Ancient Roman Festivals, Celebrations and Holidays (Fg–K)
This article lists and explains important ancient Roman festivals, holidays and celebrations in alphabetical order from Fg to K. Each occasion is described in more detail below. Links to articles listing the celebrations from A to Fe, L to O and P to Z can be found at the bottom of this page.
Ancient Roman Festivals and Holidays Fg–K
- Floralia: Honored Flora, the goddess of flowers and gardens
- Fornacalia: Honored Fornix, the god of ovens
- Furrinalia: Honored Furrina, a goddess associated with spring
- Hilaria: Honored Cybele, the "mother of the gods"
- Ides: Denoted the middle of the month
- Juno Caprotina: Honored Juno, the goddess of women and marriage
- Juturnalia: Honored Juturna, the goddess of wells and springs
Celebrated: April 27th–May 3rd
Floralia is an ancient Roman festival that was observed in reverence of Flora, the goddess of flowers and gardens. Originally instituted in 238 B.C.E., Floralia became a movable feast—its date depended on the condition of the crops and flowers, so it could be held any time around the end of April or beginning of May.
In 173 B.C.E., after severe weather conditions destroyed a number of cornfields and vineyards, the Roman Senate declared that Floralia was to be celebrated for six days every year. The six days spanned from April 27th, the anniversary of the founding of Flora’s temple, through May 3rd. In ancient Roman tradition, the first person to place a garland or wreath on Flora's statue in the temple was to be blessed with good fortune in the following months.
During the course of Floralia, celebrants often participated in wild and licentious behavior. The games, dances and dramatic performances were very often lewd, with courtesans purportedly performing mimes in the nude. The obscenity of the festivities likely had something to do with their pagan origins. Many of the festival's unofficial traditions found their roots in pagan fertility rites carried out to promote the fruitfulness of the earth. Upon the holiday's introduction to Rome, citizens found it to be an excellent excuse for excessive drinking and odd behavior.
The festival originally involved the decoration of small statuettes with flowers by children and is today considered to have been the origin of Christian May Day celebrations. Modern May Day celebrations often include dolls or images of the Virgin Mary being decorated with flowers by young revelers.
Celebrated: Prior to February 17th
The Fornacalia festival, also called the "Feast of Ovens," was held before February 17th, which was the day of the Quirinalia festival—a celebration of the ancient Roman god Quirinus. Fornacalia was devised to benefit the ovens, or "fornices," that were used to parch grain and placate the goddess Fornix who presided over them. During the one-week holiday, many households made offerings by creating cakes out of wheat flour, roasting them in the oven and then crushing them in ancient mills.
Fornicalia rituals were carried out mainly by the curiae, or Roman tribal divisions. The holiday was celebrated on several different days in February—one day was assigned to each of the curiae and one was assigned to the state. We know from Ovid that those uncertain about which curia they belonged to observed the festival on February 17th, when a general offering of cakes was made by the whole of the community.
Celebrated: July 25th
Furrina, sometimes spelled 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 the Furrinalis, on July 25th. 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.E.
Celebrated: March 25th
The Hilaria festival was held in honor of Cybele, the "mother of the gods," and a human named Attis every year on March 25th. An ancient Roman legend has it that Cybele fell in love with Attis. At first, Attis displayed similar feelings, but then his attention shifted 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 was celebrated with joy and merry-making to commemorate his resurrection.
The best-known use of the term "ides" is 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 15ths of March, May, July and October and on the 13ths of the other months. The Roman emperor Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 B.C.E. 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 9th, as the ides in May fell on the 15th day. Calends refers to the 1st day of the month. From those, 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 28th—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" is used to mean "never." On occasion, the term calends was used to mean settlement day because the 1st of the month was often a day during which the previous month's debts were settled.
The nones occurred on the 9th day before the ides. In March, May, July and October, with the ides falling on the 15ths, the nones fell on the 7ths. In all other months, the nones fell on the 5th or 13th days.
Celebrated: July 7th
Juno was the ancient Roman goddess of women and marriage. She controlled every aspect of the lives of women, sexuality and childbirth included, and functioned as a guardian angel for all women.
Juno was the highest deity in the Roman pantheon next to Jupiter—her brother and husband. She shared a temple on the Capitoline Hill in Rome Jupiter and Minerva. Together, the three were known as the "Capitoline Triad." The temple contained the holy birds of Juno (her geese), whose cackling, as reported by Plutarch, saved the Romans from the Gauls in 390 B.C.E.
Juno Caprotina (also known as Nonae Caprotinae) and Matronalia were the two highest festivals honoring Juno. 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, or 1st days of each month, were sacred to Juno. The goddess was the equivalent of the Greek Hera and was also connected to the ancient ceremony of declaring the dates of the nones at the new moon. The month of June, named after the goddess Juno, is still the most popular month for getting married.
Celebrated: January 11th
Juturnalia was a festival held by men who worked on aqueducts and wells to honor Juturna, the goddess of fountains, wells and springs. Virgil talks about Juturna as the sister of Turnus, king of the Rutuli. In return for her virginity, the god Jupiter gave her immortality.
According to Virgil, Juturna 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 goddess Vesta, for their curative powers. Jaturnalia was also observed at the Vulcanalia on August 23rd when people celebrated her as a protector against fire.
More Ancient Roman Holidays
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