Ludi Romani 2767 a.u.c./Spotlight on the Roman Deities

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In the Spring we celebrated the Ludi Novi Romani, where we honored the major Roman gods and goddesses. This Ludi, we shall honor some of the lesser deities of Rome, as well as the Divine Augustus.


Daily Lararium Rite

In the ancient Roman world, it was traditional to make an offering twice daily, in the Morning and in the Evening. Given our modern schedules and commitments, this is not always possible, so this ritual should be used when you choose to offer one single daily ritual, instead of the Morning and Evening Rituals. You can use this sample format, adding your own prayers to the deity honored each day.


Wash both hands in clean water and in capite velato pray:

May this water cast out all impurities from my substance as from lead to gold.

May this water cleanse my body of impurities, as the rain cleanses the air.

Purify my mind.

Purify my body.

Purify my heart.

It is so.


Be you well and blessed, O Father Ianus, O Household Gods, and all Gods immortal! By offering you this incense, I pray good prayers so that you may be benevolent and propitious to me, my family, and my household.

Incense is placed in the focus of the altar.


Be you well and blessed, O Father Ianus, O Household Gods, and all Gods immortal! I offer incense and pray good prayers to you, Father Ianus, so that the incense find favor with You that all things beneficient and auspicious may be with us in beginning this day; Father Apollo, that You watch over the health and healing of me, my family, and my household, and grant us good health and long life; Mother Iuno, that You watch over our family and guide us down the correct path; Mother Vesta, that Your flames always guide us to the Gods, may Your flames always warm our home and our hearts, and may all be well this day and night in the House of the (Your Family Name); Manes, Lares et Penates, may You always preserve and maintain our house and household, and may You watch over us this day and bless us with a restful sleep this night. Genius of the Paterfamilias, may You guide us to all things joyous and fortunate this day, blessing us this night with fortuitous dreams of the coming day; and, that you be benevolent and propitious to me, to my family to my household.

Other prayers offered here.

Incense is offered in the focus of the altar.


O Father Ianus, O Household Gods, and all Gods Immortal, as by offering to you the incense virtuous prayers were well prayed. For the sake of this be honoured by this incense.

Incense is offered in the focus of the altar.

It is so.


O Father Ianus, O Household Gods, and all Gods Immortal by whatever name I may call you: if anything in this ceremony was displeasing to you, with the sacrificial incense I ask forgiveness and expiate my fault.

Incense is placed in the focus of the altar.

It is done!


Etruscan Ani: Pater Matutinus, "breaker of the day," the oldest God, the God of gods, the Good Creator, the beginner of all things. Light, the sun, opener of the heavenly gates. As Consiuius (The Sower) He is the spouse of Juturna, goddess of springs, and father of Fontus. Janus is also spouse of Venila, a Goddess of shallow seas who is sometimes considered the wife of Neptune. As Janus Quirinus he is a god of peace, that is, peace won by the vigilent Quirites. Janus Pater the creator of 1 January and 17 August. He is called Janus Bifrons (two-faced), Janus Patulcius (the opened door during wartime), and Janus Clusivus (the closed door during peace). A minor deity of same name is a guardian of doorways.

Janus is the Roman god of gates and doors (ianua), beginnings and endings, and hence represented with a double-faced head, each looking in opposite directions. He was worshipped at the beginning of the harvest time, planting, marriage, birth, and other types of beginnings, especially the beginnings of important events in a person's life. Janus also represents the transition between primitive life and civilization, between the countryside and the city, peace and war, and the growing-up of young people. One tradition states that he came from Thessaly and that he was welcomed by Camese in Latium, where they shared a kingdom. They married and had several children, among which the river god Tiberinus (after whom the river Tiber is named). When his wife died, Janus became the sole ruler of Latium. He sheltered Saturn when he was fleeing from Jupiter. Janus, as the first king of Latium, brought the people a time of peace and welfare; the Golden Age. He introduced money, cultivation of the fields, and the laws. After his death he was deified and became the protector of Rome. When Romulus and his associates stole the Sabine Virgins, the Sabines attacked the city. The daughter of one of the guards on the Capitoline Hill betrayed her fellow countrymen and guided the enemy into the city. They attempted to climb the hill but Janus made a hot spring erupt from the ground, and the would-be attackers fled from the city.

Ever since, the gates of his temple were kept open in times of war so the god would be ready to intervene when necessary. In times of peace the gates were closed. His most famous sanctuary was a portal on the Forum Romanum through which the Roman legionaries went to war. He also had a temple on the Forum Olitorium, and in the first century another temple was built on the Forum of Nerva. This one had four portals, called Janus Quadrifons. When Rome became a republic, only one of the royal functions survived, namely that of rex sacrorum or rex sacrificulus. His priests regularly sacrificed to him. The month of January (the eleventh Roman month) is named after him. Janus was represented with two faces, originally one face was bearded while the other was not (probably a symbol of the sun and the moon). Later both faces were bearded. In his right hand he holds a key. The double-faced head appears on many Roman coins, and around the 2nd century BCE even with four faces.


The goddess of blossoming flowers of spring. She had a minor temple on the Quirinalis and was given a sanctuary near the Circus Maximus in 238 BCE. The festival of the Floralia, celebrated on April 28 -May 1, existed until the 4th century CE. The Ludi Florales held in Her honor became annual games in 173 BCE, and under the empire were extended until May 3 for the Floralia. They began with theatrical performances, followed by races, and ending with sacrifices to Flora. Hares and goats were set loose, and vetches, beans, and lupines were distributed to the spectators. Flora is identified with the Greek Chloris.


Saturnus (Saturn or Semino): The Roman god of agriculture concerned with the sowing of the seeds. Titan father of the Di consentes, God of the Abundant Earth and consort of Ops. Representing the father of the gods of the pre-Italic peoples, the Ausones, He brought an earlier form of agriculture to Italy, prior to Ceres instituting grain cultivation, and ruled the earth during the Golden Age.

His main festival is the Saturnalia on 17-23 Dec. At the foot of the Capitoline His temple served as the state treasury, the aerarium Saturni. He was later identified at Rome with the Greek Cronus. Many of the Neolithic megaliths and stone walls of Italy are attributed to the "Sons of Saturnus" who were giants. He is regarded as the father of Jupiter, Ceres, Juno and many others. His wife is the goddess Ops. Jupiter supposedly chased him away and he was taken in by the god Janus in Latium where he introduced agriculture and viniculture. This event heralded a period of peace, happiness and prosperity, the Golden Age. In memory of this Golden Age, each year the Saturnalia was observed on December 17 at his temple on the Forum Romanum. This temple, below the Capitoline Hill, contained the Royal Treasury and is one of the oldest in Rome.

The Saturnalia was one of the major events of the year. Originally only one day, it was later extended to seven days. During this festival, business was suspended, the roles of master and slaves were reversed, moral restrictions were loosened and gifts were exchanged. Offerings made in his honor were done with uncovered heads, contrary to the Roman tradition. In contrast to his festival, Saturn himself was never very popular. From the 3rd century on, he was identified with the Greek Cronus, and his cult became only marginally more popular. That he ruled over the Golden Age is an extension to the Greek myth. Saturday is named after him.


In ancient Roman religion, Fontanus/Fontus/Fons (plural Fontes, "Font" or "Source") was a god of wells and springs. A religious festival called the Fontinalia was held on October 13 in his honor. Throughout the city, fountains and wellheads were adorned with garlands.

Fons was the son of Juturna and Janus. Numa Pompilius, second king of Rome, was supposed to have been buried near the altar of Fons (ara Fontis) on the Janiculum. William Warde Fowler observed that between 259 and 241 BC, cults were founded for Juturna, Fons, and the Tempestates, all having to do with sources of water. As a god of pure water, Fons can be placed in opposition to Liber as a god of wine identified with Bacchus.

An inscription includes Fons among a series of deities who received expiatory sacrifices by the Arval Brothers in 224 AD, when several trees in the sacred grove of Dea Dia, their chief deity, had been struck by lightning and burnt. Fons received two wethers. Fons was not among the deities depicted on coinage of the Roman Republic.

In the cosmological schema of Martianus Capella, Fons is located in the second of 16 celestial regions, with Jupiter, Quirinus, Mars, the Military Lar, Juno, Lympha, and the Novensiles.

Fons Perennis

Water as a source of regeneration played a role in the Mithraic mysteries, and inscriptions to Fons Perennis ("Eternal Spring" or "Never-Failing Stream") have been found in mithraea. In one of the scenes of the Mithraic cycle, the god strikes a rock, which then gushes water. A Mithraic text explains that the stream was a source of life-giving water and immortal refreshment. Dedications to "inanimate entities" from Mithraic narrative ritual, such as Fons Perennis and Petra Genetrix ("Generative Rock"), treat them as divine and capable of hearing, like the nymphs and healing powers to whom these are more often made.


A god of wind and water. The Roman god of the East Wind, equal to the Greek Eurus. A river deity associated with the river Volturnus in Campania (Italy), but it could also be an ancient name for the Tiber. The Volturnalia was observed on August 27.

The etymology of Volturnus is uncertain. It is thought to derive from volvere, "to roll along or wind around".

Little is known about Volturnus, although scholars have attempted to reconstruct his myth and role in the cultus deorum. Volturnus is known to have been an agricultural God, and surviving fragments show he was specifically a river God. Like other ancient Gods, his cult was overshadowed and obscured by a religious reformation, probably in the 4th century BCE. By the time of Varro (116 BCE - 27 BCE), a scholar who collected the surviving materials, there were only traces left of Rome's earliest religion. He reported the survival of a Flamen Volturnalis, but found the God to be "obscure."

The name Volturnus suggests a connection with the port of Volturnum (now Capua). Volturnum was a settlement of the Oscans, and later of the Etruscans. The city is situated on the Volturno (anc. Voluturnus) river, which apparently had a Samnite river God of the same name. Rome extended its borders to the Volturno during the Latin War (340-338 BCE), and decisively defeated the Samnites on the other side of the Volturno during the Third Samnite War (298-290 BCE). The Samnites were allowed to retain their independence, becoming allies of Rome. The Romans built a fort at Volturum for provisioning the army, and in 194 BCE established a colony there.

Probably, Volturnus' cult was brought to Rome in the 2nd century BCE. Such removals of conquered Gods to Rome were commonplace. Then, at some unknown date, the cults of the river Gods Tiberinus and Volturnus were conflated.

No myths concerning Volturnus have survived. Some scholars argue he has always had the character of a numen, and therefore never acquired personal characteristics.

Classical scholar Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903) believed Volturnus was the cult name for the tutelary deity of the Tiber river. His reasoning is straightforward: surviving fragments show Volturnus was a river God, and, being Roman, that river must have been the Tiber. Mommsen's view influenced generations of scholars, and is still presented as a fact in popular materials. However, the identification encounters immediate difficulties. The God of the Tiber river was almost certainly named 'Tiberinus' by the Latins, while the Volturno is a river in Campania. Following an influential article by Joel Le Gall in 1953, the identification of Volturnus with Tiberinus was largely abandoned by the scholarly community. A minority view among scholars is that Volturnus was a generic God of rivers, and gave his name both to the Tiber and the Volturno.

Mommsen also identified Volturnus with Portunus, on the basis of a late calendar where the Portinalia is also called the Tiberinalia. Further, the sacrifices on that day were held "in porto Tiberindo." Portunus was a God of harbors.

Vertumnus was the Etruscan Bacchus, God of wine and fruits. His consort Voltumna, whom the Romans equated with Pomona, was the patron of the Etruscan League. Dennis notes that Vertumnus was called Vortumnus by Varro and speculates that he was identical with the Volturnus mentioned by Festus and Varro – “though neither recognise the relation in this case." The correspondence has not gained acceptance.

Lucretius associated Volturnus with the Tempestates: "And other Winds do follow: the high roar / Of great Volturnus, and the Southwind strong / With thunder-bolts." From this passage, it appears the Romans might have equated Volturnus with Vulturnus, one of the Venti. Vulturnus' Greek analog was Eurus (Εύρος), the God of the east wind, and a son of Eos, possibly by Astræus. In Italy, the Vulturno, now called the Scirocco, blows from the southeast. The Vulturno takes its name from Monte Vulture (anc. Vultur). Those who equate Volturnus with Vulturnus believe that the Volturnalia was a festival to avert the drought caused by these drying winds. However, most contemporary scholars separate Volturnus the river from Vulturnus the east wind, and point to the timing of the Volturnalia at harvest time as evidence that it would have been offered in thanks for the irrigation water drawn from rivers rather than as a supplication to avert drought.

No consorts or children of Volturnus are known. Velthurna, the equivalent of Voltumna or Volturna was an Etruscan family-name attested by sepulchral inscriptions at Perugia and Sovana. It has been suggested that Volturnus was originally the tutelary deity of the Etruscan Velthur family.

Volturnus was one of 15 Gods served by state-sponsored flamines, in a system conventionally said to have been established by Numa Pompilius. From that fact, Volturnus was probably an agricultural deity, Although the subject is controversial, the authority of the flamines seems to have been overthrown by a pontifical revolution when the Roman religion was reconstituted along Greek lines. This reform took place at early but unknown date, perhaps about 350 BCE. Thereafter, the original deities declined in importance. By the beginning of the Republic, the flamines seem to have been anachronistic. Like other flamines minores, the Flamen Volturnalis could be either patrician or plebeian.

The festival of Volturnus, called the Volturnalia was celebrated on a.d. VI Kal. Sep. and belonged to the Numan calendar. Details of the Volturnalia have not survived, but we have fragments addressed to Volturnus. We know that the Volturnalia was celebrated with feasting, wine-drinking and games. In the opinion of the Pontifex Maximus of Nova Roma, “At the very least a "standard" ritual of sacrifice, Roman feast, and standard Roman games would be a passable reconstruction of the day, pending the discovery of further specific information." Some scholars say Iuturna was honored the same day. However, she also had her own festival, the Iuturnalia, a.d. III Id. Ian.

A bust, identified as Volturnus and dating from the 2nd century BCE, survives at the Arch of S. Eligio in Capua. A representation of a man having a fish offered to him survives at Corneta, in the Grotta delle Iscrizioni. Gerhard identifies this as Vertumnus. Other scholars believe it represents Volturnus. More probably, it represents Volcanus. Small live fish were thrown into a fire as a sacrificial offering at the Volcanalia.


Pales was a Roman divinity of flocks and shepherds, and is described by some as a male, and by others as a female divinity; whence some modern writers have inferred that Pales was a combination of both sexes; but, such a monstrosity is altogether foreign to the religion of the Romans. (Verg. A. 3.1, 297, Georg. 3.1; Serv. ad Virg. Eclog. 5.35; Ov. Fast. 4.721, 746, 766; Dionys. A. R. 1.88 ; Athen. 8.361.)

The name seems to be connected with Palatinus, the centre of all the earliest legends of Rome, and the god himself was with the Romans the embodiment of the same idea as Pan among the Greeks.

The Parilia was the ancient Roman festival celebrated annually on April 21 in honour of the god and goddess Pales, the protectors of flocks and herds. According to later tradition, April 21 was the day on which Romulus began building the city of Rome and was thus celebrated as the dies natalis of the city.

Some of the rites performed at the festival of Pales would indeed seem to indicate, that the divinity was a female character; but besides the express statements to the contrary (Serv. ad Virg. Georg. 3.1; Arnob. ad v. Gent. 3.23; Martian. cap. i. p. 27), there also are other reasons for believing that Pales was a male divinity.

The festival, basically a purification rite for herdsmen, beasts, and stalls, was at first celebrated by the early kings of Rome, later by the pontifex maximus, or chief priest. The Vestal Virgins opened the festival by distributing straw and the ashes and blood of sacrificial animals. Ritual cleaning, anointment, and adornment of herds and stalls followed, together with offerings of simple foods. On that day large fires were made through which they drove the cattle. The celebrants jumped over a bonfire three times to complete the purification, and an open-air feast ended the festival.

Another festival to Pales, apparently dedicated "to the two Pales" (Palibus duobus) was held on July 7. Marcus Atilius Regulus built a temple to Pales in Rome following his victory over the Salentini in 267 BC. It is generally thought to have been located on the Palatine Hill, but, being a victory monument, it may have been located on the route of the triumphal procession, either on the Campus Martius or the Aventine Hill.


Furrina (not Furina), was an ancient Roman goddess whose function had become obscure by the time of Varro. Her cult dated to the earliest period of Roman religious history, since she was one of the fifteen deities who had their own flamen, the Furrinalis, one of the flamines minores. There is some evidence that Furrina was associated with water.

She is not considered to be the same deity as Furina, the Roman goddess of thieves and highway bandits.

Furrina was a goddess of springs, her name being related to the Indoeuropean root *bhr-u-n, Skr. bhurvan, indicating the moving or bubbling of water, cognate to Gothic brunna spring, Latin fervēre, from *fruur > furr by metathesis of the vowel, meaning to bubble or boil. Compare English "fervent", "effervescent" and Latin defruutum, boiled wine.

The goddess had a sacred spring and a shrine in Rome, located on the southwestern slopes of Mount Janiculum, on the right bank of the Tiber. The site has survived to the present day in the form of a grove, included within the gardens of Villa Sciarra. Excavations on the site conducted in 1910 identified a well and a system of underground channels, as well as some inscriptions dedicated to Jupiter Heliopolitanus, Agatis, and the nymphae furrinae. However these findings look to be of a later date (2nd century CE) and perhaps the well is not the original spring. Gaius Gracchus was killed in the Grove of Furrina.

According to Cicero another sanctuary dedicated to the cult of Furrina was located near Satricum. This place was not the most widely known one but a hamlet near Arpinum.

Furrina's festival was the Furrinalia on July 25. On the Roman calendar, festivals separated by an interval of three days were interconnected and belonged to the same function. In the second half of July, the two Lucaria occur on the 19th and 17th, with the Neptunalia on the 23rd and the Furrinalia on the 25th. This grouping is devoted to woods and running waters, which are intended as a shelter and a relief from the heat of the season, the canicula.

According to Martianus Capella, Furrina is a low ranking deity who has her seat just above the mountain peaks.


Among the ancient Romans, Iuppiter was the supreme god of the Roman pantheon, called dies pater, "shining father". He is a god of light and sky, and protector of the state and its laws. He is a son of Saturn and brother of Neptune and Juno (who is also his wife). The Romans worshipped him especially as Iuppiter Optimus Maximus (all-good, all-powerful). This name refers not only to his rulership over the universe, but also to his function as the god of the state who distributes laws, controls the realm and makes his will known through oracles. His English name is Jove. He had a temple on the Capitoline, together with Juno and Minerva, but he was the most prominent of this Capitoline triad.

His temple was not only the most important sanctuary in Rome; it was also the center of political life. Here official offerings were made, treaties were signed and wars were declared, and the triumphant generals of the Roman army came here to give their thanks.

Iuppiter is also the protector of the ancient league of Latin cities. His attribute is the lightning bolt and the eagle is both his symbol and his messenger. Iuppiter is completely identical with the Greek Zeus.

Iuppiter Latiaris and Feriae Latinae

The cult of Iuppiter Latiaris was the most ancient known cult of the god: it was practised since very remote times near the top of the Mons Albanus on which the god was venerated as the high protector of the Latin League under the hegemony of Alba Longa.

After the destruction of Alba by king Tullus Hostilius the cult was forsaken. The god manifested his discontent through the prodigy of a rain of stones: the commission sent by the Roman senate to inquire was also greeted by a rain of stones and heard a loud voice from the grove on the summit of the mount requesting the Albans perform the religious service to the god according to the rites of their country. In consequence of this event the Romans instituted a festival of nine days (nundinae). Nonetheless a plague ensued: in the end Tullus Hostilius himself was affected and lastly killed by the god with a lightning bolt. The festival was reestablished on its primitive site by the last Roman king Tarquin the Proud under the leadership of Rome.

The feriae Latinae, or Latiar as they were known originally, were the common festival (panegyris) of the so-called Priscan Latins and of the Albans. Their restoration aimed at grounding Roman hegemony in this ancestral religious tradition of the Latins. The original cult was reinstated unchanged as is testified by some archaic features of the ritual: the exclusion of wine from the sacrifice the offers of milk and cheese and the ritual use of rocking among the games.

Rocking is one of the most ancient rites mimicking ascent to Heaven and is very widespread. At the Latiar the rocking took place on a tree and the winner was of course the one who had swung the highest. This rite was said to have been instituted by the Albans to commemorate the disappearance of king Latinus, in the battle against Mezentius king of Caere: the rite symbolised a search for him both on earth and in heaven. The rocking as well as the customary drinking of milk was also considered to commemorate and ritually reinstate infancy. The Romans in the last form of the rite brought the sacrificial ox from Rome and every participant was bestowed a portion of the meat, rite known as carnem petere. Other games were held in every participant borough.

In Rome a race of chariots (quadrigae) was held starting from the Capitol: the winner drank a liquor made with absynth. This competition has been compared to the Vedic rite of the vajapeya: in it seventeen chariots run a phoney race which must be won by the king in order to allow him to drink a cup of madhu, i. e. soma. The feasting lasted for at least four days, possibly six according to Niebuhr, one day for each of the six Latin and Alban decuriae. According to different records 47 or 53 boroughs took part in the festival (the listed names too differ in Pliny NH III 69 and Dionysius of Halicarnassus AR V 61). The Latiar became an important feature of Roman political life as they were feriae conceptivae, i. e. their date varied each year: the consuls and the highest magistrates were required to attend shortly after the beginning of the administration, originally on the Ides of March: the Feriae usually took place in early April. They could not start campaigning before its end and if any part of the games had been neglected or performed unritually the Latiar had to be wholly repeated. The inscriptions from the imperial age record the festival back to the time of the decemvirs. Wissowa remarks the inner linkage of the temple of the Mons Albanus with that of the Capitol apparent in the common association with the rite of the triumph: since 231 BC some triumphing commanders had triumphed there first with the same legal features as in Rome.

The Games to Iuppiter

The Ides of each month are sacred to Iuppiter, and there were two festivals called epulum Iovis ("Feast of Jove"). One was held on September 13, the anniversary of the foundation of Iuppiter's Capitoline temple. The other (and probably older) festival was part of the Plebeian Games (Ludi Plebei), and was held on November 13. In the 3rd century BC, the epulum Iovis became similar to a lectisternium.

The most ancient Roman games followed after one day (considered a dies ater, or "black day", i. e. a day which was traditionally considered unfortunate even though it was not nefas) the two Epula Iovis of September and November.

The games of September were named Ludi Magni; originally they were not held every year, but later became the annual Ludi Romani and were held in the Circus Maximus after a procession from the Capitol. The games were attributed to Tarquinius Priscus, and linked to the cult of Iuppiter on the Capitol. Romans themselves acknowledged analogies with the triumph, which Dumézil thinks can be explained by their common Etruscan origin; the magistrate in charge of the games dressed as the triumphator and the pompa circensis resembled a triumphal procession. Wissowa and Mommsen argue that they were a detached part of the triumph on the above grounds (a conclusion which Dumézil rejects).

The Ludi Plebei took place in November in the Circus Flaminius. Mommsen argued that the epulum of the Ludi Plebei was the model of the Ludi Romani, but Wissowa finds the evidence for this assumption insufficient. The Ludi Plebei were probably established in 534 BC. Their association with the cult of Iuppiter is attested by Cicero.

The Temple of Iuppiter

The temple of Iuppiter Optimus Maximus stood on the Capitoline Hill. Iuppiter was worshiped there as an individual deity, and with Juno and Minerva as part of the Capitoline Triad. The building was supposedly begun by king Tarquinius Priscus, completed by the last king (Tarquinius Superbus) and inaugurated in the early days of the Roman Republic (September 13, 509 BC). It was topped with the statues of four horses drawing a quadriga, with Iuppiter as charioteer. A large statue of Iuppiter stood within; on festival days, its face was painted red. In (or near) this temple was the Iuppiter Lapis: the Iuppiter Stone, on which oaths could be sworn.

Iuppiter was in charge of cosmic Justice, and in ancient Rome, people swore to Jove in their courts of law, which lead to the common expression "By Jove," that many people use today.






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