History By Pictures – 4. The Water Source of Feronia in Terracina

Once upon a time there was a nymph. Her name was Feronia, she lived on the outskirts of Terracina and she lived cultivating flowers and plants. Despite her beauty, she disdained the company of all her suitors. But Jupiter, who fell in love with her, took on the appearance of a child and made it his own. From that day on she became one of her lovers and gave her immortality. Feronia then began to be venerated as a goddess, making the cities and fields of her devotees rich, prosperous and flourishing. Juno, Jupiter’s jealous wife, however, discovered her husband’s infidelity and, coming down from the sky, drove Feronia out of her lands, asking the rivers Ufente, Astura and Ninfeo to help her in her vengeance. They broke in and transformed Feronia’s happy world into the sad and unhealthy Palude Pontina.


Sketch reproducing the sources of Feronia and the head of the goddess found near the sanctuary (Credits: megalithic.it).


This story is told to us by the poet Vincenzo Monti in the poem “Feroniade”, inspired by the hunting trips around Terracina organized by Prince Luigi Braschi – Onesti, nephew of Pope Pius VI, promoter of the work of reclamation of the Pontine Marshes at the end of the eighteenth century.


The poem “La Feroniade” written by Vincenzo Monti (Credits: ibs.it).


In fact, at the gates of Terracina, exactly in “Le Mole”, there is a place called “The water source of Feronia”. The place, near the “Punta di Leano” and along the route of the Appian Way, is rich in vegetation and water sources. This must have been the habitat of Feronia, or rather the seat of its sanctuary mentioned by Horace in the V Satire and of which today almost nothing remains.


The Water Source of Feronia in the place called “Le Mole” at the entrance of Terracina.


Goddess of Sabine origin, Feronia was the protector of fields and crops. Her bond with the libertines was also strong. In the Lucus Feroniae of Terracina, in fact, the ceremony of liberation of the slaves took place and, according to the sources, there was a stone seat with the inscription: “The slaves who have well deserved, follow here and stand up from free men”.


Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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