The Roman festival of Robigalia

Robigalia were the feasts dedicated to the god Rubigus so that the wheat did not ripen too early, exposing it to the attack of the fungus that caused the so-called “robigine”, that is the “rust of the wheat”, a devastating disease for crops. During the Robigalia, which were held from 25 to 28 April, the Romans prayed to the god and made various offerings to him so that she would protect the wheat from disease and make the crops abundant. Its main ritual was a dog sacrifice to protect grain…

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Roman festival of Cerealia

The Cerealia was one of the most important festivals in Rome. It was held for seven days from mid- to late April, but the dates are uncertain, possibly the 12th-18th, with the actual festival day on the 19th. This was the main festival for Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain and the harvest, associated with bread and farming, as well as being the goddess of fertility, motherhood and women. Fields and crops were sacred to her. Ceres was also one of the patron deities of the common people (the…

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Hilaria: the roman festival that commemorated the worship of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her devotee Attis

In the last several centuries before the fall of the Roman Empire (476 A.D.), Roman devotees of the goddess Cybele celebrated a festival of laughter and rejoicing on this day, March 25. Known as Hilaria, it was considered the day of the resurrection of the god Attis, who had died three days earlier. As the god of vegetation and beloved son and lover of the goddess Cybele, he represented the god-sacrifice who, after dying, rises again (by the hand of the Goddess) as the spirit of spring. Scholars believe that…

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March 17 | Liberalia: an ancient rite of passage

On March 17 the Romans celebrated Liberalia with sacrifices, processions, ribald and gauche songs, and masks which were hung on trees. After the abolition of the Bacchanalia, from the following year these celebrations were established, wild parties (but much less than the previous ones) in honor of the God Libero and his consort Libera, deities linked to wine, to the joy of living and crowned with ivy, such as Bacchus (the Roman version of the Greek god Dionysus). It was not uncommon for a deity to be split into masculine…

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March 14: Mamuralia

In ancient Roman religion, the Mamuralia or Sacrum Mamurio (“Rite for Mamurius”) was a festival held on this day, March 14 or 15, named only in a couple of sources from late antiquity. Apparently an old man wearing animal skins was beaten ritually with sticks. The name is connected to Mamurius Veturius who, according to tradition, was the craftsman who made the ritual shields (ancilia) that hung in the temple of Mars. Because the Roman calendar originally began in March, the Sacrum Mamurio is usually regarded as a ritual marking…

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Navigium Isidis: the festival of Isis in Rome

March 5 was the date of an annual, ancient Roman, nautical religious festival called Navigium Isidis, literally “Vessel of Isis”, which was dedicated to Isis, an ancient Egyptian goddess who had been reinterpreted by and for the Greco-Roman world. In the Roman Empire, Isis was identified with various Greek and Roman goddesses, such as Aphrodite, Demeter, Artemis, Tyche, and Fortuna. These complex theological associations were often expressed pictorially, and she was occasionally depicted as a syncretistic deity with the attributes and iconography of one or more of these goddesses. Along…

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22nd February: the Roman Festival of Caristia.

The Caristia, also called Cara Cognatio, was one of several days in February that Ancient Romans honored family or ancestors. It followed the Parentalia, nine days of remembrance which began on February 13 and concluded with the Feralia on February 21. If for the Parentalia families visited the tombs of their ancestors and shared cake and wine both in the form of offerings and as a meal among themselves, the Feralia was a more somber occasion, a public festival of sacrifices and offerings to the Manes, the spirits of the…

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Appeasing the Ancestors: The Parentalia and Feralia in Ancient Rome

The Romans held their dead in great respect. They were “di manes”, the “good” dead, or honoured ancestors never to be forgotten. As such, it was customary for living relatives to visit family graves on the deceased’s birthday, to celebrate the day and remember the life of the departed one. However, Roman society as a whole also honoured the dead publicly especially in February, that was the month of the Parentalia, a festival dedicated todi parentes or dies parentales, the family dead. The Parentalia was a nine-day religious festival began…

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Io, Saturnalia!

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, whatever your holiday, most of the December holiday traditions that we celebrate today can be traced back to the Ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia (with a healthy dose of inspiration from the Vikings). From tree decorations, wreaths, ornaments, boughs of holly, carolling, gift-giving, and even gingerbread men, most of what we identify as Christmas has roots going back thousands of years. When it comes to celebrations, parties, and downright debauchery, probably no one beats the folks of ancient Rome. And, in this period, around the time of…

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Tarpeian Rock: in the early Roman empire, people deemed traditors and criminals were tossed to their deaths from this rock

Tarpeian Rock, or locally Rupe Tarpea, is a steep cliff located on the southern side of the Capitoline Hill, just above the Roman Forum and, for centuries, the location was used an an execution sites. People who had been convicted of crimes were thrown from the 25-meter cliff ledge down to the Forum below. This method of execution carried a stigma of shame and was considered a fate worse than death. It was reserved as punishment for crimes that were considered especially heinous like treason, murder, and perjury. Also larcenous…

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The days that vanished and the switch to the Gregorian Calendar

As all we known, Julius Caesar was a brilliant Roman general. Born of a patrician family, he rose through the political and military ranks of Republican Rome to become Consul in 59BC, establishing control of Rome by forming the so-called First Triumvirate with Pompey and Crassus. Appointed Governor of 4 legions he conquered Gaul greatly extending Rome’s empire. In 49BC Caesar, refusing to give up his command he crossed the Rubicon and ignited civil war. Appointed Dictator of Rome in 48BC he defeated his opponents before instigating a series of…

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Rosa Bathurst, the sleeping beauty of the Tiber river

We are in in the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome, Italy.Rosa Bathurst was found after six months and she looked like she was just asleep the whole time.Rosa was a beautiful 16 years old girl from a noble English family and in 1824 she was staying with her uncles in Rome. She was a charming and intelligent girl, full of life, always attending social events and apparently well known and admired by everyone.In the morning of March 16, 1824, Rosa and a small group of people went on a riding trip…

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Torre Argentina – the Roman Cat Sanctuary

As you probably know cats in Rome are very popular and they have always found shelter amongst the ancient city ruins. They are also protagonists of numerous postcards depicting them sitting on stumps of old Roman columns, cat napping on the foot of an emperor’s statue, or just lounging near the Colosseum. And, in addition, in Rome stray cats have an ancient temple-complex all to themselves. Known as Largo di Torre Argentina, this archaeological wonder was excavated as part of Mussolini’s rebuilding efforts in 1929, revealing four Republican victory-temples that…

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#April 21, 753 BC: according to tradition, Romulus and Remus found Rome

According to tradition, on April 21, 753 B.C., Romulus and his twin brother, Remus, found Rome on the site where they were suckled by a she-wolf as orphaned infants. Actually, this myth originated sometime in the fourth century B.C., and the exact date of Rome’s founding was symbolically set by the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro in the first century B.C. , but the legendary story of the ancient city is know still today all over the world. According to the legend, Romulus and Remus were the sons of Rhea…

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The “anomalous” burial of a child in a 5th century Umbrian cemetery

Lugnano in Teverina is a small village, located in the region of central Italy Umbria, surrounded by green hills that descend towards the valley of the Tiber river. At the beginning of the first century AD, on one of these hills, an unknown man, probably a wealthy Roman, built his villa (a complex of over 1800 square meters), which however was already in ruins around the third century. For some unknown reason, around the middle of the 15th century, when the western Roman empire was very close to its end,…

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Garum: the bizzarre sauce that tells the story of Ancient Rome.

Probably romans needed a recharge after a rousing chariot race, dining with at least one food seasoned with this popular fermented fish sauce known as garum. The original Roman Garum was not an appetizing condiment. Lets face it: to the average stomach of modern man, there can be few things more disgusting than the thought of a spatter of fermented fish guts over your roast, which is basically what garum was. Even for the entrails-loving Romans, the smell of garum during the process of fermentation was said to be so…

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Rome: Here lies the head of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine.

We are in Rome again, and even in the Italian capital there are some singular “oddities”. After the doll hospital, I talk you about a skull that resides in a glass reliquary in a small basilica, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, surrounded by flowers. Lettering painted across the forehead identify the owner as none other than of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine. However, knowing just exactly whose skull it is, of course, is complicated. First off, there was more than one Catholic saint known as Saint…

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Rome: the Doll Hospital where antique dolls are given new life.

We are in a cobblestone alley near the popular Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy. Here, a weather-striped window showcases porcelain heads, limbs, and bodies of dolls long lost and completely broken. Above the creepy repository of disrepaired faces pressed to the glass, small owl figurines perch menacingly. No. This isn’t Rome’s own little shop of horrors, but it is actually the Restauri Artistici Squatriti, known to Romans as “l’ospedale delle bambole,” which means “dolls’ hospital”. Here, Federico Squatriti and his mother Gelsomina, who is now over 80 years old,…

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Veii: Rome’s ancient Etruscan rival, now is a park full of ruins.

We are only 17 km northwest of the Eternal City where are the ruins of the rival that almost snuffed out early Roman civilization, long before Caesar or Augustus were born. The great Etruscan city-state of Veii, the big trading power on the Tiber River for centuries, now consists only of suggestive broken walls, grave-mounds, and rock-cut tombs painted with ancient frescoes. Veii stands on a volcanic plateau between two streams, at the junction of which stands the “arx” or Etruscan citadel, now call in italian language “Piazza d’Armi” (“military…

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All roads lead to Rome: a tangible reality or just an ancient expression?

All roads lead to Rome: the ancient expression used since the Roman Empire, never really fallen into disuse, is it a tangible reality or just a hypothesis without foundation? Moovel Lab’s Benedikt Groß wanted to find out, and enlisted the help of digital geography expert Raphael Reimman and interactive designer Philipp Schmitt. They gave an interactive response that is really surprising. At least for Europe it is obvious: all roads lead to Rome! You can reach the eternal city on almost 500,000 routes from all across the continent. The bolder…

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The migrants that led Roman Empire to collapse….

According to the major part of historians, It was the mismanagement of the migratory wave of Goths in the fourth century generated the hostilities at the base of the Battle of Adrianople, the beginning of the end for the Western Roman Empire. On August 9, 378 AD, in Adrianople, in Thrace, now the province of Edirne, in Turkey, one of the worst military defeats ever suffered by the Romans was recorded: the massacre of 30 thousand soldiers of the Empire. The Eastern Roman emperor Flavius Julius Valens Augustus, simply known…

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Aqua Virgo: the only still functioning Roman Aqueduct of the Roman Empire

Aqua Virgo dates back to 19 BC, it means “Virgin Water”, and is the last working aqueduct built during the Roman Empire. In the last 2 millennia, the aqueduct, commissioned by Agrippa, the right-hand man of Augusto, has never stopped bringing water to Roman citizens, and has contributed to the grandeur of the city. Even today it feeds three of the most admired and photographed artistic masterpieces of Rome: the Trevi Fountain, the Barcaccia of Piazza di Spagna and the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. During the…

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