Last Updated on 2022/10/19
Naenia Dea was an ancient funeral deity of Rome
A temple dedicated to the ancient Roman funerary goddess Naenia Dea was located outside the Porta Viminalis. The worship of Naenia is undoubtedly extremely old, but Georg Wissowa claims that the fact that Naenia’s shrine (sacellum) was outside of early Rome’s center suggests that she wasn’t a member of the original group of Roman deities. According to another view, her shrine stood beyond the old city gates as had been customary for all deities associated with death or dying.
Marcus Terentius Varro thought of the Naenia Dea as a personification of the protecting force of the funeral lament. Naenia shares her name with the naenia that occasionally took the connotation of carmen funebre (“dirge”) As a result, she was a goddess who was also associated with death. According to one of the early Roman etymologies of the word naenia, defined as naenia finis, Varro placed the Naenia Dea in a polar position with regard to the deity Ianus (“end”, fig.: “finale”).
Men who are on the verge of death are given to Naenia by Arnobius. Despite the fact that Cornelius Labeo was the primary influence for Arnobius’ works, the identification of Naenia as the goddess of human transience in this passage also points to a Varronian background. Tertullian may have been referring to the Naenia Dea when he spoke of the “goddess of death herself,” but it is uncertain. It’s unclear if Naenia’s worship was included in the last rites. Lucius Afranius, however, unmistakably links the obsequies to the term nenia (i.e., the burial song).
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