Gods (Roman Republic)

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An Introduction to the Roman Deities

original author L. Curtius Philo

An offline version of this guidebook is available for download here


Who are the Roman Gods and Goddesses?

Since the prehistoric period humans have pondered the nature of the gods. The earliest peoples of Latium would have looked up at the night sky from their humble farms and considered the divine just as we do today many millennia later. To the ancient Romans, and to modern practitioners of the Cultus Deorum Romanorum, the gods reveal themselves to those who are receptive and astute. Throughout history the gods have been very much present.

To the Romans the world is filled with gods, the number of gods existing is innumerable. In recognizing and reflecting this vast array of deities, the Religio Romana acknowledges that the gods do not always readily reveal their identities. Because of this awareness rituals and ceremonies often acknowledge unnamed divine powers. Another important basic principle reflecting the polytheistic nature of the Religio Romana is that no individual god or goddess is regarded as all-powerful. However, the Romans do acknowledge that some deities are more influential or superior to others.

Different gods can decide to take particular interests within the mortal world. This divine mind or spirit representing the power by which a god or goddess intervenes in worldly affairs is known by the Latin term, numen. Within the ancient Roman religion, the numen represents the characteristics and qualities unique to a particular god or goddess. Within the Religio Romana, a pious individual should be aware of many of the gods and their numen. Gaining this understanding is a fundamental component of religious education for a Roman. Historically such lessons would have been passed down by parents and family members beginning in early childhood. Today many need to turn to our primary historical sources and the work of scholars to obtain this knowledge. As we learn about the gods and goddesses it is critical to recognise that the understanding of the Roman divine world has never been static and unchanging. Evolution in the practice of worship and religious knowledge has been a constant theme over the centuries.

Interestingly, the numen of a divine power may be associated with similar deities recognized first by other non-Roman cultures and societies. This belief in numen being associated with gods known by various names and traditions facilitates syncretism, the combining of religious traditions across cultures. The ancient Roman religion is syncretistic at its heart and welcoming to the existence of other gods that may not have originally been worshipped at Rome. In fact, syncretism is so ingrained within the Religio Romana that some of the earliest gods worshipped by the Romans were probably first worshipped by other prehistoric Indo-European peoples. It is clear that the worship of most of the deities in Rome existed well before Rome the city was founded. Syncretism probably existed within the Roman Religion from its earliest inception.

Because of syncretism, when considering the gods and goddesses of Rome we must view the deities within the context of a divine melting pot. The original worship of many of the most familiar gods and goddesses originated not in Rome but within some of the surrounding communities, from Latin, Samnite or Sabine Tribes. During a later period, the Etruscans, and Greek communities in southern Italy made significant contributions to the traditions of the Religio Romana and how the gods were understood. By the time Rome was a republic, divine powers worshipped throughout the whole Mediterranean world were being invited and welcomed to Rome. Once in Rome the worship of these gods and goddesses often took on a more distinctive Roman characteristic with unique Romanized traditions. This concept is significant; the study of historical sources reveals that the interpretation and understanding of a gods numen is often uniquely Roman. Therefore, one cannot directly assume that the original Greek or Etruscan elucidation of a deity is the exact Roman equivalent in understanding. Ignoring the Romanization of theological thought around the gods prevents a genuine understanding of the often complex but beautiful nature of the Religio Romana.

Furthermore, due to syncretism, to whom a deity first reveals themselves is not a primary concern. Therefore, knowledge of which community first recognized a deity is not crucial. Instead, a pious Roman acknowledges that the numen and the gods extend back beyond human history to creation itself. The gods and their numen transcend the development of any human culture and Earthly history itself. In this manner, the primary focus of the devout Roman is recognition of the presence of the gods irrespective of culture or tradition. From this awareness, one can then choose to build a meaningful relationship with the divine powers and live a happier more harmonious life.

The ancient sources make it clear the gods have the ability to influence the world of mortals. They work with and through men to bring about the common good. It is crucial to understand that the Romans do not believe that gods act as masters over mortals. The gods do not behave like tyrants. At the core of ancient Roman and the modern Religio Romana, is the awareness that mortals are not slaves to the divine powers. The ancient sources reveal that the gods and goddesses do not demand humiliating devotion. Furthermore, the divine has no desire to control the thoughts or desires of men. Mortals are free to act and think as they please. To understand the Roman relationship with the gods and goddesses one should consider the respectful and friendly relationship that can exist between a patron and a client.

The divine powers can voluntarily play the role of a patron or leading member of a community or family. In this way, a mortal can act as a client and cultivate a relationship with these generous and immensely powerful beings. During ancient times, this building of a client-patron relationship became known as establishing “Pax Deorum”, or peace of the gods. In building such relationships of patronage with the divine, an individual is to be in greater harmony with the hierarchy of the universe. Furthermore, by seeking divine patronage, we can hope to gain a better understanding of the world around us while living more virtuously and happily. To put it simply, achieving Pax Deorum assists one in living well and maximizing one’s transient mortal existence.

Central to the building of a relationship with the divine is the performance of rituals and prayer. Through these means mortals communicate with the gods and goddesses. Through this form of communication, the gods and goddesses are honoured and thanked. This communication can also involve offering petitions to the gods and goddesses for their intervention. The divine can choose to respond in kind by offering a response through manipulation of the physical world, providing personal insight and understanding, or by supporting the actions performed by mortals. Through this communication, the client-patron relationship described previously is developed and maintained.

Unlike some other polytheistic interpretations of divinities, the Roman gods and goddesses are viewed as benevolent and inherently positive forces. When considering a relationship with the divinities, it is important to remember that no god or goddess demands worship. Contrary to some other religious traditions the Roman deities do not require or necessarily expect worship. This belief is consistent with the idea that mortals and gods are free to think and act as they desire. Instead, the gods allow and occasionally invite mortals to voluntarily develop relationships with them. Thus, we may invite a god or goddess into our lives. However, it is up to the divine power to determine if they will reciprocate the invitation and build a relationship with us. Like us, the gods and goddesses are also free to determine whom they will interact. The Roman gods and goddesses do not to get jealous or envious of mortals or other divine powers. The gods and goddesses themselves are believed to coexist with each other in harmony and without conflict. This is because the Roman tradition views the gods as naturally virtuous and not burdened by petty mortal vices or preoccupations. In this manner, the Roman tradition differs significantly from some other polytheistic interpretations.

It is important to understand the gods and goddesses are not assumed to play a benign role in mortal life. It is expected that gods and goddesses will interact with humans in their own regard. They do not solely respond to requests and petitions. The Roman gods and goddesses have the ability to directly, and independently make their intentions known on Earth through physical phenomena. Therefore, a relationship with the gods and goddesses does not have to start with a mortal extending an invitation to a divine power. The deities can also extend an invitation to man. Ancient Romans interpreted this divine communication in the form of lightning, earthquakes, epidemics, and other miraculous events. Such manifestations, when witnessed, were to be taken very seriously. The reason for this is that such events could hold critical messages from the divine powers to mortals. After all, it is regarded that the gods and goddesses do not speak idly. Therefore, during ancient times such observances would often result in experts, in the form of priests, being consulted. At the very least such observations should always inspire reflection and caution.

Despite the deities having supreme power over all the Earth, it is important to note that the ancient Romans did not commonly believe that the gods used this power for malicious acts or to punish. Again, the Roman deities were generally regarded as benevolent. Therefore, incredibly powerful natural events, even if causing damage to mortals, were not frequently seen as divine retribution or a punishment. Instead devastating events were interpreted more often as critical and grave warnings and messages.

Roman, Greek, and later art pieces all depict impressive creations displaying images of the gods and goddesses of Rome. From exposure to these impressive works many living in the modern age already have an idea as to the supposed appearance and qualities of the gods. For example, many can imagine the images of Jupiter or Venus without an awareness of the details about these deities. The ancient academic and theologian, Varro mentions that such religious imagery was not initially used within the Religio Romana. Instead, during this archaic period more abstract representations of a god’s numen adorned altars and other sacred places. By the early republican period, the now traditional anthropomorphic imagery had become more commonplace. Scholars suspect this evolution in religious expression may have occurred due to an increasing influence from the Greeks. Ancient Greek religion had a long-standing history of such anthropomorphic artwork as expressions of piety. After this period, depictions of the gods and goddesses in a mortal appearance were frequently adorning Roman temples, public spaces, and domestic environments. Varro states that men designed these visual expressions. He does not claim that these images are literal interpretations of the divine. He concludes that these depictions are the understandings of mortal men and that the benefit of such imagery is to focus and enhance one’s expression of worship. In other words, the image of a god in human form is easier for the mortal mind to understand. In focusing the human mind on an image representing the numen of a god Varro suggests that communication and reverence might be more easily expressed. It should also not be disregarded that the art itself also served as an offering to the deity being honoured. Such beautiful imagery was hoped to be pleasing to the divine, as well as the mortal. Considering the enduring nature of this artwork across the millennia its beauty stands as a testament to the piety and reverence held by the ancients towards the gods and the Religio Romana.


Triads and Groups of Deities

Within the tradition of the Religio Romana there were historically different groups of gods and goddesses. The groupings are man-made constructs that were developed to reflect the divinities of importance to the Roman community. These groups were not static. They developed and evolved as new insight was acquired on the gods and also in response to the social needs of the time. Within the modern Cultus Deorum Romanorum it is encouraged that all traditional Roman groupings of the deities be regarded with reverence. Each group offers a unique perspective on the Religio Romana and is of value to the modern practitioner.


I. Archaic Triad

This group represents the three principal gods of the pre-Roman and early Roman period. The importance of this triad is reflected in the makeup of the highest priests within the Collegium Pontificum, the chief priestly college of Rome. The most influential of these priests were dedicated to the gods of this triad. The origins of this triad extend into the prehistoric period. Some modern scholars believe that this triad may reflect the social makeup of pre-Roman society. These academics believe that the royal and priestly class could have primarily worshiped Iuppiter, those involved in agricultural and military activities may have primarily worshipped Mars, and those living in more urban locations may have revered Quirinius. However, this divine association with a particular social class is currently mostly speculative.

During the Republican era, this triad was already regarded as ancient. Because of this many of the traditions associated with the archaic triad were already obscure to ancient Romans. Nevertheless, many of the most ancient festivals and the most important religious observances were related to the gods who belong to this triad. The meaning and details behind some of these ancient festivals evolved over the course of time; however the gods being worshipped and the importance of these annual events remained broadly consistent throughout history.

One feature that is unchanging across all Roman groupings of deities is the primacy of Iuppiter. This god even in the earliest of times was regarded as the most influential and powerful of the gods. In this manner, Iuppiter throughout all of history has been at the forefront of public worship within the Religio Romana.

II. Capitoline Triad

This triad of deities formed the principal deities of the public Religio Romana throughout most of Roman history. It appears that this triad received increasing reverence during the Roman monarchy. The adoption of this triad represents a syncretistic development within the Religio Romana. Within the Etruscan religion, goddesses Iuno and Minerva were worshipped within a similar triad. This likely influenced the development of the Roman Capitoline Triad as this early period involved increasing Etruscan cultural influence. The first reference to the Capitoline triad is the shrine of Capitolium Vetus on the Quirinal Hill. Tradition has it that this shrine was constructed by King Numa during his reign which occurred between 715-673 BCE. However, the primacy of the Capitoline triad was most obvious in the famous temple of Iuppiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill. Construction of this temple began during the reign of the last king of Rome, and it was completed during the first year of the Roman Republic in 509 BCE. It quickly became the most important temple within the ancient Religio Romana. This temple contained depictions of each of the three deities of the Capitoline triad, and all three were worshipped at this location. From this point forward the gods of this triad formed a core focus of worship within the state Roman religion. Beyond public veneration, these three deities were also extremely popular amongst individual citizens during private worship.


III. Aventine Triad

During ancient times, this triad of deities was most commonly worshipped by the plebeians and those Romans involved in agricultural activities. The origins of this triad stem from an early episode of social disorder in the young Republic. Just prior to the official recognition of the Aventine Triad, Rome was experiencing multiple challenges. The state was at war with the Latins, famine was exacerbating the hardship of war, and the plebeians were protesting their lack of representation in the fledgling republic. Under these circumstances, a dictator was appointed, Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis. In his role as dictator, he vowed to dedicate a temple on the Aventine hill to this triad of deities in 493 BCE. It is highly likely that prior to this episode the Aventine triad of gods was already popular amongst the plebeian class. The dedication of this temple helped appease the social disorder and also rectified the famine. From this time forward the Aventine Triad possessed enormous popularity amongst a large proportion of the population. Besides agriculturalist and plebeian focused worship, this triad also had strong associations with fertility and domestic life. Interestingly, this triad further demonstrates Roman syncretism. Much of the worship of this triad on the Aventine was performed in the Greek rite because it was considered part of the Mysteries of Eleusis. This fact further attests to the increasing multicultural religious influences present in the early Roman Republic.

The Aventine Triad became so closely associated with plebeian Romans that the Temple itself became the type of political headquarters. In this capacity, the political offices of Tribune of the Plebs and the Plebeian Aediles became intimately involved in the affairs and management of the Aventine Temple. This location also served as a symbolic gathering place for plebeians throughout Roman history.


IV. Dii Consentes

(note: these deities are displayed paired in the traditional manner of the lectisternium 217 BCE)

By the end of the Republic, twelve deities were most popularly worshipped in the public Religio Romana. This group contained within it the Capitoline Triad mentioned previously. Importantly, this group of gods and goddesses should not be mistaken as an official list of all publicly endorsed deities. Similarly, the Dii Consentes should not be viewed as the direct Roman equivalent of the twelve Greek Olympian gods. There is no such equipment within the Religio Romana. It is critical to remember that the Religio Romana views the world as filled with innumerable gods and goddesses. The Dii Consentes merely serves as a list of deities who tend to be most popularly worshiped publically within the final 200 years of the Roman Republic.

The term “Dii Consentes” comes to us from Varro. This can be translated as, “Council of Deities”. Although Varro does not directly mention the religious celebration of the lectisternium, the same twelve deities were often reflected in this religious ceremony. A lectisternium is literally a banquet with the gods and goddesses. During this celebration, the images of the gods and goddesses are carried on couches. In the presence of these images, sacrifices are made to these deities. After these initial rites, the celebrants gather among the images of the gods and goddesses and have a banquet while honouring the deities represented. Livy mentions the first lectisternium occurring in 399 BCE. However, at this first lectisternium not all twelve gods and goddesses of the Dii Consentes were represented. Livy notes that the first time the typical twelve Roman gods and goddesses were worshipped in this manner was in 217 BCE. Interestingly, another Roman author, Ennius also mentions this group of gods and goddesses being worshipped in this way around the same period. Therefore, the grouping of deities into the Dii Consentes likely originates from this era.

Varro does not mention the Dii Consentes being grouped into pairs. However, at the lectisternium these twelve deities were grouped into six pairs. These pairs were always one male and one female deity. In this anthropomorphic manner, these paired gods and goddesses were implied to be married or lovers. This tradition likely reflects further syncretism within the Religio Romana. Such anthropomorphic traditions within religious ceremonies were a long-standing practice in Greek religion. In this regard, the development of the lectisternium and therefore possibly Varro’s Dii Consentes may reflect further Romanization and incorporation of Greek religious tradition. Beyond this, many of the deities included in this group were originally worshipped outside of Rome. For example, Apollo was originally worshipped by Greek communities. In this respect, the Dii Consentes is a consequence of a uniquely Roman divine melting pot.


V. Dii Selecti

Varro also mentions another group of gods and goddesses that expand upon those listed in the Dii Consentes. This group contains additional deities that are of great importance within the Religio Romana. Within public worship these additional deities may not have played as prominent a role as the Dii Consentes. Nevertheless, all these gods and goddesses were included in significant public festivals.


VI. Dii Indigetes

This group of deities represents those which were worshipped in the earliest Roman and pre-Roman period. Similarly, the archaic triad is reflected in this group for this reason. Because of the significant role these gods and goddesses played in the first years after the founding of Rome their importance is reflected in the chief priestly College, the Collegium Pontificum. Each of these gods has an assigned priest known as a flamen. Together the flamen make up the priests on the Collegium Pontificum. The numen of many of these deities is associated with agricultural activities. This most likely reflects the early importance of agriculture within the fledgling city of Rome.

As the other groups of deities, such as the Dii Consentes, increased in prominence many of the rites, rituals, and traditions associated with these gods and goddesses became obscure. By the end of the Republican period, many of the details around the cults associated with these deities became unfamiliar to the average Roman.

Nevertheless, the modern Roman Republic acknowledges the importance of these gods and goddesses in the early success of Rome. The flamen of the modern Republic play a leading role in researching and reestablishing the veneration of the gods of the archaic period.


VII. Dii Familiaris

Every pious Roman family, clan (gens) and household has their own unique gods and goddesses. Although many of these gods are worshipped as separate deities unique to each family, these gods are together collectively known by the following names:

Together these deities are regularly worshipped by Roman families. Collectively the deities of the Dii Familiaris form the core of daily Roman religious life and the Religio Romana.

The domestic gods may also be honoured by the larger community. Private groups such as professional societies and clubs often have their own unique gods which could mirror those of the household. Importantly, not all of the gods and goddesses worshipped domestically are unique to a household. The deities worshipped publicly, such as the Dii Consentes, are often included within domestic veneration.


VIII. Other Important Deities

The deities listed above are not included in any readily identifiable group. However, individually they are often referenced in the primary sources. From this it can be deduced that these gods and goddesses were also regularly worshipped and of great significance to many ancient Romans. Continuing this tradition, many of these deities are frequently revered within the modern era as well.


Basic Attributes of Some of the Principle Deities of the Cultus Deorum Romanorum

Name

(Type of Rite)

Epithet Common Associations Common Patronage Additional Information

Iuppiter


Roman Rite


  • Optimus Maximus
  • Pater
  • Dies Pater
  • Conservator (saviour)
  • Elicius (elicited)
  • Feretrius (to strike)
  • Invictus (unconquered)
  • Lucetius (bringer of light)
  • Propugnator (defender),
  • Victor
  • Caelestus (heavenly)
  • Fulgurator (lightening)
  • Tonans (thunderer)
  • Stator (the State)
  • Sovereignty
  • Sky


  • Wind


  • Thunder / lightening


  • Rain
  • The Roman State


  • The Roman People


  • Patrician order


  • Chief of the gods


  • Male deity in the anthropomorphic tradition




Iuno


Roman Rite


  • Regina, Sospita (saviour)
  • Lucina (bringer of light
  • Interduca (leads bride to marriage)
  • Pronuba (matron of honor)
  • Populonia (of the people)
  • Queen of Heaven
  • Queen of the Gods
  • Queen of the Mothers
  • Monetae (the warner)
  • Defense


  • Marriage


  • Childbirth


  • Children


  • Finances of the state
  • The Roman State


  • The Roman People


  • Women


  • Pregnant women


  • Mothers


  • Children
  • Queen of the gods


  • Female deity in the anthropomorphic tradition


  • Probably originally worshipped as Uni an Etruscan goddess


  • Within Roman legend Iuno switched her support from the Etruscan city of Veii to Rome after an evocation by L. Furius Camillus during a war between these two cities in 396 BCE. After this time her cult became increasing popular in Rome.


  • Roman legend also describes Iuno saving Rome from surprise attack by the Gauls in 390 BCE. This act of warning was carried out by loud cries of geese which were sacred to Iuno.


Minerva


Roman Rite


  • Amphira (divine influence)
  • Armipotens (powerful in arms)
  • Caesia (grey-eyed)
  • Hospita (hostess)
  • Medica (physician)
  • Pacifera (bearer of peace)
  • Perspicax (sharp-sighted)
  • Technology


  • Wisdom


  • Learning


  • Art


  • Science


  • Military actions


  • Peace
  • The Roman State


  • Artisans


  • Students


  • Doctors


  • Soldiers
  • Strong associations with the worship of Athena (Greek tradition), and Menrva (Etruscan tradition)


  • Female deity who is the daughter of Iupiter in the anthropomorphic tradition


Aesculapius


Roman Rite


  • Conservator (saviour)
  • Medica (physician)
  • Healing


  • Medicine


  • Health
  • Doctors


  • The sick
  • Symbol is the caduceus (winged scepter)


  • Originally worshipped in Greece, cult brought to Rome upon recommendation of the Sibylline books in 293 BCE


  • Celebrated in Roman rite despite strong Greek tradition


  • Male deity who is son of Apollo in the anthropomorphic tradition

Apollo


Greek Rite



  • Proupsius (Foreseeing)
  • Agraeus (Hunter)
  • Paean (Healer)
  • Medicus (Physician)
  • Phoebus (Shining one)
  • Averruncus (Averter of Evils)
  • Articenens (Carrying the Bow)
  • Coelispex (Watches the Heavens)
  • Good order


  • Purification


  • Prophecy


  • Male beauty


  • Archery


  • Music / poetry / art


  • Sun


  • Masculinity


  • Healing


  • Education



  • Hunters


  • Artisans


  • Doctors


  • Sick


  • Sheppards / Herders





  • Originally worshipped in Greece, cult brought to Rome upon recommendation of the Sibylline books in 433 BCE


  • In ancient Rome cult became strongly associated with Neopythagoreianism


  • Associated with sabine god Soranus


  • Male deity who is son of Iupiter in the anthropomorphic tradition


  • One of only three gods which bulls were sacrificed in ancient Rome


  • Celebrated in Greek rite

Bellona


Roman Rite



  • Military actions


  • Soldiers
  • Female deity who is wife of Mars in the anthropomorphic tradition


Bona Dea


Roman Rite


  • Feminea Dea (The Women's Goddess)
  • Laudandae Deae (The Goddess to be Praised)
  • Sancta (The Holy One)
  • Healing


  • Fertility


  • Domestic activities
  • Women


  • Mothers
  • Suspected Greek origin of worship, cult arrived in Rome during early Republic


  • Worshipped exclusively by women


  • Bona Dea is a title meaning Good Goddess. True name is not revealed.

Carmenta


Roman Rite



  • Inspired speech


  • Childbirth


  • Children


  • Language


  • Prophecy


  • Technology
  • Mothers


  • Children


  • Orators


  • Educators


  • Midwives
  • Female deity in the anthropomorphic tradition


  • Roman legend attributes the invention of the Latin language to Carmenta


Castor and Pollux


Roman Rite


  • Military activities


  • Athletic activities


  • Sailing
  • Equestrian order


  • Twins


  • Athletes


  • Sailors


  • Soldiers
  • Originally worshipped by the Greeks, Roman legend states that cult arrived in Rome after appearance of the gods at the battle of Lake Regillus in 499 BCE


  • Male deities who are twins and sons of Iupiter in the anthropomorphic tradition

Ceres


Roman or Greek Rite

  • Mater
  • Flava (golden)
  • Frugifera (bearer of crops)
  • Larga (abundant)
  • Fecunda (fecund)
  • Fertilis (fertile)
  • Genetrix Frugum (progenetress of the crops)
  • Mater (mother)
  • Potens Frugum (powerful in crops)
  • Fertility


  • Agriculture


  • Marriage


  • Motherly love


  • Growth of plants
  • Wives


  • Farmers


  • Plebeian order


  • Mothers
  • Goddess who was worshipped during the arachic Roman period. During the early republic became associated with the Greek goddess Demeter after Sibylline books recommended moving Greek cult practices associated with this deity to Rome in 499 BCE.


  • When Greek cult practices associated with Ceres arrived in Rome the Greek cults of Icchus and Kore also moved to Rome. This was also upon recommendation of the Sibylline book. These deities became known as Liber and Liberia in Latin. Strongly associated with Ceres.


  • Worshipped in both the Roman and Greek rite.


  • Female deity who is the daughter of Saturnus and Ops, sister to Iupiter in the anthropomorphic tradition

Consus


Roman Rite



  • Storage


  • Meetings
  • Confidential activities


  • Autumn / Spring


  • Harvest


  • Seeding
  • Farmers


  • Warehouses


  • Horses and those who ride horses
  • Worshiped first by the Sabines and Etruscans
  • Cult associated with that of Neptunus


  • In antiquity sacrifices placed below ground.


  • Male deity in the anthropomorphic tradition

Diana


Roman Rite


  • Lucina (of childbirth)
  • Caelistis (celestial)
  • Omnivaga (wandering one)
  • Opifera (aid bringer)
  • Venatrix (huntress)
  • Nemorensis (of the woods)
  • Wilderness / nature / forests


  • Childbirth


  • Fertility / procreation


  • Moon
  • Women


  • Hunters


  • Plebeian order


  • Those of lower socio-economic status
  • Originally worshipped by the Latins and Sabines. Cult brought to Rome in approximately 550 BCE by the sixth king of Rome, Servius Tullius.


  • Female deity in the anthropomorphic tradition

Dis


Roman Rite


  • Pater
  • Underworld
  • The dead
  • Not a god of death, does not cause death. Instead, oversees the domain of the already dead.


  • Is one of the di inferi deities


  • Associated with the Greek god Hades/Pluto


  • Male deity who is the son of Saturnus and Ops and brother of Iupiter in the anthropomorphic tradition

Faunus


Roman Rite


  • Silvicola (one who inhabits the woods)
  • Cornu (horned)
  • Borders between cultivated and uncultivated land


  • Agriculture


  • Wilderness / Forests


  • Livestock


  • Fertility


  • Prophecy
  • Owners of livestock


  • Farmers


  • Rural communities
  • Originally worshipped by the Latins


  • Male deity in the anthropomorphic tradition, later associated with the Greek god Pan

Flora


Roman Rite


  • Rustica (of the countryside)
  • Mater
  • Larga (abundant)
  • Fertilis (fertile)
  • Flowering


  • Spring


  • Fruit / orchards


  • Fertility / procreation
  • Youth


  • Farmers


  • Gardeners
  • Originally worshipped by the Sabines


  • Female deity in the anthropomorphic tradition

Fortuna


Roman Rite


  • Belli (of war)
  • Brevis (fickle)
  • Conservatrix (of the Preserver)
  • Felix (blessed)
  • Gubernatrix (conductress)
  • Manens (enduring)
  • Mobilis (changing)
  • Redux (brought one safely home)
  • Respiciens (of the provider)
  • Restitutrix (she who restores)
  • Salutaris (health-bringing)
  • Muliebris (of a woman)
  • bountiful (Copia)
  • Chance


  • Fate


  • Luck


  • Female deity in the anthropomorphic tradition

Genius / Iuno


Roman Rite





  • Not the name of a single deity but a group of deities. The Genius is the personal guardian spirit or soul of an individual. It can also be thought of as the deified nature of one’s personality.


  • When the individual is male it is referred to as Genius, when female it is called Iuno.


  • A genius can also be associated with a place, thing or group. In this manner the Genius / Iuno acts as the deification of the qualities of an individual or place or group. This deity is to exist from the moment of Earthly creation of that which it is associated.


  • When worshipped one typically touches their forehead when referring to the Genius / Iuno


  • Domestically an entire household would worship the Genius of the eldest male of the family (paterfamilias). In the modern era both the Genius of the paterfamilias and the Iuno of the materfamilias (eldest female) are worshipped. Artistically the Genius is often represented as a snake or a figure in a toga. Occasionally these figures are associated with a cornucopia.

Ianus


Roman Rite


  • Pater
  • Geminus (twin)
  • Bifons (two faced)
  • Clusivus (closed doors)
  • Conseuius (the Sower)
  • Patultius (the Opene)
  • Iancus (the Gatekeeper)
  • Duonus Cerus (the Good Creator)
  • rex (king)
  • diuum patrem (father of the gods)
  • ianitos (the Caretaker)
  • Divum Deus (God of Gods)
  • Beginnings and endings


  • Gates and doors


  • Childbirth


  • Marriage


  • Ports / harbours


  • Passage of time


  • Transitions


  • Kalends


  • Start and end of the day


  • Ancient evidence demonstrates that the opening of any public rite should include an invocation to Ianus first


  • If sacrifices are being given Ianus should be offered to first


  • In antiquity there are no dedicated priests, rites to Ianus are attended to by the Rex Sacrorum.


  • Symbols are keys and staff


  • Male deity with two faces in the anthropomorphic tradition

Iuturna


Roman Rite



  • Clean fresh water


  • Wells


  • Small bodies of water


  • Healing
  • Suppliers of water


  • The sick
  • Female deity in the anthropomorphic tradition

Iuventas


Roman Rite



  • Rejuvenation


  • Youth
  • Adolescents


  • Young Adults
  • Female deity in the anthropomorphic tradition


  • Plays an important role in coming of age ceremonies

Lares


Roman Rite





  • Not the name of a specific deity but a group of nameless deities. The Lares (Lar if singular) are worshipped within the domestic context. They represent a deity or the deities which protect the physical land where one’s house exists. Each house and associated piece of land has its own unique Lares.


  • The Lares are provided offerings during family events and celebrations; they are also worshipped regularly on the Kalends, Nones and Ides of the month.


  • Pictorially they are often represented as young males dancing and pouring wine into patera.

Liber and Libera


Roman or Greek Rite

  • Liber: Pater


  • Libera: Mater
  • Germination


  • Veniculture


  • Agriculture


  • Food / Wine


  • Fertility


  • Freedom


  • Coming of age



  • Farmers


  • Winemakers / vintners / brewers


  • Plebeian order


  • Young adults


  • Chefs




  • When Greek cult practices associated with Ceres arrived in Rome in 499 BCE the Greek cults of Icchus and Kore also moved to Rome. This adoption of was upon the recommendation of the Sibylline books. These deities became known as Liber and Liberia in Latin.


  • Cults strongly associated with Ceres


  • Worshipped in both the Roman and Greek rites


  • Libera is a female deity and Liber is a male deity. Both are said to be the children of Ceres in the anthropomorphic tradition


Manes


Roman Rite





  • This is not one specific deity. The manes represent the spirits of the deceased and form the Roman funerary cult. Worship of ones deceased ancestors forms an important part of domestic worship.


  • It is the Roman belief that after the mortal flesh is disposed through cremation or burial that spirit of that individual joins the Manes, a community of the dead. In this manner funeral rites focus on announcing the existence of a new Manes. Later on and throughout the years a family would make offerings to the Manes of their ancestors. A customary day to make such offerings was on the anniversary of a funeral.


  • Sacrifices and offerings made to the Manes are not to be shared with the living.


  • The Manes are not regarded as full deities. They occupy an intermediate status between the divine gods and the living

Mars


Roman Rite


  • Pater
  • Victor
  • Gradivus (marching)
  • Ultor (the avenger)
  • Silvanus (of the forest)
  • Agriculture


  • Military activities


  • Male fertility


  • Defense


  • Peace


  • Courage


  • Masculinity


  • Farmers


  • Solders


  • Men


  • The Roman People
  • Symbols are the wolf, woodpecker, spear and shield


  • Cult was associated with that of Quirinus


  • One of only three deities which received bulls as offerings in antiquity


  • In Roman legend the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus were descended from Mars. In this manner Mars was often viewed as father of the Roman People.


  • Male deity who is the son of Iuno in the anthropomorphic tradition

Mercurius


Roman Rite


  • Bonus (Good)
  • Interpres Divum (Messenger of Heaven)
  • Alipes (Swift)
  • Caducifer (bearing the herald’s staff)
  • Pacifer (peace-bringing)
  • Interpres (Negotiator)
  • Fortunus (Fortune)
  • Mercator (merchant)
  • Commerce / trade


  • Journeys


  • Sleep / dreams


  • Art / music / poetry


  • Messages / communication / interpretation
  • Merchants


  • Artists


  • Travelers
  • Symbols are the rooster, goat, and lyre


  • Possibly first worshipped by the Romans as the Etruscan god Turms. Later associated with the Greek cult of Hermes.


  • Male deity who is the son of Iupiter in the anthropomorphic tradition


  • Mercury is also invoked when there are attempts to better understand or communicate a deity. Evidence for this is seen in Julius Caesar invoking Mercurius when calling upon the Gallic gods and Tacitus did the same in regards to the Germanic gods.


Neptunus


Roman Rite


  • Pater
  • Adiutor (helper)
  • Redux (who returns men)
  • Equestor (of horses)
  • Oceans and large bodies of fresh water


  • Horses


  • Naval activities
  • Sailors


  • Horses and those who ride horses


  • Merchants
  • May have been originally worshiped in Rome as the Etruscan deity Nepthuns


  • Cult was associated with that of Consus


  • Symbols are the trident and dolphin


  • One of only three deities which received bulls as offerings in antiquity


  • Male deity who is the brother of Iupiter in the anthropomorphic tradition


Penates


Usually Roman Rite




  • Not a single deity but a group of deities worshipped domestically.


  • The Penates are divine domestic assistants. They attend to a family and help insure harmony between the divine and domestic worlds.


  • It is not unusual for a family to have between two to eight deities as penates


  • The same penates could be worshipped by an entire extended family


  • The penates could be deities unique to that family but could also include those deities popularly worshipped publically (eg. Minerva, Venus etc.)

Ops


Roman Rite


  • Mater
  • Mater Dei (Mother of the Gods)
  • Mater Omnium (Mother of All)
  • Planting


  • Abundance / Wealth


  • Harvest


  • Earth


  • Ploughing


  • Fertility
  • Farmers


  • Those who are prosperous


  • Humanity




  • Originally worshipped by the Sabines. Cult brought to Rome in approximately 550 BCE by the sixth king of Rome, Servius Tullius.


  • Associated with the cult of Saturnus


  • Symbols are bread, seeds, soil, cornucopia, and scepter


  • In antiquity sacrifices placed below ground.


  • Female deity who is the sister and wife of Saturnus in the anthropomorphic tradition

Pales


Roman Rite



  • Health of flocks and domesticated animals


  • Pastures
  • Shepards


  • Keepers of livestock / herders


  • Caretakers of domestic animals


  • Domestic animals
  • May have been one or two deities


  • Unclear gender in the anthropomorphic tradition

Pomona


Roman Rite



  • Fruits


  • Nuts


  • Orchards
  • Farmers


  • Gardeners



  • Female deity when depicted in the anthropomorphic tradition


Portunus


Roman Rite


  • Pater
  • Ports / harbours


  • Naval activities


  • Coastlines


  • Doors / keys


  • Domesticated animals


  • Terrestrial borders


  • Warehouses
  • Sailors


  • Travelers


  • Those who work or live in port towns, coastlines and on terrestrial borders


  • Merchants


  • Probably originally worshipped by the Latins


  • Cult has some similarities with that of Ianus


  • Symbols are keys and doors


  • Male deity sometimes depicted with two faces in the anthropomorphic tradition

Quirinus


Roman Rite


  • Pater
  • The civic community


  • Defense


  • Military activities


  • Peace
  • The Roman People


  • The Roman State


  • Solders


  • Citizen Committees
  • Cult has associations with that of Mars and Ianus


  • Within late Republican Roman legend Quirinus
  • is viewed as the defied founder of Rome, Romulus


  • May have been first worshipped by the Sabines


  • Symbol is myrtle and spear


  • Male deity who is the son of Mars in the anthropomorphic tradition

Salus


Roman Rite


  • Mater
  • Bountiful (Copia)
  • Restitutrix (she who restores)
  • Physical and moral welfare


  • Health


  • Safety


  • Prosperity


  • Symbols are the patera and snake


  • Associated with the cults of Apollo and Aesculapius


  • Female deity in the anthropomorphic tradition

Saturnus


Greek Rite

  • Pater
  • Aurea (Golden)
  • Fugato (put to flight)
  • Tellus (Earth)
  • Agriculture


  • Planting of seeds


  • Wealth


  • Freedom


  • Renewal
  • The State Treasury
  • Roman legend states that Saturnus ruled the heavens as the chief deity until overthrown by Iuppiter. After being overthrown Saturnus ruled for a period of time over Latium. During this time Latium experienced a golden age of peace and prosperity.


  • Symbols are sickle, key and snake


  • Male deity who is the father of Iuppiter and husband of Ops in the anthropomorphic tradition. Depictions of Saturnus show his feet bound. His feet are only set free during the festival Saturnalia.


  • Depictions often show Saturnus’ head veiled in the fashion of the Roman rite. However, all rites associated with Saturnus are performed in the Greek rite with the head uncovered. This is despite a strong arachic Roman tradition connected with this god. This discrepancy may be due to worshippers being forbidden from imitating this deity.

Silvanus


Roman Rite


  • Sanctus (Sacred)
  • Forests


  • Wilderness


  • Uncultivated land


  • Cattle / Livestock
  • Hunters


  • Woodsmen


  • Sheppards


  • Those of lower socio-economic status
  • Symbols are the Syrinx and Cyprus


  • Cult had associations with that of Mars


  • Rites attended exclusively by men in antiquity


  • No temple or public shrine in Rome. Was worshipped only on a private basis in antiquity.


  • Male deity who is depicted as elderly in the anthropomorphic tradition

Tellus


Roman Rite


  • Mater
  • Terra Mater (Mother Earth)
  • Earth


  • Agriculture


  • Soil / Ploughing / Sowing seed


  • Fertility


  • Wild and domestic animals
  • Farmers


  • Keepers of livestock


  • Mothers
  • Often worshipped alongside Ceres and other agricultural deities


  • Female deity when depicted in the anthropomorphic tradition

Venus


Roman Rite


  • Caelestis (Celestial)
  • Felix (Lucky)
  • Genetrix (the Mother)
  • Obsequens (Indulgent)
  • Verticordia (Changer of Hearts)
  • Aurea (Golden)
  • Victrix (Victorious)
  • Amica (Friend)
  • Beauty


  • Charm


  • Love


  • Sex


  • Marriage


  • Fertility



  • Couples


  • Mothers


  • The Roman People
  • Symbols are myrtle and roses


  • Originally worshipped by Greek communities in Magna Grecia. Cult formally brought to Rome in 215 BCE from Sicily upon recommendation of the Sibylline Books.


  • In Roman legend Aeneas the founder of the Roman people was the son of Venus. From this connection Venus was often regarded as the mother of the Roman people.


  • Female deity when depicted in the anthropomorphic tradition

Vesta


Roman Rite


  • Mater
  • Virgo (Virgin)
  • Troicus (from Troy)
  • Hearth


  • Domestic spaces


  • Community life


  • Purifying and life giving power of fire


  • Families / Households


  • Women


  • The Roman People
  • Roman legend states that Aeneas brought the scared fire and the cult of Vesta to the Latins upon the destruction of Troy. The cult of Vesta was well established in the Latin city of Alba Longa. The second Roman king, Numa Pompilius is said to have brought the worship of Vesta to Rome around 700 BCE.


  • Like Ianus, Vesta is invoked in every sacrifice or prayer to the gods and goddesses. Unlike Ianus, who is invoked first, she is invoked last.


  • In antiquity Vesta was the only deity who was assigned a full time priest. These priests were the Vestal Virgins who attended the sacred state hearth.


  • Symbols are the hearth and fire


  • Vesta plays a significant role in domestic worship. Often included amongst those deities worshipped at the home. Domestic worship in antiquity was centered on the family hearth.

Volturnus


Roman Rite



  • Rivers
  • Those who live near, depend on, or travel on rivers
  • The Oscans and Samnites were probably the first to worship Volturnus



Vulcanus


Roman Rite


  • Mulciber (Smelter)
  • Callidus (Clever)
  • Nominati Artifex (Renowned Artificer)
  • Pater
  • Creative and destructive power of fire
  • Bakers


  • Metalworkers


  • Those who seek protection from destructive fires
  • Male deity and a son of Iupiter when depicted in the anthropomorphic tradition


  • Symbols are a blacksmith’s hammer, axe, mule, workman’s cap and fire


See also


Bibliography

  • Adkins Lesley, Dictionary of Roman Religion. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.)
  • Ando Clifford, Roman Religion. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.)
  • Ando Clifford, The Matter of the Gods: Religion and the Roman Empire. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.)
  • Beard Mary, Religions of Rome. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.)
  • Bispham Edward, Religion in Archaic and Republican Rome and Italy. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000.)
  • Bonnefoy Yves, Roman and European Mythologies. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.)
  • Bunson Matthew, Encyclopaedia of the Roman Empire. (New York: Facts on File Inc., 2002.)
  • Cornell T. J., The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars. (New York: Routledge, 1995.)
  • Scheid John, An Introduction to Roman Religion. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003.)