Dioscuri and Helen of Troy
Transvectio Equitum

The Transvectio Equitum was a parade of the Equites held on July 15 in honor of Castor and Pollux. It commemorated the Battle of Lake Regillus (496 BC) in which the Dioscuri aided the Romans against the Latin League. It lasted for several years after its inception in 304 BC and then revived under Augustus.

The Equestrians, clad in togae trabeae and mounted on their horses, filed past the Censors in procession on their way from the Temple of Mars on the Appian Way --about 2 kilometers outside the Porta Capena-- to the Capitolium. They halted along the way to sacrifice in the Forum at the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

Here are the first and last stanzas of a poem about the Battle of Lake Regillus and the role of Castor and Pollux in giving Rome its supremacy in Latium. It comes from Lays of Ancient Rome, written by Thomas Babington Macaulay and published in 1842.

A Lay Sung at the Feast of Castor and Pollux on the Ides of Quintilis in the year of the City CCCCLI
I

Ho, trumpets, sound a war-note!
Ho, lictors, clear the way!
The Knights will ride, in all their pride,
Along the streets to-day.
To-day the doors and windows
Are hung with garlands all,
From Castor in the Forum,
To Mars without the wall.
Each Knight is robed in purple,
With olive each is crowned;
A gallant war-horse under each
Paws haughtily the ground.
While flows the Yellow River,
While stands the Sacred Hill,
The proud Ides of Quintilis
Shall have such honor still.
Gay are the Martian Kalends,
December's Nones are gay,
But the proud Ides, when the squadron rides,
Shall be Rome's whitest day.

XL

And all the people trembled,
And pale grew every cheek;
And Sergius the High Pontiff
Alone found voice to speak:
"The gods who live forever
Have fought for Rome to-day!
These be the Great Twin Brethren
To whom the Dorians pray.
Back comes the chief in triumph,
Who, in the hour of fight,
Hath seen the Great Twin Brethren
In harness on his right.
Safe comes the ship to haven,
Through billows and through gales,
If once the Great Twin Brethren
Sit shining on the sails.
Wherefore they washed their horses
In Vesta's holy well,
Wherefore they rode to Vesta's door,
I know, but may not tell.

Here, hard by Vesta's temple,
Build we a stately dome
Unto the Great Twin Brethren
Who fought so well for Rome.
And when the months returning
Bring back this day of fight,
The proud Ides of Quintilis,
Marked evermore with white,
Unto the Great Twin Brethren
Let all the people throng,
With chaplets and with offerings,
With music and with song;
And let the doors and windows
Be hung with garlands all,
And let the knights be summoned
To Mars without the wall:
Thence let them ride in purple
With joyous trumpet-sound,
Each mounted on his war-horse,
And each with olive crowned;
And pass in solemn order
Before the sacred dome,
Where dwell the Great Twin Brethren
Who fought so well for Rome."

  • A translation of an account of the transvectio by Dionysius of Halicarnassus provides additional information.
  • An entry in Smith's A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities provides information about the Roman Equites.
  • An entry in Platner's A Topographical Dictionary of Rome gives details about the Temple of Castor and Pollux that was vowed by the dictator Postumius after the Battle of Lake Regillus.
  • The complete poem written about the Battle of Lake Regillus appears in Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babington Macaulay.

  • graphic courtesy VRoma

    Some of the preceding information comes from Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, written by H. H. Scullard and published in 1981 by Cornell University Press (Ithaca, New York).

    [ back to Quintilis ]