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Roman Mythology and Saga

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Claesson Welsh

Chapter 26Roman mythology and sagaThe fundamental differences between Greek and Roman mythology account for the dominant influence of Greek myths over native Italian myths and Roman legendsThe Italian gods were not as generally anthropomorphic as the Olympian gods about whom the Greeks developed legends that they expressed in poetry and art of great powerThe Roman gods were originally associated more with cult than with myth and such traditional tales as were told about them did not have the power of Greek legendsMany Roman legends are adaptations of Greek legends since the early authors were Greeks so the influence of Greek literature is dominantRoman mythtology nevertheless has an independent existence in the cults of Roman religion and the legends of early Roman historyThe roots of Roman religion lay in the traditions of preRoman Italic peoples such as the Sabines and Etruscans The native Italian gods however became identified with Greek gods Jupiter with Zeus etcOnly Apollo is identical with his Greek counterpartSome genuinely Roman or Italic legends have been preserved in the poetry of Ovid Vergil Prometius Cicero Varro and LivyThe Italian Gods Janus Mars and Bellona Janus is a very ancient deity who presides over beginnings and in this connection we preserve his name in the month that begins a year JanuaryIt is likely that early on he was connected with water with crossing places and bridges so in Rome his five shrines were located near crossings over the riverAs the city expanded however these early crossing places lost their importance and Janus original functions were obscuredIn later times Janus was used not only as the name of a deity but also as a common noun which Cicero defined as a crossing place with a roadwayJanus attracted himself to other functions he was the hod of going in and coming out and therefore of doors entrances and archways as well as of beginningsIn another form as Portunus he was god of harbors and ferriesThere are few legends of Janus The Italian deity Mars was much more important than AresIn his origin he was an agricultural deity worshiped by many Italian tribesHis association with spring the time of regeneration and growth is shown by the use of his name for the month of March which began the Roman year in the preJulian calendarAs an agricultural god he is associated with a number of rural deities like Silvanus and Flora Mars sometimes has as his consort the Sabine fertility goddess Nerio who is often identified with MinervaJust as the Roman people turned from farming to war so Mars became a war god and this aspect became more important than his agricultural characterSacrifices were offered to him before and after the battle and a portion of the spoils was dedicated to himIn battle he was generally accompanied by a number of lesser deities and personifications of whom the war goddess Bellona is the best knownMars is particularly associated with two animals the wolf and the woodpeckerA she wolf suckled his sons the infant Romulus and Remus The woodpercker picus was said in one legend to have been a Latin king Picus whose wife was the nymph Canens SingerJupiterHe is the great Italian sky godHe shared the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus with Juno the chief Italian goddess of women and Minerva an Italian fertility and war goddess who at Rome was
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