Skip to main content
Select Source:

Lupercalia

Lupercalia (lōōpərkāl´yə), ancient Roman festival held annually on Feb. 15. The ceremony of the festival was intended to secure fertility and keep out evil. Two male youths, clad in animal skin, ran around the city slapping passersby with strips of goat skin. Because the youths impersonated male goats (the embodiment of sexuality), the ceremony was believed to be in honor of Faunus. The festival survived into Christian times and was not abolished until the end of the 5th cent.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lupercalia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lupercalia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lupercalia

"Lupercalia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lupercalia

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Lupercalia

Lupercalia an ancient Roman festival of purification and fertility, held annually on 15 February. Chosen celebrants, wearing the skins of sacrificed animals, ran through the streets, and for a woman to be struck by one of them was to increase her fertility.

The festival was held in honour of Lupercus, the equivalent of the Greek god Pan. It is likely that his name is connected with lupus ‘wolf’, and that he was seen as a protector of flocks from wolves.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lupercalia." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lupercalia." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lupercalia

"Lupercalia." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lupercalia

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Lupercalia

Lupercaliamyalgia, nostalgia •sporangia •florilegia, quadriplegia •Phrygia • Thuringia • loggia • Borgia •apologia, eulogia •Perugia •Czechoslovakia, Slovakia •Saskia •clarkia, souvlakia •rudbeckia •fakir, Wallachia •Ischia •Antalya, espalier, pallia, rallier •shilly-shallyer • Somalia •hotelier, Montpellier, sommelier, St Helier •Australia, azalea, bacchanalia, Castalia, dahlia, echolalia, genitalia, inter alia, Lupercalia, Mahalia, marginalia, paraphernalia, regalia, Saturnalia, Thalia, Westphalia •Amelia, camellia, Celia, Cordelia, Cornelia, Delia, Elia, epithelia, Karelia, Montpelier, Ophelia, psychedelia •bougainvillea, Brasília, cilia, conciliar, familiar, haemophilia (US hemophilia), Hillier, juvenilia, memorabilia, necrophilia, paedophilia (US pedophilia), sedilia •chanticleer •collier, volleyer •cochlea • haulier •Anatolia, magnolia, melancholia, Mongolia •Apulia, dulia, Julia, peculiar •nuclear, sub-nuclear, thermonuclear •buddleia

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lupercalia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lupercalia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lupercalia-0

"Lupercalia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lupercalia-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Lupercalia

LUPERCALIA

LUPERCALIA . The Lupercalia, inscribed in the calendar on February 15, belongs by virtue of its suffix to the category of Roman feasts that have names ending in -alia, such as the Feralia on February 21. The word is a derivative of Lupercus and is semantically related to Lupercal. The Luperci were the officiants and were divided into the Luperci Quinctiales (or Quintiliani; Paulus-Festus, ed. Lindsay, 1913, p. 78 L.) and the Luperci Fabiani; the former bound themselves to Romulus, the latter to Remus (Ovid, Fasti 2.375378). For a long time the word was thought to have come from lupus ("wolf") and arceo ("to keep off") and so to mean "protectors against wolves" (Servius, Ad Aeneidem 8.343; Wissowa, 1912, p. 209). But Luperci is more a derivative of lupus with the ending -ercus (analogous to the formation of noverca, "mother-in-law") and so means "wolf-men." The Luperci, appearing naked (Servius, Ad Aeneidem 8.663), or rather "nude except for a simple loincloth" (Plutarch, Romulus 21.7, Quaestiones Romanae 68), brought to mind a precivilized state and constituted a "truly savage brotherhood" (fera quaedam sodalitas; Cicero, Pro Caelio 26).

When the Luperci ran around the Palatine in the midst of a crowd of people, the act had a purifying purpose that Varro (De lingua Latina 6.34) sums up thus: "[in February] the people are purified [februatur ], insofar as the old fortress on the Palatine was circled by nude Luperci for purposes of lustration [lustratur ]." This ceremony began with a sacrifice in the grotto of Lupercal, located at the southwest corner of the Palatine (Plutarch, Romulus 21.5); the offering was a she-goat (Ovid, Fasti 2.361; see also Plutarch, Romulus 21.6) or a he-goat (Servius, Ad Aeneidem 8.343). During their run, they would carry lashes, called februa, made from hides of she-goats or of he-goats (Paulus-Festus, op. cit., p. 76 L.). With these lashes they would strike the spectators, especially women, "in order to ensure their fertility" (Servius, Ad Aeneidem 8.343). Ovid (Fasti 2.441) proposes a strange etiology for this rite: it would be the application (discovered by an "Etruscan augur") of an order from Juno, "Let a sacred he-goat penetrate Italian mothers" ("Italidas matres sacer hircusi-nito").

Other unusual or unexplained elements enter into the ceremonial. According to Plutarch (Romulus 21.8; Quaestiones Romanae 68, 111), who seems to be our only source, the Luperci also sacrificed dogs. Stranger still, he tells how "two young people from noble families are led forth: some touch their foreheads with bloody knives while others wipe them with wool soaked in milk. Once they are wiped, they start to laugh" (Romulus 21.67). Another problem is far from being clarified: what divinity was patron of this feast? Vergil (Aeneid 8.344) does not hesitate to designate Pan of Arcadia. Ovid (Fasti 2.423424) interprets Lupercus as transposition of the "Arcadian" Lycaeus: the cult was supposedly established by the hero Evander on behalf of Pan-Faunus. This late syncretism leaves open the patronage question, for the Latin equivalent of Pan in the third century bce was not Faunus but Silvanus (Plautus, Aulularia 674, 766).

Bibliography

Dumézil, Georges. La religion romaine archaïque. 2d ed. Paris, 1974. See pages 352356. This work has been translated from the first edition by Philip Krapp as Archaic Roman Religion, 2 vols. (Chicago, 1970).

Latte, Kurt. Römische Religionsgeschichte. Munich, 1960. See pages 8487 and especially note 4 on page 84.

Michels, Agnes Kirsopp. "The Topography and Interpretation of the Lupercalia." Transactions of the American Philological Association 84 (1953): 3559.

Wissowa, Georg. Religion und Kultus der Römer. 2d ed. Munich, 1912. See pages 209212.

New Sources

Bannon, Cynthia J. Brothers of Romulus. Fraternal Pietas in Roman Law, Literature and Society. Princeton, 1997.

Bianchi, Ugo. "Luperci." In Dizionario Epigrafico di Antichità Romane 4.3 (1980): 22042212.

Capdeville, Gérard. "Jeux athlétiques et rituels de fondation." In Spectacles sportifs et scéniques dans le monde étrusco-italique. Actes de la table ronde organisée par l'Équipe de recherches étrusco-italiques de l'UMR 126 (CNRS, Paris) et l'École française de Rome. Rome, 34 mai 1991, pp. 141187. Rome, 1993.

Holleman, A.W.J. Pope Gelasius I and the Lupercalia. Amsterdam, 1974

Holleman, A.W.J. "Lupus, Lupercalia, lupa." Latomus 44 (1985): 609614.

Marchetti, Patrick. "Autour de Romulus et des 'Lupercalia.' Une explication préliminaire." Les Etudes Classiques 70 (2002): 7792.

Piccaluga, Giulia. "L'aspetto agonistico dei Lupercalia." Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni 33 (1962): 5162.

Pötscher, Walter. "Die Lupercalia-Eine Strukturanalyse." Grazer Beiträge 11 (1984): 221249.

Ulf, Christopher. Das römische Lupercalienfest. Ein Modellfall für Methodenprobleme in der Altertumswissenschaft. Darmstadt, 1982.

Wiseman, Timothy Peter. "The God of the Lupercal." Journal of Roman Studies 85 (1995): 122.

Robert Schilling (1987)

Translated from French by Paul C. Duggan
Revised Bibliography

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lupercalia." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lupercalia." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lupercalia

"Lupercalia." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lupercalia

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.