Via Claudia Quinta. The miracle of Cybele’s simulacrum – Visit Ostia Antica
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Visit Ostia Antica / Streets' stories  / Via Claudia Quinta. The miracle of Cybele’s simulacrum
8 Jan

Via Claudia Quinta. The miracle of Cybele’s simulacrum

The names of the people who have made the history of the area of the Roman coast have been immortalized in the names of the streets and squares dedicated to them. We will follow those names to discover the fascinating history of this territory, starting from the very heart of the Renaissance village of Ostia Antica, where a small road leads to one of the two entrances of the medieval walls. The gnome Alfredo has kindly accepted to be our photojournalist.

Via Claudia Quinta, Ostia AnticaThe street is named after Claudia Quinta, a Roman matron who lived at the time of the Second Punic War (III century BC.). She was unjustly accused of scandalous behavior and it was in Ostia, thanks to a miraculous event, the she found her redemption, becoming a symbol of virtue and chastity.

According to Livy, Claudia was a matron, i.e. a Roman married woman, but over time the myth “transformed” her into a vestal (e.g. according to Suetonius), one of the priestesses in charge of preserving the sacred fire of Rome, chosen among the most beautiful and noble girls of the city, obliged to remain virgins until the age of 40, who had unthinkable privileges for any other Roman woman.

Her story is told, among others, by Ovid (Fasti, IV, 305-328). He tells us that she was a beautiful and noble woman, but that she was not believed to be chaste (nec facies impar nobilitate fuit, casta quidem, sed non et credita). Because of her clothing, her behavior and even of her hairstyle (!) Claudia suffered of unjust accusations (cultus et ornatis varie prodisse capillis obfuit ad rigidos promptaque lingua senes).

She therefore asked the goddess Cybele (mistress of wild nature and fertility) for help and she did it on a special occasion, for all to see. It was the year 204 BC and a wave of mysticism, due to the terrible threat of Hannibal, had spread throughout the Italian peninsula. For this reason, the black stone representing the goddess was moved from the city of Pessinunte, in Asia Minor, to Italy. Claudia was chosen, along with Scipio Nasica, to welcome the simulacrum of the goddess but the ship carrying it got beached at the mouth of the river Tiber. According to the legend, Claudia got it afloat again by simply pulling it with her belt, demonstrating in this way the protection of the goddess and regaining her good reputation.

This happy end story takes us back to the time of the Roman Republic when the accusation of immorality could ruin a person forever and the miraculous intervention of a goddess coming from the East could determine her salvation.

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