The Greek and Roman Mythologies have fascinated human beings for centuries, inspiring books, movies, research, and conversation among those who want to learn more and who want to share the fables of the Gods and Goddesses. Their stories (myths or mythos, depending on the origin), their triumphs and failures, and their imminent Immortality has been the influence of many other religions, including Paganism and Norse Mythology.
Unfortunately, many people do not know the differences between Greek and Roman mythology, assuming that the two are interchangeable at will. In reality, the two are very different from one another, and capture almost opposing life values that are central to the people of the time. Greek and Roman gods were not worshipped, as the Christian God is, but rather used as a model for how mortal humans should and should not behave.
The Greeks came first, some 1,000 years before the Romans. Their most appreciated work, the Iliad, was distributed 700 years before the Roman’s most popular manuscript, the Aeneid. The Iliad was based on at least 300 years of myths and stories, which were gathered from the tales passed down by mortal observants, which certainly correlates with the Christian Bible. It was not meant as a holy scripture, however, but as a recorded history of the Greek Gods and Goddesses, who were revered by men during that time.
The Greeks were focused primarily on life on earth, versus the eventuality of the afterlife. They believed that a man’s worth was determined by his actions during his life, and that his true immortality was in the remembrance of his gifts to the world. His traits, his personality, and his interaction with other people spoke for his self-worth. Gods and Goddesses were based on human personality traits – such as Love, Honor, Dignity, and Hatred – and their actions in myths were symbolic of the actions of men. Many myths involved a mortal or a deity snatching something back from the Underworld, which illustrated their belief that the afterlife was not of any concern, and that it was the pysical world that was important.
Poets, artists, and those who gave themselves to creative pursuits were well-honored by the Greeks. They held creativity above physical works in the mortal and mythical world; myths reflected those personal traits and were meant to expose the positive and negative aspects of humanity. Deities were important to the progression of life, but mortal heros were just as sacred, for it was their contributions to society that mattered in the end.
Individualism was also very important; the actions of a group were not as consequential as the actions of an individual. Men were responsible for their own well-being, and could not be bothered by the mistakes of the masses.
Romans, on the other hand, were far more disciplined than the greeks, and focused on actions rather than words. Whereas the Greeks revered the poet, the Romans held up the warrior as the epitome of sanctity, and rewarded bravery and risks taken by both mortals and deities. They strongly felt that good deeds on earth would be well-received in Heaven, and they strove to earn their place among the Gods in the afterlife. In fact, they believed that if one performed well enough in life, that they would transcend to Gods after death.
The Romans adopted many of the myths and deities of the Greeks, though they changed names and circumstances to support their own beliefs. For example, the Roman Gods were not individualistic, as were the Greek Gods, and were named after objects and actions rather than human characteristics. Myths were rooted in the brave, heroic acts of the Gods, and rarely displayed the lives of mortals, because mortal life was not as important as that after death.
Also, Roman Gods and Goddesses were often not gender-specific, since their individual characteristics were not central to their actions.
Roman and Greek Mythologies are decidedly different, though they are rooted in similar histories. A study of their individual characteristics illustrates the values and beliefs of the Greeks and Romans respectively, and can offer a better understanding of how these myths and anecdotes originally came about.