Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans. "Roman mythology" may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to the subject matter as represented in the literature and art of other cultures in any period.
The Romans usually treated their traditional narratives as historical, even when these have miraculous or supernatural elements. The stories are often concerned with politics and morality, and how an individual's personal integrity relates to his or her responsibility to the community or Roman state. Heroism was an important theme. When the stories illuminate Roman religious practices, they are more concerned with ritual, augury, and institutions than with theology or cosmogony.
The study of Roman religion and myth is complicated by the early influence of Greek religion on the Italian peninsula during Rome's protohistory, and by the later artistic imitation of Greek literary models by Roman authors. In matters of theology, the Romans were curiously eager to identify their own gods with those of the Greeks (interpretatio graeca), and to reinterpret stories about Greek deities under the names of their Roman counterparts. Rome's early myths and legends also have a dynamic relationship with Etruscan religion, less documented than that of the Greeks.
While Roman mythology may lack a body of divine narratives as extensive as that found in Greek literature, Romulus and Remus suckling the she-wolf is as famous as any image from Greek mythology except for the Trojan Horse. Because Latin literature was more widely known in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, the interpretations of Greek myths by the Romans often had a greater influence on narrative and pictorial representations of "classical mythology" than Greek sources. In particular, the versions of Greek myths in Ovid's Metamorphoses, written during the reign of Augustus, came to be regarded as canonical.
Because ritual played the central role in Roman religion that myth did for the Greeks, it is sometimes doubted that the Romans had much of a native mythology. This perception is a product of Romanticism and the classical scholarship of the 19th century, which valued Greek civilization as more "authentically creative." From the Renaissance to the 18th century, however, Roman myths were an inspiration particularly for European painting. The Roman tradition is rich in historical myths, or legends, concerning the foundation and rise of the city. These narratives focus on human actors, with only occasional intervention from deities but a pervasive sense of divinely ordered destiny. In Rome's earliest period, history and myth have a mutual and complementary relationship. As T. P. Wiseman notes:
The Roman stories still matter, as they mattered to Dante in 1300 and Shakespeare in 1600 and the founding fathers of the United States in 1776. What does it take to be a free citizen? Can a superpower still be a republic? How does well-meaning authority turn into murderous tyranny?
Major sources for Roman myth include the Aeneid of Vergil and the first few books of Livy's history as well as Dionysius' s Roman Antiquities. Other important sources are the Fasti of Ovid, a six-book poem structured by the Roman religious calendar, and the fourth book of elegies by Propertius. Scenes from Roman myth also appear in Roman wall painting, coins, and sculpture, particularly reliefs.
The Aeneid and Livy's early history are the best extant sources for Rome's founding myths. Material from Greek heroic legend was grafted onto this native stock at an early date. The Trojan prince Aeneas was cast as husband of Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus, patronymical ancestor of the Latini, and therefore through a convoluted revisionist genealogy as forebear of Romulus and Remus. By extension, the Trojans were adopted as the mythical ancestors of the Roman people.
The characteristic myths of Rome are often political or moral, that is, they deal with the development of Roman government in accordance with divine law, as expressed by Roman religion, and with demonstrations of the individual's adherence to moral expectations (mos maiorum) or failures to do so.
Narratives of divine activity played a more important role in the system of Greek religious belief than among the Romans, for whom ritual and cult were primary. Although Roman religion did not have a basis in scriptures and exegesis, priestly literature was one of the earliest written forms of Latin prose. The books (libri) and commentaries (commentarii) of the College of Pontiffs and of the augurs contained religious procedures, prayers, and rulings and opinions on points of religious law. Although at least some of this archived material was available for consultation by the Roman senate, it was often occultum genus litterarum, an arcane form of literature to which by definition only priests had access. Prophecies pertaining to world history and to Rome's destiny turn up fortuitously at critical junctures in history, discovered suddenly in the nebulous Sibylline books, which Tarquin the Proud (according to legend) purchased in the late 6th century BC from the Cumaean Sibyl. Some aspects of archaic Roman religion survived in the lost theological works of the 1st-century BC scholar Varro, known through other classical and Christian authors.
The earliest pantheon included Janus, Vesta, and a leading so-called Archaic Triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, whose flamens were of the highest order. According to tradition, Numa Pompilius, the Sabine second king of Rome, founded Roman religion; Numa was believed to have had as his consort and adviser a Roman goddess or nymph of fountains and of prophecy, Egeria. The Etruscan-influenced Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva later became central to official religion, replacing the Archaic Triad — an unusual example within Indo-European religion of a supreme triad formed of two female deities and only one male. The cult of Diana became established on the Aventine Hill, but the most famous Roman manifestation of this goddess may be Diana Nemorensis, owing to the attention paid to her cult by J.G. Frazer in the mythographical classic The Golden Bough.
The gods represented distinctly the practical needs of daily life, and Ancient Romans scrupulously accorded them the appropriate rites and offerings. Early Roman divinities included a host of "specialist gods" whose names were invoked in the carrying out of various specific activities. Fragments of old ritual accompanying such acts as plowing or sowing reveal that at every stage of the operation a separate deity was invoked, the name of each deity being regularly derived from the verb for the operation. Tutelary deities were particularly important in ancient Rome.
Thus, Janus and Vesta guarded the door and hearth, the Lares protected the field and house, Pales the pasture, Saturn the sowing, Ceres the growth of the grain, Pomona the fruit, and Consus and Ops the harvest. Even the majestic Jupiter, the ruler of the gods, was honored for the aid his rains might give to the farms and vineyards. In his more encompassing character he was considered, through his weapon of lightning, the director of human activity. Due to his widespread domain, the Romans regarded him as their protector in their military activities beyond the borders of their own community. Prominent in early times were the gods Mars and Quirinus, who were often identified with each other. Mars was a god of war; he was honored in March and October. Modern scholars see Quirinus as the patron of the armed community in time of peace.
The 19th-century scholar Georg Wissowa thought that the Romans distinguished two classes of gods, the di indigetes and the di novensides or novensiles: the indigetes were the original gods of the Roman state, their names and nature indicated by the titles of the earliest priests and by the fixed festivals of the calendar, with 30 such gods honored by special festivals; the novensides were later divinities whose cults were introduced to the city in the historical period, usually at a known date and in response to a specific crisis or felt need. Arnaldo Momigliano and others, however, have argued that this distinction cannot be maintained. During the war with Hannibal, any distinction between "indigenous" and "immigrant" gods begins to fade, and the Romans embraced diverse gods from various cultures as a sign of strength and universal divine favor.
The absorption of neighboring local gods took place as the Roman state conquered neighboring territories. The Romans commonly granted the local gods of a conquered territory the same honors as the earlier gods of the Roman state religion. In addition to Castor and Pollux, the conquered settlements in Italy seem to have contributed to the Roman pantheon Diana, Minerva, Hercules, Venus, and deities of lesser rank, some of whom were Italic divinities, others originally derived from the Greek culture of Magna Graecia. In 203 BC, Rome imported the cult object embodying Cybele from Pessinus in Phrygia and welcomed its arrival with due ceremony. Both Lucretius and Catullus, poets contemporary in the mid-1st century BC, offer disapproving glimpses of Cybele's wildly ecstatic cult.
In some instances, deities of an enemy power were formally invited through the ritual of evocatio to take up their abode in new sanctuaries at Rome.
Communities of foreigners ( peregrini) and former slaves (libertini) continued their own religious practices within the city. In this way Mithras came to Rome and his popularity within the Roman army spread his cult as far afield as Roman Britain. The important Roman deities were eventually identified with the more anthropomorphic Greek gods and goddesses, and assumed many of their attributes and myths.
In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas (; Greek: Αἰνείας, Aineías, possibly derived from Greek αἰνή meaning "praised") was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (Venus). His father was a first cousin of King Priam of Troy (both being grandsons of Ilus, founder of Troy), making Aeneas a second cousin to Priam's children (such as Hector and Paris). He is a character in Greek mythology and is mentioned in Homer's Iliad. Aeneas receives full treatment in Roman mythology, most extensively in Virgil's Aeneid, where he is cast as an ancestor of Romulus and Remus. He became the first true hero of Rome. Snorri Sturluson identifies him with the Norse Æsir Vidarr.Amata
According to Roman mythology, Amata (also called Palanto) was the wife of Latinus, king of the Latins, and the mother of their only child, Lavinia. In the Aeneid of Virgil, she commits suicide during the conflict between Aeneas and Turnus over which of them would marry Lavinia.
When Aeneas asks for Lavinia's hand, Amata objects, because she has already been promised to Turnus, the king of the Rutulians. Hiding her daughter in the woods, she enlists the other Latin women to instigate a war between the two. Turnus, and his ally Mezentius, leader of the Etruscans, are defeated by Aeneas with the assistance of the Greek colonists and Italic natives of Pallantium, led by that city's founder, the Arcadian Evander of Pallene. The story of this conflict fills the greater part of the seventh book of Virgil's Aeneid. When Amata believes that Turnus had fallen in battle, she hangs herself. The suicide is also referred to in Purgatori XVII of Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, to demonstrate dreadful effects of anger.Artemis (Marvel Comics)
Artemis is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and the moon in the Olympian pantheon. Zeus is her father, and Apollo is her brother.Ascanius
Ascanius (; Ancient Greek: Ἀσκάνιος) (said to have reigned 1176-1138 BC) a legendary king of Alba Longa and is the son of the Trojan hero Aeneas and either Creusa, daughter of Priam, or Lavinia, daughter of Latinus. He is a character in Roman mythology, and has a divine lineage, being the son of Aeneas, who is the son of the goddess Venus and the hero Anchises, a relative of the king Priam; thus Ascanius has divine ascendents by both parents, being descendants of god Jupiter and Dardanus. He is also an ancestor of Romulus, Remus and the Gens Julia. Together with his father, he is a major character in Virgil's Aeneid, and he is depicted as one of the founders of the Roman race.Aurora (mythology)
Aurora (Latin: [au̯ˈroːra]) is the Latin word for dawn, and the goddess of dawn in Roman mythology and Latin poetry.
Like Greek Eos and Rigvedic Ushas, Aurora continues the name of an earlier Indo-European dawn goddess, Hausos.Ceres (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion, Ceres (; Latin: Cerēs [ˈkɛreːs]) was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. She was originally the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian or Aventine Triad, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as "the Greek rites of Ceres". Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ludi Ceriales (Ceres' games). She was also honoured in the May lustratio of the fields at the Ambarvalia festival, at harvest-time, and during Roman marriages and funeral rites.
Ceres is the only one of Rome's many agricultural deities to be listed among the Dii Consentes, Rome's equivalent to the Twelve Olympians of Greek mythology. The Romans saw her as the counterpart of the Greek goddess Demeter, whose mythology was reinterpreted for Ceres in Roman art and literature.Classical mythology
Classical Greco-Roman mythology, Greek and Roman mythology or Greco-Roman mythology is both the body of and the study of myths from the ancient Greeks and Romans as they are used or transformed by cultural reception. Along with philosophy and political thought, mythology represents one of the major survivals of classical antiquity throughout later Western culture. The Greek word mythos refers to the spoken word or speech, but it also denotes a tale, story or narrative.Classical mythology has provided subject matter for all forms of visual, musical, and literary art in the West, including poetry, drama, painting, sculpture, opera, and ballet, as well as forms of popular culture such as Hollywood movies, television series, comic books, and video games. Classical myths are also alluded to in scientific naming, particularly in astronomy, chemistry, and biology, and in the psychoanalytic theory of Freud and the archetypal psychology of Jung.
During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, when Latin remained the dominant language in Europe for international educated discourse, mythological names almost always appeared in Latinized form. With the Greek revival of the 19th century, however, Greek names began to be used more often, with both "Zeus" and "Jove" being widely used as the name of the supreme god of the classical pantheon.Dryad
A dryad (; Greek: Δρυάδες, sing.: Δρυάς) is a tree nymph or tree spirit in Greek mythology. Drys signifies "oak" in Greek, and dryads are specifically the nymphs of oak trees, but the term has come to be used for all tree nymphs in general. They were normally considered to be very shy creatures except around the goddess Artemis, who was known to be a friend to most nymphs.Founding of Rome
The tale of the Founding of Rome is recounted in traditional stories handed down by the ancient Romans themselves as the earliest history of their city in terms of legend and myth. The most familiar of these myths, and perhaps the most famous of all Roman myths, is the story of Romulus and Remus, twins who were suckled by a she-wolf as infants in the 8th century BC. Another account, set earlier in time, claims that the Roman people are descended from Trojan War hero Aeneas, who escaped to Italy after the war, and whose son, Iulus, was the ancestor of the family of Julius Caesar. The archaeological evidence of human occupation of the area of modern-day Rome, Italy dates from about 14,000 years ago.Icarus (sculpture)
Icarus, also known as Icarus III, is an outdoor 1973 sculpture depicting the Greek mythological figure of the same name by Michael Ayrton, installed in Old Change Court in the City of London, in the United Kingdom.Larunda
Larunda (also Larunde, Laranda, Lara) was a naiad nymph, daughter of the river Almo in Ovid's Fasti. The only known mythography attached to Lara is little, late and poetic, coming to us from Ovid’s Fasti. She was famous for both beauty and loquacity (a trait her parents attempted to curb). She was incapable of keeping secrets, and so revealed to Jupiter's wife Juno his affair with Juturna (Larunda's fellow nymph, and the wife of Janus). For betraying his trust, Jupiter cut out Lara's tongue and ordered Mercury, the psychopomp, to conduct her to Avernus, the gateway to the Underworld and realm of Pluto. Mercury, however, fell in love with Lara and had sex with her on the way. Lara thereby became mother to two children, referred to as the Lares, invisible household gods. However, she had to stay in a hidden cottage in the woods so that Jupiter would not find her.Larunda is likely identical with Muta "the mute one" and Tacita "the silent one", nymphs or minor goddesses.Ovid mentions the myth of Lara and Mercury in connection with the festival of Feralia on February 21. Lara/Larunda is also sometimes associated with Acca Larentia, whose feast day was the Larentalia on December 23.Latinus
Latinus (Latin: Latinus; Ancient Greek: Λατῖνος) was a figure in both Greek and Roman mythology. He is often associated with the heroes of the Trojan War, namely Odysseus and Aeneas. Although his appearance in the Aeneid is irreconcilable with his appearance in Greek mythology, the two pictures are not so different that he cannot be seen as one character.Lavinia
In Roman mythology, Lavinia (; Latin: Lāuīnĭa [laːˈwiːnia]) is the daughter of Latinus and Amata and the last wife of Aeneas.
Lavinia, the only child of the king and "ripe for marriage", had been courted by many men who hoped to become the king of Latium. Turnus, ruler of the Rutuli, was the most likely of the suitors, having the favor of Queen Amata. King Latinus is later warned by his father Faunus in a dream oracle that his daughter is not to marry a Latin.
"Propose no Latin alliance for your daughter,Son of mine; distrust the bridal chamber
Now prepared. Men from abroad will come
And be your sons by marriage. Blood so mingled
Lifts our name starward. Children of that stock
Will see all earth turned Latin at their feet,
Governed by them, as far as on his rounds
The Sun looks down on Ocean, East or West."
Lavinia has what is perhaps her most, or only, memorable moment in Book 7 of the Aeneid, lines 69–83: during sacrifice at the altars of the gods, Lavinia's hair catches fire, an omen promising glorious days to come for Lavinia and war for all Latins.
Aeneas and Lavinia had one son, Silvius. Aeneas named the city Lavinium for her. According to an account by Livy, Ascanius was the son of Aeneas and Lavinia; and she ruled the Latins as a power behind the throne, for Ascanius was too young to rule.Libya (mythology)
Libya (Ancient Greek: Λιβύη) is the daughter of Epaphus, King of Egypt, in both Greek and Roman mythology. She personified the land of Ancient Libya in North Africa, from which the name of modern-day Libya originated.Mercury (mythology)
Mercury (; Latin: Mercurius [mɛrˈkʊriʊs] listen ) is a major god in Roman religion and mythology, being one of the 12 Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld.
He was considered the son of Maia, who was a daughter of the Titan Atlas, and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is possibly related to the Latin word merx ("merchandise"; cf. merchant, commerce, etc.), mercari (to trade), and merces (wages); another possible connection is the Proto-Indo-European root merĝ- for "boundary, border" (cf. Old English "mearc", Old Norse "mark" and Latin "margō") and Greek οὖρος (by analogy of Arctūrus/Ἀρκτοῦρος), as the "keeper of boundaries," referring to his role as bridge between the upper and lower worlds. In his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms; both gods share characteristics with the Greek god Hermes. He is often depicted holding the caduceus in his left hand. Similar to his Greek equivalent Hermes, he was awarded the caduceus by Apollo who handed him a magic wand, which later turned into the caduceus.Potamides
Potamides (; Greek: Ποταμίδες) were a type of water nymphs of Greco-Roman mythology. They were assigned as a class of nymphs of fresh water known as naiads, and as such belonged to a category that presided over rivers and streams.Quirinus
In Roman mythology and religion, Quirinus (; Latin: Quirīnus, [kʷɪˈriːnʊs]) is an early god of the Roman state. In Augustan Rome, Quirinus was also an epithet of Janus, as Janus Quirinus. His name may be derived from the Sabine word quiris "spear".Romulus and Remus
In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus () are twin brothers, whose story tells the events that led to the founding of the city of Rome and the Roman Kingdom by Romulus. The killing of Remus by his brother, and other tales from their story, have inspired artists throughout the ages. Since ancient times, the image of the twins being suckled by a she-wolf has been a symbol of the city of Rome and the Roman people. Although the tale takes place before the founding of Rome around 750 BC, the earliest known written account of the myth is from the late 3rd century BC. Possible historical basis for the story, as well as whether the twins' myth was an original part of Roman myth or a later development, is a subject of ongoing debate.Securitas
In Roman mythology, Securitas was the goddess of security and stability, especially the security of the Roman Empire. On coinage Securitas was usually depicted leaning on a column.
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