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Jupiter (mythology)

Related subjects: Divinities; Myths

Background Information

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"Jupiter et Thétis" by Jean Ingres, 1811.

In Roman mythology, Jupiter (Iuppiter in Latin) held the same role as Zeus in the Greek pantheon. He was called Juppiter Optimus Maximus Soter (Jupiter Best, Greatest, Saviour); as the patron deity of the Roman state, he ruled over laws and social order. He was the chief god of the Capitoline Triad, with Juno and Minerva. In Latin mythology Jupiter is the father of Mars. Therefore, Jupiter is the grandfather of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

Iuppiter, originating in a vocative compound derived from archaic Latin Iovis and pater (Latin for father), was also used as the nominative case. Jove is a less common English formation based on Iov-, the stem of oblique cases of the Latin name. Additionally, linguistic studies identify his name as deriving from the Indo-European compound * dyēus- pəter- ("O Father God"), the Indo-European deity from whom also derive the Germanic *Tiwaz (from whose name comes the word Tuesday), the Greek Zeus, and the Vedic equivalent, Dyaus Pita.

The name of the god was also adopted as the name of the planet Jupiter, and was the original namesake of Latin forms of the weekday known in English as Thursday but originally called Iovis Dies in Latin, giving rise to jeudi in French, jueves in Castilian, giovedì in Italian and dijous in Catalan.

Epithets of Jupiter

  1. Jupiter Ammon (Jupiter was equated with the Egyptian deity Amun after the Roman conquest)
  2. Jupiter Caelestis ("heavenly")
  3. Jupiter Fulgurator ("of the lightning")
  4. Jupiter Laterius ("God of Latium")
  5. Jupiter Lucetius ("of the light")
  6. Jupiter Pluvius ("sender of rain") See also Pluvius
  7. Jupiter Stator (from stare meaning "standing")
  8. Jupiter Terminus or Jupiter Terminalus (defends boundaries). (See also Terminus)
  9. Jupiter Tonans ("thunderer")
  10. Jupiter Victor (led Roman armies to victory)
  11. Jupiter Summanus (sender of nocturnal thunder) (See also Summanus)
  12. Jupiter Feretrius ("who carries away [the spoils of war]")
  13. Jupiter Optimus Maximus (best and greatest)
  14. Jupiter Brixianus (Jupiter equated with the local god of the town of Brescia in Cisalpine Gaul (modern North Italy))
  15. Jupiter Ladicus (Jupiter equated with a Celtiberian mountain-god and worshipped as the spirit of Mount Ladicus)
  16. Jupiter Parthinus or Partinus (Jupiter was worshiped under this name on the borders of north-east Dalmatia (Croatia) and Upper Moesia (Bulgaria), perhaps being associated with the local tribe known as the Partheni)
  17. Jupiter Poeninus (Jupiter was worshiped in the Alps under this name, around the Great St Bernard Pass, where he had a sanctuary)
  18. Jupiter Solutorius (a local version of Jupiter worshipped around the Castile area in Spain; he was syncretised with the local Iberian god Eacus)
  19. Jupiter Taranis (Jupiter equated with the Celtic god Taranis)
  20. Jupiter Uxellinus (Jupiter as worshipped in Austria, as a god of high mountains)

Capitoline Jupiter

The largest temple in Rome was that of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill. Here he was worshipped alongside Juno and Minerva, forming the Capitoline Triad. Jupiter was also worshipped at Capitoline Hill in the form of a stone, known as Iuppiter Lapis or the Jupiter Stone, which was sworn upon as an oath stone. Temples to Juppiter Optimus Maximus or the Capitoline Triad as a whole were commonly built by the Romans at the centre of new cities in their colonies.

The building was begun by Tarquinius Priscus and completed by the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, although it was inaugurated, by a tradition recorded by the historians, on September 13, at the beginning of the Republican era, 509BCE.

The temple building stood on a high podium with an entrance staircase to the front. On three of its sides it was probably surrounded by a colonnade, with another two rows of pillars drawn up in line with those on the façade of the deep pronaos which precedes the three cellae, ranged side by side in the Etruscan manner, the central one being wider than the other two.

The surviving remains of the foundations and of the podium, most of which lie underneath Palazzo Caffarelli, are made up of enormous parallel sections of walling made in blocks of grey tufa-quadriga stone (cappellaccio) and bear witness to the sheer size of the surface area of the temple's base (about 55 x 60 m).

On the roof a terracotta auriga, made by the Etruscan artist Vulca of Veii in the 6th Century BCE, commissioned by Tarquinius Superbus; it was replaced in 296BCE, by a bronze one. The cult image, by Vulca, was of terracotta; its face was painted red on festival days ( Ovid, Fasti, 1.201f). Beneath the cella were the favissae, or underground passages, in which were stored the old statues that had fallen from the roof, and various dedicatory gifts.

The temple was rebuilt in marble after fires had worked total destruction in 83BCE, when the cult image was lost, and the Sibylline Books kept in a stone chest. Fires followed in 69CE, when the Capitol was stormed by the supporters of Vitellius and in 80CE.

In front of the steps was the altar of Jupiter (ara Iovis). The large square in front of the temple (the Area Capitolina) featured a number of temples dedicated to minor divinities, in addition to other religious buildings, statues and trophies.

Its dilapidation began in the fifth century, when Stilicho carried off the gold-plated doors and Narses removed many of the statues, in 571CE.

Juppiter Tonans

Juppiter Tonans, possibly reflecting the cult image of the temple of Juppiter Tonans ( Prado)

Juppiter Tonans ("Thundering Jove") was the aspect (numen) of Jupiter venerated in the Temple of Juppiter Tonans, which was vowed in 26BCE by Augustus and dedicated in 22 on the Capitoline Hill; the Emperor had narrowly escaped being struck by lightning during the campaign in Cantabria. An old temple in the Campus Martius had long been dedicated to Juppiter Fulgens. The original cult image installed in the sanctuary by its founder was by Leochares, a Greek sculptor of the 4th Century BCE. The sculpture at the Prado (illustration) is considered to be a late first century replacement commissioed by Domitian. The Baroque-era restoration of the arms gives Jupiter a baton-like scepter in his raised hand.

In language

It was once believed that the Roman god Jupiter (Zeus in Greece) was in charge of cosmic Justice, and in ancient Rome, people swore to Jove in their courts of law, which lead to the common expression "By Jove!", still used as an archaism today. In addition, "Jovial" is a somewhat common adjective still used to describe people who are jolly, optimistic, and buoyant in temperament.

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