the triple sacrifice of bull, sheep,
and pig, in the old Italian ritual of lustration [see LUSTRATIO, AMBARVALIA]. The word solitaurilia
is also found, and was explained at length by
Verrius Flaccus (Festus, 293 a) as having the same meaning; see on this
question Jordan in Preller's Rom. Myth.
1.421. This sacrifice
was doubtless of great antiquity in Italy, the three animals representing
the most [p. 2.726]
valuable stock of the old Italian farmer.
We find it in what was probably its original form in Cato's treatise on
Husbandry, where the ritual is given for the lustration of the farm; the
animals were driven three times round the fields, and sacrificed with a
prayer to Mars. Here we find not only the sacrifice of the three animals
when full-grown (majora
), but also of their young
cf. Henzen, Acta Fratr. Arv.
p. 143). Next
we have the same ritual applied to towns, as in the Amburbia and Ambarvalia,
and to the lustration of the people after the census; thus Livy, describing
the census of Servius Tullius (1.44), says, “Ibi (in Campo Martio)
exercitum omnem suovetaurilibus lustravit; idque conditum lustrum
appellatum, quia is censendo finis erat.” The victims were here
driven round the host before sacrifice, as in the country round the farm. In
each case the ideas lying at the root of the ritual were expiation and
purification; the two being inseparable in the old Italian mind, which seems
also to have conceived of these religious performances as not only effective
in doing away with evil in the past, but as at the same time protective
against evil in the future.
The same ritual of the triple sacrifice was applied (in later times only, we
may suppose) to other religious ceremonies besides the formal lustration.
Thus, in Liv. 8.10
, we find it in the devotio
of Decius; it is here still in close
connexion with Mars, in whose worship it certainly originated (see Cato, l.c.
). So also, in the sacrifices after the winning
of the spolia opima
(Fest. 189), it is
mentioned as taking place in the Campus Martins, and at the altar of Mars.
But the connexion with the religion of war gradually extended its use to the
worship of other deities in particular aspects: thus we find it in the
triumph, offered to Jupiter and other deities (Serv. ad Aen. 9.627
; cf. the triumphal sacrifice on the Column
of Trajan). It was indeed contrary to the old jus
to sacrifice the suovetaurilia to Jupiter (so
expressly Ateius Capito in Macrob. 3.10, 3); and Servius (l.c.
) mentions the triumph as the only exception to the rule. At
the laying of the foundation-stone of the Capitol in Vespasian's reign
(Tac. Hist. 4.53
) the site of the
temple which was to be dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, was
previously lustrated by the suovetaurilia; but it does not appear certain
that this sacrifice had any direct reference to those deities.
It may be noted that the history of this rite runs in exactly parallel lines
with that of the deity with whom it was originally and at all
Suovetaurilia. (Relief in the Louvre.)
times specially connected. As Mars, the agricultural deity,
developed a warlike aspect which eventually became the one by which he was
best known; so the suovetaurilia, beginning as an agricultural rite, was
later applied, to warlike purposes. And as Mars gradually gave way to
Jupiter and the Capitoline deities, so his ancient sacrifice came to be
transferred to their worship.
The accompanying cut is from a fine relief now in the Louvre, formerly in
Venice. The suovetaurilia is also represented on many other monuments and