I reblogged an article on Nemesis, the goddess of rebalancing, last week, but I’m still really intrigued by this goddess, so fearsome and yet widely worshipped. The Greeks built temples to honour her, and the Romans took her cult to the ends of the Roman Empire, from Dacia to Scotland.
Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul, Germany and Britain occasioned great excitement in Rome. For Catullus “the Gaulish Rhine, the formidable Britons, remotest of men” represented “the memorials of great Caesar” (Cat. 11.10-11). Cicero too considered Caesar’s exploits against the Britons the stuff of poetry (Q Fr. 2.16.14). The reading public must have been interested in what he had to say about his foreign adversaries.
The image at the top is from a bust of Caesar, in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Wikimedia.
Although it’s common in popular books on mythology to describe the Roman goddess Minerva as a simple copy of the Greek goddess Athena, Minerva evolved as a native Italian goddess, influenced by the Etruscan Menvra.
The Celtic peoples had many gods of war, if the number linked to Mars is anything to go by. They also had a lot of war-goddesses, whom we would expect to be associated with Minerva, Bellona or Victoria.
Surprisingly, goddesses paired with Victoria are pretty rare (I will look at Minerva in another post), although there are a few. There are also some native goddesses named “Victory”, all from modern France.
When I was researching the story of how the giant Thiazi took the apples of immortality for the giants, one thing that kept jumping out at me was how often the goddess who kept the apples, Idunn, was treated as if she were property as well.
Volunteer archaeologists have unearthed a miniature bronze figure of a Roman goddess from Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields. Helpers from the WallQuest community archaeology project and the Earthwatch Institute dug up the figure of the goddess Ceres which is thought to be a mount from a larger piece of furniture. Ceres was the goddess of agriculture, grain and fertility. Arbeia was a supply base where thousands of tons of grain were stored in granaries to feed the army stationed along Hadrian’s Wall. This is the second goddess that the WallQuest project has found at Arbeia in two years. In 2014, a local volunteer found a carved stone head of a protective goddess, or tutela.
This is a post by a Roman polytheist about Freyja. It has a lot of insights into the nature of the Lady, and how similar she is to Odin. All the Vanir are travelling deities, in one way or another, but I think with Freyja this gets overlooked.
There’s certainly no obvious reference to it in the surviving lore, where She’s…
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Women seem to have had their own form of genius, called a juno. (This is a contested idea: the Wikipedia article on Juno denies it completely, while the Brittanica site and the Dictionary of Roman Religion are for it.) However, enough scholars seem to accept the idea that I’m willing to see it as valid. I’m sure even in a society as patriarchal as ancient Rome women took pride in their children and their lineage, and those feelings found their own religious expression.