Augustus Caesar

The month of August was originally named Sextilis, but in 8 BC, a day was added to its length, and its name was changed to put Octavian on a par with Julius Caesar.

Since there are so many festivals that occur in August, it might be a good time to explain emperor worship instead of each of them, and also apotheosis.

An order of priests in Rome called the Augustales  was instituted by Tiberius to attend to the worship of Augustus and the Julia gens. Similar priests were appointed to oversee the worship of other emperors after their demise and deification: Flavii, Hadrianales, Aeliani, and Antonini, for example.

Here's a partial list to give an idea of the diversity of deities honored in August: Spes, Victoria, Salus, Sol Indiges, Hercules Invictus, Venus Victrix, Diana, Vertumnus, Fortuna Equestris, Castor and Pollux, the Camenae, Flora, Portunus, Consus, Volcanus, Luna, Ops, and Volturnus. Whew! You might want to check This Day in Ancient History  at The Atrium on a daily basis for more information.

Details about a select few of these festivals come from William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities  and other sources.

  • The Nemoralia (August 13), also known as the Festival of Torches, honored Diana, goddess of the moon, at her sanctuary near Lake Nemi.
  • The Portunalia (August 17) honored Portunus, god of harbors and portals, and involved throwing old keys into the fire. It was a holiday for barge and dock workers.
  • The Consualia (August 21) honored Consus, god of grain storage bins, and involved chariot races. Horses and mules were adorned with flower garlands and not put to work.
  • The Vulcanalia (August 23) honored Volcanus, the god of fire and furnaces, with a sacrifice of live fish thrown onto a bonfire. Work was begun by candlelight that day.
  • The Opiconsivia (August 25) honored Ops, consort of Saturn and goddess of agricultural resources and wealth.
  • A calendar for The Roman Month of Sextilis shows various festivals and other notable dates, like the death of Augustus Caesar (August19) and the eruption of Vesuvius (August 24).

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