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!
The festival was held on 23 March, the last day of the Quinquatria festival held in tribute to the Roman GodMars and Nerine, a Sabine goddess. The event took place again on 23 May.
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 Catholictheologian 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.
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.
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.
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 godof 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.
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.
On this special day, we take advantage of the festivities to celebrate Liberalia!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The fathers of the young men took them to the city’s Forumand 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 Tutelaceased. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keeping that in mind, today we celebrate a pair of events that the Romans held on VIMartius!
The earliest of the 2 events celebrated today was a Supplicatiofor 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.
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).
A 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.
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 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.
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 EmperorTheodosius 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Emma. Romulus’ 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, Jörg. The 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.
Since Februarius was all about partying for the Romans, today we are going to be like the Romans and celebrate Regifugium!
In Ancient Roman religion, Regifugium was an annual observance that took place every 24 February. The Romans themselves offer varying views on the meaning of the day.
According to Varro and Ovid, the festival commemorated the flight of the last King of Rome, Tarquinius 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.
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 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.
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).
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.
‘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.’
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.
Since Februarius was all about partying for the Romans, today we are going to be like the Romans and celebrate Terminalia!
Terminalia was an Ancient Roman festival in honor of the godTerminus, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Since Februarius was all about partying for the Romans, today we are going to be like the Romans and celebrate Caristia!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Since Februarius was all about partying for the Romans, today we are going to be like the Romans and celebrate Ferālia!
Ferālia was an Ancient Romanpublic 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.
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 goddessTacita 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.
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.
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.
Ovid then tells a story to explain the origins of Dea Tacitia, starting with Jupiter‘s untamed lust for the nymphJuturna. 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
Brelich, Angelo. “Quirinus: una divinita’ romana alla luce della comparazione storica.” Studi e Materiali di Storia delle religioni, 1960.
Evans, Jane DeRose. The Art of Persuasion. University of Michigan Press, 1992. ISBN 0-472-10282-6.
Fishwich, Duncan. The Imperial Cult in the Latin West Brill, 2nd edition (1993). ISBN 978-90-04-07179-7.
Orlin, Eric. Foreign Cults in Rome: Creating a Roman Empire. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Februarius was the only month in the pre-Julian calendar to have an even number of days, numbering 28. Ancient sources derived Februarius from februum, a thing used for ritual purification. Most of the observances in this month concerned the dead or closure, reflecting the month’s original position at the end of the year.
Today we keep the party wheels in motion as we celebrate Parentalia!
In his treatise on farming, Varro divides the agricultural year into 8 phases, with Spring beginning officially on 7 February, when Favonius the west wind was thought to start blowing favorably and it was time to ready the fields. The grain fields were to be weeded, vineyards tended, and old reeds burned. Some kinds of trees were pruned, and attention was given to olive and fruit trees.
In Ancient Rome, the Parentalia or Dies Parentales (Ancestral Days) was a 9-day festival held in honor of family ancestors, beginning 13 February. Although Parentalia was a holiday on the Roman religious calendar, its observances were mainly domestic and familial.
The importance of the family to the Roman state, however, was expressed by public ceremonies on the opening day, the Ides of February. It was here that a Vestālis (Vestal) conducted a rite for the collective di parentes of Rome at the tomb of Tarpeia.
Ovid describes sacrificia (sacred offerings) of flower-garlands, wheat, salt, wine-soaked bread and violets to the Manes or Di Manes (Shades of the Dead) at family tombs, which were located outside Rome’s pomerium (sacred boundary). These observances were meant to strengthen the mutual obligations and protective ties between the living and the dead, and were a lawful duty of the Paterfamilias (Head of the Family).
Parentalia concluded 21 February in the midnight rites of Feralia. It was during these closing rites that the Paterfamilias addressed the wicked, destructive aspects of his Manes.
Feralia was a pacification and exorcism. Ovid thought it a more rustic, primitive and ancient affair than the Parentalia itself.
It appears to have functioned as a cleansing ritual for Caristia on the following day, when the family held an informal banquet to celebrate the amity between themselves and their benevolent ancestral dead (Lares). The emphasis on collective cult for the Manes and early di parentes implies their afterlife as vague and lacking individuation.
Later the cult became vested with personal qualities, and as an Imperial cult they acquired divine numen and become divi (divine entities). Parentalia has been described as being practically an annual rejuvenation of the ritual of burial.
From Parentalia to Caristia all temples were closed, marriages were forbidden, and “magistrates appeared without their insignia,” an indication that no official business was conducted.
Individuals might also be commemorated on their birthday (dies natalis). Some would be commemorated throughout the year on marked days of the month, such as the Kalends, Nones or Ides, when lamps might be lit at the tomb.
We hope you enjoyed the celebration and look forward to having you join us again soon. Who knows where our next journey, or celebration, may take us?
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Beard, Mary; North, J.A.; and Price, S.R.F. Religions of Rome: A History. Cambridge University Press, 1998).
Fishwick, Duncan. The Imperial Cult in the Latin West: Studies in the Ruler Cult of the Western Provinces of the Roman Empire, vol 1 (1991).