The Latin Typo That Gave Us the Temple of Ridicule; One Letter Matters
April 18, 2019 11:30 AM   Subscribe

In the 1800s, French abbot-scholar Pierre Danet wrote a "complete dictionary of the Greek and Roman antiquities" that served as the basis for multiple dictionaries in European languages (Wikipedia). It included an entry on Aedicula Ridiculi (Google books; UMich text version), or a Little Temple of Ridicule, raised to the God of Joy and Laughter after the Romans laughed at the failure of Hannibal to lay siege to Rome. The building definitely exists (Google Streetview panorama), except it isn't a Temple of Ridicule. It's probably the tomb of Annia Regilla (Wikipedia), built nearly 400 years after Hannibal's invasion of Italy (Your Guide to Italy). The Latin Typo That Gave Us the Temple of Ridicule (Atlas Obscura)
posted by filthy light thief (9 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
To jump to the source of the typo, from Atlas Obscura:
It’s simple enough to understand how rumors of the temple took hold. Only two ancient texts are ever cited as evidence for its existence. The first is Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (Tufts text version, with footnotes), which mentions in a section on birds that a shoemaker once buried his beloved pet raven “on the right-hand side of the Appian Way, at the second milestone from the City, in the field generally known as the ‘field of Rediculus’” (in Latin, campus Rediculi). The second is a fragment written by the second-century grammarian Festus: “The temple of Rediculus [fanum Rediculi] was outside the Porta Capena; it was so called because Hannibal, when on the march from Capua, turned back at that spot, being alarmed at certain portentous visions.”
Per Wikipedia, Rediculus was an ancient Roman divinity. He had a temple near the Porta Capena, as well as a campus sacred to him on the Appian Way.
This divinity was probably one of Rome's lares, a protector-god of the city. He is said to have appeared to Hannibal as he was camped outside Rome in 211 B.C., urging him to return (redire) to Carthage. Festus' account of the incident reports that Hannibal, nearing the city, saw apparitions in the air, filling him with dread and causing him to turn back immediately
The Wikipedia article also notes that "others derive the name of the god from the word ridiculus, signifying a thing to be laughed at," but the article currently goes on to say some scholars have dismissed this definition.

If you want to visit it, the tomb is in Rome's Park of the Caffarella (Wikipedia).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:38 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]

Annia Regilla sounds very glamorous, like the Marella Agnelli of her day. This inscription is beautiful: “To the memory of Annia Regilla, wife of Herodes, the light and soul of the house, to whom these lands once belonged”.
posted by sallybrown at 11:43 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]

And if you're looking for a happy god to worship, has a nice list, including a number of Roman gods, but no "Ridiculus" :)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:43 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]

Can somebody expand on the death of Annia Regilla. There must be more to it than what wikipedia says. Why was she kicked in the stomac by the freed slave, what happened to him, why did Marco Aurelio exonerate his tutor?
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 12:43 PM on April 18

Years and years ago I picked up a copy of this etching, in part because of the ridiculous name. Never bothered to look into the what and why behind it, so this is welcome illumination.

Can somebody expand on the death of Annia Regilla?

Sarah B. Pomeroy can! Or at least, as far as anyone can.
posted by BWA at 1:07 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]

Thank You BWA, that was extreamly interesting, if somewhat murky.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 2:10 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]

Now I need a streaming series on this ancient murder!
posted by sallybrown at 2:43 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]

It may have been a typo, but perhaps we do need such a temple today. Look for my Patreon soon!
posted by M-x shell at 3:14 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]

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