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T. V, Vol. 1

Article by J.‑A. Hild in

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

translation and © William P. Thayer

VITULA, VITULATIO. — Vitula which, in common speech, designates a heifer, had, of itself and in its derivatives vitulari and vitulatio, a religious meaning in the old Roman religion. Macrobius, based on an ancient witness, informs us that Vitula is a divinity that presides over joy;​1 and the poets of the earliest period, Naevius, Ennius, and Plautus, make vitulari and vitulatio synonyms of laetari with a religious connotation; Varro explains it by the Greek παιανίζειν.​2 At first, in Umbria, where this custom seems to have originated, vitulatio consisted in chasing before one a herd of calves symbolizing a hostile army, then sacrificing it either as a promise, or as a celebration of victory.​3 Thus Vitula personified became herself a divinity of Victory [Victoria]; the word was later corrupted into Vitellia or Vitelia, under the attraction of the name of the gens, the origins of which Suetonius connects with Faunus and Vitellia, Sabine divinities transplanted to Rome.​4 The most ancient celebration of vitulatio is to be sought in the feast of the Poplifugia or the Capratine Nones, in honor of Juno [Juno, p685; Poplifugia, p579].

The Author's Notes:

1 Macr. Sat. III.2.14; ib. 11; I.11.36.

2 Macr. locc. cit. and Mommsen, Corp. inscr. lat. I, p26; Varr. Ling. lat. VII.107; Naev. ap. Non. Marc. p14; Plaut. Pers. II.3.2; Enn. ap Paul D. p369: Is habet coronam vitulans victoria.

3 Buecheler, Umbrica, p114; cf. Marquardt-Mommsen, Handbuch, VI, p325. The only festival of vitulatio to have survived in the Roman calendar is that of the Capratine Nones on July 8. Cf. Wissowa, Religion und Kultus, p377, n10, and 445, n1.

4 Suet. Vitell. i. Cf. Preller-Jordan, Roem. Mythol. I.407 and 287; Baudrillart, Divinités de la victoire, p44 sq.

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