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p715 Ludi Apollinares

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p715 of

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

LUDI APOLLINARES were instituted at Rome during the second Punic war, four years after the battle of Cannae (B.C. 212), at the command of an oracle contained in the books of the ancient seer Marcius (carmina Marciana, Liv. XXV.12; Macrob. Sat. I.17). It was stated by some of the ancient annalists that these ludi were instituted for the purpose of obtaining from Apollo the protection of human life during the hottest season of summer; but Livy and Macrobius adopt the account founded upon the most authentic document, the carmina Marciana themselves, that the Apollinarian games were instituted partly to obtain the aid of Apollo in expelling the Carthaginians from Italy, and partly to preserve, through the favour of the god, the republic from all dangers. The oracle suggested that the games should be held every year under the superintendence of the praetor urbanus, and that ten men should perform the sacrifices according to Greek rites. The senate complying with the advice of the oracle made two senatusconsulta; one that, at the end of the games, the praetor should receive 12,000 asses to be expended on the solemnities and sacrifices, and another that the ten men should sacrifice to Apollo, according to Greek rites, a bull with gilt horns and two white goats also with gilt horns, and to Latona a heifer with gilt horns. The games themselves were held in the Circus Maximus, the spectators were adorned with chaplets, and each citizen gave a contribution towards defraying the expenses (Festus, s.v. Apollinares). The Roman matrons performed supplications, the people took their meals in the propatulum with open doors, and the whole day — for the festival lasted only one day — was filled up with ceremonies and various other rites. At this first celebration of the ludi Apollinares no decree was made respecting the annual repetition suggested by the oracle, so that in the first year they were simply ludi votivi or indictivi. The year after (B.C. 211) the senate, on the proposal of the praetor Calpurnius, decreed that they should be repeated, and that in future they should be vowed afresh every year (Liv. XXVI.23). The day on which they were held varied every year according to circumstances. A few years later, however (B.C. 208), when Rome and its vicinity were visited by a plague, the praetor urbanus, P. Licinius Varus, brought a bill before the people to ordain that the Apollinarian games should in future always be vowed and held on a certain day (dies status), viz. on the 6th of July, which day henceforward remained a dies sollemnis (Liv. XXVII.23). The games thus became votivi et stativi, and continued to be conducted by the praetor urbanus (Cic. Phil. II.13). But during the empire the day of these solemnities appears again to have been changed, for Julius Capitolinus (Maxim. et Balbin. c1) assigns them to the 26th of May.a


Thayer's Note:

a Note, though, that the author of our article had a different text than that adopted by the Loeb edition reproduced in the link. The editors of that text have probably emended the passage from VII Kal. Iunias, an obvious error, to VII Id. Iulias.


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