Most Roman gods have their counterparts among the Greek gods. The Greek gods, as a rule, had a “pacifist” attitude and possessed many human characteristics. The Roman gods, in turn, were their opponents. Their size was supposed to arouse fear, and some of them had greater contact with the army and war.
Let me start with Jupiter. Like the Greek Zeus, he was the ruler of heaven and earth and the lord of gods and people. With time, however, he became the patron of the Latin Union. It was a political union of 30 tribes of the Apennine Peninsula, headed by Latins. It was created around the 6th century BCE and survived until 496 BCE It was then that he was defeated by the Romans in the Battle of Lake Regillus. The Romans, with the defeat of the Union, took over the cult of Jupiter. Over time, due to numerous victories, Jupiter became the patron saint of warriors and the disposition of war.
Many military holidays were devoted to him, such as: New Year (Anno Novo), when the consul who was in office made solemn sacrifices not only to Jupiter but also Juno, Minerva and Salus “for the well-being of the Republic and the Senate “(pro salute rei publicae et senatu) in the coming war; April ides (Ides Aprilis), which were dedicated to Jupiter the Conqueror (Iuppiter Victor), Jupiter the Invincible (Iuppiter Invictus) and Jupiter the Liberator (Iuppiter Liberator). Devoted titles testify that the Romans thanked Jupiter for looking after their military during armed conflicts. Another military holiday was the June nones on the 27th of each month, dedicated to Jupiter, the Refuge of the Refuge (Iuppiter Stator), which was to fill the legionaries with the courage to endure the battlefield in the face of the enemy.
Minerva, daughter of Jupiter, was rather involved in trade and crafts. However, her attributes (i.e. full armour, with a shield and a spear) show that she did not forget about the craftsmanship and became the protector of Roman legionaries.
God Mars was the true god of war, whose enormity of strength and power inspired fear and fear everywhere among the Roman people. Nevertheless, it was believed that Mars always accompanies warriors in battle and gives them strength and encouragement with its presence. With this god, there is a hall ritual, which consisted of pontifex maximus drawing a sacred spear (attribute of Mars) and uttering meaningful words: Mars vigila! (Mars, stay awake!). This act symbolically started the war. Then members of the hall brotherhoods, dressed in the costumes of old Italian warriors and armed with sacred shields (ancilia), passed through the city performing a ritual “war dance.” This ritual was performed twice a year: in March and October on the 19th of a given month. It marked the symbolic beginning and end of hostilities.
Janus was a god with two faces. He performed many functions, but he was best known for being the guardian of entry and exit (he had custody of doors and gates). For this reason, a symbolic gate was built for him – Janus Geminus, which was a small building with two gates. Opening its doors marked the period of military campaigns. In turn, when they were closed, there was a period of peace. From that moment on, Janus also took care of those who went on a war campaign. It was so because he was not only the guardian of the door but also the guardian of those who enter and exit through it.
Together with their conquests, the Romans annexed not only territories but also sometimes “other” gods. The adoption of alien gods, began at the end of the First Punic War (264-241 BCE), when the Romans moved the statue of the Carthaginian goddess Astarte from Mount Erx in Sicily to Rome, where she was then venerated as Venus.
Another known case was the importation of the Phrygian goddess Cybele in 204 BCE during the war with Hannibal. One may wonder what the Romans could aim for in these practices. The most accurate answer will be to compare the sons of the wolf to the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, where it was popular to incorporate other gods into your mythology. Such activity was probably aimed at bribing the god in question. The Romans, encouraging a given god with promises to provide him with worship and a dignified place to stay (building a tabernacle for him), in return asked him to stand on the side of Rome from now on. In this way, the morale of the enemy was brought to a decline, or, as in the case of Cybele, it was to provide Rome with help in surviving the cataclysm.
Myths are also saturated with hostilities, which was supposed to explain the nature of the Romans to fight wars. The epic “Aeneid” of Virgil tells of how Aeneas, son of Anchises, leaves the dying Troy to find a new homeland, as predicted. As Troy fell at the hands of the Achaeans (Greeks), and the Romans considered themselves descendants of a defeated nation, they became their avengers. During the journey of Aeneas, he receives a prophecy from Apollo that his descendants will have a great future and power over the world when they settle in a new homeland (Italy).
During his journey, he arrives at the coast of Africa, where he meets and becomes the object of love for the queen of Carthage Dido. However, by order of Jupiter, he is forced to abandon his mistress, who, before his departure, curses him and his entire tribe, and then commits suicide. This event symbolically foretold a series of conflicts between Rome and Carthage, culminating in the victory of the former. After these events, Aeneas reaches Italy, thus beginning the beginning of the Roman nation.
The myth about Sabines, in turn, tells about Romulus, who, after founding the city, is looking for wives for its inhabitants (mainly men). After initial unsuccessful and peaceful attempts, he uses a trick, kidnapping women from neighbouring tribes during the feast. Then there is a bloody war, which is stopped by the Sabinki, ultimately leading to a compromise end to the conflict. From this myth, we can get to know Rome as fighting at the beginning of its history with numerous Italian tribes. Contrary to the myth, after long battles, these tribes are conquered and forced to accept the harsh terms of peace. This puts an end to the myth of Rome, in which he was able to alleviate conflicts by peaceful means, without the use of a sword.
Ritual of declaration of war
This ritual (rerum repetitio) was performed by the college of fetiales. It consisted of 20 priests, belonging to old families, who performed their duties for life. The activity of fetiales was surrounded by a deep mystery. They performed various rituals, uttered magical formulas, the meaning of which was understandable only to the initiated. They were distinguished by a special type of woollen clothing and headbands. This ritual was a form of claiming redress or compensation. Pater patratus, an elected representative of the Phetics College, dressed in a wool strand of hair, with a sceptre and flint (the symbol of Jupiter) in his hand, was accompanied by one of the fetiales carrying grass uprooted on Capitoline Hill, out of the city into enemy territory. They were often accompanied by a crowd of people. There he presented Rome’s demands using ritual expressions. There he was smashing a lump of earth with a stone, symbolically showing the punishment that awaits those who have offended the goddess Roma. He presented his demands at the border, then to the first inhabitant of the land he met, then at the gates of the hostile city, and finally at the forum in the presence of local administrators. If the expectations of the Romans were not met, the priest waited thirty-three days to make amends for the offence on the part of the enemy. In the event of no reply, the Fezs reported it to the Roman king or, during the times of the republic, to the Senate and the People, who had the right to declare war.
When the conflict could not be finally resolved by peaceful means, pater patratus went to the border and threw a spear, tanned at the end and soaked in blood, from the dogwood into enemy territory. At the same time, the phético called all the gods to witness that they had suffered insults and insults at the hands of the enemy. The war started in this way was called a justified war (bellum iustum) because it was declared according to the ritual. The war that was not so declared was known as robbery (latrocinium) and it was the wrath of the gods to unleash it.
The Romans, as god-fearing and resourceful people, tried not to endanger their gods, because they believed that they help them win in battles and support them in war. Therefore, they tried to bring about such a situation that the enemy would initiate hostilities. Such a situation was achieved through various kinds of provocations, sometimes with the participation of priests or members of the senate. The gods were often silent, which was a sign of acceptance of new conflicts.