Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus

Ludi Capitolini

The Capitoline Games (ludi Capitolini) were held in honor of Jupiter Capitolinus. The origin of the games is uncertain, but they were possibly instituted by the senate on the proposal of the dictator M. Furius Camillus in 387 BC after the departure of the Gauls from Rome. The games began with the feast of Jupiter (October 15) and lasted 16 days. They were not recorded in the calendars because they were not public games. Supervision and management of the games was entrusted to a college of priests (Capitolini) chosen from patricians who resided on the Capitoline and in the citadel.

The original Capitoline Games fell into disuse, but new ones were iimplemented by Domitian in AD 86, modeled after the Olympic Games in Greece. Like the Olympic Games, they were to be held every four years and included athletic displays, chariot races, and competitions of oratory, music, and acting. The Emperor himself supported the travels of competitors from the whole empire and bestowed the prizes.

One of the amusements at the Capitoline Games was that a herald announced "Sardinians for sale" and that an old man wearing a toga praetexta and a bulla puerilis was led about in mockery. According to some of the ancients, this ceremony was intended to ridicule the citizens of Veii and their Etruscan king, but the connection with the games remains obscure.

Additional information may be found here:

  • One account of the origin of the Capitoline Games attributes them to the dictator M. Furius Camillus in 387 BC; another, to Romulus.
  • This article in the New York Times describes a poignant memorial to an 11 year old boy who competed in the extemporaneous Greek epigram contest in the Capitoline Games of AD 94. (Use the "Find" function of your bowser to locate the name Quintus Sulpicius Maximus in the text quickly.)
  • An article on the Heraea Games in Greece describes an inscription in Delphi dating to the 1st century AD that mentions two women who participated in Domitian's races for women at the Capitoline Games of AD 86. (Use the "Find" function of your bowser to locate the reference to Delphi in the text quickly.)
  • An article in the 1911 Encyclopedia about the Gracchi explains the connection between Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and the proverbial saying of Sardi venales (Sardinians for sale), which refers to any article for which there is no sale, or of which the value has greatly depreciated.
  • A model of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus is displayed at this site.


    photo courtesy of Wikipedia

    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).

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