Billeder på siden


NATIO (or Nascio) was an ancient Roman goddess of child-birth who had been supplanted by Iuno Lucina, and who, according to Cicero (op. cit., iii, 18), had formerly been honored by sacrifice and processions in the district of Ardea.


NIXI DII were obscure divinities of whom little is known except that they assisted in child-birth. They were reputed (though probably in error) to have been brought from Syria by the Consul M' Acilius Glabrio after his defeat of Antiochus in 191 B.C., and Festus (p. 174) mentions them as three guardians of women in labor, whose statues, in a kneeling position (whence their name, 'they who bow down, kneel'),' 184 stood before the chapel of Minerva on the Capitoline. Both Lucina and the Nixi dii were invoked in one cry by Alcmene at the birth of Hercules (Ovid, Metam., ix, 294).


OPs was an ancient harvest goddess who assisted in childbirth. As an agricultural deity she was closely associated with Consus in protecting the crops during the harvest, and hence she was called Consiva (Varro, op. cit., vi, 21), though she never developed a personality but always remained a numen.185 It was sometimes assumed in antiquity that she was the spouse of Consus (Festus, p. 186; Macrobius, op. cit., iii, ix, 4), but of this there is no wellattested myth, and more frequently she was referred to as the wife of Saturn (e.g., Plautus, Cistellaria, 514-515),

184 Sommer, Handbuch der lateinischen Laut- und Formenlehre, p. 646.

185 Fowler, op. cit., p. 338.

though even this is doubtful, despite their functional relation.18 Ops in her aspect as the earth was identical with Terra,187 and it is believed that Fauna and Bona Dea were at times called Ops.

It was as Opifera that she was the helpful mother to new-born children, and those who invoked her touched the ground. Shortly after birth, every infant was placed on the ground in honor of Ops, the great mother, and under the supervision of Levana, the father raised it up (sublatus), by this act acknowledging his paternity, whence Ops and Levana were witnesses to the legitimacy of children (Augustine, op. cit., iv, 11).188

Ops shared the temple of Saturn, and the Opalia, in her honor, was celebrated on December 19, during the Saturnalia.189 She divided another shrine, situated in the Vicus Iugarius, with Ceres; and her own festival, the Opiconsivia, at which none were admitted to the sacrifice but the Pontifex Maximus and the Vestals, was held on August 25.100 Both the Opiconsivia and the Opalia fell, it should be noted, four days after the Consualia, thus further establishing the relation between Ops and Consus.


VIRBIUS was a minor deity associated with child-birth in the cults of Diana and Egeria at Aricia (Vergil, op. cit., vii, 761-782), and was reputed to be Hippolytos, who had been done to death by the curses of Theseus, but raised from the dead by Asklepios. He had then fled to Italy, where he consecrated a precinct to Diana (Artemis) at Aricia (Pausanias, II, xxvii, 4), and was called her chief

186 Fowler, op. cit., p. 212; id., Religious Experience, pp. 156, 482. 187 Fowler, op. cit., p. 156.

188 Ib., p. 83.

189 Id., Festivals, pp. 273-274. 190 Ib., pp. 212-214.

priest (Ovid, op. cit., xv, 543 ff.). He has also been regarded as the consort of Diana, having the same relation as Adonis to Aphrodite, and Attis to Kybele,191 and possibly he was a local form of Iupiter.192 Virbius was represented as an old man not unlike Esculapius,' 193 and at Naples had a Flamen Virbialis (CIL x, 1493).

I. (C) Underworld Deities.

Dis, or Dis Pater, and Proserpina ruled over underworld regions inhabited by a vast horde of spirits, of all kinds and degrees of rank, and possessing a certain, though indefinite, existence. The original conception of these superhuman beings, as well as their character, powers, and classification, were largely forgotten during the Republic, and Latin writers on the subject are vague and confused; but it appears clear that the early Romans never imagined any such organized Underworld as was evolved by the Greeks and adopted by Vergil in the Eneid. Nevertheless, the dead had some sort of continued existence in this subterranean realm; and although no definite lines were drawn, in general, those who had been duly buried according to the customary ceremonies became the respected ancestors, the Di Parentum, often called Di Manes; while those who had died away from home or who had not received proper rites, as well as spirits of evil men, became specters, the Larvæ or Lemures, who returned to their old abodes and troubled the living. From among these myriad spirits a few had been personified, as the Lares and their mythical mother, Mania.

The evil spirits and deities who were hostile to man 191 Frazer, op. cit., i, 41.

192 Ib., ii, 379.

193 Wissowa, op. cit., p. 248.

appeared on earth as ghosts and apparitions of the night, tormenting and terrifying the living, and causing sickness and misfortune. They were the willing slaves of disease, bringing pestilence and death into the state and afflicting individuals with many ills, especially such neuroses and psychic disturbances as epilepsy, hysteria, hydrophobia, and mania.

These were the general conceptions underlying the several festivals designed to pay respect and honor to the good ancestors, and to propitiate, appease, and drive away those deities and spirits who were hostile. The rites were essentially those of purification, atonement, sacrifice, and the bestowal of gifts; and these religious obligations gave rise to many cults and ceremonies which vanished at an early period, being represented in historic times by the dies parentales, or nine days which ended February 21 in the State festival of the Feralia with a general atoning sacrifice (Ovid, Fasti, ii, 533 ff.); and the Lemuria of May 9, 11, and 13, sacred to the Lemures and Larva.19* It was considered an essential duty of every family to fulfil their religious obligations to the Di Manes at the Parentalia on February 13 and to make atonement for all involuntary offenses of commission and omission, whereas those which were voluntary could not be expiated in this way. During the Parentalia and Lemuria, all temples were closed; and since marriages performed on those days would be unfortunate, none were contracted (Ovid, op. cit., v, 485-488). The Lemuria is supposed to have been originally both a State and a private function; but in historic times the share of the State was uncertain, if, indeed, it was still retained. The private rites were performed by the paterfamilias, who rose at midnight and walked barefoot through the house, 194 Wissowa, op. cit., pp. 174, 235-236, 239.

signing "with his fingers joined with the middle of his thumb. 195 He then washed his hands thrice, and taking black beans in his mouth, spat them out with averted face, repeating nine times the words, "These I offer; with these beans I ransom myself and mine." Again he touched water, struck a brazen vessel, and after crying nine times, "Go forth, ancestral Manes," could once more look behind him (Ovid, op. cit., v, 431-444).


CARNA was an ancient Italian goddess of the Underworld who presided over the vital portions of the body,190 particularly the heart and digestive organs, and incidentally over nutrition, her own diet being simple like that of the olden time, without dainties or luxuries (Ovid, op. cit., vi, 169-172). Her festival, the Carnaria, was held on June 1. "Prayers are offered to the goddess, for the good preservation of liver, heart, and the other internal organs of our bodies," and "her sacrifices are bean-meal and lard, because this is the best food for the nourishment of the body" (Macrobius, op. cit., I, xii, 32). Those who sacrificed to her and ate bean-gruel and pig's fat on that day secured a good digestion for the year.197 She practiced beneficent magic and healing, for Ianus had given her a branch of white thorn (? arbutus) which was reputed to avert evils and to ward off the attacks of the striges who sought to suck the blood of children and cause death, as when she saved the life of Phocas by touching the doorposts three times with her twig of arbutus, sprinkling the threshold with water containing drugs, holding the entrails of a sow two months old, and saying: "Heart for

195 The well-known apotropaic sign of the fico.

196 Her name is connected etymologically with Latin caro, 'flesh' (Lindsay, op. cit., p. 317).

197 Wissowa, op. cit., p. 236.

« ForrigeFortsæt »