Romans 14 – The Weak and the Strong & Roman Gods & Goddesses

Relief panel from an altar to Venus and Mars depicting Romulus and Remus suckling the she-wolf, and gods representing Roman topography such as the Tiber river and Palatine Hill.
The Roman mythological tradition is particularly rich in historical myths, or legends, concerning the foundation and rise of the city.

How could you keep track of all the below gods?  I’m glad I only have You.  And the sad thing is that none of their gods were even real.

All, or most, fiction stories/myths has the evil guy so tomorrow we’ll look at…

Romans 14
The Weak and the Strong

1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

“Him that is weak in the faith” – probably Jewish Christians who were unwilling to give up the observance of certain requirements of the law, or possibly their gods and goddesses.

2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

“Another man’s servant” – God’s.  A Christian must not reject a fellow Christian, who is also a servant of God.

Twelve principal deities (Di Consentes) corresponding to those honored at the lectisternium of 217 BC, represented on a 1st-century altar from Gabii that is rimmed by the zodiac.

5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

Three goddesses on a panel of the Augustan Ara Pacis, consecrated in 9 BC; the iconography is open to multiple interpretations.

12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

13 Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.

14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

“Charitably” – love is the key to proper settlement of disputes.

16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

Roman relief depicting a scene of sacrifice, with libations at a flaming altar and the victimarius carrying the sacrificial axe.

19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

“Have it to thyself before God” – a strong Christian is not required to go against his convictions or change his standards.  Yet he is not to flaunt his Christian freedom but keep it a private matter.

23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

“Whatsoever” – the matters discussed above, namely, conduct about which there can be legitimate differences of opinion between Christians.

Roman Gods and Goddesses

There were many Roman gods and goddesses, probably thousands. The ancient Romans believed that gods lived everywhere – in trees, under a bush, by the side of the road, in a burrow, in a flower, in a stream, under the bed, and perhaps even in the stove in your house.  

There was even a deity who lived inside the latch that opened the door to each home. 

Below is a list of the, let us say, the more popular gods and goddesses.

Apollo-God of the Sun

Greek name: Apollo-Son of Jupiter-Brother of Diana

Apollo was the god of the sun. Each day he drove his chariot of fiery horses across the sky to give light to the world. Apollo had a son called Phaethon, who was human.

Phaethon nagged at Apollo to let him borrow the sun chariot and fly across the sky. Finally Apollo agreed.

Phaethon proudly drove the sun chariot up into the sky, but then he lost control of the horses. The sun chariot dived towards the earth, burning everything.

Finally Jupiter had to stop him with a thunder bolt. Apollo was also the god of music, and played the lyre.

His most famous temple was at Delphi in Greece, see right. There, his priestess would prophesy the future. But she wasn’t easy to understand.

One day, a great king asked the priestess if he should invade a nearby kingdom.

She said, “If you do this, a great kingdom will be destroyed.” He thought that she meant he would be successful, and so started the war. He lost disastrously. It was his own kingdom that got destroyed!

Bacchus-God of Wine

Greek name: Dionysos-Son of Jupiter

Bacchus was the god of wine. He was accompanied by Maenads, or wild dancing women, see right. They carried the thyrsus, a staff of giant fennel, covered with ivy leaves, with a pine cone on top.

There is a wonderful description of a Bacchanalia, or feast in honor of Bacchus, in Prince Caspian, one of the Narnia books, by C.S. Lewis.

Bacchus was also the god of the theatre, since the first plays in Greece were performed in his honor.

There were tragedies, serious stories about heroes and gods, and comedies, which laughed at politicians and were often very rude!

 

Ceres-The Earth Goddess

Greek name: Demeter-Relations: Mother of Proserpine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proserpine-Goddess of the Underworld

Greek name: Persephone-Daughter of Ceres-Wife of Pluto

Ceres was the Earth goddess and goddess of corn. She carried the cornucopia, a horn full of vegetables and fruit. Her daughter was Proserpine.

Pluto fell in love with Proserpine, and carried her off to the Underworld. Ceres searched everywhere, but couldn’t find her. Eventually Ceres refused to let the plants grow any more, and everyone begun to die of hunger.

So Pluto admitted he had Proserpine, but said she could only go back home if she had eaten none of the food of the Dead.

Proserpine had eaten almost nothing, as she was so sad at being kept underground, but she had eaten six seeds from a pomegranate.

This means that she could go home, but had to return to her husband for six months every year.

When this happens, Ceres stops everything growing, and winter comes.

 

Cupid-God of Love

Greek name: Eros-Son of Venus

Cupid was the mischievous little god of love. His weapon was a bow, and anyone hit by one of his arrows fell madly in love.

Cupid once scratched himself with one of his own arrows by mistake. He was looking at a woman called Psyche, and fell in love with her.

He knew that his mother Venus would be angry, so he hid Psyche away and told her that she must never try to look at him.

Psyche thought that she had been captured by a hideous monster, and, of course, couldn’t resist taking a peep.

She was enchanted by the first sight of her handsome husband, and while playing with his arrows, scratched herself as well.

So now they were both desperately in love with each other, see right. Venus drove Psyche away, and she had many adventures before she was allowed to stay with Cupid, and Venus became reconciled to being a mother-in-law!

 

Diana-Goddess of the Moon

Greek name: Artemis-Day of the Week: Monday- Daughter of Jupiter-Sister of Apollo

Diana was the goddess of the moon. Her twin brother Apollo was the god of the sun.

Diana carried a bow and arrows. She was the goddess of hunting. Once she was bathing in a forest pool. A hunter called Actaeon spied on her.

So Diana turned him into a stag and he was chased by his own hunting dogs.

She helped women in child-birth, because her mother Leto gave birth to her and her twin brother so easily.

Flora-Goddess of Flowers

Greek name: Goddess of growth-Mother of Mercury

In the Middle Ages, people went out Maying on the first of May. They would go to the fields and woods, collecting flowers and enjoying the sunshine.

This might have been in honor of Maia, the goddess of May, or Flora, the goddess of flowers. Today, we still have the first Monday in May as a holiday. Sometimes people dance round a maypole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janus-God of Doors

Janus kept the gate of Heaven, so he became the god of doors and gates. He was very important, because a house is only as strong as its doors.

His temple in Rome had its doors thrown open in times of War, and closed in times of Peace.

They were usually open! The Emperor Augustus closed the doors of the temple, since he brought peace to the Roman Empire.

Janus had two faces, one looking forwards and one looking back, since a door can let you in, or let you out.

The first month of the year is named after him. In January, we look back at the last year, and forward to the next.

Juno-Queen of the Gods

Greek name: Hera-Wife of Jupiter-Mother of Mars-Mother of Vulcan

Juno was the wife of Jupiter and queen of the gods. She was the goddess of women and marriage. Her bird was the peacock.

The Romans believed that every man had a spirit that looked after him all his life. This was called his genius.

Some people believed each man had both a good genius and a bad genius. Women didn’t have a genius, they had a juno instead.

 

 

 

Jupiter-King of the gods

Greek name: Zeus-Son of Saturn-Grandson of Uranus-Husband of Juno-Brother of Neptune-Brother of Pluto    

The eagle was his messenger. His weapon was the Thunderbolt (thunder and lightning).

All other gods were terrified of him, although he was a little scared of his wife Juno!

Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto were the three sons of Saturn. They divided up the world between themselves.

Jupiter took the air, Neptune had the sea and Pluto ruled under the earth, the home of the Dead.

 

Maia-Goddess of Growth

Greek name: Mother of Mercury

On the right, this is a picture of Flora, the goddess of flowers, rather than Maia, the goddess of Growth, but they were similar goddesses.

In the Middle Ages, people went out Maying on the first of May. They would go to the fields and woods, collecting flowers and enjoying the sunshine.

This might have been in honor of Maia, the goddess of May, or Flora, the goddess of flowers.

Today, we still have the first Monday in May as a holiday. Sometimes people dance round a maypole.

Mars-God of War

Greek name: Ares-Son of Jupiter-Father of Romulus and Remus

The Romans were great soldiers and thought Mars, the god of War, was very important. They said that he was the father of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

When Romulus and Remus were babies, they were left to die. But they were found by a mother wolf, who suckled them. Romulus gave his name to Rome.

The Campus Martius or field of Mars, was next to the river Tiber in in ancient Rome. It was used to train soldiers and hold horse races.

March was called after Mars because that was when the soldiers started fighting again after winter.

Here is a painting of Mars and Venus. Mars is fast asleep. The little fauns with goats legs are playing with his armor.

One of them is just about to blow his horn very loud in Mars’s ear. I wonder what will happen next!

Mercury-Messenger of the Gods

Greek name: Hermes-Son of Jupiter-Son of Maia-Mercurial means light-hearted and active.

Mercury was the god of travelers. He had a winged hat and sandals, so he could fly. He carried a staff which also has wings and two snakes winding round it.

He was also the god of thieves. When he was only a few days old, he stole the cows of Apollo. Mercury made special shoes for the cows and made them walk backwards, so no-one could follow their tracks.

Eventually Apollo noticed that Mercury was playing a new musical instrument called a lyre, strung with cow-gut and worked out that Mercury had stolen his cows.

Apollo was furious with Mercury, but thought the lyre was wonderful.

So they agreed that Mercury could keep the cows and Apollo would get the lyre.

Mercury was also the god of science and business. I think that he’s the god of the Internet as well!

Minerva-Goddess of Wisdom

Greek name: Athene-Daughter of Jupiter

Minerva was the goddess of wisdom. Her symbol was the owl. Her Greek name was Athene, and Athens was her city.

She had a strange birth. One day, Jupiter had a bad headache. Nothing would cure it. Eventually Vulcan split open Jupiter’s head.

Out jumped Minerva in armor with shield and spear! Jupiter felt much better afterwards. Don’t try this at home.

Minerva was the goddess of arts and crafts. She was particularly good at weaving. Once a woman called Arachne wove a beautiful picture.

Minerva tried to find something wrong with it. When she couldn’t, she tore it up and turned Arachne into a spider. The spider still weaves beautiful webs.

Minerva helped the hero Perseus to kill the gorgon Medusa, who was a monster with snakes instead of hair. Anyone who looked at a gorgon turned to stone!

But Minerva told Perseus to look at Medusa’s reflection in a polished shield.

That way he could cut the head off without looking directly at the gorgon. He gave the head to Minerva, who put it on her shield, so it would turn her enemies to stone.

Neptune-God of the Sea

Greek name: Poseidon-Son of Saturn-Grandson of Uranus-Brother of Jupiter and Pluto

Neptune was the god of the sea. He carried a trident, which had three prongs. He rode a dolphin or a horse.

When the sea is rough enough to show white tops to the waves, these are called sea horses. On the right, the back half of the seahorse is a fish.

It may seem strange that Neptune was not a more important god, since the Roman Empire was based on the Mediterranean. But the Romans were poor sailors.

When Julius Caesar invaded Britain, it was considered an astounding adventure, even though he was just crossing the English Channel.

Neptune was the god of earthquakes. He was called the Earth-shaker. He was also the god of horses and horse-racing.

The Romans loved watching horse-racing and had great race tracks for chariot racing, such as the Circus Maximus. You can see the ruins of the Circus Maximus in Rome today, see left.

Pluto-God of Death

Greek name: Hades-Son of Saturn-Brother of Jupiter and Neptune-Husband of Proserpine

Pluto was the god of the Dead. Romans were afraid to say Pluto’s real name because they were afraid he might notice them and they would die.

Pluto sometimes got confused with the Greek god, Plutus, the god of wealth. This is not surprising, since the names sound alike, and also wealth, like gold, silver or jewels, are found underground, where Pluto ruled.

The metal Plutonium is radio-active. It was discovered soon after the planet Pluto. It is not only used for nuclear bombs, it is deadly by itself. It deserves to belong to the god of Death!

When someone died, they travelled down to the Underworld. First, they had to cross the River of the Dead, called the Styx.

Everyone was buried with a coin, to pay the ferryman, Charon.

Then they had to get past Cerberus, a fierce dog with three heads, which would only let the Dead through. Finally they had to come before the Judges of the Dead.

The only living man to fight Cerberus was Hercules, the strongest man in the world. He had to bring Cerberus back from the Underworld. (He let it go afterwards.)

The moon of planet Pluto is called Charon, after the ferryman over the Styx.

Saturn-God of Time

Greek name: Cronos-Son of Uranus and Gaia-Father of Jupiter-Father of Pluto-Father of Neptune

Saturn was god of Time and his weapon was a scythe. He is called Old Father Time.

Saturn ruled the gods before Jupiter. Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto were his children. They represent Air, Water and Death, the three things that Time cannot kill.

The Romans had a mid-winter festival in honor of Saturn, called the Saturnalia. It lasted seven days, and there was much merrymaking.

Public business was suspended and schools were closed. Parents gave toys to their children and there was a public banquet. That is why we eat so much at Christmas, give presents and go to parties.

Uranus and Gaia-Parents of Saturn

Greek name: Uranus and Gaia are Greek names-Parents of Saturn

Uranus was god of the sky and Gaia was goddess of the earth.

Uranus was a shadowy figure right at the start of time. He came before Saturn, who came before Jupiter. He was not worshipped by the Romans, so there is no picture of him.

Uranus was the sky, and his wife Gaia was the earth. They had many children, including giants. They had a violent argument and split up. Ever since the earth and sky have been apart.

Uranium is a radio-active metal used for nuclear power. It was called after the planet Uranus, as it was discovered about the same time.

Venus-Goddess of Love

Greek name: Aphrodite-Daughter of Jupiter-Mother of Cupid

Venus was born in the sea and first came to shore at Cyprus, floating on a scallop shell.

There was a Golden Apple with “For the Fairest” written on the side. Venus, Juno and Minerva all wanted it. They decided to let a man, Paris, judge between them. They were all so beautiful that he couldn’t make his mind up.

So Juno said she would make him powerful. Minerva said she would make him wise. Venus offered him Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. He chose Venus, and Helen.

Unfortunately Helen was married to someone else, and when Paris carried her off to his home at Troy, her husband came with his allies to get her back.

Paris and all his family were killed and Troy was destroyed. One of the few Trojans to survive the Trojan War was Aeneas, the son of Venus. He went to Italy, and was the ancestor of the Romans.

What would you choose from Power, Wisdom and Love? (I’d choose Wisdom.)

Vesta-Goddess of the Home

Greek name: Hestia- Sister of Jupiter

Vesta was the goddess of the hearth, the center of the Roman home.

She was a quiet well-behaved goddess, who didn’t join in the arguments and fights of the other gods.

She was protector of the sacred flame, which was supposed to have been brought from Troy to Rome by the hero Aeneus.

The flame was relit every March 1st and had to be kept alight all year. If this flame ever went out, disaster would fall on Rome.

The flame was kept alive by the Vestal Virgins. These priestesses were chosen when they were as young as six years old. They had to stay as priestesses for thirty years, and were not allowed to marry.

In Roman homes, every day, during a meal, a small cake was thrown on the fire for Vesta. It was good luck if it burnt with a crackle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vulcan-The Smith God

Greek name: Hephaestus-Son of Jupiter

Vulcan was the smith of the gods, and made Jupiter’s thunderbolts. His smithy was in the volcano Etna, in Sicily, where you can see fire from his forge.

Once, he made Jupiter angry, and Jupiter threw him out of Heaven. Vulcan fell to Earth and broke both legs, which made him lame.

This picture from a Greek vase shows him in a sort of winged wheel-chair.

He made women of gold to help him in his smithy – possibly the first robots!

…Roman monsters.