1902 Encyclopedia > Jupiter


JUPITER was the chief god of the Roman state. The great and constantly growing influence exerted from a very early period on Rome by the superior civilization of Greece not only caused a modification of the Roman god after the analogy of Zeus, the supreme deity of the Greeks, but led the Latin writers to identify the one with the other, and to attribute to Jupiter myths which were purely Greek and never belonged to actual Roman religion. The Jupiter of actual worship was a Roman god; the Jupiter of Latin literature was more than half Greek. From the Latin this composite deity has passed into modern literature, and under the name of Jupiter is understood a god whose character is half Roman half Greek; while the legends, family history, and posterity attributed to him are wholly Greek. The identification was facilitated by the community of character which really belonged to Jupiter and Zeus as the Roman and Greek developments of the original Aryan conception of God; whereas the analogy between the non-Aryan Juno of Rome and the Aryan Hera of Greece was very slight. As we have in the two gods one original form differently developed by Roman and Greek genius, it is impossible to treat the one without frequent reference to the other; but it is equally necessary to treat them separately. The highest religious conceptions of each race are summed up in the characters of Jupiter and Zeus, and an account of them must be in reality an outline of the growth of religious thought among Romans and Greeks.

Every influence which affected the growth of the Roman state affected also the religion; and along with the development of Rome out of many elements we have a development of the state god Jupiter out of the original Aryan deity. The state, beginning with a mixture of Latin and Sabine population, soon acquired also Etruscan colonists, who were for a time the ruling element in the state; and, although the dynasty was expelled, yet the Etruscan civilization exerted an immense influence on Roman religion. Jupiter, the Vedic dyaus pitar, invoked by the Greeks as Zev Trárep, was the god both of Latins and Sabines. He was identified with the Etruscan Tina, and acquired something of his character. But another influence was felt at an early period. Greek civilization, spreading from Cumae, revolutionized Etruscan art and modified Etruscan thought. The influence was strongly exerted in Rome also. Under such various influences grew the Roman religion, and it was completed as a national institu-tion when Tarquín, the same king that received into Rome the prophetic books of the Cumaean Sibyl, enthroned Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline hill as the guardian and protector of the fully formed Roman state. Many separate cults of Jupiter, originating from different sections of the mixed state, still continued, but were quite overshadowed by the great worship. Several of these worships puzzled the antiquarians of later Rome, and it became a question how far their objects were identical with or distinct from Jupiter. The ceremonial of these ancient cults, of Vejovis the Asylum-god on the Capitol, of Jupiter Stator on the Palatine, of Dius Fidius or Semo Sancus on the Aventine, of Consus the god of good counsel who ruled in the lower world in the Circus, and of many others, would throw much light on the beginnings of the Roman state ; but our information on the subject is very scanty. This being the case, we cannot assign to each influence its exact share in developing the Roman con-ception, though certain elements may be distinguished as more primitive than others. It is also impossible to distin-guish accurately the different cults of Jupiter.

The original naturalistic element, the Grseco-Italian god whose power is embodied in the phenomena and the cyclic changes of the heavens, never disappeared. Jupiter or Diespiter is under various epithets, Lucetius, Pluvius, &c, the god of clear and clouded sky, of light and darkness, of thunder and rain. By the proper ceremonies he can be drawn down in lightning to the earth, as Elicius and Indiges, to supply it with rain and springs. Every place which he strikes with the lightning is marked as his own, and is surrounded with a wall to keep off the profane from holy ground. As Averruncus and Depulsor, Jupiter pro-tects men from the effects of the portents that he himself sends from heaven. Through such portents he also reveals his will to men, and proper interpretation of them will enable men to walk securely before heaven. There can be little doubt that this character as revealer of fate is almost wholly Etruscan, as all the rules of interpretation came from that people. A stone, the symbol of the thunderbolt, was the old symbol of the god, and never became wholly obsolete; hence the phrase per Jovem lapidem jurare. Among trees the oak, among birds the woodpecker, were originally sacred to him; but afterwards the eagle and other symbols were, under Greek influence, associated with Jupiter Capitolinus. The identity of many of these attri-butes with those of the Greek Zeus is obvious. Equally striking is the double character of god both among the dead and among the living which originally belonged to both gods, and was from different causes lost sight of in both cases. In Rome Etruscan influence changed the old views about the nature of the future world; and only some ceremonies, understood by neither priests nor people, preserved the original idea. In nothing was Etruscan influence more conspicuous at Rome than in the gloomy views of the future world that it introduced. The priest of Jupiter, flamen Dialis, might not touch a corpse; if his wife, the flaminica, died he lost his office. His life was complicated by a multitude of prohibitions : he must not touch a dog or a she-goat, nor see an army, nor take off his pointed cap, nor leave the city for a night, and so on. Violation of any rule, even by accident, entailed impurity on himself and on the whole state, and in some cases made him forfeit his office.

A moral side in the Roman conception of God is apparent at a very early period, and probably was never wholly wanting. Jupiter is the fatherly ruler of mankind: he protects all the higher elements of human society, guards the sanctity of oaths, the rights of strangers and suppliants, the unity of the state, and the intercourse with other peoples. When a foreign state had injured Rome, it was forbidden to begin war without a formal declaration by the fetiales or heralds, the ministers of Jupiter. Headed by the pater patratus populi Romani, they appealed to Jupiter to witness that they had been wronged, and denounced ruin on the wrong-doers. Having thus through his representa-tive on earth solemnly warned the guilty, the god as Victor led his people to conquest. When the army returned, their entry was a religious ceremonial in honour of Jupiter. The general, as representative of Jove, was borne on a gilded chariot drawn by four white horses through the Porta Triumphalis to the temple on the capitol, where he offered a solemn sacrifice to the god, and laid on his knees the victor's laurels. In the ceremony the victorious general was invested with the purple toga, the tunica palmata, the sceptre and crown of gold, which belong to a god not to a man ; while the four-horse chariot itself is the symbol of apotheosis. So the spolia opima were dedicated by the general who won them to Jupiter Feretrius in the Capitol. Also to Jupiter, as supreme god of the state, the consuls sacrificed when they assumed office, and the young men when they put on the toga virilis. The Ides of the month were always sacred to Jupiter.
The chief festivals celebrated in honour of Jupiter were the Ludi Romani and the Ludi Magni, the Ludi Capitolini instituted in honour of the deliverance of Rome from the Gauls, and the Ludi Plebeii instituted to commemorate the reconciliation between the two orders in the state. In all of them there was included a feast of the magistrates and senators in the Capitol, to which the three deities, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, were invited, and places were left for them. Outside of Rorne the chief cultus of Jupiter was that on the Alban mount, where Jupiter Latiaris had been the god who guarded the league of the thirty Latin cities. When Rome destroyed, or rather absorbed, this league, she kept up the worship that had hallowed it. The Feriae Latinee were celebrated every year by the consuls on a day appointed by themselves before they went forth to war. Accompanied by representatives of the Latin cities, they offered a sacrifice of white oxen to Jupiter. Other festivals of Jupiter show his old character as patron of agriculture, especially the different feasts called Vinalia; in this character Liber, who was once only a form of Jupiter, had almost entirely supplanted him. The word liber, originally an epithet of the chief god, gradually acquired distinct personality, and became the name of a god who was assimilated to the Greek Dionysus.

The Romans had in themselves none of the anthropomorphic Greek spirit: while Greek gods were concrete personal beings, Roman gods were almost pure abstractions. The personal element was not wholly wanting, for the gods were conceived as distinguished by sex, and as possessing names which must be concealed lest enemies should know and use them. But to the Roman the gods were little more than spiritual principles of earthly things; each man had his genius, the wood had its Silvanus. There was no mythology,—no marriages and births of gods, no family relationships. But when Greek influence became powerful, and the Italian deities Saturnus and Ops had been identified with Cronos and Rhea, Jupiter like Zeus was called their son, and the Greek tales about the conduct of Zeus to his parents were applied to the Latin god. On the Capitol Jupiter was enthroned between Juno on the left and Minerva on the right. The two goddesses now became his wife and his daughter. In like manner the Roman poets attributed to Jupiter all the legends about Zeus, and invented new tales and new amours on Italian soil after the analogy of the Greek. The artistic rendering of the conception of Jupiter is wholly borrowed from the Greek, and can be dealt with only in treating of the Greek deity. The first temple on the Capitol was built after the Etruscan model; but, when it was destroyed in 83 B.C., it was rebuilt in Greek style. (w. M. RA.)

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