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p109 Ceres

Two articles on pp109‑110 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.


Ceres Liber Liberaque, aedes a temple on the slope of the Aventine hill, near the west end of the circus Maximus. According to tradition there was a famine in Rome in 496 B.C., and the dictator L. Postumius, after consulting the Sibylline books, vowed a temple to Demeter, Dionysus, and Kore if they would bring abundance again to the city. The temple was built, and dedicated in 493 B.C. by the consul Sp. Cassius (Dionys. VI.17, 94) to Ceres, Liber, and Libera, with whom the Greek deities were identified. Beloch (Röm. Gesch. 329) assigns it to the fourth century B.C.

It was araeostyle, with columns of the Tuscan order, and the fastigium p110was decorated with statues of gilded bronze or terracotta of Etruscan workmanship (Vitr. III.3.5). The walls of the cella were decorated with frescoes and reliefs by two Greek artists, Gorgasus and Damophilus,1 and there was a Greek inscription stating how much had been done by each (Plin. NH XXXV.154; see Merlin 153‑155). This temple, called by Cicero (Verr. IV.108) pulcherrimum et magnificentissimum, was enriched by many works of art, such as golden bowls and statues, from the fines levied by plebeian magistrates (Liv. X.23.13; XXVII.6.19, 36.9; XXXIII.25.3). It contained a bronze statue of Ceres, said to have been the first made in Rome, which was paid for out of the confiscated property of Sp. Cassius (Liv. II.41.10; Plin. NH XXXIV.15); and a painting of Bacchus (and Ariadne?) that was brought from Corinth by Mummius (Plin. NH XXXV.24, 99; Strabo VIII.381; cf. Merlin 162). Twice it was struck by lightning (Liv. XXVIII.11.4; App. B. C. I.78), and twice it is mentioned in connection with prodigies (Liv. XL.2.2; XLI.28.2). It was burned down in 31 B.C., restored by Augustus, and dedicated by Tiberius in 17 A.D. (Cass. Dio 1.10; Tac. Ann. II.49; Merlin, 366- 367; CIL VI.9969), and was standing in the fourth century (Not. Reg. XI). The site of the temple was near the west end of the circus on the Aventine side, but how far up the slope is not certain — perhaps near the junction of the modern Vicolo di S. Sabina and Via S. Maria in Cosmedin (Dionys. VI.94; Liv. XL.2.1; DAP 2.vi.238‑239; Merlin 93‑95, and literature cited there; BC 1914, 115), but no traces of it have been found.

The worship of Ceres was essentially plebeian, and the political importance of this temple was very great. It was the headquarters of the plebeian aediles, the repository of their archives, and the treasury in which was placed the property of those who had been found guilty of assaulting plebeian magistrates (Dionys. VI.89; X.42; Liv. III.55.7). Copies of senatus consulta were also deposited here after 449 B.C. (Liv. III.55.13; Mommsen, Staatsr. II.476‑477, 490). The temple possessed the right of asylum (Varr. ap. Non. 44: asylum Cereris), and was a centre of distribution of food to the poor. It was regularly called aedes, but delubrum once by Pliny (N. H. XXXV.24), and in Greek Δημητρειον (Strabo VIII.381), Δημητριον (Cass. Dio 1.10), and Δημητρος ἱερον (App. B. C. I.78). In ordinary usage the official title was abbreviated to aedes Cereris (see Merlin, passim; HJ 115‑117; RE III.1974‑1975; XIII.70‑73; Gilb. II.242‑250). For a sacerdos Cereris publica p.r.q. (i.e. a slave), see CIL I2974 = VI.2182 =ILS 3347 (cf. VI.2181 = 32443 = ILS 3343).

Ceres Mater et Ops Augusta, ara an altar erected by Augustus in 7 A.D. in vico Iugario, probably in honour of Livia, and dedicated on 10th August (Hemerol. Amit. Vall. Ant. ad IV id. Aug.; CIL I2 pp240, 324; Jord. I.2.365, 468; RE III.1977).


The Authors' Notes:

1 Cf. Urlichs, Malerei vor Caesar, 4‑5; E. Douglas Van Buren, Terracotta Revetments, 31‑32.


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