To many Ceres was the Roman Mother Goddess, or «great mother,» whose predecessors included Inanna, Ishtar, Artemis, Kybele, and Demeter of whom she closely resembled. She was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and one of the more important consorts of Jupiter. Her daughter Kore, in the upper world, is Persephone, goddess of the underworld. She became foster mother to Triptolemus, an ill-fated king in the mold of the Mesopotamian Dumuzi, as depicted in the classical Greek Eleusinian Mysteries.
As an embodiment of vegetation, Ceres neglects the natural world during the time Persephone is confined in the underworld, but restores the earth’s vegetation annually when her daughter returns to her.
Ceres was worshipped at the festivals of Thesmophoria and Ceralia in sanctuaries throughout the Greco-Roman empires. A.G.H.
Ceres in Roman Mythology
Ceres, in Roman mythology, is a central figure who embodies the aspects of the earth’s fertility, agriculture, and the cycles of nature. Her mythology, deeply entwined with the story of her daughter Persephone (Kore), has significant parallels with Greek goddess Demeter.
- Roman Mother Goddess: Ceres is often regarded as the Roman equivalent of the «Great Mother» goddess, a role shared by various deities across different cultures, including Inanna, Ishtar, Artemis, Kybele, and Demeter.
- Daughter of Cronus and Rhea: In Roman mythology, she is the daughter of the Titan Cronus and Rhea, making her a deity of major importance.
- Consort of Jupiter: Ceres is one of the consorts of Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods.
Association with Persephone/Kore
- Mother of Persephone/Kore: Ceres is best known as the mother of Persephone (referred to as Kore in her maiden aspect), who becomes the queen of the underworld.
- Myth of Abduction: The story of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, the god of the underworld, and her subsequent return, forms the core of Ceres’ mythology.
Symbolism and Worship
- Embodiment of Vegetation: Ceres symbolizes the growth and nourishment of vegetation. She is closely associated with the agricultural cycle and the changing seasons.
- Effect of Persephone’s Abduction: When Persephone is in the underworld, Ceres’ grief causes the earth to become barren. Her return marks the restoration of fertility and the blooming of crops.
Festivals and Celebrations
- Thesmophoria and Ceralia: Ceres was worshipped in several festivals, most notably the Thesmophoria and Ceralia, which celebrated the fertility of the earth and the sowing of crops.
- Sanctuaries and Temples: She had sanctuaries throughout the Greco-Roman world, where she was revered as a key agricultural deity.
Influence and Legacy
- Cultural Impact: The myth of Ceres and Persephone profoundly influenced Roman religious practices and had a lasting impact on Western culture.
- Representation in Art and Literature: Ceres has been a subject in various forms of art and literature, often depicted as a nurturing mother figure and a symbol of nature’s abundance.
Parallels with Demeter
- Similarities to Demeter: Ceres shares many attributes with the Greek goddess Demeter, particularly in the context of agriculture and the mother-daughter relationship with Persephone/Kore.
Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 52