Acca Larentia

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In Roman mythology, Acca Larentia or Acca Larentina was a mythical woman who subsequently became the goddess of fertility.

Her festival, the Larentalia, was observed on December 23. Acca Larentia represented the fertility of the soil, particularly the city lands and their harvests, just like Ceres, Tellus, Flora, and other goddesses.

According to one myth, she was the wife of a shepherd named Faustulus. Faustulus took Romulus and Remus back to his house after they had thrown into the Tiber, where Acca Larentia would raise the kids. When one of her twelve sons passed away, Romulus took his position. and established the Arval brothers’ college with the remaining eleven (Fratres Arvales). As a result, she is referred to as the Dea Dia of that collegium. In order to carry out the funeral ceremonies for his foster mother, the flamen Quirinalis took on the role of Romulus, who was afterwards deified as Quirinus.

Another legend claims that Larentia lived in the 7th century BCE, during the reign of Ancus Marcius, and was a stunning young woman with a bad reputation. She is said to have been around the same age as Romulus and Remus. The keeper of Hercules’ temple gave her to him as a reward in a dice game, and together with his other prize—a feast—she was imprisoned there. The deity told her to marry the first man she saw when she went outside that morning, who happened to be a wealthy Etruscan called Carutius, when he no longer needed her (or Tarrutius, according to Plutarch). Later, Larentia inherited all of his possessions and left them to the Roman populace. Ancus, in gratitude for this, allowed her to be buried in the Velabrum, and instituted an annual festival, the Larentalia, at which sacrifices were offered to the Lares. Plutarch explicitly states that this Larentia was a different person from the Larentia who was married to Faustulus, although other writers, such as Licinius Macer, relate their stories as belonging to the same individual.

Acca Larentia
Acca Larentia, Santa Maria della Scala Hospital (Siena)

According to a different legend, Larentia was a shepherds’ courtesan known as lupa rather than Faustulus’ or Hercules’ companion. Although the name was commonly used to refer to prostitutes, lupa actually means “she-wolf.” The mythology also claims that she gave the Roman people her money via sex business.

Featured image: The shepherd Faustulus who found the twins Romulus and Remus on the banks of the Tiber brings the children to his wife Larentia who has just lost a child and can suckle the twins. On the left is the wolffin who previously cared for Romulus and Remus. On the right are river gods and nymphs.

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