Roman mythology

Roman mythology

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Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

's legendary origins
Founding of Rome
The founding of Rome is reported by many legends, which in recent times are beginning to be supplemented by scientific reconstructions.- Development of the city :...

 and religious system
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

, as represented in the literature
Latin literature
Latin literature includes the essays, histories, poems, plays, and other writings of the ancient Romans. In many ways, it seems to be a continuation of Greek literature, using many of the same forms...

 and visual arts of the Romans
Roman art
Roman art has the visual arts made in Ancient Rome, and in the territories of the Roman Empire. Major forms of Roman art are architecture, painting, sculpture and mosaic work...

. "Roman mythology" may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to the subject matter as represented in the literature and art of other cultures in any period.

The Romans usually treated their traditional narratives as historical, even when these have miraculous or supernatural elements. The stories are often concerned with politics and morality, and how an individual's personal integrity relates to his or her responsibility to the community or Roman state. Heroism is an important theme. When the stories illuminate Roman religious practices, they are more concerned with ritual, augur
Augur
The augur was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome and Etruria. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups/alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of...

y, and institutions than with theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 or cosmogony
Cosmogony
Cosmogony, or cosmogeny, is any scientific theory concerning the coming into existence or origin of the universe, or about how reality came to be. The word comes from the Greek κοσμογονία , from κόσμος "cosmos, the world", and the root of γίνομαι / γέγονα "to be born, come about"...

.

The study of Roman religion and myth is complicated by the early influence of Greek religion on the Italian peninsula
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

 during Rome's protohistory
Protohistory
Protohistory refers to a period between prehistory and history, during which a culture or civilization has not yet developed writing, but other cultures have already noted its existence in their own writings...

, and by the later artistic imitation of Greek literary models
Ancient Greek literature
Ancient Greek literature refers to literature written in the Ancient Greek language until the 4th century.- Classical and Pre-Classical Antiquity :...

 by Roman authors. The Romans were curiously eager to identify their own gods with those of the Greeks (see interpretatio graeca
Interpretatio graeca
Interpretatio graeca is a Latin term for the common tendency of ancient Greek writers to equate foreign divinities to members of their own pantheon. Herodotus, for example, refers to the ancient Egyptian gods Amon, Osiris and Ptah as "Zeus", "Dionysus" and "Hephaestus", respectively.-Roman...

), and reinterpret stories about Greek deities under the names of their Roman counterparts. Rome's early myths and legends also have a dynamic relationship with Etruscan religion, less documented than that of the Greeks.

While Roman mythology may lack a body of divine narratives as extensive as that found in Greek literature, Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus are Rome's twin founders in its traditional foundation myth, although the former is sometimes said to be the sole founder...

 suckling the she-wolf is as famous as any image from Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 except for the Trojan Horse
Trojan Horse
The Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the stratagem that allowed the Greeks finally to enter the city of Troy and end the conflict. In the canonical version, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside...

. Because Latin literature was more widely known in Europe throughout the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and into the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, the interpretations of Greek myths by the Romans often had the greater influence on narrative and pictorial representations of "classical mythology
Classical mythology
Classical mythology or Greco-Roman mythology is the cultural reception of myths from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Along with philosophy and political thought, mythology represents one of the major survivals of classical antiquity throughout later Western culture.Classical mythology has provided...

" than Greek sources. In particular, the versions of Greek myths in Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

's Metamorphoses, written during the reign of Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, came to be regarded as canonical.

The nature of Roman myth



Because ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

 plays the central role in Roman religion that myth held for the Greeks, it is sometimes doubted that the Romans had much of a native mythology. This perception is a product of Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 and the classical scholarship
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 of the 19th century, which valued Greek civilization as more "authentically creative." From the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 to the 18th century, however, Roman myths were an inspiration particularly for European painting
Western painting
The history of Western painting represents a continuous, though disrupted, tradition from antiquity. Until the mid-19th century it was primarily concerned with representational and Classical modes of production, after which time more modern, abstract and conceptual forms gained favor.Developments...

. The Roman tradition is rich in historical myths, or legend
Legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

s, concerning the foundation and rise of the city. These narratives focus on human actors, with only occasional intervention from deities but a pervasive sense of divinely ordered destiny. In Rome's earliest period, history and myth have a mutual and complementary relationship. As T.P. Wiseman
T.P. Wiseman
Timothy Peter Wiseman FBA , who usually publishes as T.P. Wiseman and is named as Peter Wiseman in other sources, is a classical scholar and professor emeritus of the University of Exeter...

 notes:


The Roman stories still matter, as they mattered to Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

 in 1300 and Shakespeare in 1600 and the founding fathers of the United States
Founding Fathers of the United States
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America were political leaders and statesmen who participated in the American Revolution by signing the United States Declaration of Independence, taking part in the American Revolutionary War, establishing the United States Constitution, or by some...

 in 1776. What does it take to be a free citizen
Roman citizenship
Citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to certain free-born individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance....

? Can a superpower
Superpower
A superpower is a state with a dominant position in the international system which has the ability to influence events and its own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests...

 still be a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

? How does well-meaning authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

 turn into murderous tyranny?


Major sources for Roman myth include the Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

of Vergil  and the first few books of Livy
Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

's history. Other important sources are the Fasti
Fasti (poem)
The Fasti is a six-book Latin poem by Ovid believed to have been left unfinished when the poet was exiled to Tomis by the emperor Augustus in the year 8...

of Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

, a six-book poem structured by the Roman religious calendar
Roman calendar
The Roman calendar changed its form several times in the time between the founding of Rome and the fall of the Roman Empire. This article generally discusses the early Roman or pre-Julian calendars...

, and the fourth book of elegies by Propertius. Scenes from Roman myth also appear in Roman wall painting, coins
Roman currency
The Roman currency during most of the Roman Republic and the western half of the Roman Empire consisted of coins including the aureus , the denarius , the sestertius , the dupondius , and the as...

, and sculpture
Roman sculpture
The study of ancient Roman sculpture is complicated by its relation to Greek sculpture. Many examples of even the most famous Greek sculptures, such as the Apollo Belvedere and Barberini Faun, are known only from Roman Imperial or Hellenistic "copies." At one time, this imitation was taken by art...

, particularly relief
Relief
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane...

s.

Founding myths

Main article: Founding of Rome
Founding of Rome
The founding of Rome is reported by many legends, which in recent times are beginning to be supplemented by scientific reconstructions.- Development of the city :...

.

The Aeneid and Livy's early history are the best extant sources for Rome's founding myths
Founding of Rome
The founding of Rome is reported by many legends, which in recent times are beginning to be supplemented by scientific reconstructions.- Development of the city :...

. Material from Greek heroic legend was grafted onto this native stock at an early date. The Trojan prince Aeneas
Aeneas
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

 was cast as husband of Lavinia
Lavinia
In Roman mythology, Lavinia is the daughter of Latinus and Amata and the last wife of Aeneas.Lavinia, the only child of the king and "ripe for marriage", had been courted by many men in Ausonia who hoped to become the king of Latium. Turnus, ruler of the Rutuli, was the most likely of the suitors,...

, daughter of King Latinus
Latinus
Latinus was a figure in both Greek and Roman mythology.-Greek mythology:In Hesiod's Theogony, Latinus was the son of Odysseus and Circe who ruled the Tyrsenoi, presumably the Etruscans, with his brothers Ardeas and Telegonus...

, patronymical ancestor of the Latini
Latins (Italic tribe)
The Latins were a people of ancient Italy who included the inhabitants of the early City of Rome. From ca. 1000 BC, the Latins inhabited the small part of the peninsula known to the Romans as Old Latium , that is, the region between the river Tiber and the promontory of Monte Circeo The Latins (or...

, and therefore through a convoluted revisionist genealogy
Latin kings of Alba Longa
The Latin kings of Alba Longa, also referred to as the Latin kings of Rome or Alban kings of Rome, are a series of legendary kings of Latium ruling mainly from Alba Longa. In the mythic tradition of the founding of Rome, they fill the 400-year gap between the settlement of Aeneas in Italy and the...

 as forebear of Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus are Rome's twin founders in its traditional foundation myth, although the former is sometimes said to be the sole founder...

. By extension, the Trojans were adopted as the mythical ancestors of the Roman people.

Other myths



The characteristic myths of Rome are often political or moral, that is, they deal with the development of Roman government
Roman Constitution
The Roman Constitution was an uncodified set of guidelines and principles passed down mainly through precedent. The Roman constitution was not formal or even official, largely unwritten and constantly evolving. Concepts that originated in the Roman constitution live on in constitutions to this day...

 in accordance with divine law, as expressed by Roman religion
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

, and with demonstrations of the individual's adherence to moral expectations (mos maiorum
Mos maiorum
The mos maiorum is the unwritten code from which the ancient Romans derived their social norms. It is the core concept of Roman traditionalism, distinguished from but in dynamic complement to written law. The mos maiorum The mos maiorum ("ancestral custom") is the unwritten code from which the...

)
or failures to do so.
  • Rape of the Sabine women, explaining the importance of the Sabines in the formation of Roman culture, and the growth of Rome through conflict and alliance.
  • Numa Pompilius
    Numa Pompilius
    Numa Pompilius was the legendary second king of Rome, succeeding Romulus. What tales are descended to us about him come from Valerius Antias, an author from the early part of the 1st century BC known through limited mentions of later authors , Dionysius of Halicarnassus circa 60BC-...

    , the Sabine second king of Rome
    King of Rome
    The King of Rome was the chief magistrate of the Roman Kingdom. According to legend, the first king of Rome was Romulus, who founded the city in 753 BC upon the Palatine Hill. Seven legendary kings are said to have ruled Rome until 509 BC, when the last king was overthrown. These kings ruled for...

     who consorted with the nymph
    Nymph
    A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...

     Egeria
    Egeria (mythology)
    Egeria was a nymph attributed a legendary role in the early history of Rome as a divine consort and counselor of the Sabine second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, to whom she imparted laws and rituals pertaining to ancient Roman religion...

     and established many of Rome's legal and religious institutions.
  • Servius Tullius
    Servius Tullius
    Servius Tullius was the legendary sixth king of ancient Rome, and the second of its Etruscan dynasty. He reigned 578-535 BC. Roman and Greek sources describe his servile origins and later marriage to a daughter of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, Rome's first Etruscan king, who was assassinated in 579 BC...

    , the sixth king of Rome, whose mysterious origins were freely mythologized and who was said to have been the lover of the goddess Fortuna
    Fortuna
    Fortuna can mean:*Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck -Geographical:*19 Fortuna, asteroid*Fortuna, California, town located on the north coast of California*Fortuna, United States Virgin Islands...

    .
  • The Tarpeian Rock
    Tarpeian Rock
    The Tarpeian Rock was a steep cliff of the southern summit of the Capitoline Hill, overlooking the Roman Forum in Ancient Rome. It was used during the Roman Republic as an execution site. Murderers, traitors, perjurors, and larcenous slaves, if convicted by the quaestores parricidii, were flung...

    , and why it was used for the execution of traitors.
  • Lucretia
    Lucretia
    Lucretia is a legendary figure in the history of the Roman Republic. According to the story, told mainly by the Roman historian Livy and the Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus , her rape by the king's son and consequent suicide were the immediate cause of the revolution that overthrew the...

    , whose self-sacrifice prompted the overthrow of the early Roman monarchy and led to the establishment of the Republic.
  • Horatius at the bridge
    Horatius Cocles
    Publius Horatius Cocles was an officer in the army of the ancient Roman Republic who famously defended the Pons Sublicius from the invading army of Lars Porsena, king of Clusium in the late 6th century BC, during the war between Rome and Clusium.-Background:...

    , on the importance of individual valor
    Valor
    Valor or valour may mean:* Valor , by J. W. Cockerill* Courage, a similar meaning* Valor , roughly "courage in defense of a noble cause"* Valor , a DC Comics superhero...

    .
  • Mucius Scaevola ("Lefty"), who thrust his right hand into the fire to prove his loyalty to Rome.
  • Caeculus
    Caeculus
    In Roman mythology, Caeculus ) was a son of Vulcan, and the legendary founder of Praeneste ....

     and the founding of Praeneste.
  • Manlius and the geese
    Marcus Manlius
    Marcus Manlius Capitolinus was consul of the Roman Republic in 392 BC. He was the brother of Aulus Manlius Capitolinus. The Manlii were a patrician gens....

    , about divine intervention at the Gallic siege of Rome
    Battle of the Allia
    The Battle of the Allia was a battle of the first Gallic invasion of Rome. The battle was fought near the Allia river: the defeat of the Roman army opened the route for the Gauls to sack Rome. It was fought in 390/387 BC.-Background:...

    .
  • Stories pertaining to the Nonae Caprotinae
    Caprotinia
    The Caprotinia, or feasts of Juno Caprotina, were ancient Roman festivals which were celebrated on July 9, in favour of the female slaves. During this solemnity they ran about, beating themselves with their fists and with rods...

     and Poplifugia
    Poplifugia
    The poplifugia or populifugia , was a festival of ancient Rome celebrated on July 5, according to Varro, in commemoration of the flight of the Romans, when the inhabitants of Ficuleae and Fidenae appeared in arms against them, shortly after the burning of the city by the Gauls ; the traditional...

     festivals.
  • Coriolanus, a story of politics and morality.
  • The Etruscan
    Etruscan civilization
    Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

     city of Corythus
    Corythus
    Corythus is the name of six mortal men in Greek mythology*Corythus, son of Paris and Oenone. After Paris abandoned Oenone, she sent the boy, now grown, to Troy, where he fell in love with Helen, and she received him warmly. Paris, discovering this, killed him, not recognizing his own son...

     as the "cradle" of Trojan and Italian civilization.
  • The arrival of the Great Mother (Cybele) in Rome.

Religion and myth


Divine narrative played a more important role in the system of Greek religious belief than among the Romans, for whom ritual and cult were primary. Although Roman religion was not based on scriptures and exegesis
Exegesis
Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

, priestly literature was one of the earliest written forms of Latin prose
Latin literature
Latin literature includes the essays, histories, poems, plays, and other writings of the ancient Romans. In many ways, it seems to be a continuation of Greek literature, using many of the same forms...

. The books (libri) and commentaries (commentarii) of the College of Pontiffs
College of Pontiffs
The College of Pontiffs or Collegium Pontificum was a body of the ancient Roman state whose members were the highest-ranking priests of the polytheistic state religion. The college consisted of the Pontifex Maximus, the Vestal Virgins, the Rex Sacrorum, and the flamines...

 and of the augur
Augur
The augur was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome and Etruria. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups/alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of...

s contained religious procedures, prayers, and rulings and opinions on points of religious law. Although at least some of this archived material was available for consultation by the Roman senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

, it was often occultum genus litterarum, an arcane form of literature to which by definition only priests had access. Prophecies pertaining to world history and Rome's destiny turn up fortuitously at critical junctures in history, discovered suddenly in the nebulous Sibylline books
Sibylline Books
The Sibylline Books or Libri Sibyllini were a collection of oracular utterances, set out in Greek hexameters, purchased from a sibyl by the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, and consulted at momentous crises through the history of the Republic and the Empire...

, which according to legend were purchased by Tarquin the Proud
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was the legendary seventh and final King of Rome, reigning from 535 BC until the popular uprising in 509 BC that led to the establishment of the Roman Republic. He is more commonly known by his cognomen Tarquinius Superbus and was a member of the so-called Etruscan...

 in the late 6th century BC from the Cumaean Sibyl
Cumaean Sibyl
The ageless Cumaean Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony located near Naples, Italy.The word sibyl comes from the ancient Greek word sibylla, meaning prophetess. There were many Sibyls in different locations throughout the ancient world...

. Some aspects of archaic Roman religion were preserved by the lost theological works of the 1st-century BC scholar Varro
Marcus Terentius Varro
Marcus Terentius Varro was an ancient Roman scholar and writer. He is sometimes called Varro Reatinus to distinguish him from his younger contemporary Varro Atacinus.-Biography:...

, known through other classical and Christian authors.


At the head of the earliest pantheon were the so-called Archaic Triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, whose flamens were of the highest order, and Janus and Vesta
Vesta (mythology)
Vesta was the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family in Roman religion. Vesta's presence was symbolized by the sacred fire that burned at her hearth and temples...

. According to tradition, the founder of Roman religion was Numa Pompilius
Numa Pompilius
Numa Pompilius was the legendary second king of Rome, succeeding Romulus. What tales are descended to us about him come from Valerius Antias, an author from the early part of the 1st century BC known through limited mentions of later authors , Dionysius of Halicarnassus circa 60BC-...

, the Sabine
Sabine
The Sabines were an Italic tribe that lived in the central Appennines of ancient Italy, also inhabiting Latium north of the Anio before the founding of Rome...

 second king of Rome
King of Rome
The King of Rome was the chief magistrate of the Roman Kingdom. According to legend, the first king of Rome was Romulus, who founded the city in 753 BC upon the Palatine Hill. Seven legendary kings are said to have ruled Rome until 509 BC, when the last king was overthrown. These kings ruled for...

, who was believed to have had as his consort and adviser a Roman goddess or nymph
Nymph
A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...

 of fountains and prophecy, Egeria
Egeria (mythology)
Egeria was a nymph attributed a legendary role in the early history of Rome as a divine consort and counselor of the Sabine second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, to whom she imparted laws and rituals pertaining to ancient Roman religion...

. The Etruscan-influenced Capitoline Triad
Capitoline Triad
In ancient Roman religion, the Capitoline Triad was a group of three supreme deities who were worshipped in an elaborate temple on Rome's Capitoline Hill, the Capitolium. Two distinct Capitoline Triads were worshipped at various times in Rome's history, both originating in ancient traditions...

 of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva later became central to official religion, replacing the Archaic Triad — an unusual example within Indo-European religion of a supreme triad formed of two female deities and only one male. The cult of Diana
Diana (mythology)
In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt and moon and birthing, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals. She was equated with the Greek goddess Artemis, though she had an independent origin in Italy...

 was established on the Aventine Hill
Aventine Hill
The Aventine Hill is one of the seven hills on which ancient Rome was built. It belongs to Ripa, the twelfth rione, or ward, of Rome.-Location and boundaries:The Aventine hill is the southernmost of Rome's seven hills...

, but the most famous Roman manifestation of this goddess may be Diana Nemorensis
Diana Nemorensis
Diana Nemorensis, "Diana of Nemi" also known as “Diana of the Wood”, was an Italic form of the goddess who became Hellenised during the fourth century BCE and conflated with Artemis. Her sanctuary was to be found on the northern shore of Lake Nemi beneath the cliffs of the modern city Nemi...

, owing to the attention paid to her cult by J.G. Frazer in the mythographical
Mythography
A mythographer, or a mythologist is a compiler of myths. The word derives from the Greek "μυθογραφία" , "writing of fables", from "μῦθος" , "speech, word, fact, story, narrative" + "γράφω" , "to write, to inscribe". Mythography is then the rendering of myths in the arts...

 classic The Golden Bough.

The gods represented distinctly the practical needs of daily life, and they were scrupulously accorded the rites and offerings considered proper. Early Roman divinities included a host of "specialist gods" whose names were invoked in the carrying out of various specific activities. Fragments of old ritual accompanying such acts as plowing or sowing reveal that at every stage of the operation a separate deity was invoked, the name of each deity being regularly derived from the verb for the operation. Tutelary deities were particularly important in ancient Rome.

Thus, Janus
Janus
-General:*Janus , the two-faced Roman god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings*Janus , a moon of Saturn*Janus Patera, a shallow volcanic crater on Io, a moon of Jupiter...

 and Vesta
Vesta (mythology)
Vesta was the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family in Roman religion. Vesta's presence was symbolized by the sacred fire that burned at her hearth and temples...

 guarded the door and hearth, the Lares
Lares
Lares , archaically Lases, were guardian deities in ancient Roman religion. Their origin is uncertain; they may have been guardians of the hearth, fields, boundaries or fruitfulness, hero-ancestors, or an amalgam of these....

 protected the field and house, Pales
Pales
In Roman mythology, Pales was a deity of shepherds, flocks and livestock. Regarded as a male by some sources and a female by others, and even possibly as a pair of deities ....

 the pasture, Saturn
Saturn (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Saturn was a major god presiding over agriculture and the harvest time. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of abundance and peace by many Roman authors. In medieval times he was known as the Roman god of agriculture, justice and strength. He held a sickle in...

 the sowing, Ceres the growth of the grain, Pomona
Pomona
Pomona was a goddess of fruitful abundance in ancient Roman religion and myth. Her name comes from the Latin word pomum, "fruit," specifically orchard fruit. She was said to be a wood nymph and a part of the Numia, guardian spirits who watch over people, places, or homes...

 the fruit, and Consus
Consus
In ancient Roman religion, the god Consus was the protector of grains and storage bins , and as such was represented by a grain seed....

 and Ops
Ops
In ancient Roman religion, Ops or Opis, was a fertility deity and earth-goddess of Sabine origin.-Mythology:Her husband was Saturn, the bountiful monarch of the Golden Age. Just as Saturn was identified with the Greek deity Cronus, Opis was identified with Rhea, Cronus' wife...

 the harvest. Even the majestic Jupiter
Jupiter (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter or Jove is the king of the gods, and the god of the sky and thunder. He is the equivalent of Zeus in the Greek pantheon....

, the ruler of the gods, was honored for the aid his rains might give to the farms and vineyards. In his more encompassing character he was considered, through his weapon of lightning, the director of human activity and, by his widespread domain, the protector of the Romans in their military activities beyond the borders of their own community. Prominent in early times were the gods Mars
Mars (mythology)
Mars was the Roman god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter, and he was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions...

 and Quirinus
Quirinus
In Roman mythology, Quirinus was an early god of the Roman state. In Augustan Rome, Quirinus was also an epithet of Janus, as Janus Quirinus. His name is derived from Quiris meaning "spear."-History:...

, who were often identified with each other. Mars was a god of war; he was honored in March and October. Quirinus is thought by modern scholars to have been the patron of the armed community in time of peace.

The 19th-century scholar Georg Wissowa
Georg Wissowa
Georg Otto August Wissowa was a German classical philologist who was born in Neudorf, near Breslau.Wissowa studied at the University of Breslau, and in 1886 became a professor at the University of Marburg, and in 1895 a professor at the University of Halle.Wissowa was a specialist in the study of...

 thought that the Romans distinguished two classes of gods, the di indigetes
Di indigetes
In Georg Wissowa's terminology the di indigetes or indigites were Roman deities and spirits not adopted from other mythologies, as distinguished from the di novensides...

and the di novensides or novensiles: the indigetes were the original gods of the Roman state, their names and nature indicated by the titles of the earliest priests and by the fixed festivals of the calendar, with 30 such gods honored by special festivals; the novensides were later divinities whose cults were introduced to the city in the historical period, usually at a known date and in response to a specific crisis or felt need. Arnaldo Momigliano
Arnaldo Momigliano
Arnaldo Dante Momigliano KBE was an Italian historian known for his work in historiography, characterized by Donald Kagan as the "world’s leading student of the writing of history in the ancient world." He became Professor of Roman history at the University of Turin in 1936, but as a Jew soon lost...

 and others, however, have argued that this distinction cannot be maintained. During the war with Hannibal, any distinction between "indigenous" and "immigrant" gods begins to fade, and the Romans embraced diverse gods from various cultures as a sign of strength and universal divine favor.

Foreign gods



The absorption of neighboring local gods took place as the Roman state conquered the surrounding territory. The Romans commonly granted the local gods of the conquered territory the same honors as the earlier gods of the Roman state religion
Imperial cult (ancient Rome)
The Imperial cult of ancient Rome identified emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority of the Roman State...

. In addition to Castor and Pollux
Castor and Pollux
In Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux or Polydeuces were twin brothers, together known as the Dioscuri . Their mother was Leda, but Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, king of Sparta, and Pollux the divine son of Zeus, who visited Leda in the guise of a swan...

, the conquered settlements in Italy seem to have contributed to the Roman pantheon Diana, Minerva, Hercules
Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

, Venus, and deities of lesser rank, some of whom were Italic divinities, others originally derived from the Greek culture of Magna Graecia
Magna Graecia
Magna Græcia is the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively colonized by Greek settlers; particularly the Achaean colonies of Tarentum, Crotone, and Sybaris, but also, more loosely, the cities of Cumae and Neapolis to the north...

. In 203 BC, the cult object embodying Cybele
Cybele
Cybele , was a Phrygian form of the Earth Mother or Great Mother. As with Greek Gaia , her Minoan equivalent Rhea and some aspects of Demeter, Cybele embodies the fertile Earth...

 was brought from Pessinus
Pessinus
Pessinus was a city in Anatolia, the Asian part of Turkey on the upper course of the river Sakarya River , from which the mythological King Midas is said to have ruled a greater Phrygian realm...

 in Phrygia
Phrygia
In antiquity, Phrygia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. The Phrygians initially lived in the southern Balkans; according to Herodotus, under the name of Bryges , changing it to Phruges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the...

 and welcomed with due ceremony to Rome, centuries before the territory was annexed formally. Both Lucretius
Lucretius
Titus Lucretius Carus was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is an epic philosophical poem laying out the beliefs of Epicureanism, De rerum natura, translated into English as On the Nature of Things or "On the Nature of the Universe".Virtually no details have come down concerning...

 and Catullus
Catullus
Gaius Valerius Catullus was a Latin poet of the Republican period. His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.-Biography:...

, poets contemporary in the mid-1st century BC, offer disapproving glimpses of her wildly ecstatic cult.

In some instances, deities of an enemy power were formally invited through the ritual of evocatio to take up their abode in new sanctuaries at Rome.

Communities of foreigners (peregrini) and former slaves (libertini) continued their own religious practices within the city. In this way Mithras came to Rome and his popularity within the Roman army
Roman army
The Roman army is the generic term for the terrestrial armed forces deployed by the kingdom of Rome , the Roman Republic , the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine empire...

 spread his cult as far afield as Roman Britain
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

. The important Roman deities were eventually identified with the more anthropomorphic
Anthropomorphism
Anthropomorphism is any attribution of human characteristics to animals, non-living things, phenomena, material states, objects or abstract concepts, such as organizations, governments, spirits or deities. The term was coined in the mid 1700s...

 Greek gods and goddesses, and assumed many of their attributes and myths.

Sources


  • Alan Cameron Greek Mythography in the Roman World (2005) OUP, Oxford (reviewed by T P Wiseman in Times Literary Supplement 13 May 2005 page 29)
  • Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae
    Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae
    The Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae is an eight-volume work cataloguing representations of mythology in the plastic arts of antiquity. It was published serially from 1981 to 1997, with supplements planned...

    (LIMC) (1981–1999) Artemis-Verlag, 9 volumes.

See also

  • List of Metamorphoses characters
  • The Golden Bough (mythology)
    The Golden Bough (mythology)
    The Golden Bough is one of the episodic tales written in the epic Aeneid, book VI, by ancient Roman poet Vergil , which narrates the adventures of the Trojan hero Aeneas after the Trojan War.-Story:...