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Augustus’ “New” Festival: The Centrality of Married Women’s Rituals at the Ludi Saeculares of 17 BCE

In: Numen
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  • 1 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
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Abstract

The article explores how Augustus and the priesthood of the XV viri sacris faciundis organized and performed the rituals for celebrating a new era (ludi saeculares) under the rule of the gods Apollo and Diana. In the Republic, it had been a woman’s personal decision whether or not to take part in women’s festivals. However, the XV viri commanded that 110 married women (matronae) perform rituals (supplications and sacrifices) on the Capitoline. This article argues for the novelty of such a custom, in that it was a new form of top-down appeal to matronae to honor the gods in public festivals. The article also argues for the centrality of rituals of the matronae in the festival. At the ludi saeculares, the cooperation between men (the XV viri) and matronae was ritually staged and seen as indispensable for ensuring the continuity of Rome.

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