XII[12arg] On the names of the gods of the Roman people called Diovis and Vediovis.
IN ancient prayers we have observed that these names of deities appear: Diovis and Vediovis; furthermore, there is also a temple of Vediovis at Rome, between the Citadel and the Capitolium. 1 The explanation of these names I have found to be this: the ancient Latins derived Iovis from iuvare (help), and called that same god “father,” thus adding a second word. For Iovispater is the full and complete form, which becomes Iupiter 2 by the syncope or change of some of the letters. So also Neptunuspater is used as a compound, and Saturnus— pater and Ianuspater and Marspater—for that is the original form of Marspiter—and Jove also was called Diespiter, that is, the father of day and of light. And therefore by a name of similar origin Jove is called Diovis and also Lucetius, because he blesses and helps us by means of the day and the light, which are equivalent to life itself. And Lucetius is applied to Jove by Gnaeus Naevius in his poem On the Punic war. 3 [p. 415] Accordingly, when they had given the names Iovis and Diovis from iuvare (help), they applied a lame of the contrary meaning to that god who had, not the power to help, but the force to do harm—for some gods they worshipped in order to gain their favour, others they propitiated in order to avert their hostility; and they called him Vediovis, thus taking away and denying his power to give help. For the particle ve which appears in different forms in different words, now being spelled with these two letters and now with an a inserted between the two, has two meanings which also differ from each other. For ve, like very many other particles, has the effect either of weakening or of strengthening the force of a word; and it therefore happens that some words to which that particle is prefixed are ambiguous 4 and may be used with either force, such as vescus (small), vemens (mighty), and vegrandis (very small), 5 a point which I have discussed elsewhere 6 in greater detail. But vesanus and vecordes are used with only one of the meanings of ve, namely, the privative or negative force, which the Greeks call κατὰ στέρησιν. It is for this reason that the statue of the god Vediovis, which is in the temple of which I spoke above, holds arrows, which, as everyone knows, are devised to inflict harm. For that reason it has often been said that that god is Apollo; and a shegoat is sacrificed to him in the customary fashion, 7 [p. 417] and a representation of that animal stands near his statue. It was for this reason, they say, that Virgil, a man deeply versed in antiquarian lore, but never making a display of his knowledge, prays to the unpropitious gods in the Georgics, thus intimating that in gods of that kind there is a power capable of injuring rather than aiding. The verses of Vergil are these: 8
A task of narrow span, but no small praise,And favouring Phoebus grant a poet's prayer. And among those gods which ought to be placated in order to avert evil influences from ourselves or our harvests are reckoned Auruncus 9 and Robigus. 10
If unpropitious powers bar not my way