Wednesday, November 23, 2011


In ancient Roman religion, Ceres was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. Her cult took many forms. She was the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian or Aventine Triad, and was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as "the Greek rites of Ceres". She played an essential role in Roman marriage and in funeral rites.

Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ludi Ceriales (Ceres' games). She was honored in the May lustration of fields at the Ambarvalia festival, and at harvest-time. She is the only one of Rome's many agricultural deities to be listed among the Di Consentes, Rome's equivalent to the Twelve Olympians of Greek mythology. Her functions and cults were held equivalent to those of the Greek goddess Demeter, whose mythology she came to share.

Etymology and origins
Ceres is linked to pastoral, agricultural and human fertility. Her name may derive from the hypothetical Proto-Indo-European root "ker", meaning "to grow", which is also the root for the words "create" and "increase"; Roman etymologists thought her name derived from the Latin verb gerere, "to bear, bring forth, produce". Her cults were widespread throughout ancient Magna Graecia; Rome acknowledged Hanna, in Sicily, as her oldest, most authoritative cult centre. She is well-evidenced among regal Rome's neighbors, the ancient Latins, Oscans and Sabellians, less certainly among the Etruscans and Umbrians. An archaic Faliscan inscription of c.600 BC asks her to provide far (spelt wheat), a dietary staple of the Mediterranean world. Throughout the Roman era, Latin ceres was synonymous with grain and, by extension, with bread.

Agricultural fertility
Ceres was credited with the discovery of spelt wheat, the yoking of oxen and ploughing, the sowing, protection and nourishing of the young seed, and the gift of agriculture to humankind; before this, it was said, man had subsisted on acorns, and wandered without settlement or laws. Ceres was first to "break open the earth", and the most ancient of her festivals marked the most important times and activities of the agricultural cycle. She held the power to fertilise, multiply and fructify plant and animal seed. Their offspring were thus the physical incarnations of her power: in religious law, they were hers.

In January, Ceres and Tellus were offered spelt wheat and a pregnant sow at the movable Feriae Sementivae, which was almost certainly held before the annual sowing of grain. The divine portion of sacrifice was the intestines (exta) presented in an olla (earthenware pot).[20] In a rural context, Cato the Elder describes the offer to Ceres of a porca praecidanea (a pig, offered before the sowing).[21] A priest of Ceres, possibly the flamen cerealis invoked the goddess and a further twelve minor deities as her assistants in the agricultural cycle: they are listed by Servius (On Vergil, 1.21).[22]

Ceres' major festival, Cerealia, was held from mid to late April. Its original form is unknown; it may have been founded during the regal era. During the Republican era, it was organised by the plebeian aediles, and included ludi circenses (circus games). These opened with a horse race in the Circus Maximus, whose starting point lay just below the Aventine Temple of Ceres, Liber and Libera.[23] In a nighttime ritual after the race, blazing torches were tied to the tails of live foxes, who were released into the Circus. The origin and purpose of this ritual are unknown; it may have been intended to cleanse the growing crops and seek their protection from disease and vermin, or to add warmth and vitality to their growth.[24] From c.175 BC, Cerealia included ludi scaenici (theatrical religious events), held through April 12 to 18.[25] Various rural and urban festivals were held at harvest-time. Before the harvest, Ceres was offered a propitiary grain sample (praementium).[26]

Human fertility, marriage and nourishment
Several of Ceres' ancient Italic precursors are connected to human fertility and motherhood; the Roman goddess Angerona (associated with childbirth) has been identified with the Pelignan goddess Angitia Cerealis.[27] In the late 2nd century AD, Festus describes a wedding ceremony, during which a torch is carried in honour of Ceres; Pliny the Elder "notes that the most auspicious wood for wedding torches came from the spina alba, the may tree, which bore many fruits and hence symbolised fertility". This practice may represent the continuation of a much earlier identification or conflation of Ceres with Tellus (as Terra Mater), a personification of the fertile earth itself, who was invoked in the auspices at Roman weddings. Tellus was offered sacrifice by the bride; a sow is the most likely victim. Varro describes the sacrifice of a pig as "a worthy mark of weddings" because "our women, and especially nurses" call the female genitalia porcus (pig). Spaeth (1996) believes Ceres may have been included in the sacrificial dedication, because she is closely identified with Tellus and "bears the laws" of marriage. The cult to Ceres and Proserpina reinforced and formalised Ceres' connection with traditional Roman ideals of female virtue, motherhood and its attendant duties: promotion of her cult is associated with the development of a plebeian nobility, a fall in the patrician birthrate and a rise in the birthrate among plebeian commoners.[28] The late Republican Ceres Mater (Mother Ceres) is genetrix (progenitress) and alma (nourishing) and in the early Imperial era she receives joint cult with Ops Augusta, Ceres' own mother in Imperial guise and a bountiful genetrix in her own right.[29]

Laws and liminality
Ceres was patron and protector of plebeian laws, rights and Tribunes. Her Aventine temple served the plebeians as cult centre, treasury, and archive, not only for their own records and laws but the minutes and conclusions of senatorial decrees. It may also have offered sanctuary or asylum for the needy, or for those threatened with arbitrary arrest by patrician magistrates.[30] The foundation of her Aventine cult was contemporaneous with the passage of the Lex Sacrata, which established the office and person of plebeian aediles and plebeian tribunes as inviolate representatives of the Roman people. A tribune was immune to arrest or threat; the life and property of any who violated this law were forfeit to Ceres. The Lex Hortensia of 287 BC extended plebeian law to all Roman citizens. At the same time, the official decrees of the Senate (senatus consulta) were placed under the guardianship of Ceres and her plebeian aediles. Livy puts the reason bluntly: the consuls could no longer seek advantage by arbitrarily tampering with the laws of Rome. Ceres was thus the patron goddess of the written laws; Vergil calls her legifera Ceres (Law-bearing Ceres) as a translation of Demeter's Greek epithet, thesmophoros.[31] Fines against those who offended "Ceres' laws" were technically her property and were stored in her Aventine Temple treasury. Her aediles sold any goods distrained as part of capital penalty or in lieu of fines and used the proceeds to fund Ceres' temple and cult.[32] Ceres' role as protector of laws continues throughout the Republican era; those who approved the murder of Tiberius Gracchus in 133 BC justified his death as punishment for his offense against the Lex sacrata of the goddess Ceres.

Crimes against fields and harvest were crimes against the people and their protective deity. Landowners who allowed their flocks to graze on public land were fined by the plebeian aediles, on behalf of Ceres and the people of Rome. Ancient laws of the Twelve Tables forbade the magical charming of field crops from a neighbour's field into one's own, and invoked the death penalty for the illicit removal of field boundaries.[33] An adult who damaged or stole field-crops should be hanged "for Ceres".[34] Any youth guilty of the same offense was to be whipped or fined double the value of damage.[35]

Some of Ceres' functions may be categorised as liminal. Her first plough-furrow opened the earth (Tellus' realm) to the world of men and created the first fields; she thus determined the course of settled, lawful, civilised life. She mediated and stabilised the balance of interest between plebeian and patrician factions. She oversaw the transition of women from girlhood to womanhood, from unmarried to married life and motherhood and growth of from infancy to childhood. Despite her chthonic connections to Tellus, she was not, according to Spaeth, an underworld deity. Rather, she maintained the boundaries between the living and the dead; the realms above the earth, and those beneath it. At funerals, the spirit of the deceased should pass from life to an afterlife as an underworld shade (Di Manes), or else might remain among the living as a wandering, vengeful ghost. To secure this transition and consecrate the tomb, well-off families offered Ceres sacrifice of a pig. The poor could offer wheat, flowers, and a libation.[36] The expectations of afterlife for female initiates in the sacra Cereris may have been somewhat different, as they were offered "a method of living" and of "dying with better hope".[37]

The mundus of Ceres
The mundus cerealis (literally "the world" of Ceres) was a pit at the site of Rome's Comitium. According to Roman tradition, it was dug and sealed by Romulus as part of Rome's foundation rites; this links Ceres to the establishment of cities. The mundus cerealis was ritually opened on three State occasions annually, on days identified in some records as C(omitiales) (days when the Comitia met) but in others as dies religiosus, when it would be irreligious to perform any official work. When opened, the mundus served as a cache for offerings to underworld deities, including Ceres as goddess of the fruitful earth and guardian of its underworld portals. According to Festus, the opened mundus offered a portal for the spirits of the dead to roam freely among the living; its sealing banished them once more to the realms of the dead. The shape of the mundus was said to be a reflection or inversion of the dome of the upper heavens.[38]

For more: Wiki
Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain, and the love a mother bears for her child. She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, the sister of Jupiter, and the mother of Proserpine. Ceres was a kind and benevolent goddess to the Romans and they had a common expression, "fit for Ceres," which meant splendid.

Ceres, the goddess of agriculture

She was beloved for her service to mankind in giving them the gift of the harvest, the reward for cultivation of the soil. Also known as the Greek goddess Demeter, Ceres was the goddess of the harvest and was credited with teaching humans how to grow, preserve, and prepare grain and corn. She was thought to be responsible for the fertility of the land.

Ceres was the only one of the gods who was involved on a day-to-day basis in the lives of the common folk. While others occasionally "dabbled" in human affairs when it suited their personal interests, or came to the aid of "special" mortals they favored, the goddess Ceres was truly the nurturer of mankind.

Ceres was worshipped at her temple on the Aventine Hill, one of the Seven Hills of ancient Rome. Her festival, the Cerealia, was celebrated on April 19. Another special time for Ceres was Ambarvalia, a Roman agricultural fertility rite held at the end of May. Ceres is portrayed holding a scepter or farming tool in one hand and a basket of flowers, fruits, or grain in the other. She may also be wearing a garland made from ears of corn.

The Romans explained the turning of the seasons with the following story: Ceres was the sister of Jupiter, and Proserpine was their daughter. Proserpine was kidnapped by Pluto, god of the underworld, to be his bride. By the time Ceres followed her daughter, she was gone into the earth. Making matters worse, Ceres learned that Pluto had been given Jupiter's approval to be the husband of his daughter. Ceres was so angry that she went to live in the world of men, disguised as an old woman, and stopped all the plants and crops from growing, causing a famine. Jupiter and the other gods tried to get her to change her mind but she was adamant. Jupiter eventually realized that he had to get Proserpine back from the underworld, and sent for her. Unfortunately, Pluto secretly gave her food before she left, and once one had eaten in the underworld one could not forever leave. Proserpine was therefore forced to return to the underworld for four months every year. She comes out in spring and spends the time until autumn with Ceres, but has to go back to the underworld in the winter. Her parting from Ceres every fall is why plants lose their leaves, seeds lie dormant under the ground, and nothing grows until spring when Proserpine is reunited with her mother.

From: here
The goddess Ceres' primary function was as the goddess of agricultural fertility in general and grain in particular. Virgil claimed that her name was derived from the word creare, "to create". Modern scholars find the source of her name in the Indo-European *ker-, "to grow", which is the root of creare (Spaeth 33). As such, Ceres' name can be translated as meaning "Growth." She is one of the twelve Dii Consentes, who are analogous to the great Olympian gods of Greek mythology (Dumezil 477). A gilt statue of Ceres stood alongside one of Mercury in the Forum. She is also considered one of the Dii Novensiles, the foreign deities adopted by Rome (Nova Roma, "Gods and Goddesses of Rome" 5).

She is also associated with the ground from which crops spring, the bread produced from grain, and the work necessary to raise crops. Ceres presided over the frumentationes, the distribution of grain to the urban poor, and the annona, the administration of the Roman grain supply (Spaeth 10). She also becomes associated with the countryside and people who live there in the Augustinian period. In literature, she is most often described with the epithets flava, golden, the color of grain; frugifera, bearer of crops; larga, abundant, fecunda, fecund; fertilis, fertile; genetrix frugum, progenetress of the crops; and potens frugum, powerful in crops (25).

It was only after she became part of the Aventine Triad with Liber and Libera that Ceres began to assimilate the mythology and iconography of the Greek Demeter into her cult (. As a part of this process, Ceres also become a goddess associated with women and human fertility (11). Varro suggests that the term "pig" was used to refer to the female genitalia as a reference to the pigs that were customarily sacrifices to Ceres. It is more likely that the word "pig" was instead derived from the same root as Ceres' own name, *ker- (Dumezil, 374). As Ceres Mater, she became a goddess of motherhood, a concept the Romans highly valued (Spaeth, 116). Reliefs from the imperial period show her attending at the birth of Apollo and Diana. She was also considered the mother of crops (117).

Ceres' major festival was the Cerealia, held on April 19 to celebrate the growth of grain and other agricultural products. The central and oldest ritual of this festival was a rite in which lit torches were tied to the tails of foxes. This rite has been associated with magic that would help protect crops. It was performed in the Circus Maximus in the Vallis Murcia, where other archaic agrarian deities were also worshiped (4). In 176 BCE ludi scaenici, or dramatic productions, were added to the festival (15). There were also ludi Circenses, which were horse races in the Circus Maximus. The aediles oversaw the production of the ludi (8. Religiously, the purpose of the ludi were to make the goddess favorably disposed toward the Roman people, so that she would give them a good harvest. The first day of the Cerialia was also a dies nefasti, on which no business could take place (Grilo).

The goddess was worshiped in many ways. There was the porca praecidanea, which involved sacrificing a fertile female pig and was necessary before a harvest. Cato indicates that sacrifices of any large food item will do, however, and suggests a pumpkin as an acceptable substitute for a pig, since it can be cut open and the seeds offered to Ceres in much the same way the entrails of the pig would be. After the offering of the porca praecidanea, it was customary to also give the goddess a libation of wine. The porca praesentanea was similarly sacrificed to her as a funerary custom, along with a porca praecidanea. The funerary sacrifice was considered necessary to cleanse a family of the taint of death and return it to a state of fertile productivity, and had to be performed in the presence of the corpse (Spaeth 54). It was probably performed by an heir as a condition of receiving his inheritance. The first fruits of the harvest were often offered to Ceres. The Ambarvalia, celebrated in May, had associations with her, since it concerned the lustration of the fields. So did the Feriae Sementivae, since both concerned the status of the fields (5). Those who worked in the grain trade often honored her with votive inscriptions (25).

There is evidence that Ceres was worshiped in Rome as early as 753 BCE. The high priest of her cult in Rome, the flamen cerealis, is part of the ancient flaminate class whose founding myths attributed to the ancient King Numa (4). The flamen alone could celebrate the ritual called the sacrum Cereale. During this sacrifice, which is occasionally attributed to Ceres and Tellus together, the flamen must recite the name of the twelve minor gods who assist the goddess in going about her work of aiding agriculture: Vervactor who turns fallow land, Reparator who prepares fallow land, Imporcitor who plows with wide furrows, Insitor who sowed, Obarator who plowed the surface, Occator who harrowed, Sarritor who weeded, Subruncinator who thinned out, Messor who harvested, Conuector who carted, Conditor who stored, and Promitor who distributed (Dumezil, 35). These spirits are from a class of Roman deity called indigimenta who assisted with private and agricultural tasks (36). These spirits can be considered to 'belong' to Ceres, in the same way that household slaves would belong to a Roman matron (37). The minor goddess Flora, who governed the blooming of plants, was also closely associated with and subordinate to Ceres, but was served by the flamen minores instead of the flamen cerealis (270).

Visual depictions of Ceres were largely derived from Greek portrayals of Demeter. On two coin types, a bust of Ceres was pictured on one side, while a yoke of oxen was on the other. On other coins, she wears a crown of grain stalks called a corona spicea, holds stalks of wheat, and is occasionally pictured with wheat and barley grains. One coin actually portrayed her wearing a modius, an instrument used to measure grain, on her head. Another pictures a bust of series on one side, and a pair of seated male figures with a wheat stalk to their side on the other. The seated men represent the official distribution of grain to the people (Spaeth 16). Annona, the goddess who personified the wheat supply, appears alongside Ceres on several coins from the imperial period. Reliefs from the Augustan period have even gone so far as to depict her as a plant growing out of the ground. In one her bust emerges from the earth, holding bunches of poppies and grain in her upraised hands while two snakes twine about her arms (37). Ceres also assimilated the visual symbols of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which most Romans observed in her name (Dillon 179). Ceres is depicted with symbols of the Mysteries, such as riding in a chariot drawn by snakes while holding a torch in her right hand, in coins issued in the 2nd century BCE (Spaeth 1.

From: here

O Universal mother, Ceres fam'd
August, the source of wealth, and various nam'd: 2
Great nurse, all-bounteous, blessed and divine,
Who joy'st in peace, to nourish corn is thine:
Goddess of seed, of fruits abundant, fair, 5
Harvest and threshing, are thy constant care;
Who dwell'st in Eleusina's seats retir'd,
Lovely, delightful queen, by all desir'd.
Nurse of all mortals, whose benignant mind,
First ploughing oxen to the yoke confin'd; 10
And gave to men, what nature's wants require,
With plenteous means of bliss which all desire.
In verdure flourishing in honor bright,
Assessor of great Bacchus, bearing light:
Rejoicing in the reapers sickles, kind, 15
Whose nature lucid, earthly, pure, we find.
Prolific, venerable, Nurse divine,
Thy daughter loving, holy Proserpine:
A car with dragons yok'd, 'tis thine to guide, 19
And orgies singing round thy throne to ride: 20
Only-begotten, much-producing queen,
All flowers are thine and fruits of lovely green.
Bright Goddess, come, with Summer's rich increase
Swelling and pregnant, leading smiling Peace;
Come, with fair Concord and imperial Health, 25
And join with these a needful store of wealth.

From: here
Ceres (pronounced SAIR-eez) is the Roman Goddess of agriculture and motherly love. She is the daughter of Saturn and Ops, and sister to Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, Pluto, and Vesta. She is often identified with the Greek Goddess Demeter, and her daughter Proserpina is identified with Demeter’s daughter Persephone. Ceres, whose name means “create”, is called on to ensure a plentiful harvest. She is usually portrayed with a basket of flowers or fruit and grain around her neck and in her hair. She is assisted by 12 minor Gods, whose roles comprise the entire process of growing and supplying grain: Vervactor who turns fallow land, Reparator who prepares fallow land, Imporcitor who plows with wide furrows, Insitor who sowed, Obarator who plowed the surface, Occator who harrowed, Sarritor who weeded, Subruncinator who thinned out, Messor who harvested, Conuector who carted, Conditor who stored, and Promitor who distributed.

Epithets for Ceres include Flava (golden, the color of grain), Frugifera (bearer of crops), Larga (abundant), Fecunda (fecund), Fertilis (fertile), Genetrix Frugum (progenetress of the crops), Mater (mother), and Potens Frugum (powerful in crops).

From: here

Other Sites:

Aventine Triad
Ambarvalia festival
Cerealia festival
Ceres and Tellus
Ceres and Liminality
Ceres and the Plebs
Prayers to Ceres
The Roman goddess Ceres By Barbette Stanley Spaeth - you can preview some of this book via the link
Short summary
Modern hymn to her

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