Saturday, 29 May 2021


Ambarvalia festival 29th May-sometimes!

Ambarvalia- Suovetaurilia sacrifice

The Ancient Roman Ambarvalia festival seems to have been one that was dependent on the year being an even or an odd one and the actual date dependent on which district and part of Italy. On even years it may have been held on the 17th, 19th or 20th and on odd years it was likely to have been the 27th, 29th or 30th May. In the countryside, it was an immovable feast day (feriae stative). There are a number of classical references to Ambarvalia e.g. Vergil; Cato; Strabo but the scholarly interpretations provide some ambiguity and differences of opinion over what may have happened.

Ceres- Vatican Museums

In honour of Ceres and Dea Dia the Ambarvalia was a Roman agricultural fertility rite which purified the crops. Ceres was the goddess of agriculture, fertility, grains, the harvest, motherhood, the earth, and cultivated crops. Dea Dia was the goddess of fertility and growth, sometimes named the ‘Bright goddess’ or the ‘goddess of Daylight’. 

The Ambarvalia could be a private or a public affair.

The private celebrations related to the farms outside Rome where the pater familias led the ceremony. A suovetaurilia sacrifice was conducted after a bull, a sow and a sheep had been led three times around the field boundaries, the servants and field hands singing and dancing in praise of Ceres. Offerings to Ceres could be milk, honey and wine.  The name Ambarvalia may have come from the verb ambiō ‘I go around’, and arvum meaning field.

The public Ambarvalia ceremonies were held around the city boundaries. The 12 fratres arvales (Arval priests) led a procession of the citizens who owned lands and vineyards around Rome. The ambervale carmen (poem/song) was chanted.

(See information on Fratres Arvales and suovetaurilia elsewhere in this blog)

Happy ambarvalia and happy reading! 


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