We learn from Livy (i 21
) that Numa consecrated places for the
celebration of religious services, which were called by the pontifices argei.
Varro calls them the “chapels of the argei,” and says they
were twenty-seven in number, distributed in the different districts of the city. We know but
little of the particular uses to which they were applied, and that little is unimportant.
Thus, we are told that they were solemnly visited on the Liberalia, or festival of Bacchus;
and, also, that whenever the flamen Dialis went (ivit
to them, he was to adhere to certain observances. They seem also to have been the depositaries
of the topographical records. There was a tradition that these argei
were named from the chieftains who came with Hercules, the Argive, to Rome, and occupied the
Capitoline, or, as it was anciently called, Saturnian Hill. See Aul. Gell. x. 16; Varro,
The name argei
was also given to certain figures thrown into the
Tiber from the Sublician Bridge, on the Ides of May in every year. This was done by the
pontifices, the vestals, the praetors, and other citizens, after the performance of the
customary sacrifices. The images were thirty in number, made of bulrushes, and in the form of
men. Ovid makes various suppositions to account for the origin of this rite; we can only
conjecture that it was a symbolical offering to propitiate the gods, and that the number was a
representative either of the thirty patrician curiae at Rome, or perhaps of the thirty Latin
townships. See Varro, L. L.
vii. 44; Ovid.
Fast. v. 671
; and Festus, s. v.