What was the Bacchanalia?
Bacchanalia was established c.200 BC in the Aventine grove by a priestess from Campania, near the temple where Liber had a State-sanctioned cult. Liber was a native Roman god of wine, fertility, and prophecy, patron of Rome's plebeians and a close equivalent to Bacchus-Dionysus.
- 8 - The consuls Postumius and Philippus diverted their attention to the necessity of putting down a domestic conspiracy. We are told that a hedge-priest from Greek travelled to Etruria and created this nocturnal cult, spreading to Rome like a plague. Debaucheries of every kind were committed during these events, such as orgies and the murdering of families.
- 9 - Knowledge of this cult was brought to the Consul Postumius by P. Aebutius. Aebutius was introduced to the Bacchic mystery by his stepfather and mother who wanted him to be initiated, once having recovered from illness. We are then introduced to the Freedwoman, formerly a courtesan, Hispala Fecenia, who was Aebutius' lover.
- 10 - Aebutius reveals to Fecenia that he will be initiating into the Bacchic mysteries. Fecenia was distraught and cursed his family for making him join. She told him that while a slave she was initiated into the Bacchanalia by her mistress. She begged him not to join.
- 11- Aebutius goes home and tells his family that he will not join the Bacchanalia. Kicked out of the house, Aebutius goes to his Aunt Aebutia and she tells him to report this to the Consul. After hearing his report, the Consul wanted to speak to Aebutia, who verified his story.
- 12 - The Consul Postumius asks Aebutia to send for Hispala. Hispala was petrified that the consul wanted to see her and she fainted. Eventually she composed herself and was willing to speak, and states that she was initiated into the Bacchanalia years ago and doesn't remember much. However, the Consul warned her to tell the full truth.
- 13 - Worried for her safety, she throws herself onto the consul's mother-in-law Sulpicia, who was present with them and begs for asylum if she was to confess. After being promised safet-housing, Hispala revealed to the Consul the origins of the cult and what it entailed.