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Chapter 2.—Who are the Select Gods, and Whether They are Held to Be Exempt from the Offices of the Commoner Gods.

The following gods, certainly, Varro signalizes as select, devoting one book to this subject:  Janus, Jupiter, Saturn, Genius, Mercury, Apollo, Mars, Vulcan, Neptune, Sol, Orcus, father Liber, Tellus, Ceres, Juno, Luna, Diana, Minerva, Venus, Vesta; of which twenty gods, twelve are males, and eight females.  Whether are these deities called select, because of their higher spheres of administration in the world, or because they have become better known to the people, and more worship has been expended on them?  If it be on account of the greater works which are performed by them in the world, we ought not to have found them among that, as it were, plebeian crowd of deities, which has assigned to it the charge of minute and trifling things.  For, first of all, at the conception of a fœtus, from which point all the works commence which have been distributed in minute detail to many deities, Janus himself opens the way for the reception of the seed; there also is Saturn, on account of the seed itself; there is Liber,251251    Cicero, De Nat. Deor ii., distinguishes this Liber from Liber Bacchus, son of Jupiter and Semele. who liberates the male by the effusion of the seed; there is Libera, whom they also would have to be Venus, who confers this same benefit on the woman, namely, that she also be liberated by the emission of the seed;—all these are of the number of those who are called select.  But there is also the goddess Mena, who presides over the menses; though the daughter of Jupiter, ignoble nevertheless.  And this province of the menses the same author, in his book on the select gods, assigns to Juno herself, who is even queen among the select gods; and here, as Juno Lucina, along with the same Mena, her stepdaughter, she presides over the same blood.  There also are two gods, exceedingly obscure, Vitumnus and Sentinus—the one of whom imparts life to the fœtus, and the other sensation; and, of a truth, they bestow, most ignoble though they be, far more than all those noble and select gods bestow.  For, surely, without life and sensation, what is the whole fœtus which a woman carries in her womb, but a most vile and worthless thing, no better than slime and dust?


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