Roman and Greek mythologies are rather similar. But they aren’t the same thing. Let’s take a look at some of the major differences between these two cultures and how one has inspired another.
Homer vs. Virgil
One of the first major differences between these two mythologies is in the original material. Firstly, Greek gods are older. If we take a look at two e of the most important poems from this era, we can see a couple of important things.
We are talking about The Iliad and The Odyssey. These two poems are allegedly written by Homer. The Iliad tells a story about the Trojan War and what happened during a decade-long siege of the city of Troy. It was written in the eighth century BC.
The second poem, The Odyssey, talks about the hero Odysseus (also known as Ulysses), and the aftermath of the Trojan War. The story was written between the eighth and seventh century BC.
On the other hand, we have Virgil, who wrote The Aeneid. The Aeneid is a Latin poem written between 29 and 19 BC. As we can see from the start, The Aeneid came 700 years after the two Greek poems.
The story tells us about Aeneas and his journey from Troy to Italy. Aeneas was a character from the Iliad, and he is a son of Anchises and Aphrodite.
It is obvious that Roman mythology is related to Greek mythos. For each god appearing in Roman myths, there is a Greek equivalent. But there are a couple of differences between the two mythologies.
Firstly, there was a heavy emphasis on the looks of Greek deities. We all know that Aphrodite was the most beautiful being in the world, and a similar thing can apply to the rest of the Pantheon. It is noticeable that Greeks put focus on their physical attributes, and each god has strong characteristics.
In Roman mythology, the focus was placed not on the physical appearance but on the characteristics of gods. As a result, their physical attributes were less noticeable and not nearly as strong as in Greek mythology.
Of course, if we take a look at statues and other depictions of Greek/Roman deities, we can see more than enough similarities. Just take a look at Mercury or Hermes. They look similar, and both are messengers of gods. However, there are still a couple of slight differences between the two. Mercury played a much larger role in carrying souls to Hades, while Hermes often delved in cleptomania and tricks.
Greek God Names vs. Roman God Names
The most obvious difference between the two mythologies is in names. While there are gods and goddesses with identical roles and stories, they always have different names.
Greek deities were decided by their human traits and characteristics. Since Greek myths are older, Roman used the existing Greek deities and assigned a Roman object to them. Roman counterparts were based on objects, and they had no gender.
Just looking at some of the most important Greek gods and goddesses, it is easy to notice a Roman counterpart.
For example, Greek deities like Zeus, Poseidon, and Cronus became Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn. Furthermore, Aphrodite, Ares, Hermes, and Hephaestus also have their doubles in Roman myths, and they are Venus, Mars, Mercury, and Vulcan. Of course, Roman deities inspired the names of planets in our solar system. On the other hand, people are more familiar with Greek myths and stories about deities.
Another major difference between Roman and Greek cultures is in mortal deeds. We all know the stories about mortal heroes and the importance they had in the stories and myths of ancient Greeks.
We have already mentioned Odysseus, and everyone knows Achilles, Hector, Perseus, and many others. Yes, some of them had godlike abilities, but they were mortal in the end (as Achilles proved). Greeks put a focus on good deeds and how even mortals can change the world and affect the course of the story. They emphasized the significance of these heroes and the things they did on earth.
In Roman culture, the situation was completely different. They did not put emphasis on mortals, and physical life on earth wasn’t as significant. One of the reasons for this difference is that Romans believed in the afterlife. They believed that mortals should aspire to be more like gods, and they used Roman gods and goddesses as examples of how to have a good life.
How Mortals of Greek Mythology and Roman Mythology Live Differently
Finally, the last thing we will focus on are mortals and how they were perceived in each mythology and culture. In Greek culture, gods and goddesses were unreachable by mortals. At the same time, they were based on human personality traits, and many of them had flaws.
However, they were still an ideal that can never be reached by mortals, and they will never be able to earn their place among gods. Their goal was to continue doing good work on earth and find a way to honor gods during their lifetime.
Once again, Roman culture was different. It might be due to the fact that it was a different time period and that there were hundreds of years between these two mythologies. While Romans also believed that gods and goddesses represented ideals, it was something achievable.
Someone who is honorable and leads a good life on earth would be able to go to the afterlife once their time on earth is over. Deities weren’t just an object of fascination and worship but an ideal to strive towards.
Of course, one might say that all these differences between two cultures are insignificant, and they would have a point. There are so many connecting points between the two religions (like Hercules and Heracles), and it is obvious that Roman culture was heavily inspired by Greek myths.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find differences no matter how small they are. All you need to do is know where to look.