book takes the reader through the many and often intricate steps that had to be taken in order to honor the gods, and how participation in said activities established a Roman's place in society. The book mainly focuses on practices within Rome itself stretching between the second century B.C. to the rise of Christianity, and pulls from both ancient and modern sources to paint a complete picture for the reader.
What keeps AN INTRODUCTION from being a perfect read is that Scheid's interpretation of Ancient Rome feels extremely atheistic. While he dabbles in the philosophical attitudes expressed by prominent Romans at the end of the book, he never quite establishes what the Romans as a whole believed about their own beliefs. While it's repeatedly stated that was no dogma dictating specific interpretations of the gods, it doesn't excuse the lack of a general summary of the major figures of the Roman Pantheon. An unfamiliar reader may feel lost in consequence.