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Dies lustricus – day of purification

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Roman child
Roman child

Dies lustricus (“day of purification”) was a Roman rite that was carried out for newborns. In the case of girls, it was carried out on the eighth day of birth, and for boys on the ninth.

We know little about the ritual procedure itself, but we know that on this day parents gave their children names. That is why sometimes the tombstones of newborns are found without the given name. The youngest newborn whose tomb had name was discovered, was nine days old.

The high death rate of newborns in Rome – at around 40% – probably meant that the first days of the baby were considered breakthrough. During this time, in a social aspect, the child did not exist. It is also believed that dies lustricus was when a child received a bulla – a medallion with an amulet inside that protected him until he reached adulthood.

  • Maureen Carroll, Infancy and Earliest Childhood in the Roman World: 'A Fragment of Time'

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