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 p718  Luperci

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp718‑719 of

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

LUPERCI were the priests of the god Lupercus. They formed a college (sodalitas, ἑταιρία), the members of which were originally youths of patrician families, and which was said to have been instituted by Romulus and Remus (Plutarch. Rom. 21). The college was divided into two classes, the one called Fabii or Fabiani, and the other Quinctilii or Quinctiliani (Fest. s.vv. Quinctiliani Luperci and Fabiani). These names, which are the same as those with which the followers of Romulus and Remus were designated in the early Roman legends, seem to show that the priesthood was originally confined to certain gentes (Ovid. Fast. II.378, who, however, confounds the Potitii and Pinarii with the Quinctilii and Fabii.) But if such actually was the case, this limitation does not seem to have existed for a very long time, though the two classes retained their original names, for Festus says, that in course of time the number of Luperci increased, "Quia honoris gratia multi in Lupercis adscribebantur." What was the original number of Luperci, and how long their office lasted, is unknown; but it is stated in inscriptions (Orelli, n. 2256 and n. 4920) that a person held the office of Lupercus twice, and another three times, and this fact shows at least that the priests were not appointed for life. Julius Caesar added to the two classes of the college a third with the name of Julii or Juliani (Dion Cass. XLIV.6; Suet. Caes. 76), and made Antoniusº their high priest. He also assigned to them certain revenues (vectigalia), which were afterwards withdrawn from them (Cic. Philip. III.15, with the note of P. Manutius). But it is uncertain whether Caesar assigned these revenues to the whole college, or merely to the Julii. From this time the two ancient classes of the Luperci are sometimes distinguished from the new one by the name of Luperci veteres (Orelli, n. 2253). Although in early times the Luperci were taken only from noble families, their strange and indecent conduct at the Lupercalia was offensive to the more refined Romans of a later age (Cic. Philip. II.34), and Cicero (pro Coel. 11) characterises the college as a "Fera quaedam sodalitas et plane pastoricia atque agrestis, quorum coitio illa silvestris ante est  p719 instituta quam humanitas atque leges." Respecting the rites with which they solemnised the Lupercalia see Lupercalia.

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Page updated: 19 Apr 03