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LUPERCI were the members of a very ancient, perhaps the most ancient, corporation of priests at Rome, which also outlived the other institutions of the old Roman religion. An account of the rites which they superintended will be found in the preceding article [LUPERCALIA]. As regards their institution there are two separate legends; one ascribing their foundation to the Arcadian Evander (Liv. 1.5; Ov. Fast. 2.423; Plut. Rom. 21), the other to Romulus and Remus (Ov. Fast. 2.361; Plut. l.c.). It is probable that both are untrue. It seems that the idea of a Greek institution is only an attempt of later times to connect this priesthood with the worship of the Greek pastoral god Pan. They were said to be priests of Faunus, the Italian deity of flocks and herds, and Evander is perhaps merely a translation of Faunus, “the favourer” (see Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 3.439). It is probable, as Marquardt points out, that the connexion with the legends of Romulus, though much older than the Grecising legends, is more recent than the institution of the priesthood, and arose from the fact that the neighbourhood of the Lupercal was connected with many traditions about Romulus, the Ficus Ruminalis, Casa Romuli, &c., and also from the compound lupus in the word itself, just as those who adopted Greek tradition found an argument in the word Λύκαια. The name of Faustulus, it is to be noticed, in the Romulean legends, has the same meaning as that of Faunus. We can have little doubt that the priesthood belongs to the oldest tribal settlement on the Palatine, and derives its name from neither of the above-mentioned legends. Rejecting many improbable derivations, such as luere-capra (Servius), lupa-parcero (Arnobius), lues-parcere (Unger), lupus-hircus (Schwegler), we may adopt as the most likely origin of the name Luperci, that which Mommsen (Hist. of Rome, 1.176) and Marquardt prefer, lupus-arceo: i.e. “the protectors of the flock from wolves.” The priesthood was in the hands of two collegia, of which the sodales were called respectively Luperci Quinctiliani (or Quinctiales?) and Luperci Fabiani, or sometimes Quinctilii and Fabii. In other words, originally it was a gentile sacred rite, and was in very ancient times under the exclusive charge of these two gentes, although that attachment to a particular gens lasted only in the name, and was retained neither in respect of the members nor the organisation. So far as regards the second collegium, there is no difficulty in understanding it of the gens Fabia (cf. Propert. 5.1, 26), though Unger (Rhein. Mus. 1881, pp. 50 ff.) seeks to connect the name with februare; but there is more doubt about assigning the other collegium to the gens Quinctilia. It may be assumed that these Luperci ranked before the Fabian; for this priority of rank will explain the legends which attribute the Quinctilii to Romulus and. the Fabii to Remus (Ov. Fast. 2.373; Vict. de Orig. 22), and the name might be regarded as fairly settled, if we could satisfy ourselves whether the Quinctii or the Quinctilii were the older. Mommsen (Hist. of Rome, 1.51; and Staatsrecht, 1.560, note) and Marquardt (op. cit.) take the Quinctii to be the old gens, the Quinctilii a later introduction from Alba (for which the authority is Dionys. A. R. 3.29); and they cite also an inscription (Orelli, 2253 = C. I. L. 6.1932), “lupercus Quinctialis vetus,” and the coincidence of the praenomen Kaeso belonging to the Quinctii and Fabii alone, and possibly derived from the thongs with which the Luperci strike (caedunt), as proving that the name should be Quinctianus or Quinctialis from the Quinctii, not Quinctilianus, as though from the Quiinctilii. We have, however, on the other hand, the fact that Livy (1.30) gives just the opposite account to Dionysius, and makes the Quinctii come from Alba; and that all ancient authorities, except the inscription above, give the name Quinctilii or Quinctiliani to this priesthood. We can hardly therefore take Mommsen's view as proved beyond a doubt. We shall be on more certain ground in assuming that this gens, whether the Quinctii or the Quinctilii, exercised the priesthood in this worship on the Palatine for the Montani, and with them, when the tribal communities amalgamated, were joined the Fabii for the same rites on behalf of the Collini. (That the Fabian gens belonged to the Collini is shown by their having their sacra gentilicia on the Quirinal: Liv. 5.46, 52.) Possibly the Fabii used originally their separate sanctuary on this hill for the Lupercalia, but there can be no doubt that the associated worship of the two collegia of Luperci (as afterwards of the third also) was in the Lupercal on the Palatine--the only Lupercal [p. 2.101]mentioned--a cave in the western angle of the Palatine, the site of which cannot be positively identified, where the rites in the festival were begun. It was in later times adorned with some masonry, perhaps a portico at the entrance; for it is stated in the inscription of Ancyra that Augustus rebuilt it. (See Middleton's Rome, p. 57; Burn's Rome and Campagna, p. 156.) Julius Caesar, in the beginning of the year 44, added a third corporation of priests called the Luperci Julii (D. C. 44.6; Suet. Jul. 76), and assigned to them revenues which the senate after his death took away (Cic. Phil. 13.15, 32), and of this collegium Antonius was magister. The assumption from this is that each of the collegia had its own magister, though in inscriptions we find only “magister lupercorum” without distinction. The word vetus applied to a lupercus (as in the inscription given above) means no doubt that he belonged to one of the two older corporations. The members (sodales, ἑταῖρολ) were ordinarily of the equestrian rank, rarely senators (cf. Mommsen, Staatsrecht, l.c.). Under the Republic they were probably (like the Fratres Arvales) coopted into the body, but Mommsen thinks that under the Empire they were appointed by the emperor. Some have asserted the office to be terminable, on the authority of two inscriptions, which seem to give “lupercus iterum,” “lupercus ter” (C. I. L. 6.496; 2610), but the wording and significance of these are by no means certain, and Marquardt believes the office to have been for life (as was also the office of the Fratres Arvales). It is also questionable whether this priesthood existed in any Italian town except Rome. The inscriptions found in various municipia perhaps record merely the names of men who belonged to one of the three collegia at Rome, and who kept the title in their new domicile. At any rate, we have no mention of the festival being held anywhere but at Rome. Of the manner in which the functions were partitioned among the different collegia we have no record. For an account of the rites which they celebrated, see LUPERCALIA (In addition to the works cited above, reference may be made to Preller, Röm. Myth. 111.)


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Cicero, Philippics, 13.15
    • Cicero, Philippics, 13.32
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 76
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 46
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 52
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 5
    • Plutarch, Romulus, 21
    • Ovid, Fasti, 2
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