Roman Divinities – The Names and Their Characteristics

The Temple of Venus Genitrice, the Temple of Minerva, the Temple of Vesta (all in the Roman Forum) are just some of the sacred buildings devoted to the Roman divinities that you can admire when visiting Rome. The whole city was dotted with temples and sacred places to go to pray to the gods to solve social, personal issues, thank them or make the necessary sacrifices.
The Roman pantheon was mainly made up of divinities of ancient Italic origins, which, after the influence of other peoples, assimilated foreign gods, especially Greek ones.

But how were these Roman deities?
Like the Greek ones, they were imagined in human semblance and with life habits similar to those of men with personal stories that often clashed with them not only in love affairs, but also in warlike affairs.
They obviously had over-the-top qualities and powers, but also the characteristic defects of men. They frequently argued and were jealous of each other.

Below you will find a small list of the major Roman divinities, so that you will be able to be prepared when you visit Rome.


King of Heaven and the founder of all gods. Juno’s brother and husband was famous for his extramarital adventures from which many heroes were born, such as Hercules, demigods and some monsters. His symbols were the lightning and the eagle (symbol, among other things, also of Rome).
Greek form: Zeus


God of the sea and the earthquakes, was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto. Married to the Anfitrite nymph, lived in an underwater palace. He had four children from her, including Triton and Cimopolea. He was also the father of many more or less monstrous creatures, such as the legendary cyclops and the legendary Pegasus. His symbols were the trident and the horse, created by himself by the foam of the waves.
Greek Form: Poseidon


Brother of Jupiter and Neptune, he was never welcome on the Olympus, so that he did not even have a throne in the gods’ residence. He controlled the Hells, where he lived. In Roman times it also became the divinity of metals, precious stones and everything that is under ground. He kidnappedr Proserpina, daughter of Ceres, and made her his bride. His symbol was the helm of Terror.
Greek form: Ade


God of war, son of Jupiter and Juno, in the Roman era he was very important. He was given the name of Ultore, the Avenger. Protector of the Empire, he lost his ferocious character, typical of the Greek form, to assume a more rigid and demanding personality. He was the lover of Venus, father of Phobos and Deimos. His symbols were the boar and the bloody spear.
Greek Form: Ares


Juni’s son, when he was newly born was thrown down from the Olympus by his mother because he did not look good. God of fire, craftsmen and blacksmiths, he was married to Venus. His symbols were the anvil and the quail (which bounces along strangely, just like him).
Greek Form: Hephaestus


Diana’s twin was the god of music, poetry, medicine, archery, and bachelors. As the sister represented the moon, he was attributed to the sun.
Greek Form: Apollo


God of wayfarers, travelers, thieves, and messengers. He was the courier of the gods, son of Jupiter and Maia. His symbols were the the helmet. the winged sandals and the caduceo.
Greek Form: Ermes


Originally he was a demigod, son of Jupiter and a mortal, Semele, but after inventing the wine he was promoted to divinity by taking the throne of Vesta. He was the god of wine and festivities. The symbols were the tiger, the leopard, the grape and the thyrsus, a spear topped by a pine cone.
Greek Form: Dionysus


Wife and sister of Jupiter, she was the goddess of women, marriage, maternity and fertility. Jupiter gave her a son, Mars, and a daughter, Iuventas, a goddess of youth. Her symbols were the peacock and the cow (a maternal animal).
Greek Form: Era



Goddess of Agriculture, sister of Juno and Vesta. Mother of Proserpina, her symbols were poppy and barley.
Greek form: Demetra


Goddess of the household and home, gave up his throne on the Olympus to Bacco. She was a virgin and very humble goddess. In the Roman period, a group of priests who devoted themselves to the goddess took on a great deal of importance, thanks to the creation of the Order of the Vestals. Its symbol was a crane.
Greek Form: Estia


She was the goddess of wisdom and minor arts. She was not much loved by the Romans, because she was the protector of the Greeks, their rivals. She was a virgin goddess born of Jupiter’s mind. Its symbol was the owl.
Greek form: Athens


Goddess of love born out of the blood of Uranus and the sea foam. She was given a wife to Vulcan, but it was well known that she was in love with Mars. From the union of the two, Phobos and Deimos were born, Fear and Terror. Her symbols were the dove and the magic belt that made anyone fall in love with her.
Greek Form: Aphrodite


Goddess of hunting, of virgin girls and of childbirth, later of the moon. She never married or had children. She was the twin of Apollo, the sons of Leto and Jupiter. At her service she had some aides, the so-called Hunters of Artemis, virgin girls under her protection.
Greek form: Artemis

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For those visiting Rome, a stop at the Vatican Museums is a must (click here for tickets of Vatican Museums to skip the queue). They are in fact one of the largest art collections in the world and visiting them is truly an exciting experience.
The rooms of Raphael, the Pio-Clementine Museum, the Art Gallery, the Gallery of Geographical Maps are all attractions not to be missed, but what alone is worth a visit is the amazing Sistine Chapel, work of Michelangelo and undisputed masterpiece of Italian art.

And just to prepare you to know this incredible treasure, we provide below a short list of some curiosities about the Sistine Chapel that you might like to know


Curiosities about the Sistine Chapel

  • The name of the Sistine Chapel derives from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned the work
  • The marvelous paintings of the Sistine Chapel extend for 1,110 square meters, roughly a sixth the size of a football field.
  • It is not true that Michelangelo has painted his frescos working on his back. He worked on a platform he had invented, which extended over half of the chapel area and allowed him to stand up. The platform was moved halfway through the project. Michelangelo never had the chance to look at his work in progress from below, but he painted from a distance of a few centimeters.
  • In most of the male nudes that decorate the ceiling of Michelangelo, there are many acorns, a recurring motif among the artist’s frescoes to pay homage to the name Rovere (Rovere is synonymous with oak) to which the family of Julius II belonged.
  • The first Conclave that was held in the Sistine Chapel of the Apostolic Palace was that of 1492.  From 1870 onwards the Chapel became the seat of all the conclaves.
  • The doors of the Sistine Chapel were blocked. The word conclave (the meeting of the College of Cardinals for an election of the Pope) comes from the Latin cum clave, that is (closed) with the key.
  • The first mass in the Sistine Chapel was the one celebrated by Pope Sixtus IV on the 15 August 1483.
  • The Sistine Chapel is visited by more than 6 million people a year.
  • The Sistine Chapel today as in the past is also used as a private chapel of the Pope.
  • The Sistine Chapel is dedicated to Maria Assunta (taken to the sky).

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The Vatican – Curiosities That You Might not Know

Established after the Lateran Pacts of 1929, the Vatican is the modern version of the State of the Church that ruled most of the central regions up to the Unity of Italy in 1861. The Vatican City is an independent state where the pope is the highest authority. They have a postal service, a newspaper, a radio station and an army, the Swiss guards.

Below you will find some curiosities about the Vatican that you may want to know.


1. Citizenship

You can not be a Vatican citizens by birth: the Vatican citizenship is aquired by those who, even lay people, reside there for reasons of office or employment. The spouse, children, and brothers of a Vatican citizen retain their citizenship provided they are cohabiting

2. Swiss Guards

Even though Switzerland today has the reputation of being a pacifist nation, in 1500 it had an unstoppable military force. With their great ability to handle the halberd, a combination of a spear and an axe, the army ground troops were able to demolish enemy legions on horseback. After witnessing their power in battle, Pope Julius II (the commissioner of the Sistine Chapel) wanted some soldiers as personal guards. Since then, the Swiss guards swore allegiance to the pope.
Even though we are used to seeing Swiss guards in Renaissance dresses, in fact the real Pope’s guards are wearing much more modern civilian clothes and arms than halberds!

3. The Official Language

The official language of the state is Italian. Latin is the language of the Holy See: not by chance the Vatican City law is exclusively written in Latin

4. The Death Penalty

The death penalty remained in force until 1969 as the punishment for the attempted or done murder of a pope. In that year Pope Paul VI made it de facto but not de jure invalid, which meant that was officially abolished, but was not completely removed from the Fundamental Law (equivalent to our Constitution). It was definitively abolished with the revision of the latter only in 2001 according to the will of John Paul II.

5. Criminality

According to a study conducted by the German magazine Der Spiegel in 2007, the Vatican is the country with the highest crime rate in the world per inhabitant. There have been 486 criminal cases and 341 civil cases on which the Vatican Ministry of Justice has investigated. The most common crime? Theft.

6. But How much Money Own the Vatican?

It is not easy to answer because the accounts of the Vatican’s economic activities have not been published for 125 years.
Only in 2012, following the policy of transparency and rigor put into effect by Pope Francis, the IOR (Institute for Religious Works) had to publish the 2012 budget, showing a profit of 86.6 million euros. If you want to know the current budget, see the 2015 report published on the official portal.

7. The Sanpietrini

In the past, in the days when the Church celebrated its most solemn feasts, the dome of the St. Peter’s Basilica was illuminated with a flame of fire: the pans on which the fire burned were lit by so-called sanpietrini, who climbed along the dome’s curves. The remarkable ability of these intrepid climbers was an object of admiration for foreigners, who considered the enterprise possible only by those who had been practicing it since the youth.

The sanpietrini word is used also for the blocks of leucitite (an eruptive rock), also called flint or paving stone, used to make the typical Roman pavement.

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