The twelve priests of Mars were called Salii Palatini. They were responsible for the ancile, a shield which supposedly fell from heaven in the reign of Numa. The safety of the Roman empire was alleged to depend upon its preservation, so eleven exact copies of this shield were said to have been made by an armorer named Mamurius. His praises formed the main subject for the songs of the Salii. During the Feriae Marti, or festival of Mars, the Salii danced in full armor and paraded the shields through the city.

The Mamuralia traditionally took place the day before the first full moon of the New Year. (Before 153 BC, March was the first month of the year in the Roman calendar.) A man representing "old Mars", Mamurius Veturius, was dressed in goatskins, led in procession through the streets, beaten with long white rods, and driven out of the city. Chasing the human scapegoat out of Rome was likely tantamount to the idea of "out with the old and in with the new."

The Salii Stomp

Higgledy-Piggledy
Priests called the Salii
Dressed in full armor and
Danced in the fields;
In these processions, the
Pre-Mamuralian
Festival focused on
Brandishing shields.


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