Dinosaurs and Barbarians

Home » Posts tagged 'Minerva'

Tag Archives: Minerva

September 13 – Epulum Jovis: The Feast of Jove

There are many so-called “feast days” which are present within religious calendars. Among those that were listed in the ancient Roman religious calendar are the “Ides”. This was a religious holiday held in the middle of each month, and all of the monthly Ides were dedicated to the god Jupiter, also known as Jove. The most famous of the Ides is probably the Ides of March, which in inextricably linked to the assassination of Julius Caesar (1).

In the month of September, the Ides took place on September 13. What made this particular monthly feast day different from the others was that September 13 was a literal “feast” day. The Ides of September was the date of the Epulum Jovis, a lavish banquet that was held in honor of the gods Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. So let us eat, drink, and be merry!

It is possible that the Epulum Jovis was originally held on the Ides of November, for it does not appear in September until the reign of Caesar Augustus. Its original date to the middle of November is reference to it being a celebration giving thanks to Jupiter for preserving the Roman state through another military campaign season. The date of the festival was moved from mid-November to mid-September because September 13 was the date of the dedication of the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. If you’re having a feast giving thanks to Jupiter, what better day than the date of his main temple being opened (2). The practice of commemorating the end of the military campaign season was taken over by the Armilustrium, which was held every October 19.

The ritual bears some remarkable similarities to rituals conducted by the Greeks and the Etruscans during this time. The Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus writes that in the “sacred houses” of the curiae, there were tables with offerings to the gods of “simple food in primitive earthenware dishes”. This implies that the feast started out as a simple affair with the leading men of the day giving offerings to the gods upon their household altars. However, the festival later grew in size to such an extent that it became a full-blown meal held in the gods’ honor, with the gods themselves being in attendance, at least in spirit (3).

Before the festivities could begin, the dining room had to be prepared. Statues of the gods Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva were present at the feast and took a place of honor at the table. In fact, Jupiter was given his own couch to recline on, at least in spirit, and Juno and Minerva were each given their own chair on either side. Also, Jupiter’s face was painted red with minium as though he were participating in a triumphal parade. (4).

Now that everything was ready, it was time to begin the rituals that would initiate the day’s festivities. The priests who were responsible for carrying out the rituals of this day were distinguished as the Epulones. they were first created as a separate collegium of the Roman priesthood in 198 BC specifically for the purpose of conducting the religious rituals associated with the Epulum Jovis on the Ides of September. Originally consisting of three men, their number was later increased to seven, probably in recognition of September being “the Seventh Month” in the Roman calendar; the number was briefly increased to ten by the order of Julius Caesar, but afterwards returned to seven (5).

The Epulum Jovis festival began with the sacrifice of an animal. The animal chosen for this duty was the “Ides ram”, or ovis idulis in Latin. Once this was performed, a curious custom was for one of the Senatorial consuls to hammer a nail known as the clavis figendus into the side of the temple to visually represent another year that had gone by (6).

Once these duties were carries out, it was time for the banquet to get underway. The sources that are given which describe this day’s activities specifically describe the meal as a feast or a banquet, and were not merely the simple offerings that are mentioned by Dionysius of Halicarnassus. However, it isn’t clear if this sumptuous meal was carried out only by the Epulones, or if it was conducted in every household that was able to manage it. I’m inclined to think it was the former, as I doubt that most households in ancient Rome would have had the means to host a fully-laid out table, nor do I think that most households just happened to have statues, busts, or figurines of all three of the gods mentioned.

 

Source Citations:

  1. National Geographic. “Ides of March: What Is It? Why Do We Still Observe It?”, by Brian Handwerk (March 15, 2011). https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110315-ides-of-march-2011-facts-beware-caesar-what-when/.
  2. William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1899), page 217.
  3. William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1899), pages 218-219.
  4. William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1899), page 218; Reverend James Gardner, Faiths of the World, Volume 2 (Glasgow: A. Fullarton & Co., 1858), page 307.
  5. William Smith, ed., A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: Taylor and Walton, 1842), page 393.
  6. Michael Lipka, Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach (Leiden: Brill, 2009), page 104; William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1899), page 217; Alexander Adam, Roman Antiquities (New York: W. E. Dean, 1842), page 222; Joseph Salkeld, Classical Antiquities (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1855), page 138; Johann Joachim Eschenburg, Manual of Classical Literature, Fourth Edition. Translated from German into English by Prof. N. W. Fiske (Philadelphia: E.C. and J. Biddle, 1867), page 242.

Bibliography:

  • Adam, Alexander. Roman Antiquities, or, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Romans. New York: W. E. Dean, 1842.
  • Eschenburg, Johann Joachim. Manual of Classical Literature, Fourth Edition. Translated from German into English by Prof. N. W. Fiske. Philadelphia: E.C. and J. Biddle, 1867.
  • Fowler, William Warde. The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic: An Introduction to the Study of the Religion of the Romans. London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1899.
  • Gardner, Reverend James. Faiths of the World: A Dictionary of Religions and Religious Sects, their Doctrines, Rites, Ceremonies, and Customs. Volume 2. Glasgow: A. Fullarton & Co., 1858.
  • Lipka, Michael. Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach. Leiden: Brill, 2009.
  • Salkeld, Joseph. Classical Antiquities, or, A Compendium of Roman and Grecian Antiquities, with a Sketch of Ancient Mythology. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1855.
  • Smith, William, ed. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: Taylor and Walton, 1842.
  • National Geographic. “Ides of March: What Is It? Why Do We Still Observe It?”, by Brian Handwerk (March 15, 2011). https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110315-ides-of-march-2011-facts-beware-caesar-what-when/.

March 23 – The Tubilustrium: Hear the Trumpet’s Call

Ancient Roman re-enactors marching at Xanten, Germany. Photograph by Judith Meyer (June 23, 2012). CC0 Creative Commons.

March 23 was the date for an ancient Roman festival called the Tubilustrium. This was a day of important social and military significance, because it was the mustering day for the Roman Army, and was the official beginning of the military campaigning season.

As Marcus Terentius Varro explains, “The Tubilustrium ‘Purification of the Trumpets’ is named from the fact that on this day the tubae ‘trumpets’ used in the ceremonies lustrantur ‘are purified’ in Shoemaker’s Hall” (Marcus Terentius Varro, On the Latin Language, book 6, verse 14. Translated by Roland G. Kent. London: W. Heinemann, 1938. Pages 189).

The tuba (plural tubae) was the name that the Romans gave to what was a long straight thin tube made of brass with a small mouthpiece and a flared muzzle, similar to the stereotypical cartoon images that we have of a Pilgrim’s musket. (John Ziolkowski, “The Roman Bucina: A Distinct Musical Instrument?”. Historic Brass Society Journal (2002). Pages 31, 36).

The trumpets that were sanctified on March 23 weren’t just any old trumpets. It appears that these were specifically used only for religious rituals. They are referred to as tubicines sacrorum, “sacred trumpets”, and would have been used by the priests for many religious purposes. They were often played to initiate games and were played during parades, funerals, and sacrifices (John Ziolkowski, “The Roman Bucina: A Distinct Musical Instrument?”. Historic Brass Society Journal (2002). Pages 31, 36).

There were, apparently, three Tubilustria festivals, not one. One took place on either March 22 or 23 (of the two, March 23 is the more common date that’s given), another took place on May 23 (Ovid, Fasti, book 5, May 23), and yet another on June 11. However, I must state that aside from one mention by one modern source, I have not seen any mention of such a ritual occurring on June 11, so this might be an error (Henry T. Riley, The Fasti, Tristia, Pontic Epistles, Ibis, and Halieuticon of Ovid. London: Bell & Daldy, 1869. Page 209).

In an earlier post, I described how the Feast of Minerva on March 19 initiated a five-day celebration known as the Quinquatria, meaning “the Festival of Five Days”, which lasted from March 19 to 23. Legend says that it was clever Minerva who invented the war trumpet, hence this festival took place on the last day of the Quinquatria. In reference to the ritual that took place on March 23, which was the last day of the Quinquatria, Ovid states “The last day of the five [days] exhorts us to purify the tuneful trumpets, and sacrifice to the mighty god [Mars]”. The purification ritual took place at the Atrium Sutorum, “Hall of the Shoe-Makers”, and the trumpets were made pure with the sacrifice of a lamb (Ovid, Fasti, book 3, March 23; Samuel Fales Dunlap, Sōd: The Mysteries of Adoni. London: Williams and Norgate, 1861. Page 129; William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic. London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1899. Page 64).

Concerning the festival held on May 23, Ovid states, “The next dawn belongs to Vulcan: they call it Tubilustria: when trumpets he makes are purified” (Ovid, Fasti, book 5, May 23). Henry Riley, who translated Ovid’s works during the 19th Century, stated that the Tubilustria were held in honor of the gods Mars and Vulcan, because it was crafty Vulcan who created the weapons of war upon his heavenly forge, and it was war-like Mars who put them to use in battle. Concerning the gods that were worshiped or honored at these festivals, it appears that the first Tubilustrium in late March was dedicated to Mars while the second festival in late May was dedicated to Vulcan; why this distinction existed isn’t clear (Henry T. Riley, The Fasti, Tristia, Pontic Epistles, Ibis, and Halieuticon of Ovid. London: Bell & Daldy, 1869. Page 209; Samuel Fales Dunlap, Sōd: The Mysteries of Adoni. London: Williams and Norgate, 1861. Page 127).

March 23 and May 23 were necessary for purifying the religious trumpets because on the following days (March 24 and May 24 respectively) the Comitia Curiata met to sanction wills (William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic. London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1899. Page 63).

As I mentioned earlier, these trumpets weren’t only used for religious reasons. Trumpets also had important military functions, usually for issuing commands upon the battlefield. Also, at the beginning of every campaign season, the troops were called to the assembly area by a blast of the trumpet or tuba in Latin. For this reason, March 23 marks the beginning of the year’s offensive. Upon their assembly into ranks, the army’s herald yelled out three times to the men assembled “Are you ready for war?”, and in response three times, the men answered that they were (The Roman War Machine, episode 1; The Roman Way of War – “The Dacian Wars”).

March is the month of Mars, god of war. The battle trumpet calls men to their ranks. The army is assembled, the men stand armed and ready. The herald calls to them “Sons of Mars, are you ready for war?!”, and from their mouth come the thunderous roar “READY!!! READY!!! READY!!!”

As an added bonus, I discovered that there is a piece of classical music entitled “Tubilustria”, written by the Estonian composer René Eespere. Here is the link to listen to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHSxaLVZfF4.

Sources:

March 19 – The Feast of Minerva

March 19 marked the beginning of the Quinquatria, “the Festival of Five Days”, spanning from March 19 to 23. This was a five day long celebration of the goddess Minerva, the Roman version of the Greek goddess Athena. She was a goddess of wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, cleverness, wit, strategy, creativity, and artistic inspiration, and she served as the patron goddess of philosophers, writers, artists, musicians, doctors, and teachers. The festival was originally called the Quinquatrus, “the Fifth Day”, because it took place on the fifth day after the Ides of March (even though it’s actually four days). Later, this got changed to a five day festival and it was renamed the Quinquatria, “Five Days” (Marcus Terentius Varro, On the Latin Language, book 6, verse 14. Translated by Roland G. Kent. London: W. Heinemann, 1938. Page 187).

“The Quinquatrus: this day, though one only, is from a misunderstanding of the name observed as if there were five days in it. Just as the sixth day after the Ides is in similar fashion called the Sexatrus by the people of Tusculum, and the seventh day after is the Septimatrus, so this day was named here, in that the fifth day after the Ides was called the Quinquatrus” (Marcus Terentius Varro, On the Latin Language, book 6, verse 14. Translated by Roland G. Kent. London: W. Heinemann, 1938. Pages 187, 189).

Minerva Among The Muses, painted by Hendrick van Balen the Elder (1620s). Museum of King John III’s Palace at Wilanów, Warsaw, Poland.

The main day of celebration was the first day, March 19, which served as the feast day of the goddess Minerva. Festus claims that the reason why Minerva’s feast day fell on March 19 was because this was the day that her temple on the Aventine Hill was consecrated. Religious law dictated that no blood could be shed on March 19. Therefore, there were no hunts, no animal butchering, no preparing of meat, no gladiator fights, and no physical harm done to anyone. However, there were gladiatorial games for the four days afterwards (Ovid, Fasti, book 3, March 19). Women also consulted sooth-sayers and fortune-tellers on this day. As a protector goddess, women were understandably anxious about the fate of themselves and their families (“Quinquatrus or Quinquatria”).

The Feast of Minerva was a day dedicated to creativity and the arts. It was a special day for artists and craftsmen, a day to let their muse truly shine. As Ovid states…

“Pray now you boys and tender girls to Pallas [“the Protector”, a title given to the Greek goddess Athena, and adopted by the Romans for Minerva]. He who can truly please Pallas is learned. Pleasing Pallas let girls learn to card wool, and how to unwind the full distaff. She shows how to draw the shuttle through the firm warp, and close up loose threads with the comb. Worship her, you who remove stains from damaged clothes, worship her, you who ready bronze cauldrons for fleeces. If Pallas frowns, no one could make good shoes, even if he were more skilled than Tychius. And even if he were cleverer with his hands than Epeus once was, he’ll be useless if Pallas is angry. You too who drive away ills with Apollo’s art, bring a few gifts of your own for the goddess. And don’t scorn her, you schoolmasters, a tribe so often cheated of its pay. She attracts new pupils. Nor you engravers, and painters with encaustics, nor you who carve the stone with a skillful hand. She’s the goddess of a thousand things, and song for sure. If I’m worthy may she be a friend to my endeavours. Where the Caelian Hill slopes down to the plain, at the point where the street’s almost, but not quite, level, you can see the little shrine of Minerva Capta, which the goddess first occupied on her birthday. The source of the name is doubtful: we speak of ‘Capital’ ingenuity; the goddess is herself ingenious. Or is it because, motherless, she leapt, with a shield from the crown of her father’s head (caput)? Or because she came to us as a ‘captive’ from the conquest of Falerii? This, an ancient inscription claims. Or because her law ordains ‘capital’ punishment for receiving things stolen from that place? By whatever logic your title’s derived, Pallas, shield our leaders with your aegis forever” (Ovid, Fasti, book 3, March 19).

A Picture Gallery, painted by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1873).

According to the Roman historian Suetonius, the emperor Domitian took the Feast of Minerva very seriously; it was one of his favorite holidays…

“He celebrated the Quinquatria too every year in honour of Minerva at his Alban villa, and established for her a college of priests, from which men were chosen by lot to act as officers and give splendid shows of wild beasts and stage plays, besides holding contests in oratory and poetry” (Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, book 12, chapter 4)

Sources: