Deity of the month: Neptune


Mosaic of Neptune in his sea-horse drawn chariot, mid 3rd century CE, from the Sousse Archeological Museum, Tunisia.


The management of water was critical in the heat of July, and was dependent on Neptune,   the Roman god of fresh water and the seas, who also protected drilling operations and wells. Neptune was identified with the Greek god Poseidon, and following the Greek tradition, his brothers were Jupiter and Pluto. He was often depicted with horses. A major festival, the Neptunalia, was held in his honor on July 23rd.  According to the 5th century writer Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius, Neptune was one of only three deities to whom it was appropriate to sacrifice a bull. The other two were Apollo and Mars.

Adapted from Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins, and The Gods of Ancient Rome, by Robert Turcan.

Sulpicia: indiscretion has its charms

Roman fresco (c. 53-79 CE) of a young woman with stylus and wax tablets, from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Found in Pompeii.

Roman fresco (c. 53-79 CE) from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Found in Pompeii. Probably not the poet Sulpicia, but an ancient woman with a writing implement, nonetheless.

Many women wrote poetry in ancient Rome, but the works of only one have survived. Six short poems written by Sulpicia, the daughter of the jurist and orator Servius Sulpicius Rufus, and the niece of the statesman and patron of the arts Valerius Messalla Corvinus, have survived, handed down as part of the Corpus Tibullianum, a collection of poems by Tibullus and other poets affiliated with Messalla. Sulpicia lived during the time of Augustus.

The above description adapted from Diatoma and The Handbook to life in Ancient Rome, by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins.


At last. It’s come. Love,
the kind that veiling
will give me reputation more
than showing my soul naked to someone.
I prayed to Aphrodite in Latin, in poems;
she brought him, snuggled him
into my bosom.
Venus has kept her promises:
let her tell the story of my happiness,
in case some woman will be said
not to have had her share.
I would not want to trust
anything to tablets, signed and sealed,
so no one reads me
before my love–
but indiscretion has its charms;
it’s boring
to fit one’s face to reputation.
May I be said to be
a worthy lover for a worthy love.

From Sulpicia: Six Poems. Translation copyright Lee Pearcy; all rights reserved.




April Deity of the Month: Ceres


Statue of Ceres (2nd century CE) in the museum at Halaesa Arconidea, Sicily.


Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture, specifically grain crops. Her parents were Saturn and Ops; she was the mother of Proserpina. Her festival was the Cerialia, held between April 12th and 19th, with games in the Circus Maximus on the final day. One of the rituals associated with these games was the opener: hundreds of foxes with flaming torches tied to their tails ran out onto the track. There was a fast in honor of Ceres on October 4th. She was also given a sacrifice to purify a house after a funeral.

For more concise information on Roman deities and everyday life, consult Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily