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Vinalia Urbana

On the old Roman calendar, there were three feasts linked with vineyards and wine: the Vinalia Rustica or Altera (August 19), when the vintage began; the Meditrinalia (October 11), when the first libation of "must" was poured; the Vinalia Urbana or Priora (April 23), when the jars were opened and the new wine was tasted. Both the Vinalia Rustica and the Vinalia Urbana were connected to rituals to protect the vineyards. These feasts also dealt with the status transition of the young, whose maturation was symbolically compared to the transformation of the "must" into wine.

On the day of the Vinalia Urbana, the Flamen Dialis offers a libation (calpar) to Jupiter from the first jars of the wine; only then may the wine be sampled by men. Venus is also honored this day as the protectress of the dancing girls and prostitutes. Myrtle, mint, and incense are burned on the altars of the Temple of Erycinna in the northeast part of the city, built to house the image which Marcus Claudius Marcellus brought from Eryx in Sicily in 212 BC. Bouquets of roses and rushes are brought to her.

On the day of the Vinalia Rustica, the Flamen Dialis offers a lamb to Jupiter and with his own hands he breaks a bunch of grapes from a vine, which symbolically opens the vintage. No "must" is allowed to be conveyed into the city until this solemnity has been performed. This may well have been followed by general feasting and drinking while the farmers arranged sales for the new wine which they were bringing to market in the city.

Additional information may be found here:

  • A translation of Ovid's Fasti, Book IV: April 23, explains why the day belongs to Jupiter and Venus both.
  • This brief article describes how the ancient Roman festivals are celebrated in modern Italy with parades of decorated carts and the enjoyment of wine and music.
  • An entry in Smith's A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities provides additional information about the two festivals called the Vinalia.
  • A resource on Italian wine regions includes maps, histories, and products of Latium, Veneto, Piedmont, Tuscany, Campania, Apulia, Sardinia, Sicily, and many others.
  • The Athenians had a similar festival in honor of Dionysus when the new wine was offered and tasted called the Opening of the Jars (Pithogia).

  • 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).

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