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Jupiter, Roman King of the Gods

We know Jupiter better as a planet in our solar system but what was Jupiter the god's role in Roman mythology?

A statue of the Roman god Jupiter, also known as Luppiter and Jove on display at the Vatican.

A statue of the Roman god Jupiter, also known as Luppiter and Jove on display at the Vatican.

Jupiter, Luppiter, Jove

The first thing to know about Jupiter, Luppiter or Jove, the most powerful Roman god, is that he was borrowed, most notably from Greek mythology. That would explain why he is almost identical to the Greek god Zeus. He has also been compared to Tiwas in German mythology, Diespieter in Italy's lore, Thor in Norse myths and to Sanskrit's Dyaus Pita, "Sky Father."

Luppiter as a name was derived from ancient Latin's lovis pater (pater being father) and the Indo-European term for father of the day which sounded similar, dyeus pater. Dyeus evolved from diu, meaning to shine, be bright. The sky god or sky father was considered the most powerful god in several mythologies.

The Romans believed that Jupiter controlled daylight and weather conditions, most notably thunder, lightning and storms. When lightning struck any position or building in or around Rome it was considered to have passed into Jupiter's ownership. A circular wall was constructed around the strike spot.

Symbolically, he was represented by a thunderbolt and the eagle. The Roman army used the eagle as their emblem. The oak tree was Jupiter's designated sacred tree.

Wall art of Jupiter/Zeus survives in Pompeii. Note the eagle, his emblem, at his feet.

Wall art of Jupiter/Zeus survives in Pompeii. Note the eagle, his emblem, at his feet.

Roman God of the Sky, Heavens and Justice

Jupiter was at the head of the powerful Capitoline Triad with Juno and Minerva as the guardians of the state. The Roman god of the sky and heaven held great political and judicial influence and was regarded as a god of protection, truth, social law and order. Most of his work was carried out on the Capitoline Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome.

His ordained day of the week was Thursday, hence the French word jeudi and the Italian giovedi, both references to Jupiter. The Latin phrase lovis dies translates as Jupiter's day. The English word jove came from Latin and the word jovial has its roots in Jupiter's other name and his happy manner. "By Jove" and other oaths to honour the god were sworn by Romans in court to confirm that their words reflected the truth. in the name of their head god. Later on, it was used as an exclamation similar to "my goodness."

Jupiter was certainly as virile as he was happy. His numerous romantic liaisons led to a myriad of children who played their own pivotal roles in Roman mythology, including Venus, Proserpine, Mercury, Minerva, Apollo and Diana.

The Capitoline Triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

The Capitoline Triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

How Jupiter Became the Supreme Roman God

Jupiter was the son of the sky god Saturn and Ops or Opis, the earth mother who was Saturn's sister. Saturn had apparently ousted their father Caelus (married to Terra Mater) to be the leader of the gods, and as he became more power-crazed, it was foretold that he would have a son who would displace him as the supreme god of all the Roman gods.

Saturn did not delight in the future predicted for him, so he devoured each of his children. However, when Jupiter was born, Ops hid him so that her latest arrival would not suffer the same horrific fate.

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She presented Saturn with a rock wrapped in cloths instead of his son. When Saturn ate the rock, he was forced to eject each of his other swallowed children from within his body to survive. Having been raised in secret, Jupiter came out of hiding and completed his destiny, overthrowing his father. The latter fled into exile, ensuring his siblings were free from fatherly tyranny.

Jupiter's brothers Neptune and Pluto were charged with maintaining order in the sea and the underworld, respectively as he looked after the sky.

Flamen Dialis, high priest and servant of Roman god Jupiter. This bust is in the Louvre, Paris.

Flamen Dialis, high priest and servant of Roman god Jupiter. This bust is in the Louvre, Paris.

Flamen and Flamenica Dialis

Flamen Dialis, the highest-ranking member of the Flamines, a fifteen strong clerical order with a deity each to work for, was devoted to and served Jupiter. He and his wife, Flamenica ensured that a ram was sacrificed each market day in honour of their god. Lambs, castrated rams and oxen were used on other designated sacrifice days in the Roman calendar. During war, every animal born was offered as a sacrifice to the mightiest god.

Certain rules had to be adhered to so that Jupiter remained content. Flamen had his own chair, which was an honour, but he was forbidden from riding a horse outside Rome. He could not have any dealings with the dead. Flamen's hat, an apex, could only be removed when under a roof so that he wouldn't be thought naked as he showed himself to the sky. His wife did not escape from Jupiter's rules. Whenever there was thunder and/or lightning Flamenica was compelled to stop what she was doing to soothe Jupiter.

Capitoline Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome and was Jupiter's seat of power.

Capitoline Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome and was Jupiter's seat of power.

Capitoline Hill, Rome

On the Capitoline Hill, the oldest known temple constructed and dedicated to Luppiter Optimus Maximus (the greatest, best Jupiter) officially opened on the 13th September 509 B.C. The foundations remain in the 21st century. Triumphant armies returning from battle would march past this temple, Jupiter's most impressive, in gratitude for their military victories.

The Feast of Jupiter, the Roman Games, the appointments of court officials, the senate and priests fell annually on the 13th September in reference to the temple's opening date.

Also at the hill were the stones and pebbles known as lapides siciles used to worship him. The Jupiter Stone was the most sacred, and it was used when Romans swore the most solemn of oaths.

Although Jupiter's position in religion faded from the time that Christianity arrived, Roman rulers still allowed him to be viewed as a protective god. He survives in mythology, and today museums and ruins provide tourist attractions at Capitoline Hill.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Joanne Hayle

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