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Tiberis Pater.

The Roman god Tiberinus, or Tiberis Pater, was one of the greatest Gods of ancient Rome. He was one of the Dii Indigetes, but was not served by any known priest or flamen.



The name Tiber is perhaps pre-Latin, a cognate of the Roman name of Tibur (modern Tivoli). It may be Etruscan or Italic in origin, possibly akin to the Celtic root-word dubr, "water". The same root is believed to be the source of the Latin praenomen Tiberius, and its Etruscan cognate, Thefarie.


Little is known about Tiberinus, although scholars have attempted to reconstruct his myth and role in the cultus deorum.


Under Greek influence, the Romans included Tiberinus as one of the Oceanids, the 3,000 children of Oceanus and Tethys. Each of these children was the patron of a particular river, spring or lake.

According to ancient authorities, the Tiber river was originally called Albula. It it said to have been renamed Tiberis, but details vary.

Vergil says the river was re-named for Thybris, an ancient king. He has Evander recount the history of the area to Aeneas, saying:

   There were Kings, for instance Thybris with his vast
   Body from whom in after times we Italians
   Have named the river Tiber, and it lost
   Its true and ancient name of Albula.[1]

Another version says the river was renamed for Tiberinus Silvius, the ninth legendary king of Alba Longa, who drowned there.

Tiberinus found the twins Romulus and Remus, gave them to the she-wolf Lupa to suckle, then rescued and married their mother.

Correspondences to Other Gods


Surviving fragments suggest the Tiberinus might have been honored under the name Volturnus. However, the identification encounters immediate difficulties. The tutelary God of the Tiber was almost certainly named Tiberinus by the Latins, while the Volturnus is a river in Campania. The prevailing view among scholars is that Volturnus was the cult name of the Tiber's God[2] .

A minority view among scholars is that Volturnus was a generic God of rivers[3] , and gave his name both to the Tiber and the Volturno.


Mommsen identified Tiberinus with Portunus as well as Volturnus, on the basis of a late calendar where the Portinalia is also called the Tiberinalia.[4] . Further, the sacrifices on that day were held "in porto Tiberindo."[5]


By the time of the Late Republic, Tiberinus was identified with the Latin hero Turnus, King of the Rutuli. In the Trojan legend, Vergil identified Tiberinus with Turnus, and says he aided Aeneas on his journey advising him to settle in Latium[6] . Vergil identified Iuturna, daughter of Tiberinus and wife of Janus, as the sister of Turnus[7] . Aeneas, on his journey to Rome, defeated Turnus.


Some scholars equate Tiberinus with Janus, the Roman calendrical god, but by the time of the late Republic Tiberinus (as Turnus) was conventionally regarded as father of Janus' wife Juturna.

Consorts and Children


Albunea was probably the original cult partner, and perhaps the wife, of Albula, the ancient name of the Tiber river. Albunea was a nymph who resided near Tivoli (anc. Tibur) at a sulfuric spring on the Aniene (anc. Anio) river, where she had a small temple above the falls. She was the Tiburtine sibyl, the tenth in a series of famous sibyls. From Etruscan times, it was the seat of the Tiburtine Sibyl. Originally a colony of Alba Longa, Tivoli was conquered by the Sabines, and later defeated and absorbed by the Romans in 338 BCE.

"The Tiburtine Sibyl, by name Albunea, is worshiped at Tibur as a goddess, near the banks of the Anio, in which stream her image is said to have been found, holding a book in her hand. Her oracular responses the Senate transferred into the capitol."[8]


Tiberinus was the husband of Manto. Her legend is Greek rather than Roman. She was a daughter of Tiresias, the blind prophet, who in turn was the son of the shepherd Everes and the nymph Chariclo. Tiresias died after drinking water from a spring, and apparently became an oracular hero, for he was visited in the underworld by Odysseus. Manto is said to have been brought to Delphi as a war prize during the War of the Epigonoi. Apollo sent her to Colophon to found an oracle devoted to him. Instead, she went to Italy, where she married Tiberinus.[9]

Rhea Silvia

Rhea Silvia was a vestal virgin, seduced by Mars. When she gave birth to the twins Romulus and Remus, the twins were exposed and she was sentenced to death by her uncle. Tiberinus found the twins, gave them to the she-wolf Lupa to suckle, then rescued and married their mother.


Ocnus is said to have been son of Tiberinus and Manto. Ocnus is said to have founded Mantua, which he named for his mother. Alternatively, Mantuaa was named after another Manto, who was a daughter of Heracles, or after Mantus, the Etruscan God of the Underworld.

However, other authorities make Ocnus a son or brother of Auletes and the founder of Bologna (anc. Felsina).[10]


Tiberinus was the father (or lover) of Iuturna, the Camena who was wife (or daughter) of Janus, the calendar god. Iuppiter turned her into a nymph and gave her a spring near Lavinium on the Numicus river. Iuturna was later associated with a pool near the temple of Vesta in the Forum Romanum.


Through Iuturna, Tiberinus was a grandfather of Fontus. Fontus (or Fons), was the god/dess of springs. The Fontinalia, in her honor, was held a.d. III Id. Oct. when springs in Rome begin to flow again after the summer heat.

Gens Tiberius


Tiberinus was able, when propitiated, to heal the diseases that his waters were supposed to bring.[11] .

A common feature of Mediterranean river gods is the belief that crossing a river angers its tutelary spirit. We see this belief indirectly in connection with the Romans. One of the omens of Caesar's impending assassination: "Soon after this, news reached Caesar that the herd of horses which he dedicated to the spirit of the River Rubicon, after his crossing, who were allowed to roam freely in the valley, were showing disdain for the pasture, and crying copious amount of tears."



Each May 15th, 24 rush puppets tied hand and foot, called Argei, were taken in a procession of magistrates, pontifices and Vestal virgins to the Sublician Bridge, where the Vestals cast the puppets into the Tiber. The puppets were believed by the common people of the time to be substitutes for old men, who had once been the victims.[12]


There is an extensive body of epigraphy concerning Tiberinus and the Tiber river.


The most famous representation of Father Tiber is a 17th century statue on the Capitoline.


  1. Vergil, Aeneid 1.8
  2. Cf. Einar Gjerstad, Early Rome. Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup (1953), 25. This was the view of Theodor Mommsen, Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL), 327; but see Georges Dumézil, Archaic Roman Religion. Johns Hopkins Univ. Pr. (1966, 1996), 388-89
  3. Cf. Shailer Mathews and Gerald Birney Smith, A Dictionary of Religion and Ethics sub Roman Religion. Macmillan (1921), 384
  4. CIL citing Fast. Philocal., 327
  5. Varro, Lingua Latine 6.19
  6. Vergil, Aeneid 10.198 ff.
  7. Vergil, Aeneid 12; Amanda Claridge, Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. New York: Oxford University Press (1998), 95
  8. Lactantius, Divine Institutes 1.6, citing Varro.
  9. Vergil, Aeneid 10.199
  10. Vergil, Aeneid 10.198
  11. Walter Addison Jayne, Healing Gods of Ancient Civilizations. (Kessinger Publishing Company, 1925, 2003), 440-41
  12. William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (Macmillan Co., 1898), 57, 112-113; Rodolfo Amedeo Lanciani, New Tales of Old Rome (Rome: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1901), 16.

Further Reading

Primary Sources

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL).

Festus, ap. Paul. Diac. v. Volturnalia.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura.

Prop. 6.2.

Varro, Lingua Latine.

Vergil, Aeneid.

Secondary Sources

Georges Dumézil, Archaic Roman Religion. Johns Hopkins Univ. Pr. (1966, 1996).

Joel Le Gall, Recherches sur le culte du Tibre (Paris 1953), pp. 40-56, "Les prétendus dieux du Tibre".

External Links

This article incorporates the text of an article of the same name, originally published in 2004 at Gens Ambrosia, http://www.ambrosii.com.

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