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Triumph of Flora by Tiepolo (ca. 1743), a scene based on Ovid's description of the Floralia [1]
Observed byRoman Republic, Roman Empire
TypeClassical Roman religion
Celebrationsnude dancing, gladiator contests, theatrical performances, circus events
Observancessacrifice to Flora; ceremonial release of hares and goats; scattering of legumes; colorful garments worn
Date28 April – 3 May[2]
Related tothe goddess Flora

The Floralia was a festival in ancient Roman religious practice in honor of the goddess Flora, held on 27 April during the Republican era, or 28 April in the Julian calendar. The festival included Ludi Florae, the "Games of Flora", which lasted for six days under the empire.[3]

The festival had a licentious, pleasure-seeking atmosphere. In contrast to many festivals which had a patrician character, the games of Flora were plebeian in nature.[4]


Flora is one of the most ancient goddesses of Roman religion and was one of fifteen deities to have her own state-supported high priest, the flamen Florialis. A goddess of flowers, vegetation, and fertility, she received sacrifices (piacula) in the sacred grove of the Arval Brothers, an archaic priesthood.[5] Her altar at Rome was said to have been established by the Sabine king Titus Tatius during the semi-legendary Regal period.[6] Flusalis (linguistically equivalent to Floralia) was a month on the Sabine calendar, and Varro counted Flora among the Sabine deities.[7]

Temples of Flora[edit]

The Temple of Flora was built in Rome upon consultation with the Sibylline Books shortly after a drought that occurred around 241–238 BCE. The temple was located near the Circus Maximus on the lower slope of the Aventine Hill, a site associated with the plebeians of Rome. Games were instituted for the founding day of the temple (28 April), and were held only occasionally until continued crop damage led to their annual celebration beginning in 173.[8]

Flora Rustica ("Rural Flora") had another temple on the Quirinal Hill, the Temple of Flora Rustica, which may have been the location of the altar erected by Tatius.[9]


Fragment of the Fasti Praenestini showing a note on the Ludi Florae

The games (ludi) of Flora were presented by the plebeian aediles and paid for by fines collected when public lands (ager publicus) were encroached upon.[10] Cicero mentions his role in organizing games for Flora when he was aedile in 69 BC.[11] The festival opened with theatrical performances (ludi scaenici), and concluded with competitive events and spectacles at the Circus and a sacrifice to Flora.[12] In AD 68, the entertainments at the Floralia presented under the emperor Galba featured a tightrope-walking elephant.[13]

Participation of prostitutes[edit]

Prostitutes participated in the Floralia as well as the wine festival (Vinalia) on 23 April. According to the satirist Juvenal,[14] prostitutes danced naked and fought in mock gladiator combat.[15] Many prostitutes in ancient Rome were slaves, and even free women who worked as prostitutes lost their legal and social standing as citizens, but their inclusion at religious festivals indicates that they were not completely cast out from society.[16]


Ovid says that hares and goats—animals considered fertile and salacious—were ceremonially released as part of the festivities. Persius says that the crowd was pelted with vetches, beans, and lupins, also symbols of fertility.

In contrast to the Cerealia, when white garments were worn, multi-colored clothing was customary.[17] There may have been nocturnal observances, since sources mention measures taken to light the way after the theatrical performances.

A rite called the Florifertum is described by one source[18] as involving the bearing (fert-) of wheat ears (spicae) into a shrine (sacrarium). It is unclear whether the offering was made to Flora[19] or to Ceres,[20] or whether if made to Flora it occurred on 27 April or 3 May.[21] Ovid describes a florifertum in honor of Juno Lucina on 1 March,[22] a date also celebrated as the dies natalis ("birthday") of Mars[23] in whose conception Flora played a role.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ovid, Fasti, Book 4; T.P. Wiseman, The Myths of Rome (University of Exeter Press, 2004), pp. 1–11.
  2. ^ Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome (Routledge, 2001; originally published in French 1998), p. 69.
  3. ^ H.H. Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 110.
  4. ^ William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London, 1908), p. 92.
  5. ^ Fowler, Roman Festivals, p. 92; Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 110.
  6. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 110.
  7. ^ Fowler, Roman Festivals, p. 92.
  8. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 110.
  9. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 110.
  10. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 110.
  11. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, pp. 110–111.
  12. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 110.
  13. ^ Suetonius, Life of Galba 6.1; Thomas E.J. Wiedemann, Emperors and Gladiators p. 63.
  14. ^ Juvenal, 6.249f.
  15. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 110.
  16. ^ Thomas A.J. McGinn, Prostitution, Sexuality and the Law in Ancient Rome (Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 24.
  17. ^ Ovid, Fasti 5.355ff.
  18. ^ Festus, 81 in the edition of Lindsay.
  19. ^ P.Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Römer, 1912, München ; H.Le Bonniec, Le culte de Cérès à Rome des origines à la fin de la République, 1958, Paris; Kurt Latte, Römische Religionsgeschichte , 1960, Leipzig; P.Pouthier, Ops et la conception divine de l'abondance dans la religion romaine jusqu'à la mort d'Auguste, BEFAR 242, 1981, Rome.
  20. ^ Kurt Latte, Römische Religionsgeschichte , 1960, Leipzig.
  21. ^ Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, p. 249.
  22. ^ Ovid, Fasti 3.251-258: "Bear flowers to the Goddess; this Goddess rejoices in flowering plants" (ferte Deae (=Juno Lucina) flores; gaudet florentibus herbis haec Dea).
  23. ^ F-H.Massa-Pairault, Lasa Vecu, Lasa Vecuvia, Dialoghi di Archeologia, 3,6, 1988.

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