What Was The Secret Name of Rome?

What Was the Secret Name of Rome?

A teasing question

Here is an interesting question, (one that Tiberius need not have asked nor would have condoned if asked) noted by Sir Thomas Browne in his Pseudodoxia Epidemica, (Book 1 Chapter 3), as arising in consequence of a statement of Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. III.65 ):

cuius alterum nomen discere nisi1 arcanis caerimoniarum nefas habetur.

the other name of Rome which it is held sinful to disclose except during the rites of the mysteries

The name of an entity, as we have already discussed (q.v., above, concerning the Sirens), whether of a mortal or immortal, was a magical word of power. It was believed by the Romans in common with nearly every other nation that to know the real name of an entity was to have power over that entity. One might command or injure the being whose name was evoked.2 In the case of a city or nation, it was believed that the genius or tutelary deity of the city or people might be persuaded to, or threatened into, the abandonment of its post as guardian of the city, thereby weakening the defense of those thus deserted. It was the usual practise of the Romans when they were besieging a town to address a plea to the genius of the city to withdraw and come over to them, promising that it would be treated far more handsomely and generously among the Romans than it had been heretofore among its own people.3

If the secret name of the god were known, then pleasantries might be followed by threats of compulsion should the god not accede. It was, therefore, the gravest matter of national security that real name of the genius of a city be known only to those who could be trusted to protect it from disclosure. In fact, Pliny goes on to say (Nat. Hist. III.67 ) that one person who had been so foolish as to disclose the name came to a bad end (q.v. below). What, then, was the secret name of Rome?


This is surely one of the most intricately concealed matters that could be imagined. While the genius of Rome was familiarly addressed in her personified form as Roma and thus depicted on coins, she had the formal pubic name Angerona and her festival was celebrated on December 21. Her statue, again following Pliny, represented Angerona4 as having a bandage over her mouth, undoubtedly to prevent her from revealing her own name and to enjoin those who served her to likewise refrain from naming her. The secret name of the deity, which, by the way, would have been the real name of the city itself, would have been known and spoken only by a very few persons, namely those who officiated at the festival of the deity, the college of her priests. The Pontifex Maximus, too, would have known the name, as would, no doubt, the chief Vestal, and, in Imperial times, the head of state, the Princeps or Emperor, who usually assumed the title and functions of the Supreme Pontiff. Nowadays, except for the Supreme Pontiff, who is not likely to worry himself over the name of a pagan deity, all those titular personages are vanished. With the one exception noted by Pliny, those who knew the name of Roma seem to have kept their oath. How then shall we hope to recover a name that was faithfully hidden for more than a millennium and has been forgotten for nearly as long? There are some clues.

An invaluable clue

Pliny himself drops one hint in the passage noted above, although it is not really evident until it is put together with another bit of information that he gives us elsewhere. While noting that it is forbidden to utter the ceremonial name of the deity, Pliny identifies the nefarious violator of the sacred trust:

_optimaque et salutari fide abolitum enuntiavit Valerius Soranus, luitque mox poenas.

Now Valerius Soranus is most probably Quintus Valerius Soranus (circa 100 B.C.), a once famous Roman antiquary and poet whose knowledge of Roman history Marcus Licinius Crassus considered unrivalled5. In name, at least, he was a man doubly lucky. Quintus and Valerius were particularly favored names among the Romans, and men of those names and others like them were routinely selected to take the lead in sacrifices or in new undertakings, because of the fortunate nature of their nomenclature. (Frazer. Golden Bough, cites numerous authorities.) It is not surprising, then, that a person named Quintus Valerius Soranus would have had possession of the sacred name of the protective deity of Rome, probably as a consequence of being numbered among the college of priests of the temple. Why did he betray that national trust? Being of an historical and literary turn of mind, he undoubtedly shared the scepticism that seems to characterize historians, even of that era, and he might have let slip the ineffable name, thinking, with Pliny himself, that such magical prohibitions were nonsensical. (Or he simply might have pressed his luck.) How or why the disclosure was made is irrelevant, and the name itself was not included with the story of its revelation. Of what use, then, is the information? In and of itself, no use whatsoever. Combined with something else said by Pliny and amplified elsewhere, it is very useful.

The deities of Soracte

On Mount Soracte, about twenty-five miles northeast of Rome, there was a very ancient temple served by a college of priests drawn from a small number of indigenous families of Samnite origin collectively called Hirpini. (In the same area was an oracle, which means that there was vulcanism beneath the surface, as Pliny confirms6. Both the oracle and the temple were sometimes said to belong to Apollo.7) The rites of the deity of this temple included a singular act (for Italy), which some Roman authors found sufficiently odd or miraculous that they noticed it in their works, Vergil and Silius Italicus among them. It was the duty of these priests annually to walk barefoot over a bed of live embers from a pine wood bonfire, those of unsullied character presumably passed through the flames unharmed and oblivious to pain, while those in whom the deity had found some fault suffered burns8 in the normal way of things. The term fumigation has been applied to the rite, because, it has been suggested, the smoke rather than the fire was the active principle, and the offerings to the god were purified when the priests carried them through the fumes arising from the smoking embers. In any case, whatever the purpose of the act, it was deemed of such vital importance to the continuing welfare of the Roman state that the Senate exempted from any further obligations of service into perpetuity the families from whom these priests were selected. This point needs to be appreciated at its full value. From our perspective, the truly singular aspect of this cultic ritual reposes not in the firewalk but in the exemption (called a vacatio) gained by it for the performers and their families.

It was sometimes permitted to a family that had rendered exceptional service to Rome, usually in war, to be relieved of some civic burden or obligation for a span of limited duration. For instance, in Republican times, families that had lost a son in battle and which were in danger of extinction could be exempted from sending a surviving son into the legions as a means of preserving the family, from the stability of which the whole strength of the Roman state was thought to arise. In the early Imperial years, Augustus would remit certain taxes for young men who had taken a wife and produced children and would fine single men who refused marriage. But exemption was usually conferred only for a generation (like a life peerage) or until such time as the continuance of the family had been assured. That an entire gens or clan should have been given this type of exemption, broadened to include all forms of civic obligation, for an indeterminate span into the future is not only exceptional, it is practically unprecedented, but that the People and Senate of Rome should confer this boon upon a group of families of foreign, in fact of Samnite origins, is simply astounding. Only the most signal and essential connection to the maintenance of Rome could have warranted such a privilege.

Frazer has thought the matter of the firewalk important enough to his own arguments to collect the references to it (Golden Bough, xi 14-15 and notes), and it is from that resource that we can draw our conclusions. The Samnite gens from whom the priests were drawn were the Hirpini, who traced their arrival in the area to a "sacred spring" of some immemorial period (Golden Bough, iv 186 and notes 4 & 5). (It was the habit of some peoples to offer all of their first born, whether human or beast, of the spring of a particular year for sacrifice to guarantee fertility. Later, this sacrifice was mitigated to include only the beasts, followed later with the expulsion of the grown children to found a new colony at some place chosen for them by their deity.) The god that led the sacred spring of the Samnites to Soracte took the form of a wolf (from the Samnite hirpus), and the people were known thereafter as the Hirpini. The god whose temple they built on the mount was called Soranus, and the priests of the god were the hirpi Sorani, the wolves of Soranus.

Equating Soranus and Angerona

It should be obvious, now, that (Quintus) Valerius Soranus must have been a member of these highly esteemed Hirpini, in fact was one of the hirpi Sorani16, and that he had a special relationship to the safety of Rome's most important secret. The knowledge for which he was acclaimed must have been gained by reason of his familial history, and it is very possible that the punishment laid upon him, of which Pliny speaks, was suffered during the firewalk, by which his impiety was proven and the requisite retribution exacted.

If, as we have argued, (Quintus) Valerius Soranus was punished during the rites of the deity of Soracte, then we must conclude that there existed between that numinous being and the tutelary goddess of Rome a very intimate connection, for it was not the normal or general habit of one deity to punish a sacrilege which had been committed against the dignity of another. Divine collegiality was not remarkable, except by its absence. Further, it seems unlikely that a priest of the deity of Soracte, who by virtue of that hereditary office had been exempted from any other state obligations, would have been also a priest of the Sacra Urbs, unless those deities were one and the same. (Gods are, by their nature, jealous.) While no precise correspondence can be demonstrated, the god of Soracte was sometimes called Feronia9, and the deity of Rome was sometimes called Agenoria or Ageronia.10 There might be an easy etymological descent, by way of Sancus, the Sabine god, from Soranus to Sacra Urbs11. As for Feronia, the deity of Soracte appears to have been alternately male and female, and there is the temptation to believe that the worship at Soracte was directed to a pair of deities, perhaps Soranus and Sorania, much in the manner of other local Italian deity pairs.12 The change from Sorania to Feronia is small enough to be allowed. But, even if disallowed, there is enough evidence, based upon the linkage between the cults of Soranus and Angerona in the person of Quintus Valerius Soranus, to make those cults, at least in the worship of their female aspects, identical. Could the deity of Rome, then, have been called Sorania?

Possible answer and objections

It is too much to expect that we could have found out the name so easily. It would not have been much of a secret were it thus. However, the connection appears to be sound, and the conclusion that identifies the two deities as aspects of the same is likewise strongly supported. Despite this, the use of the god's name as a cognomen would have been rather too obvious. What else did the Hirpini Samnites and Romans have in common?

Further evidence

Two creatures were held to be sacred to Mars and to have shared in caring for his twin offspring during their exposure, the wolf and the woodpecker. The wolf, we have seen, was credited with leading the Hirpini to their promised land. As it happens, the woodpecker filled a similar role for another Samnite tribe, the Piceni (from picus, woodpecker), and the woodpecker was said to be the sacred bird of Feronia, the female aspect of the deity at Soracte. That both the bird and the canine appear in the story of Romulus suggests that early Romans owed much to both tribes, and the etymology seems to support that conclusion.

The priests who performed the firewalk were, we have been told, hirpi Sorani, the "wolves of Soranus". Now the ordinary Latin for "wolf" was "lupus". hirpus does not seem to have occurred elsewhere in Latin. Yet the word is very ancient and was of the first importance to the Roman state. Curiously, while hirpus did not pass into the vulgar Latin, picus did. This strikes one as significant.13 Was there some special reason why hirpus did not become common? Could it have had special significance amounting to interdictum that would have prevented its assimilation?

The legend of the suckling of Romulus and Remus by the she-wolf shows us exactly how important that the word was to Rome. If it were not for the wolf, the founder of Rome would not have survived on bread crumbs alone, and Rome would not have been built. In other words, the very existence of Rome was owed to the act of the wolf. Is it possible that the wolf-god of the Hirpini was the wolf-god of Romulus? Might not the Samnite tutelary god Hirpus (or Hirpa) have been the deity whom Romulus regarded as his own guardian goddess, the deity whom he established as the protector of his new city and the source of its real name? Could the secret name of Roma have been Hirpa?

A Digression

Digressing, it was during the search for Achilles' feminine name that we had occasion to mention an ancient anecdote about the birth of a child to a woman of the Ligures, who, when she was delivered of it, lay it down in a thicket and returned to her work in the fields. Besides illustrating the toughness of the people, it is a glimpse at the real origin of many exposure stories: it is an adoption story. It shows a legal (i.e. sacramental) process by which a child is naturalized as a member of a clan and thereby made a child of that clan's god. In the process, the real mother pretends to abandon the child in a reed or wicker boat or basket, (a trough in the story of Romulus and Remus) and a woman or man of the tribe into which the infant is being adopted then pretends to find the child and to make it a member of his or her family. Through its adoptive parents, the child then becomes a member of the clan. This ceremony of adoption can also be applied to adults, who must first pass through some symbolic rebirth and discovery before being accepted into the clan. This implies a willing surrender of the child by the biological parents.

Supposing for a moment that the swineherd Faustulus was of the Hirpini, then we would have to conclude that Romulus was adopted into the Hirpini tribe and that their tutelary god, Hirpus/Hirpa, became his own. To say that he was suckled by the wolf would then be as much as saying that he had been adopted into the clan. This could be a legendary reading of the historical relationship of the Romans to the native people of the area. The Romans, as newcomers, may have made a pact or treaty with the Hirpini, and part of the mechanism of treaty might have included the adoption of the Romans, through their chief, into the Hirpini clan, thereby giving the Romans natural rights. The wolf-god or goddess then became the tutelary spirit Roma who gave her sacred name to the city, binding the Romans to the Hirpini eternally. Was Faustulus of the Hirpini? The evidence is circumstantial, but there is nothing contrary.

First, Faustulus was a herdsman. He was not, therefore, of the nobility, who were all Trojans by descent, although some of the Trojans themselves were descended from a shepherd. It was in Alba as in every country which has been settled by conquerors: the nobility have been of the newcomers and the commoners have been of the indigenous peoples. It was thus in Britain after the Norman conquest, and was thus in America after the arrival of the Europeans. Second, when he found or exposed the children, he noted that they were more beautiful and of greater size than the ordinary infant, and he suspected that they were of a better birth, which seems to suggest that he was himself of low origins. Third, his wife was Larentia, who was by tradition a prostitute. Except for Justinian (and some of the madder emperors), prostitutes were not the wives of the the nobility. Faustulus was not a Trojan, was of low birth, and was married to a prostitute, but that does not make him Hirpini. He could have been Etruscan, Oscan, Sabine, Samnite, etc. There is one other clew, however, that suggests an Hirpini origin for Faustulus, and that is provided by Plutarch.

In his biography of Romulus, Plutarch repeats the claim that Acca Larentia (as he calls Larentia) was a prostitute, and adds that the Romans called prostitutes wolves (from lupus), from which some derive the story of the twins being suckled by the wolf. He goes on to say, that she is honored by the Romans with libations in April during the Larentian feast. Now this is a curious mistake, for the Larentialia is in December, as is the feast of Angerona. The major feast of April was the Palilia (or Parilia) in honor of Pales, and was celebrated as the date upon which Rome was founded, and during which the flocks are purified with smoke from sulfur and shepherds leapt over three straw ricks that have been fired. To make such a basic and obvious error seems uncharacteristic. This egregious error of juxtaposition is rendered the more remarkable in that but a few pages further in his narration he correctly places the Palilia at its proper time, as he does the Lupercalia in February. The Roman calendar was not unknown to him. Was the mistake intentional, a means by which he could say indirectly, in drawing attention to the real date of the Larentialia, that the wolf of the Hirpini was involved, a statement which, if made directly, might have come too near to disclosing the secret? Was it simply a case where he unconsciously associated the two? Whatever might have been the reason, the idea of grouping the Larentialia, Palilia, and Angeronalia (and the Lupercalia as well, for that matter) is sound enough. That Faustulus and Larentia were of the Hirpini is a reasonable, even if not irrefutable, conclusion based upon the evidence at hand.


Summing up the arguments for the theory that Hirpa was the name of the deity of Rome, hirpus is a word of such rarity that it would not have been widely known among the general populace, one measure of the sacredness of a word being its scarcity in ordinary usage. Second, Feronia and Angerona were likely the same deity, the female aspect of Soranus, the wolf god called Sancus by the Sabines and worshipped under that name at Rome. That the cult was not centered in Rome would have insulated it from discovery by Rome's enemies.14 That it was sometimes referred to Apollo15 or to other deities would have made the relationship even more obscure. Third, there is the person Valerius Soranus, apparently a member of the priesthood of both Angerona and of Feronia. Individually, these clues, Valerius Soranus, punished for an impious act offered to Angerona, the cult of Soranus at Soracte of which the hirpi Sorani were its priesthood, the prominence of the wolf in the legendary history of both the Hirpini Samnites and the Romans, might not withstand the weight of our argument, but, when spun together, they form a substantial thread by which to tie the deity worshipped at Soracte to the genius of Rome.


It is probable, therefore, that Hirpa, or some variant thereof, was the secret name of the goddess and of the city over which she spread her protection.


Additional Notes

Previous Question



1 In deference to modern scholorship, I have adopted the modern reading. The quotation as it was known in Browne's time and as it appeared in his essay was: cuius alterum nomen discere secretis ceremoniarum nefas habetur.The original reading is actually superior to the suggested emendation. The use of the genitive with the verb discere makes the sense rather difficult to render in English. The correct translation would be: Rome itself, the other name, of the secret rites of which it is held sinful to speak, etc. In other words, the name is the focus of the sacred mysteries of the goddess Roma, but it is of the mysteries as an whole that it is sinful to speak. The name itself is not singled out for a secrecy greater than that given the mysteries of which it is the central feature, but is included in the broader prohibition. The revelation of any portion of the mysteries would have been equally sinful, although the name itself was the Ultra secret of its time, from the keeping of which the entire welfare of the Roman state was believed to depend. The sense of the modern version places the emphasis upon the revelation of the name as being sinful rather than upon the disclosure of the mysteries of the name, but the general meaning of the original is still perceptible, that the name was to be spoken only during those rites.Back to Text.

2 The magistrates of Rome had access to forces greater than mere force of arms to assert their authority. They were able to call upon the numina to enforce their edicts in extraordinary matters affecting the state. Plutarch, in his masterful biography of Crassus, tells us that, when on the point of leaving Rome for his province of Syria, Crassus was in defiance of the Tribune Ateius, who alone all of the Roman magistrates had dared to forbid the Consul to leave the city. (Consuls normally remained in Rome until their year-long term had expired, at which time they assumed their Proconsular postings.)When Crassus ignored this prohibition placed upon him, a grievous violation of Roman law, Ateius attempted to arrest the Consul, but was forced to release him because the other Tribunes lacked the courage to act, a multitude having gathered to see Crassus depart, escorted by Pompey, his colleague. Ateius, unable to enforce his veto, set up a brazier in the gateway by which Crassus was to leave, and, burning incense, called down on Crassus the most terrible of curses, invoking by name powers whose names might not be spoken except in the direst circumstances. Crassus, of course, left Rome, only to die in Parthia with the loss of his legion, whose standards were not recovered until Tiberius sent them home in the time of Augustus. Back to Text.

3 Pliny, ibid XXVIII.18, paraphrasing Verrius Flaccus, an antiquary of the previous century.

_in opugnationibus ante omnium solitum a Romanis sacerdotibus evocari deum cuius in tutela id oppidum esset promittique illi eundem aut ampliorem apud Romanos cultum. et duret pontificum disciplina id sacrum, constatque ideo occultatum in cuius dei tutela Roma esset, ne qui hostium simili modo agerent.

Among the ancients, wars between nations were a contest between the respective deities of those nations, who were as champions of the opposing armies. The defeat of one army was naturally viewed as a defeat of the deity of that army by the deity of the victors. Historically, when the religion of a city or nation has undergone a change, it is safe to assume that a war has been lost and the gods of the victors installed. The supplanting of a deity in myth can likewise often be attributed to conquest. It was also possible to abduct a deity by removing its sacred objects or statue to another city. The transfer of a deity from one nation to another could be suggested by the deity itself, as in the case of the Great Mother, who informed by means of earth shocks King Attalus of Pergamum that she desired to relocate to Rome. Back to Text.

4 Pliny (ibid). There is some confusion on the point of the appearance of the statue of Angerona. Other writers claim that she was represented with a finger pressed to her lips rather than with mouth covered by a bandage. However, this discrepancy might have developed from second-hand knowledge, for the same authors usually say that Angerona was considered the Goddess of Silence and of Suffering, leading one to conclude that the latter titles were based upon a false etymology that derived her name from the root meaning "to narrow or straiten" from which the word "anguish" is formed. It is possible that, having been told of the existence in Rome of a statue showing a goddess whose finger was raised to her lips, the writers quite naturally associated it with Angerona, whose statue had an attribute enjoining silence or secrecy. Thus she became the Goddess of Silence as well, at least in literature. One is reminded of the representations among the Egyptians of the goddess Maat, whose eyes were sometimes shown covered by a blindfold at the weighing of the heart of the deceased against the Feather of Truth (whence the Figure of Blind Justice) and of the figure of Harmarchis (Horus) who is shown as a child with his forefinger raised to his lips, an attitude probably denoting the anointing of the lips for some ceremonial purpose such as the "opening of the lips" of the dead, rather than enjoining silence. A female statue in Rome with her finger to her lips would likely have also indicated the anointing of the lips for some similar purpose, such as the uttering of oracular statements. That goddess would, then, have been Mefitis, whose oracle was in Ampsancus. It is also possible that Maat and Harmarchis were somehow merged, for it was said and so drawn by the Egyptians that Maat (the horizon) embraced Horus (Harmarchis as the daytime Sun) twice a day, at Dawn and and Sunset. (See note 6, below.) Back to Text.

5 We have the authority of Mr. Robert Graves for this. I have not been able to track down the exact quotation from Crassus, but Mr. Graves is generally reliable for his sources. If Pliny's Valerius Soranus is not the same person, it is of no real importance to the argument.

The full translation of the quote from Pliny, continued here from the earlier citation, would run: Rome itself, the other name, of the seecret rites of which it is held sinful to speak, Valerius Soranus revealed, violating the highest security and trust, and shortly thereafter he paid the penalty.

That the crime was actually committed is open to debate. .Back to Text.

6 Pliny (Nat Hist. II 208) notices the deadly vapors that collected on the surface in the valley of Ampsancus and near Soracte, both in the country of the Hirpini, and which could kill birds or men. Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide are both highly toxic constituents of volcanic emissions and can kill without the victim apprehending the danger. Also Vergil, Aeneid, VII 84, 568 hic specus horrendum et saevi spiracula Ditis. The oracle must have belonged to the god or goddess Mefitis, who had a temple in Ampsancus, and from which the word "mephitic" comes to us. The exhalations were the "breath of Dis". Back to Text.

7 Both the Aequanus of Silius and the Arruns of Vergil are called the priest of Apollo. Back to Text.

8 Pliny (ibid, VII.19) Haut procul urbe Roma in Faliscorum agro familiae sunt paucae quae vocantur Hirpi; hae sacrificio annuo quod fit ad montem Soractem Apollini super ambustam ligni struem ambulantes non aduruntur, et ob id perpetuo senatus consulto militiae omniumque aliorum munerum vacationem habent.

Modern recreations of this rite are more commercial than spiritual, the secret lying in the moisture that adheres to the soles of the feet, either from sweat or from the dew of the grass. The act is generally attempted in the evening, when the grass is wet and the fire has burned down to glowing coals. It is not necessary to mention the sojourn of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace or to speak of the "trial by fire" to see this rite as one testing the purity of faith of the participants. Back to Text.

9 The deity of Soracte was also sometimes called Oscines, suggesting that the Oscans, too, were under its protection. There appears to have been a deliberate attempt to obscure the identity of the deity being worshipped in the temple at Soracte. Back to Text.

10 There was among the Greeks of Orchomenus a festival called the Agnioria, during which an hunt or chase was conducted, the object of which was for the priest of Dionysus to overtake and kill any of the participants in a ritualistic race. It may be that the rites at Soracte were originally designed as a blood sacrifice, which would more fully explain the perpetual "vacation" given to the families who supplied the priest-victims. The victims of the Agnioria were also privileged, being members of the royal house. Orcus was the old Latin god of the underworld, the Roman Dis. In his combinative form Lupus Orcus, Lupercus, he was the god of the shepherds, who warded off the wolf. The shepherds would naturally placate the wolf-spirit in order to protect their flocks. Back to Text.

11 The Sabine god Sancus is very likely the god of Soracte, videlicet, the root of Sancus is that of sancio, SAC, which is related to the root of the the word for wolf, lupus (Gr.). Soranus can readily be perceived as a localized Samnite or corrupted form of Sancus. The identification is affirmed by the name Angerona and its variant Agenoria, which are derivative of the words for lamb, agnus, and the sacrificial beast, agonium, which clearly is meant to represent the sheep as victim. The priesthood of the god Sancus were called Bidentals, and they sacrificed the two-year old sheep, bidentes, to their god. (bidens was also the name of a two-pronged mattock. It is possible that the farm implement was used to stun the sheep before slaughter, thereby giving the victim the name bidentes.) Thus, we have complimentary cults in service of the same deity, which itself has male and female aspects, the which are served by priesthoods that call themselves the one Wolves (Soranus, Feronia) and the other Sheep (Sancus, Agenoria/Angerona). That the worship of Sancus was very old in Rome is attested by the report in Pliny (ibid, VIII.194) that there still hung in the Temple of Sancus a distaff and spindle bearing wool that had been spun by Gaia Caecilius, wife of Tarquinius Priscus, fifth king of Rome. Plutarch states that it was even older, for he says that the Romans and Sabines adopted each the others gods at the time of the treaty between Romulus and Tatius. There was an inscription on the base of the statue of Sancus, recorded by Tertullian which ran as follows: Sanco sanctus Semon. dio Fidio sacrum decuria sacerdotum bidentalium.

Varro shows that Semo Sancus is correctly a synonym of the supreme deity, called Apollo or Dis or Zeus, while Servius says that Soranus, the deity of Soracte, was the father of Dis Father of wolves. Thus Soranus (Ouranous, the Father of all gods) is Semo Sancus.

Lexicographer Charlton Lewis went so far as to derive Samnium from Sabinium, which would make the Samnites themselves derivative of Sabine stock, a tribe that had become separated from the parent nation by an earlier "sacred spring", growing eventually into a nation unto itself. This would account for the presence in Sabine territory of the Hirpini and their possession of the priesthood of Soranus: they, a kind of lost tribe, had, indeed, come home to Soracte in another, later sacred spring, this one out of the Samnite nation, reclaiming their birthright. Based upon the etymological rules for the mutation of consonants discovered by Scaurus (De Orthographia), the change that Lewis hypothesizes is justified. "b" cum "p" et "m" consentit, quoniam origo earum non sine labore coniuncto ore respondet. a quo quem Graeci  Purri/an nos Byrriam, et quem <nos> Pyrrum antiqui Burrum et Palatium <Balatium>, item Publicolam Poplicolam: et alii scamillum, alii scabillum dicunt: aut cum ab eadem voce duae gignuntur, ut ab eo quod est princeps et caelebs principis et caelibis, nec minus e contrario in verbis, cum <a> carpo et scribo carpsi et scripsi proferimus.

Varro (Rerum Humanorum) states explicitly that the Saminites were Sabine.

It is worthwhile noting that the Sabines were especially fruitful and were responsible for numerous colonies founded in the same manner, among them the Mamertines of Sicily, who took their name from the Oscan god of war, Mamers, a title of Mars in Rome. The Mamertines,who spoke an antique form of Latin, harried Pyrros of Epiros, inflicting relatively heavy losses, during his retreat from Sicily and Italy.

Parenthetically, one wishes to point out that the Northern Giantess Angabroda (Angurboda), mother of Fenris wolf and Hel, seems somehow related to Angerona. The similarity of name and the presence of the wolf with each, at least by my calculations, adds up to a kinship if not actual identity. It is odd that the only people to sack Rome prior to the empire should have been Gauls. Could they have known the secret name because of their knowledge of Angurboda? Back to Text.

12 e.g. Faunus and Fauna, Janus and Jana, Dianus and Diana. Also, on that model, Bellus and Bellona. We may deduce Bellus from its original form duellus and its root (DVA, DVI) signifying "two" or "to divide", because bellum was originally duellum. Thus the warring couple, Bellus and Bellona, a dual deity. What the Romans called the marriage of the gods was in reality a sexual duality or androgyne. Bellus, therefore, the Latin god of war, appears to have pre-dated the Roman Mars, who for political reasons must have taken Bellona, the relict of his predecessor, to wife. Back to Text.

13 It also seems possible that the ascendancy of the wolf over the woodpecker is reflected in the triumph of Romulus over Remus. Back to Text.

14 The temple at Soracte was looted by order of Hannibal in 211 B.C. (Livy, Ab Urbe. XXVI.11-12) No doubt this accounts for the sudden reversal in his fortune and for the confidence shown by the Romans. In regard of that last, Livy tells an amusing story: the land on which Hannibal had made his camp had been for sale prior to Hannibal's seizure of it, and, contrary to all reason, actually had been sold after his occupation of it without any reduction in price. Hannibal was understandably chagrined by the news. He did not learn the sacred name of Rome from the Hirpini, and had to content himself with merely riding, impotent, around the walls of Rome. Had he been more polite to the deity of Soracte, he might have fared better. His soldiers, wiser and more pious than their general, left behind their own donations of bronze coins to show their respect for the deity, whose sanctuary they had been commanded to violate. Back to Text.

15 Phoebus was in the habit of usurping the honors and the oracles of other gods, as happened with the Pythian oracle, for example, where Themis had delivered her utterances before being ousted. In Ampsancus, however, this supplanting has the earmarks of disinformation, although, if Frazer was correct in assigning sky-god attributes to Semo Sancus, the identification with the sun god could be legitimate. Apollo had among his many titles Wolf and Wolf-Slayer. Certainly, the compounding of the Sabine god into the name of the valley and oracle is clear enough evidence upon which to bring in a verdict identifying Soranus and Sancus as titles belonging to the same deity.  Back to Text.

16 This is proven by Varro De Lingua Latina: flamines, quod in Latio capite velato erant semper ac caput cinctum habebant filo, f<i>lamines dicti. horum singuli cognomina habent ab eo deo cui sacra faciunt; sed partim sunt aperta, partim obscura: Back to Text.