An Agonalia or Agonia was an obscure archaic religious observance celebrated in ancient Rome several times a year, in honor of various divinities. Its institution, like that of other religious rites and ceremonies, was attributed to Numa Pompilius, the semi-legendary second king of Rome. Ancient calendars indicate that it was celebrated regularly on January 9, May 21, and December 11.

A festival called Agonia or Agonium Martiale, in honor of Mars, was celebrated March 17, the same day as the Liberalia, during a prolonged "war festival" that marked the beginning of the season for military campaigning and agriculture.[1]

Also calledAgonia
Observed byRoman Republic,
Roman Empire
TypeClassical Roman religion
Observancesanimal sacrifice
DateJanuary 9
May 21
December 11
Frequencythrice per year


The object of this festival was a disputed point among the ancients themselves, but as J.A. Hartung observed,[2] the offering was a ram (aries), the usual victim sacrificed to the guardian gods of the state; the presiding priest was the rex sacrificulus, and the site was the Regia, both of which could be employed only for ceremonies connected with the highest gods that affected the wellbeing of the whole state.


The etymology of the name was also a subject of much dispute among the ancients. The various etymologies proposed are given at length by Ovid.[3] None of these, however, is satisfactory. One possibility is that the sacrifice in its earliest form was offered on the Quirinal Hill, which was originally called Agonus, at the Colline gate, Agonensis. The sacrifice is explicitly located at the Regia, or the domus regis ("house of the king"), which in the historical period was at the top of the Via Sacra, near the arch of Titus, though one ancient source states that in earliest times, the Regia was on the Quirinal.

The Circus Agonensis, as it is called, is supposed by some to have occupied the place of the present Piazza Navona, and to have been built by the emperor Alexander Severus on the spot where the victims were sacrificed at the Agonalia. It may not, however, have been a circus at all, and Humphrey omits the site in his work on Roman circuses.[4]

January 9

An Agonium occurs on January 9 in the Fasti Praenestini, albeit in mutilated form.[5] In Ovid's poem on the Roman calendar, he calls it once the dies agonalis ("agonal day")[6] and elsewhere the Agonalia,[7] and offers a number of etymologies of varied plausibility. Festus explains the word agonia as an archaic Latin term for hostia, a sacrificial victim.[8] Augustine of Hippo thought the Romans had a god named Agonius,[9] who might then have been the god of the Colline part of the city[10] (see "Etymology" above).

December 11

This third occurrence of the Agonia or Agonalia shares the date of December 11 with the Septimontium or Septimontiale sacrum, which only very late Roman calendars take note of and which depends on a textual conjecture. The relation between the two observances, if any exists, is unknown.[11] A fragmentary inscription found at Ostia that reads: "Agonind" testifies that this festival was dedicated to Sol Indiges. It was indeed the second festival celebrating this deity, after that of August 10.[12]

Agonium Martiale

The Agonia to Mars occurs during a period of festivals in March (Latin Martius), the namesake month of Mars. These were the chariot races of the Equirria February 27, a feria on the Kalends of March (a day sacred also to his mother Juno), a second Equirria on March 14, his Agonalia March 17, and the Tubilustrium March 23.[13]

A note on the holiday from Varro indicates that this Agonia was of more recondite significance than the Liberalia held on the same day. Varro's source is the books of the Salian priests surnamed Agonenses, who call it the Agonia instead.[14] According to Masurius Sabinus, the Liberalia was called the Agonium Martiale by the pontiffs.[15] Modern scholars are inclined to think that the sharing of the date was a coincidence, and that the two festivals were unrelated.[16]


  1. ^ Hendrik Wagenvoort, "On the Magical Significance of the Tail," in Pietas: Selected Studies in Roman Religion (Brill, 1980), p. 148; John Scheid, An Introduction to Roman Religion (Indiana University Press, 2003), p. 51.
  2. ^ Johann Adam Hartung, Die Religion der Römer, vol. ii p33, 1836
  3. ^ Fasti i.319‑332
  4. ^ John H. Humphrey, Roman Circuses: Arenas for Chariot Racing (University of California Press, 1986), p. 543; Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome (Edinburgh University Press, 2000).
  5. ^ Fowler, Roman Festivals, p. 280.
  6. ^ Ovid, Fasti 1.318 and 324; Varro, De lingua latina 6.12, called it agonales, plural.
  7. ^ Ovid, Fasti 1.325.
  8. ^ See also Ovid, Fasti 1.331.
  9. ^ Augustine, De Civitate Dei 4.11.16.
  10. ^ Fowler, Roman Festivals, p. 281, note 5, citing Ambrosch, Studien, p. 149.
  11. ^ Fowler, Roman Festivals, p. 265.
  12. ^ A. Grenier Indigetes et noveniles "Boletim de filologia" 1951.
  13. ^ Michael Lipka, Roman Gods: A Conceptual Approach (Brill, 2009), p. 37; the views of Georg Wissowa on the festivals of Mars framing the military campaigning season, with additional festivals in October, are summarized by C. Bennett Pascal, "October Horse," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 85 (1981), p. 264, with bibliography.
  14. ^ Varro, De lingua latina 6.14.
  15. ^ As preserved by Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.4.15.
  16. ^ William Warde Fowler, concurring with Georg Wissowa, Roman Festivals, p. 54.


  • PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: John Murray.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "Agonalia". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.

For the German religious leader sometimes known as "Brother Agonius", see Michael Wohlfahrt.Agonius (Ancient Greek: Ἀγώνιος) or Enagonius was an epithet of several gods in Greek mythology (or a distinct deity). Aeschylus and Sophocles use it of Apollo and Zeus, and apparently in the sense of helpers in struggles and contests, or possibly as the protectors of soldiers. But Agonius is more especially used as an epithet of Hermes, who presides over all kinds of solemn contests (ἀγῶνες), such as the Agonalia. Classical scholar William Warde Fowler thought it likely the deity or the epithets were merely inventions of the pontifices.According to a 19th-century catalog of Greek and Roman art in the Vatican Palace, there was in that building a statue considered by the museum's curator to be that of Hermes Enagonius, dated to the time of Lysippos, although other critics have variously believed the statue to depict Heracles, Theseus or Meleager."Agonius" was also the original name of the Quirinal Hill in Rome.



December is the twelfth and final month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and is the seventh and last of seven months to have a length of 31 days.

December got its name from the Latin word decem (meaning ten) because it was originally the tenth month of the year in the Roman calendar, which began in March. The winter days following December were not included as part of any month. Later, the months of January and February were created out of the monthless period and added to the beginning of the calendar, but December retained its name.In Ancient Rome, as one of the four Agonalia, this day in honor of Sol Indiges was held on December 11, as was Septimontium. Dies natalis (birthday) was held at the temple of Tellus on December 13, Consualia was held on December 15, Saturnalia was held December 17–23, Opiconsivia was held on December 19, Divalia was held on December 21, Larentalia was held on December 23, and the dies natalis of Sol Invictus was held on December 25. These dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.

The Anglo-Saxons referred to December–January as Ġēolamonaþ (modern English: "Yule month"). The French Republican Calendar contained December within the months of Frimaire and Nivôse.

Di indigetes

In Georg Wissowa's terminology, the di indigetes or indigites were Roman deities not adopted from other religions, as distinguished from the di novensides. Wissowa thus regarded the indigetes as "indigenous" gods, and the novensides as "newcomer gods". Ancient usage, however, does not treat the two terms as a dichotomy, nor maintain this clear-cut distinction. Wissowa's interpretation is no longer widely accepted and the meaning remains uncertain.

In classical Latin, the epithet Indiges, singular in form, is applied to Sol (Sol Indiges) and to Jupiter of Lavinium, later identified with Aeneas. One theory holds that it means the "speaker within", and goes back to before the recognition of divine persons. Another, which the Oxford Classical Dictionary holds more likely, is that it means "invoked" in the sense of "pointing to", as in the related word indigitamenta.

In Augustan literature, the di indigites are often associated with di patrii and appear in lists of local divinities (that is, divinities particular to a place). Servius notes that Praeneste had its own indigetes.Evidence pertaining to di indigites is rarely found outside Rome and Lavinium, but a fragmentary inscription from Aletrium (modern Alatri, north of Frosinone) records offerings to di Indicites including Fucinus, a local lake-god; Summanus, a god of nocturnal lightning; Fiscellus, otherwise unknown, but perhaps a local mountain god; and the Tempestates, weather deities. The inscription has been interpreted as a list of local or nature deities to whom transhumant shepherds should make propitiary offers.Wissowa listed 33 di indigetes, including two collectives in the plural, the Lares of the estate and the Lemures of the dead. Any list of indigetes, however, is conjectural; Raimo Anttila points out that "we do not know the list of the di indigetes."


The Equirria (also as Ecurria, from *equicurria, "horse races") were two ancient Roman festivals of chariot racing, or perhaps horseback racing, held in honor of the god Mars, one February 27 and the other March 14.

Fasti (poem)

The Fasti or Fausti (Latin: Fastorum Libri Sex, "Six Books of the Calendar"), sometimes translated as The Book of Days or On the Roman Calendar, is a six-book Latin poem written by the Roman poet Ovid and published in 8 AD. Ovid is believed to have left the Fasti incomplete when he was exiled to Tomis by the emperor Augustus in 8 AD. Written in elegiac couplets and drawing on conventions of Greek and Latin didactic poetry, the Fasti is structured as a series of eye-witness reports and interviews by the first-person vates ("poet-prophet" or "bard") with Roman deities, who explain the origins of Roman holidays and associated customs—often with multiple aetiologies. The poem is a significant, and in some cases unique, source of fact in studies of religion in ancient Rome; and the influential anthropologist and ritualist J.G. Frazer translated and annotated the work for the Loeb Classical Library series. Each book covers one month, January through June, of the Roman calendar, and was written several years after Julius Caesar replaced the old system of Roman time-keeping with what would come to be known as the Julian calendar.

The popularity and reputation of the Fasti has fluctuated more than that of any of Ovid's other works. The poem was widely read in the 15th–18th centuries, and influenced a number of mythological paintings in the tradition of Western art. However, as scholar Carole E. Newlands has observed, throughout the 20th century "anthropologists and students of Roman religion … found it full of errors, an inadequate and unreliable source for Roman cultic practice and belief. Literary critics have generally regarded the Fasti as an artistic failure." In the late 1980s, however, the poem enjoyed a revival of scholarly interest and a subsequent reappraisal; it is now regarded as one of Ovid's major works, and has been published in several new English translations. Ovid was exiled from Rome for his subversive treatment of Augustus, yet the Fasti continues this treatment—which has led to the emergence of an argument in academia for treating the Fasti as a politically weighted work.


Ianuarius, fully Mensis Ianuarius (Latin for the "January Month", i.e., "The Month of Janus"), was the first month of the ancient Roman calendar, from which the Julian and Gregorian month of January derived. It was followed by Februarius ("February"). In the calendars of the Roman Republic, Ianuarius had 29 days. Two days were added when the calendar was reformed under Julius Caesar in 45 BCE.

In the oldest Roman calendar, which the Romans believed to have been instituted by their legendary founder Romulus, the first month was Martius ("Mars' month", March), and the calendar year had only ten months. Ianuarius and Februarius were supposed to have been added by Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, originally at the end of the year. It is unclear when the Romans reset the course of the year so that January and February came first. Ianuarius is conventionally thought to have taken its name from Janus, the dual-faced god of beginnings, openings, passages, gates and doorways, but according to ancient Roman farmers' almanacs Juno was the tutelary deity of the month.


January is the first month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and the first of seven months to have a length of 31 days. The first day of the month is known as New Year's Day. It is, on average, the coldest month of the year within most of the Northern Hemisphere (where it is the second month of winter) and the warmest month of the year within most of the Southern Hemisphere (where it is the second month of summer). In the Southern hemisphere, January is the seasonal equivalent of July in the Northern hemisphere and vice versa.

Ancient Roman observances during this month include Cervula and Juvenalia, celebrated January 1, as well as one of three Agonalia, celebrated January 9, and Carmentalia, celebrated January 11. These dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar

Jupiter (mythology)

Jupiter (from Latin: Iūpiter [ˈjuːpɪtɛr] or Iuppiter [ˈjʊppɪtɛr], from Proto-Italic *djous "day, sky" + *patēr "father", thus "sky father"), also known as Jove (gen. Iovis [ˈjɔwɪs]), was the god of the sky and thunder and king of the gods in Ancient Roman religion and mythology. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire. In Roman mythology, he negotiates with Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, to establish principles of Roman religion such as offering, or sacrifice.

Jupiter is usually thought to have originated as an aerial god. His identifying implement is the thunderbolt and his primary sacred animal is the eagle, which held precedence over other birds in the taking of auspices and became one of the most common symbols of the Roman army (see Aquila). The two emblems were often combined to represent the god in the form of an eagle holding in its claws a thunderbolt, frequently seen on Greek and Roman coins. As the sky-god, he was a divine witness to oaths, the sacred trust on which justice and good government depend. Many of his functions were focused on the Capitoline Hill, where the citadel was located. In the Capitoline Triad, he was the central guardian of the state with Juno and Minerva. His sacred tree was the oak.

The Romans regarded Jupiter as the equivalent of the Greek Zeus, and in Latin literature and Roman art, the myths and iconography of Zeus are adapted under the name Iuppiter. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Jupiter was the brother of Neptune and Pluto, the Roman equivalents of Poseidon and Hades respectively. Each presided over one of the three realms of the universe: sky, the waters, and the underworld. The Italic Diespiter was also a sky god who manifested himself in the daylight, usually identified with Jupiter. Tinia is usually regarded as his Etruscan counterpart.


Maius or mensis Maius (May) was the third month of the ancient Roman calendar, following Aprilis (April) and preceding Iunius (June). On the oldest Roman calendar that had begun with March, it was the third of ten months in the year. May had 31 days.

The Romans considered May an infelicitous month. Although it began with one of the most notoriously licentious holidays of the Roman calendar, the Games of Flora (Ludi Florae), the middle of the month was devoted to propitiating the lemures, the restless shades of the dead.

Mars (mythology)

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars (Latin: Mārs, [maːrs]) was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.

Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars. But the character and dignity of Mars differed in fundamental ways from that of his Greek counterpart, who is often treated with contempt and revulsion in Greek literature. Mars was a part of the Archaic Triad along with Jupiter and Quirinus, the latter of whom, as a guardian of the Roman people, had no Greek equivalent. Mars' altar in the Campus Martius, the area of Rome that took its name from him, was supposed to have been dedicated by Numa, the peace-loving semi-legendary second king of Rome. Although the center of Mars' worship was originally located outside the sacred boundary of Rome (pomerium), Augustus made the god a renewed focus of Roman religion by establishing the Temple of Mars Ultor in his new forum.Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people. In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome's founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who "founded" Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.

The importance of Mars in establishing religious and cultural identity within the Roman Empire is indicated by the vast number of inscriptions identifying him with a local deity, particularly in the Western provinces.

Mars may ultimately be a reflex of the Proto-Indo-European god Perkwunos, having originally a thunderer character. At least etymological Etruscan predecessors are present in Maris, though this is not universally agreed upon.

Martius (month)

Martius or mensis Martius ("March") was the first month of the ancient Roman year until possibly as late as 153 BC. After that time, it was the third month, following Februarius (February) and preceding Aprilis (April). Martius was one of the few Roman months named for a deity, Mars, who was regarded as an ancestor of the Roman people through his sons Romulus and Remus.

March marked a return to the active life of farming, military campaigning, and sailing. It was densely packed with religious observances dating from the earliest period of Roman history. Because of its original position as the first month, a number of festivals originally associated with the new year occurred in March. In the Imperial period, March was also a time for public celebration of syncretic or international deities whose cultus was spread throughout the empire, including Isis and Cybele.


May is the fifth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and the third of seven months to have a length of 31 days.

May is a month of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Therefore, May in the Southern Hemisphere is the seasonal equivalent of November in the Northern Hemisphere and vice versa. Late May typically marks the start of the summer vacation season in the United States and Canada and ends on Labor Day, the first Monday of September.

Roman festivals

Festivals in ancient Rome were a very important part of Roman religious life during both the Republican and Imperial eras, and one of the primary features of the Roman calendar. Feriae ("holidays" in the sense of "holy days"; singular also feriae or dies ferialis) were either public (publicae) or private (privatae). State holidays were celebrated by the Roman people and received public funding. Games (ludi), such as the Ludi Apollinares, were not technically feriae, but the days on which they were celebrated were dies festi, holidays in the modern sense of days off work. Although feriae were paid for by the state, ludi were often funded by wealthy individuals. Feriae privatae were holidays celebrated in honor of private individuals or by families. This article deals only with public holidays, including rites celebrated by the state priests of Rome at temples, as well as celebrations by neighborhoods, families, and friends held simultaneously throughout Rome

Feriae were of four kinds:

Stativae were annual holidays that held a fixed or stable date on the calendar.

Conceptivae were annual holidays that were moveable feasts (like Easter on the Christian calendar, or Thanksgiving in North America); the date was announced by the magistrates or priests who were responsible for them.

Imperativae were holidays held "on demand" (from the verb impero, imperare, "to order, command") when special celebrations or expiations were called for.One of the most important sources for Roman holidays is Ovid's Fasti, an incomplete poem that describes and provides origins for festivals from January to June at the time of Augustus.

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