Greek vs. Roman Pantheons

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Neither the gods nor the stories of Greek and Roman mythologies differ much; that is why the two are sometimes used interchangeably and labeled “Greco-Roman mythology,” as if they were identical. They are not entirely identical; every storyteller adds a different flavor to the stories they relate. Even two sources of Greek myth are sometimes in disagreement, so of course when the Romans adopted the mythology a few things were changed. However, the intricacies of the differences between the two are a lifetime’s work. For this project, it is enough to know that they do have differences which are sometimes minor and sometimes glaring. Anyone not completely obsessed with the study (and a few who are) usually lumps the two mythologies together. An easily identifiable example of this is Disney’s Hercules, which (among many other inaccuracies) identifies Hercules as the son of Zeus and Hera. Zeus and Hera were part of the Greek pantheon; Herakles was Zeus’s son. The Roman god who aligns with Zeus is Jupiter and Herakles became Hercules. The reason for the mash-up of names is simple: over time, the two mythologies have been used so interchangeably that the name Zeus is better known than Jupiter and Hercules is better known than Herakles.


While it would be nearly impossible to list every god, demigod, and important mythological figure, we can list the primary Greek gods (the Olympians) and their Roman counterparts, for a clearer understanding. There are traditionally twelve Olympians. Hestia was originally an Olympian, but later retired and granted her position to Dionysus. Poseidon and Hades were not always called Olympians, because they did not live on Olympus, but they are important figures and must be included in any list of important gods.


Metamorphoses concerns the Roman pantheon and mythology, but the influence of the Greeks cannot be ignored. With that in mind, the table below is a brief look at some of the correspondences.


|| Greek Pantheon
Roman Pantheon
Description of Primary Associations
Zeus
Jupiter
King of the Gods
Poseidon
Neptune
God of the Sea
Hestia
Vesta
Goddess of the Hearth
Hermes
Mercury
God of Travel, Commerce, and Dreams
Hera
Juno
Queen of the Gods—wife and sister of Zeus
Hephaestus
Vulcan
God of the Forge
Hades
Pluto
God of the Underworld and Wealth
Dionysus
Bacchus
God of Nature, Harvest, Wine, Madness, Ecstasy, and Dance (otherwise known as everything important…)
Demeter
Ceres
Goddess of Harvest and Fertility
Athena
Minerva
Goddess of Wisdom, Arts & Crafts, War, and the City of Athens
Artemis
Diana
Goddess of the Hunt
Ares
Mars
God of War
Apollo
Apollo
God of Light, Truth, Healing, and Music
Aphrodite
Venus
Goddess of Love and Beauty