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Bill Thayer

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 p471  Article on pp471‑473 of

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

Septimontium: according to Varro the name of the city before it was called Rome (LL V.41: ubi nunc est Roma erat olim Septimontium nominatum ab tot montibus quos postea urbs muris comprehendit; cf. Fest. 321: Sacrani appellati sunt Reate orti qui ex Septimontio Ligures Siculosque exegerunt; nam vere sacro nati erant), a statement that seems to be corroborated by Lydus (de mens. IV.155: ἐν ταύτῃ καὶ ἡ λεγομένη παρ’ αὐτῶν Σεπτιμούνδιος ἑορτὴ ἐπιτελεῖτο, τούτεστιν ἡ περίοδος τῆς πόλεως, ὅτι ἐπὶ ἑπτὰ λόφους τὰ τείχη τῆς Ῥώμης ἐκτέταται. ὀνόματα δὲ τοῦτων· Παλάτιον Ἐσκύλιον Ταρπῆϊον Ἀβεντῖνον Τιβούρτιον Πραινέστιον Βιμινάλιον παρὰ δὲ τοῖς ἀρχαίοις ἑτέρως οὑτῶς· Ἀβεντῖνος Καίλιος Ἑσκύλιος Καπιτωλῖνος Βελινήσιος Κυρινάλιος Παλατῖνος).

 p472  Septimontium was also the name of a festival, celebrated on 11th December, and consisting in part of a lustral procession round the Palatine and Esquiline, which is mentioned in the calendars and several times in literature, especially in the following passages:— Varro, LL VI.24: dies Septimontium nominatus ab his septem montibus in quis sita urbs est feriae non populi sed montanorum modo ut Paganalia qui sunt alicuius pagi; Fest. 348: Septimontio ut ait Antistius Labeo hisce montibus feriae: Palatio cui sacrificium quod fit Palatuar dicitur; Veliae (villae, cod.) cui item sacrificium; Fagutali (faguali, cod.), Suburae, Cermalo, Oppio, Caelio monti, Cispio (cis itum, cod.) monti; 340 a much mutilated passage; 341: Septimontium appellabant diem festum quod in septem locis faciebant sacrificium: Palatio, Velia, Fagutali,​1 Subura, Cermalo, Caelio, Oppio et Cispio; Plut. q. Rom. 69: τὸ δὲ σεπτομούντιον ἄγουσιν ἐπὶ τῷ τὸν ἕβδομον λόφον τῇ πόλει προσκατανεμηθῆναι καὶ τὴν Ῥώμην ἑπτάλοφον γενέσθαι. One of these eight names must obviously be omitted, and the choice has often fallen on Subura (q.v.), which is in no sense a 'mons'; but cf. Regiones Quattuor, Su(c)cusa.

[image ALT: A schematic map of ancient Rome.]
It is quite evident that some Roman antiquarians believed that the festival of the Septimontium was based on the inclusion within the limits of the city of seven hills or parts of hills, but that they differed as to which hills these were (cf. also Serv. Aen. VI.783: alii dicunt breves septem colliculos a Romulo inclusos qui tamen aliis nominibus appellabantur; alii volunt hos ipsos qui nunc sunt a Romulo inclusos, id est Palatinum Quirinalem Aventinum Caelium Viminalem Esquilinum Ianicularem: alii vero volunt hos quidem fuisse aliis tamen nominibus appellatos). The question therefore is whether an early stage in the city's growth, preceding that commonly known as the City of the Four Regions, was actually called Septimontium or whether this is simply an invention of later antiquarians to explain the name of the festival. While it is altogether probable, from other considerations, that the districts named by Labeo, for instance, did at some time before the Servian period make up the territory included within the city limits (text fig. 6), and very certain that the Septimontium was an ancient festival, it is not probable that this was ever an actual name of Rome. Hülsen (RAP II.83‑86) points out that three of the seven montes bear names (Cispius, Caelius, Oppius) which are identical with those of well-known plebeian gentes; while tradition records eponymous heroes of each hill (Opiter Oppius, Laevius Cispius, Caelius Vibenna); further, the gentilicia of the kings of Rome (except Romulus and the Etruscan Tarquins) are  p473 all plebeian. On the other hand, the names of the sixteen tribus rusticae are all patrician. It therefore seems as if the families that expelled the Tarquins formed an oligarchy, the patricians, while the other older families, who had been their partisans, lost many of their privileges and became plebeian. The whole subject of the Septimontium is complicated and quite obscure (for a full discussion of the whole matter, see Wissowa, Septimontium und Subura, Satura Viadrina, Breslau 1896, 1‑10 = Ges. Abh. Munich 1904, 230‑252; Mon. L. XV.754‑762; CP 1906, 69‑80; AJA 1908, 172‑183; Carter, The Pomerium, Rome 1909; Pais, Legends 234‑241; De Sanctis, Storia I.185 (who rejects it altogether); BPW 1912, 1734; 1913, 977‑980; Beloch, Röm. Gesch. 202‑204; RE I. A. 1019‑1021; II. A. 1577‑1578 (two articles by different authors which contradict one another); and other literature cited in these articles).

The Authors' Note:

1 Fagutalia cod.

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