ROMAN MYTHOLOGY


The original religion of the early Romans was so modified by the addition of numerous and conflicting beliefs in later times, and by the assimilation of a vast amount of Greek mythology, that it cannot be reconstructed precisely. Because extensive changes in the religion had already taken place before the literary tradition began, its origins were in most cases unknown to the early Roman writers on religion, such as the 1st-century BC scholar Marcus Terentius Varro.
Other classical writers, such as the poet Ovid in his Fasti (Calendar), were strongly influenced by Alexandrian models, and in their works they frequently employed Greek beliefs to fill gaps in the Roman tradition.

The Roman ritual clearly distinguishes two classes of gods, the di indigetes and the de novensides or novensiles. The indigetes were the original gods of the Roman state, and their names and nature are indicated by the titles of the earliest priests and by the fixed festivals of the calendar; 30 such gods were honored with special festivals. The novensides were later divinities whose cults were introduced in the historical period. Early Roman divinities included, in addition to the di indigetes, a host of so-called specialist gods whose names were invoked in the carrying out of various activities, such as harvesting.

The absorption of neighboring native gods took place as the Roman state conquered the surrounding territory. The Romans commonly granted the local gods of the conquered territory the same honors as the earlier gods who had been regarded as peculiar to the Roman state. In many instances the newly acquired deities were formally invited to take up their abode in new sanctuaries at Rome. Moreover, the growth of the city attracted foreigners, who were allowed to continue the worship of their own gods In addition to Castor and Pollux, the conquered settlements in Italy seem to have contributed to the Roman pantheon Diana, Minerva, Hercules, Venus, and other deities of lesser rank, some of whom were Italian divinities, others originally derived from Greece. The important Roman deities were eventually identified with the more anthropomorphic Greek gods and goddesses, whose attributes and myths were also taken over.

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