If you close your eyes and imagine you are an Etruscan, living in the 8th and 3rd century BCE, you might be royalty, a powerful trader, artist or an architect. You would see the imposing, great stone temple decorated with sculptures of Jupiter, his wife Juno, his brother, Neptune and his father, Saturn.
After a lengthy battle with the Greeks, you would come to Jupiter’s temple, the largest in Rome and worship the king of all gods.
Getting to Know Jupiter
As the Etruscan civilization evolved into the Roman Empire, Jupiter like the Greek god Zeus, became a “sky god” worshippers depended on for light. Jupiter was worshipped mainly on the summit of the Alban Hill south of the city of Rome.
In Roman mythology, Jupiter was the chief god of the Pantheon. Jupiter was also worshipped as the central cult of the Roman Empire.
Let There Be Light
In ancient civilizations, religion played a very important role in human life. With limited knowledge of the world around them, ancient people related the light of the sun with human existence. Romans looked to Jupiter as the god of light to help them work out mysteries of the earth and their link to nature.
Romans who looked to Jupiter as the rain god, referred to him as Pluvius. In seasons of drought, Jupiter would be invoked to bring on much needed rain. As “Fulger,” he protected Romans from thunder. As “Fidius,” he was the defender of truth.
Romans believed that even though he never revealed himself to mankind, they took strength from Jupiter’s heavenly signs to reveal the future. For example, the flight of birds would tell them of changes about to come. His place as protector of Rome granted him the title, Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the best and most high.
From Roman to Greek Mythology
Romans’ continued battles with the Greeks left the Roman Empire with many religious influences. This is how Jupiter and the Greek god, Zeus, came to be identified with similar qualities and benefits in these ancient empires. So, most of the well known myths regarding Jupiter come from Greek mythology. It can be said Jupiter is a Roman god, but the mythology surrounding Jupiter comes from the Greeks. However, Romans believed Jupiter to be the equivalent of Zeus.
The Family Tree of Jupiter
Mythology tells us Jupiter was the son of Saturn. In Rome on the Capitoline Hill where Jupiter’s oldest temple was located, Jupiter was worshipped at a sacred oak tree and also flint stones which were part of symbolic ceremonies.
As the son of Saturn, he overthrew his father. This was due to a warning given to Saturn that one of his children would overthrow him. Saturn took the precaution of swallowing all of the children his wife, Ops, bore him. The children included Neptune, Vesta, Juno, Pluto and Ceres.
The Life of Jupiter the Roman God
Jupiter was raised by his mother, Ops. When Saturn swallowed his five children, Ops realized she was with child again. She secretly moved the baby (Jupiter) to Crete. She placed a stone wrapped in baby clothes. Saturn swallowed the stone believing it was the baby Jupiter.
Throughout his childhood, Jupiter was filled with revenge for what his father had done to his brothers and sisters. When finally he grew up, he forced Saturn to vomit the five brothers and sisters his father had swallowed. With his brothers and sisters joining him, they overthrew Saturn.
With the aid of the Hundred Handed Giants and Cyclops, war was declared on Saturn and Titans. The Titans were gods in Greek mythology who preceded the Olympians. They were the children of the deities Uranus, the god of heaven and Gaea, the goddess of earth.
Saturn was the leader of the twelve Titans and like Jupiter, also overthrew his father.
When Mythology Wasn’t a Myth
Though present day humans enjoy Roman and Greek mythology, they do not place unanimous significance on mythology in the same way Romans and Greeks had done. Perhaps, the difference is that to Romans, it wasn’t a myth, but a very real and meaningful reliance on supreme beings.
Imagine a world where there are few books, scientists, historians and teachers. It would easy to see why lack of knowledge can lead to beliefs in mysticisms and myths. Here are the facts you share with the ancient Romans about Jupiter the Roman god:
1. He was the son of Saturn and Ops
2. He had five brothers and sisters
3. He overthrew his father
4. He became the god of the sky, light, storms, thunder and lighting
5. He was known for his courage and bravery when he went to battle with the Titans and defeated them
6. Jupiter and his brothers divided the universe into three parts. Jupiter obtained the heavens. Neptune obtained the sea and Pluto the underworld
7. Jupiter became the king of the gods