I have read on occasion that they kept the pantheon out of admiration and/or to keep the peace with the newly conquered Greeks, but I have never seen any hard evidence or writings that say this in in fact true. Are there any historical records out there that confirm or deny this?

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    Please read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_mythology and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_ancient_Rome and afterward explain what is still unclear to you. Sep 3, 2013 at 22:38
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    Fine, then go to the sources. You can still use Wikipedia as a signpost to these sources, our you can check the references they give in their footnotes to see that the sources are summarized accurately. Sep 3, 2013 at 23:32
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    What evidence do you have that the Romans incorporated and renamed the Greek Pantheon as opposed to merely noting similarities between their existing gods and those worshipped by the Greeks? Sep 4, 2013 at 2:19
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    the Romans freely integrated any religion that would accept the existence of the already existing gods in their religion. The Greek pantheon was no exception, it was rather an example of normal procedures and processes in Roman religious society. Christianity was the exception, because of the toxic and exclusive nature of the religion, which rejected any acceptance of any other religion. And no, not turning that into an answer as the usual fools will just downvote it on general principle anyway.
    – jwenting
    Sep 4, 2013 at 3:20
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    @Eugene Seidel - I love using Wiki as a source. It's kind of weak-sauce in providing a clear answer here, though - the incorporation of Hellenistic religion into Roman religion is an interesting topic glossed over on the wiki pages for Hellenistic Religion, Roman Religion and Roman Mythology. It's got me chasing various sources, at anyrate. Apparently early Christian scholars were aware of this through the now-lost works of Varro? Interesting stuff. Sep 4, 2013 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


Humans are story tellers. We understand the world through stories, and spread the stories we like and make sense to us. As such, religion tends to be about stories. We have creation stories, thunder gods, gods intriguing amongst themselves, falling in love with humans, testing human devotion, etc. All stories designed to help humans to build a picture of reality that it can understand and accept.

Obviously then, the best of these stories will spread around, and be picked up no matter where they originally come from. As such there are stories in the Norse religion that clearly comes from the Greek mythology, and of course the famous flood story in the bible comes from older Sumerian flood myth. Polytheistic pantheons are also by nature somewhat similar. You'll have some sort of thunder god, a fertility goddess etc.

Contacts between Rome and Greece goes back to further than the roman empire, and before any historical sources of Roman mythology, and as such many of the stories would be the same already when the Roman empire started to spread. A good foreign story about Zeus the thunder god would be applied to local thunder gods. Romes admiration of Greek culture in general also meant that they were even more prone to add the Greek stories to their own gods, and after a while the difference was hardly discernible. Polytheistic religions also have no problems in adding new gods to their pantheon unless they conflict with existing gods.

This can make the list of existing gods rather huge, and as nobody can remember the minor differences between 20 thunder gods when you have several hundred gods to keep track of, you quickly start merging similar gods together. This can be traced back as far as 2nd or even 3rd millennia BC. An additional reason to identify two gods is that is increases the apparent reach and power of these gods by putting them not in conflict, but just two aspects or names of the same god.

In both Hinduism and ultimately also in Mesopotamian religion, this process in fact ended up with the declaration that all gods are ultimately only aspects and incarnations of the one god (Vishna or Krishna in Hindiusm and Ashur in Assyrian religion).

Although this process can more easily happen in polytheism as areas with polytheism more often will accept religious freedom, it can happen with monotheistic religions as well. Examples of this is the acceptance of Jesus into Islam, although he gets to be "demoted" to a prophet, to the multitude of universalist religions in existence today.

So in short, the answer to why the Romans incorporated the Greek pantheon into their own is rather "Why not?" It's a more difficult question to look at places where his did not happen and explain that.

  • you forget one thing: Rome traces its very founding back to the fall of Troy, claimed to have been founded by refugees from that city which was a Greek city, with Greek gods, mythology, and culture. So they would have a lot of overlap even if the names and details changed over the centuries of integration with Etruscan and other Italian tribes.
    – jwenting
    Sep 5, 2013 at 10:58
  • @jwenting Rome claimed to be founded by brothers who was raised by a wolf. What Rome claimed is not really that relevant IMO. ;-) Sep 5, 2013 at 11:06
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    yes, Romulus and Remus, who were supposedly descendents of refugees from Troy. That's how it's brought in the Aeneid, probably the most authoritive story about the founding of Rome there is. And a story that more often than not is incorrectly translated...
    – jwenting
    Sep 5, 2013 at 11:21
  • @jwenting With fourteen generations in between yes. And brought up by peasants. No Greek culture left there, even if that myth would have been true, which it obviously is not, especially since it's a Roman extension of a Greek hero-myth. It does come into this question though, as evidence of Romes admiration of Greek culture and their tendency to bring in Greek myths into their own mythology. Sep 5, 2013 at 12:00
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    +0 -3 votes? People what is wrong with you? Sep 7, 2013 at 7:26

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