Mythology is a collection of myths that a particular culture believes in and often attributes events of ancient past to supernatural powers. The mythology of any culture is generally a collection of the myths that explain the origin, the traditions, rituals and social practices followed by that culture. The word ‘mythology’ is often used to refer to the ancient tales that have been passed from generation to generation through verbal tradition, or have been written down and preserved for centuries. Since the Christian era, the Greco-Romans started using the word myth to mean ‘fable’. Roman mythology is one of the earliest ones and is a combination of the Roman beliefs, rituals and observances.
The Greek mythology has influenced a large part of the Roman mythology, while the beliefs of the olden times were quite different from those of the Greeks. Roman mythology of the olden times is composed of myths of gods and humans. Romans had many gods whom they worshiped. It is believed that Romans lived in fear of these gods.
Roman mythology contains many narratives about the origin of the city of Rome. Romulus and Remus are the traditional founders of Rome. They were the twin sons of priestess Rhea Silvia. According to the Roman mythology, Romulus was the first to throne Rome. A legend says that Romulus and Remus were standing on two hills. A circle of birds hovered over Romulus, indicating him to be the king of Rome. Romulus created the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate. He populated Rome by the abduction of some women from the Sabine tribes. This resulted in the Roman population in being a mixture of the Sabines and the Romans.
Roman mythology is constituted of a variety of gods. The Gods have been classified as ‘di indigetes’, the original Roman gods and the ‘di novensides’, the gods that evolved as a result of specific needs. Roman mythology bears the names of some other gods whom they associated with some daily activities. Most of the daily chores of the common man were linked with certain gods. Jupiter was the ruler of all the gods and was believed to hold thunderbolts in his hands. Vesta, the Goddess of the hearth and home was of great importance to the Romans. Mercury was supposedly the messenger of gods. Saturn was linked with sowing, Ceres with the growth of grain and Pornoma with the fruit. The trio of Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus headed the Roman gods.
If the Romans conquered a new territory, they incorporated the local gods of the new territory into their mythology. Cybele, a Phrygian goddess who symbolized Mother Earth, was worshipped in Anatolia since the Neolithic times. In 203 BC, Romans greeted her. Similarly, many other gods entered Roman temples with the growth of Rome. Diana, the Goddess of moon and Hercules, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, were the results of the Romans conquering Italian territories.
The ancient Romans believed that every household was assigned a guardian god and they called it Lars. These guardian spirits were believed to stay with the family and influence their life. At the peak of the imperial system, emperor worship began to be practiced. This continued till the 4th century AD, until the Western Emperor Constantine removed emperor deification from Rome.
Roman religion is a composition of many religions and is primarily impacted by the Greek and Etruscan mythologies. With the emergence of Christianity, Roman religion faded to a certain extent. Yet, the modern-day traditions hold glimpses of original Roman culture. Influences of different belief-systems on the Romans have contributed to a rich Roman mythology.