• Imagining History

KS2 Easy Guide to the Roman Gods

Roman Gods are tricky to remember, right? Rather than having exciting memorable names like Horus, Thor or Poseidon, they're instead named after planets.* This is, to be frank, a little bit boring.


So, how are you meant to remember all the gods, what they're called, what they look like, and why a Roman would worship them? With this handy little guide of course. To quote a certain Demi God, 'You're welcome'!


*Or, to be more precise, the planets are named after them!


Jupiter

Who was he? Jupiter was the big cheese, the head honcho, the numero uno, the big kahuna, the a no.1 big dude of the Roman gods. In short; he was the boss.


What was his role? Jupiter was the god of the sky and the protector of Rome. If the Roman's wanted the city and the Empire of Rome to prosper, then it's to Jupiter that they had to pray and sacrifice the occasional animal.


Did he have an awesome weapon? Yes he did! Jupiter is rather similar to the Greek god Zeus, so much so that he even wields a lightning bolt. He also has control over Thunder, so in this regard Jupiter is a bit like the Norse god Thor too.


Was a Roman festival devoted to Jupiter? Yes, every year, on September the 13th, the 'Jupiter Optimus Maximus' festival was held. In English that means the 'best and greatest of all the Jupiter's' festival. Not exactly a catchy title, Jupibury has more of a ring to it.


During the festival a white ox would be sacrificed to Jupiter, as it was said that this was his favourite animal. One dead ox = one year of divine protection for Rome. Bargain.



Mars

Courtesy Mark Flaherty

Who was he? The God of war. Pretty much every culture has one and the Romans were no different. If you want to conquer all your enemies than Mars is the god for the job.


What did he look like? Mars bears an uncanny resemblance to Ares, the Greek god of war, in more ways than one. This can be seen in his cool attire. Mars is often shown clad head to toe in formidable armour and wielding a wicked sharp spear.


Was he important? Yes, very. Mars was second only to Jupiter in Rome's affections. When war was declared Roman's would shake their spears and declare 'Mars vigalia!', which means 'Mars wake up'. They wanted to make sure that Mars was awake, dressed to impress, and ready to do battle.


Was a Roman festival devoted to Mars? Absolutely loads were! Festivals for Mars were held in the Spring and Autumn, so at the beginning and end of the military year. Roman's rarely wanted to fight in the Winter, it was far too cold! Festivals included horse races, chariot races, war dances, and - you guessed it - sacrificing loads of pigs, sheep and cows.



Neptune

Courtesy Fanpop

Who was he? Neptune, like the Greek god Poseidon, was the god of the sea. Originally he was only the god of fresh water but, around 399BC he was promoted to look after the seas and oceans as well.


What did he look like? Neptune, like many other gods, had a big bushy beard. So, that won't help you identify him. Instead, keep a look out for his weapon. Neptune was armed with a massive three pronged trident.


Was he important? Whilst not as important as Jupiter and Mars to the Romans, it was still considered vital to worship Neptune if you wished to have a safe sea crossing. Forget to offer a prayer to Neptune and you'd be in major trouble, as Neptune was known for being very grumpy. According to the poet Ovid, on one occasion Neptune decided to punish all of the mortals. Neptune summoned a great flood and in the process drowned everyone and everything, leaving only one man and one woman still standing. Talk about a bad temper!



Juno

Courtesy Religion Wiki

Who was she? Juno was the big boss of the Roman Goddesses. She also happens to be the wife of Jupiter. Juno had many different jobs and responsibilities. She was the roman goddess of marriage, childbirth, protection, youthfulness, energy and also plays a role as a protector of the Roman state. To do all that she must have got up very early in the morning!


What did she look like? Juno, as a protector, was always ready for battle. This warrior was often shown wielding dual weapons or holding aloft a spear. She also wore a goatskin coat as armour, similar to the goatskin shield - the aegis - that the Greek goddess Athena carried in to battle.


Was she important? Yes indeed! Several temples were devoted to Juno. One particular temple on the northern summit of the Capitoline Hill in Rome turned up in a story told by the philosopher Plutarch. This temple held Juno's sacred geese, who were so loud with their horrendous honking that they scared off an entire army of Gauls in 390BC. No wonder Juno was a goddess of protection!


Any festivals? Two big ones; the 'Matronolia' and the 'Nones of the Wild Fig'. That's not all though, Romans liked Juno so much that they named a month after her; June.



Vesta

Courtesy Jesterbear.com

Who was she? Vesta was the goddess of the hearth. So, what's a hearth then? That would be the stone floor surrounding a fireplace. This might not sound very important to us today, thanks to people in the modern world being spoilt with electric lighting and gas heating, but in Rome the hearth was one of the most important items in the household. The hearth was used for both cooking and light and if it went out then it would be very hard to relight. That's where Vesta comes in, she would protect the hearth and keep it lit.


What did she look like? Unlike Juno, Vesta isn't that easy to spot. She didn't have awesome massive weapons and she didn't wear a goatskin coat for example. Instead, she's often shown with a donkey. If you spot a Roman goddess with a donkey then chances are, it's Vesta!


Was she important? As mentioned above, oh yes indeedy, she was very important. Vesta probably had the most important temple in all of Rome, the Temple of Vesta, that was solely devoted to her. Within this temple was a fire that was kept burning the entire year. If the fire ever went out, then it would mean doom for Rome. Terrible things would befall the city that would, quite frankly, absolutely suck. The temple had six priestesses called the Vestal Virgins who had the very important job of keeping the fire burning, no matter what! The only time the fire was allowed to go out was on March the 1st, when a ritual was conducted to extinguish and then relight the flames.


That's it for the moment but be sure to check back soon, we'll be regularly adding more Roman gods to our list over the following weeks!

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