Greek vs Roman Gods: Know the Differences Between the Deities

Greek vs roman gods all you need to knowGreek vs Roman gods are hard to be distingusihed because they share similar functions and roles. For instance, Zeus was the king of the gods and his counterpart in the Roman pantheon was Jupiter. However, both sets of deities have differences that can help to distinguish between the two. 

This article will discuss the Greek vs Roman gods and establish the contrasting characteristics and functions between the two.

Greek vs Roman Gods Comparison Table

FeaturesGreek GodsRoman Gods
Physical DescriptionVividVague
MoralityMore promiscuousLess promiscuous
Strength and PowerStronger than Roman deitiesWeaker Compared to Greek deities
FateCouldn’t determine fateJupiter could determine fate
MythologyOriginalCopied from the Greeks

What Are the Differences Between the Greek vs Roman Gods?

The main difference between the Greek vs Roman gods is that the Greeks gods possessed human attributes while the Roman gods represented objects. Thus, the Greeks described the gods using human characteristics while the Romans named their deities after objects.

What Are the Greek Gods Famous For?

Greek gods are famous for having human characteristics and intervening in human affairs, some even had affairs with humans, and they influenced other mythologies as well. Lastly, they celebrated and shared their glories with humans. These aspects are what make them famous.

The Human Characteristics

The Greek deities are known for their vivid descriptions which are comparable to human features. They were described as aesthetically pleasing to the eye except for Hephaestus who was described as very unsightly. Gods like Apollo, Eros and Ares were characterized as the most handsome while Aphrodite, Artemis and Athena reigned among the most beautiful goddesses. A beauty contest between three goddesses served as the backdrop to the Trojan War.

It all began when Zeus the King of the gods presided over a beauty competition involving the goddesses Aphrodite, and Hera. He invited a prince of Troy, Paris, to pass judgment by choosing the most beautiful of the three deities. Paris eventually chose Aphrodite after she promised to give him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta (later Helen of Troy). This angered Hera who plotted to destroy Paris and the city of Troy for what she felt was a disgrace to her.

The Greek deities also exhibited human tendencies such as love, hatred, jealousy, kindness, mercy, goodness, and anger. They fell in and out of love just like humans and also experienced broken-heart just like humans. The Greeks projected human values, characteristics, and features on the gods (known as anthropomorphism). However, because they were deities, their characteristics were more glorified than humans.

The Greek Gods Intervened in Human Affairs

The Greek deities were notorious for interfering in human affairs more than their Roman counterparts. Though fate could not be altered, the gods did all in their power to change the destinies of some of their favored or hated heroes but to no avail.

For instance, in the Trojan War, the gods even took sides with Poseidon, Hera, Hephaestus, Hermes, and Athena supporting the Greeks. The Trojans were also aided by Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis and Ares and even fought to ensure victory for the Greeks.

The gods saved the lives of their favorites like in the case of Paris when Aphrodite had to whisk him away to prevent Menelaus from killing him. They also helped to kill the foes of their preferred hero as happened to Achilles when Apollo guided an arrow shot by Paris to hit Achilles in the heel, killing him. In the legend of the Odyssey, Odysseus is aided by Athena, the goddess of war, to complete his journey and be celebrated as an epic hero.

Greek literature is replete with stories of gods and goddesses interfering in human activities which have given rise to the debate over the role of fate. Many Greeks also invoked the gods in their activities and often turned to them for guidance and protection.

The gods were central to the lives of the Greeks and vice versa. In short, it is simple to say that, they were similar in a lot of ways to humans but for the fact that their characteristics were far more exaggerated than their human counterparts.

The Greek Deities Had Affairs With Humans

Both male and female deities were popular for having sexual relations with humans and giving birth to half-men half-deities known as demi-gods. Zeus was the worst of all as he had numerous sexual partners much to the chagrin of his beloved wife Hera.

This also drove the plot of some famous myths as Hera pursued and tried to kill some of Zeus’ mistresses and their children. For instance, Hera tried to kill Heracles when he was born by sending two serpents into the baby’s crib.

This was after she caught wind of her husband’s affair with the mother of Heracles, Alcmene, queen of Amphitryon. The goddesses also got involved with men as demonstrated by Aphrodite and Persephone in the myth of Adonis. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, fell in love with Adonis at the same time as Persephone and both goddesses couldn’t decide who should have him. Zeus settled the matter by decreeing that Adonis splits his time between both deities – he spent half of the year with Aphrodite and the other half with Persephone.

The Greek gods are also known to have same-sex relations with humans; a prime example is Zeus. The chief of the gods kidnapped the most handsome mortal, and made away with him to Mount Olympus. There he made the boy immortal to always serve at his side as a cupbearer and to be intimate with him. Later, Zeus found the father of Ganymede, Tros, and gifted him fine horses as compensation for abducting his son.

The Greek Gods Influenced Other Mythologies

Since the Greek civilization preceded the Roman, the Roman pantheon was influenced by their Greek counterparts, albeit under different names. The Greek pantheon had 12 gods and so were the number of deities in Roman mythology. Even the Greek primordial deities influenced the primordial gods of the  Romans as well. The Greeks had Zeus as the chief of the gods while the Romans had Jupiter who is the leader of the Roman pantheon.

For the goddess of love, the Greeks had Aphrodite while the Romans named theirs Venus. The god of the sea and waters in Greek mythology was Poseidon and his equivalent in Roman literature was Neptune. Hermes was a messenger for the Greek gods while Mercury played the same role for the Roman gods. Hephaestus was the ugliest deity among the Greek gods and so was Vulcan of the Roman pantheon.

Heroes Became Gods

In Greek mythology, some heroes became gods such as Heracles and Asclepius – this was either through heroic acts or through marriage. These heroes were believed to have ascended Mount Olympus where their deification took place. Though the Roman heroes could become gods, they were usually declared divine by their successors. Greek gods loved poetry and they respected poets that used flowery language while Roman gods were more interested in actions than words.

The Greek Gods Shared Their Glory with Humans

The Greek deities shared their glory with the Greek heroes, therefore, the heroes placed much importance on living well on earth to make sure that they have a better afterlife. The praise that humans gave them, was how they became popular and ensured that they were loved.

They had a connection with humans, such as when Demeter lost her daughter Persephone, the season didn’t change; however, after finding her, the season changed and the glory was shared and celebrated with humans.

In addition, when Zeus became angry, when his worshippers didn’t pray for him, hence, he didn’t send them any rain. After a drought, when humans started praying again, Zeus finally sent the humans rain for their crops, and they started to value him, worship him and place offerings to him. In short, Zeus, somehow, had contact with the humans, he rewarded them when they followed and obeyed his commandment.

What Are the Roman Gods Famous For?

The Roman Gods are famous for three primary gods, all gods’ names were related to objects or tangible things. In addition, they are famous to have no personification or a unique physical characteristic that distinguishes them. Furthermore, they are even known to be genderless, because they were divine.

Three Primary Gods

What distinguished the Roman gods from others is their number, they had three primary gods that were worshiped: Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. The main and the most powerful god in Roman mythology was Jupiter, who was able to tell fate. This characteristic in particular was what distinguished him from others.

Roman Gods’ Name Relations

The deities of ancient Rome are famous for being named after planets that were present in the ancient Roman planetary system. Since Jupiter is the biggest planet, the Romans named the chief god that they borrowed from the Greek civilization after it. When the Romans observed that the planet Mars appeared red/bloody, they named their god of war Mars. Since Saturn was the slowest planet in the ancient planetary system, they named their god of Agriculture Saturn.

Mercury was called the messenger of the gods because it was the fastest planet to make a complete trip around the Sun (88 days). Due to Venus’ beauty and brightness, it was known as the Roman goddess of love. Each deity had its mythology and how it became worshipped by the Romans, just like the Greeks. For example, according to Roman myth, Jupiter was invoked by King Numa Pompilius, the second King of the Roman Empire, to help deal with the bad weather.

Saturn became the god of Agriculture after it, the Romans the patience and skills required to produce a bountiful harvest. Vulcan, the god of metalworks and forgery, was believed to have taught metallurgy to the Romans. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, was responsible for protecting and counseling the state. Neptune became the god of freshwater and the seas and was thought to introduce horses and horse riding to the Romans.

The Roman Gods Didn’t Have Physical Characteristics

The deities in the Roman pantheon had little to no physical characteristics. For instance, Venus is described as beautiful in Roman mythology but in other mythologies, a god’s description would go beyond the word ‘beautiful’ to being called ‘blonde’ with green or blue eyes, etc. However, the Roman goddess, Minerva, only had her roles described and not what she looked like.

The gods of the Roman pantheon were genderless. Both civilizations described their gods differently with the other gods of other cultures putting a strong emphasis on their features while the Romans bothered less about their physical appearances.

Some scholars argue that the Romans were more fixated on the activities of their deities than the way they looked. Thus, they refused or simply thought that giving detailed descriptions of their deities was not necessary. Others also felt that the Roman writers left the physical description of their gods to the imagination of their audiences.

FAQ

What Is the Difference Between Greek Gods vs Egyptian Gods?

The Greek gods had detailed physical features and were promiscuous, and looked like humans. For example, they had eyes of different shades, or hair of different colors, just like humans. On the other hand, Egyptian gods mostly had the features of animals, such as cats, eagles, and even dogs. They did have human-looking bodies, but their heads were of different animals.

Why Are Greek Gods More Popular than Roman Gods?

Greek deities are more popular because they influenced the deities of the Roman pantheon. In addition, the Greek gods have detailed and interesting myths as compared to the Roman gods. Thus, it is more interesting reading about or listening to stories of Greek gods than Roman deities. Furthermore, Greek gods’ stories are more relevant to our everyday stories, which is why they are more popular and spoken of today.

Conclusion

Greek vs roman gods the differencesOverall, it is simple to say that Greek vs Roman mythology compare and contrast has examined the marked differences between the Greek and the Roman gods. We’ve realized that the Greek gods preceded the Roman deities by, at least, 1000 years and the Greek gods influenced the Roman pantheon. Though the Greek vs Roman gods’ names is dissimilar, the Greeks described their gods in vivid detail while the Romans were more interested in the activities of their deities. The Greek gods were famous for their constant intrusion into human affairs and were notorious for having numerous sexual relations with humans.

The Romans decided to name their significant gods after the five planets in the ancient Roman planetary system, while the Greeks called their deities after human characteristics. The Roman gods were less popular than their Greek counterparts partly because of their similar mythologies. Though they had many differences, they shared similar powers and roles in their mythologies.

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