|"Red hot fire blowers" by dislexicpalindrome (2011)|
If you want to understand the Roman attitude to deified fire, understanding Roman ideas about the nature of Vulcan (or Volcanus, as the Romans knew him) is essential. Vulcan is the fertile, creative and yet potentially ugly and destructive side of fire. On the one hand he is propitiated - for his scorching fires, which threaten to burn and destroy forests, homes and harvests, are feared. On the other hand, he is honoured as a master metalworker who creates the finest armour, weapons and any other object forged in fire. Thus Vulcan is the God of fire and of metalworking, and one of the major Gods in the Roman pantheon.
The antiquity of Vulcan’s cult in Rome
Not only was Vulcan one of the Dii Consentes (one of the 12 major Gods of ancient Rome), he was also one of only 15 Gods to have a State appointed priest (flamen) and he is known to have had a shrine in the Roman Forum since at least the 6th century BCE – the Volcanal, which appears to have consisted of:
“an altar … next to it a column … which probably held a statue … [a] fragment of a Greek (Athenian) pot, 570-560 B.C., is the most ancient of the objects to be found associated with the Volcanal. It depicts the Greek god Hephaestus – who (as has always been known) was eventually ‘identified’ with the Roman Vulcan, as the god of fire and metalworking – returning to Olympus, riding on a donkey. The presence of this fragment at the site suggests that the identification of the Roman with the Greek god, far from being late or literary, was made already in the sixth century B.C. [Beard et al, Religions of Rome: Volume 2: A Sourcebook at 21-22].”