"Earth." At Rome the earth was worshiped under the name of Tellus (which is only a variation of Terra). She is often mentioned in contrast with Jupiter, the god of heaven, and was regarded as an infernal divinity (Δέα χθόνια) and connected with Dis and the Manes. When an oath was taken by Tellus, or the gods of the nether world, people stretched their hands downward, just as they turned them upwards in swearing by Jupiter.1

The consul P. Sempronius Sophus, in 304 BCE, built a temple to Tellus in consequence of an earthquake which had occurred during the war with the Picentians. This temple stood on the spot which had formerly been occupied by the house of Spurius Cassius, in the street leading to the Carinae.2 Her festival was celebrated on the 15th of April, immediately after that of Ceres, and was called Fordicidia or Hordicidia, from hordus or fordus, a bearing cow.3 The sacrifice, consisting of cows, was offered up in the Capitol in the presence of the Vestals. A male divinity, to whom the pontiff prayed on that occasion, was called Tellumo.4

On January 24-26 the festival of the Sementivae was held in honor of Ceres and Tellus, and people called upon the goddesses to protect the seeds and the sower. They offered cakes, as well as a sow, and plow oxen were dressed festively. In private life sacrifices were offered to Tellus at the time of sowing and at harvest-time, especially when a member of the family had died without due honors having been paid to him, for it was Tellus that had to receive the departed into her bosom.5



  1. Varro. Agricultural Topics i, 1.15; Macrobus, iii, 9; Livy. The History of Rome viii, 9; x, 29.
  2. Flor. i, 19.2; Livy. The History of Rome ii, 41; Valerius Maximus, vi, 3.1; Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia xxxiv, 6, 14; Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Roman Antiquities viii, 79.
  3. Ovid. Fasti 4.633; Arnobius, 7.22; Horace. Epistles, ii, 1.143.
  4. Varro, ap. Augustine. City of God vii, 23.
  5. Ovid. Fasti iv, 629 ff.


  • Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Hartung, J. A. Die Religion der Römer. Vol. 2, p. p. 84 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.