Gods of Rome Picture

I did not call it "roman Gods" because very few of them are truly roman. Well to be honest there are no truly roman Gods. In the early History of Italy the people worshiped mostly nature-deities or personifications like fides (Faith) or Fortuna (Destiny). During the 8th Century BC when the Etruscans first made contact with the Greeks they adopted there System of anthropomorphic (=human shaped) Gods.

I know there are hundreds of different Gods the Romans worshipped. I simply chose the ones, that I think were the most important at a particular time, and brought them into chronological order.

It starts on the left with Quirinus. He is a very ancient God. Probably the war god of the Sabines – (who lived at the spot were Rome would be founded, before the Romans). He was later identified with Romulus, Janus and Mars. He later got entirely replaced by Mars, which is probably why he looks miffed, and turns away from Mars. I have not found any ancient depiction of Quirinus, all I had was a coin with his head...

Mars is often called the roman version of Ares, which is a bit unfair, since they actually were very different. Mars was more than Ares - who simply was the God of slaughtering one another - Mars was the God of Roman Identification and very important during the Republic and early Empire. He was also part of the so called "Archaic Triad" consistent of Quirinus, Mars and Jupiter.

Next to him is Minerva. The Romans inherited her from the Etruscans under the name of "Menfra". She later was identified with the Greek goddess Athena, and just like her was goddess of wisdom, science, medicine and crafts. I tried to make her look different from Athena, and gave her a very Etruscan style. The helmet may look a bit alien, but the inspiration was taken from an actual statue called the "Minerva of Lavinium". Minerva was part of the so called "Capitoline Triad" alongside Juno and Jupiter.

These two are next in line. Probably the most important Gods of Rome during the Republic and the early and middle Empire. Both - Juno and Jupiter - were originally Etruscan deities by the names of "Uni" and "Tinia". Later they were identified with Hera and Zeus and as such they are King and Queen of the Gods.

At this point I give my apologies to Venus and Apollo. Who also were very important, especially at the time of Caesar and Augustus. Venus especially because she was the grandmother of Aneas, from whom Ceasar claimed to be descendant of. Apollo was the personal-protection-God of Emperor Augustus. I give my apologies for not including them.

Next is the Dea Roma. She is the personification of the City of Rome, and I included her because of the important role she played for the worshipping of the emperor during the 1st century AD. The inspiration for her helmet I took from the Gemma Augustea. On her shield there is the Lupa Romana (roman She-Wolf) with Romulus and Remus.

Now we enter the 2nd Century AD, a time when the so called "Mystery religions" flourished. These religions were different from the official stat-religion. The roman religion was based on the principle of “do ut des” (“I give so you give”) meaning the gods only listened to you if you paid them, and otherwise they did not care about you. Also there was no price for being a nice person and no punishment for being a bad one. So whether you were a murderer or someone who saved people, did not count – the gods just care about the things you pay them, and at the end of your life you end up as a sad shadow in the dark underworld. Mystery Gods were different; they care about you simply because you care about them, and they promise that you go to a beautiful afterlife if you are a nice person and behave well towards others. Also contrary to the state Gods – which were just worshiped on special days with an official ceremony – everyone could have a personal bond with a Mystery God, and talk to them whenever they liked.

Probably the most popular Mystery Goddess was Isis. Originally she comes from Egypt, but was adapted by the romans. The Followers of Isis wore special hair styles and a special knot on their clothing to let everybody know that they followed Isis. Although the cult of Isis was persecuted twice she rose to one of the most popular goddesses and was made goddess of almost everything. Therefore she was given the name "myrionyme" - the one with the thousand names.

Next to her is another very popular Mystery God. Mithras. God of Light and protector of Soldiers and Merchants, he represents the good God who battles evil. He also was worshiped as creator of the earth.

The most important god during the 3rd and early 4th century was Sol Invictus. He was often identified with Mithras, but I choose to depict him separately. His name means "the invincible Sun" and Emperor Aurelian even tried to give him a special status among all the other gods.
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