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In ancient Roman religion, the Lucaria was a festival of the grove (Latin lucus) held July 19 and 21. The original meaning of the ritual was obscure by the time of Varro (mid-1st century BC), who omits it in his list of festivals.[1] The deity for whom it was celebrated is unknown;[2] if a ritual for grove-clearing recorded by Cato pertains to this festival, the invocation was deliberately anonymous (Si deus, si dea).[3] The dates of the Lucaria are recorded in the Fasti Amiterni, a calendar dating from the reign of Tiberius found at Amiternum (now S. Vittorino) in Sabine territory.[4]

The Augustan grammarian Verrius Flaccus[5] connected the Lucaria to the disastrous defeat of the Romans by the Gauls at the Battle of the Allia, which was fought on July 18. The festival, he says, was celebrated in the large grove between the Via Salaria and the Tiber river, where the Romans who survived the battle had hidden. The Via Salaria crossed the battlefield about 10 miles north of Rome.[6] The lucus thus would have been located on the Pincian Hill, which was later cultivated as gardens and leisure parks by Lucullus, Pompeius, Sallust and others.[7] This explanatory story has been compared to that of the Poplifugia, which also involved the Gallic sack of Rome.[8] The story may be more aetiological than historical.[9] The Lucaria suggests that grove veneration was a practice which the early Romans had in common with the Gauls.[10]

Like other "fixed holidays" (dies nefasti publici) on the Roman calendar, the Lucaria took place on days of uneven number, with an intervening day that was "non-festive".[11] A mention by Macrobius[12] seems to imply that the festival began at night and continued the following day.[13] Georg Wissowa thought that it may have been connected to the Neptunalia on July 23, when leafy huts were built as shelters against the hot summer sun and bulls were sacrificed.[14] Neptune embodied fresh as well as salt water among the Romans, and the collocation of festivals in July, including also the Furrinalia on the 25th, may express concerns for drought.[15]

1 ^ Varro, De lingua latina 6.3.
2 ^ Kurt Latte, Römische Religionsgeschicte (C.H. Beck, 1992), p. 88.
3 ^ Cato, On Agriculture 139; Robert E.A. Palmer, The Archaic Community of the Romans (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 106.
4 ^ Jörg Rüpke, Religion of the Romans (Polity Press, 2007, originally published in German 2001), p. 189
5 ^ As recorded by Festus: Lucaria festa in luco colebant Romani, qui permagnus inter viam Salariam et Tiberim fuit, pro eo, quod victi e Gallis fugientes e praelio ibi se occultaverint.
6 ^ William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London, 1908), p. 182.
7 ^ Fowler, Roman Festivals, p. 183.
8 ^ Fowler, Roman Festivals, pp. 182–183.
9 ^ Ken Dowden, European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (Routledge, 2000), p. 107.
10 ^ Martin Henig, Religion in Roman Britain (Taylor & Francis, 1984, 2005), p. 15.
11 ^ Michael Lipka, Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach (Brill, 2009), pp. 38–39
12 ^ Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.4.15.
13 ^ According to Julius Caesar, Bellum Gallicum 6.18, the Gauls regularly reckoned time by nights rather than days: "They compute the divisions of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night" (spatia omnis temporis non numero dierum sed noctium finiunt; dies natales et mensum et annorum initia sic observant ut noctem dies subsequatur).
14 ^ Sarolta A. Takács, Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion (University of Texas Press, 2008), p. 53.
15 ^ Robert Schilling, "Neptune," Roman and European Mythologies (University of Chicago Press, 1992, from the French edition of 1981), p. 138.
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The Ludi Apollinares were solemn games (ludi) held annually by the ancient Romans in honor of the god Apollo. The tradition goes that at the first celebration hereof, they were suddenly invaded by the enemy, and obliged to take to their arms. A cloud of darts and arrows fell upon their enemies, and the Romans soon returned victorious to their sports.

The Ludi Apollinares were games which were first organized in 212 BC, when C. Sulla was Praetor.[1] Initially a vow was made to hold them only once.[2] There is some discussion as to who officially made them annual games.

One version of events proposes that L. Varus, the praetor urbanus at the time, renewed this vow and celebrated them again in 210 BC.[2] They were made an annual festival by a law in 208 BC by L. Varus, who was then curule aedile.[3] A severe plague in 208 BC may have prompted the Senate to make them permanent, in honor of Apollo, who they regarded as a god of healing.[4] From this day on, they were celebrated on July 13 and eventually grew to last 8 or 9 days.,[2][5]

However, Livy suggests that it was C. Calpurnius Piso, not L. Varus, who made the games permanent as praetor in 211 BC. “The Games of Apollo had been exhibited the previous year, and when the question of their repetition the next year was moved by the praetor Calpurnius, the senate passed a decree that they should be observed for all time.” [6] He continues, “…Such is the origin of the Apollinarian Games, which were instituted for the cause of victory and not, as is generally thought, in the interests of the public health.” [7]

1 ^ “Cornelii Sullae” Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopaedia of the ancient world. 2005 ed.
2 ^ a b c d e f “Ludi” Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopaedia of the ancient world. 2005 ed.
3 ^ “Licinius” Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopaedia of the ancient world. 2005 ed.
4 ^ H.H. Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 159.
5 ^ a b Cook, 2002. The Calpurnii and Roman Family History: An Analysis of the Piso Frugi Coin in the Joel Handshu Collection at the College of Charleston. Chrestomathy: Annual Review of Undergraduate Research at the College of Charleston. Volume 1, 2002: pp. 1-10
6 ^ Livy 26.23.3 Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts, Ed. Ernest Rhys, Publisher: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., London, 1905 Obtained online at
7 ^ a b Livy (25.12)
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The Roman celebration of Vestalia was held each year in June, near the time of Litha, the summer solstice. This festival honored Vesta, the Roman goddess who guarded virginity. She was sacred to women, and alongside Juno was considered a protector of marriage.

The Vestalia was celebrated from June 7 to June 15, and was a time in which the inner sanctum of the Vestal Temple was opened for all women to visit and make offerings to the goddess.[1]

The Vestales, or Vestal Virgins[2], guarded a sacred flame at the temple, and swore thirty-year vows of chastity.[3] One of the best known Vestales was Rhea Silvia, who broke her vows and conceived twins Romulus and Remus with the god Mars. It was considered a great honor to be chosen as one of the Vestales, and was a privilege reserved for young girls of patrician birth.

The worship of Vesta in celebration was a complex one. Unlike many Roman deities, she was not typically portrayed in statuary - instead, the flame of the hearth represented her at the family altar. Likewise, in a town or village, the perpetual flame stood in the stead of the goddess herself.

For the celebration of Vestalia, the Vestales made a sacred cake, using water carried in consecrated jugs from a holy spring. The water was never permitted to come into contact with the earth between the spring and the cake, which also included sacred salt and ritually prepared brine as ingredients. The hard-baked cakes were then cut into slices and offered to Vesta.[4]

During the eight days of the Vestalia, only women were permitted to enter Vesta's temple for worship. When they arrived, they removed their shoes and made offerings to the goddess. At the end of Vestalia, the Vestales cleaned the temple from top to bottom, sweeping the floors of dust and debris, and carrying it away for disposal in the Tiber river. Ovid tells us that the last day of Vestalia -- the Ides of June -- became a holiday for people who worked with grain, such as millers and bakers. They took the day off and hung flower garlands and small loaves of bread from their millstones and shop stalls.

Today, if you'd like to honor Vesta during the time of the Vestalia, bake a cake as an offering, decorate your home with flowers, and do a ritual cleansing the week before Litha. You can do a ritual cleansing with a Litha blessing besom.

2. The name of the Vestal Virgin is taken from Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 2.68.
3. The fire of Vesta was never allowed to go out, other than once a year when it was ritually extinguished and then relit on 1st March.
4. Mola salsa (‘salted flour’) was a spelt cake prepared by the Vestal Virgins and used for sacrificial purposes, see Harvey, n.[iii]: 277.
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Bellona was an Ancient Roman goddess of war, corresponding to the Ancient Greek Enyo. She was called the sister of Mars, and in some sources, his wife or an associate of his female cult partner Nerio.[1] Bellona's main attribute is the military helmet worn on her head, and she often holds a sword, a shield, or other weapons of battle.

Politically, all Roman Senate meetings relating to foreign war were conducted in the Templum Bellonæ (Temple of Bellona) on the Collis Capitolinus outside the pomerium, near the Temple of Apollo Sosianus. The fetiales, a group of priest advisors, conducted ceremonies to proclaim war and peace, and announce foreign treaties at the columna bellica, in front of her temple.[1]

Bellona's festival was celebrated on June 3.

^ 1: Encyclopædia Britannica. "Bellona". Retrieved 25 March 2014.
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Ancient calendars indicate that the Agonalia was celebrated regularly on January 9, May 21, and December 11. A festival called Agonia or Agonium Martiale, in honor of Mars, was celebrated March 17, the same day as the Liberalia, during a prolonged "war festival" that marked the beginning of the season for military campaigning and agriculture. An Agonalia or Agonia was an obscure archaic religious observance celebrated in ancient Rome several times a year, in honor of various divinities. Its institution, like that of other religious rites and ceremonies, was attributed to Numa Pompilius, the semi-legendary second king of Rome.

In Ancient Roman religious tradition, Agonalia, or Agonia, was a festival celebrated several times a year, in honor of various divinities, such as Janus and Agonius, whom the Romans used to invoke upon their undertaking any business of importance. The word is derived either from Agonia, " a victim," or from Agonium, "a festival." Its institution, like that of other religious rites and ceremonies, was attributed to Numa Pompilius.

1 ^ Hendrik Wagenvoort, "On the Magical Significance of the Tail," in Pietas: Selected Studies in Roman Religion (Brill, 1980), p. 148; John Scheid, An Introduction to Roman Religion (Indiana University Press, 2003), p. 51.
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The Lemuralia or Lemuria was a feast in the religion of ancient Rome during which the Romans performed rites to exorcise the malevolent and fearful ghosts of the dead from their homes. The unwholesome spectres of the restless dead, the lemures or larvae[1] were propitiated with offerings of beans. On those days, the Vestals would prepare sacred mola salsa, a salted flour cake, from the first ears of wheat of the season.

In the Julian calendar the three days of the feast were 9, 11, and 13 May. The origin myth of this ancient festival, according to Ovid, who derives Lemuria from a supposed Remuria[2] was that it had been instituted by Romulus to appease the spirit of Remus (Ovid, Fasti, V.421ff; Porphyrius). Ovid notes that at this festival it was the custom to appease or expel the evil spirits by walking barefoot and throwing black beans over the shoulder at night. It was the head of the household who was responsible for getting up at midnight and walking around the house with bare feet throwing out black beans and repeating the incantation, "I send these; with these beans I redeem me and mine" (Haec ego mitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis.) nine times. The household would then clash bronze pots while repeating, "Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone!"[3] nine times.

Because of this annual exorcism of the noxious spirits of the dead, the whole month of May was rendered unlucky for marriages, whence the proverb Mense Maio malae nubent ("They wed ill who wed in May").

On what had been the culminating day of the Lemuralia, May 13 in 609 or 610— the day being recorded as more significant than the year—, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, and the feast of that dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. According to cultural historians,[4] this ancient custom was Christianized in the feast of All Saints' Day, established in Rome first on May 13, in order to de-paganize the Roman Lemuria,[5] while others see a link to the May 13 date in Saint Ephrem's celebration of All Saints on that day in the 4th century.[6]

1 ^ "they do not occur in epitaphs or higher poetry," George Thaniel noted (in "Lemures and Larvae" The American Journal of Philology 94.2 [Summer 1973, pp. 182-187] p 182) remarking "The ordinary appellation for the dead in late Republican and early Imperial times was Manes or Di Manes, although frequent use was also made of such terms as umbrae, immagines, species and others." He notes the first appearance of lemures in Horace, Epistles ii.2.209.
2 ^ Modern linguists dismiss this connection but find the etymology of lemures obscure.
3 ^ Manes exite paterni! is the formula given by Ovid (Fasti V.443); scholars argue over how accurate Ovid was in this instance.
4 ^ See for example "Days of the Dead" in Christian Roy, ed. Traditional festivals: a multicultural encyclopedia, 2005, vol. 2: s.v. "All Saints' Day and Halloween": "...yet May 13 had also happened to be the last day of the Roman Lemuria for lost souls"; Richard P. Taylor, Death and the Afterlife: a cultural encyclopedia 200, p. 163: "Pope Boniface IV (608-615) replaced Lemuria with "All Saints' Day" on 13 May."
5 ^ An attempt to connect the cultus of All Saints' and All Souls' Day with the Roman Parentalia, observed however in February, is sometimes made: e.g. Gordon J. Laing, Survivals of Roman Religion (Boston 1931) p. 84: "...the thirteenth of May, which was one of the days of the Roman festival of the dead, the Lemuria. Whether there is any connection between these dates or not, the rites of All Saints' Day are a survival not of the Lemuria but of the Parentalia."
6 ^ Butler's Lives of Saints, Volume 4, Nov. 1, citing in turn Ephraem Syrus, Carmina Nisibena, ed. Bicknell, pp. 23, 89
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May 1 marks the Lares Praestites for the Romans. As princeps, Augustus reformed Compitalia and subdivided the vici. From 7 BC a Lares' festival on 1 May was dedicated to the Lares Augusti and a new celebration of the Genius Augusti was held on 1 August, the inaugural day for Roman magistracies and personally auspicious for Augustus as the anniversary of his victory at Actium. Statues representing the Genius Augusti were inserted between the Lares of the Compitalia shrines.[1]

Lares were guardian deities in ancient Roman religion. Their origin is uncertain; they may have been hero-ancestors, guardians of the hearth, fields, boundaries or fruitfulness, or an amalgam of these. Lares were believed to observe, protect and influence all that happened within the boundaries of their location or function. The statues of domestic Lares were placed at table during family meals; their presence, cult and blessing seem to have been required at all important family events. The word itself seems to derive from the Etruscan lar, lars, or larth, meaning "lord".[2][3] Ancient Greek and Roman authors offer "heroes" and "daimones" as translations of "Lares"; the early Roman playwright Plautus (c. 254–184 BC) employs a Lar Familiaris as a guardian of treasure on behalf of a family, as a plot equivalent to the Greek playwright Menander's use of a heroon (as an ancestral hero-shrine).[4] Weinstock proposes a more ancient equivalence of Lar and Greek hero, based on his gloss of a 4th-century BC Latin dedication to the Roman ancestor-hero Aeneas as Lare (Lar).[5]

1. ^ Duncan Fishwick, The Imperial Cult in the Latin West: Studies in the Ruler Cult of the Western Provinces of the Roman Empire, volume 1, Brill Publishers, 1991, pp. 82 - 83.
2. ^ Lewis, Charlton & al. A Latin Dictionary, founded on Andrews's edition of Freund's Latin Dictionary, revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten. "Lar". Clarendon Press (Oxford), 1879.
3. ^ Keightley, Thomas. The Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy, p. 543. Whittaker & Co. (London), 1838.
4. ^ Hunter, 2008.
5. ^ Weinstock, Stefan, Two Archaic Inscriptions from Latium, Journal of Roman Studies, 50, (1960), 114-118.
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The Floralia, also known as the Florifertum, was an ancient Roman festival dedicated to the goddess Flora, held April 27 during the Republican era, or April 28 on the Julian calendar. In Latin, the festival was known as the Ludi Florae, the Games (ludi) of Flora. Under the Empire, the games lasted for six days.[1]

The festival opened with theatrical performances (ludi scaenici), and concluded with competitive events and spectacles at the Circus and a sacrifice to Flora.[2] In 30 AD, the entertainments at the Floralia presented under the emperor Galba featured a tightrope-walking elephant.[3]

The festival had a licentious, pleasure-seeking atmosphere marked with dancing, drinking, and flowers. The Floralia was on the IV Kalends May. Dedicated to Flora, the goddess of flowers and vegetation. While flowers decked the temples, Roman citizens wore colorful clothing instead of the usual white, and offerings were made of milk and honey to Flora. Prostitutes participated in the Floralia as well as the wine festival (Vinalia) on April 23. According to the satirist Juvenal,[4] prostitutes danced naked and fought in mock gladiator combat.[5] Many prostitutes in ancient Rome were slaves, and even free women who worked as prostitutes lost their legal and social standing as citizens, but their inclusion at religious festivals indicates that sex workers were not completely outcast from society.[6]

1. ^ H.H. Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 110.
2. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 110.
3. ^ Suetonius, Life of Galba 6.1; Thomas E.J. Wiedemann, Emperors and Gladiators p. 63.
4. ^ Juvenal and Persius (1918) translated by G. G. Ramsay (Loeb Classical Library), 6.249f.
5. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 110.
6. ^ Thomas A.J. McGinn, Prostitution, Sexuality and the Law in Ancient Rome (Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 24.
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Description:In ancient Roman religion, the Robigalia was a festival held April 25. Its main ritual was a dog sacrifice to protect grain fields from disease. Games (ludi) in the form of "major and minor" races were held.[1] The Robigalia was one of several agricultural festivals in April to celebrate and vitalize the growing season,[2] but the darker sacrificial elements of these occasions are also fraught with anxiety about crop failure and the dependence on divine favor to avert it.[3]

The late Republican scholar Varro says[4] that the Robigalia was named for the god Robigus, who as the numen or personification of agricultural disease could also prevent it.[5] He was thus a potentially malignant deity to be propitiated, as Aulus Gellius notes.[6] But the gender of this deity is elusive.[7] The agricultural writer Columella gives the name in the feminine as Robigo, like the word used for the disease itself,[8] and says that the sacrificial offering was the blood and entrails of an unweaned puppy (catulus).[9] Most animal sacrifice in the public religion of ancient Rome resulted in a communal meal and thus involved domestic animals whose flesh was a normal part of the Roman diet;[10] the dog occurs as a victim most often in magic and private rites for Hecate and other chthonic deities,[11] but was offered publicly at the Lupercalia[12] and two other sacrifices pertaining to grain crops.[13]

1 ^ The ludi cursoribus are mentioned in the Fasti Praenestini; see Elaine Fantham, Ovid: Fasti Book IV (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 263.
2 ^ Mary Beard, J.A. North and S.R.F. Price. Religions of Rome: A History (Cambridge University Press, 1998), vol. 1, p. 45.
3 ^ Rhiannon Evans, Utopia antiqua: Readings of the Golden Age and Decline at Rome (Routledge, 2008), pp. 185–188.
4 ^ Varro, De lingua latina 6.16.
5 ^ A.M. Franklin, The Lupercalia (New York, 1921), p. 74.
6 ^ Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 5.12.14: In istis autem diis, quos placari oportet, uti mala a nobis vel a frugibus natis amoliantur, Auruncus quoque habetur et Robigus ("Auruncus and Robigus are also regarded as among those gods whom it is a duty to placate so that they deflect the malign influences away from us or the harvests"); Woodard, Indo-European Sacred Space: Vedic and Roman Cult (University of Illinois Press, 2006), p. 234.
7 ^ In addition to Varro, Verrius Flaccus (CIL 1: 236, 316) and others hold that he is male; Ovid, Columella (see following), Augustine, and Tertullian regard the deity as female. A.J. Boyle and R.D. Woodard, Ovid: Fasti (Penguin Books, 2000), p. 254 online.
8 ^ Vergil, Georgics 1.151. The 4th-century agricultural writer Palladius devotes a chapter contra nebulas et rubiginem, on preventing miasma and mildew (1.35).
9 ^ Columella, De re rustica 10.337–343.
10 ^ C. Bennett Pascal, "October Horse," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 85 (1981), pp. 275–276; general discussion of victims' edibility by Hendrik Wagenvoort, "Profanus, profanare," in Pietas: Selected Studies in Roman Religion (Brill, 1980), pp. 25–38.
11 ^ David Soren, "Hecate and the Infant Cemetery at Poggio Gramignano," in A Roman Villa and a Late Roman Infant Cemetery («L'Erma» di Bretschneider, 1999), pp. 619–621.
12 ^ Plutarch, Roman Questions 68; Eli Edward Burriss, "The Place of the Dog in Superstition as Revealed in Latin Literature," Classical Philology 30 (1935), pp. 34–35.
13 ^ Boyle and Woodard, Ovid: Fasti, p. 255.
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The Vinalia were Roman festivals of the wine harvest, wine vintage and gardens, held in honour of Jupiter and Venus. The Vinalia prima ("first Vinalia"), also known as the Vinalia urbana ("Urban Vinalia") was held on April 23, to bless and sample last year's wine and ask for good weather until the next harvest. The Vinalia rustica ("Rustic Vinalia") was on August 19, before the harvest and grape-pressing.

The Vinalia Urbana was held on 23 April. It was predominantly a wine festival, shared by Venus as patron of "profane" wine (vinum spurcum) intended for everyday human use, and Jupiter as patron of the strongest, purest, sacrificial grade wine (temetum). In honour of Venus, whose powers had provided humankind with ordinary wine, men and women alike sampled the vinum spurcum of the previous autumn's pressing. As god of the weather on which the wine-harvest depended, Jupiter was offered a special libation of the previous year's sacred wine vintage, blessed by his high priest and poured into a ditch outside Venus' Capitoline temple, probably under the gaze of Rome's higher echelons.[1] Common girls (vulgares puellae) and prostitutes (meretrices) gathered at Venus Erycina's Colline temple – probably on separate occasions, for propriety's sake – to offer the goddess myrtle, mint, and rushes concealed in rose-bunches. In return, they asked her for "beauty and popular favour", and to be made "charming and witty".[2]

1 ^ Olivier de Cazanove, "Jupiter, Liber et le vin latin", Revue de l'histoire des religions, 1988, Vol. 205, Issue 205-3, pp. 245–265 persee
2 ^ Staples, Ariadne, From Good Goddess to vestal virgins: sex and category in Roman religion, Routledge, 1998, pp. 122–124, citing Ovid, Fasti, 4,863–872.

Schmitz, Leonhard, in Smith, William, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1875, p. 1198 (
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