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The Roman festivals of the period of the Republic

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Pages: 346

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: Date:8/4/2009 - General Books LLC

By: William Warde Fowler

Excerpt from book: MENSIS MARTIUS. The mensis Mai th1s stands alone among the Roman months. Not only was it the first in matters both civil and religious down to the time of Julius Caesar, but it is more closely associated with a single deity than any other, and that deity the protector and ancestor of the legendary founder of the city. It bears too the name of the god, which is not the case with any other month except January : and it is less certain that January was named after Janus than that March was named after Mars. The cult of Janus is not specially obvious in January except on a single day : but the cult of Mars is paramount all through March, and gives a peculiar character to the month's worship. It follows on a period which we may call one of purification, or the performance of piacular duties towards dead ancestors and towards the gods: and this has itself succeeded a time of general festivity in the homestead, the group of homesteads, the market, and the cross-roads. The rites of December and January are for the most part festive and social, those of February mystic and melancholy—characteristics which have their counterpart in the Christian Christmas, New Year, and Lent. The rites of March are distinct from those of either period, as we shall see. They again are followed by those of April, the opening month, which are gay and apt to be licentious: then comes the mensis Maius or month of growth, which is a time of peril for the crops, and has a certain character of doubt and darkness in its rites : lastly comes June, the month of maturity, when harvest is close at hand, and life begins to brighten up once more. After this the Roman months cease to denote by their names those workings of nature on which the husbandman's fortune for the year depends. By a process of eliminatio...  


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