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p541 Floralia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp541‑542 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

FLORA′LIA, or Florales Ludi, a festival which was celebrated at Rome in honour of Flora or Chloris. It was solemnized during five days, beginning on the 28th of April and ending on the 2d of May (Ovid. Fast. V.185; Plin. H. N. XVIII.69). It was said to have been instituted at Rome in 238 B.C., at the command of an oracle in the Sibylline books, for the purpose of obtaining from the goddess the protection of the blossoms (ut omnia bene deflorescerent, Plin. l.c.; cf. Vell. Pat. I.14; Varro, De Re Rust. I.1). Some time after its institution at Rome its celebration was discontinued; but in the consulship of L. Postumius Albinus and M. Popilius Laenas (173 B.C.), it was restored, at the command of the senate, by the aedile C. Servilius (Eckhel, De Num. Vet. V. p308; cf. Ovid, Fast. V.329, &c.), as the blossoms in that year had severely suffered from winds, hail, and rain. The celebration was, as usual, conducted by the aediles (Cic. in Verr. V.14; Val. Max. II.10 sec8; Eckhel, l.c.), and was carried on with excessive merriment, drinking, and lascivious games. (Mart. I.3; p542Senec. Epist. 96). From Valerius Maximus we learn that theatrical and mimic representations formed a principal part of the various amusements, and that it was customary for the assembled people on this occasion to demand the female actors to appear naked on the stage, and to amuse the multitude with their indecent gestures and dances. This indecency is probably the only ground on which the absurd story of its origin, related by Lactantius (Institut. I.20), is founded. Similar festivals, chiefly in spring and autumn, are in southern countries seasons for rejoicing, and, as it were, called forth by the season of the year itself, without any distinct connection with any particular divinity; they are to this day very popular in Italy (Voss. ad Virg. Georg. II.385), and in ancient times we find them celebrated from the southern to the northern extremity of Italy (see Anthesphoria, and Justin. XLIII.4). The Floralia were originally festivals of the country people, which were afterwards, in Italy as in Greece, introduced into the towns, where they naturally assumed a more dissolute and licentious character, while the country people continued to celebrate them in their old and merry but innocent manner. And it is highly probable that such festivals did not become connected with the worship of any particular deity until a comparatively late period (Buttmann, Mytholog. II. p54). This would account for the late introduction of the Floralia at Rome, as well as for the manner in which we find them celebrated there (see Spanheim, De Praest. et Usu Numism. II. p145, &c.).


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