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What are the Parthenon and the Pantheon?

Our world is full of epic histories of ancient civilizations that held tales of mythological gods and legendary beasts.

These ancient civilizations, such as the Greeks and the Romans, had their own sets of pagan gods that they worshiped and dedicated their lives to.

Though these two polytheistic civilizations in question held similarities between their gods (which is where the easy confusion always happens), there were distinctions in who their gods were and how these two civilizations worshipped them, and where they worshipped them.

There is a lot of confusion, though when it comes to talking about the Romans and the Greeks and the Pantheon and the Parthenon, this article aims to help clear up the confusion between the two.

Let’s get started.

The Roman Pantheon

Romans had a polytheistic view on deities to the point where they had a god for just about any aspect of life that you can think of.

As their empire stretched and conquered the territories of their enemies, their collection of gods grew as they took and incorporated other pagan gods into their religious system.

This collection of Roman deities is known as the Pantheon.

Although the Romans believed that there was a deity in control over every little aspect of life, from farming and harvesting to fertility and wealth, the Pantheon is more so centered on the 12 main deities of the Roman civilization.

The Romans also built the Pantheon temple, a circular temple built out of granite Corinthian columns, marble, concrete, and brick to be a house of worship for all the gods of their religious system.

Built-in the heart of the Roman empire, the Pantheon temple called Rome is its home for its thousands of citizens and devotees to travel to in devoted worship to their gods.

Here is a list of the top 12 gods and goddesses that could be found in the Roman Pantheon:

  1. Jupiter, the absolute King, and ruler of the Roman deities
  2. Juno, Queen of the Roman deities
  3. Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, art, strategy, and trade systems
  4. Neptune, Jupiter’s brother and the god of the sea, earthquakes, hurricanes, and horses
  5. Venus, the Roman goddess of love, sex, fertility, beauty, and all things romance
  6. Mars, the Roman god of war and the epitome of aggression, strength, and virility
  7. Apollo, the Roman god of music, healing, and truth
  8. Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting, the moon, and birth
  9. Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalwork. He is the blacksmith of the gods
  10. Vesta, the Roman goddess of the Roman homes and everyday life
  11. Mercury, the Roman god of travel, profit, communication, trickery, and thieves
  12. Ceres, the Roman goddess of motherhood, marriage, agriculture, and women

While there were other temples erected more than just the central Pantheon temple in Rome, the Roman citizens would come to these temples and worship and appease their gods by the method of sacrifice.

The blood sacrifice of animals was seen to be the highest form of sacrificial worship, but they also sacrificed inanimate objects like food, flowers, and treasures.

They believed that by offering these various sacrifices to their Roman deities in their temples they could appease the wrath of the gods and provide themselves with better lives in favor of the gods.

The Greek Parthenon

Now, this is where the confusion happens in figuring out the difference between Pantheon and Parthenon…

So, by definition, the word Pantheon simply means a collection of polytheistic gods or deities or could be defined as the Roman Pantheon temple itself. This means that technically speaking the Greek civilization had their Pantheon of gods and deities as well since they were a polytheistic culture i.e., Zeus, Hercules, Hera, Hades, Hermes, etc.

When speaking about the Parthenon, however, it is a historically religious temple of worship built out of literal tons of quarried marble by the Greeks where it sits atop the hill of Acropolis in Athens, dedicated specifically to the Greek goddess Athena.

The architecture was designed to last centuries and was complimented by its complex statues that told the stories of Athena, though some have been lost to the decay of time.

So, it can be easy to see how the two terms can become all jumbled and confused with one other.

Technically speaking, both the Greeks and the Romans had their Pantheon, or collection of gods, goddesses, and other deities that they worshipped in very similar ways of animal and inanimate sacrifices.

Now that we have that simple understanding (and this goes for all polytheistic religions) that both of these ancient civilizations had their Pantheon of deities by simple definition of the word, let’s break down the confusion even more between Pantheon and Parthenon.

Pantheon and Parthenon

Putting it simply, the Pantheon, in this case, is referring to the central religious temple built by the Romans in the city of Rome as a place of worship to house all of their gods.

The Roman temple of the Pantheon is now used both as a Roman Catholic church and as a popular tourist attraction.

The Parthenon is a historical landmark temple as well, except that this particular temple was built by the Greeks and was purely devoted to the worship of the Greek goddess Athena.

The Parthenon is now used as a museum.

Both the Roman Pantheon and the Greek Parthenon throughout history were made to be the targets of fires and other attempts at destruction.

However, both historical landmarks were fortunate enough to survive and go through their repairs and rebuilding so that we today could have these spectacular buildings of architecture and religious history from civilizations thousands of years ago.

Image credit – @Getty

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