A fabulous Italian shepherd, who was believed to have lived in a cave, and to have committed various kinds of robberies. Among others, he also stole a part of the cattle of Hercules or Recaranus; and, as he dragged the animals into his cave by their tails, it was impossible to discover their traces. But when the remaining oxen passed by the cave, those within began to bellow, and were thus discovered. Another tradition stated, that Caca, the sister of Cacus, betrayed the place of their concealment. Cacus was slain by Heracles.1
He is usually called a son of Vulcan, and Ovid, who gives his story with considerable embellishments, describes Cacus as a fearful giant, who was the terror of the whole land.2 Evander, who then ruled over the country in which Cacus had resided, showed his gratitude to the conqueror of Cacus by dedicating to him a sanctuary, and appointing the Potitii and Pinarii as his priests.
The common opinion respecting the original character of Cacus is, that he was the personification of some evil daemon, and this opinion is chiefly founded upon the descriptions of him given by the Roman poets. Hartung,3 however, thinks that Cacus, whom he identifies with Cacius,4 and his sister Caca were Roman Penates, whose names he connects with Καίω (Καίω), caleo, and coquo.
There were at Rome various things connected with the legends about Cacus. On the side of the Palatine hill, not far from the hut of Faustulus, there was a foot-path leading up the hill, with a wooden ladder called "the ladder of Cacus," and the ancient cave of Cacus, which is still shown at Rome, was in the Salina, near the Porta Trigemina.5
In Don Quixote, Sancho Panza says of Lord Rinaldô and his friends, "They are greater thieves than Cacus."
- Livy. History of Rome i, 7.
- Ovid. Fasti i, 554; comp. Virgil. Aeneid viii, 190 ff.; Propertius, iv, 9; Dionysius, i, 32, 43; Aurelius Victor. The origins of Roman Race, 6.
- Die Religion der Römer. Vol. 1, p. 318 ff.
- Diodorus Siculus, iv, 21; Solinus, i, 1.
- Diodorus Siculus, Solinus, ll.cc.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.