Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 94

He is represented as a young man crowned with flowers, his face heated and flushed with wine, leaning against a post in a half-sleepy and drunken attitude, with a torch falling from his hand.


The Camenæ were prophetic nymphs held in high veneration by the ancient Italians. They were four in number, the best known of whom are Carmenta and Egeria.

Carmenta was celebrated as being the mother of Evander, who led an Arcadian colony into Italy, and founded a town on the river Tiber, which became afterwards incorporated with the city of Rome. Evander is said to have been the first who introduced Greek art and civilization into Italy, and also the worship of Greek divinities.

A temple was erected to Carmenta on the Capitoline Hill, and a festival, called the Carmentalia, was celebrated in her honour on the 11th of January.

Egeria is said to have initiated Numa Pompilius in the forms of religious worship, which he introduced among his people. She was regarded as the giver of [185]life, and was therefore invoked by women before the birth of their children.

The Camenæ are frequently identified by Roman writers with the Muses.


A comforting and assuring belief existed among the Romans, that each individual was accompanied through life, from the hour of his birth to that of his death, by a protecting spirit, called his genius, who prompted him to good and noble deeds, and acted towards him as a guardian angel, comforting him in sorrow, and guiding him throughout his earthly career.

In the course of time a second genius was believed to exist, of an evil nature, who, as the instigator of all wrong-doing, was ever at war with the beneficent genius; and on the issue of the conflict between these antagonistic influences, depended the fate of the individual. The genii were depicted as winged beings, greatly resembling our modern representations of guardian angels.

Every state, town, or city, (as well as every man), possessed its special genius. The sacrifices to the genii consisted of wine, cakes, and incense, which were offered to them on birthdays.

The genius which guided a woman was called, after the queen of heaven, Juno.

Among the Greeks, beings called Dæmons were regarded as exercising similar functions to those of the Roman genii. They were believed to be the spirits of the righteous race which existed in the Golden Age, who watched over mankind, carrying their prayers to the gods, and the gifts of the gods to them.



The Manes were the spirits of the departed, and were of two kinds, viz., Lemures (or Larvæ) and Lares. [186]

The Lemures were those Manes who haunted their former abodes on earth as evil spirits, appearing at night under awful forms and hideous shapes, greatly to the alarm of their friends and relatives. They were so feared that a festival, called the Lemuralia, was celebrated in order to propitiate them.

It appears extremely probable that the superstitions with regard to ghosts, haunted houses, &c., which exist even at the present day, owe their origin to this very ancient pagan source.