As a rule the Romans were not myth-makers, and the myths they had were usually imported. The Roman gods were utilitarian, like the practical Romans themselves. These gods were expected to serve and protect men, and when they failed to do so their worship was curtailed. Most of the contents of Roman myths were copied from the Greeks (and changed to suit their needs). As their empire grew, they incorporated aspects borrowed from the Egyptians and from the religions of Asia Minor and the Middle East. They made minor changes again to suit their religion and lifestyle and Latinized the names.
Divine narrative played a more important role in the system of Greek religious belief than among the Romans, for whom ritual and cult were primary. For example, if one were to ask a Greek about Demeter, he might reply with the well-known story of her grief at the abduction of Persephone by Hades. An archaic Italian, by contrast, would say that Ceres had an official priest called a flamen, who was junior to the flamens of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, but senior to the flamens of Flora and Pomona. He might say that she was grouped in a triad with two other agricultural gods, Liber and Libera. And he might even be able to rattle off all of the minor gods with specialized functions who attended her: Sarritor (weeding), Messor (harvesting), Convector (carting), Conditor (storing), Insitor (sowing), and dozens more. Thus the archaic Roman "mythology", at least concerning the gods, was made up not of narratives, but rather of interlocking and complex interrelations between and among gods and humans.
At the head of the earliest pantheon were the so-called Archaic Triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, whose flamens were of the highest order, and Janus and Vesta. According to tradition, the founder of Roman religion was Numa Pompilius, the Sabine second king of Rome, who was believed to have had as his consort and adviser a Roman goddess or nymph of fountains and prophecy, Egeria. The Etruscan-influenced Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva later became central to official religion, replacing the Archaic Triad – an unusual example within Indo-European religion of a supreme triad formed of two female deities and only one male. The cult of Diana was established on the Aventine Hill. Although Roman religion was not based on scriptures and exegesis, priestly literature was one of the earliest written forms of Latin prose. The books (libri) and commentaries (commentarii) of the College of Pontiffs and of the augurs contained religious procedures, prayers, and rulings and opinions on points of religious law.
Although at least some of this archived material was
available for consultation by the Roman senate, it was often occultum genus
litterarum, an arcane form of literature to which by definition only priests had
access. Prophecies pertaining to world history and Rome's destiny turn up
fortuitously at critical junctures in history, discovered suddenly in the
nebulous Sibylline books, which according to legend were purchased by Tarquin
the Proud in the late 6th century BC from the Cumaean Sibyl.
The gods represented distinctly the practical needs of daily life, as felt by the Roman community to which they belonged. They were scrupulously accorded the rites and offerings considered proper. Thus, Janus and Vesta guarded the door and hearth, the Lares protected the field and house, Pales the pasture, Saturn the sowing, Ceres the growth of the grain, Pomona the fruit, and Consus and Ops the harvest.
Even the majestic Jupiter, the ruler of the gods, was honored for the aid his rains might give to the farms and vineyards. In his more encompassing character he was considered, through his weapon of lightning, the director of human activity and, by his widespread domain, the protector of the Romans in their military activities beyond the borders of their own community. Prominent in early times were the gods Mars and Quirinus, who were often identified with each other. Mars was a god of war; he was honored in March and October. Quirinus is thought by modern scholars to have been the patron of the armed community in time of peace. The 19th-century scholar Georg Wissowa thought that the Romans distinguished two classes of gods, the di indigetes and the di novensides or novensiles: the indigetes were the original gods of the Roman state, their names and nature indicated by the titles of the earliest priests and by the fixed festivals of the calendar, with 30 such gods were honored with special festivals; the novensides were later divinities whose cults were introduced to the city in the historical period, usually at a known date and in response to a specific crisis or felt need. Arnaldo Momigliano and others, however, have argued that this distinction cannot be maintained.
Early Roman divinities included a host of so-called "specialist gods" whose names were invoked in the carrying out of various specific activities. Fragments of old ritual accompanying such acts as plowing or sowing reveal that at every stage of the operation a separate deity was invoked, the name of each deity being regularly derived from the verb for the operation. The relation of these to the di indigetes is unclear; see indigitamenta.
The absorption of neighbouring local gods took place as
the Roman state conquered the surrounding territory. The Romans commonly granted
the local gods of the conquered territory the same honors as the earlier gods of
the Roman state religion. In addition to Castor and Pollux, the conquered
settlements in Italy seem to have contributed to the Roman pantheon Diana,
Minerva, Hercules, Venus, and deities of lesser rank, some of whom were Italic
divinities, others originally derived from the Greek culture of Magna Graecia.
In 203 BC, the cult object embodying Cybele was brought from Pessinus in Phrygia
and welcomed with due ceremony to Rome, centuries before the territory was
annexed formally. Both Lucretius and Catullus, poets contemporary in the mid-1st
century BC, offer disapproving glimpses of her wildly ecstatic cult. In some
instances, deities of an enemy power were formally invited through the ritual of
evocatio to take up their abode in new sanctuaries at Rome.
Communities of foreigners (peregrini) and former slaves (libertini) continued their own religious practices within the city. In this way Mithras came to Rome and his popularity within the Roman army spread his cult as far afield as Roman Britain. The important Roman deities were eventually identified with the more anthropomorphic Greek gods and goddesses, and assumed many of their attributes and myths.
Some Roman Gods;
Abeona - a goddess who protected children the first time they left their parents' home, safeguarding their first steps alone
Abundantia - divine personification of abundance and prosperity
Acca Larentia - a diva of complex meaning and origin in whose honor the Larentalia was held
Acis - god of the Acis River in Sicily
Adeona - goddess who protected children as they returned home
Aerecura - goddess possibly of Celtic origin, associated with the underworld
Aequitas - divine personification of fairness
Aesculapius - the Roman equivalent of Asclepius, god of health and medicine
Aeternitas - goddess and personification of eternity
Aius Locutius - divine voice that warned the Romans of the imminent Gallic invasion
Alemonia or Alemona - goddess responsible for nourishing the unborn child
Angerona - goddess who relieved people from pain and sorrow
Angitia - goddess associated with snakes and Medea
Anna Perenna - early goddess of the "circle of the year", her festival was celebrated March 15
Annona, the divine personification of the grain supply to the city of Rome
Antevorta - goddess of the future and one of the Camenae; also called Porrima
Apollo - god of poetry, music, and oracles, and one of the Dii Consentes
Aura, often plural Aurae, "the Breezes"
Aurora - goddess of the dawn
Averruncus - a god propitiated to avert calamity
A Bacchus from Roman Spain, 2nd centuryBacchus - god of wine, sensual pleasures, and truth, originally a cult title for the Greek Dionysus and identified with the Roman Liber
Bellona or Duellona - war goddess
Bona Dea - goddess of fertility, healing, virginity, and women
Bonus Eventus - divine personification of "Good Outcome"
Bromius - an epithet, Greek in origin, of Bacchus, god of wine
Bubona - goddess of cattle
Caca - an archaic fire goddess and "proto-Vesta the sister of Cacus
Cacus - originally an ancient god of fire, later demoted to a giant.
Caelus - god of the sky
Camenae - four goddesses with various attributes including fresh water, prophecy, and childbirth. There were four of them: Carmenta, Egeria, Antevorta, and Postvorta.
Candelifera - goddess of childbirth, particularly of bringing the newborn into the light
Cardea - goddess of health, thresholds and after being assigned by Janus, door hinges and handles.
Carmenta - goddess of childbirth and prophecy, and assigned a flamen minor. The leader of the Camenae.
Carmentes - two goddesses of childbirth: Antevorta and Postvorta or Porrima, future and past.
Carna - goddess who presided over the heart and other organs
Ceres - goddess of the harvest and mother of Proserpina, and one of the Dii Consentes
Cinxia - goddess of marriage; name occurs as an epithet of Juno
Clementia - goddess of forgiveness and mercy
Clitunno - god of the Clitunno River
Cloacina - goddess who presided over the system of sewers in Rome; identified with Venus
Collatina - goddess of hills
Concordia - goddess of agreement, understanding, and marital harmony
Conditor - god invoked at the sowing of crops, assistant to Ceres
Consus - chthonic god protecting grain storage
Convector - god invoked at the carting-in of crops from the field, assistant to Ceres
Cuba - goddess of infants who was invoked by mothers to help their babies sleep
Cunina - the protectress of infants in cradles
Cupid - Roman god of love. The son of Venus, and equivalent to Greek Eros
Cura - goddess of care and concern who created humans from clay
Cybele - a goddess of caverns and mountains, walls and fortresses, nature, wild animals
Diana Nemorensis on a denariusDea Dia - goddess of growth
Dea Tacita (The Silent Goddess) - goddess of the dead; later equated with the earth goddess Larenta
Decima - minor goddess and one of the Parcae (Roman equivalent of the Moirae). The measurer of the thread of life, her Greek equivalent was Lachesis
Dei Lucrii - early gods of wealth, profit, commerce and trade
Devera or Deverra - goddess who ruled over the brooms used to purify temples in preparation for various worship services, sacrifices and celebrations; she protected midwives and women in labor
Diana - goddess of the hunt, the moon, virginity, and childbirth, twin sister of Apollo and one of the Dii Consentes
Diana Nemorensis - Local version of Diana
Dius Fidius - god of oaths, associated with Jupiter
Disciplina - personification of discipline
Discordia - goddess of discord. Greek equivalent is Eris
Dis Pater or Dispater - god of wealth and the underworld
Domiduca - goddess of protecting children on the way back to their parents' home
Domiducus - god who brought brides to their husbands' houses.
Domitius or Domidius - god who kept wives in their husbands' homes
The Gallo-Roman horse goddess EponaEdusa - goddess of nourishment who guarded over children as they learned to eat solid foods
Edesia - goddess of food who presided over banquets
Egeria - water nymph/goddess, later considered one the Camenae
Empanda or Panda - goddess of generosity and charity
Epona - protector of horses, donkeys, mules
Fabulinus - god of children, the god responsible for teaching children to speak
Falacer - obscure god. He was assigned a flamen minor.
Fama - goddess of fame and rumor.
Fascinus - phallic god who protected from evil supernatural influences
Fauna - goddess of vegetation. Also a title of other vegetative goddesses such as Bona Dea, Ops, and Terra.
Faunus - god of flocks.
Faustitas - goddess who protected herd and livestock
Febris - goddess who protected people against fevers and malaria
Fecunditas - goddess of fertility.
Felicitas - goddess of good luck and success.
Ferentina - patron goddess of the city Ferentinum, Latium, protector of the Latin commonwealth.
Feronia - rural goddess of woods and fountains.
Fessonia - goddess who relieved weariness
Fides - goddess of loyalty
Flora - goddess of flowers, was assigned a flamen minor
Fornax - goddess of hearths and ovens
Fontus - god of wells and springs
Forculus - god of doors
Fortuna - goddess of luck
Fraus - goddess of treachery. Her Greek equivalent was Apate
Fulgora - personification of lightning.
Furrina - goddess whose functions are mostly ; may be associated with water. One source claims she was a goddess of robbers and thieves. She was assigned a flamen minor. Name could also be Furina.
Glycon - snake god. His cult originated in Macedonia.
Gratiae - Roman term for the Charites or Graces
Hercules - god of strength, whose worship was derived from the Greek hero Heracles
Hermaphroditus - an androgynous god (Greek)
Hermus - a river god with a sanctuary at Sardis
Hespera - goddess of dusk
Hilaritas - goddess of rejoicing and good humor
Honos - god of military honours, chivalry and as once source claims, military justice
Hora - Quirinus' wife
Hostilina - goddess who presided over the ears of crops becoming even
Imporcitor - god invoked at the harrowing of fields, assistant to Ceres
Indiges - the deified Aeneas
Insitor - god invoked at the sowing of crops, assistant to Ceres
Intercidona - minor goddess of childbirth; invoked to keep evil spirits away from the child; symbolised by a cleaver
Inuus - god of fertility and sexual intercourse, protector of livestock
Invidia - goddess of envy or jealousy
Iris - goddess of the rainbow (Greek)
Jugatinus - god of mountain ranges
Juno - Queen of the Gods and goddess of matrimony, and one of the Dii Consentes
Jupiter - King of the Gods and the storm, air, and sky god, father of Venus, and one of the Dii Consentes; was assigned a flamen maior
Justitia - goddess of justice
Juturna- goddess of fountains, wells, and springs
Juventas - goddess of youth
Lactanus or Lactans - god that made the crops prosper or "yield milk"
Larentina - an underworld goddess
Lares - household gods
Laverna - patroness of thieves, con men and charlatans
Levana - goddess of the rite through which fathers accepted newborn babies as their own
Letum - personification of death
Liber - a god of male fertility, viniculture and freedom, assimilated to Roman Bacchus and Greek Dionysus
Libera - Liber's female equivalent, assimilated to Roman Proserpina and Greek Persephone.
Liberalitas - goddess or personification of generosity
Libertas - goddess or personification of freedom
Libitina - goddess of death, corpses and funerals
Lima - goddess of thresholds
Limentinus - god of lintels
Lua - goddess to whom soldiers sacrificed captured weapons, probably a consort of Saturn
Lucina - goddess of childbirth. The name occurs as a surname of Juno.
Luna - goddess of the moon
Lupercus - god of shepherds; a name for the Greek god Pan.
Lympha, often plural lymphae, a water deity assimilated to the Greek nymphs
Mana Genita - goddess who presided over burials, mother or leader of the manes
Manes - the souls of the dead; came to be seen as household deities
Mania - goddess of the dead and ruler of the underworld, wife of Mantus. Not to be confused with the Greek figure of the same name.
Mantus - god of the dead and ruler of the underworld, husband of Mania.
Mars - god of war and father of Romulus, the founder of Rome, lover of Venus, and one of the Dii Consentes, was assigned a flamen maior
Mater Matuta - goddess of dawn and childbirth; also seen as patroness of mariners
Meditrina - goddess of healing, introduced to account for the festival of Meditrinalia
Mefitis or Mephitis - goddess and personification of poisonous gases and volcanic vapours.
Mellona or Mellonia - goddess of bees and beekeeping
Mercury - messenger of the gods and bearer of souls to the underworld, and one of the Dii Consentes
Messia - a harvest goddess
Messor - god invoked at the harvesting of crops, assistant to Ceres.
Minerva - goddess of wisdom, war and the arts, and one of the Dii Consentes
Mithras - god worshipped in the Roman empire; popular with soldiers
Molae - daughters of Mars, probably goddesses of grinding of the grain.
Moneta - minor goddess of memory, equivalent to the Greek Mnemosyne. Also used as an epithet of Juno.
Mors - personification of death and equivalent of the Greek Thanatos.
Morta - minor goddess of death and one of the Parcae (Roman equivalent of the Moirae). The cutter of the thread of life, her Greek equivalent was Atropos.
Murcia or Murtia - a little-known goddess who was associated with the myrtle, and in other sources was called a goddess of sloth and laziness (both interpretations arising from false etymologies of her name). Later equated with Venus in the form of Venus Murcia.
Muta - goddess of silence
Mutunus Tutunus - god of fertility
Neptune velificans on a 3rd-century mosaicNaenia - goddess of funerary lament
Nascio - personification of the act of birth
Necessitas - goddess of destiny, the Roman equivalent of Ananke
Nemesis - goddess of revenge (Greek)
Nemestrinus - god of woods and forests
Neptune - god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses, and one of the Dii Consentes. Greek Equivalent is Poseidon.
Nerio - ancient war goddess and the personification of valor
Neverita - wife of Neptune; their quarrels caused sea storms.
Nixi, also di nixi, dii nixi, or Nixae - goddesses of childbirth, called upon to protect women in labour
Nodutus - god who made knots in stalks of wheat
Nona - minor goddess, one of the Parcae (Roman equivalent of the Moirae). The spinner of the thread of life, her Greek equivalent was Clotho.
Nox - goddess of night, derived from the Greek Nyx.
Obarator - god invoked at the ploughing of fields, assistant to Ceres
Occator - god invoked at the harrowing of fields, assistant to Ceres.
Orchadis - minor god responsible for the olive groves, an attendant of Ceres.
Ops or Opis - goddess of fertility
Orbona - goddess of children, especially orphans. She granted new children to those who had become childless
Orcus - a god of the underworld and punisher of broken oaths
Palatua - obscure goddess who guarded the Palatine Hill. She was assigned a flamen minor.
Pales - deity of shepherds, flocks and livestock
Parcae - personifications of destiny (Nona, Decima, and Morta)
Partula or Parca - goddess of childbirth; determined the length of pregnancy.
Patelana - goddess of opening husks of grain
Paventia - goddess who comforted frightened children
Pax - goddess of peace; equivalent of Greek Eirene.
Pellonia - goddess who warded people off their enemies
Penates or Di Penates - household gods
Picumnus - minor god of fertility, agriculture, matrimony, infants and children
Picus — Italic woodpecker god with oracular powers
Pietas - goddess of duty; personification of the Roman virtue pietas.
Pilumnus - minor guardian god, concerned with the protection of infants at birth
Pluto - Pluto a name given to him by the Romans from Greek myths, he is the King of the Dead, and of the underworld.
Poena - goddess of punishment
Pomona - goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards; assigned a flamen minor
Porus - god and personification of plenty
Porrima - goddess of the future. Also called Antevorta. One of the Carmentes and the Camenae
Portunes - god of keys, doors, and livestock, he was assigned a flamen minor.
Postverta or Prorsa Postverta - goddess of childbirth and the past, one of the two Carmentes (other being Porrima)
Potina - goddess of children's drinks
Priapus - localised god of the shade; worship derived from the Greek Priapus
Promitor - minor agricultural god, responsible for the growth and harvesting of crops; attendant of Ceres.
Proserpina - Queen of the Dead and a grain-goddess, the Roman equivalent of the Greek Persephone
Providentia - goddess of forethought
Pudicitia - goddess and personification of chastity, one of the Roman virtues. Her Greek equivalent was Aidôs.
Puta - goddess of pruning vines and bushes
Quirinus, Sabine god identified with Mars; Romulus, the founder of Rome, was deified as Quirinus after his death. Quirinus was a war god and a god of the Roman people and state, and was assigned a flamen maior.
Quiritis - goddess of motherhood. Originally Sabine or pre-Roman, she was later equated with Juno.
Redarator - minor god of agriculture, associated with the second ploughing
Robigo or Robigus, a god or goddess who personified grain disease and protected crops
Roma - personification of the Roman state
Rumina - goddess who protected breastfeeding mothers
Runcina - minor goddess of agriculture, associated with reaping and weeding.
Rusina - protector of the fields or farmland (also known as Rurina)
Rusina|Rusor - a minor agricultural god and attendant of Ceres
Sol Invictus, or Christ depicted in his guiseSalacia - goddess of seawater, wife of Neptune
Salus - goddess of the public welfare of the Roman people; came to be equated with the Greek Hygieia
Sancus - god of loyalty, honesty, and oaths
Saritor or Sarritor - god of hoeing and weeding, assistant to Ceres
Saturn - a titan, god of harvest and agriculture, the father of Jupiter, Neptune, Juno, and Pluto
Secia - a harvest goddess
Securita or Securitas - goddess of security, especially the security of the Roman empire
Segetia - an agricultural goddess
Semonia - goddess of sowing
Sentia - goddess who oversaw children's mental development
Setia - an agricultural goddess
Silvanus - minor god of woodlands and forests
Sol Invictus - sun god
Somnus - god of sleep; equates with the Greek Hypnos.
Soranus - a god later subsumed by Apollo in the form Apollo Soranus.
Sors - god of luck
Spes - goddess of hope
Spiniensis - minor agricultural god; prayed to when removing thorny bushes
Stata Mater - goddess who protected against fires. Sometimes equated with Vesta
Statanus - god also known as Statulinus or Statilinus. Presided over the child's first attempt to stand up. Along with his wife Statina protected the children as they left home for the first time and returned.
Statina - goddess who, along with her husband Statanus, protected the childred as they left home for the first time and returned.
Sterquilinus ("manure") - god of fertilisation. Also known as Stercutus, Sterculius, Straculius, Struculius.
Strenua or Strenia - goddess of strength and endurance
Suadela - goddess of persuasion, her Greek equivalent was Peitho
Subigus - god of the wedding night
Summanus - god of nocturnal thunder
Tellumo - male counterpart of Tellus
Tempestas - goddess of storms
Terra Mater or Tellus - goddess of the earth and land
Terminus - the rustic god of boundaries
Tiberinus - river god; deity of the Tiber river.
Tibertus - god of the river Anio, a tributary of the Tiber
Tranquillitas - goddess of peace and tranquility
Trivia - goddess of crossroads and magic, equated with Hecate
Tutelina - a harvest goddess
Ubertas - minor agricultural goddess, who personified fruitfulness of soil and plants, and abundance in general.
Unxia - minor goddess of marriage, concerned with anointing the bridegroom's door. The name occurs as a surname of Juno.
Uranus - god of the sky before Jupiter (Greek)
Vacuna - ancient goddess who protected the farmers' sheep and was later identified with Nike - Goddess of Victory and worshipped as a war goddess.
Vagitanus - minor god of children, guardian of the infant's first cry at birth
Vallonia - goddess of valleys
Vediovus or Veiovis - obscure god, a sort of anti-Jupiter, as the meaning of his name suggests. May be a god of the underworld
Venilia or Venelia - sea goddess, wife of Neptune or Faunus
Venti - the winds, equivalent to the Greek Anemoi. North wind: Aquilo(n) or Septentrio; South wind: Auster; East wind: Vulturnus; West wind: Favonius; North west wind: Caurus or Corus.
Venus - goddess of love and beauty, mother of the hero Aeneas, and one of the Dii Consentes
Veritas - goddess and personification of the Roman virtue of veritas or truth.
Verminus - god of cattle worms
Vertumnus, Vortumnus or Vertimnus - god of the seasons, and of gardens and fruit trees
Vervactor - deity of the first ploughing, assistant to Ceres
Vesta - goddess of the hearth and the Roman state, and one of the Dii Consentes
Vica Pota - goddess of victory and competitions
Victoria - goddess of victory
Viduus - god who separated soul and body after death
Virbius - a forest god, the reborn Hippolytus
Viriplaca - goddess of marital strife
Virtus - god or goddess of military strength, personification of the Roman virtue of virtus
Volturnus - god of water, was assigned a flamen minor. Not to be confused with Vulturnus.
Volumna - goddess of nurseries
Voluptas - goddess of pleasure
Volutina - goddess of the envelopes of the follicles of crops
Vulcan - god of the forge, fire, and blacksmiths, husband to Venus, and one of the Dii Consentes, was assigned a flamen minor