Religion that stemmed from ancient Rome was very hard to summarize into one unit. They had quite a confused mixed religion with influences from Greek gods and goddesses.
Roman gods and goddesses were named after nature elements and the planets. Like many religions, each deity represented a certain thing. Latin and Greek influences were both shown in these creatures. Below is a list of these gods (1*),
- Jupiter: The mighty king of the gods. Roman God of the Sky, thunderstorms, lightning, weather and air. Also god of law, order, justice, governance and strength. Most important god of the Romans and usually had the highest divine authority over other gods.
- Neptune: One of the brothers of Jupiter, one of the prime gods and ruler of the seas. The patron of sailors and the protector of ships.
- Juno: Queen of the Gods and wife of Jupiter. Goddess of Marriage and Women. Protector and Counsellor of Rome.
- Mars: God of War, Spring and Justice. Patron of the Roman Legions and divine father of Romulus and Remus.
- Venus: Goddess of Love and consort of Mars. Divine mother of Aeneas, ancestor of the Romans.
- Bellona: Goddess of War, Conquest and Peace.
- Minerva: Goddess of Wisdom, Divine Counsel, Useful Arts and Crafts. Unlike her Greek counterpart, Athena, she wasn’t a war goddess.
- Janus: God of Beginnings, Endings, Transition, Doorways and Keys.
- Vesta: Goddess of the Home and the Hearth. Patron of Rome.
I thought this little page on a website taken from Roman and European Mythologies (2*)- thought it was helpful in visualizing the gods.
Monsters also existed throughout the Roman empire, parents often telling these tales to scare their children. The Mormo (a Greek creature) was a woman with donkey legs and the Lamina was a monster that ate children. People also feared the Lemures ghosts of the dead) and it was believed that the houses that they visited were marked for death. I found online that there was a book written by Augustine of Hippo. It made for quite a chilling read- discussing some of the entities that the Roman’s believed to exist.
“Indeed, that the souls of men are demons, and that men become Lares if they are good, Lemures or Larvae if they are bad, and Manes if it is uncertain whether they deserve well or ill. Who does not see at a glance that this is a mere whirlpool sucking men to moral destruction?” (Augustinus et al., 1965).
Another belief was that of Verspilles or werewolves- men who turned to wolf like creatures at night and hunted flocks of sheep. Similarly there was the belief in women who turned into bird like entities.
King Lycaon being transformed into a wolf. This Greek tale is thought to be the origins of the Roman belief in werewolves.
During this time other religions were frowned upon, in 64 A.D. half of Rome burnt down and the Christians were blamed by Emperor Nero. Christianity later became legal in Rome in 313 A.D. and by 391 A.D. all other god worship was made illegal.
1* Woff, R. (2003). A pocket dictionary of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. Los Angeles, Calif.: Getty Publications.
2*”Roman and European Mythologies.” Roman and European Mythologies. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2014.
3*Augustinus, A., MacCracken, G., Green, W., Wiesen, D., Levine, P., Matthews, E. and Greene, W. (1965). The city of God against the pagans. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press.