Summanus (Latin: Summānus) was the god of nocturnal thunder in ancient Roman religion, as counterposed to Jupiter, the god of diurnal (daylight) thunder.[1] His precise nature was unclear even to Ovid.[2]

Pliny thought that he was of Etruscan origin, and one of the nine gods of thunder.[3] Varro lists Summanus among gods to whom Sabine king Titus Tatius dedicated altars (arae) in consequence of a votum.[4] Paulus Diaconus considers him a god of lightning.[5]

The name Summanus is thought to be from Summus Manium "the greatest of the Manes",[6] or sub-, "under" + manus, "hand".

According to Martianus Capella,[7] Summanus is another name for Pluto as the "highest" (summus) of the Manes. This identification is taken up by later writers such as Camões ("If in Summanus' gloomy realm / Severest punishment you now endure ...")[8] and Milton, in a simile to describe Satan visiting Rome: "Just so Summanus, wrapped in a smoking whirlwind of blue flame, falls upon people and cities".[9]

Georges Dumézil[10] has argued that Summanus would represent the uncanny, violent and awe-inspiring element of the gods of the first function, connected to heavenly sovereignty. The double aspect of heavenly sovereign power would be reflected in the dichotomy Varuna-Mitra in Vedic religion and in Rome in the dichotomy Summanus-Dius Fidius. The first gods of these pairs would incarnate the violent, nocturnal, mysterious aspect of sovereignty while the second ones would reflect its reassuring, daylight and legalistic aspect.

Temple and cult

The temple of Summanus was dedicated during the Pyrrhic War c. 278 BCE on June 20.[11][12] It stood at the west of the Circus Maximus, perhaps on the slope of the Aventine. It seems the temple had been dedicated because the statue of the god which stood on the roof of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus had been struck by a lightning bolt.[13] Every June 20, the day before the summer solstice, round cakes called summanalia, made of flour, milk, and honey and shaped as wheels,[14] were offered to him as a token of propitiation: the wheel might be a solar symbol. Summanus also received a sacrifice of two black oxen or wethers. Dark animals were typically offered to chthonic deities.[15]

Saint Augustine records that in earlier times Summanus had been more exalted than Jupiter, but with the construction of a temple that was more magnificent than that of Summanus, Jupiter became more honored.[16]

Cicero recounts that the clay statue of the god which stood on the roof of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus was struck by a lightning bolt: its head was nowhere to be seen. The haruspices announced that it had been hurled into the Tiber River, where indeed it was found on the very spot indicated by them.[17]

The temple of Summanus itself was struck by lightning in 197 BCE.[18]

Summanus and Mount Summano

Mount Summano (elevation 1291 m), located in the Alps near Vicenza (Veneto, Italy), is traditionally considered a site of the cults of Pluto, Jupiter Summanus, and the Manes.

The area was one of the last strongholds of ancient Roman religion in Italy, as shown by the fact that Vicenza had no bishop until 590 CE.[19]

Archeological excavations have found a sanctuary space that dates to the first Iron Age (9th century BCE) and was continuously active until late antiquity (at least the 4th century CE). The local flora is very peculiar, because it was customary in ancient times for pilgrims to bring offerings of flowers from their own native lands.[19]

The mountaintop is frequently struck by lightning. The mountain itself has a deep grotto named Bocca Lorenza, in which, according to local legend, a young shepherdess became lost and disappeared. The story might be an adaptation of the myth of Proserpina, who was abducted by Pluto.[19]

Notes and references

  1. ^ Paulus Festi epitome 284L (=229M)
  2. ^ "The temple is said to have been dedicated to Summanus, whoever he may be" (quisquis is est, Summano templa feruntur): Ovid, Fasti 6, 731. Translation by James G. Frazer, Loeb Classical Library. Pliny mentie temple at Natural History 29.57 (= 29.14).
  3. ^ Natural History 2.53 (alternative numbering 52 or 138): "The Tuscan books inform us, that there are nine Gods who discharge thunder-storms, that there are eleven different kinds of them, and that three of them are darted out by Jupiter. Of these the Romans retained only two, ascribing the diurnal kind to Jupiter, and the nocturnal to Summanus; this latter kind being more rare, in consequence of the heavens being colder" (Tuscorum litterae novem deos emittere fulmina existimant, eaque esse undecim generum; Iovem enim trina iaculari. Romani duo tantum ex iis servavere, diurna attribuentes Iovi, nocturna Summano, rariora sane eadem de causa frigidioris caeli). English translation by John Bostock, via Perseus Digital Library.
  4. ^ Varro Lingua Latina V 74.
  5. ^ Entry on Dium above.
  6. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Summanus" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 77–78.
  7. ^ Martianus Capella, De nuptiis 2.164.
  8. ^ Os Lusíadas, IV, 33, translated as The Lusiad by Thomas Moore Musgrave (1826).
  9. ^ In the Latin poem "In Quintum Novembris" (lines 23–24): Talibus infestat populos Summanus et urbes / cinctus caeruleae fumanti turbine flammae.
  10. ^ Myth et epopée vol. III part 2 chapt. 3; Mitra-Varuna: essai sur deux representations indoeuropeennes de la souverainetè Paris 1948 2nd; La religion romaine archaïque Paris 1974; It. tr. Milano 1977 p. 184
  11. ^ Ovid fasti VI 729-731; Fasti Esquil., Venus., Amit.: ad XII Kal. Iul.; CIL I 2nd p. 211, 221,243, 320
  12. ^ Pliny Nat. Hist. XXIX 14; Livy Periochae XIV. For dedication year, see Orlin, Eric M., "Foreign Cults in Republican Rome: Rethinking the Pomerial Rule", Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Vol. 47 (2002), p. 5.
  13. ^ S. Ball Platner, T. Ashby A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome Baltimore 1928 p. 408, citing Cicero de Div. I 10; Livy Periochae XIV; Iordanes I 2, 14-15; 98-100
  14. ^ Festus p.557 L
  15. ^ John Scheid, "Sacrifices for Gods and Ancestors", in A Companion to Roman Religion (Blackwell, 2007), p. 264; Raffaele Pettazzoni, "The Wheel in the Ritual Symbolism of Some Indo-European Peoples," in Essays on the History of Religions (Brill, 1967), p. 107.
  16. ^ Augustine, City of God IV 23
  17. ^ Cicero De Divinatione I 10
  18. ^ Livy AUC XXXII 29, 1
  19. ^ a b c Puttin, Lucio (1977). Monte Summano: Storia, arte, e tradizioni. Schio.