Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Gwynaeth McIntyre, Sarah McCallum (ed.), Uncovering Anna Perenna: A Focused Study of Roman Myth and Culture. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019. Pp. xiv, 242. ISBN 9781350048430. $114.00.

Reviewed by Patricia A. Johnston, Brandeis University (

Version at BMCR home site

In 1999, the fountain of Anna Perenna at Piazza Euclide in Rome was first discovered and excavated by Marina Piranomonte.1 Uncovering Anna Perenna consists of a collection of papers presented in a panel in 2015 about this goddess, focusing largely on Ovid's account in Fasti 3, where he connects her with Anna, the sister of Vergil's Dido in Aeneid IV.

This collection opens with an informative essay by T. P. Wiseman, who reviews the history of this goddess in "Anna and the Plebs: A Synthesis of Primary Evidence." He points out that, although Anna Perenna was long thought to be the goddess worshipped on the Ides of March, a calendar from 84-47 BC found at Antium (modern Anzio), lists ANNae | PERENNAE on two separate lines, suggesting this could be two separate cult recipients, in keeping with other multiple cult recipients listed there. He discusses the possibility that the real-life model for Anna Perenna was either Dido's sister, or an old woman from Bovillae, an argument which Ramsby (ch. 7) and Newlands (ch. 8) develop further in this collection. Wiseman cites other sources which suggest that her name(s) could be two different deities who became one in Ovid's Fasti and in Silius Italicus' Punica VIII—the latter of whom emphasizes Anna's Carthaginian ties. He points out that, although the Ides of March, according to Suetonius (Iul. 88), was designated as the Day of Parricide, it never appeared as such on surviving Augustan calendars, but instead was known only as the cult day of Anna Perenna.

The collected articles that follow are divided into four categories. The first section focuses on Anna Perenna's ties to Carthage and to Rome. In "From Carthage to Rome," Sarah McCallum examines "Ovid's Elegiac Revision of Virgilian Allusion*", in which she cites theories based on Servius Auctus ad A. 4.682, the belief (attributed there to Varro) that Anna, not Dido, "killed herself on the top of a pyre (supra rogam)," indicating that in the original story it was Anna, not Dido, who was the lover of Aeneas, and that the "alternative" tale of "Anna and Aeneas...was suppressed by Virgil" (p. 19).

In the second article in this section, "Calendar Girl: Anna Perenna Between the Fasti and the Punica*", James S. McIntyre focuses on Silius Italicus' "betweenness" –the distance between Vergil and Ovid—to insert an episode from the Punic War, prior to the battle of Cannae, in which Anna is crucial (having been sent by Juno) in ensuring that this battle takes place, and also to incorporate Lucan's "concluding portrayal of Caesar's ascent to power in the Bellum Civile." In Silius' poem, he points out, "Without Anna, there is no Cannae: indeed Silius' wordplay embeds ANNA (encouraging her kinsman HANNibal) within the very battle of CANNAe itself" (citing Sil. 8.27-8). McIntyre proceeds to study and compare the accounts in Ovid and Silius Italicus, and how "the goddess unwittingly misleads her kinsman (Hannibal), making a promise that will be fulfilled, but not in the way that Hannibal hopes."

In the third article in this section, Gwynaeth McIntyre, in "Not Just Another Fertility Goddess: Searching for Anna Perenna in Art", examines the similar relief on Southeastern panel of the Ara Pacis in Rome and what B. Spaeth,2 identifies as the Syracusan cult of Demeter and Persephone which was imported to Carthage in the fourth century, whose seated figure has often been identified as a wide range of deities--including Ceres/Demeter, Persephone, "a sprite," Luna—and suggests it may be Anna Perenna at both these sites. The paper ends, however, without much argument in support of this question other than that the identification of this figure remains "elusive."

The next section of papers turns to the nymphs mentioned in the Anna Perenna Sanctuary at the Piazza Euclide. In "Anna and Her Nymphs" David J. Wright discusses "Anna, Water, and Her Imminent Deification in Aeneid 4*". Equating lympha and nympha and juxtaposing the equivalence of perpetua and perennis, he concludes that references to water are references to Anna Perenna in Virgil, and set the stage for Ovid to develop the connection as he does.

This is followed by A. Everett Beek, "How to Become a Hero: Gendering the Apotheosis of Ovid's Anna Perenna." Her central argument—although this is not completely clear—seems to be that 'Anna's transformation into Anna Perenna, as presented in the Fasti, reflects masculine more than feminine experience" (p.82) (She does tend to awkwardly fabricate terms, such as 'apotheose/ apotheosed' as if this were an active verb, e.g., on p. 85-86: 'Dido…does not flee Tyre….and she is not apotheosed.') Although she concludes that Ovid modelled the gender of "Anna the Epic hero…on that of Aeneas," I was unable to follow her reasoning.

In the third article in this section, "Instability and Permanence in Ceremonial Epigraphy: The Example of Anna Perenna", Anna Blennow focuses on three votive inscriptions from the Piazza Euclide. The first is to the nymphis sacratis, who symbolize the gratis fontibus, by the freedman Eutychidas, and the other two are both by Gaius Suetonius Germanus (and his wife Licinia in the first one) and are to the "consecrated nymphs of Anna Perenna" or to "the nymphs and to Anna Perenna." After a brief review of conflicting theories about the location and purpose of the festival of Anna Perenna and its location, Blennow argues that "the contests or games… should not be regarded as the main reason why the inscriptions were put up in [this] sanctuary…and that the nature and location of the contests cannot be proved from the epigraphic evidence as being linked to the Anna Perenna festival."(p.102) Rather, she argues, the inscriptions found at this site indicate "the whole epigraphic process of a vow…from the deposition of inscribed lead tablets <now lost> containing vows to the materialization of the completed contract of the vow by solemn inscriptions in stone." (p.110) This is the "change" referred to in her title, and her earlier statement that "an inscription almost always is created as a result of change" (p.95). She concludes "the references to contests or games…should not be regarded as the main reason" they were put up in this sanctuary, and that "the nature and location of the contests cannot be proved from the epigraphic evidence as being linked to the Anna Perenna festival." (p.102)

In the third division of papers, "Champion of the Plebs," Teresa Ramsby, in "Ovid's Anna Perenna and the Coin of Gaius Annius*", examines a denarius which she suggests depicts Anna Perenna on the reverse side (82-81 BCE) (p. 114), based on Ovid's tale of an old woman of Bovillae who was honored because she baked cakes for the Roman plebs as they camped out on the mons sacra (Ovid Fasti. 3.661-74). After reviewing alternate interpretations of this coin, she suggests that the practice of linking family names to deities or legendary figures, a common practice during the late Republic elaborates the plebeian linkages implied therein (through Annius and Anna Perenna).

Then Carole Newlands, in "Infiltrating Julian History: Anna Perenna at Lavinium and Bovillae (Ovid, Fasti. 3.523-710)", examines the convergence of "the two <so different> events commemorated in Ovid's poem on the Ides of March," namely Anna Perenna and Julius Caesar (p.126-27), which she later maintains was changed, "possibly under Tiberius… to June 18" and moved "from the ideologically charged location near Augustus' Mausoleum… to the Piazza Euclide" (p.143) (p. 210, n.77, citing Wiseman and Heyworth, but pointing out that Piranomonte argues against any change of location for the cult). Newlands associates Anna with natural time, since she is named at the start of the year (Fasti 3.145-6), while Julius Caesar is praised for regularizing the year by instituting the twelve-month calendar (Fasti 3.155-66). She later concludes (p.134) that Ovid associates Anna's deification with that of Julius Caesar (3.701-2) and concludes that "Ovid's aim in the Fasti was to expand the horizon of cultural memories that Augustus was foreclosing." (p.143).

The final section ("The Afterlife of Anna Perenna") has a single paper by Justin Hudak: "Riverrun: Channelling Anna Perenna in Finnegans Wake". He argues, citing Harold Bloom, that Joyce's Anna Livia Plurabelle is "in large part derived from the similarly fluminal Anna Perenna of Ovid's Fasti" (p.150). This paper would be more appropriate in another context, I should think, since it focuses much more on one of James Joyce's major works, in which some echoes of Ovid can be found.

The collection contains some useful discussions but could be more polished. There is a good deal of overlap, as though, despite the interest of the topic, there was not enough material for extended discussions or theoretical proposals. Moreover, the lack of coordination among the essays may be due to the organization of the original panel itself and the elision of other possible topics. On the technical side, I found the placement of the footnotes at the end of the volume most inconvenient, especially since their content is so central to the essays themselves, and the inconsistencies in the details of some footnotes forces one to also have a page marker at the bibliography when, for example, the dates of works cited in some of the footnotes are missing. Other little problems include the appendage of asterisks (without explanation) to some of the paper titles (in papers 1, 2, 4, and 7).

Table of Contents

Introduction: T.P. Wiseman, "Anna and the Plebs: A Synthesis of Primary Evidence"

From Carthage to Rome
1. Sarah McCallum, "Rivalry and Revelation: Ovid's Elegiac Revision of Virgilian Allusion*"
2. James S. McIntyre, "Calendar Girl: Anna Perenna between the Fasti and the Punica*"
3. Gwynaeth McIntyre, "Not Just Another Fertility Goddess: Searching for Anna in Art"

Anna and Her Nymphs
4. David J. Wright, "Anna, Water, and Her Imminent Deification in Aeneid 4*"
5. A. Everett Beek, "How to Become a Hero: Gendering the Apotheosis of Ovid's Anna Perenna"
6. Anna Blennow, "Instability and Permanence in Ceremonial Epigraphy: The Example of Anna Perenna"
7. Teresa Ramsby, "Ovid's Anna Perenna and the Coin of Gaius Annius*"
8. Carole Newlands, "Infiltrating Julian History: Anna Perenna at Lavinium and Bovillae"

The Afterlife of Anna Perenna
9. Justin Hudak, "Riverrun: Channelling Anna Perenna in Finnegans Wake"


1.   On the discovery of Fountain of Anna Perenna in 1999, see Marina Piranomonte, Il santuario della musica e il bosco sacro di Anna Perenna (Roma: Electa, 2002).
2.   "The Goddess Ceres in the Ara Pacis Augusta and the Carthage Relief", AJA 98 (1994) 65-100.

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