Deity of the Day
Goddess of the Grain Fields
During the classical age of the Roman Empire, the main industry was farming. A reliable and huge food supply was necessary as the population of the ever-expanding Roman Empire grew. Roman society was divided into several groups – there were the patricians, who were typically the landowners, and involved in policy and decision-making. There were also plebeians, who were average people who worked in shops and as craftsmen or laborers.
Finally, there were slaves, and the slaves were the backbone of the Roman farming industry.
Vast numbers of slaves were required to maintain the millions of acres of crops that were grown to feed the Roman people – remember, the Roman Empire at one point boasted almost seventy million people. That was about a fifth of the world’s population at the time. Because grain was a high-yield crop, well-organized agriculture could keep the populace from starving.
Ceres was the goddess of grain, specifically maize, and of the harvest season. According to Roman legend, she was the one who taught mankind how to farm. She is associated with agricultural fertility and a bountiful harvest.
Offerings and sacrifices were made to Ceres by landowners, and she was called upon during the summer months to watch over the crops and protect them from drought, insects, and flooding.
Ceres’ story parallels that of the Greek goddess Demeter. In the Roman telling of the tale, Ceres had a daughter named Proserpine, who was taken away by Pluto to the underground.
Ceres searched everywhere but was unable to find her beautiful daughter, and as she grieved for her missing child, she was so upset that all of the crops stopped growing. As a great famine struck, Ceres discovered that Proserpine was in fact with Pluto. He agreed that Proserpine could spend six months of the year with her mother, and six with him in the underworld. Each year when Proserpine returns to Pluto’s realm, the land grows cold and the crops wither and die. In the spring, she returns, and Ceres brings life to the land once more.
Today, we still use Ceres’ name as part of our regular vocabulary – crunched up gain is called cereal in her honor.
Website: Article found on & owned by About.com