JUPITER, GOD, the chief deity of the Roman state. The great and constantly growing influence exerted from a very early period on Rome by the superior civilization of Greece not only caused a modification of the Roman god on the analogy of Zeus, the supreme deity of the Greeks, but led the Latin writers to identify the one with the other, and to attribute to Jupiter myths and family relations which were purely Greek and never belonged to the real Roman religion. The Jupiter of actual worship was a Roman god; the Jupiter of Latin literature was more than half Greek. This identification was facilitated by the community of character which really belonged to Jupiter and Zeus as the Roman and Greek developments of a common original conception of the god of the light and the heaven.
That this was the original idea of Jupiter, not only in Rome, but among all Italian peoples, admits of no doubt. The earliest form of his name was Diovis paler, or Diespiter, and his special priest was the flamen dialis; all these words point to arootrfif, shining, and the connexion with dies, day, is obvious (cf. JUNO). One of his most ancient epithets is Lucelius, the light-bringer; and later literature has preserved the same idea in such phrases as sub Jove, under the open sky. All days of the full Moon (idiis) were sacred to him; all emanations from the sky were due to him and in the oldest form of religious thought were probably believed to be manifestations of the god himself. As Jupiter Elicius he was propitiated, with a peculiar ritual, to send rain in time of drought; as Jupiter Fulgur he had an altar in the Campus Martius, and all places struck by lightning were made his property and guarded from the profane by a circular wall. The vintage, which needs especially the light and heat of the Sun, was under his particular care, and in the festivals connected with it (Vinalia urbana) and Meditrinalia, he was the deity invoked, and his flamen the priest employed. Throughout Italy we find him worshipped on the summits of hills, where nothing intervened between earth and heaven, and where all the phenomena of the sky could be conveniently observed. Thus on the Alban hill south of Rome was an ancient seat of his worship as Jupiter Latiaris, which was the centre of the league of thirty Latin cities of which Rome was originally an ordinary member. At Rome itself it is on the Capitoline hill that we find his oldest temple, described by Livy (i. 10); here we have a tradition of his sacred tree, the oak, common to the worship both of Zeus and Jupiter, and here too was kept the lapis silex, perhaps a celt, believed to have been a thunderbolt, which was used symbolically by the fetiales when officially declaring war and making treaties on behalf of the Roman state. Hence the curious form of oath, Jcniem lapidem jurare, used both in public and private life at Rome.
In this oldest Jupiter of the Latins and Romans, the god of the light and the heaven, and the god invoked in taking the most solemn oaths, we may undoubtedly see not only the great protecting deity of the race, but one, and perhaps the only one, whose worship embodies a distinct moral conception. He is specially concerned with oaths, treaties and leagues, and it was in the presence of his priest that the most ancient and sacred form of marriage, confarreatio, took place. The lesser deities, Dius Fidius and Fides, were probably originally identical with him, and only gained a separate existence in course of time by a process familiar to students of ancient religion. This connexion with the conscience, with the sense of obligation and right dealing, was never quite lost throughout Roman history. In Virgil's great poem, though Jupiter is in many ways as much Greek as Roman, he is still the great protecting deity who keeps the hero in the path of duty (pietas) towards gods, state and family.
But this aspect of Jupiter gained a new force and meaning at the close of the monarchy with the building of the famous temple on the Capitol, of which the foundations are still to be seen. It was dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, i.e. the best and greatest of all the Jupiters, and with him were associated Juno and Minerva, in a fashion which clearly indicates a Graeco-Etruscan origin; for the combination of three deities in one temple was foreign to the ancient Roman religion, while it is found both in Greece and Etruria. This temple was built on a scale of magnificence quite unknown to primitive Rome, and was beyond doubt the work of Etruscan architects employed, we may presume, by the Tarquinii. Its three cettae contained the statues of the three deities, with Jupiter in the middle holding his thunderbolt. Henceforward it was the centre of the religious life of the state, and symbolized its unity and strength. Its dedication festival fell on the 13th of September, on which day the consuls originally succeeded to office; accompanied by the senate and other magistrates and priests, and in fulfilment of a vow made by their predecessors, they offered to the great god a white heifer, his favourite sacrifice, and after rendering thanks for the preservation of the state during the past year, made the same vow as that by which they themselves had been bound. Then followed the epulum Joins or feast of Jupiter, in which the three deities seem to have been visibly present in the form of their statues, Jupiter having a couch and each goddess a sella, and shared the meal with senate and magistrates. In later times this day became the central point of the great Roman games (ludi Romani), originally games vowed in honour of the god if he brought a war to a successful issue. When a victorious army returned home, it was to this temple that the triumphal procession passed, and the triumph of which we hear so often in Roman history may be taken as a religious ceremonial in honour of Jupiter. The general was dressed and painted to resemble the statue of Jupiter himself, and was drawn on a gilded chariot by four white horses through the Porta Triumphalis to the Capitol, where he offered a solemn sacrifice to the god, and laid on his knees the victor's laurels (see TRIUMPH).
Throughout the period of the Republic the great god of the Capitol in his temple looking down on the Forum continued to overshadow all other worships as the one in which the whole state was concerned, in all its length and breadth, rather than any one gens or family. Under Augustus and the new monarchy it is sometimes said that the Capitoline worship suffered to some extent an eclipse (J. B. Carter, The Religion ofNuma, p. 160 seq.) ; and it is true that as it was the policy of Augustus to identify the state with the interests of his own family, he did what was feasible to direct the attention of the people to the worships in which he and his family were specially concerned; thus his temple of Apollo on the Palatine, and that of Mars Ultor in the Forum Augusti, took over a few of the prerogatives of the cult on the Capitol. But Augustus was far too shrewd to attempt to oust Jupiter Optimus Maximus from his paramount position; and he became the protecting deity of the reigning emperor as representing the state, as he had been the protecting deity of the free republic. His worship spread over the whole empire; it is probable that every city had its temple to the three deities of the Roman Capitol, and the fact that the Romans chose the name of Jupiter in almost every case, by which to indicate the chief deity of the subject peoples, proves that they continued to regard him, so long as his worship existed at all, as the god whom they themselves looked upon as greatest.
See ZEUS, ROMAN RELIGION. Excellent accounts of Jupiter may be found in Roscher's Mythological Lexicon, and in Wissowa s Religion und Kultus der Romer (p. 100 seq.).
(W. M. RA.; W. W. F.*)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)