FERONIA

An ancient Italian divinity, who originally belonged to the Sabines and Faliscans, and was introduced by them among the Romans. Greek writers, as usual, describe her as of Greek origin. Dionysius (ii. 49) thus relates, that the Lacedaemonians who emigrated at the time of Lycurgus, after long wanderings (pheromenoi), at length landed in Italy, where they founded a town Feronia, and built a temple to the goddess Feronia. But, however this may be, it is extremely difficult to form a definite notion of the nature of this goddess. Some consider her to have been the goddess of liberty, because at Terracina slaves were emancipated in her temple (Serv. ad Aen. viii. 465), and because on one occasion the freedmen at Rome collected a sum of money for the purpose of offering it to her as a donation. (Liv. xxii. 1.) Others look upon her as the goddess of commerce and traffic, because these things were carried on to a great extent during the festival which was celebrated in honour of her in the town of Feronia, at the foot of mount Soracte. But commerce was carried on at all festivals at which many people met, and must be looked upon as a natural result of such meetings rather than as their cause. (Dionys. iii. 32; Strab. v. p. 226; Liv. xxvi. 11, xxvii. 4; Sil. Ital. xiii. 84.) Others again regard her as a goddess of the earth or the lower world, and as akin to Mania and Tellus, partly because she is said to have given to her son three souls, so that Evander had to kill him thrice before he was dead (Virg. Aen. iii. 564), and partly on account of her connection with Soranus, whose worship strongly resembled that of Feronia. [SORANUS.] Besides the sanctuaries at Terracina and near mount Soracte, she had others at Trebula, in the country of the Sabines, and at Luna in Etruria. (Comp. Serv. ad Aen. xi. 785; Varro, de L. L. v. 74.)