These games were established in
the year 212 B.C., in accordance with a prophecy
of the old seer Marcius (carmina Marciana,
after an inspection of the Sibylline books (Macr.
on the motion of the praetor and decemvir sacris
P. Cornelius Rufus, to the god who warded off evil,
Apollo. As nothing was yet decreed about their continuance, they were, for
this first year at least, ordinary ludi votivi.
They were at first, and continued to be, celebrated by the praetor urbanus
§ 10; Cic. Phil. 2.13
); thus we
find them held by the praetor Lentulus in 60 B.C. (Plin. Nat. 19.23
), Brutus in 44 B.C. (Cic.
), Agrippa (D. C.
). They were to a large degree a Greek festival. The
decemviri s. f. sacrificed with victims after the Greek fashion; the state
supplied the victims, and also gave 12,000 asses to recoup the expenses of
the games, and the people aided with a small subscription (Liv. 25.12
). The next year the praetor L. Calpurnius Piso
proposed that the games should be vowed each year (Liv.
), and hence the Calpurnii
have the head of Apollo on their denarii (Mommsen, Röm.
pp. 580, 626). After this they were
celebrated every year, but till 208 B.C. on no definite day (Liv. 27.23
). In consequence of a pestilence in that year,
the praetor P. Licinius Varus voted that they should be held every year on a
fixed day. That day was not “a. d. iii. Non. Quint.” as Livy
) says, but “a. d. iii. Id.
Quint,” i. e. July 13 (Weissenborn ad loc.
This day always continued to be the last day on which these games were held.
The number of days gradually increased from one till it finally reached
eight, or perhaps nine. In 190 B.C. we find July 11 one of the days (Liv. 37.4
), and in 44
B.C. July 7 (Cic. Att. 16.1
). They were for the most part theatrical
exhibitions from the very beginning (see the interesting story in Festus, s.
p. 326 M.); it was at these games
that the Thyestes
of Ennius was acted (Cic. Brut. 20
); but sometimes there was a venatio
(Plin. Nat. 8.53
; Cic. Att. 16.4
), and Dio Cassius (48.33) speaks of ἡ τῶν
In the Apollinarian games held by
Agrippa in 40 B.C., two days were given to the
games of the circus, during one of which the Ludus
was exhibited (D. C. 48.20
In all the calendars these games [p. 2.90]
are entered as
beginning on July 6, except in that of Philocalus (354 A.D.), according to
which they are given as beginning on the 5th: perhaps an additional day was
added in the fourth century. (See generally Preller, Röm.