Mar. 31st, 2011

lesbiassparrow: (Default)
This is how the Romans said 'everything will be okay.'

The story goes that once the Romans were being attacked by invading Gauls, who had come close enough to threaten Rome itself. To propitiate the gods they held a massive public sacrifice in the Forum; as part of the ritual there was a flute player and an old man who danced to the tune. Suddenly in rushes someone and says 'the Gauls are at the walls!' Immediately everyone rushes out to grab their weapons and defend the city - but when they get to the walls there are no Gauls. Everyone then proceeds to trudge back to the sacrifice. However, if you make an error in a Roman ritual or have to stop it for some reason, you have to begin again right from the start. Doesn't matter if you're right at the end - you have to go right back to the beginning or else the ritual won't work. Of course, everyone now is moaning because they have to sit there and listen to everything all over again and the whole ritual will have to be repeated (and it's a long one this time, because they really, really need to propitiate the gods). No one is happy about this because it could take hours. Suddenly, though, somone cries out 'the old man is dancing!' The flute player and the old guy had kept going all through the disturbance, which meant the ritual hadn't been interrupted and they could just pick up where they left off.

Hence the saying. This information has been brought to you courtesy of Jupiter Stator, the Jupiter who stops people running away in battles.

ETA: Next up will be an exciting list of all the various Venuses and what each one will do if you sacrifice to her. Including the Venus of prostitutes and the Venus you pray to when you are having issues with your husband. Each one is both Venus and a separate Venus at the same time, which is impressive.
lesbiassparrow: (love is never wrong)
As April is Venus' month, this post is in her honour! (The Romans thought April came from aperio, which means 'to open.' You can see why that got associated with her.)

There were many Veneres (the plural of Venus) in Rome. It made things efficient: you went and offered up to the Venus you particularly needed when your hair was falling out, instead of wasting your time with one who was interested in sewers. The one thing the Romans were is efficient, after all! (This is not a complete list - there's a few I couldn't remember.)

Venus Cloacina. Venus of the Sewer. Her shrine stood at the mouth of the Cloaca Maxima, Rome's main sewer. She was especially revered by water carriers. And, presumably, people with bad drains. (Ironically, she probably started out as a goddess of purification and sexual intercourse. Or purification in sexual intercourse. I can't remember.)

Venus Eyrcina. This one was imported from Sicily and was probably neither Aphrodite nor Venus at the start. She had two temples; at one prostitutes sacrificed to her at the Vinalia, a wine festival. Her other temple was associated with right thinking. I suspect it was awkward if you turned up at the wrong one.

Venus Barbata. Venus the Bearded. This Venus had a cult statue where she was a man. I have no bloody idea what went on with this one.

Venus Calva. Venus the Bald. Dedicated after the women of Rome gave up their hair to be used in catapults during (I think) the Punic Wars. Or it may have been built after the women of Rome all lost their hair and vowed this temple if she'd bring it back.

Venus Libitina. Venus of Funerals. Very popular with undertakers. Her temple was on the Esquiline and you gave her a coin when you buried someone; it apparently was the way the Romans kept track of the population before they came up with the idea of the census.

Venus Victrix. Venus the Victor. Pompey the Great's favourite goddess; she had a temple in his giant theatre complex after he vowed one to her before a battle.

Venus Felix. Venus the Fertile/Lucky (the Romans thought that was one and the same thing). She shared her temple with the goddess Roma (who was not, however, Rome's tutelary goddess - they never told anyone who that was, so you could not bribe her to abandon them. It was probably Flora,* which I find hilarious.) This is the Venus who is the mother of the Roman people and the Julian gens.

Venus Genetrix. Venus the Mother. For Venus the mother of the Roman people. I don't know how she was different from Venus Felix, but she was.

Venus Obsequens. Venus the Graceful or the Bendy. I prefer the bendy title myself.

Venus Mefistis. Venus the Smelly. Actually, I don't know if she had a temple in Rome, but she had ones elsewhere and she's too good to leave out on a technicality.

Venus Verticordia. Venus the Heartchanger. Her temple was built from fines on adulterers and adultresses and was built after a Roman equestrian's daughter was struck by lightening. Her dress was pulled up when she was found (her dad got hit too), and it was such a terrible omen they decided adultery was to blame. She was supposed to keep people faithful (something she never managed herself). (Another story says that the temple was built after a bunch of Vestal Virgins decided that the Virgin bit was not exactly necessary for their priesthood.) There was also some festival of hers where prostitutes all went to the men's baths to bathe. I bet a good time was had by all. There was also (at some other festival) statue washing and bathing by worshippers under myrtle. Plus drinking of a poppy potion. I imagine stoned women washing her statue and then splashing about and whacking each other with mrytle.

Plain old regular Venus was also a garden goddess. On August 19th vegetable sellers had a festival in her honour. There was also a goddess Dea Viriplaca, the 'husband pleaser'. For all those times that the marriage wasn't working.


*Flora had a festival called the Floralia which was also celebrated by prostitutes and lewd performances of mime. Which seems to have been really stripping. Nothing the goddess of flowers likes like stripping!

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