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Bill Thayer

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p321 Lupercala

Article on p321 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.


Lupercal: the cave or grotto at the foot of the Palatine, in which the she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus; from it issued a spring (Dionys. I.32, 79; Serv. Aen. VIII.90, 343; Vell. I.15; Ov. Fasti II.380 ff.; Cic. ad fam. VII.20). This cave, with the Ficus Ruminalis (q.v.), was undoubtedly at the south-west corner of the hill, very near the point where the clivus Victoriae joins the vicus Tuscus. It seems to have been a sanctuary of some sort, and at least it had a monumental entrance, for its restoration by Augustus is recorded (Mon. Anc. IV.2), as well as the erection of a statue to Drusus by decree of the senate (CIL VI.912b = 31200; WR 561), and it is mentioned as existing in the late empire (Clem. Alex. Strom. I.21.108.3; Not. Reg. X). It gave its name to the Luperci and the Lupercalia (Liv. I.5; Ov. Fast. II.421); for the latter, see A. M. Franklin, The Lupercalia, New York 1921; cf. also DuP 76).


Thayer's Note:

a Despite diligent searches over the centuries, the Lupercal has never been found; it doesn't help that we don't have much of an idea what we're looking for. On November 20, 2007, the announcement was made and reported in the Italian press that between 2005 and July 2007 photographs had been taken of a cave, some 16 meters below ground level near the House of Augustus on the Palatine, embellished in imperial times with a shell-and‑mosaic vault among others, that might be identified as the Lupercal. I can't say I'm convinced, and apparently I'm not the only one.


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Page updated: 17 Mar 08