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and as such was invoked for relief (Prudentius, Hamartigenia, 220); although it is sometimes claimed that she was not an incarnation and should not have been considered a divinity."




ADONIS, a deity developed in Syria and Phoenicia, was originally a corn-spirit, born in the myrtle tree which was his emblem, and made the subject of idyllic poetry.213 A late importation into Greece, he was brought to Rome in partially Hellenized form, identified with Attis and connected with the cults of Magna Mater and the Dea Syria (Macrobius, op. cit., I, xxi, 1). A divinity to whom women appealed especially in their love affairs, and called the 'indiscreet god,' he was reputed to cause the menses to return when arrested, to prevent maidens from suffering in losing their virginity, and to give young wives sexual passions.214


ESCULAPIUS was the Greek god of healing, Asklepios, who had been brought to Rome under this Latinized name. During the severe pestilence of 293 B.C., which had afflicted the city and country with prodigious mortality, the Sibylline Books had been construed as directing that Asklepios must be brought from Epidauros, but the Consuls, being then fully occupied with a war, postponed the matter, ordering instead a supplication for one day and prayers to Asklepios (Livy, x, 47), so that it was not until

212 Kissel, in Janus, 1848, iii, 613-614.

213 Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States, ii, 644, 648. 214 Bruzon, op. cit., pp. 136-137.

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The original is in the Vatican Museum, Rome. Reproduced from a photograph supplied by the courtesy of The New York Academy of Medicine Library.

the following year that an embassy, headed by Q. Ogulnius, was sent to invite the deity to Rome. Ovid (Metam., xv, 622 ff.) relates that the embassy, on consulting the oracle at Delphoi, were informed that Apollo was not needed to diminish the grief of the city, but that they should go to Epidauros and with a good omen invite his son. This was done, but the priests hesitating to comply with the request, the divinity himself appeared to the commission during the night and promised to go in the form of the snake which encircled his staff. On the following day, to the surprise of the priests, the god appeared in the temple in all his serpent majesty, and descending to the beach, leaped on board the trireme, weighting it down with his great bulk and appropriating the comfortable quarters of Ogulnius. All went well until they approached the shores of Italy, when a storm arose, and the ship put into the harbor of Antium, where stood a sanctuary of Apollo. The serpent without warning left the galley to pay a visit of respect to his father, coiling himself in the top of a palm tree within the sacred precincts; and the embassy were in despair until, after three days, he came down of his own accord and again boarded the vessel, allowing it to proceed to Rome. Passing up the Tiber, the people on the banks welcomed the god and burned incense in his honor; but upon approaching the city, the serpent is said to have risen up and, resting his head against the mast, to have inspected the shores, after which, suddenly leaving the ship, he disappeared in the reeds of the Insula Tiberina (Livy, Epitome, xi; Valerius Maximus, I, viii, 2; Aurelius Victor, de Viris Illustribus, 22). The embassy brought back the visible presence of the god, or his incarnation, "anguem in quo ipsum numen esse constabit," the form in which it was customary to transfer the divinity in establishing a new sanctuary.

There was a legend that this Insula Tiberina had been

formed by corn sown by Tarquin in the Campus Martius, but which had been cut and thrown into the river by the people and had lodged on the shallows, mounds being added later and the banks raised so that the surface was capable of sustaining buildings (Livy, ii, 5). The god having indicated his choice, the island, sometimes called the 'Island of the Epidaurian serpent' (Apollinaris Sidonius, Epistolæ, I, vii, 12) or the 'Island of Esculapius' (Suetonius, Vita Claudii, 25), was selected as the site of his temple, which was dedicated on January 1, 291 B.C., and which contained statues of Hygieia and Telesphoros.215 In commemoration of the event, the festival of Esculapius was fixed for that day, and subsequently, in 196 B.C., temples were built on the island, in compliance with vows, in honor of Iupiter (or Veiovis) and Faunus (Livy, xxxiv, 53). In 171 B.C., Lucretius decorated the Esculapium with pictures taken in Greece as spoils of war (Livy, xliii, 4), and toward the end of the Republic the island, which was about one thousand feet long by three hundred wide and reached by two bridges, the Pons Cestius from the Ianiculum, and the Pons Fabricius from the Campus Martius, was made into the shape of a boat to celebrate the trireme which had brought the god to Rome, travertine blocks being placed for the prow and stern, while in Imperial times an obelisk in the shape of a mast stood in the center of the island. Plutarch, who called it the 'Sacred Island,' said that it contained "temples of the gods and porticoes" (Vita Poblicolæ, 8); and it is believed that practically all of it was devoted to the sick. Esculapius had another temple in Rome believed to have been in connection with the baths of Diocletian (CIL i, 329).216

The old di indigetes who had been displaced by Apollo 215 Besnier, L'Ile tibérine dans l'antiquité, p. 197. 216 Wissowa, op. cit., p. 306.

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