wheat field

AMBARVALIA

The Ambarvalia was a moveable feast, but May 29 may have been regarded as a customary date. The name likely comes from the Latin ambio (= I go around) and arvum (= field). In addition to Mars, Ceres and Bacchus were also worshipped. The sacrifice was a suovetaurilia, the victims being a pig, a sheep, and an ox.

In Rome, the public rituals were conducted by the Arval Brethren, or fratres arvales, at certain fixed points that were regarded as boundaries of the city. Authorities disagree over the similarities and differences among the public and private rites of the Ambarvalia, the Amburbium, and the feast of Dea Dia.

In rural areas, individual farmers performed the lustratio to purify their crops and fields. Cato records the farmer's prayer, and both Virgil and Tibullus give poetic descriptions of the feast. Behind the procession of the sacrificial victims came the singing, dancing crowd of reapers, servants, and family members. The celebrants, clad in white and wreathed in oak, bade Ceres come to their homes. Libations of milk, honey, and wine were offered to Ceres, along with spelt cakes.

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