Vertumnus

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Vertumnus is the deity of gardens, fruit trees, and the changing of the seasons in Roman mythology.

He had the ability to alter his shape at will; utilizing this ability, he deceived Pomona into speaking to him by posing as an elderly lady and entering her orchard. He then used a narrative warning of the perils of turning down a suitor (the interwoven tale of Iphis and Anaxarete) to entice her. Vertumnus and Pomona’s story has been referred to as “the earliest completely Latin narrative.” The Vertumnalia, Vertumnus’ festival, took place on August 13.

The Etruscan Voltumna is most likely the source of the name Vortumnus. The Latin word vertere, which means “to change,” is likely what drove the birth of its alternate form, Vertumnus. Traditional conceptions of a deity’s role may be seen in old etymologies, which were frequently based on superficial similarity of sound rather than the principles of current scientific linguistics. Ovid describes a time when the forum was still a marshy swamp in his poetry on the Roman calendar when “that deity, Vertumnus, whose name suits various forms, / Wasn’t yet so-called from damming back the river” (averso amne).

The painting Vertumnus (ca. 1590) by Giuseppe Arcimboldo depicts Rudolf II as Vertumnus.
The painting Vertumnus (ca. 1590) by Giuseppe Arcimboldo depicts Rudolf II as Vertumnus.

Featured image: Vertumnus and Pomona (1682–1683) by Luca Giordano

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