The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic: An Introduction to the Study of the Religion of the Romans

By W. Warde Fowler | Go to book overview

MENSIS DECEMBER

IN the middle of winter, until well on in January, the Roman husbandman had comparatively little to do. Varro1 writes of sowing lilies, crocuses, &c., and of cleaning out ditches and pruning vines, and such light operations of the farm. Columella2 tells us that the autumn sowing should be ended by the beginning of December, though some sow beans in this month; and in this he agrees with the rustic calendars which mention, besides this operation, only the manuring of vineyards and the gathering of olives.

It is not unnatural, then, that we should find in this 'slack time'3 several festivals which are at once antique and obscure, and almost all of which seem to carry us back to husbandry and the primitive ideas of a country life. On the night of the 3rd or thereabouts was the women's sacrifice to the Bona Dea; on the 5th the rustic Faunalia in some parts of Italy, though probably not in Rome; on the 15th the winter Consualia; on the 17th the Saturnalia; and on the 19th the Opalia; and so on to the Compitalia and Paganalia. All this is in curious contrast with the absence of festivals in the busy month of November.


WOMEN'S SACRIFICE TO THE BONA DEA.

This fell, in the year 63 B. C., on the night between Dec. 3 and 4, if we may trust Plutarch and Dio4; but the date does

____________________
1
R. R 1. 35. 2; Column. 2. 8. 2.
2
xi. 2.
3
Cp. Hor. Od. 3. 18, 9-12. Ovid ( Fasti 3. 57) says of December-- Vester (i.e. Faustuli et Larentiae) honos vaniet, cum Larentalia dicam; Acceptus Geniis illa December habet.

Is this only an allusion to Larentia and Faustulus, or also to the general character of the month and its festivals?

4
Plut. Cic.19; Dio Cass. 37. 35.

-255-

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