1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Liber

LIBER and LIBERA, in Roman mythology, deities, male and female, identified with the Greek Dionysus and Persephone. In honour of Liber (also called Liber Pater and Bacchus) two festivals were celebrated. In the country feast of the vintage, held at the time of the gathering of the grapes, and the city festival of March 17th called Liberalia (Ovid, Fasti, iii. 711) we find purely Italian ceremonial unaffected by Greek religion. The country festival was a great merry-making, where the first-fruits of the new must were offered to the gods. It was characterized by the grossest symbolism, in honour of the fertility of nature. In the city festival, growing civilization had impressed a new character on the primitive religion, and connected it with the framework of society. At this time the youths laid aside the boy’s toga praetexta and assumed the man’s toga libera or virilis (Fasti, iii. 771). Cakes of meal, honey and oil were offered to the two deities at this festival. Liber was originally an old Italian god of the productivity of nature, especially of the vine. His name indicated the free, unrestrained character of his worship. When, at an early period, the Hellenic religion of Demeter spread to Rome, Liber and Libera were identified with Dionysus and Persephone, and associated with another Italian goddess Ceres, who was identified with Demeter. By order of the Sibylline books, a temple was built to these three deities near the Circus Flaminius; the whole cultus was borrowed from the Greeks, down even to the terminology, and priestesses were brought from the Greek cities.