Category Archives: Holidays

Roma Condita: Celebrating Rome’s Founding

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

From the world of Ancient Rome there are many things in which to be celebrated or actually were celebrated. The month of Aprilis (April) celebrates the birth of Emperors Septimius Severus (11 April 145 AD) and Marcus Aurelius (26 April 121 AD) along with the festivals of Veneralia (1) and Fordicidia (15).

If you haven’t yet got on the Roman party-train you need to jump aboard, for there’s plenty of stops to celebrate and there’s plenty of tickets available for everyone. But without a single event, no of this would happen nor would this website exist.

Today we are going to witness the impactful event that was the Roma Condita (Founding of Rome)!

Aeneas flees burning Troy by Federico Barocci, 1598 (Galleria Borghese, Rome).

One thing the Romans were certain of was the day Rome was founded, and that day is today – 4 April. What they were not so certain of was the year in which their city was established as several dates had been proposed by ancient authorities.

This is a reason they preferred to date their years by the presiding Consuls rather than using the formula Ab Urbe Condita (AUC). Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric who flourished during the reign of Caesar Augustus, stated the following:

the Greek historian Timaeus, the first to write a history of the Romans, stated that Rome was founded in the 38th year prior to the first Olympiad, or 814 BC; Quintus Fabius Pictor, the first Roman to write the history of his people, stated Rome was founded in the first year of the eighth Olympiad, or 748/7 BC; Cincius Alimentus claimed Rome was founded in the fourth year of the twelfth Olympiad, or 719/8 BC; and Cato the Elder calculated that Rome was founded 432 years after the Trojan War, which Dionysius stated was the first year of the seventh Olympiad, or 752/3 BC.

Dionysius himself provided calculations showing that Rome was founded in 751 BC, starting with the Battle of the Allia, which he dated to the 1st year of the 9th Olympiad (390 BC), then added 119 years to reach the date of the primary Consuls, Junius Brutus and Tarquinius Collatinus, and then he added the combined total of the reigns of the Kings of Rome (244 years) to arrive at his own date, 751 BC. Even the official Fasti Capitolini offers its own date, 752 BC.

Building what would become The Eternal City, as Romulus plows the boundary (inset).

The most familiar date given for the foundation of Rome, 753 BC, was derived by the Roman antiquarian Titus Pomponius Atticus, and adopted by Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro.

Varro created a timeline of Roman History by using a combination of a list of Roman Consuls, together with a little bit of historical license to allow for periods of dictatorial rule.

Therefore Varro’s timeline is known to be slightly inaccurate, but nobody has ever provided sufficiently trustworthy evidence to propose a different calendar. Therefore his system is accepted as the standard chronology.

Despite the inaccuracies of Varro’s work, the recent discoveries by Andrea Carandini on Rome’s Palatine Hill have also yielded evidence of a series of fortification walls on the North Slope that can be dated to the middle of the 8th Century BC. According to the legend, Romulus plowed a sulcus (furrow) around the hill in order to mark the boundary of his new city.

The she-wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus, the most famous image associated with the founding of Rome.

You may already be familiar with the myth of Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who were suckled by a she-wolf. The story goes that, as adults, they decided to establish a new city but disagreed on the location.

After a quarrel about the walls, Remus was killed by his brother and so Romulus named the city after himself. The foundation myth became quite commonly accepted by ancient historians, although modern scholars disagree.

We appreciate you taking this journey with us to discover the Founding of Rome. We look forward to having you join us on future adventures, for we never know where we’ll be heading.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Carandini, Andrea. Rome: Day One. Princeton University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-691-13922-7.

Forsythe, Gary. A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War. University of California Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-520-22651-7.

Livy. The Early History of Rome. Penguin Books Ltd, 26 May 2005. ISBN 978-0-14-196307-5.


Tubilustrium: Celebrating the Campaigning Season

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Some days you just need to cut loose and have a festival, no matter what it’s for. Martius (March), although not as many celebratory days as Februarius (February), is still not without its festivities.

So if you’re in the mood, or just need a reason to revel in something, join us as today we experience Tubilustrium!

Relief showing the war trumpets played for Tubilustrium.

In Ancient Rome, the month of Martius was the traditional start of the campaigning season. The Tubilustrium was a ceremony to make the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) fit for war.

The festival was held on 23 March, the last day of the Quinquatria festival held in tribute to the Roman God Mars and Nerine, a Sabine goddess. The event took place again on 23 May.

Salii parading in the streets.

The ceremony was held in Rome in a building called the Hall of the Shoemakers (Atrium Sutorium) and involved the sacrifice of a ewe lamb. Romans who did not attend the ceremony would be reminded of the occasion by seeing the Salii dancing through the streets of the city.

The ceremony was said to have involved sacred trumpets called tubae. Tubae were originally war trumpets, but later they were used for ceremonial occasions.

However, Roman Catholic theologian and scholar of patristics, Johannes Quasten, argues that the common term (tubae) for war trumpets is not the same as the tubi form here. Quasten states that tubi was only used for trumpets used in sacrifices and goes on to show how this ceremony was a feast to cleanse and purify the trumpets used in sacrifices.

Image of Roman Soldiers preparing for the Campaign Season.

It is a good example, Quasten argues, of the special connection between music and cult in Rituale Romanum (Roman Ritual). It is not clear if the Army was involved in the celebrations, or if it was merely a ceremony to purify the trumpets used in summoning the assembly on the following day.

Ovid, a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus, mentions the Tubilustrium  in his poem Fasti III. He writes:

The last day of the five exhorts us to purify The tuneful trumpets, and sacrifice to the mighty god. Now you can turn your face to the Sun and say: `He touched the fleece of the Phrixian Ram yesterday’. The seeds having been parched, by a wicked stepmother’s Guile, the corn did not sprout in the usual way. They sent to the oracle, to find by sure prophecy, What cure the Delphic god would prescribe for sterility. But tarnished like the seed, the messenger brought news That the oracle sought the death of Helle and young Phrixus: And when citizens, season, and Ino herself compelled The reluctant king to obey that evil order, Phrixus and his sister, brows covered with sacred bands, Stood together before the altar, bemoaning their mutual fate. Their mother saw them, as she hovered by chance in the air, And, stunned, she beat her naked breasts with her hand: Then, with the clouds as her companions, she leapt down Into serpent-born Thebes, and snatched away her children: And so that they could flee a ram, shining and golden, Was brought, and it carried them over the wide ocean. They say the sister held too weakly to the left-hand horn, And so gave her own name to the waters below. Her brother almost died with her, trying to help her As she fell, stretching out his hands as far as he could. He wept at losing her, his friend in their twin danger, Not knowing she was now wedded to a sea-green god. Reaching the shore the Ram was raised as a constellation, While his golden fleece was carried to the halls of Colchis.

Phrixus and Helle

Ovid mentions the story of Phrixus, who was the prince who was saved on the point of sacrifice by a magical flying ram. Phrixus escaped together with his sister Helle on the animal’s back.

Helle became dizzy and fell into the sea (giving her name to the Hellespont). But Phrixus fetched up in Colchis on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world.

Here he sacrificed the ram to Zeus, and hung the ram’s golden fleece in the sacred grove of Ares (Greek god of war). This became the object of the famous quest by Jason and the Argonauts.

If marching off to war is not something you care to celebrate, then just think of it as now the official start to the traveling season. We hope you enjoyed the merriment of the day and look forward to having you back again soon.

Tubilustrium Mosaic from the Villa Dar Buc Ammera.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Herbert-Brown, Geraldine. Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Newlands, Carole E. Playing with Time: Ovid and the Fasti. Cornell University Press, 1995.

Quasten, J. Music & Worship in Pagan & Christian Antiquity. 1983.

Richardson, Jr, L. A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. JHU Press, 1 October 1992. ISBN 978-0-8018-4300-6.

Rüpke, Jörg. The Roman Calendar from Numa to Constantine: Time, History, and the Fasti. John Wiley & Sons, 4 February 2011. ISBN 978-1-4443-9652-2.

Sears, Gareth; Keegan, Peter; Laurence, Ray. Written Space in the Latin West, 200 BC to AD 300. A&C Black, 18 July 2013. ISBN 978-1-4411-8876-2.

Liberalia: Celebrating Maturity

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

A couple of weeks ago we explored the deities that are the Aventine Triad, specifically Liber. You can check out the articles: The Aventine Triad: Watchers of the Plebs and Liber: The Free One.

On this special day, we take advantage of the festivities to celebrate Liberalia!

Liberalia Feast
Liberalia Feast

The Liberalia was the festival of Liber Pater (The Free Father) and his consort Libera. Held after the Ides of March, on 17 March, the Romans celebrated Liberalia with sacrifices, processions, ribaldry, ungraceful songs, and masks which were hung on trees.

The celebration on 17 March was meant to honor Liber Pater, an ancient god of fertility and wine (like Bacchus, the Roman version of the Greek god Dionysus). Liber Pater was also a vegetation god, responsible for protecting seed.

Celebrating Liberalia

Priests and aged priestesses, adorned with garlands of ivy, carried through the city wine, honey, cakes (libia), and sweet-meats, together with an altar with a handle (ansata ara). In the middle of the ansata ara there was a small fire-pan (foculus), in which from time to time sacrifices were burnt.

Over time this feast evolved and included the goddess Libera, and the feast divided so that Liber governed the male seed and Libera the female. Ovid in his almanac entry for the festival identifies Libera as the celestial manifestation of Ariadne.

bulla praetexta
Bulla Praetexta

This feast celebrates the maturation of young boys to manhood. Roman boys, from age 14 to 16, would remove the bulla praetexta (a hollow charm of gold or leather) which parents placed about the necks of children to ward off evil spirits.

At the Liberalia ceremony the young men might place the bulla on an altar (with a lock of hair or the stubble of his first shave placed inside) and dedicate it to the Lares, who were gods of the household and family. Mothers often retrieved the discarded bulla praetexta and kept it out of superstition.

toga virilis
The Toga Virilis

If the son ever achieved a Triumphus (Public Triumph), the mother could display the bulla to ward off any evil that might be wished upon the son by envious people. The young men discarded the toga praetexta, which was probably derived from Etruscan dress and was decorated with a broad purple border and worn with the bulla, by boys and girls.

The boys donned the clothing of adulthood, the pure white toga virilis (man’s gown). The garment identified him as a citizen of Rome, making him an eligible voter.

To the Forum
Presentation of Roman Citizenship in the Forum.

The fathers of the young men took them to the city’s Forum and presented them as adults and Citizens. This was in the days when male rites of passage were encouraged.

An infans (infant) was incapable of doing any legal act. An impubes (under-age), who had passed the limits of infantia (childhood), could do any legal act with the Auctoritas (Authority) of his tutor.

Without such Auctoritas the boy could only do those acts which were for his benefit. With the attainment of pubertas, a person obtained the full power of his property, and the Tutela ceased. The now Roman Citizen could also dispose of his property by will, and he could contract marriage.


This ancient ceremony was a country or rustic ceremony. The processional featured a large phallus which the devotees carried throughout the countryside to bring the blessing of fertility to the land and the people.

The procession and the phallus were meant also to protect the crops from evil. At the end of the procession, a virtuous and respected matron placed a wreath upon the phallus.

While Liberalia is a relatively unknown event in the modern time, references to Liberalia and the Roman goddess Libera are still found today online and in astrology.

It seems that Liberalia would be similar to the Jewish tradition of Bar and Bat Mitzvah, or the Latin American Quinceañera.

Pottery depicting Liberalia celebration.

All across the world rites of passage, for young men or women, are quite important. It’s not really how it is celebrated simply that it is indeed celebrated.

Back in 2015 we shared a video about being a youth in Ancient Rome entitled A Glimpse of Teenage Life in Ancient Rome. This will help showcase a bit of the festivities.

Liberalia may not have been the biggest of Roman parties, but it was definitely one that was to be enjoyed by Rome’s newest Citizens.

We hope you enjoyed this little party and look forward to having you back again soon. Make sure to stop by again for we never know what we might be celebrating or where we may be journeying off to.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



T.P. WisemanRemus: a Roman myth, Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Fasti 3.459-516.

Junonalia: Festival for the Protector & Special Counselor of the Roman State

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

With this being the month of Martius (March), we sadly don’t have as many festivals as we did in Februarius (February). But don’t let that fool you, the Romans had celebrations in every month.

That brings us to today’s celebration, so please join us as we revel in Junonalia!

Procession in honor of Juno.

Before we get into the party, let us understand why we party. Today is a celebration of the ancient Roman goddess Juno, the Protector and Special Counselor of the Roman State.

Juno Sospita, a plaster cast based on an original in the Vatican Museums.

As the patron goddess of Rome and the Roman Empire, Juno was called Regina (Queen) and, together with Jupiter and Minerva, was worshipped as a the Juno Capitolina (Capitoline Triad) in Rome. Juno was a daughter of Saturn and sister (but also the wife) of the chief god Jupiter, as well as being the mother of Mars and Vulcan.

Juno’s theology is one of the most complex and disputed issues in Roman religion. Even more than other major Roman deities, Juno held a large number of significant and diverse epithets, names and titles representing various aspects and roles of the goddess. In accordance with her central role as a goddess of marriage, these included Pronuba and Cinxia (she who loses the bride’s girdle).

Juno looked after the women of Rome, with her Greek equivalent as Hera and her Etruscan counterpart was Uni. Hera was the Greek goddess for love and marriage, so Juno was Rome’s goddess of love and marriage.

Juno’s own warlike aspect among the Romans was apparent in her attire, as she often appeared sitting with a peacock armed and wearing a goatskin cloak. The traditional depiction of this warlike aspect was assimilated from the Greek goddess Athena, whose goatskin was called the aegis.

Ancient etymologies associated Juno’s name with iuvare (to aid, benefit) and iuvenescendo (rejuvenate), sometimes connecting it to the renewal of the new and waxing moon. This perhaps implied the idea of a moon goddess.

While her connection with the idea of vital force, fullness of vital energy, eternal youthfulness is now generally acknowledged, the multiplicity and complexity of her personality have given rise to various and sometimes irreconcilable interpretations among modern scholars.

2nd Century AD statue of Juno known as La Providence (Louvre Museum, Paris).

Juno was certainly the divine protectress of the community, who showed both a sovereign and a fertility character, often associated with a military one. She was present in many towns of ancient Italy, which leads us to her celebration.

The Iunonalia or Junonalia was a Roman festival in honor of Juno, held on 7 March (the Nonae). Among extant Roman calendars, it appears only in the Calendar of Filocalus (354 AD), and was added to the festival calendar after the mid-1st Century AD.

On this day, Ancient Romans observed the Junonalia to honor their Queen of Heaven. This festival was celebrated by the matrons of Rome in which a procession of 27 girls accompanied a statue of Juno carved out of a cypress tree.

Temple of Juno Moneta

There were processions in which statues of Juno were carried through the streets and ending at the Temple of Juno. Prayers and generous offerings of flowers and flowering plants were brought to Juno.

There was dancing, merriment, and wonderful feasting (for the Romans were known for their feasts). From how it sounded, it would be very similar to a modern “girls night out”.

The Junonalia was also attested in a fragmentary poem De Iunonalibus, attributed to Claudian. In it, Juno is addressed as mistress of the celestial pole, and the spouse and sister of the king of heaven.

Santa Maria in Aracoeli (Rome, Italy), some topographers’ possible location for the temple of Juno Moneta.

Her function as a goddess of marital bonds is also noted. Although the text is conjectural at this point, she may be asked to grant a return.

The Junonalia may have concluded a 3-day festival begun 5 March with the Isidis Navigium (Sailing of Isis). In the Metamorphoses of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, Isis is addressed as Queen of Heaven, and by the 2nd Century a number of goddesses, including Juno, shared the epithet Caelestis.

Modern reenactors as Roman matrons in the parade for Junonalia.

We hope you enjoyed today’s celebration, and if you are a woman (with or without children) here’s to your strength. Check us out again soon to see what we’ll be celebrating or to where we’ll travel.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Benko, Stephen. The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology. Brill, 2004.

Corbishley, Mike. Ancient Rome. Warwick Press, 1986.

Palmer, Robert E. A. Roman Religion and Roman Empire. Five Essays Philadelphia, 1974.

Patrich, Joseph. Studies in the Archaeology and History of Caesarea Maritima. Brill, 2011.

Riese, Alexander. Anthologia Latina. Teubner, 1906.

Rodgers, Nigel. Life In Ancient Rome. Anness Publishing Ltd, 2007.

Salzman, Michele Renee. On Roman Time: The Codex Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity. University of California Press, 1990.

Junonalia”. ladyisisrose. 7 March 2011.

March 6th: A Day to Celebrate

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It is officially March, or Martius as the Romans knew it. This meant a return to the active life of farming, military campaigning, and sailing for the Romans.

Statue of Mars from the Forum of Nerva (2nd Century AD), Capitoline Museums.

The month was named for Mars, the Roman god of war who was also regarded as a guardian of agriculture and an ancestor of the Roman people through his sons Romulus and Remus. His month of Martius was the beginning of the season for both farming and warfare, and the festivals held in his honor during the month were mirrored by others in October, when the season for these activities came to a close.

Martius was densely packed with religious observances dating from the earliest period of Roman history. Because of its original position as the 1st month of the earliest Roman calendar, a number of festivals originally associated with the New Year occurred in March.

Martius remained the start of the Roman calendar year perhaps as late as 153 BC, when it became the 3rd month, following Februarius (February) and preceding Aprilis (April). Even in late antiquity, Roman mosaics picturing the months sometimes still placed March first.

In the Imperial period, March was also a time for public celebration of syncretic or international deities whose cultus was spread throughout the empire, including Isis and Cybele.

Keeping that in mind, today we celebrate a pair of events that the Romans held on VI Martius!

Roman Calendar

The earliest of the 2 events celebrated today was a Supplicatio for Vesta and the Di Penates. In Ancient Roman religion, a Supplicatio was a day of public prayer when all the people of Rome traveled in procession to religious sites around the city praying for divine aid in times of crisis.

Wreaths and laurel twigs

During this process the population as a whole wore wreaths, carried laurel twigs, and attended sacrifices at temple precincts throughout the city. Supplications might also be ordered in response to prodigies (prodigia).

Supplicatio was decreed for 2 different reasons: 1) as a thanksgiving when a great victory had been gained or 2) as a solemn supplication and humiliation decreed in times of public danger and distress and on account of prodigies to avert the anger of the gods.

The number of days during which the Supplicatio was to last would be proportionate to the importance of the victory.

The Triumph of Julius Caesar by Andrea Mantegna.

A Supplication of 10 days was first decreed in honor of Pompey at the conclusion of the war with Mithridates, while Caesar was a Supplicatio of 20 days after his conquest of Vercingetorix.

No great victory had been recorded on 6 March by the Romans, so today’s Supplicatio was to avert the anger of the gods. It may have well even been considered a thanksgiving of sorts since Vesta was the virgin goddess of hearth, home, and family.

The Virgo Vestalis Maxima depicted in a Roman statue.

Vesta was among the Dii Consentes, 12 of the most honored gods in the Roman pantheon. She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, and sister of Jupiter, NeptunePlutoJuno, and Ceres.

The myths depicting Vesta and her priestesses were few. Most were limited to tales of miraculous impregnation by a phallus appearing in the flames of the hearth – the manifestation of the goddess.

Remains of the Temple of Vesta located in the Roman Forum near the Regia and the House of the Vestal Virgins.

Rarely depicted in human form, Vesta was often personified by the fire of her temple in the Forum Romanum. Entry to her temple was permitted only to her priestesses, the Vestals, who tended the sacred fire at the hearth in her temple.

As she was considered a guardian of the Roman people, her festival, the Vestalia (7-15 June), was regarded as one of the most important Roman holidays. Such was Vesta’s importance to Roman religion that hers was one of the last republican pagan cults still active following the rise of Christianity until it was forcibly disbanded by the Christian Emperor Theodosius I in AD 391.

The Di Penates, or simply Penates, were among the dii familiares (household deities) invoked most often in domestic rituals. When the family had a meal, they threw a bit into the fire on the hearth for the Penates.

Di Penates with Lares

They were thus associated with Vesta, the Lares, and the Genius of the paterfamilias in the little universe of the domus. Like other domestic deities, the Penates had a public counterpart.

An etymological interpretation of the Penates would make them in origin tutelary deities of the storeroom or innermost part of the house, where they guarded the household’s food, wine, oil, and other supplies. As they were originally associated with the source of food, they eventually became a symbol of the continuing life of the family.

The Penates of Rome (Penates Publici Populi Romani) had a temple on the Velia (Velian Hill) near the Mons Palatinus (Palatine Hill). Dionysius of Halicarnassus says it housed statues of 2 youths in the archaic style.

Aeneas and the Penates, from a 4th-Century manuscript.

The public cult of the ancestral gods of the Roman people originated in Lavinium, where they were also closely linked with Vesta. One tradition identified the public Penates as the sacred objects rescued by Aeneas from Troy and carried by him to Italy thus becoming portable deities.

Busts of the co-Emperors Marcus Aurelius (left) and Lucius Verus (right), British Museum.

Up next on the celebrations for today came the dies imperii for the joint reign of Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. A Roman Emperor’s dies imperii was the date on which he assumed Imperium aka the anniversary of his accession as Emperor.

The date was observed annually with renewed oaths of loyalty and Vota Pro Salute Imperatoris, vows and offerings for the wellbeing (salus) of the Emperor. Observances resembled those on 3 January, which had replaced the traditional vows made for the salus of the Roman Republic after the transition to one-man rule under Augustus.

The dies imperii was a recognition that succession during the Empire might take place irregularly through the death or overthrow of an Emperor. This contrasted the annual terms of office for the Republic’s Magistrates when the year was designated by the names of Consuls serving their 1-year term.

Portrait head of Lucius Verus, found in Athens (National Archaeological Museum of Athens).

Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus came to office in 161 AD. Verus would reign until he succumbed to symptoms attributed to food poisoning in 169, while Marcus Aurelius would reign until his death in March 180 AD.

During their reign, the Roman Empire defeated a revitalized Parthia in the east. In Central Europe, Aurelius fought the MarcomanniQuadi, and Sarmatians with success during the Marcomannic Wars.

Despite the minor differences between them, Marcus Aurelius grieved the loss of his adoptive brother Verus. He accompanied the body to Rome, where he offered games to honor his memory.

Bust of Marcus Aurelius in the Musée Saint-Raymond (Toulouse, France).

After the funeral, the Roman Senate declared Verus deified and to be worshipped as Divine Verus (Divus Verus). Marcus Aurelius acquired the reputation of a philosopher king within his lifetime, and the title would remain his after death when he too was immediately deified.

We hope you enjoyed today’s celebrations, since you had more than 1 choice. Please join us again soon as we explore some other time and place in Roman History.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Beard, Mary; North, John; Price, Simon. Religions of Rome: Volume 1, A History. Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0 521 30401 6.

Chance, Jane. Medieval Mythography: From Roman North Africa to the School of Chartres, A.D. 433–1177. University Press of Florida, 1994.

Dench, EmmaRomulus’ Asylum: Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian. Oxford University Press, 2005.

Hahn, Frances Hickson. “Performing the Sacred: Prayers and Hymns”. A Companion to Roman Religion. Blackwell, 2007.

Lefkowitz, Mary R.; Fant, Maureen B. Women’s Life in Greece and Rome: A Source Book in Translation. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-8018-8310-1.

Morford, Mark P.O.; Lenardon, Robert J.; Sham, Michael. Classical Mythology (9th ed.). Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN 9780195397703.

Nixon, C.E.V. In Praise of Later Roman Emperors: The Panegyrici Latini. University of California Press, 1994.

Noehden, G. H. “On the Worship of Vesta, and the Holy Fire, in Ancient Rome: with an Account of the Vestal Virgins”. The Classical Journal, 1817.

Noreña, Carlos F. Imperial Ideals in the Roman West: Representation, Circulation, Power. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Rosenberger, Veit. “Religious Actors in Daily Life: Practices and Related Beliefs”. A Companion to Roman Religion. Blackwell, 2007.

Rüpke, JörgThe Roman Calendar from Numa to Constantine: Time, History, and the Fasti. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Salzman, Michele Renee. On Roman Time: The Codex Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity. University of California Press, 1990.

Scheid, John. “Sacrifices for Gods and Ancestors”. A Companion to Roman Religion. Blackwell, 2007.

Schutz, Celia E. Women’s Religious Activity in the Roman Republic. University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Scullard, H.H. Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. Cornell University Press, 1981.

Regifugium: Celebrating the Flight of a King

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As we carry on in this month of Februarius (February), we shall continue to celebrate. We’ve already experienced Feriae Sementivae: The Roman Festival of Sowing (2/2); Parentalia: Celebrating the Ancestors of Rome (2/12); Quirinalia: Celebrating Quirinus and Rome’s Civil Society (2/17); Ferālia: Celebrating Roman Spirits of the Dead (2/21); Caristia: Celebrating the Love of Family (2/22); and Terminalia: Celebrating Terminus and Boundaries (2/23).

Since Februarius was all about partying for the Romans, today we are going to be like the Romans and celebrate Regifugium!

Regifugium – A sort of Independence Day for Rome.

In Ancient Roman religionRegifugium was an annual observance that took place every 24 February. The Romans themselves offer varying views on the meaning of the day.

Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, 16th-Century depiction published by Guillaume Rouillé.

According to Varro and Ovid, the festival commemorated the flight of the last King of RomeTarquinius Superbus, in 510 BC. In 509 BC, having angered the Roman populace through the pace and burden of constant building, Tarquin embarked on a siege campaign against the Rutuli.

With little prospect of battle, the King’s son, Sextus Tarquinius, was sent on a military errand to Collatia. Sextus was received with great hospitality at the Governor’s mansion, home of Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, son of the king’s nephew, Arruns Tarquinius, former Governor of Collatia and originator of the Tarquinii Collatini.

Titian’s Tarquin and Lucretia (1571)

Sextus was said to have entered the room of the wife of Lucius (Lucretia), identified himself and offered her 2 choices: she could submit to his sexual advances and become his wife and future queen, or he would kill her and one of her slaves and place the bodies together, then claim he had caught her having adulterous sex.

The next day Lucretia dressed in black and went to her father’s house in Rome, cast herself down in the suppliant’s position (embracing the knees), weeping before she took her own life out of shame. Lucius Junius Brutus (a leading citizen, and the grandson of Rome’s 5th King Tarquinius Priscus) had been there to witness this event and had had enough.

Brutus holding Lucretia with the knife as he swears the oath.

Brutus summoned the Comitia Curiata and began to scold and criticize them in one of the more noted and effective speeches of Ancient Rome. Because of his orator skills, Brutus persuaded the Comitia to revoke the King’s Imperium and send him into exile.

When word of the uprising reached Tarquin, he abandoned Ardea and sought support from his allies in Etruria. Tarquin’s final attempt to regain the Roman Kingdom came in 498 or 496 BC at the Battle of Lake Regillus.

Upon losing the battle, Rome retained her independence. Tarquin was driven into exile at the court of Aristodemus at Cumae, where he died in 495 BC.

In his Fasti, Ovid refers to Regifugium as nefastus (days on which official transactions were forbidden on religious grounds). Fasti also offers the longest surviving account of the observance:

Now I must tell of the flight of the King, six days from the end of the month. The last of the Tarquins possessed the Roman nation, an unjust man, but nevertheless strong in war.

Emperor Augustus dressed as the Rex Sacrorum.

Plutarch holds that the Rex Sacrorum was a substitute for the former King of Rome here as in various religious rituals. The Rex held no civic or military role, but nevertheless was bound to offer a public sacrifice in the Comitia on this date.

The Flight of the King was the swift exit the proxy king was required to make from that place of public business. It may be that the differing versions are to be reconciled by taking the flight of the Rex Sacrorum as a reenactment of the expulsion of Tarquinius.

Also known as Fugalia (King’s Flight), in some ancient Roman calendar the 24 May is likewise called Regifugium. In others it is described as Q. Rex. C. F. (Quando Rex comitiavit, fas or Quando Rex comitio fugit).

Down with the King!

Several ancient, as well as modern, writers have denied that either of these days had anything to do with the flight of King Tarquin. Plutarch, for example, explains it as the symbolic departure of the priest with the title Rex Sacrorum from the Comitia.

Even William Shakespeare had an opinion on Regifugium and Tarquin’s Flight. In his  narrative poemThe Rape of Lucrece, Shakespeare pens the following:

‘Courageous Roman, do not steep thy heart In such relenting dew of lamentations; But kneel with me and help to bear thy part, To rouse our Roman gods with invocations, That they will suffer these abominations, Since Rome herself in them doth stand disgraced, By our strong arms from forth her fair streets chased. Now, by the Capitol that we adore, And by this chaste blood so unjustly stain’d, By heaven’s fair sun that breeds the fat earth’s store, By all our country rights in Rome maintain’d, And by chaste Lucrece’ soul that late complain’d Her wrongs to us, and by this bloody knife, We will revenge the death of this true wife.’

“The suicide of Lucretia” by Jörg Breu the Elder.

This said, he struck his hand upon his breast, And kiss’d the fatal knife, to end his vow; And to his protestation urged the rest, Who, wondering at him, did his words allow: Then jointly to the ground their knees they bow; And that deep vow, which Brutus made before, He doth again repeat, and that they swore. When they had sworn to this advised doom, They did conclude to bear dead Lucrece thence; To show her bleeding body thorough Rome, And so to publish Tarquin’s foul offence: Which being done with speedy diligence, The Romans plausibly did give consent To Tarquin’s everlasting banishment.

We don’t know about you, but that’s a vivid depiction.

Hopefully you enjoyed today’s Regifugium and look forward to having you back again. Come check us out again soon for who knows what celebrations or adventures we’ll be partaking.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Merrill, Elmer Truesdell. “The Roman Calendar and the Regifugium“. Classical Philology. The University of Chicago Press, 1924.

Smith, William. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London, 1875.


Terminalia: Celebrating Terminus and Boundaries

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As we carry on in this month of Februarius (February), we shall continue to celebrate. We’ve already experienced Feriae Sementivae: The Roman Festival of Sowing (2/2); Parentalia: Celebrating the Ancestors of Rome (2/12); Quirinalia: Celebrating Quirinus and Rome’s Civil Society (2/17); Ferālia: Celebrating Roman Spirits of the Dead (2/21); and Caristia: Celebrating the Love of Family (2/22).

Since Februarius was all about partying for the Romans, today we are going to be like the Romans and celebrate Terminalia!

“The Feast Before the Altar of Terminus” (c. 1642) by by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum).

Terminalia was an Ancient Roman festival in honor of the god Terminus, who presided over boundaries. His statue was merely a stone or post stuck in the ground to distinguish between properties.

His worship is said to have been instituted by Numa who ordered that everyone should mark the boundaries of his landed property by stones to be consecrated to Jupiter Terminalis. At which every year, sacrifices were to be offered at the festival of the Terminalia.

Terminus is often pictured as a bust on a boundary stone, here the concedo nvlli or concedo nulli means “yield no ground”.

On the festival the 2 owners of adjacent property crowned the statue with garlands and raised a crude altar, on which they offered up some corn, honeycombs, and wine, and sacrificed a lamb or a suckling pig. They concluded with singing the praises of the god.

The public festival in honor of this god was celebrated at the 6th milestone on the road towards Laurentum. It can be concluded that the celebration was held like this because it was originally the extent of the Roman territory in that direction.

The rites of the Terminalia included ceremonial renewal and mutual recognition of the boundary stone, the marker between properties. A garland would be laid on this marker by all parties to the land so divided.

“A Spring Festival” by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema.

After kindling a fire, honey-cakes, fruits and wine would be offered and shared, and songs of praise to Terminus would be sung. Terminus was considered to have the appearance of stone and was often honored with the placement of a large stone at the boundaries, much as farmers do today in various countries.

The Roman poet Ovid wrote in his 6-book Latin poem Fasti (Book of Days):

When night has passed, let the god be celebrated With customary honour, who separates the fields with his sign. Terminus, whether a stone or a stump buried in the earth, You have been a god since ancient times. You are crowned from either side by two landowners, Who bring two garlands and two cakes in offering. An altar’s made: here the farmer’s wife herself Brings coals from the warm hearth on a broken pot. The old man cuts wood and piles the logs with skill, And works at setting branches in the solid earth. Then he nurses the first flames with dry bark, While a boy stands by and holds the wide basket. When he’s thrown grain three times into the fire The little daughter offers the sliced honeycombs. Others carry wine: part of each is offered to the flames: The crowd, dressed in white, watch silently. Terminus, at the boundary, is sprinkled with lamb’s blood, And doesn’t grumble when a sucking pig is granted him. Neighbours gather sincerely, and hold a feast, And sing your praises, sacred Terminus.

The festival of the Terminalia was celebrated 23 February on the day before the Regifugium. The Terminalia was celebrated on the last day of the old Roman year, whence some derive its name.

Roman boundary marker near Lisbon, Portugal.

Februarius was the last month of the Roman year. When the intercalary month Mercedonius was added, the last 5 days of Februarius were added to the intercalary month, thus making the 23 February the last day of the year.

When Cicero in a letter to Atticus says, Accepi tuas litteras a. d. V. Terminalia (i.e. Feb. 19), he uses this strange mode of defining a date. Since Cicero was then in Cilicia, he did not know whether any intercalation had been inserted that year.

In Plutarch‘s collections of essays and speeches known as Moralia, he states:

Is it that Romulus placed no boundary-stones for his country, so that Romans might go forth, seize land, and regard all as theirs, as the Spartan said, which their spears could reach; whereas Numa Pompilius, a just man and a statesman, who had become versed in philosophy, marked out the boundaries between Rome and her neighbours, and, when on the boundary-stones he had formally installed Terminus as overseer and guardian of friendship and peace, he thought that Terminus should be kept pure and undefiled from blood and gore?

Fanciful 19th Century depiction of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus above the Tiber River during the Roman Republic.

The central Terminus of Rome (to which all roads led) was the god’s ancient shrine on the Capitoline Hill. The Temple of Jupiter, king of the gods, had to be built around it by the city’s last king, Tarquinius Superbus.

A hole in the ceiling was left in Jupiter’s temple as Terminus demanded open-air sacrifices, and Tarquin had closed down other shrines on the site to make room for this prestigious project. However, the Augurs had read into the flight patterns of birds that the god Terminus refused to be moved, which was taken as a sign of stability for the city.

In Roman Antiquities, the great work by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, it was claimed:

It is fitting to relate also the incidents that preceded the building of it as they have been handed down by all the compilers of Roman history. When Tarquinius was preparing to build the temple [of Iuppiter Optimus Maximus] he called the augurs together and ordered them first to consult the auspices concerning the site itself, in order to learn what place in the city was the most suitable to be consecrated and the most acceptable to the gods themselves; and upon their indicating the hill that commands the Forum, which was then called the Tarpeian, but now the Capitoline Hill, he ordered them to consult the auspices once more and declare in what part of the hill the foundations must be laid. But this was not at all easy; for there were upon the hill many altars both of the gods and of the lesser divinities not far apart from one another, which would have to be moved to some other place and the whole area given up to the sanctuary that was to be built to the gods. The augurs thought proper to consult the auspices concerning each one of the altars that were erected there, and if the gods were willing to withdraw, then to move them elsewhere. The rest of the gods and lesser divinities, then, gave them leave to move their altars elsewhere, but Terminus and Juventas, although the augurs besought them with great earnestness and importunity, could not be prevailed on and refused to leave their places. Accordingly, their altars were included within the circuit of the temples, and one of them now stands in the vestibule of Minerva’s shrine and the other in the shrine itself near the statue of the goddess. From this circumstance the augurs concluded that no occasion would ever cause the removal of the boundaries of the Romans’ city or impair its vigour; and both have proved true down to my day, which is already the twenty-fourth generation.

Image statue of Terminus

We hope you enjoyed today’s Terminalia and look forward to having you back again. Come check us out again soon for who knows what celebrations or adventures we’ll be partaking.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!


Smith, William. “Terminalia“. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd ed.). John Murray, 1890.


Caristia: Celebrating the Love of Family

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As we carry on in this month of Februarius (February), we shall continue to celebrate. We’ve already experienced Feriae Sementivae: The Roman Festival of Sowing (2/2); Parentalia: Celebrating the Ancestors of Rome (2/12); Quirinalia: Celebrating Quirinus and Rome’s Civil Society (2/17); and Ferālia: Celebrating Roman Spirits of the Dead (2/21).

Since Februarius was all about partying for the Romans, today we are going to be like the Romans and celebrate Caristia!

“Family Banquet”. Painting from Pompeii (National Archeological Museum, Naples).

In Ancient Rome the Caristia, also known as the Cara Cognatio (The Festival of the Caring Kin), was an official but privately observed holiday on 22 February. This 1-day holiday celebrated love of family with banqueting and gifts.

In the Roman religion, the entire month of February was themed around purification. Caristia was a little like Lent in the final month of our religious year.

The Caristia was one of several days in February that honored family or ancestors. It followed the Parentalia, 9 days of remembrance, and concluded with the Feralia or the Caristia on the next day.

Fresco depicting ancestral sacrifices in the lararium of the house of Iulius Polybius in Pompeii.

Families gathered to dine together and offer food and incense to the Lares as their household gods. It was a day of reconciliation when disagreements were to be set aside, but the poet Ovid observes dryly that this could be achieved only by excluding family members who caused trouble.

For the Parentalia, families visited the tombs of their ancestors and shared cake and wine both in the form of offerings and as a meal among themselves. The Feralia was a more somber occasion, a public festival of sacrifices and offerings to the Manes, the spirits of the dead who required propitiation.

The Romans placed a high importance on the family unit. It was the foundation of the religion, and the household was considered a microcosm for the larger family of Rome, united by Vesta.

So Caristia was the time when you got together with your living family and celebrated a meal together in love. Like the binding power of Vesta as the spirit of Rome, love kept families together.

Fragment of a tablet showcasing a Roman family together for Caristia.

The Caristia was a recognition of the family line as it continued into the present and among the living. This is the meal where you attempt to move beyond your problems with your family, and lay any differences aside.

Small tokens of affection were exchanged in an attempt to mend one’s own hurt feelings. If one couldn’t do that then he or she would pretend all was well.

And if one couldn’t pretend? Then he or she would simply not invite the person whom was offensive.

There were distributions of bread, wine, bread soaked in wine, salt, wheat, flower garlands, violet petals, and sportulae (bonuses, tips, tokens of appreciation). The poet Martial has a poem on gift-giving for the holiday where he offers a sort of “non-apology apology” to his relatives Stella and Flaccus, explaining that he’s sent them nothing because he didn’t want to offend others who ought to receive a gift from him and wouldn’t.

Diners on a triclinium in a fresco from Pompeii (c. 79 AD).

Unlike public festivals, the Caristia and other privately observed holidays were allowed to fall on even-numbered days of the Roman calendar. The Cara Cognatio remained on the calendar long after the Roman Empire had come under Christian rule.

It appeared in the Chronography of 354, and the calendar of Polemius Silvius (449 AD) juxtaposed the old holiday with a feast day commemorating the burial of St. Peter and St. Paul. As a “love feast” the Caristia was not incompatible with Christian attitudes.

Some scholars have detected an influence of the Parentalia and Caristia on the Christian agape feast, with the consumption of bread and wine at the ancestral tomb replaced by the Eucharist. In the 5th Century, some Christian priests even encouraged participation in funerary meals.

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

In the first half of the 6th Century, some Gallo-Romans still observed a form of the holiday with food offerings to the dead and a ritual meal. By then, however, the practice had come under suspicion as a pagan ritual, and the Council of Tours in 567 explicitly censured those who defiled the feast day of St. Peter.

The observances were condemned by Caesarius of Arles as an excuse for drunkenness, dancing, singing, and other demonic behaviors. The suppression of traditional commemorations of the dead were part of increasing efforts by the Church to control and monopolize religious behaviors in Merovingian Gaul.

“Suicide of Dido”. A representation of Dido being rescued by her sister Anna, later identified with the Roman divinity Anna Perenna. Oil on canvas by Guercino, 1625 (Rome, Galleria).

In the archaic Roman calendar, Februarius was the last month of the year. With the beginning of March came the New Year. The goddess of the year, Anna Perenna, was celebrated on the Ides of March (15 March) with heavily drinking outside in tents or right on the river bank. It was believed that one should drink as many drinks as many years he would like to live.

The Death of Caesar (1798) by Vincenzo Camuccini (aka The Ides of March).

After having arranged their relationship with the dead the previous day, Caristia was how the Romans turned to life and tried to arrange their relationship with the living. Celebrating life was at the center of that occasion and Cara Cognatio was a kind of a “feast of family love” which people commemorated with banqueting, gift exchanging, and reconciliation.

We hope you enjoyed today’s Caristia and look forward to having you back again. Come check us out again soon for who knows what celebrations or adventures we’ll be partaking.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Donahue, John F. “Towards a Typology of Roman Public Feasting”. Roman Dining: A Special Issue of American Journal of Philology. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

Effros, Bonnie. Creating Community with Food and Drink in Merovingian Gaul. Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Filotas, Bernadotte. Pagan Survivals, Superstitions and Popular Cultures in Early Medieval Pastoral Literature. Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2005.

Fowler, William Warde. The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (1908).

Laurentine, Camilla. February Rites: Parentalia, Feralia, and Caristia. 7 February 2014.

Lipka, Michael. Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach. Brill, 2009.

Nenova, Stella. 5 Merry Winter Festivals in Ancient Rome. 18 December 2015.

Ovid. Fasti.

Salzman, Michele Renee. “Religious Koine and Religious Dissent in the Fourth Century”. A Companion to Roman Religion. Blackwell, 2007.

Turcan, Robert. The Gods of Ancient Rome. Routledge, 1998, 2001.

Ferālia: Celebrating Roman Spirits of the Dead

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As we carry on in this month of Februarius (February), we shall continue to celebrate. We’ve already experienced Feriae Sementivae: The Roman Festival of Sowing (2/2); Parentalia: Celebrating the Ancestors of Rome (2/12); and Quirinalia: Celebrating Quirinus and Rome’s Civil Society (2/17).

Since Februarius was all about partying for the Romans, today we are going to be like the Romans and celebrate Ferālia!

Tiepolo’s Triumph of Flora (ca. 1743), a scene based on the Fasti, Book 4.

Ferālia was an Ancient Roman public festival celebrating the Manes (Roman spirits of the dead, particularly the souls of deceased individuals) which fell on 21 February as recorded by Ovid in Book II of his Fasti. This day marked the end of Parentalia, a 9-day festival (13–21 February) honoring Rome’s dead ancestors.

Roman citizens were instructed to bring offerings to the tombs of their dead ancestors. This consisted of at least an arrangement of wreaths, a sprinkling of grain with a bit of salt, bread soaked in wine, and violets scattered about.

Many high status Roman tombs were designed to include seating-even dining couches and cooking facilities for visiting relatives.

Additional offerings were permitted, however the dead were appeased with just the previously aforesaid items. These simple offerings to the dead were perhaps introduced into the Latium by Aeneas, who poured wine and scattered violet flowers on Anchises‘ tomb.

Ovid tells of a time when Romans, in the midst of war, neglected Ferālia. This caused the spirits of the departed to rise from their graves in anger, and carry on into the streets howling and roaming.

After this event, tribute to the tombs were then made and the ghastly hauntings ceased. To indicate public mourning, marriages of any kind were prohibited on the Ferālia.

Ovid urged mothers, brides, and widows to refrain from lighting their wedding torches, and for Magistrates to stop wearing their insignia. Any worship of the gods was prohibited as it should be hidden behind closed temple doors (aka no incense on altars nor fire on hearths).

Nothing survives as far as public rites are concerned, however on this day as described by Ovid, an old drunken woman (anus ebria) sits in a circle with other girls performing rites in the name of the mute goddess Tacita who is identified with the nymph Lara or Larunda. The ritual consists of the old woman placing three bits of incense, with three of her fingers, beneath a threshold where a mouse is unknowingly buried.

The Parentalia was the time Romans visited the necropolis to revere and appease their ancestors.

She then rolls 7 black beans in her mouth, and smears the head of a fish with pitch, impaling it with a bronze needle, and roasting it in a fire. After she formally declaims the purpose of her actions, as customary in Greco-Roman magic ritual, saying, “I have gagged spiteful tongues and muzzled unfriendly mouths” (Hostiles linguas inimicaque uinximus ora), she departs intoxicated.

The use of the black beans in the old woman’s ritual may be related to rites that lend themselves to another festival of the dead in the month of May, called Lemuria. During Lemuria the dead ancestor spirits, particularly the unburied (lemures), emerge from their graves and visit the homes in which they had lived.

It was then necessary to confront the unwelcome spirits and lure them out of one’s house using specific actions and chants. According to Ovid, this includes the involvement of black beans to lure a spirit out of the home.

And after washing his hands clean in spring water, he turns, and first he receives black beans and throws them away with face averted; but while he throws them, he says: ‘These I cast; with these beans I redeem me and mine.’ This he says nine times, without looking back: the shade is thought to gather the beans, and to follow unseen behind. Again he touches water, and clashes Temesan bronze, and asks the shade to go out of his house. When he has said 9 times, ‘Ghosts of my fathers, go forth!’ he looks back, and thinks that he has duly performed the sacred rites.

Black Beans

Perhaps the black beans carried with them undertones of warding away or ousting bad things in general, whether it be unwelcome spirits haunting a household as seen during Lemuria, or preventing undesired gossip towards an individual as in the old hag’s ritual during Ferālia. Also, in the context of sacrifices, the black beans are similar to the black animals used in sacrifice to the ‘chthonic deities’.

It is implied through Ovid’s choice of words, hostiles linguas and inimicaque ora, that the ritual was intended to curb gossip about a girl’s reputation. Gossip of such a nature and its consequences were the subject for the cause, which Ovid offers, of the Dea Tacita festival, which was held on the same day as the Ferālia.

A marble statue of Jupiter (c. 100 AD).

Ovid then tells a story to explain the origins of Dea Tacitia, starting with Jupiter‘s untamed lust for the nymph Juturna. Juturna, aware of Jupiter’s lust for her, hid within the Hazelwood forest and dove into her sisters’ waters.

Jupiter then gathered all the nymphs in Latium seeking their help in capturing Juturna, saying,

Your sister is spiting herself by shunning her own advantage, an entanglement with the highest god. Look out for us both. What will be a great pleasure for me will be in your sister’s great interest. Block her as she flees at the bank of the river to keep her from jumping into its waters.

One of the informed nymphs, Lara, could not hold her tongue and warned Juturna to flee. In addition, she approached Jupiter’s wife Juno, saying, “Your husband loves the Naiad Juturna.”

Gallo-Roman Lar from the Muri collection, Imperial period (Historical Museum of Bern).

As a result, Jupiter rips out Lara’s tongue in anger and summons Mercury to escort her to be a nymph in the Underworld. During this mission Mercury becomes lustful of Lara and rapes her, begetting twins who in turn become the Lares, the guardians of intersections who watch over the city of Rome.

We hope you enjoyed today’s Ferālia and look forward to having you back again. Come check us out again soon for who knows what celebrations or adventures we’ll be partaking.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Antoni, Silke (Kiel). “Tacita.” Brill’s New Pauly. Antiquity volumes edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. University of California UC Santa Barbara CDL. Brill’s New Pauly “Tacita” article.

Baudy, Gerhard (Konstanz). “Parentalia.” Brill’s New Pauly. Antiquity volumes edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. University of California UC Santa Barbara CDL. Brill’s New Pauly “Parentalia” article.

Cokayne, Karen. Experiencing Old Age in Ancient Rome. Routledge, 2003.

Dumézil, Georges. Archaic Roman Religion. Vol 1. The University of Chicago Press, 1966. 2 vols.

Littlewood, J. R. “Ovid among the Family Dead: the Roman Founder Legend and Augustan Iconography in Void’s Feralia and Lemuria.” Latomus (2003).

Ovid. Fasti. Trans. Betty Rose Nagle. Indiana University Press, 1995.

Prescendi, Francesca (Genf). “Manes, Di.” Brill’s New Pauly. Antiquity volumes edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. University of California UC Santa Barbara CDL. Brill’s New Pauly “Di Manes” article.

S.LU.; von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin); Prayon, Friedhelm (Tübingen); Johnston, Sarah Iles (Princeton); Doubordieu, Annie (Paris); Jastrzebowska, Elisabeth. “Dead, cult of the.” Brill’s New Pauly. Antiquity volumes edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. University of California UC Santa Barbara CDL. Brill’s New Pauly “The cult of the dead” article.

Quirinalia: Celebrating Quirinus and Rome’s Civil Society

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As we carry on in this month of Februarius (February), we shall continue to celebrate. As Saint Ambrose said, “Cum Romae esse, uti non Romanis” (When in Rome, do as the Romans do)!

Since Februarius was all about partying for the Romans, today we are going to be like the Romans and celebrate Quirinalia!

The ancient pagan festival of Quirinalia.

Held on 17 February, Quirinalia was the festival of Quirinus. In Roman mythology and religion, Quirinus was an early god of the Roman state.

In Augustan Rome, Quirinus was also an epithet of Janus, as Janus Quirinus. His name may be derived from the Sabine word quiris (spear).

Janus Quirinus

Some scholars connect the Quirinalia festival with the anniversary date of the murder of Romulus by his subjects on the basis of the calendar of Polemius Silvius and of Ovid. The story of Romulus’s apotheosis seems to be related, and accordingly the festival has been interpreted as a funerary parentatio.

Another interpretation has been mentioned based on the fact that the only religious ritual recorded for that day are the Stultorum Feriae (the last day of the Fornacalia). This festival used to be celebrated separately by each of the 30 Curiae.

This would mean that the Fornacalia had no fixed date, and thus not mentioned on calendars. Every year the Curio Maximus established the days for each Curia, and those who had missed their day (stulti, fool ones) were allowed an extra off day to make amends collectively.

Festus and Plutarch state that the Stultorum Feriae were in fact the Quirinalia. Their assertion seems acceptable for if it were not so then no Roman writer gave any indication of their content, and the Stultorum Feriae bring to an end the organized operation of the Curiae in the Fornacalia.

Flamines from the south frieze of Augustus’ Ara Pacis.

This connection between the Flamen Quirinalis and an activity regulated through the Curiae is important as it supports the interpretation of Quirinus as a god of the Roman civil society. The Curiae were in fact the original smallest grouping of Roman society.

Quirinus is probably an adjective meaning Wielder of the Spear. Other suggested origins are from the Sabine town Cures; from curia; or as the oak-god (quercus), and Quirites as the Men of the Oaken Spear.

Quirinal Hill

Quirinus was most likely a Sabine god of war. The Sabines had a settlement near the eventual site of Rome, and erected an altar to Quirinus on the Collis Quirinalis (Quirinal Hill), one of the Seven Hills of Rome.

When the Romans settled in the area, the cult of Quirinus became part of their early belief system. This occurred before the later influences from the classical Greek culture.

Romolus Quirinus

In Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, he writes that shortly after Rome’s founder had disappeared under what some considered suspicious circumstances, a Roman noble named Proculus Julius reported that Romulus had come to him in a vision. He claimed that the king had instructed him to tell his countrymen that he, Romulus was Quirinus.

By the end of the 1st Century BC, Quirinus would be considered to be the deified legendary king.

Historian Angelo Brelich has argued that Quirinus and Romulus were originally the same divine entity which was split into a founder hero and a god when Roman religion became de-mythicized. To support this, he points to the association of both Romulus and Quirinus with the grain spelt, through the Fornacalia or Stultorum Feriae, according to Ovid’s Fasti.

The Vintage Festival by Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

The combination of a festival involving a staple crop, a god, and a tale of a slain founding hero whose body parts are buried in the soil is a recognized archetype that arises when such a split takes place in a culture’s mythology. The possible presence of the Flamen Quirinalis at the festival of Acca Larentia would corroborate this thesis, given the fact that Romulus is a stepson of hers, and one the original 12th arval brethren (Fratres Arvales).

The association of Quirinus and Romulus is further supported by a connection with Vofionos, the 3rd god in the Grabovian triad of Iguvium. Vofionos would be the equivalent of Liber or Teutates, in Latium and among the Celts respectively.

His early importance led to his inclusion in the original Capitoline Triad, along with Mars (then an agriculture god) and Jupiter. Overtime, however, he became less significant, and he was absent from the later, more widely known triad.

Templum Quirinus

Varro mentions the Capitolium Vetus, an earlier cult site on the Quirinal, devoted to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Eventually, Romans began to favor personal and mystical cults over the official state belief system.

These included those of BacchusCybele, and Isis, leaving only his Flamen to worship him. The Flamen Quirinalis who remained, however, were the patrician Flamines Maiores (Greater Flamens) who had oversight over the Pontifex Maximus.

In earlier Roman art, Quirinus was portrayed as a bearded man with religious and military clothing but was almost never depicted in later Roman belief systems. He was also often associated with the myrtle.

Even centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Quirinal Hill in Rome was still associated with power. It was chosen as the seat of the royal house after the taking of Rome by the Savoia and later it became the residence of the Presidents of the Italian Republic.

Piazza del Quirinale panorama.

In Rome, Quirinus and his Quirinalia still live on today. We thank you very much for joining our celebration and look forward to having you back for further adventures.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



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