Roman Culture/Roman Myths/Jupiter
Jupiter was the most important and celebrated god of ancient Rome. Jupiter was the deity to which life, light and heavenly phenomenons were attributed (Berens, 1880, p. 38). The Romans considered Jupiter to be the protecting entity of their empire, and they even believed that Jupiter would provide them with the greatest empire the world had ever seen (Dwight, 1855, p. 118-120). It was for this reason that Jupiter was honored before engaging in battle. The Romans attributed Jupiter with all the powers of the heavens namely rain, thunder, and his primary weapon, lightning (Smith, 1867, p. 659). In the heavens, Jupiter is the prevailing force- “he frowns and Olympus trembles; he smiles, and the sky brightens” (Dwight, 1855, p. 297). As the supreme divinity of the heavens Jupiter answered to no force and was the absolute authority of the fates of men (Marden & Devitt, 1903, p. 1604). Jupiter was the deciding factor of both life and death in man. Jupiter’s supremacy over all other gods appears almost monotheistic, for the Roman people freely identify him as the most powerful and dominant force in the heavens (Tukey, 1916, p. 300). The Roman people worshipped Jupiter more extravagantly and more frequently than all other gods; therefore, the worship of Jupiter is almost monotheistic. Jupiter was the most powerful and the greatest of the gods so much so that the Romans sometimes called him Jupiter-Optimus-Maximus (Smith, 1867, p. 659). Jupiter reigned over all earthly matters, including being the guardian of law, justice and virtue (Dwight, 1855, p. 122).
The most celebrated temple dedicated to Jupiter lay on Capitoline Hill in Rome (Berens, 1880, p. 38). Before going into battle, sacrifices were provided to Jupiter in hopes of attaining victory (Marden & Devitt, 1903, p. 1604). The Roman people’s need to appease Jupiter before engaging in battle exhibits his supremacy over the other gods and the extent of his sway in the Roman world. Jupiter was not just honored before going into battle but was regularly honored on the ides of every month and upon the beginning of every Roman week by the sacrifice of a rams (Dwight, 1855, p. 122). As the reigning divinity of light, the color white was sacred to him. Therefore, all animals sacrificed for him were white in color (Dwight, 1855, p. 122). Jupiter was even honored with the sacrifice of aquilicium when the people wished for rain (Smith, 1867, p. 659).
- Berens, E.M. (1880). The myths and legends of ancient Greece and Rome. London: Blackie and Son.
- Dwight, M.A. (1855). Grecian and Roman mythology. New York: A.S. Barnes and Co.
- Marden, O. S., & Devitt, G. R. (1903). The consolidated encyclopedic library volume vi. New York: Emerson Press.
- Smith, W. (1867). Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. Boston: Little, Brown, and company.
- Tukey, R. H. (1916). Studies in Greek and Roman religion. The American Journal of Theology, 20(2), 298-301.