Roman: Saturn

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Saturn (Latin: Saturnus pronounced [saˈtʊr.nʊs]) is a god in ancient Roman religion, and a character in myth as a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. In later developments, he also came to be a god of time. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of plenty and peace. The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum housed the state treasury. In December, he was celebrated at what is perhaps the most famous of the Roman festivals, the Saturnalia, a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry. Saturn the planet and Saturday are both named after the god.


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Roman: Minerva

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Minerva (/mɪˈnɜːr.və/; Latin: [mɪˈnɛr.wa]; Etruscan: Menrva) is the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare and the sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. From the second century BC onward, the Romans equated her with the Greek goddess Athena, though the Romans did not stress her relation to battle and warfare as the Greeks did.

Following the Greek myths around Athena, she was born of Metis, who had been swallowed by Jupiter, and burst from her father’s head, fully armed and clad in armor. Jupiter forcibly impregnated the titaness Metis, which resulted in her attempting to change shape (or shapeshift) to escape him. Jupiter then recalled the prophecy that his own child would overthrow him as he had Saturn, and in turn, Saturn had Caelus.

Fearing that their child would be male, and would grow stronger than he was and rule the Heavens in his place, Jupiter swallowed Metis whole after tricking her into turning herself into a fly. The titaness gave birth to Minerva and forged weapons and armor for her child while within Jupiter’s body. In some versions of the story, Metis continued to live inside of Jupiter’s mind as the source of his wisdom. Others say she was simply a vessel for the birth of Minerva. The constant pounding and ringing left Jupiter with agonizing pain. To relieve the pain, Vulcan used a hammer to split Jupiter’s head and, from the cleft, Minerva emerged, whole, adult, and in full battle armor.

She was the virgin goddess of music, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, and the crafts. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl usually named as the “owl of Minerva”, which symbolised her association with wisdom and knowledge as well as, less frequently, the snake and the olive tree.


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Roman: Genius

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In Roman religion, the genius (Latin: [ˈɡɛn.jʊs]; plural geniī) is the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. Much like a guardian angel, the genius would follow each man from the hour of his birth until the day he died. For women, it was the Juno spirit that would accompany each of them.


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Roman: Venus

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Venus (/ˈviːnəs/, Classical Latin: /ˈwɛnʊs/) is a Roman goddess, whose functions encompassed love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory. In Roman mythology, she was the ancestor of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Julius Caesar claimed her as his ancestor. Venus was central to many religious festivals, and was revered in Roman religion under numerous cult titles.

The Romans adapted the myths and iconography of her Greek counterpart Aphrodite for Roman art and Latin literature. In the later classical tradition of the West, Venus became one of the most widely referenced deities of Greco-Roman mythology as the embodiment of love and sexuality.


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Roman: Mercury

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Mercury (/ˈmɜːrkjʊri/; Latin: Mercurius [mɛrˈkurius] About this soundlisten (help·info)) is a major god in Roman religion and mythology, being one of the 12 Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld. He was considered the son of Maia, who was a daughter of the Titan Atlas, and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is possibly related to the Latin word merx (“merchandise”; cf. merchant, commerce, etc.), mercari (to trade), and merces (wages); another possible connection is the Proto-Indo-European root merĝ- for “boundary, border” (cf. Old English “mearc”, Old Norse “mark” and Latin “margō”) and Greek οὖρος (by analogy of Arctūrus/Ἀρκτοῦρος), as the “keeper of boundaries,” referring to his role as bridge between the upper and lower worlds. In his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms; both gods share characteristics with the Greek god Hermes. He is often depicted holding the caduceus in his left hand. Similar to his Greek equivalent Hermes, he was awarded the caduceus by Apollo who handed him a magic wand, which later turned into the caduceus.


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Roman: Vesta

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Vesta (Latin pronunciation: [ˈwɛsta]) is the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family in Roman religion. She was rarely depicted in human form, and was often represented by the fire of her temple in the Forum Romanum. Entry to her temple was permitted only to her priestesses, the Vestals, who tended the sacred fire at the hearth in her temple. As she was considered a guardian of the Roman people, her festival, the Vestalia (7–15 June), was regarded as one of the most important Roman holidays. During the Vestalia matrons walked barefoot through the city to the sanctuary of the goddess, where they presented offerings of food. Such was Vesta’s importance to Roman religion that hers was one of the last republican pagan cults still active following the rise of Christianity until it was forcibly disbanded by the Christian emperor Theodosius I in AD 391.

The myths depicting Vesta and her priestesses were few, and were limited to tales of miraculous impregnation by a phallus appearing in the flames of the hearth—the manifestation of the goddess. Vesta was among the Dii Consentes, twelve of the most honored gods in the Roman pantheon. She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, and sister of Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, and Ceres. Her closest Greek equivalent is Hestia.


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Roman: Apollo

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Apollo (Attic, Ionic, and Homeric Greek: Ἀπόλλων, Apollōn (GEN Ἀπόλλωνος); Latin: Apollō) is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman religion and Greek and Roman mythology. The national divinity of the Greeks, Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the sun and light, poetry, and more. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis. Seen as the most beautiful god and the ideal of the kouros (a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo is considered to be the most Greek of all gods. Apollo is known in Greek-influenced Etruscan mythology as Apulu.

As the patron of Delphi (Pythian Apollo), Apollo is an oracular god—the prophetic deity of the Delphic Oracle.

Medicine and healing are associated with Apollo, whether through the god himself or mediated through his son Asclepius. Yet Apollo is also a god who could bring ill-health and deadly plague with his arrows.

Apollo is the god of archery and the invention of archery is credited to him and his sister Artemis. He has a golden and a silver bow, and a quiver of golden arrows.

As the god of Mousike (art of Muses), Apollo presided over all music, songs, dance and poetry. He is the inventor of string-music, and the frequent companion of the Muses, functioning as their chorus leader in celebrations. The lyre is a common attribute of Apollo.

As the protector of young, Apollo (kourotrophos) is concerned with the health and education of children. He presides over their passage into adulthood.

Apollo is an important pastoral deity. He is the patron of herdsmen and shepherds. Protection of herds, flocks and crops from diseases and pests were his primary duties.

Apollo encouraged founding new towns and establishment of civil constitution, and is associated with dominion over colonists. He is also the giver of laws, and his oracles were consulted before setting laws in a city.

Apollo is the god who affords help and wards off evil. He delivered men from epidemics. Various epithets call him the “averter of evil”. As the patron of seafarers, he is also the god of foreigners, the protector of fugitives and refugees.

In Hellenistic times, especially during the 5th century BCE, as Apollo Helios he became identified among Greeks with Helios, Titan god of the sun. In Latin texts, however, there was no conflation of Apollo with Sol among the classical Latin poets until 1st century AD. Apollo and Helios/Sol remained separate beings in literary and mythological texts until the 5th century CE.


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Roman: Mars

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In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars (Latin: Mārs, [maːrs]) was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.

Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars. But the character and dignity of Mars differed in fundamental ways from that of his Greek counterpart, who is often treated with contempt and revulsion in Greek literature. Mars was a part of the Archaic Triad along with Jupiter and Quirinus, the latter of whom, as a guardian of the Roman people, had no Greek equivalent. Mars’ altar in the Campus Martius, the area of Rome that took its name from him, was supposed to have been dedicated by Numa, the peace-loving semi-legendary second king of Rome. Although the center of Mars’ worship was originally located outside the sacred boundary of Rome (pomerium), Augustus made the god a renewed focus of Roman religion by establishing the Temple of Mars Ultor in his new forum.

Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people. In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.

The importance of Mars in establishing religious and cultural identity within the Roman Empire is indicated by the vast number of inscriptions identifying him with a local deity, particularly in the Western provinces.

Mars may ultimately be a reflex of the Proto-Indo-European god Perkwunos, having originally a thunderer character. At least etymological Etruscan predecessors are present in Maris, though this is not universally agreed upon.


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Roman: Vulcan

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Vulcan (Latin: Volcānus or Vulcānus; pronounced [wɔlˈkaːnʊs], [wʊlˈkaːnʊs]) is the god of fire including the fire of volcanoes, deserts, metalworking, and the forge in ancient Roman religion and myth. Vulcan is often depicted with a blacksmith’s hammer. The Vulcanalia was the annual festival held August 23 in his honor. His Greek counterpart is Hephaestus, the god of fire and smithery. In Etruscan religion, he is identified with Sethlans.

Vulcan belongs to the most ancient stage of Roman religion: Varro, the ancient Roman scholar and writer, citing the Annales Maximi, records that king Titus Tatius dedicated altars to a series of deities among which Vulcan is mentioned.


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Roman: Neptune

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Neptune (Latin: Neptūnus [nɛpˈtuːnus]) was the god of freshwater and the sea in Roman religion. He is the counterpart of the Greek god Poseidon. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto; the brothers presided over the realms of Heaven, the earthly world, and the Underworld. Salacia was his wife.

Depictions of Neptune in Roman mosaics, especially those of North Africa, are influenced by Hellenistic conventions. Neptune was likely associated with fresh water springs before the sea. Like Poseidon, Neptune was worshipped by the Romans also as a god of horses, under the name Neptunus Equester, a patron of horse-racing.


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