di Joshua Whatmough (1897-1964)

But perhaps the most interesting piece of evidence that we have to illustrate the beliefs of the Samnite tribes is the engraved bronze tablet found at Capracotta (called the Tabula Agnonensis, though it was not actually found at Agnone), now in the British Museum. It measures about 11 by 6½ inches, is engraved on both sides, and is furnished with a handsome handle and chain with which to hang it up, presumably in some shrine or temple. Its contents are simply an inventory of the statues and altars in a sacred grove or garden devoted to the cult of a large number of rural divinities, whose very names are full of interest, together with the prescription of a sacrifice either every second year or at each of two annual festivals - it is not quite clear which. The entire grove, it would appear, had been consecrated to a deity Kerres, and many of the subsidiary or associated deities, who with few exceptions have feminine culttitles, have the derivative epithet kerríiú- meaning genialis, that is pertaining to the powers of generation of plants, crops, trees, and animals as well as of man, rather than merely cerealis in the narrower Latin sense. Precisely when the festivals called the fluusasiaís and dekmanniúis (both loc. pl.) fell we do not know; it has been conjectured that they came about July and August rispectively. Besides Jupiter, Ceres, Hercules, and Mercury (who is called euklúí) the two last-named no doubt in their old capacity of agricultural deities, and besides the less definitely personified Panda and Flora, we have the more shadowy half-animistic functional spirits of vezkeí, anterstataí, and ammaí, these three perhaps maieutic and trophic in function, the fuutreí kerríiai now interpreted as "filiæ Cereali", and also, significantly enough in the plural, the dumpaís (nymphis), anafríss (imbribus), and maatuís (manibus). The prescription concerning the sacrifice runs: «aasaí purasiaí saahtúm tefúrúm... sakahíter» "in ara ignea crematio sancta... sanciatur".

  • J. Whatmough, The Foundations of Roman Italy, Methuen, London 1937, pp. 383-384.