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 p982  Quinquatrus or Quinquatria

Unsigned article on pp982‑983 of

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

QUINQUATRUS or QUINQUA′TRIA, a festival sacred to Minerva, which was celebrated on the 19th of March (a. d. XIV Kal. Apr.), and was so called according to Varro (de Ling. Lat. VI.14, ed. Müller), because it was the fifth day after the Ides, in the same way as the Tusculans called a festival on the sixth day after the Ides Sexatrus, and one on the seventh Septimatrus. Gellius (II.21) and Festus (s.v.) also give the same etymology, and the latter states that the Faliscans too called a festival on the tenth day after the Ides Decimatrus (cf. Müller, Etrusker, vol. II p49). Both Varro and Festus state that the Quinquatrus was celebrated for only one day, but Ovid (Fast. III.809, &c.) says that it was celebrated for five days, and was for this reason called by this name: that on the first day no blood was shed, but that on the last four there were contests of gladiators. It would appear however that the first day was only the festival properly so called, and that the last four were merely an addition made perhaps in the time of Caesar to gratify the people, who became so passionately fond of gladiatorial combats. The ancient Calendars too assign only one day to the festival.

Ovid (l.c.) says that this festival was celebrated in commemoration of the birth-day of Minerva; but according to Festus it was sacred to Minerva because her temple on the Aventine was consecrated on that day. On the fifth day of the festival, according to Ovid (III.849), the trumpets  p983 used in sacred rites were purified; but this seems to have been originally a separate festival called Tubilustrium (Festus, s.v.; Varro, l.c.), which was celebrated as we know from the ancient Calendars on the 23d of March (a. d. X. Cal. Apr.), and would of course, when the Quinquatrus was extended to five days, fall on the last day of that festival.

As this festival was sacred to Minerva, it seems that women were accustomed to consult fortune-tellers and diviners upon this day (Plaut. Mil. III.1.98). Domitian caused it to be celebrated every year in his Alban Villa, situated at the foot of the hills of Alba, and instituted a collegium to superintend the celebration, which consisted of the hunting of wild beasts, of the exhibition of plays, and of contests of orators and poets (Suet. Dom. 4).

There was also another festival of this name called Quinquatrus Minusculae or Quinquatrus Minores, celebrated on the Ides of June, on which the tibicines went through the city in procession to the temple of Minerva (Varro, de Ling. Lat. VI.17; Ovid. Fast. VI.651, &c.; Festus, p149, ed. Müller).

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Page updated: 17 Dec 06