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p735 Matralia

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p735 of

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

MATRALIA,a a festival celebrated at Rome every year on the 11th of June, in honour of the goddess Mater Matuta, whose temple stood in the Forum Boarium. It was celebrated only by Roman matrons, and the sacrifices offered to the goddess consisted of cakes baked in pots of earthenware (Varro, de Ling. Lat. V.º p31, Bip.; Ovid. Fast. VI.475, &c.). Slaves were not allowed to take part in the solemnities, or to enter the temple of the goddess. One slave, however, was admitted by the matrons, but only to be exposed to a humiliating treatment, for one of the matrons gave her a blow on the cheek and then sent her away from the temple. The matrons on this occasion took with them the children of their sisters, but not their own, held them in their arms, and prayed for their welfare (Plut. Camil. 5, Quaest. Rom. p267). The statue of the goddess was then crowned with a garland, by one of the matrons who had not yet lost a husband (Tertull. Monogam. c17). The Greek writers and their Roman followers, who identify the Mater Matuta with Leucothea or Ino, explain the ceremonies of the Matralia by means of the mythological stories which relate to these Greek goddesses. But the real import of the worship of the Mater Matuta appears to have been to inculcate upon mothers the principle, that they ought to take care of the children of their sisters as much as of their own, and that they should not leave them to careless slaves, the contempt for whom was symbolically expressed by the infliction of a blow on the cheek of the one admitted into the temple (Compare Hartung, Die Religion der Römer, vol. II p75).


Thayer's Note:

a The Matralia should not be confused with the Matronalia.


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Page updated: 26 Aug 09