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[sÓr' Ez] Roman goddess of agriculture

Ceres was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, and the wife of Jupiter, her brother, with whom she had one daughter, Proserpina.

Ceres was adopted by the Romans in 496 B.C., during a devastating famine, when the Sibylline books (a collection of prophecies in rhyme) advised the adoption of the Greek goddesses Demeter, Kore (Persephone) and Iacchus (possibly Dionysus). Therefore, all of the mythology associated with Ceres was "borrowed" from the Greek mythology surrounding Demeter. The most important part of that mythology is associated with her daughter, Proserpina (Persephone in Greek mythology), who was forced to become the wife of Pluto (Hades) and live in the Underworld for half of each year. According to the myth, the grief that Ceres suffers while her daughter is in the Underworld is what brings on Winter, and her delight at her daughter's return marks the beginning of Spring.

Ceres had a temple on the Aventine Hill, were she was worshipped together with Liber and Libera. Her festival, the Cerealia, was celebrated on April 19. Another festival was the Ambarvalia, held in May. In art, she was depicted with a scepter, a basket of flowers and fruit, and a garland made of wheat ears. She had twelve minor gods who assisted her and were in charge of specific aspects of farming -- Vervactor who turned fallow land, Reparator who prepared fallow land, Imporcitor who plowed with wide furrows, Insitor, who sowed, Obarator who plowed the surface, Occator who harrowed, Sarritor who weeded, Subruncinator who thinned out, Messor who harvested, Conuector who carted, Conditor who stored, and Promitor who distributed.

The word "cereals" derives from Ceres, commemorating her association with edible grains. The name "Ceres" comes from the Indo-European root "ker," meaning "to grow," which is also the root for the words "create" and "increase."

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This page was last updated on June 24, 2017.