The Greek counterpart of this ancient Roman goddess was Eris, the primordial goddess of discord who caused wars, disharmony and feuds between families and friends. Discordia was a goddess of the Underworld.
Discordia, the Roman goddess of strife, discord and chaos - The di inferi
The Romans adopted the concept of the Underworld from the Greeks. The Underworld, or infernal region, was a mysterious, frightening and and supernatural realm. It was the domain of Pluto the god of the death and was where the souls of dead mortals, both good and bad, resided. The Roman gods and goddesses associated with death and misery were also believed to reside in the Roman Underworld. These deities, who included Discordia, were called the 'di inferi' meaning "the gods below". These terrible Roman gods and goddesses were associated with war, death, disease, grief, ghosts, dreams, witchcraft and all kinds of appalling creatures. The list of gods included the name of Discordia the Roman goddess of strife, discord, spite and chaos. The Roman Underworld was believed to be divided into several parts:
- The previous region, the residence of the demon gods and goddesses, the 'di inferi', such as Discordia, located by the palace of Hades (Pluto)
- The region of waters, or the rivers which they were all to pass including the River Styx
- Tartarus, or the region of torments the residence of evil souls and their tormentors
- The region of joy and bliss, the residence of good souls called Elysium
Discordia was described as warlike and ferocious. Virgil referred to her as the "lunatic Discordia" who resides at the entrance to Hell. Virgil continues his description saying that she takes part in battle with joy, "exulting in her torn mantle".
Blood Sacrifices to Discordia and the 'di inferi'
Discordia the Roman goddess of strife, discord and chaos was worshipped in the same way as any other Roman divinity with prayers and making vows, dedicating altars and sacrificing animals, birds as offerings to the goddess. Black animals were sacrificed to the gods and goddesses of the of the Underworld and the sex of a sacrificial animal had to correspond to the sex of the goddess to whom it was offered. The blood sacrifices made to Discordia would therefore have been a black ewe, cow or heifer, sow, hen or other female birds and conducted outside a temple. The offerings and sacrifices to the Discordia and the di inferi were made by means of 'foci' that were hearths on the ground or in a pit. After the ritual killing the remains of the animal were burnt. Rituals and sacrifices associated the gods and goddesses of the underworld such as Discordia took place at night and often in secrecy. Di inferi were often invoked in binding spells called 'defixiones' or curse tablets, which called for retribution or offered personal enemies to them if they were vanquished. Deities commonly invoked were those connected in some way to the underworld such as Discordia, Hekate, Bellona, Pluto and Proserpina.
Rituals to Discordia and the 'di inferi'
Religious sites and rituals for the di inferi were conducted outside the pomerium, the sacred legal boundary of the ancient city of Rome. Tombs were also located outside the sacred ground of the pomerium. Ceremonies and festivals to the di inferi including Disccordia were:
- The Consualia (Consuales Ludi) dedicated to Consus the god of secret counsel and celebrated on August 8. An altar was erected to the divinity Consus on the Circus Maximus, but was kept always covered, except during his festival
- The Taurian Games (Ludi Taurii) were games held as expiatory rites occasioned by religious concerns related to plagues and other unexplained disasters affecting Rome. The Taurian Games were located in the in the Campus Martius and took the form of horse races around turning posts. These games formed part of the rituals and sacrifices designed specifically to propitiate the di inferi including Discordia