Mythology is a collection of myths that a particular culture believes in and often attributes events of the past to supernatural powers. It is generally a collection of myths that explain the origin, traditions, rituals, and social practices followed in that culture. The word 'mythology' is often used to refer to ancient tales that have been passed from generation to generation through verbal tradition, or have been written down and preserved for centuries. Since the Christian era, the Greco-Romans started using the word myth to mean 'fable'. Roman mythology is one of the earliest ones.
The Greek mythology has largely influenced Roman mythology. However, Roman beliefs of the olden times were quite different from those of Greeks. Roman mythology of the olden times is composed of myths of gods and humans. Romans had many gods whom they worshiped. It is believed that they lived in fear of these gods.
Roman mythology contains many narratives about the origin of the city of Rome. Romulus and Remus are considered as the traditional founders of Rome. They were the twin sons of priestess Rhea Silvia. Romulus was the first to throne Rome. A legend says that Romulus and Remus were standing on two hills. A circle of birds hovered over Romulus, indicating him to be the king of Rome. Romulus created the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate. He populated Rome by the abduction of some women from the Sabine tribes. This resulted in the Roman population being a mixture of the Sabines and the Romans.
The gods in Roman mythology have been classified as di indigetes, the original Roman gods and the di novensides, gods that evolved as a result of specific needs or those that were adopted from other religions. Most of the daily chores of the common man were linked to gods. Jupiter was the ruler of all gods and was believed to hold thunderbolts in his hands. Vesta, the Goddess of the hearth and home was of great importance to the Romans. Mercury was supposedly the messenger of gods. Saturn was linked with sowing, Ceres with the growth of grain, and Pornoma with fruit. The trio of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus headed the Roman gods.
If the Romans conquered a new territory, they incorporated the local gods of the new territory into their mythology. Cybele, a Phrygian goddess who symbolized Mother Earth, was worshiped in Anatolia since the Neolithic times. In 203 BC, Romans included her in their goddesses. With the increase in the expanse of Rome, many gods were introduced to their culture. Diana, the Goddess of moon, and Hercules, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, were included in their mythology when the Romans conquered Italian territories.
The ancient Romans believed that every household was assigned a guardian god and they called it Lars. These guardian spirits were believed to stay with the family and influence their life. At the peak of the imperial system, emperor worship began to be practiced. This continued till the 4th century AD, until the Western Emperor Constantine removed emperor deification from Rome.
Greek and Etruscan mythologies have influenced the Roman religion. With the emergence of Christianity, Roman religion faded to a certain extent. Yet, modern-day traditions hold glimpses of the original Roman culture. Influences of different belief systems on the Romans have also influenced their mythology.