Neptune (mythology)
Overview
Neptune was the god of water and the sea
Water deity
A water deity is a deity in mythology associated with water or various bodies of water. Water deities are common in mythology and were usually more important among civilizations in which the sea or ocean, or a great river was more important...

 in Roman mythology
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

 and religion
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

. He is analogous with, but not identical to, the Greek god Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

. In the Greek-influenced tradition
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...

, Neptune was the brother 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....

 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...

, each of them presiding over one of the three realms of the universe, Heaven, Earth and the Netherworld. Depictions of Neptune in Roman mosaic
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

s, especially those of North Africa, are influenced by Hellenistic conventions.

Unlike the Greek Oceanus
Oceanus
Oceanus ; , Ōkeanós) was a pseudo-geographical feature in classical antiquity, believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be the world-ocean, an enormous river encircling the world....

, titan
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

 of the world-ocean, Neptune was associated as well with fresh water.
Encyclopedia
Neptune was the god of water and the sea
Water deity
A water deity is a deity in mythology associated with water or various bodies of water. Water deities are common in mythology and were usually more important among civilizations in which the sea or ocean, or a great river was more important...

 in Roman mythology
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

 and religion
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

. He is analogous with, but not identical to, the Greek god Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

. In the Greek-influenced tradition
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...

, Neptune was the brother 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....

 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...

, each of them presiding over one of the three realms of the universe, Heaven, Earth and the Netherworld. Depictions of Neptune in Roman mosaic
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

s, especially those of North Africa, are influenced by Hellenistic conventions.

Unlike the Greek Oceanus
Oceanus
Oceanus ; , Ōkeanós) was a pseudo-geographical feature in classical antiquity, believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be the world-ocean, an enormous river encircling the world....

, titan
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

 of the world-ocean, Neptune was associated as well with fresh water. Georges Dumézil
Georges Dumézil
Georges Dumézil was a French comparative philologist best known for his analysis of sovereignty and power in Proto-Indo-European religion and society...

 suggested that for Latins, who were not a seafaring people, the primary identification of Neptune was with freshwater springs. Like Poseidon, Neptune was worshipped by the Romans also as a god of horses, under the name Neptunus Equester, a patron of horse-racing.

Etymology

The etymology of Neptunus is unclear and disputed. The ancient grammarian Varro derived the name from nuptus i.e. covering (opertio), with a more or less explicit allusion to the nuptiae, marriage of Heaven and Earth.

Among modern scholars P. Kretschmer proposed a derivation from IE
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

  *neptu-, moist substance. Similarly R. Bloch supposed it might be an adjectival form in -no from *nuptu-, meaning "he who is moist". Dumézil though remarked words deriving from root *nep are not attested in IE languages other than Vedic
Vedic
Vedic may refer to:* the Vedas, the oldest preserved Indic texts** Vedic Sanskrit, the language of these texts** Vedic period, during which these texts were produced** Vedic pantheon of gods mentioned in Vedas/vedic period...

 and Avestan. He proposed an etymology that brings together Neptunus with Vedic and Avestan theonyms Apam Napat, Apam Napá and Old Irish theonym Nechtan, all meaning descendant of the waters. By using the comparative approach the Indo-Iranian, Avestan and Irish figures would show common features with the Roman historicised legends about Neptune. Dumézil thence proposed to derive the nouns from IE root *nepot or *nept, descendant, siter's son.

More recently, in his lectures delivered on various occasions in the late years of the last century, German scholar H. Petersmann proposed an etymology from IE rootstem *nebh related to clouds and foggs, plus suffix -tu denoting an abstract verbal noun, and adjectival suffix -no which refers to the domain of activity of a person or his prerogatives. IE root *nebh, having the original meaning of damp, wet, has given Sanskrit nábhah, Hittite nepis, Latin nubs, nebula, German nebel, Slavic nebo etc. The concept would be close to that expressed in the name of Greek god Όυράνος, derived from IE root *h2vórso-, to water, irrigate and *h2vorsó, the irrigator. This etymology would be more in accord with Varro's.

A different etymology grounded in the legendary history of Latium and Etruria was proposed by Preller
Ludwig Preller
Ludwig Preller was a German philologist and antiquarian.Born in Hamburg, he studied at Leipzig, Berlin and Göttingen, in 1838 he was appointed to the professorship of philology at the University of Dorpat, which, however, he resigned in 1843. He afterwards spent some time in Italy, but settled in...

 and Müller
Karl Otfried Müller
Karl Otfried Müller , was a German scholar and Philodorian, or admirer of ancient Sparta, who introduced the modern study of Greek mythology.-Biography:...

-Deeke: Etruscan Nethunus, Nethuns would be an adjectival form of toponym Nepe(t), Nepete (presently Nepi), town of the ager Faliscus near Falerii
Falerii
Falerii was one of the twelve chief cities of Etruria, situated about 1.5 km west of the ancient Via Flaminia, around 50 kilometers north of Rome.- History :According to legend, it was of Argive origin...

. The district was traditionally connected to the cult of the god: Messapus
Messapus
There are two men named Messapus:*Messapus, the father of Theophrastus *Messapus, a character in Virgil's AeneidThe second Messapus appears in Books VII and IX of Virgil's Aeneid...

 and Halesus, eponymous hero of Falerii
Falerii
Falerii was one of the twelve chief cities of Etruria, situated about 1.5 km west of the ancient Via Flaminia, around 50 kilometers north of Rome.- History :According to legend, it was of Argive origin...

, were believed to be his own sons. Messapus led the Falisci and others to war in the Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

. Nepi and Falerii
Falerii
Falerii was one of the twelve chief cities of Etruria, situated about 1.5 km west of the ancient Via Flaminia, around 50 kilometers north of Rome.- History :According to legend, it was of Argive origin...

 have been famed since antiquity for the excellent quality of the water of their springs, scattered in meadows. Waz Up! :D

Worship and theology

The theology of Neptune may only be reconstructed to some extent as since very early times he was identified with the Greek god Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

, as he is present already in the lectisternium
Lectisternium
In ancient Roman religion, the lectisternium was a propitiatory ceremony, consisting of a meal offered to gods and goddesses. The word derives from lectum sternere, "to spread a couch." The deities were represented by their busts or statues, or by portable figures of wood, with heads of bronze,...

 of 399 BC. Such an identification may well be grounded in the strict relationship between the Latin and Greek theologies of the two deities. It has been argued that Indo-European people, having no direct knowledge of the sea as they originated from inland areas, reused the theology of a deity originally either chthonic
Chthonic
Chthonic designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land or the land as territory...

 or wielding power over inland freshwaters as the god of the sea. This feature has been preserved particularly well in the case of Neptune who was definitely a god of springs, lakes and rivers before becoming also a god of the sea, as is testified by the numerous findings of inscriptions mentioning him in the proximity of such locations. Servius the grammarian also explicitly states Neptune is in charge of all the rivers, springs and waters.

He may find a parallel in Irish god Nechtan
Nechtan (mythology)
In Irish mythology, Nechtan was the father and/or husband of Boann. He may be Nuada under another name, or his cult may have been replaced by that of Nuada. Only he and his three cup-bearers were permitted to visit the well of Segais, into which nine sacred hazel trees dropped their wisdom-bearing...

, master of the well from which all the rivers of the world flow out and flow back to.

Poseidon on the other hand underwent the process of becoming the main god of the sea at a much earlier time, as is shown in the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

.

In the earlier times it was the god Portunes or Fortunus
Portunes
In Roman mythology, Portunes was a god of keys, doors and livestock. He protected the warehouses where grain was stored...

 who was thanked for naval victories, but Neptune supplanted him in this role by at least the first century BC when Sextus Pompeius
Sextus Pompeius
Sextus Pompeius Magnus Pius, in English Sextus Pompey , was a Roman general from the late Republic . He was the last focus of opposition to the Second Triumvirate...

 called himself "son of Neptune." For a time he was paired with Salacia
Salacia (mythology)
This article is about the goddess of salt water, Neptune’s wife.In ancient Roman mythology, Salacia was the female divinity of the sea, worshipped as the goddess of salt water who presided over the depths of the ocean. She was the wife and queen of Neptune, god of the sea and water...

, the goddess of the salt water.

Neptune was also considered the legendary progenitor god of a Latin stock, the Faliscans, who called themselves Neptunia proles. In this respect he was the equivalent of Mars
Mars (mythology)
Mars was the Roman god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter, and he was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions...

, Janus
Janus
-General:*Janus , the two-faced Roman god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings*Janus , a moon of Saturn*Janus Patera, a shallow volcanic crater on Io, a moon of Jupiter...

, 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 even 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....

 among Latin tribes. Salacia would represent the virile force of Neptune.

The Neptunalia

The Neptunalia
Neptunalia
The Neptunalia was an obscure archaic two-day festival in honour of Neptune as god of waters, celebrated at Rome in the heat and drought of summer, probably July 23 . It was one of the dies comitiales, when committees of citizens could vote on civil or criminal matters. In the ancient calendar...

 was the festival
Roman festivals
In ancient Roman religion, holidays were celebrated to worship and celebrate a certain god or divine event, and consisted of religious observances and festival traditions, usually with a large feast, and often featuring games . The most important festivals were the Saturnalia, the Consualia, the...

 of Neptune on July 23, at the height of summer. The date and the construction of tree-branch shelters suggest a primitive role for Neptune as god of water sources in the summer's drought and heat.

The most ancient Roman calendar
Roman calendar
The Roman calendar changed its form several times in the time between the founding of Rome and the fall of the Roman Empire. This article generally discusses the early Roman or pre-Julian calendars...

 set the feriae of Neptunus on July 23, two days after the Lucaria
Lucaria
In ancient Roman religion, the Lucaria was a festival of the grove held July 19 and 21. The original meaning of the ritual was obscure by the time of Varro , who omits it in his list of festivals...

 of July 19 and 21 and two days before the Furrinalia of July 25. G. Wissowa had already remarked that festivals falling in a range of three days are related to each other. Dumezil elaborated that these festivals were all in some way related to the importance of the function of water during the period of summer heat (canicula), when river and spring waters are at their lowest. Founding his analysis on the works of Palladius
Palladius
Palladius was the first Bishop of the Christians of Ireland, preceding Saint Patrick. The Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion consider Palladius a saint.-Armorica:...

 and Columella
Columella
Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella is the most important writer on agriculture of the Roman empire. Little is known of his life. He was probably born in Gades , possibly of Roman parents. After a career in the army , he took up farming...

 Dumezil argues that while the Lucaria were devoted to the dressing of woods, clearing the undergrown bushes by cutting on the 19 and then by uprooting on the 21, (and burning them afterwards), the Neptunalia were spent in outings under branch huts (umbrae, casae frondeae), in a wood between the Tiber and the Via Salaria
Via Salaria
The Via Salaria was an ancient Roman road in Italy.It eventually ran from Rome to Castrum Truentinum on the Adriatic coast - a distance of 242 km. The road also passed through Reate and Asculum...

, drinking springwater and wine to escape the heat. It looks as though this festival was a time of general free and unrestrained merrymaking during which men and women mixed without the usual Roman traditional social constraints. This character of the festival as well as the fact that Neptune was offered the sacrifice of a bull would point to an agricultural fertility context.

The Furrinalia too, devoted to Furrina
Furrina
Furrina , was a Roman goddess. Her function in the Roman pantheon was mostly unknown at the time of Cicero.However, modern archaeological research has revealed some tenuous evidence that seems to indicate that Furrina was associated with water.Her antiquity is proven by the fact that she was one...

, a goddess of springs, were referred to those springs which had to be detected by drilling, i.e. required the work of man thence creating a correspondence with the Lucaria of 21, equally entailing an analogous human action upon the soil.
The Furrinalia of July 25 are explained by Dumezil with the hydraulic works again as prescribed by Palladius, i.e. the drilling of wells to detect underground water: patent and hidden waters are thus dealt with on separate though next occasions.

Temples

Neptune had two temples in Rome. The first, built in 25 BC, stood near the Circus Flaminius
Circus Flaminius
The Circus Flaminius was a large, circular area of land in Rome that contained a small race-track reserved for mysterious games, and various other buildings and monuments. It was located in the southern end of the Campus Martius, near the Tiber River. It was ‘built,’ or sectioned off, by Flaminius...

, the Roman racetrack, and contained a famous sculpture of a marine group by Scopas
Scopas
Scopas or Skopas was an Ancient Greek sculptor and architect, born on the island of Paros. Scopas worked with Praxiteles, and he sculpted parts of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, especially the reliefs. He led the building of the new temple of Athena Alea at Tegea...

. The second, the Basilica Neptuni, was built on the Campus Martius
Campus Martius
The Campus Martius , was a publicly owned area of ancient Rome about in extent. In the Middle Ages, it was the most populous area of Rome...

 and dedicated by Agrippa in honour of the naval victory of Actium
Battle of Actium
The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic. It was fought between the forces of Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. The battle took place on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the city of Actium, at the Roman...

.

Sacrifices

Neptune is one of only three Roman gods to whom it was appropriate to offer the sacrifice of bulls, the other two being Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

 and Mars
Mars (mythology)
Mars was the Roman god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter, and he was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions...

. The wrong offering would require a piaculum if due to inadvertency or necessity. The type of the offering implies a stricter connection between the deity and the worldly realm.

Lake Albanus

The overflowing of Lake Albanus happened on the date of the Neptunalia. This prodigy that foretold the fall of Veii
Veii
Veii was, in ancient times, an important Etrurian city NNW of Rome, Italy; its site lies in Isola Farnese, a village of Municipio XX, an administrative subdivision of the comune of Rome in the Province of Rome...

 is a historical event that Dumezil ascribed to the Roman habit of projecting legendary heritage onto their own history. Livy relates that a haruspex from Veii who had been taken prisoner inadvertently gave away the prophecy that Veii would fall if the waters of the lake should overflow in the inland direction. On the contrary the fact would go to the disadvantage of Rome if the waters were to overflow towards the sea. The prophecy was confirmed by the oracle of Delphi
Delphi
Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis.In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god...

 consulted by the Roman senate.

This legend would show the scope of the powers hidden in waters and the religious importance of their control: Veientans knowing the fact had been digging channels for a long time as recent archaeological finds confirm. There is a temporal coincidence between the conjuration of the prodigy and the works of derivation recommended by Palladius and Columella at the time of the canicula, when the waters are at their lowest.

Paredrae

Paredrae are entities who pair or accompany a god. They represent the fundamental aspects or the powers of the god with whom they are associated. In Roman religion they are often female. In later times under Hellenising influence they came to be considered as separate deities and consorts of the god. However this misconception might have been widespread in earlier folk belief. In the view of Dumézil, Neptune's two paredrae Salacia and Venilia represent the overpowering and the tranquil aspects of water, both natural and domesticated: Salacia would impersonate the gushing, overbearing waters and Venilia the still or quietly flowing waters.

Salacia and Venilia have been the object of the attention of scholars both ancient and modern. Varro connects the first to salum, sea, and the second to ventus, wind. Festus writes of Salacia that she is the deity that generates the motion of the sea. While Venilia would cause the waves to come to the shore Salacia would cause their retreating towards the high sea. The issue has been discussed in many passages by Christian doctor Aurelius Augustinus. He devotes one full chapter of his De Civitate Dei to mocking the inconsistencies inherent in the theological definition of the two entitites: since Salacia would denote the nether part of the sea, he wonders how could it be possible that she be also the retreating waves (Venilia being the waves that come to the shore), as waves are obviously a phenomenon of the surface of the sea. Elsewhere he writes that Venilia would be the "hope that comes", one of the aspects or powers of the all encompassing Jupiter understood as the anima mundi.

Servius in his commentary to the Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

 also writes about Salacia and Venilia in various passages, e.g. V 724: "(Venus
Venus (mythology)
Venus is a Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty, sex,sexual seduction and fertility, who played a key role in many Roman religious festivals and myths...

) dicitur et Salacia, quae proprie meretricum dea appellata est a veteribus
": "(Venus) is also called Salacia, who precisely was named goddess of mercenary women by the ancient". Elsewhere he writes that Salacia and Venilia are indeed the same entity.

Among modern scholars Dumézil with his followers Bloch and Schilling centre their interpretation of Neptune on the more direct, concrete, limited value and functions of water. Accordingly Salacia would represent the forceful and violent aspect of gushing and overflowing water, Venilia the tranquil, gentle aspect of still or slowly flowing water.

Preller, Fowler, Petersmann and Takács attribue to the theology of Neptune broader significance as a god of universal worldly fertility, particularly relevant to agriculture and human reproduction. Thence they interpret Salacia as personifying lust and Venilia as related to venia, the attitude of ingraciating, attraction, connected with love and desire for reproduction. L. Preller remarked a significant aspect of Venilia mentioning that she was recorded in the indigitamenta also as a deity of longing, desire. He thinks this fact would allow to explain the theonym in the same way as that of Venus. Other data seem to point in the same direction: Salacia would be the parallel of Thetis
Thetis
Silver-footed Thetis , disposer or "placer" , is encountered in Greek mythology mostly as a sea nymph or known as the goddess of water, one of the fifty Nereids, daughters of the ancient one of the seas with shape-shifting abilities who survives in the historical vestiges of most later Greek myths...

 as the mother of Achilles, while Venilia would be the mother of Turnus
Turnus
In Virgil's Aeneid, Turnus was the King of the Rutuli, and the chief antagonist of the hero Aeneas.-Biography:Prior to Aeneas' arrival in Italy, Turnus was the primary potential suitor of Lavinia, daughter of Latinus, King of the Latin people. Upon Aeneas' arrival, however, Lavinia is promised to...

 and Iuturna, whom she mothered with Daunus king of the Rutulians. According to another source Venilia would be the wife of Janus
Janus
-General:*Janus , the two-faced Roman god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings*Janus , a moon of Saturn*Janus Patera, a shallow volcanic crater on Io, a moon of Jupiter...

 with whom she mothered the nymph Canens
Canens (mythology)
In Roman mythology, Canens was the personification of song. She was a nymph from Latium.The witch Circe turned her husband Picus into a woodpecker because he scorned her love. Canens searched for her husband for six days and then threw herself into the Tiber river. She sang one final song and...

 loved by Picus
Picus
In Roman mythology, Picus was the first king of Latium. He was known for his skill at augury and horsemanship. The witch Circe turned him into a woodpecker for scorning her love. Picus' wife was Canens, a nymph who killed herself after his transformation. They had one son, Faunus.According to...

. These mythical data underline the reproductive function envisaged in the figures of Neptune's paredrae, particularly that of Venilia in childbirth and motherhood. A legendary king Venulus
Venulus
Venulus was, according to legend, the ambassador of King Turnus of Etruria. He asked Diomedes of Arpi to help them defeat King Aeneas of Latium. Diomedes refused to help them and began a story. This story was mentioned in Ovid's Metamorphoses Book XIV and Virgil's Aeneid....

 was remembered at Tibur and Lavinium
Lavinium
Lavinium was a port city of Latium, to the south of Rome, at a median distance between the Tiber river at Ostia and Anzio. The coastline then, as now, was a long strip of beach. Lavinium was on a hill at the southernmost edge of the Silva Laurentina, a dense laurel forest, and the northernmost...

.

Fertility deity and divine ancestor

German scholar H. Petersmann has proposed a rather different interpretation of the theology of Neptune. Developing his understanding of the theonym as rooted in IE *nebh, he argues that the god would be an ancient deity of the cloudy and rainy sky in company with and in opposition to Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

/Jupiter, god of the clear bright sky. Similar to Caelus
Caelus
Caelus or Coelus was a primal god of the sky in Roman myth and theology, iconography, and literature...

, he would be the father of all living beings on Earth through the fertilising power of rainwater. This hieros gamos of Neptune and Earth would be reflected in literarature, e.g. in Vergil Aen. V 14 pater Neptunus. The virile potency of Neptune would be represented by Salacia (derived from salax, salio in its original sense of salacious, lustful, desiring sexual intercourse, covering). Salacia would then represent the god's desire for intercourse with Earth, his virile generating potency manifesting itself in rainfall. While Salacia would denote the overcast sky, the other character of the god would be reflected by his other paredra Venilia, representing the clear sky dotted with clouds of good weather. The theonym Venilia would be rooted in a not attested adjective *venilis, from IE root *ven(h) meaning to love, desire, realised in Sanskrit vánati, vanóti, he loves, Old Island. vinr friend, German Wonne, Latin Venus, venia. Reminiscences of this double aspect of Neptune would be found in Catullus
Catullus
Gaius Valerius Catullus was a Latin poet of the Republican period. His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.-Biography:...

 31. 3: "uterque Neptunus".

In Petersmann's conjecture, besides Zeus/Jupiter, (rooted in IE *dei(h) to shine, who originally represented the bright daylight of fine weather sky), the ancient Indo-Europeans venerated a god of heavenly damp or wet as the generator of life. This fact would be testified by Hittite theonyms nepišaš (D)IŠKURaš or nepišaš (D)Tarhunnaš "the lord of sky wet", that was revered as the sovereign of Earth and men. Even though over time this function was transferred to Zeus/Jupiter who became also the sovereign of weather, reminiscences of the old function survived in literature: e.g. in Vergil Aen. V 13-14 reading: "Heu, quianam tanti cinxerunt aethera nimbi?/ quidve, pater Neptune, paras?": "Whow, why so many clouds surrounded the sky? What are you preparing, father Neptune?".
The indispensability of water for its fertilizing quality and its strict connexion to reproduction is universal knowledge.
Takács too points to the implicit sexual and fertility significance of both Salacia and Venilia on the grounds of the context of the cults of Neptune, of Varro's interpretation of Salacia as eager for sexual intercourse and of the connexion of Venilia with a nymph or Venus
Venus (mythology)
Venus is a Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty, sex,sexual seduction and fertility, who played a key role in many Roman religious festivals and myths...

.

Müller-Deeke and Deeke had already interpreted the theology of Neptune as that of a divine ancestor of a Latin stock, namely the Faliscans, as the father of their founder heroes Messapus and Halesus. Sharing this same approach Fowler considered Salacia the personification of the virile potency that generated a Latin people, parallel with Mars, Saturn, Janus and even Jupiter among other Latins.

Neptunus equestris

Poseidon was connected to the horse since the earliest times, well before any connection of him with the sea was attested, and may even have originally been conceived under equine form. Such a feature is a reflection of his own chtonic, violent, brutal nature as earth-quaker, as well as of the link of the horse with springs, i.e. underground water, and the psychopompous character inherent in this animal.

There is no such direct connexion in Rome. Neptune does not show any direct equine character or linkage.

It was Roman god 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....

 who bore a connexion to horses: his underground altar was located in the valley of 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...

 at the foot of the Palatine
Palatine
A palatine or palatinus is a high-level official attached to imperial or royal courts in Europe since Roman times...

, the place of horse races. On the day of his summer festival (August 21), the 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...

 aestiva, it was customary to bring in procession horses and mules crowned with flowers and then hold equine races in the Circus. It appears these games had a rustic character: they marked the end of the yearly agricultural cycle, when harvest was completed. According to tradition this occasion was chosen to enact the abduction of the Sabine (and Latin) women. The episode might bear a reflection of the traditional sexual licence of such occasions. On that day the flamen Quirinalis
Flamen Quirinalis
In ancient Roman religion, the Flamen Quirinalis was the flamen devoted to the cult of god Quirinus. He was one of the three flamines majores, third in order of importance after the Flamen Dialis and the Flamen Martialis....

 and the vestal virgins sacrificed on the underground altar of Consus. The fact the two festivals of Consus were followed after an equal interval of four days by the two festivals of 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...

 (Opeconsivia on August 25 and Opalia on December 19) testifies to the strict relationship between the two deities as pertaining to agricultural bounty, or in Dumezilian terminology to the third function. This fact shows the radically different symbolic value of the horse in the theology of Poseidon and that of Consus.

Perhaps under the influence of Poseidon Ίππιος Consus was reinterpreted as Neptunus equestris and for his underground altar also identified with Poseidon Ένοσίχθων. The archaic and arcane character of his cult, which required the unearthing of the altar, are signs of the great antiquity of this deity and of his chtonic character. He was certainly a deity of agrarian plenty and of fertility. Dumezil interprets its name as derived from condere hide, store as a verbal noun in -u parallel to Sancus
Sancus
In ancient Roman religion, Sancus was the god of trust , honesty, and oaths. His cult is one of the most ancient of the Romans, probably derived from Umbrian influences.-Oaths:...

 and Janus
Janus
-General:*Janus , the two-faced Roman god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings*Janus , a moon of Saturn*Janus Patera, a shallow volcanic crater on Io, a moon of Jupiter...

, meaning god of stored grains.

Martianus Capella places Neptune and Consus together in region X of Heaven: it might be that he followed an already old interpretatio graeca
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...

 of Consus or he might be reflecting an Etruscan idea of a chthonic Neptune. Etruscans were particularly fond of horse races.

Neptune in Etruria

Nethuns
Nethuns
In Etruscan mythology, Nethuns was the god of wells, later expanded to all water, including the sea. The Etruscan conception of the deity affected Roman Neptune...

 is the Etruscan name of the god. In the past it has been believed that the Roman theonym derived from Etruscan but more recently this view has been rejected.

Nethuns was certainly an important god for the Etruscans. His name is to be found on two cases of the Piacenza Liver, namely case 7 on the outer rim and case 28 on the gall-bladder, (plus once in case 22 along with Tinia). This last location tallies with Pliny the Elder's testimony that the gall-bladder is sacred to Neptune. Theonym Nethuns recurs eight times on columns VIII, IX and XI of the Liber Linteus
Liber Linteus
The Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis is the longest Etruscan text and the only extant linen book...

 (flere, flerchva Nethunsl), requiring offerings of wine.

On a mirror from Tuscania (E. S. 1. 76) Nethuns is represented while talking to Uśil (the Sun) and Thesan
Thesan
In Etruscan mythology, Thesan was the goddess of the dawn and was associated with the generation of life. She was identified with the Roman Aurora and Greek Eos....

 (the goddess of Dawn). Nethuns is on the left hand side, sitting, holding a double ended trident in his right hand and with his left arm raised in the attitude of giving instructions, Uśil is standing at the centre of the picture, holding in his right hand Aplu
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

's bow, and Thesan is on the right, with her right hand on Uśil's shoulder: both gods look intent in listening Nethuns's words. The identification of Uśil with Aplu (and his association with Nethuns) is further underlined by the anguiped demon holding two dolphins of the exergue below. The scene highlights the identities and association of Nethuns and Aplu (here identified as Uśil) as main deities of the worldly realm and the life cycle. Thesan and Uśil-Aplu, who has been identified with Śuri (Soranus Pater, the underwold Sun god) make clear the transient character of worldly life. The association of Nethuns and Uśil-Aplu is consistent with one version of the theory of the Etruscan Penates (see section below).

In Martianus Capella
Martianus Capella
Martianus Minneus Felix Capella was a pagan writer of Late Antiquity, one of the earliest developers of the system of the seven liberal arts that structured early medieval education...

's depiction of Heaven Neptune is located in region X along with the Lar
Lares
Lares , archaically Lases, were guardian deities in ancient Roman religion. Their origin is uncertain; they may have been guardians of the hearth, fields, boundaries or fruitfulness, hero-ancestors, or an amalgam of these....

 Omnium Cunctalis (of everybody), Neverita
Neverita
Neverita is a genus of medium-sized to large sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Naticidae known as moon snails The type species of this genus is Neverita josephinia Risso, 1826.-Species:...

 and Consus. The presence of the Lar Omnium Cunctalis might be connected with the theology of Neptune as a god of fertility, human included, while Neverita is a theonym derived from an archaic form of Nereus
Nereus
In Greek mythology, Nereus was the eldest son of Pontus and Gaia , a Titan who with Doris fathered the Nereids, with whom Nereus lived in the Aegean Sea. In the Iliad the Old Man of the Sea is the father of Nereids, though Nereus is not directly named...

 and Nereid, before the fall of the digamma. For the relationship of Neptune with Consus see the above paragraph. Martianus's placing of Neptune is fraught with questions: according to the order of the main three gods he should be located in region II, (Jupiter is indeed in region I and Pluto in region III). However in region II are to be found two deities related to Neptune, namely Fons
Fontus
In ancient Roman religion, Fontus or Fons was a god of wells and springs. A religious festival called the Fontinalia was held on October 13 in his honor. Throughout the city, fountains and wellheads were adorned with garlands.Fons was the son of Juturna and Janus...

 and Lympha
Lympha
The Lympha is an ancient Roman deity of fresh water. She is one of twelve agricultural deities listed by Varro as "leaders" of Roman farmers, because "without water all agriculture is dry and poor." The Lymphae are often connected to Fons, "Source" or "Font," a god of fountains and wellheads...

e. Stephen Weinstock supposes that while Jupiter is present in each of the first three regions, in each one under different aspects related to the character of the region itself, Neptune should have been originally located in the second, as is testified by the presence of Fons and Lymphae, and Pluto in the third. The reason of the displacement of Neptune to region X remains unclear, but might point to a second appearance of the triads in the third quarter, which is paralleled by the location of Neth in case 7 of the Liver. It is however consistent with the collocation in the third quadrant of the deities directly related to the human world.

Bloch remarks the possible chtonic character and stricter link of Nethuns with Poseidon to which would hint a series of circumstances, particularly the fact that he was among the four gods (Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Tellus in order) the haruspices indicated as needing placation for the prodigy related in 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...

's De haruspicum responso 20, i.e. a cracking sound perceived as coming from the underground in the ager latiniensis.

Neptune and the Etruscan Penates

Among ancient sources Arnobius
Arnobius
Arnobius of Sicca was an Early Christian apologist, during the reign of Diocletian . According to Jerome's Chronicle, Arnobius, before his conversion, was a distinguished Numidian rhetorician at Sicca Veneria , a major Christian center in Proconsular Africa, and owed his conversion to a...

 provides important information about the theology of Neptune: he writes that according to Nigidius Figulus
Nigidius Figulus
Among his contemporaries, Nigidius's reputation for learning was second only to that of Varro. Even in his own time, his works were regarded as often abstruse, perhaps because of their esoteric Pythagoreanism, into which Nigidius incorporated Stoic elements...

 Neptune was considered one of the Etruscan Penates, together with Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

, the two deities being credited with bestowing on Ilium
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...

 its immortal walls. In another place of his work, book VI, Nigidius wrote that, according to the Etrusca Disciplina, his were one among the four genera, types of Penates: of Iupiter, of Neptune, of the underworld and of mortal men. According to another tradition related by a Caesius
Caesius
The gens Caesia was a plebeian family at Rome during the late Republic, and through imperial times. The first member of the gens to achieve prominence was Marcus Caesius, praetor in 75 BC...

, also based on the same source, the Etruscan Penates would be Fortuna
Fortuna
Fortuna can mean:*Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck -Geographical:*19 Fortuna, asteroid*Fortuna, California, town located on the north coast of California*Fortuna, United States Virgin Islands...

, Ceres
Ceres (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion, Ceres was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. She was originally the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian or Aventine Triad, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as "the Greek rites of Ceres"...

, Genius Iovialis and Pales
Pales
In Roman mythology, Pales was a deity of shepherds, flocks and livestock. Regarded as a male by some sources and a female by others, and even possibly as a pair of deities ....

, this last one being the male Etruscan god (ministrum Iovis et vilicum, domestic and peasant of Jupiter).

Antiquity

The French Department of Subaquatic Archaeological Research divers (headed by Michel L'Hour) discovered a lifesize marble statue of Neptune, in the Rhone River
Rhône River
The Rhone is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland and running from there through southeastern France. At Arles, near its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea, the river divides into two branches, known as the Great Rhone and the Little Rhone...

 at Arles
Arles
Arles is a city and commune in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, of which it is a subprefecture, in the former province of Provence....

; it is dated to the early fourth century. The statue is one of a hundred artifacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

 that the team excavated between September and October 2007.

Etruscan representations of the god are rare but significative. The oldest is perhaps the carved carnelian scarab from Vulci of the 4th century BC: Nethuns kicks a rock and creates a spring. (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Medailles).

Another Etruscan gem (from the collection of Luynes, inscribed Nethunus) depicts the god making a horse spring out of the earth with a blow of his trident.

A bronze mirror of the late 4th century in the Vatican Museums (Museo Gregoriano Etrusco: C.S.E. Vaticano 1.5a) depicting the god with Amymone
Amymone
In Greek mythology, Amymone was a daughter of Danaus. As the "blameless" Danaid, her name identifies her as, perhaps, identical to Hypermnestra , also the one Danaid who did not assassinate her Egyptian husband on their wedding night, as her 49 sisters did...

, daughter of Danaus
Danaus
In Greek mythology Danaus, or Danaos , was the twin brother of Aegyptus and son of Achiroe and Belus, a mythical king of Egypt. The myth of Danaus is a foundation legend of Argos, one of the foremost Mycenaean cities of the Peloponnesus...

, whom he prevents being assaulted by a satyr and to whom he will teach the art of creating springs. Nearby are a lion head pouring water from its open mouth and a container with handles.

A bronze mirror from Tuscania dated to 350 BC also in the Vatican Museums (Museo Gregoriano Etrusco E. S. 1. 76). Nethuns is talking to Usil and Thesan. In the lower exergue is an anguiped demon who holds a dolphin in each hand (identification with Aplu-Apollo is clear also because Uśil holds a bow). Nethuns holds a double-ended trident, suggesting he might be one of the gods who can wield lightningbolts.

Renaissance

The Renaissance brought with it a revival in pagan art, and many pagan gods were depicted in the same classical models used in Greek and Roman times. However, with Neptune few such models existed, allowing the artists of the Renaissance to depict Neptune however they chose. The results included a face and actions that seemed more mortal, as well as associations with Hercules. The overall effect was to change Neptune's image to a less deified state.

Modern culture

"King Neptune" plays a central role in the long-standing tradition of the "Line-crossing ceremony
Line-crossing ceremony
The ceremony of Crossing the Line is an initiation rite in the Royal Navy, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, and other navies that commemorates a sailor's first crossing of the Equator. Originally, the tradition was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates...

" initiation rite still current in many navies, coast guards, and merchant fleets. When ships cross the equator, "Pollywogs" (sailors who have not done such a crossing before) receive "subpoenas" to appear before King Neptune and his court (usually including his first assistant Davy Jones
Davy Jones' Locker
Davy Jones's Locker is an idiom for the bottom of the sea: the state of death among drowned sailors. It is used as an euphemism for death at sea ....

 and Her Highness Amphitrite
Amphitrite
In ancient Greek mythology, Amphitrite was a sea-goddess and wife of Poseidon. Under the influence of the Olympian pantheon, she became merely the consort of Poseidon, and was further diminished by poets to a symbolic representation of the sea...

and often various dignitaries, who are all represented by the highest-ranking seamen). Some Pollywogs may be "interrogated" by King Nepture and his entourage. At the end of the ceremony — which in the past often included considerable hazing — they are initiated as Shellbacks or Sons of Neptune and receive a certificate to that effect.

External links

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