Barbette Stanley Spaeth. The Roman Goddess Ceres. (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1996)
ISBN: 0-292-77692-6. Bibliography, illustrations, index.

The grain goddesses in general tend to recieve less attention than their counterparts, even among ecofeminists. Both Ceres and her Greek counterpart Demeter are all-too-often simply summed up in the Demeter-Persephone story and left there in a psychological quagmire. However, not only are were these goddesses active parts of their respective pantheons, but there are important historical and religious differences between Demeter and the later Ceres.

This scholarly work speaks only of the Roman goddess Ceres, patroness of grain and hence of the plebians [working class] of Rome (who were fed, often, through a grain dole maintained by the state). It gives in detail many mentions of Ceres in Roman tradition, law and literature, categorized into themes: Ceres' relationship to fertility (grain, motherhood, weddings, and even Peace itself), to thresholds/rites of passage (birth, death, marriage, divorce, initiation, and both agricultural and civic rituals); the Plebs (through a multitude of politico-religious connections); women (the cult of Ceres and Prosperina, female virtues, and women of the Imperial family). Though some scholarly conclusions are drawn, the author limits herself primarily to stating known facts and drawing historical associations, both political and attribute-wise, rather than drawing historical feminist insights. The net result is that we know a good deal more about the place of Ceres in Roman life than we did before, including a well-rounded and thus somewhat disjoint portrait of her attributes and associations.

The multitude of illustrations, primarily photographs of extant statuary and coinage, is a wonderful resource in and of itself.


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