ANNA PERENNA

The festival of Anna Perenna shared the day with the festival of Jupiter on March 15, the first full moon of the new year on the old Roman calendar. Anna was clearly a female personification of the year (annus), and she was represented as an old woman. Perenna may signify her care for the continual succession of years rather than only for the beginning and end of the current year. The festival was held in a grove near the Tiber at the first milestone on the Flaminian Way.

Originally the festival may have been linked with fertility rites, but later it became a boisterous romp in the country for city-dwellers. Ovid paints a vivid picture of people scattered about on the grass, men and women in couples, some in tents or homemade huts, reveling and drinking as many cups of wine as the number of years they prayed to live. They sang songs which had been popularized in the theaters and staggered about dancing.

Another version of the name says that Anna was the daughter of Belus and sister of Dido. She fled from Carthage to Italy after Dido's death and was kindly received by Aeneas. However, his wife Lavinia grew jealous, and in a dream, Dido warned Anna to flee. She threw herself into the river Numicus and henceforth was worshipped as a nymph of that river under the name of Anna Perenna. Here the origin of the name is explained as being amnis perennis, or "eternal stream."

The image of Anna Perenna shown above is the obverse of a Roman denarius circa 81 BC.

  • Additional information about Anna Perenna is provided at this site.
  • Another site provides additional information about Anna Perenna in the Fasti of March.
  • An English translation of Ovid's Fasti (Book III: March 15: Ides) describes the boisterous holiday.
  • A website entitled The Obscure Goddess OnLine Dictionary provides additional information about Anna Perenna and her festival.

  • Some of the preceding information comes from Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, written by H. H. Scullard and published in 1981 by Cornell University Press (Ithaca, New York.)

    [ back to Martius ]