Tuesday, February 23, 2010


In days of yore, in the UK, when I travelled a lot by public transport, a cry of "Terminus!" by the 'bus driver, conductor or a railway employee would be directed to passengers, to alert any snoozers when the vehicle reached the end of the line. Little did I realise then that a kind of timewarp was occurring.

Terminus was the Roman god of boundaries. Once upon a time on this day, 23 February, a celebration in his honor was held: Terminalia.

As Terminus seems to have had some connection to Jupiter, it's appropriate that Terminalia was when the Sun was in zodiac sign Pisces, whose traditional ruler is Jupiter. I can't help wondering though, why Saturn isn't involved here somewhere. In astrology Saturn has more to do with limits than Jupiter. Jupiter is connected more to expansion than boundaries. Jupiter and Saturn could be said to be opposites.

A bit of mythology (from the website linked below):

Jupiter was the son of Ops, the earth mother and Saturn, the prevailing sky god who ruled over the rest of the Roman pantheon. Saturn had usurped his oppressive father Caelus in order to assume the position of supremacy; however he quickly became tyrannical himself, heeding a prophecy claiming that one of his own sons would overthrow him. In order to prevent this from occurring, Saturn devoured all of his children as soon as they were born. Realizing that her next child Jupiter would be susceptible to the same treatment, Ops hid him as soon as he was born and offered Saturn a large stone wrapped in swaddling clothes in his place. Saturn swallowed the stone, and was forced to disgorge Jupiter's siblings in the process of ridding it from his digestive system. Jupiter returned from hiding to overthrow Saturn, assuming leadership over the cosmos and forcing Saturn to flee to Italy.....
In Roman mythology, Terminus was the god who resided in and protected boundary markers, which were used to delineate the borders of properties and communities. This identification is so explicit that his name is, in fact, the Latin word for such a marker. As the installation of such stones was seen as a religiously significant act, the Romans would perform a sacrifice to memorialize and sanctify their placement.
Further, landowners celebrated an annual festival called the Terminalia in the god's honor each year on February 23. In addition to the importance of these markers in public space, a small shrine to Terminus was also found in the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill, as the temple was thought to have been built over a shrine to lesser god. Perhaps resulting from this, he was occasionally identified as an aspect of Jupiter under the name Jupiter Terminalis.
On occasion, Terminus' association with Jupiter extended to the assumption that Terminus was an aspect of that god ...........there is some evidence that Terminus' associations could extend from property boundaries to the general concept of limits (even temporal ones). Under the (Roman) Republican calendar, when the intercalary month Mercedonius was added to a year, it was placed after February 23 or February 24, and some ancient writers believed that the Terminalia on February 23 had once been the end of the year. Likewise, Diocletian's decision in 303 C.E. to initiate his persecution of Christians on February 23 has been seen as an attempt to enlist Terminus "to put a limit to the progress of Christianity."

(More at
New World Encyclopedia)

And....we still honour Terminus:


R J Adams said...

Well, well, to think I used to yell that frequently, in my bus conducting days (many years ago!) and never knew it was the name of a Roman god. "Hold very tight, please!"
Thank you for educating me. Better late, they say, than never!

Twilight said...

RJ ~~~ 'Bus conductors - oh yes, they became extinct as the dodo when public transport was privatised in the UK and private companies wanted more profits......Sigh.