Interesting Review of Liber/Bacchus Relationship

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Interesting Review of Liber/Bacchus Relationship

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Sat Jul 16, 2016 8:40 pm

I was just doing some research and I came across a very interesting article about the relationship between Pater Liber and Bacchus/Dionysus. Here is the link if anyone is interested (I posted the review in English but the article is in French):

Here is my take on it:

Liber is one of the gods where his origins are almost completely unknown. Cicero states that Liber is not equivalent of Bacchus, because he is the child of Ceres. (Cicero as quoted in The Roman Goddess Ceres, B. Stanley Spaeth, 44. Cicero, de Nat. Deor. Ii. 24). However, it should be noted that the cult of Liber was increasingly associated with the Roman forms of the cult of Dionysus/Bacchus, to the point where Liber and Bacchus’ mythology come into one story. Yet, the fact still remains that Liber has origins that predate Bacchus.
In An Introduction to Roman Religion, John Scheid writes of the two categories of gods: “those who were indigetes or `original' and the novensides, those who were newly installed." And Liber is an interesting case between the 'original' and the novensides.

Liber and the other two goddesses of the Aventine Triad retain certain aspects of their primitive Italic origin which may have been widespread throughout Hellenized Italy, long before their official adoption into Roman religion. It can be assumed that Liber is an original god of fertility and vegetation; yet, the ritual of worship is unknown. There were however, mystery cults of Liber, which Bruhl points out. He quotes Apuleius’ Apology (55):

vel unius Liberi patris mystae qui adestis scitis, quid domi conditum celetis et absque omnibus profanis tacite veneremini […]

All that Apuleius here implies is that the initiates of Liber will understand the practice of keeping signa et monumenta of initiation. What the initiation was remains a mystery, but this just points out that there was a possibly mystery cult revolving around Liber.

As Bruhl states in his article:
Liber may conceivably have retained something that he did not derive from Dionysus, but by and large for the inhabitants of the Roman world they were one god, called Dionysus or Bacchus in Greek, Liber in Latin.

What is this difference?

In Between Republic and Empire: Interpretations of Augustus and His Principate, Raaflaub and Toher state that Liber was not a god of drunken excess (unlike Bacchus) and was related to wine in positive terms (Between Republic and Empire: Interpretations of Augustus and His Principate, 282). In fact, Liber was rather a protector of humankind and therefore, related to Apollo, as painted in Augustus’ Temple of Concordia (Horace, Epist. 2.1.7). Vase paintings were made showing Apollo and Dionysus in harmony with one another. But was this not Dionysus – was it Liber? Since both of the two look so similar to one another, it is hard to tell and scholars believe it to be Dionysus.
The one true fact that separates Bacchus from Liber is Liber’s role in freedom.
Where does this trait comes from – is it a remnant of pre-Bacchus/Hellenistic worship of Liber? Or was it the one remaining element that kept Liber from being swallowed entirely by Bacchus? Even if they started to become one god, Liber continued to retain that trait (while Bacchus did not).

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them! I am continuing my research on Liber and coming up with some interesting things!
I hope you are well,
C Cassia Longina
Gaia Cassia Longina

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