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COMPITA´LIA also called LUDI COMPITALI´CII, a festival celebrated once a year in honour of the two Lares compitales, to whom sacrifices were offered at the places where two or more ways met (compita, Varro, de Ling. Lat. 6.25, ed. Müller; Festus, s. v.). Dionysius (4.14) similarly ascribes its origin to Servius Tullius, and describes the festival as it was celebrated in his time. He relates that the sacrifices consisted of honey-cakes (πέλανοι), which were presented by the inhabitants of each house, and that the persons who assisted as ministering servants at the festival were not freemen, but slaves, because the Lares took pleasure in the service of slaves: he further adds that the Compitalia were celebrated a few days after the Saturnalia with great splendour, and that the slaves on this occasion had full liberty given them to do what they pleased. We are told by Macrobius (Saturn. 1.7, 34) that the celebration of the Compitalia was restored by Tarquinius [p. 1.524]Superbus, who sacrificed boys to Mania, the mother of the Lares; but this practice was changed after the expulsion of the Tarquins, and the heads of garlic and poppies offered instead of human heads.

The persons who presided over the festival were the Magistri vicorum (Liv. 34.7, 2; Madvig, Em. Liv. p. 497), who were on that occasion allowed to wear the praetexta (Ascon. ad Cic. in Pis. p. 7, ed. Orelli). They were aided by collegia ex servitiorum faece constituta (Asconius, l.c.). Public games were added at some time during the republican period to this festival, but they were suppressed by command of the senate in B.C. 64; and it was one of the charges brought forward by Cicero against L. Piso that he allowed them to be celebrated by Clodius in his consulship, B.C. 58 (Cic. in Pis. 4, 8; Ascon. l.c.). But that the festival itself still continued to be observed, though the games were abolished, is evident from Cicero (Cic. Att. 3.3). When Julius Caesar dissolved most of the collegia (Mommsen, Hist. 4.503), the Compitalia necessarily fell into disuse. Augustus restored the festival on an entirely new basis, not reviving the collegia, but assigning the charge of it to a newly constituted set of magistri vicorum. These were four in number, for each of the 265 vici included in his new division of the city. The first set entered upon office on Aug. 1, B.C. 7. To the two Lares compitales was now added the genius Augusti (Ovid, Ov. Fast. 5.145; Hor. Carm. 4.5.39, Laribus tuum miscet numen), and the festival was observed twice in the year, on May 1 and Aug. 1. At an earlier time the Compitalia belonged to the feriae conceptivae; that is, festivals which were celebrated on days appointed annually by the magistrates or priests. The day on which this festival was celebrated appears to have been always in the winter. Dionysius relates (4.14), as we have already said, that it was celebrated a few days after the Saturnalia, and Cicero (in Pison. iv.) that it fell on the Kalends of January; but in one of his letters to Atticus (7.7) he speaks of it as falling on the fourth before the nones of January. The exact words with which the festival was announced are preserved by Macrobius (Saturn. 1.4, 27) and Aulus Gellius (10.24).


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