It has been known that the Romans and the Greeks have had many interactions with each other, whether it would be due to trading or just plain traveling, the stories of their myths have crossed each other in one way or another. This is may be the reason why there are many similarities between Greek and Roman Mythology. Even though a Greek god or goddess may have a different name in Roman Mythology they still performed similar tasks and were worshiped for similar reasons. I will compare and contrast Greek gods with their Roman equivalences to see how similar they truly are to each other.
Probably the most famous Greek god, Zeus, was the god of all gods. Born to Cronus and Rhea, he was the ruler of the sky, and had the power to create thunderstorms and lightning as well as earthquakes. As the story goes he overthrew his father, Cronus, and became the ruler of Mount Olympus to head the new line of Gods. Jupiter, also known as Jove, was very much like Zeus. He was the predominant power holder among the Roman Gods. According to Tripp, Jupiter is a contraction of two words meaning Heavenly Father. (Pg. 2)
He ruled the sky, controlled all of the weather, and had thunderbolts as a weapon. Tripp also wrote Jupiters cult and his general character were, however, well established in Italy before the Greek religion became influential there. (Pg. 333) This implies that the idea of Zeus, Jupiter and Jove had very little influence on each other since they were created before the Greek myths and Roman myths had started to cross paths. Hera, the wife and sister of Zeus, was the goddess of marriage, childbirth, and the queen of the heavens. She gave birth to Ares, Hebe, and Eileithyia.
She also gave birth to Hephaestus, but it has been believed that she bore him without the aid of Zeus. In Ovids Metamorphoses, she was extremely jealous of the affairs that her husband had and she often tormented or harmed Zeuss mistresses. Juno, the feminine version of Jupiters name, is Heras counterpart. Juno had many names that served for different purposes. As Juno Pronuba, she was goddess of marriage, as Juno Lucina, she was the goddess of childbirth, and as Juno Regina, she was the special counselor and protector of the Roman state.
In Tripp, there was also a Juno Moneta that was governed finances. (Pg. 332) It seems that although Hera and Juno are similar in their duties, Hera is portrayed more as wife that was constantly jealous and did more harm to human kind rather than helping them. From the sources I have read about Juno, she seems more like a goddess that always helped the humans. Humans would offer her sacrifices so that she could help them with marriage, birth, protection, or finances.
Hera seems too engulfed in her husbands affairs rather than helping humans that would praise her. Ares, the child of Zeus and Hera, was the god of war. He was usually seen or portrayed to be fully armed and ready for battle and very eager fight or go to war. Although he was never married, he had many children with several goddesses and mortal women. Almost all of his children by mortal women were of a violent nature. Mars on the other hand, was the Roman god of agriculture and war. He was thought to be the second most important god after Jupiter.
He was in charge of military activities and farming. It was believed that the month March was named after Mars, and was also the first month of the Roman calendar. March was considered to be the month when agriculture was high and when most people engaged in war. Ares seems to be a very angry and active god as opposed to Mars that seems to be calmer. Ares is always prepared for battle and is always looking for a reason, like an instigator where Mars looks over the agriculture and the military to make sure that they are able to defend Rome, like a defender.
Even though Mars was also the god of war, it would seem that he would rather prevent war rather than start it because war would be hazardous to a Romes agriculture. The Greek goddess Aphrodite and the Roman goddess Venus were very similar. They have very few differences. Aphrodite was the goddess of erotic love and Venus was the goddess of love or queen of pleasure. (Encyclopedia of the Greek Mythology, Aphrodite) Aphrodite married the god of fire Hephaestus and had an affair with Ares while Venus married the god of metal work Vulcan and had an affair with Mars.
Both goddesses were very unfaithful to their husbands and had many affairs with many other gods and mortals. A difference that I have found is that Venus had many other names like Juno. According to the Roman Mythological Characters website, Venus Genetrix, was worshiped as the mother of the hero Aeneas, the founder of the Roman people; as Venus Felix, she was the bringer of good fortune; as Venus Victrix, she was the bringer of victory; and as Venus Verticordia, she the protector of feminine chastity. The Romans also associate Venus with nature, and the arrival of spring.
This may be because everything is fertilized and starts to grow in spring. The website also wrote that Venus really had no myths of her own but was so closely identified with the Greek Aphrodite that she took over Aphrodite’s myths. This probably explains why there are very close similarities between the two goddesses. In the many affairs of Zeus, Maia bore him the messenger of the gods, Hermes. His symbol of office was a caduceus or a heralds wand. He used it to guide the dead souls into Hades and in rare occasions to guide them out.
He was also known as the patron of merchants and seamen, of good luck, and of thieves and pickpockets, and was very well known for his mischief. He is often seen with winged helmet and a pair of sandals. Some say that his sandals had wings as well, which helped him fly around the heavens. Mercury, his Roman counterpart, was the son of Jupiter and Maia. He was the messenger of Jupiter and the god of merchants and trading. Much like Hermes, he was often seen with the caduceus, winged hat, winged sandals and a purse. Like Hermes, he protected the merchants.
The root word of his name merx means merchandise. Not too many differences between these two characters. This could possibly mean that this is one of the characters that Greeks and Romans may have shared. It is hard to tell whether or not the Greeks came up with Hermes first or if the Romans came up with Mercury first. Athena was the virgin goddess of crafts and the domestic arts and war. Also known as the patron of Athens, she was born from Zeus’s head. She was known to have aided the heroes Perseus, Jason, Cadmus and Heracles in their quests.
Minerva, her Roman equivalence, was the patroness of the arts and crafts. (Tripp, Pg. 380) Much like Athena, she was also born from Jupiters (Zeus) head. Much like Hermes and Mercury, Athena and Minerva are very identical to each other. It would also be hard to define whether or not Minerva was established before Athena. It can be assumed that these two figures were made by a compilation of both Greek and Roman myths. With these examples in mind, we can see that Greek gods and Roman gods have many similarities.
In the cases of Hermes, Mercury, Athena, and Minerva, they are so similar that they might as well be called the same name. With the comparisons of Hera, Ares, and their Roman counterparts, we can see that everything is the same except for their attitudes. Hera seems to be more of a mean goddess than Juno because humans actually offer praises to Juno and actually expect Juno to help her. Hera was too busy causing harm towards Zeus mistress. Ares was just the meaner and more aggressive version of Mars. Venus may as well have been Aphrodite because it was believed that her myths were borrowed from Aphrodite.
Zeus and Jupiter were similar, but were written in different times, suggesting a heavy coincidence that the Greeks and the Romans were on the same page. Overall, Greek gods and Roman gods are indeed very similar. If they do have differences, they are always fairly petty and do not affect their general purpose within mythology. The interactions between the Greeks and Romans have definitely tied each others myths together so close that a story from Greek mythology can easily be interchangeable with a story from Roman Mythology.