Archeology / Dating Evidence

753BC Apr. 21

Event #5165: Founding of Rome

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Text #8980

"Founding of Rome by Romulus", in Wikipedia.

During the Roman Republic, several dates were given for the founding of the city between 753 BC and 728 BC. Finally, under the Roman Empire, the date suggested by Marcus Terentius Varro, 753 BC, was agreed upon, but in the Fasti Capitolini the year given was 752. Although the proposed years varied, all versions agreed that the city was founded on April 21, the day of the festival sacred to Pales, goddess of shepherds; in her honour, Rome celebrated the Par ilia (or Palilia). (The Roman a.u.c. calendar, however, begins with Varro’s dating of 753 BC.)

According to legend, the foundation of Rome took place 438 years after the capture of Troy (1182 BC), according to Velleius Paterculus (VIII, 5). It took place “shortly” before an eclipse of the sun; some have identified this eclipse as the one observed at Rome on June 25, 745 BC, which had a magnitude of 50.3%. Varro may have used the consular list with its mistakes, calling the year of the First consuls “245 a.u.c.”.

According to Lucius Tarrutius of Firmum, Romulus was conceived on the 23rd day of the Egyptian month Choiac, during a total eclipse of the sun. This eclipse occurred on June 15, 763 BC, with a magnitude of 62.5% at Rome. He was born on the 21st day of the month of Thoth. The first day of Thoth fell on 2 March in that year (Prof. E. J. Bickerman, 1980: 115), That implies that Rhea Silvia’s pregnancy lasted for 281 days. Rome was founded on the ninth day of the month Pharmuthi, which was April 21, as universally agreed. The Romans add that, about the time Romulus started to build the city, an eclipse of the Sun was observed by Antimachus, the Teian poet, on the 30th day of the lunar month. This eclipse (see above) had a magnitude of 54.6% at Teos, Asia Minor. Romulus vanished in the 54th year of his life, on the Nones of Quintilis (July), on a day when the Sun was darkened. The day turned into night, which sudden darkness was believed to be an eclipse of the Sun. It occurred on July 17, 709 BC, with a magnitude of 93.7%. (All these eclipse data have been calculated by Prof. Aurél Ponori-Thewrewk, retired director of the Planetarium of Budapest.) Plutarch placed it in the 37th year from the foundation of Rome, on the fifth of our month July, then called Quintiles, on “Caprotine Nones”. Livy (I, 21) also states that Romulus ruled for 37 years. He was slain by the Senate or disappeared in the 38th year of his reign. Most of these have been recorded by Plutarch (Lives of Romulus, Numa Pompilius and Camillus), Florus (Book I, I), Cicero (The Republic VI, 22: Scipio’s Dream), Dio (Dion) Cassius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (L. 2). Dio, in his Book I of his Roman History, confirms these data by telling that Romulus was in his 18th year of age when he founded Rome. Therefore, three eclipse records indicate that Romulus reigned from 746 BC to 709 BC. Surprisingly this is very close to the calculation of the founding given by Rome’s first native historical writer, Quintus Fabius Pictor, who wrote that Rome was founded in the first year of the eighth Olympiad, 747 BC (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Book 1, ch. 74,2).

Text #8981

"Lucius Tarutius Firmanus", in Wikipedia.

Tarutius was a close friend of both Marcus Terentius Varro and Cicero. At Varro’s request, Tarutius took the horoscope of Romulus. After studying the circumstances of the life and death of the founder of Rome, Tarutius calculated that Romulus was born on March 24 (when the date is correctly translated from the Egyptian calendar) in the second year of the second Olympiad (i.e. 771 BC). He also calculated that Rome was founded on 4 October 754 BC, between the second and third hour of the day (Plutarch, Rom., 12; Cicero, De Divin., ii. 47.).1 The proximity of this date to an eclipse was discussed by Scaliger.2

  1. Anthony Grafton and Noel Swerdlow, ‘Technical Chronology and Astrological History in Varro, Censorinus, and Others’, Classical Quarterly, N 35 (1985), 454-65. [OF]

  2. Anthony Grafton: Joseph Scaliger. Oxford University Press, 1983. pp. 111-113 [OF]

Text #8983

"Romulus and Remus", in Wikipedia.

Romulus /ˈrɒmjʉləs/ and Remus /ˈriːməs/ were the twin brothers and main characters of Rome’s foundation myth. (The pronunciation in English is different from the Latin original Rōmulus and Rĕmus). Their mother was Rhea Silvia, daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa. Before their conception, Numitor’s brother Amulius seized power, killed Numitor’s male heirs and forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin, sworn to chastity. Rhea Silvia conceived the twins by the god Mars. Once the twins were born, Amulius had them abandoned to die in the Tiber river. They were saved by a series of miraculous interventions: the river carried them to safety, a she-wolf found and suckled them, and a woodpecker fed them. A shepherd and his wife found them and fostered them to manhood as simple shepherds. The twins, still ignorant of their true origins, proved to be natural leaders. Each acquired many followers. When they discovered the truth of their birth, they killed Amulius and restored Numitor to his throne. Rather than wait to inherit Alba Longa, they chose to found a new city.1

While Romulus wanted to found the new city on the Palatine Hill, Remus preferred the Aventine Hill.2 They agreed to determine the site through augury but when each claimed the results in his own favor, they quarreled and Remus was killed.3 Romulus founded the new city, named it Rome, after himself, and created its first legions and senate. The new city grew rapidly, swelled by landless refugees; as most of these were male and unmarried, Romulus arranged the abduction of women from the neighboring Sabines. The ensuing war ended with the joining of Sabines and Romans as one Roman people. Thanks to divine favour and Romulus’s inspired leadership, Rome became a dominant force, but Romulus himself became increasingly autocratic, and disappeared or died in mysterious circumstances. In later forms of the myth, he ascended to heaven and was identified with Quirinus, the divine personification of the Roman people.

The legend as a whole encapsulates Rome’s ideas of itself, its origins and moral values. For modern scholarship, it remains one of the most complex and problematic of all foundation myths, particularly Remus’s death. Ancient historians had no doubt that Romulus gave his name to the city. Most modern historians believe his name a back-formation from the name Rome; the basis for Remus’s name and role remain subjects of ancient and modern speculation. The myth was fully developed into something like an “official”, chronological version in the Late Republican and early Imperial era; Roman historians dated the city’s foundation to between 758 and 728 BC, and Plutarch reckoned the twins’ birth year as c. 27/28 March 771 BC. An earlier tradition that gave Romulus a distant ancestor in the semi-divine Trojan prince Aeneas was further embellished, and Romulus was made the direct ancestor of Rome’s first Imperial dynasty. Possible historical bases for the broad mythological narrative remain unclear and disputed.4 The image of the she-wolf suckling the divinely fathered twins became an iconic representation of the city and its founding legend, making Romulus and Remus preeminent among the feral children of ancient mythography.

Modern scholarship approaches the various known stories of Romulus and Remus as cumulative elaborations and later interpretations of Roman foundation-myth. Particular versions and collations were presented by Roman historians as authoritative, an official history trimmed of contradictions and untidy variants to justify contemporary developments, genealogies and actions in relation to Roman morality. Other narratives appear to represent popular or folkloric tradition; some of these remain inscrutable in purpose and meaning. Wiseman sums the whole as the mythography of an unusually problematic foundation and early history.5 6 Cornell and others describe particular elements of the mythos as “shameful”.7 Nevertheless, by the 4th century BC, the fundamentals of the Romulus and Remus story were standard Roman fare, and by 269 BC the wolf and suckling twins appeared on one of the earliest, if not the earliest issues of Roman silver coinage. Rome’s foundation story was evidently a matter of national pride. It featured in the earliest known history of Rome, which was attributed to Diocles of Peparethus. The patrician senator Quintus Fabius Pictor used Diocles’ as a source for his own history of Rome, written around the time of Rome’s war with Hannibal and probably intended for circulation among Rome’s Greek-speaking allies.8 9

Fabius’ history provided a basis for the early books of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, which he wrote in Latin, and for several Greek-language histories of Rome, including Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s Roman Antiquities, written during the late 1st century BC, and Plutarch’s early 2nd century Life of Romulus.10 11 These three accounts provide the broad literary basis for studies of Rome’s founding mythography. They have much in common, but each is selective to its purpose. Livy’s is a dignified handbook, justifying the purpose and morality of Roman traditions observed in his own times. Dionysius and Plutarch approach the same subjects as interested outsiders, and include founder-traditions not mentioned by Livy, untraceable to a common source and probably specific to particular regions, social classes or oral traditions.12 13 A Roman text of the late Imperial era, Origo gentis Romanae (The origin of the Roman people) is dedicated to the many “more or less bizarre”, often contradictory variants of Rome’s foundation myth, including versions in which Remus founds a city named Remuria, five miles from Rome, and outlives his brother Romulus.14 15


In all versions of the founding myth, the twins grew up as shepherds. While tending their flocks, they came into conflict with the shepherds of Amulius. Remus was captured and brought before Amulius, who eventually discovers his identity. Romulus raised a band of shepherds to liberate his brother and Amulius was killed. Romulus and Remus were conjointly offered the crown but they refused it and restored Numitor to the throne. They left to found their own city, but could not agree on its location; Romulus preferred the Palatine Hill, Remus preferred the Aventine Hill. They agreed to seek the will of the gods in this matter, through augury. Each took position on his respective hill and prepared a sacred space there. Remus saw six auspicious birds; but Romulus saw twelve. Romulus claimed superior augury as the divine basis of his right to decide. Remus made a counterclaim: he saw his six vultures first. Romulus set to work with his supporters, digging a trench (or building a wall, according to Dionysius) around the Palatine to define his city boundary.

Livy gave two versions of Remus’s death. In the one “more generally received”, Remus criticized and belittles the new wall, and in a final insult to the new city and its founder alike, he leaped over it. Romulus killed him, saying “So perish every one that shall hereafter leap over my wall”. In the other version, Remus was simply stated as dead; no murder was alleged. Two other, lesser known accounts have Remus killed by a blow to the head with a spade, wielded either by Romulus’s commander Fabius (according to St. Jerome’s version) or by a man named Celer. Romulus buried Remus with honour and regret. The Roman ab urbe condita began from the founding of the city, and places that date as 21 April 753 BC.

  1. Compare the story of Romulus and Remus to Moses, Perseus, and Sargon of Akkad for similar stories of babies being placed in cradles and set afloat in a body of water. [OF]

  2. Dionysius of Halicarnasus, Roman Antiquities, 1.85 [OF]

  3. Ovid has Romulus invent the festival of Lemuria to appease Remus’s resentful ghost. Ovid Fasti 5.461 [OF]

  4. The archaeologist Andrea Carandini is one of very few modern scholars who accept Romulus and Remus as historical figures, based on the 1988 discovery of an ancient wall on the north slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome. Carandini dates the structure to the mid-8th century BC and names it the Murus Romuli. See Carandini, La nascita di Roma. Dèi, lari, eroi e uomini all’alba di una civiltà (Torino: Einaudi, 1997) and Carandini. Remo e Romolo. Dai rioni dei Quiriti alla città dei Romani (775/750 - 700/675 a. C. circa) (Torino: Einaudi, 2006) [OF]

  5. Wiseman, TP (1995), Remus, A Roman myth, Cambridge University Press. [OF]

  6. Momigliano, Arnoldo (2007), “An interim report on the origins of Rome”, Terzo contributo alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico 1, Rome, IT: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, pp. 545–98. A critical, chronological review of historiography related to Rome’s origins. [OF]

  7. Cornell, pp 60–2: “these elements have convinced the eminent historiographer H. Strasburger that Rome’s foundation myth represents not native tradition but defamatory foreign propaganda, probably originated by Rome’s neighbours in Magna Graecia and successfully foist on an impressionable and ethnically confused Roman people.” Cornell and Momigliano find this argument impeccably developed but entirely implausible; if an exercise in mockery, it was a signal failure. [OF]

  8. The escape of Aeneas from Troy and his foundation of a “New Troy” in Italy was not an exclusively Roman ancestor-myth. It is represented by 4th century votive statuettes from Etruscan Veii and was known in archaic Latium. Beard et al., pp. 1-2. [OF]

  9. Fabius wrote in Greek, the Mediterranean lingua franca of the time. His narrative began with the arrival of the Greek hero Herakles in Italy. Plutarch claims that Fabius’ history follows Diocles “on most points”. Wiseman, pp. 1-2. [OF]

  10. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Thayer, ed., Roman Antiquities, Chicago, IL, USA: Loeb, pp. 1, 72–90; 2, 1–76. [OF]

  11. Plutarch, “The life of Romulus”, in Thayer, The Parallel Lives, Chicago, IL, USA: Loeb. [OF]

  12. Momigliano, Arnoldo (1990), The classical foundations of modern historiography, University Presses of California, Columbia and Princeton, p. 101. [OF]

  13. Dillery (2009), Feldherr, Andrew, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, Cambridge University Press, pp. 78–81 ff. [OF]

  14. Cornell, op. cit. pp. 57-8. [OF]

  15. Banchich (2004), Origo Gentis Romanae, trans. by Haniszewski, et al., Cansius College. Translation and commentaries. [OF]

Text #9279

Venning. A Chronology of the Roman Empire
[pp. 25--32]

The name of Rome’s founder was not agreed upon by early historians, and we possess a detailed account of their confusion in the (probably fourth century AD) Roman work Origo Gentis Romanae, now regarded as less likely to be a Renaissance forgery. It was earliest cited as ‘Romus’, evidently derived from the name, or even as the refugee Trojan prince Aeneas (until it became apparent that the fall of Troy c. 1200 BC was several hundred years too early to be matched with the founding of Rome). This was probably linked to the other early Italian creation-legends for ancient cities that credit Trojans with their foundation… Rome as the emerging leader of the Italian cities, had to have an appropriately prestigious pedigree. Aeneas was recorded as being the only major Trojan hero to escape the sack of the city in the Iliad… he certainly had local Latin connections independent of Roman stories, being regarded as the founder of the nearby city of Lavinium; his escape carrying his father Anchises at the fall of Troy is celebrated on sixth century BC Etruscan pottery. The ‘Penates’ or household gods of Troy, sacred relics rescued by Aeneas, were supposed to be at Lavinium by c. 300 BC, and their shrine may be the ‘Sanctuary of the Thirteen Altars’1 in the town which is far older and has Greek architectural influences. The Roman priesthood, whose rituals went far back into the times of the monarchy, were still attending ceremonies there in the Late Republican era, citing the town as the ancient home of their cults.

Aeneas, regarded in the Greek ‘Trojan War’ legends that early Italians would have known as a virtuous and honourable Trojan prince who was a suitable object of veneration for the Romans, was believed to have founded a new Trojan dynasty in the west by the Greeks in Thucydides time (end of the fifth century BC). He is first declared to have been the founder of Rome by the Greek historian Hellanicus, writing as early as the late fifth century BC. An alternative Greek legend connected the city to Odysseus on his Italian voyagings… The legend of Odysseus’ son Latinus ruling a realm in ‘Tyrennia’… was already extant in the sixth century BC… referred to in the appendix to Hesiod’s Theogony.

It was unclear to what extent Rome was a ‘planned’ foundation or a gradual development. …Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in Book II of his Roman Antiquities, went the furthest in positing a ‘creation’ of a model city and constitution by Romulus. …

There were early (eighth to sixth century?) farming villages on most of the city’s hills, but the earliest and largest would appear to be on the two ‘original’ hills allegedly settled by Romulus, the Capito and the Palatine. The theory that the Caelian owed its name to its first settler, an expatriate Etruscan, may also be correct. …

The special status of Rome’s constitution to Classical historians reflected its importance as a world-conqueror. But the nature of Rome’s early society was also unusual, with the established version of events having its founder bring in ‘outcasts’ from all over Latium, not the usual body of disciplined settlers from one geographical location. It is unlikely that this story of Romulus’ creation of a ‘sanctuary’ for refugees, outlaws and other social undesirables of low birth at Rome - or the legend of their rape of the Sabine women to acquire wives - was merely slander by disgruntled Greek-Italian victims of Roman expansion in the later fourth century BC, as the Romans made no attempt to ‘tidy up’ or excuse it in their days of glory. In contrast, it seems that Roman historians extolled the moral advantages of their humble, rough and unorthodox origin and contrasted the city’s primitive roots to later ‘decadent’ luxury.

Evidently, there was some disagreement over whether Rome should be linked in origin to the other ‘Greek’-founded cities of Italy or to the Greeks’ Trojan rivals. Some form of connection to the early Hellenic world was considered plausible enough for justificatory legends of a suitable ‘heroic’ founder to be constructed. The Trojan link was taken seriously across the region by 263 BC, when the Sicilian city of Segesta allied itself to Rome, citing their common Trojan origin. But the modern contention that this was invented for political reasons perhaps at the time when Rome was fighting Pyrrhus of Epirus in the 270s is unrealistic. The notion of a link to the early Greek world, if not precisely to the royal house of Troy, was already in local Etruscan culture by the sixth century BC. One theory indeed had the Etruscans themselves emigrating to Italy from Lydia… It was known to Herodotus in the fifth century BC… by the first century BC Dionysius preferred to regard the Etruscans as Italian natives. (The unusual status of the Etruscan language, lacking local or indeed Greek/Asia Minor connections, has deepened the still insoluble mystery.)

There was also an anomalous story about a settlement of Arcadians from Greece, led by Evander, on the site centuries before ‘Romulus’ that was persistent enough to be incorporated into Roman tradition. … A very early cult of the Greek hero Heracles/Hercules on the site of the city , possibly introduced by early Greek traders, also had to be accommodated, and it would appear from findings of pottery that there were Greek residents in the area by the eighth century. Dionysius made Heracles/Hercules the father of Latinus, king of the Latins at the time when Aeneas the Trojan landed. …

The legend that Romulus was the son of a princess of Alba Longa can also be discounted, not least as the ‘city’ of Alba did not exist in the eighth century. … The notion of the founder as the unusually sired son of a princess also appears with such founding heroes as Perseus of Mycenae and Sargon of Akkad…

The first verifiable references to Romulus having a twin called Remus and to their suckling by a wolf are fourth-century, and the latter legend may have been invented to account for early Rome’s possession of a venerated statue of a wolf *(to which the famous twins appear to have been added, possibly in the 290s BC). The statue of the wolf itself, now in the Capitoline Museum, may be as early as the sixth century BC and so reflect an ancient story told about the founder. But even in Roman times it was believed by some historians that the wolf story arose out of a mistranslation of the slang word lupa, i.e. prostitute, for Romulus’ foster-mother. The myth that the latter, Rhea Silvia, was impregnated by the god Mars was on a par with other stories of divinely sired founders, not only Greek ones (e.g. the Babylonians Sargon and Semiramis.) It used a suitable divinity for a people who were to be so successful in war. Alternatively, one story had it that Rhea Silvia was impregnated by a spark from the sacred fire that she tended as a priestess. It has parallels with other Italian myths, though also with the Greek legend of the similarly imprisoned and magically impregnated Danae - mother of Perseus, founder of the archaic Peloponnesian military power Mycenae. It is notable that not all the early Roman historians were agreed that Remus was killed by his twin in a dispute over where to site the city, as was stated in the later version of the legend. But the notion of situating Romulus’ proposed town on the Palatine and Remus’ on the Aventine, with the former as the victor in the contest, probably reflects memories of the Palatine being the more important site in the new city. The steeper and more defensible Capitol may have been the citadel for times of refuge from attack, as in the legend of the war with the Sabines. The idea that the commander’s daughter *Tarpeia betrayed it to the attackers and was then thrown off the Tarpeian Rock as her punishment would have arisen from a legend about that site’s naming.

There does now appear to have been a very early wall on the Palatine Hill, site of Romulus’ supposed first settlement, so there may be some truth behind the legend of an eighth-century foundation. But there were buildings on several other hills at the time, some of them dateable to earlier centuries, and the existing story of an orderly foundation of a state by one leader probably tidies up a far more haphazard and complex process. It is more likely that there was a union of several existing villages, probably for defence and involving the creation of a joint urban centre in the Forum Romanum (whose earliest buildings can be dated to the late seventh century). The traditional conflict and then union with the Sabines following Romulus’ seizure of their womenfolk and the resultant dual kingship of Romulus and the Sabine leader Titus Tatius may also reflect some real events, particularly given that it is so confused a story. … There are certainly traces of Sabine influence in Roman Latin terminoogy, and there was some sort of tradition in early Roman times of Sabine connections with the Quirinal Hill.

Traditionally, Romulus, the founder of the Senate as well as the city, turned into a tyrant and after acquiring an oppressive bodyguard was secretly murdered by the senators on the Campus Martius after a reign of around 30 years, c. 721 BC. His disappearance was thus due to the murderers cutting up his body in situ and smuggling the bits away, not his apotheosis in a cloud to the heavens to become the god Quirinus. But this story bears too many hallmarks of later interpolation and retrospection to be considered reliable.

It is possible that the names and very early dating of the first three tribes of the Roman citizenry are genuine. The local Ramnes (allegedly called after Romulus), Sabine Tities, and Etruscan Luceres were supposed to represent the **three distinct peoples who had settled early Rome, living respectively on the Palatine, Quirinal and Caelian Hills. **

The foundation of the 30 curiae, a form of organization by family for religious/ceremonial purposes probably based on ten subdivisions of each tribe - was also ascribed to Romulus. The system was of unclear purpose and origin even to the writers of the Late Republic, when an archaic Comitia Centuriata, an assembly organized by curiae, met to confer commands but many citizens did not know their curia. It was virtually unique to Rome and had no obvious Republican political purpose, so it probably did originate in some obscure tribal arrangement of monarchic times that became fossilized as tradition.

  1. Altars from so-called Sanctuary of Thirteen Altars, founded in Lavinium in 6th century B.C. Built between mid-6th — 4th centuries B.C., it is the greatest monument discovered during the excavations in Lavinium. A suggestion exists of identification of the Thirteen Altars with Aphrodisium, the temple of Venus, but the version of dedication of the monument to different gods is more probable. GIOVANNI D’ANNA “LEGGENDE E TRADIZIONI DELL’ANTICA ROMA”, ARCHEO, N. 31, p. 17. [EN]

Text #9280

"Evander of Pallene", in Wikipedia.

Evander of Pallene - In Roman mythology, Evander (from Greek Εὔανδρος Euandros, “good man” or “strong man”: a spelling and etymology affected by poets to emphasize the hero’s virtue), also spelled Euander, was a deific culture hero from Arcadia, Greece, who brought the Greek pantheon, laws and alphabet to Italy, where he founded the city of Pallantium on the future site of Rome, sixty years before the Trojan War. He instituted the festival of Lupercalia.

The oldest tradition of its founding ascribes to Evander the erection of the Great Altar of Hercules in the Forum Boarium. In Virgil’s Aeneid, VIII, where Aeneas and his crew first come upon Evander and his people, they were venerating Hercules for dispatching the giant Cacus. Virgil’s listeners would have related this scene to the same Great Altar of Hercules in the Forum Boarium of their own day, one detail among many in the Aeneid that Virgil used to link the heroic past of myth with the Age of Augustus. Also according to Virgil, Hercules was returning from Gades with Geryon’s cattle when Evander entertained him. Evander then became the first to raise an altar to Hercules’ heroism. This archaic altar was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome, AD 64.

Evander was born to Mercury and Carmenta, and his wisdom was beyond that of all Arcadians. According to Virgil, previous to the Trojan War, Evander gathered a group of natives to a city he founded in Italy near the Tiber river, which he named Pallantium. Virgil states that he named the city in honor of his son, Pallas, although Pausanias, Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus say that Evander’s birth city was Pallantium, thus he named the new city after the one in Arcadia.

Because of their traditional ties, Evander aids Aeneas in his war against Turnus and the Rutuli: the Arcadian had known the father of Aeneas, Anchises, before the Trojan War, and shares a common ancestry through Atlas with Aeneas’s family. Evander plays a major role in Aeneid Book XII.

Evander was deified after his death and an altar was constructed in his name on the Aventine Hill. His son Pallas apparently died childless, leaving the natives under Turnus to ravage his kingdom; however, the gens Fabia claimed descent from Evander.

Text #9281

"Lupercalia", in Wikipedia.

Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, an earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual1 held on the same date, which gives the month of February (Februarius) its name.

The name Lupercalia was believed in antiquity to evince some connection with the Ancient Greek festival of the Arcadian Lykaia (from Ancient Greek: λύκος — lukos, “wolf”, Latin lupus) and the worship of Lycaean Pan, assumed to be a Greek equivalent to Faunus, as instituted by Evander.

In Roman mythology, Lupercus is a god sometimes identified with the Roman god Faunus, who is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Pan. Lupercus is the god of shepherds. His festival, celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of his temple on February 15, was called the Lupercalia. His priests wore goatskins. The historian Justin mentions an image of “the Lycaean god, whom the Greeks call Pan and the Romans Lupercus,” nude save for the girdle of goatskin, which stood in the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. There, on the Ides of February (in February the ides is the 13th), a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and salt mealcakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins were burnt.

  1. Februalia, also Februatio, was the Roman festival of ritual purification, later incorporated into Lupercalia. The festival, which is basically one of Spring washing or cleaning (associated also with the raininess of this time of year) is ancient, and possibly of Sabine origin. According to Ovid, Februare as a Latin word which refers to means of purification (particularly with washing or water) derives from an earlier Etruscan word referring to purging. The Roman month Februarius (“of Februa,” whence the English February derives) is named for the Februa/Februatio festival, which occurred on the 13th to 15th days of this Roman month. A later Roman god Februus personified both the month and also purification, and is named for them. Thus, the month is named for the festival and not for the god. Some sources connect the Latin word for fever (febris) with the same idea of purification or purging, due to the sweating commonly seen in association with fevers.

Text #9282

Coulanges. The Ancient City
[p. 311]


The origin of Rome and the composition of its people are worthy of remark. They explain the particular character of its policy, and the exceptional part that fell to it from the beginning in the midst of other cities. The Roman race was strangely mixed. The principal element was Latin, and originally from Alba; but these Albans themselves, according to traditions which no criticism authorizes us to reject, were composed of two associated, but not confounded, populations. One was the aboriginal race, real Latins. The other was of foreign origin, and was said to have come from Troy with Aeneas, the priest-founder; it was, to all appearance, not numerous, but was influential from the worship and the institutions which it had brought with it.

These Albans, a mixture of two races, founded Rome on a spot where another city had already been built — Pallantium, founded by the Greeks. Now, the population of Pallantium remained in the new city, and the rites of the Greek worship were preserved there. There was also, where the Capitol afterwards stood, a city which was said to have been founded by Hercules, the families of which remained distinct from the rest of the Roman population during the entire continuance of the republic.

Thus at Rome all races were associated and mingled; there were Latins, Trojans, and Greeks; there were, a little later, Sabines, and Etruscans. Of the several hills, the Palatine was the Latin city, after having been the city of Evander. The Capitoline, after having been the dwelling-place of the companions of Hercules, became the home of the Sabines of Tatius. The Quirinal received its name from the Sabine Quirites, or from the Sabine god Quirinus. The Caelian hill appears to have been inhabited from the beginning by Etruscans. Rome did not seem to be a single city; it appeared like a confederation of several cities, each one of which was attached by its origin to another confederation. It was the centre where the Latins, Etruscans, Sabellians, and Greeks met.

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