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Tales beyond belief

Discover the legends and myths and religious beliefs surrounding Ceres, the Roman earth goddess of agriculture and abundance. Her name originates from the Latin word 'Cerealis' meaning "of grain" from which we derive the modern word 'cereal'. The Cerealia festival was celebrated in her honor commenced on the 12th April and was connected with the growth of corn.

Ceres was the daughter of Saturn and Ops and the sister of Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune, Vesta and Juno and the mother of Proserpina. The Greek counterpart of this ancient Roman deity was Demeter.

Who was Ceres?
Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture and abundance. She was personified and celebrated by women in secret rituals at the festivals of Ambarvalia and Cerealia.  The Cerealia festival was celebrated exclusively by women, who, dressed in white garments, carried torches in their hands, to represent the search of the goddess for her daughter Proserpine. During this festival, games were celebrated in the Circus Maximus, to which none were admitted unless clothed in white. The Ambarvalia festival was held during May, in which a bull, a sow, and a sheep were led around a field before they were given as a blood sacrifice to the goddess. The completion of sowing was celebrated in December with the festivals of Paganalia and Sementivae, that were associated with the two Roman earth goddesses Ceres and the primordial deity called Tella. The name Paganalia comes from the Latin word 'pagus' meaning a rural district or township. The name Sementivae derives from the Latin word 'sementis' meaning sowing or plowing. One of the most ancient and important among the festivals observed by the ancients was that of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which was celebrated in honour of Ceres and her daughter, Proserpina.

The Abduction of Perserpina
Her beloved daughter, Prosperpina was abducted by Pluto and carried off into the Underworld. The poppy was a sacred symbol of Ceres in reference to the wild poppies which grew in the grain fields. A poppy was worn by the priestesses who served the goddess. The poppy was also sacred to her, not only because it grows amongst corn, but because, in her distress at the loss of Proserpina, Jupiter gave it her to eat, that she might sleep and forget her troubles. Refer to The mythical story of Ceres and Proserpine.

Facts about Ceres
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Ceres:

Roman Name: Ceres
Role & Function: Her function is described as being the goddess of agriculture and abundance
Status: Major Goddess and one of the 'Dei Consentes', the Council of Gods.
Symbols: The poppy, torch, wheat seed and grains and the cornucopia, the horn of plenty, symbolising abundance
Gender: Female
Greek Counterpart: The Greek name for this goddess was Demeter
Name of Husband: Unmarried but she took Jupiter as her lover
Name of Father: Saturnus (Saturn)
Name of Mother: Ops (Opis)
Name of siblings: Brothers & sisters: Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune, Vesta and Juno
Names of Children: Proserpina

Facts about Ceres in Roman Mythology and History
Discover interesting information and facts about Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture and abundance.

  • She was the daughter of Saturn and Opis and the sister of Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune, Vesta and Juno and the mother of Proserpina

  • She is credited with introducing the art of cultivating the earth, teaching men to plough, sow, reap, harvest, and thresh out grain to make flour and bread

  • The Cerealia, or festivals in honour of Ceres, commenced on the 12th of April, and lasted several days.

  • Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ludi Ceriales meaning "Ceres games"

  • She was also honored during Roman marriages and funeral rites.

  • The symbol of the torch is associated with the goddess as a mark of Roman weddings and also refers to her carrying a torch in her search for Poroserpina

  • Her Temple was built on the Aventine Hill in ancient Rome and served the plebeians as cult centre, legal archive and treasury

  • The senior priest who served in her temple was called the 'flamen cerialis'.

  • She became the patron goddess of the plebs, whose enterprise as tenant farmers and grain providers and importers were a mainstay of Roman agriculture

  • Ceres was the name given to the first found and largest asteroid which was discovered in 1801

Ceres (Greek Counterpart was Demeter)
The Romans habitually assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Greeks and other nations. When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC many of the Greek gods and goddesses were adopted by the Romans.  The Romans simply changed the Greek gods names to Latin equivalents. The Greek counterpart of Ceres was Demeter. The Roman religion significantly differed from the Greeks in that it was officially endorsed by the state and exerted influence over the government of Rome. Politicians took the offices of influential priests, called pontiffs, to gain control of the popular worship, Roman gods and goddesses like Ceres were worshipped at every public event, including the gladiatorial games, where blood sacrifices were made to the gods. In ancient Rome, the pantheon of 12 major gods, including Ceres, were called the 'Dei Consentes' meaning the Council of Gods.

Gods and Deities
Roman Gods and Goddesses

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