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From Hercles, Italic pronunciation of the name Heracles. His was perhaps the earliest foreign cult to be received in Rome, the Ara Maxima, which was his most ancient place of worship, being within the pomerium of the Palatine settlement. The probable intention was to put the commercial forum Boarium, in which it stood, under the protection of a god better known than the local deities. His cult had become very popular with merchants, no doubt because of his supposed ability to avert evil (see heracles) and the long journeys involved in his Labours and other exploits. It was common to pay him a tithe of the profits of an enterprise. In his worship at the Ara Maxima no other god was mentioned; women and dogs were excluded. The sacrificial meat had to be eaten or burnt daily: hence the popularity of the sanctuary.

Subjects: Classical studies

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