Ludi Megalenses MMDCCLXVII (2767) AUC (Nova Roma)/Deity Presentations

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Presentation on the goddess, Cybele or Magna Mater

Cybele: The Magna Mater

Today being the beginning of the Megalensia festival, held to honor Cybele, the Magna Mater, I present an educational look at the history, mythology, and religion surrounding this timeless figure in the pantheon of Rome:

One of the most intriguing figures in the religious life of the ancient Mediterranean world is the Phrygian Mother Goddess, known to the Greeks and Romans as Kybele and Magna Mater and the Mother of the Gods. The worship of this goddess spread throughout the Roman Empire. Originally Phrygian, she was a goddess of caverns, of the Earth in its primitive state; worshipped on mountain tops. She ruled over wild beasts, and was also a bee goddess. Her cult was particularly prominent in central Anatolia (modern Turkey), and spread from there through the Greek and Roman world. She was an enormously popular figure, attracting devotion from common people and potentates alike.

The Roman State adopted and developed a particular form of her cult after the Sibylline oracle recommended her conscription as a key religious component in Rome's second war against Carthage. The goddess arrived in Rome in the form of Pessinos' black meteoric stone. As this cult object belonged to a Roman ally, the Kingdom of Pergamum, the Roman Senate sent ambassadors to seek the king's consent; en route, a consultation with the Greek oracle at Delphi confirmed that the goddess should be brought to Rome. Roman legend connects this voyage, or its end, to the matron Claudia Quinta, who was accused of inchastity but proved her innocence with a miraculous feat on behalf of the goddess. Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, supposedly the "best man" in Rome, was chosen to meet the goddess at Ostia; and Rome's most virtuous matrons (including Claudia Quinta) conducted her to the temple of Victoria, to await the completion of her temple on the Palatine Hill. Pessinos' stone was later used as the face of the goddess' statue. In due course, the famine ended and Hannibal was defeated. Roman mythographers reinvented her as a Trojan goddess, and thus an ancestral goddess of the Roman people by way of the Trojan prince Aeneas. With Rome's eventual hegemony over the Mediterranean world, Romanised forms of Cybele's cults spread throughout the Roman Empire. The meaning and morality of her cults and priesthoods were topics of debate and dispute in Greek and Roman literature, and remain so in modern scholarship.

Augustan ideology identified Magna Mater with Imperial order and Rome's religious authority throughout the empire. Augustus claimed a Trojan ancestry through his adoption by Julius Caesar and the divine favour of Venus; in the iconography of Imperial cult, the empress Livia was Magna Mater's earthly equivalent, Rome's protector and symbolic "Great Mother"; the goddess is portrayed with Livia's face on cameos and statuary. On the cuirass of Augustus' Prima Porta statue, Magna Mater's tympanon lies at the feet of the goddess Tellus. By this time, Rome had absorbed the goddess's Greek and Phrygian homelands, and the Roman version of Cybele as Imperial Rome's protector was introduced there.


Presentation on the god, Iuppiter

JUPITER: THE FATHER GOD

Ageless god of the sky, ever feared master of thunder, and beneficent keeper of Rome. Across the whole expanse of the vast and eternal heavens, and ever since there have been sons of Rome to worship him, Jupiter has been acknowledged and revered by Roman cultors as the supreme ruler of men and gods alike.

He first deigned to bless king Numa Pompilius with divine symbols of imperium, thus giving Rome a divinely approved status, on which to build a heritage. This would be a for Rome to carry with it through the centuries: A heritage that would forever shape the world of men to come.

Throughout the life of Rome, as a kingdom, as a republic, and as an empire, Jupiter was forever and inextricably connected with the welfare of the people, the clemency of the seasons, and the spiritual vitality of the nation. He was given a highest honor worthy of a god when a magnificent temple was erected to his name on the Capitoline hill; and thus men gave Rome back to him who first gave Rome to men. The temple’s dedication festival fell on September 13, on which day the consuls originally succeeded to office, accompanied by the Senate and other magistrates and priests. In fulfillment of a vow made by their predecessors, the consuls offered to Jupiter a white ox, his favourite sacrifice, and, after rendering thanks for the preservation of the state during the past year, they made the same vow as that by which their predecessors had been bound. Then followed the feast of Jupiter. In later times this day became the central point of the great Roman games. When a victorious army returned home the triumphal procession passed to this temple.

Throughout the Roman Republic this remained the central Roman cult; and, although Augustus’ new foundations of the cults of Apollo Palatinus and Mars Ultor were in some sense its rivals, that emperor was far too shrewd to attempt to oust Iuppiter Optimus Maximus from his paramount position; he became the protecting deity of the reigning emperor as representing the state, as he had been the protecting deity of the free republic. His worship spread over the whole empire.

Since that time, Jupiter dominated the Roman calendar, with not only numerous festivals and other feriae, but also because the institution of the nundinae was attributed to him.

There were a collection of cults and celebrations that developed, dedicated to many various aspects of Jupiter, and a number of which involved the production and consumption of wine.

Jupiter was not only the great protecting deity of the race but also one whose worship embodied a distinct moral conception. He is especially concerned with oaths, treaties, and leagues, and it was in the presence of his priest that the most ancient and sacred form of marriage, the confarreatio took place. The lesser deities Dius Fidius and Fides were, perhaps, originally identical and certainly were connected with him. This connection with the conscience, with the sense of obligation and right dealing, was never quite lost throughout Roman history. In Virgil’s Aeneid, though Jupiter is in many ways as much Greek as Roman, he is still the great protecting deity who keeps the hero in the path of duty and pietas toward gods, state, and family.


Presentation on the god, Apollo

APOLLO: THE GOD OF PROPHECY, ORACLES, HEALING, ETC.

Today we remember the greatness of Apollo, the god so important that the Romans did not change his name!

APOLLO was the great Olympian god of prophecy and oracles, healing, plague and disease, music, song and poetry, archery, and the protection of the young. He was depicted as a handsome, beardless youth with long hair and various attributes including:--a wreath and branch of laurel; bow and quiver; raven; and lyre.

The most famous myths of Apollo include:

  • His birth on the island of Delos;
  • The slaying of the serpent Python which guarded the oracular shrine of Delphoi;
  • The slaying of the giant Tityos who attempted to carry off the god's mother Leto;
  • The destruction of the Niobides whose mother had offended Leto with her boasts;
  • His music contest with the satyr Marsyas who lost and was flayed alive;
  • His love for the youth Hyakinthos who was killed by a discus throw and transformed into a flower;
  • His love for the nymph Daphne who fled from him and was transformed into a laurel tree;
  • His love for Koronis who was slain by Artemis for her infidelity;
  • The murder of the Kyklopes who had forged the lightning bolt used to destroy his son Asklepios;
  • His service as bondsman to the mortal Admetos;
  • His struggle with Herakles for the Delphic tripod;
  • The Trojan War in which he brought plague to the Greeks and helped Paris slay Akhilleus.

He was one of the great divinities of the Greeks, and according to Homer (Il. i. 21, 36), the son of Zeus and Leto. Hesiod (Theog. 918) states the same, and adds, that Apollo′s sister was Artemis. Neither of the two poets suggests anything in regard to the birth-place of the god, unless we take Lukêgenês (Il. iv. 101) in the sense of "born in Lycia," which, however, according to others, would only mean "born of or in light." Several towns and places claimed the honour of his birth, as we see from various local traditions mentioned by late writers. Thus the Ephesians said that Apollo and Artemis were born in the grove of Ortygia near Ephesus (Tacit. Annal. iii. 61); the inhabitants of Tegyra in Boeotia and of Zoster in Attica claimed the same honour for themselves. (Steph. Byz. s.v. Tegura.) In some of these local traditions Apollo is mentioned alone, and in others together with his sister Artemis. The account of Apollo′s parentage, too, was not the same in all traditions (Cic. de Nat. Deor. iii. 23), and the Egyptians made out that he was a son of Dionysus and Isis. (Herod. ii. 156.) But the opinion most universally received was, that Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto, was born in the island of Delos, together with his sister Artemis; and the circumstances of his birth there are detailed in the Homeric hymn on Apollo, and in that of Callimachus on Delos. (Comp. Apollod. i. 4. § 1; Hygin. Fab. 140.) Hera in her jealousy pursued Leto from land to land and from isle to isle, and endeavoured to prevent her finding a resting-place where to give birth. At last, however, she arrived in Delos, where she was kindly received, and after nine days′ labour she gave birth to Apollo under a palm or an olive tree at the foot of mount Cynthus. She was assisted by all the goddesses, except Hera and Eileithyia, but the latter too hastened to lend her aid, as soon as she heard what was taking place. The island of Delos, which previous to this event had been unsteady and floating on or buried under the waves of the sea, now became stationary, and was fastened to the roots of the earth. (Comp. Virg. Aen. iii. 75.) The day of Apollo′s birth was believed to have been the seventh of the month, whence he is called hebdomagenês. (Plut. Sympos. 8.) According to some traditions, he was a seven months′ child (heptamênaios). The number seven was sacred to the god; on the seventh of every month sacrifices were offered to him (hebdomagetês, Aeschyl. Sept. 802; comp. Callim. Hymn. in Del. 250, &c.), and his festivals usually fell on the seventh of a month. Immediately after his birth, Apollo was fed with ambrosia and nectar by Themis, and no sooner had he tasted the divine food, than he sprang up and demanded a lyre and a bow, and declared, that henceforth he would declare to men the will of Zeus. Delos exulted with joy, and covered herself with golden flowers. (Comp. Theognis, 5, &c.; Eurip. Hecub. 457, &c.)

Apollo, though one of the great gods of Olympus, is yet represented in some sort of dependence on Zeus, who is regarded as the source of the powers exercised by his son. The powers ascribed to Apollo are apparently of different kinds, but all are connected with one another, and may be said to be only ramifications of one and the same, as will be seen from the following classification.

Apollo is:

1. The god who punishes and destroys (oulios) the wicked and overbearing, and as such he is described as the god with bow and arrows, the gift of Hephaestus. (Hom. Il. i. 42, xxiv.605, Od. xi. 318, xv. 410, &c.; comp. Pind. Pyth. iii. 15, &c.) Various epithets given to him in the Homeric poems, such as hekatos, hekaergos, hekêbolos, ekatêbolos, klutotoxos, and argurotoxos, refer to him as the god who with his darts hits his object at a distance and never misses it. All sudden deaths of men, whether they were regarded as a punishment or a reward, were believed to be the effect of the arrows of Apollo; and with the same arrows he sent the plague into the camp of the Greeks. Hyginus relates, that four days after his birth, Apollo went to mount Parnassus, and there killed the dragon Python, who had pursued his mother during her wanderings, before she reached Delos. He is also said to have assisted Zeus in his contest with the giants. (Apollod, i. 6. § 2.) The circumstance of Apollo being the destroyer of the wicked was believed by some of the ancients to have given rise to his name Apollo, which they connected with apollumi, "to destroy." (Aeschyl. Agam. 1081.) Some modern writers, on the other hand, who consider the power of averting evil to have been the original and principal feature in his character, say that Apollôn, i. e. Apellôn, (from the root pello), signifies the god who drives away evil, and is synonymous with alexikakas, Acesius, Acestor, sôtêr, and other names and epithets applied to Apollo.

2. The god who affords help and wards off evil. As he had the power of visiting men with plagues and epidemics, so he was also able to deliver men from them, if duly propitiated, or at least by his oracles to suggest the means by which such calamities could be averted. Various names and epithets which are given to Apollo, especially by later writers, such as akesios, akestôr, alexikakos, sôtêr, apotropaios, epikourios, iatromantis, and others, are descriptive of this power. (Paus. i. 3. § 3, vi. 24. § 5, viii. 41. § 5; Plut. de Ei ap. Delph. 21, de Defect. Orac. 7; Aeschyl. Eum.. 62; comp. Müller, Dor. ii. 6. § 3.) It seems to be the idea of his being the god who afforded help, that made him the father of Asclepius, the god of the healing art, and that, at least in later times, identified him with Pacëon, the god of the healing art in Homer.

3. The god of prophecy. Apollo exercised this power in his numerous oracles, and especially in that of Delphi. (Dict. of Ant. s. v. Oraculum) The source of all his prophetic powers was Zeus himself (Apollodorus states, that Apollo received the mantikê from Pan), and Apollo is accordingly called "the prophet of his father Zeus." (Aeschyl. Eum. 19); but he had nevertheless the power of communicating the gift of prophecy both to gods and men, and all the ancient seers and prophets are placed in some relationship to him. (Hom. Il. i. 72, Hymn. in Merc. 3, 471.) The manner in which Apollo came into the possession of the oracle of Delphi (Pytho) is related differently. According to Apollodorus, the oracle had previously been in the possession of Themis, and the dragon Python guarded the mysterious chasm, and Apollo, after having slain the monster, took possession of the oracle. According to Hyginus, Python himself possessed the oracle; while Pausanias (x. 3. § 5) states, that it belonged to Gaea and Poseidon in common. (Comp. Eurip. Iphig. Taur. 1246, &c.; Atlen. xv. p. 701; Ov. Met. i. 439; Apollon. Rhod. ii. 706.)

4. The god of song and music. We find him in the Iliad (i. 603) delighting the immortal gods with his play on the phorminx during their repast ; and the Homeric bards derived their art of song either from Apollo or the Muses. (Od. viii. 488, with Eustath.) Later traditions ascribed to Apollo even the invention of the flute and lyre (Callim. Hymn. in Del. 253; Plut. de Mus.), while the more common tradition was, that he received the lyre from Hermes. Ovid Heroid. xvi. 180) makes Apollo build the walls of Troy by playing on the lyre, as Amphion did the walls of Thebes. Respecting his musical contests, see Marsyas.

5. The god who protects the flocks and cattle (nomios Deos, from nomos or nomê, a meadow or pasture land). Homer (Il. ii. 766) says, that Apollo reared the swift steeds of Eumelus Pheretiades in Pieria, and according to the Homeric hymn to Hermes (22, 70, &c.) the herds of the gods fed in Pieria under the care of Apollo. At the command of Zeus, Apollo guarded the cattle of Laomedon in the valleys of mount Ida. (ll. xxi. 488.) There are in Homer only a few allusions to this feature in the character of Apollo, but in later writers it assumes a very prominent form (Pind. Pyth. ix. 114; Callim. Hymn. in Apoll. 50, &c.); and in the story of Apollo tending the flocks of Admetus at Pherae in Thessaly, on the banks of the river Amphrysus, the idea reaches its height. (Apollod. i. 9. &sec; 15; Eurip. Alcest. 8; Tibull. ii. 3. 11; Virg. Georg. iii. 2.)

6. The god who delights in the foundation of towns and the establishment of civil constilutions. His assistance in the building of Troy was mentioned above; respecting his aid in raising the walls of Megara. Pindar (Pyth. v. 80) calls Apollo the archêgetês, or the leader of the Dorians in their migration to Peloponnesus; and this idea, as well as the one that he delighted in the foundation of cities. seems to be intimately connected with the circumstance, that a town or a colony was never founded by the Greeks without consulting an oracle of Apollo, so that in every case he became, as it were, their spiritual leader. The epithets ktistês and oikistês (see Böckh, ad Pind. l.e.) refer to this part in the character of Apollo.

These characteristics of Apollo necessarily appear in a peculiar light, if we adopt the view which was almost universal among the later poets, mythographers, and philesophers, and according to which Apollo was identical with Helios, or the Sun. In Homer and for some centuries after his time Apollo and Helios are perfectiy distinet. The question which here presents itself, is, whether the idea of the identity of the two divinities was the original and primitive one, and was only revival in later times, or whether it was the result of later speeulations and of foreign, chiefly Egyptian, influence. Each of these two opinions has had its able advocates. The former, which has been maintained by Buttmann and Hermann, is supported by strong arguments. In the time of Callimachus, some persons distinguished between Apollo and Helios, for which they were censured by the poet. (Fragm. 48, ed. Bentley.) Pausanias (vii. 23. &sec; 6) states, that he met a Sidonian who declared the two gods to be identical, and Pausanias adds that this was quite in accordance with the belief of the Greeks. (Comp. Strab. xiv. p. (635; Plut. de Ei ap. Delph. 4, de Def.Orae. 7.) It has further been said, that if Apollo be regarded as the Sun, the powers and attributes which we have enumerated above are easily explained and accounted for; that the surname of Phoibos (the shining or brilliant), which is frequently applied to Apollo in the Homeric poems, points to the sun; and lastly, that the traditions concerning the Hyperboreans and their worship of Apollo bear the strongest marks of their regarding the god in the same light. (Alcaeus, ap. Himer. xiv. 10; Diod. ii. 47.) Still greater stress is laid on the fact that the Egyptian Horus was regarded as identical with Apollo (Herod. ii. 144, 156 ; Diod. i. 25; Plut. de Is. et Os. 12, 61; Aelian, Hist. An. x. 14), as Horus is usually considered as the god of the burning sun. Those who adopt this view derive Apollo from the East or from Egypt, and regard the Athenian Apollôn patrôios as the god who was brought to Attica by the Egyptian colony under Cecrops. Another set of accounts derives the worship of Apollo from the very opposite quarter of the world -- from the country of the Hyperboreans, that is, a nation living beyond the point where the north wind rises, and whose country is in consequence most happy and fruitful. According to a fragment of an ancient Doric hymn in Pausanias (x. 5. § 4), the oracle of Delphi was founded by Hyperboreans and Olenus ; Leto, too, is said to have come from the Hyperboreans to Delos, and Eileithyia likewise. (Herod. iv. 33, &c.; Paus. i. 18. § 4; Diod. ii. 47.) The Hyperboreans, says Diodorus, worship Apollo more zealously than any other people; they are all priests of Apollo; one town in their country is sacred to Apollo, and its inhabitants are for the most part players on the lyre. (Comp. Pind. pyth. x. 55, &c.)

These opposite accounts respecting the original seat of the worship of Apollo might lead us to suppose, that they refer to two distinct divinities, which were in the course of time united into one, as indeed Cicero (de Nat. Deor. iii. 23) distinguishes four different Apollos. Müller has rejected most decidedly and justly the hypothesis, that Apollo was derived from Egypt; but he rejects at the same time, without very satisfactory reasons, the opinion that Apollo was connected with the worship of nature or any part of it; for, according to him, Apollo is a purely spiritual divinity, and far above all the other gods of Olympus. As regards the identity of Apollo and Helios, he justly remarks, that it would be a strange phenomenon if this identity should have fallen into oblivion for several centuries, and then have been revived. This objection is indeed strong, but not insurmountable if we recollect the tendency of the Greeks to change a peculiar attribute of a god into a separate divinity; and this process, in regard to Helios and Apollo, seems to have taken place previous to the time of Homer. Müller′s view of Apollo, which is at least very ingenious, is briefly this. The original and essential feature in the character of Apollo is that of "the averter of evil" (Apellôn); he is originally a divinity peculiar to the Doric race; and the most ancient seats of his worship are the Thessalian Tempe and Delphi. From thence it was transplanted to Crete, the inhabitants of which spread it over the coasts of Asia Minor and parts of the continent of Greece, such as Boeotia and Attica. In the latter country it was introduced during the immigration of the Ionians, whence the god became the Apollôn patrpsos of the Athenians. The conquest of Peloponnesus by the Dorians raised Apollo to the rank of the principal divinity in the peninsula. The Apollôn nomios was originally a local divinity of the shepherds of Arcadia, who was transformed into and identified with the Dorian Apollo during the process in which the latter became the national divinity of the Peloponnesians. In the same manner as in this instance the god assumed the character of a god of herds and flocks, his character was changed and modified in other parts of Greece also : with the Hyperboreans he was the god of prophecy, and with the Cretans the god with bow and darts. In Egypt he was made to form a part of their astronomical system, which was afterwards introduced into Greece, where it became the prevalent opinion of the learned.

But whatever we may think of this and other modes of explaining the origin and nature of Apollo, one point is certain and attested by thousands of facts, that Apollo and his worship, his festivals and oracles, had more influence upon the Greeks than any other god. It may safely be asserted, that the Greeks would never have become what they were, without the worship of Apollo : in him the brightest side of the Grecian mind is reflected. Respecting his festivals, see Dict. of Ant. s. v. Apollônia, Thargelia, and others.

In the religion of the early Romans there is no trace of the worship of Apollo. The Romans became acquainted with this divinity through the Creeks, and adopted all their notions and ideas about him from the latter people. There is no doubt that the Romans knew of his worship among the Greeks at a very early time, and tradition says that they consulted his oracle at Delphi even before the expulsion of the kings. But the first time that we hear of the worship of Apollo at Rome is in the year B. C. 430, when, for the purpose of averting a plague, a temple was raised to him, and soon after dedicated by the consul, C. Julius. (Liv. iv. 25, 29.) A second temple was built to him in the year B. C. 350. One of these two (it is not certain which) stood outside the porta Capena. During the second Punic war, in B. C. 212, the ludi Apollinares were instituted in honour of Apollo. (Liv. xxv. 12; Macrob. Sat. i. 17; Dict. of Ant. s. v. Ludi Apollinares; comp. Ludi Sweculares.) The worship of this divinity, however, did not form a very prominent part in the religion of the Romans till the time of Augustus, who, after the battle of Actium, not only dedicated to him a portion of the spoils, but built or embellished his temple at Actium, and founded a new one at Rome on the Palatine, and instituted quinquennial games at Actium. (Suet. Aug. 31, 52; Dict. of Ant. s. v. Aktia.)

Apollo, the national divinity of the Greeks, was of course represented in all the ways which the plastic arts were capable of. As the ideas of the god became gradually and more and more fully developed, so his representations in works of art rose from a rude wooden image to the perfect ideal of youthful manliness, so that he appeared to the ancients in the light of a twin brother of Aphrodite. (Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 4. § 10.) The most beautiful and celebrated among the extant representations of Apollo are the Apollo of Belvedere at Rome, which was discovered in 1503 at Rettuno (Mus. Pio-Clem. i. 14, 15), and the Apollino at Florence. In the Apollo of Belvedere, the god is represented with commanding but serene majesty; sublime intellect and physical beauty are combined in it in the most wonderful manner. The forehead is higher than in other ancient figures, and on it there is a pair of locks, while the rest of his hair flows freely down on his neck. The limbs are well proportioned and harmonious, the muscles are not worked out too strongly, and at the hips the figure is rather thin in proportion to the breast.

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.

HYMNS TO APOLLO

I) THE HOMERIC HYMNS

Homeric Hymn 3 to Pythian Apollo (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :

"O Lord [Apollon], Lykia (Lycia) is yours and lovely Maionian and Miletos, charming city by the sea, but over wave-girt Delos you greatly reign your own self. Leto's all-glorious son goes to rocky Pytho, playing upon his hollow lure, clad in divine, perfumed garments; and at the touch of the golden key his lyre sings sweet. Thence, swift as thought, he speeds from earth to Olympos, to the house of Zeus, to join the gathering of the other gods: then straightway the undying gods think only of the lyre and song, and all the Mousai together, voice sweetly answering voice, hymn the unending gifts the gods enjoy and the sufferings of men . . . Meanwhile the rich-tressed Kharites (Charites, Graces) and cheerful Horai (Seasons) dance with Harmonia and Hebe and Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, holding each other by the wrist. And among them sings one . . . Artemis who delights in arrows, sister of Apollon. Among them sport Ares and the keen-eyed Argeiphontes [Hermes], while Apollon plays his lure stepping high and featly and radiance shines around him, the gleaming of his feet and close-woven vest. And they, even gold-tressed Leto and wise Zeus, rejoice in their great hearts as they watch their dear son playing among the undying gods."

Homeric Hymn 21 to Apollo :

"Phoibos [Apollon], of you even the swan sings with clear voice to the beating of his wings, as he alights upon the bank by the eddying river Peneios; and of you the sweet-tongued minstrel, holding his high-pitched lyre, always sings both first and last. And so hail to you lord! I seek your favour with my song."

II) THE ORPHIC HYMNS

Orphic Hymn 34 to Apollo (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :

"To Apollon. Blest Paian (Paean), come, propitious to my prayer, illustrious power, whom Memphian tribes revere, Tityoktonos (Slayer of Tityos), and the god of Health, Lykoreus, Phoibos, fruitful source of wealth: Pytheion, golden-lyred, the field from thee receives its constant rich fertility. Titan, Gryneion, Smyntheus, thee I sing, Pythoktonos (Python-Slayer), hallowed, Delphion king: rural, light-bearing Daimon, and Mousagetos (Leader of the Mousai, Muses), noble and lovely, armed with arrows dread: far-darting, Bakkhion, twofold and divine, power far diffused, and course oblique is thine. O Delion king, whose light-producing eye views all within, and all beneath the sky; whose locks are gold, whose oracles are sure, who omens good revealest, and precepts pure; hear me entreating for he human kind, hear, and be present with benignant mind; for thou surveyest this boundless aither all, and every part of this terrestrial ball abundant, blessed; and thy piercing sight extends beneath the gloomy, silent night; Beyond the darkness, starry-eyed, profound, the table roots, deep-fixed by thee, are found. The world's wide bounds, all-flourishing, are thine, thyself of all the source and end divine. 'Tis thine all nature's music to inspire with various-sounding, harmonious lyre: now the last string thou tunest to sweet accord, divinely warbling, now the highest chord; the immortal golden lyre, now touched by thee, responsive yields a Dorian melody. All nature's tribes to thee their difference owe, and changing seasons from thy music flow: hence, mixed by thee in equal parts, advance summer and winter in alternate dance; this claims the highest, that the lowest string, the Dorian measure tunes the lovely spring: hence by mankind Pan royal, two-horned named, shrill winds emitting through the syrinx famed; since to thy care the figured seal's consigned, which stamps the world with forms of every kind. Hear me, blest power, and in these rites rejoice, and save thy mystics with a suppliant voice."

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTIONS OF APOLLON

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 19 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :

"As for the aspect of the god [Apollon], he is represented as unshorn, my boy, and with his hair fastened up so that he may box with girt-up head; rays of light rise from about his brow and his cheek emits a smile mingled with wrath; keen is the glance of his eyes as it follows his uplifted hands."

Philostratus the Younger, Imagines 14 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :

"[From a description of an ancient Greek painting:] Here is the god [Apollon], painted as usual with unshorn locks; he lifts a radiant forehead above eyes that shine like rays of light."

APOLLO was the great Olympian god of prophecy, oracles, healing and disease, music, poetry, archery, and the protection of the young. The majority of Apollon's children were only linked to him with the briefest of genealogical references. Most of these were the mythical founders of certain (historical) noble houses and priestly clans. Others were named as his sons to emphasize their skill as musicians or seers.

Sources:

  • The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th B.C.
  • The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
  • Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
  • Philostratus the Younger, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.

For more in-depth studies on Apollo, see:


Presentation on the goddess, Minerva

MINERVA: GODDESS OF WISDOM

Today we remember the great goddess of wisdom, Minerva, of the Capitoline Triad.

Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, was the daughter of Jupiter. She was said to have leaped forth from his brain, mature, and in complete armour. She presided over the useful and ornamental arts, both those of men- such as agriculture and navigation- and those of women,- spinning, weaving, and needlework. She was also a warlike divinity; but it was defensive war only that she patronized, and she had no sympathy with Mars's savage love of violence and bloodshed. Athens was her chosen seat, her own city, awarded to her as the prize of a contest with Neptune, who also aspired to it, The tale ran that in the reign of Cecrops, the first king of Athens, the two deities contended for the possession of the city. The gods decreed that it should be awarded to that one who produced the gift most useful to mortals. Neptune gave the horse; Minerva produced the olive. The gods gave judgment that the olive was the more useful of the two, and awarded the city to the goddess; and it was named after her, Athens, her name in Greek being Athene.

There was a contest, in which a mortal dared to come in competition with Minerva. That mortal was Arachne, a maiden who had attained such skill in the arts of weaving and embroidery that the nymphs themselves would leave their groves and fountains to come and gaze upon her work. It was not only beautiful when it was done, but beautiful also in the doing. To watch her, as she took the wool in its rude state and formed it into rolls, or separated it with her fingers and carded it till it looked as light and soft as a cloud, or twirled the spindle with skilful touch, or wove the web, or, after it was woven, adorned it with her needle, one would have said that Minerva herself had taught her. But this she denied, and could not bear to be thought a pupil even of a goddess. "Let Minerva try her skill with mine," said she; "if beaten I will pay the penalty." Minerva heard this and was displeased. She assumed the form of an old woman and went and gave Arachne some friendly advice. "I have had much experience," said she, "and I hope you will not despise my counsel. Challenge your fellow-mortals as you will, but do not compete with a goddess. On the contrary, I advise you to ask her forgiveness for what you have said, and as she is merciful perhaps she will pardon you." Arachne stopped her spinning and looked at the old dame with anger in her countenance. "Keep your counsel," said she, "for your daughters or handmaids; for my part I know what I say, and I stand to it. I am not afraid of the goddess; let her try her skill, if she dare venture." "She comes," said Minerva; and dropping her disguise stood confessed. The nymphs bent low in homage, and all the bystanders paid reverence. Arachne alone was unterrified. She blushed, indeed; a sudden colour dyed her cheek, and then she grew pale. But she stood to her resolve, and with a foolish conceit of her own skill rushed on her fate. Minerva forbore no longer nor interposed any further advice.

They proceed to the contest. Each takes her station and attaches the web to the beam. Then the slender shuttle is passed in and out among the threads. The reed with its fine teeth strikes the woof into its place and compacts the web. Both work with speed; their skilful hands move rapidly, and the excitement of the contest makes the labour light. Wool of Tyrian dye is contrasted with that of other colours, shaded off into one another so adroitly that the joining deceives the eye. Like the bow, whose long arch tinges the heavens, formed by sunbeams reflected from the shower,* in which, where the colours meet they seem as one, but a little distance from the point of contact are wholly different.

(* This correct description of the rainbow is literally translated from Ovid.)

Minerva wrought on her web the scene of her contest with Neptune. Twelve of the heavenly powers are represented, Jupiter, with august gravity, sitting in the midst. Neptune, the ruler of the sea, holds his trident, and appears to have just smitten the earth, from which a horse has leaped forth. Minerva depicted herself with helmed head, her Aegis covering her breast. Such was the central circle; and in the four corners were represented incidents illustrating the displeasure of the gods at such presumptuous mortals as had dared to contend with them. These were meant as warnings to her rival to give up the contest before it was too late.

Arachne filled her web with subjects designedly chosen to exhibit the failings and errors of the gods. One scene represented Leda caressing the swan, under which form Jupiter had disguised himself; and another, Danae, in the brazen tower in which her father had imprisoned her, but where the god effected his entrance in the form of a golden shower. Still another depicted Europa deceived by Jupiter under the disguise of a bull. Encouraged by the tameness of the animal Europa ventured to mount his back, whereupon Jupiter advanced into the sea and swam with her to Crete, You would have thought it was a real bull, so naturally was it wrought, and so natural the water in which it swam. She seemed to look with longing eyes back upon the shore she was leaving, and to call to her companions for help. She appeared to shudder with terror at the sight of the heaving waves, and to draw back her feel, from the water.

Arachne filled her canvas with similar subjects, wonderfully well done, but strongly marking her presumption and impiety. Minerva could not forbear to admire, yet felt indignant at the insult. She struck the web with her shuttle and rent it in pieces; she then touched the forehead of Arachne and made her feel her guilt and shame. She could not endure it and went and hanged herself. Minerva pitied her as she saw her suspended by a rope. "Live," she said, "guilty woman! and that you may preserve the memory of this lesson, continue to hang, both you and your descendants, to all future times." She sprinkled her with the juices of aconite, and immediately her hair came off, and her nose and ears likewise. Her form shrank up, and her head grew smaller yet; her fingers cleaved to her side and served for legs. All the rest of her is body, out of which she spins her thread, often hanging suspended by it, in the same attitude as when Minerva touched her and transformed her into a spider.

Spenser tells the story of Arachne in his "Muiopotmos," adhering very closely to his master Ovid, but improving upon him in the conclusion of the story. The two stanzas which follow tell what was done after the goddess had depicted her creation of the olive tree:


"Amongst these leaves she made a Butterfly,
With excellent device and wondrous slight,
Fluttering among the olives wantonly,
That seemed to live, so like it was in sight;
The velvet nap which on his wings doth lie,
The silken down with which his back is dight,
His broad outstretched horns, his hairy thighs,
His glorious colours, and his glistening eyes."*


"Which when Arachne saw, as overlaid
And mastered with workmanship so rare,
She stood astonied long, ne aught gainsaid;
And with fast-fixed eyes on her did stare,
And by her silence, sign of one dismayed,
The victory did yield her as her share:
Yet did she inly fret and felly burn,
And all her blood to poisonous rancour turn."


(* Sir James Mackintosh says of this, "Do you think that even a Chinese could paint the gay colours of a butterfly with more minute exactness than the following lines: 'The velvet nap,' etc.?"- Life, Vol. II. 246.:

And so the metamorphosis is caused by Arachne's own mortification and vexation, and not by any direct act of the goddess.

The following specimen of old-fashioned gallantry is by Garrick:


UPON A LADY'S EMBROIDERY
"Arachne once, as poets tell,
A goddess at her art defied,
And soon the daring mortal fell
The hapless victim of her pride.
"O, then beware Arachne's fate;
Be prudent, Chloe, and submit,
For you'll most surely meet her hate,
Who rival both her art and wit."


  • An excerpt from Bulfinch’s “Age of Fable: Vols. I & II: Stories of Gods and Heroes.” 1913.*


Presentation on the goddess, Fortuna

FORTUNA: LADY LUCK

Yesterday's deity spotlight was on Minerva; but today we turn attention to the Goddess of chance, luck, and fortune.

Fortuna is the Roman Goddess of Luck, Fate, and Fortune, as Her name implies. She was a very popular Goddess, and was worshipped under many epithets depending on the type of luck one wished to invoke or the circumstances in play. She had many temples in Rome itself, as well as having important cult-centers in Antium (the modern Anzio), a city on the west coast of Italy about 30 miles south of Rome, and Praeneste (modern Palestrina), about 20 miles south-east of Rome, both of which were cities of Latium, the land of the Latini tribes. Her many temples in Rome, and the various aspects of Her worship are a reflection of the manners in which She was honored: from personal Goddess, overseeing the fate of the individual mother, young man, or soldier, to a Goddess of the State, ensuring the fortune of the populace, the luck of the Emperor, or the glorious fate of the entire Roman Empire.

Fortuna was usually depicted holding in one hand a cornucopia, or a horn of plenty, from which all good things flowed in abundance, representing Her ability to bestow prosperity; in the other She generally has a ship's rudder, to indicate that She is the one who controls how lives and fates are steered. She could also be shown enthroned, with the same attributes of rudder and cornucopia, but with a small wheel built into the chair, representing the cycles of fate and the ups and downs of fortune. Sometimes She is blind, as an acknowledgment that good luck does not always come to those who seem to most deserve it; at other times She is described as having wings, much like many Etruscan Goddesses—and indeed She was equated with the old Etruscan Fate Goddess Nortia, who was often shown winged.

The name Fortuna finds its root in the Latin fero, meaning "to bring, win, receive, or get". She may have originally been a Goddess of Fertility, Who brought prosperity and success in the form of abundant harvests and offspring. Her worship in Rome traditionally goes back to the time of Ancus Martius, the 4th King of Rome, who is said to have reigned from 640-616 BCE. According to the propaganda of the time (and the Romans invented an awful lot of it to make it seem that their city had always been destined for greatness, and wasn't just some upstart town founded by a bunch of sheep herders on some hills surrounded by malaria-infested swampland, which it was), when Fortuna first came to Rome, She immediately threw off Her shoes and discarded Her wings, announcing that She'd found Her true home and intended to never leave it.

Alternatively, Fortuna's name may derive from that of the Etruscan Goddess Veltha or Voltumna, whose name encompasses ideas of turning and the alternating seasons. Voltumna in turn may be related to the Roman Goddess Volumna, Who watched over and protected children; and both of these themes are found with Fortuna, who was often depicted with a wheel, and who was said to predict the fates of children at their births. As a Goddess of Fate Fortuna naturally had the power to foretell the future; and under Her aspect of Fortuna Primigenia in Praeneste She had an oracle, in which tablets inscribed with messages were chosen from a jar. She also had an oracular shrine at Her cult-center in Antium.

Fortuna had a very old temple in Rome on a hill between the Forum Romanum (the Roman Forum) and the Forum Boarium (supposedly the old cattle-market), near to the temple of Mater Matuta. Both temples had the same dedication day, the 10th of June, and each had a horseshoe-shaped altar before it of the earliest type. Fortuna's temple had a very old statue of gilded wood inside, also of an archaic type; and the altar and statue indicate that Her worship dates at least to the earliest days of Rome, if She is not an earlier Goddess of the Latins.

The Emperor Trajan (97-117 CE) dedicated a temple to Fortuna, at which offerings were made to the Goddess on the 1st day of January, at the start of the New Year, probably to ensure good luck and success for the coming year. This temple was dedicated to Fortuna in all of Her aspects.

With Greek influence, Fortuna was equated to Tykhe, their Goddess of Luck and Fortune. Under the title Dame Fortune, Fortuna never lost Her power as an allegorical figure—She makes an appearance on card 10 of the Tarot Major Arcana, the Wheel of Fortune, and She is still to some extent honored today, for She features in gamblers' prayers to "Lady Luck".

Taken from thaliatook.com


Presentation on the goddess, Bellona

Bellona, the Goddess of War

Bellona is the Roman Goddess of War, closely associated with Mars, the Roman War-God. She is invariably His companion, although She can be called His wife, daughter, sister, or charioteer. Her origins are probably Sabine (an ancient tribe from the lands north-east of Rome), and the Claudii, a Sabine family, are credited with instituting Her worship. Her temple was built in the Campus Martius, the low-lying field by the Tiber consecrated to Mars, located outside of the city walls. The area around Her temple was considered to symbolize foreign soil, and there the Senate met with ambassadors, received victorious generals, and there war was officially declared. Besides Her temple was the columna bellica, or war column, representing the boundary of Rome. To declare war a javelin was thrown over the column by one of the fetialis, a type of priest involved in diplomacy, and this act symbolized the attack on a foreign land.

Bellona was believed to inspire a warlike frenzy and enthusiasm (much like that of the Norse berserkers), and Her earliest sacrifices are said to have been human. The worship of the Anatolian Goddess Ma, who is of a similarly martial nature, was brought to Rome by Sulla where She was assimilated to Bellona, and called Ma-Bellona. Her priests were called the Bellonarii, and during the rites to Ma-Bellona they mutilated their own arms and legs, collecting the blood to either drink or offer to the Goddess to invoke the war fury. In later times this act was toned down to become merely symbolic. These rites took place on the 24th of March and so accordingly that day was called the dies sanguinis ("day of blood").

Bellona had several shrines and temples in Rome, though most are known only from inscriptions referencing them, as well as a temple in Ostia, the port city of Rome. In 48 bce, a shrine to Ma-Bellona was accidentally destroyed when the demolition of the temples of Isis and Serapis in Rome was undertaken; within the ruins of the shrine were found jars containing human flesh, said to be evidence of the orgiastic nature of Ma-Bellona's worship and to link it with the Egyptian religions, though how I'm not sure, unless perhaps the jars were functioning as the so-called canopic jars that housed the internal organs of the dead in Egyptian funerary practice.

Bellona is usually shown in a plumed helmet and armor, armed with sword and spear and carrying a shield; sometimes She carries a torch with a blood-red flame. She is described as loud and active, barking orders or war-cries, Her weapons clanging as She runs. She is credited with inspiring violence, starting wars, and goading soldiers into battle; Virgil described Her as carrying a bloodstained scourge or whip. She was believed to make wars and battles go well for those who invoked Her. Her name comes from the Latin for war, bellum, and Her original feast day was June the 3rd.

She is identified with Nerio and Vacum (both Goddesses of Sabine origin, like Bellona). Ma, or Ma-Bellona is a Goddess of Cappadocian origin (a region in Anatolia, modern Turkey) who was identified with the Italian Bellona, and for whom a seperate temple was built in Rome.

Presentation on the goddess, Diana

DIANA: GODDESS OF THE WILDS

Diana (whose name simply means "Goddess") is the Roman Goddess of the wild places who protects women and girls, especially virgins. Like the Greek Artemis, with Whom the Romans identified Her, She loves forests and the hunt, is the patroness of childbirth, and is associated with the light of the moon. The Romans recognized three aspects of Her--as the moon Goddess, they called her Luna; as an underworld Deity of magic, Hekate; and as the huntress Goddess, Diana.

On the shores of Lake Nemi, a famously beautiful lake in a volcanic crater not far from Rome, Diana Nemorensis ("of the Grove") had a temple in a forest on the lake's shores. Her priest at this temple became so by plucking the golden bough (a branch covered with the sacred mistletoe) from the wood and then killing the former priest in single combat. In his turn, however, he too could be slain by another.

In Gaul, She was identified with Nemetona, "Goddess of the Sacred Grove", and considered the consort of Mars. She was also associated with Nemesis, the Greek goddess of Fate, and in this aspect is shown with an apple bough and cider bowl. Diana's feast day is August 13th.

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