A very ancient Roman goddess, worshipped in a sacred wood lying directly north of Rome, on the Via Flaminia. She was depicted as having the features of an old woman. When the Plebs migrated to the Sacred Mountain and had not enough to live on Anna Perenna was said to have made cakes which she came and sold every day to the people, thus averting famine. That is the reason why she was paid divine honours once the political troubles had been overcome and the Plebs had returned to Rome.

Another tradition, developed at the same time as the story of Aeneas, made Anna the sister of Queen Dido. After the latter had killed herself the kingdom of Carthage had been invaded by the natives under the leadership of Iarbas and Anna had been forced to flee. She first found refuge with the king of Melite, an island off the African coast. But Pygmalion, the Syrian king, had asked the king of Melite to surrender the fugitive to him. She took ship and fled from the island, but was caught by a storm and cast up on the shores of Latium. It so happened that at that time Aeneas was ruling the town of Laurentum, exactly where the girl landed. Aeneas was walking by the sea with his friend Achates, who recognized Anna. Aeneas wept as he welcomed her, bewailed Dido's sad death and set Anna up in his palace. But this action greatly displeased Aeneas' wife Lavinia, who did not look at all kindly on the arrival of this evidence of her husband's part. Anna was warned in a dream to be alarmed at the traps that Lavinia would set for her and at the dead of night she fled from the palace.

While she was wandering she met Numicius, the god of a nearby stream who carried her off to his bed. The servants of Aeneas searched for Anna and followed her tracks to the river bank, and, while they wondered where to go next a shape rose from the water and revealed to them that Anna, once an exile, had become a water nymph, whose new name, Perenna, signified eternity. Aeneas' servants in their joy scattered among the fields and passed the day in feasting and festivities, which became established as an annual celebration of the festival of Anna Perenna.

In her old age Anna was chosen by Mars as an intermediary between Minerva and himself. Mars loved Minerva, but the maiden goddess resisted his advances. He accordingly conceived the notion of entrusting to the aged Anna the traditional role of duenna. Anna, who knew that her task could not possible be accomplished since the goddess would never succumb, deceived the god with falsehoods, gave him false hopes and finally put herself in Minerva's place in a meeting with the god by night. When the lover was shown into the bridal chamber she lifted the veil over her face: Mars recognized the old woman who was ridiculing him and spoke extremely angrily. This is what is said to lie behind the obscenities which were sung as the Festival of Anna.

{E2 DICTIONARY OF CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY}

Table of Sources:
- Ovid, Fasti 3, 517ff.
- Macrob. Sat. 1, 12, 6

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