Jupiter on the throne of the gods

Zeus – From Pompeii, Casa dei Dioscuri. Now Museo archeologico Napoli

The God Jupiter

The mythical figure Jupiter was one of the most prominent of the twelve gods during the days of the Roman Empire, from 509 B.C. until 380 A.D. Jupiter, the supreme deity, was a celestial god associated with thunder, lightning, rain, and storms.[1] The main Temple of Jupiter was built atop Capitoline Hill, one of Rome’s most important hills.[2]

At the temple on the Capitoline stood the large altar of Jupiter, where significant sacrifices were performed at the start of the year. The Romans frequently celebrated their victories here, and other events were conducted here as well. As a result, the temple became a gathering point for many types of artwork. These items were primarily gifts from Roman generals in celebration of a victory.[3]

Jupiter served numerous purposes, and he was bestowed with titles like as Jupiter Imperator (commander), Invictus (invincible), and Triumphator (victor).[4] Roman senators initiated war on Jupiter’s behalf, and generals praised him after victory.[5] Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) referred to his warriors as Jupiter’s disciples in late antiquity.[6]

This suggests that under the Roman Empire, the deity Jupiter was connected with thunder, lightning, rain, and storms, as well as triumph and the army.

Own photos made at the University of Utrecht depot, Caroline Bleekergebouw
Sorbonnelaan 4, 3584 CA Utrecht.


The figure in the photograph is composed of bronze, which has become green through time. The figure of Jupiter is portrayed as a human being; portraying gods as humans is known as anthropomorphism. This Jupiter has been portrayed as a man in a robe, seated atop a now-defunct throne. Jupiter, the god of thunder, and lightning is one of his abilities, therefore he’s presumably holding lightning in his left hand. The item in his right hand has vanished, but it was most likely a staff or scepter, a ruler’s mark.

Because the figure is tiny and compact, it might have been utilized by troops and travelers. Bringing a statue that will provide you victory or good weather creates the sense that both the passengers and the soldiers believed that if they treated Jupiter correctly, he would be helpful to them. This concept is known as pax deorum (peace with the gods), and in order to maintain this peace, humans had to offer the proper sacrifices in the proper sequence. So you should offer these sacrifices in honor of the gods even if you are far away from a temple, and so a miniature representation of a deity is important if you are traveling.[7]

All of this suggests that the Romans were deeply religious. The item’s significance and function elevate the religious component even further.

[1]  V. Warrior, Roman Religion (Cambridge 2006) 8-9.

[2]  Gary Forsythe, A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War (California 2005) 126.

[3]  S. Platner and Thomas Ashby, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Cambridge 2015) 298.

[4]  Nigel Rogers, The Roman Empire (Utrecht 2017) 166-167.

[5] Ibid., 166-167.

[6] Ibid., 167.

[7] Lukas de Blois and Bert van der Spek, An Introduction to the Ancient World (Bussum 2017) 302-303.

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