Weekly Deity: Mantus and Mania


Etruscan deity of the dead and the underworld.  Later assimilated into Roman mythology and related to Pluto.  Married to Mania, a goddess of the underworld as well.  If Mantus was a well-known figure in the ancient world, then very little information has survived to tell us anything about him.  In fact, it seems there is more information about his wife Mania than there is about Mantus.

Attributes

Considering that Mantus and Mania are always paired together, then in artwork and statues the two would appear together as well.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find any pictures to tell me what either one looks like.

Mythology and Worship

According to one source, Mania was known to the Greeks as “Daughter of Night” and was the source of moonsickness (insanity).  The same source suggested that children were sacrificed to her, but I have some doubts about the truth of Greeks sacrificing children to any god–and if they did do so, it was not a common practice.  Since it’s unlikely the Greeks practiced this, it’s possible that it could have been an Etruscan tradition.  The Greeks related Mania to the “evil” nymph Lara, who was the mother of the Manes (the souls of the dead), and was so talkative that Zeus cut out her tongue.  This is something of a far cry from her role in Etruscan myth, in which she was a goddess of the underworld and consort of Mantus, and possibly nothing more.  One source called the pair “guardians” of the underworld.  After the ancient period of history passed, Mania, at least, survived in literature and folklore in the Tuscany area as a figure who brought nightmares.

Light and Dark Sides

Considering the relatively scant information available about this duo, pinning down their Light and Dark sides is somewhat difficult.  Mania would seem to be a figure who causes madness and nightmares and accepts the sacrifices of children.  While both are listed as guardians of the underworld, only Mania seems to have the bad reputation of being a Dark deity.  Mantus, unfortunately, seems to fade in comparison to his wife.  On the positive side, it seems that Mantus is a guardian, so he protects the underworld and the spirits therein.  As for Mania, she also begins as a guardian of the underworld in the Etruscan myths, but is turned into something darker when she is assimilated into Greek culture.  Likely the part about her accepting the souls of slain children is an Etruscan tradition, and possibly is meant to mean that she accepts the souls of those children into her care, which is a positive attribute.  The Greeks turned her into a mother, the mother of the souls of the underworld (the Manes), which is a positive attribute as well.  However, in the later literature she is said to be the cause of madness and nightmares, which is more of a negative trait than positive.

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2 responses to “Weekly Deity: Mantus and Mania

  1. Actually, the sacrificing children would of been more of a Roman thing – ala Pompeii. I’ve never seen any association between Greeks and sacrificing humans. Mania does seem to be a darker goddess because of her connection to insanity. I am a bit curious as a whole as to how children, and either accepting their spirits, or accepting their sacrifice, factors into her connection with insanity.

    I do wish there was a bit more info on Mantus though. I suppose some things are meant to be mysterious.

    Great article though!

    • I could see the Romans sacrificing children, to a certain extent, but when I was reading up on Mania it was unclear from the information given whether the children were actually being ritually sacrificed or whether the children were already passed on and people ritually “gave” the souls of those children to her. I knew it wasn’t a Greek tradition, and since Mania and Mantus entered Roman religion late (after they entered Greek traditions), I put it down as more of an early Etruscan tradition.

      Her personality and governance differs depending on which culture she’s in. She may not originally have had a connection with insanity in her earliest Etruscan form, but when the Greeks adopted her she gained that aspect–possibly because the Greeks already had a goddess named Mania who was associated with the moon and insanity and the Etruscan Mania was meshed with her. Then when Mania entered Italian tradition in Tuscany, she lost some of her associations with the underworld but gained association with creating nightmares, turning her from an underworld/earthy goddess into a goddess of the mind.

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