or Florāles Ludi.
A festival which was celebrated at Rome in
honour of Flora or Chloris. It was said to have been instituted in B.C. 238, on the occasion
of the dedication of a temple to Flora by the aediles L. and M. Publicius in the Circus
Maximus (C. I. L.
i. 392), at the command of an oracle in the Sibylline Books,
for the purpose of obtaining from the goddess her protection of the blossoms (Plin. H. N. xviii. 286
). In the consulship of L.
Postumius Albinus and M. Popilius Laenas (B.C. 173), it was made an annual festival, at the
command of the Senate, by the aedile C. Servilius (Mommsen, Röm.
p. 645), as the blossoms in that year had severely suffered from
winds, hail, and rain. By degrees it was extended to six days (April 28-May 3).
The celebration was, as usual, conducted by the aediles, and was carried on with excessive
merriment, drinking, and lascivious games (Mart.i. 3
96). From Valerius Maximus we learn that theatrical and mimic
representations formed a principal part of the various amusements, and that it was
customary for the assembled people on this occasion to require the actresses to appear naked
on the stage, and to amuse the multitude with indecent gestures and dances. The last day was
devoted to a beast-hunt in the Circus, but there were no races. Similar festivals, chiefly in
spring and autumn, are in Southern countries seasons for rejoicing, and, as it were, called
forth by the season of the year itself, without any distinct connection with any particular
divinity; they are to this day very popular in Italy, and in ancient times we find them
celebrated from the southern to the northern extremity of Italy. (See Anthesphoria
, and Justin, xliii. 4.) The Floralia
were originally festivals of the country people (Preller, Röm. Myth.
379), which were afterwards, in Italy as in Greece, introduced into the towns, where they
naturally assumed a more dissolute and licentious character, while the country people
continued to celebrate them in their old and merry but innocent manner; and it is highly
probable that such festivals did not become connected with the worship of any particular deity
until a comparatively late period. This would account for the late introduction of the
Floralia at Rome, as well as for the manner in which we find them celebrated there.