Gods & Rome – Religion in Rome.

The Greek gods. Artist: Wenceslas Hollar, PD image.

Gods & Rome – Religion in Rome.

The Greek gods. Artist: Wenceslas Hollar, PD image

Religion was very important to the Romans and their day-to-day life. The Romans believed in many gods and goddesses. Each god controlled different parts of the world, different things and people, i.e. separate deities control the ocean, marriage, storms, battles, etc. People would make sacrifice animals, such as bulls, pigs, sheep etc. to the gods, to gain their goodwill and help in return. They also believed that the sacrifice of blood was the most excellent way to correspond with the gods. There were temples built for the worship of just one god and there were temples built for all the gods, known as a pantheon. The name given for all the gods the Romans worshipped was, Pantheon. The Romans believed that all the gods were a part of one big family and lived on Mount Olympus. In many ways, Roman religion is a lot like Greek religion. When the Romans conquered the Greeks in 146 B.C., they adopted many of the Greek gods and goddesses. They simply changed the Greek names of the gods to Latin.

1.The King of the Gods

Statue of Jupiter. Image credit: thisisbossi, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Roman god Jupiter was the king of all the gods and goddesses, and brother to Pluto, Neptune, Ceres and Vesta. He was also the god of the sky and heavens. His weapon was the thunderbolt. In the roman myths, when their father, Saturn, died, the boys Jupiter, Pluto and Neptune divided the world into three parts between themselves. Jupiter ruled the heavens, Neptune – the seas, and Pluto – the underworld. Jupiter married his sister Juno and they had three children – Vulcan, Mars, and Juventia. Rome’s biggest temple, situated in Capitoline Hill, was dedicated to him. In Greek myths, the counterpart of the Roman god Jupiter was Zeus.

2. Queen of the Gods

Juno Sospita, a plaster cast based on an original in the Vatican Museums. Image credit: shakko, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The wife of Jupiter and the queen of all the gods was Juno. She was the goddess of marriage, women and was specially associated with childbirth. Every first of March a grand festival was held in honor of Juno. Women depended on Juno to watch over them. The Greek counterpart of Juno was Hera, though in Greek myths Hera was a jealous woman, and not very nice. She spent most of her time getting even, whether the offending act were real or imagined. Juno was a lot nicer.

3. God of the Seas and Water

Triumph of Neptune standing on a chariot pulled by two sea horses. Image credit: Asram, GNU.

Neptune was the Roman god of the seas and water. He was said to be very good looking, with deep blue eyes and green hair. He was very energetic and also had quite a temper. He was displayed holding the trident with three prongs. His Greek counterpart was Poseidon. It was believed that Neptune created horses, and therefore he was the patron god of horse racing. The horses that were used to pull his seashell chariot were called hippocampus. The horse was also a symbol of Neptune. A symbol of Neptune was the trident. The Cyclopes made it, before the war between the Olympians and Titan and it represented the ability to control water.

4. God of the Underworld

Pluto – Hades Galleria e Museo Estense, Modena, Italy. Image credit: Agostino Carracci, PD image.

One of the big three brothers – Pluto, is the god that rules the Underworld and death. He is brother to Jupiter and Neptune. Originally, he was the god of precious metals that were mined underground. He lived in his underground domain and rarely joined the other gods up in Mount Olympus. Pluto claimed the souls that entered the underworld and he rarely let anyone leave the underworld again. Myths also state that a giant three-headed dog called Cerberus guarded the gates to the underworld. Pluto abducted Prosperina, the daughter of Jupiter and Ceres, and carried her to the underworld to be his wife and Queen of the Underworld.

Animal sacrifices were made to the gods, and the gender of the sacrificial victim had to correspond the gender of the god the sacrifice was offered for. Also the color of the animal mattered, white animals were offered to the gods of the upper world and black animals to the gods of the underworld. Sacrifices were made in the Roman Colosseum. When sacrificing to Pluto, the blood from the sacrifices was dripped into a pit so that they could reach the underworld. Pluto’s Greek counterpart was Hades.

5. God of War

The Greek god Mars. Artist: Wenceslas Hollar, PD image.

The roman god of war and the son of the king and queen of the gods – Mars. Before departing for battle the roman armies would pray for their protection and help from Mars. The Romans also declared that Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. He was said to have been a moody and unpopular character and difficult to handle, but he was a strong warrior and always carried his weapons around. His Greek counterpart was Ares.

6. Goddess of Love

Depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as a fully grown woman, arriving at the sea-shore. Artist: Sandro Botticelli, PD image.

Venus was the goddess of love and beauty. She was the daughter of Jupiter and Dione and the wife of the Roman god Vulcan. She was the mother of Cupid, her son with the god Mars. She had many lovers including Mars, Neptune, and Mercury etc. Vulcan had made a gorgeous carriage for her, which was drawn by doves. Her Greek counterpart was Aphrodite.

7. Messenger of the gods

Relief of Mercury (or of Hermes) at Obchodní akademie (Business Academy) building, at tř. Spojenců 11 in Olomouc. Author: Michal Maňas, GFDL.

Mercury was the messenger of the gods and the roman god of gambling, thieves, finance, merchants and commerce. He was portrayed wearing golden sandals that had wings on its heels that enables him to fly. He also wore a helmet and carried a staff, which was entwined with snakes. The staff was called a caduceus. His roles also included leading the departed souls to the gateway to the Underworld (Avernus) and into Pluto’s realm. His Greek counterpart was Hermes.

8. Bacchus

Bacchus. Artist: Caravaggio, PD image.

Bacchus was the god of wine and merry-making. He was the son of Jupiter and Semele. Between the 15th and 16th of March a festival was held in his honor, called Bacchanalia. His name comes from the word ‘bacca’ meaning berry. His Greek counterpart was Dionysus.

9. Vulcan

The Greek god Vulcan. Artist: Wenceslas Hollar, PD image.

His parents were Jupiter and Juno. When Juno first saw him, she was outraged by his ugly appearance, cast him into the sea from Mount Olympus, and caused him to become lame. Vulcan was the ugliest of the gods, yet he was married to the most beautiful goddess of all – Venus. He was the god of metalworking and fire. He was the blacksmith of the gods. He forged the thunderbolts for Jupiter and in appreciation to that he gave Venus to Vulcan. Vulcan worked with one-eyed Cyclopes in his forge. With his amazing talent and skill, he made many fabulous creations. He even made metal robots that served the gods and their favored mortals. Myth says that he made Talus, the bronze giant and gave him to king Minos to guard the Island of Crete. He made the first woman out of clay – Pandora. Vulcan’s Greek counterpart was Hephaestus.

10. Goddess of Wisdom

The Greek gods Minerva. Artist: Wenceslas Hollar, PD image.

Minerva was the goddess of wisdom and also science, war and art. It is said that she had sprung, fully-grown and completely armed from Jupiter’s head. Thus, she had a father but no mother. Even though Mars was the god of wars, Minerva was more successful in battles due to her strategic planning, cunningness and wisdom. Her Greek counterpart was Athena.

11. Ceres

The Greek god Ceres. Artist: Wenceslas Hollar, PD image.

She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops and the goddess of agriculture and abundance. Pluto carried off her daughter, Prosperina, to the underworld. Due to her distress, Jupiter gave her the poppy to eat so that she might sleep and forget the problems. For this reason and because poppies grow among grain fields, it was the sacred symbol of Ceres. Her Greek counterpart was Demeter.

The YouTube video playlist below contains videos about Roman and Greek Gods. Details of the videos featured are underneath.

The Playlist:

  1. Roman Gods – 98emmarose
  2. The Greek Gods – Andrea Cirla



Click here to view the complete list of sources…


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