views updated


QUIRINUS . The god Quirinus was originally one of the main Roman divinities. The priest responsible for his cult was one of the three major flamines, along with the flamines of Jupiter and Mars, who outranked him in the ordo sacerdotum, the order of precedence of the most important priests (Festus 299 L). These three gods (Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus) made up the early triad that Georg Wissowa (1912, p. 23) has reconstructed from various features of ancient Roman life, such as the invocation of these three deities in the practice of devotio, in which a leading Roman offered his life to ensure victory against the enemy (Livy, 8.9.6); the law, attributed to the king Numa Pompilius, which differentiated between three kinds of booty according to the rank of the person who seized the booty from the enemy leader and who allocated it in different amounts to each of the three gods (Festus 204 L); and the fact that the ancilia, shields which the Salian priests wielded in their armed dances, were under the joint protection of these three gods (Festus, commentary on Virgil, Aeneid, 8.663).

Romans of the later Classical period, however, wondered about Quirinus, who was certainly not, from their point of view, as important a god as the other two gods who were formerly part of the triad, Jupiter and Mars. Naturally he had his own temple on the Quirinal, the hill of Rome which owed its name to him, and his feast day, the Quirinalia (February 17th), fell on the last day of the festival of Fornacalia, a festival dedicated to the goddess of the furnace, Fornax, who presided over the roasting of the corn. Quirinus's flamen intervened rarely, however; besides the cult which the three flamines jointly controlled, once a year, in honor of the personification of good faith, Fides (Livy, 1.21.4), the Quirinal flamen officiated at the cult of Robigo, the goddess of corn blight (Ovid, Fastes, 4.910-942), and of Consus, the god of cereal storage (Tertullian, De spectaculis, 5). As a result, ancient writers offered various interpretations of Quirinus. Given the link between Quirinus and Mars, which meant that Quirinus was patron of the twelve Quirinal Salian priests and Mars of the twelve Palatine ones (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 2.70.7, 3.32.4), and that he appeared as Mars tranquillus (Mars in his peaceful aspect), qui praest paci (who presides over peace) according to Servius (commentary on Virgil, Aeneid, 1.292 and 6.859 respectively), Quirinus was portrayed as a war god, hence his identification with the Greek Enyalios, an epithet of Ares. Since there was a convenient link between Quirinus's name and the Sabine town of Cures, considered the home of the Sabines who, by joining with the Romans of Romulus, had allowed Rome to be founded, Quirinus was regarded as a Sabine god, introduced by their king, Titus Tatius. An alternative explanation, incompatible with the Sabine explanation, has Quirinus as the founder of Romeas Romulus himselfdeified under the name Quirinus after his mysterious disappearance. This absorption must predate our first source, Cicero (De re publica, 1.64).

Such confusion over the identity and origins of Quirinus explains why modern scholars have had very different ideas concerning this god. Because of his position in relation to Mars (and beneath Jupiter) in the triad, Quirinus has been viewed with Mars as representing only a part of the city. He has often been seen as the god of the Sabine part of the original population of Rome, linked to the Capitol, the Sabine Hill. More recently, André Magdelain has taken him to be the god of the city, as opposed to Mars, who would thus be the god of land outside the city itself, the ager Romanus. Georges Dumézil has applied to the Jupiter/Mars/Quirinus triad the trifunctional system which he sees as a conceptual framework shared by various Indo-European peoples. He regards Quirinus as patron of third-function values (fertility and related values), with Mars governing the second (war) and Jupiter the first (sovereignty). This may be admitted, as long as Quirinus is not considered an agricultural god (something that Angelo Brelich takes furthest). In Brelich's view, Quirinus is a god of the kind known ethnographically as dema, or the first leader of a community who, after his death, became a chthonic deity ensuring the nourishment of his people. In this regard, the etymology of Quirinus's name, the most certain aspect of this ancient god, is especially significant. Despite an attempt by Gerhard Radke to explain Quirinus's name as deriving from a Sanskrit verb meaning "to plough" and of linking it with the sulcus primigenius, the furrow dug by Romulus to mark out the city perimeter when Rome was founded, the name must in fact be made up of the prefix co(m), "with," and of the Latin word for man, vir. Quirinus, *co-wir-inos, is thus the god of men assembled together. However, as Danielle Porte (1981) and Dario Sabbatucci (1988, pp. 6370) have emphasized, this gathering of people brings together individuals who are citizens within their particular social and political framework.

Ancient writers (Varro, De lingua Latina 5.73; Ovid, Fastes 2.479; Plutarch, Life of Romulus 29.1) had identified the name Quirinus as being associated with the old term Quirites, indicating Roman citizens, and the name is also linked with that of the curiae (*co-wir-ia ), which represented, in terms of the earliest organization of the city, the thirty units, grouped in three tribes, into which these Quirites were divided. Quirinus is thus the god of citizens. If, in Dumézil's terms, he is also patron of third-function values, this is as a result of his link with the masses, with the populace, but in Rome such a connection was considered within a social and political perspective (Briquel). In other words, if Quirinus is involved in matters concerning the food supply of the citizenry (the link with the Fornacalia, the cult of Robigo, things which are a normal part of the third function), he does not desert his Quirites when they are soldiers (second function), even taking on an official or religious role (first function). This sociopolitical factor is in evidence even in those of his functions that are most clearly related to agriculture: the Quirinalia falls on the last day of Fornacalia, called stultorum dies, "the day of fools," since it allowed those Romans who no longer knew to which curia they belonged to sacrifice to the goddess Fornax on that particular day. Her cult had been performed on the preceding days, curia by curia, presided over by the curio, the priest of the curia. Quirinus's being the patron of citizens explains his relation with the god Mars. Despite the contemptuous use Caesar makes of the term Quirites (Suetonius, Life of Caesar, 70) to berate soldiers who had revolted, Roman citizens who were called to serve in the army, cives who had become milites, remained Quirites (the ancient formula used to mobilize the army quoted by Varro [De lingua Latina 6.88] refers to Quirites pedites armatos, or Quirites footsoldiers) and thus remained linked to Quirinus. It is also possible to understand how Quirinus can be identified with Romulus, who founded the city with its political and social structure, the curiae who constituted the Quirites.

See Also

Flamen; Roman Religion, article on The Early Period.


Alföldi, Andreas. Die Struktur des voretruskischen Römerstaates. Heidelberg, 1974.

Brelich, Angelo. "Quirinus, una divinità romana alla luce della comparazione storica." Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni, 31 (1960): 63-119.

Briquel, Dominique. "Remarques sur Quirinus," Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire, 74 (1996): 99120.

Briquel, Dominique. "Canonical Representative of the Third Function in Rome." Theoretical Frameworks for the Study of Graeco-Roman Religions, Adjunct Proceedings of the XVIIIth Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions, Durban, South Africa. Edited by Luther H. Martin and Panayotis Pachis, pp. 4352. Thessaloniki, 2003.

Coarelli, Filippo. s.v. Quirini aedes, s.v. Quirini sacellum. Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, 4. Rome, 1999, pp. 185187.

Dumézil, Georges. La religion romaine archaïque. Paris, 1966; 2d edition, 1974.

Magdelain, André. De la royauté et du droit, de Romulus à Sabinus. Rome, 1995.

Porte, Danielle. "Romulus-Quirinus, prince et dieu, dieu des princes." Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 16, no. 1 (1981): 300342.

Radke, Gerhard. "Eine kritische Überprüfung der Überlieferung und ein Versuch." Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, 16, no. 1 (1981): 276299.

Rosivach, Vincent J. "Mars, the Lustral God." Latomus, 42 (1983): 509522.

Sabbatucci, Dario. La religione di Roma antica, dal calendario festivo all'ordine cosmico. Milan, 1988.

Varro, Marcus. De lingua Latina (On the Latin language). With an English translation by Roland G. Kent. 2 vol. London and Cambridge, Mass., 19381958.

Wissowa, Georg. Religion und Kultus des Römer. 2nd edition. Munich, 1912.

Ziolkowski, Adam. The Temples of Mid-Republican Rome and their Historical and Topographical Context. Rome, 1992.

Dominique Briquel (2005)

Quirinus (or Quirus)

views updated

Quirinus (or Quirus)

A fabled precious stone, described as "a juggling stone, found in the nest of the hoopoo" (hoopoe bird). If laid on the chest of a sleeping person, it "forces him to discover his rogueries." The word quirinus is also used to describe the third of the ancient gods (after Jupiter and Mars).