JUPITER

Roman god

Jupiter was the Roman god of the sky. His temple on Rome’s Capitoline Hill was the focal point of important rituals* and festivals. He is often depicted wearing white, holding a scepter, and accompanied by an eagle. The scepter, the Roman symbol of power, showed his position as the supreme deity.

Like the Greek god Zeus, Jupiter evolved from the Indo-European sky-god Diespiter, meaning “day-father.” He was responsible for the weather, especially violent storms accompanied by torrential rain and lightning. He was also associated with agriculture and was worshiped when the grapes were harvested. Jupiter was also god of oaths and treaties. As the wielder of thunderbolts, he could strike a liar dead.

The cult of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (Jupiter the best and the greatest) was begun by the Etruscans. In Rome, he became the god of the Roman state. He shared his temple on the Capitoline with the two goddesses Juno (the Etruscan fertility goddess) and Minerva (goddess of wisdom and patroness* of crafts). Government officials offered sacrifices to Jupiter as they began their term in office, and victors offered him the spoils of war after their triumphal* march into the city. The Senate met in Jupiter’s temple, thus giving Jupiter special political significance. No political action could be carried out without his favorable judgment. The choices and decisions of the Roman people were blessed by him.

Several important festivals were held in Jupiter’s honor. The Ides of November was marked by a banquet in his honor attended by Rome’s patroness goddess or woman of influence who guards, protects, or supports a person or city triumphal refers to the ancient Roman ceremony during which a victorious general enters the city elite. As the chief god of Rome, Jupiter plays a major role in Roman literature, including Vergil’s Aeneid., Horace’s Odes, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. (See also Cults; Divinities; Festivals and Feasts, Roman.)

* ritual regularly followed routine, especially religious

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