Roman Mythology: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Philip McMurry

Philip has taught college history, English, and political science, and he has a doctorate in American history.

This lesson deals with Roman mythology, examining the sources of the gods and myths, the purposes of the mythology and the role it played in the lives of the Roman people.

The Melting Pot

Have you heard of a melting pot? It's a large pot where different ingredients are blended together to form a single whole. America is known as a melting pot where people from many different countries came with their own unique stories, religions and cultures to form a new nation with a distinct identity. Did you know that ancient Rome had its own melting pot? Roman mythology was made up of myths (traditional stories about supernatural things), stories and gods from many places to create its own identity.

Greek Influences

As far as the Romans were concerned, the more gods the merrier. They believed that the more gods they honored, the more protection and favor they gained for themselves and the Roman state. Many of the Roman gods were borrowed from the mythology of the Greeks. Jupiter was the Roman counterpart of the Greek god Zeus, king of the gods, and Juno, his wife, known to the Greeks as Hera. The god of the sea was Neptune to the Romans but Poseidon to the Greeks. Ares, the god of war, became Mars in Rome while Eros became Cupid.

Diane in Front of Jupiter
Jupiter

Other Influences

Greece was not the only place Romans found their gods. As Rome conquered settlements throughout Italy, they would include the gods that the locals worshiped in their myths. Some of these were Castor, Pollux, and Fortuna. This helped to unite newly conquered people as their gods were enfolded into the Roman mythology, allowing them to continue their worship practices.

The Temple of Fortuna
Temple of Fortuna

Purpose of the Gods

The myths of the gods served several purposes. The first was to explain where Rome came from and how great it was because it was supposed to have been founded by Romulus, the son of Mars, after he killed his brother, Remus. This was used to justify their actions when they would conquer other people. The second was to reinforce ideas of social values and morals, including things such as heroism (bravery) and loyalty to the state. For example, Hercules is famous for his twelve labors, which were heroic tasks he completed over a series of twelve years.

Hercules Slaying the Centaurs
Hercules

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