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Caesar at theLupercalia"



CASCA I can as well be hanged as tell themanner of it: itwas mere foolery; I did not
mark it. I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown; yet 'twas not a crown neither, 'twas one
of these coronets; and, as I told you, he put it by once; but, for all that, to my thinking,
he would fain have had it.Then he offered it to him again; then he put it by again; but,
tomy thinking, he was very loath to lay his fingersoff it.And then he offered it the third
time; he put it the third time by; and still as he refused it the rabblement shouted and
clapped their chopped hands, and threw up their sweaty nightcaps, and uttered such a
deal of stinking breath because Caesar refused the crown that it had almost choked
Caesar. For he swounded and felldown at it: and formine own part I durst not laugh, for
fear of opening my lips and receiving the bad air.

CASSIUS But soft, I pray you, what, did Caesar swound?

CASCA He fell down in themarket-place, and foamed at mouth and was speechless.

BRUTUS 'Tisverylike:he hath thefalling-sickness.

CASSIUS No Caesar hath it not, but you and I
And honest Casca, we have the falling-sickness.

CASCA I know not what you mean by that, but I am sure Caesar fell down.

JuliusCaesar I.ii.z34ff.
This discussion starts from Shakespeare as a reminder that the theme of this passage is one
of themost famous incidents in thewhole of classical antiquity. He is, as is his way, using
the classical sources, but also inventing what he wants for dramatic purposes.1 Casca (in
fact, a Roman aristocrat, and a leading conspirator) has become a simple fellow who can
only speak plain prose, while Brutus and Cassius exchange elegant lines of blank verse;2
Casca cannot see the point of Cassius' savage play with the two meanings of 'falling
sickness', i.e. epilepsy, from which Caesar was said to suffer, and the loss of political
power to the tyrant. But the offering of the crown (or not quite a crown) is an incident
well-groundedin thesourcesandmuch-discussed.


In honour of the Lupercalia, which is after all a festival of transgression, I am breaking a

rule, of my own making, not to write about individual Roman festivals. My reasons are
that we know too little about individual festivals to say much that is new and profitable

Earlier versions of this paper were read in Tel Aviv, at the celebration of Zwi Yavetz' 8oth birthday; in Tokyo
University, to the Research Progamme on Death and Life Studies; and to a seminar inDurham University. I am most
grateful for the discussions (very different ones) on all three occasions and also to Neil McLynn for much
illuminating debate.
F. Kermode, The Age of Shakespeare (2004), 114-17; on Shakespeare's use of his sources, see J. Roe,
'"Character" in Plutarch and Shakespeare: Brutus, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony', in C. Martindale and
A. B. Taylor (eds), Shakespeare and the Classics (2004), 173-87, especially 174?6; formore bibliography, see 305-6.
F. Kermode, Shakespeare's Language (2000), 90-5.

JRS 98 (zoo8), pp. 144-i60. (?World Copyright Reserved.

Exclusive Licence to Publish: The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies 2008

and that thereare far toomany otherexpertsround theworld who alreadyknow that
little,and thatall toowell.My excuse fordecidingto breakmy rule is thattheevidence
about theLupercalia offersa somewhatbetteropportunitythantheothers. My realprob
lemwith festivalsis thatunderstanding a festivalrequiresa two-dimensional approach in
time.One is the longueduree, thehistoryof thefestivaland itsritualsover longperiods
of timeand thesearchforitsenduring meaningor itschanging meanings.This can be done
and has been done to someextentwithRoman festivals,3 thoughall too oftenin theform
of a searchfortheir'trueoriginalmeaning', a fantasyifever there was one.4But theother
dimensionis theexperienceof thefestivalas ithappenson a particularday ina particular
year, to see thefestivalinteracting
with thesocial, political realitiesof a particularcom
munityin theirfestivalspirit.'This isnormallyquite impossiblein theRoman case; at best
we hearoccasionallyabout ritualsthatgowrong or cause dissension.6 There are therefore
twogood reasonsfor thinking about thistopic: first,
we have at least some information
about the festivalfromearlyRoman timesuntil late imperial,ifnot Byzantine times;7
secondly,theintersection betweenJuliusCaesar,Mark Antonyand theLupercalia festival
gives us a chance to learnsomethingabout themeaning of the festivalin 44 B.C.E. and
somethingalso aboutCaesar's situationin theover-heated monthbeforehis assassination.
I shallargue thatwe can at leastmake some senseof thecharacterof thefestivalas itwas
celebratedat thispoint; thatwe can reconstruct thereasonforCaesar's involvement with
it;and thatwe can exclude at leastsomepossible interpretations ofwhat he andAntony
were tryingtodo, even ifin thenatureof theevidencewe can neverreachcertainty.


In someways we have a veryclearpictureofwhat happenedon i5 February44 B.C.E.As

we shall see, inother respectsthereis a good deal of confusion,but I shall argue thatthe
confusion too is instructiveand part of what we need to take into account. Caesar
interactedwith thefestivalthisyear in two respectsthatneed to be consideredtogether:
i. This was thefirstday onwhich thenew company(sodalitas)of theLuperci, theLuperci
Tuliani, joined the ancient ones, theFabiani and Quinctiani, in the runningof the
Lupercalia route.8

See, e.g., M. Beard, 'A complex of times: no more sheep on Romulus' birthday', PCPS 213, n.s. 33 (1987), 1-15,
reprinted in C. Ando (ed.), Roman Religion, Edinburgh Readings on the Ancient World (2003), 273-88.
A clear example might be provided by A. K. Michels, 'The topography and interpretation of the Lupercalia',
TAPA 84 (1955), 35?59, arguing that the circuit of the Palatine was not the original element, but rather purification
from contact with death; or by D. Porte, 'Le devin, son bouc et Junon', REL 51 (1973), 171-89, arguing that fertility
elements must be separate from purification; but the same assumption can be found recently, e.g., in Peter
Wiseman's account in Remus: a Roman Myth (1995), 77-88. Other discussions of the ritual and its development:
U. W. Scholz, 'R?mischer Opfer: Die Lupercalia', in J. Rudhardt and O. Reverdin (eds), Le sacrifice dans l'antiquit?,
Fondation Hardt, Entretiens 27 (1980), 289-340; C. Ulf, Das r?mische Luperealienfest: ein Modellfall f?r
Methodenprobleme in der Altertumswissenschaft, Impulse der Forschung 38 (1982); W. P?tscher, 'Die Lupercalia:
ein Strukturanalyse', Grazer Beitr?ge 11 (1984), 221-49; T.- K?ves-Zulauf, 'R?mische Geburtsriten', Zetemata 87
(1990), 221-89; B- Valli, 'Lupercis nudis lustratur antiquum oppidum palatinum: aleune reflessioni sui Lupercalia'',
in Florentia: studi di archeologia 2 (2007), 101-54.
E. Le Roy Ladurie, Carnival in Romans (1979; English trans. 1980).
As in the account of events at the Ludi Megalenses, truthful or not, in Cicero, de HR 22-9, on which
T. PWiseman, 'Clodius at the games', in idem, Cinna the Poet and other Roman Essays (1974), 159-69.
See below p. 152 and McLynn, below pp. 161-75.
For the introduction of the third sodalitas: Dio Cass. 44.6.2; Suetonius, DJ 76.1; S. Weinstock, Divus Julius
(1971), 332-3. Aelius Tubero fgt. 3 (Peter), from Dion. Hal. 1.80, seems to be implying that there were three groups
already in the time of Romulus; if he was writing in the 30s b.c.e., perhaps he was reflecting a bogus precedent
created for Caesar.
146 J. A. NORTH

z. Itwas also, to quote Cicero (Philippic I3): thatday on which, soddenwith wine,
smothered with perfumesand naked (Antony)dared to urge thegroaningpeople of
Rome intoslaverybyoffering Caesar thediadem thatsymbolizedthekingship.9
We have one littletouchbelongingto theveryday itself. According toQuintilian,10
discussing the figureaposeiopesis (that is leaving a sentenceunfinished,fordramatic
Nec ego illudquidemaposiopesinsemperuoco inquo resquaecunquerelinquitur
ut ea quae inepistolisCicero: 'DataLupercalibus,quo dieAntoniusCaesari
non enimobticuit:lusit,quia nihilhic aliud intelligi
poteratquam hoc:
And I do not always call it aposiopesis in a case where some point or other is left to be
understood,as theone inCicero's letters:'Senton theLupercalia,thedayAntoniuson
Caesar ...'. No, Cicero has not surpressed
something:he is joking,becausenothingelse
could be understoodexceptthis:'... placed thediadem'.
of informationis far frombeing useless: it shows us Cicero on the
This littlefragment
same day as theeventswe are consideringalready realizingthesignificance ofwhat had
happened and assumingthattheletter'srecipientwill have realized itas well. Itwas not,
as Shakespeare's Casca put it, 'mere foolery', that you could afford to ignore. Casca may
have thoughtthat;we know fromthisbriefmention thatCicero did not.
The most basic facts about the day are not subject to any very serious dispute.
According toCicero again, thistimein thesecondPhilippic:1'
Your colleague12
saton therostra,dressedinhispurpletoga,on hisgoldenthrone(sella),
wearing a crown (coronatus). You climb up, you reach the throne- you were being a
lupercus thatyouwere theconsul;youdisplay
a diadem. Groans round thewhole forum.Where did the diadem come from?You didn't
just pick up a cast-off, you had brought itwith you, a crime thought out and planned at
home.You placed thediadem on his head to popular lamentation;
he refusedit to
popular cheering. So you were the only one to be found who, having tried to launch a
monarchy by turning theman who was your colleague into your lord, tested out what the
Roman Peoplewould tolerateand suffer.
Note that Cicero is not implying here that Caesar was already enthroned as King: it is clear
that the robe (even if itwas kingly, as Stefan Weinstock argued13) and the golden throne
(clearly not a consul's proper seat) are both honours he can use, but evidently are not to
be seen as making him the rex of Rome. The adding on of the diadem is apparently under
stood as quite another matter.

'... illius diei ... quo ausus est obrutus vino, unguentis oblitus, nudus gementem populum Romanum ad
servitutem cohortari' (Cicero, Philippic 13.31).
Quintilian, Inst.Or. 9.3 = Cicero, Epistulae (?d. W. S. Watt (1958)), fgt. XVII.1, p. 175. Quintilian, here as
elsewhere, quotes from letters not in the surviving collections of Cicero's letters, but does not give a name to the
'sedebat in rostris conlega tuus amictus toga purpurea in sella ?urea coronatus. escendis, accedis ad sellam, (ita
eras Lupercus, ut te consulem esse meminisse deberes) diadema ostendis. gemitus toto foro, unde diadema? non
enim abiectum sustuleras, sed adtuleras domo meditatum et cogitatum scelus. tu diadema inponebas cum plangore
populi, ille cum plausu reiciebat. tu ergo unus, sc?l?rate, inventus es, qui cum auctor regni esse eumque, quern
collegam habebas, dominum habere velles, idem temptares, quid populus Romanus ferre et pati posset' (Cicero,
Philippic 2.85).
Cicero is addressing Antony after the assassination, referring to his days as consul, when ithad been Caesar who
was his colleague as consul of 44 b.c.e., seeMRR II.315-16. The speech was never in fact delivered; itwas probably
published by November 44 b.c.e., but composed as if for delivery on 19 September, in reply to an attack by Antony
made on that day.
Weinstock, op. cit. (n. 8), 270?3.

Dio Cassius14adds somemore uncontroversial

When hewent to theLupercalia in theforumand seatedhimselfon thegoldenthrone,
dressedin theroyalgarband distinguished by thegoldencrown,Antoniustogetherwith
his fellowpriestshailed him as King and placed thediademon his head, saying'The
peoplegive thistoyou through me'.
So Antony, as Dio and other sourcesalso tell us,15was runningas one of theLuperci,
which iswhy, as we have alreadyseen and as Cicero repeatedlyinsists,hewas naked, as
therunnerstraditionallywere. Cicero repeatedly deridesthenakednessas thoughitwas to
be seen as a shamefulstate,butwe can be confidentthat inothercontextshe, likeany
otherRoman,mighthave takenquite a different view of thismost traditionalofRoman
We know again fromDio,17 thoughalso fromPlutarch18
rituals.16 and, ifa bit confusedly,
from Nicolaus ofDamascus,'9 thatAntonywas runningspecifically forthenew groupof
Luperci, theJuliani,and thathewas in facttheirleader.There isonly a little more to be
added to thispicture,as we shall see lateron, but the laterstagesof the incidentbecome
mattersof deeperand deepercontroversy.
From thisdiscussion, thereare questions thathave been identifiedto which some
answers need to be found.Granted that in thesevarious ways, Caesar and Antony,
whether by pre-arrangement or not, were evidentlyseekingadvantage fromthe ritual
programme,can we seewhat itwas thatmade thisparticularfestivalsuitable for their
purposes?Secondly, (perhaps,alternatively) does the ritualprogrammeitselfthrowany
lightonwhat thatpurposewas?


Accountsof and debatesabout theLupercalia,down to someof themost recentones,have

sometimesstarted from the assumption that the ritualprogrammeas we have it is
incoherent:20 elementsdo not add up toanyunitythatcould have con
i.e. thatitsdifferent
veyeda meaning toparticipants.As a result, we can identify theoriginal 'primitive'
and thenassesswhen and through what forcesthedifferent elementsof the ritualwere
added to thiscore.Even ifthisisevera legitimate procedureforthosestudyingtheearliest
historyof a ritual,which I do notmyselfbelieve, theconcernof thisarticle iswith the
understandingof the ritualas itwas practised in the firstcenturyB.C.E.; the stages by
which itcame to be performedin theformwe know it fromfirst-century sourcesare not
To summarizebriefly what theritualconsistedof: beforeFebruary44 B.C.E., therewere
two teams (sodalitates) of Luperci - one the team of Romulus, the other the team of
Remus. Each was apparently called after an ancient Roman gens - the Fabii and the
Quinctii or Quintilii, thoughtheexact names of thesodalitatesare variouslyreported.
Romulus' teamwas theQuinctii, Remus' theFabii.2' How thesegroups,named after
particularancientgentes,came to be associatedwith one each of thetwinfoundersisnot
The traditionalritualprogrammehad twostages.In thefirststage,at theLupercal itself
(i.e. thesceneof thediscoveryof the twinssuckledby thewolf), theLuperci sacrificeda

Dio Cassius 44.11.2.
Cicero, Philippic 2.85; Dio Cassius, loe. cit. (n. 14); Plutarch, Caesar 61.3.
For the implications of Cicero's comment on the Luperci at Pro Caelio 26, see below Postscript p. 177.
45.30; seeWeinstock, op. cit. (n. 8), 333.
Plutarch, Antony 12.2.
Nicolaus, Life of Augustus 71.
See above n. 4.
For the exact names reported: G. Wissowa, Religion und Kultus (2nd edn; 1912), 559 & n. 2;Weinstock, op. cit.
(n. 8), 332 n. 6.

goat and a dog. They then smeared the foreheadof theyoung Luperci (perhaps the
initiates)with blood and milk. The new bloods thengave a laugh.The hide of the
sacrificed goat (orgoats?)was cut up to provide loin-clothsfor therunnersand stripsof
hide tobe used aswhips, also by therunners. Therewas thenfeasting, withmuchwine.22
The second stage consistedof runningaround in thePalatine/forum/sacra via area of
Rome, strikingall thepeople theymet with theirstripsof hide and joking, laughing,
larkingabout and exchangingobscenitieswith thosewho attended the ritual. Itwas
believed thatwomen who had been struckwith the goatskinwhip would become
pregnant. GerhardBinder23has pointedout, rightlyinmy view,how thesepracticesimply
thattheritualwas of theCarnival type.24 Inmy view this is a fundamental point,which
needs tobe borne inmind lateron in thisargument. At leastour sources,not leastValerius
Maximus,25are emphaticabout the joking,jeering,obscenityand play thataccompanied
theprogressof therun.
The basic elementsof thisprogramme mightbe analysedas:
* the invocationof thefirstcreationof thecommunity(therespectivesodales ofRemus
and ofRomulus, thefounders);
* theconfrontation of primitiveto civilized (i.e. thenakedLuperci incontrastwith the
onlookersfromthecontemporary city);
* theannual ritualpurification of thecommunity(thesacrificeand therunningand the
actionsof therunners);
* theritualfertilization
of thehumancommunity(theritualofwhipping).
There are some other themesto be remembered:theoff-setting and inter-penetration of
theanimal against thehuman, evoked by the referencestowolves and goats, as in the
(mythically) wolfish feedingof the twinsat theLupercal and the (symbolically)goatish
penetrationof thewomen in the fertilizationritual; also thegoatish characterof the
There areof courseveryseriousgaps inour knowledgeevenof this,thebest-knownand
longest-lived ofRoman rituals. We know theLuperci ran:but therouteseems to be des
cribed sometimesas runninground thePalatine; once as runningup and down thesacra
via; oftensimplyas discurrere, whichmeans to runabout, thoughnot necessarilypurpose
lessly.27The identity of thegod towhom the festivalwas dedicated is anotherpoint of
extendeddebate,butFaunus,who mightbe called Inuus as thegod of sexualpenetration,
iscurrentlytheclearwinner in thisraceand forgood reasons.It isa veryreasonablehypo
thesisthatwe can seehimpicturedon amirror fromPraeneste (Figs i-z), standingbeside
whatmust be a representation of themiracle of thefeedingof thetwins.28 We shall return

The information about this first stage of the ritual comes mainly from Plutarch, Romulus 21.4-10, a learned
discussion citing earlier authorities for the mythical origins of the festival; it cannot be certain whether his 'we see'
at 21.5 implies a claim to have seen the ritual himself.
G. Binder, 'Kommunikative Elemente im r?mischen Staatskult am Ende der Republik: das Beispiel des
Lupercalia des Jahres 44', inG. Binder and K. Ehlich (eds), Religi?se Kommunikation, Formen unde Praxis von der
Neuzeit (1997), 225-41.
Binder, op. cit. (n. 23); for the notion, Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World (English trans., 1968).
Val. Max. 2.2.9: '... epularum hilaritate ac uino largiore prouecti ... obuios iocantes petierunt. cuius hilaritatis
memoria annuo circuitu feriarum repetitur'. ('In the enjoyment of the feast and heightened by plenty of wine .. .they
struck the bystanders in fun. The memory of this hilarity is recalled at the festival by the annual circular run.') On
this passage see below, pp. 178-9.
See below pp. 151-2.
For discussion of the route: Michels, op. cit. (n. 4); contra, very effectively, F. Coarelli, 'I percorsi ceremoniali a
Roma in et? regia', in E. Greco (ed.), Teseo e Romolo: le origini di Atene e Roma a confronto, Atti del convegno
internazionale di studi Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene, Tr?podes 1 (2005), 32-7; Valli, op. cit. (n. 4), 110-20.
For the group of goatish deities, who all come into question here, see particularly, R. E. A. Palmer, Roman
Religion and the Roman Empire (1974), 80-9; 159-63; T. P. Wiseman, 'The god of the Lupercal', JRS 85 (1995),
1-15. For the mirror, see also T. P. Wiseman, 'The She-wolf mirror. An interpretation', PBSR 61 (1993), 1-6. For a
survey of the many identifications of the figures, Wiseman, op. cit. (n. 4), 65-71.

FIG. I. Mirror from Praeneste, fourth century

\\ }S r s~B.C.E., showing the scene of the wolf suckling
]%( ~~~twin, with rustic deity ont left. (After JRS 85

*_ FIG. z. Detail of Fig. I: the god of the Lupercal,

A\ Of ~~with goatskin cape and throwing stick, in some
\\ lf ~~respectsresembling theLuperci.

to these points. But, in any case, confusion about some of the facts is not the same thing
as proven incoherence. To take one example, it has been almost an axiom of the subject
that the purification and the fertilization elements are quite separable: either one is early
and the other an accretion to the ritual, whose date can be discussed; or else one is the real
meaning of the ritual, while the other is of minor importance.9 Btcnide h olwn
text of Paul the Deacon, reporting Festus, who drew on the Augustan antiquarian Verrius,
who should be a first-rate informant on this kind of detail:

Februarius, mensis dictus, quod tum, id est extremo mense anni, populus februaretur, id
est lustraretur ac purgaretur, uel a lunone Februata, quain alii Februalem, Romani
Februlim uocant, quod ipsi eo mense sacra fiebant, elusque feriae erant Lupercalia, quo
die mulieres februabantur a 1upercis arniculo lunonis, id est pelle caprina; quam ob
causam is quoque dies Februatus appellabatur.

Festus (Paul) 75.z36

For discussion of this issue, see especially: P?tscher, op. cit. (n. 4); K?ves-Zulauf, op. cit. (n. 4).
150 J. A. NORTH

The receivedtext,at a cursoryreading,seemstobe all about thegoddessJunoand itmight

seem thatshe,on theview of Festus/Paulus, was herselfthegoddess of theLupercalia.30
But it is in factclear thatthereis a lacuna somewherein thisentry:Paul evidently
rapidly,oftenpickingone elementout of a complicatedentryin theLexicon, character
isticallythefirst or last sentence.Sometimeshe attemptsa propersummary,but omitsor
misunderstands a crucial phrase. In this case, we can in fact be certain that Iuno was not
thedeityof theLupercalia at all:3' but, crucially,thephrase '.... eitherbyJuno...'('... uel
a Junone...') could originallyhave been answeredbyanother'uel...' clause,32inwhich the
god of the Lupercalia was actually named - Inuus, the penetrator of women, would be
thebest conjecture.33 That Iuno, thegoddess here of childbirth,34 and Inuus, thegod of
sexual penetration,are foundin collaboration togetheris scarcelya matter forsurprise:
and, as we shall see below, the 'penetration'at theLupercalia fulfilsa propheticutterance
reportedbyOvid in theFasti.35Paul regularly changes thepresenttensesofFestus' entries
dealingwith pagan rituals into imperfects, thusconsciouslydistancinghimselfand his
Christian readersfromritualsno longerpractised in theirtime;36ifwe restorethe tenses
Festuswould have used and conjecturewhat might have stood in the lacuna, theentry
mightbe reconstructed as:
Februariusmensisdicitur,quod tum,idestextremo mense anni,populusfebruetur id
est lustretur Februata(quamaliiFebrualem,
uel a Junone
ac purgetur, RomaniFebrulim
vocant)quod ipsieomense sacra fiunt,[velab Inuuo,quod ei quoque sacra fiunt],
eiusqueferiaesuntLupercalia,quo diemulieresfebruantur a lupercisamiculoJunonis,
idestpellecaprina;quam ob causam isquoque diesFebruatusappellatur.
The month is called Februarius because at that time, the lastmonth of the year, the people
is purified,that is lustratedand cleansed,eitherby JunoFebruata (whomotherscall
Februalis, theRomans Februlis) because it is in thatmonth that rituals are performed for
her [or else by Inuus, because rituals are also performed for him and because] his festival
by theLuperciusingJuno'samiculus
is theLupercalia,onwhichdaywomen arepurified
(or amiculum), that is the skin of the goat. As a result, the day too is called Februatus.37

Paul, of course,normallyshortenstheentrieshe includesand thisonemay therefore origi

nallyhave been longerthanthisrestoration;but ifit ison therightlinesat all,38itprovides
us with some essentialconnections.One phrase has been leftuntranslated:'... amiculo
Junonisid est pelle caprina'. The referenceof thisphrase should be clear enough: the
instrumentthroughwhich theLuperci purifiedthewomen of Rome was indeedpellis

30 une f?te pr?d?iste?',

As has sometimes been argued: see e.g. P. Lambrechts, 'Les Lupereales, in Hommages ?
J. Bidez et Fr. Cumont, Coll. Latomus 2 (1949), 167?76.
For the evidence, Wiseman, op. cit. (n. 28).
Another possibility is that a previous uel could be understood and ab taken in the sense of 'derived from', which
would give the sense: February was so called either because the people was purified (februaretur) or (its name was
derived) from Iuno Februata etc.; the Latin would be awkward, though not impossible for Paul, but the problem of
Iuno as goddess of the Lupercalia would remain. I am grateful to Dr Luke Pitcher of Durham University for
discussion of this text.
For Inuus see Palmer, op. cit. (n. 28), 85-8; Wiseman, op. cit. (n. 28, 1995), 8-10. This name rather than Faunus,
by which the god might also have been called, is made highly plausible by the similarity of vel a Iunone to vel ab
Inuuo: the scribe's eye has surely jumped over the near repetition.
There is no need here to regard Iuno Februata as a special identity of the goddess, for which we have no real
evidence: as Palmer, op. cit. (n. 28), 18-19, saw>tne adjective needs to means no more than 'after her purification'.
Contra, Porte, op. cit. (n. 4).
Below p. 151.
The following sentence in Paul's version returns to the present tense, either because he forgot to make the
changes or because he is dealing with the meanings of words, not directly with rituals. For Paul in his own time, see
C. Woods, 'A contribution to the King's Library: Paul the Deacon's epitome and its Carolingian context', in F.
Glinister and C. Woods (eds), Verrius, Festus and Paul (2007), 109-35.
i.e. like the Goddess herself.
Paul makes errors in his summaries, but seldom departs far from what he found in Festus.

d ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'~ .T

1 -

Li amp,


I en x = .I -

t;L~~i r

it s


Lk I

I :1 W 1;o


i. Panel from a sarcophagus, with inscription

inmemory of Aelia Afanacia, Catacomb of
St Praetexta, Rome (late third century C.E.):
thewhipping of a woman by a Lupercus.
Courtesy of theDAI Rome: Photo by
Felbermeyer, inst.neg. I932.I20.

z. Detail of PI. IV. i. The Lupercus

and the Lady.
Courtesy of the DAI Rome: Photo by
Febermeyer, inst. neg. .932.I20.

caprina,viz. thestripsof skinfromthesacrificed victim.The question iswhy thisname for

thewhip?Much discussion has centredon the assumptionthat theword comes from
amiculum, meaning Juno'scape. JunoSospita is indeedshownwith a goatskinmantle over
her shoulders,as is thegod of theLupercal (seeFig. z); but ithas neverbeen satisfactorily
explainedhow thiscould have been used forpurification.39 Anotherpossibility would be
tounderstandnot amiculum(cape) butamTculus(littlefriend);thatis to say thatthewhip,
which promotedpregnancyand therebyassisted Junoin fulfilling her proper functions,
was called- colloquially, itshouldbe assumed- 'Juno'slittlehelper'. In thatcase, one
mightguess thatthisphrasebelongsnot toarchaichistory,but to thestreetsinFestus'own
Whether or not thatsuggestionis right,thepassagemakes itquite clear in thecontext
ofFebruarypurificationrituals,thatthewhippingby theLuperci and thepurification both
by Junoand by thegod of theLupercalia are integrally connectedwith thepromotionof
amongstthepeople ofRome. Inaddition,Thomas Kdves-Zulauf40
fertility has arguedvery
plausiblythatthefertility elementsin theritualare not limitedto thesecondpart of the
action: he quite plausibly interpretsthewhole ritual in theLupercal as a symbolic
evocationof thestagesof a humanbirth.Ifhe is right,thentheunityof theprogramme
would be doublyconfirmed.
Another entryinPaul's epitomeof Festus' Lexicon confirmsthathe, and in all likeli
hood Verrius, did (whetherrightlyor wrongly) regardthewhipping ritualas directed
particularlyat thewomen among thebystanders:
Crepi, thatisLuperci,were calledafterthecrack(crepitus)thatstripsofhidemadewhile
whipping.For theRomanshad a customat theLupercaliathatnakedmen ranaboutand
whippedevery woman they metwith stripsof hide.41
Some other sources do not emphasize thisdistinctionbetweenmen and women, and
indeed it seems very likelythat theLuperci as theyran lashedout indifferentlyat the
passers-bytopurifythepeople,men aswell aswomen. Since itwas (onemightexpect) the
womenwho becamepregnant,it ishardlysurprisingthattheyarementionedas offering
theirhands or backs42to the flickof thewhip or thatVerrius saw thisas the central
purposeof thispart of theritual.
Ovid43providesuswith importantrelatedevidence,confirming the linkbetweenJuno
Lucina and theLuperci, in thecourse of his account of theLupercalia inBook z of the
There was a grove beneath the Esquiline Hill, unpruned formany years, called by the
name of great Iuno.Wives and husbands had come there together to supplicate on bended
knees,when thetree-tops and thegoddessmiraculouslyspokethrough
her own grove: 'Let the sacred he-goat penetrate the Italian matrons'. The crowd in terror
was astounded at the obscure words.

A prophet, Ovid goes on, was able to interpret these words in a less affrightingmanner, by
taking the penetration as referring to the whip, not to sexual penetration. This isOvid's
account of the introduction of thewhipping ritual, which he places in the time of Romulus
himself.44 Those who wish to see the original ritual as one of the purification of the

For discussion:K?ves-Zulauf, op. cit. (n. 4), 246-56.
K?ves-Zulauf, op. cit. (n. 4), 224-45.
'Crep[p]os, id est lupercos, dicebant a crepitu pellicularum, quem faciunt verberantes, mos enim erat Romanis
in Lupercalibus nudos discurrere et pellibus obvias quasque feminas ferire.' Festus (Paul) 49.186
For the hands, see Plutarch, Caesar 61.2 and Juvenal 2.142 (on whom see further below, Postscript, p. 180); for
the backs, Ovid, Fasti 2.445. See below, pp. 179-81, and PI. IV for the very different third-century ce. evidence.
Ovid, Fasti 2.435-42. For a sceptical account of Ovid's evidence, Porte, op. cit. (n. 4), who argues that the whole
story has been transposed from another religious context.
For Livy's view of this matter, see below, p. 152; McLynn, p. 165 and especially n. 21.
152 J. A. NORTH

settlement and not concernedwith fertility

at all have triedtoexploita passage fromPope
Gelasius' attackon thosewho wished tomaintain thefestivalin theirown time,thefifth
Livy gives the reason for the institution of theLupercalia in his second decade, in so far
as he looks back at the invention of this very superstition: and it is not in order to resist
diseases that he says itwas instituted; rather ithad to be put on, as he thinks, because of
thewomen's sterility
thathad happenedat thattime.46
No doubtGelasius, by quoting fromLivy, thegreathistorian,was seekingto outman
oeuvrehisopponentsby showinghis bettercontrolof thepagan sources;but his statement
(even if it is a reliable reference) does not imply that Livy dated any particular event in the
middleRepublic, nor does it supportthe idea of a reform. Taking thewords '...propter
quid institutasint' literally,he would seem to be dating the introductionof thewhole
festival to themiddle Republic. Itwould not be safe to infer that thewords 'nec propter
morbos inhibendos'formedpartofLivy's text;theycouldwell be an inference by thePope
Even sterilitasitselfis a word not apparentlyused by
himselffroma mentionof sterilitas.
Livy in theextantpart of hisHistory.No elementof thissentenceshould therefore be
regardedas an actual fragment
ofLivy's text.The likeliestinterpretation is thatLivymen
tionedthefactthatthefestivalwas concernedwith fertility fromitsorigins.Thus hemay
well be referring to a story of the time of Romulus, such as that told by Ovid, or to some
similarversionof events.The questiondoes thenarise as towhat eventinLivy's narrative
would have triggered themention of the origins of the festival; but it need not be more
than a perceived shortage of live births at some particular moment.47
PeterWiseman48has argued that theprophecy inOvid reflectsa historicaleventand
gives it a precise date, as is his way; but he then argues that the form of the prophecy
impliesthatthewomen struckin theritualmust have beenmade tobleed or theprophecy
would not have been fulfilled, the goat would not have 'penetrated'. He adds a linguistic
argumentbecause thewomen (puellae)offertheirbacks percutienda,
which he translates
'to be cut' with the goatskin. This seems to me to be literal-mindedness carried to excess.
Prophecies,whetherrealormythical (as I remainconvincedthisonewas), can be fulfilled
at a symbolic as well as at a literal level. The blow symbolized the penetration. Meanwhile
percutere either means to stab with a sword or knife or else to strike, the natural sense
when it is the question of a blow with a whip. In this sense, how serious the consequences
might be would depend on what was used to strike the blow. According to our best infor
mation, we are talking precisely of a strip of skin, freshly cut from a victim, not of a whip
made of cured hardened leather.I remainmyself totallysceptical towards theclaimed
Itmay well be that the ritual became more violent in the course of the later period, and
we discuss thispossibilitybelow,49but itsrepublicanform
must have beenmore a display
of fun and games than of sexist violence. A good deal turns here on how we should imagine
the atmosphere of the festival at this date, which in turn depends on how seriously we take
the evidence of Plutarch's account. On his view, the ritual began with a sacrifice of goats
and the runners
were thenprovidedwith flimsyloinclothsandmakeshiftwhips cut off
animals. Ifso,we may legitimately
fromtheskinsof thenewlysacrificed continueto think

45 see A. W. J.Hollemann,
For Gelasius, Pope Gelasius I and the Lupercalia (1974); McLynn, below p. 162; for the
date of the incident; McLynn, below, p. 162 n. 9.
46 12: 'Lupercalia
Gelasius, Adv. Andromachum autem propter quid instituta sint, quantum ad ipsius
superstitionis commenta respect?t, Liuius in secunda decade loquitur nee propter morbos inhibendos instituta
comm?mor?t sed propter sterilitatem, ut ei uidetur, mulierum quae tune acciderat, exhibenda.'
According to Orosius, adv.pag. 4.4.2, there was such an incident in 276 b.c.e.; for discussion, Hollemann, op.
cit. (n. 45), 20-2; Wiseman, op. cit. (n. 4), 84; op. cit. (n. 28, 1995), 14.
Wiseman, op. cit. (n. 28).
Below, Postcript pp. 180-1.

of theLuperci as running,flickingthepassers-byas theyrunand generallylarkingabout,

not as stoppingtherun,strippingthewomen and floggingthem.


One strikingversionof themythof theLupercalia50isprovidedforus by an earlierpassage

of the same account inOvid. Romulus and Remus and theirfollowersare engaged in
making a sacrificetoFaunus;whilewaiting forthesacrificial
meat tobe cooked, theystrip
offand practicetheirgymnasticexercises,at thispoint:
A shepherd called out from a high point: 'Romulus, Remus, there are bandits driving
away the bullocks across the trackless lands'. Itwas a long delay to be armed; the brothers
rushedoffeach in a different
directionand thestolenbeastswere recoveredthrough
Remus' running across them.When he came back, he pulled the hissing meats (exta) from
the spits and said: 'None but the victor should surely eat these'. He did as he said, and so
likewise did the Fabii. Romulus came back there empty-handed and found the tables
empty and the bones bare. He laughed, and grieved that Remus and the Fabii had been
able towin, while his Quintilii could not. The representation (forma) of these deeds lives
on; they (the Luperci) run naked - and an action that turned out well in the end keeps
Ovid, Fasti z.369ff.
This isa verycuriousstory,raisingrealproblemsabout therelationship betweentheritual
and themythof thispart of theLupercalia Festival.To dispose of one complication,it
seemsclear that theexta inquestionhere are not simplytheentrails,which ought to be
dedicated to thegods not eaten bymen, rathertheword isbeingused in a more general
and loosersense,as itsometimesis; itmeans themeat cooked on thespits,as isassuredby
the factthatRomulus and hisQuintilii only findthebones left.That can hardlybe the
bones of theliverand heart.So I thinkno questionarises (itcertainlyisnot impliedat all
byOvid) thatRemus committedanyact of sacrilege,or thatthisexplainshis laterdeath.52
The point isonly thathewas thequicker twinand thevictor.There can be no doubt that
thereis a close relationshipherebetweenritualand poem:we know thatRomulus' laugh
was re-playedeveryyearwhen thetwonewLuperciwere blooded at thepreliminary goat
And these linesmust reflectsome furthercorrespondencebetween textand
ritual,specificallyreferredto in 1. 379; theonly question iswhat was theextentof this

As so often, there are many stories that can be told in association with Roman rituals and it is not possible to
claim one as the official truth. I assume that Ovid has the best claim on our attention in this particular context. For
other versions, see Valerius Maximus, quoted below pp. 178?9; Wiseman, op. cit. (n. 4), 87-8.
Pastor ab excelso 'per devia rura iuvencos,
Romule, praedones, et Reme', dixit, 'agunt.'
Longum erat armari: diversis exit uterque
partibus, occursu praeda recepta Remi.
Ut rediit, veribus stridentia detrahit exta
atque ait 'haec certe non nisi victor edet.'
Dicta facit, Fabiique simul. venit inritus illic
Romulus et mensas ossaque nuda videt.
Risit et indoluit Fabios potuisse Remumque
vincere, Quintilios non potuisse suos.
F<or>ma manet facti: p?sito velamine currunt,
et memorem famam quod bene cessit habet.
(In 1. 379 fama MSS; forma Alton.)
For the theory that he did so, see R. Schilling, 'Romulus l'?lu et R?mus le r?prouv?', reprinted inRites, Cultes,
Dieux de Rome (1979), 103-20, especially 112-14 (= ^^ 38 (1961), 182-99).
For the laugh of Romulus, Fasti 2.377; for the laugh of the Luperci, Plutarch, Romulus 21.7.

Forma, as used in 1. 379, is an emendationof themanuscript readingfama (fame);

palaeographically,this is an exceptionallyeasy change, but it is unfortunatethat the
readingdoesmake a differenceto thesense.The objection to fama is thattherepetition of
thesameword in thenext line ispointless,feebleand veryun-Ovidian; it is in any case
impossiblethatfama should be the subjectof habet ('the fame ... has abiding fame').
Formawould implysomethingfarbroader in thesenseof a re-presentation of theactual
triumphofRemus in therace.The question ishowmuch isneeded tomake senseof the
deliberateOvidian recallingof theritualin thecontextof his story.Justtheexistenceof
the twogroupsof Luperci seemsquite inadequate to explainwhat hemeans, thoughno
doubt thestorydoes provide an aition fortheexistenceof the twogroupsof runners. A
hypotheticalexplanationhas been suggested:that in theperformanceof the ritual,the
Fabii always consumed a share of the sacrificialmeat, while theQuintilii were not
allocated one and thatthestoryis an attemptto explain theapparentanomaly.The idea
derivesfroman anecdote inLivy,wheremuch thesame story,ina farmore concise form,
is toldof twoother families(thePotitiiand thePinarii) in relationto thecultofHercules
at theAraMaxima. The outcome in thatcase is thatthePinarii,who arrivedlate forthe
initialritual,never,so longas thetwo familiescontinuedtoperformtheirroles,received
theirshareof theexta.54
However,what ismost strikingaboutOvid's tale ispreciselywhat isnot paralleledby
the tale of thePotitii and thePinarii,viz. the racing,the rescuingof theflockfromthe
rustlers,thevictoras therecipientof thehonours,and above all thevictoryby thewrong
twin.Remus' victory,startling enoughon anyview, is all themore astonishinginview of
PeterWiseman's verysuggestivearguments55 thatthecontrastbetweenthetwinsisworked
out in thetraditionas a contrastbetweenRomulus theswiftandRemus theslow.Remus
theslow is eventuallykilledand sometimesnot byRomulus himself,but byCeler,whose
verynamemeans 'theswift'.56 Ifthisveryappealingargumentis right,thenthemythof the
Lupercalia preciselyreversesall normalexpectationsaboutRomulus andRemus.And the
racebetweenthemto rescuethebullocksmust have been thecrucialphase of thestoryon
which themessage turned. Ovid's whole accountwould make more sense iftherunningof
thetwogroupsofLuperci in some sense reflected thecompetitionbetweentheirfounders,
so thateach year saw there-running of the race and a new setof victorswho would no
doubt have been rewarded with the honour of eating the exta.57 However, there is no trace
of such an outcomeof therunningin thesourceswe have.
There are in factthreeparadoxical elementsinOvid's accountof thisincident,none of
which does he finditnecessaryto explain. First, thevictimwhose sacrificeleads to the
whole incidentand theapparent triumphofRemus overRomulus is a femalegoat sacri
ficedtoFaunus, amale (assertivelymale) deity,againstall thenormalrules;58
winner turnsout tobe thewrong twin,ifthiseventis tobe theprecursorof thecelebration
of thefoundingofRome, as itshouldbe; thirdly, thefocusofOvid's account seems to be
almost entirelyon theone issueof thenakednessof the runners. What may be detected
here isagain thespiritof theCarnival. Justas therunnerssubvertthenormalconventions
of Roman life,so themyth transposesthe founders,subvertsthe rulesof sacrifice,and
presentsthenakednessas themain themeof theday.The carnival traditionspreadsfrom
lifeintomythand literature.
From one perspectiveat least,thereligiouscentreof theritualprogrammeseems tome
to be possible to locate: the annual purificationof the Roman people and their
maintenance through the promotion of fertilityare identical actions and they are
Livy i.7.12-14.
Wiseman, op. cit. (n. 4), 6-13.
For this version of the story, Ovid, Fasti 4.837?44; Festus (Paul) 48.2 L; Diod.Sic. 8.6.1?3.
For the agonistic element in themyth, see G. Piccaluga, 'L'aspetto agon?stico dei Lupercalia', Studi di storia delle
religioni 33 (1962), 51-62; G. Capdeville, 'Jeux athl?tiques et rituals de fondation', in Spectacles sportifs et sc?niques
dans le monde Etrusco-Italique, CEFR 172 (1993), 141-87, especially 170-6.
The normal rules inWissowa, op. cit. (n. 21), 412-16.

inseparablefromthe runningof theLuperci.The maintenanceof the ritualprotectsthe

people and guarantees itscontinuityand survivalfromthe foundingbirthof the twins
onwards. The threeelementsof purification,fertility, and protectionare all meanings
inherentin theritualprogramme.It is also perfectlylikelythat thishad always cohered
with a celebrationof thefoundersand theoriginof thecommunity: nothingrequiresus to
postulate specificlateraccretions,thoughtheunderstanding of a ritualof thiskindmust
always have changedover time.My main point in any case is thatby the timeof this
article'svantagepointof I5 February44 B.C.E., thewhole ritualiscertainlytogetherin its
familiarform;itwould havemade perfectly good sense,as a coded historyof theorigins,
developmentandmaintenanceof thecommunityof theRoman people. The ritualis one
of continuitywith thepast and annual renewalforthefuture.
One more aspectdeservestobe thoughtabout here,even thoughtheevidentialbasis for
theconnection may be tenuousin theextreme.59 The date of thefestivalis justa fewdays
aftertheRoman date forthebeginningof spring.60 A note in theLiber Caerimoniarum,6'
which introducesa particularday's racingin theHippodrome at Constantinople,marks
theday as 'Luperc.' (AouIr?pK.).There seemsno reason to doubt thatthisabbreviation
shouldbe understoodas Lupercalia, i.e.what survivesof theold Roman festivalcenturies
later in a Christiancontext.It is unsurprisingthat littleifanythingis leftof the rituals
except thename and theapproximatedate.62Butwhat is suggestiveis thatthecelebration
is accompaniedby a hymn to the spring.63 That suggeststhat theannual awakeningof
human fertility is timedto coincidewith theannual awakeningof thefertility of animals
and plants.The questionneeds tobe asked (thoughit isnot answeredhere)how farhuman
was perceived in thecontextof othernatural events.This is to perceive it as a
festivalof spring,ratherthanof thenew year as a calendricalevent.


It is timeto returntoCaesar inhispurple robeon his golden throne.64

So far,my argument
has been thatthecharacterof theFestivalas itwas in thelateRepublic can be interpreted
and thatnothingsuggeststhatitwas inanyway a coronation-ritual or thatthepositionof
Caesar on therostrawas in anyway a traditionalpart of theceremonial.It is,however,
surelypossible tounderstandwhy hewas where hewas andwhy seated in such state. In
the firstplace, his positionmust have been veryclose to the finishing-point
of the run.
Augustinegivesus a firmclue to theroutetheLuperci ran,when hementions inpassing
that they ran up theVia Sacra (the sacred way) and then down again.65 He tells us thiswas

R. P. Grumel, 'Le commencement et la fin des jeux ? l'Hippodrome de Contantinople', ?chos d'Orient 1936, 428;
Y.-M. Duval, 'Des Lupercales de Constantinople aux Lupercales de Rome', REL 55 (1977), 222-70.
Varro, de RR 1.28.1 (verni dies ex a.d. VII id. Feb.); Pliny, NH 2.122 (is dies sextus Februarius ante idus); 16.93
(ex a.d. fere vi idus Febr.); Ovid, Fasti 2.149-50 (under a.d. V id.Feb.).
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Liber Caerimoniarum 2.82, with A.Vogt's commentary, Commentaire (1964),
vol. 2, 172?7.
For the date, Duval, op. cit. (n. 59), 227-34.
Grumel, op. cit. (n. 59), 428-32; Duval, op. cit. (n. 59), 237-43. For a sceptical account of the alleged connection
between the Lupercalia and the festival of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, see C. Sch?ublin, 'Luperealien und
Lichtmess', Hermes 123 (1995), 117-25.
For discussion of Caesar's Lupercalia: A. Alf?ldi, Studien ?ber Caesars Monarchie (1953), i5ff.; K. W. Welwei,
'Das Angebots des Diadems an Caesar und das Luperkalienproblem', Historia 16 (1967), 44-69; Weinstock, op. cit.
(n. 8), 331-40; Valli, op. cit. (n. 4), 115-20. Georges Dum?zil inArchaic Roman Religion (English trans.; 1970), vol.
i, 346-50, argued that the festival should be seen as a royal initiation, but he does so arguing from Caesar's use of
it, not from the ritual itself. For the attempt to interpret the ritual as initiatory in its essence, see especially Ulf,
op. cit. (n. 4).
'For people also explain the ascent and descent of the luperci along the sacred way, saying that they represent
the men who headed for the mountain peaks because of the flood and came back down to the low-lying ground
when it subsided' (Augustine, City of God 18.12).
156 J. A. NORTH

interpretedas a referenceto themenwho fledto thehills to escape thefloodand returned

to theplainwhen thewaters subsidedat last.We can surelybe confidentthatthisreflects,
notAugustine's reportofVarro, but the resultsof his seeing the festivalwhile visiting
Rome, and hearinga fifth-centuryinterpretation
of theritual.66 ran
The Luperci, therefore,
up the hill away from the forum, towards the area of the later Arch of Titus, and then back
towardstheforum. must have been close to theendof theroute,
Caesar's seat at therostra
chosenbecause thatwas where therunners would arrive.67This was, we can be sure,not
thecompleterun68 and thereare one or twomore indicatorstobe consideredhere: therun
certainlystartedfromtheLupercal (seeplan at Fig. 3),whereRomulus and Remus were
supposed to have been foundand where thepreliminaryrituals took place; it almost
certainlycircledround thePalatine;69 meanwhile, thearea of thecomitium,near theend
of the Via Sacra, not far from where Caesar was seated, seems also to have had mythical
linkswith thestoryof the twins.In both places, accordingtodifferent sources,therewas
a fig-tree, theficusRuminalis,which figuredin thestoryof thediscoveryof the twins.70
Pliny, in a discussionof thevarious treesin theforumarea, shows awareness thata ficus
Ruminaliswas to be foundboth at theLupercal and in thecomitiumand impliesthat it
moved fromone site to theotherwhile the early augur,AttusNavius, was takingthe
auguries.71 in thecomitium
The fig-tree was theone calledNavia, afterAttus himself.This
adds substanceto theprobabilitythatone sitewas thebeginning,theother theend of the
Furthersuggestiveevidence isprovidedby theseriesof reliefsshowingthispart of the
forum,called theAnaglyphaor PluteiTraiani (Pls 1_11).72 They show a procession in the
second centuryC.E.,with account-booksbeing transportedtodestruction,cancellingthe
people's debts, in a gestureof imperialmunificence;behind theprocession,where the
Temple ofSaturn,theonlybuildingin thevicinity with Ioniccapitals, isclearlyidentifiable
(PI. II.i), theprocessionpasseswhat must be theBasilica Julia (seeFig. 3). Clearly visible
in the relief are the fig-treeand an accompanying statue ofMarsyas (P1. II.z) at the back of
The position theyoccupycertainlydoes not reflecttheirexact location in
space; theywere in fact on the other side of the forum, in the area of the comitium near
the old rostra, not the Caesarian ones. They are present as symbolic markers of the
of thepeople ofRome. But theyalso strongly
traditionsand liberty supportan association
between the end-point of the run of the Luperci and the rostra where Caesar was seated.
Ifwe can make out the association between the end of the run, the flcus Ruminalis and
the place inwhich Caesar was seated, then a possible explanation follows. When Antony
arrives as the firstof the runners from the new sodalitas, named after the gens Julia, Caesar
is receivingone of his greatesthonours.The sourcesmake itquite clear thatthecreation
of this third sodalitas was seen as an honour to him and it is listed as such in the elaborate
liststhathave beenpreservedin thehistorians.74
What hewas doing therefore
was deliber
ately placing himself in parallel to the founders, who also had their own group of compan
ions runningthecourse.We know already that thecomparisonwith Romulus/Quirinus

66 to the Argei', Ancient n. 3. See McLynn,

So, A. Ziolkowski, 'From the Lupercalia Society 29 (1998/99), 199 &
below p. 173.
For a detailed plan of the area, see F. Coarelli, //Foro Romano: periodo arcaico (1983), 16-17.
For discussion, Valli, op. cit. (n. 4), 117-18, who argues that the run up and down the Via Sacra was an
innovation of Caesar's. For a quite different view, Michels, op. cit. (n. 4), for whom the original run was the Via
Sacra. See also n. 27 above.
For insistence on this point, Coarelli, op. cit. (n. 27), 32-7.
Wiseman, op. cit. (n. 28, 1995), 7?8; F. Coarelli in LTUR 2.240-9 (s.v. ficus Navia; ficus Ruminalis).
Pliny, NH 15.77: '... tamquam in comitium sponte transisset Atto Nauio augurante'. The word miraculo earlier
in this sentence clearly refers to the miracle of the wolf feeding the twins, not to the transfer of the fig-tree.
For which see M. Torelli, 'Plutei Traianei', in LTUR 4.95-6; Typology and Structure of Roman Historical
Reliefs (1992), 89-109.
For the significance ofMarsyas, see Torelli, op. cit. (n. 72), 102-6.
Dio Cassius 44.6.2; Suetonius, DJ 76.1.




F'ortic5 lu'no
M inerva
/ .~MetelI' Rsr
C ircus (SaturnFAU L
Flaminius FO

ieculais Mater|
/~ ~ ~ ~ ?? ~~Basilica Vesta

\ Round
/ 4*Aecapu Magna

FR t X
Temple Lupercal-'

0? 200 m[

FIG. 3. Rome in the firstcenturyB.C.E. (Drawn byMiles Irving,Department of Geography, UCL)

was part of his programmebecause of theclear evidence thata similarparallelismwith

Romulus was evoked at theParilia of zI April.75So he is seated in statenot following
Romulus as King of Rome, but followingboth twinsas theFounders of Rome. He is
emphasizinga double link: thegens Julia can trace itsoriginsback to the twinsand
75 on Caesar as founder, 180-4; on tne Parilia,
Weinstock, op. cit. (n. 8), 175-99, especially, 184-6.
158 J. A. NORTH

throughthemtoAeneas andVenus, but he himselfisnow creatinga newpositionforhim

selffollowingtheprecedentof theoriginalfounders. He is theNew Founder.
So farso good; butwhat followsis theincidentof thediadem.Cicero76makes thestrong
point that theproductionof thediadem at thismoment stronglyimpliesthatthiswas a
plannedmove, not an inspiration of themoment.But fromthispointonwards, thestory
becomeshard to follow: in the firstplace, thereare various different reportsas towhat
exactlyhappened. In one version,Caesar sends thediadem to the templeof Capitoline
Juppiter, sayingthatthere was no King (Rex) inRome exceptJuppiter, i.e. Juppiter
In a second version, thediadem is firstthrowninto thecrowd and then,on Antony's
instruction, placed on Caesar's nearbystatue.78Inwhat seems to be stilla thirdversion,
Caesar himselfplaces iton a sella, thatis to say,on a throne.79
This thirdversion,known
only fromtheepitomeofLivy,has in thepast been assimilatedto thefirst, on theassump
tion that thereadinginLivy's text is corruptand that theword sella (throne)should be
emended to cella, i.e. the cell, or sacred room, of 1uppiterin theCapitoline temple.80
However this theorywill not do: the essence of theCapitoline version is thatCaesar
displaysmodestybyyieldingthediadem to Juppiter. Livy,however,includesthe incident
in a listof reasonsfortheassassination.It isnot forhim a displayofmodesty,but rather
one of arrogance,in a listof actswhichwere thoughtto justifytheassassination.
... these(honours)providedthecause of hostility(invidia)againsthim,and also that
when he was seated in frontof the templeof Venus Genetrixand theSenate came
bringinghim thesehonours,hedidnot standup; and also that when thediademhad been
placed upon hishead byM. Antonius,his consularcolleaguewho was running amongst
theluperci,he placed itupon a throne(insella); and also that...81
It isnot hard to seewhy Livyor his sourcemighthave takenthisview.The ritualreferred
to is theplacing of a symbol,normallythesymbolof a god or goddess,on a throneas a
mark of theirpresenceat a ritualor at thegames,usuallyafterbeing takenfromthetemple
and carried inprocession. If that is how thegesturewas interpreted, thenitcould have
been interpreted, not as the rejectionof the regnum,but as the acceptance by Caesar
himselfof his statusas deity,whichwe know at leastwas underdiscussionat thetime.The
diademhad been given tohim; it thusbecame his symbolicpresence;placed on thethrone,
it representedhis claim to be recognizedas a deity.82
Livy's version,then,seems to imply
a quite independenttraditioninwhich Caesar did not so much renounce the regnum,
whetherwillinglyor unwillingly, theofferof thediadem as an act of deifica
as reinterpret
These variationsas to thefactsofwhat happenedmust correspondto thehuge varia
tionsalso in theinterpretationsofwhat happened thathave come down to us.No doubt,
ifit truethatCaesar's originalpurposehad been toassociatehimselfwith thefoundersnot
theregnum,thatmessagewas immediately obscuredby thesearchforthemeaning of the
offeringof thediadem and thepolitical opportunitiescreated by the incidentfor his
enemies - ' my thinking,he would fainhave had it'. Itwas evidentlya matter of
speculationfromtheverybeginning who was seekingto achievewhat in thewhole affair.
Was theoffering of thehonourgenuineorwas itan efforttodiscreditCaesar by loading

Cicero, Philippic 2.85, quoted p. 146 above.
Suetonius, DJ 79.2; Dio Cassius 44.11.2; Nicolaus of Damascus, Life of Augustus 73.
Nicolaus, Life of Augustus 72; 75.
Livy, Per. 116.
80 an C?sars', Klio 34 (1942), 92?117; Weinstock,
So, E. Hohl, 'Das Angebot des Diadems op. cit. (n. 8), 331 n. 3.
'... inuidiae aduersus eum causam praestiterunt, quod senatui deferenti hos honores, cum ante aedem Veneris
Genetricis sederet, non adsurrexit, et quod a M. Antonio cos., collega suo, inter lupercos c?rrente diadema capiti
suo impositum in sella reposuit, et quod ...' (Livy, Per. 116).
For the chair ritual, seeWeinstock, op. cit. (n. 8), 181-6.

himwith excessivehonours?Whose sidewas Antony reallyon?83Nicolaus' versionhas

beenmuch criticized,84 and indeed seems to be thoroughly unreliableon the religious
details,but it is very interesting
on thepolitical speculationthatsurroundedlaterinter
pretationsof events.He has Aemilius Lepidus playing an ambiguous role;85and even
Cassius and Casca thefuturetyrannicides appear, supportingtheofferof thediadem and
playinga part in thedrama, thoughof course they were supposed to be doing so forcon
cealed anti-Caesarianreasons,hoping thathe would discredithimselfin theeyesof his
supporters.86 It is temptingto see the intensespeculationthe incidentprovoked as to its
meaning, as a creativeliteraryextensionof theCarnival and of the role-swappingthat
wentwith it.


This articlehas been arguingforthree main conclusions.The firstis thatCaesar's central

purpose of thedaywas to associate himselfand his genswith the foundation mythsof
Rome. He was to be thelivingversionof thefoundingtwinsina re-founded Rome. That
explains his position in the forumand his receptionofAntony.The second is that the
ritualwas inno sensea coronation.Itwas simplynot about theconferring of power on
any individual;it is all about a communityand its transitionthroughtime,past, present
and futurelinkedin theperformanceof inheritedrituals.The idea of theoffering of the
diadem simplycannotderivefromanyknowledgeof theritualprogramme.Thirdly,that
both theritualprogrammeand themythhave verystrongelementsof theCarnival. In the
myth,aswe have found,theswiftis reversed with theslow, thewinnerwith theloser,the
futurekingwith his doomed twin. In the ritual,theconsul runs in a loin-clothlashing
whomsoeverhe meets, and is greetedwith joking,larkingand obscenity.He stinksof
perfumeand of alcohol. The actionsof theyoungmen beforetherunningstartslinkthe
carnivalesqueelementsof themyth (Romulus' laugh)with thatof the ritual (theyoung
men's laugh).It isa featureof carnivalritualsthatspecialroles (characteristically,
of theCarnival) are conferred on individuals,
designedtocontrast with theirrealeveryday
One implicationof all thisis surelythatCaesar would have had to be out of his senses
touse thisparticularritualtoprovidehimwith a ritualof coronation.The hypothesisthat
he would have chosen thisoccasion to testpublic reactionsto theofferof thediadem
seemsjustas improbable. When offeredthediadem,he did theonly thinghe could in the
circumstances and turnedtheofferdown. Inmy view,we can be certainthat,ifthewhole
operationwas indeedplannedbyCaesar andAntony inadvance, itmust alwayshave been
intendedas a demonstrationof his refusalof thepositionofRex, which offeredno solu
tionto theproblemsposed byhis new positionof power.What we can takefurtheris the
value toCaesar of using the ritual in thisway. He was, we shouldnot forget,tryingto
achievesomething next to impossible,as itseemedat thetime:tomake his transitionfrom
a republicanleaderto amonarch acceptableto a volatileand vocal publicopinion,ofboth
the elite and themasses inRome. Partly, as we have seen, he tried to do this by associating
with thefounders,by evenputtinghimself,in a sense,on a levelwith thetwoof

See, e.g., the highly implausible speculations about Antony's motives in the speech of Fufius Cale?as in Dio
Cassius 46.17-19.
For discussion, see Jacoby, FGH 90 F 130.71-5; the evidence is dismissed byWeinstock, op. cit. (n. 8), 332 n. 1;
see also, J. Bellemore, Nicolaus of Damascus, Life of Augustus (1984); J.Malitz, Nikolaos von Damaskos, Leben
des Kaisers Augustus (2003), who regards all these tales as inventions of Nicolaus himself.
Mentioned by Nicolaus, Life of Augustus 72, as hesitating to offer the crown.
According toNicolaus, Life of Augustus 72, Cassius actually placed the crown on Caesar's knee, before Antony
had arrived. In reading these accounts, it should be remembered that Caesar on the rostra is high above those on the
level of the Forum.
i6o J. A. NORTH

with itsrecallingof
them.But thereismore to it thanthis:theritualof theannual festival,
ancientdays, its celebrationof thepassing of fertilityfromgeneration to generation,
provided a linkbetween theRomans of thepast, thedead forefathers, and thoseof the
presentand of thefuture.Itwas not thatthecelebrationre-assertedthekingsof theremote
past or recoveredsome arcanecoronationritual:ratheritconnectedthefoundersand the
new rulerwith thewhole glorious traditionof theRepublic and themen who had fought
to createRoman dominanceover Italyand thenthe Mediterraneanworld.
The implicationsare considerable:firstwe must recognizethat the ritualwas at this
date not a dead,meaninglessceremonybut a liveand vigorous traditionor Caesar and
Antonywould not have soughttomake use of it.Secondly,theywere quite prepared, in
fullawarenessof theancientbeliefsand traditions,to explore thepossibilitiesof revision
and reform. Nowhere does theRoman combinationof conservatismand changebecome
more evident.

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