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 p51  Argeorum Sacraria

Article on pp51‑53 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Argeorum Sacraria: * twenty-seven sacraria (cf. Ulpian, Dig. I.8.9.2: sacrarium est locus in quo sacra reponuntur; Jord. II.271‑281) situated at various points in the four Servian regions (Varro, LL V.45‑54) that were visited in order on the Ides of May (Ov. Fast. V.621‑622; cf. 603) by a solemn lustral procession in which the priests, the vestals, and the city praetor took part. This procession afterwards halted on the pons Sublicius and threw into the Tiber twenty-seven straw puppets, called Argei (Varro, LL VII.44, where XXVII not XXIIII is to be read; Fest. 15, 334; Plut. q. Rom. 32, 86; Dionys. I.38, where the number 30 is an error). The sacraria themselves, as well as the puppets, were called Argei (Liv. I.21.5), or Argea (Fest. 19). On the sixteenth and seventeenth of March (Ov. Fast. III.791; cf. Gell. X.15.30) a similar procession visited the sacraria, and may very probably have deposited in them the puppets that were to be taken out in May.

As to the meaning and origin of Argei, and of the ceremony itself, both ancient and modern writers have expressed the most diverse views, and there is a voluminous literature on the subject. It is probable that the institution was introduced into Rome from Greece between the first and second Punic wars, in accordance with the instructions of the Sibylline books; perhaps the first celebration was actually carried out with human victims for whom the straw puppets were afterwards substituted (for the Argei in general and the literature of the subject, see  p52 RE II.689‑700 = Wissowa, Ges. Abh. 211‑230; Roscher I.496‑500; WS 1911, 155‑172; Warde Fowler, Religious Experience of the Roman People, 54 ff., 321 ff.; Rose, Quaestiones Romanae of Plutarch, 98‑101 (for a very early origin), and Primitive Culture in Italy, 103 (for an explanation of it as the throwing of the cornº spirit into the water)).

Varro (LL V.45‑54) mentions fourteen of those sacraria, quoting in the case of twelve from what was evidently the official record of the pontiffs that directed the order of the procession from one to another. This gives, for each region, first the name of the hill or distinctive locality, then the number of the shrine, and finally further topographical details, some of which date from the time of introduction of the ceremony and some of them from later periods. The two that are not mentioned in this formal manner are the first and sixth of the regio Suburana respectively on the mons Caelius and in the Subura, i.e. the Sucusa (q.v.), and not to be exactly located. The others appear as follows (although the text is far from certain in several places). The variants of Goetz and Schoell have not been given: but they furnish no new topographical information, except that they read Suburbana for Suburana, which seems reasonable enough.

Regio Suburana —
    No. 4. Ceroliensis quarticeps circa Minervium qua in Caelio monte itur in tabernola est — that is, on the part of the Caelian called Ceroliensis, near the temple of Minerva, and in tabernola (a phrase of doubtful meaning, cf. No. 3 of regio Esquilina below; HJ 227). This station therefore was on the northern slope of the Caelian, near the temple of Minerva Capta, probably a little north-west of the present church of SS. Quattro Coronati.

Regio Esquilina —
    No. 1. Oppius mons princeps Equilis cis lucum fagutalem sinistra via secundum merum est1 — that is, on the Fagutal, near the top of the modern Via della Polveriera (HJ 256, 257).
    No. 3. Oppius mons terticeps cis lucum Esquilinum dexterior via in tabernola est — that is, just east of the site afterwards occupied by the thermae Traianae, near the modern Via Mecenate.
    No. 4. Oppius mons quarticeps cis lucum Esquilinum via dexterior​2 in figlinis est — probably north of No. 3, near the edge of the hill, and the modern church of S. Martino ai Monti (cf. HJ 265).
    No. 5. Cespius mons quinticeps cis lucum Poetelium Esquiliis est. As the location of the lucus Poetelius is unknown, the approximate site of this sacrarium cannot be fixed.
    No. 6. Cespius mons sexticeps apud aedem Iunonis Lucinae ubi aeditumus habere solet. . . The temple of Juno Lucina (q.v.) was probably near the top of the southern slope of the Cispius, just above the present Via dello Statuto.

 p53  Regio Collina —
    No. 3. Collis Quirinalis terticeps cis aedem Quirini — that is, just east of the temple of Quirinus (q.v.), near the corner of the present Vie Quattro Fontane and del Quirinale (for the sacraria in this region see RhM, 1894, 415‑417).
    No. 4. Collis Salutaris quarticeps adversum est pulvinar​3 cis aedem Salutis — farther south-west on the line of the vicus portae Collinae close to the Domus Attici (q.v.; HJ 406).
    No. 5. Collis Mucialis quinticeps apud aedem dei Fidei in delubro ubi aeditumus habere solet. . . This temple of Deus Fidius or Semo Sancus (q.v.) was on the southern part of the collis Mucialis, probably on the site of the present church of S. Silvestro, in the Via del Quirinale.
    No. 6. Collis Latiaris sexticeps in vico Insteiano summo apud auguraculum solum est — on the slope above the present Piazza Magnanapoli (HJ 400). If solum is the correct reading (Phil. Anz. 1871, 543), the meaning must be that this was the only sacrarium of the twenty-seven that had its own independent building, and that the others were parts of, or within the precincts of, other buildings.

Regio Palatina —
    No. 5. Germalense quinticeps apud aedem Romuli, on the Cermalus, where the Casa (here called aedes) Romuli (q.v.) stood. In fact, the building which is sometimes identified with this sacrarium (LR 130, 133; HJ 42) has been by others thought to be the casa Romuli (TF 104, 105).
    No. 6. Veliense sexticeps in Velia apud aedem deum Penatium — probably close to the site afterwards occupied by the temple of Venus and Roma (see Aedes Deum Penatium).

Of the twelve sacraria described by Varro, eleven can thus be located with considerable certainty. The situation of the rest is purely conjectural, based on the probable route of the procession. (For a discussion of the Argei from the topographical side, with the earlier literature, see Jord. II.237‑290; Gilbert II.214‑217, 362‑375; and for the position of the conjectural sacraria, Richter, pl. 3, reproduced in Pl. fig. 5 (text fig. 5, on p443 of the present work).)

The Authors' Notes:

1 The MSS. have lacum for lucum (see p205). Spengel has ouls for cis, quae for via, moerum for merum.

2 Dexteriorem, Spengel.

3 This is Bunsen's reading; Spengel has Apollinar for est pulvinar.

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