According to Roman mythology, their gods were the supreme rulers of both mortals and immortals, reigning over heaven, earth as well as the underworld.
Most Roman gods and goddesses have been inspired by Greek mythology or the Greek pantheon. Therefore, every Roman deity has its Greek equivalent. From the intense worship of these highly-respected gods and goddesses in Ancient Rome to the evolution and integration of Roman catholicism later, the Romans have managed to cover the entire spectrum.
Five Most Powerful Gods and Goddesses in Roman Mythology
Let’s take a closer look at the five most powerful gods and goddesses in Roman mythology, along with some of their interesting depictions and myths.
Mars was called the god of war and was the Roman equivalent of the Greek God Ares.
Unlike Ares, who was treated with contempt and was considered a destabilizing force in Greek mythology, Mars was considered to be the preserver of Peace.
The month of March was named after him, and many of his festivals were held during this month. He was the son of Jupiter and Juno, the Roman equivalent of Zeus and Hera.
The Woodpecker, wolf, and bear were considered to be his sacred animals, the woodpecker being the guardian of the woods and herbs was said to peck out the eyes of anyone who would approach the herbs sacred to the god.
Mars was also associated with animal sacrifices conducted routinely in his honor, mainly that of intact oxen, sheep, and pigs. It was mostly domestic animals that would be sacrificed in their honor and not wild animals. Many of them were sacred to the gods, and also, the Romans believed that they did not have the authority to sacrifice something which was not theirs to give.
The only sacrifice of horses to be carried out in ancient Rome was that of the October horse sacrifice to the God Mars, and one of the few instances where the sacrificed animal would not be consumed.
Depiction in Mythology
Mars was depicted as youthful and beardless, with a helmet, wearing armor, and holding his spear in his hands. The spear of mars was said to be a powerful artifact, and it was believed that it was stored in the Regia, the residence of the Kings of Rome. It was said to vibrate at impending war or any other danger relating to violence or weapons, as in the case of the assassination of Julias Caesar.
Many of the festivals honoring Mars were held in the month of March and October, and chariot races were said to be held in honor of the God of War.
He is considered the God of Freshwater and the Sea, the Roman equivalent of Poseidon.
Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto and is the ruler of the earthly world and its waters.
Salacia, the Goddess of saltwater, was his wife, and it is said that while she ruled over the seas, Neptune was the one who would rule over the rivers and lakes.
Although Neptune was considered the god of the seas, it is more likely that he was a freshwater deity. The ancient Romans adopted the concept of the deity from the Indo-Europeans, who had very little knowledge about the seas as they lived inland and had access only to freshwater streams.
Neptune was also associated with Horses, as in the case of his Greek counterpart Poseidon.
Neptune is one of the few Gods in Roman mythology to whom the sacrifice of a bull is considered to be sacred. If an improper sacrifice was performed, it would have to be rectified later with appropriate compensation in order to not displease god.
Festival and Worship
Neptunalia, the festival symbolizing Neptune, was held in the height of the summer months to ward off draughts when the water tables were at their lowest amid the height of the summer season. Neptune had only one temple in Rome, which is said to date back to 203 BC.
Vulcan was known as the god of fire in Roman mythology and is considered to be the Roman equivalent of the Greek God Hephaestus.
He is the son of Jupiter and Juno, with the Goddess Venus being his wife. Vulcan was known as an ugly God wherein his mother, ashamed as to how he looked, threw him off the cliff in hopes of killing him. But Vulcan survived, and his mother then put him inside a volcano and told him to stay there, where Vulcan would spend the younger days of his life.
It is said that once when he was playing near the seashore, he found the remains of a fisherman’s fire and saw the burning coal. After that, he took the coal to his Grotto and made a fire out of it. He kept the fire burning and discovered the art of smithery. He would go on to make weapons and chariots for himself from his newfound art.
Vulcan is the one who made the Thrones for the Gods to sit on top of Mount Etna.
It is said that Vulcan has his forge underneath the mountain Etna, and it is said that whenever Vulcan was angry, he would smash his hammer on top of the metal he was forging with such force that it would result in smoke and fire coming out of the volcanic mountain.
Worship, Temples, and Festivals
His festival called Vulcania was celebrated on the 23rd of August when the summer heat would be at its peak and causing Fire hazards.
It is said that his worshippers would form a bonfire and throw in live fish or small animals as a sacrifice to god. After the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD, Vulcan was one of the main Gods who was placated by offering him many sacrifices, which included boars and bulls.
She is the Roman Goddess of defensive war, wisdom, Justice, and Law, as well as the embracer of art, trade, and strategy. She is considered to be the Roman equivalent of the Greek Goddess Athena.
She is depicted along with her sacred creature, the owl, which symbolizes her depiction as being wise and knowledgeable.
She is the daughter of the god Jupiter and Titaness Metis, and it is said that Minerva was born from her father’s mouth, where she emerged in full battle armor and with a spear in her hand. She was depicted as a tall, muscular, and athletic woman clad in her battle armor and holding her spear, one who was honored and revered by the people.
She is associated with many of the myths familiar with her Greek counterpart Athena.
One of the famous myths of Minerva is the weaving competition she had with Arachne. Arachne was boasting that she could weave and stitch better than the Gods and challenged Minerva. Angry at her, Minerva disguised herself as an old woman and appeared in front of her asking her to take back her challenge in return for forgiveness. Arachne refused to do it, and Minerva, now enraged, accepted her challenge.
During the challenge, Arachne managed to weave and stitch better than Minerva. A mortal defeating a God was unheard of, and Minerva touched her forehead, leading her to feel shame for her own victory and making Arachne hang herself. Minerva then felt sorry for her and revived her. But she transformed herself into a spider as punishment for her show of arrogance to the Gods.
Another mythological record is that of her transforming her own priestess Medusa into a hideous monster with venomous snakes on her scalp instead of hair. She also gave the hero Perseus a shield which he used to reflect the stone gaze of Medusa and decapitated her, removing her head. He then handed over the head of Medusa to Minerva, who placed its image on her shield.
Jupiter was the god of sky and thunder and the chief Roman god. He is the Roman equivalent of the Greek God Zeus.
Origin and Depiction
He is considered the ruler of the heavens and is depicted with his divine thunderbolt in his hands and along with his most sacred animal, the Eagle. He is considered to be the twin of Juno, as per the oldest surviving records.
He is the brother of Neptune and Pluto, and whilst his other brothers became the rulers of the sea and underworld, respectively, Jupiter became the ruler of the heavens and the sky.
Worship, Temples, and festivals
Routine sacrifices made to Jupiter included the Ox, Ram, and Lamb. The animals which were to be sacrificed always had to be white to signify the purity of the animals.
There were multiple temples dedicated in the name of Jupiter in ancient Rome, and Jupiter had the more festive dates associated than any other God or deity in the Roman calendar. Festivals of Viniculture and wine were attributed to Jupiter.
The Romans worshipped Jupiter to the extent that it was considered the superior culture, and the establishment of Rome was because they had honored the god more than any other culture which worshipped him.
Jupiter was the personification of the divine authority that the Roman Kings and government held over its people.
Jupiter was claimed as their authority by all the major factions in Rome, namely the patricians (The ones who held power and position), who said that their ability was divine as it was handed down to them by Jupiter himself, and on the other side the Plebs (Plebeians) who argued that Jupiter represented justice and considered their side to be just and have the favor of the god.