God of soil fertility and mineral wealth, later associated with the Underworld
|Parents||Saturn and Ops|
Dīs Pater (/ /; Latin: [diːs patɛr]; genitive Dītis Patris) is a Roman god of the underworld. Dis was originally associated with fertile agricultural land and mineral wealth, and since those minerals came from underground, he was later equated with the chthonic deities Pluto (Hades) and Orcus.
Dīs Pater was commonly shortened to simply Dīs, and this name has since become an alternative name for the underworld or a part of the underworld, such as the City of Dis of Dante's The Divine Comedy, which comprises Lower Hell.
The name Dīs is a contraction of the Latin adjective dīves ('wealthy, rich'), probably derived from dīvus, dīus ('godlike, divine') via the form *deiu-(o)t- or *deiu-(e)t- ('who is like the gods, protected by the gods'). The occurrence of the deity Dīs together with Pater ('father') may be due to association with Di(e)spiter (Jupiter).
Cicero gave a similar etymology in De Natura Deorum, suggesting the meaning 'father of riches', and comparing the deity to the Greek name Pluto (Plouton, Πλούτων), meaning "the rich one", a title bestowed upon the Greek god Hades.
Dīs Pater eventually became associated with death and the underworld because mineral wealth such as gems and precious metals came from underground, wherein lies the realm of the dead, i.e. Hades' (Pluto's) domain.
In being conflated with Pluto, Dīs Pater took on some of the latter's mythological attributes, being one of the three sons of Saturn (Greek Cronus) and Ops (Greek Rhea), along with Jupiter (Greek Zeus) and Neptune (Greek Poseidon). He ruled the underworld and the dead beside his wife, Proserpina (Greek Persephone). In literature, Dīs Pater's name was commonly used as a symbolic and poetic way of referring to death itself.
Dīs Pater was sometimes identified with the Sabine god Soranus. Julius Caesar, in his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars (VI:18), states that the Gauls all claimed descent from Dīs Pater. This is an example of interpretatio Romana: what Caesar meant was that the Gauls all claimed descent from a Gaulish god that he equated with the Roman Dīs Pater.
A scholium on the Pharsalia equates Dis Pater with Taranis, the Gaulish god of thunder.[need quotation to verify] In southern Germany and the Balkans, Aericura was considered a consort of Dīs Pater.[year needed]
In 249 BC and 207 BC, the Roman Senate under senator Lucius Catellius ordained special festivals to appease Dīs Pater and Proserpina. Every hundred years, a festival was celebrated in his name. According to legend, a round marble altar, Altar of Dīs Pater and Proserpina (Latin: Ara Ditis Patris et Proserpinae), was miraculously discovered by the servants of a Sabine called Valesius, the ancestor of the first consul. The servants were digging in the Tarentum on the edge of the Campus Martius to lay foundations following instructions given to Valesius's children in dreams, when they found the altar 20 feet (6 m) underground. Valesius reburied the altar after three days of games. Sacrifices were offered to this altar during the Ludi Saeculares or Ludi Tarentini. It may have been uncovered for each occasion of the games, to be reburied afterwards, a clearly chthonic tradition of worship. It was rediscovered in 1886–1887 beneath the Corso Vittorio Emanuele in Rome.
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- Servius' commentary to Aeneid, XI. 785 "Mount Soracte is located in the territory of the Hirpini next to Via Flaminia. It was on this mountain that a sacrifice to Dis Pater was once performed – because it is devoted to chthonic deities – as wolves suddenly appeared and plundered the entrails from the ire. The shepherds chased the wolves for a long time, until they arrived at a cave emanating pestilential gases that killed people standing nearby. The reason for the emergence of this plague was that they had chased the wolves. They received a message that they could calm it down by imitating wolves; that means, living by plundering. They did so, and since then these people have been called Hirpi Sorani."
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- Richardson, L., Jr. (1 October 1992). A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (illustrated ed.). London, UK / Baltimore, MD: Thames and Hudson / Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 110–111. ISBN 0-8018-4300-6. ISBN 978-080184300-6
- de Vaan, Michiel (2008). Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages. Brill. ISBN 9789004167971.
- Media related to Dīs Pater at Wikimedia Commons