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A couple days ago we discussed The October Horse – To Honor Mars. We decided to carry on with the next festival that the Romans had.
Today we celebrate Armilustrium!
In ancient Roman religion, the Armilustrium was a dies ferialis in honor of Mars, the god of war, celebrated on 19 October. Mars was a god particularly important in the Roman world for he was considered the father of Romulus and Remus.
On this day the weapons of the soldiers were ritually purified and stored for winter. The festival marked the end of the military campaigning season, which started on March 23rd with the Tubilustrium aimed at making the Exercitus Romanus fit for war.
The Romans gathered with their arms and armor on the Aventinus Mons, and held a procession with torches and sacrificial animals. The dancing priests of Mars known as the Salii had a significant part in the ceremony.
The Salii were priests of Mars Gradivus, and all 12 of them were chosen from the Pātriciī. During the celebration, they would sing and dance while striking their ancilia in rhythm with their movements and voices.
Besides the events of singing and dancing, there were games, wine-drinking and feasts. All Romans, wealthy or not, could take part in the celebration.
“Romulus brought the body of Tatius home and gave it honorable burial, and it lies near the so‑called Armilustrium, on the Aventine Hill; but he took no steps whatsoever to bring his murderers to justice.”
These festivals were the Equirria, the sacral chariot races held on 27 February and 14 March; the Agonium Martiale on 17 March; the Quinquatrus, the initial ritual for purifying weapons before the military campaigning season, on 19 March; the Tubilustrium, on 23 March; followed by the sacrifice of the Equus October on 15 October.
To the Romans, Mars is known to be a god associated with war. However, in earlier Roman history Mars was originally seen as the protector of agriculture. How the Romans originally saw Mars, being a protector, made him have traits that surpassed his Greek origin.
Mars is the Roman version of the Greek god Ares, and while they are both seen as a god of war, Mars was considered to be the popular one. This came about due to Ares’ brutality, while having a short temper and showing no mercy (good for war though).
Today there is the square of the Ordo Fratrum Hospitalis Sancti Ioannis Hierosolymitani, decorated by Giovanni Battista Piranesi with pads according to the theme of Armilustrium.
With this, we bring an end to the campaigning season. However, this does not mean RAE is done for the year.
Come back tomorrow to see what we have in store for you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Scullard, H.H. Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. Cornell University Press, 1981.
Smith, Philip. Armilustrium. University of London.
Vu, David. Armilustrium – Ritual Purification of Arms.