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date: 30 January 2023

Bona Deafree

, 'the Good Goddess'

Bona Deafree

, 'the Good Goddess'
  • John North


  • Roman Myth and Religion

Bona Dea (the Good Goddess—this is her title, not name, which is uncertain), an Italian goddess, worshipped especially in Rome and Latium. In Rome, she had an annual nocturnal ceremony held at the house of a chief magistrate, from which men were rigorously excluded (see clodius pulcher, publius); it was led by the women of the magistrate's family with the help of the Vestal virgins (Cic. Har. res. 37; Plut. Caes. 9). It was a state ritual, performed in secret, for the welfare of the Roman people (pro salute populi Romani). Some detail is recorded: the room was decorated with vine-branches and other plants; wine was brought in contained in a covered jar, but it was called milk and the jar a honey-pot. The epigraphic record presents a picture quite distinct from this secret aristocratic rite: there is no sign of secrecy; the worshippers are often slaves or freed persons; men are not infrequent dedicants. The inscriptions are quite widespread within Italy, but rare outside. The Romans evidently had their own version of the cult; it is not clear whether theirs was the original one.


  • H. H. J. Brouwer, Bona Dea: The Sources and a Description of the Cult (1989).