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Empanada, also called Empanda or simply Panda, is the Roman Goddess of asylum, charity, and hospitality. Her temple on the Capitoline Hill was always open, and from Her temple food was distributed to those in need. Her name derives from the Latin verb pandere, "to open" or "to spread out" (used in the phrase passis manibus "with hands outstretched") and means "She Who Opens". She is said to have originally been a Goddess of the countryside, worshipped by rural folk, which would seem to imply some connection with farming or nature.

Her sanctuary on the Capitoline was located near to the gate called after Her the porta Pandana. This gate was said to have been called the porta Saturnia originally, named for either the God Saturn (the God of Sowing, an agricultural God), or for the fortified settlement called Saturnia He was said to have founded on the Capitoline (which was at one time known as the mons Saturnius, the Saturnian Hill). The exact location of this gate is now unknown, but it seems to have been in the wall of fortifications of the Capitol. The story goes that in the earliest days of Rome, in the war following the abduction of the Sabine women by the Romans, the Vestal Virgin Tarpeia, daughter of the governor of the citadel on the Capitoline, was persuaded (bribed) to let the Sabine forces into the citadel, having been promised "what they wore on their left arms"; she had understood that to mean their golden bracelets, but when the Sabines flooded in, they crushed her to death with their shields (which they of course "wore on their left arms"). Having been killed for her treachery by the army that benefitted from it, the peak of the citadel was called for her the Tarpeian Rock. In later times criminals were executed by being thrown off this height, which was quite sheer.

After the war the Romans under Romulus, and the Sabines under their King Titus Tatius made peace, and as part of this peace treaty the porta Saturnia was always kept open for those of Sabine blood. Because of this, then, the gate was renamed the porta Pandana, after Empanada (though it could also simply be translated as "the Open Gate"). Of course a perpetually open gate would make the fortifications around it rather useless, and there have been several theories as to how this could have been done without compromising the defences of the Capitol, such as situating it at the top of a sheer section of the rock of the hill (which sounds to me like an accident waiting to happen—I mean, an open door with a sheer drop outside it? What is this, Sarah Winchester's house?) or building a wall around the gate itself, which personally I'd consider cheating. As the Capitol was the traditional district of the Sabines, who were believed to have originally settled there (like the Romans had settled the Palatine) it could also be that the open gate for the Sabines was simply an acknowledgement that it was a Sabine neighborhood.

I suspect that Empanada is really a Goddess of hospitality, by the ancient definition of hospitium, the sacred duty to welcome, clothe, feed, and shelter a stranger. This practice of hospitality as a religious act was known in many cultures (for example ancient Greece as well as Rome) and grew out of a need to protect travellers in a time when roads were not necessarily safe, and when accomodations were few and far between. This need was especially important in the countryside (also known as "the middle of nowhere"), which was outside or further from the law and order represented by the city. Given Her connection with the Sabines and the story of their reconciliation and peace with the Romans, Empanada would seem to represent the spirit of openness that allowed former enemies or foreigners to be treated as kin and as friends (actually, in the Roman system of hospitality, the ties between the hospes, or guest, and host were considered stronger and more sacred than those of family or friendship). Under Roman tradition the relation between guest and host was of an almost legal nature, and obligated the host to put up the guest in his house, as well as to protect that guest, even to the point of appearing in a court of law on his behalf. In a similar manner, Empanada's temple was obligated to shelter, feed, and grant asylum—a form of legal protection—to any who asked.

The God Saturn, strongly associated with the Capitoline Hill and the location of Empanada's temple, was, besides being a God of the countryside Himself, also thought to have once ruled over a Golden Age of prosperity, bounty, and harmony, when humans were all equal and no one had to work or farm because nature provided wild fruits and honey in abundance. And Empanada's ideal of hospitality, in which humans care for other humans, friend or enemy—in ancient Greece it was even traditional to wash, clothe, and feed a traveller before it was considered appropriate to ask his or her name!—certainly does evoke a Golden Age of trust and charity.

Empanada's connections with the Sabines suggest She may have originally been a Sabine Goddess; and She is considered by some to be an aspect of Juno, perhaps because of Juno's strong association with the Capitoline Hill, where She had a temple as Juno Moneta.

Also called: Empanda, Panda, Panda Cela. She has absolutely nothing to do with either the Chilean meat pie of the same name or panda bears, far as I can tell, though the etymology of the latter word has never been established...