The mythology and religion of the Romans were greatly influenced by neighboring nations - the Etruscans and the Greeks. But at the same time, the legends and myths of ancient Rome have their own identity.
Birth of Roman mythology
The date of the origin of the religion of ancient Rome is difficult to determine. It is known that in the late II - early I millennium BC. E. There was a migration of Italians (the so-called peoples who inhabited the Apennine peninsula before the formation of the Roman state on it), which for several centuries settled in Italy and then assimilated with the Romans. They had their own culture and religion.
In 753 BC, according to legend, Rome was founded. From VIII to VI centuries. BC. E. The tsarist period lasted when the foundations of the public-state and religious life of the empire were laid. The official pantheon of the gods and the myths of ancient Rome were formed around this period. Although it should immediately be noted that with the conquests of the Romans of new territories, they willingly included in their mythology and religion of other gods and heroes, so the list of deities and legends was constantly replenished.
The distinctive features of the religion of ancient Rome
As in Greece, there was no strict organization of the dogma. The gods and myths of ancient Rome were partly borrowed from neighboring countries. The difference between the Roman religion and the same Greek was significant.
If for the Greeks the deity is first and foremost a person with his own, quite human, traits of character, then the Romans never represented the gods in the form of anthropomorphic beings. At the very beginning of the formation of their religion, they could not even name their sex. The Greeks represented their pantheon of the divine forces as a large family in which scandals are constantly occurring between relatives and disagreements are taking place. For the Greeks, the gods are individuals endowed with supernatural powers and possessing ideal qualities. Therefore, around them a halo of myths was created.
The ratio of the Romans to the deities was different. The world in their view was populated by hostile or benevolent entities to the world of people. They are everywhere and constantly accompany a person. Myths of ancient Rome say that before growing up, a young man or girl was under the protection of a large number of divine essences. It was the god of the cradle, the first steps, hopes, sanity and so on. As they grew older, some deities left a person, while others, on the contrary, took him under their care - these are the six gods of marriage, luck and health, wealth. The dying man was accompanied in the last way by the same number of higher beings as at birth: he who deprives the light, takes away the soul, brings death.
Another distinguishing feature of the Roman religion is its close relationship with the state. Initially, all religious rituals related to the life of the family were performed by its head - father. Later, many family and tribal festivals acquired state significance and turned into official events.
The position of the priests differed. If in ancient Greece, they stood out as a separate group of the population, then the Romans were civil servants. There were several priestly colleges: vestal, pontiff and augurs.
The religion and ancient myths of Rome were mixed. The basis is primordially Roman deities. The pantheon of the gods included borrowed characters from the Greek and Etruscan religions and personified concepts that appeared much later. These include, for example, Fortuna - happiness.
The Pantheon of the Roman Gods
The Romans initially had a special relationship to the gods. They were not related by family relations, like Greek deities, they did not make myths about them. Residents of Rome for a long time refused to give their gods traits of character and appearance. Part of the legends about them in the end was borrowed from the Greeks.
The ancient myths of Rome say that the list of Roman gods was very extensive. This included Chaos, Tempus, Cupid, Saturn, Uranus, the Ocean and other deities, as well as their children - the Titans.
The third and fourth generations became major in the pantheon and were represented by 12 gods. They are aligned with the Olympians from the Greeks. Jupiter (Zeus) - the personification of thunder and lightning, Juno (Hera) - his wife and patron of the family and marriage, Ceres (Demeter) - the goddess of fertility. Minerva and Juno were borrowed from the Etruscan religion.
The Roman pantheon included also personified beings who became gods:
Victoria - Victory;
Fatoum - Fate;
Libertas - Freedom;
Psyche - the Soul;
Mania - Madness;
Fortune - Luck;
Juventus - Youth.
The most important for the Romans were agricultural and clan deities.
The influence of Greek mythology
Myths of ancient Greece and Rome are very similar, as much about the gods the Romans drew from their close neighbor. The process of borrowing Greek mythology begins in the late 6th - early 5th centuries. It is completely erroneous to believe that the 12 major deities of Olympus were taken by Rome and received new names. Jupiter, Vulcan, Vesta, Mars, Saturn are primordially Roman deities, subsequently correlated with Greek. The first gods, borrowed from the Greeks, were Apollo and Dionysus. In addition, the Romans included in their pantheon of Hercules and Hermes, as well as Greek gods and titans of the first and second generations.
The Romans had many deities, which they themselves divided into old and new. Later they created their own pantheon of the main gods, taking as a basis a host of Greek higher powers.
Myths of Ancient Rome: a short summary. Gods and heroes
Since the mythological fantasy of the Romans was poor, many of the legends they adopted from the Greeks. But there were original Roman myths, later replaced by Greek myths. These include the narrative of the creation of the world by the god Janus.
He was an ancient Latin deity, gatekeeper of Heaven, the personification of the sun and the beginning. He was considered a god of gates and doors and portrayed as two-faced, because it was believed that one face of Janus is turned into the future, and the other - into the past.
Another ancient Roman myth tells of the origin of people from the oak tree. Like the Greeks, the Romans revered the forest and trees, and created groves dedicated to the gods, in which religious rites were held. The sacred trees were the fig tree (according to legend, under it the she-wolf was fed by Romulus and Remus) and the oak of the Capitol to whom Romulus brought the first war booty.
The ancient myths of Rome were also dedicated to animals and birds: the eagle, the woodpecker and the wolf. The latter was especially revered and the ritual of lupercals was dedicated to him at the feast of fertility and purification. The Romans attributed the wolves a mystical power and believed that a person could turn into this animal.
With the development of the Roman state in religion, new gods appear and new tales of them, taken from the Greeks, which the Romans recycled for themselves. The ancient myths of Rome superseded the earlier primitive stories about the creation of the world and people. An idea was formed that the gods had predestined the state power over the whole world. This led to the emergence of the cult of Rome itself. Therefore, the mythology of this ancient country is divided into three groups: myths about gods and their deeds, legends about heroes, and legends about the origin and development of Rome.
The myth about the founding of the city of Rome
This is one of the most famous legends in the world. Like the great Hercules, the myth of the founding brothers of Rome is known in many countries. He talks about how illegally seized power Amuliy was worried that in the future, Numitor's son would decide to challenge the rights to the throne, and killed his nephew on the hunt. The daughter of Numitor, Ray, he ordered the priests to declare Vesta the chosen one, since the Vestals had to remain unmarried. So he wanted to protect himself from the descendants of Numitor, who could join him in the struggle for the throne.
But the gods prepared for Rhea another fate. She became the wife of the god Mars. A year later she had twin boys. And although the unfortunate claimed that their father was a deity, she was treated as if she had violated the prohibitions with a vestal. The daughter of Numitor was immured in a dungeon, and Amulius ordered the children to be thrown into the Tiber River.
The servants felt sorry for the little ones and put them in the trough, which was allowed to sail along the river. The water that stood high in it sank and tipped to the shore beneath the fig tree. Cries of children heard a she-wolf living nearby with her brood and began to feed the babies. This sight once saw a shepherd Favstul and took the children to his home.
When they matured, the foster parents told the brothers about their origins. Romulus and Remus went to Numitor, who immediately recognized them. Having collected a small detachment with his help, Amulia was killed and the king declared her grandfather. As a reward, they asked for land along the banks of the Tiber, where they found their salvation. There it was decided to lay the capital of the future kingdom. During the dispute over whose name she will wear, Rem was killed by Romulus.
Heroes of Roman myths
Most of the legends, other than those borrowed from the Greeks, tell of the characters who performed exploits or sacrificed themselves in the name of the prosperity of Rome. These are Romulus and Remus, the brothers of Horace, Lucius Junius, Mucius of Scaevola and many others. The Roman religion was subordinated to the state and civil debt. Many myths were epic and glorified heroes-emperors.
Eney is the founder of the Roman state. The son of the goddess Aphrodite, a friend of Hector, the hero of the Trojan War - the young prince fled with his young son and father after the fall of Troy and fell into an unknown country where latins lived. He married Lavinia, the daughter of the local king Latin, and together with him began to rule the Italian lands. The descendants of Aeneas, Romulus and Remus, became the founders of Rome.
Myths of ancient Rome for children - the best books for young readers
Despite the abundance of books, it is difficult to find a worthy literature on the study of myths of ancient peoples. A work here stands alone, which was created exactly 100 years ago and is still the standard. NA Kun "Myths of Ancient Rome and Greece" - this book is known to a huge number of readers. It was written in 1914 specifically for pupils of schools and all connoisseurs of the mythology of ancient peoples. The collection of myths is written in a very simple and at the same time living language, and is perfectly suitable for a children's audience.
AA Neihardt compiled an interesting collection of "Legends and legends of ancient Rome", which provides concise information on the Roman gods and heroes.
Thanks to the fact that the Romans borrowed Greek gods and myths, these legends have survived to this day. Creating on their basis works of art, Roman authors preserved for descendants all the beauty and epic of Greek and Roman mythology. Virgil created the epic "Aeneid", Ovid wrote "Metamorphoses" and "Fasts". Thanks to their works, a modern person now has the opportunity to learn about religious beliefs and the gods of two great ancient states - Greece and Rome.