Di indigetes

For the pre-Roman people on the Iberian peninsula, see Indigetes.
Not to be confused with indigitamenta.

In Georg Wissowa's terminology, the di indigetes or indigites were Roman deities not adopted from other religions, as distinguished from the di novensides. Wissowa thus regarded the indigetes as "indigenous" gods, and the novensides as "newcomer gods". Ancient usage, however, does not treat the two terms as a dichotomy, nor maintain this clear-cut distinction.[1] Wissowa's interpretation is no longer widely accepted and the meaning remains uncertain.

In classical Latin, the epithet Indiges, singular in form, is applied to Sol (Sol Indiges) and to Jupiter of Lavinium, later identified with Aeneas. One theory holds that it means the "speaker within", and goes back to before the recognition of divine persons. Another, which the Oxford Classical Dictionary holds more likely, is that it means "invoked" in the sense of "pointing to", as in the related word indigitamenta.

In Augustan literature, the di indigites are often associated with di patrii and appear in lists of local divinities (that is, divinities particular to a place).[2] Servius notes that Praeneste had its own indigetes.[3]

Evidence pertaining to di indigites is rarely found outside Rome and Lavinium, but a fragmentary inscription from Aletrium (modern Alatri, north of Frosinone) records offerings to di Indicites including Fucinus, a local lake-god; Summanus, a god of nocturnal lightning; Fiscellus, otherwise unknown, but perhaps a local mountain god; and the Tempestates, weather deities. The inscription has been interpreted as a list of local or nature deities to whom transhumant shepherds should make propitiary offers.[4]

Wissowa listed 33 di indigetes, including two collectives in the plural, the Lares of the estate and the Lemures of the dead.[5] Any list of indigetes, however, is conjectural; Raimo Anttila points out that "we do not know the list of the di indigetes."[6]

Ancient sources

Carl Koch compiled a list of Latin authors and inscriptions using the phrase di indigetes or Indiges:[7]

Scholarship on the di indigetes

C. Koch, A. Grenier, H. J. Rose, Hendrik Wagenvoort, E. Vetter, K. Latte, G. Radke, R. Schilling and more recently R. Anttilla have made contributions to the enquiry into the meaning of the word Indiges and on the original nature of the di indigetes.

Particularly complete is Carl Koch's analysis[8] which centres mainly on the question of Sol Indiges. Koch has argued that Sol Indiges is the god to which is devoted the Agonium of December 11 on the grounds of the fragment of the fasti discovered at Ostia in 1921 which reads ag]ON IND[igeti CIL XIV 4547 and of Johannes Lydus de Mensibus IV 155: ...Agonalia daphneephorooi kai genarcheeei Heliooi...: Agonalia for the laurel bearer and primaeval ancestor Sol, that Lydus compares to a similar custom in Athens terminating with laurel bearing. Sol Indiges had two festivals, the other one being on August 9 on the Quirinal. He remarks too that the festival of December 11 is in correspondence with the Matralia of June 11 dedicated to Mater Matuta, considered the goddess of dawn and, in the ritual, the aunt of the sun, son of the night. Koch was the first to advance the hypothesis of the Sol Indiges as the Forefather (Stammvater) of the Roman nation.

Albert Grenier has contributed a paper[9] in which he expounds the results obtained by Koch and pays more attention to the original nature of the di Indigetes. As Koch had already done he cites the formula of the oath of loyalty to M. Livius Drusus in 91 B.C. by a Latin chief preserved by Diodorus Siculus[10] in which are mentioned, after Iuppiter Capitolinus, Vesta and Mars Pater, Helios genarchees and euergetin zooin te kai phytoon Geen, 'the mother Earth which benefits animals and plants'. Grenier thinks Sol Indiges and the Good Mother Earth, whom he interprets to be the Mater Matuta of the Matralia,[11] would be the di Indigetes of the devotio of Decius Mus. He goes on to analyse the other testimonies related to the cult of the di indigetes found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus. The first is the inscription on the monument on the Numicius supposed to be dedicated to Aeneas Iuppiter Indiges which reads: "Of the Father God chthonios who rules the flow of the Numicius". Grenier remarks the inscription does not mention Aeneas and is in fact just a small sanctuary of the god of the river. In this same region Pliny (see above) mentions a Sol Indiges and Dionysius describes a monument called at his time Sanctuary of the Sun, made up by two altars on an East–West line by a marsh: it was believed to have been erected by Aeneas as a token of thanksgiving for the miracle of the spring.[12] On this evidence Grenier concludes that Sol Indiges is connected to Lavinium and to the cult of the Penates publici of Rome, this fact being supported by Varro: Lavinium ibi dii penates nostri.[13] This identification is further supported by the tradition that the new consuls upon entering office sacrificed on this Sanctuary of the sun to Iuppiter Indiges and by the fact that the formulae of the oaths never mention the di indigetes along with Iuppiter: e.g. the Table of Bantia reads: "Iuranto per Iovem deosque Penates".[14] Grenier concludes from such evidence that the Penates were included within the indigetes.[15] The Roman Penates publici were represented as two male youngsters similar to the Dioscures and identified with the gods brought by Aeneas from Troy to Latium.[16] As the true identity of the Indigetes was secret to avoid exauguration[17] Grenier considers a later development the identification with Aeneas and Romulus and thinks the original indigetes were naturalistic gods, forces like the sun, the earth and the waters which make the wheat and the children grow. Finally he concludes they should have been the turba deorum of the indigitamenta which in his view expressed the animistic nature of the most ancient Roman religion.

A relevant point in the discussion of the sources that Grenier has though overlooked is the fact that the inscription quoted in Greek by Dionysius (I 64 end), Patros Theoy Chthonioy..., must translate Latin Dei Patrii Indigetis.[18] For a correspondence see the Greek interpretation of Tages as Hermes Chthonios.[19]

Similar conclusions have been reached by Hendrik Wagenvoort in his book Roman Dynamism Oxford 1947, chapter III "Numen, Novensiles and Indigetes", p. 73–103, as Grenier acknowledges.

H. J. Rose has refused Koch's interpretation of the di Indigetes as the primordial ancestors (Stammvater) of the Roman nation on the grounds that the formula of Diodorus is not a Roman original but is framed along the Greek fashion and looks to reflect a Greek model.[20]

Kurt Latte[21] has supported Carl Koch's thesis that the most ancient Roman religious concepts were based on the natural forces of the sun, moon and waters. He cites and quotes the invocations to the goddess of the Moon at the beginning of every month by the pontifex minor, who repeated for five or seven times the invocation: "Dies te quinque calo Iuno Covella" or when the Nonae were on the seventh day: "Septem dies te calo Iuno Covella".[22] The invocation to the god of the Tiber during the summer draught: "Adesto Tiberine, cum tuis undis". These invocations he supposes were justified by a faith in the magic power of words. Pater Indiges is attested by Solinus (II 15) as referred to Aeneas after his disappearance on the Numicius and Dionysius too makes reference to the Numicius. Latte thinks that it must be the same cult and the question is whether in augustan times the original Pater Indiges was transformed into Iuppiter Indiges. Whereas Dionysius's text may imply the latter interpretation to be the right one Latte thinks the material is insufficient to reach a decision.

The other occurrence of Indiges in the singular is that of Sol Indiges of which two festivals are known as well as the location of his cult on the Quirinal (from the Fasti)[23] one of which is the Ag]on. Ind[igeti mentioned in the Fasti of Ostia and in Lydus De Mensibus IV 155. Latte argues that the date of this latter festival does not allow to be brought into any correspondence with the yearly course of the sun, but could perhaps be the day on which sowing should be completed, citing Columella,[24] thus the sacrifice should refer to the power of the sun on vegetation.

Latte concludes that by putting all the above elements together it could be argued that Indiges might be traced to a representation in which man requests the god to ensure the safety of his sowing. As Numicus has its parallel with Tiber so Sol has its own one in the goddess of the Moon. The naive faith in the influence of celestial bodies has countless parallels even e.g. in Athens.[25]

Latte goes on to say that besides these two there are only instances in the plural which were already not understood by the ancient in Varro's times.[26] The poets of the augustan times had just a vague idea that the word was an archaism that entailed a strong ancient Roman taint in appealing to the gods, without any clear idea of its original meaning. Latte refuses Wissowa's position that it was a central concept in Roman theology, also on the grounds of its irrelevance in the Roman calendar which reflects the most ancient known religious historical representation. The iscription from Sora dating to 4 B. C. could be the issue of augustan restoration and not a proof of an original Iuppiter indiges. Another inscription from Ardea mentions novem deivo[27] and the context clearly does not allow the interpretation of newly imported, disproving Wissowa's assumptions.

Latte has also enquired into the etymology of the word indiges. He recalls the attempt by Krestchmer[28] to explain it with digitus (finger) which meets difficulties because in Rome one did not use fingers in invoking the gods and in the common original exit of the ancient singular.[29] The most ancient connection with ag-ye, aio by Corssen is based on indigitare (frequentative as agitare for agere). However more recent discussions have asked this interpretation into question as such formations are usually found only for monosyllabic verbal themes showing a vocalic shift with a preverbal, such as comes, superstes, trames, which aio excludes; moreover they have in Latin an active meaning. Also the hypothesis of a retrograde formation from indigitare meets both linguistic and semantic difficulties: the construction with agere in the meaning of rendering oneself present implies an impossible formation from a consonantic shift and the semantics of agere to render oneself present is highly unlikely for ancient times.

Another relevant remark by Latte concerns the belief in the effecacy of the divine appellatives, which are sometimes the same for different gods such as Heries Iunonis and Heres Martea.[30] The Iguvine Tables mention a ahtu iuvio and a ahtu marti interpreted as Actui Iovio and Actui Martio to which sacrifices are offered.[31] Latte remarks that here the offer is made to the abstract concept of the virtue or power of the god and not to the god himself. Other gods had special entities representing their power as in Rome Salacia Neptuni and Lua Saturni.

Latte finally refuses the interpretation indigetes divi for Greek daimones found in the translation by Macrobius[32] of Hesiod Opera 121 considering it influenced by late time speculations. The connexion of the gentilician cult of the sun of the Aurelii with that of Sol Indiges is impossible to prove.

Most recently glottologist Raimo Anttilla has made renewed attempts into the enquiry of the original meaning of the word indiges in his book on protoindoeuropean root *ag.[33]

He thinks all the etymological and formal impasses mentioned by Latte could be overcome if one makes the basis of indiges instead of verb aio (I say) verb ago in the sense of to impel, to drive, in this case to drive from within (*endo agentes). The action of the gods would be that of driving man just as man drives cattle e.g. also in sacrifice (agonium, etymology already cited by Ovid in his Fasti I 319 ff).

Anttilla bases his analysis on the results of Latte, Radke,[34] Schilling and Ancellotti and Cerri. [35] He agrees with Schilling's view that the concept underwent changes and its original meaning should be kept different from its later history. Anttilla starts considering the coincidence of Indiges with an Agonium on December 11 and its corresponce with the festival of Mater Matuta on June 11. He thinks there is sufficient evidence to say that we have to do with a solar cult centred on Lavinium connecting the sun with water and earth. Sol Indiges is Pater Indiges, divus pater i.e. Iuppiter Indiges, the highest divine power, the one which makes nature produce food. This impelling action seems close to Aja Ekapad and Savitr as variant terms for the sun in connexion with other natural phenomena.[36] A similar tint is in Indra as Samaja gathering booty, the warrior aspect of economy. It is noteworthy that AGON IND repeat the same root *ag. The Italic evidence for sacrificial and divine power under *ag is plentiful. Umbrian divinities of action, ahtu, dative singular (from *ag-t-eu) are part of the sacrificial actions of Iuppiter and Mars, whereas with Cerfe, growth (genitive singular of *ker-s-o-) the action is assigned to the other gods, e.g. Cerfus Martius 'the principle of vegetative growth in the sphere of Mars'[37] the equivalent of Ares Aphneios in Arcadia. The god of creation Brahman is called ajana, i.e. driver, instigator. It is a general human religious concept that men drive animals and god drives men. Since Indiges as driver-in makes sense, from this would also stem the meaning of indigitare, indigitamenta. Carrying out a ritual action results in driving, here agere and agonalis.

On the basis of this big picture Anttilla attempts to draw a more precise conclusion and overcome the remaining formal difficulties. He argues that holding to the old interpretation of indiges as 'the caller (forth)' and interpreting the uncertain Umbrian consonant-stem dative plural acetus 'to the callers forth' as Ancellotti and Cerri do is doubtful and the etymology would be better represented by an *ag- drive than by an *ag-ye say, as the supposed root *kei/*ki is a moving root too and not a calling root.[38] Radke has also proposed the possibility of *en-dhigh-et- grade 0 as in figulus (from IE stem DHEIG) as a nomen agentis menaing 'forming, shaping, generating from within', close to impelling.

To support his analysis Anttilla cites a medical term indigo/indigere meaning to drive bodily fluids, which is not attested in ancient texts. A hard tumor (scirosis) 'fit ex glutinoso et spisso humore quod confluendo ita membris indigitur ut insitus locis ubi considerit unum esse videatur':[39] the tumor is formed by humours that run together to a certain location by pushing the limbs from the inside so as it looks one thing with the limb where they set. So tumors are pushed in as tubers and plants. Although the lexicographic evidence is flimsy Anttilla thinks it is important owing to the close relation between medicine and religion. Indiges, indigere would hint to something coming out and bringing forth an end result (pushing into a state). Drive in is at the same time come out. The richness of nature deities or their epithets (ahtu) brings about the beneficial result of life/food. The coordinator would be Iuppiter Indiges, the Impeller corresponding to Zeus Ageetoor at Sparta.

Finally Anttilla considers the worst formal difficulty left that of the suffix -et- and its vowel not rising in indigetes, as remarked by Radke p. 151. Similar formations are merges/mergitis sheaf, ales/alitis winged, mansues/mansuetis tame, seges/segetis cornfield, harvest, produce, two of which pertain to the growing and reaping domain; Anttilla thinks in archaic religious language peculiar forms are often preserved. Indigitare evoking gods would be to drive them in for our needs and Sol Indiges would be the force that drives all of nature, particularly food. Radke and Ancellotti e Cerri interpret the -t- form as a kind of active participle or agent noun and this would be the only possibility. Latte too gives as a background for indiges the general appeal to natural forces in Roman religion, e.g. the summoning of the Moon goddess and other instances.

Archeological finds

At Lavinium in 1958 was excavated an inscription dated to the 3rd century BC reading Lare Aineia and in 1971 a templet built over a princely cenotaph in the Oriental style of the 7th century BC probably on the site of a heroon described by Dionysius Halicarnassus.[40] This would support an ancient assimilation of Aeneas to Indiges Pater.

See also


  1. Arnaldo Momigliano, "From Bachofen to Cumont," in A.D. Momigliano: Studies on Modern Scholarship (University of California Press, 1994), p. 319.
  2. For example, Vergil, Georgics 1.498f.; Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.861–867; Richard Gordon, "Roman Inscriptions 1995–2000," Journal of Roman Studies 93 (2003), p. 266.
  3. Servius, note to Aeneid 7.678.
  4. R. Gordon "Roman Inscriptions 1995–2000" in Journal of Roman Studies 93 (2003) pp. 266–267 and note 348; G. L. Gregori, L. Galli Donaria: le offerte agli dei Museo Civico di Alatri, Frosinone, 1995
  5. J.S. Wacher, The Roman World (Routledge, 1990, originally published 1987), p. 751.
  6. Raimo Antilla, Greek and Indo-European Etymology (John Benjamins, 2000), p. 180 online.
  7. Carl Koch, "Gestirnverehrung im alten Italien. Sol Indiges und der Kreis der Di Indigetes" in Frankfurter Studien zur Religion und Kultur der Antike (Frankfurt am Mein III, 1933), pp. 80–83.
  8. Carl Koch Gestirnverehrung im alten Italien. Sol Indiges und der Kreis der Di Indigetes in Frankfurter Studien zur Religion und Kultur der Antike Frankfurt am Mein III, 1933.
  9. A. Grenier "Indigetes et Novensiles" in Boletim de Filologia Bd. 11 (1950) supplem. pp. 192–205.
  10. Diodorus Siculus Bibliotheca Historica XXXVII 11
  11. Grenier cites J. Vendryes Teutomatos in C.-R. Acad. Inscr. 1939 p. 466–480 to support this interpretation against that of Mater matuta as the goddess of dawn. The root of Matuta which has given matutinus morning time, would originally mean maturus, ripe as favourable time or right time for birth, thence for extension would come its meaning of morning as the most favourable time of the day.
  12. Dion. Hal. I 55
  13. Varro Lingua Latina V 144
  14. CIL I n. 197
  15. The fact that in imperial times the formulae of the oaths substituted the name of the princeps for the mention of the Penates points to the origin of the cult of the genius of the emperor in that of Penates publici. Cf. G. Dumezil La religion romaine archaique Paris 1974, part II, chapt. 3; It. tr. p. 313
  16. Dionysius of Halicarnassus I 64 and 65
  17. Festus p. 94 L: "Indigetes, dii quorum nomina vulgari non licet". Servius Aen. II 351"...Romani celatum esse voluerunt in cuius dei tutela urbs Roma sit et iure pontificum cautum est ne suis nominibus dii romani appellarentur ne exaugurari possint".
  18. Dionysius of Halicarnassos Roman Antiquities Loeb Classical Library I 64 n. 164.
  19. Iohannes Lydus De Ostentis 2–3; Earnest Cary Loeb Classical Library 1937–1950 Harvard U. P.: Dion. Hal. Roman Antiquities I 64 n. 146.
  20. H. J. Rose Harvard Theological Review 30 1937 p. 165.
  21. K. Latte Römische Religionsgeschichte Munich 1960 pp. 43–44 and 56.
  22. Varro Lingua Latina VI 27.
  23. CIL I (second ed.) p. 324.
  24. Columella De Re Rustica II 8, 2.
  25. Marcus Aurelius V 7.
  26. Serv. Aen. VII 678; XII 794; Schol. Bern. Verg. Georg. I 498; Fest. exc 106.
  27. Vetter 364b; E. Vetter "Di Novensiles, di Indigetes" in Indogermanische Forschungen 1956 p. 1ff.
  28. P. Krestchmer Glotta 31, p. 15.
  29. Leumann Glotta 36, 1957, p.146.
  30. Festus p. 221 L; Ennius Annales 104: "Nerienem Mavortis et Herem".
  31. T. I. IIa 10.11
  32. Macrobius Ad Somnium Scipionis I 9, 7.
  33. R. Anttilla Greek and Indoeuropean etymology in action: Protoindoeuropean *ag Amsterdam and New York 2000 p. 171 and 180–183.
  34. G. Radke Die Goetter Altitaliens Muenster 1965 pp. 25–35
  35. R. Schilling Rites, cultes et dieux de Rome Paris 1979 p.63; Ancellotti & Cerri Le tavole di Gubbio e la civilta' umbra Perugia 1996
  36. Dumezil had already cited Savitr as a parallel to Ceres in La religion roamine archaique Paris 1974 part II chapt. 5; It. tr. p. 329
  37. Ancellotti & Cerri Le tavole di Gubbio e la civilta' umbra Perugia 1996 p. 188 and 192 ; Latte Roemische Religionsgechichte Muenchen 1960 p.44 and 56;
  38. On this point compare Dumezil's analysis of the etymology of goddess Ceres and of Cerus Manus, the good creator found in Paul's Festi epitome p. 249 L 2nd, perhaps an indigitation of Ianus, in La religion romaine archaique Paris 1974, part II, chapt. 5; It. tr. p. 329
  39. Quoted from Niedermann 1944 p. 72
  40. Dionysius Halicarnassus, I 64, 5; P. Sommella "Das Heroon des Aeneas und die Topographie des antiken Lavinium" in Gymnasium 81, 4 1974 pp.273 ff.; Y. Bonnefoy and W. Doniger Roman and European Mythology Chicago 1992 p.57: "This indicates the Lastin saga of Aeneas must have spread and developed between the 6th and 5th centuries probably around the sanctuaries of Lavinium and concomitant with the first Greek versions of the coming of Aeneas to Italy, Hellanicus in Dionysius of Hal. I 48".
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