Jupiter, Roman God: Facts & Myths

Jupiter, Roman God: Facts & Myths
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  • 0:01 Jupiter - Roman God
  • 0:37 Origin Myth
  • 2:03 Jupiter, Juno, and Io
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the myths and origins of the most powerful of all Roman gods, Jupiter, and the interesting Roman culture that developed around the god.

​!!!Jupiter - Roman God

Jupiter is an enormous planet. The fifth planet from the sun, Jupiter is so big that just over 1,300 Earths could fit inside of it! It is not surprising, then, that the Roman god with such a gigantic planet to his name could afford to throw his weight around a bit.

Indeed, Jupiter was the most powerful god in Roman mythology. He was similar in function and image to the Greek god Zeus, who ruled over the world and the gods from Mt. Olympus. This is because the Romans loved Greek stories and culture, and many Roman gods were simply appropriated from Greek mythology and given a Latin name.

Origin Myth & Importance to Roman Culture

According to Roman mythology, Jupiter was originally the son of Saturn, an all-powerful supreme deity whom Jupiter overthrew to take control of the universe. Jupiter also had two brothers, and in order to avoid the same fate as Saturn, Jupiter gave his brothers sectors of the universe over which to rule. The three brothers struck an agreement: Neptune took control of the sea, Pluto the underworld, and Jupiter kept the earth and the heavens for himself.

As a result, Jupiter was often worshipped in Rome as the deity who controlled the weather and nature. He was frequently portrayed in both Roman and popular depictions as hurling thunderbolts down from the sky, like particularly terrifying cameo in Disney's Fantasia. The message? Do not piss off Jupiter.

The thunderbolt-wielding Jupiter was even more powerful in Roman mythology than Zeus was in Greece. Unlike Zeus, Jupiter could not be affected by the antics and mischief of other gods. Zeus, for example, was partially subject to the will of the Fates: ancient Greek goddesses of destiny who controlled the humanity's 'threads of life.' Jupiter had no such constraints. He was often worshipped as Optimus Maximus, roughly translated to 'all-good, all-powerful.' Unsurprisingly, as the most powerful god in Roman mythology, conquering Roman armies often gave thanks to Jupiter, in this case referred to as Optimus Victor.

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