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Fertility Cults, Votive Offerings, and Women’s Roles in Early Roman Religion

November 3, 2019 @ 2:00 pm EST

University of Ottawa, Simard Building 125, 60 University Private
60 University Private
Ottawa, ON K1N 8Z4 Canada

AIA Society: Ottawa

Lecturer: Maureen Carroll

This lecture examines a wide variety of evidence for fertility goddesses and the association of the divine with pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing in early Roman Italy, primarily the 4th to 1st centuries B.C.E. It considers the religious context of these deities and explores aspects of their veneration, including the dedication of terracotta votives in the form of reproductive organs and other human body parts. Particularly interesting is a large assemblage of stone images of women with infants from a sanctuary at Capua. Often interpreted as cult images of a fertility goddess, this paper proposes that these images were costly votive offerings from mortal mothers to an unknown deity in thanks for the fulfilment of pregnancy and maternal and infant health. The reciprocity of the relationship between humans and gods in Roman religion is examined in the lecture, as well as the active role played by women in performing cult rituals related to fertility.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

M. Carroll, Mater Matuta, ‘Fertility Cults’, and the Integration of Women in Religious Life in Italy in the Fourth to First Centuries B.C., Papers of the British School at Rome 87, 2019 (available on early view)

R. Flemming, Anatomical votives: Popular medicine in Republican Italy?, in W. V. Harris (ed.), Popular Medicine in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Leiden: Brill, 2016, 105-125

C. Draycott and E.-J. Graham (eds), Bodies of Evidence. Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future. London: Routledge, 2017

C.E. Schultz, Women’s Religious Activity in the Roman Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006



Norton Lecture

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November 3, 2019
2:00 pm EST
Event Categories:


Laura Gagne


University of Ottawa, Simard Building 125, 60 University Private
60 University Private
Ottawa, ON K1N 8Z4 Canada
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