An ancient Italian hero of Praeneste. The account which Servius1 gives of him runs as follows: At Praeneste there were pontifices and di indigetes as well as at Rome. There were however two brothers called indigetes (the common reading is dii instead of indigetes, but is evidently wrong) who had a sister. On one occasion, while she was sitting by the fire of the hearth, a spark fell into her lap, whereby she became the mother of a son, whom she exposed near the temple of Jupiter. Here the infant was found, lying by the side of a fire, by maidens who happened to come to fetch water. The fire near which he had been found led to his being considered a son of Vulcan.
This child was Caeculus, who, after growing up to manhood, and living for a time as a robber, together with a number of comrades who were shepherds, built the town of Praeneste. He invited the neighborhood to the celebration of public games at Praeneste, and when they were assembled, he called upon them to settle in the newly built town, and he gave weight to his demand by declaring that he was a son of Vulcan. But when the people disbelieved his assertions, he prayed Vulcan to send a sign, whereupon the whole assembly was surrounded by a bright flame. This miracle induced the people to recognize him as the son of Vulcan, and to settle at Praeneste. The substance of this story is also given by Solinus.2
The two brothers (indigetes) mentioned in this story are, according to Hartung, the well-known twins who were worshiped at Rome as Lares and Penates, and their sister a priestess of the hearth. Caeculus, too, is, like Vulcan, a divinity of the hearth, because he is the son of Vulcan, was conceived by a priestess of the hearth, and was found near a hearth (fire). For the same reason, Hartung connects the name Caeculus with Καίω and caleo. The manner in which Caeculus obtains settlers for his new town resembles the means by which Romulus contrived to get women for his Romans; but a still greater similarity exists between the stories of the conception of Caeculus and of king Servius Tullius. This resemblance, together with the connexion of Servius Tullius with Caia Caecilia, seem to indicate that Servius Tullius was the representative of the same idea at Rome as Caeculus was at Praeneste.
- Hartung, J.A. Die Religion der Römer. Vol. 1, p. 88 ff.
- Klausen, R.H. (1839). Aeneas und die Penaten, p. 761 ff.
- 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.