Anna Perenna is a quite unknown Roman goddess, who was worshiped in ancient times in a small shrine on Via Flaminia. Besides, she had a sanctuary in Sicily, and in Rome itself, there was a well at which she was celebrated in honorable festivals.
The origin of Anna Perenna lies in the dark. She could
1. have been an ancient Etruscan mother-goddess,
2. Perhaps she was (also) the sister of Dido, a Carthaginian queen,
3. or she was an elderly woman, who had taken care of the plebeians (the simple people) during the Roman class struggle – and was therefore honored by them as a goddess.
Anna Perenna also has many references to other goddesses, especially the moon goddess Diana / Artemis.
In the following, I will write about the possible origins of Anna Perenna, starting with the celebrations for the goddess.
Part of the Via Flaminia, which connected Rome with the Adriatic coast. By No machine-readable author provided. Samba~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, Link
Finds from the fountain of Anna Perenna. By Self-photographed by Szilas in the Museo Nazionale Romano – Terme di Diocleziano – Own work, Public Domain, Link
I wonder if the custom of throwing coins into a fountain is probably due to Anna Perenna?
In addition to these “money sacrifices”, feasts are also known in honor of the goddess.
Her main day was celebrated in March. It is said that wine was pouring, and there were rough jokes and obscene songs. It was a feast for the common people, the so-called “Plebeians,” celebrated in the Ides, which took place about the full moon time.
The Roman calendar (a moon calendar) had certain dates for each month based on the moon times.
Ides (full moon),
Calends (New Moon)
Nons(?) (latin: Nonae) (increasing moon)
Terminalia(?) (decreasing moon)
(For Nonae and Terminalia, I could not find a certain translation.)
In total, there were 13 months. Most of them are still known today, though they have other names, and the Romans had a 13th “leap month” called Mensis intercelaris, or – according to Plutarch, – Mercedonius. The calculation of the switching month was extremely complicated and therefore in wartime sometimes was omitted. Normally, the month Mercedonius was “switched” three times over a period of eight years, and then appeared between February and March.
It is controversial to what extent the switching month also had an impact on interest rates. It is possible that interest would have stopped during this month. (Coin money – in an extension, as we know it today, including rental, etc. appeared for the first time in the 3rd century BC (in Greece, Rome, Persia, India).
When you look at the main festival of the goddess Anna Perenna, it has to be noted that the first full moon in March is close to the equinox of spring. In some modern cultures (Iran, etc., Nouruz) the beginning of the year is fixed at this event. The New Year begins when the “light” (day) just overtakes the “darkness” (night). In our Christian culture, on the other hand, the beginning of the year lies in the period of the winter solstice (when the days are getting longer) around 21/22. December and January 6th. Among other things, this was due to the Romans who, in the second century BC, decided to start the year of office/service on the first day of January, though the official New Year’s Day still remained to occur in March.
There are far more other cultural ways to end/start the year. It, therefore, seems to be difficult to identify which date was the “most original” one. It is noticeable, however, that the younger dates of beginning have moved away from the cosmic events.
But whenever the year begins and/or may end, the following is certain:
The old year will be history. By John T. McCutcheon – Cartoon by John T. McCutcheon, scanned from book “The Mysterious Stranger and Other Cartoons by John T. McCutcheon”, New York, McClure, Phillips & Co. 1905. Book reprints a collection of McCutcheon’s cartoons, some dating back a few years., Public Domain, Link
It should be noted that similar to the development of “earth” and “wind/rain/thunder” to more abstract versions = gods and goddesses, the division of time into a phase with “beginning” and “end” is an invention of man in the past thousand years.
Starting from the possible origin or first idea of God as “earth mother” and “weather god”, it would be conceivable that the division of the year was also based on this.
The following thoughts are hypothetical and speculative, but it seems logical to me that the cycle of sowing, rain/fertilization and harvest, which was so important for the early man, served as the basic structure to divide time into pieces.
If you add the concept of anthropomorphic beings like “weather god” and “mother earth”, which mutually enjoyed each other, then only the question arises when “it” really begins.
Does life begin with “fertilization”? = Start of time/a new circle in spring.
Does life begin with the return of the sun, with hope for “fertilization”? = The year starts in the winter season.
Does life go along with birth? = Beginning of the year at harvest time.
Maybe spring is already a kind of “birth”?
So, even if differently interpreted, there are fundamental similarities in all cultures of the world concerning the beginning of the year.
1. Orientation on a cycle of increase and decay.
2. The division of this cycle into ever smaller and more precise time bits.
The circle of the year is closely linked to the goddess Anna Perenna. Because her second name “Perenna” derives from the Latin adjective “perennis”, which means “annually recurring”. She was – as mentioned above – probably an Etruscan goddess. The Etruscans were already living on the Italian peninsula before the Romans, and they probably came from the Oriental region (Mesopotamia) before the first millennium BC.
Anna Perenna was probably revered as a classical mother deity, and then she was given different attributes over time. For example, as a “savior” of the plebeians who, according to legend, once emigrated from Rome because they no longer wanted to work there for the rich patricians.
The above-mentioned relation to Dido’s sister is also interesting for, from the middle of the first millennium BC, male divinity gradually dominates the faith of mankind. Clearly, this can be seen in the emergence of Manichaeism, Mithraism, and Christianity around the 1st century AD.
Mithras and bull. Public Domain, Link
Mani, the founder of Manichaeism. Public Domain, Link
Jesus and four archangels. By Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14742744896/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/christianiconogr02didr/christianiconogr02didr#page/n89/mode/1up, No restrictions, Link
The story of Dido – and Aeneas – represents multi-plane, this shift in thinking away from female to male gods.
Aeneas, the patriarch of the Romans, who had fled Troy and was to find a new home at the behest of the gods, landed during his journey across the Mediterranean sea in Carthage, which later became so hostile to Rome. (Three Punic wars, Hannibal, from the 3rd century BC onwards – that is historically testified and “correct,” and not a myth as the story of Aeneas and Dido.)
In Carthage, Aeneas met the beautiful queen Dido and fell in love with her immortal.
But Aeneas was not allowed to spend much time with his new love. The gods, especially Jupiter, who send the messenger-god Mercury, urged him to continue his journey and fulfill his destiny.
What Dido thereupon did can be seen in the following picture.
But not enough. As it can be seen in the picture above, Dido kills herself, whilst standing on a “pedestal” of wood. The odds are that she has burnt herself at the same time. All this happened on the beach of Cartage, where Aeneas could (and should?) see her as he moved with his crew to the coast of Italy.
Here a picture from happier days:
Aeneas and Dido meeting for the first time. By Nathaniel Dance-Holland – XQGCpNt3tbJiAw at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum Tate Images (http://www.tate-images.com/results.asp?image=T06736&wwwflag=3&imagepos=1), Public Domain, Link
Well to be seen in the background (left side) is Dido’s sister Anna. The Anna, who also is a possible match to “Anna Perenna”. Anna always stood by Dido, assured her even of the relationship to Aeneas.
After Dido’s death, Anna had to flee from Carthage and was finally turned into a river nymph after a long-term odyssey across the Mediterranean sea.
Perhaps it is going too far to say that the death of Didos is mythically a kind of “endpoint” of worshipping female deities. A closer look at Dido herself would be necessary, who actually appears here rather on the verge of “Anna Perenna”.
Anyone wishing to find some information about her, you can find it in the Wikipedia article here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dido
However, the article lacks in reference to the Carthaginian religion, which is, by the way, difficult to reconstruct since the victors over Carthage (the Romans), of course, did their best to condemn the city.
Thus, the story of Aeneas and Dido could also “only” include the fact that Vergil (the author of the so-called “Aeneis”) wrote a beautiful founding history poem and praise to Rome.
By the way, Aeneas himself lived happily ever after – and together with several women. (Perhaps even with Anna, the sister of Dido.)
Indeed, Odysseus, another Mediterranean traveler, whose myth is a little older than the Aeneis (about 9th century BC), despite many affairs finally returned to his one and only wife Penelope.
Aeneas with his father Anchises on his back (who holds the house gods), his son Askanius in the foreground and Kreusa, his first wife, who unfortunately did not manage to flee from Troy.
By Federico Barocci – Web Gallery of Art, Uploaded to en.wikipedia 03:45 28 Jul 2004 by en:User:Wetman., Public Domain, Link
Aeneas Roman wife Lavinia with her mother Amata and Bacchantes. By Wenceslaus Hollar – Artwork from University of Toronto Wenceslaus Hollar Digital CollectionScanned by University of TorontoHigh-resolution version extracted using custom tool by User:Dcoetzee, Public Domain, Link
When Odysseus returns from his odyssey, he first has to fight all the suitors who had gathered around his wife Penelope. Those were the days! By kladcat – Woodcut illustration of Odysseus’s return to Penelope, CC BY 2.0, Link