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HILA´RIA (ίλάρια) seems originally to have been a name which was given to any day or season of rejoicing. The hilaria were therefore, according to Maximus Monachus (Schol. ad Dionys. Areopag. Epist. 8), either private or public. Among the former he reckons the day on which a person married, and on which a son was born; among the latter, those days of public rejoicings appointed by a new emperor. Such days were devoted to general rejoicings and public sacrifices, and no one was allowed to show any symptoms of grief or mourning (Marquardt, Staatsverw. 3.358).

But the Romans also celebrated Hilaria, as feriae stativae, on the 25th of March, in honour of Cybele, the mother of the gods (Macr. 1.21.7); and it is probably to distinguish these Hilaria from those mentioned above, that Lampridius (Al. Sev. 37) calls them Hilaria Matris Deûm. The day of its celebration was the first after the vernal equinox, or the first day of the year which was longer than the night. The winter with its gloom had passed away, and the first day of a better season was spent in rejoicings. (Vopisc. Aurelian. 1.) No allusion to this festival occurs during the time of the republic; the passages of Ovid (Ov. Fast. 4.337 ff.) and Valerius Maximus (2.4.3) refer to the MEGALESIA in the month of April; nor are the Hilaria mentioned in the extant calendars. Hence Marquardt regards them as an invention of the later Empire. The lavatio or washing of the goddess and her chariot in the river Almo, just outside Rome, is assigned by Ovid (l.c.) to the April festival, but by some late writers to the 27th of March (a. d. VI. Kal. [p. 1.962]April., Amm. Marc. 23.3.7; Vib. Sequest. de Flum. p. 329); which is a confirmation of Marquardt's view. We learn from Herodian (1.10, 11) that, among other things, the statue of the goddess was borne in solemn procession, and before this statue were carried the most costly specimens of plate and works of art belonging either to wealthy Romans or to the emperors themselves. All kinds of games and amusements were allowed on this day; masquerades were the most prominent among them, and every one might, in his disguise, imitate whomsoever he liked, and even magistrates. A passage of Julian (Or. 5, p. 168 C) appears to place the Hilaria on the 24th of March, the Dies sanguinis; after mentioning the sacred tree on the 22nd (Arbor intrat), he adds τῇ τρίτῃ δὲ τέμνεται τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ἀπόρρητον θέρος τοῦ θεοῦ Φαλλοῦ. ἐπὶ τούτοις Ἱλάριά φασι καὶ ἑορταί. The θέρος is explained to mean the reception and emasculation of a new Gallus. The Dies sanguinis was a fast day, and certainly not identical with the Hilaria; but the words ἐπὶ τούτοις, “after this,” may easily mean “on the next day.”

The Hilaria were in reality only the last day of a festival of Cybele which began as early as the 15th of March, and was continued at intervals. For the ceremonies of the other days of this festival, see MEGALESIA Vol. II. p. 156 b.

[L.S] [W.W]

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 23.3.7
    • Ovid, Fasti, 4
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