previous next


PARI´LIA or PALI´LIA, a festival celebrated at Rome and in the country on the 21st of April, in honour of Pales. As regards the form of the word, there is no doubt that Parilia is more correct than Palilia (Marius Victorinus, p. 25; Prob. ad Verg. G. 3, 1; Calend. Maff.; Ephem. Epigr. 3.7): the derivation, however, is not, as some ancient writers imagined, from parere, a partu pecoris, but from Pales, the substitution of Parilia for Palilia being by “dissimilation” to prevent the repetition of the letter l. just as popularis, &c. are written instead of--alis, or as caeruleus is formed from caelum. (Roby, Latin Grammar, 1.176; Peile, Lt. Etymology, p. 280; Corssen, Lat. Sprache, 1.80.) The festival was a lustral rite at the opening of spring, for the lustration of the flocks and herds, over which Pales presided. The 21st of April was the day on which, according to tradition, Romulus began the building of the city, and the festival was therefore also solemnised as the dies natalitius of Rome (Fest. s. v. Parilibus; Cic. de Div. 2.4. 7, 98; Varro, R. R. 2.1; Plin. Nat. 18.247; Dionys. A. R. 1.88); and some of the rites customary in later times were said to have been performed by Romulus when he fixed the pomerium. Ovid (Ov. Fast. 4.731-805) gives a description of the rites of the Parilia, which clearly shows that he regarded it as a shepherd festival, as it must originally have been when the Romans really were shepherds and husbandmen, and still continued to be among the country people (Dionys. l.c.; Varro, ap. Schol. Pers. 1.72), for in the city itself it must have come to be regarded principally as the birthday feast of Rome (cf. Ov. Fast. 4.106).

The sacred rites were in old times directed by the king, who made offerings for the people: afterwards his place was taken by the Pontifex Maximus. The first part of the solemnities, as described by Ovid, was a public purification by fire and smoke. The things burnt in order to produce this purifying smoke were the blood of the October-horse [OCTOBER EQUUS], the ashes of the calves sacrificed at the FORDICIDIA and bean-straw, which were all fetched from the Atrium Vestae. The people were also sprinkled with water; they washed their hands in spring-water, and drank milk mixed with must. (Ovid, Fast. l.c.; compare Propert. 5.1, 20.) When towards the evening the shepherds had fed their flocks, laurel-branches were used as brooms for cleaning the stables, and for sprinkling water through them, and lastly the stables were adorned with laurel-boughs. Hereupon the shepherds burnt sulphur, rosemary, fir-wood, and incense, and made the smoke pass through the stables to purify them; the flocks themselves were likewise purified by this smoke. The sacrifices which were offered on this day consisted of [p. 2.348]cakes, millet, and milk. The shepherds then offered a prayer to Pales. After this heaps of hay and straw were lighted, and the sheep were more effectually purified by being compelled to run through the fire, and the shepherds themselves did the same. The festival was concluded by a feast in the open air. (Tib. 2.5, 87; compare Propert. 5.4, 75.)

The ludi circenses on this day (mentioned in the Calendars) were not properly a part of the Parilia, but were instituted in honour of the battle of Munda, fought on March 17th, B.C. 45, the news of which reached Rome on April 20th: these games were discontinued (D. C. 45.6), and, having been re-instituted by Hadrian, were held annually till the fifth century (Mommsen, C. I. L. 1.391). On this day also Hadrian dedicated the temple of Rome and Venus, and, as it was more than ever connected with the birthday of the city, we find the festival called Ῥωμαῖα (Athenaeus, viii. p. 361 f).

There is to this day in Rome a ceremony of blessing the animals and sprinkling them with lustral water; but, though there is a certain resemblance, it would be an error to treat it as a survival of the Parilia. The Christian ceremony is on St. Anthony's Day, in the middle of January, nor is there any trace of continuity, such as has been noticed in the case of the Lupercalia.

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

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: