Neptune started off as a minor Italian god of freshwater. The Italians initially didn’t have a god of the sea. When the Romans first named a god of the sea, it wasn’t Neptune but Fortunus. He was the first god to receive credit for victories at sea. He became a more prominent god after 400 BC, when the Romans began to hear more and more stories about the Greek gods. The Greek god of the sea Poseidon and all of his stories were very influential in bringing Neptune forward as his Roman equal.

Neptune’s father was Saturn, king of the gods, and his mother was the Earth mother Ops. He had two brothers–Pluto and Jupiter– and three sisters–Juno, Ceres, and Vesta. Saturn didn’t want any of his children to take his power, and to prevent that, he swallowed them all. Their mother Ops came to the rescue. She tricked Saturn into swallowing a stone, which the siblings used to escape from their father’s belly. After their joint escape, the siblings banded together again to defeat their father. After his defeat, the brothers divided the realms: Jupiter took the sky, Pluto the underworld, and Neptune ruled the seas.

Much like the seas he ruled over, Neptune’s temperament was said to be harsh and unpredictable. He was known to be very changeable, and was very easily angered. His violent temper was connected with earthquakes. The Ancient Romans knew nothing of tectonic plates or the natural forces that caused earthquakes. Their best guess was that they came from the mysterious depths of the sea and they knew that they were unpredictable and devastating, just like Neptune’s temper. It was thought that Neptune would cause earthquakes when he was angry.

There are two women who are associated with Neptune as his wife. The first and most often referenced as the wife of the sea god was Amphitrite the water nymph. Neptune first saw her dancing on the island of Naxos. He fell in love with her immediately and asked her to marry him, but she turned him down. Neptune later sent a dolphin servant to her to convince her to marry him. Dolphins are smart animals, and this one was no exception. He convinced Amphitrite to change her mind and marry Neptune. As a reward for his great service, Neptune made the dolphin immortal. This story is why Neptune is so often pictured with dolphins.

The other woman who may have been Neptune’s wife is the much lesser known Salacia. It is thought that she was the Italian goddess of salt water. The pair is said to have had three children, the most well known being Triton, who is often shown as a merman carrying the same type of trident his father is often shown to carry.

In line with his changeable temper, Neptune’s heart was changeable, and he had many affairs that resulted in many illegitimate children. The most well known of his illegitimate children are Pegasus and Atlas.

Once he became the prominent god of the sea, the Romans were very interested in keeping him happy. All victories at sea were attributed to him. After Neptune helped the Romans conquer the ancient city of Veii, they built not one but two temples in his honor. The romans were constantly sacrificing to keep the god of the sea happy. As a seagoing empire, it was very important to keep the sea and its god happy with them.

Neptune’s feast day is during the hot, often dry month of July. His feast, Neptunalia, was celebrated on July 23rd in Rome. There was not just eating, drinking, and sacrifices, but also competitions to honor the water god. Romans hoped to please the god of the sea and the waters so that Rome’s rivers would supply enough water to irrigate their crops and ensure their survival