Feriae Marti

It is only fitting that the month-long festival of Mars (Feriae Marti ) should begin with the Matronalia (March 1), the festival of Juno Lucina, since Juno was the mother of Mars.

The festival continued to at least March 24 and possibly to the end of the month. The celebration began with a procession of the Salii, the priests of Mars who performed ritual dances in full armor and carried the sacred shields, and it was repeated on March 9. The First Equirria took place on February 27; the Second Equirria and the Mamuralia took place on March 14. The former was a horse-racing festival to honor Mars; the latter, a festival to commemorate Mamurius Veturius, legendary maker of the sacred shields, being driven from the city as a type of scapegoat. There is no clear consensus of what Mamurius represented, however: Mars, or perhaps the old year since March 1 was the beginning of the new year on the old calendar.

The Quinquatrus (March 19) was named for the fact that it was the fifth day after the Ides (by the Roman method of inclusive counting), but popularly it came to be regarded as a five-day holiday in honor of Mars. It marked the start of the traditional campaign season for the army. The day also became a feast day for Minerva, despite any clear link between the two deities. (The reason probably was that Minerva's temple on the Aventine was dedicated on that day.) It seems that women were accustomed to consult fortune-tellers and diviners upon this day.

The final day of the festival was the Tubilustrium (March 23) when the trumpets used in the sacred rites were purified. If you have a Flash player, you can listen to a fanfare for brass and percussion by David Lovrien entitled Tubilustrium  (2:45 minutes).

photo courtesy of VRoma

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