From Eleusis to Ariccia: the secret rite of Ceres and the Shrine of Casaletto The gifts of Ceres (= Cerealia) were at the center of the Roman calendar of fests from mid-April to early June. On June 9, in particular, the Vestal Virgins prepared ritually the “mola salsa” obtained with spelled flour mixed with water and salt, and bakers celebrated their work adorning of bread the wheels and donkeys that made them run. In ancient Ariccia, whose countryside is compared by Horace to that of Veio, the cultivation of grains and bread had a considerable importance, since Augustus son of Atia Aricina and grandson – on mother side – of a baker who owned “the largest mill of Ariccia “. He gave a great impetus to the development of the ovens which arrive in Rome up to 400. The art of baking was a special Ariccia’s activity again in 1700 when, because the largest wheat production was in the estates of Vallericcia and Tor Chancellor, farmers were forced to rent other lands in the Agro Romano to meet the requests of grains. In ancient times Ariccia was important also for the breeding of the pig, although limited to the practice of sacrifice. The sacrificial animal of Demeter, goddess assimilated to Ceres in the shrine of Ariccia Casaletto since the fourth century BC, was in fact the “suckling pig” the little female of the pig essential to participate in the Mysteriarites. At Eleusis likely in Ariccia, each clan member had to buy one pig to offer in sacrifice to Demeter – “the one who kills pigs” – and then he had to consume its roasted meat. In the sanctuary of Casaletto was also worshiped Dionysus-Bacchus the “god of wine”. An inscription found in the sanctuary documents the presence of a Duronia Aricina, probably an ancestor of the Duronia cited in some sources for being involved in the scandal of the Bacchanalia in 186 BC.
(Alberto Silvestri, Archeoclub d’Italia section of Ariccia)
Fig. 2 Offerente con maialino
Fig. 1 Figura femminile con corona di spighe
from Ariccia, Stipe votiva di Casaletto (Museo Nazionale Romano)