Or Vortumnus, is said to have been an Etruscan divinity whose worship was introduced at Rome by an ancient Vulsinian colony occupying at first the Caelian hill, and afterwards the Vicus Tuscus.1 The name is evidently connected with verto, and formed on the analogy of alumnus from alo, whence it must signify "the god who changes or metamorphoses himself." For this reason the Romans connected Vertumnus with all occurrences to which the verb verto applies, such as the change of seasons, purchase and sale, the return of rivers to their proper beds, etc.2 But in reality the god was connected only with the transformation of plants, and their progress from being in blossom to that of bearing fruit.3 Hence the story, that when Vertumnus was in love with Pomona, he assumed all possible forms, until at last he gained his end by metamorphosing himself into a blooming youth.4 Gardeners accordingly offered to him the first produce of their gardens and garlands of budding flowers.5
But the whole people celebrated a festival to Vertumnus on the 23d of August, under the name of the Vortumnalia, denoting the transition from the beautiful season of autumn to the less agreeable one. He had a temple in the Vicus Tuscus, and a statue of him stood in the Vicus Jugarius near the altar of Ops.6
The story of the Etruscan origin seems to be sufficiently refuted by his genuine Roman name, and it is much more probable that the worship of Vertumnus was of Sabine origin, which in fact is implied in his connection with T. Tatius.7 The importance of the worship of Vertumnus at Rome is evident from the fact, that it was attended to by a special flamen (flamen Vortumnalis8).
In Roman art Vertumnus is portrayed as a handsome youth with ears of corn. Occasionally he is portrayed as an older man with a beard; his attribute is a horn of plenty (cornucopia).
- Sextus Propertius. Elegies iv, 2.6 ff.; Ovid. Metamorphoses xiv, 642.
- Comp. Horace. Satires ii, 7.14.
- Scholiast on Horace's Epistles i, 20. 1; Asconius in Cicero's Against Verres i, 59; Sextus Propertius. Elegies iv, 2. 10 ff.
- Sextus Propertius. Elegies iv, 2.21 ff.; Ovid, l.c.
- Sextus Propertius. Elegies iv, 2.18 and 45.
- Sextus Propertius, l.c.; Cicero. Against Verres i, 59.
- Varro. On the Latin Language v, 75.
- see Varro. On the Latin Language vii, 45, with Müller's note; Festus, p. 379; Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia xxiii, 1; Müller. Ancient Art and its Remains, 404.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- 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.