When Rome conquered Greece, rather than abolishing the Greek’s religion, they, like many groups before and after including the Christians in Rome, ascribed the existing gods of the Greeks to aspects of their own mythology.
This was particularly easy for the Romans, as the Greek religion bore many similarities to their own, in fact, had likely inspired their own. The king of the gods in Greece, Zeus, would be attributed to the Romans’ god Jupiter, a god of a similar nature. Ares would become Mars, Aphrodite would become Venus, Poseidon would become Neptune, Athena would become Minerva, and the list goes on.
The reason behind absorbing the religion of the Greeks rather than replacing it outright was simple. If conquerors take over your empire and strip you of your worship, they will be met with force and rebellion. In order to secure a more thorough and a much more peaceful transfer of power, the Romans would simply assimilate the gods and myths of the Greeks into their own system of belief.
This tactic has been used by conquerors and religious groups throughout the ages, notably by Christians. Once a powerful group, and no longer quite so persecuted in Rome, the Christians adopted the pagan holidays as their own. Although Christ is said to have been born in the summer or early fall, the Christians moved the date of his birth to be celebrated on December 25th, over the Roman pagan holiday of Saturnalia and also the birthdate of the Egyptian god Horus (among many others). Likewise, the festival of Easter which is celebrated as the resurrection of Christ is based off of the spring equinox and a pagan festival of fertility (and others). The festival celebrated Ishtar, a Babylonian goddess of fertility who was killed and resurrected.
By adapting the gods of the Greeks, the Romans ensured that the people would not rebel to nearly as great an extent over their rule. In fact, the Romans tended to respect the ancient Greeks and their manner of worship, and even added solely Greek legends and myths to their own pantheon.
This was quite out of character at the time for the Roman conquerors who often demanded more than simple fealty to the emperor. The Greeks were allowed to continue practicing their religion as they had done before this time.
It has been a long journey. From Chaos to Heracles, from the birth of the Olympian gods to the Roman adaptation of the Greek religion, the culture and mythology of the Greeks never ceases to fascinate people from all over the world.
We have read of heroes and heretics, gods and men. The tales of Greek mythology are vast and intricate, describing not only the forces of nature, but the innermost being of the Greek people, indeed, of all people in their own inventive way.
The Greek perception of death is visited by the dreaded gorgon Medusa. Life is brought forth by Prometheus. Not to mention all of the trials of Odysseus as he searches for his way home.
In learning about other cultures, we learn not only about our past, but our present as well. There is a common thread within all of us, and that can be found in the way that we relate to each other. The world is often beset by troubled times, but there is always the opportunity to come together through understanding and a commonality which runs deeper than any disagreement or perceived difference.
Whether you read this text casually or for the purpose of gaining specific knowledge of the ideas, philosophies, myths and manners of the Ancient Greeks, I certainly hope that you found in this book the object of your intention.
It has been a great pleasure to share this wonderful collection of Greek myths with you, the reader, and I hope that you will join in further reading of the other books in this series. The other books in this series include a book regarding the history of ancient Greece, along with one book each of ancient Egypt’s history and mythology. I hope to meet you again through the age-old sharing of ideas that is the connection between myth and history, science and religion.