Goddess of childbirth and prophecy, protector of mothers and children, patron of midwives, inventor of the alphabet
|Member of the Camenae|
Nicostrata-Carmenta inventing the Latin alphabet (Antoine Dufour, 1504)
|Major cult center||a shrine near the Porta Carmentalis|
|Offspring||Evander of Pallantium|
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In ancient Roman religion and myth, Carmenta was a goddess of childbirth and prophecy, associated with technological innovation as well as the protection of mothers and children and a patron of midwives. She was also said to have invented the Latin alphabet.
The name Carmenta is derived from Latin carmen, meaning a magic spell, oracle or song, and also the root of the English word charm. Her original name was Nicostrate (Greek: Νικοστράτη, "victory-army"), but it was changed later to honor her renown for giving oracles (Latin singular: carmen). She was the mother of Evander of Pallene (fathered by Hermes) and, along with other followers, they founded the town of Pallantium which later was one of the sites of the start of Rome. Gaius Julius Hyginus (Fab. 277) mentions the legend that it was she who altered fifteen letters of the Greek alphabet to become the Latin alphabet which her son Evander introduced into Latium. Carmenta was one of the Camenae and the Cimmerian Sibyl. The leader of her cult was called the flamen carmentalis.
A city was established on the Tiber by King Evander and his mother Carmenta in the year 1320 BC. This was some sixty years before the Trojan War. The foundations for the great city that was to become Rome were laid by Carmenta. She introduced agriculture, poetry and music to the savage race found in Italy.
It was forbidden to wear leather or other forms of dead skin in her temple which was next to the Porta Carmentalis in Rome. Her festival, called the Carmentalia, was celebrated primarily by women on January 11 and January 15. She is remembered in De Mulieribus Claris, a collection of biographies of historical and mythological women by the Florentine author Giovanni Boccaccio, composed in 1361–62. It is notable as the first collection devoted exclusively to biographies of women in Western literature.
- Ovid, Fasti i.461-542
- Servius, In Aeneida viii.51
- Solinus, Collectanea rerum memorabilium i.10, 13
- The Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal, page 89 "Carmenta"
- The Book of the City of Ladies, by Christine de Pizan, section I.33.2
- The Lincoln Beacon, Lincoln, Kansas, United States of America "Carmenta" 16 September 1880.