Marlis Arnhold

Male Worshippers and the Cult of Bona Dea

Jahrgang 1 () / Heft 1, S. 51-70 (20)

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The article 'Male worshippers and the cult of Bona Dea' discusses the question of the presence of men in the cult of the goddess. To illustrate both the possibilities and limitations of the written and material evidence and the interpretations based on it, a small number of exemplary cases from the cities of Rome and Ostia are presented. Each attests a different form of male presence: a man approaching a sanctuary for medical help and expressing his gratitude towards the goddess; a magistrate for whom the donation of a cult-building provides a chance for representation; others taking part in the cult in what appears as a small neighborhood shrine. The cases underline the urgent need for differentiation in regard to interpretations of the evidence and for caution when it comes to attempts of generalisation. Furthermore, the actual involvement of men in the cult as attested in Trastevere, for instance, ought not to be understood as contradiction to our understanding of the cult as a female affair. The aspects of fertility and sexuality prominent in the discussion of the cult in regard to women, and the cases of men addressing the goddess all allude to the more general aspects of well-being and prosperity which have been acquired in various ways and situations.

Marlis Arnhold is Akademische Rätin at the Department of Classical Archaeology of the University of Bonn.