An ancient Italian divinity, who was identified by the later Romans sometimes with Persephone (on account of her connection with the dead and their burial) and sometimes with Aphrodite. The latter was probably the consequence of etymological speculations on the name Libitina, which people connected with libido.1 Her temple at Rome was a repository of everything necessary for burials, and persons might there either buy or hire those things. It was owing to this circumstance, that a person undertaking the proper burial of a person (an undertaker) was called libitinarius, and his business libitina, whence the expressions libitinam exercere, or facere,2 and libitina funeribus non sufficiebat, i.e. they could not all be buried.3 Also the utensils kept in the temple, especially the bed on which corpses were burnt, were called libitina.4
Dionysius5 relates that king Servius Tullius, in order to ascertain the number of persons who died, ordained that for each person that had died, a piece of money should be deposited in the temple of Libitina.6 Owing to this connection of Libitina with the dead, Roman poets frequently employ her name in the sense of death itself.
- Plutarch. Numa, 12; Roman Questions, 23.
- Seneca. de Beneficiis vi, 38; Valerius Maximus, v, 2.10.
- Livy. The History of Rome xl, 19; xli, 21.
- Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia xxxvii, 3; Martial, x, 97; Asconius on Cicero's Pro Milone.
- iv, 79.
- Comp. Suetonius. Nero, 39.
- Horace. Odes, iii, 30. 6; Satires ii, 6, 19; Epistles, ii, 1.49.
- Juvenal, xiv, 122.
- 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.