Greek and Roman Gods
In Greek mythology, twelve gods and goddesses ruled the universe from atop Greece's Mount Olympus. Zeus (Roman name: Jupiter). The most powerful of all. Facts and information on the many Greek gods and goddesses of ancient mythology. From the Olympian gods and goddesses down to the minor gods and . The Roman and Greek cultures developed from a distant base of IndoEuropean culture. The Romans were exposed to Greek mythology before they were great.
This succession myth and the ascendance of Zeus and the Olympian Gods over the chthonic powers of Gaea and her off-spring echoes the introduction of the patriarchal Indo-European sky-gods into the Mediterranean world and the subordination of the Great Goddess.
Myths and Legends
Scholars examining the remains of Minoan culture have wondered whether it was a matriarchal society. There is no certainty to this conclusion, but for the historical period of Greek culture extending from at least the eighth century B.
With the supremacy of Zeus and the other Olympian gods established, Gaea's position is eclipsed. Demeter, the sister of Zeus, incorporates many of the aspects of the Great Goddess, while the different functions of Gaea are divided among goddesses.
Greek vs. Roman Gods
Under the Olympian Gods, earth and heaven are split eternally. In myth heroes and gods are created to dominate and subjugate the female and natural forces over and over again in various forms, the most common of them being gigantic snakes and serpent monsters.
The chthonic identity of the Great Goddess becomes associated with powers of darkness, chaos, and death that need to be subdued by the Olympian gods. What had been cyclical with the Great Goddess becomes cut so that instead of being associated with the cycle of life, death, and regeneration, she becomes identified with the negative functions.
Metope from the Temple at Selinus c. Pegasus, the winged horse that sprang from the severed neck, is being held by Medusa. Perseus gave the head of Medusa to Athena who mounted it on her breastplate, the gorgoneion.
A comparison of one of the large number of representations of the story of Perseus Medusa from Archaic Greek art to the Minoan Snake Goddess illustrates the profound change that occurred with the supremacy of the Olympian Gods. A striking aspect of the Snake Goddess is her frontality combined with her hypnotic stare. The power of this stare was probably intended to strike the original viewers with intense religious feelings of of terror and awe.
This expression transcends categories of good and evil. On the other hand, it was the sight of the "terrible" visage of Medusa that would turn men into stone.
The powerful gaze in the Minoan work becomes entirely negative and demonized and something to be overcome in the figure of Medusa. Perseus, the son of Zeus and the mortal Danae, slays Medusa with his sword, and thus he destroys the terrifying chthonic powers of the female for more on Medusa see the paper by Alicia Le Van.
The following excerpt from Bullfinch's Mythology illustrates how the demonization of Medusa persists into our modern imagination: Medusa was a terrible monster who had laid waste to the country. She was once a beautiful maiden whose hair was her chief glory, but as she dared to vie in beauty with Athena, the goddess deprived her of her charms and changed her beautiful ringlets into hissing serpents. She became a cruel monster of so frightening an aspect that no living thing could behold her without being turned into stone.
Early Roman divinities included a host of "specialist gods" whose names were invoked in the carrying out of various specific activities. Fragments of old ritual accompanying such acts as plowing or sowing reveal that at every stage of the operation a separate deity was invoked, the name of each deity being regularly derived from the verb for the operation.
Tutelary deities were particularly important in ancient Rome. Thus, Janus and Vesta guarded the door and hearth, the Lares protected the field and house, Pales the pasture, Saturn the sowing, Ceres the growth of the grain, Pomona the fruit, and Consus and Ops the harvest.
Even the majestic Jupiterthe ruler of the gods, was honored for the aid his rains might give to the farms and vineyards.
In his more encompassing character he was considered, through his weapon of lightning, the director of human activity. Due to his widespread domain, the Romans regarded him as their protector in their military activities beyond the borders of their own community. Prominent in early times were the gods Mars and Quirinuswho were often identified with each other.
Mars was a god of war; he was honored in March and October. Modern scholars see Quirinus as the patron of the armed community in time of peace. The 19th-century scholar Georg Wissowa  thought that the Romans distinguished two classes of gods, the di indigetes and the di novensides or novensiles: Arnaldo Momigliano and others, however, have argued that this distinction cannot be maintained.
The Romans commonly granted the local gods of a conquered territory the same honors as the earlier gods of the Roman state religion. In addition to Castor and Polluxthe conquered settlements in Italy seem to have contributed to the Roman pantheon DianaMinervaHerculesVenusand deities of lesser rank, some of whom were Italic divinities, others originally derived from the Greek culture of Magna Graecia.
In BC, Rome imported the cult object embodying Cybele from Pessinus in Phrygia and welcomed its arrival with due ceremony.
Both Lucretius and Catulluspoets contemporary in the mid-1st century BC, offer disapproving glimpses of Cybele's wildly ecstatic cult. In some instances, deities of an enemy power were formally invited through the ritual of evocatio to take up their abode in new sanctuaries at Rome.