probably the most ancient of the Roman festivals,
was held every year on the 15th of February, in honour of a deity who is
described as Faunus
or Pan by Ovid (Fasti,
2.268 foll.), Inuus
by Livy (1.5
by Justin (43.1
). The later Romans had lost the secret of the
god's real name, and their scholars merely made guesses about it, which are
represented in the names above given; Faunus being brought in through his
supposed connexion with the Palatine hill, Inuus being an obscure deity of
the same character as Faunus, and Lupercus probably a mere invention, based
on the name of the festival. Remembering the great multiplicity and fluidity
of the names of Roman deities, and the tendency to avoid fixing a god's name
in ritual, we may hesitate to form a conclusion where the Romans themselves
were uncertain. (Liber
is suggested by Servius
8.343, who also says that others held the divinity in
question to be a deus bellicosus.
) The general
character of the rites suggests an extreme, possibly even a pre-Roman,
antiquity; and though their meaning can be in part explained, they do not
suggest any particular deity as specially concerned in them.
These rites were as follows:--On the day in question the members of the two
colleges of Luperci (see LUPERCI
) met at the cave of the Lupercal, under the. Palatine, where
Romulus and Remus were said to have been nurtured by the she-wolf, where
(according to Justin, l.c.
) there was a temple and
an image of the deity girt with a goat-skin--most probably of comparatively
late origin. Here they sacrificed goats and young dogs (Plutarch, Quaest. Rom.
21), and at the same time were offered the sacred cakes made by the Vestal
Virgins from the first ears of the previous harvest (Serv.
8, 82). Then two young men of birth, themselves perhaps
members of the Luperci, were brought forward: these had their foreheads
smeared with the knife still bloody from the victims, and then wiped with
wool dipped in milk, after which they were obliged.to laugh. They then, or
other Luperci, girt themselves with the skins of the slaughtered goats, and
feasted luxuriously; after which they ran round the Palatine hill, striking
at all the women who came near them with strips of skin cut from the hides
of the victims. These strips bore the name of februa,
a word applied by the Romans to many kinds of instruments
of purification. (For the above details, see Plut.
61; Dionys. A. R. 1.79
; V. Max.
; Ov. Fasti,
2.267; Juv. Sat.
The immediate object of this striking was believed to be that of rendering
the women fertile--and this is confirmed by a considerable number of
parallels in classical antiquity (see Mannhardt, Mythologische
113 foll.)--and at the same time was regarded as a
purificatory rite, or as a lustratio
Palatine city round which they ran (Tac. Ann.
). This is a combination of ideas which is not hard to
explain, if we recollect that other processional ceremonies of the Romans
) had the
combined objects of purifying, averting evil, and fertilising land, people,
or city. Other parts of the festival are, however, extremely difficult to
explain. In the smearing of the young men's foreheads with blood, we may see
a relic of human sacrifice, which actually occurred in the somewhat similar
worship of the Lycaean Zeus in Arcadia; or this may have been a symbolic or
quasi-dramatic act, signifying that the young men had died, like the
victims, but had gained a new life with the wiping off of the blood--a
resuscitation which may have been marked by the rule that they should laugh.
at this point in the rite. If this latter
explanation were true, the thing symbolised would be: the revival of the
powers of fertilisation with the. return of spring (Mannhardt, op. cit.
p. 91 foll.).
The girding on of the goatskins may possibly be partially explained by
certain similar usages in which the priest wears the skin of the victim, he
has slain. By some this is referred to totemworship--the god himself (cf.
) and his priests wearing the skin of
the sacred totem (Lang, Myth Ritual and Religion,
213; Robertson Smith, s. v. Sacrifice, in Encycl. Brit.
The victim should, in these totem sacrifices, be the animal which represents
the deity, and so. far the popular conception of Faunus bears out the view
above given, when we see the statue of [p. 2.100]
goat-footed deity clothed in the skin of the sacrificed goat. (Compare the
clothing of the ram-faced god Ammon in the skin of a sacrificed ram, Hdt. 2.42
.) As to the sacrifice of the dog, it is
perhaps simplest to connect this also with the pastoral use of that animal
as protector of the flocks, rather than to refer it, as Preller does, to a
worship of infernal powers. (He cites the case of Hecate.) While, however,
there is much to be said for the probability of these views, they are at
best conjectural. Thus much seems at any rate clear, that the rites are
those of a primitive pastoral tribe occupying at first the Palatine, and
that they were understood to bring fertility and security not merely of
flocks, but of the whole people: for the running round the pomoerium is
clearly meant to include the whole existing state.
While (probably) the most ancient festival of Rome, it was also the festival
which lasted longest. We find it celebrated in the 5th century, apparently
with the approbation of the Emperor Anthemius (Gibbon, vol. iv. p. 281), and
finally prohibited, A.D. 496, by Pope Gelasius, who is thought by some to
have ordered the Christian festival now held on February 2 (originally
February 14), in order to make the populace forget the pagan rites of
purification connected with that month. The date, however, at which this
Christian festival was first instituted is not quite certain. It is worth
noticing, as bearing on the significance of the Lupercalia, that in these
later times popular superstition valued them as piacular rites which were a
safeguard against pestilence. This seems clear from the arguments against
them which are used in the letter of Gelasius (see Fleury, Histoire
30.41). In addition to the authors cited in
the article, reference may be made to Marquardt, Staatsverw.
3.442; Preller, Röm. Mythol.