List of Roman agricultural deities

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 rusticaEdit

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, GeorgicsEdit

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 godsEdit

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 indigitamentaEdit

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

  • Rusina is a goddess of the fields (from Latin rus, ruris; cf. English "rural" and "rustic").[12]
  • Rusor is invoked with Altor by the pontiffs in a sacrifice to the earth deities Tellus and Tellumo. In interpreting the god's function, Varro derives Rusor from rursus, "again," because of the cyclical nature of agriculture.[13] As a matter of linguistics, the name is likely to derive from either the root ru-, as in Rumina, the breastfeeding goddess (perhaps from ruma, "teat"),[14] or rus, ruris as the male counterpart of Rusina.[15] Altor is an agent god from the verb alo, alere, altus, "to grow, nurture, nourish". According to Varro, he received res divina because "all things which are born are nourished from the earth".[16]
  • Sator (from the same root as Insitor above), the "sower" god.[17]
  • Seia, goddess who protects the seed once sown in the earth; also as Fructesea, compounded with fructus, "produce, fruit"[18]
  • Segesta, goddess who promotes the growth of the seedling.
  • Hostilina, goddess who makes grain grow evenly.[19]
  • Lactans[20] or Lacturnus,[21] god who infuses crops with "milk" (sap or juice).
  • Volutina, goddess who induces "envelopes" (involumenta) or leaf sheaths to form.[22]
  • Nodutus, god who causes the "knot" (Latin nodus[23]) or node to form.
  • Patelana (Patelena, Patella), goddess who opens up (pateo, patere) the grain, possibly in reference to the emergence of the flag leaf.[12]
  • Runcina (as in Subruncinator above), the weeder goddess, or a goddess of mowing.[12]
  • Messia, the female equivalent of Messor the reaper, and associated with Tutelina.
  • Noduterensis (compare Nodutus)[24] or Terensis, the god of threshing
  • Tutelina (also Tutulina or Tutilina), a goddess who watches over the stored grain.[25]
  • Sterquilinus (also as Sterces, Stercutus, Sterculus, Sterculinus), who manures the fields.


  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.