Category Archives: Roman

Cursing Tablets

Most of us have at least toyed with the idea of a voodoo doll, but we wouldn’t really curse someone… would we? The people of the ancient world weren’t so shy, and have left us a lot of their ill-wishing to study. The things that made them angry enough to curse someone aren’t so different from the things that annoy us now: lawsuits, theft, property damage, infidelity, stealing someone’s boyfriend/girlfriend, and so on.

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Celtic Silvanus

Silvanus was a popular god in Rome, up there with Jupiter and Mercury in terms of altars and other devotional evidence. As a god of the common people, he had a large audience, and soldiers, slaves and freedmen to spread his cult abroad.

His popularity worked both ways, too: a British craftsman explained his god Callirius as Silvanus, and many of the other examples in this post could have worked the same way.

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Deep in the forest: Silvanus and Faunus (reblog)

Golden Trail

Recently, I’ve been wondering about Silvanus, Faunus, and Pan. The former has been an interest of mine for some time, though I haven’t added Him to my religious life (at least not yet); the latter two are a recent focus, but all three inevitably raise the issue of who’s who: one god or different ones?

Historically, the interpretatio has been diverse. In late sources, Silvanus and Faunus were equated, as indicated by Peter Dorcey in his Cult of Silvanus (1992, 34). According to the same scholar, Augustine’s reference to a childbirth ritual in Civitas Dei intended to ward off Silvanus may also derive from a confusion between Him and Faunus, but I’ll get to that later. Earlier sources are no less complex, since they appear to refer to the two gods interchangeably, but then there are also cases of distinction: Martial mentions altars to Silvanus and trees of Faunus (

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Julius Caesar as Ethnographer (reblog)

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.

Read more here.

The image at the top is from a bust of Caesar, in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Wikimedia.

Celtic Victory

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.

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