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Jupiter is depicted on this card from a Swiss Tarot deck, first printed in the 1830s.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter or Jove was the king of the gods, and the god of sky and thunder. He is the equivalent of Zeus in the Greek pantheon.

As the patron deity of ancient Rome, he ruled over laws and social order. He was one of three gods of the Capitoline Triad, along with Juno and Minerva. The most important temple of the Roman Republic was dedicated to Iuppiter Optimus Maximus ("Jupiter Best and Greatest").


Iuppiter originated as a vocative compound of the Old Latin vocative *Iou and pater ("father") and came to replace the Old Latin nominative case *Ious. Jove[1] is a less common English formation based on Iov-, the stem of oblique cases of the Latin name. Linguistic studies identify the form *Iou-pater as deriving from the Indo-European vocative compound *Dyēu-pəter (meaning "O Father Sky-god"; nominative: *Dyēus-pətēr).[2]

Older forms of the deity's name in Rome were Djeus-pater (“day/sky-father”), then Diéspiter. Djeus is the etymological equivalent of ancient Greece's Zeus and of the Teutonics' Ziu, gen. Ziewes. The Indo-European deity is thus the god from which Zeus and the Indo-Aryan Vedic Dyaus Pita are derived.

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 now known in English as Thursday[3] but originally called Iovis Dies in Latin, giving rise to jeudi in French, jueves in Spanish, joi in Romanian, giovedì in Italian, dijous in Catalan, Xoves in Galego, Joibe in Furlan.

Epithets of Jupiter

Early 20th century depiction of Jupiter by hans Thoma.

Jupiter was given many names.
By aspect:

  1. Jupiter Caelestis ("heavenly")
  2. Jupiter Elicius ("who calls forth [celestial omens]" or "who is called forth [by incantations]")
  3. Jupiter Feretrius ("who carries away the spoils of war"; called upon to witness solemn oaths[4] - cf. "by Jove"). The epithet or “numen” is probably connected with ferire, the stroke of ritual as illustrated in foedus ferire, of which the silex, a quartz rock, is evidence in his temple on the Capitoline hill, which is said to have been the first temple in Rome, erected and dedicated by Romulus to commemorate his winning of the spolia opima from Acron, king of the Caeninenses, and to serve as a repository for them. Iuppiter Feretrius was therefore equivalent to Iuppiter Lapis, the latter used for a specially solemn oath[5]
  4. Jupiter Fulgurator or Fulgens ("of the lightning")
  5. Jupiter Lucetius ("of the light")
  6. Jupiter Optimus Maximus (" the best and greatest")
  7. Jupiter Pluvius ("sender of rain")
  8. Jupiter Stator (from stare meaning "standing")
  9. Jupiter Summanus (sender of nocturnal thunder)
  10. Jupiter Terminalus or Terminus (defends boundaries).
  11. Jupiter Tonans ("thunderer")
  12. Jupiter Victor (led Roman armies to victory)

By synchronisation or geography:

  1. Jupiter Ammon (Jupiter was equated with the Egyptian deity Amun after the Roman conquest of Egypt)
  2. Jupiter Brixianus (Jupiter equated with the local god of the town of Brescia in Cisalpine Gaul (modern North Italy)
  3. Jupiter Capitolinus, the Jupiter Optimus Maximus, venerated in all the places in the Roman Empire with a Capitol (Capitolium)
  4. Jupiter Dolichenus (from Doliche in Syria, originally a Baal weather and war god), since Vespasian popular among the Roman legions as god of war and victory, especially on the Danube (Carnuntum). Stands on a bull, a thunderbolt in the left, a double ax in the right hand.
  5. Jupiter Indiges (Jupiter "of the country" - a title given to Aeneas after his death, according to Livy)
  6. Jupiter Ladicus (Jupiter equated with a Celtiberian mountain-god and worshipped as the spirit of Mount Ladicus in Gallaecia, northwest Iberia[6] preserved in the toponym Codos de Ladoco[7]
  7. Jupiter Laterius or Latiaris ("God of Latium")
  8. Jupiter Parthinus or Partinus (Jupiter was worshiped under this name on the borders of north-east Dalmatia and Upper Moesia, perhaps being associated with the local tribe known as the Partheni)
  9. Jupiter Poeninus (Jupiter was worshiped in the Alps under this name, around the Great St Bernard Pass, where he had a sanctuary)
  10. Jupiter Solutorius (a local version of Jupiter worshipped in Spain; he was syncretised with the local Iberian god Eacus)
  11. Jupiter Taranis (Jupiter equated with the Celtic god Taranis)
  12. Jupiter Uxellinus (Jupiter as a god of high mountains)


Marble statue of Jupiter from circa 200 CE.

Jupiter may have begun as a sky-god, concerned mainly with wine festivals and associated with the sacred oak on the Capitol. If so, he developed a twofold character. He received the spolia opima and became a god of war; as Stator he made the armies stand firm and as Victor he gave them victory.[8] As the sky-god, he was the first resort as a divine witness to oaths.[9] Jupiter was the central deity of the early capitoline Triad of Roman state religion, comprising Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus. who each possessed some measure of the divine characteristics essential to Rome's agricultural economy, social organisation and success in war[10] He retained this position as senior deity among the later Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. He remained Rome's chief official deity throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until displaced by the religious hegemony of Christianity.

Jupiter granted Rome supremacy because he was honoured more by the Romans than by all others: he was "the fount of the auspices upon which the relationship of the city with the gods rested". He thus personified the divine authority of Rome's highest offices, internal organization and external relations: his image in the Republican and Imperial Capitol bore regalia associated with Rome's ancient kings and the highest consular and Imperial honours.[11] Roman consuls swore their oath of office in Jupiter's name. To thank him for his help, and to secure his continued support, they offered him a white, castrated ox (bos mas) with gilded horns.[12] A similar offering was made by triumphal generals, who must surrender the tokens of their victory at the feet of Jupiter's statue in the Capitol. During one of the crises of the Punic Wars, he was offered every animal born that year.[13] In official cult, Jupiter was served by the senior of all flamines, the Flamen Dialis, whose office was attended by many unique ritual prohibitions.

Temple of Jupiter

The largest temple in Rome was that of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill. Here, Romans worshipped him 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 Jupiter Optimus Maximus or the Capitoline Triad as a whole were commonly built by the Romans at the center of new cities in their colonies.

The building was begun by Tarquinius Priscus and completed by the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus. 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 was a terracotta quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses, with God Jupiter himself as the charioteer, made by the Etruscan artist Vulca of Veii in the 6th Century BCE and commissioned by Tarquinius Superbus; it was replaced by a bronze one in 296BCE. The cult image was also by Vulca and of the same terracotta material; 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.

When Hadrian built Aelia Capitolina on the site of Jerusalem, a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus was erected in the place of the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem.

Juppiter Tonans

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.[14] 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,[15] 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

Romans believed that Jove presided over cosmic Justice, and swore by Jove in law courts to witness the oath.[16] This practice is the origin of the common expression "By Jove!" still used as an archaism today. The adjective "jovial" originally described people born under the lucky planet of Jupiter,[17] who were supposed by nature to be jolly, optimistic, and buoyant in temperament.


  1. Most common in poetry, for its useful meter, and in the expression "By Jove!"
  2. "Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 2000. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  3. English Thursday, German Donnerstag, is named after Thunor, Thor, or Old High German Donar from Germanic mythology, a deity similar to Jupiter Tonans
  4. Der Große Brockhaus, vol.9, Leipzig: Brockhaus 1931, p. 520
  5. Samuel Ball Platner, revised by Thomas Ashby: A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, London: Oxford University Press, 1929 p.293
  6. 'CIL II, 2525 ; Toutain. 1920. 143ff.
  7. Smith, Dictionary, s.v. "Ladicus")
  8. Victor became an intermediary feminine personification Victoria.
  9. Fides had a similar function, but was feminine. Mars was also a deity of both agriculture and war, and was offered a sheep, a suckling pig and a bull for his continued protection of the fields and family. Cited by Halm, in Rüpke (ed), 239. See also Cato the Elder, On Agriculture, 141. The Colline deity Quirinus may have equivalent in some way to both Mars and Jupiter: "Quirinus, perhaps the war god of the Quirinal settlement or the god who presided over the assembled citizens." Howard Hayes Scullard, (2003), A History of the Roman World, 753 to 146 BC, page 393. Routledge.
  10. For a summary regarding the nature, status and complex development of Jupiter from regal to Republican era, see Beard et al., Vol. 1, 59 - 60. For the conceptual difficulties involved in discussion of Roman deities and their cults, see Rüpke, in Rüpke (ed) 1 - 7.
  11. Orlin, in Rüpke (ed), 58.
  12. Scheid, in Rüpke (ed), 263 - 271.
  13. Beard et al, Vol 1, 32-36: the consecration made this a "Sacred Spring" (ver sacrum). The "contract" with Jupiter is exceptionally detailed. All due care would be taken of the animals, but any that died or were stolen before the scheduled sacrifice would count as if already sacrificed. Sacred animals were already assigned to the gods, who ought to protect their own property.
  14. Suetonius, Vita Augusti 29.91, etc. See Samuel Ball Platner and Thomas Ashby, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, (London: Oxford University Press) 1929. On-line text)
  15. According to Pliny's Natural History, 39.79
  16. Samuel Ball Platner, revised by Thomas Ashby: A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, London: Oxford University Press, 1929 p.293 and
    Der Große Brockhaus, vol.9, Leipzig: Brockhaus 1931, p. 520
  17. Walter W. Skeat, A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1882, OUP 1984, p.274


  • Musei Capitolini
  • Dumézil, G. (1988). Mitra-Varuna: An essay on two Indo-European representations of sovereignty. New York: Zone Books. ISBN 0-942299-13-2
  • Dumézil, G. (1996). Archaic Roman religion: With an appendix on the religion of the Etruscans. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5481-4
  • Article "Jupiter" in The Oxford Classical Dictionary. ISBN 0-19-860641-9
  • Smith, Miranda J., 'Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend' ISBN 0-500-27976-6
  • Favourite Greek Myths, Mary Pope Osbourne Aedes Iovis Optimi Maximi Capitolini
  • Platner, S. B., & Ashby, T. (1929). A topographical dictionary of ancient Rome. London: Oxford University Press, H. Milford. OCLC 1061481
  • Rüpke, Jörg (Editor), A Companion to Roman Religion, Wiley-Blackwell, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4051-2943-5

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Jupiter (mythology). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.