Roman Mythology Essay, Research Paper
Early Roman Religion
In the early know part of history 7th Century BC Romans had formed a religion that dealt with the worship of new high gods. This was enabled by the influence of the Greek religion, which in most aspects was the same. In this style of religion there were different gods for every element that made up the world. The main god that controlled most of the power was Jupiter. His control was over the sky and the weather so he was very important to the farmers. With him was the god Mars, and at least one goddess Juno who was in charge of supervising the life of women.
The most deities of the period were figures of limited functions. Like the higher gods they were said to have superhuman power. Yet they did not form in married pairs and bared no offspring. To name them correctly and to worship them with the proper words and gestures were supremely considerable. Thus, there were lists that were developed of liturgical formulas. They contained the names of lesser gods that presided over the minute details of human life. The importance of these gods was that each type of person was to follow the worship in the god that applied to them the most even though they worshiped all of the gods.
The Relationship between the Greek and the Roman religion is that the Greek’s had different
names for the gods and they contained some different details of how they were and what roll
they played in civilization. In these next paragraphs a more in depth description of the gods and their roll in Roman civilization.
Jupiter was the king of the gods and the lord of life and death. He was also called Jove. Jupiter was the son of Saturn and Rhea, the husband of Juno, and the father of Minerva. The Romans identified him with the Greek god Zeus, but he contained his own characteristics that made him distinct. Jupiter was usually represented in art sitting on an ivory throne and holding a sheaf of thunderbolts.
In Roman mythology, Mars was the god of war, of agriculture, and of the state. He was the son of Juno, the husband of the goddess Bellona, and the lover of Venus. He was originally Mars Sylvanus, a god of spring vegetation. As Mars Gradivus, he was identified with the Greek war god Ares. His festivals in the month March (March named after him) and October marked the opening and closing of the military campaign season. As Mars Quirinius, god of the state, he was the father of Romulus and Remus by Rhea Silvia. The wolf, the woodpecker, the horse, and the color red were associated with him.
Juno, the wife and sister of Jupiter, was the queen of heaven. Like Hera, her Greek
counterpart, she was the goddess of marriage and the protectress of women. 4Juno was connected
with all aspects of the life of women, most particularly married life. She also watched over the
finances of the Roman state.
In Roman mythology Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, of arts and crafts, and of war. Originally, Minerva had been an important Etruscan deity of the dawn. She was the daughter of Pallas, a giant, whom she killed when he tried to rape her. After the Romans identified Minerva with the Greek goddess Athena, she was said to have sprung fully armed from the head of Jupiter.
Venus had become identified with the Greek goddess Aphrodite. She was also worshiped in imperial Rome as Venus Felix, bringer of good luck; Venus Victrix, bringer of victory; Venus Verticordia, protector of female chastity; and Venus Libentina, patroness of sensual pleasure. Julius Caesar cherished her as Venus Genetrix, the ancestor of his own family.
In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus are said to be the founders of Rome. They were the sons of the god Mars and Rhea Silvia, daughter of Numitor, a king who had been driven from his throne by Amulius. After birth the twins were put in a container and thrown in the Tiber by the usurper, but they floated ashore and were rescued and taken care of by a wolf until they were found and brought up by the shepherd Faustulus and his wife, Acca. They were also fed by a woodpecker, the bird sacred to Mars. When grown, the twins restored Numitor to his throne and founded Rome (753 BC). An omen designated that Romulus was the true founder
of the city, and so Romulus killed Remus. He then became the first of Rome’s seven kings, reigning from 753 to 716 BC. 7Romulus and Remus the legendary founders of Rome. Traditionally, they were the sons of Rhea Silvia, daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa. Romulus founded an asylum for fugitives on the Capitoline Hill and created the Senate and divided the people into tribal units. When Romulus disappeared in a clap of thunder, he became the god Quirinus of the winter solstice.
In Roman mythology Neptune was the chief god of the sea. He was originally a minor water deity, but as the Romans became seafarers he assumed greater importance and was identified with the Greek god Poseidon.
Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture whose functions and worship were formed after those of her Greek counterpart, Demeter. The cult of Ceres was introduced in Rome in order to end a famine. Ceres was put in place as the goddess of grains, particularly corn. 8In Roman religion Ceres, goddess of the growth of food plants. The Roman Cerealia, from which the English word cereal is derived, was a spring festival in her honor. At the sacrificial altars in her temples, pregnant pigs, the symbols of fecundity, were offered so that her memory could exist.
In Roman mythology Vulcan was a god of fire, especially the destructive fire of
volcanoes, and was enforced to prevent fires. As ugly as he was, he married Venus, but she was
constantly unfaithful. Vulcan was later identified with the Greek god Hephaestus and was portrayed as a smith and artificer.
In Roman mythology, Mercury was the god of merchants and commerce, of science and astronomy, of thieves, travelers, and vagabonds, and of cleverness and eloquence. The messenger of the gods, he was represented in art as a young man with winged hat and sandals. He was identified with the Greek god Hermes.
In Roman mythology, Janus was the doorkeeper of heaven and the god of beginnings and endings. He was originally a supreme deity and in later mythology was second to Jupiter. Janus was the intermediary of prayers and petitions to the other gods. His blessing was asked at the beginning of every day, month, and year, and the first month of the year, January, was named for him. He also presided over the sowing of crops. Roman commanders departed to war through the doors of his temple in the Forum, which were closed only in time of peace. Janus was represented in art with two faces, looking in opposite directions, symbolizing his knowledge of the past and the future.
These were the main deities that ruled over Rome they had characteristics that appealed to all the people so that in turn kept them in fear for if they were to disobey a god then they
would be punished in unimaginable ways.
By the time of the establishment of the Roman Empire, the Greek tradition was already putting a considerable influence on the Roman’s, to where the Romans and the Greek religion fused. Equations between gods were freely made: Zeus became Jupiter, Aphrodite became Venus, and so on. Originally Roman sense of duty to the gods was a good deal less personalized than the relationship to the anthropomorphic gods. In addition, the various philosophy systems, such as Epicureanism and Stoicism, provided a better and in depth sense of man’s destiny than traditional polytheism. In the Hellenistic period there were mystery cults such as those of Isis, Cybele, Mithra, and Demeter, which payed more attention and to personal concerns with salvation than did the official and civic cults. Under the mid 4th century emperor Julian, a last
attempt was made to restore this type of worship over the fast spreading Christianity. In the end the worshipers of Christianity took control over the vast land that had been under control of the gods for a long period of time.