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Roman Myths

Roman Myths Scene

What are Roman Myths?

A myth is a story that tries to explain the world and how it came to be. Roman myths often explain things that are political (such as how Rome was created) or have a moral lesson.

Roman mythology is a large collection of stories, started in Ancient Rome, and include the lives and adventures of lots of gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines. These are very similar to Greek gods and goddeses. That's because when the Roman Empire expanded, they adopted things from other cultures that they liked. When the Romans met the Greeks and heard all the stories about the Greek gods, they adopted all of them. They changed the names of the gods to make them Roman and changed some of the stories to make the gods act more like Romans.

Let's have a look at some of the most well-known Roman myths...

Roman Myths Mosaic

Cupid and Psyche

Once there was a king with three beautiful daughters. The youngest daughter, Psyche, was the most beautiful of them all. She was so beautiful that people started to worship her as the goddess of beauty instead of Venus. Venus became very jealous of this and asked her son, Cupid, to help her. Cupid had a magic bow and arrow and anyone who was shot by the arrow would fall in love with the first person they saw. 

Venus told Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with a horrible monster but Cupid accidentally scratched himself with his own arrow and he instantly fell in love with the beautiful princess. 

Psyche was so beautiful that men feared to be her husband. Her parents consulted an oracle to see what fate had in store for their daughter and were told that Psyche was to marry a hideous monster. They sent her away to a palace on top of a mountain where there were invisible servants and every type of luxury. Cupid wanted to be Psyche’s husband but he didn’t want her to see him so he visited her at night when she couldn’t see him. They had happy nights together but Psyche never saw him during the day. When her sister’s came to visit her at her magnificent palace they were jealous of the luxurious lifestyle she was living and wanted to ruin things for her so they persuaded Psyche to visit Cupid when he was sleeping, by telling her that her invisible husband was really a monster. Psyche wanted to see for herself but when she saw Cupid she was so entranced at his beauty that she dripped candle wax onto his shoulder and woke him. Cupid was furious and immediately left the palace and went back to live with the other gods. 

Poor Pysche was distraught and knew that only one person could help her: Venus. So she prayed to Cupid’s mother and begged her to help. Venus was still angry with Psyche so she set her four difficult tasks which Psyche managed to complete with the help of some of the other gods who took pity on her. Cupid realised what was going on and asked Jupiter if he could bring Psyche to the world of the gods. Jupiter agreed, forced Venus to stop her mean tricks and Cupid was finally able to bring his wife to live with him as a goddess. 

Roman Myths mosaic

Jupiter and Io

Jupiter was the king of the gods and very powerful. However, there was one person that he was slightly afraid of and that was his wife, Juno. Juno was the goddess of women and marriage and was the ideal woman. However, Jupiter had a roving eye and found many other women very attractive. 

One day, he spotted a lovely river nymph called Io and quickly fell in love with her. When Juno started to become suspicious, Jupiter turned Io into a white cow so that Juno would not be able to find her. But Juno was too clever for him and she knew that the cow was really Io. She asked Jupiter if she could keep the cow as a pet. Juno kept the cow under guard so that Jupiter couldn’t steal her away again. 

Jupiter sent his son Apollo to lull the guard to sleep so that Io could slip away. But when Juno heard about her escape she sent a gadfly (a fly that bites) after Io who was still disguised as a cow. Io ran as fast as she could and jumped into the sea hoping to drown the gadfly. 

She swam and swam until she got to Egypt where Juno, who now thought that Io had suffered enough, turned her back into her human form. Even though Juno left Io in Egypt, she did name the sea she jumped into after her and the Ionian Sea is still there today.  

Roman Myths Mosaic

Diana and Actaeon

Actaeon was a young man who was a skilled hunter. He loved to go hunting in the woods with his dogs, and his bow and arrow. One day he was wandering the woods when he came across a lake. In the lake, a woman was bathing naked. He was amazed by her beauty and instantly fell in love with her. He stood watching for a few minutes when suddenly the woman turned around and saw him. 

In that instant, Actaeon realised that the woman was Diana, the goddess of hunting. She truly was a beautiful woman but got sick and tired of men falling in love with her all the time. When she saw Acteaon staring at her she became extremely angry. 

In her fury, Diana turned him into a stag. Actaeon didn’t know what to do so he started running away. Actaeon’s hunting dogs started to chase after the stag, not realising that it was really Actaeon. The dogs soon caught up with him and pounced on him, tearing him apart as they were so used to doing with the stags they hunted with their master. They soon killed the stag and so killed Actaeon. 

Romans Myths Mosaic

Aeneas and the Storm

Aeneas was the son of Venus and Anchises and was a hero. He led the people of Troy, whose city was destroyed by the Greeks, back to Italy. However, Juno was angry with Aeneas because she was on the side of the Greeks in the Trojan war. 

When Aeneas set sail back to Italy, Juno begged Aeolus, the wind god, to release his four winds on the sea so that the ship would sink. In return for this, Juno would give Aeolus a beautiful sea nymph. Aeolus agreed and sent the four winds out to cause the storm.  

Soon the ship was being battered by the brutal winds and waves were crashing over the ship. Men were tossed overboar and parts of the ship started to break away. Neptune, the god of the sea, noticed what was going on and knew that Juno was responsible. 

He rode over the sea, commanding the winds to cease. Soon, the sea was calm again and Aeneas managed to get his battered ship and the remaining members of his crew to safety. 

Romans Myths Mosaic

Echo and Narcissus

Long ago there lived a nymph called Liriope who gave birth to a beautiful boy called Narcissus. An oracle foretold that he would have a long and happy life as long as he never saw himself. Narcissus grew to be a handsome youth. Lots of women fell in love with him but he disdained all of them. He was indifferent to everyone and neither loved nor hated. 

In the forest where Narcissus lived there was a nymph called Echo. Echo was beautiful but had a harsh tongue and often told lies and said unkind things. She was punished by Juno who cursed her by taking away her speech and only allowing her to say what she had last heard. On day, Narcissus was wandering in the forest and Echo saw him and fell in love instantly. However, she couldn’t tell Narcissus how she felt. She followed behind him, hoping he would see her. Narcissus heard the crackling of leaves behind him and shouted out. “Is anyone here?” Echo replied, “Here, here.” She rushed towards him with outstretched arms but Narcissus fled from her shouting, “I will die before I love you.” As he ran off, he heard Echo saying, “I love you, I love you.” Echo was left alone to cry. She cried and cried and wasted away until there was nothing left but her voice. 

As Narcissus was running away from Echo, he came across a glittering spring. The water was clear and pure. Narcissus leaned down to drink and as he did so he saw reflected in the water a beautiful youth.  

Narcissus fell in love with the youth, not realising it was his own reflection. He had never before seen what he looked like because of what the oracle had foretold. He leaned forward to kiss the beautiful face but the image fled from him. He reached in and tried to grasp the beautiful face but again the image fled. “Why, oh thing of beauty, do you run from me?” he cried but the image did not reply. 

He sat by the spring staring into his own face for days and nights on end. He did not drink and did not eat for fear that he might miss his beloved rising from the water. He stayed so long that he became weak and knew his death was near. “Farewell, beloved youth,” he said as he laid his head on the bank of the stream. He died gazing at his own beautiful face. 

The water nymphs mourned his death, their mourning repeated by Echo, but when they went to find his body it had disappeared and in its place was a single flower with silver leaves and a golden heart and so was born to the woodland the flower called Narcissus. 

Cross-Curricular Topic: The Romans

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