Specie caeleste resumpta. Serpenti e divinità a Roma: il caso di Esculapio a partire dai Fasti di Ovidio

Alessandra Scali


The article focuses on the relationship between divinities and animals through the specific case of Aesculapius and the snakes. Starting from the myth of the importation of the god into Rome from his Greek sanctuary of Epidaurus, recounted in Latin literary sources and, above all, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, at least three problematic issues are brought to light and analyzed from a historical-anthropological point of view for the study of Roman polytheism. The first is the use of the terms numen and deus to indicate the snake, an animal which, according to the myth, was brought to Rome “in representation” of the god; the second is a reflection on the concept of the body for the divinity,
conveyed by the connection of this with the animal world, starting from terms such as onus, gravitas in reference to the god. Thirdly, some reflections are made regarding the phrase specie caeleste resumpta (Met. 15.743): the interest is directed to the concept of species in association with the verb resumo. In addition to these topics, space has been given to the concept of praesentia, also found in some Roman epigraphic sources relating to Aesculapius.

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