or Florales Ludi, a festival which was
celebrated at Rome in honour of Flora or Chloris. It was said to have been
instituted in 238 B.C., on the occasion of the
dedication of a temple to Flora by the aediles L. and M. Publicius in the
Circus Maximus (C. I. L.
1.392), at the command of an oracle
in the Sibylline books, for the purpose of obtaining from the goddess the
protection of the blossoms (ut omnia bene deflorescerent,
Plin. Nat. 18.286
: compare Vell. 1.14
; Varr. de Re
1.1). In the consulship of L. Postumius Albinus and M.
Popilius Laenas (173 B.C.), it was made an annual festival, at the command
of the senate, by the aedile C. Servilius (Mommsen, Röm.
p. 645; compare Ovid, Ov. Fast. 5.329
, &c.), as the blossoms in that year had
severely suffered from winds, hail, and rain. By degrees it was extended to
six days (April 28--May 3). The celebration was, as usual, conducted by the
aediles (Cic. in Verr. 5.14,
; Valer. Max. 2.10.8), and was carried on with excessive merriment,
drinking, and lascivious games (Mart. 1.3
96). From Valerius Maximus (cf. Schol.
6.250; Senec. Epist.
97, 8) we learn that
theatrical and mimic representations formed a principal part of the various
amusements, and that it was customary for the assembled people on this
occasion to demand the female actors to appear naked on the stage, and to
amuse the multitude with their indecent gestures and dances. This indecency
is probably the only ground on which the absurd story of its origin, related
by Lactantius (Institut.
1.20), is founded. The last day was
devoted to a beast-hunt in the circus, but there were no races. Similar
festivals, chiefly in spring and autumn, are in southern countries seasons
for rejoicing, and, as it were, called forth by the season of the year
itself, without any distinct connexion with any particular divinity; they
are to this day very popular in Italy (Voss. ad
Verg. G. 2.385
), and in ancient times we
find them celebrated from the southern to the northern extremity of Italy.
.) The Floralia were originally
festivals of the country people (Preller, Röm. Myth.
379), which were afterwards, in Italy as in Greece, introduced into the
towns, where they naturally assumed a more dissolute and licentious
character, while the country people continued to celebrate them in their old
and merry but innocent manner. And it is highly probable that such festivals
did not become connected with the worship of any particular deity until a
comparatively late period. (Buttmann Mytholog,
ii. p. 54.)
This [p. 1.868]
would account for the late introduction of
the Floralia at Rome, as well as for the manner in which we find them
celebrated there. (See Spanheim, de Praest. et Usu Numism.
ii. p. 145, &c.)