Bona Dea ("The Good Goddess") was a divinity in ancient Roman religion. She was associated with chastity and fertility in women, healing, and the protection of the Roman state and people. According to Roman literary sources, she was brought from Magna Graecia at some time during the early or middle Republic, and was given her own state cult on the Aventine Hill.

Her rites allowed women the use of strong wine and blood-sacrifice, things otherwise forbidden them byRoman tradition. Men were barred from her mysteries and the possession of her true name. Given that male authors had limited knowledge of her rites and attributes, ancient speculations about her identity abound, among them that she was an aspect of Terra, Ops, the Magna Mater, or Ceres, or a Latin form of Damia. Most often, she was identified as the wife, sister or daughter of the god Faunus, thus an equivalent or aspect of the nature-goddess Fauna, who could prophesy the fates of women.

The goddess had two annual festivals. One was held at her Aventine temple; the other was hosted by the wife of Rome's senior annual magistrate, for an invited group of elite matrons and female attendants. The latter festival came to scandalous prominence in 62 BCE, when the politician Clodius Pulcher was tried for his intrusion on the rites, allegedly bent on the seduction of Julius Caesar's wife, whom Caesar later divorced because "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion". The rites remained a subject of male curiosity and speculation, both religious and prurient.

Bona Dea's Roman cults were led by the Vestal Virgins, and her provincial cults by virgin or matron priestesses. She is depicted as a sedate Roman matron with a cornucopia and a snake. Personal dedications to her are attested among all classes, especially plebeians, freedmen and women, and slaves. Approximately one third of her dedications are from men, some of whom may have been lawfully involved in her cult.

Titles, names and origins

Bona Dea ("The Good Goddess") is both an honorific title and a respectful pseudonym; the goddess' true or cult name is unknown. Her other, less common pseudonyms include Feminea Dea ("The Women's Goddess"),[1] Laudandae...Deae ("The be Praised").,[2] and Sancta ("The Holy One").[3]

Based on what little they knew of her rites and attributes, Roman historians speculated her true name and identity. Lactantius, claiming the late Republican polymath Varro as his source, describes her as Faunus' wife and sister, named Fenta Fauna, or Fenta Fatua (Fenta "the prophetess" or Fenta "the foolish") .[4] In the Imperial era, Macrobius identifies her as a universal earth-goddess, an aspect of Maia, Ops, Terra, Magna Mater and Fatua, worshiped under the name of Fauna. Festus describes her as identical with a "women's goddess" named Damia, which Georges Dumézl sees as an ancient misreading of Greek "Demeter".[5][6]

Bona Dea is a goddess of "no definable type", with several origins and a range of different characteristics and functions.[7] What is known of her cults recalls various earth and fertility goddesses of the Graeco-Roman world and has close parallels in the Thesmophoria festival to Demeter,[8] including nocturnal rites, predominantly or exclusively female intitiates and female priestesses, music, dance and wine, and sacrifice of a sow.

Festival and cult

Republican era

Bona Dea had two major annual festivals in the city of Rome. An official public festival was held at her Aventine temple on May 1. Its location connects Bona Dea to Rome's plebeian commoner class, whose tribunes and emergent aristocracy resisted patrician claims to rightful religious and political dominance. Its foundation year is uncertain; Ovid credits it to the Vestal Virgin Claudia Quinta (c. late 3rd century BCE).[9] Very little is known of its rites, which are inferred as some form of mystery; they were concealed from the public gaze and according to most later Roman literary sources, they were entirely forbidden to men. In the Republican era, however, they were probably distinctly plebeian affairs, open to all classes of women and perhaps, in some limited fashion, to men.[10] At various times during the Mid Republican era, control of her cult seems to have been contested, and her May festival and temple could have fallen into official disuse, or official disrepute. A dedication or rededication in 123 BCE by the Vestal Virgin Liciania, with the gift of an altar, shrine and couch, was immediately annulled as unlawful by the Roman Senate.[11]

Roman writers seem to assume the goddess' May festival as ritual model for her Winter festival.[12] The latter was held in December, and is reliably attested for only two consecutive years, 63 and 62 BCE. It was not marked on any religious calendar, but was dedicated to the public interest and was supervised by the Vestals, and may therefore be considered official in some sense, either as an addition to the May festival, or its intended replacement. Whatever its antecedents and origins, it was made to fit the requirements of aristocratic Roman conventions and morality. Shortly after 62 BCE, Cicero presents it as one of the few lawful nocturnal festivals allowed to women, privileged to those of aristocratic class, and coeval with Rome's earliest history.[13] It was held at the house of the senior annual Roman magistrate cum imperio, whether consul or praetor, and attended by respectable matrons of the Roman elite.

According to Cicero, any man who caught even a glimpse of the rites could be punished by blinding.[14] The evening before the rites, all males must leave the house; even male animals and portraits must be removed. Then the magistrate's wife and her assistants[15] made bowers of vine-leaves, and decorated the house's banqueting hall with "all manner of growing and blooming plants" except for myrtle, whose presence and naming were expressly forbidden. A banquet table was prepared, with a couch (pulvinar) for the goddess and the image of a snake. The Vestals brought Bona Dea's cult image brought from her temple and laid it upon her couch, as an honoured guest. The goddess' meal was prepared: the entrails (exta) of a sow, sacrificed to her on behalf of the Roman people (pro populo Romano), and a libation of sacrificial wine.[16] With the offering made, the festival continued through the night, a women-only banquet with female musicians, fun and games (ludere), and wine; the last was euphemistically referred to as "milk", and its container as a "honey jar".[17] The festival sanctified the temporary removal of customary constraints imposed on Roman women of all classes by Roman tradition. In a context that excluded any reference to male persons or creatures, male lust or seduction, it underlined the pure and lawful sexual potency of virgins and matrons.[18]

Clodius and the Bona Dea scandal

In 62 BCE, the Winter rites were hosted by Pompeia, wife of Julius Caesar, senior magistrate in residence and pontifex maximus. Publius Clodius Pulcher, a popularist politician and ally of Caesar, was said to have intruded, dressed as a woman and intent on the hostess' seduction. As the rites had been vitiated, the Vestals were obliged to repeat them, and after further inquiry by the senate and pontifices, Clodius was charged with desecration, which carried a death sentence. The case was prosecuted by Cicero, whose wife Terentia had hosted the previous year's rites.[19]

Caesar publicly distanced himself from the affair as much as possible – and certainly from Pompeia, whom he divorced because "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion".[20] He had been correctly absent from the rites but as a paterfamilias he was responsible for their piety. As pontifex maximus, he was responsible for the ritual purity and piety of public and private religion. He must act to ensure that the Vestals had acted correctly, then chair the inquiry into what were essentially his own household affairs. Worse, the place of the alleged offense was the state property loaned to every pontifex maximus for his tenure of office.[21] It was a high profile, much commented case. The rites remained officially secret, but many details emerged during and after the trial, and remained permanently in the public domain. They fueled theological speculation, as in Plutarch and Macrobius: and they fed the prurient male imagination – given their innate moral weakness, what might women do when given wine and left to their own devices? Such anxieties were nothing new, and underpinned Rome's traditional strictures against female autonomy. In the political and social turmoil of the Late Republic, Rome's misfortunes were taken as signs of divine anger against the personal ambition, religious negligence and outright impiety of her leading politicians.

Clodius' prosecution was at least partly driven by politics. In an otherwise seemingly thorough account, Cicero makes no mention of Bona Dea's May festival, and seems to claim the goddess' cult as an aristocratic privilege; the impeccably patrician Clodius, Cicero's social superior by birth, is presented as an innately impious, low-class oaf, and his popularist policies as threats to Rome's moral and religious security. After two years of legal wrangling, Clodius was acquitted – which Cicero put down to jury-fixing and other backroom dealings – but his reputation was damaged.[22] The scandalous revelations at the trial also undermined the sacred dignity and authority of the Vestals, the festival, the goddess, office of the pontifex maximus and, by association, Caesar and Rome itself. Some fifty years later, Caesar's heir Octavian, later the princeps Augustus, had to deal with its repercussions.[23]

Imperial Era

Caesar courted the Roman masses and their representatives against the traditionalists in the Senate, and was murdered as a would-be tyrant or divine monarch. The ensuing civil war ended with victory for Caesar's heir, Octavian, who redefined himself as restorer of Rome's Republic, traditional religion and social values, on behalf of the Roman senate and people.[24] Compared to some other festivals for the gods and goddesses of Rome's state-supported cults, Bona Dea's were relatively small affairs, but fifty years on from the scandal of 62 BCE, their significance and taints remained. Augustus inherited them through association with the pontificate of his adoptive father, and through marriage. Livia, his wife, was related – distantly, through the Claudian side – to the long-dead but still notorious Clodius.[25]

In 12 BCE Augustus became pontifex maximus, which gave him authority over Rome's religious affairs, and direct control of the Vestals, whose presence and authority he conspicuously promoted.[26] Augustus personally funded a series of religious restorations; his wife Livia restored Bona Dea's Aventine temple and revived its May 1 festival, deflecting attention from the December festival and the notorious Clodius in favour of a more respectably eminent relative, the Vestal Licinia, whose attempt to refound the Temple in 123 BCE had been thwarted by the Senate.[27] The goddess' December festival may have continued quietly, or could simply have lapsed, its reputation irreparably damaged. There is no evidence of its abolition. Livia's name did not and could not appear in the official religious calendars, but Ovid's Fasti associates her with May 1, and presents her as the ideal wife and "paragon of female Roman virtue".[28]

Most of Bona Dea's provincial and municipal sanctuaries were founded around this time, to propagate the new Imperial ideology.[29] As the Vestal's powers were seldom extended beyond Rome's city boundary, these cults would have been led by leading women of local elites, whether virgin or matron.[30] An Imperial cult centre in Aquileia honours an Augusta Bona Dea Cereria, probably in connection with the corn dole.[31] Other state cults to the goddess are found at Ostia and Portus.[32]

Despite Livia's best efforts, scurrilous and titillating stories of the goddess' rites continued to circulate. Well over a century after the scandal, Juvenal describes Bona Dea's festival as an opportunity for women of all classes, most shamefully those of the upper class – and men in drag ("which altars do not have their Clodius these days?") – to get drunk and cavort indiscriminately in a sexual free-for-all.[33]

From the late 2nd century, an increasing religious syncretism in Rome's traditional religions presents Bona Dea as one of many aspects or names for Virgo Caelestis, the celestial Virgin, Great Mother of the gods, whom later Mariologists identify as prototype for the Virgin Mary in Christian theology.[34] Christian theologists resisted all such comparisons, and present Bona Dea - or rather, Fauna, whom they clearly take her to be - as one of the innumerable Roman gods who show the immorality and "absurdity" at the heart of traditional Roman religion. She is no prophetess, merely "foolish Fenta", daughter and wife to her incestuous father, and "good" (bona) only at drinking too much wine.[35]


Bona Dea's Roman temple was situated on a lower slope of the northeastern Aventine Hill, beneath the height known as Saxum,[36] southeast of the Circus Maximus. Its foundation year is uncertain. According to Dumezil, Festus' identification of Bona Dea with Damia infers a foundation date in or shortly after 272 BCE, after Rome's capture of Tarentum; Cicero claimed the goddess' cult as coeval with Rome's foundation. In the middle Republican era, the temple may have fallen into disrepair, or its cult into official disfavour. In 123 BCE the Vestal Licinia gave the temple an altar, small shrine and couch for the goddess, but they were removed as unlawful by the pontifex maximus P. Scaevola.[37] Its use and status at the time of the Bona Dea scandal are unknown. It was restored in the Imperial era, once by the empress Livia, wife of Augustus, and perhaps again by Hadrian.[38] and survived to at least the 4th century CE.[39] Nothing is known of its architecture or appearance, save that unlike most Roman temples it was walled. It was an important centre of healing; harmless snakes roamed its precincts, and it held a store of various medicinal herbs that could be dispensed at need by its priestesses. Men were forbidden entry but could dedicate offerings to the goddess,[40] or, according to Ovid, could enter the precincts "if bidden by the goddess".[41]

Most provincial sanctuaries and temples to Bona Dea are too decayed, despoiled or fragmentary to offer firm evidence of structure and layout, but the remains of four confirm a layout consistent with the sparse descriptions of her Aventine temple. In each, a perimeter wall surrounds a dense compound of annexes, in which some rooms show possible use as dispensaries. The layout would allow the concealment of inner cults or mysteries from non-initiates. There is evidence that at least some remained in use to the 4th century CE as cultic healing centres.[42]

Dedications and iconography

Despite her status as a protecting deity of the Roman state, and the exclusively female, aristocratic connections of her winter festival at Rome, elite dedications to Bona Dea are outnumbered by those of the Roman plebs, particularly the ingenui. The greatest number of all are from freedmen and slaves. An estimated one-third of dedications to the goddess are from men. One, a provincial Greek, claims to be a priest of her cult. This is evidence of lawful variation – at least in the Roman provinces – from what almost all Roman literary sources present as an absolute rule.[43] Private and public dedications associate her with agricultural deities such as Silvanus, and the virgin goddess Diana.[44] She is also named in some dedications of public works, such as the restoration of the Claudian Aqueduct.[45]

Most inscriptions to Bona Dea are simple and unembellished but some show serpents, often paired. Cumont (1932) remarks their similarity to the serpents featured in Pompeian lararia; serpents are associated with many earth-deities, and had protective, fertilising and regenerating functions, as in the cults of Aesculapius, Demeter and Ceres. Some Romans kept live, harmless snakes as household pets, and credited them with similarly beneficial functions.[46]

Images of the goddess show her enthroned, clad in chiton and mantle. On her left arm she holds a cornucopia, a sign of her abundant generosity and fruitfulness. In her right hand, she holds a bowl, which feeds a serpent coiled around her right arm: a sign of her healing and regenerative powers. The combination of snake and cornucopia are unique to Bona Dea; the literary record offers at least one variation; Macrobius describes her cult statue, now lost but possibly at her Aventine temple, as overhung by a "spreading vine", and bearing a sceptre in her left hand.[47]


Cicero makes no reference to any myth of Bona Dea, nor to Latium's founder-legend and Fauna. He claims Bona Dea as aristocratically Roman from the outset. Later connections between Fauna and Bona Dea attempt to explain what was known of Bona Dea's aristocratic December festival in terms of Latium's aristocratic foundation myth, and to re-embroider the latter as a Roman moral fable. Several variants are known. Fauna is daughter, wife or sister of Faunus, (also names Faunus Fatuus, meaning Faunus "the foolish", or seer). He is son of Picus and first king of the Latins, empowered with the gift of prophecy: in Roman religion, a pastoral god, a protector of flocks, with a shrine and oracle on the Aventine, and sometimes identified with Inuus and later, with Greek Pan. As his female counterpart, Fauna has similar gifts, domains and powers in relation to women. In Plutarch's version of the myth, the mortal Fauna secretly gets drunk on wine, which is forbidden her: and when Faunus finds out, he thrashes her with myrtle rods. In Lactantius, he thrashes her to death, regrets the deed and deifies her. Servius derives the names Faunus and Fauna, collectively the Fatui, from fari (to prophesy): they "are also called Fatui because they utter divine prophecy in a state of stupor".[48] Macrobius writes that she is "the same as Fauna, Ops or Fatua... It is said too that she was the daughter of Faunus, and that she resisted the amorous advances of her father who had fallen in love with her, so that he even beat her with myrtle twigs because she did not yield to his desires though she had been made drunk by him on wine. It is believed that the father changed himself into a serpent, however, and under this guise had intercourse with his daughter."[49]

Versnel (1992) notes the elements common to the Bona Dea festival, Fauna's myths, and Greek Demeter's Thesmophoria, as "wine, myrtle, serpents and female modesty blemished".[50] Varro explains the exclusion of men from Bona Dea's cult as a consequence of her great modesty; no man but her husband had ever seen her, or heard her name. For Servius, this makes her the paragon of chaste womanhood.[51] Most likely, once Fauna's mythology seemed to offer an explanation for Bona Dea's mysterious cult, the myth developed circumstantially, to fit what little was known of the practice. In turn, the cult practice may have changed to support the virtuous ideological message required of the myths, particularly during the Augustan religious reforms that identified Bona Dea with the empress Livia.[52]

Cult themes

The official use of sacrificial wine at a nocturnal, all-women Roman state festival is remarkable, perhaps unique to Bona Dea. Respectable Roman women of the late Republican and Imperial eras were allowed weak, sweetened, or diluted wine in moderation; but Roman traditionalists believed that in former, more virtuous times, even this was forbidden them,[53] "for fear that they might lapse into some disgraceful act. For it is only a step from the intemperance of Liber pater to the forbidden things of Venus".[54] Bona Dea's rites did not merely permit the use of sacrificial-grade wine (temetum); they simultaneously required its disguise. The wine was called lac (milk) and its container a mellarium (honey jar).[55] The use of wine at the festival has been described as a substitution for milk and honey, relatively late in the cult's development; and as a theologically absurdity.[56]

Although women were present at most public ceremonies and festivals, the religious authorities in Roman society were the male pontiffs and augurs. Women could not lawfully perform rites at night, unless "offered for the people in proper form".[57] Some sources have inferred that women were completely banned from offering blood-and-wine sacrifice in their own right, and even banned from handling such materials; both claims are questionable,[58] but most scholarship agrees that in Rome itself, the Vestals supervised the rites and probably performed the sacrifice. They were exceptional and revered persons, whose ritual obligations and religious integrity were central to the well being of the Roman state and all its citizens. They were virgins, but not subject to their fathers' authority; and matrons, but independent of any husband. They held forms of privilege and authority otherwise associated only with Roman men, and were answerable only to the Senior Vestal and the Pontifex Maximus.[59]

Staples (1998) explains the euphemisms as ingenious justification. In Graeco-Roman mythography, wine is an invention of Liber-Dionysus, who is present as the male principle in certain "soft fruits", including semen and grapes: both are "dangerous" to women.[60] Fauna's secretive and willing wine-drinking transgresses both Roman proprieties and the divine laws of the Bona Dea herself, who is Fauna cleansed by punishment, then immortalised. Where Fauna virtuously resists her father's incestuous lust, the signs of his sexual aggression are removed; the wine is renamed as "milk", which is a product of females. Milk and honey are primitive foods, "markers par excellence of utopian golden times".[61]

Myrtle is a sign of Venus, who arouses male libido, and is the physical instrument of Fauna's unjust punishment. It is therefore excluded as an unmentionable pollutant.[62] It was never used in Roman bridal crowns; Roman weddings and married life were the domain of Juno.[63] The vine-leaf bowers and the profusion of plants – any and all but the forbidden myrtle – convert the sophisticated, urban banqueting hall to a "primitive" dwelling and evoke the simple innocence of an ancestral golden age, in which women rule themselves without reference to men, drinking "milk and honey" under the divine authority of Bona Dea. By a similar association, the contents of any "honey jar" are made by bees: in Roman lore, bees are female. They represent domestic virtue, sexual abstinence, industry and obedience, and will quit an adulterous household.[64]

Roman mythographers offer differing reasons for the serpent's image at the rites. Macrobius connects it to Faunus, who transformed himself thus to have intercourse with his daughter Fauna, and to the live, fearless and harmless serpents who roam the precincts of the goddess' temple.[65]


  1. In Propertius, 4, 9, 25.
  2. Lygdamus, Elegia, 5, 8.
  3. Brouwer, p. 236ff.
  4. Brouwer, p. 239: citing Lactantius, Divinae Institutiones, 1, 22, 9-11.
  5. Staples, p.14, cites Dumezil's theory that "Damia" was perhaps probably an ancient misreading or mistranslation of "Demeter", later institutionalised.
  6. Brouwer, pp. 237 - 238, citing Festus, epitome of Flaccus, De Verborum Significatu. See also Brouwer, 240 - 242.
  7. Brouwer, p. 323.
  8. Versnel, p.31ff.
  9. Ovid, Fasti, 2, 35; he is the only source for this assertion.
  10. Brouwer, p. 398: "And considering the fact that the aristocracy were only a small percentage of the population, it is not surprising that most expressions of Bona Dea worship originate from the lower classes."
  11. Wildfang, pp.92 - 93, citing Cicero, De Domo Sua, 53.136.
  12. See W. Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the period of the Republic, MacMillan (New York, 1899): 102 - 106.[1]
  13. Brouwer, p. 398.
  14. On blinding a man for gazing at the goddess' rites, see Cicero, De Haruspicum Responsis XVII 37 - XVIII 38; cited in Brouwer, pp.165 - 166.
  15. Possibly, her own female servants.
  16. The sacrifice could have been offered by the Vestals or, according to Plutarch, by the hostess; see "Cult themes" in this article.
  17. Winter festival summary based on Brouwer (1989) as summarised in Versnel, p.32, and Wildfang, p.31. For Roman sources, cf. Plutarch, Lives: Life of Caesar, ix (711E), Life of Cicero, xix (870B); Juvenal, vi.339 (a satirical treatment); and Plutarch, Roman Questions, (Loeb), 20 - 35, available via link to Bill Thayer's website
  18. Versnel, p.44.
  19. Beard et al., pp. 129 - 130, 296 - 7. Clodius' mere presence would have been sacrilegious: the possibility of his intrusion for sexual conquest would be an even more serious offense against Bona Dea. See also Brouwer, p.xxiii, and Herbert-Brown, p.134.
  20. The proverbial phrase "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion" is based on Caesar's own justification of this divorce, following the scandal. See Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 1.13; Plutarch, Caesar 9-10; Cassius Dio, Roman History 37.45 and Suetonius, Julius 6.2
  21. Herbert-Brown, pp. 134, 141-3.
  22. Beard et al., pp. 129 - 130, 296 - 7. In 59 BC, to further his political career, which otherwise might have stalled, Clodius renounced his patrician status for a questionable adoption into a plebeian gens, and was elected tribune of the people. To his opponents, he was a dangerous social renegade; he was murdered in 53.
  23. Herbert-Brown, pp.141 - 143.
  24. As a dutiful heir, he deified the dead Caesar and established his cult, but he took pains to distance himself from Caesar's mortal aspirations, and cultivated an aura of personal modesty. His religious reforms reflect an ideology of social and political unity, with a single individual (himself) as focus of empire and its final arbiter.
  25. Herbert-Brown, p.146.
  26. His restoration of the Vestals began even before his pontificate. On his return from the final battle of the civil war, at Actium he was greeted by a procession of women, headed by the Vestals.
  27. Phyllis Cunham, in Harriet Flower (ed), The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p.155.googlebooks partial preview. The association is not unproblematic. Licinia was tried on an almost certainly trumped-up charge of broken chastity, acquitted, then re-tried, found guilty, and executed on the strength of two prophecies in the Sibylline books. She was a contemporary of the Gracchi, and was probably a victim of the turbulent factional politics of the time. Augustus called in and examined all oracles and censored many; these would have included the Sybilline books. According to Herbert-Brown, p.144, he might have removed the prophecies that had been used to condemn Licinia.
  28. Herbert-Brown, p.130, citing Ovid, Fasti, 5. 148 - 158. As a non-divinity, Livia could not have appeared on the religious calendar. Claudius deified her long after her death.
  29. Brouwer, pp. 237 - 238.
  30. Parker, p.571.
  31. Brouwer, p.412.
  32. Brouwer, pp.402, 407.
  33. Juvenal, Satires, 6.316 - 344. See Brouwer, p. 269, for further commentary.
  34. Stephen Benko, The virgin goddess: studies in the pagan and Christian roots of mariology, BRILL, 2004, p.168. Other goddesses named Caelestis or Regina Caelestis (Heavenly Queen) include Juno, the Magna Mater (also known as "the Syrian Goddess" and Cybele), and Venus, the one goddess ritually excluded from Bona Dea's rites.
  35. Lactantius appears to draw on Varro as his source for Fenta Fatua. Fenta appears to be a proper name; Fatua is translatable as "female seer" (one who foretells fate), or a divinely inspired "holy fool", either of which might carry Varro's intended meaning: but also as merely "foolish" (in Arnobius, for getting drunk, or because stupefied by drinking wine, or perhaps both). Arnobius gives two 1st century BCE sources (now lost) as his authority: Sextus Clodius, and Butas. See Brouwer, pp. 233-4, 325.
  36. Traditionally, Remus took his auspices on the Saxum, the Aventine's lesser height and probably identical with Ennius' Mons Murcia.
  37. Wildfang, pp.92 - 93, citing Cicero, De Domo Sua, 53.136. Licinia may have been attempting to assert the independence of her order against the dominant traditionalists in of the Senate. Scaevola removed her donations as not made "by the will of the people". Thereafter, the Temple's official status is uncertain, until the Augustan era.
  38. Ovid, Fasti, 5.157 - 158, refers to the Augustan restoration. Historia Augusta, Hadrian, 19, is the sole source for a rebuilding under Hadrian: Fecit et... Aedem Bonae Deae. Brouwer, p. 401, regards this as the most likely meaning, rather than a new building.
  39. The temple is listed in the 4th century Notitia Regionis, (Regio XII)
  40. Samuel Ball Platner (revised by Thomas Ashby): A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, London: Oxford University Press, 1929, p.85.courtesy link to Bill Thayer's website
  41. The meaning is uncertain: see Ovid, Ars Amatoria, III, 637-638: ...cum fuget a templis oculos Bona Diva virorum, praeterquam siquos illa venire iubet. (...Bona Dea bars the eyes of men from her temple, except such as she bids come there herself). Cited in Brouwer, p.183. See also p. 210, citing Festus, epitome of Flaccus, De Verborum Significatu, 56: the entry of men to Bona Dea's temple is religiosus (contrary to the divine will and law). Presumably, they were allowed in the precincts but not the sanctuary.
  42. Brouwer, 410, 429.
  43. Brouwer, p.258. The estimate is in Peter F. Dorcey, The cult of Silvanus: a study in Roman folk religion, Columbia studies in the Classical tradition, BRILL, 1992, p.124, footnote 125. The claim to be a male priest of Bona Dea is from Inscriptiones Graecae, XIV 1499.
  44. Brouwer, p. 21.
  45. Brouwer, pp.79 - 80.
  46. Franz Cumont, "La Bona Dea et ses serpents", Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire, 1932, Vol. 49, Issue 49, pp.1 - to French language article at Persée.
  47. Brouwer, p. 401: cf. the sceptre as an attribute of Juno, and a dedication at Aquincum to Bonae Deae Iunoni.
  48. Versnel p.46, citing Plutarch, Roman Questions, 35: cf. Arnobius, Adversus Nationes, 5.18: Lactantius Divinae Institutiones, 1.22.9 - 11: Servius, In Aeneidos, 8, 314.
  49. Macrobius, Saturnalia, 1.12.20 - 29.
  50. Versnel, pp.35, 47. Thesomphoria was a three day festival; its participants, exclusively female, slept on "primitive" beds made of lugos, a willow species known to the Romans as agnos, or vitex agnus castis: supposedly an infertile tree, and a strong anaphrodisiac. Though wine is not attested at Thesmophoria, it may have been used. Like the Vestals, Demeter's priestesses were virgin.
  51. Brouwer, pp.218, 221.
  52. See Brouwer, p. xxiii, 266ff.
  53. Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 10.23.1:available at Bill Thayer's website. His principal source for this prohibition is the 2nd century BCE moralist, Cato the Elder. See also Versnel, p.44.
  54. Valerius Maximus, 2.1.5.
  55. Versnell, p.32: "the most surprising aspect is the nature of the drinks: during this secret, exclusively female, nocturnal festival the women were allowed to drink - at the very least to handle - wine": see Versnel, p.45 and Wildfang, p.31.
  56. Versnel, H.S., Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman Religion: Transition and reversal in myth and ritual, BRILL, 1994, p.233. Brouwer (1989) regards the wine as a substitution for earlier sacrifices of milk and honey.
  57. Cicero, De Legibus, 2.9.21.
  58. Prohibitions against the handling of wine and the preparation of meat by Roman women occur in Roman literature as retrospective examples of time-hallowed tradition, in which the Vestals, whose duties include the supervision of Bona Dea's rites, are the significant exception. Some modern scholarship challenges these traditional assumptions. While female drunkenness was disapproved of, so was male drunkenness, and moderate domestic and religious wine consumption in moderation by women was probably a commonplace. Lawful blood-and-wine sacrifice is indicated many female-led cults, particularly in Graeca Magna and Etruria. See Emily A. Hemelrijk, in Hekster, Schmidt-Hofner and Witschel (Eds.), Ritual Dynamics and Religious Change in the Roman Empire, Proceedings of the Eighth Workshop of the International Network Impact of Empire (Heidelberg, July 5–7, 2007), Brill, 2009, pp.253 - 267.[2]
  59. Modern scholarship on the Vestals is summarised in Parker, pp. 563-601. See also discussion in Wildfang, pp.31 - 32.
  60. Staples, 85 - 90.
  61. Versnel, p.45, citing Graf F., "Milch, Honig und Wein. Zum Verstindnis der Libation im Griechischen Ritual', In G. Piccaluga (ed.), Perennitas. Studi in onore di A. Brelich, Rome, 1980, pp.209 - 21. Some myths credit Liber-Dionysus with the discovery of honey; but not its invention.
  62. Staples, pp.125 - 126.
  63. Myrtle was also "hardly if at all attested for the ancient Greek wedding". Versnel, p.44.
  64. Versnel,p. 45: "On the other hand, the mimicry may also have functioned as fuel for 'laughter of the oppressed"... "'say, dear, would you be so kind as to pass on the milk?'".
  65. Brouwer, pp. 340 - 341.

References and further reading

  • Beard, M., Price, S., North, J., Religions of Rome: Volume 1, a History, illustrated, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Brouwer, Henrik H. J., Bona Dea, The Sources and a Description of the Cult, Études préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'Empire romain, 110, BRILL, 1989. googlebooks partial preview.
  • Herbert-Brown, Geraldine, Ovid and the Fasti, An Historical Study, Oxford Classical Monographs, 1994. ISBN 9780198149354 googlebooks partial preview.
  • Parker, Holt N., Why Were the Vestals Virgins? Or the Chastity of Women and the Safety of the Roman State, The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 125, No. 4 (Winter, 2004), pp. 563–601.
  • Staples, Ariadne, From Good Goddess to vestal virgins: sex and category in Roman religion, Routledge, 1998. googlebooks partial preview.
  • Versnel, H. S., "The Festival for Bona Dea and the Thesmophoria", Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association, Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Apr., 1992), pp. 31–55.
  • Wildfang, Robin Lorsch, Rome's vestal virgins: a study of Rome's vestal priestesses in the late Republic and early Empire, Routledge/Taylor & Francis, 2007, googlebooks partial preview.
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