Egeria (mythology)

Egeria (mythology)

Egeria was a water nymph in Roman mythology. She was most famously the second wife and counselor of the second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius.

Her name is used as an eponym for a "woman advisor" or "counselor".


Egeria gave wisdom and prophecy in return for simple libations of water or milk at her sacred grove, near where the Baths of Caracalla were erected in the third century. The name "Egeria" may derive from "of the black poplar". Egeria was associated by Romans with Diana, and women in childbirth called for her aid, so she appears to have presided over childbirth as well, like the Greek goddess Ilithyia, whose functions Artemis/Diana assumed.

Egeria was later categorized by the Romans as one of the Camenae, minor deities who came to be equated with the Greek Muses as Rome fell under the cultural hegemony of Greece; so Dionysius of Halicarnassus listed Egeria among the Muses (ii. 6o).

At Aricia

Egeria may predate Roman myth: she could have been of Italic origin in the sacred forest of Aricia in Latium, her immemorial site, which was equally the grove of "Diana Nemorensis" ("Diana of Nemi"). At Aricia there was also a Manius Egerius, a male counterpart of Egeria. ["Encyclopædia Britannica" 1911.]

Because she was a nymph consort ["Amica" in Juvenal's sceptical phrase, but the more respectful "coniuncta" ("consort") ordinarily; see also Plutarch's "vita" of Numa, 4.2 and 8.6.] to the Sabine Numa Pompilius, legendary second king of Rome, she became associated with Rome. Juvenal expresses Roman legend in reporting that Numa Pompilius met her in her sacred grove, where she taught him to be a wise and just king (Livy i. 19); from Egeria Numa received the principles of the Roman religious constitution, a tradition that was coming under critical review in Juvenal's day. [Alex Hardie, "Juvenal, the Phaedrus, and the Truth about Rome" "The Classical Quarterly" New Series, 48.1 (1998), pp. 234-251.] When Numa died, Egeria changed into a well. [Ovid, "Metamorphoses" xv. 479.]

At Rome

A grove sacred to Egeria in connection with Numa stood close by a busy gate of Rome, the Porta Capena. In the second century, when Herodes Atticus recast an inherited villa nearby as a great landscaped estate, the natural grotto was formalized as an arched interior with an apsidal end ("illustration, above") where a statue of Egeria once stood in a niche; the surfaces were enriched with revetments of green and white marble facings and green porphyry flooring and friezes of mosaic. The primeval spring, one of dozens of springs that flow into the river Almone, was made to feed large pools one of which was known as "Lacus Salutaris" the "Lake of Health". Juvenal regretted an earlier phase of architectural elaboration (Satire III.17–20):

:"Nymph of the Spring! More honour’d hadst thou been,":"If, free from art, an edge of living green,":"Thy bubbling fount had circumscribed alone,":"And marble ne’er profaned the native stone." (translated by William Gifford)

The "ninfeo" was a favored picnic spot for nineteenth-century Romans and is still visitable in the archaeological park of the Caffarella, between the Appian Way and the even more ancient Via Latina. [ [ Information about the Park of the Caffarella] ]

In Fiction

In Stargate SG-1, Egeria was the progenitor of the Tok'Ra.

In Nathaniel Lee's English Restoration tragedy "Lucius Junius Brutus" (1680), Egeria appears in a vision to Brutus' son Titus.


External links

* [ "Encyclopædia Britannica" 1911:] Egeria
* [ Roma Sotterranea: Il ninfeo di Egeria: (in Italian) Ruins of Egeria's Nymphaeum]
* [ Park of the Caffarella]

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