It is impossible to visit the ancient cities of the Mediterranean without thinking about the importance of the all-too-human early gods.
Back before they were relegated to the status of myths, they were as alive and real to the people as say Christ might be to today’s faithful Christians. A primary difference was their misbehavior. They became involved in feuds, had affairs, became jealous, drank too much, etc. Other than the fact they were immortal and extremely powerful, they might be a neighbor… or live even closer to home. (Grin)
If they liked you, they could be your best buddy… make you healthy, wealthy and wise. But if they disliked you, watch out! They were like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. “When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.” ( From a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
So it isn’t surprising that the ancient folks of the Mediterranean spent a great deal of energy and money trying to stay on the good side of their gods. Some of the world’s greatest art was created in their honor and whole herds of castrated animals were sacrificed and cooked to keep them smiling. Interestingly, the smoke from the cooking meat seemed to satisfy the gods. Mere mortals consumed the flesh. As the old saying goes, “Man is nothing, if not practical.”
The Romans, who lacked creativity, obtained their gods wholesale from the Greeks, only changing their names to sound more Latin. Zeus with his fiery lightning bolt became Jupiter, his wife/sister Hera, became Juno, and his daughter Athena, who sprang fully armed from his head and gave him a headache, became Minerva. And of course there was a whole pantheon of other gods.
Each of these gods had a role to play. If you wanted to kick someone’s tail, Jupiter was your ‘man.’ Juno could help you through a difficult childbirth. If you needed more wisdom, and who among us doesn’t, Minerva was there for you. There was no one stop shopping like today’s church goers enjoy.
The gods did gain more power as they aged, however. They took on the roles, and sometimes personalities, of the earlier gods they replaced. Juno, for example, was responsible for both “loosening a bride’s girdle” and protecting the money of the Roman Empire. In her latter role she was the patron Goddess of the Royal Mint.
Jupiter, Juno and Minerva were worshipped as a triad in both Pompeii and Rome. Possibly it saved time and money. There was also a temple to Mercury in Pompeii. His earlier persona had been that of the super fast Greek God Hermes who carried messages for the gods and had wings on his feet. He was also the god of getting rich, luck, trickery and thievery. Hmmm.
NEXT BLOG: I will spend one more day wandering the streets of Pompeii including a stop off at the Basilica, Pompeii’s seat of government.
9 thoughts on “A Visit with the Gods of Pompeii… Seaports of the Mediterranean”
Ah, so now I know where my saying “you act like Minerva’ comes from.. seriously, not sure how/why/when I started saying that but do when people are acting rude..
Went back and looked for rude as a trait. Didn’t come across it specifically but she was a goddess of war as well as wisdom. I might become a little rude if I had to deal with both of those traits at the same time. (grin)
This is an incredibly great post amply matched by spectacular photography.
So, where did you see the motivation for folks to fashion their Gods on their own selves? How would you term them today? As Pagan worshippers? Though most of these pre christainity era religions have ceased to exist.
First, Thanks for your kind words, Shakti. I think we create our gods based on what we know. Early people were looking for a way to explain and control nature. I am not sure I would use the word pagan anymore than I would use the word primitive… just different.
Very Cool, Curt. I appreciate all the information. thanks 🙂
You are welcome Alice. I enjoy putting the blogs together and am always learning new information myself. Plus it lets me relive our experiences!
The workmanship in ancient statuary never ceases to amaze. Their edifices and systems likewise. I love that shot of Him reaching out for His column …
Perspective can be fun. 🙂