Jupiter (English; Jove) is the Roman god of the sky and thunder and was the chief god of the Roman empire. The eagle was associated with Jupiter because it was the ‘king’ of the sky. The eagle was also a symbol of the Roman army. A thunderbolt could be thrown by Jupiter when he became angry and one is often depicted held in his hand as is a breastplate with an image of a storm cloud.

Jupiter with the thunderbolt
Jupiter with the thunderbolt

Jupiter is equivalent to the Greek God Zeus and there is some overlap between the two, the Romans adapting Zeus myths and symbols in their art and traditions. Early Roman myths adapted Zeus under the name Luppiter.

Jupiter was the son of Saturn and Opis and brother of Neptune. The sisters of Jupiter were Vesta, Juno and Ceres. He was married to Juno and had many children, both with her and other women, the most commonly known children being Venus, Apollo, Diana, Mars, Vulcan, Mercury and Bacchus. It was Vulcan who gave him a shield called Aegis.

Jupiter’s temple was on Capitoline Hill and was one of the most important temples in Rome. So important was it, that it became the centre of political life. Senators swore an oath to Jupiter, treaties and war declarations were made in the temple and high ranking officials and generals came to give thanks to the ‘father of the gods.’

Capitoline Hill held a triad of temples, the other two being Juno and Minerva but the Temple of Jupiter was by far the most important in Roman life. An earlier triad consisted of Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus.

In Roman mythology, Jupiter’s father (Saturn) was born from Uranus (Heaven). His mother, Opis and his father were both Titans, which meant they were born of Heaven and Earth.

The midpoint of the month, when a full moon shone, was called the Ides and was sacred to Jupiter because heavenly light shone night and day at that time. A white lamb was led along Rome’s Sacred Way to the Capitoline Citadel and there it was sacrificed to Jupiter. Other animals sacrificed to Jupiter were an ox and ram – both had to be castrated first.

The nundinae occurred every ninth day during which the rural people could sell their produce and goods in Rome. During that time, religious and political edicts were posted publicly for three days to inform the people. The High Priestess (Flaminica Dialis) of Jupiter sanctified the days with a sacrificed ram.

The english of Jupiter, ‘Jove’ is still used sporadically today. Romans would swear an oath in the temple to Jove, a derivation in english which was ‘By Jove!’