The Sabines, then, adopted the Roman months, about which I have written sufficiently in my Life of Numa. 1
Romulus, on the other hand, made use of their oblong shields, and changed his own armour and that of the Romans, who before that carried round shields of the Argive pattern. Feasts and sacrifices they shared with one another, not discarding any which the two peoples had observed before, but instituting other new ones. One of these is the Matronalia, which was bestowed upon the women to commemorate their putting a stop to the war; and another is the Carmentalia.
This Carmenta is thought by some to be a Fate presiding over human birth, and for this reason she is honoured by mothers. Others, however, say that the wife of Evander the Arcadian,2
who was a prophetess and inspired to utter oracles in verse, was therefore surnamed Carmenta, since
‘carmina’ is their word for verses
, her own proper name being Nicostrate. As to her own name there is general agreement, but some more probably interpret Carmenta as meaning bereft of mind
, because of her ecstasies under inspiration, since
‘carere’ is the Roman word for to be bereft
‘mens’ for mind.
Of the Parilia I have spoken before.3
As for the Lupercalia, judging by the time of its celebration, it would seem to be a feast of purification, for it is observed on the inauspicious days4
of the month of February, which name can be interpreted to mean purification
, and the very day of the feast was anciently called Febrata. But the name of the festival has the meaning of the Greek
‘Lycaea,’ or feast of wolves
, which makes it seem of great antiquity and derived from the Arcadians in the following of Evander.5
Indeed, this meaning of the name is commonly accepted; for it can be connected with the she-wolf of story. And besides, we see that the Luperci6
begin their course around the city at that point where Romulus is said to have been exposed. However, the actual ceremonies of the festival are such that the reason for the name is hard to guess. For the priests slaughter goats, and then, after two youths of noble birth have been brought to them, some of them touch their foreheads with a bloody knife, and others wipe the stain off at once with wool dipped in milk.
The youths must laugh after their foreheads are wiped. After this they cut the goats' skins into strips and run about, with nothing on but a girdle, striking all who meet them with the thongs,7
and young married women do not try to avoid their blows, fancying that they promote conception and easy child-birth. A peculiarity of the festival is that the Luperci sacrifice a dog also.
A certain Butas, who wrote fabulous explanations of Roman customs in elegiac verse, says that Romulus and Remus, after their victory over Amulius, ran exultantly to the spot where, when they were babes, the she-wolf gave them suck, and that the festival is conducted in imitation of this action, and that the two youths of noble birth run
Smiting all those whom they meet, as once with brandished weapons,
Down from Alba's heights, Remus and Romulus ran.
And that the bloody sword is applied to their foreheads as a symbol of the peril and slaughter of that day, while the cleansing of their foreheads with milk is in remembrance of the nourishment which the babes received.
But Caius Acilius writes that before the founding of the city Romulus and his brother once lost their flocks, and after praying to Faunus, ran forth in quest of them naked, that they might not be impeded by sweat; and that this is the reason why the Luperci run about naked. If the sacrifice is a purification, one might say that the dog is sacrificed as being a suitable victim for such rites,
since the Greeks, in their rites of purification, carry forth puppies for burial, and in many places make use of the rites called
and if these rites are performed in grateful remembrance of the she-wolf that nourished and preserved Romulus, it is not without reason that the dog is slain, since it is an enemy to wolves, unless, indeed, the animal is thus punished for annoying the Luperci when they run about.