Italian god of fertility and esp. of wine, later commonly identified with Dionysus. He formed part of the Aventine triad, Ceres, Liber, and Libera, whose joint temple was founded in 493 bc, and became a centre for the plebeians (see plebs) in the 5th and 4th cents. Liber and Libera were concerned with seeds and therefore with the promotion of fertility both agricultural and human. At Liber's festival (the Liberalia), a phallus was paraded through the fields and into town, accompanied by the singing of crude rustic songs, acc. to Augustine. Virgil also mentions the crude songs, together with masks of Dionysus, hung on trees. At the Liberalia, too, Roman boys commonly put on the toga of manhood: Liber was probably seen as the patron of the boy's transition (see rites of passage) into fertility.
Subjects: Classical studies