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Bill Thayer

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 p348  Murcia

Article on p348 of

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

Murcia: the shrine of an early Roman divinity in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine. As the circus Maximus gradually occupied all this space, the shrine was preserved and kept its place within the circus at the south-east end of the course on the Aventine side (Varro V.154; Fest. 148, 344; CIL I2 p189, elog. V; Liv. I.33.5). This end of the course and spina was called the metae Murciae (Apul. Met. VI.8; Tert. de spect. 8). For a theory that this shrine was at the other, north-east, end of the circus, near the carceres, see BC 1908, 251; Mél. 1908, 279. The shrine itself is called ara vetus (Plin. NH XV.121), sacellum (Varro, Fest.), fanum (Serv. Aen. VIII.636), aedes (Tert.), but it was probably originally only an altar, afterwards surrounded by a puteal. It seems to be indicated on the Foligno relief (Ann. d. Inst. 1870, pl. LM), but this may be the shrine of Sol rather than Murcia (Diss. d. Accad. Pont. ser. 2, VI.266‑267). This point is often referred to as ad Murciae (Varro, Livy, Elog. locc. citt.), and at a later period the valley of the circus was called the vallis Murcia (Serv. Aen. VII.636; Symmach. Relat. IX.6; Claudian. de cons. Stilich. II.404; Cassiod. Var. III.51; Pol. Silv. 545). Of the real character of this divinity all knowledge was lost and the Roman antiquarians gave several explanations of the name. The most popular was that of Varro, who derived Murcia from myrtea, on the theory that this low ground was originally grown up with myrtle. As the myrtle was sacred to Venus, Murcia herself was identified with the goddess of love (Tert.), who then became known as Venus Murtea or Murcia (Varro, Pliny, Plut. q. Rom. 20). (HJ 113‑114; Rosch. II.3231‑3233; Gilb. I.70‑71, 79; BC 1914, 343).

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