Happy Parilia everyone!

Most people know today as Rome’s birthday, but the history of April 21st for the Romans goes way back!

The Parilia is an agrarian festival to the deity Pales (unknown gender) surrounding the cleansing/celebration of the shepherd and their sheep!

Ovid writes about the Parilia in the Fasti aka a long poem about the calendar, supposedly the festival of the Parilia predates the (traditional) founding of Rome! This is because Pales is part of a group of gods which were brought into the Roman tradition from the local italic tribes (Rome is a big modge podge of local tribes and Etruscan culture). Other gods who are considered to be italic/sabine are Veiovius, Bellona, Pomona, etc (basically any goddess that ends with an -ona).

So why is agriculture so important? Basically, Rome began as this tiny little settlement on two hills and not much farm land. In the archaic period, whoever controlled the farm land controlled the wealth and the Romans at the time had to fight for that land in which to graze flocks and grow crops!

So what happened on the Parilia? The old/rural version of the festival involved the shepherd sweeping the sheep pen and doing some fun purifying rituals. The later/urban version was a bit more fun- it also included a sacrifice to Tellus (another earth related deity) and the finishing off of the October Horse ritual! The October horse was one of the h0roses from the winning chariot from a race in October generally dedicated to Mars (another agrarian god). The blood of the head (some sources say the tail) of the horse was mixed with some other stuff by Vestal virgins and then burnt!

Of course importantly- any archaic Roman festival dealing with agriculture was also chthonic in nature! And chthonic means pertaining to things IN the earth and also UNDER the earth aaaand that means the underworld eyyyyy!

Anyway, by the end of the Republic, the Parilia becomes associated with the founding of Rome. Ovid confirms this by writing about it in the Fasti- it is supposedly the day that Romulus defined the boundaries of Rome, prayed to the gods and then Remus was an idiot- but we know that story.

So happy Parilia!

Sources: Ovid (Fasti), Varro (De Lingua Latina), Propertius (Elegies), Livy,  Dumezil (La religion romaine archaique)…probably some other stuff too.


4 trailblazing, mould-breaking Black Britons, stencilled for Black History Month UK. From top to bottom:

Sir Bill Morris (first black trade union leader)

Chris Ofili (first black artist to win the Turner prize)

Diane Abbott MP (first black female member of Parliament)

Pauline Black (first rudegirl of Ska)