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Ancient Roman Festivals, Celebrations and Holidays (L–O)

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Ancient Rome was home to countless special occasions annually. Many of these existed to pay tribute to various gods and goddesses.

Ancient Rome was home to countless special occasions annually. Many of these existed to pay tribute to various gods and goddesses.

This article lists and explains important ancient Roman festivals, holidays and celebrations in alphabetical order from L to O. Each occasion is described in more detail below. Links to articles listing the celebrations from A through Fe, Fg through K and P through Z can be found at the bottom of this page.

Ancient Roman Festivals and Holidays L–O

  • Latin Festival (Feriae Latinae): Honored Jupiter and was the longest-lived Roman festival
  • Liberalia: Honored Liber and Libera, the god and goddess of fertility
  • Ludi: Game-based holidays devoted to rest and pleasure
  • Lupercalia: Honored Lupercus and Faunus, the gods of fertility
  • Mamuralia: Honored Mamurius, a blacksmith who was chased away from Rome
  • Matralia: Honored Mater Matuta, the goddess of childbirth
  • Matronalia: Honored Juno, the goddess of women
  • Nemoralia: Honored Diana, the goddess of the hunt
  • Opalia: Honored Ops, another goddess of fertility
From its outset, a major part of the Latin Festival involved paying homage to Jupiter, the god of sky and thunder.

From its outset, a major part of the Latin Festival involved paying homage to Jupiter, the god of sky and thunder.

Latin Festival (Feriae Latinae)

Celebrated: April

Feriae Latinae was one of the longest-lived Roman festivals. It was observed in Rome for over a thousand years. Originally, it was celebrated by members of a number of ancient Latin tribes who led simple, pastoral lives and worshiped Jupiter on the Alban Mount about 13 miles outside of Rome.

During the observances, all wars were stopped. A sacrifice of a young white cow to Jupiter set off the celebrations and was followed by a ritual pouring of milk. People of the time did not know wine because the grape had not yet been introduced into Italy. Following the ritual, the meat of the sacrificial animal was used for a communal meal.

The ritual itself was likely an odd sight. It involved little dolls or puppets called oscilla that were made from tree branches to resemble people. These dolls may have been symbolic of human sacrifice in earlier times or may simply have been good luck emblems.

In the period of the later republic, Romans adopted this ceremony to commemorate the early Latin people who had already vanished by then. Usually observed in April, The Latin Festival was supposed to take place before military activities began for the year.

The people of Rome would get together at the temple of Jupiter, which was built in the 6th century B.C.E., to take part in the ceremonial libation and animal sacrifice. They also held a feast and games that continued for two days afterward.

Liberalia, held on March 17th, paid homage to Liber and Libera, the gods of harvest.

Liberalia, held on March 17th, paid homage to Liber and Libera, the gods of harvest.

Liberalia

Celebrated: March 17th

Liber and Libera, the god and goddess of fertility, were worshiped in a similar way to Ceres, the god of the harvest. The triad of Ceres, Liber and Libera can be equated with the Greek triad of Demeter, Dionysus and Persephone.

During Liberalia, youth who had just come of age were allowed to put on a toga virilis for the first time. In the settlement of Lavinium, an entire month was dedicated to Liberalia. The many rituals performed at this time were devised to promote the growth of newly planted seeds.

Ludi were days of games during which typical business was suspended and the gods were celebrated.

Ludi were days of games during which typical business was suspended and the gods were celebrated.

Ludi

Celebrated: Various

Ludi refers to public holidays devoted to games, rest and pleasure in ancient Rome. The Ludi Megalenses was celebrated annually beginning April 4th from 191 B.C.E. onward to honor Cybele, the Goddess of motherhood. Next came the Ludi Ceriales, which honored Ceres, the goddess of grains, beginning April 12th.

The Ludi Ceriales were followed by the Ludi Florales, which honored Flora, the goddess of flowers, and began on April 27th.

After Ludi Florales came a period of hard work in the fields, so the next holidays did not take place for seven weeks. The Ludi Apollinares, or Apollonian Games, observed in reverence of Apollo, began on July 6th. Following the Ludi Apollinares, the Ludi Romani, or Roman Games, began on September 4th.

These started in 366 B.C.E. The Ludi Plebei, or Plebeian Games, were first celebrated between 220 and 216 B.C.E. and began on November 4th.

There were, in all, 59 days devoted to celebratory occasions in the calendar prior to 82 B.C.E. when Emperor Sulla became dictator. These holidays were viewed as dies nefasti, or days on which all civil and judicial business was suspended for fear of offending the gods.

Lupercalia

Celebrated: February 15th

During Lupercalia, celebrants got together at a grotto called the Lupercal on Palatine Hill where twin brothers Romulus and Remus (Rome's mythical founders) were believed to have been suckled by a wolf according to local tradition.

As part of the ceremony, worshipers sacrificed goats and dogs to the gods Lupercus and Faunus. Luperci, the priests of Lupercus, wore goatskins on their bodies and smeared their faces with the sacrificial blood of the goats.

Next, they ran around and struck women with thongs of goatskin. This practice of the Luperci during Lupercalia was believed to ensure women's fertility and the easy delivery of babies. Februa, the name for the goatskin thongs, meant tool of purification. This is the source of February's name.

There is a limited amount of evidence to suggest that Lupercalia set the precedent for modern Valentine’s Day customs. As part of the ceremony, revelers would drop girls’ names in a box and let boys draw them out, thus pairing them up until the next Lupercalia occurred.

Mamuralia paid homage to the legend of an outcast blacksmith who was driven from the city by its people.

Mamuralia paid homage to the legend of an outcast blacksmith who was driven from the city by its people.

Mamuralia

Celebrated: March 14th

Legend has it that Mamurius was a blacksmith who was chased away from the city because the shields he made for Rome's soldiers failed to protect them when substituted for the sacred shield that had fallen to earth from heaven.

Another legend tells that Mamurius, whose name was an obvious variation of Mars, symbolized the old year and was thus driven away on the day before the first full moon of the new year. Mamuralia, held on March 14th, included a rite of driving a man wearing only animal skins through the streets and out of the city while beating him with long sticks.

The most unusual aspect of Mamuralia was that it was the only holiday that took place on an even-numbered day. According to some scholars, Mamuralia was originally observed on the 15th, or ides, of March but was knocked back a day to enable people to go to both the horse races of Equirria and the Anna Parenna festival, both of which were also observed on the 15th.

Despite being one of the lesser-known goddesses, Mater Matuta was celebrated annually during Matralia.

Despite being one of the lesser-known goddesses, Mater Matuta was celebrated annually during Matralia.

Matralia

Celebrated: June 11th

Matralia was held in honor of Mater Matuta, goddess of the light of the dawn and childbirth. Despite it's deity not being referenced frequently in mythology, Mater Matuta's cult was well-established in ancient Rome. Dawn was believed to be the luckiest time for childbirth.