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The discovery of the fountain of Anna Perenna and its influence on the study of ancient magic
Taken from The Wisdom of Thoth (ed. Bąkowska-Czerner/Roccati/Świerzowska) by Marina Piranomonte. Pages 71-85.

Anna Perenna was an ancient Roman goddess who had a festival ‘via Flaminia ad lapidem primum’, on the Ides of March, the primitive Roman New Year’s Eve, according to the Vatican, Antiates and Farnese Fasti (Fasti Vat., CIL XII, 342; Fasti Ant., Fasti Farn., CIL XII, 311). She was widely mentioned by Ovid and Silius Italicus and, as Macrobius recalls in the Satires, on the 15th of March ‘et publice et privatim ad Annam Perennam sacrificatum itur, ut annare perennareque commode liceat’ (Ov., Fasti, 3, 523–696; Sil. It., Pun., 8, 49–201; Macr., Satyr., 1, 12). Plinius Senior and Martial mention Anna but only Ovid in his Fasti describes the festival of the Idus of March (Plin., Nat. Hist, 35, 94; Mart., 4, 64, 17). The feast had a licentious nature and was held in an area not far from the Tiber banks. During the celebrations abundant wine libations were poured and the couples lay down on the grass making love. There were songs, mime performances and women dancing with their hair loose during all the festival.

More than two thousand years later in 1999 CE, the myth of the goddess became truth, with the discovery of the fountain of Anna Perenna in Rome in the modern quarter of Parioli. It can definitely be considered one of the most important new findings of religion of the ancient world for the concentration of materials related to the cult of the goddess and to magic for the presence of some professional sorcerers working at the fountain during the late Roman Empire. The recent studies about these materials, especially the deciphering of more than 24 defixiones and magical texts, the presence of different gods on the boxes and the voodoo dolls found inside the containers, made this finding the most important magical excavation of recent time and help the scholars to better analyse old and most famous findings.

This paper was originally published in The Wisdom of Thoth: Magical Texts in Ancient Mediterranean Civilisations edited by Grażyna Bąkowska-Czerner, Alessandro Roccati and Agata Świerzowska (Archaeopress, 2016) available in paperback and e-PDF here.

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The Wisdom of Thoth

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