Tempest hedge magics

From the QI Twitter feed:

According to Pliny the Elder, a storm can be calmed by a woman undressing in front of it, and if she was menstruating she could stop hail, whirlwinds and lightning in their tracks.


If you're a Roman, and you believe every storm is zeus throwing his lightning then yeah, a gorgeous naked women might distract the god to do something else.


Technically, if you're Roman, that should be Jupiter and not Zeus. :wink:

And Jupiter was ... less famously distracted by young women, IIRC.

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You'll forgive me for using the original name rather than the name of the copycat. I tend to restrict my usage of the roman names for planets, in the modern way.

I cannot speak for @Tellus but personally I might have forgiven the original mistake but this comment rather less.

I think you are in the wrong in referring to Jupiter as a copycat name for Zeus. I know that the romans indentified Zeus with Jupiter (and in fact tended to identify foreign gods with their own in general), but that does not mean that they were correct in doing so. Neither does it mean that we should repeat their mistake.

As far as I am aware Zeus and Jupiter are two distinct gods with similar roles but different histories and religions built around them. This despite them both being incarnation of the proto indo-european patriarch god.

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I think there's a distinction to be made between the associations of two completely unrelated deities from different pantheons that happen to share a symbol (often an attempt to start converting by introducing your god in the local temple without alienating the natives), the active creation a sort of hybrid deities (e.g. Serapis), and the type of syncretism that happened in the grecoroman world. My understanding is that even the romans saw themselves as an offshoot of greek culture, and the grecoroman gods became virtually indistinguishable from each other to both romans and greeks of the ancient era, even though some variation on the tale might have been propagated (e.g. Was Cronus slain, or did he flee to Italy?), in the same way that celtic myths were shared from Ireland to Gaul, and nordic myths were shared between Scandinavia and Germany. As such, while in Rome an emphasis on a particular tale might have been more pronounced than in Athens, and vice versa, the myths were not seen as contradiction of each other by either people. Although we use that term for the magic realm daimons in Ars Magicka, I don't think it's that far-fetched to consider Zeus and Jupiter merely aspects of the same faerie god.

That is not my understanding.
The romans were not an offshoot of greek culture, and most certainly did not see themselves in that way.
The romans did admire a lot of things from greek culture, and borrowed massively from the greeks, but it was always clear that roman culture had its own roots, separate from that of the greeks.

What the romans did when they encountered the gods of other people, was that they compared them to their own pantheon of gods, and if the gods was similar enough they just decided that they were actually the same god.
Thus Zeus came to be equated with Jupiter, and many of the myths about Zeus got imported and retold about Jupiter, even though they started out as two different (but similar) gods.
In some cases the equated gods were in fact quite similar, but in other cases it is more a stretch to say that they were the same. (The roman Saturn was for example quite different from the greek Cronus, despite them being conflated into one god by the romans.)

So no, Jupiter is no more a copycat of Zeus than Zeus is a copycat of Jupiter, even though it eventually became hard to distinguish the two.

There are plenty of contradictions between different versions of the myths, but that just wasn't seen as important back in the day.


They centainly didn't.

But writers from later antiquity - like Pliny the Elder and Plutarch - used the interpretatio graeca as a way to compare pantheons and cultures, trying even to translate them into an international culture of late Hellenistic scholars.

EDIT: Many 13th century European scholars might understand Greek or Roman pantheons only through snippets of the interpretatio graeca, though.

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Well, Romulus & Remus were the sons of Mars by Rhea Silvia, a descendant of Aeneas, a Trojan hero according to Virgil, a roman author. So shrug If you descend from Troy, you're probably related to the greeks the way a cousin might be.

Well, Virgil is an author of the time around the birth of Christ, who wrote with the Aeneid a celebratory epic poem of lasting fame and influence, successfully using Ilias and Odyssey as models.

Virgil took the disconnected tales of Aeneas' wanderings, his vague association with the foundation of Rome and his description as a personage of no fixed characteristics other than a scrupulous pietas , and fashioned the Aeneid into a compelling founding myth or national epic that tied Rome to the legends of Troy, explained the Punic Wars, glorified traditional Roman virtues, and legitimized the Julio-Claudian dynasty as descendants of the founders, heroes, and gods of Rome and Troy.

In other words, Virgil took the existing founding myth of Rome and amalgamated it with the Homeric epics: this is not representing the beliefs of the Romans of his time, but rather the willingness of an educated class to compromise about these to celebrate the pax augusta instituted by Augustus ending the civil war.


No doubt you're right that the myths were changed, yet to ignore those myths makes no sense to me because that's how identities are forged. Roman history is not scientific, it's an exercise in myth making, in which state propaganda plays a large role. Additionally, the Rome that is most remembered is Imperial Rome, not the 4th century BC tiny dot on a map. But even then, roman history was written in greek... By the time of Caesar, some old gods of Rome were completely forgotten by the romans, and Rome is thoroughly influenced by Greek thought and myths. The Roman religion was not much farther from the athenian version of the pantheon than Athens was itself distant from the Macedonian and Cretian version of the myths a couple of centuries before that. Syncretism wasn't just done by the Romans, it was done within Greece itself, yet we don't challenge much the idea of a greek mythology. I suppose it depends what your frame of reference is for myths. Mine is grecoroman.

Of course, and those syncretists were the same Hellenist writers, some of whom I listed above.

In short: if you wish to know about the religions of the people around the mediterranean from literature, you better to go back to 100 BC. Around the time of Virgil, and certainly of Pliny the Elder and Plutarch, part of the literature turns syncretist: one of the reasons, why Christendom did thrive in the cities.

Roman history is history, hence better be scholarly and precise. Myth making is a subject of history, not the other way around. (And yes, for Mythic Europe this is different :nerd_face:.)

That is still wrong, even in Imperial Rome. Look up the resuscitation of the very down to earth and local Roman Fratres Arvales, or the observance of the Lupercalia during all the Empire!
No, the Imperial Romans knew they were Romans, not just an offshoot of Greek culture.

Unifying Hellenist culture - a work of scholars and philosophers - was thriving around the mediterranean in the centuries around and after the birth of Christ. It had little to do with religious observances, and never replaced local identities.

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Let me restate that again. Classical roman history, rather than modern roman history, was myth making, not a scientific approach to history.

Not really. Most of the ancient roman historians tried to write history as it had happened. Sometimes with a biased view, certainly, but they did not try to make myths.