Greek and Roman mythology have many similarities between them. Each type has
there own set of Gods and Goddesses, although they were worshiped for similar
reasons. The following will explain each God or Goddess and explain how they
compare to each other. The King of Gods in Greek Mythology is known as Zeus.
Zeus was the ruler of the sky, and had the power to create thunderstorms and
lightning as well as earthquakes. He was the child of Cronus and Rhea. As the
story goes he was their sixth child, and the father to protect him from being
overthrown had eaten the five previous children. Zeus was taken to a city called
Crete and hidden from his father. As Zeus grew older and learned of what
happened he found a potion to make his father regurgitate the other children.
Once this happened they all teamed up and killed their father. Zeus then became
the ruler of Mount Olympus, and head of the new line of Gods. Jupiter was the
predominant power holder of Roman Gods. He was ruler of the sky, the daylight,
all the weather, and even the thunder and lightening. Jupiter helped drive back
the Sabines. His temple was built in the Capitol, and newly elected counsels
offered their first prayers to him. Hera was the wife and sister of Zeus, and
the High Goddess of the Greeks. She was extremely jealous of the affairs that
her husband was having and often tormented or harmed the mistresses he was
fooling around with. Although, when she went too far, or tried to cause death,
Zeus would intervene and stop her. Hera tried to ship wreak Heracles on his
return from Troy, and with that Zeus had her hung by the wrists from top of the
mountain with an anvil tied to each ankle. The two had four children together.
Juno, Hera’s counterpart, was the wife of Jupiter. Juno was the protector of
women, especially those who are married. Women often gave offerings to Juno to
help with their childbirth. The God of the Underworld, Hades, was the brother of
Zeus. He gained Hell, as his share in conquering their father. He is most known
for kidnapping his wife, Persephone, while she was picking flowers in a field.
As the story goes, Hades had her eat a piece of food in the Underworld,
therefore she could not live on the Earth again. Her father, Zeus, made
arrangements for her to be allowed on Earth for two-thirds of the year and in
the Underworld as Hade’s wife for the rest of the time. This is used as the
cause of spring and winter. When she returns to the surface she brings spring
with her and when she returns to the Underworld she leaves winter behind her.
Pluto, the Roman God of the Underworld, who’s name also means rich. It
reflects the rich mineral resources beneath the ground and the rich resources
above the earth. In art he is shown with the Horn of Plenty. This horn is most
likely why we associate the Devil, or Satan, as having a horn on top of his
head. His name was thought of to be bad luck, and therefore was hardly mentioned
in myths. Ares was the child of Zeus and Hera. He was the God of War. Whenever
he was seen or portrayed he would be fully armed and ready for battle. Any cause
to fight or go to war would bring him out and about. He was the discomfited
lover of Aphrodite. Almost all of his children by mortal women were of a violent
nature. Mars, The Roman God of War and Agriculture, was the second most
important god after Jupiter. The month March was named after Mars, and was also
the first month of the Roman calendar. March was the month when agriculture was
reborn and when most people engaged in war. Mars was given his own priest and
altar in Rome. The wolf and woodpecker were the sacred animals of Mars. A
festival in October was held in his honor and all farmers and soldiers would lay
aside their weapons and had a celebration. The Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty
was Aphrodite. She was married to the Smith God, Hephaestus, but left him for
the God of War. She favored the Trojans during the Trojan War. She was known to
have angry mood swings and all the gods and mortals paid dearly for it.
Aphrodite and Venus were counterparts in mythology. Venus, The Roman Goddess of
Love, was first worshiped in pre-Roman Italy, where she was worshiped for
gardens and vegetation. Festivals during the month of April were in recognition
of Venus. Her son, Cupid, was told to fire individuals with love by the touch of
his arrow. Her plans backfired and an arrow accidentally touched her. She fell
in love with Adonis, the first man she saw, and instantly had a passion to be
with him. She was so anxious to be with him that she tried to persuade him not
to hunt any longer, but he did and got killed by a boar. The name Venus means”beauty” or “charm.” Poseidon was one of the Olympian deities of the
Greeks, the son of Cronus and Rhea. His sphere of power covered the sea, water
(not rivers) and earthquakes (Clayton 158). He had similar powers of Zeus in
these fields, but was ultimately less powerful. He was mostly worshiped on the
island called Atlantis. Offerings were given to him were given when sea goers
wanted calm voyage or needed help in navigation. Poseidon had an affair with
Medusa and she bore him a Pegasus as a child. The Roman God of Water was called
Neptune. The Romans were not a seafaring community in early times and Neptune
was of little importance or worry to them. His festival was celebrated on the
height of summer during the driest time of the year. The date was July
twenty-third. The Greek God of Love, usually represented as a small chubby
winged child, was called Eros. He was usually equipped with a bow and a quiver
full of arrows. These arrows were used to induce love, as well as the lighted
torch he was sometimes shown holding. By riding on a lion or dolphin, or
breaking the thunderbolts of Zeus one would know that this indicated his power
over both gods and men. The Roman God of Love, Cupid, was also usually
represented as a small chubby naked child armed with a bow and quiver of arrows.
Mischievously he would aim ?Cupid’s darts’ at will; at times causing
untold mayhem as they caused those they pierced to fall in love with the first
person they met. In classic arts he is often shown playing a game such as
quoits, but sometimes he wears a helmet and carries spear and shield to show
that even Mars, God of War, gives way to love. His encounter with Psyche shows
him in a more serious aspect (Clayton 63). Psyche would eventually be married to
Cupid, after many hardships. Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and his mistress
Leto. Born on the island of Delos with a slightly younger twin brother, Apollo.
She was the eternal virgin huntress goddess, even though she had a very
vindictive nature. She was responsible for several deaths, including Callisto
and Orion. At Ephesus, she was worshiped more as a mother goddess then a
huntress. Bees and stags were animals most often associated with her. Her temple
was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Diana was very
similar to the Greek Goddess Artemis. Born on Delos with a twin brother named
Apollo, Diana was the Goddess of Hunting. She had two particular shrines in
Italy: one at Aricia on the shores of Lake Nemi, where she is known as Diana of
the Woods, and the other at Capua under the name of Diana Tifatina, known as the
Goddess of the Crossroads (Clayton 69). Her cult allowed human sacrifice, and
her priest could be replaced by whom ever killed him. In Greek mythology the
messenger of the gods, son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, was known as Hermes. He
also had the role of escorting the dead to the Underworld. He was also the
patron of merchants and seamen, of good luck, and of thieves and pickpockets,
and was known for his mischief making. Often used by Zeus as an intermediary in
various situations, he was rewarded with a winged helmet and a pair of sandals,
which he used for walking the roads. Mercury was a Roman god, and son of Jupiter
and Maia. He was the messenger of Jupiter. He was often seen with the caduceus
(a wand), broad-rimmed hat, winged sandals and purse. He, like Hermes, protected
the merchants. His name has the root word ?merx’ meaning merchandise.
Apollo, twin brother of Artemis, had Zeus as a father and a nymph as a mother.
He was born under the shade of a single palm tree, the only tree on the island.
Apollo’s major shrine was at Delphi, but before he could have this he had to
rid the place of the monster. Python, a dragon or serpent, had terrorized the
countryside for a long time. After slaying this creature Apollo initiated the
Pythian Games, in honor of Python. Delphi became noted for the pronouncements
made by the priests when they were in a hallucinatory state, most likely after
chewing on bay laurel leaves. The legendary Heracles, a half god warrior, came
to Delphi to seek advice from the oracle. He was dissatisfied with what he heard
and tried to steal the sacred tripod, emblem of Apollo. Heracles and Apollo
fought over the tripod, but Zeus separated them and returned the tripod back to
Delphi. Apollo was also the God of Music, Fine Arts, Poetry, and Eloquence.
Apollo was also the God of Medicine, which was used to cure as well as attack.
Apollo was also responsible for the plague that struck the Greeks at Troy. He
had a number of encounters with mankind, working at times for a king as a
herdsman. He had several love affairs with mortal girls and nymphs, a number of
whom assumed other shapes in an endeavor to escape his attentions. Greek Goddess
of Wisdom, Athena, daughter of Metis by Zeus, had a very strange birth. Zeus had
been warned that if Metis had a female child that a male child would follow and
eventually overthrow him. To avoid this prophecy, Zeus swallowed the infant
whole just as Metis was about to give birth. He soon had a very bad headache, so
Hephaestus took a double-sided axe and split his skull open and Athena came out
fully-grown and fully armored. Athena won the city of Athens in a contest with
Poseidon. The rules were simple; who ever could produce the best gift for
mankind would win. Poseidon created a horse out of rock, while Athena caused an
olive tree to grow. The judges declared that the olive tree was most useful and
hence she won the city. As a warlike goddess she was protector of many heroes
and towns. Her animal familiar was the watch owl. Minerva was the Roman Goddess
of Craft and Trade, including the intellect on how to do the particular craft.
Together with Juno and Jupiter she was one of the great Capitoline triad and was
introduced to Rome by an Etruscan contingent, which came to aid Romulus.
Minerva’s festival was celebrated on March Nineteenth. Demeter was the sister
of Zeus and one of the five children that was eaten by Cronus. Demeter was the
God of Fertility, and often referred to as the essential mother. Demeter had a
baby girl by the name of Persephone. Her father was Zeus, Hera’s husband as
well as Demeter’s brother. Hades kidnapped Persephone and took her to the
Underworld with him. After searching everywhere for her lost daughter, Helios
the God of the Sun, told her he saw what had happened. She vowed not to return
to the gods or continue any of her tasks till her daughter was returned. Demeter
went to Zeus and demanded that her daughter be returned from the Underworld.
Zeus agreed under the condition that she had not eaten anything while she was
down there. Zeus then found out she had eaten something, and told Demeter that
he could not bring her back from the Underworld. When she found out she withdrew
her support of earth and mankind. Demeter caused the fields to become unfertile,
and finally a deadlock was reached. Soon a compromise was reached between
Demeter, Zeus, and Hades. Persephone would be allowed to earth during the
spring, but she would be required to return to the Underworld during the winter.
Ceres, the God of Corn and Harvest, is the Roman equivalent to the Greek Goddess
Demeter. She shares all the same legends and stories.
Clayton, Peter. Great Figures of Mythology. Brompton Books Corp. NY, NY.
1990. Pinset, John. Greek Mythology. Peter Bedrick Books. NY. 1982.