This text is part of:
Search the Perseus Catalog for:
Table of Contents:
Why do the Luperci sacrifice a dog?1 The Luperci are men who race through the city on the Lupercalia, lightly clad in loin-cloths, striking those whom they meet with a strip of leather. [p. 105] Is it because this performance constitutes a rite of purification of the city? In fact they call this month February, and indeed this very day, februata; and to strike with a kind of leather thong they call februare, the word meaning ‘to purify.’ Nearly all the Greeks used a dog as the sacrificial victim for ceremonies of purification ; and some, at least, make use of it even to this day. They bring forth for Hecatê2 puppies along with the other materials for purification, and rub round about with puppies3 such persons as are in need of cleansing, and this kind of purification they call periskylakismos (‘puppifrication’). Or is it that lupus means ‘wolf’ and the Lupercalia is the Wolf Festival, and that the dog is hostile to the wolf, and for this reason is sacrificed at the Wolf Festival? Or is it that the dogs bark at the Luperci and annoy them as they race about in the city? Or is it that the sacrifice is made to Pan, and a dog is something dear to Pan because of his herds of goats?
1 Cf. 290 d, infra; Life of Romulus, chap. xxi. (31 b ff.); Life of Numa, chap. xix. (72 e); Life of Caesar, chap. lxi. (736 d); Life of Antony, chap. xii. (921 b-c); Varro, De Lingua Latina, vi. 13; scholium on Theocritus, ii. 12.
2 Cf. 277 b, supra, and 290 d, infra.
3 That the puppies were later sacrificed we may infer from the practive elsewhere and on other occasions.