Dis Pater

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Dis Pater, or Dispater (cf. Skt. Dyaus Pitar), was a Roman god of the underworld, later subsumed by Pluto or Hades. Originally a chthonic god of riches, fertile agricultural land, and underground mineral wealth, he was later commonly equated with the Roman deities Pluto and Orcus, becoming an underworld deity.

Dis Pater was commonly shortened to simply Dis (much like how Dyaus Pitar was also simply called Dyaus). This name has since become an alternative name for the underworld or a part of the underworld, such as the Dis of The Divine Comedy.

Contents

Etymology

Dis Pater was originally a god of wealth, much like the Roman god Pluto (from Greek Πλούτων, Ploutōn, meaning "wealthy"), who was later equated with Dis Pater. Dis is contracted from the Latin dis (from dives meaning "rich"), and pater ("father"), the literal meaning of Dis Pater being "Wealthy Father" or "Father of Riches"[citation really needed].

Julius Caesar writes in Commentarii de Bello Gallico that the Gauls considered Dis Pater to be an ancestor. In thus interpreting the Gauls' god as Dis, Caesar offers one of his many examples of interpretatio Romana, the re-identification of foreign divinities as their closest Roman counterparts. The choice of Dis to translate whatever Celtic divinity Caesar has in mind - most likely Cernunnos, as the two are both associated with both the Underworld and prosperity - may in part be due to confusion between Dis Pater and the Proto-Indo-European deity *Dyeus, who would have been addressed as *Dyeu Phter ("Sky Father"). This name is also the likely origin of the name of many Indo-European gods, including Zeus and Jupiter, though the name's similarity to Dis Pater may be in part coincidental.

Mythology

Like Pluto, Dis Pater eventually became associated with death and the underworld because the wealth of the earth—gems and precious metals—was considered in the domain of the Greco-Roman underworld. As a result, Dis Pater was over time conflated with the Roman god Pluto, who became associated with the Greek god Hades as the deity's role as a god of death became more prominent than his role as a wealth god.

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