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Bill Thayer

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T. V, Vol. 1
Taurii Ludi

Article by E. Saglio in

Daremberg & Saglio,
Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines,
Librairie Hachette et Cie., Paris, 1877‑1919.

translation and © William P. Thayer

Taurii Ludi. — Games celebrated in Rome. They are known only for being mentioned by Servius and Festus. The former says​1 that they were ordered e libris fatalibus; the latter​2 that they had taken place in honor of the di inferi; and finally Livy​3 informs us that in the year 563 (= 186 B.C.) they lasted for two days.​a

The Author's Notes:

1 Ad Aen. II.140.

2 Fest. pp351, 360.

3 XXXIX.22.1.

Thayer's Note:

a Thru at least its 1875 edition, Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities equates the Ludi Taurii with the Ludi Saecularesq.v. and thus has no separate article. In its 1890 edition, however, the Dictionary pulls back a fair ways and breaks these games out separately, adding the following article:

LUDI TAU´RII were of a similar nature, and due to a somewhat similar origin as the Ludi Saeculares. They were instituted to the gods of the lower world, according to Festus (s.v. Taurii, p350 M.) The absurd interpretation given by Varro on p351 may be discarded), in the reign of Tarquinius Superbus, when a great pestilence fell on pregnant women, owing to the sale of bulls' flesh among the people. Other interpretations of the name are that it is from taura or taurea, a barren cow, which was sacrificed to Proserpina, or that the games were instituted by the Sabines that a pestilence which had attacked them might be turned on the bulls which they sacrificed (Serv. on Verg. Aen. 2.140). At these games there was a chariot-race in the circus (Varro, L. L. 5.154). We hear of their being celebrated religionis causa for two days in 186 B.C. (Liv. XXXIX.22).

First, one small error in Smith's article: Varro merely states that there were horse races; in no way were these necessarily chariot races.

Continuing on . . . . Endless webpages, repeating each other, state that the Ludi Taurii were quinquennial, and were celebrated June 25‑26; the almost certain source for all this cloned material seems to be the brief article "Ludi Taurei Quinquennales" in Dictionary of Roman Religion (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1996), to be found in the publisher's own database, which I saw with my own eyes before the Web started shrinking, but now only in miscellaneous un­scholar­ly pages, source uncredited and no information or discussion added.

Notwithstanding, I know of no ancient source for the games being either quinquennial or celebrated on any specific date. More interestingly, I believe I've discovered what underlies these assertions; if I'm right, someone with an agenda is trying to pull the wool over our eyes: it appears to be an attempt to validate an inferior chronology of the 2c B.C. by adducing spurious evidence. See my note to Plutarch's Life of Aemilius Paulus (on the eclipse of Pydna, 172 B.C.).

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Page updated: 16 Jan 24