I’ve just finished reading a fascinating overview of religion in ancient Rome (before Christianity – there’s a dedicated article on that coming next week).
The boss god was Jupiter, apparently, who was married to his jealous sister Juno, their only son being Mars, god of war and so of Roman legionnaires, who carried out bloody sacrifices to him. Mars, by the way, fathered Romolo and Remo, one or the other of whom founded Rome back in the day. I forget which it was, but Episodio 1 of our history series goes into the details, if you’re interested.
Jupiter was a bit of a lad, apparently, and so had numerous illegitimate kids, amongst whom were Minerva (wisdom), Apollo (music), Diana (hunting) and Mercury (logistics).
And not to forget Jupiter’s influential brothers and sisters, Neptune (bet you know that one), Hades (the underworld), Ceres (agriculture) and Vesta (the hearth, family.) I expect I’ve missed some.
Talking of Vesta, next week we’ll be publishing a new ebook (Rome-themed, of course, though the last one, for now.) It’s about one of the famous ‘Vestal virgins’, priestesses whose job it was to keep Vesta’s sacred flame burning, at all times, day and night.
Vesta, being the goddess of the hearth, the home, etc, was relied upon to protect Rome from malign events. So obviously, her flame could never be allowed to go out, or Rome would be DOOMED!
I guess being a Vestal virgin must have been a bit of a bore, and for more than the obvious reason. Imagine spending your entire career watching to see that the sacred flame doesn’t run out of lamp oil, or get blown out by a draft, or smothered by a toxic fart, or something.
Worse, if you messed up, the penalty was death! Though given that the virgins were sacred, and so protected from being killed in any of the usual inventive and gory ways the Romans employed for careless minions, dozing off on the job one windy night could result in you expiring of thirst, starvation and regret in some distant dungeon.
Anyway, watch out for the ebook next Monday: ‘I racconti della vestale‘ (the tales/reminiscences of the Vesta?) is C1/advanced, rather longer than usual, and so excellent value for money – assuming your Italian is up to the challenge!
It’s also a bit of a feminist diatribe, if the truth be told, though there’s nothing wrong with that. History isn’t very considerate of the female point of view (witness the male gods getting the more exciting jobs, and poor Juno having to put up with Jupiter’s infidelities.) So we’ll be doing our bit to put that right!
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s the link to today’s article, so you can cram your Roman deities in preparation for ‘I racconti della vestale‘:
The earlier articles in the ‘Roma’ series are here: La storia di Roma
A venerdì, allora.
Half-price ‘Ebook of the Week’ offer!
L’imperatore e i giochi, in keeping with our current free series of articles with audio, ‘La storia di Roma‘, features the philosopher emperor, Marco Aurelio, and his bloodthirsty gladiator-wannabe son, Commodo.
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The half-price offer ends on Sunday night.