Ceres (mythology)

Seated Ceres from Emerita Augusta, present-day Mérida, Spain (National Museum of Roman Art, 1st century AD)

In ancient Roman religion, Ceres ( /ˈsɪərz/; [1] [2] Latin: Cerēs [ˈkɛreːs]) was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. [3] She was originally the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian or Aventine Triad, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as "the Greek rites of Ceres". Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ludi Ceriales (Ceres' games). She was also honoured in the May lustratio of the fields at the Ambarvalia festival, at harvest-time, and during Roman marriages and funeral rites.

Ceres is the only one of Rome's many agricultural deities to be listed among the Dii Consentes, Rome's equivalent to the Twelve Olympians of Greek mythology. The Romans saw her as the counterpart of the Greek goddess Demeter, [4] whose mythology was reinterpreted for Ceres in Roman art and literature. [3]

Etymology and origins

Ceres' name derives from the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root *ḱerh₃-, meaning "to satiate, to feed", [5] which is also the root for Latin crescere "to grow" and through it, the English words create and increase. Roman etymologists thought ceres derived from the Latin verb gerere, "to bear, bring forth, produce", because the goddess was linked to pastoral, agricultural and human fertility. Archaic cults to Ceres are well-evidenced among Rome's neighbours in the Regal period, including the ancient Latins, Oscans and Sabellians, less certainly among the Etruscans and Umbrians. An archaic Faliscan inscription of c. 600 BC asks her to provide far ( spelt wheat), which was a dietary staple of the Mediterranean world. Throughout the Roman era, Ceres' name was synonymous with grain and, by extension, with bread. [6]