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p715 Ludi Capitolini

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 CAPITOLI′NI were said to have been instituted by the senate, on the proposal of the dictator M. Furius Camillus, in the year B.C. 387, after the departure of the Gauls from Rome, as a token of gratitude towards Jupiter Capitolinus, who had saved the Capitol in the hour of danger. The decree of the senate at the same time intrusted the superintendence and management of the Capitoline games to a college of priests to be chosen by the dictator from among those who resided on the Capitol and in the citadel (in arce), which can only mean that they were to be patricians (Liv. V.5052). These priests were called Capitolini (Cic. ad Quint. Frat. II.5). One of the amusements at the Capitoline games, a solemnity which was observed as late as the time of Plutarch, was that a herald offered the Sardiani for public sale, and that some old man was led about, who, in order to produce laughter, wore a toga praetexta, and a bulla puerilis which hung down from his neck (Plut. Quaest. Rom. p277; Fest. s.v. Sardi venales, &c.). According to some of the ancients this ceremony was intended to ridicule the Veientines, who were subdued, after long wars with Rome, and numbers of whom were sold as slaves, while their king, represented by the old man with the bulla (such was said to have been the costume of the Etruscan kings), was led through the city as an object of ridicule.

The Veientines, it is further said, were designated by the name Sardiani or Sardi, because they were believed to have come from Lydia, the capital of which was Sardes. This specimen of ancient etymology, however, is opposed by another interpretation of the origin of the ceremony given by Sinnius Capito. According to this author, the name Sardiani or Sardi had nothing to do with the Veientines, but referred to the inhabitants of Sardinia. When their island was subdued by the Romans in B.C. 238, no spoils were found, but a great number of Sardinians were brought to Rome and sold as slaves, and these proved to be slaves of the worst kind (Fest. l.c.; Aurel. Vict. de Vir. Illustr. c. 57). Hence arose the proverb, Sardi venales; alius alio nequior (Cic. ad Fam. VII.24), and hence also the ceremony at the Capitoline games. At what time or at what intervals these ludi were celebrated is not mentioned. During the time of the empire they seem to have fallen into oblivion, but they were restored by Domitian, and were henceforth celebrated every fifth year under the name of agones Capitolini (See Jos. Scaliger, Auson. Lect. I.10).


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