seems originally to have been a name which was given to any day or season of
rejoicing. The hilaria were therefore, according to Maximus Monachus (Schol.
Dionys. Areopag. Epist.
8), either private or public. Among the former he reckons the day on which a
person married, and on which a son was born; among the latter, those days of
public rejoicings appointed by a new emperor. Such days were devoted to
general rejoicings and public sacrifices, and no one was allowed to show any
symptoms of grief or mourning (Marquardt, Staatsverw.
But the Romans also celebrated Hilaria, as feriae
on the 25th of March, in honour of Cybele, the
mother of the gods (Macr. 1.21.7
); and it is
probably to distinguish these Hilaria from those mentioned above, that
Lampridius (Al. Sev.
37) calls them Hilaria Matris
The day of its celebration was the first after
the vernal equinox, or the first day of the year which was longer than the
night. The winter with its gloom had passed away, and the first day of a
better season was spent in rejoicings. (Vopisc. Aurelian.
No allusion to this festival occurs during the time of the republic; the
passages of Ovid (Ov. Fast. 4.337
Valerius Maximus (2.4.3) refer to the MEGALESIA
in the month of April; nor are the Hilaria
mentioned in the extant calendars. Hence Marquardt regards them as an
invention of the later Empire. The lavatio
washing of the goddess and her chariot in the river Almo, just outside Rome,
is assigned by Ovid (l.c.
) to the April festival,
but by some late writers to the 27th of March (a. d. VI. Kal.
Amm. Marc. 23.3.7
; Vib. Sequest. de
p. 329); which is a confirmation of Marquardt's view. We
learn from Herodian (1.10, 11) that, among other things, the statue of the
goddess was borne in solemn procession, and before this statue were carried
the most costly specimens of plate and works of art belonging either to
wealthy Romans or to the emperors themselves. All kinds of games and
amusements were allowed on this day; masquerades were the most prominent
among them, and every one might, in his disguise, imitate whomsoever he
liked, and even magistrates. A passage of Julian (Or.
168 C) appears to place the Hilaria on the 24th of March, the Dies sanguinis;
after mentioning the sacred tree on
the 22nd (Arbor intrat
), he adds τῇ τρίτῃ δὲ τέμνεται τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ἀπόρρητον
θέρος τοῦ θεοῦ Φαλλοῦ. ἐπὶ τούτοις Ἱλάριά φασι καὶ
explained to mean the reception and emasculation of a new Gallus. The
was a fast day, and
certainly not identical with the Hilaria; but the words ἐπὶ τούτοις,
“after this,” may easily mean “on the next day.”
The Hilaria were in reality only the last day of a festival of Cybele which
began as early as the 15th of March, and was continued at intervals. For the
ceremonies of the other days of this festival, see MEGALESIA
Vol. II. p. 156