Is this true?

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Is this true?

Postby Lucius Tyrrhenus Garrulus on Sun Jan 25, 2004 4:28 am

SALVETE OMNES, S.V.B.E.V.
Someone e-mailed me this:
30 B.C.: Roman poet Horace in his Epodes of Horace associated Witches with the goddess Diana in a mystery cult.
Is this true? Horace was a poet right? This shouldn't be taken as evidence of witchcraft in Classical Rome, correct?
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sun Jan 25, 2004 3:48 pm

It depends on what he means with "witches" and what the original Latin term was... "witch" is a Germanic word (I reckon it's derived from ancient Germanic "witan" which means "to know") that refers to a wise person/sorcerer/medicine man or woman of some sort and later became almost exclusively associated with female Satan-worshippers or neo-paganists.

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Postby Q. C. Locatus Barbatus on Sun Jan 25, 2004 6:25 pm

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Re: Is this true?

Postby Horatius Piscinus on Mon Jan 26, 2004 2:18 pm

Salve

Evidence of witches in ancient Rome begins with the Twelve Tablets. In the literature:

Horace Epodes 5; Satires 1.8
Tibullus: 1.2.42-66; 1.5.39-59
Ovid Heroides 6.83-94; Amores 1.8.1-20; 3.7.27-36, 73-84; Fasti 2.572-83; Metamorphoses 7.21
Propertius 4.5.1-18, 63-78
Apuleius Metamorphoses 1.5-19; 2.21-30; 3.15-28
Petronius Satyricon 63Vergil Eclogues 8.64-109; Aeneid 4.450-705
Lucan Pharsalia 6.541-9
Pliny Natural History 7.14-15; 25.11
Additionally are the hundreds of dexiones

The Romans recognized a distinction between good witchcraft, as in healing, and evil witchcraft as was used in necromancy. The evil witches Ovid called strigae, while the good witches are sometimes called vates, at other times they are the sagae or simply wise women.

As for the bit about Diana, that sounds like a late interpretation by Christians. Witchcraft, especially evil witchcraft was associated with Hecate.

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Mon Jan 26, 2004 6:36 pm

Salve Piscine,

Are these vates the same as in "poetae vates", who were said to be divinely gifted (often depicted as blind) and could write great poetry in one stroke, so to speak (as opposed to the "poeta faber" or the struggling poet)?

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Tue Jan 27, 2004 11:07 pm

Salve mi Draco

Vates and sagae both can mean very different things, depending on context. Vates can be applied to women who healed primarily by reciting charms. In one sense they can be thought as priests and priestesses that you would find at a temple, and one of their functions at a temple would bejust this, to offer healing spells like the one found in Cato Agricultura. I seem to recall Pliny mentioning such a form of healing at temples when discussing a history of medicine at Rome. Such charms, or carmina, would be put into the versus Saturnius, and thus the vates who would make up such charms as were needed, impromtu would also be poetae vates. At times though you find the term applied to what we would think of as a poet, (I think Ovid may refer to himself one time as a vates). At other times it can refer to a charm spinning witch, in a good sense. For the latter, I think there is an example in Horace where the vates provide a love charm. She might also be thought to refer to a woman who would have been a common figure in Italian villages well into the twentieth century. She is a healer, maybe using charms or herbs, relying mainly on folk remedies. Both vates and sagae cross over to becoming a kind of witch figure when they lend love charms as well as curing charms. Then, too, vates were also said to be able to whip up poetic charms to curse fruit trees, change the weather, pull down the moon and the whole assortment of witchery that is commonly found in the Latin literature I pointed out earlier.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:48 am

Salve iterum, mi Draco

I was going over some of the formulae for silentium and ran into one example. The Sibyl in Virgil's Aeneid is called a vates where she pronounces the silentium at 6.258. The term is not meant to call her a poetress.

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