Based on Elaine Fantham's 2004 Robson lectures, Latin Poets and Italian Gods reconstructs the response of Roman poets in the late republic and Augustan age to the rural cults of central Italy. Study of Roman gods is often limited to the grand equivalents of the Olympian Greek deities such as Jupiter, Mars, and Juno. However, real-life Italians gave a lot of their affection and loyalty to humbler gods with no Greek equivalent: local nymphs who supplied healing waters, the great Tiber river and other lesser rivers, the lusty garden god Priapus, and more.
Latin Poets and Italian Gods surveys the representation of these old country gods in poets from Plautus to Statius. Fantham offers historical and epigraphic evidence of worship offered to these colourful lesser spirits and reveals the emotional importance of local Italian deities to the sophisticated poets of the Augustan age.
About the author
Elaine Fantham (1933-2016) is British-Canadian classicist. She was Giger Professor of Latin at Princeton University from 1986-1999.