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CERIA´LIA, CERIA´LES LUDI (the spelling Cereales is incorrect: Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.451, note 2), festivals celebrated at Rome in honour of Ceres. In B.C. 493 the worship of Demeter (under the name of the old Italian goddess Ceres) was introduced at Rome by the direction of the keepers of the Sibylline books, and a temple was built in her honour (aedes Cereris Liberi Liberaeque, usually called aedes Cereris) near the Circus Maximus. The ritual was entirely Greek, the priestesses were Greeks, and the prayers offered were in Greek (Cic. pro Balb. 24, 55; de Leg. 2.9, 21; 15, 37). In connexion with this worship, games were instituted under the direction of the plebeian aediles. The festival was properly a plebeian one, but the patricians were invited to take part in it (Gel. 18.2, 11). At first the games were held only on extraordinary occasions (Liv. 10.23; 30.39), but afterwards they were celebrated annually from the 12th to the 19th of April, the last day being called especially the Cerialia. This spring festival was intended to commemorate the return of Proserpine to earth; hence all who took part in it were dressed in white. No bloody sacrifice was permitted, except that of a sow (Ov. Fast. 4.414); the offerings consisted of cakes, honey, and incense. It was celebrated with games in the circus, but with no scenic representations before the time of Augustus (Ritschl, Parerga, p. 287). On the last day there was in the country a procession round the fields (Verg. G. 1.345), in the town a procession to the circus (Ov. Fast. 4.389; Varro, de Re Rust. 1.2, 11).

A second festival, the sacrum anniversarium Cereris, was held in August (Liv. 22.56), and was a thanksgiving feast, belonging to the sacra publica (Cic. de Leg. 2.9, 21), but observed only by women, who were dressed in white, and brought the first-fruits to the goddess. They prepared themselves for it by fasting and separating themselves from their husbands for nine days. (Ov. Met. 10.431 ff.) (Marquardt, Röm. Staatsv. iii. pp. 346-350; Preller, Röm. Myth. pp. 432 ff.)


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