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Articles by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp714‑717 of

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

 p714  LUDI is the common name for the whole variety of theatrical exhibitions, games and contests, which were held at Rome on various occasions, but chiefly at the festival of the gods; and as the ludi at certain festivals formed the principal part of the solemnities, these festivals themselves are called ludi. Sometimes, however, ludi were also held in honour of a magistrate or of a deceased person, and in this case the games may be considered as ludi privati, though all the people might take part in them.

All ludi were divided by the Romans into two classes, viz. ludi circenses and ludi scaenici (Cic. de Leg. II.15), accordingly as they were held in the circus or in the theatre; in the latter case they were mostly theatrical representations with their various modifications; in the former they consisted of all or of a part of the games enumerated in the articles Circus and Gladiatores. Another division of the ludi into stati, imperativi, and votivi, was made only with regard to religious festivals, and is analogous to the division of the feriae. [Feriae.]

The superintendence of the games and the solemnities connected with them was in most cases intrusted to the aediles. [Aediles.] If the lawful rites were not observed in the celebration of the ludi, it depended upon the decision of the pontiffs whether they were to be held again (instaurari) or not. An alphabetical list of the principal ludi is subjoined.

(p715) LUDI APOLLINA′RES: see separate page.

LUDI AUGUSTA′LES. [Augustales.]

LUDI CAPITOLI′NI: see separate page.

LUDI CIRCENSES ROMA′NI or MAGNI, were celebrated every year during several days, from the fourth to the twelfth of September, in honour of the three great divinities, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva (Cic. c. Verr. V.14), or according to others, in honour of Jupiter. They were superintended by the curule aediles. For further particulars see Circus, p286, &c.


LUDI FLORA′LES. [Floralia.]

(p716) LUDI FUNEBRES: see separate page.

LUDI HONORA′RII: see separate page.

LUDI JUVENA′LES. [Juvenalia.]

LUDI LIBERA′LES. [Bacchanalia.]

LUDI MARTIA′LES were celebrated every year on the first of August, in the Circus, and in honour of Mars, because the temple of Mars had been dedicated on this day (Dion Cass. LX.5; Sueton. Claud. 4). The ancient calendaria mention also other ludi martiales which were held in the Circus on the 12th of May.


LUDI NATALI′TII are the games with which the birth-day of an emperor was generally celebrated. They were held in the Circus, whence they are sometimes called circenses (Capitol. Antonin. Pius, 5; Spartian., Hadrian, 7). They consisted generally of fights of gladiators and wild beasts. On one occasion of this kind Hadrian exhibited gladiatorial combats for six days, and one thousand wild beasts.

Thayer's Note: For a bit more information, including further sources, see the Loeb edition footnote to Hadr. 9.2.

LUDI PALATI′NI were instituted by Livia in honour of Augustus, and were held on the Palatine (Dion Cass. LVI sub fin.). According to Dion Cassius they were celebrated during three days, but according to Josephus (Antiq. Jud. XIX.1) they lasted eight days, and commenced on the 27th of December (see Suet. Calig. 56, with Scaliger's note).

LUDI PISCATO′RII were held every year on the sixth of June, in the plain on the right bank of the Tiber, and were conducted by the praetor urbanus on behalf of the fishermen of the Tiber, who made the day a holiday (Ovid. Fast. VI.235, &c.; Festus, s.v. Piscat. ludi).

LUDI PLEBE′II were, according to the Pseudo-Asconius (ad Verr. I p143, Orelli), the games which had been instituted in commemoration of the freedom of the plebeians after the banishment of the kings, or after the secession of the plebes to the Aventine. The first of these accounts is not borne out by the history of the plebeian order, and it is more probable that these games were instituted in commemoration of the reconciliation between the patricians and plebeians after the first secession to the mons sacer, or, according to others, to the Aventine. They were held on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of November, and were conducted by the plebeian aediles (Liv. XXXVIII.10, XXXIX.7). It is sufficiently clear from the ancient calendaria that the ludi plebeii were not, as some have supposed, the same as, or a part of, the ludi Romani.

LUDI PONTIFICA′LES were probably nothing but a particular kind of the ludi honorarii mentioned above. They were for the first time given by Augustus, when, after the death of Lepidus, he obtained the office of pontifex maximus (Suet. Aug. 44).

LUDI QUAESTO′RII were of the same character as the preceding games. They were instituted by the emperor Claudius (Suet. Claud. 24; Tac. Ann. II.22), who decreed that all who obtained the office of quaestor should, at their own expense, give gladiatorial exhibitions. Nero did away with this obligation for newly appointed quaestors (Tac. Ann. XIII.5), but it was revived by Domitian (Suet. Dom. c4).

LUDI ROMANI or MAGNI. [Megalesia.]

(p717) LUDI SAECULA′RES: see separate page.

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Page updated: 28 Sep 12