Vediovis Was Also an Ancient Puzzle
In the early 20th century, American archaeologist A. L. Frothingham and British classical scholar Arthur Bernard Cook, among others, studied Vediovis, who, even in the ancient world, was a curiosity. Frothingham says that the renowned Augustan era mythographer, best known for his Metamorphoses (stories about mythological transformations of mostly mortals into mostly inanimate objects), Ovid, "presupposed on the part of his readers absolute ignorance as to Vediovis and that even the name will be strange to them (novitas nominis)." He presumed ignorance despite the fact that Julius Caesar's extended family, the Julian gens, honored the god Vediovis. Frothingham believes Vediovis was a volcanic god; while Cook says Vediovis is an anti-Jove, who was worshiped in proximity to the king of the Roman gods (Jove/Jupiter) both verbally and physically.
Figuring Out the Mysterious God
Even though Vedovis is mysterious, with not quite credible or consistent reports circulating about him from antiquity, we can still guess who Vediovis was and report on the curiosities that Latin writers, like Ovid, Pliny, Aulus Gellius, and Martianus Capella report:
- Asculapius (Asclepius)
Vediovis came to be associated with the healing god Asculapius, with an aedes (temple) on Tiber Island [Lacus Curtius Platner: Aedes Veiovis].
Often Vediovis, who does not seem to have started as a chthonic (basically, earth and Underworld) god, seems to have been associated with Underworld gods Pluto and Dis, and in some sort of opposition with the sky god Jupiter.
The name Vediovis (Vedius, Vejove, or Veiovis), in its various forms, seems to hold some version of the name by which Jupiter was known: Jupiter was known as Dius, Diovis, lovis, Jove, etc.
- Volcanic Eruptions, Thunder and Lightning
Like Jupiter, Vediovis is connected with fulguration. This concept neatly combines apparently celestial phenomena with ones that appear to emerge from within the earth. Thunder/lightning, bolts (the arrows) and bursts from volcanic activity are all covered by the term fulguration. (Frothingham provides further Etruscan divination/astronomical details, based on Martianus Capella, a fifth century pagan writer influential in the field of education, that tie into the fulguration theme.)
Vedovis was also assimilated or confused with Apollo because he is depicted holding missiles, and because he is generally shown as very youthful in appearance.
- Young Jupiter and the Goat
Some Romans thought Vedovis was a young Jupiter. A shared association with goats can be traced to the rearing of the god. When Jupiter's mother spirited her last son away so he could escape consumption by his filicidal father, Amalthea tended the baby. Sometimes Amalthea is a goat. Her horn is the origin of the cornucopia [N.B. obligatory Thanksgiving holiday connection].
- Diminutive Jupiter
Cook says Ovid and others interpreted the particle Ve- at the start of the Jupiter-like name as a diminutive, making the name "Little Jupiter." Cook dismisses this possibility, politely saying, "This conjecture has been very properly relegated to the waste-paper basket."
- Ve as a Privative
Aulus Gellius [Attic Nights] interpreted "Ve-" as a privative -- depriving Jupiter of all his excellence.
- "Vediovis, the Volcanic God: A Reconstruction," by A. L. Frothingham; The American Journal of Philology, (1917), pp. 370-391.
- "The European Sky-God. III: The Italians," by Arthur Bernard Cook; Folklore, (1905), pp. 260-332.
This post originally appeared on a blog as a Myth Monday.
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