* twenty-seven sacraria (cf. Ulpian, Dig. i. 8
. 9. 2:
sacrarium est locus in quo sacra reponuntur
; Jord. ii. 271-281
at various points in the four Servian regions (Varro, LL v. 45-54
were visited in order on the Ides of May (Ov. Fast. v. 621-622
; cf. 603)
by a solemn lustral procession in which the priests, the vestals, and
the city praetor took part. This procession afterwards halted on the
pons Sublicius and threw into the Tiber twenty-seven straw puppets,
called Argei (Varro, LL vii. 44
, where XXVII not XXIIII is to be read; Fest.
15, 334; Plut. q. Rom. 32, 86; Dionys. i. 38
, where the number 30 is an
error). The sacraria themselves, as well as the puppets, were called
Argei (Liv. i. 21
. 5), or Argea (Fest. 19). On the sixteenth and seventeenth of March (Ov. Fast. iii. 791
; cf. Gell. x. 15
. 30) a similar procession
visited the sacraria, and may very probably have deposited in them the
puppets that were to be taken out in May.
As to the meaning and origin of Argei, and of the ceremony itself,
both ancient and modern writers have expressed the most diverse views,
and there is a voluminous literature on the subject. It is probable that
the institution was introduced into Rome from Greece between the
first and second Punic wars, in accordance with the instructions of the
Sibylline books; perhaps the first celebration was actually carried out
with human victims for whom the straw puppets were afterwards substituted (for the Argei in general and the literature of the subject, see
RE ii. 689-700
=Wissowa, Ges. Abh. 211-230; Roscher i. 496-500
WS 191, 155-172; Warde Fowler, Religious Experience of the Roman
People, 54ff., 321 ff.; Rose, Quaestiones Romanae of Plutarch, 98-110
(for a very early origin), and Primitive Culture in Italy, 103 (for an
explanation of it as the throwing of the corn spirit into the water).
Varro (LL v. 45-54
) mentions fourteen of these sacraria, quoting in the case of twelve from what was evidently the official record of the pontiffs that directed the order of the procession from one to another. This gives, for each region, first the name of the hill or distinctive locality, then the
number of the shrine, and finally further topographical details, some of
which date from the time of introduction of the ceremony and some of
them from later periods. The two that are not mentioned in this formal
manner are the first and sixth of the regio Suburana respectively on the
mons Caelius and in the Subura, i.e. the SUCUSA
(q.v.), and not to be
exactly located. The others appear as follows (although the text is
far from certain in several places).
No. 4. Ceroliensis quarticeps circa Minervium qua in Caelio monte
itur in tabernola est
-that is, on the part of the Caelian called Ceroliensis,
near the temple of Minerva, and in tabernola
(a phrase of doubtful
meaning, cf. No. 3 of regio Esquilina below; HJ 227). This station
therefore was on the northern slope of the Caelian, near the temple of
Minerva Capta, probably a little north-west of the present church of
SS. Quattro Coronati.
No. I. Oppius mons princeps Equilis cis lucum fagutalem sinistra
via secundum merum est 1
-that is, on the Fagutal, near the top of the
modern Via della Polveriera (HJ 256, 257).
No. 3. Oppius mons terticeps cis lucum Esquilinum dexterior via
in tabernola est
-that is, just east of the site afterwards occupied by the
thermae Traianae, near the modern Via Mecenate.
No. 4. Oppius mons quarticeps cis lucum Esquilinum via dexterior in figlinis est2
-probably north of No. 3, near the edge of the hill, and the
modern church of S. Martino ai Monti (cf. HJ 265).
No. 5. Cespius mons quinticeps cis lucum Poetelium Esquiliis est
As the location of the lucus Poetelius is unknown, the approximate site
of this sacrarium cannot be fixed.
No. 6. Cespius mons sexticeps apud aedem Iunonis Lucinae ubi
aeditumus habere solet...
The temple of JUNO LUCINA
probably near the top of the southern slope of the Cispius, just above the
present Via dello Statuto.
No. 3. Collis Quirinalis terticeps cis aedem Quirini
-that is, just
east of the temple of QUIRINUS
(q.v.), near the corner of the present
Vie Quattro Fontane and del Quirinale (for the sacraria in this region
see RhM, 1894, 415-417)
No. 4. Collis Salutaris quarticeps adversum est pulvinar 3 cis aedem
-farther south-west on the line of the vicus portae Collinae
close to the DOMUS ATTICI
(q.v.; HJ 406).
No. 5. Collis Mucialis quinticeps apud aedem dei Fidei in delubro ubi
aeditumus habere solet....
This temple of DEUS FIDIUS or SEMO
(q.v.) was on the southern part of the collis Mucialis, probably
on the site of the present church of S. Silvestro, in the Via del Quirinale.
No. 6. Collis Latiaris sexticeps in vico Insteiano summo apud auguraculum aedificium solum est
-on the slope above the present Piazza
Magnanapoli (HJ 400). If solum is the correct reading (Phil. Anz. 1871,
), the meaning must be that this was the only sacrarium of the twenty-
seven that had its own independent building, and that the others were
parts of, or within the precincts of, other buildings.
No. 5. Germalense quinticeps apud aedem Romuli,
on the Cermalus,
where the CASA (here called aedes) ROMULI
(q.v.) stood. In fact, the
building which is sometimes identified with this sacrarium (LR 130, 133;
HJ 42) has been by others thought to be the casa Romuli (TF 104, 105).
No. 6. Veliense sexticeps in Velia apud aedem deum Penatium
probably close to the site afterwards occupied by the temple of Venus
and Roma (see AEDES DEUM PENATIUM
Of the twelve sacraria described by Varro, eleven can thus be located
with considerable certainty. The situation of the rest is purely conjectural, based on the probable route of the procession. (For a discussion
of the Argei from the topographical side, with the earlier literature, see
Jord. ii. 237-290
; Gilbert ii. 214-217
, 362-375; and for the position of
the conjectural sacraria, Richter, pl. 3, reproduced in Pl. fig. 5 (text fig. 5,
on p. 443 of the present work).)