The exile of Ovid:why?
Two thousand years after the death of Ovid – the Roman poet who was banished by Augustus from Rome into the remote town of Tomis (today’s Constanța) on the Black Sea in 8 AD – the real reason for his exile is still unknown. Here we shall develop a hypothesis, which could shed light on another famous enigma, that is, the secret name of Rome.When Ovid was condemned, he was working at the Fasti (“the Festivals”), a poem written in elegiac couplets that goes through the Roman calendar, explaining the origins and customs of important Roman festivals, digressing on mythical stories, and giving astronomical and agricultural information appropriate to the season. It had to be divided into twelve books, one for every month of the year. But when the poet had got halfway through the work, he was suddenly condemned to exile in Tomis, which stopped his work, as he says in the Tristia (“Sorrows”, a collection of letters written in elegiac couplets during his exile): «I wrote it recently Caesar, under your name,/ but my fate interrupted this work dedicated to you» (Tristia II, 551-552).
In short, when he was forced to leave Rome, Ovid had only just finished the first six books, which refer to the months from January to June. It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that there is a link between the sudden condemnation and what he had only just written. This is corroborated by a passage from the Tristia: «These last events destroy me» (Tristia II, 99). Soon after he hints at his guilt: «Though two charges, a poem and an error,/ ruined me, I must be silent about the latter» (Tristia II, 207-208), after giving us another important clue, referring to August, «whose mercy in punishing me is such/ that the outcome’s better than I feared./ My life was spared, your anger stopped short of death,/ o Prince, how sparingly you used your powers!» (Tristia II, 125-128). This mysterious crime, therefore, involved the death penalty, which Augustus commuted to exile, presumably on condition that the poet did not reveal the true reason of the sentence.
Considering all this, it would seem reasonable to seek the poet’s guilt – serious enough to involve the death penalty, and at the same time not revealable – in the books of the Fasti, and especially in the last ones, which he had only just composed when he was condemned.
By examining them carefully, looking for a clue, an anomaly on which to carry out appropriate investigations, one can remark that, at the beginning of the fifth book – where the poet dwells on some possible etymologies of the name of May – Ovid puts a speech in Muse Calliope’s mouth that narrates the background of the founding of Rome, where the Pleiades are involved:
«Tethys, the Titaness, was married long ago to Ocean,/ he who encircles the outspread earth with flowing water./ The story is that their daughter Pleione was united/ to sky-bearing Atlas, and bore him the Pleiades./ Among them, Maia’s said to have surpassed her sisters/ in beauty, and to have slept with mighty Jove./ She bore Mercury, who cuts the air on winged feet,/ on the cypress-clothed ridge of Mount Cyllene./ The Arcadians, and swift Ladon, and vast Maenalus,/ a land thought older than the moon, rightly worship him./ Evander, in exile from Arcadia, came to the Latin fields,/ and brought his gods with him, aboard ship./ Where Rome, the capital of the world, now stands/ there were trees, grass, a few sheep and sparse huts./ When they arrived, his prophetic mother said:/ “Halt here! This rural spot will be the place of Empire.”/ The Arcadian hero obeyed his mother, the prophetess,/ and stayed, though a stranger in a foreign land./ He taught the people many rites, but, above all, those/ of twin-horned Faunus, and Mercury the wing-footed god./ Faunus half-goat, you’re worshipped by the girded Luperci,/ when their strips of hide purify the crowded streets./ But you, Mercury, patron of thieves, inventor/ of the curved lyre, gave your mother’s name to this month./ Nor was this your first act of piety: you’re thought/ to have given the lyre seven strings, the Pleiades’ number» (Fasti, V, 81-106).
However, in Latin and Greek literature the importance that Ovid attaches to the Pleiades in a context concerning the origins of Rome («This rural spot will be the place of Empire»), and in particular to Maia, the most important star of that cluster, is not usual at all. In fact, neither before nor after Ovid anyone has ever mentioned Maia and the Pleiades in connection with the founding of Rome!
By keeping in mind that lots of writers dealt with the topic of the founding of Rome, and, on the other hand, that on such a theme Ovid wouldn’t ever dare to come up with something alien to the tradition, this patent, rather strange anomaly is certainly worth being studied in depth. One might wonder whether he had imprudently touched a “taboo subject”, that all people were forbidden to mention.
At this point one can think of Valerius Soranus, who was executed in 82 BC for violating a religious prohibition against speaking the arcane name of Rome, «whose other name the hallowed mysteries of the sacred rites forbid us to mention without being guilty of the greatest impiety. After it had been long kept buried in secrecy with the strictest fidelity and in respectful and salutary silence, Valerius Soranus dared to divulge it, but soon he paid the penalty of his rashness» (Pliny, Naturalis Historia III, 65).
Pliny explains also the reason of such a lot of severity: the Roman priests, before the siege of an enemy city, used to invoke its protective god (or goddess) by promising him (her) that in Rome he would enjoy the same cult, or even greater, if he (she) helped the Romans to conquer his (her) city (cf. Pliny, Naturalis Historia XXVIII, 18). So, to prevent the enemies from doing the same, the name of the tutelary deity of Rome – which was often identified with the name of the city itself, as in the case of Athena-Athens – had to be hidden by absolute secrecy (thus to reveal that name was the same as a high treason). In a word, the Romans held as a State secret the true name of their protective goddess. Some scholars suppose that the name of that mysterious tutelary deity, which «was born together with the city» , was linked to the myth of the founding of the City, which leads us back to that anomalous passage by Ovid. It is worth, therefore, investigating the Pleiades and their possible relationship with Rome.
The Pleiades, “the Most Holy Maia” and the Seven Hills of Rome
The Pleiades are a star cluster, enclosed in an area of the sky that appears to be the same size of the Moon disk. It is found in the constellation of Taurus, about 440 light-years from Earth, and contains over 1.000 stars, but with the naked eye it is possible to see only from six to about a dozen, depending on the conditions of visibility and visual acuity of the watcher. They are mentioned in the legends of lots of peoples and are generally considered to be seven, the “Seven Sisters” of Greek and Roman mythology: «Alcyone and Merope, Celaeno and Taygete,/ Electra and Sterope, together with the Most Holy Maia» (Cicero, Aratea 270-271). The seven Pleiades are depicted on the disk of Nebra, the oldest representation of the night sky that has come down to us, dating back at least to 1600 BC.
Now, by considering that, in order to correctly tackle problems such as the one we are dealing with, «the rationalist approach is sterile without the effort to get into the mentality of the age and people we are dealing with» , ome can presume that what is considered sacred on Earth is a reflection of what is in Heaven. This idea is found in the Emerald Tablet by Hermes Trismegistus: «That which is below is like that which is above», and a similar conception is found in the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem «descending from Heaven, from God» (Apocalypse 21, 2). In the same way we can also read the fact that the name of the Pleiade Taygete, with which Zeus generated Lacedaemon, is found in the mountain near Sparta. Actually, in Greek mythology the Pleiades were considered both heavenly nymphs and nymphs of the mountains.
With regard to the “anomalous” relationship, suggested by Calliope in that passage of the Fasti, between the seven Pleiades and the place where Rome was founded, one should note that «where Rome stands now, there was the Septimontium, that was called this way for the number of heights that the city included within its wall» (Varro, De lingua latina V, 7). The Septimontium (“the Seven Mountains”) does not identify itself with the traditional Seven Hills of Rome, as it refers to a more ancient period of the inhabited area: in fact, during «the annual holiday of the Septimontium […] sacrifices were offered from the inhabitants of the three tops of the Palatine, those of the three summits of the Esquiline, and, seventh, those of the Suburra» . Apart from the exact position of the seven rises called Septimontium, which has been debated since ancient times but is not of interest here, the importance of the concept attached to them is attested by the fact that afterwards Rome expanded on the Seven Hills, which still are a sort of trademark of the Eternal City.
It is remarkable that the concept of the Seven Hills may have been itself the result of a schematization that has drastically reduced the large number of rises standing in the uneven territory starting from the eastern bank of the Tiber, next to the bend below the Tiber Island (the only island in the part of the Tiber river which runs through Rome). At this point, one can reasonably assume that this simplification-reduction, which otherwise would be incomprehensible, aimed to make the number of the hills equal to the number of the seven Pleiades.
However, not only the number, but even the arrangement of the seven hills on the territory bounded by the ancient Servian Wall (constructed around the city in the early 4th century BC) seems to reflect that of their heavenly counterparts.
This correspondence is amazing to the point that one can suspect that even the Servian Wall was planned to adapt, as far as possible, the layout of the city to the configuration of the seven stars, in the center of which shines “the Most Holy Maia” (who, according to Greek mythology, had a son, Hermes, called Mercury in the Roman world, who is directly connected to the Pleiades in Calliope’s speech). Maia’s counterpart is the Palatine Hill, where Romulus ploughed the furrow that started the founding of Rome. As Rome gradually extended over the territory with the Seven Hills, its development may have been somehow led – presumably by the priests headed by the Pontifex Maximus – through a sort of “regulatory plan” inspired by its heavenly model (which in the archaic world of the kings of Rome, very different from ours, must have seemed quite natural).
After noting that also the Caelian Hill seems to correspond to the star of the Pleiades called Celaeno, one could wonder whether, in the well-known story of the founding of Rome, behind the number of birds sighted by Remus on the Aventine Hill and Romulus on the Palatine, six and twelve respectively (Fasti IV, 817), there is an allusion to the number of Pleiades that are visible to the naked eye, which, as we said before, depending on the circumstances may vary between these two extremes. Actually the Pleiades were called “the Doves” (peleiai) in the ancient Greek world, and “the Small Hens” (gallinelle) in some regions of Italy (here is the wonderful image of the italian poet Giovanni Pascoli in his poem The Night Jasmine: «The Small Hen wanders the sky-blue farmyard/ with its cheeping of stars»).
It is, therefore, plausible that, starting from the speech that Ovid puts in Calliope’s mouth, a cultured Roman, impressed by that new connection between the seven Pleiades and the founding of Rome, could realize that the city founded by Romulus on the Palatine Hill was consecrated to the goddess-star that reflected it in the sky, that is, “the Most Holy Maia”! Still Ovid claims that the stars are deities (cf. Fasti III, 112). So, Maia, that according to the poet is the most beautiful of the Pleiades (cf. Fasti V, 85-86), would have given the future capital of the Empire her protection and her name.
Maia, the protective goddess of Rome
After the Introduction of the fifth book of the Fasti, where the Muses Polyhymnia, Urania and Calliope suggest three different etymologies of the Latin name (Maius) of the month of May, Ovid examines the first day of the month, when «The Kalends of May saw an altar dedicated/ to the Guardian Lares, with small statues of the gods» (Fasti V, 129-130), dwelling on the protective function of the Lares (performed in aid of individuals, families, houses, crossroads and so on in ancient Rome). This may lead us to suppose that the divinity introduced immediately afterwards, starting from the same line of verse (cf. Fasti V, 148) where the subject of the Lares ends, had a protective function as well: we are referring to the goddess called Bona Dea (“The Good Goddess”). Her cult seems to indicate that she worked in favour of the community, for the health and the protection of the State and people of Rome. Bona Dea was both an honorific title and a respectful pseudonym, while her true name was unknown: it was wrapped in mystery.
However, the mystery of the identity of the Bona Dea was revealed by Macrobius (5th century AD), a Roman writer of late antiquity, when the pagan world with its bonds of secrecy was on the wane: «According to Cornelius Labeo, at the Kalends of May a temple was dedicated to Maia, that is the Earth, under the name of Bona Dea» (Saturnalia I, 12, 21). It is not, therefore, pure case that Ovid mentions the Bona Dea on May 1, that is, at the beginning of the month of Maia: he dedicates her as much as eleven lines of verse (Fasti V, 148-158), which close the celebrations of the May 1. This date certainly was very important, also considering that in the same passage even the Emperor Augustus (who was also the Pontifex Maximus) is mentioned, not to speak of the reference to the temple of the Bona Dea on the Aventine Hill, restored by Livia, Augustus’s wife. Interestingly, Ovid explicitly links that temple to the competition between Remus and Romulus on the occasion of the founding of Rome, when they sighted six and twelve birds respectively.
Still Macrobius claims that «on the occasion of the Kalends of May the flamen of Vulcan officiates a ceremony to that Goddess [Maia]» (Saturnalia I, 12, 18). This corroborates the “triangular” relationship between Maia, the Bona Dea and the Kalends of May, which tallies with the Ovidian etymology of the name of the month Maius derived from Maia. Moreover, the relationship between Maia and Vulcan is very interesting, because in the context outlined here it can be explained by comparing it to the Hindu rituals, where «the third fire of the sacrificial area, keeps watch against the evil spirits; Vulcan acts from this fire» . So Vulcan is the protector fire here; this puts him at the service of Maia in the defence of the city and, at the same time, clearly shows the protective function of the Goddess.
Still Macrobius informs us that a pregnant sow was sacrificed to Maia (Saturnalia I, 12, 20). At first sight, the meaning of this sacrifice might perplexe us; however, perhaps the aforementioned poetical image of the “Small Hen” with its cheeping chicks, that in a synesthetic way reflect the Pleiades glimmering in the night sky, may give help. Actually pigs, besides being a clear sign of prosperity, especially in the archaic communities (one should only think of the role of Ulysses’ swineherd in the Odyssey) are the only big domestic mammals that can procreate many pups simultaneously: sows average eight or nine piglets per birth. So the image of the sow in the midst of her piglets is well fit, in an archaic world of farmers, for a metaphor of the star Maia – whose name means “the mother” in Ancient Greek – in the middle of the Pleiades (probably it’s no accident that the name of the pig is maialis in Latin, that has become maiale, “pig”, in Italian).
The Pleiades and the date of the founding of Rome
As regards the traditional date of the founding of Rome, April 21st, at this point one might wonder whether it may be connected to the relationship between Rome and the Pleiades. Now, in Mesopotamia «the Pleiades play an important part in the calendrical reckoning, a role that is clearly stated in almanacs as the MUL.APIN» (the MUL.APIN is the most important astronomical-astrological compendium found in ancient Mesopotamia). Furthermore, «The rise of the Pleiades is fixed in the second month of the Babylonian calendar Ayāru (April/May). It should be noted that the Sumerian name of the month, gu4.si.sá (“driving the ox(en)”; where gu4 means ‘ox, bull’) recalls the name of the Taurus constellation» . On the other hand, besides being part of the constellation of Taurus, in the Mesopotamian context the Pleiades even may stand as a synecdoche (the part for the whole) of the Taurus constellation «and thus appear in the Zodiac in substitution of the Taurus» . Moreover, «The rising of the Pleiades at the beginning of the second month is mentioned in the MUL.APIN as well: “On the 1st of the month Ayāru the Pleiades become visible (MUL.APIN ii 38)”» . In short, the Pleiades’ rise corresponds to the first day of the second month of the Mesopotamian year, Ayāru, that is April/May, which takes its name from the constellation of Taurus in Sumerian language: but even now the first day of the second month of astrological year, corresponding to Taurus zodiac sign, is April 21st!
So, the date of the founding of Rome, in addition to the Seven Hills, directly brings us again to the Pleiades. Reinterpreted in this light, it reveals a powerful sacred meaning, with a deep astronomical and symbolic value: not only the Seven Hills of Rome reflect the appearance of the Pleiades on Earth, but also the date of its founding makes a precise reference to their annual cycle on the celestial sphere. In short, both the spatial and temporal dimensions that link the founding of the Eternal City to the appearance of the Pleiades and their calendar function (in Mesopotamia «the main role of the Pleiades is that of a time reckoner» ), mutually support and strengthen each other, making very small, if not negligible, the probability that this complex network of correspondences and references might be due to mere randomness.
It is also interesting to note that in the Mesopotamian world «the equivalence of the Pleiades with the number seven and particularly with seven divine beings is widespread» . So one cannot exclude that even the traditional number of the seven kings of Rome originated, rather than from a real historical foundation, from the need to adapt it to a sacred numerology, where the number seven was emphasized. It is also noteworthy, given the importance that the classical authors attribute to the high destinies the gods assigned to Rome, «the association of the Pleiades with the seven great gods who periodically gather to establish the fates of humankind» . Still in the Mesopotamian context «The Pleiades are mainly quoted as a learned name for Mars» (with reference to that planet, corresponding to the god of war) and, in this regard, in the story of the founding of Rome the importance of Mars, father of the twins Romulus and Remus, is well known (incidentally, the Hindu god of war, Kartikeya, is linked to the Pleiades as well). One should also consider the agricultural aspect of the month of Ayāru, when, under the sign of the Pleiades, the works of the fields are resumed: «The earth is open and the oxen are driven, the field is open, the plows are washed» : it seems almost to see Romulus who with his oxen pushes the plow while he traces the furrow on the Palatine Hill! On the other hand, in Mesopotamia «the patron of the second month of the calendar (Ayāru) is Ninĝir-su/Ninurta, god of war and agriculture» . War and agriculture: how might the spirit of archaic Rome be better synthesized?
At this point, one could also reread with new eyes some singular analogies between Roman and Mesopotamian myths, such as the convergences between the birth of Romulus and that of Sargon (the latter is the great king founder of the kingdom of Akkad, who did not know his father and, abandoned in a basket on a river, was saved by a man called Akki, while the saver of the twins Romulus and Remus was Acca); not to mention the fact that the days corresponding to the first day of the month, the seventh one and the fifteenth are very important both in the Roman calendar (Kalends, Nones and Ides respectively) and in the Mesopotamian one: «At the beginning of the cycle the lunar crescent (uskāru/u4-sakar) shines on the country and indicates the beginning of the month; then during six days the horns (qarnu/si) are visible, until the seventh day, when its crown (agû/aga) appears. On the fifteenth day (šapattu), the full moon is visible with the sun; it then begins its downward phase until it disappears (ūm bubbuli/u4-ná-àm), then a new cycle follows» .
Incidentally, this hypothetical relationship between Mesopotamia and ancient Rome could also be linked to the very singular case of Monte d’Accoddi, a Neolithic archaeological site in Sardinia, where a temple, dating back to the third millennium BC, was found, that is identical to contemporary Mesopotamian ziggurats: «The most significant comparison is with the Anu ziggurat in Uruk» (one should note that a village called Uri lies only 15 km from Monte d’Accoddi, and other placenames in the same area recall ancient Mesopotamian places). On the other hand, a Sardinian scholar, Raffaele Sardella, has showed a lot of connections between the Sardinian dialects and the Sumerian language .
Sacred cities with seven hills
The close relationship between Rome and the Pleiades suggests the opportunity to investigate the origins of other cities that boast seven hills. A very interesting case is that of Armagh, the religious capital of Ireland, whose bishopric was founded by St. Patrick. In the pre-Christian era, on its territory there was a very important settlement, called Eamhain Mhacha, which, according to Irish mythology, was both a great royal site of Gaelic Ireland and the capital city of Ulster. Eamhain Mhacha, which means “Macha’s twins” , is located on a low hill and has a circular fence, 250 meters in diameter, surrounded by an embankment and a moat. However, the fact that the latter is strangely behind the embankment suggests that Eamhain Mhacha was not a fortified city, but a pagan ceremonial site that enclosed a sacred space, with traces of activities dating back to the Neolithic (4000-2500 BC). This is an extremely important place in Irish mythology. Afterwards, in the third century AD, the embankment and the moat were excavated around the top of the Cathedral hill, at the center of the present Armagh, whose circular shape corresponds to the modern development of the streets. Armagh, therefore, at the outset was a pagan sanctuary, which took its name from the goddess Macha (Ard Mhacha means “Macha’s height” in Irish; this name was later anglicised as Ardmagh, which eventually became Armagh); it corresponds to one of the seven hills of the city. It is noteworthy the likeness of Ard Mhacha with the hypothetical Latin name of the city built under the protection of Maia on the Palatine Hill: Arx Maiae (that is, “Maia’s height”).
As regards the probable relationship of the Irish world with the pre-Celtic megalithism, it seem to be cognate to the relationship, mentioned also in the Ovidian Fasti, between the founding of Rome and the mythical Golden Age of Saturn, the ancient god to whom are ascribed the imposing megalithic remains of several very ancient cities of Latium next to Rome: Norba, Cori, Ferentino, Alatri, Veroli, Arpino (where Cicero was born), and so on. On the other hand, Armagh shares with Rome not only the seven hills, but also the fact of being born as a sacred city, a sanctuary on a height. Both of them have maintained their original religious vocation through the centuries, with extraordinary continuity, starting from the megalithism of the Neolithic period up to the Christian era, beyond the millennia and the troubles of history.
Being still in Ireland, we can not fail to mention the case of the Seven Sisters, a mountain range in the County of Donegal, whose southernmost peak, which is also the highest and steepest, is a mountain called Errigal (751 m), famous for the rosy glow of its quartzite in the setting sun, to the point of being voted in the year 2009 as “the most iconic mountain in Ireland” . But “The Seven Sisters” is a frequent name in various mythologies to indicate the Pleiades and, as regards Errigal (An Earagail in Irish Gaelic), here is a line of verse of a Mesopotamian hymn to Marduk: «On your left is Erragal, the strongest one of the gods, in front of [you go] the valiant Pleiades!» .
Besides the case of Armagh, there is still the unexpected case of a city which is characterized by seven hills and is considered sacred by Islam, a religion that counts almost two billion followers: we are referring to Mecca, called Makkah in Arabic. Even the expression Makkah al-Mukarramah, “the honored Mecca” (also translated as “the Holy City of Mecca”), seems to recall closely “the Most Holy Maia”! Moreover, the name of one of the seven hills of Mecca is Jabal Abu Ma’aya. So, there are three cities, whose sacredness has persisted over the centuries till now: Rome, Armagh and Mecca, that share seven hills and their own names: Maia-Macha-Makkah.
One should also note that also Jerusalem lies on seven hills (Mount Scopus, Mount of Olives, Mount of Corruption, Mount Ophel, the original Mount Zion, the New Mount Zion and the hill on which the Antonia Fortress was built). Thus in all the three religions coming from Abraham there are sacred cities on seven hills.
Moreover, there is a great Slavic goddess, Mokoš, protector of women’s work and destiny, who has the features of Maia-Macha-Makkah, and a name very much alike. She protects women in childbirth and watches over spinning, weaving and shearing of sheep. Mokoš, the Great Mother, was the only female deity whose idol was erected by Vladimir the Great in his Kiev sanctuary along with the statues of other major gods. In Eastern Europe Mokosh is popular as a powerful life giving force and protector of women. Mokosh was the great Earth Mother Goddess of East Slavs and Eastern Polans, one of the most popular Slavic deities. She may have originated in the northern Finno-Ugric tribes of the Vogul (a population of the northern valleys of the Urals and the forests of the Ob, also known as Mansi) who have a deity called Moksha. Villages are named after her; traces of Mokosh are today well preserved in various toponyms of Slavic countries . Also the name of Moscow – a city, called Matuška Moskva (Mother Moscow), standing on seven hills exactly as Rome is – could be related to Mokoš.
Returning now to Ovid, all seems to corroborate the hypothesis proposed here, that is, that he was condemned to exile because he had revealed the secret, unmentionable relationship of Rome with the Pleiades and Maia, followed shortly after by the digression on the Bona Dea on the occasion of May 1, in the fifth book of the Fasti. All of this could jeopardize the secrecy of the name of the protector goddess of the City. Moreover, his crime occurred when August was working to restore the severity and austerity of the ancient customs of Rome. However, Ovid probably avoided the capital punishment because he did not explicitly break the taboo of the secret name and limited himself to mentioning some elements (that, however, were enough for getting at the truth). Nevertheless such allusiveness, in the new political and institutional climate introduced by August, made him liable for a heavy sentence. On the other hand, the gravity of his wrong is indirectly attested by the deathly silence of all ancient literature on the relationship between the Pleiades, Maia and the origins of Rome, interrupted only by Calliope’s daring speech.
One can also note that Ovid’s native town, Sulmona (120 km east of Rome), lies at the foot of Maiella (or Majella) massif, that, according to several very old local folk-tales, was consecrated to Maia: the Goddess would have left the Maiella both her name and a lot of stories and legends, that often are very fascinating and seem to date back to the dawn of time. So, one can suppose that what induced Ovid to dwell recklessly on the forbidden, unmentionable connection between Maia, the goddess of his land, and the founding of Rome, was his origin from Sulmona. It was a fault that cost him the exile, but gave us the opportunity to shed light on the close connection of Rome with the Pleiades – both for the Seven Hills reflecting the seven stars, and for the founding date, the 21st of April, that is, the first day of the Taurus, to which the Pleiades belong – by revealing this way the two-thousand-year-old mystery of the secret name of the Eternal City.
Incidentally, after the end of paganism, in the area of Maiella several features of Maia were attributed to the Virgin Mary ; on the other hand, some Gothic cathedrals, often dedicated to the Virgin, were built on ancient pre-existing megalithic sites, especially in France. One could deduce that the Madonna might be the Christianized image of Maia, or better, the heir of the Mother Goddess of prehistory. Even the name of the Magi who visited Jesus after his birth seems to remind Maia, who gave birth to her divine son in a cave (Homeric hymn to Hermes, 23), not to mention the star (maybe Maia?) that guided them in their journey.
To conclude, since Rome shares its secret name with other sacred cities with seven hills, one could infer that they might be the last testimony of a stellar cult – probably dating back to the megalithic period – which was centred around the Pleiades and Maia, the Great Mother, and was perhaps widespread everywhere, to the point that the name the Sioux Lakota give the Earth, “Maka”, is almost identical to Maia-Macha-Makkah-Mokoš.
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