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Title: Indigitamenta  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Ancient Roman religion, Di inferi, Glossary of ancient Roman religion, List of Roman birth and childhood deities, Neptune (mythology)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


In ancient Roman religion, the indigitamenta were lists of deities kept by the College of Pontiffs to assure that the correct divine names were invoked for public prayers. These lists or books probably described the nature of the various deities who might be called on under particular circumstances, with specifics about the sequence of invocation. The earliest indigitamenta, like many other aspects of Roman religion, were attributed to Numa Pompilius, second king of Rome.[1]


The books of the Pontiffs are known only through scattered passages preserved throughout Latin literature. Varro is assumed to have drawn on direct knowledge of the lists in writing his now-fragmentary theological books, which were used as a reference by the Church Fathers[2] for their mocking catalogues of minor deities.[3] As William Warde Fowler noted,

the good Fathers tumbled the whole collection about sadly in their search for material for their mockery, having no historical or scientific object in view; with the result that it now resembles the bits of glass in a kaleidoscope, and can no longer be re-arranged on the original Varronian plan.[4]

late Republic some of the most archaic deities of the Roman pantheon were not widely cultivated and understood.[5] Another likely source for the patristic catalogues is the lost work De indigitamentis of Granius Flaccus, Varro's contemporary.[6]

W.H. Roscher collated the standard modern list of indigitamenta,[7] though other scholars may differ with him on some points.


It is unclear whether the written indigitamenta contained complete prayer formularies, or simply an index of names.[8] If formulas of invocation, the indigitamenta were probably precationum carmina, chants or hymns of address.[9] Paulus defines them as incantamenta, incantations, and indicia, signs or intimations.[10]

A further point of uncertainty is whether these names represent distinct minor entities, or epithets pertaining to an aspect of a major deity's sphere of influence, that is, an indigitation, or name intended to "fix" or focalize the action of the god so invoked.[11] If the former, the indigitamenta might be described as indexing "significant names which bespoke a specialized divine function," for which the German term Sondergötter is sometimes used;[12] for instance, Vagitanus gives the newborn its first cry (vagitus).[13] If the indigitamenta record invocational epithets, however, an otherwise obscure deity such as Robigus, the red god of wheat rust, should perhaps be understood as an indigitation of Mars, red god of war and agriculture;[14] Maia, "a deity known apparently only to the priests and the learned," would be according to Macrobius[15] an indigitation of the Bona Dea.[16] Roscher, however, does not consider Robigus and Maia to have been part of the indigitamenta.

Roscher's list of indigitamenta

Many of the indigitamenta are involved in the cycle of conception, birth, and child development (marked BCh); see List of Roman birth and childhood deities. Several appear in a list of twelve helper gods of Ceres as an agricultural goddess[17] or are named elsewhere as having specialized agricultural functions (Ag). Gods not appearing on either of those lists are described briefly here, or are more fully described in their own articles as linked.


  1. ^ Michael Lipka, Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach (Brill, 2009), pp. 69–71, with reference to Arnobius, Adversus Nationes 2.73.
  2. ^ In particular, Book 14 of the non-extant Antiquitates rerum divinarum; see Lipka, Roman Gods, pp. 69–70.
  3. ^ W.R. Johnson, "The Return of Tutunus", Arethusa (1992) 173–179; William Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People (London, 1922), p. 163.
  4. ^ Fowler, Religious Experience, p. 163.
  5. ^ Kurt Latte, Roemische Religionsgeschichte (Munich, 1960), pp. 44-45.
  6. ^ Lactantius, Div. inst. 1.6.7; Censorinus 3.2; Arnaldo Momigliano, "The Theological Efforts of the Roman Upper Classes in the First Century B.C.", Classical Philology 79 (1984), p. 210.
  7. ^ W.H. Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (Leipzig: Teubner, 1890–94), vol. 2, pt. 1, pp. 187–233.
  8. ^ Matthias Klinghardt, "Prayer Formularies for Public Recitation: Their Use and Function in Ancient Religion." Numen 46 (1999), p. 44.
  9. ^ Fowler, Religious Experience, p. 163.
  10. ^ Paulus, Festi epitome p. 101 (edition of Lindsay); see p. 84 in the 1832 Teubner edition.
  11. ^ William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London, 1908), p. 89.
  12. ^ H. Usener, Goetternamen Bonn 1896.
  13. ^ D.C. Feeney, Literature and Religion at Rome: Cultures, Contexts, and Beliefs (Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 85.
  14. ^ Fowler, Roman Festivals, pp. 89–91 (on the Robigalia); Eli Edward Burriss, "The Place of the Dog in Superstition as Revealed in Latin Literature", Classical Philology 30 (1935), pp. 34–35.
  15. ^ Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.12.
  16. ^ Fowler, Roman Festivals, p. 99.
  17. ^ Georgics 1.21.
  18. ^ Augustine of Hippo, De Civitate Dei 4.21, 28: "For likewise they put their case before Aescolanus, the father of Argentinus, because copper (or bronze) money entered into use first, with silver later" (nam ideo patrem Argentini Aescolanum posuerunt, quia prius aerea pecunia in usu esse coepit, post argentea).
  19. ^ Tertullian, Ad nationes 2.11.
  20. ^ Festus, De significatione verborum, entry on arculus, p. 15 in the edition of Lindsay (Arculus putabatur esse deus, qui tutelam gereret arcarum); Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon, p. 193.
  21. ^ Tertullian, Ad nationes 2.15; compare Scansus, the god named ab ascensibus, from his relation to slopes.
  22. ^ Tertullian, Ad nationes 2.15. See for instance Clivus Capitolinus.
  23. ^ Name known only from Augustine, De civitate Dei 4.8.
  24. ^ Augustine, De Civitate Dei 6.9.
  25. ^ Augustine, De civitate Dei 4.23.
  26. ^ Augustine, De Civitate Dei 4.8.
  27. ^ Arnobius, Adversus Nationes, 4.9.
  28. ^ Augustine, De civitate Dei, 4.8; 6.7.
  29. ^ Arnobius 4.9.
  30. ^ Ludwig Preller, Römische Mythologie (Berlin, 1883), vol. 2, p. 221.
  31. ^ Augustine, De Civitate Dei 6.9.
  32. ^ Arnobius 4.9.
  33. ^ Arnobius 4.7.
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