previous next


LEMU´RIA a festival for the souls of the departed, which was celebrated at Rome every year in the month of May. It was said to have been instituted by Romulus to appease the spirit of Remus whom he had slain (Ovid, Ov. Fast. 5.473, &c.), and to have been called originally Remuria (clearly a fanciful derivation). It was celebrated at night and in silence, and during three alternate days, that is, on the 9th, 11th, and 13th of May. During this season the temples of the gods were closed, and it was thought unlucky for women to marry at this time and during the whole month of May, and those who ventured to marry were believed to die soon after, whence the proverb mense Maio malae nubent. Those who celebrated the Lemuria walked barefooted through the house, washed their hands three times, and threw black beans nine times behind their backs. At the same time the words were used, “I redeem myself and my household with these beans,” and the ghosts were bidden to quit the house. It was supposed that they followed behind the thrower and gathered up the beans. The Lemures, as the Larvae, represented the spirits of the wicked and haunted a house for evil: beans were sacred to the infernal powers, for which reason the Flamen Dialis was forbidden to touch or even to name them, just as he was forbidden to approach a grave or a dead body (Gel. 10.15); and black beans, like the πάμμελας ὀἰ̈ς of Homer, would be particularly appropriate to the Lemures. That the festival was a very ancient one may be conjectured from its fetishlike character, and from the fact that it was celebrated by the father of the family for his own household. (For the date of the Lemuria, see Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 3.575: and for details of the ceremony, Ovid, l.c.; Preller, Röm. Myth. 499.)

[L.S] [G.E.M]

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 10.15
    • Ovid, Fasti, 5
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: