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In Roman mythology, Libitina was the goddess of death, corpse and funerals. Her name was also a synonym for death [see Horace Odes 3.30].

Her face was seldom portrayed; hardly any sacrifices were offered to her, as they were to Orcus, her male equivalent. Today, her very name has sunk into such obscurity that it is seldom mentioned when the gods and goddesses of antiquity are reviewed. Her name was comparable to our idea of death, and she was worshipped by the ancients and often sung about by their poets. This female deity, remembered today mostly from Roman verse, was a reigning personification of Death. She was manifest as a black robed, dark winged figure who might, like an enormous bird of prey, hover above her intended victim until the moment came to seize it. In some traditions, she is the same as Venus or Persephone. Servius Tullius is said to have been the first to set up temples to her that housed all the equipment necessary for funerals, including gravediggers. Her temples also usually contained the registers of the dead. It is believed that the Colosseummarker had one gate dedicated to Libitina for all of the fallen gladiators that fought within the Colosseum.

As a deity of death, Libitina was most often invoked at funerals: it was a tradition for a coin to be brought to her temple when someone died, and undertakers were known as libitinarii. .


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