The original Roman Goddesses did not have distinctive personalities, human form, family histories or myths about their lives. Instead these deities were manifestations of what the Romans termed "numina", the divine essence that could be found in all living things and places.
An example of the Numina is Pomona the Goddess of Fruit trees, orchards and gardens.
This belief in numina helps explain why there were so many early Roman deities, as each represented different aspects of the natural world.
Early Roman mythology did not contain tales of the lives of magical gods. Instead they were presented as the history of Rome's creation and concentrated on the rituals and religious practices.
The nature of these early Roman deities was also closely linked to the physical and spiritual needs of people, concentrating on areas like the agriculture and motherhood. The included Goddesses like Carmenta who was the Goddess of childbirth and prophecy.
There were also many different local Goddesses and festivals who were mainly worshipped in the home and on the land. For a list of Roman Goddess names please check out the Roman Goddess List.
Later the Romans mythology borrowed heavily from other traditions. However it was the rule of Rome by the Etrusian kings that was first to influence Roman worship. They began by adapting three of the Etruscan gods and making them the focus of their religion.
As the Roman Empire continued to expand they came into contact with new belief systems and ideas. Instead of destroying these religions and cults they absorbed and adopted many of them, including those of the Greeks. For example they adapted the mythology of the Greek dawn Goddess Eos and re-named her Aurora. Another example of this is the agricultural Goddess Demeter whose Roman equivalent Ceres is where the word cereal is from. I have included these and other examples below.
They also adopted the system of a pantheon of twelve major deities, similar to the model of the Olympians. These included: Juno (Queen of the Gods), Venus (Goddess of love and beauty), Vesta (Goddess of the hearth and home), Diana (Goddess of the hunt) Minerva (Goddess of war and wisdom).
Roman Goddess Name Greek Equivalent
It was not just the religions of nearby states that influence Roman mythology as Epona the horse Goddess was originally a Celtic Goddess.
However some of the ancient Roman Goddesses remained and new ones were added including Roma who was the personification of the Roman state.