Numa Pompilius

Numa Pompilius added Ianuarius and Februarius to the old Roman calendar (year of Romulus) to make a 12-month year. Until 153 BC, February was the last month of the year and March was the first. Julius Caesar altered the Roman calendar again in 46 BC and introduced the leap year with its extra dies bissextilis.

The official beginning of spring fell on February 5, and the early Romans felt that this turning point in the year had to be approached with care. The fields required much attention, but hard work would not be enough. The deities that controlled the fertility of the land had to be propitiated as well. Thus, as the farmers made ready for a new start, a more solemn mood prevailed than during the mid-winter festivities.

The Lupercalia (February 15), a festival of purification and fertility, was uniquely Roman, but its origin has been lost in time. The name for February, the cleansing month, refers to the goathide strips called februa that were used in the rites of the Lupercalia.

The Terminalia (February 23) was the last day of the year on the old Roman calendar. In the country, it was celebrated at the boundary marker (terminus) between convergent farms. In the city, it was celebrated at various markers of the early Roman boundaries.

The Regifugium (February 24) was considered to be a type of Independence Day in the later Roman republic. In a leap year, the Regifugium, or Fugalia as it was later known, was not held on February 24, but on its proper date of the sixth day before the Kalends of March.

Information about other Roman festivals in February can be found here.

  • The Parentalia (February 13-21) was a period for the commemoration of dead kinfolks, especially parents, with the private rites of individual families.
  • The Feralia (February 21) was the public festival of the dead to honor the Manes, or the souls of the departed, with food taken to their tombs.
  • The Caristia (February 22) was a festival day to renew family ties and to patch up quarrels among the living with a potluck meal and sacrifices to the Lares.
  • The Terminalia (February 23) was held to honor Terminus, the god of boundary stones. Owners of convergent fields offered sacrifices and held a feast at selected boundaries.
  • The Equirria (February 27) was a festival of horse racing to honor Mars. It was held in the Campus Martius or, if that was flooded, on the Caelian Hill.
  • A calendar for The Roman Month of Februarius shows various festivals and other notable dates, like the Regifugium (February 24) and the dies bissextilis (February 29).

    Some of the preceding information comes from Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, written by H. H. Scullard and published in1981 by Cornell University Press (Ithaca, New York).

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