The ancient Greek gods lived on the famous Mount Olympus, which is an actual mountain in Greece.

The Romans borrowed quite a bit of mythology from the Greeks, so I at first assumed that the Roman gods lived somewhere similar, if not in the exact same place (though perhaps with the mountain renamed and moved somewhere else). Strangely enough, though, I have not been able to find any ancient accounts that make that claim - nor any mention of the home of the Roman gods at all, save for on a certain (rather untrustworthy and often inaccurate) question-and-answer site.

Where did the Roman gods live? Were they said to live on Mount Olympus (or an equivalent place), or was their home somewhere else?

  • I'd expand on this after some research, but to get this out there, They have a dedicated temple for all Major Gods, The Pantheon. – Nitram May 19 '15 at 4:02
up vote 24 down vote accepted

The Romans also thought them to live on Mount Olympos. For instance, Lucius Annaeus Seneca writes in his play Hercules Furens that, appealing to Jupiter for mercy, Amphitryon prayed:

[205] O magne Olympi rector et mundi arbiter,
Jam statue tandem gravibus aerumnis modum

O mighty ruler of Olympus, judge of all the world,
set now at length a limit to our crushing cares, an end to our disasters.

In the rest of the play, Senea used Roman names to refer to the deities, such as Juno instead of Hera:

[213-4] Sequitur a primo statim infesta Juno

From his very birth relentless Juno has pursued him.

Hence, the Roman equivalent of Olympos is Olympos.

  • 3
    Seneca wrote this after Greece had been absorbed into the Empire, which means this was probably infected with the Greek influence that the question was trying to separate out. – T.E.D. May 20 '15 at 10:36
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    @T.E.D. Roman religious beliefs had been "infected" with Greek elements since before their earliest written records. In any case, the question does not seem at all like it's excluding Greek influence. – Semaphore May 20 '15 at 15:34

There is probably something also to be said about the Lares and the Penates.
The Lares, as guardian deities (of Etruscan origin), were protecting homes, fields, cities, crossroads, etc. (One Lar protecting one home or one field, etc.) while Penates were specifically protecting household and both were thought to inhabit the place they were protecting.
Some literary evidence for this can be found in Plaut's Aulularia for instance:

LAR FAMILIARIS
That no one may wonder who I am, I shall inform you briefly. I am the Household God of that family from whose house you saw me come. For many years now I have possessed this dwelling, and preserved it for the sire and grandsire of its present occupant.

Or in Ovid's Fasti:

They were commanded to move the Lares to their new homes

Or again in Cicero's De domo sua:

[109] What is there more holy, what is there more carefully fenced round with every description of religious respect, than the house of every individual citizen? here are his altars, here are his hearths, here are his household gods: here all his sacred rites, all his religious ceremonies are preserved
[109 ]quid est sanctius, quid omni religione munitius quam domus unius cuiusque civium? hic arae sunt, hic foci, hic di penates, hic sacra, religiones, caerimoniae continentur

Whether the Lares qualify properly as Gods and not just spirits is to be debated though, since they were basically deified ancestral spirits. The Penates however (as in Cicero excerpt) were explicitely called gods.

Reading through the wiki article on Jupiter:

Many of his functions were focused on the Capitoline ("Capitol Hill"), where the citadel was located. He was the chief deity of the early Capitoline Triad with Mars and Quirinus.

It seems that if there were a location, the Capittoline hill would be it,

Many of his functions were focused on the Capitoline ("Capitol Hill"), where the citadel was located.

It seems that the Roman's view was closer to the current view of the deity : in the sky , and the temples are the house of the god. It is possible that the Olympus version of the indo-European deities is particular to the region of Greece. That mostly people in other mediteranean countries had the concept of deity as somewhere in the sky, or sea, or underworld , focused on their temples. The cultural incursion of the greek point of view introduces the need for a "location where Gods gather", and the Olympus site was adopted for the Roman gods too.

It seems also that Norse mythology has a home for the gods to gather ,

In the middle of the world, high up in the sky is Asgard. It is the home of the gods and goddesses. The male gods in Asgard, are called Aesir, and the female gods are called Asynjur. Odin is the ruler of Asgard, and the chief of the Aesir. Odin is married to Frigg; she is the Queen of the Aesir. Inside the gates of Asgard is Valhalla; it is the place where the Vikings "Einherjer" that died in battle will go for the afterlife.

Roman Gods, I think, lived where there duties took them. This would be most inline with Italic and Etruscan Gods, who lived in the skies, upon teh earth, under the earth, in the waters. A river god would live in his river, a goddess of the land in her land. The lares and penates lived in the houses or with the families they protected. This has been published widely (e.g. L.B. van der Meer, 1987).

Jupiter, like most Roman deities is most cognate with Etruscan and Italic deities. When the Romans conquered Greece, they found many similarities between their own gods and goddesses and those of the Greeks. The most likely explanation is that many (though not all) of the Greek gods were derived of Etruscan origins, like the Roman gods. Others were from the East, such as Dionysos, and Hekate.

It seems unlikely that the Roman pantheon was "infected" with Greek influences, before Greece was conquered, as the only similarities are the ones that likely stem from Etruscan origin. Not a single Greek influence that was of Eastern origin made it into Roman mythology until well after the contacts with Greek colonies in Southern Italy or even the conquest of Greece, which would be statistically most unlikely if the Greeks had "infected" the Roman pantheon before they were conquered.

It would therefore surprise me if Roman Gods lived on Mount Olympos. I think it would be almost impossible for such a notion to have existed in the centuries of Roman mythology before the conquest of Greece, and even after the conquest of Greece, if such a change had happened, one would have assumed there would be explicit mentioning of this. More explicit than Seneca's Hercules Furens.

Even if later in the Roman empire there had been "infection" of Roman religious beliefs by Greek mythology, and even if every single text proving that got lost, does Hercules Furens prove anything. In that text Seneca never claims any God lives on Olympos. He only says Jupiter rules Olympos, but in the same play Jupiter is said to rule several other places as well: the infernal world (line 46-62 and 592-615), the heavens (line 709-730) and all fires (line 926-938). If ruling something means he lives in it, then at the very least Jupiter lives in many places.

Many Roman deities have epiteths tying them to a place. Perhaps those refer to places where they live?

  • I think the more standard view is that Greek gods were adopted by Etruscans who then passed them onto the Romans, rather than your explanation here that Greece adopted Etruscan gods (how??). Is there any source you can cite to back up this view? – Semaphore Aug 12 '15 at 21:02
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    I agree that the more standard view is that the Etruscan deities were copied from the Greek pantheon. This view is, however, based on the old view that Etruscan culture and mythology was non-existent before the 8th century BCE. Current views have Etruscan culture and mythology flourishing several centuries earlier. As Etruscan depictions as well as names of Gods are closer to the (admittedly reconstructed) Indo-European roots, there is sense in taking the Etruscan deities to be the older ones, generally speaking. – Yuri Robbers Aug 12 '15 at 21:45
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    Deities like Pacha or Menvra and possibly Artimi are likelier to have been Greek before they had Etruscan equivalents. Of course syncretism often goes both ways. See for example L.B. van der Meer (1987), linked in my post above already, and Nancy Thomson de Grummond & Erika Simon (2006). – Yuri Robbers Aug 12 '15 at 21:45

Here on the first page of Sir James G Frazer’s “The Golden Bough” is a descrption of a Goddess habitant on the shores of a lake in Northern Italy near La Riccia.

“1.—The Arician Grove. Who does not know Turner's picture of the Golden Bough? The scene, suffused with the”golden glow of imagination in which the divine mind of Turner steeped and transfigured even the fairest natural landscape, is a dream-like vision of the little woodland lake of Nemi, “Diana's Mirror,” as it was called by the ancients. No one who has seen that calm water, lapped in a green hollow of the Alban hills, can ever forget it. The two characteristic Italian villages which slumber on its banks, and the equally Italian palazzo whose terraced gardens descend steeply to the lake, hardly break the stillness and even the solitariness of the scene. Dian herself might still linger by this lonely shore, still haunt these woodlands wild. In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and recurring tragedy. On the northern shore of the lake, right under the precipitous cliffs on which the modern village of Nemi is perched, stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis, or Diana of the Wood.2 The lake and the grove were sometimes known as the lake and grove of Aricia.3 But the town of Aricia (the modern La Riccia) was situated about three miles off, at the foot of the Alban Mount, and separated by a steep descent from the lake, which lies in a small crater-like hollow on the mountain side. In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day and probably far into the night a strange figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy.4 He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him he held office till he was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier. This strange rule has no parallel in classical antiquity, and cannot be explained from it. ...”

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