Roman gods and goddesses
Gods and goddesses were a very important part of the Roman society. There was a god for everything in life, from wars to wisdom and learning. Roman gods and goddesses originated from a mix of influences. They grew in number as the Roman Empire expanded and gained power.
The Pantheon The entire group of gods and goddesses was known as the Pantheon. For the Romans, the Pantheon began to develop when Rome was still a small village. The people in the area, known as the Latins, were superstitious and believed in many gods. As Rome grew in size and power, its people came into contact with the Greeks. The Greeks also had a vast assortment of gods and beliefs. The Romans found that there was often a Latin and a Greek god for the same idea. For instance, the Latin god of fire was Vulcan. The Greek god named Hephaistos was quite similar in nature. So the Romans combined the two and created their own god. They named him Vulcan, but pictured him as a blacksmith, like the Greek Hephaistos.
The number of Roman gods and goddesses continued to grow. Eventually, the Romans had a collection of hundreds of deities. A temple was built in Rome and dedicated to the most distinguished gods. It was named the "Pantheon," in reference to the whole collection of gods.
Prominent Gods and Goddesses Jupiter was the master of the Roman gods. He is often pictured with thunderbolts in his hand. Juno was the wife of Jupiter. She was the goddess of women and fertility. Juno's symbols were a pomegranate and a peacock. Mars, the god of war, was another main god. After Jupiter, Mars was the strongest and most powerful god. The goddess of love and beauty was Venus.
Guardian Spirits Many Romans incorporated their worship of the various gods and goddesses into their daily lives. This is very evident in the Dii Familiaris system. In this setting, every household had a guardian spirit. This spirit protected the family and was remembered during special occasions. A shrine was often set up for the spirit in the house. Offerings and sacrifices were made to it as well. As this idea developed, more spirits were added. Different spirits protected various areas of the house. More statues were included in the household shrines.
Constantine and Christianity As the Roman Empire expanded, its emperors gained more and more power. Eventually, these rulers were given certain divine honors. Sacrifices were often made to the emperor in charge. While many Romans followed this practice, Christians refused to worship the emperor as a god. For this reason, many Christians were persecuted and killed.
Emperor worship continued until the 4th century. In 312 AD, Emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity. His decision led much of the Roman Empire to become Christian as well. The worship of Roman gods and goddesses began to decline.
Many remains of Roman gods and goddesses still exist. Statues have been found, temple ruins have been uncovered, and information about the worship system has been gathered. These deities were an important part of Roman society and history, and are still noteworthy today.