In ancient Roman religion, agricultural deities were thought to care for every aspect of growing, harvesting, and storing crops. Preeminent among these are such major deities as Ceres and Saturn, but a large number of the many Roman deities known by name either supported farming or were devoted solely to a specific agricultural function.

From 272 to 264 BC, four temples were dedicated separately to the agricultural deities Consus, Tellus, Pales, and Vortumnus. The establishment of four such temples within a period of eight years indicates a high degree of concern for stabilizing and developing the productivity of Italy following the Pyrrhic War.[1]

Varro, De re rustica

At the beginning of his treatise on farming, Varro[2] gives a list of twelve deities who are vital to agriculture. These make up a conceptual or theological grouping, and are not known to have received cult collectively. They are:

Vergil, Georgics

In his Georgics, a collection of poetry on agrarian themes, Vergil gives a list influenced by literary Hellenization and Augustan ideology:[3]

Allegorical scene with Roman deities from the Augustan Altar of Peace

The poet proposes that the divus Julius Caesar be added as a thirteenth.


Ceres' helper gods

Twelve specialized gods known only by name are invoked for the "cereal rite" (sacrum cereale) in honor of Ceres and Tellus.[7] The twelve are all male, with names formed from the agent suffix -tor. Although their gender indicates that they are not aspects of the two goddesses who were the main recipients of the sacrum, their names are "mere appellatives" for verbal functions.[8] The rite was held just before the Feriae Sementivae. W.H. Roscher lists these deities among the indigitamenta, lists of names kept by the pontiffs for invoking specific divine functions.[9]

Other indigitamenta

The names of other specialized agricultural gods are preserved in scattered sources.[11]


  1. ^ William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London, 1908), pp. 340–341.
  2. ^ Varro, De re rustica 1.1.4–6.
  3. ^ Vergil, Georgics 1.5–20.
  4. ^ Clarissima mundi lumina
  5. ^ Cultor nemorum.
  6. ^ Unci puer monstrator aratri.
  7. ^ Ceres' twelveassistant deities are listed by Servius, note to Georgics 1.21, as cited in Barbette Stanley Spaeth, The Roman Goddess Ceres (University of Texas Press, 1996), p. 36. Servius cites the historian Fabius Pictor (late 3rd century BC) as his source.
  8. ^ Michael Lipka, Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach (Brill, 2009), p. 69.
  9. ^ Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (Leipzig: Teubner, 1890–94), vol. 2, pt. 1, pp. 187–233.
  10. ^ a b Price, Simon; Beard, Mary; North, John (1999). A history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 11. ISBN 9780521316828.
  11. ^ As listed by Hermann Usener, Götternamen (Bonn, 1896), pp. 76–77, unless otherwise noted.
  12. ^ a b c Augustine, De Civitate Dei 4.8.
  13. ^ Varro as cited by Augustine, De Civitate Dei 7.23; Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon, p. 219.
  14. ^ S.P. Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, Books 6–10 (Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 264.
  15. ^ Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon, p. 219.
  16. ^ As preserved by Augustine, De Civitate Dei 7.23: quod ex terra, inquit, aluntur omnia quae nata sunt; Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon, p. 192.
  17. ^ Servius, note to Georgics 1.21: "a satione Sator," "Sator [is named] from [the act of] sowing."
  18. ^ Augustine, De Civitate Dei 4.21.
  19. ^ Name known only from Augustine, De civitate Dei 4.8, where it is derived from an Old Latin verb hostire "to make even".
  20. ^ As named only by Servius, note to Georgics 1.315, citing Varro: sane Varro in libris divinarum dicit deum esse Lactantem, qui se infundit segetibus et eas facit lactescere.
  21. ^ As named by Augustine, De Civitate Dei 4.8; Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon, vol. 2, pt. 1, p. 201, suggests the two names probably refer to the same divine entity.
  22. ^ Named only by Augustine, De civitate Dei, 4. 8.
  23. ^ From *nōdo- PIE *ned-, "to bind, tie".[citation needed]
  24. ^ Arnobius 4.7; Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome, p. 38.
  25. ^ Augustine, De Civitate Dei 4.8; Tertullian, De spectaculis 8.