Minerva

GREATER QUINQUATRUS

Minerva was one of the great Roman divinities. Although she was honored on Minerva's Day (November 29), her major festival, the Greater Quinquatrus (Quinquatrus Maiores) was held in March. Ovid says that this festival was celebrated in commemoration of her birthday, but Festus maintains that it was sacred to Minerva because her temple on the Aventine was consecrated on that day. (The temple on the Aventine was outside the sacred boundary of the city. It was a gathering place for writers, artists, actors and teachers, to whom Minerva was patroness.) She also shared a temple on the Capitoline with Jupiter and Juno.

Ovid says that it was celebrated for five days (March 19-23), but the ancient Roman religious calendars assign only one day to the festival. The first day was the festival proper, and no blood was shed. The following four days were an expansion made to gratify the people with gladiatorial combats, perhaps in the time of Caesar. Domitian caused it to be celebrated every year in his Alban villa and instituted a collegium to superintend the celebration, which consisted of wild beast shows, plays, and contests of orators and poets. As this festival was sacred to Minerva, it seems that women were accustomed to consult fortune tellers and diviners upon this day.

The Lesser Quinquatrus (Quinquatrus Minores) took place in June. It was a three-day festival (June 13-15) in which the guild of pipers (tībīcenēs) went through the city in procession to the temple of Minerva.

Here is some additional information about the Quinquatria.

  • An entry in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities  describes the celebrations known as the greater and lesser Quinquatria.
  • An entry in Platner's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome  details the Temple of Minerva.
  • A short article explains Minervan leitmotifs, including her birth and her attributes of the owl and olive tree.
  • An entry in Wikipedia provides details about the Quinquatria

  • photo courtesy of VRoma