Roman Mythology

Latins, Etruscans, and Archaic Rome

What was the nature of Archaic Roman mythology?

When we speak of Archaic Rome, we refer to the period which precedes Etruscan dominance. In the ancient Latin settlement later known as Rome—the City (Urbs)—the supreme god was Jupiter, or Iuppiter, whose Indo-European root is Iou, or dyeu, thus relating the god linguistically to Zeus (dyeus) and the Sanskrit for the sky (dyaus). Iuppiter and the other Archaic Roman gods were usually not anthropomorphic. Rather they were expressions of concepts. Iuppiter was the power of the sky, Fides was the goddess of good faith, Ceres was the agricultural fertility goddess, Consus was stored grain, Ops was opulence, Vesta was sacred fire. The goddesses Angerona and Mater Matuta were associated with aspects of the solar year. Most important was a version of the Indo-European triad—Iuppiter (sovereignty), Mars (power), and Quirinus (prosperous community). The importance of the triad is reflected in the Roman foundation myth of Romulus and Remus, which probably emerged in the Archaic period.


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