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Vulcanalia

(23 August)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Andrea Mantegna, Volcano, god of fire

Vulcanalia was a Roman festival in honor of Vulcan, the god of fire. They were celebrated on August 23. Other deities were also worshiped during this time: Maia, Hora, and Ops. The Temple of Vulcan in Rome was located at the Forum Romanum at the foot of the Capitol. Vulcan’s Tabernacle was also located on the Field of Mars. Interestingly, the Etruscan priests (haruspics) recommended the Romans that the temple of Vulcan should always be outside the city limits.

During his celebration of Volcanalia, fish and small animals (calf or rusty wild boar) were thrown into the fire. Legends also speak of making a sacrifice to the Volcano of armour and weapons captured from the enemy during the war. He was always summoned when putting out fires.
During Vulcanalia, the Romans also hung their clothes and fabrics in the sun. Such a custom probably resulted from the theological connection of Vulcan with the deified Sun.

Only once in history was Ludi Volcanalici held – in 20 BCEE during the reign of Octavian Augustus. In this way, they wanted to emphasize the importance of the signed treaty with the Party and the return of the legionary banners lost at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCEE.

When in 64 CE “great fire” broke out in Rome, a series of rites was performed to appease Vulcan’s anger. The later Emperor Domitian, influenced by these events and subsequent fires, established a new altar dedicated to this god on the Quirinal and ordered to sacrifice a red boar and a calf.

Sources
  • Jaczynowska Maria, Religie świata rzymskiego, Warszawa 1987
  • Smith William, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities
  • Zieliński Tadeusz, Religia Rzeczypospolitej Rzymskiej

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