Greek and Roman Gods, Temples, and Festivals: Alike Yet Different by Rose Williams The following discussions are samples from an overall study which is used in my book ‘Gods and Other Odd Creatures.’ Drawings “Gate of Janus Geminus” and “Aedes Vestae”are from the book and may be copied, as may all other drawings in the book. Since the Romans were both polytheistic and tidy, they tended to organize the deities they encountered and to equate them to Roman gods if possible. Thus when they conquered, and were in turn influenced by, the Greeks, they called Greek gods by the names of their Roman counterparts. This process was helped by the fact that fourteen major gods who made up the Twelve Great Olympians of the Greeks and the twelve Di Consentes of the Romans (plus a couple of major extras in each case) were similar in function. But they differed in many ways.
Greek Major Pantheon
Twelve Great Olympians: Zeus, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Hephaestus Athena , Ares and Aphrodite. Two Great Gods: Demeter and Dionysus
Roman Major Pantheon
Di Consentes: Iuppiter, Iuno, Minerva, Vesta, Ceres, Diana, Venus, Mars, Mercurius, Neptunus, Volcanus, and Apollo. (Listed by the Poet Ennius about the 3rd Century, B.C.E.) Two Great Gods: Liber (Bacchus) and Pluto While in function similar, in personality Greek and Roman deities were very different. The Greeks’ Twelve Great Olympians and their two great Earth Gods, Demeter and Dionysus, were all members of one family, being direct descendants of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth).
The following are excerpts from the Homeric hymns of the 7th century bc The one Orphic Hymn excerpt is ca. 1st century bc
Study Question I:
a) List references to family ties, personal appearance, and direct personal prayers. b) Do the underlined passages, or any other passages, seem strange to your idea of the gods? Explain how. Zeus Homeric Hymn 11 to Dionysus (13-16) The Son of Cronos spoke and nodded, dark-browed. The divine locks flowed forward from his immortal head, and great Olympus reeled. So wise Zeus ordained it with a nod. Hera Homeric Hymn 12 To Hera I sing of she whom Rhea bore, Hera of the golden throne. Queen of the immortals is she, all-surpassing in beauty; sister and the wife of loud-thundering Zeus, she is the glorious one whom all the blessed throughout Olympus reverence and honor.
Athena Homeric Hymn 11 To Athena I sing of Pallas Athena, dread guardian of the city. With Ares she loves deeds of war, the sack of cities and the shouting and the battle. She guards the people as they go out to war and come back. Hail, goddess, and bring us good fortune and happiness! Demeter Homeric Hymn 2 To Demeter (. 1-3) I sing of rich-haired Demeter, awful goddess -- of her and her trim-ankled daughter whom Aidoneus stole, given to him by all-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer. (4-18) Demeter, lady of the golden sword and glorious fruits... (54-58) Queenly Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of good gifts Homeric Hymn 26 To Dionysus I sing of ivy-crowned Dionysus, the loud-crying god, Zeus and Semele’s splendid son. When the rich-haired Nymphs had brought him up, he began to wander the woody groves wreathed with ivy and laurel. And the Nymphs followed him as leader; and the endless forest echoed with their cries. Hail to you, Dionysus, god of abundant clusters! Give us rejoicing for this season and for many a year. Orphic Hymn 29 To Persephone Blessed Persephone, Daughter of Zeus, Only begotten, gracious and honored Goddess, receive this good offering, overpowered by Pluto, beloved and lifegiving, You hold the doors of Hades under the depths of the earth; Dispenser of Justice, your beloved hair the sacred olive branch of the enemy Mother of the Eumenides, Queen of the Underworld Homeric Hymn 22 To Poseidon I sing of Poseidon, mover of earth and barren sea, god of the deep, lord on Helicon and wide Aegae. The gods gave you a two-fold office, O Shaker of the...
References: Ancient works cited above Gods and Other Odd Creatures by Rose Williams Lacus Curtius website by Bill Thayer
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