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Roman Mythology and the Goddess Vesta

The most popular mythologies are Roman and Greek mythology. As many know, the two
have many similarities. This does not as a surprise because the Romans did not invent all of their
own gods and stories. They borrowed gods from the Persians and Egyptians. The Egyptian
goddess Isis was popular throughout Rome. Most of all, the Romans based stories, myths, and
gods off of their Greek counterparts. In many instances, however, they changed their names. The
Greek god Zeus was adapted into the Roman king of the gods, Jupiter. When you look closely at
the names it is easy to tell. The name Zeus comes from an ancient Indo-European god, Dyeus,
whose name meant sky, which was his domain. The Latin word Iuppiter was derived from
Dyeu-pater, pater being the Latin word for father. (3,4)
Despite the difference in names, there are clear similarities between the gods of the two
mythologies. In both pagan religions, the gods have sacred symbols. Both Roman gods and their
counterparts share the same sacred symbols and domains they control such as sky, water, death
etc. (3)
While some Greek and Roman gods are quite the same, some varied. Athena the Greek
goddess of wisdom, strategic warfare, strategy, skill, mathematics and arts is slightly different
from Minerva, goddess of wisdom, poetry, medicine, and magic. There is also a difference
between their natures. Greek gods were named after certain human characters, traits, or
emotions. There named was related to what they were the god of. Roman gods, on the other hand
were named after inanimate objects. That is why the Greek and Roman names of the Gods are so
different. (1)

The reasoning behind the naming might have something to do with the fact that the gods
were much more real to the Greeks than they were to the Romans. While both civilizations
worshipped them, the Romans did not consider the gods to have any physical form. In that way,
the gods really only lived in their imaginations. However, the Greeks imagined perfect, beautiful
physical bodies for their gods. Greek gods could also take other forms and visit the earth in
secret. (1,5)
Both Roman and Greeks believed in an afterlife. To the Greeks, the afterlife was merely a
place you went after death. You could be punished or rewarded for how your life was lived.
Roman took the afterlife more seriously. The afterlife was the ultimate goal in life, and their life
on earth was to prove themselves to earn a place among their gods. In this way, the Roman
afterlife is more like heaven, where it is the goal of life rather than a result. (1)
The Roman had a polytheistic religion, meaning they worshipped many gods. There
would have had to be thousands of Roman gods, one for practically everything you can possibly
imagine. Vesta is the Roman goddess of the hearth, home, and family. These days that may seem
like a far stretch, or perhaps rather unimportant, but in the Roman days, the hearth was the center
of roman life and activity at home. It was where the roman cooked heated water, and gathered
together. The hearth was also where roman citizens made their sacrifices and burnt offerings to
the gods. In fact, the Latin word for hearth is focus, which is the origin of the word focus in the
English language. Vesta was believed to keep the hearth fire burning. She was also charged with
keeping all homes safe. (6,7)
When Romans left home for extended periods of time they would take a part of their
hearth fire with them. It was thought to protect them while they were traveling and remind them

of home. It was not a very logical practice, considering carrying fire with you is not very
practical. (6)
Vesta was a popular goddess all throughout Rome. She protected Rome and cared for all
of its citizens. She is thought to have taken a special interest and women and bakers. Her sacred
objects, or symbols, where a kettle and her eternal flame. She was a virgin goddess because she
begged her father to never marry, so she was always pictured with a veil over her head. Her
closest equivalent in Greek mythology was Hestia. While both were virgin goddesses of the
hearth, Vesta had more significance to Rome than Hestia had to Greece. (6,7)
In the Temple of Vesta in Rome, there was an eternal fire that was always burning. He
priestesses, known as the Vestal Virgins were constantly tending this fire in thanks to Vesta for all
that she did for the Romans It was only extinguished on the New year, and if the fire went out at
any other time, it was a disaster for all of Rome. Vesta was the only Roman Goddess to have full
time priestesses that devoted their lives to performing only her rituals, which proves how
respected she was. The Vestal Virgins were expected to take their roles as Vestas servants very
seriously. The punishment for failing to do so was death. (2,6)
Vestas shire was very sacred and rarely open to the public, save her feat days, which
lasted for over a week in June. Even then, only women were permitted to visit and had to be
barefoot as a way of showing respect and reverence. (2,6)
The cult of Vesta lasted all the way up until 394 A.D. By that time, Christianity was
begging to sweep throughout the world. Rome had a new Christian emperor who banned the
worship of all the false Roman gods and all ordered the temples to be closed. The Roman gods
may be gone. But Romes lasting impact on the world never will. (6)

Works Cited