Libitina, also Libentina or Lubentina, is an ancient Roman goddess of funerals and burial. Her name was used as a metonymy for death, and undertakers were known as libitinarii. Libitina was associated with Venus, and the name appears in some authors as an epithet of Venus.
The grove (lucus) of Libitina was located on the Esquiline Hill, as were several religious sites indicating that the area had "unhealthy and ill-omened" associations. A public cemetery was located outside the Esquiline Gate, in the Campus Esquilinus. A temple of Venus in the grove of Libitina celebrated its founding anniversary August 19, the day of the Vinalia Rustica. When a person died, the treasury of the temple collected a coin as a "death tax" supposed to have been established by Servius Tullius. During a plague in 65 AD, 30,000 deaths were recorded at the temple. Livy notes two occasions when the death toll exceeded Libitina's capacity. A guild (collegium) of funeral directors (dissignatores) was based in the grove of Libitina.
Libitina is sometimes regarded as Etruscan in origin. The name is perhaps derived from Etruscan lupu-, "to die." Varro, however, offers a Latin etymology from lubere, "to be pleasing," related to libido, that attempts to explain the goddess's connection to Venus. Venus Lubentina or Libitina may result from an identification with the Etruscan Alpanu (also as Alpan or Alpnu) who had characteristics of both a love goddess and an underworld deity. The Etruscan formula alpan turce is equivalent to libens dedit, "gave freely or willingly," in Latin.
- Horace, Sermones 2.16.19 and Odes 3.30.7; Verity Platt, Facing the Gods: Epiphany and Representation in Graeco-Roman Art, Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 355.
- New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (Hamlyn, 1968), p. 209.
- Varro, as preserved by Nonius, p. 64 (Müller); Cicero, De natura deorum 2.23; Dionysius Halicarnassus 4.15; Plutarch, Roman Questions 23.
- Lawrence Richardson, A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), p. 409.
- These sites included the cult of Dea Febris, a goddess of illness; a shrine to the goddess Mefitis, associated with toxic gases emitted from the earth; and an altar of Mala Fortuna ("Bad Luck"); Paul F. Burke, "Malaria in the Graeco-Roman World," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römische Welt II.37.2 (1995), p. 2268.
- Donald G. Kyle, Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome (Routledge, 1998, 2001), p. 164.
- Festus p. 322 in the edition of Lindsay; Richardson, Topographical Dictionary, p. 409.
- Dionysius Halicarnassus 4.15.5; Plutarch, Roman Questions 23; Richardson, Topographical Dictionary, p. 409; Kyle, Spectacles of Death, p. 166.
- Suetonius, Life of Nero 39.1; Kyle, Spectacles of Death, p. 178.
- Livy 40.19.4 and 41.21.6.
- Horace, Epistulae 1.7.6f.; Seneca, De beneficiis 6.38.4; Jörg Rüpke, Religion of the Romans (Polity Press, 2007, originally published in German 2001), p. 235.
- Hendrik Wagenvoort, "The Origin of the Goddess Venus," in Pietas: Selected Studies in Roman Religion (Brill, 1980), p. 178; Daniel P. Harmon, "Religion in the Latin Elegists," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.16.3 (1986), p. 1924.
- Harmon, "Religion in the Latin Elegists," p. 1924, citing Paul Kretschmer, "Die protoindogermanische Schicht," Glotta 14 (1925), p. 307.
- Varro, De lingua latina 6.47.
- Harmon, "Religion in the Latin Elegists," p. 1924, citing Robert Schilling, La religion romaine de Vénus depuis les origines jusqu'au temps d'Auguste, Bibliothèque des Écoles d'Athènes et de Rome 178 (Paris, 1954).