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Parentalia

(13-21 February)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman mosaic showing the skull
Roman mosaic showing the skull

On February 13-21, the Romans celebrated the so-called Parentalia (also called dies parentales). At that time, they visited the graves of their ancestors in cemeteries outside the city, across the holy border pomerium. They brought them gifts (sacrificia): flowers – most often violets, salt, wheat, bread dipped in wine, milk and wine, feeding them in such a way that they would not harm the living.

The holiday, despite the fact that it was included in the holiday calendar, had a family character. On the first day of Christmas there was a public procession headed by Vestals. The goal of the march was the tomb of Tarpeji – the daughter of Spurius Tarpey, who commanded the defense of the fortress on the Capitol during the Sabine invasion, caused by the kidnapping of the Sabine women. During the siege, Tarpeja saw the Sabine chief Titus Tatius, with whom she fell in love. She promised to open the gates of the fortress for him in exchange for the promise of marriage and for what the Sabines “had in their left hands”. On their left hands, the Sabines wore golden epaulettes and rings, but they also wore shields. When Tarpeja let the enemies into the fortress, they dropped their shields on her, killing her. The place where Tarpaea was supposed to die was called the Tarpeian Rock. The Romans blamed it for perjury, adultery and high treason.

The Parentalia celebrations ended on February 21, when the so-called Feralia.

Immediately after the celebration (February 22), Caristia was celebrated. Throughout the holidays of Parentalia and Caristia, marriage was prohibited, temples were closed and trade was forbidden.

Sources
  • Jaczynowska Maria, Religie świata rzymskiego, Warszawa 1987
  • Zieliński Tadeusz, Religia Rzeczypospolitej Rzymskiej

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