1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ceres

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CERES, an old Italian goddess of agriculture. The name probably means the “creator” or “created,” connected with crescere and creare. But when Greek deities were introduced into Rome on the advice of the Sibylline books (in 495 B.C., on the occasion of a severe drought), Demeter, the Greek goddess of seed and harvest, whose worship was already common in Sicily and Lower Italy, usurped the place of Ceres in Rome, or rather, to Ceres were added the religious rites which the Greeks paid to Demeter, and the mythological incidents which originated with her. At the same time the cult of Dionysus and Persephone (see Liber and Libera) was introduced. The rites of Ceres were Greek in language and form. Her priestesses were Italian Greeks and her temple was Greek in its architecture and built by Greek artists. She was worshipped almost exclusively by plebeians, and her temple near the Circus Maximus was under the care of the plebeian aediles, one of whose duties was the superintendence of the corn-market. Her chief festivals were the ludi Cereris or Cerealia (more correctly, Cerialia), games held annually from April 12–19 (Ovid, Fasti, iv. 392 ff.); a second festival, in August, to celebrate the reunion of Ceres and Proserpine, in which women, dressed in white, after a fast of nine days offered the goddess the first-fruits of the harvest (Livy xxii. 56); and the Jejunium Cereris, a fast also introduced (191 B.C.) by command of the Sibylline books (Livy xxvi. 37), at first held only every four years, then annually on the 4th of October. In later times Ceres was confused with Tellus. (See also Demeter.)