Ancient Roman civilization began on the Italian Peninsula beginning in the ninth century BCE. Much of the history of Roman civilization is documented in Roman myths. Roman mythology explains the growth of the civilization through the eyes of its citizens, with Roman gods acting as forces that intervene with society.
As Roman civilization began to spread, Greek culture and worship began to influence Roman myths. Prior to the intermingling of these two cultures, the Romans had their own unique way of mythologizing the gods. The early Roman myths weren't so much narrative stories as they were historical references to the relationships between gods and humans in society.
Prior to the influence of Greek culture on Roman society, the Romans had about 30 original gods, called indigetes. They were the first members of the Roman pantheon, and the Romans had annual festivals and celebrations in honor of these gods.
The Romans believed that each god had his or her own domain, or particular aspect of life, that he or she looked over. For example, Ceres was a goddess who protected the growth of the grain. The Romans worshipped her in order for their crops to grow.
As Roman civilization began to spread and take over new land, more Roman gods were needed to protect the vast territory. The citizens were taking on new jobs and activities and needed a god to protect each of their new tasks. The Roman pantheon inducted new gods, called dingetes. These new gods also had different domains and specialties that they kept watch over.
Greek mythology had a profound influence on late Roman culture. Newer Roman gods were taken from the Greek pantheon and many Greek myths were also adopted by the Romans. Much of Roman history was recorded after Greek mythology influenced the culture, so that Greek myths and Roman myths are often difficult to distinguish. However, the early Romans did have their own gods and their own style of relating to these gods; unfortunately, we don 't know as much about these early beliefs because they 're not as well documented as beliefs in the later years.
Roman mythology started to fade out as a primary belief system in the fourth century CE, with the implementation of Christianity. The religion was first completely rejected by those who worshipped the traditional pantheon of gods in Roman society. When Constantine I became the leader of the civilization, he endorsed the religion. In 391 CE, he banned any religions other than Christianity, and the Romans accepted it as their new religion, leaving the Roman gods behind.
Despite the introduction of Christianity and subsequent decline of early Roman religion, Roman mythology stayed intact and continues to impact modern Western society today. Many people find these ancient myths fascinating and they are often taught in schools. Much of Western society's literature has felt the impact of Roman mythology and tells the stories of its gods and goddesses. Mythical names and creatures are often used for businesses or sports teams to symbolize their strength or power.
Some names of Roman gods that are commonly referenced today include:
The Roman myths that were first told many centuries ago can still be found in modern society in different ways. Movies, stories, comic book heroes and business logos show the continued impact of Roman mythology on Western civilization.