The Ancient Romans worshiped many gods during their rule. Many of these deities were the same as those worshiped by the ancient Greeks, but they were renamed by the Romans.
The citizens of Ancient Rome believed these powerful gods not only founded their homeland, but the gods also shaped their daily lives constantly. Therefore, these gods were routinely honored and consulted to ensure that the activities of the state had received divine approval.
10 Major Gods of Ancient Rome
These deities were seen as the main gods of Ancient Rome. It was only through worshiping and honoring them that the Ancient Romans were allowed to prosper and conquer new lands.
Jupiter was seen as the God of all the other gods. He was considered to be the shining father of the Roman Empire. His power was seen as omnipotent. Throughout all of Italy, he was worshiped on the hill summits.
Jupiter was believed to be the deity who protected the Roman race and whose worship represented moral conception. As the great protector, he oversaw the implementation of oaths and treaties of the state. It was only in the presence of his priests that the most sacred and ancient forms of holy marriage could take place.
Throughout all of Roman history, Jupiter is believed to protecting all the other deities along with the fateful paths of duty by both state and family.
Juno was both the chief goddess and Jupiter’s female counterpart. Along with Minerva and Jupiter, Juno was part of the Capitoline deity triad originally recognized by the Etruscan kings. She oversaw every aspect of the lives of Roman women — especially their married lives.
Juno was also the goddess of childbirth and seen a guardian angel for females. As her popularity expanded, her functions become wider and she was seen as the main female divinity for the state. Countless temples devoted to her were constructed throughout the Roman Empire.
Minerva was the Roman goddess of arts, the professions, handicrafts, and of war. She was closely associated with Jupiter and Juno as a member of the Capitoline triad from Etruria. A shrine dedicated to her was located on the Aventine in Rome became a huge meeting location for craftsmen guilds along with actors and poets.
The Great Roman General Pompey constructed a great temple to her made from the spoils of his amazing conquests in the east. This temple branded her as the divine matron of victory. Her popularity reached its apex under the Roman Emperor Domitian who granted her special protections. It was during this time that she was most honored and worshiped.
The Roman god of Neptune ruled the seas and controlled storms and winds. He was also considered as the equine god that oversaw both horses and horsemanship. This also made him the patron of horse racing which was very popular among the Ancient Romans.
Unlike his Greek counterpart Poseidon, who was second-in-command to Zeus, Neptune was not a ruling deity. He was not a member of either the Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno, or the Archaic Triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus (who was Romulus in a deified form).
Despite his lack of political power, Neptune still had the respect and fear of those whose livelihood depended on the sea. His influence greatly increased during the second and third centuries as the Roman Empire spread all through the Mediterranean Sea.
Many considered the Roman god Mars as second only to Jupiter in overall importance. He became the god of war and was seen as a protector of Rome’s armies.
Rome held festivals in spring and fall to honor Mars. These events marked the beginning and end of both the military and agricultural seasons. The month of March was named after him and as a result, many events were held in this special month to honor him.
The month of October was also surrounded by the god, Mars. These fall festivals featured many horse activities such as chariot races.
Caesar Augustus took the worship of Mars to new levels. He not only saw the war god as his inspiration, he considered Mars as his guardian in the quest to avenge the death of Julius Caesar. Roman legions worshiped him before taking the battlefield.
Venus was the Roman goddess of beauty, love, fertility, prosperity, and victory. She was vital enough to the Roman elite that many of them claimed she was in their bloodline.
Mythological tales claim that Aeneas, who was her son, escaped from Troy to Italy. He was then the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, the brothers who founded Rome.
This story reveals why many Romans considered Venus as the mother of Rome. Her main symbols were myrtle and rose. Myrtle so represented this goddess that everyone wore wreaths of myrtle at her festivals.
The major festival for the goddess Venus was held on April 1. During this event, her statue was carefully washed and draped in flowers. In return, they believed that Venus helps men and women on issues of the heart.
The Roman god Apollo is perhaps the most complicated as well as one of the most important of all Roman gods. This is because he was the god of many things like poetry, music, art, oracles, archery, medicine, plague, sun, and knowledge. Primarily, he was known as the god light.
Apollo is depicted as an athletic, beardless youth who was the son of Jupiter and was the twin of Diana. It was through his connections with the Oracle from Delphi that he also became the god of divine distance. He could make men aware of their guilt from afar.
Apollo oversaw law, religion, and the constitutions of roman cities. He communicated with common mortals through oracles and prophets. Even the other Roman gods feared his power.
Diana was known as the Roman goddess of the hunt. She was the daughter of Jupiter and the twin to Apollo, the god of light. She is also considered to be the goddess of the moon, the woods, children and childbirth, wild animals, and even fertility. Those who worshipped her believed she could talk with forest animals and control their behavior and movements.
As with all Roman deities, the goddess Diana was fully grown when born and was stunningly beautiful and tall. It is said that she was very youthful — appearing to represent a young lady of 12–19 years old.
The art depicts her as having a quiver of arrows over her shoulder and possessing a bow. She is usually clad in a short tunic with either buckskin covering over her feet — which was the style for a Roman huntress.
Vulcan was considered as the Roman god of fire. It was believed that his power was the motive force behind volcanic eruptions and other destructive conflagrations. His name comes from the identical Latin root from which the word “volcano” was derived. He was also seen to be the god of forges, metalworking, and craftsmanship.
Myths about Vulcan claim that he had a massive forge for metal crafting underneath Mount Etna which is located on the east coast of Sicily. This was where he forges weapons that were only suitable for other gods to use. This mountain has been an active volcano for over 2,700 years. It was believed that the volcanic fires, lava, and smoke are Vulcan’s forge at work.
Roman citizens prayed to Vulcan in the hopes of protecting their homes and fields from fire. As with the other gods, festivals were thrown to honor him.
Mercury was considered to be the Roman god of markets and commerce. He was often seen as being a mediator between mortals and the gods. He had the advantage of speed because of his winged feet which allowed him to circulate quickly among people with messages and goods.
It was believed the Roman god Mercury protected both travelers and merchants — especially those who dealt in grains, which were vital to Rome. Merchants commonly prayed to him for the protection of their wares and prosperity in their dealings.
Mercury was believed to be very cunning and a shrewd negotiator. It was also said that he loved pulling pranks on the god Apollo.