Neptune is the Roman God of the sea. He is the brother of Pluto and Jupiter.
He is very similar to Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Often associated with fresh water, he was first referenced in Roman mythology as being associated with water around 399 BC.
Given a name that means “moist” in Latin, Neptune is often pictured as having a three-pronged fisherman’s spear. He is often shown to be an older man with a long beard. Neptune is sometimes seen with fish and other creatures of the sea around him. He is also associated with the sports horse racing. This is because of early depictions of him being pulled across the sea in a chariot pulled by a horse.
Originally, Neptune was a god of the ancient Italians who was not associated with the sea because the Italians did not have any such god at the time. Saturn was the father of Neptune, Pluto, and Jupiter. His mother was Ops, the earth mother. He also had three sisters: Vesta, Juno, and Ceres. It’s said that Neptune’s father swallowed his children. It was his mother, Ops, who saved her kids by tricking Saturn into swallowing a stone. In his attempt to get rid of the stone from his belly, the children were released. They then turned on their father and teamed up to defeat him. After Saturn was defeated, the three brothers divided control of the world among themselves. Jupiter took control of the sky. Pluto became ruler of the underworld. And Neptune became the god of the sea.
Temperament and Behavior
Neptune is known for his violent nature and temperament. There are many stories that depict him as being difficult and somewhat vindictive. His behavior is said to reflect the unpredictable nature of the sea. According to one tale, it was his unpredictable nature that caused Neptune to make an attempt to overthrow his brother Jupiter and become ruler of the underworld. However, he failed in his attempt to accomplish this task.
Neptune and Earthquakes
Because of Neptune’s violent temper, he also became associated with earthquakes. At the time, there was very little understanding of what really caused earthquakes. And the ancient Romans thought they came from the sea, but had no scientific knowledge of things like plates and shifting of the earth. Since Neptune was the god the sea, it was thought that an earthquake occurred when he became angry.
According to some stories about the Roman god Neptune, he had a wife named Salacia. Little is known about her. In ancient Italian mythology, she may have been the goddess of salt water. Neptune had three children with Salacia. The most well-known of three was Triton. Like his father, he is depicted carrying a trident (three-pronged staff). Triton also represents the sea in his physical appearance as a “merman,” the male version of a mermaid. Neptune also had a reputation for being a lady’s man. It’s said that he had numerous affairs. Because of these relationships, he had many other sons and daughters other than the three children he had with his wife. The most notable of these children are Pegasus and Atlas.
Neptune and the Water Nymph
Amphitrite is also a woman said to be Neptune’s wife. She is the woman most-often considered to be his wife rather than Salacia. According to one story about this relationship, Neptune saw Amphitrite, a water nymph, dancing on the island of Naxos. He was captivated by her beauty and instantly fell in love and asked her to marry him. She turned him down. Not to be deterred, Neptune sent one of his servants, a dolphin, to try and find her again. The clever and charming dolphin was able to convince Amphitrite to change her mind and agree to marry Neptune. As a reward for what the dolphin did, he turned the creature into an immortal and gave it a place of honor in the heavens in the constellation Dolphinus. This is why the dolphin is sometimes included in depictions of Neptune.
Evaluation of Neptune
Neptune was once a minor god who was not prominently featured as a key player in the stories that were told about Roman gods. In fact, it was often the god Fortunus who was associated with the sea before Neptune. Fortunus was also the god that was usually given credit for any Roman victories at sea. It was only when tales of the Greek god Poseidon became well-known that Neptune was elevated to his current status among Roman gods. He would eventually be the god given credit for Roman victories during battles at sea.
Because of the belief that he was helping the Roman’s win important victories, including the ability to take the ancient city of Veii, two temples were build to honor him. Special gifts were brought to the temple in order to keep Neptune happy. The idea was that by pleasing this god, the seas would continue to be favorable to the Romans. At one time, the ancient Romans held a festival in July to honor Neptune.
There’s no denying that Neptune’s legacy remains with us today. It’s Neptune’s name of “Neptune Equester” in reference to his association with horse racing that gave us the word “equestrian,” meaning related to horse racing or referring to someone who rides horses. It’s clear that many of the qualities associated with Neptune were borrowed from Poseidon. He is considered the definitive Roman god of the sea. In 1846, it was decided to name the planet Neptune after this god because of the planet’s bluish color. This is just one example of how this Roman god’s legacy continues to endure today.
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