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Megalesia

A Roman festival in honour of Rhea (q.v.). These games are also styled Megalensia and Megalenses Ludi. The name is derived from the title of Cybelé, μεγάλη θεός (De Harusp. Resp. 12, 24), whose image, a black stone, was brought to Rome in the year B.C. 204 at the time of the Second Punic War, and placed in the temple of Victory on the Palatine.

The games were scenic and probably circenses (Mommsen, C. I. L. i. 391), and were held on the Palatine and later in the theatres. They were directed by the curule aediles till B.C. 22, when Augustus placed them in charge of the praetor. At the celebration, the galli or eunuch priests of Cybelé carried the sacred ensign in procession through the city, singing Greek hymns and collecting coins from the people in the streets. This procession is described by Lucretius (ii. 618 foll.). The ceremony lasted seven days, on the third of which the scenic exhibitions especially took place, and the whole celebration ended with a grand carnival. The date of the Megalesia was April 4th to April 10th. Four of the existing plays of Terence were first performed at the Megalesia. See Marquardt, Staatverwaltung, pp. 367-374.

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