Ciao! We are a group of students from Geneva College and Azusa Pacific University studying in Rome, Italy. As part of our assignment, we are exploring the topic of Greco-Roman Mythology through various mediums and styles of art. Mythology is an integral part of Rome’s history and culture. It is expressed and conveyed in many ways including reliefs, painting, sculpture, and even as a reference to symbolism for important figures in Roman history.
The Roman Empire was one of the most influential and vast empires in the world. They were known for being a conglomerate of various cultures and religions. In fact, upon conquering or encountering a new civilization, the Romans would adopt gods or beliefs and mesh them into their own beliefs. This allowed them to have a stronger attachment to different peoples and cultures and to also “cover their bases” by worshiping all gods and not angering one so as to feel their wrath. Various temples were devoted to these gods and architecture in the Empire was vastly affected by this mythology. Many statues and sculptures that were erected for the public that were directly affected by mythology. The Pantheon was a temple for all the gods and Romans even worshipped gods that they didn’t know yet. So rather than sort through the extensive list of Roman deities, we decided to explore the primary areas or divisions of gods.
The primary divisions we have agreed upon as a group are; the Heavens, the Earth, the Underworld, and Love and War. The first three of these categories simply divide the gods by the realms in which they reside over or have power in. For the heavens, one will encounter the gods of Mount Olympus. The various gods from the heavens in this blog include Mercury, Apollo, Hera, and Zeus. These four different gods give not only an insight into some of the more powerful deities of Roman mythology, but also into the influence their depictions had on early Christian art. The second category occurs as one descends from the heights of Mount Olympus into the realm of the mortals. In this realm one will encounter heroes and gods that coexist in the mortal realm. Among the art pieces in this category we encounter the founders of Rome, the god of the earth and sea, an emperor portrayed as Hercules, and the tragedy of Laocoon. Now the final descent is made into the third main physical divisions of the gods. In this dark and mysterious realm resides the gods of the underworld. Among the various mythological characters encountered here are Hades and Death. Few study the art pieces in this realm and live to tell about it. In the final category of the Roman gods are the gods of love and war. In this category we have decided to explore the various ways in which the deities of war, Mars, and the deities of love, Venus and Cupid, are depicted in art. We agreed on including these two themes because of the integral role they play in human and, more specifically, Roman history. Perusing through our blog should give you a glimpse into major myths and tales of Roman mythology and the mediums that they are depicted in by various artists.
Roman mythology will be our primary focus with the occasional discussion of the Greek counterparts and the influence of the Greek culture on Roman religion. The interaction between the two cultures defines a large portion of European history, so the influences from one to the other have a wide impact. The Greeks were the first to perfect the human body in art but the Romans really made it what it was. The Romans went bigger and grander than the Greeks ever did or could. Throughout the years the Romans had interacted with the Greeks. We do not have a specific timeline from the first to the last image but the general time period will be from the establishing of the Roman empire to the time it fell. This covers from around 27 B.C. when Augustus founded the empire until 1453 A.D. when Constantinople fell. The art changed greatly across this period along with the religion. We have seen the Romans go from a mostly pagan to the center of Catholicism. Despite this, the ancient mythology has still has played a crucial part in the arts and the culture of the people.
Entry on “mythology,” The Classical Tradition, edited by Anthony Grafton, Glenn W. Most, and Salvatore Settis (Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 614 et passim.
Greek mythology”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2002.