Angerona

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The Romans held as a state secret the true name of the protective Goddess of Rome:

"Verrius Flaccus cites authors whom he deems worthy of credit, to show that on the occasion of a siege, it was the usage, the first thing of all, for the Roman priests to summon forth the tutelary divinity of that particular town, and to promise him the same rites, or even a more extended worship, at Rome; and at the present day even, this ritual still forms part of the discipline of our pontiffs. Hence it is, no doubt, that the name of the tutelary deity of Rome has been so strictly kept concealed, lest any of our enemies should act in a similar manner."[1]


Some examples of this practice are known to us. The first was when Camillus evoked Vei from Her Etruscan city in 396 BCE to install Her at Rome as Juno Regina of the Aventine.[2]

A second example is taken from the dedication of a temple for Vortumnus in 264 BCE and a third comes from when Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus performed an evocatio by which he drew Tanis from Carthage in 146 BCE to install Her as Juno Caelistis at Rome.[3]

An inscription for Isaurus Vetus, dating to 75 BCE, indicates another evocatio was performed at the siege of that city.[4]

The practice was so ingrained into Roman siege methods that to reveal the name of Rome's protective, in order that the same be done to Rome, was a capital crime.  There is only one incident that we know about where the name was revealed, although the name remains a secret today.  And this secrecy of Her name is part of the ceremony that was held for Her. 
"Last and greater than all, Rome herself, whose other name the hallowed mysteries of the sacred rites forbid us to mention without being guilty of the greatest impiety. After it had been long kept buried in secrecy with the strictest fidelity and in respectful and salutary silence, Valerius Soranus dared to divulge it, but soon did he pay the penalty of his rashness. It will not perhaps be altogether foreign to the purpose, if I here make mention of one peculiar institution of our forefathers which bears especial reference to the inculcation of silence on religious matters. The Goddess Angerona, to whom sacrifice is offered on the twelfth day before the calends of January [21st December], is represented in her statue as having her mouth bound with a sealed fillet."[5]


The Angeronalia or Divalia of a.d. XII Kal. Ian. was a public festival, performed by the pontifices in the Curia Acculeia. Macrobius in the fifth century said instead that the ritual was performed in a Temple of Volupa, citing Verrius Flaccus as his source, but such a place is not known at Rome, nor is it mentioned by other authors who cited the same source.[6]


Another point made by Macrobius was that this December ritual was made "in propitiation for expelling anguish and anxiety." Angerona was thought by some to be a Goddess who both brought on and relieved anguish and fear. This would place Her among the deities of the Underworld who were involved in a devotio of an enemy's force, and thus may be seen how She was called upon to protect Rome.

Ovid tells a myth about how Angerona came to be called Tacita and Muta, and how Her image is seen with Her mouth concealed. Learning of Jupiter's plans to rape Her sister, Agerona rushed to warn Juturna, and also told Juno of Her husband's intended infidelity. Ovid then said that Jupiter had Angerona's tongue torn from Her, and Her mouth then covered, and then ordered that Mercurius lead Her to Hades. Along the way, Mercurius supposedly raped Her, and thus Angerona became the mother of the Lares compitales. The key here is that Ovid called Her Lara, and Lala, connecting Her to Mater Larum, "the Mother of the Lares."[7]

The Angeronalia, or Divalia Angeronae on 21 December, comes in conjunction with the Larentalia of 23 December where a rite was performed for Larentia (Lara, Lala) in recognition of her as the foster mother of Romulus.  By extension she was the mother of all Romans, much as Mater Larum could be regarded, and thus also the protective Goddess of Rome may also have been viewed, or related to, a Mother Goddess of Rome.

Modern speculations on what Angerona's "true name" may have been have suggested Favra and Fona, Acca, Flora, Valesia, and Valentia, Sorana, and Hirpa. Some of these play on the thought of the she-wolf or lupa that nursed Romulus and Remus. But none of the theories are satisfactory, and none give us any better idea of who Angerona may have been.

References

  1. Pliny, Historia Naturalis 28.4
  2. Livy, History 5.21.1-7
  3. Macrobius, Saturnalia 3.9.6-11
  4. {{{2}}}: I 2954 (EN DE) = AE (1977) 816: Serveilius C f imperator hostibus victeis Isaura vetere capta captiveis venum dateis. Sei deus seive deast quoius in tutela oppidum Vetus Isaura fuit votum solvit. "The imperator Servilius, son of Gaius Servilius, defeated the enemy, took Isaura Vetus and sold those captured there. Whether it was a God or a Goddess who protected Isaura Vetus, he fulfilled his vow."
  5. Pliny, Historia Naturalis 3.9.65-67
  6. Varro, Lingua Latinae 6.23; Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.10
  7. Ovid, Fasti 2.583-617

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