Latin Language Blog

Ancient Roman Festivals in June Posted by on Jun 5, 2009 in Latin Language

The ancient Romans celebrated four major festivals in June.

On June third, the ancient Romans dedicated this day to the goddess Bellona. Bellona derives from the Latin word for war, which is bellum (war). Bellona is the goddess of war. She is the original deity of war, before Mars became the god of war. Somewhere down the line the Romans adopted the Greek god of war and Mars became the god of war; but originally the deity of war was Bellona. Even after Mars became the god of war, Bellona didn’t fade in the background just yet. In fact, the Templum Bellonae (Temple of Bellona) is named after her. The Templum Bellonae was where the members of the Senate held meetings related to war.

The next festival was called Vestalia, observed from the seventh to the fifteenth of June. The festival Vestalia was held in honor of the Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. During the festival, women sacrificed an unborn calf. The temple of Vesta was guarded by the Vestales or the Vestal Virgins.¬†The Vestal Virgins served as Vesta’s priestesses. They had to swear thirty years of chastity and keep the fires burning in the temple. If the Vestal Virgins were to fail to do either, they were buried alive or publicly flogged as punishment. The fires of Vesta were considered sacred. If the fire died out, it was considered a bad omen for the city of Rome.

The festival Quinquatrus Minusculae was held the thirteenth of June to honor the goddess Minerva. This festival was also called Quinquatrus Minores. There’s a quirky tradition involving tibicines or fluteplayers. The¬†fluteplayers are marched around the city to the temple of Minerva. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom. She is depicted as an owl in ancient Roman paintings. She is also the goddess of the arts. Flute players were her patrons. The main temple of Minerva was on Capitoline Hill. In some places, Minerva takes a war-like character. Sometimes weapons and other arms are sacrificed.

On the twentienth of June a festival was held in honor of Summanus. The name derives from Summus Manium, which means “the greatest of the Manes.” The Manes derives from an old Latin verb “manus” which means good. Summanus was the god of thunder during the nighttime, while Jupiter was the god of thunder in the daytime. Summanus’s temple lies in the Circus Maximus, which is a place where mass entertainment is provided. Patrons usually offered cakes as an offering. The Manes also refer to deceased souls and offerings of blood were offered to the Manes. Hence, the gladiatorial games at the Circus Maximus provided the necessary blood (a.k.a human sacrifice) sufficient for the sacrifices.

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