Roman PantheonQUESTION: How many gods were in the Roman Pantheon?ANSWER:
The Roman Pantheon has two definitions: a structure and a collection of gods and goddesses. The structure was begun by statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in 27 B.C. It was one of the great spiritual buildings of the world when it was renovated by Hadrian as a Roman temple in AD 120 - 124. It had some alterations by emperors Lucius Septimius Severus and Caracalla during the third century. It is a circular structure of concrete faced with brick, with a great concrete dome rising from the walls and with a front porch of Corinthian columns supporting a gabled roof with triangular pediment. The structure is noted for its size, as well as its construction and design, the dome was the largest built until modern times. The dome measures about 142 feet in diameter and rising to a height of 71 feet above its base.
The Romans believed in many different gods and goddesses. They had a god or goddess for everything imaginable just to be sure that they were honoring, worshiping, or giving homage to all the right gods. The entire collection of their gods and goddesses was called the Roman Pantheon. As Rome grew into a city and began to become more powerful it came in contact with the Greeks, who had a complex Pantheon of their own. The Roman gods were a mix of two main influences: Latin and Greek.
- Jupiter was the master of the gods and the main god of the Romans.
- Juno was the wife of Jupiter, the goddess of women and fertility. Her symbols were a pomegranate and a peacock.
- Mars was the god of war, the strongest and most fearsome god, except for Jupiter.
- Venus was the goddess of love and beauty.
- Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, learning, art crafts and industry. Her symbol was the owl.
- Neptune was the powerful god of the sea. His symbol was the trident.
- Ceres was the goddess of the harvest, always depicted carrying a bundle of grain.
- Vulcan was the blacksmith of the gods and the god of the underworld. If he stroked the furnace too hard, volcanoes might erupt. He was the god of blacksmiths and volcanoes.
- Diana was the goddess of hunting and a goddess of the moon.
- Bacchus was the god of wine and partying. Naturally, he was one of Rome's most popular gods.
- Mercury was the messenger of the gods, the wings on his helmet and sandals allowed him to travel very quickly, to wherever a god might send him. He was the god of travelers and tradesmen.
- Vesta was the goddess of the health and home. She was very important to Romans. In her temple a flame was always kept burning, as the "hearth of Rome" the flame should never go out.
Some of the later imported gods are:
- Isis was the Egyptian goddess of the earth. Her worship entailed elaborate and exotic rituals.
- Pan was the Greek god of the mountains, half goat half man.
- Mithras was the god of light from Persia. He was always depicted slaying a holy bull and giving life to the earth. He had many followers in the Roman army and was often referred to as the soldiers' god.
There were many more gods and goddesses in the Roman Pantheon - too many to mention them all in this short writing. Roman religion taught that every household had its own personal spirits, which protected them.
- Lares were the spirits of the family's ancestors. The Penates were kind spirits who guarded the larder. Small figurines of the spirits were stored in a small containers called the Lararium. The spirits would be worshiped by the family on special occasions where portions of food and wine might be sacrificed to them.
In AD 312, something very important happened, something, which would change Roman religion forever. The emperor Constantine the Great said he received a sign from the God of the Christians in a dream in the night before and had engaged in a fierce battle. Constantine gained victory in this battle and thereafter showed his gratitude to the Christian God by turning his entire empire over to this new religion. The Roman Empire remained Christian forever.