Greco Roman? Quite Possibly…
The one thing that always annoyed me was my confusion between the Greek Gods and the Roman Gods. The same God had two different names and two different stories, but they were the same God? How can that be and more importantly why is that so? I started doing some research and found lots of information, half of it contradicting the other half, but I started seeing that I was grossly wring in my thinking that the two were virtually the same. I also started to realize that this was a much bigger topic than my measly little five page paper, so a condensed version is as follows:
I will start first with a look at the Greek Mythology. The Greeks looked at mythology and the Gods and Goddess’ not as something or someone to attain once one has past on from this world, but more of a way to live while IN this world. They believed that what you did while alive determined your worth as a human and that if you were remembered for your life once you were dead, that that was the immortality one was trying to attain. The Gods and Goddesses of the Greek world were based on human traits, things such as Honor, Love, and Hatred. This was because the Greeks valued the emotional human as more important than the physical. People who were poets, artists, or great thinkers were thought more highly than those who could not “think outside the box.” The Greeks also viewed the idea of the individual as important. They believed that every man was responsible for their own well being and were not expected to follow the crowd.
The Romans on the other hand believed the complete opposite of the Greeks. The Romans focused more on the afterlife, that what you did in this life would determine what happened to you when you died. This is where the big gladiators came from. The Romans believed you are only as good as the group you are part of and that the individual meant very little. Where the Greeks reveled in the poets and artists, the Romans looked at brawn over brains, because being brave and fighting for the masses would secure you a good place in Heaven and the afterlife. In fact, they believed that if you were brave enough in life, you would become a God in death. The Romans took the Greeks mythology and made it into their own, they changed names and stories to focus less on the individual and the ideas of living a better life while alive, and reworked them to be more about vengeance and battles and immortals, very few of the Roman mythologies center on an individual mortal learning something.
The creation of both mythologies is somewhat different as well. When I say creation I do not mean when a certain group decided to believe in their corresponding deities, but more of how the stories came to be in the first place. For the Greeks it began when the civilization of Atlantis formed out of the water by Timaeus and Critias, who are sited in many stories about the beginning of Greek Mythology, obviously including Socrates Critias. As for the Romans, I found two stories that are believed to be equally possible. The first revolves around the war between Greece and Asia, after the war, Aeneas who was a brave and popular soldier ended up going to Rome where he, remembering the Gods from his former culture, proceeded to create the new Roman Mythologies. The second story involves two men from Greece who were the sons of the God Mars and Rhea Silvia, a mortal woman. During a conflict between the two brothers, one brother was killed and the other built a city called Rome, where he became the first king and thus started his own mythological story telling.
An example of the tweaking that was done to the Greek Gods to suit the Romans would be the God Zues, or Jupiter. The Greeks knew him as Zeus, he was the son of Cronus and Rhea. Cronus, who feared he would be dethroned by his children, swallowed them as they were born. When Zeus was born, Rhea wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes which Cronus ate, and then hid the infant in Crete. When Zeus was old enough he came out of hiding and forced his father to disgorge his children who were all eager to take vengeance on their father. Cronus was overthrown and Zeus took his place as the head of the divine hierarchy of the Greek Gods and the father of all immortals and mortals. His wife was the queen of Heaven and they resided on Mount Olympus in Thessaly. As for the Romans, Jupiter was the son of the God Saturn whom he overthrew to become ruler of all. The Romans identified this God, Jupiter, with the Greek God Zeus and therefore assigned the Greek attributes to this new Roman God, who with goddesses Juno and Minerva, were central to the Roman religious state.
Both Zeus and Jupiter were associated with water, Zeus, because Greece was a very dry climate and water brought life, Jupiter because he was the God of the sky and the sky gave rain which in turn gave life. Both Gods threw thunderbolts and rain and both were the gods of truth and virtue and the guardians of law. Both gods were essentially the same person, but each god presented what their followers needed, the Greeks wanted a creative, intellectual god, while the Romans wanted a physical god.
In class we have studied a lot of mythology, both Greek and Roman, and as I stated before it annoyed me that the same person seemed to have two different identities. Now I know that even though they have two different stories, both versions are similar because they both stem from the same place. It is almost like you get two different points of view about the same person, creating, almost, a more accurate view when reading one version over another. The vengeful god has a soft side, and the gentle god will not be pushed around. It makes them, well, almost human.