- Holidays and Celebrations
Ancient Roman Festivals, Celebrations and Holidays Fg - K
In this hub I collected all important ancient Roman festivals, holidays and celebrations in an alphabetical order from Fg to K.
- Floralia, in honor of Flora, the goddess of flowers and gardens;
- Fornacalia, also called the Feat of Ovens;
- Furrinalia, celebrating Furrina, Roman goddess associated with the spring;
- Hilaria, celebrating Cybele, the "mother of the gods";
- Juno Caprotina, in honor of Juno, goddess of women and marriage;
- Juturnalia, in honor of Juturna, the sister of King Turnus of the Rutuli;
A description of the meaning of each Roman holiday is provided.
Other parts of this series:
Floralia, Roman festivals and holidays
April 27-May 3
An ancient Roman Floralia festival was observed in reverence of Flora, the goddess of flowers and gardens. Originally instituted in 238 B.C., the Floralia, in later years, became a movable feast, its date depending on the actual condition of the crops and flowers. The holiday could be held any time between the end of April and beginning of May.
In 173 B.C., after severe weather conditions destroyed most of the cornfields and vineyards, the Roman Senate declared Floralia a holiday to be celebrated for six days every year from April 27, the anniversary of the founding of Flora’s temple, through May 3. In ancient Roman tradition, the first person to place a garland or wreath on Flora's statue in the temple was blessed with good fortune in the following months.
During the course of the Floralia, the celebrants acted out wild and licentious behavioral patterns. The games, dances, and dramatic performances were very often lewd, with courtesans reportedly performing mimes in the nude. The obscenity of the festivities, without doubt, had something to do with their pagan origins, fertility rites carried out to promote the fruitfulness of the earth. After the Floralia holiday's introduction into Rome, citizens found an excellent excuse for excessive drinking and odd behavior.
The festival, originally featuring small statuettes of the goddess decorated with flowers by children, is today considered to have been the origin of Christian May Day celebrations, as these also include dolls or images of the Virgin Mary.
Fornacalia, Roman festivals and holidays
Around February 17
The Fornacalia festival, also called Feast of Ovens, was held before February 17, the day of the Quirinalia festival of the ancient Roman god Quirinus.
The Fornacalia was devised to benefit the ovens (fornices) that parched grain and was held to placate the goddess Fornix, presiding over them. During the one-week holiday, every household made offerings of cakes, made from flour of Italian wheat, roasted in the oven and then crushed in an ancient mill.
The Fornacalia holiday rituals were carried out mainly by the curiae, tribal divisions of Rome, celebrated in February on different days, one day for each of the curiae and one for the state. We learn from Ovid that those uncertain about which curia they belonged to observed the festival on February 17, when a general offering of cakes was made by the whole of the community.
Furrinalia, Roman restivals and holidays
Furrina, also Furina, was an ancient Roman goddess associated with the spring. According to some scholars, she was seen as a spirit of the darkness, while other experts insist she was a deity honored mostly by robbers. The only certain fact about her existence is her possession of a grove on the slopes of the Janiculum, and a ridge near the Tiber River.
The Furrinalia festival was originally observed by the deity's own priest, called Furrinalis, on July 25. Although the goddess Furrina is considered an integral part of only the earliest of Roman religions, the Furrinalia holiday continued to be celebrated in later times.
In the grove of Furrina, the Roman tribune Gaius Sempronius Gracchus ordered his slave to kill him in 121 B.C.
Hilaria, Roman festivals and holidays
The Hilaria festival was held in honor of Cybele, the "mother of the gods," and a human named Attis, every year on March 25.
An ancient Roman legend has it that Cybele fell in love with Attis. Attis, at first, displayed similar feelings, but then his attention went to a human female. Cybele's wrath was terrible and she made Attis go insane. After he finally took his own life, flowers sprang up from his blood and his body became a tree. The Hilaria holiday is celebrated in joy and merry-making, commemorating his resurrection.
The best known use of the term Ides is found in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, in which he refers to the day of Caesar's assassination as "the Ides of March." In the ancient Roman calendar, the Ides fell on the 15th of March, May, July, and October, and on the 13th of other months. The Roman emperor Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 B.C. on the Ides of March, that is, the 15th of March.
In ancient Rome, people identified a particular day in the month by relating it to the upcoming ides, calends, or nones. For instance, "five days before the Ides of May meant May 9, as the Ides in May fell on the 15th day. Calends refers to the 1st day of the month and from it the days of the preceding months were counted backward with the order of the days in every month proclaimed on the calends. For instance, the fifth of the calends of May meant April 28, the fifth day before the 1st day of May.
The Greeks never used the term, which is the reason that the phrase "on the Greek calends" has an equivalent meaning of "never." On occasion, calends was used to mean Settlement Day, because the 1st of the month was often the day of the settlement of debts.
The nones occurred on the 9th day before the Ides. In March, May, July, and October, with the ides falling on the 15th, the nones fell on the 7th of the month. In all other months, the nones fell on the 5th or 13th days.
Juno Caprotina, Roman festivals and holidays
Juno was the ancient Roman goddess of women and marriage. She controlled every aspect of the lives of women, sexuality and child-birth included, and functioned as a guardian angel for women.
Juno was the highest deity in the Roman pantheon next to Jupiter, her brother and husband. Alongside Jupiter and Minerva, the three deities shared a temple on the Capitoline Hill in Rome, together known as the Capitoline Triad. This temple contained the holy birds of Juno, namely her geese, whose cackling, as reported by Plutarch, saved the Romans from the Gauls in 390 B.C.
Juno Caprotina, also Nonae Caprotinae and the Matronalia were the two highest festivals honoring Juno. The Juno Caprotina holiday was celebrated under a wild fig tree in the Campus Martius, or Field of Mars, which is a floodplain of the Tiber River.
The calends, the 1st day of each month were sacred to Juno. The goddess was the equivalent of Hera of the Greek mythology and was also connected to the ancient ceremony of declaring at the new moon the date of the nones. The month of June, named after the goddess Juno, is still the most popular month for getting married.
Juturnalia, Roman festivals and holidays
A festival honoring Juturna was held by men working on aqueducts and wells on January 11. Virgil talks about Juturna as the sister of Turnus, king of the Rutuli, in return for whose virginity, the god Jupiter gave her immortality.
According to Virgil, Jaturna was turned into a fountain near the Numicus, the river where Aeneas’ dead body was found. The waters of Jaturna were used in sacrifices, especially those in reverence of the Roman goddess Vesta, for their curative powers. The Jaturnalia holiday was also observed at the Vulcanalia on August 23 when people celebrated her as a protector against fire.