This name, or Liber pater, is frequently applied by the Roman poets to the Greek Bacchus or Dionysus, who was accordingly regarded as identical with the Italian Liber. Cicero,1 however, very justly distinguishes between Dionysus (the Greek Liber) and the Liber who was worshiped by the early Italians in conjunction with Ceres and Libera.

Liber and the feminine Libera were ancient Italian divinities, presiding over the cultivation of the vine and fertility of the fields; and this seems to have given rise to the combination of their worship with that of Ceres. A temple of these three divinities was vowed by the dictator, A. Postumius, in 496 BCE, near the Circus Flaminius; it was afterwards restored by Augustus, and dedicated by Tiberius.2

The most probable etymology of the name Liber is from liberare; Servius3 indeed states that the Sabine name for Liber was Loebasius, but this seems to have been only an obsolete form for Liber, just as we are told that the ancient Romans said loebesus and loebertas for the later forms liber(us) and libertas.4 Hence Seneca5 says, "Liber dictus est quia liberat servitio curarum animi;" while others, who were evidently thinking of the Greek Bacchus, found in the name an allusion to licentious drinking and speaking.6 Poets usually call him Liber pater, the latter word being very commonly added by the Italians to the names of gods.

The female Libera was identified by the Romans with Cora or Persephone, the daughter of Demeter (Ceres), whence Cicero7 calls Liber and Libera children of Ceres; whereas Ovid8 calls Ariadne Libera.

The festival of the Liberalia was celebrated by the Romans every year on the 17th of March.




  • 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.