Acca Larentia

Or Larentia, a mythical woman who occurs in the stories in early Roman history. Macrobius,1 with whom Plutarch2 agrees in the main points, relates the following tradition about her. In the reign of Ancus Martius a servant (aedituus) of the temple of Hercules invited during the holidays the god to a game of dice, promising that if he should lose the game, he would treat the god with a repast and a beautiful woman. When the god had conquered the servant, the latter shut up Acca Laurentia, then the most beautiful and most notorious woman, together with a well stored table in the temple of Hercules, who, when she left the sanctuary, advised her to try to gain the affection of the first wealthy man she should meet. She succeeded in making Carutius, an Etruscan, or as Plutarch calls him, Tarrutius, love and marry her.

After his death she inherited his large property, which, when she herself died, she left to the Roman people. Ancus, in gratitude for this, allowed her to be buried in the Velabrum, and instituted an annual festival, the Larentalia, at which sacrifices were offered to the Lares.3

According to others,4 Acca Laurentia was the wife of the shepherd Faustulus and the nurse of Romulus and Remus after they had been taken from the she-wolf. Plutarch indeed states, that this Laurentia was altogether a different being from the one occurring in the reign of Ancus; but other writers, such as Macer, relate their stories as belonging to the same being.5 According to Massurius Sabinus in Gellius (l.c.) she was the mother of twelve sons, and when one of them died, Romulus stept into his place, and adopted in conjunction with the remaining eleven the name of fratres arvales.6 According to other accounts again she was not the wife of Faustulus, but a prostitute who from her mode of life was called lupa by the shepherds, and who left the property she gained in that way to the Roman people.7

Whatever may be thought of the contradictory statements respecting Acca Laurentia, thus much seems clear, that she was of Etruscan origin, and connected with the worship of the Lares, from which her name Larentia itself seems to be derived. This appears further from the number of her sons, which answers to that of the twelve country Lares, and from the circumstance that the day sacred to her was followed by one sacred to the Lares.8