Interpretatio Graeca
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Basic Information

Interpretatio Graeca:
Writers from Ancient Greece, when traveling in or discussing other lands, had a habit of identifying the local gods with their own gods back home. For example, the Egyptian god Amon was deemed an interpretation of Zeus. This incorporation of other cultures and religions into your own is also known as Syncretism.

Interpretatio Romana:
The Romans built on the Greek tradition, combining Greek Mythology (and various aspects of Interpretatio Graeca) into their own myths and religious beliefs. So now, Amon is Zeus, both of whom are Avatars of Jupiter. In some cases, these blendings were natural, and made perfect sense. In other cases, the Greek and Roman versions of a Mythological character didn't match up so well - moody Ares is a far less humane character than disciplined Mars, for example. The Romans didn't let this stop them.

In part, this was because the Romans didn't have a large body of their own myths in the early days of their culture. Telling stories about the Gods was more of a Greek thing, but once Rome and Greece started interacting and trading, the Greek stories took the Romans by storm. Romans were eager to have tales of their own Gods, and the easiest way to do that was to file the serial numbers off the pre-existing Greek myths.

The Romans didn't stop at Greece, either, they took the concept much further. They pulled a lot of material from Etruscan Mythology as Etruria was just up the road from Rome. As the Roman Empire spread and grew, when they arrived in what is now Germany, they interpreted Thor to be Heracles. Upon reaching what is now the British Isles, they reported back that the Celts worshiped Mercury, though the local name was Lugh. They did similar things where ever they went, and the Romans went all over the place. It all gets pretty messy.

Sometimes this would result in odd character doubling, such as when the Romans adopted Cybele from the Persians, even though the Greeks had already adopted her from Persia as Rhea.

Sometimes, they would give new longer names for the new Avatar, such as Jupiter-Zeus-Amon or Jupiter Dolichenus.

Interpretatio Germanica
It goes both ways. The Germanic peoples also adopted aspects of the Roman gods into their own beliefs. This muddies up the situation even more, as Jupiter is linked to Thor, who is also connected to Heracles. In a round-about way, this almost makes Heracles into Jupiter, after the fact.

Character Correspondences

Here's a list of Mythological Characters, including their names under various systems. As illustrated above, some of these connections make a lot more sense than others.

Greek Name Roman Name Etruscan Name Egyptian Name Celtic Germanic / Anglo-Saxon / Norse Other
Achilles Achle
Adonis Atunis Carthage: Eshmun
Ajax Aivas
Amphitrite Salacia
Ananke Necessitas
Anemoi Venti
Aphrodite Venus Turan Frija / Frigg
Apollo / Phoebus Apollo / Phoebus Aplu Horus Carthage: Resheph
Ares Mars Maris Laran / Vieve Nodens Ziu / Tyr
Artemis Diana Artume Isis
Asclepius Aesculapius / Vejovis Carthage: Eshmun
Athena / Athene Minerva Menrva Sulis
Atropos Morta Leinth
Boreas Aquilo / Aquilon Andas
Charites Gratiae
Charon Charon Karun, Charontes
Chloris Flora
Clotho Nona
Cronus Saturnus / Saturn
Cybele Magna Mater / Cybele Persian: Agdistis
Daedalus Taitle
Demeter Ceres Tvath Isis Pre-Roman Italy: Ammai, Anafriss, Diumpais, Fluusai, Maatuis and Pernai
Dionysus / Bacchus Liber / Bacchus Fufluns / Pacha Osiris
Enyo Bellona
Eos Aurora / Matuta Thesan
Erinyes Dirae / Furiae (The Furies) Archetype: Three Ladies
Eris Discordia
Eros Cupid / Amor
Eurus Vulturnus
Gaia / Gaea Terra / Tellus Celu / Tellus
Galanthis / Galinthias Galanthis
Hades Dis Pater / Pluto / Orcus Aita Hel Mesopotamia: Nergal
Hebe Iuventas / Juventas
Hecate Trivia
Helios Sol Aplu
Hephaestus Vulcanus / Vulcan Sethlans / Velchans Ptah
Hera Iuno / Juno Uni Isis
Heracles Hercules Hercle Donar / Thor Carthage: Melqart
Hermes Mercurius / Mercury Turms, Turns Aitas Cernunnos and Lugh Wotan / Odin
Hesperus Vesper
Hestia Vesta
Hygeia Salus
Hypnos Somnus
Icarus Vicare
Irene Pax
Ianus / Janus Ani / Culsans
Isis “Isis” of the Suebi Christian: Virgin Mary
Jason Easun
Lachesis Decima
Leto Latona
Mars Maris
Mithras Horus Baldr Persian: Mithra
Christian: Jesus
Moirae / Moerae Parcae / Fatae / Morta Norns Hurrian: Hutena
Hittite: Gul Ses Archetype: Three Ladies
Musae Camenae
Nemesis Invidia / Pax-Nemesis
Nike Victoria Lasa Meanpe
Notus Auster
Nyx Nox
Odysseus Ulixes / Ulysses Uthuze
Ouranos Uranus / Caelus
Palaemon Portunes
Pan Faunus Silenus
Persephone Proserpina Alpan / Ferspnai / Persipnei Mesopotamia: Ereshkigal, Geshtinanna, Tammuz
Pheme Fama
Phosphorus Vesper
Poseidon Neptunus / Neptune Nethuns Nodens
Priapis Mutinus Mutunus
Rhea Magna Mater / Ops / Cybele
Satyrs / Panes (See Pan, above) Fauni
Selene Luna Isis
Semele Stimula Semla
Silvanus Selvans Nodens
Thanatos Mors Leinth, Charun
Themis Iustitia / Justitia Nortia
Theseus These
Tyche Fortuna Nortia
Vegontici Vegoia
Vertumnus Veltha / Voltumna
Zephyrus / Zephyr Favonius
Zeus Iuppiter / Iovis / Jupiter / Jove Tinia Amon/Ammon Donar / Thor Anatolian: Teshub
Phrygian: Sabazios
Greek Name Roman Name Etruscan Name Egyptian Name Celtic Germanic / Anglo-Saxon / Norse Other

See Also


2. NonFiction Book: Mythology For Dummies by Blackwell and Blackwell
3. Purple Hell - great list of Etruscan gods

Game and Story Use

  • Perhaps the gods are some sort of precursor race, and only a handful exist. They infiltrate numerous cultures over the ages, manifesting and influencing. This Interpretatio Graeca stuff isn't just nonsense, it's the truth.
    • These correspondences, renaming, and "lumping together" of the gods might be a source of great annoyance to the gods. Especially if they are Mythagos and find their existence mutated by belief. Quit thinking that about me - it's your fault if I become what you imagine!
    • On the other hand, if the Gods Need Prayer Badly, they won't mind mooching in on the territory of another god. Heck, it might be something they command the priests to do. Share and share alike, that's how Jupiter rolls.
  • A game set in Greece, Rome, or Germany can take all kinds of cues and inspiration from a wide body of myth, blending them together into a divine smoothie.
  • Many "deities" of the Cthulhu Mythos are treated similarly. Who knows what kind of entity is really lurking behind an apparently benign mask?
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