Mefitis, the goddess of deadly gases

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Mefitis or Mephitis (“one who smokes in the middle”) was a minor goddess of the deadly gases released from the earth in marshes and volcanic vapors in Roman mythology.

Mefitis, the Samnite goddess of earth’s odious gases, was revered in central and southern Italy before the Roman era, with her principal temple located near Samnium’s Ampsanctus volcano. Her temples were located in Cremona and Rome’s Esquiline Hill, respectively. Mefitis was said to have originated as a goddess of subterranean resources, such as natural springs, and that her relationship with poisonous gases sprang from the fact that many of these springs were sulfurous. Considering that she was adored at Pompeii, she is virtually invariably associated with volcanoes.

Related article: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Rome

Geological cracks associated with the deity may be seen in Italy between Rome and Brindisi along the Via Appia. For further information, check the map below. The ancient Romans would stop there to recuperate while they traveled and offer animal sacrifices to the goddess there by employing the fissure’s lethal vapors. It is currently located in the province of Avellino next to the community of Rocca San Felice (Campania region).

Featured image: Face of the goddes Mefitis, bronze fragment stored in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale della Basilicata (National Archaeological Museum of Basilicata), Potenza.

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