In the Ancient World, where sphinxes were plausible and wars were inevitable, the Roman Empire rose from a singular myth. Two boys named Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf, and became fine strong men. However, there could only be one who would be King. Romulus killed Remus to found Rome, and thus began the creation of the Roman Empire.
The Empire formed slowly but surely, under the merciless hands of dictators, politicians, generals, and armies. Nations were toppled quickly, and city-states arose in splendor, but there were no laws or authorities higher than mankind to govern in Rome. Without Gods, who would watch over the Romans and ensure their victories? Who would they pray to in thanks when their first child was born? Who would guide them to the afterlife when death gripped them, for how else would the widows be comforted?
This was the origin of the greatest of Rome’s usurpations: the stealing of the Greek Pantheon of Gods.
This was not the merest of whims on the part of the Romans. They did in fact conquer all of Greece (which was not a mean feat in consideration of all the different states therein) and subjugated its citizens accordingly. Thus they felt entitled to the appropriation of their Gods. In fact, it is hard to blame Rome for admiring the Greeks so much. If any of you know of the Greek pantheon, you will have to agree it is quite an interesting mythos. From Titans to Olympians, Olympians to Demigods, and Demigods to humans an intricate chain of tales were woven together interlinking the immortal to mortals. Every God had a story; every story had a lesson…or at least something quite entertaining enough to survive the ages. Rome, who had no Gods, no demigods, no myths, no stories, admired and coveted the Grecian Gods and the lifestyles associated with them. They wanted to have a god for everything, just as the Greeks did.
And so, it came to pass that they renamed almost all of the Greek gods and erected temples to them with their new names, and said that Rome was entering a golden age, a time to rival the greatest of the Greeks. People began to mimic Grecian dresses, and write poetry and odes to the Gods they had collected. Some of the greatest stories of the gods were retold by Romans, like Ovid’s Metamorphosis and Virgil’s Aeneid. Plays too were written from the myths, such as the tragedies of Seneca. It was a time of great creativity, so much so that it became hard to say what pure Greek myth was and what were the alterations by the Roman writers. Even now, historians are not always certain if they are reading of Zeus or reading of Jupiter, for all they shared the same aspects and nature as King of the Gods in their Greek and Roman titles.
Of course the Golden Age of Rome came…and went. For golden times must always fade and falter with the erring steps of mankind. Some Romans said that it was the fault of Emperors and politician’s greed. They began to think too highly of themselves; building statues to each other and calling one another Gods. In the end, the Gods were never done away with completely.
When the empire fell, and Christianity slowly swept across the land, the old Gods began to fade into their parchments and places of worship. They would still be invoked by poets and historians, but their majesty was gone.
In a way, the Romans were a blessing, because they kept the Greek gods alive in new forms rather than crushing them in Greece’s defeat. Today, we still have stories of these Titans and Olympians. We celebrate the winged Cupid, who the Greeks called Eros, the patron of lovers on Valentine’s Day (a Holiday inspired by a Roman saint). People still use the names of Gods and Goddesses to inspire others: Venus is so often associated with love and beauty that her name appears in cosmetics worldwide. In many ways, we are like the Romans, because we still invoke the Gods to describe objects and meanings in our own lives: why else would we still have June which is named for the Roman Juno, named after the Grecian Hera the Queen of the Gods…or March which is named after Mars, the Roman’s equivocation for Ares the Greek god of war…or better yet May which the Romans named after the Greek goddess Maia who brings spring? While we no longer worship Gods, we call upon their likenesses almost every day because their meaning has never changed, though they may come to us from the second-hand source of an empire seeking its religion in another nation’s myths.
A Word from the Author:
I hope you have enjoyed this version of the rise and fall of Roman gods- it is based on facts I have learned over the course of my years being fascinated by the mysteries and intrigues of the ancient world. Though the statements within it are based in truth, the style is my own. PLEASE DO NOT COPY OR REPOST THIS STORY WITHOUT MY PERMISSON, which can be freely obtained at [email protected] Thank you.