In this section:

 

Gods and Goddesses

The Romans believed in many different gods and goddess, each of whom represented different things. So if someone fell ill, a Roman would offer a prayer or an offering to Aesculapius, the god of healing; or before a battle, a soldier might pray to Mars, the god of war. Every Roman family also had their own personal gods called the Lares, who protected the household and the family and had their own special shrine in a Roman house. There were many Roman gods, some were ideas, such as 'victory' thought of as gods (the Roman goddess of victory was called 'Victoria', which is where the girls' name comes from).

The most important ones had lots of celebrations and events held in their honour, such as Roman games - Spartapuss fights at the games of Purrcury in I Am Spartapuss. Here are some of the most important Roman gods and goddesses:

Jupiter (Mewpiter)

The king of the gods, also god of the sky, social order and justice. As the most important of the gods, the largest temple in Rome, on the Capitoline Hill, was dedicated to him. The Romans swore oaths in the name of Jupiter in their law courts, which is where we get the expression 'By Jove!' from today. Jupiter 's symbols are lightening bolts and the eagle.

Juno

The queen of the gods, wife and sister of Jupiter. She was also goddess of women and marriage. The month of June was named after Juno, and it was considered a lucky month to get married in. She was also considered to be a particular protector of the Roman people under the name Juno Moneta ('Juno who warns'). Her sacred bird was the peacock.

Mercury (Purrcury)

The son of Jupiter and Maia, Mercury was the messenger of the gods and also the god of trade, travel and thieves. He is usually shown wearing winged sandals and a staff with two snakes wrapped around it. Sometimes he is shown with a tortoise, because there was a Roman story that Mercury invented the lyre (a musical instrument a bit like a harp) by making it from a tortoise shell.



Neptune

God of the sea, horses and earthquakes. He was particularly worshipped as the god of horses and he had a temple near the Circus Maximus, the huge chariot-racing course in Rome. He is usually shown with a trident, a kind of long, forked weapon with 3 points. He was said to create earthquakes and springs of water by hitting the ground with his trident.









Minerva

Goddess of craft, poetry and wisdom. Along with Jupiter and Juno she was considered to be one of the most important gods in Rome; all three of them together were known as the Capitoline Triad, as they were worshipped in a special temple on the Capitoline Hill. The myth about the birth of Minerva is borrowed from the Ancient Greeks' myth about their goddess Athene. The myth says that Minerva was born from the head of her father, Jupiter. Jupiter had a terrible headache one day, so he asked Vulcan, the god of blacksmiths, to cut his head open to relieve his headache. When Vulcan cut it open, out jumped Minerva, fully dressed in armour with a shield and a spear!




Vesta

Goddess of the hearth. The hearth was a very important symbol to the Romans, it represented the household. Vesta had her own special priestesses called the Vestal Virgins whose job was to keep the sacred fire of Vesta burning her temple in Rome. The priestesses were chosen from the most noble families in Rome when they were very young. For 10 years they were a novice, learning how to keep the flame burning, then for 10 years they looked after the temple and the flame and then finally for 10 years they trained the new novices. After this, they were free to leave the temple and get married (they could not whilst they were a priestess). It was a great honour to be chosen to be a Vestal Virgin.




Mars

This god started out as a god of agriculture and farming but soon became what we know him as - the god of war. He was special to the Romans because he was the father of Romulus, who was the mythical founder of Rome. There were many lesser gods who were associated with Mars: Bellona (a goddess of war), Pallor and Pavor (who made the enemy terrified), Fuga (Flight - inspiring the enemy to run away), Timor (Fear) and Discordia (Strife). The Romans thought these god would accompany Mars onto the battlefield. Mars' symbols are a big, plumed helmet, a spear and the wolf.