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Feast of Bona Dea

(1 May and probably 3 December)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Bona Dea
Bona Dea

The feast of Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”) was celebrated on May 1 or at the beginning of December (probably on December 3). It was a Roman festival in honour of the Roman agrarian god, Bona Dea, daughter of Faunus. This holiday was worshipped only by women, due to the nature of Bona Dea herself – the goddess who is both virgin and responsible for the fertility of women.

Although she had a temple on the Aventine Hill, her feast was celebrated in the house of an important Roman family. Everything male was strictly forbidden to enter the festival, including male animals. We do not know much about the appearance of the celebrations themselves, because there are no records of it. Even in ancient times, the holiday was extremely mysterious, about which virtually nothing men knew.

Clodius Pulcher’s Scandal

In the winter of 62 BCE, there was a scandal in the Roman Republic – namely the popularis Publius Clodius Pulcher, an ally of Caesar, crept into the house of his wife Pompeii Sulla, where the mysteries related to the holiday were also held. Disguised as a woman, he began to seduce the women participating in the ceremony. Discovered by Aurelia, Caesar’s mother, he barely managed to escape led out by a slave The whole situation ended in a great scandal, and Caesar, trying to separate from the whole incident, divorced Pompeii, claiming :

I thought my wife ought not even to be under suspicion

Plutarch, Caesar, 10

Clodius was later brought to trial, but he avoided responsibility by bribing the judges. The violent attacks of Cicero on this occasion were the cause of Clodius’ persistent hatred of the speaker.

Sources
  • Brouwe, Hendrik H. J., Bona Dea
  • Jaczynowska Maria, Religie świata rzymskiego, Warszawa 1987
  • Zieliński Tadeusz, Religia Rzeczypospolitej Rzymskiej

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