On the Roman Religion-Part 2

Roman Religion - Calendar



March in the original Roman calendar had been the first month of the year, named for the father of the twins Romulus and Remus. On March 1, new garlands of laurel were placed in all of the temples, and new fires were kindled on the hearths. The Temple of Mars was south of the city on the Appian Way, a location dictated by the desire to keep dissension outside the city.


The Salii performed the most important rites of the entire month of March, the dances by which the city was protected from pestilence. The priests, dressed in full battle array, carrying the sacred spears of Mars and the shields of Egeria, performed their dance throughout the city. Whenever they appeared, the people gathered to watch the performance, after which a banquet was given. The details and origin of the dance and the shields are given elsewhere. The name comes from the Latin word for health or safety, salus. The spears and shields of Mars were kept in the Shrine of Mars in the house of the Pontifex Maximus, the Regia, where, it was said, that they would rattle or move when war or danger was impending, acting as a kind of early warning system. The statement that they were in the house of Julius Cæsar, and that they moved on the morning of his murder, has been interpreted to mean that they were in his personal residence, but it is perhaps a misunderstanding, he being Pontifex Maximus and his official residence being the Regia, which might be called his house.


The Matronalia was celebrated on the Calends by the women in honor of the Sabine women who had stopped the war between the Romulans and the Sabines of Tatius, thereby making possible the unification of the two peoples.


On the 6th of March was celebrated the Vestalia. The feast was important in that Mars had used the sacred flame of the Alban Vestals to impregnate the Vestal Rhea Silvia. The Vestals were the most important female priests in the Roman Religion. Candidates for the Vestal priesthood were selected under the Papian Law, although the law could be waived by consent of the Senate. By law, the Vestal was chosen by lot before the Assembly from twenty candidates proposed by the Pontifex Maximus. Vestals were chosen as girls, not younger than six and not older than ten years. They could have no bodily defect, blemish, or impediment of speech. Both of their parents must be living. No girl was eligible whose father did not have his residence in Italy. When they were taken by the Pontifex Maximus into the priesthood, they immediately obtained the rights of a matron, meaning that they could write a will. If they died intestate, their property was placed in the public treasury. Aulus Gellius has recorded the formula by which the Vestal is taken by the Pontiff (Attic Nights, I.12): Sacerdotem Vestalem, quae sacra faciat quae ius siet sacerdotem Vestalem facere pro populo Romano Quiritibus, uti quae optima lege fuit, ita te, Amata, capio.

A Vestal encountering a condemned prisoner commuted his sentence, if the meeting were accidental. Any man who touched the sedan of a Vestal was subject to execution. It was thought that a Vestal could paralyze an escaped slave with an enchantment if the slave were still within the walls of the city.

Temple of Vedjovis consecrated

The Temple of Vedjovis was consecrated on March 7. The temple was on the Capitoline Hill, between the Capitol and the Citadel, seemingly in the vale between the peaks, near the Asylum. According Ovid, the deity was purported to be the infant Jove as he was while being nursed in Crete. However, a more convincing explanation is that he is the baleful or harmful anti-Jove , that aspect of the god which can blast and benight, in other words, Jove as his brother Dis. The image in the temple was of the god bearing thunderbolts and accompanied by a goat, both of which were emblematic of Jove the Destroyer.


The second round of horse races for Mars were begun on the 14th. If the Campus Martius were flooded, the scene of the races was shifted to the Caelian Hill.

Anna Perenna

The Feast of Anna Perenna was begun on the Ides. The feast was held in the open air in the fields near the Tiber. The celebrants frequently camped out in tents or in crudely thatched shelters, sometimes simply under awnings made of sticks upon which their cloaks or robes had been stretched. There was continuous drinking and dancing and the singing of ribald songs. It was a feast of license. Anna was described as an old woman.

Anna Perenna was commonly said to have been Anna, the sister of Dido, who had been driven out of Carthage by the Numidians, pursued by her brother Pygmalion, the enemy of herself and the dead Queen of Carthage. After a long and dangerous voyage, chased from one refuge to another, she had been driven by a storm to the coast of Italy, where she was found by Æneas, who, out of guilt for his ungrateful treatment of Dido, promised her safety haven in his new kingdom. However, Lavinia, the new wife of Æneas, jealous of the woman from her husband's past, planned to slay her. Anna, warned by a vision, escaped through a window and plunged into the Tiber, where she was transformed into a nymph.

The fanciful story of Anna becoming the goddess Anna Perenna has little substance to support its claim as an explanation of the name of the deity. Imagination has seized upon two unrelated details, the proximity of the Tiber and the similarity of the name Anna to the Latin verb annare (to swim), and from them constructed a fabric of pleasant nonsense. The alternative, that she represents the New Year (annus) and the eternal renewal of the cycle of the years (Perenna, as in perennial) has a better grounding in fact and supposition.

The presence of the river, and the time of the year, might have had some relevance to the name of the goddess, as hinted at by the story of Anna, but not exactly as stated. It night be that the locale of the festival was related to a water festival. If the act of swimming had any importance in her rituals, the subsiding of the spring floods might have had some influence in the choice of location of the festival. Might not the festival have had to do with thanksgiving for the lowering of the flood waters? Water festivals, in which the wedding of the river spirit to the king of the city figured, were not uncommon. While swimming was not a favored leisure activity of the Romans, there were strong swimmers among them, notably Horace Cocles and Julius Cæsar. It might be that swimming or immersion or bathing in the river was a requirement of the ritual, perhaps as an act of purification, lustration or ablution being required before any sacrifice. And bathing would be a natural part of any frolics by the riverside. There is no mention of the actual rites, and there is no real proof that the water had any connection to the goddess, but the idea is not unattractive. That the festival was followed by two days of processions to the Argei scattered throughout the wards is also suggestive, as they are explicitly part of the rites in placation of the spirits of the river.


The 17th of March was the Feast of Bacchus, locally called Father Liber by the Ancient Latins. Cakes baked with honey were offered. Traditionally, on that day boys who had reached their maturity during the year were invested with the toga and recognized as citizens, capable of directing their own affairs. Locks of hair were offered. Formerly, games were held, but these at some unknown time had been combined with the Games of Ceres.


This festival of Minerva was held on the 19th. Games were a prominent feature of the Quinquatrus, which on the first day were bloodless. Minerva and Mars were equally warlike deities, and it is not unusual to find her paired with Mars by the Romans. The Temple of Minerva lay between the Temple of Luna and the Temple of Diana on the Aventine, south of the Ox Market, the chaste goddess grouped together.


The 23rd was the day of the Washing of the Sacred Trumpets, Tubilustrium. The trumpets were war horns. The Priests of the Trumpets were called the "Tibicines Sacrorum populi Romani", "the Piper Priests", which suggests that they also were flautists at the sacrifices and other religious events. As in modern armies before the invention of the field telephone and radio, trumpets were used to signal to the soldiers for alarm, formation, recall, attack, retreat, etc. The Romans also had a simple system of flags by which the could silently alert the army, a red flag being raised over the commanders tent, for instance, being the signal to assemble for attack. In Rome, the Comitia Centuriata, Military Assembly, was called by the Trumpeters to meet outside the city. The 23rd was the last day of the Quinquatrus. On the 23rd was the third of the performances or processions of the Salii.

Sacrifices to Janus, Concord, Pax, and Salus

On the 30th of March, there were sacrifices to Janus, Concord, and Salus. As stated elsewhere, the doors of the Temple of Janus were closed only during times of peace, and Janus is therefore an associate of Mars. Concord is the goddess of peaceful agreement, and she was given thanks when a war was concluded or averted. Salus is the god of Safety, and the Salii drew their name from that deity, also an associate of Mars. The Temple of Salus was on the Quirinal. Pax is the goddess of Peace. The Augustine Altar of Peace was in the Campus Martius along the Via Lata.


Sacrifices to Luna, the Moon, were offered in her Aventine temple, south of the Ox Market, on the 31st.



April was named for Aphrodite, the other source of Roman heritage. On the Calends her statue was ritually bathed. Her necklace and bracelets were removed, as were the old garlands of flowers. The statue was washed and dried, and the jewelry replaced. Fresh roses were hung about her. The attendants or worshippers were to bathe themselves in pools over which grew myrtle.

There were in Imperial times several temples and images to Venus in Rome, many of them having been taken in war. When Claudius Marcellus conquered Sicily, he transferred the cult, which is to say the statue, of Aphrodite of Eryx to Rome. The Temple of Aphrodite of Eryx in Rome was located in the northeast of the city near the gardens of Sallust. (The temple in Sicily, deprived of its central object of worship, fell into ruins, and was restored by Tiberius and Claudius.) There was a Temple of Venus Victrix attached to the Theater of Pompey, south of the Campus Martius along the Via Tecta. The Temple of Venus Cloacina stood in the Forum near the Fish Market and New Shops. (It stood on the spot where Romulus and Titus Tatius were ritually cleansed by aspersion using a myrtle branch to sprinkle the water over them. The old verb cluere meant "to cleanse".) The immense Temple of Venus and Rome was built adjacent the ancient and modest Temple of Jupiter Stator at the eastern end of the Sacred Way. The Temple of Venus Genetrix was located in the Forum of Cæsar.

Venus was the least warlike of the great Olympian deities, but she produced the most martial race of ancient times and the greatest general. The Romans were not unconscious of this irony.


The Feast of Megale, the Great Mother (Cybele), was celebrated on the 4th of April. After Aphrodite, in whom she found a milder incarnation, she was the first Asian goddess admitted to Rome. As the Mother of the Phrygians, of whom Capys, father of Anchises, was one, she had a legitimate claim on the worship of the Romans, and they were proud to have her image transferred to the city , the antiquity of her cult adding to the authority of Rome, but, like all newly made rich, the Romans were somewhat embarrassed by the rudeness of their ancestors and did their best to keep her at arm's length. Her Temple was on the Palatine above the Lupercal, a suitable enough setting, though the temple itself was not grand.

On this day, the priests of the Magna Mater were permitted to make a procession through the city, bearing on their shoulders the image of the goddess. The goddess on longer journeys would travel by barge or by chariot or carriage. This type of processional was common throughout the ancient world, in both northern and southern climes, and the goddess so honored was similar in antiquity, power, and status, leading one to conclude that there may have been a very old common source. The procession continued in modified form into Christian times, and seems, in some cases, to have been imitated or adopted by the Christians for Mary.

The ecstatic self-mutilations of the Galli, the priests of the goddess, were uniformly disapprobated by the staid and proper Romans, but they were dutifully tolerated. It required two centuries for the Romans to become comfortable enough (or lax enough) to remove the restrictions that were placed upon the public appearances of the Galli and the participation of Romans in the rites.

During the Megalensia, hospitality was the rule, and there were many banquets given by the Romans and reciprocated by their friends and acquaintances. Invitations were in the form, "mutitare, mutitatio," a kind of "tit for tat". The games of the festival were the first of the year, other games having been moved back in the calendar to give the priority to the Mother of the Gods. (Thus the games of Bacchus were combined with those of Ceres. Besides, the new games would have placed an additional expense upon the aediles who were charged with giving the public entertainments, and the combining of the Bacchic and Cerealic games would have kept the budget in balance. The Romans were eminently practical, and piety need not obviate frugality.) The games ran through 10 April, ending with a grand procession of all the gods in the Circus, followed by horse races.

Feriae Latinae

The Latin Festival was a moveable feast, declared by the consul. It was unusual in that it was held in Alba Longa, the "mother" city of Rome. The festival required that the consuls and other major magistrates preside in Alba. For the duration of the absence of the consuls, the city was governed by a Præfectus, praefect, an appointed temporary governor of consular authority. In the Republic, this official was recognized to have full consular powers, but the office in the Imperial era was filled by young men of no experience and became titular.

Dedication of Temple of Public Fortune

The Temple of Public Fortune on the Quirinal, next to the Gardens of Sallust, was dedicated on the 5th.


The Feast of Ceres (Demeter) was begun on the 12th. Sacrifices of grain, salt, and incense were offered. A sow was particularly the blood victim for Ceres. Fasting until sunset was required. The story of Ceres is mainly that of her search and lamentation for her daughter Persephone, after the girl was abducted from Sicily by Dis (Pluto or Hades). Ovid (Fasti IV.550) adds the story of Triptolemus, the first farmer, son of Celeus and Metanira. Ceres was especially worshipped in Sicily, and there were some famous images called the Mothers of the Gods (Plutarch, Lives, Marcellus) that were associated her cult. It is to these that Ovid refers in his story of the invitation of Arethusa. to which Ceres had responded, leaving Perspehone alone.

The games of Ceres and Bacchus were important religious events, and their interruption or postponement was a matter of state, the health of the country being. concerned in their performance. After the defeat of Varro and Æmelius Paulus by Hannibal, the games were cancelled, but the sacrifices and other rituals that were carried out, lest the gods be even more angered.

Dedication of Temple of Jupiter Victor

The Temple of Jupiter Victor had been vowed by Quintus Fabius Maximus in 295 B.C. and was dedicated on the Ides.


On the 15th of April, pregnant cows (forda) were sacrificed. Each of the Wards received one sacrificial victim, thirty in all. Others were offered at the Capitol and to Mother Earth. The viscera were immolated as usual, but the fetal calves were taken by the Vestals, and the eldest of their order burnt them. The ashes from these calves were then collected and kept until the Parilia, when no blood sacrifices could be made, and were used in the rites on the Foundation Day of Rome. The sacrifice of pregnant animals in the spring must have had some relation to the Cerealia, the regenerative and nourishing properties of the Earth being propitiated. The pregnant animal would have been the most valuable in a primitive society, and the sacrifice, which act in itself placed the prosperity of the nation at risk, would have been all the greater by virtue of that fact.

On the 19th, as part of the Cerealia, foxes with lighted torches attached to them, were set loose in the Circus Maximus, a particularly loathsome and cruel form of immolation. The Temple of Ceres was located outside the northwest corner of the Circus.


The 21st of April was celebrated both as the Parilia and as the day on which Romulus had laid the foundations of the walls of Rome.

The Parilia, or Palilia, was in honor of Pales, the eponymous deity of the Palatine Hill. The Parilia, being pastoral, must have predated the foundation of Rome, and its purpose was to protect and to purify the flocks. Blood could not be let on that day. For the purificatory rites, the ashes from the fetal calves that had been saved from the Fordicidia, the blood of the October horse, and bean shells or stalks were used. Bonfires were lit and the shepherds (and others later) jumped over them. At twilight, the shepherds were to asperse the ground with holy water using a laurel branch, and then to sweep the earth with a broom. The sheep were then draped with laurel, and their wool was fumigated with burning sulfur. Millet, millet cakes, and milk were offered, as were laurel leaves over an open fire of olive wood and pine. The shepherd then begged forgiveness for any trespasses upon hallowed ground or infringements of divine rights of which he might have been guilty during the previous year, and that the deity should spare his flocks and herds, protect them from disease and the predations of the wolves, and give them grass to eat and water to drink. The prayer was to be repeated four times facing east. Then milk mixed with must was drunk, and the ceremony was concluded by shepherds leaping again over the straw-fed fires.

Traditionally, construction of the city was begun on this date in 753 B.C., the year One in Roman history, from which all subsequent events were counted (Ab Urbe Condita, AUC, from the founding of the city, being the form used). The antiquary Varro, however, perhaps based upon the calculations of the astrologer Tarrutius , placed the nativity of Romulus 1,100 years prior to his own era of 100 B.C. This discrepancy reflected an internal disagreement between Roman historical traditions, some of which made Romulus and Remus the grandsons of Æneas and others which interposed the kings of Alba Longa between the Trojan hero and the sons of Mars. The Romans were cognizant of the inconsistency, and tried to resolve it by various means, one of which was to produce an official account, The Æneid, or by casting doubt upon the accuracy of dates that were fixed by reference to the Olympiads. There were two dates assigned to the beginning of the Games, the legendary and the historical. The legendary founder of the Olympic Games was Herakles, and the gods participated in the initial contests. Because Herakles was said to have lived in the generation prior to that that fought the Trojan War, the original Olympic Games had to have been held sometime before 1185 B.C., the traditional date of that war. Thus, we can account for one computation for the birth of Romulus, but it places the Romans in the embarrassing position of having to explain how Romulus, descendant of Æneas, could have been born in Italy before Æneas had been born in Dardanus. If, however, we use the historical record of the First Olympiad, which began in 776 B.C., then we are close to the accepted date for the founding of Rome in 753 B.C. Romulus would have been 18 or 19 years of age when he founded Rome by that reckoning. This version of events satisfied the chronology with regard to Romulus and Æneas, but the span of years between them had then to be accounted for, and the kings of Alba Longa were found to fill the gap. Whether this was merely an expedient, or whether the truth had been discovered by studious investigation, none can say, but it was accepted as part of the official history of Rome.

April 21 was also, by happenstance, the birthday of Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome. In the system of Pythagoras, who propounded the transmigration of souls, and with whom Numa shared so many philosophical tenets, it might be that Numa was the reincarnation of Remus, who was slain on April 21, 753 B.C., the very day of Numa's birth. Such a transference would explain Numa's almost supernal love of Peace, having been slain by his brother. It would also explain why he was chosen to succeed Romulus, the twin returning to claim his crown.

The deity Pales, native to the Palatine, was addressed by Ovid as goddess. Varro insisted that Pales was male. There has been some speculation that Pallas was the intended recipient of the offerings, either that grandson of Evander slain by Turnus or the Pallas of the Palladium, which was supposed to have been kept in the Temple of the Vesta. Still others have paired the deity Pales with the goddess Palatua, the goddess of the Palatine, on the assumption that Varro was correct, and that Pales and Palatua were another of the pairs of deities that were found throughout Latium. This explanation seems satisfactory. No image of Pales is described.


The first Vinalia fell on the 23rd of April. It was a Venereal feast, celebrated especially by the prostitutes, whom the Goddess of Love favored. Myrtle, mint, and incense were burnt on the altars of the Temple of Erycinna in the northeast part of the city, built to house the image which Marcus Claudius Marcellus had brought from Sicily in 212 B.C. Bouquets of roses and rushes were brought to her.

On the same day, wine was poured to Jove.

It is difficult to to find any reason why the libations of wine to Jupiter should give their name to a day that was primarily Aphrodite's, unless the goddess had usurped the day of an earlier Jovian celebration following the victory of Marcellus. It might be that the 23rd was originally celebrated as Aphrodite's feast in Eryx and was then made over to her in Rome, where Jupiter had previously enjoyed that day alone. The festival in its original form was to mark the date when the previous vintage had reached maturity, and the casks were broached to sample the new wine.


On April 25 was the Robigalia, the festival of Robigo (Mildew), during which a dog and a sheep were sacrificed. The god is propitiated that he might spare the young seedlings in the fields from the blight or rust, a kind of fungus. The priest is described in Ovid as being garbed in white, with a napkin in his right hand, bearing a bowl of wine and incense. The grove in which the sacrifice was made was near the sixth milestone on the Claudian Way. The feast was started by Numa in the 11th year of his reign, making it one of the earliest peculiarly Roman holidays.

The dog sacrificed was a red puppy and was offered, not to Mildew, but to Sirius, the Dog-Star, which rose in August and was thought to bring the heat of the Summer, and which could also destroy the crops. The sacrifice was made in Spring when the seedlings were developed to a prescribed stage. It was a moveable feast declared by the Pontifex Maximus, and which, for the sake of convenience, was allowed to coincide with the Robigalia.


The Floralia was begun on April 28 in the year 238 B.C., T. Semp. Gracchus and P. Valerius Falto consuls, in obedience to a Sibylline prophecy. Its purpose was to mark the flowering of the fruit trees. The Temple of Flora was in the northeast portion of the city, north of the Quirinal. Juno, indignant that Jove had been a father and mother to both Minerva and Bacchus, complained to Flora of this inequity. Flora, in sympathy, impregnated Juno so that she might bear without a male, and Mars was born. Therefore, Flora was particularly worshipped in Rome. Her festival was more wanton than those of the chaste goddesses or of Ceres. Multi-colored robes were worn to her rites, in contrast to the white usually worn to religious sacraments. This was in recognition of the many colors of the flowers that Flora engendered. Hare and roe were hunted in the Circus. It was also a festival of lights.



May was named for the mother of Hermes, Maia, the most beautiful of the Pleiades. The worship of Hermes in the area of the future Rome was begun by Evander. Maia was sometimes an alternate name of the Good Goddess, Bona Dea. That May 1 fell in the middle of the Floralia could indicate that Flora, Maia, and Bona Dea were identical.


Mayday has been celebrated throughout Europe since prehistoric times. In Rome, May 1 was assigned to the Lares Compitales, the protecting gods, and to the Good Goddess, whose rites were open only to women.

The Lares Compitales were said to be the twins sons of Hermes by the nymph Lara, or Lala, who inhabited a spring somewhere near that of Juturna, which was near the Temple of Vesta. The Lares were the official supernatural watchmen of the city, and there were shrines to them at all of the crossroads. By dispensation of Augustus, each of the 265 streets in Rome had its won shrine of the Lares. Their principal statue is described by Ovid, but it was in his time so much decayed that all trace of their dog had been obliterated. Thus, the importance of Maia is explained by Ovid. He also relates that Lara was actually the Tacita of whom Numa had spoken. While the story that he attaches to her is not one that induces the reader to think of Numa, the idea that she was the mother of the Lares Compitales leads one to think that the goddess Angerona, the tutelary deity of Rome, and Lara might have been identical. The praetor used this formula to declare the holiday: Dienoni populo Romano Quiritibus Compitalia erunt; quando concepta fuerint, nefas. (Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights X.24. There was an earlier (or later) Feast of the Compitales, of no fixed date (moveable) held between December 15 and January 5, during which the above formula was recited.)


The Bona Dea was a primeval goddess. She was worshipped by the women alone, and men were prohibited her rites, the site of which was rotated among the houses of the serving senior magistrates, the wife of one them being the principal priestess for that year. The Vestals assisted at the rites. The historian is compelled by a want of other details to mention that the rites of the Good Goddess were profaned by Publius Clodius in 62 B.C. Clodius, a bad man in any account of him, was said to have been smitten with a passion for Pompeia, the presiding priestess of the year, wife of the praetor, C. Julius Cæsar . After all of the men had been duly expelled the house, Clodius, muffled up as a female flute-player, infiltrated the rites. He was discovered and unceremoniously thrown out. A scandal ensued, and an inquiry was ordered by the Senate. Cæsar divorced Pompeia, although it was admitted that she was an innocent victim of the illicit passion of Clodius. Both Cæsar's daughter Julia and his mother gave evidence in the inquiry, but Cæsar himself, when asked to give his evidence, said that he had none, having been absent. When asked why, then, had he divorced his wife, if he had no evidence against her, he made the famous reply: "Not only must the wife of Cæsar be innocent of wrong doing, but she must be beyond suspicion." This has been taken to be a rather haughty and somewhat evasive way of extricating himself from a questionable situation, but it was actually one of the requirements for the Pontifex Maximus, that his wife be above suspicion.

The Temple of Bona Dea was dedicated on 1 May by the saintly Claudia Quinta, the same lady who had led the Magna Mater into the city, and who had been herself unfairly suspected of libidinousness. The Temple was on the Aventine, south of the Circus Maximus. It was restored by Hadrian.


On May 3 the Floralia ended. Shows and games in the Circus concluded the festival.


The Lemuria fell on 9 May and succeeding nights. This was a Feast of the Dead (lemures, ghosts), supposedly instituted in honor of Remus. Certain nocturnal ceremonies were performed to avert the wandering ghosts and propitiate the powers of the underworld.


Feast of Mars of the Ploughed Fields

On the 10th of May, the Arval Brothers (Fratres Arvales) performed a sacrifice to Mars to ensure the fertility of the fields. The twelve original Arvals were supposedly composed of the eleven surviving natural sons of Acca Larentia plus her adopted son Romulus. Fragments of the song that the priesthood sang have been preserved. This feast was obviously of an immense age, pre-dating the founding of Rome itself. The name Arvals derives from the word arvus, an arable or plowed field.


Enos Lases iuvate, enos Lases iuvate, enos Lases iuvate.

neve lue rue Marma sins incurrere in pleores, neve lue rue Marmar sins incurrere in pleoris, neve lue rue Marmar sers incurrere in pleoris.

satur fu, fere Mars, limen sali, sta berber. satur fu, fere Mars, limen sali, sta berber. satur fu, fere Mars, limen sali, sta berber.

semunis alternei advocapit conctos, semunis alternei advocapit conctos, simunis alternei advocapit conctos.

enos Marmor iuvato, enos Marmor iuvato, enos Mamor iuvato.

triumpe triumpe triumpe, triumpe triumpe.

Games of Mars Ultor (Avenger)

May 12. The Temple of Mars Avenger mentioned by Ovid was constructed by Augustus adjoining his forum in 2 B.C., west of the Subura. The temple had been vowed if Augustus might avenge the murder of his grand-uncle and adoptive father, C. Julius. Frazer points out that Augustus had built another Temple to Mars Ultor in 20 B.C. to house the standards lost by Marcus Licinius Crassus to the Parthians and recovered by Tiberius.

Sacrifice of the Argei

On the 14th of May, the Vestals performed the rites of the Argei. This was a vestige of human sacrfice, in which straw dummies were tossed from the wooden bridge, the Sublician Bridge, into the Tiber to propitiate the god of the river or Saturn. Apparently, one dummy was furnished by each of the chapels that were in each of the curia, the number being either 27 or 30, depending on the source. Usually, we are told, two dummies were tossed from the Sublician Bridge. Perhaps the others were thrown into the river at other points. Whether in the past each ward was required to provide one man for the sacrifice is debatable. It is certain that the dummies were substituted for living men at some distant period in the Roman antiquity. Traditionally, Hercules is given credit for freeing Evander of the sacrifice. Ovid, in denying that men of three score years were thus sacrificed, gives us the information that some Roman historians maintained that this had regularly been done. Fasti, V.623-624:

corpora post decies senos qui credidit annos
missa neci, sceleris crimine damnat avos.

The ceremony suggests that the story of Romulus and Remus, who were to have been thrown into the river, but were saved when the floods prevented the king's order from being carried out, is really of this sacrifice, and that expiation had to be made each year for their escape.

Feast of Mercury

On the Ides, the Feast of Mercury was celebrated. Mercury, as father of the Lares, who guarded the crossways, was god of commerce (as of thieves), and his feast was popular with merchants, traders, chapmen, and others who bought and sold goods. His Temple, founded on this day in 495 B.C., stood facing the Circus Maximus. A fountain dedicated to Mercury, from which holy water was drawn, was near the Capena Gate to the Appian Way. The water was used to asperse the goods offered for sale, and the merchants themselves were sprinkled with the water, praying that they might be forgiven for past and future lies told about their wares, taking the god's name in vain, in the pursuit of gain.

Feast of Dea Dia

The 17th of May is someimes lsited as the feast of Dea Dia. The identity of this goddess is a mystery, Her name does not appear in any Classical text. Except for its occurence in inscriptions, it would otherwise be unknown. One is tempted to liken the name to the dual title of Sanco Sanctus Semo Dius Fidius, in which the reduplication indicates the attempt to give the full title of a deity adopted by the Romulans but of Sabine origin.

We might further speculate that the titles are of the Bona Dea, the most important of the female deities whose feasts were in May. The inscriptions merely relate that sacrifices were offered to her in her grove on the Campana Road by members of the Arval Fraternity on this day and others, from whch we might conclude that she had some agricultural connection. However, since the inscriptions also indicate that members of the College also offered sacrifices to Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, and other deities, this need not be considered certain.


The services of the Agonalia of January were repeated on May 21.


On the 23rd again, the Sacred Trumpets were washed, but this time in honor of Vulcan, their maker.


May 24 was not an holiday, but was the day "Quando Rex Comitiavit Fas", the day on which the Rex Sacrificulus declared in the Assembly those days that were fas and those that were nefas.

dies qui vocatur sic 'quando rex comitiavit fas', sis dictus ab eo quod eo die rex sacrificiulus dicat ad comitium, ad quod tempus est nefas, ab eo fas: itaque post id tempus lege actum saepe. Varro, De Lingua Latina

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