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Roman Gods

Virgil’s Aeneid
Jupiter (Zeus)
• Originally sky spirit – important in
agriculture
• Lost rustic background and became
chief god, defender of city and state
• Powerful, middle-aged, bearded
• Jupiter more dignified than Zeus
• Used thunderbolt to warn and
punish
Juno (Hera)
• Originally goddess of light
• Responsible for childbirth,
marriage and other female
concerns
• Looked after birth rate of nation
• With Jupiter, co-guardian of her
people
• Depicted as young and beautiful
women, but also dignity of Roman
matron
Mars (Ares)
• Second in importance to Jupiter
• Originally agricultural
• March his month
• As empire became important to Romans
he became god of war
• Never completely lost farming role
• Father of the state – features in the story
of Romulus and Remus
• Different to Ares who had no loyalty to
any side in war
Vesta (Hestia)
• Personified fire – domestic fire used
for cooking, warmth and religious
ceremonies
• Every home honoured her every day
• Honoured in a state cult – Vestal
Virgins who tended the state fire
• Tales of Hestia do not match Hera
• Truly Roman figure
Minerva (Athene)
• Patron of crafts and commerce
• Never as important as the
Greek Athene
Neptune (Poseidon)
• Originally a fresh water god
• Under Greek influence identified
with the God of the sea
• Less significant role than
Poseidon – most Romans dry
land people
• Not as much personality as
Poseidon
Diana (Artemis)
• Spirit of woods and mountains
• Original mysterious cult
submerged by Greek Artemis –
goddess of woods and
mountains
• Depicted as beautiful young
woman in a short tunic or
gown, carrying bow and arrow
Venus (Aphrodite)
• Spirit of springtime
• This association led to her being merged with
Greek Goddess of love and feminine beauty
• Straight laced Romans less enthusiastic about bad
example of numerous love affairs
• Good luck
• Cult took after when linked to Aeneas
• Claimed ancestress of Julius Caesar
• Portrayed as beautiful young woman often in nude
• Accompanied by son – god of love (Eros or Cupid)
Mercury (Hermes)
• God of commerce and trade
• First appeared as Roman God
around fifth century BC as trade
developed at Rome
• By Augustus’ time very important
to businessmen
• Thought of as low-class
• Depicted as young man with wide
brimmed hat, sandals and little else
Vulcan (Hephaistos)
• One of oldest Roman Gods
• God of fire
• Patron of metal crafts
• Lacked personality and
mythology

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