La dea Mefitis: dalle moféte del Sannio ad Abano Terme

Fabrizio Loffredo


Who is Mefitis? An Italic goddess associated with insalubrious and sulfuric waters? Or rather the deification of the healing power of some Appenninic thermal springs, where the principal Samnitic sanctuaries dedicated to Mefitis were located? Digging into the history of scholarship, we encounter interpretations that alternately underscore one or another specific facet of the Mefitis' identity: her association with inebriety caused by sulfuric vapors, her relation to the Great Mother, or to the realm of fertility or liminality. An anthropological inquiry into this figure of Italic religion, aimed at shedding light on Mefitis’ vis numenque – i.e. her specific scope in the local pantheon – is therefore needed.
The opposed couples hot/cold, dry/wet, male/female, scent/bad smell, as applied by Marcel Detienne to the myth of Adonis, provide an interesting key for interpreting the evidence concerning Mefitis – and for revealing that the evidence itself is a less heterogeneous whole than has been assumed.

In an Italic context, we also find another "thermal" god, the Venetic Aponus – after whom the modern town of Abano Terme is named. A comparison of the cults of Aponus and Mefitis, at first glance very similar, will be useful to define the contours of two very different gods, who remained set apart even when they were both integrated into Roman culture.

Loffredo_La_dea_Mefitis.pdf192.21 KB