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Laverna

Roman A goddess of the Underworld of ancient Italian origins. Laverna was known as a goddess to whom thieves, cheats, imposters, and frauds would pray when they were trying to hide. They would ask Laverna to make them look innocent and law abiding. Near a temple to Laverna on the Aventine Hill grew a grove of trees in which thieves would hide and ask...

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Latium

Roman In ancient times, a region in west-central Italy, south and east of the Tiber River on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The people of this region were known as Latins. Archaeological evidence shows that Latin communities first developed around 1200 b.c. in the Alban Hills, 12 miles southeast of the hills of modern Rome. As communities grew and shifted from herding flocks...

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Latinus

Roman A legendary, perhaps historical, king of the Latini or Latins, an original people of central Italy, and the hero from whom that people got their name. Several traditions surround Latinus and the role he played in the history of Rome. In one tradition, he was the son of the god Faunus and the Nymph Marica. In another, he was the grandson of Hercules....

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Lara

(Lala; Larunda; The talker) Roman Originally, a Sabine goddess who presided over houses. Later a nymph, a daughter of the river Tiber or the river Almo, known for her inability to keep a secret. Little information remains about the Sabine goddess, but her story as a nymph lives on in the works of Roman poets. Lara suffered a price for her chatter. When Jupiter, who was...

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Lar

(plural: Lares) Roman Ancient Roman spirits of the dead. A guardian spirit who in its earliest The Trojan hero Laocoön (center) and his two sons struggle against the giant serpents sent by the Greeks in this Roman marble sculpture, a copy of a Greek original from the second century B.C. (Photograph by Jean- Christophe Benoist. Used under a Creative Commons license.) Lar...

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Lapiths

(plural: Lapithae) Greek Mythical people of Thessaly, in north-central Greece. Their king, Ixion, fathered with Nephele (a cloud that Zeus had formed in the likeness of Hera) the half-human, half-horse creatures called Centaurs. Pirithoüs, half-brother of the Centaurs, became the ruler of the Lapiths....

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Laomedon

Greek First king of Troy; father of Priam, Hesione, and others. He was slain by the hero Heracles. The gods Apollo and Poseidon had displeased Zeus. As punishment, he sent them to work for Laomedon for wages. Poseidon built the walls of Troy, while Apollo tended the king's flocks on Mount Ida (2). After the two gods had completed their tasks, Laomedon refused to pay...

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Laocoön

Greek A priest of Apollo and Poseidon; son of Priam, king of Troy, and of Hecuba. Laocoön made Apollo angry by marrying and begetting children, breaking his priestly vow of celibacy. The Trojans had chosen Laocoön to make sacrifices to Poseidon, whose priest they had murdered nine years earlier. Before he went to the altar with his two sons, Laocoön warned Priam to beware...

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Laestrygonians

Greek A race of giant cannibals who devoured many of the crewmen of the ships of Odysseus when the hero anchored near their island. Only Odysseus's own ship escaped this terrible fate, since Odysseus had the foresight to anchor his vessel outside the harbor. In Book 10 of the Odyssey, Homer describes how the giants threw rocks on the ships from the top of...

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Laertes

Greek King of Ithaca husband of Anticlea, father of the hero Odysseus. Laertes was one of the Argonauts, the gallant crew who helped Jason find the Golden Fleece. He was also present at the Calydonian Boar Hunt. Laertes was still alive when his son, Odysseus, returned from the Trojan War....

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Laelaps

(Lelaps, Lalaps) Greek A hound that could catch whatever he chased. The god Zeus gave the dog to the Nymph Procris, who then gave him to her husband, Cephalus, the hunter. Cephalus inadvertently killed Procris. Laelaps lay forlorn at the feet of the slain nymph. Laelaps was later sent out to hunt the Teumessian fox, which had been destined by the goddess Hera never...

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Ladon

Greek The dragon who guarded the garden where the apples of the Hesperides were kept. In this garden, on Mount Atlas, there was a tree that bore golden fruit. The tree was a present from Gaia to Hera on her marriage to Zeus. No mortals knew the whereabouts of this sacred tree. It was the last task of the hero Heracles to find...

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Laconia

Greek A region in the southeast Peloponnesus whose capital was Sparta. In Greek mythology, Helen, wife of Menelaus and legendary cause of the Trojan War, was sometimes said to have been an ancient goddess of fertility in Laconia. She was worshiped there as a goddess of beauty....

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Labyrinth

Greek The word labyrinth means any intricate building full of chambers and passages, or a maze of paths bordered by high hedges. In Greek mythology, the labyrinth designed by Daedalus for King Minos to house the Minotaur may have been patterned on the design of the palace itself, which had a complex of rooms....

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Kker

(plural: Keres) Greek Female spirits that represented a person's death or perhaps destiny. Each person had one ker as a companion through life. The keres were portrayed as black, winged beings with long, pointed tails. According to stories, they tore at dead bodies to drink the blood. Homer, the great Greek poet credited with writing the Iliad, indicated that the keres accompanied heroes and...

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Juventas

(Juventus, Iuventus) Roman The goddess of youth, especially of youths who had reached the age of wearing adult clothing, which usually began at age 14. Juventas also protected young men who had reached the age of preparing for active military duty, which was typically 17. Juventas appears to be a very old deity in Rome's religions, for hers is one of the oldest temples...

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Juturna

Juturna (Iuturna) Roman An ancient goddess of springs and fountains. In her earliest forms, Juturna was worshiped most notably on the banks of the river Numicius, which flowed near the city of Lavinium, founded by the Trojan hero Aeneas after he settled in Italy. She also provided protection against fire. According to some legends, Juturna was the sister of Turnus, king of the Rutuli people,...

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Justitia

Justitia (Iustitia; Justice) Roman The goddess of justice; some say a mere personification of the legal concept of fairness. Justitia was often portrayed as blindfolded so that she was not swayed by what she saw, and carrying scales in her hands to weigh each side of a disagreement. Some sources say that the Roman emperor Augustus introduced a cult to Justitia in Rome in 13...

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Jupiter

Jupiter (Iupiter; Jove) (Jove) Roman The supreme god of the Roman pantheon; son of Saturn and Ops; husband of Juno. Jupiter was an ancient sky god of Latium, in central Italy, before the rise of Roman power. He was master of thunder, lightning, rain, and light, and also the giver of victory and peace. Jupiter was the special protector of Rome. Eventually, he became the...

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Juno

Juno (Iuno) Roman An old goddess among the Roman people who became one of the principal deities of ancient Rome. In her earliest traditions, Juno was a goddess of the Moon and seen as the queen of the heavens. She was very important to women and protected them during childbirth. Married and unmarried women celebrated her great festival, the Matronalia, on March 1. Juno developed...

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Jason

Jason (Iason) Greek The hero of one of the most famous Greek legends, often known as "Jason and the Golden Fleece," or "Jason and the Argonauts." Jason was the son of Aeson, king of Iolcus, in Thessaly, and of Queen Alcimede. When Pelias, the half-brother of Aeson, deposed Aeson and claimed the throne of Iolcus, threatening to kill any who disputed his claim, Jason, the...

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Janus

(Ianus) Roman One of the principal Roman gods and one of the oldest. Janus was the guardian of gates and doors, and as such his name is used in the name of the month of January, the gateway to the year. He is depicted as being two-faced or two-headed: One of his faces looks forward, into the future; the other looks backward, into...

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Ixion

Greek King of the Lapiths in Thessaly, the largest ancient region of north-central Greece. Ixion fell in love with Hera, wife of the god Zeus. Angry at the advances of Ixion to his wife, Zeus tricked Ixion by creating a cloud, Nephele, in the likeness of Hera. Ixion made love to the cloud and from the union was born Centaurus, the ancestor of the...

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Iris

Greek Messenger of the gods, especially of Zeus, and a devoted attendant of Hera. Iris personifies the rainbow, a path, it was said, that she often traveled. Daughter of the Titan Thaumus; sister of the Harpies....

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Iphigenia

Greek Daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and leader of the Greek forces in the Trojan War; sister of Electra and Orestes. Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia to placate the goddess Artemis, whom he had offended, and to ensure by this sacrifice fair winds on the voyage to Troy. Greek tragedians, notably Sophocles and Euripides, cited the death of Iphigenia as as motive for the...

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