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Ceres

(from the √ kr of creare). An old Italian goddess of agriculture. The Ceres who was worshipped at Rome is, however, the same as the Greek Demeter. Her cult was introduced under the Italian name at the same time as that of Dionysus and Persephoné, who in the same way

Ceres. (Pompeian Wall-painting.)

received the Italian names of Liber and Libera. (See Cic. N. D. ii. 24, 2.) It was in B.C. 496, on the occasion of a drought, that the Sibylline Books ordered the introduction of the worship of the three deities. This worship was so decidedly Greek that the temple dedicated on a spur of the Aventine in B.C. 490, over the entrance to the Circus, was built in Greek style and by Greek artists; and the service of the goddess, founded on the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephoné, was performed in the Greek tongue by Italian women of Greek extraction. The worshippers of the goddess were almost exclusively plebeian. Her temple was placed under the care of the plebeian aediles, who, as overseers of the corn market, had their official residence in or near it. The fines which they imposed went to the shrine of Ceres, as did the property of persons who had offended against them or against the tribunes of the plebs. Just as the patricians entertained each other with mutual hospitalities at the Megalesian Games (April 4-10), so did the plebeians at the Cerealia, or games introduced at the founding of the Temple of Ceres. Those held in later times were given by the aediles from the 12th to the 19th of April, and another festival to Ceres, held in August, was established before the Second Punic War. This was celebrated by women in honour of the reunion of Ceres and Proserpina. After fasting for nine days, the women, clothed in white, and adorned with crowns of ripe ears of corn, offered to the goddess the first-fruits of the harvest. After B.C. 191, a fast (ieiunium Cereris) was introduced by command of the Sibylline Books. This was originally observed every four years, but in later times was kept annually on the 4th of October. The native Italian worship of Ceres was probably maintained in its purest form in the country. Here the countrymen offered Ceres a sow (porca praecidanea) before the beginning of the harvest, and dedicated to her the first cuttings of the corn (praemetium). See Demeter.

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