Roman Gods and Goddesses

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Mars, depicted on a coin
Picture from Forum Romanum Picture Index


Many of the Roman gods and goddesses were adopted from the Greeks, so for the appropriate gods I have put the Greek name in brackets afer the Roman. They shared the same personality as their Greek counterparts. As the Romans conquered new lands, they adopted the religions into their own. Their gods were basically “larger-than-life humans,” with the same good and bad points, only they were immortal, unlike humans.

Major Gods and Goddesses

Jupiter (Zeus) Jupiter was the king of the gods, who controlled the skies and celestrial phenomena. He married his sister, Juno, although he was forever unfaithful, and had many kids by different women, both mortal and immortal. Any land that was struck by lightening became his property and was walled off. The cult of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (the best and greatest) began under the Etruscan kings, when at first he was associated with the elements, and particularly with storms, thunder and lightning.

Juno (Hera) Juno was the sister and wife to Jupiter, and mother to Mars. She was the protector of women, especially when they were in childbirth. She was called by the Romans “the one who makes the child see the light of day.” She was also the queen of the sky. She was usually pictured wearing a goatskin coat, which was favoured by soldiers on campaign.

Pluto (Hades) Pluto, who was greatly feared, was god of the underworld.

Minerva (Athena) The goddess of war, wisdom and war, although only in Rome did she take on a war-like character. She is usually seen wearing a coat of mail and a helmet, and carrying a spear. The spoils of war were dedicated to her.

Venus (Aphrodite) Venus was originally associated with agriculture, although when she was associated with Aphrodite, she took on a new and more active role. She became the goddess of love.

Apollo (Apollo) From the books that I used, some said that the Roman equivelant of the Greek god Apollo was called Apollo, and some said that he was called Phoebus, so here I will just call him Apollo. He was the twin brother to Diana. Apollo was one of the most important gods, being the god of prophecy, archery and music. His interests in healing probably suggest an association with the plague and its control. The origin of the name ‘Apollo’ is uncertain, and is probably non-European.

Neptune (Poseidon) The sea god rode a chariot of gold pulled with white horses. Unlike the Greek Posiedon, Neptune didn’t play a large role in Roman religion.

Mars (Ares) The son of Juno and a magical flower, Mars was originally the god of fertility and vegetation. Later, however, he became associated with battle. He was offered sacrifices before combat and was said to appear on the battlefield with Bellona, the warrior goddess identified as his wife, sister or daughter. Mars was more widely worshipped than any other god was, because his sons, Remus and Romulus, were said to have founded the city of Rome.

Mercury (Hermes) Mercury was the messenger god, and he also watched over trade and commerce. Peace and prosperity were also things associated with Mercury. He was usually depicted in the same way as Hermes, his Greek conterpart whom the Romans ‘borrowed’ in the fifth century BC, with a winged hat and a staff.

Vesta (Hestia) Vesta was worshipped both as the guardian of the hearth in the home, and as the personification of the ceremonial flame. The Vestal Virgins, girls taken from noble families who worked for Vesta for thirty years, conducted ceremoniesin Vesta’s honour.

Diana (Artemis) Diana was the moon and hunting goddess. Her arrows brought the plague.

Baccus (Dionysus) Baccus was the wine god, who was followed by a band of merry revellers.

Faunus (Pan) The god of the countryside, Faunus was said to have been the grandson of Saturn, and was credited with prophecy. For this reason, the Romans were inspired to renew efforts on battlefields when faced with defeat.

Minor Gods and Goddesses

Aurora (Eos) The goddess of the dawn, Aurora was pictured rising from the ocean in a chariot. She was the sister of Helios and Selene, and she married Astraeus. She was the mother to the four winds: Boreas (North), Eosphorus (east), Notus (south), and Zephyrus (west).

Carna Carna, who was a virgin, tricked potential lovers into a cave with a promise that she would follow them, but instead she vanished. The only one toever make love with her was Janus, the god of doorways. Carna was the guardian of physical health, particularly the internal organs: heart, lungs and liver.

Concordia Corncordia was the personification of harmony. Shrines were dedicated to her after major civil disputes were settled. Magistrates used her temple to transact public business. She was depicted as a matronly woman holding an olive branch in one hand and the cornucopia (horn of plenty) in the other.

Discordia (Eris) The goddess of dissension and strife.

Fauna Gifted with the power of prophecy, Fauna could bless farmers, and so was called Bona Dea or good goddess. She was married to Faunus.

Flora The oddess of springtime and flowers, Flora commanded the power that made trees blossom. It was said that her breath became petals and her footprints, flowers.

Fortuna The goddess associated with luck and fortune. She was often shown as blind, holding a cornucopia, the horn of plenty, and a rudder, which symbolized her ability to change the direction of human lives.

Janus Janus had two faces, looking either forward and backward, or east and west. He was the god of beginnings, gates, and avenues, and was always the first to be evoked in rituals. The doors of his temple were only closed in times of peace, so more often than not they were open!!! Janus’ tools were keys and a janitor’s staff.

Laverna The goddess of thieves and cheaters, Laverna was believed to protect those who plotted or deceived. As a result of which, Laverna was very popular in Rome!!! Tributes to her were poured from the left hand.

Libertas Libertas was the goddess of freedom and liberty. In one hand, she held a rod and in the other a cap, which represented the rod that magistrates used to free slaves and the cap worn by freedmen. She was more a symbol in the Repulic than the Empire, although long after the Romans she was used as an emblem for the French Revolution, and she appears in the symbolic arcitecture of Washington, D.C.

Luna The goddess of the moon, Luna set spells of maddness on anyone who offended or angered her.

Pax Pax was the divine representation of peace in Rome. After the civil wars in the first century BC, between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and between Antony and Octavian, Octavian (renamed Augustus) had an altar built to Pax to indicate the re-establishment of civil order. Vespasian later had a temple in the Forum dedicated to Pax, and so the Forum was renamed the ‘Forum of Peace.’

Sol The sun god, Sol was brought to Rome during the reign of King Titus Tatius, prior to the Republic.

Volupia The goddess who was the personification of sensual pleasure. She was also called Volupta.

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