Ceres (mythology)
Overview
In ancient Roman religion, Ceres (ˈ) was a goddess
Goddess
A goddess is a female deity. In some cultures goddesses are associated with Earth, motherhood, love, and the household. In other cultures, goddesses also rule over war, death, and destruction as well as healing....

 of agriculture
Roman agriculture
Agriculture in ancient Rome was not only a necessity, but was idealized among the social elite as a way of life. Cicero considered farming the best of all Roman occupations...

, grain crops
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

, fertility and motherly relationships. She was originally the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian
Plebs
The plebs was the general body of free land-owning Roman citizens in Ancient Rome. They were distinct from the higher order of the patricians. A member of the plebs was known as a plebeian...

 or Aventine Triad
Aventine Triad
The Aventine Triad is a modern term for the joint cult of the Roman deities Ceres, Liber and Libera. The cult was established ca. 493 BC within a sacred district on or near the Aventine Hill, traditionally associated with the Roman plebs...

, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina
Proserpina
Proserpina or Proserpine is an ancient Roman goddess whose story is the basis of a myth of Springtime. Her Greek goddess' equivalent is Persephone. The probable origin of her name comes from the Latin, "proserpere" or "to emerge," in respect to the growing of grain...

 in what Romans described as "the Greek rites of Ceres". Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia
Cerealia
In ancient Roman religion, the Cerealia was the major festival celebrated for the grain goddess Ceres. It was held for seven days from mid- to late April, but the dates are uncertain....

 included the popular Ludi
Ludi
Ludi were public games held for the benefit and entertainment of the Roman people . Ludi were held in conjunction with, or sometimes as the major feature of, Roman religious festivals, and were also presented as part of the cult of state.The earliest ludi were horse races in the circus...

 Ceriales
(Ceres' games). She was also honoured in the May lustratio
Lustratio
Lustratio was an ancient Roman and ancient Greek purification ceremony, involving a procession and in some circumstances the sacrifice of a pig , a ram and a bull ....

n of fields at the Ambarvalia
Ambarvalia
Ambarvalia was a Roman agricultural fertility riteheld at the end of May in honor of Ceres.At these festivals they sacrificed a bull, a sow, and a sheep, which, before the sacrifice, were led in procession thrice around the fields; whence the feast is supposed to have taken its name, ambio, I go...

 festival, at harvest-time, and during Roman marriages and funeral rites
Roman funerals and burial
Ancient Roman funerary practices were part of the mos maiorum, "tradition," that is, "the way of the ancestors," and drew on the beliefs embodied in Roman public and domestic religion....

.

Ceres is the only one of Rome's many agricultural deities to be listed among the Di Consentes, Rome's equivalent to the Twelve Olympians
Twelve Olympians
The Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon , in Greek mythology, were the principal deities of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis were children of Zeus...

 of Greek mythology.
Encyclopedia
In ancient Roman religion, Ceres (ˈ) was a goddess
Goddess
A goddess is a female deity. In some cultures goddesses are associated with Earth, motherhood, love, and the household. In other cultures, goddesses also rule over war, death, and destruction as well as healing....

 of agriculture
Roman agriculture
Agriculture in ancient Rome was not only a necessity, but was idealized among the social elite as a way of life. Cicero considered farming the best of all Roman occupations...

, grain crops
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

, fertility and motherly relationships. She was originally the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian
Plebs
The plebs was the general body of free land-owning Roman citizens in Ancient Rome. They were distinct from the higher order of the patricians. A member of the plebs was known as a plebeian...

 or Aventine Triad
Aventine Triad
The Aventine Triad is a modern term for the joint cult of the Roman deities Ceres, Liber and Libera. The cult was established ca. 493 BC within a sacred district on or near the Aventine Hill, traditionally associated with the Roman plebs...

, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina
Proserpina
Proserpina or Proserpine is an ancient Roman goddess whose story is the basis of a myth of Springtime. Her Greek goddess' equivalent is Persephone. The probable origin of her name comes from the Latin, "proserpere" or "to emerge," in respect to the growing of grain...

 in what Romans described as "the Greek rites of Ceres". Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia
Cerealia
In ancient Roman religion, the Cerealia was the major festival celebrated for the grain goddess Ceres. It was held for seven days from mid- to late April, but the dates are uncertain....

 included the popular Ludi
Ludi
Ludi were public games held for the benefit and entertainment of the Roman people . Ludi were held in conjunction with, or sometimes as the major feature of, Roman religious festivals, and were also presented as part of the cult of state.The earliest ludi were horse races in the circus...

 Ceriales
(Ceres' games). She was also honoured in the May lustratio
Lustratio
Lustratio was an ancient Roman and ancient Greek purification ceremony, involving a procession and in some circumstances the sacrifice of a pig , a ram and a bull ....

n of fields at the Ambarvalia
Ambarvalia
Ambarvalia was a Roman agricultural fertility riteheld at the end of May in honor of Ceres.At these festivals they sacrificed a bull, a sow, and a sheep, which, before the sacrifice, were led in procession thrice around the fields; whence the feast is supposed to have taken its name, ambio, I go...

 festival, at harvest-time, and during Roman marriages and funeral rites
Roman funerals and burial
Ancient Roman funerary practices were part of the mos maiorum, "tradition," that is, "the way of the ancestors," and drew on the beliefs embodied in Roman public and domestic religion....

.

Ceres is the only one of Rome's many agricultural deities to be listed among the Di Consentes, Rome's equivalent to the Twelve Olympians
Twelve Olympians
The Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon , in Greek mythology, were the principal deities of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis were children of Zeus...

 of Greek mythology. The Romans saw her as the counterpart of the Greek goddess Demeter
Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

, whose mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 was reinterpreted
Interpretatio graeca
Interpretatio graeca is a Latin term for the common tendency of ancient Greek writers to equate foreign divinities to members of their own pantheon. Herodotus, for example, refers to the ancient Egyptian gods Amon, Osiris and Ptah as "Zeus", "Dionysus" and "Hephaestus", respectively.-Roman...

 for Ceres in Roman art
Roman art
Roman art has the visual arts made in Ancient Rome, and in the territories of the Roman Empire. Major forms of Roman art are architecture, painting, sculpture and mosaic work...

 and literature
Latin literature
Latin literature includes the essays, histories, poems, plays, and other writings of the ancient Romans. In many ways, it seems to be a continuation of Greek literature, using many of the same forms...

.

Etymology and origins

Ceres' name may derive from the hypothetical Proto-Indo-European root
Proto-Indo-European root
The roots of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language are basic parts of words that carry a lexical meaning, so-called morphemes. PIE roots always have verbal meaning like "to eat" or "to run", as opposed to nouns , adjectives , or other parts of speech. Roots never occur alone in the language...

 *ker, meaning "to grow", which is also a possible root for many English words, such as "create", "cereal", "grow", "kernel", "corn", and "increase". Roman etymologists thought "ceres" derived from the Latin verb gerere, "to bear, bring forth, produce", because the goddess was linked to pastoral
Pastoralism
Pastoralism or pastoral farming is the branch of agriculture concerned with the raising of livestock. It is animal husbandry: the care, tending and use of animals such as camels, goats, cattle, yaks, llamas, and sheep. It may have a mobile aspect, moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and...

, agricultural and human fertility. Archaic cults to Ceres are well-evidenced among Rome's neighbours in the Regal period, including the ancient Latins
Latins (Italic tribe)
The Latins were a people of ancient Italy who included the inhabitants of the early City of Rome. From ca. 1000 BC, the Latins inhabited the small part of the peninsula known to the Romans as Old Latium , that is, the region between the river Tiber and the promontory of Monte Circeo The Latins (or...

, Oscans and Sabellians
Sabellians
Sabellians is a collective ethnonym for a group of Italic peoples or tribes inhabiting central and southern Italy at the time of the rise of Rome. The name was first applied by Niebuhr and encompassed the Sabines, Marsi, Marrucini and Vestini. Pliny in one passage says the Samnites were also...

, less certainly among the Etruscans
Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

 and Umbrians. An archaic Faliscan
Falisci
Falisci is the ancient Roman exonym for an Italic people who lived in what was then Etruria, on the Etruscan side of the Tiber River. The region is now entirely Lazio. They spoke an Italic language, Faliscan, closely akin to Latin. Originally a sovereign state, politically and socially they...

 inscription of c.600 BC asks her to provide far (spelt
Spelt
Spelt is a hexaploid species of wheat. Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and northern Spain and has found a new market as a health food. Spelt is sometimes considered a subspecies of the...

 wheat), which was a dietary staple of the Mediterranean world
History of the Mediterranean region
The history of the Mediterranean region is the history of the interaction of the cultures and people of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea —the central superhighway of transport, trade and cultural exchange between diverse peoples...

. Throughout the Roman era, Ceres' name was synonymous with grain and, by extension, with bread.

Agricultural fertility

Ceres was credited with the discovery of spelt
Spelt
Spelt is a hexaploid species of wheat. Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and northern Spain and has found a new market as a health food. Spelt is sometimes considered a subspecies of the...

 wheat (Latin far), 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. She had the power to fertilise, multiply and fructify plant and animal seed, and her laws and rites protected all activities of the agricultural cycle. In January, Ceres was offered spelt wheat and a pregnant sow, along with the earth-goddess Tellus at the movable Feria
Feria
A feria was a day on which the people, especially the slaves, were not obliged to work, and on which there were no court sessions...

e Sementivae
Sementivae
Sementivae, also known as Feriae Sementivae or Sementina dies , was a Roman festival of sowing.It was a type of feriae conceptivae [or conceptae]...

. This was almost certainly held before the annual sowing of grain. The divine portion of sacrifice was the entrails (exta) presented in an earthenware pot (olla
Olla (Roman pot)
In ancient Roman culture, the olla is a squat, rounded pot or jar. An olla would be used primarily to cook or store food, hence the word “olla" is still used in some Romance languages for either a cooking pot or a dish in the sense of cuisine...

).
In a rural context, Cato the Elder describes the offer to Ceres of a porca praecidanea (a pig, offered before the sowing). Before the harvest, she was offered a propitiary grain sample (praementium).

Ceres' main festival, Cerealia
Cerealia
In ancient Roman religion, the Cerealia was the major festival celebrated for the grain goddess Ceres. It was held for seven days from mid- to late April, but the dates are uncertain....

, was held from mid to late April. It was organised by her plebeian aediles
Aedile
Aedile was an office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and regulation of public festivals. They also had powers to enforce public order. There were two pairs of aediles. Two aediles were from the ranks of plebeians and the other...

 and included circus games (ludi circenses
Ludi
Ludi were public games held for the benefit and entertainment of the Roman people . Ludi were held in conjunction with, or sometimes as the major feature of, Roman religious festivals, and were also presented as part of the cult of state.The earliest ludi were horse races in the circus...

). It opened with a horse-race in the Circus Maximus
Circus Maximus
The Circus Maximus is an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome, Italy. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire...

, whose starting point lay below and opposite to her Aventine Temple; the turning post at the far end of the Circus was sacred to Consus
Consus
In ancient Roman religion, the god Consus was the protector of grains and storage bins , and as such was represented by a grain seed....

, a god of grain-storage. After the race, foxes were released into the Circus, their tails ablaze with lighted torches, perhaps to cleanse the growing crops and protect them from disease and vermin, or to add warmth and vitality to their growth. From c.175 BC, Cerealia included ludi scaenici (theatrical religious events), held through April 12 to 18.

Assistant deities

In the ancient sacrum cereale a priest, probably the flamen cerialis
Flamen
In ancient Roman religion, a flamen was a priest assigned to one of fifteen deities with official cults during the Roman Republic. The most important three were the flamines maiores , who served the three chief Roman gods of the Archaic Triad. The remaining twelve were the flamines minores...

, invoked Ceres (and probably Tellus) along with twelve specialised, minor assistant-gods to secure divine protection and assistance at each stage of the grain cycle, beginning shortly before the Feriae Sementivae.
  • Vervactor, "He who ploughs"
  • Reparator, "He who prepares the earth"
  • Imporcitor, "He who ploughs with a wide furrow"
  • Insitor, "He who plants seeds"
  • Obarator, "He who traces the first plowing"
  • Occator, "He who harrows"
  • Serritor, "He who digs"
  • Subruncinator, "He who weeds"
  • Messor, "He who reaps"
  • Conuector (Convector), "He who carries the grain"
  • Conditor, "He who stores the grain"
  • Promitor, "He who distributes the grain"

Marriage, human fertility and nourishment

Several of Ceres' ancient Italic precursors are connected to human fertility and motherhood; the Pelignan goddess Angitia
Angitia
Angitia was a goddess among the Marsi, the Paeligni and other Oscan-Umbrian populations of central Italy. She was associated in antiquity as snake-charmers who claimed her as their ancestor. Roman interpretations probably obscure her Marsian significance.Her myths vary...

 Cerealis
has been identified with the Roman goddess Angerona
Angerona
In Roman mythology, Angerona or Angeronia was an old Roman goddess, whose name and functions are variously explained. She is sometimes identified with the goddess Feronia....

 (associated with childbirth).

Ceres' torch was a mark of Roman weddings. Adult males were excluded from bridal processions; these took place at night and were headed by a young boy, who carried a torch in honour of Ceres. Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 "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". Once led thus to her husband's home, the bride was a matron. Sacrifice was offered to Tellus on the bride's behalf; 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. In the most solemn form of marriage, confarreatio, the bride and groom shared a cake made of far, the ancient wheat-type particularly associated with Ceres.
From at least the mid-republican era, an official, joint cult to Ceres and Proserpina reinforced Ceres' connection with Roman ideals of female virtue. The promotion of this cult co-incides with the rise of a plebeian nobility, an increased birthrate among plebeian commoners, and a fall in the birthrate among patrician families. The late Republican Ceres Mater (Mother Ceres) is described as genetrix (progenitress) and alma (nourishing); in the early Imperial era she becomes an Imperial deity, and receives joint cult with Ops
Ops
In ancient Roman religion, Ops or Opis, was a fertility deity and earth-goddess of Sabine origin.-Mythology:Her husband was Saturn, the bountiful monarch of the Golden Age. Just as Saturn was identified with the Greek deity Cronus, Opis was identified with Rhea, Cronus' wife...

 Augusta
Augusta (honorific)
Augusta was the imperial honorific title of empresses. It was given to the women of the Roman and Byzantine imperial families. In the third century, Augustae could also receive the titles of Mater castrorum and Mater Patriae .The title implied the greatest prestige, with the Augustae able to...

, Ceres' own mother in Imperial guise and a bountiful genetrix in her own right.

Laws

Ceres was patron and protector of plebeian laws
Plebeian Council
The Concilium Plebis — known in English as the Plebeian Council or People's Assembly — was the principal popular assembly of the ancient Roman Republic. It functioned as a legislative assembly, through which the plebeians could pass laws, elect magistrates, and try judicial cases. The Plebeian...

, rights and Tribune
Tribune
Tribune was a title shared by elected officials in the Roman Republic. Tribunes had the power to convene the Plebeian Council and to act as its president, which also gave them the right to propose legislation before it. They were sacrosanct, in the sense that any assault on their person was...

s. Her Aventine Temple served the plebeians as cult centre, legal archive, treasury and possibly law-court; its foundation was contemporaneous with the passage of the Lex Sacrata, which established the office and person of plebeian aediles and tribunes inviolate. As representatives of the Roman people, the tribunes held a high-profile immunity to arrest or threat; the lives and property of those who violated this law were forfeit to Ceres, whose judgment was expressed by her aediles. When the Lex Hortensia
Lex Hortensia
Lex Hortensia was a law passed in Ancient Rome in 287 BC which made all resolutions passed by plebeians binding on all citizens.-Introduction:...

 of 287 BC extended plebeian law to the city itself, and all its citizens, the status of aediles was raised, and their scope was broadened. The official decrees of the Senate (senatus consulta) were placed in her Temple, under her guardianship. Livy puts the reason bluntly: the consuls could no longer seek advantage by arbitrarily tampering with the laws of Rome. The Temple might also have offered asylum for those threatened with arbitrary arrest by patrician magistrates. Goods, property and fines raised through prosecution of those who offended her laws were used to fund her temple, games and cult. Ceres was thus the patron goddess of Rome's written laws; the poet Vergil later calls her legifera Ceres (Law-bearing Ceres), a translation of Demeter's Greek epithet, thesmophoros
Thesmophoria
Thesmophoria was a festival held in Greek cities, in honor of the goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The name derives from thesmoi, or laws by which men must work the land. The Thesmophoria were the most widespread festivals and the main expression of the cult of Demeter, aside from the...

.

Ceres' role as protector of laws continued 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: those who deplored this as murder appealed to Gracchus' sancrosanct status as tribune under Ceres' protection. In 70 BC, Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 refers to this killing in connection with Ceres' laws and cults, during his prosecution of Verres
Verres
Gaius Verres was a Roman magistrate, notorious for his misgovernment of Sicily. It is not known what gens he belonged to, though some give him the nomen Licinius.-As governor:...

, Roman governor of Sicily, for extortion. The case included circumstantial details of Verres' irreligious exploitation and abuse of Sicilian grain farmers, naturally under Ceres' special protection at the very place of her "earthly home" – and thefts from her temple, including an ancient image of the goddess herself. Faced by the mounting evidence against him, Verres abandoned his own defense and withdrew to a prosperous exile. Soon after, Cicero won election as aedile
Aedile
Aedile was an office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and regulation of public festivals. They also had powers to enforce public order. There were two pairs of aediles. Two aediles were from the ranks of plebeians and the other...

.

As Ceres' first plough-furrow opened the earth (Tellus' realm) to the world of men and created the first field and its boundary, her laws determined the course of settled, lawful, civilised life. 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
Twelve Tables
The Law of the Twelve Tables was the ancient legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law. The Law of the Twelve Tables formed the centrepiece of the constitution of the Roman Republic and the core of the mos maiorum...

 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. An adult who damaged or stole field-crops should be hanged "for Ceres". Any youth guilty of the same offense was to be whipped or fined double the value of damage.

Ceres protected transitions of women from girlhood to womanhood, from unmarried to married life and motherhood. She also maintained the boundaries between the realms of the living and the dead, regardless of their sex. Given the appropriate rites, she helped the deceased into afterlife as an underworld shade (Di Manes), else their spirit might remain to haunt the living, as a wandering, vengeful ghost. For this service, well-off families offered Ceres sacrifice of a pig. The poor could offer wheat, flowers, and a libation. The expected afterlife for the exclusively female initiates in the sacra Cereris may have been somewhat different; they were offered "a method of living" and of "dying with better hope".

The mundus of Ceres

The mundus cerialis (literally "the world" of Ceres) was a pit or underground vault in Rome. Cato describes its shape as a reflection or inversion of the dome of the upper heavens. It was normally sealed by a stone lid known as the lapis manalis. Its origins, uses and location are disputed, and it was opened on only three occasions in the religious year, August 24, October 5 and November 8. The circumstances of this ceremony remain obscure: the days when the mundus was open are identified in the oldest Roman calendar as C(omitiales) (days when the Comitia met) but by later authors as dies religiosus, when it would be irreligious to perform any official work: this apparent contradiction has led to the suggestion that the whole mundus ritual was not contemporary with Rome's early calendar or early Cerean cult, but was a later Greek import. Nevertheless, these three days are intimate to the official festivals of the agricultural cycle, being clustered within the harvest period: the mundus rite of August 24 follows Consualia
Consualia
The Consuales Ludi or Consualia is a festival instituted by Romulus, which honors Consus, the god of counsel, and the one who protects the harvest which is in storage at the time of the festival, which took place about the middle of Sextilis . According to Livy the festival honors Neptune...

 (an agricultural festival) and precedes Opiconsivia
Opiconsivia
On August 25, the Opiconsivia Roman festival was held in honor of Ops, usually known as Opis, and sometimes as Opus....

 (another such). With the mundus opened, and the fact announced by the declaration "mundus patet", offerings were made there to agricultural or underworld deities, including Ceres as goddess of the fruitful earth and guardian of its underworld portals. On these days, the spirits of the dead could lawfully emerge from below and roam among the living, in what Warde Fowler describes as ‘holidays, so to speak, for the ghosts’. When it was re-sealed, they returned to the realms of the dead.

Apart from the festivals of Parentalia
Parentalia
In ancient Rome, the Parentalia or dies parentales was a nine-day festival held in honor of family ancestors, beginning February 13....

 and Lemuralia, these rites at the mundus cerialis on particular dies religiosi are the only known, regular official contacts with the spirits of the dead, or Di Manes. This may represent a secondary or late function of the mundus, attested no earlier than the Late Republican Era, by Varro
Varro
Varro was a Roman cognomen carried by:*Marcus Terentius Varro, sometimes known as Varro Reatinus, the scholar*Publius Terentius Varro or Varro Atacinus, the poet*Gaius Terentius Varro, the consul defeated at the battle of Cannae...

. Warde Fowler speculates its original function as a storehouse (penus) for the best of the harvest, to provide seed-grain for the next planting, becoming a largely symbolic penus of the Roman state. In Plutarch, the digging of such a pit to receive first-fruits and small quantities of native soil was an Etruscan colonial city-foundation rite. The rites of the mundus suggest Ceres as guardian deity of seed-corn, an essential deity in the establishment and agricultural prosperity of cities, and a door-warden of the underworld's afterlife, in which her daughter Proserpina rules as queen-companion to Pluto
Pluto (mythology)
In ancient Greek religion and myth, Pluto was a name for the ruler of the underworld; the god was also known as Hades, a name for the underworld itself...

 or Dis
Dis Pater
Dis Pater, or Dispater was a Roman god of the underworld, later subsumed by Pluto or Hades. Originally a chthonic god of riches, fertile agricultural land, and underground mineral wealth, he was later commonly equated with the Roman deities Pluto and Orcus, becoming an underworld deity.Dis Pater...

.

Expiations

In Roman theology, prodigies were abnormal phenomena that manifested divine anger at human impiety. In Roman histories, prodigies are clustered around perceived or actual threats to the equilibrium of the Roman state, in particular, famine, war and social disorder, and are expiated as matters of urgency. The establishment of Ceres' Aventine cult has itself been interpreted as an extraordinary expiation after the failure of crops and consequent famine. In Livy's history, Ceres is among the deities placated after a remarkable series of prodigies that accompanied the disasters of the Second Punic War
Second Punic War
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and The War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218 to 201 BC and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. This was the second major war between Carthage and the Roman Republic, with the participation of the Berbers on...

: during the same conflict, a lighting strike at her temple was expiated. A fast in her honour is recorded for 191 BC, to be repeated at 5-year intervals. After 206, she was offered at least 11 further official expiations. Many of these were connected to famine and manifestations of plebeian unrest, rather than war. From the Middle Republic onwards, expiation was increasingly addressed to her as mother to Proserpina. The last known followed Rome's Great Fire of 64 AD
Great Fire of Rome
The Great Fire of Rome was an urban fire that occurred beginning July 19, AD 64.-Background:According to Tacitus, the fire spread quickly and burned for six days. Only four of the fourteen districts of Rome escaped the fire; three districts were completely destroyed and the other seven suffered...

. The cause or causes of the fire remained uncertain, but its disastrous extent was taken as a sign of offense against Juno
Juno (mythology)
Juno is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is a daughter of Saturn and sister of the chief god Jupiter and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Juno also looked after the women of Rome. Her Greek equivalent is Hera...

, Vulcan
Vulcan (mythology)
Vulcan , aka Mulciber, is the god of beneficial and hindering fire, including the fire of volcanoes in ancient Roman religion and Roman Neopaganism. Vulcan is usually depicted with a thunderbolt. He is known as Sethlans in Etruscan mythology...

, and Ceres-with-Proserpina, who were all were given expiatory cult. Champlin (2003) perceives the expiations to Vulcan and Ceres in particular as attempted populist appeals by the ruling emperor, Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

.

Myths and theology

The complex and multi-layered origins of the Aventine Triad and Ceres herself allowed multiple interpretations of their relationships; Cicero asserts Ceres as mother to both Liber and Libera, consistent with her role as a mothering deity. Varro's more complex theology groups her functionally with Tellus, Terra, Venus (and thus Victoria) and with Libera as a female aspect of Liber. No native Roman myths of Ceres are known. According to interpretatio romana, which sought the equivalence of Roman to Greek deities, she was an equivalent to Demeter, one of the Twelve Olympians
Twelve Olympians
The Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon , in Greek mythology, were the principal deities of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings. Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis were children of Zeus...

 of Greek religion and mythology; this made Ceres one of Rome's twelve Di Consentes, daughter of Saturn
Saturn (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Saturn was a major god presiding over agriculture and the harvest time. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of abundance and peace by many Roman authors. In medieval times he was known as the Roman god of agriculture, justice and strength. He held a sickle in...

 and Ops
Ops
In ancient Roman religion, Ops or Opis, was a fertility deity and earth-goddess of Sabine origin.-Mythology:Her husband was Saturn, the bountiful monarch of the Golden Age. Just as Saturn was identified with the Greek deity Cronus, Opis was identified with Rhea, Cronus' wife...

, sister of Jupiter
Jupiter (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter or Jove is the king of the gods, and the god of the sky and thunder. He is the equivalent of Zeus in the Greek pantheon....

, mother of Proserpina
Proserpina
Proserpina or Proserpine is an ancient Roman goddess whose story is the basis of a myth of Springtime. Her Greek goddess' equivalent is Persephone. The probable origin of her name comes from the Latin, "proserpere" or "to emerge," in respect to the growing of grain...

 by Jupiter and sister of Juno
Juno (mythology)
Juno is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is a daughter of Saturn and sister of the chief god Jupiter and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Juno also looked after the women of Rome. Her Greek equivalent is Hera...

, Vesta
Vesta (mythology)
Vesta was the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family in Roman religion. Vesta's presence was symbolized by the sacred fire that burned at her hearth and temples...

, Neptune
Neptune (mythology)
Neptune was the god of water and the sea in Roman mythology and religion. He is analogous with, but not identical to, the Greek god Poseidon. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto, each of them presiding over one of the three realms of the universe,...

 and Pluto
Pluto (mythology)
In ancient Greek religion and myth, Pluto was a name for the ruler of the underworld; the god was also known as Hades, a name for the underworld itself...

. Ceres' known mythology is indistinguishable from Demeter's:

"When Ceres sought through all the earth with lit torches for Proserpina, who had been seized by Dis Pater, she called her with shouts where three or four roads meet; from this it has endured in her rites that on certain days a lamentation is raised at the crossroads everywhere by the matronae."


Ceres had strong mythological and cult connections with Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, especially at Henna
Enna
Enna is a city and comune located roughly at the center of Sicily, southern Italy, in the province of Enna, towering above the surrounding countryside...

 (Enna), on whose "miraculous plain" flowers bloomed throughout the year. This was the place of Proserpina's rape and abduction to the underworld and the site of Ceres' most ancient Sanctuary. 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
Triangulum
Triangulum is a small constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for triangle, and it should not be confused with Triangulum Australe in the southern sky. Its name derives from its three brightest stars, of third and fourth magnitude, which form a nearly isosceles long and narrow triangle...

, an early name of which was Sicilia.

Temples

Vitruvius
Vitruvius
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman writer, architect and engineer, active in the 1st century BC. He is best known as the author of the multi-volume work De Architectura ....

 (c.80 – 15 BC) describes the "Temple of Ceres near the Circus Maximus" (her Aventine Temple) as typically Araeostyle
Araeostyle
Araeostyle is an architectural term for the intercolumniation given to those temples where the columns had only timber architraves to carry....

, having widely spaced supporting columns, with architrave
Architrave
An architrave is the lintel or beam that rests on the capitals of the columns. It is an architectural element in Classical architecture.-Classical architecture:...

s of wood, rather than stone. This species of temple is "clumsy, heavy roofed, low and wide, [its] pediment
Pediment
A pediment is a classical architectural element consisting of the triangular section found above the horizontal structure , typically supported by columns. The gable end of the pediment is surrounded by the cornice moulding...

s ornamented with statues of clay or brass, gilt in the Tuscan fashion". He recommends that temples to Ceres be sited in rural areas: "in a solitary spot out of the city, to which the public are not necessarily led but for the purpose of sacrificing to her. This spot is to be reverenced with religious awe and solemnity of demeanour, by those whose affairs lead them to visit it." During the early Imperial era, soothsayers advised Pliny the Younger
Pliny the Younger
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo , better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him...

 to restore an ancient, "old and narrow" temple to Ceres, at his rural property near Como
Como
Como is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy.It is the administrative capital of the Province of Como....

. It contained an ancient wooden cult statue of the goddess, which he replaced. Though this was unofficial, private cult (sacra privata) its annual feast on the Ides of September, the same day as the Epulum Jovis
Epulum Jovis
In ancient Roman religion, the Epulum Jovis was a sumptuous ritual feast offered to Jove on the Ides of September and a smaller feast on the Ides of November . It was celebrated during the Ludi Romani and the Ludi Plebeii .The gods were formally invited, and attended in the form of statues...

, was attended by pilgrims from all over the region. Pliny considered this rebuilding a fulfillment of his civic and religious duty.

Priesthoods

Ceres was served by several public priesthoods. Some were male; her senior priest, the flamen cerialis, also served Tellus and was usually plebeian by ancestry or adoption. Her public cult at the Ambarvalia
Ambarvalia
Ambarvalia was a Roman agricultural fertility riteheld at the end of May in honor of Ceres.At these festivals they sacrificed a bull, a sow, and a sheep, which, before the sacrifice, were led in procession thrice around the fields; whence the feast is supposed to have taken its name, ambio, I go...

, or "perambulation of fields" identified her with Dea Dia
Dea Dia
In Roman mythology, Dea Dia is the goddess of growth. She was sometimes identified with Ceres, and sometimes with the equivalent Greek goddess Demeter....

, and was led by the Arval Brethren
Arval Brethren
In ancient Roman religion, the Arval Brethren or Arval Brothers were a body of priests who offered annual sacrifices to the Lares and gods to guarantee good harvests...

 ("The Brothers of the Fields"); rural versions of these rites were led as private cult by the heads of households
Pater Familias
"Pater Familias", or "Pater Families" is the third season finale of Ghost Whisperer, it originally aired on May 16, 2008 on CBS in United States. All main cast appears in the final episode of season three...

. An inscription at Capua
Capua
Capua is a city and comune in the province of Caserta, Campania, southern Italy, situated 25 km north of Naples, on the northeastern edge of the Campanian plain. Ancient Capua was situated where Santa Maria Capua Vetere is now...

 names a male sacerdos Cerialis mundalis, a priest dedicated to Ceres' rites of the mundus. The plebeian aediles
Aedile
Aedile was an office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and regulation of public festivals. They also had powers to enforce public order. There were two pairs of aediles. Two aediles were from the ranks of plebeians and the other...

 had minor or occasional priestly functions at Ceres' Aventine Temple and were responsible for its management and financial affairs including collection of fines, the organisation of ludi Cerealia and probably the Cerealia itself. Their cure (care and jurisdiction) included , or came to include, the grain supply (annona) and later the plebeian grain doles (frumentationes), the organisation and management of public games
Ludi
Ludi were public games held for the benefit and entertainment of the Roman people . Ludi were held in conjunction with, or sometimes as the major feature of, Roman religious festivals, and were also presented as part of the cult of state.The earliest ludi were horse races in the circus...

 in general, and the maintenance of Rome's streets and public buildings.

Otherwise, in Rome and throughout Italy, as at her ancient sanctuaries of Henna and Catena, Ceres' ritus graecia and her joint cult with Proserpina were invariably led by female sacerdotes, drawn from women of local and Roman elites: Cicero notes that once the new cult had been founded, its earliest priestesses "generally were either from Naples or Velia", cities allied or federated to Rome. Elsewhere, he describes Ceres' Sicilian priestesses as "older women respected for their noble birth and character". Celibacy may have been a condition of their office; sexual abstinence was, according to Ovid, required of those attending Ceres' major, nine-day festival. Her public priesthood was reserved to respectable matrons, be they married, divorced or widowed. The process of their selection and their relationship to Ceres' older, entirely male priesthood is unknown; but they far outnumbered her few male priests, and would have been highly respected and influential figures in their own communities.

Archaic and Regal eras

Roman tradition credited Ceres' eponymous festival, Cerealia
Cerealia
In ancient Roman religion, the Cerealia was the major festival celebrated for the grain goddess Ceres. It was held for seven days from mid- to late April, but the dates are uncertain....

, to Rome's second king, the semi-legendary Numa
Numa Pompilius
Numa Pompilius was the legendary second king of Rome, succeeding Romulus. What tales are descended to us about him come from Valerius Antias, an author from the early part of the 1st century BC known through limited mentions of later authors , Dionysius of Halicarnassus circa 60BC-...

. Ceres' senior, male priesthood was a minor flaminate
Flamen
In ancient Roman religion, a flamen was a priest assigned to one of fifteen deities with official cults during the Roman Republic. The most important three were the flamines maiores , who served the three chief Roman gods of the Archaic Triad. The remaining twelve were the flamines minores...

 whose priesthood and rites were supposedly also innovations of Numa. Her affinity and joint cult with Tellus, also known as Terra Mater (Mother Earth) may have developed at this time. Much later, during the early Imperial era
Principate
The Principate is the first period of the Roman Empire, extending from the beginning of the reign of Caesar Augustus to the Crisis of the Third Century, after which it was replaced with the Dominate. The Principate is characterized by a concerted effort on the part of the Emperors to preserve the...

, Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

 describes these goddesses as "partners in labour"; Ceres provides the "cause" for the growth of crops, while Tellus provides them a place to grow.

Ceres and the Aventine Triad

In 496 BC, against a background of economic recession and famine in Rome, imminent war against the Latins and a threatened secession by Rome's plebs
Plebs
The plebs was the general body of free land-owning Roman citizens in Ancient Rome. They were distinct from the higher order of the patricians. A member of the plebs was known as a plebeian...

 (citizen commoners), the dictator
Roman dictator
In the Roman Republic, the dictator , was an extraordinary magistrate with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate . The office of dictator was a legal innovation originally named Magister Populi , i.e...

 A. Postumius
Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis
Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis was an ancient Roman who, according to Livy, was dictator in 498 BC, when he conquered the Latins in the great Battle of Lake Regillus. Many of the coins of the Albini commemorate this victory of their ancestor, as in the one pictured...

 vowed
Votum
In ancient Roman religion, a votum, plural vota, is a vow or promise made to a deity. The word comes from the past participle of the Latin verb voveo, vovere, "vow, promise." As the result of this verbal action, a votum is also that which fulfills a vow, that is, the thing promised, such as...

 a temple to Ceres, Liber
Liber
In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Liber , also known as Liber Pater was a god of viticulture and wine, fertility and freedom. He was a patron deity of Rome's plebeians and was part of their Aventine Triad. His festival of Liberalia became associated with free speech and the rights...

 and Libera
Libera (mythology)
Libera is a fertility goddess in ancient Roman religion. Her origins are unknown; she may have been a fertility goddess of archaic or pre-Roman Magna Graecia. Her Latin name is the feminine form of Liber,...

 on or near the Aventine Hill
Aventine Hill
The Aventine Hill is one of the seven hills on which ancient Rome was built. It belongs to Ripa, the twelfth rione, or ward, of Rome.-Location and boundaries:The Aventine hill is the southernmost of Rome's seven hills...

. The famine ended and Rome's plebeian citizen-soldiery co-operated in the conquest of the Latins. Postumius' vow was fulfilled in 493 BC: Ceres became the central deity of the new Triad, housed in a new-built Aventine temple
Aventine Triad
The Aventine Triad is a modern term for the joint cult of the Roman deities Ceres, Liber and Libera. The cult was established ca. 493 BC within a sacred district on or near the Aventine Hill, traditionally associated with the Roman plebs...

. She was also – or became – the patron goddess of the plebs
Plebs
The plebs was the general body of free land-owning Roman citizens in Ancient Rome. They were distinct from the higher order of the patricians. A member of the plebs was known as a plebeian...

, whose enterprise as tenant farmers, estate managers, agricultural factors and importers was a mainstay of Roman agriculture.

Much of Rome's grain was imported from territories of Magna Graecia
Magna Graecia
Magna Græcia is the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively colonized by Greek settlers; particularly the Achaean colonies of Tarentum, Crotone, and Sybaris, but also, more loosely, the cities of Cumae and Neapolis to the north...

, particularly from Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, which later Roman mythographers describe as Ceres' "earthly home". Writers of the late Roman Republic and early Empire describe Ceres' Aventine temple and rites as conspicuously Greek. In modern scholarship, this is taken as further evidence of long-standing connections between the plebeians, Ceres and Magna Graecia. It also raises unanswered questions on the nature, history and character of these associations: the Triad itself may have been a self-consciously Roman cult formulation based on Greco-Italic precedents. To complicate matters further, when a new form of Cerean cult was officially imported from Magna Graecia, it was known as the ritus graecus (Greek rite) of Ceres, and was distinct from her older Roman rites.

The older forms of Aventine rites to Ceres remain uncertain. Most Roman cults were led by men, and the officiant's head was covered by a fold of his toga. In the Roman ritus graecus, a male celebrant wore Greek-style vestments, and remained bareheaded before the deity, or else wore a wreath. While Ceres' original Aventine cult was led by male priests, her "Greek rites" (ritus graecus Cereris) were exclusively female.

Ceres and Proserpina

Towards the end of the Second Punic War
Second Punic War
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and The War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218 to 201 BC and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. This was the second major war between Carthage and the Roman Republic, with the participation of the Berbers on...

, around 205 BC, an officially recognised joint cult to Ceres and her daughter Proserpina
Proserpina
Proserpina or Proserpine is an ancient Roman goddess whose story is the basis of a myth of Springtime. Her Greek goddess' equivalent is Persephone. The probable origin of her name comes from the Latin, "proserpere" or "to emerge," in respect to the growing of grain...

 was brought to Rome from southern Italy (part of Magna Graecia
Magna Graecia
Magna Græcia is the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively colonized by Greek settlers; particularly the Achaean colonies of Tarentum, Crotone, and Sybaris, but also, more loosely, the cities of Cumae and Neapolis to the north...

) along with Greek priestesses to serve it. In Rome, this was known as the ritus graecus Cereris; its priestesses were granted Roman citizenship
Roman citizenship
Citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to certain free-born individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance....

 so that they could pray to the gods "with a foreign and external knowledge, but with a domestic and civil intention". The cult was based on ancient, ethnically Greek cults to Demeter, most notably the Thesmophoria
Thesmophoria
Thesmophoria was a festival held in Greek cities, in honor of the goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The name derives from thesmoi, or laws by which men must work the land. The Thesmophoria were the most widespread festivals and the main expression of the cult of Demeter, aside from the...

 to Demeter
Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

 and Persephone
Persephone
In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

, whose cults and myths also provided a basis for the Eleusinian mysteries
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance...

.

From the end of the 3rd century BC, Demeter's temple at Enna
Enna
Enna is a city and comune located roughly at the center of Sicily, southern Italy, in the province of Enna, towering above the surrounding countryside...

, in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, was acknowledged as Ceres' oldest, most authoritative cult centre, and Libera was recognised as Proserpina, Roman equivalent to Demeter's daughter Persephone
Persephone
In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

. Their joint cult recalls Demeter's search for Persephone, after the latter's rape and abduction into the underworld by Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

. The new cult to "mother and maiden" took its place alongside the old, but made no reference to Liber. Thereafter, Ceres was offered two separate and distinctive forms of official cult at the Aventine. Both might have been supervised by the male flamen Cerialis but otherwise, their relationship is unclear. The older form of cult included both men and women, and probably remained a focus for plebeian political identity and discontent. The new identified its exclusively females initiates and priestesses as upholders of Rome's traditional, patrician-dominated social hierarchy and mores
Mos maiorum
The mos maiorum is the unwritten code from which the ancient Romans derived their social norms. It is the core concept of Roman traditionalism, distinguished from but in dynamic complement to written law. The mos maiorum The mos maiorum ("ancestral custom") is the unwritten code from which the...

.

Ceres and Magna Mater

A year after the import of the ritus cereris, patrician senators imported cult to the Greek goddess Cybele
Cybele
Cybele , was a Phrygian form of the Earth Mother or Great Mother. As with Greek Gaia , her Minoan equivalent Rhea and some aspects of Demeter, Cybele embodies the fertile Earth...

 and established her as Magna Mater (The Great Mother) within Rome's sacred boundary
Pomerium
The pomerium or pomoerium , was the sacred boundary of the city of Rome. In legal terms, Rome existed only within the pomerium; everything beyond it was simply territory belonging to Rome.-Location and extensions:Tradition maintained that it was the original line ploughed by Romulus around the...

, facing the Aventine Hill. Like Ceres, Cybele was a form of Graeco-Roman earth goddess. Unlike her, she had mythological ties to Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

, and thus to the Trojan prince Aeneas
Aeneas
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

, mythological ancestor of Rome's founding father
Founding of Rome
The founding of Rome is reported by many legends, which in recent times are beginning to be supplemented by scientific reconstructions.- Development of the city :...

 and first patrician Romulus
Romulus
- People:* Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome* Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Roman Emperor* Valerius Romulus , deified son of the Roman emperor Maxentius* Romulus , son of the Western Roman emperor Anthemius...

. The establishment of official Roman cult to Magna Mater coincided with the start of a new saeculum (cycle of years). It was followed by Hannibal's defeat, the end of the Punic War and an exceptionally good harvest. Roman victory and recovery could therefore be credited to Magna Mater and patrician piety: so the patricians dined her and each other at her festival banquets. In similar fashion, the plebeian nobility underlined their claims to Ceres. Up to a point, the two cults reflected a social and political divide, but when certain prodigies were interpreted as evidence of Ceres' displeasure, the senate appeased her with a new festival, the ieiunium Cereris.(The Feast of Ceres)

In 133 BC, the plebeian noble
Nobiles
During the Roman Republic, nobilis was a descriptive term of social rank, usually indicating that a member of the family had achieved the consulship. Those who belonged to the hereditary patrician families were noble, but plebeians whose ancestors were consuls were also considered nobiles...

 Tiberius Gracchus
Tiberius Gracchus
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was a Roman Populares politician of the 2nd century BC and brother of Gaius Gracchus. As a plebeian tribune, his reforms of agrarian legislation caused political turmoil in the Republic. These reforms threatened the holdings of rich landowners in Italy...

 bypassed the Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 and appealed directly to the popular assembly to pass his proposed land-reforms
Agrarian law
Agrarian laws were laws among the Romans regulating the division of the public lands, or ager publicus.There existed three types of land in ancient Rome: private land, common pasture, and public land...

. Civil unrest spilled into violence; Gracchus and many of his supporters were murdered by their conservative opponents. At the behest of the Sibylline oracle
Sibylline Books
The Sibylline Books or Libri Sibyllini were a collection of oracular utterances, set out in Greek hexameters, purchased from a sibyl by the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, and consulted at momentous crises through the history of the Republic and the Empire...

, the senate sent the quindecimviri to Ceres' ancient cult centre at Henna
Enna
Enna is a city and comune located roughly at the center of Sicily, southern Italy, in the province of Enna, towering above the surrounding countryside...

 in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, the goddess' supposed place of origin and earthly home. Some kind of religious consultation or propitiation was given, either to expiate Gracchus' murder – as later Roman sources would claim – or to justify it as the lawful killing of a would-be king or demagogue
Demagogy
Demagogy or demagoguery is a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes...

, a homo sacer
Homo sacer
Homo sacer is a figure of Roman law: a person who is banned, may be killed by anybody, but may not be sacrificed in a religious ritual....

who had offended Ceres' laws against tyranny.

Late Republic

The Eleusinian mysteries became increasingly popular during the late Republic. Early Roman initiates at Eleusis in Greece included Sulla and Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

; thereafter many Emperors
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 were initiated, including Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

, who founded an Eleusinian cult centre in Rome itself.

In Late Republican politics, aristocratic traditionalists
Optimates
The optimates were the traditionalist majority of the late Roman Republic. They wished to limit the power of the popular assemblies and the Tribunes of the Plebs, and to extend the power of the Senate, which was viewed as more dedicated to the interests of the aristocrats who held the reins of power...

 and popularists
Populares
Populares were aristocratic leaders in the late Roman Republic who relied on the people's assemblies and tribunate to acquire political power. They are regarded in modern scholarship as in opposition to the optimates, who are identified with the conservative interests of a senatorial elite...

 used coinage to propagated their competing claims to Ceres' favour. A coin of Sulla shows Ceres on one side, on the other a ploughman with yoked oxen: the images, accompanied by the legend "conditor", claim his rule (a military dictatorship) as regenerative and divinely justified. Popularists used her name and attributes to appeal their guardianship of plebeian interests, particularly the annona and frumentarium; and plebeian nobles and aediles used them to point out their ancestral connections with plebeian commoners. In the decades of Civil War that ushered in the Empire, such images and dedications proliferate on Rome's coinage: Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

, his opponents, his assassins and his heirs alike claimed the favour and support of Ceres and her plebeian proteges, with coin issues that celebrate Ceres, Libertas
Libertas
Libertas was the Roman goddess and embodiment of liberty.- Temples and derived inspirations :In 238 BC, before the Second Punic War, having long been a Roman deity along with other personified virtues, Libertas assumed goddess status...

(liberty) and Victoria
Victoria (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion, Victoria was the personified goddess of victory. She is the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Nike, and was associated with Bellona. She was adapted from the Sabine agricultural goddess Vacuna and had a temple on the Palatine Hill...

 (victory).

Imperial era

Imperial theology conscripted Rome's traditional cults as the divine upholders of Imperial Pax
Pax (mythology)
In Roman mythology, Pax [paqs] was recognized as a goddess during the rule of Augustus. On the Campus Martius, she had a temple called the Ara Pacis, and another temple on the Forum Pacis. She was depicted in art with olive branches, a cornucopia and a scepter...

 (peace) and prosperity, for the benefit of all. The emperor Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 began the restoration of Ceres' Aventine Temple; his successor Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 completed it. Of the several figures on the Augustan Ara Pacis
Ara Pacis
The Ara Pacis Augustae is an altar to Peace, envisioned as a Roman goddess...

, one doubles as a portrait of the Empress Livia
Livia
Livia Drusilla, , after her formal adoption into the Julian family in AD 14 also known as Julia Augusta, was a Roman empress as the third wife of the Emperor Augustus and his adviser...

, who wears Ceres' corona spicea. Another has been variously identified in modern scholarship as Tellus, Venus, Pax or Ceres, or in Spaeth's analysis, a deliberately broad composite of them all.

Rome's grain supply, as reformed by the emperor Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

, was personified as an Imperial goddess, Annona
Annona (goddess)
In ancient Roman religion, Annona is the divine personification of the grain supply to the city of Rome. She is closely connected to the goddess Ceres, with whom she is often depicted in art....

, a junior partner to Ceres and the Imperial family. The traditional, Cerean virtues of provision and nourishment were symbolically extended to Imperial family members with coinage that showed Claudius' mother Antonia
Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor , also known as Antonia the Younger or simply Antonia was the younger of two daughters of Roman politician Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. Tacitus Ann. 4.44.2 and 12.54.2 may have confused the two Antonia sisters...

 as Augusta
Augustus (honorific)
Augustus , Latin for "majestic," "the increaser," or "venerable", was an Ancient Roman title, which was first held by Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus , and subsequently came to be considered one of the titles of what are now known as the Roman Emperors...

 with corona spicea.

The relationship between the reigning emperor, empress and Ceres was formalised as an Imperial title, Ceres Augusta
Augusta (honorific)
Augusta was the imperial honorific title of empresses. It was given to the women of the Roman and Byzantine imperial families. In the third century, Augustae could also receive the titles of Mater castrorum and Mater Patriae .The title implied the greatest prestige, with the Augustae able to...

. On coinage, various emperors and empresses wear her corona spicea; goddess, emperor and spouse are conjointly responsible for agricultural prosperity and the all-important provision of grain. A coin of Nerva
Nerva
Nerva , was Roman Emperor from 96 to 98. Nerva became Emperor at the age of sixty-five, after a lifetime of imperial service under Nero and the rulers of the Flavian dynasty. Under Nero, he was a member of the imperial entourage and played a vital part in exposing the Pisonian conspiracy of 65...

 (reigned AD 96–98) acknowledges Rome's dependence on the princeps' gift of frumentio (corn dole) to the masses. Under Nerva's later dynastic successor Antoninus Pius
Antoninus Pius
Antoninus Pius , also known as Antoninus, was Roman Emperor from 138 to 161. He was a member of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty and the Aurelii. He did not possess the sobriquet "Pius" until after his accession to the throne...

, Imperial theology represents the death and apotheosis
Apotheosis
Apotheosis is the glorification of a subject to divine level. The term has meanings in theology, where it refers to a belief, and in art, where it refers to a genre.In theology, the term apotheosis refers to the idea that an individual has been raised to godlike stature...

 of the Empress Faustina the Elder
Faustina the Elder
Annia Galeria Faustina, more familiarly referred to as Faustina I , was a Roman Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius.-Early life:...

 as Ceres' return to Olympus by Jupiter's
Jupiter (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter or Jove is the king of the gods, and the god of the sky and thunder. He is the equivalent of Zeus in the Greek pantheon....

 command. Even then, "her care for mankind continues and the world can rejoice in the warmth of her daughter Proserpina: in Imperial flesh, Proserpina is (Faustina the Younger
Faustina the Younger
Annia Galeria Faustina Minor , Faustina Minor or Faustina the Younger was a daughter of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and Roman Empress Faustina the Elder. She was a Roman Empress and wife to her maternal cousin Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius...

)", empress-wife of Pius' successor Marcus Aurelius.

In Britain, a soldier's inscription of the 2nd century AD attests to Ceres' role in the popular syncretism of the times. She is "the bearer of ears of corn", the "Syrian Goddess", identical with the universal heavenly Mother, the Magna Mater and Virgo, virgin mother of the gods. She is peace and virtue, and inventor of justice: she weighs "Life and Right" in her scale.

During the Late Imperial era, Ceres gradually "slips into obscurity"; the last known official association of the Imperial family with her symbols is an issue of Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

 (AD 193–211), showing his empress, Julia Domna
Julia Domna
Julia Domna was a member of the Severan dynasty of the Roman Empire. Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus and mother of Emperors Geta and Caracalla, Julia was among the most important women ever to exercise power behind the throne in the Roman Empire.- Family background...

, in the corona spicea. After the reign of Claudius Gothicus, no coinage shows Ceres' image. Even so, an initiate of her mysteries is attested in the 5th century AD, after the official abolition of all non-Christian cults.

Legacy

The word cereal
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

s derives from Ceres, commemorating her association with edible grains. Statues of Ceres top the domes of the Missouri State Capitol
Missouri State Capitol
The Missouri State Capitol is located in the U.S. state of Missouri. Housing the Missouri General Assembly, it is located in the state capital of Jefferson City at 201 West Capitol Avenue. The domed building was designed by the New York architectural firm of Tracy and Swartwout and completed in 1917...

 and the Vermont State House
Vermont State House
The Vermont State House, located in Montpelier, is the state capitol of Vermont and the seat of the Vermont General Assembly. The current Greek Revival structure is the third building on the same site to be used as the 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
Chicago Board of Trade Building
The Chicago Board of Trade Building is a skyscraper located in :Chicago, Illinois, United States. It stands at 141 W. Jackson Boulevard at the foot of the LaSalle Street canyon, in the Loop community area in Cook County. Built in 1930 and first designated a Chicago Landmark on May 4, 1977, the...

, which conducts trading in agricultural commodities.

The dwarf planet
Dwarf planet
A dwarf planet, as defined by the International Astronomical Union , is a celestial body orbiting the Sun that is massive enough to be spherical as a result of its own gravity but has not cleared its neighboring region of planetesimals and is not a satellite...

 Ceres (discovered 1801), is named after this goddess. And in turn, the chemical element cerium
Cerium
Cerium is a chemical element with the symbol Ce and atomic number 58. It is a soft, silvery, ductile metal which easily oxidizes in air. Cerium was named after the dwarf planet . Cerium is the most abundant of the rare earth elements, making up about 0.0046% of the Earth's crust by weight...

 (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
The Brothers Karamazov
The Brothers Karamazov is the final novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Dostoyevsky spent nearly two years writing The Brothers Karamazov, which was published as a serial in The Russian Messenger and completed in November 1880...

, Part 1, Book 3, Chapter 3.

Ceres appears as a character in William Shakespeare's
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 play The Tempest
The Tempest
The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

(1611).

An aria in praise of Ceres is sung in Act 4 of the opera The Trojans by Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

.

The goddess Ceres is one of the three goddess offices held in the Grange
Grange
-Buildings:* Grange House , Bo'ness, Scotland, built in 1564, and demolished in 1906* Hamilton Grange National Memorial, a historic house in New York City...

or Patrons of Husbandry. The other goddesses are Pomona
Pomona
Pomona was a goddess of fruitful abundance in ancient Roman religion and myth. Her name comes from the Latin word pomum, "fruit," specifically orchard fruit. She was said to be a wood nymph and a part of the Numia, guardian spirits who watch over people, places, or homes...

, and Flora
Flora
Flora is the plant life occurring in a particular region or time, generally the naturally occurring or indigenous—native plant life. The corresponding term for animals is fauna.-Etymology:...

.

Ceres is depicted on the Seal of New Jersey
Seal of New Jersey
The Great Seal of the State of New Jersey includes:*A shield with three plows emblazoned, representative of New Jersey's agricultural tradition.*A forward-facing knight's helmet.*A horse's head as the crest of the helmet....

as a symbol of prosperity.
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