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Ceres
Statue depicting Ceres holding wheat,on display at the Louvre in Paris, France
Statue depicting Ceres holding wheat,
on display at the Louvre in Paris, France
Goddess of agriculture and motherly love
Parents Saturn and Ops
Children Proserpina

Ancient Roman religion

Bacchian rite, from the Villa of the Mysteries

Main doctrines

Polytheism & numen
Mythology
Imperial cult · Festivals

Practices

Temples · Funerals
Votive offerings · Animal sacrifice

Apollo · Ceres · Diana · Juno
Jupiter · Mars · Mercury · Minerva
Neptune · Venus · Vesta · Vulcan

Other major deities

Divus Augustus · Divus Julius · Fortuna
The Lares · Quirinus · Pluto · Sol Invictus

Lesser deities

Adranus · Averrunci · Averruncus
Bellona · Bona Dea · Bromius
Caelus · Castor and Pollux · Clitunno
Cupid · Dis Pater · Faunus · Glycon
Inuus · Lupercus

Texts

Sibylline Books · Sibylline oracles
Aeneid · Metamorphoses
The Golden Ass

See also

Decline and persecution
Nova Roma
Greek polytheism

Ceres is the goddess of growing plants (particularly cereals) and of motherly relationships in Roman mythology. Ceres was worshipped in Ancient Roman religion, and is today again worshipped in Roman Neopaganism. Ceres was usually equated with the Greek goddess Demeter.

Contents

Etymology

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". "Ceres" and "cereal" are cognates.

Myth

Ceres with cereals

Ceres was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, sister of Jupiter, mother of Proserpina by Jupiter and sister of Juno, Vesta, Neptune and Pluto. Works of art depicted Ceres conventionally with a scepter, a basket of flowers and fruit, and a garland made of corn ears (note that "corn" in this instance refers to wheat, barley, or some other old world food grain, not to the new world food grain maize, which is called "corn" in the United States and some other areas of the Western hemisphere).

Ceres was also patron of Enna, Sicily. According to legend, she begged Jupiter that Sicily be placed in the heavens. The result, because the island is triangular in shape, was the constellation Triangulum, an early name of which was Sicilia.

Ceres made up a trinity with Liber and Libera, who were two other agricultural gods. She also had twelve minor gods who assisted her, and were in charge of specific aspects of farming: "Vervactor who turns fallow land, Reparator who prepares fallow land, Imporcitor who plows with wide furrows" (whose name comes from the Latin imporcare, to put into 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".[1]

Worship

The Romans adopted Ceres in 496 BC during a devastating famine, when the Sibylline books advised the adoption of her Greek equivalent Demeter, along with Kore (Persephone) and Iacchus (possibly Dionysus). Ceres was personified and celebrated by women in secret rituals at the festival of Ambarvalia, held during May. There was a temple to Ceres on the Aventine Hill in Rome and her official priest was called a flamen. Her primary festival was the Cerealia or Ludi Ceriales ("games of Ceres"), instituted in the 3rd century BC and held annually on April 12 to April 19. The worship of Ceres became particularly associated with the plebeian classes, who dominated the grain trade. Little is known about the rituals of Cerelean worship; one of the few customs which has been recorded was the peculiar practice of tying lighted brands to the tails of foxes which were then let loose in the Circus Maximus. There was also an October festival dedicated to her when women fasted and offered her the first grain of the harvest.

Legacy

The word cereals derives from Ceres, commemorating her association with edible grains. Statues of Ceres top the domes of the Missouri State Capitol and the Vermont State House serving as a reminder of the importance of agriculture in the states' economies and histories. There is also a statue of her on top of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, which conducts trading in agricultural commodities.

The dwarf planet Ceres (discovered 1801), is named after this goddess. And in turn, the chemical element cerium (discovered 1803) was named after the dwarf planet. A poem about Ceres and humanity features in Dmitri's confession to his brother Alexei in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, Part 1, Book 3, Chapter 3.

Ceres appears as a character in William Shakespeare's play The Tempest (1611).

An aria in praise of Ceres is sung in Act 4 of the opera The Trojans by Hector Berlioz.

The goddess Ceres is one of the three goddess offices held in the Grange or Patrons of Husbandry. The other goddesses are Pomona, and Flora.

Contrary to common belief, the woman portrayed on the right on The New Jersey state flag is actually Ceres, not Prosperity. [2]

See also

Ancient sources

  • Virgil, Georgica iv.58
  • Eusebius, Chronicon 49.19-26
  • Augustine, De civitate dei vii.20
  • Lactantius Placidus, Commentarii in Statii Thebaida ii.382
  • Ovid, Fasti iv.401-404, vi.285-286 and Metamorphoses v.341-343, 385

External links

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