The Vitulatio was an annual thanksgiving celebrated in ancient Rome on July 8, the day after the Nonae Caprotinae and following the Poplifugia on July 5. The Poplifugia is a lesser-known festival that was of obscure origin even for the Romans themselves; Macrobius says that it marked a Roman retreat from the Etruscans at Fidenae during the Gallic invasion, and that the Vitulatio commemorated their comeback victory. It was a dies religiosus, a day of religious prohibition when people were to refrain from undertaking any activity other than attending to basic necessities.[1]

The verb vitulari meant to chant or recite a formula with a joyful intonation and rhythm.[2] Macrobius says vitulari is the equivalent of Greek paianizein (παιανίζειν), "to sing a paean," a song expressing triumph or thanksgiving.[3] He offers, however, an antiquarian range of etymologies, including one from victoria, "victory." A goddess Vitula, possibly an invention to explain the name, embodied joy, or perhaps life (vita). According to Vergil,[4] she received first fruits offerings. One modern explanation relates the word Vitulatio to vitulus, "heifer," the animal that served as a ritual scapegoat at Iguvium, as described by the Iguvine Tablets.[5]

By the late Republic, the Vitulatio, like the other festivals held July 5–8, seems to have been eclipsed by the popularity of the Ludi Apollinares, games (ludi) held in honor of Apollo July 6–13.[6]


  1. ^ H.H. Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (Cornell University Press, 1981), pp. 163, 45–46.
  2. ^ Macrobius, Saturnalia III 2,12.
  3. ^ William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London, 1908), p. 179'; Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome (Routledge, 2001), p. 75.
  4. ^ Vergil, Georgics 3.77.
  5. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies, p. 163.
  6. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies, p. 163.
Glossary of ancient Roman religion

The vocabulary of ancient Roman religion was highly specialized. Its study affords important information about the religion, traditions and beliefs of the ancient Romans. This legacy is conspicuous in European cultural history in its influence on later juridical and religious vocabulary in Europe, particularly of the Western Church. This glossary provides explanations of concepts as they were expressed in Latin pertaining to religious practices and beliefs, with links to articles on major topics such as priesthoods, forms of divination, and rituals.

For theonyms, or the names and epithets of gods, see List of Roman deities. For public religious holidays, see Roman festivals. For temples see the List of Ancient Roman temples. Individual landmarks of religious topography in ancient Rome are not included in this list; see Roman temple.


The poplifugia or populifugia (Latin: the day of the people's flight), was a festival of ancient Rome celebrated on July 5, according to Varro, in commemoration of the flight of the Romans, when the inhabitants of Ficuleae and Fidenae appeared in arms against them, shortly after the burning of the city by the Gauls (see Battle of the Allia); the traditional victory of the Romans, which followed, was commemorated on July 7 (called the Nonae Caprotinae as a feast of Juno Caprotina), and on the next day was the Vitulatio, supposed to mark the thank-offering of the pontifices for the event. Macrobius, who wrongly places the Poplifugia on the nones, says that it commemorated a flight before the Tuscans, while Dionysius refers its origin to the time when the patricians murdered Romulus after the people had fled from a public assembly on account of rain and darkness.


In the ancient Roman calendar, Quintilis or Quinctilis was the month following Junius (June) and preceding Sextilis (August). Quintilis is Latin for "fifth": it was the fifth month (quintilis mensis) in the earliest calendar attributed to Romulus, which began with Martius ("Mars' month," March) and had 10 months. After the calendar reform that produced a 12-month year, Quintilis became the seventh month, but retained its name. In 45 BC, Julius Caesar instituted a new calendar (the Julian calendar) that corrected astronomical discrepancies in the old. After his death in 44 BC, the month of Quintilis, his birth month, was renamed Julius in his honor, hence July.Quintilis was under the guardianship (tutela) of the Romans' supreme deity Jupiter, with sacrifices made particularly to Neptune and Apollo. Agricultural festivals directed at the harvest gradually lost their importance, and the month became dominated in urban Imperial Rome by the Ludi Apollinares, games (ludi) in honor of Apollo. Ten days of games were celebrated in honor of Julius Caesar at the end of the month.

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. Calendars helped back then.

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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