The Who, What, When, Where and Why of the Ludi Plebeii Posted by Brittany Britanniae on Nov 13, 2013 in Latin Language, Roman culture
Oddly, most games were held in the famous Circus Maximus (meaning the greatest circus), but the Plebian Games were held in the Circus Flaminius. Flaminius was the last name of the plebian censor who built the circus in 220 B.C.E and who instituted the games that year.
The Ludi Plebeii were presented by the plebian Aediles. The plebian Aediles ( from the Latin aedes meaning building) were an office of the Roman Republic. They were responsible for maintaining public buildings and regulation of public festivals such as the Ludi Plebeii. A helpful site to understand the different levels of political office can be found here.
The importance of the Ludi Plebeii is because it represents one of the earliest national holidays of liberation. Similar to the United State’s Fourth of July or the French holiday Bastille Day, the Ludi Plebeii celebrated the plebeian’s political liberty. The Ludi Plebeii are thought to be the oldest public festival having been established roughly in 220 BCE. The great orator Cicero considered them Rome’s oldest Ludi. The liberation that is being celebrated often varies from the tyranny of the Tarquins (an Etruscan Roman family whose history can be read on here ) or the suppression and dominance of the patricians (who were the ruling class of Rome in the struggle known as the Conflict of the Orders). Some historians even conjecture that the festival was celebrated before 220 BCE, but due to the lack of a religious calendar it was not recorded.
WHAT DID THEY DO
The dates vary for the happenings of the festival; however, they seem to follow a certain pattern:
During the Ludi Plebeii, the first ceremonial rite was a feast to Jupiter (Zeus) known as Epulum Iovis was held on November 13th (some sources say the Ides of November which is the 15th). This feast entitled the Senator to eat on the Capitoline as the public’s expense while the Roman plebeians or commoners dined in the Forum. Following the feast were several days of performance and games ( theses days vary from 9 of performance and 4 of games to smaller denominations). On the day of the Games, a great Pompa, or procession, led by statues of the Capitoline Triad, would proceed to the Circus, where Gods and men joined to watch the races. The games usually ended on the 17th of November.