The Roman Pantheon of Gods is considered to be the strongest among all. Romans apparently have God for every imaginable thing. They have Mars-The God of War, Neptune-The God of Sea, Bacchus-The God of Wine, and much more. Like every culture, they also have a rich and vibrant mythological background. If some are the adaptations of Greek Gods, then some are original too. One of them is the two-faced god of doorways and gates, Janus. The deities give Romans a sense of national pride, an understanding of valour and honour, and insight into their very own destiny. Ancient Rome’s traditional religious system finds its place into the Roman historical literature and visual arts. The Legend of Romulus and Remus is the most popular account of Roman mythology that has been heard by us. The Roman Gods had majestic personas and great powers. Let’s take this further to the list of top ten Roman Gods to know a little more about them!
1. Jupiter – The King of Gods
Jupiter, also known as Jove, is the chief deity in the Roman state. With his enormous powers, he is said to rule the light and sky. Eagle being his sacred animal, thunderbolt is his identifying implement. Called as called dies pater, “shining father”, he is the protector of laws and the state. He is fathered by Saturn and moreover shares a brotherly instinct with Neptune. Alongside the principal deity of Capitoline Triad with Quirinus and Mars, he is also the consort of Juno The Romans worshipped him as Jupiter Optimus Maximus. This name referred to not only his rule over the state of Gods and universe but also to his act of distributing laws, controlling the realm and making his will known through oracles. The Romans consider him as the equivalent of the Greek God, Zeus. In Roman art and latin literature, Zeus is given the name of ‘Iuppiter.’ Jupiter was also the Roman God of Justice which is why people even today swear by saying ‘By Jove’ in the courts of law. Sacrificial victims offered to Jupiter were the ox (castrated bull), the lamb, and the wether. It was important that the animals were to be white. The Romans believed that the king of gods, Jupiter guarded their city.
This name referred to not only his rule over the state of Gods and universe but also to his act of distributing laws, controlling the realm and making his will known through oracles. The people of Rome regarded Jupiter as Greek Deity Zeus. In Roman art and latin literature, the iconography of Zeus is adapted under the name ‘Iuppiter’. Jupiter was also the Roman God of Justice which is why people even today swear by saying ‘By Jove’ in the courts of law. Sacrificial victims offered to Jupiter were the ox (castrated bull), the lamb, and the wether. It was important that the animals were to be white. The Romans believed that the king of gods, Jupiter guarded their city.
2. Neptune – The God of Sea
Carrying a trident with three prongs, Neptune rode a horse or a dolphin and ruled the freshwaters of the Sea. He was first recognised in Roman mythology as being associated with water around 399 BC. With Salacia as his wife, he had Jupiter and Pluto as his brothers. Romans also worshipped him as a god of horses, under the name Neptunus Equester. He also has a twin image in the Greek Gods‘ panel. Poseidon is the Greek Neptune who is one among the trinity of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. He had a reputation of possessing bad temper. Furthermore, he was also given the name of the god of earthquakes. His anger and furious rage were related to the shaking of the earth. A prevalent legend has been attached to the history of the God of the Sea, Neptune.
Amphitrite is also a woman regarded as Neptune’s wife. According to one story about them, Neptune saw Amphitrite who was a water nymph, dancing on the island of Naxos. Captivated by her beauty he instantly fell in love and to this, he asked her to marry him. She refused. Not to be discouraged by this, Neptune sent off one of his famulus, a dolphin, to find her again. The witty and charming dolphin was able to convince the nymph to change her mind and agree to the marriage proposal. As a reward, he turned the dolphin into an immortal and gave it a place of honour in the heavens as the constellation Dolphinus. This is another reason for why the dolphin is sometimes included in depictions of Neptune.
3. Pluto – The God of Underworld
The three sons of Saturn namely, Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, made a three-way division of sovereignty over the world. Where the Sky and Sea went to Jupiter and Neptune respectively, the underworld came into the hands of Pluto. He is monogamous and is rarely believed to have an offspring. He brings forward the positive aspect of the God who presides over the afterlife. Furthermore, Pluto is an alternate to the Greek god Hades.
The name Pluto is a cognate of the Greek word “Ploutos”, a god of wealth. Romans considered Plutus (Ploutos in Greek) the giver of gold, silver, and other subterranean substances. Because these minerals were mined, Pluto became to be recognised as the god of the physical underworld. This further made him become the god of the spiritual underworld and thus death. Pluto is related to death because of which the Romans dared to take his name as they believed if he heard them they would be subjected to death. The metal Plutonium is radio-active hence deadly. Discovered on the planet Pluto because of its dangerous nature it is used in nuclear bombs. The metal surely deserves to belong to the God of Death!
4. Apollo – The God of Sun, Music and Prophecy
Recognised as the God of various beliefs, the god of music, healing, the sun and light, truth and prophecy, plague, poetry, and more, Apollo was the son of Jupiter and brother of Diana. He is the most complex yet important god of the Roman deities. Apollo is the common god between the Greek and Roman panels of God. His counterpart in Greek Mythology is Zeus who also shares the same powers as Apollo.
He also served as an intermediary between the people and the Gods. Due to his integrity and truthfulness, he was given the boon of prophecy. Not only is he the holder of these humungous powers but also the possessor of youthfulness, wiseness, and beauty. He has been a subject of different art and literary works. Apollo was the most loved Gods among the all. Represented as the moral of excellence, his worshippers dedicated the Cult of Delphi to him. The cult has had a significant influence over the state’s religious and legal matters. Even today Apollo at Delphi spreads tolerance in all social ranks.
5. Mars – The God of War
The protector of Rome against war, Mars gained the name of the God of the war in the ancient Roman times. The month of March that gets its name from the Mars was the month full of festivities and military celebrations. It was Augustus under whom worshipping Mars grew impetus in Rome. He was the most prominent military Gods in the Roman history. He believed in the impending military power for procuring peace. According to the Roman myths, Mars fathered Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia and was the son of Jupiter and Juno.
His premier consort was Nerio who was the vital force and power of Mars. One can say that she is the personification of the divine powers that Mars possesses. Next, the union of Mars with Venus has been the subject for different poets and philosophers. The adultery committed has been ignored as the beauty of the couple is cherished by the artists. He is also considered as the agricultural guardian because his energies are directed in a way that creates conditions in which the crop grows. Domestic animals acted as the sacrificial animals. In Roman Art, he is either depicted as young and clean shaved or mature and having a beard. He is seen wearing a helmet and carrying a spear as the emblems of a warrior.
6. Cupid – The God of Love
Cupid, the god of erotic desire, love, attraction, and affection, is the son of Mars and goddess Venus. Eros is his Greek counterpart. Cupid is often seen with a bow and arrow. These are considered to be the source of power that produces affection and desire in the person it strikes. The God of love has Psyche as his consort. He is winged as lovers once fallen in love tend to fly. He became a familiar figure during the Middle Ages when under the Christian influence he had dual love, Earthly and Heavenly. The sleeping Cupid in Renaissance art signifies the absence of love and desire. Cupid’s power of instigating people to fall in love plays a major role in different mythical stories.
7. Saturn – The God of Time, Wealth, Agriculture
The reign of Saturn was depicted as the Golden age of plentiful ness and peace. He was known as the god of dissolution, time, wealth, agriculture, renewal, and liberation. According to Varro, Saturn comes from ‘sowing’ and hence, Romans identified him as the agricultural deity of Greeks, Cornus. He was the son of Uranus and Gaia. Where one of his consorts Ops was associated with wealth, abundance, and resources, the other one, Lua was believed to have associations with destruction, dissolution, loosening.
The position of Saturn’s festival in the calendar for Romans led to the concepts of time, especially the New Year. During the Golden Age, it was celebrated on December 17 every year. This mid-winter festival was known as Saturnalia, and it lasts for about seven days. It called for the time of feasting, role reversals, gift-giving, free speech, and revelry. Moreover, Saturn the planet and Saturday both get their names from the powerful god, Saturn.
8. Vulcan – The God of Fire
The ancient Roman myths call him as the god of fire, metal working, volcanoes, and forge. He is seen holding a Blacksmith’s hammer in his depictions. August 23 was celebrated as Vulcanalia, the annual festival which was named in his honour. He was identical to the Green Smith God Hephaestus. The Roman concept of Gods regards Vulcan to both the destructive and fertilising powers of fire. He was the son of Jupiter and Juno. As soon as he was born with a red disfigured face, he was abandoned by his mother. He was thrown off the cliff when Themis took her as he fell deep into the sea. She looked at him as if he was her son.
The water became his new home. Once he found the remains of the fire on the beach which were left behind by some fisherman. The red-hot glowing coal bewitched him. He was fascinated by it to the extent that he took them to his home and created fire out of them. For hours he kept on staring at the flames of fire. He then observed that the metals like gold, silver, iron sweated when brought near the fire. After the metal cooled, he took onto beating it into chains, bracelets, shields, swords, and more. Vulcan as a gesture of love made spoons and knives which had pearl handles for Thetis, his foster mother. He then also created a golden slave-girl who did his various tasks.
9. Mercury – The God of Financial Gain, Poetry, Eloquence
Mercury being a significant Roman God is one among the Dii Consentes in the Roman pantheon. Furthermore, he is the symbol of luck, commerce, travellers, eloquence, poetry, trickery, thieves. Moreover, he is believed to guide a soul to the underworld as well.
As per Roman mythology, he was the son of Jupiter and Maia. In his idols and paintings, he holds in his left hand, a caduceus just like his Greek counterpart Hermes who was given a magic wand by the God of Sun, Apollo which afterward changed into a caduceus. As the God of commerce, he was depicted on two early bronze coins of the Roman Republic, the Semuncia, and the Sextans. He has been a part of Ovid and Virgil’s literary works. His temple in Rome was built in the Circus Maximus during 495 BC.
10. Bacchus – The God of Wine and Fertility
Replica of Dionysus – the Greek God , Bacchus was the son of a human Semele and The kings of God, Jupiter. Semele was tricked by Juno to see him in his divine form. As a result, she was burnt into flames after seeing the real form of God. Jupiter then sewed Bacchus on his thigh, carried him for nine months, and finally gave him birth. He was related to agriculture, wine, and fertility. The plants of Bacchus included the vines and twirling ivy.
He carried a pinecone-topped staff. Moreover, his devotees were goat-footed Satyrs and Maenads, wild ladies who moved vivaciously amid his celebrations. In art, he is seen as a child with curly hair drinking wine; or a man heavily drunk, sometimes being put to bed by nymphs and satyrs; or as a naked young man, having nothing but a crown of grapes and vine leaves.
Deities no matter of what culture play an important role in shaping the morals of a person’s life. Roman culture was mainly dependent on the worship of various deities. The ancient Roman Gods have been a part of great literary works and various religious systems. The panel of deities is greatly influenced by the Etruscan and Greek cultures. The deeper you dig the more you know!