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Chapter 3
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Lupercalia

by Alberta Mildred Franklin

New York, 1921

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 5

p29 Chapter IV
The Wolf-Deity in Italy

The wolf-cults of Italy present the appearance of a religious survival from a remote time. Of an actual wolf‑god, we find far fewer manifestations than in Greece. Yet in the realm of magic, augury, and popular superstition, the wolf was more conspicuous and more highly venerated in Italy than was any other animal.1 Since an outgrown religion regularly lingers, often through many centuries, as a superstition or a magic practice, the widespread belief in the uncanny power of wolves indicates that at some time the wolf was important in Italian religion. The actual cults connected with the wolf are those of the obscure deity Soranus, of Mars, and of the little-known Lupercus or Luperca, who was named by some ancient scholars as the deity of the Lupercalia.2 In studying these wolf-cults, we shall seek to learn whether they originated among the Ligurians or the Aryans of Italy, and whether the ceremonial acts were similar to those performed in Greece in honor of the chthonic wolf, or akin to the rites of Olympian gods. That will give us a basis to interpret the ritual of the Lupercalia.

Near Rome, in the country of the Faliscans, was a wolf-cult that was associated with Soranus, the god of Mount Soracte. The ritual combined the features of a fire-cult and a wolf-cult. Every year the priests performed a rite in which they walked through blazing coals, and yet were not burned.3 Fire-cults were rare in the religion of either the Greeks or the Romans. This particular one seems the natural product of the location, for the land of the Faliscans was volcanic, with numerous chasms whence issued pestiferous fumes.4 In this region, consequently, fire was the prime manifestation of the earth-spirit. Hephaistus, too, the product of like forces, was a chthonic god, embodying the subterranean fire.5 The wolf-element of the cult appears in the name of the priests, Hirpi Sorani, hirpi being the Sabine name for wolves. It appears also in the following legend:6a At one time when the Hirpi were sacrificing, wolves suddenly appeared and snatched from the fire the entrails of the sacrifice. Shepherds pursued the wolves to a cave, from which were emitted such deadly fumes that those p30standing near were killed. A pestilence followed because the wolves had been molested. This could be allayed, the Hirpi learned from an oracle, if they would imitate the wolves. This imitation of the wolves Servius interpreted as rapto vivere.6b But aetiological myths like this one regularly try to explain the details of the ceremony. Thus the story indicates that the Hirpi, in imitation of wolves, put on wolf-skins as a ceremonial garb,7 devoured the entrails of the victim, and then took to flight with the people in pursuit. The rite shows, therefore, strong similarity to the Lycaea:8 in each festival the priests, perhaps clad in wolf-skins, partook ceremonially of the sacrificial victim, and then fled to escape pollution for their sacrilege; each band of priests underwent an expiatory experience, in the one case through exile, in the other through flight and through breathing the fumes from the cavern.

The spirit of Mount Soracte was, perhaps, wolf-shaped, and manifested himself in volcanic fire and pestilential vapors. His power expressed, not the beneficent, but the destructive, activity of the earth: he was a death‑god.9 His name, meaning "the god of Soracte," was derived from the mountain that he inhabited, and was in later times felt to be nothing more than a vague description. Some ancient scholars, therefore, identified him with Apollo,10 to whom also the wolf was sacred. Servius, understanding the true nature of Soranus, said that he was also called Dis, since Mount Soracte was consecrated to the Di Manes.11

The Hirpi Sorani were a very small group of families living about Mount Soracte.12a Such veneration attached to their sacred function that they were freed by decree of the senate from all military or other service.12b The view of some authorities, that the Hirpi were Sabines,13 seems to me most improbable. Mount Soracte was located in the land of the Faliscans; and the cult was obviously a product of the mountain, wolf-infested, and expressing the deadly power of the underworld by volcanic fire and by noxious exhalations. Such a cult surely could not have been imported. Nor is it reasonable to suppose that the Sabines, some of whom settled among the Faliscans,14 developed the cult after their arrival. The worship of Soranus has all the marks of hoar antiquity; it is intensely local, and appears in no other region of Italy. Contrasted with these reasons against supposing that Soranus was a Sabine god, we have on the positive side only the fact that hirpus was the p31Sabine name for wolf.15 No one states that Sabines were the worshippers.16 That a Sabine name should have become attached to the priests of Soranus is wholly natural. Just as the Sabines introduced many of their words into the Latin language, so the Sabine settlers near Falerii may well have given their own name to the priests of Soranus.

It is likewise improbable that the Hirpi Sorani were Faliscans. The statement that they were a very few families living in the land of the Faliscans12c certainly indicates that they were a separate group. Their meager numbers are strongly suggestive of an earlier people, who, in the fastness of their mountain, kept their individuality and their peculiar religion. Archaeology proves that the neighborhood of Falerii was occupied during the Neolithic Age.17 It also supports the assumption that these neolithic folk, or Ligurians, continued in their old home after the coming of the Aryans, for both cremation-urns and inhumation-graves have been found about Falerii; and they seem to be contemporaneous.18 Legends of Falerii tell that it was occupied successively by Siculi, by Argives, by Faliscans, who were closely related to the Romans, and by Sabines.19 Dionysius commented upon the traces of Pelasgian origin that persisted in Falerii in his own day.20

Therefore we may conclude that the god of Mount Soracte was a chthonic deity of the Mediterranean people. He was similar to Zeus Lycaeus, being embodied in a wolf, and being a merciless god of destruction.

Another wolf-cult of Falerii is of more immediate interest in our study of the Lupercalia, for the goddess, or priestess, of the cult was named Valeria Luperca. We hear of it through only lone writer, though it continued until a late date. At one time, the legend runs,21 a fearful pestilence fell upon the Faliscans. An oracle told them that the plague would be stayed if they should sacrifice every year a maiden to Juno. Accordingly a girl named Valeria Luperca was chosen as the victim. But when the sword was drawn, an eagle, swooping down, seized it and thrust it into a cow that was grazing near; then placed upon the altar a small hammer. This was taken up by the maiden, who went to each of the sick, touched him with it, and bade him be healed.

This story suggests the legend of Iphigenia, in its main situation of a maiden who, when about to be sacrificed, was saved by the p32substitution of an animal victim. Iphigenia is usually interpreted as a cult-title of Artemis, or as an early goddess who was later identified with Artemis.22 The story of her escape from death seems a recollection of the time when human sacrifice was abolished and an animal substituted. The same explanation is a natural one for the story of Valeria Luperca. Just as Iphigenia was later replaced by Artemis and reduced to a priestess, so Valeria Luperca was subordinated to Juno. Nowhere else do we hear of a human victim being offered to Juno; therefore we can hardly believe that she was the original deity honored in this ceremony. The goddess Luperca, however, whose name is most reasonably derived from lupa, a wolf,23 would, like the wolf-gods of Greece, very naturally have been honored by a human sacrifice. The rite evidently antedated the coming of the terramara folk, for the maiden was saved by an eagle, the bird of the Romans. The legend indicates, therefore, a barbarous rite that was ended by the northern immigrants.

The importance of the hammer in the legend leads us, as does the name of the priestess, to the Valerii, a gens who lived near the Faliscans, for they adopted Acisculus as a cognomen, and employed the emblem of the hammer on many of their coins.24 This sacred hammer reminds us of the weapon-cult which was prominent in the religion of Minoan Crete,25 thus strengthening the view that Valeria Luperca was a goddess of the Ligurians.

We may reconstruct the legend as follows. Luperca was a local goddess of the Ligurians living near Falerii. The Valerian gens took over her cult, but abolished the practice of human sacrifice. Henceforth the goddess was known as Valeria Luperca.26 In time this local deity was absorbed by Juno; and only an obscure legend and the sacred hammer which was the emblem of the Valerii showed that she had ever existed.

That the wolf was known throughout Italy as the sacred animal of Mars is a literary commonplace that needs no amplification here. Since the name of Mars, which comes from the Indo-European root mar‑, meaning brightness,27 appears in many of the Italic dialects, and since the worship of Mars was important in all the lands occupied by the Aryan invaders,28 Mars is generally accepted as the chief god whom the terramara folk brought with them into Italy.29 Yet there is much in the ancient cults and the character of Mars that is like the Mediterranean nature-spirits rather than p33the Aryan gods. The importance of Mars in lustral and agrarian rites, especially those of the spring, and his association with the ancient Dea Dia, leads Roscher, who has made the most exhaustive examination of the cults of Mars,30 to conclude that Mars was a god of spring and summer who was closely connected with the crops, the cattle, health, and sickness. Dr. Fowler, who accepts the conclusions of Roscher, says of the month that was named for Mars: "Some great numen is at work, quickening vegetation, and calling into life the powers of reproduction in man and the animals. . . . It was this Power, we can hardly doubt, that the Latins knew by the name of Mars, the god whose cult is so prominent throughout the critical period of the quickening processes."31 Such a god corresponds in all respects to the earth‑god of the Mediterranean race.

As a result, we must believe that the Mars of historical times was a composite deity, the Aryan god having absorbed much of the nature and the ritual of the Mediterranean deities who were already in possession of the land. This fusion is shown in the case of two local deities of Liguria, who are called respectively Cemenelus or Mars Cemenelus,32 and Mars Leucimalacus.33 In like manner it is reasonable to believe, though impossible to prove, that Mars absorbed a wolf-deity of the Ligurians, and that the wolf was in time reduced to his attendant animal. In association with Mars, the wolf lost much of his savage character, and became a helpful animal that guided colonists on their way,34 and rescued Romulus and Remus, the infant sons of Mars.35 Just so, when associated with Apollo, did Lycaeus grow gentle.

We come now to the main point of this investigation, the part of the wolf in the Lupercalia. Was there in the neighborhood of Rome before the arrival of the terramara invaders a Ligurian populace who might have been the authors of a wolf-cult? Archaeology, unfortunately, gives us only meager help in this problem. The hills of Rome have been densely populated for so long a time that it is very difficult to find any remains that unquestionably date back even to the regal period.36 We do know, however, that the immediate neighborhood was inhabited from remote times; for in the gravels of the Tiber and the Anio have been found flints belonging to the Palaeolithic Age.37 Even as close to Rome as the Mulvian Bridge was found a rich collection of very early stone implements, together with bones of extinct animals.38 But in the types of tombs p34found in Rome itself we have the clearest evidence. In the ancient cemeteries on the Esquiline and in the Forum, inhumation was the more common form of burial, and the skulls found in these graves were dominantly dolichocephalic.39

Many traditions tell that before the arrival of the Romans there were persons living upon the site of Rome.40 These settlers are known as Ligurians, Siculi, or Pelasgians; Dionysius designates them as autochthonous, and says that not a few traces of them continued there even in his time.41 Testifying to the truth of these traditions are various ancient shrines. On the lower slope of the Cermalus there was, close by the Lupercal, the sacred fig‑tree, an emblem of Rumina, goddess of fecundity;42 and, at the foot of the hill in the Velabrum, the shrine, or tomb, of Acca Larentia, which was the seat of an ancient grave-cult.43 On the Aventine were places sacred to Bona Dea, Faunus, Picus, and Evander; and, at the foot of the hill, the shrines of Murcia, Heracles, and Consus.44 Cacus was localized both on the Aventine and on the Palatine.45 On the Capitoline were the grave of Tarpeia,46 the altar to Saturnus,47 and, near the foot, the shrine to Carmenta.48 All these deities and their cults were distinctly chthonic. The gods presided over fertility, prophecy, or death, and all, according to the legends, antedated the founding of Rome.

From this evidence of archaeology, of legend, and of cult, we are justified in believing that when the Romans settled on the Palatine they found the Ligurians already established in the neighborhood, and that they adopted from these Ligurians many of the cults that were inseparably attached to places later included within the Roman city.49

One of the prominent natural objects of the Palatine was the Lupercal, a large cavern, with a spring issuing from it, with the sacred Ficus Ruminalis close by, and with dense woods all about.50 Since a site like that was, in the eyes of a primitive people, a particularly natural place for the abode of a deity, the probabilities are all in favor of a cult having been established at the Lupercal by the oldest settlers in the region.51 Moreover, the veneration shown to the Ficus Ruminalis is evidently, Dr. Evans believes, of Mediterranean origin, since the fig‑tree was devoutly worshipped throughout the lands near the Mediterranean, but was almost unknown in Central Europe.52

p35 Associated with this cave was the well-known tale of the wolf who was foster-mother to Romulus and Remus. It is significant that in the oldest versions of that tale the wolf was the all‑important actor. Dionysius tells how the wolf cared for the babes, and then, upon the arrival of the shepherds, retired to the Lupercal with such deliberation and dignity that the shepherds believed her to be under the guidance of some god.53 In this version the human beings had a secondary part in the preservation of the twins; Faustulus was not present at the rescue, and his wife was nameless and insignificant. Dionysius supports his tale with a long list of authorities: Fabius Pictor, Cincius Alimentus, Cato, Calpurnius Piso, and numerous others. This version, that the rescue was due to a real wolf, constantly appears in history and in epic.54

Since the wolf acted under Mars's direction for the rescue of his sons, she belongs with the wolves of Apollo who cared for his son.55 The Roman story, like the Greek one, suggests an animal‑god who was later replaced by a human one. We may believe, then, that the wolf of the Lupercal, originally honored as a deity, passed through the same development as did Lycaeus, and was reduced to the sacred animal of Mars. But the wolf could not be wholly banished from her ancient seat. Therefore, when story-tellers portrayed the origin of Rome, they accounted for the homage which the Romans gave to the wolf-deity by making her the foster-mother of Rome's founder.56

Later rationalists sought to remove the wolf from the story through the explanation that lupa, which was the common designation of a meretrix, was a term that had been applied to the wife of Faustulus.57 To provide her with a name, they identified her with Acca Larentia, an ancient goddess whose shrine was near the Lupercal.58 This identification was not necessarily an arbitrary assumption, based upon the proximity of two shrines. Acca Larentia was, as has been shown by Professor Pais, a form of the earth-deity, who was known to the Romans by a variety of names: Tellus, Terra, Ops, Maia, Bona Dea, Fauna, Fatua, Dea Dia, and Ceres.59 Thus she was closely akin to the chthonic wolf. Professor Pais even goes so far as to suggest that she was originally honored as a real wolf.60

Our next question is whether this wolf-deity, venerated throughout Italy, enshrined in the Lupercal, and prominent in Rome's p36early legends, was the god in whose honor the Lupercalia was celebrated. That festival was associated with various deities. Can any one of them be interpreted as the wolf‑god? In answer to this question, one naturally thinks of Lupercus, who was occasionally named as the god of the festival.61

The exact meaning of the name Lupercus has been since the days of Roman scholarship a matter of dispute. Servius suggests a variety of interpretations.62 The one most generally accepted by modern authorities is that Lupercus came from lupus+arceo, and so meant "he who keeps off the wolves;"63 that is, the Luperci were "the wolf-averters." To this idea the weighty objection has been raised that a wolf-averting festival was strangely localized at the lair of the beneficent wolf who rescued Rome's founder, and that it offered, moreover, no explanation of the abiding hold which the Lupercalia had upon the urban populace of Rome.64 Another explanation offered by Servius, and supported by Ovid,65 is that the Lupercal was named in honor of the wolf which rescued Romulus and Remus. In agreement with this view is the statement of Lactantius, that Lupa, the nurse of Romulus, was accorded divine honors.66 Varro, a more valuable authority, actually identified the wolf with the goddess Luperca.67 "The savage wolf," he says, "for her kindness to the babes, was named the goddess Luperca." It is noteworthy that Varro uses the feminine form of the name: that is added proof of its antiquity, for in many cases the female deity was the primitive one, but was later displaced by her male double. Varro's statement seems to controvert the view which has been advanced,68 that Lupercus was merely a late abstraction manufactured from the festival. We seem justified, therefore, in believing that there was a wolf-formed spirit of the Lupercal, who was known as Lupa, Luperca, or Lupercus.69

As a matter of fact, the two explanations of the name Lupercus which are offered by Servius seem to reflect two different stages in the history of the god. These two stages appear very clearly in the names of the wolf‑god of Greece. In Arcadia he was called Lycaeus, "the wolf-like"; in Argos, where he was identified with Apollo, the compound name was Apollo Lycaeus. But the wolf‑god was later explained as "he who destroys the wolves," therefore Apollo's appellation became Λυκοκτόνος, "the wolf-slayer."70 In like manner, the Delphian Apollo was called both Πύθιος71 p37and Πυθοκτόνος.72 Dr. Graillot explains this by saying that Apollo was first identified with the chthonic serpent, and later regarded as its slayer.73 Similarly, Artemis was called both Ἐλαφεία74 and Ἐλαφηβόλος.75 This is a development that constantly appears in ancient religion, for when a primitive animal-deity had faded into the mere epithet of an anthropomorphic god, scholars, at a loss to account for the significance of the animal in the cult, explained it, in case the animal was dangerous, by making the god its special foe or, if the animal was useful, its protector. As this explanation entirely disregarded the superstitious veneration that regularly attached to the animal, modern scholars usually rate it no more highly than most of the etymological concepts of the ancients.76 In like manner, the deity of the Lupercal was probably known in the earliest times as Lupa or Lupus. Later, when the animal‑god had lost prestige, the usual explanation was employed, that the god was a wolf-averter; and the name was altered to Luperca or Lupercus. This explanation obviates all the difficulties arising from the name: it is in harmony with the reverence shown to the wolf‑god and to his festival; it adopts an etymology that seems unassailable (lupus+arceo); and it is in accord with the development seen in many other cults, in which the homage first given to the animal‑god was later given to the deity who destroyed that animal.

The name of the god was then extended to his priests, and they were known as Luperci. Mediterranean worshippers often sought in this way to identify themselves with their deity.77 Thus the devotees of Bacchus called themselves Bacchae, and those of Sabazios or Sabos, Sabazioi or Saboi.78

If we grant the existence of the wolf-deity Luperca, it seems inevitable that the Lupercalia, which was celebrated at her cave, was held in her honor. But the Romans also associated the festival with Pan, Pan Lycaeus, Faunus, and Inuus. Justin gives us the clue to this variety of names. He states that there was at the foot of the Palatine a shrine to Lycaeus, whom the Greeks call Pan, the Romans Lupercus.79 In other words, Lupercus was regarded as merely the Roman double of Lycaeus. Naturally enough then, Lupercus was also identified with Pan Lycaeus, who had largely displaced Lycaeus in Arcadia.80 Consequently the god of the Lupercalia came to be spoken of most frequently as Pan Lycaeus, or, the wolf‑god being crowded out entirely, as simply Pan.81

p38 Ovid, who alone names Faunus as the god of the festival, shows clearly that he uses that name as the Roman equivalent of Pan. He begins by calling the Lupercalia the festival of Faunus; then, to explain its origin, says that because Pan was especially honored by the ancient Arcadians, his woodland rites were established in Rome by Evander.82 Thus Ovid, following the convention of his day, used the names Faunus and Pan interchangeably. But he then went one step further and identified Faunus and Pan Lycaeus, asking: "Who denies that the Luperci have their name from the mountain of Arcadia? In Arcadia the Lycaean Faunus has a temple."83 This is an easy extension for a poet to make: Faunus, being identical with Pan, is also identical with Pan Lycaeus, and, consequently, with Lycaeus, the god whom Pan had displaced. Thus Ovid really accepted the general view that Pan Lycaeus was god of the Lupercalia; but he translated Pan Lycaeus into a still more familiar name, Faunus.84

The explanation of Inuus as the patron deity of the Lupercalia is still easier to establish. Livy, the only one who associates Inuus with that festival, says that the rite was celebrated in honor of Pan Lycaeus, whom the Romans later called Inuus.85

Probus sums up the whole thing by stating that certain persons regard Pan, Inuus, and Faunus as the same.86 When, therefore, the Romans spoke of the deity of the Lupercalia as Lupercus, Lycaean Pan, Pan, Faunus, or Inuus, they were merely applying one or another name to the same god, Lupercus, the Ligurian brother of the Pelasgian Lycaeus.

The cult of Lupercus was wholly different from the usual religious ceremonies of the Romans. It was in type Pelasgian, and Ovid named it Pelasgian.87 Because of the non‑Roman character of the ritual and the similarity of Lupercus to Lycaeus, the majority of the legends about the Lupercalia said that it was founded by the Arcadian exile Evander.88 The ancients frequently derived the Ligurian populace in various parts of Italy from the Pelasgians, often naming Arcadia as the original home of these settlers,89 since in historical times Arcadia was the most markedly Pelasgian of any country of Greece.90 The general belief of the oldest writers that the Lupercalia existed before Rome was founded,91 shows that they recognized it as the cult of a pre‑Roman people. Consequently the germ of truth to be extracted from the legend of the Arcadian p39origin of the Lupercalia is that it was a festival established by Ligurians who lived about the site of Rome before the appearance of the Aryans. It had so strong a hold upon the religious imagination, and was so inseparably connected with the Lupercal, that it was taken over by the conquerors. The founders of the festival, however, were so completely absorbed by the terramara folk that, when ancient scholars began to speculate about this rite which had all the ear‑marks of a Mediterranean cult, they must go outside the bounds of Italy to find its origin.

That the Lupercalia was a festival of the Ligurian race is borne out by the legends of the priests who performed it, the Fabii and the Quintilii.92 The latter are, in all the accounts, associated with Romulus, and so may be accepted as belonging to the Romans.93 According to most legends, the Fabii sprang from a daughter of Evander and Hercules.94 On their mother's side, then, the Fabii were Ligurians. Their father was a non‑Roman hero, who arrived at the Palatine before the Romans themselves. Hercules was originally not a god, but a hero of the Pelasgians, born at Tiryns, and strongly localized in Argolis and in Arcadia.95 His title Ἀλεξίκακος96 expressed his power to protect man from evil of every form.97 This power of universal protection, which is so marked in chthonic deities, is regarded by Dr. Gruppe as the oldest stratum of the Hercules cult, and as the origin of the legends of his twelve labors.98 Later Hercules was appropriated by the Dorians and included among their Olympian deities.99 But the Hercules to whom Evander dedicated the Ara Maxima,100 and who became the father of the Fabii, seems to have been the Pelasgian hero. He was called Tirynthius heros,101 and was attended by Argives.102 Thus the Fabii were in their parentage pre‑Rome and Pelasgian.

The ceremonial acts of the Lupercalia were so numerous and so incoherent that it seems hardly credible that they represent the original form of the festival. They offer, indeed, every appearance of a cult-complex, in which there has been a gradual accretion of ceremonies. In seeking to reconstruct the earliest stage of the Lupercalia, we note that none of the accounts which make the festival antedate the founding of Rome mention the cutting of the goat-skins into thongs, nor the blows dealt by the Luperci to the women. Ovid assigned this ritual act to a later period, and we shall find reason to believe that he was right.103 Likewise the p40sacrifice of the dog and the blood-ritual, which were mentioned by Plutarch only, reasonably seem to have been a later development.104

Of the ceremonial which was ascribed to pre‑Romans, we have a fairly coherent picture, though authorities vary slightly about the details. At the entrance to the cave, where in later times stood the statue of the she‑wolf,105 a sacrifice was offered. In the earliest days this was presumably a female goat; later, probably when Luperca had been merged into Lupercus, a male goat seems to have been added.106 After the sacrifice a ritualistic race was performed by the Luperci, who in the earliest times were evidently wholly naked.107 Most writers place the sacrificial feast after the return of the Luperci from their race,108 but Ovid, in his lengthy account, says that the Luperci had a slight repast — exigua dapes — before the race, and a feast after it.109 The natural interpretation is that, immediately after the sacrifice, the Luperci tasted ceremonially of the entrails, as the priest of Lycaeus did after he had sacrificed.110 Such a rite explains Ovid's words, exigua dapes. Then, at the close of the race, came the feast upon the flesh of the victim.

The descriptions of the Lupercalia assign a different rôle to the Fabii and to the Quintilii. The two groups of priests evidently did not run together, as the word discursus or an equivalent is regularly used to describe their course.111 Tubero says that the band of Remus (i.e. the Fabii)112 ran first; and, when they were opposite the Aventine, were attacked by shepherds of Numitor, who threw at them stones, spears, and anything they could lay hands on, and finally captured them; the followers of Romulus did not share in these experiences.113 They were also evidently debarred from the sacrificial feast, for Ovid tells that in the race they were outstripped by the Fabii, and, upon their arrival at the feast, found the sacrifice entirely consumed, only the bones remaining.114 It is significant that on that occasion Romulus did not show his usual self-assertion; he merely laughed and regretted that his followers had been outdone by the Fabii. A similar tale is told about the Potitii and the Pinarii, the priests of Hercules: the former arrived first and ate the exta of the victim, but the Pinarii reached there only in time to share in the rest of the feast. For this reason the custom continued that the Pinarii should not p41eat of the entrails.115 A similar distinction between the Quintilii and the Fabii seems the natural basis of Ovid's story. We may, then, believe that, when the Roman priests were admitted to the Ligurian festival, they were debarred from the most significant rites, the flight and the feast. Propertius seems to regard the Fabii as the all‑important members of the priesthood, for, in speaking of the Luperci, he mentions the Fabii only.116

The fact that the Luperci are invariably spoken of as running on their course shows that their speed was an essential feature of the ceremony. This seems to have been overlooked in previous explanations of the festival. Furthermore, they were said to have run naked in order to gain swiftness.117 The nakedness may, in itself, have been of ritualistic significance;118 yet, certainly, when the Luperci, immediately after the sacrifice and the tasting of the entrails, cast aside their garments and ran forth at top speed, we have every indication of a ritualistic flight. The legends give no evidence that the original race was around the Palatine, as it was in later times.119 The tale of the pursuit of the cattle-thieves suggests a course away from the village, rather than around it. Plutarch describes this chase by the word ἐκδραμεῖν, while he uses περιτρέχειν of the course run by the Luperci in his own day.120 Yet the Luperci, in returning to the cave for the feast, may well have encircled the hill instead of going back by the same route. In that act, however, we do not see the ceremonial significance which attached in later times to the encircling of the Palatine, when the Luperci by their goat-skin thongs assured productivity to the women of Rome.

A ritualistic flight, we have seen, was a frequent and significant feature of expiatory rites. The details of the Lupercalia correspond to the other ceremonies of that type which have already been examined.121 As they fled, the Luperci were pelted with missiles, just as were the priests who sacrificed the calf at Tenedos.122 The Lupercalia culminated in a feast which is paralleled by the one served to the boys in the Stepteria when they were returning from their exile.123 An expiatory sacrifice is the most frequent type in the worship of a god who is embodied in a dangerous animal like the wolf.124 Therefore we may explain the Lupercalia in its earliest form as follows. The Luperci endeavored to avert from the people the deity's malignant power by offering it sacrifice. They sought p42to share in the mysterious potency of the sacrificial animal by eating of its entrails. Yet they felt that act of slaying an animal consecrated to the god was a sacrilege; therefore they fled, as from a crime, and expiated their guilt by being stoned. Having been thus purified, they returned to the Lupercal, and ate in sacramental fashion the flesh of the sacrifice. The mystic significance of the stoning and the sacramental nature of the meal is shown by the refusal of the Fabii to share those rites with the Quintilii.

Such a ceremony was naturally regarded by ancient scholars as a Roman double of the Lycaea. In each festival the sacrifice was expiatory, being offered to appease a wolf‑god. The priests incurred guilt by slaying the victim, and fled. After a purificatory experience they returned. In details the ritualistic acts of the two festivals were different, but the underlying meaning was the same.

This likeness between the festivals has caused some authorities to go still further, and to hold that the original sacrifice at the Lupercalia was a human being.125 If that were so, it is very strange that there are no legends, as about the Lycaea, reminiscent of a loathsome rite. The story of human sacrifice that was connected with the cult of Valeria Luperca makes more noticeable the fact that, among the numerous legends of the Lupercalia, not one has the least suggestion that a human being was once the victim. Yet that is a thing that makes a deep impression, and is more liable than any other ritual act to produce a tale. Also, the rites of the Lupercalia fail to suggest an earlier slaughter of a man. If, for example, a man's blood is sprinkled upon the altar,126 the symbolism is clear: the deity, being deprived of his accustomed sacrifice, receives in substitution a few drops of blood. Also, if the sword were placed at the throat of the young men, it would be emblematic of their death. Such a rite was performed at Halae in memory of an earlier human sacrifice, the priest going so far in his realism as to draw blood from the man's throat.127 But the placing of the sword against the foreheads of the youths is certainly not a natural pantomime of sacrificial slaughter. The ritual of the Lupercalia involved also the wiping away of the labor by wool dipped in milk. That act, which is difficult to explain on the theory of human sacrifice, is, as we shall see,128 an essential part of the blood-ceremony as explained upon another basis.

p43 The parallelism between Lupercus and Lycaeus suggests another possible victim that was appropriate for a wolf‑god, that is, a wolf.129 But, if wild animals were ever sacrificed in Italy, not a vestige of such a rite has come down to us. Hence it is unsafe to assume that at some remote time a wolf was the sacrificial victim of the Lupercalia.

In the examination of the goat-cults of Greece,130 we shall see that a human or a wild animal victim was often replaced in later times by a goat. It is possible that such a substitution took place in the Lupercalia in the very early days, though the lack of evidence makes it safer to accept the goat as the original sacrifice. Dr. Farnell shows that the theory of sacramental union with a deity through sacrifice does not demand the belief that the deity was incarnate in the sacrificial animal.131 He notes that in the Thesmophoria pigs were cast into a chasm, and devoured by snakes that seem to have been the embodiment of the earth-deity. In the same way a goat may well have been sacrificed to the chthonic wolf. Various instances of goat-sacrifice show that, even when the goat had not the character of an animal‑god, it was a sacrificial victim that possessed a special sanctity.132

When the ancients called the Lupercalia a Pelasgian rite, and made Lupercus a double of Lycaeus, they were telling the truth. Those gods were the Greek and Roman expression respectively of the same power. Both were evolved by huntsmen or by primitive shepherds, who shaped their deity in the form in which superhuman might was most clearly manifested to them. As in Asia Minor this power was incorporate in the lion, and in Crete in the bull, so in Arcadia and in Italy the wolf, which was the animal most numerous and most dreaded, was accepted as the embodiment of the god. He was a pitiless creature, whose baleful power both Pelasgians and Ligurians sought to avert by rites of expiation.


The Author's Notes:

1 Keller, Thiere des klassischen Alterthums, I.159, 163; Preller, Römische Mythologie, I.116; Reinach, Orpheus, 97.

2 See p36.

3 Verg., Aen., 11.785; Plin., N. H., 7.19. Strabo alone (5.2.9 p226)º ascribes this rite to Feronia, who had her shrine at the foot of Mount Soracte.

4 Deecke, Die Falisker, 4, 53; Preller, I.268.

p44 5 Farnell, V.375‑6, 388‑90; Rhys, 638.

6a 6b Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 11.785.

7 This is the suggestion of Dr. Jordan (Kritische Beiträge, 163).

8 Dr. Mannhardt (Wald- und Feldkulte, II.342) notes this similarity, though he believes that the festivals celebrated the summer solstice.

9 Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Römer, 238; Reinach, Cultes, I.296; Deecke, 92‑4.

10 Verg., Aen., 11.785; Plin., 7.19; Solin., 2.26.

11 Ad Verg., Aen., 11.785. Hades, who was very similar to Dis (Cook, Zeus, 99), at times wore a wolf-skin helmet. (See p58 n. 53.)

12a 12b 12c Plin., 7.19; Solin., 2.26.

13 Müller, Die Etrusker, II.68; Deecke, 94‑5; Keller, Thiere Kl. Alt., I.172; Mannhardt, W. F. K., 327.

14 Modestov, 229.

15 Paul. ex Fest., 106.

16 The Hirpi Sorani should not be confused with the Sabellian tribe, the Hirpini, who journeyed to Southern Samnium under the guidance of a wolf (Strab., 5.4.12).º

17 Modestov, 31.

18 Montelius, La civilisation primitive en Italie, II, Pl. 307‑331; Deecke, 34.

19 Dionys., I.21; Strab., 5.2.9.º

20 Dionys., I.21. See also E. H. Bunbury, in Smith, Dict. Geogr., I.891.

21 Pseud. Plut. Parallel., 35.

22 Farnell, II.441; Stoll, in Roscher, II.304.

23 See pp36‑7.

24 Babelon, Monnaies de la république romaine, II.515‑21.

25 See p6.

26 The double name Valeria Luperca cannot have been the ancient form, therefore the adjective Valeria must be a later addition (Mommsen, Römische Forschungen, I.5).

27 Roscher, II.2437.

28 Roscher, II.2385‑95.

29 Wissowa, R. K., 141; Mommsen, The History of Rome, I.175; Preller, I.115, 333.

30 Lex. II, art. Mars. See especially 2399‑2415.

31 R. F., 34‑5. In harmony with this view are Roscher, II.2429‑34; Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, I.228‑315; De Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, I.268‑9; Preller, I.332‑46; Frazer, IX.229‑34; Piganiol, 115.

32 CIL II.7871.

33 CIL II.7862. For these two Ligurian deities, see also Conway, Ligurian Religion, in Hastings, Ency. Rel., VIII.69.

34 Paul. ex Fest., 106.

35 Liv., I.5.

36 Modestov, 24.

37 Peet, 32. See also Osborn, Men of the Old Stone Age, 434.

38 Modestov, 2, 3.

p45 39 Modestov, 252‑5.

40 Var., L. L., 5.42, 53, 101; Verg., Aen., 8.51‑697; Liv., 1.7.8; Dionys., I.9, 22, 3940; 2.1; Fest., 321; Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 1.273; 3.500; 7.795; 8.51; 11.317; Solin., 1.13; Macr., 1.7.30 , 11.48.

41 Dionys., 2.1.1, 2.

42 Var., R. R., 2.11.5.

43 Lippert, II.549.

44 For a survey of the ancient cults of the Aventine and of the valley at its foot, see Merlin, L'Aventin dans l'antiquité, 45‑52.

45 Verg., Aen., 8.230; Ov. Fast., 1.551; 6.82; Liv., 1.7.

46 Liv., 1.11; Dionys., 2.3840.

47 Macr., 1.8.2.

48 Dionys., 1.32; Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 8.337; Solin., 1.13.

49 Modestov, 252; Gilbert, Geschichte und Topographie der Stadt Rom im Altertum, I.67.

50 Dionys., 1.32.4, 5; 1.79.8.

51 Smith, Semites, 151; Jevons, An Introduction to the History of Religion, 237. Gilbert (I.53‑7) notes the evidences of an ancient cult-center on the Cermalus. Lippert (II.564) ascribes the cult at the Lupercal to the pre‑Roman inhabitants of the Palatine.

52 J. H. S., XXI, 129.

53 Dionys., 1.79.

54 Verg., Aen., 8.630; Liv., 1.5; Plut., Rom., 2.4; id. de Fort. Rom., 8DE; id. Q. R., 21; Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 8.343; Just., 43.2.7; Arnob., adv. Gent., 4.3.

55 See p25.

56 Dr. Pais, in an elaborate study, advances the view that the wolf in Italy was the animal incarnation of the earth-spirit (Ancient Legends of Roman History, 60‑95). See also Reinach, Cultes, I.295.

57 Liv., 1.4.7.

58 Plut., Rom., 5.4.

59 Anc. Leg., 46‑95. This interpretation of Acca Larentia is supported by many authorities: Preller, I.398‑400, II.26; Lippert, II.547; Fowler, R. F., 74.

60 Anc. Leg., 84.

61 Just., 43.1.7.

62 Ad Verg., Aen., 8.343.

63 This etymology is favored by Walde (447), by Marquardt (Römische Staatsverwaltung, III.439 n. 4), by Deubner (Arch. f. Rel. vol. XIII, 484), and by Lippert (II.564). The suggestion of Unger (Die Lupercalien, in Rhein. Mus., vol. XXXVI.64) that Lupercus comes from lues and parco has won no acceptance (Marquardt, III.438 n. 10; Gilbert, I.145 n. 2; Preller, I.380 n. 4).

64 For this reason Schwegler suggests the etymology lupushircus, wolf-goats, saying (I.361) that the two bands of the Luperci represent respectively the animal daemons, the wolf and the goat. This etymology is accepted unreservedly by Mannhardt (Mythologische Forschungen, 90), and tentatively by Hild (Daremberg-Saglio, III.1399).

65 Fast., 2.421.

p46 66 Lact., Inst., 1.20.1.

67 Ap. Arnob., 4.3.

68 Fowler, R. F., 312.

69 Jordan (Krit. Beitr., 164‑5) believes that Luperca was merely an expanded form of lupa, being developed from it on the analogy of noverca, and thus meaning nothing more than wolf. This view is supported by Otto (in Pauly -Wissowa, VI.2055), by Preller (I.380 n. 4), by Gilbert (I.145 n. 2), and by Mommsen (H. R., I.156). Walde, however (447), does not consider it probable, in view of the form of the word.

70 Hesych., Λυκοκτόνος.

71 Hom. Hym. in Apol., 373.

72 Hym. orph., 33.4.

73 Cybèle, 7.

74 Strab., 8.343.º

75 Etymol. Mag., Ἐλαφηβολίων.

76 Reinach, Cultes, I.58; Aust, Die Religion der Römer, 4; Fowler, R. E., 163.

77 Dr. Cook (Zeus 441‑4) cites a number of instances in which the worshippers took the name of an animal‑god.

78 Eur., Bac., 83; Phot., Lex., s.v.

79 Just., 43.1.7.

80 See p24.

81 Pan or Pan Lycaeus is named the god of the Lupercalia in the following passages: Verg., Aen., 8.344; Dionys., 1.32.3; Plut., Q. R., 68; Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 8.343, 663; Charis., Gram. Lat., I.550.10; Anton., Gram. Lat., V.500.35.

82 Fast., 2.267‑79.

83 Fast., 2.423.

84 The other reasons which have led persons to regard Faunus as the god of the Lupercalia are considered on pp54‑7.

85 Liv., 1.5.2.

86 Ad Verg., Georg., 1.10. See also Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 6.775, and Cledon., Gram. Lat., V.35.

87 Fast., 2.281.

88 Dionys., 1.80; Ov. Fast., 2.279; Liv., 1.5.1, 2; Plut., Rom., 21; id. Caes., 61; Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 8.343. See also Nilsson, 444 n. 2.

89 Dionys., 1.11, 1322; 2.1; Pherec. fr. 85; Strab., 6.3.8.

90 See p10.

91 Evander was regarded as the founder of the Lupercalia by Fabius Pictor, Cincius Alimentus, Cato, and Calpurnius Piso (Dionys., 1.79). See also Liv., 1.5; Verg., Aen., 8.344. Acilius Glabrio followed the common Roman fashion of making Romulus the founder of Roman institutions: before Rome was established, he says (ap. Plut., Rom., 21), Romulus, having had his cattle stolen, sacrificed a goat and pursued the thieves; the Lupercalia commemorates that race. Variants of this account tell that Romulus and Remus, after they had conquered Amulius (Plut., Rom., 21), or after Numitor had given them permission to found a new city (Val. Max., 2.2.9), ran in joy to the place where they had been reared. All these accounts harmonize with those that ascribe the festival to Evander, in the p47vital point that the Lupercalia was established before the city of Rome was founded.

92 Paul. ex Fest., 87. The Julian Luperci, who were not added until Caesar's day (Dio Cass., 44.6), need not concern us here.

93 Ov., Fast., 2.378; Aurel. Vict., Or. Gent. Rom., 22.

94 Plut., Fab. Max., 1; Sil. It., 2.3; 6.634; Paul. ex Fest., 87.

Thayer's Note: "the Fabii sprang from a daughter of Evander and Hercules" is not some kinkier-than-usual Greek thing, just a piece of poor writing on the part of our author, who should have written "the Fabii sprang from Hercules and a daughter of Evander".

95 Friedländer, Herakles, 163, et passim.

96 Var., L. L., 6.82.

97 Dürbach, in Daremberg-Saglio, III.80; Friedländer, 163‑4.

98 Gruppe, 453‑60.

99 Friedländer, 139.

100 Liv., 1.5.

101 Sil. Ital., 2.3.

102 Var., L. L., 5.45.

103 See pp61‑3.

104 For the discussion of these elements, see chapters VIIIIX.

105 Var., L. L., 5.85.

106 Ovid (Fast., 2.361) names a capella as the victim. Plutarch (Rom., 21) and Valerius Maximus (2.2.9) say that goats were slain. Servius alone (ad Verg., Aen., 8.343) names a male goat as the only victim.

107 Tubero alone speaks of them as wearing girdles cut from the skins of the goats (Dionys., I.80). These girdles seem to belong naturally with the goat‑skin thongs which the Luperci carried at a later time. All the legends explain the nakedness of Romulus and Remus as due to their haste in running. It is unreasonable to imagine them, when in such haste, stopping to cut girdles. Dr. Deubner believes that the Luperci were in earliest times wholly naked, though he bases his conclusion on different grounds (Arch. f. Rel., vol. XIII, 491‑2).

108 Valerius Maximus alone (2.2.9) places the feast before the race.

109 Fast., 2.361371.

110 See p22.

111 Ov., Fast., 2.371; Val. Max., 2.2.9; Prudent., contra Sym., 2.862; Aurel. Vict., Or. Gent. Rom., 22.

112 In the legends, the Fabii are regularly made the followers of Remus.

113 Dionys., 1.80.

114 Ov., Fast., 2.373‑8.

115 Liv., 1.7.13.

116 Prop., 4.1.26.

117 Plut., Rom., 21; Serv. ad Verg., Aen., 8.343.

118 Dr. Deubner cites instances of ceremonial nakedness (Arch. Rel., vol. XIII, 491).

119 Var., L. L., 6.34.

120 Plut., Rom., 21.

121 See p23.

122 See p23.

123 See p23.

124 Toutain, in Daremberg-Saglio, IV.956.

p48 125 Schwegler, I.363. Others are cited by Marquardt, III.443, notes 11‑3.

126 Theophrastus (ap. Porphyr., de Abst., 2.27) notes an instance of this sort.

127 Eur., Iph. Taur., 1458.

128 See pp84‑7.

129 See p24.

130 See chap. V.

131 Farnell, III.90; id. Sacrificial Communion, in Hibbert Jour., vol. III, 319‑21.

132 See p51.


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