holidays, were, generally speaking, days or
seasons during which free-born Romans suspended their political transactions
and their lawsuits, and during which slaves enjoyed a cessation from labour.
(Cic. de Leg. 2.8
, 19; 12,
29; de Div.
1.45, 102.) All feriae were thus dies nefasti.
But they were distinguished (as
p. 233, has shown) by the mark
, while the nefasti tristes
marked simply N. The feriae included all days consecrated to any deity;
consequently all days on which public festivals were celebrated were
But some of them, such as the feria
and the feriae
seem to have had no direct connexion with the worship of
the gods. The nundinae, however, during the time of the kings and the early
period of the republic, were feriae only for the populus, and days of
business for the plebeians, until, by the Hortensian law, they became fasti
or days of business for both orders. (Macr.
compare Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome,
vol. ii. p. 213, &c.;
Walter, Geschichte d. röm. Rechts,
p. 190.) [p. 1.837]
All feriae were divided into two classes, feriae
and feriae privatae.
latter were only observed by single families or individuals, in
commemoration of some particular event which had been of importance to them
or their ancestors. As family feriae, are mentioned the feriae Claudiae, Aemiliae, Juliae, Corneliae,
and we must suppose that all the great Roman families had their particular
feriae, as they had their private sacra (Borghesi, Oeuvres,
8.250 ff.). Among the family-holidays we may also mention the feriae denicales,
i.e. the day on which a family,
after having lost one of its members by death, underwent a purification.
(Fest. s.v. Cic. de Leg. 2.2.
, 55; Columell. 2.22.) Individuals kept feriae on their birthdays
(Censor. 2, 3), and other occasions which marked any memorable event of
their lives. The Calends, Nones, and Ides of each month were also usually
kept as feriae privatae,
the Calends being
sacred to Juno, the Ides to Jupiter. But no public feriae were celebrated on
these days (Mommsen, C. I. L.
1.375). During the time of the
empire the birthday of an emperor sometimes assumed the character of a
public holiday, and was celebrated by the whole nation with games and
sacrifices. Thus the birthday of Augustus, called Augustalia, was celebrated
with great splendour even in the time of Dio Cassius (54.34, 56.46). The day
on which Augustus had returned from his wars (Oct. 12) was likewise for a
long time made a holiday (Tac. Ann. 1.15
with the note of Lipsius; D. C. 54.10
of the cities of Rome and
Constantinople were at a still later period likewise reckoned among the
feriae (Cod. 3, tit. 15, s. 6). It is noteworthy that all the feriae
recognised in the Calendars date either from the regal or from the imperial
time. No new feriae were added during the republic (Mommsen, C. I.
All feriae publicae,
i.e. those which were
observed by the whole nation, were divided into feriae
stativae, feriae conceptivae,
Feriae stativae or statae were those which were
held regularly, and on certain days marked in the calendar (Fest. s.v.
). To these belonged some of the great
festivals, such as the Agonalia, Carmentalia, Lupercalia, &c. Feriae
conceptivae or conceptae were held every year, but not on certain or fixed
days, the time being every year appointed by the magistrates or priests (
“quotannis a magistratibus vel sacerdotibus concipiuntur,”
Varr. L. L.
&c.; Fest. s. v.). Among these we may mention the feriae Latinae,
feriae Sementivae (in the country called Paganalia), and Compitalia. Feriae
imperativae are those which were held on certain emergencies at the command
of the consuls, the praetors, or a dictator. The books of Livy record many
feriae imperativae, which were chiefly held in order to avert the dangers
which some extraordinary prodigy seemed to forebode, but also after great
victories (Liv. 1.31
). They frequently lasted for several days, the number of
which depended upon the importance of the event which was the cause of their
celebration. But whenever a rain of stones was believed to have happened,
the anger of the gods was appeased by a sacrum
or feriae per novum dies.
This number of days had been fixed at the time when this prodigy had first
been observed (Liv. 1.31
) Respecting the
legitimate forms in which the feriae conceptivae and imperativae were
announced and appointed, see Brisson. de Form.
On the public feriae the people generally visited the temples of the gods,
and offered up their prayers and sacrifices. The most serious and solemn
seem to have been the feriae imperativae, but all the others were generally
attended by rejoicings and feasting. All kinds of business, especially
lawsuits, were suspended during the public feriae, as they were considered
to pollute the sacred season; the rex sacrorum and the flamines were not
even allowed to behold any work being done during the feriae; hence, when
they went out, they were preceded by their heralds (praeciae, praeclamitatores,
), who enjoined the people to abstain from working, that
the sanctity of the day might not be polluted by the priests seeing persons
at work (Fest. s. v. Praecia:
compare Serv. ad
Verg. G. 5.268
; Plut. Numa,
100.14). Those who neglected this admonition were not
only liable to a fine, but in case their disobedience was intentional, their
crime was considered to be beyond the power of any atonement; whereas those
who had unconsciously continued their work, might atone for their
transgression by offering a pig. It seems that doubts as to what kinds of
work might be done at public feriae were not unfrequent, and we possess some
curious and interesting decisions given by Roman pontiffs on this subject.
One Umbro declared it to be no violation of the feriae, if a person did such
work as had reference to the gods, or was connected with the offering of
sacrifices; all work, he moreover declared, was allowed which was necessary
to supply the urgent wants of human life. The pontiff Scaevola, when asked
what kind of work might be done on a dies feriatus, answered that any work
might be done, if any suffering or injury should be the result of neglect or
delay, e. g. if an ox should fall into a pit, the owner might employ workmen
to lift it out; or if a house threatened to fall down, the inhabitants might
take such measures as would prevent its falling, without polluting the
feriae. (Macrob. l.c.
and 3.3; Verg. G. 1.268
, with the notes of Forbiger;
Cato, de Re Rust.
2; Columella, 2.22; compare
Matt. 12.11, Luke 14.5.) Respecting the various kinds of legal affairs which
might be brought before the praetor on days of public feriae, see Digest
, tit. 12, s. 2.
It seems to have been owing to the immense increase of the Roman republic and
of the accumulation of business arising therefrom, that some of the feriae,
such as the Compitalia and Lupercalia, in the course of time ceased to be
observed, until they were restored by Augustus, who revived many of the
ancient religious rites and ceremonies. (Suet. Aug.
.) Marcus Antoninus again increased the number of days of
business (dies fasti
) to 230, and the remaining
days were feriae. (Capitol. M. Anton. Phil.
the introduction of Christianity in the Roman empire, the old feriae were
abolished, and the Sabbath, together with the Christian festivals, were
substituted; but the manner in which they were kept was nearly the same as
that in which the feriae had been observed. Lawsuits were accordingly
illegal on [p. 1.838]
Sundays and holidays, though a master
might emancipate his slave if he liked. (Cod. 3, tit. 12.) All work and all
political as well as judicial proceedings were suspended; but the country
people were allowed freely and unrestrainedly to apply themselves to their
agricultural labours, which seem at all times to have been distinguished
from and thought superior to all other kinds of work; for, as mentioned
below, certain feriae were instituted merely for the purpose of enabling the
country people to follow their rural occupations without being interrupted
by lawsuits and other public transactions.
After this general view of the Roman feriae, we shall proceed to give a short
account of those festivals and holidays which were designated by the name of
or simply Latinae
(the original name was Latiar, Macrob. 1.16, 16;
Cic. ad Quint. Frat.
), had, according to the Roman legends, been instituted by the
last Tarquin in commemoration of the alliance between the Romans and Latins.
(Dionys. A. R. 4.49
.) But Niebuhr
(Hist. of Rome,
ii. p. 34) has shown that the festival,
which was originally a panegyris of the Latins, is of much higher antiquity;
for we find it stated that the towns of the Priscans and Latins received
their shares of the sacrifice on the Alban mount--which was the place of its
celebration-along with the Albans and the thirty towns of the Alban
commonwealth. (Mommsen, Hist.
i. p. 41.) All
that the last Tarquin did was to convert the original Latin festival into a
Roman one, and to make it the means of hallowing and cementing the alliance
between the two nations. Before the union, the chief magistrate of the
Latins had presided at the festival; but Tarquin now assumed this
distinction, which subsequently, after the destruction of the Latin
commonwealth, remained with the chief magistrates of Rome. (Liv. 5.17
.) The object of this panegyris on the
Alban mount was the worship of Jupiter Latiaris, and, at least as long as
the Latin republic existed, to deliberate and decide on matters of the
confederacy, and to settle any disputes which might have arisen among its
members. As the feriae Latinae belonged to the conceptivae, the time of
their celebration greatly depended on the state of affairs at Rome, for the
consuls were never allowed to take the field until they had held the
Latinae. (Liv. 21.63
.) The different dates at
which the festival was held may be learnt in part from the fragments of the
found in the temple at Alba
(C. I. L.
vi 455 ff., 863 f.; cf. Mommsen, Hermes,
5.378-382). This festival was a great engine
in the hands of the magistrates, who had to appoint the time of its
celebration (concipere, edicere,
or indicere Latinas
); as it might often suit their
purpose either to hold the festival at a particular time or to delay it, in
order to prevent or delay such public proceedings as seemed injurious and
pernicious, and to promote others to which they were favourably disposed.
This feature, however, the feriae Latinae had in common with all other
feriae conceptivae. Whenever any of the forms or ceremonies customary at the
Latinae had been neglected, the consuls had the right to propose to the
senate, or the college of pontiffs, that their celebration should be
Cic. ad Quint. Frat. 2.6
3; Liv. 22.1
At first they only lasted for one day, to which subsequently a second, a
third, and a fourth were added (Dionys. A. R.
). Niebuhr, however, contends that they lasted for six days,
one for each decury of the Alban and Latin towns (Hist. of
ii. p. 35; comp. Liv. 6.42
42); but this notion is based upon a very
uncertain emendation of Festus, p. 194. The festive season was attended by a
sacred truce, and no battle was allowed to be fought during those days.
(Dionys. iv. p. 250, Sylb.; Macrob. l.c.
) In early
times, during the alliance of the Romans and Latins, the chief magistrates
of both nations met on the Alban mount, and conducted the solemnities, at
which the Romans, however, had the presidency. But afterwards the Romans
alone conducted the celebration, and offered the common sacrifice of white
oxen (Liv. 41.16
) to Jupiter Latiaris, in the
name and on behalf of all who took part in it. The flesh of the victims was
distributed among the several towns whose common sanctuary stood on the
Alban mount. (Dionys. l.c.;
6.25; Schol. Bobiens. in
Cic. Orat. pro Planc. 9
p. 256, Orelli.) Besides the common sacrifice of oxen, the several towns
offered each separately lambs, cheeses, or a certain quantity of milk (Cic. de Div. 1.1. 1
, 18), or
cakes. Multitudes flocked to the Alban mount on the occasion, and the season
was one of great rejoicings and feasting. Various kinds of games were not
wanting, among which may be mentioned the oscillatio
(swinging, Fest. s. v. Oscillum
). It was a symbolic game, and the legend respecting its
origin shows that it was derived from the Latins. Pliny (Plin. Nat. 27.2
) mentions that during the Latin holidays a race of four-horse
chariots (quadrigae certant
) took place on the
Capitol, in which the victor received a draught of absinthium. At the same
time, as many authorities agree in stating (Marquardt, 3.285, note), the
warm blood of a bestiarius was offered to Jupiter Latiaris.
Although the Roman consuls were always present on the Alban mount, and
conducted the solemn sacrifice, yet we read that the superintendence of the
Latinae, like that of other festivals, was given by the senate to the
Aediles, who, therefore, probably conducted the minor sacrifices, the
various games, and other solemnities (Dionys. vi. p. 415). While the consuls
were engaged on the Alban mount, their place at Rome was filled by the
praefectus urbi feriarum Latinarum. [PRAEFECTUS URBI
The two days following the celebration of the Latin holidays were considered
as dies religiosi,
so that no marriages could
be contracted. (Cic. ad Quint.
) From Dio Cassius we see that in his times the
Feriae Latinae were still strictly observed by the Romans, whereas the Latin
towns had, at the time of Cicero, almost entirely given up taking any part
in them. The Romans seemed to have continued to keep them down to the fourth
century of our era. (Lactant. Institut.
was kept in seed-time at Rome for the purpose of praying to
Tellus and Ceres for a good crop; it lasted only for one day, which was
fixed by the pontiffs. (Varr. L. L.
6.26, de Re Rust.
Ovid, Ov. Fast.
, &c.) At the same time the Paganalia were observed in
the country (Merkel, Ov. Fast.
lasted from the 22nd of
August to the 15th of October, and, was instituted for the purpose of
enabling the country-people to get in the fruits of the field and to hold
the vintage. (Codex, 3, tit. 12.) This was a vacation from legal business,
but not a sacrum publicum.
were holidays kept during the
hottest season of summer, when many of the wealthier Romans left the city
and went into the country. (Gellius, 9.15.1
They seem to have been the same as the messis
(Cod. 3, tit. 12, s. 2, 6), and lasted from the 24th of June
till the 1st of August.
are said to have been
preparatory days, or such as preceded the ordinary feriae; although they did
not belong to the feriae, and often even were dies
they were on certain occasions inaugurated by the chief
pontiff, and thus made feriae. On these days a porca
was sacrificed. (Gel.
.) See AMBARVALIA; COMPITALIA.