Lupercalia was a pastoral festival of Ancient Rome observed annually on February 15 to purify the city, promoting health and fertility. Lupercalia was also known as ''dies Februatus'', after the purification instruments called ''februa'', the basis for the month named ''Februarius''.


The festival was originally known as Februa ("Purifications" or "Purgings") after the ' which was used on the day.. It was also known as ' and gave its name variously, as epithet to Juno (goddess), Juno Februalis, Februlis, or Februata in her role as patron deity of that month; to a supposed purification deity called Februus; and to February (Roman month), February ('), the month during which the festival occurred. Ovid connects ' to an Etruscan language, Etruscan word for "purging". Some sources connect the Latin word for fever (') with the same idea of purification or purging, due to the "sweating out" commonly associated with fevers. The name ''Lupercalia'' was believed in antiquity to evince some connection with the Ancient Greece, Ancient Greek festival of the Regions of ancient Greece#Arcadia, Arcadian Lykaia, a wolf festival ( grc-gre, λύκος, ''lýkos''; la, lupus), and the worship of ''Lycaean Pan (mythology), Pan'', assumed to be a Greek equivalent to Faunus, as instituted by Evander of Pallene, Evander. Justin (historian), Justin describes a cult image of "the Lycaean god, whom the Greeks call Pan and the Romans Lubercus, Lupercus", as nude, save for a goatskin girdle. The statue stood in the Lupercal, the cave where tradition held that Romulus and Remus were suckled by the She-wolf (Roman mythology), she-wolf (Lupa Capitolina, Lupa). The cave lay at the foot of the Palatine Hill, on which Romulus was thought to have founded Rome. The name of the festival most likely derives from ''lupus'', "wolf", though both the etymology and its significance are obscure. Despite Justin's assertion, no deity named "Lupercus" has been identified.H.H. Scullard, ''Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic'' (Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 77–78.



The rites were confined to the Lupercal cave, the Palatine Hill, and the Forum, all of which were central locations in Rome's Founding of Rome, foundation myth. Near the cave stood a sanctuary of Rumina, goddess of breastfeeding; and the wild fig-tree (''Ficus Ruminalis'') to which Romulus and Remus were brought by the divine intervention of the river-god Tiberinus (god), Tiberinus; some Roman sources name the wild fig tree ''caprificus'', literally "goat fig". Like the cultivated fig, its fruit is pendulous, and the tree exudes a milky sap if cut, which makes it a good candidate for a cult of breastfeeding.


The Lupercalia had its own Religion in ancient Rome#Public priesthoods and religious law, priesthood, the ''Luperci'' ("brothers of the wolf"), whose institution and rites were attributed either to the Arcadian culture-hero Evander of Pallene, Evander, or to Romulus and Remus, erstwhile shepherds who had each established a group of followers. The ''Luperci'' were young men (''iuvenes''), usually between the ages of 20 and 40. They formed two religious ''Collegium (ancient Rome), collegia'' (associations) based on ancestry; the ''Quinctiliani'' (named after the ''gens'' Quinctia gens, Quinctia) and the ''Fabiani'' (named after the ''gens'' Fabia gens, Fabia). Each college was headed by a ''magister''. In 44 BC, a third college, the ''Juliani'', was instituted in honor of Julius Caesar; its first ''magister'' was Mark Antony. The college of ''Juliani'' disbanded or lapsed following Caesar's assassination, and was not re-established in the reforms of his successor, Augustus. In the Imperial era, membership of the two traditional ''collegia'' was opened to ''iuvenes'' of Equestrian (Roman), equestrian status.


At the Lupercal altar, a male goat (or goats) and a dog were sacrificed by one or another of the ''Luperci'', under the supervision of the Flamen dialis, Jupiter (mythology), Jupiter's chief priest. An offering was also made of salted mealcakes, prepared by the Vestal Virgins. After the blood sacrifice, two ''Luperci'' approached the altar. Their foreheads were anointed with blood from the sacrificial knife, then wiped clean with wool soaked in milk, after which they were expected to laugh. The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs (known as ') from the flayed skin of the animal, and ran with these, naked or near-naked, along the old Palatine boundary, in an anticlockwise direction around the hill. In Plutarch's description of the Lupercalia, written during the early Roman empire, Empire,
...many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in Childbirth, delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
The ''Luperci'' completed their circuit of the Palatine, then returned to the ''Lupercal'' cave.


The Februa was of ancient and possibly Sabines, Sabine origin. After February (Roman month), February was added to the Roman calendar, Februa occurred on its fifteenth day ('). Of its various rituals, the most important came to be those of the Lupercalia. The Romans themselves attributed the instigation of the Lupercalia to Evander of Pallene, Evander, a culture hero from Arcadia (ancient region), Arcadia who was credited with bringing the Olympic pantheon, Greek laws and alphabet to Italy, where he founded the city of Pallantium on the future site of Rome, 60 years before the Trojan War. Lupercalia was celebrated in parts of Italy and Gaul; ''Luperci'' are attested by inscriptions at Velletri, Velitrae, Palestrina#Ancient Praeneste, Praeneste, Nemausus (modern Nîmes) and elsewhere. The ancient cult of the Hirpi Sorani ("wolves of Soranus", from Sabine ''hirpus'' "wolf"), who practiced at Monte Soratte, Mt. Soracte, north of Rome, had elements in common with the Roman Lupercalia. Descriptions of the Lupercalia festival of 44 BC attest to its continuity; Julius Caesar used it as the backdrop for his public refusal of a golden diadem, crown offered to him by Mark Antony. The Lupercal cave was restored or rebuilt by Augustus, and has been speculated to be identical with a grotto discovered in 2007, below the remains of Augustus' residence; according to scholarly consensus, the grotto is a nymphaeum, not the Lupercal. The Lupercalia festival is marked on a calendar of 354 alongside traditional and Christian festivals. Despite the banning in 391 of all non-Christian cults and festivals, the Lupercalia was celebrated by the nominally Christian populace on a regular basis into the reign of the emperor Anastasius I Dicorus, Anastasius. Pope Gelasius I (494–96) claimed that only the "vile rabble" were involved in the festival and sought its forceful abolition; the Senate protested that the Lupercalia was essential to Rome's safety and well-being. This prompted Gelasius' scornful suggestion that "If you assert that this rite has salutary force, celebrate it yourselves in the ancestral fashion; run nude yourselves that you may properly carry out the mockery". There is no contemporary evidence to support the popular notions that Gelasius abolished the Lupercalia, or that he, or any other prelate, replaced it with the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A literary association between the Lupercalia and the romantic elements of Saint Valentine's Day dates back to Chaucer and poetic traditions of courtly love.Henry Ansgar Kelly (1986), in "Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine" (Leiden: Brill), pp. 58-63Jack B. Oruch, "St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February" ''Speculum'' 56.3 (July 1981:534–565)


Horace's Ode III, 18 alludes to the Lupercalia. The festival or its associated rituals gave its name to the Roman calendar, Roman month of February (Roman month), February (') and thence to the modern month. The Roman pantheon, Roman god Februus personified both the month and purification, but seems to postdate both. William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar (play), ''Julius Caesar'' begins during the Lupercalia. Mark Antony is instructed by Caesar to strike his wife Calpurnia (wife of Caesar), Calpurnia, in the hope that she will be able to conceive. Research published in 2019 suggests that the word Leprechaun derives from ''Lupercus''.
lupracán, luchorpán
' on the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (accessed 6 September 2019)
In the second season of the Netflix series ''Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (TV series), Chilling Adventures of Sabrina'' the witches celebrate Lupercalia. Today, the Satanic Temple celebrates Lupercalia among its official holidays.




A. M. Franklin, ''The Lupercalia''
(doctoral dissertation, 1921, 102pp.) * * Liebler, Naomi Conn (1988). ''The Ritual Ground of Julius Caesar''.

Further reading

*Mary Beard (classicist), Beard, Mary; North, John; Price, Simon. ''Religions of Rome: A History.'' Cambridge University Press, 1998, vol. 1, limited previe
search "Lupercalia". *Bruce Lincoln, Lincoln, Bruce. ''Authority: Construction and Corrosion.'' University of Chicago Press, 1994, pp. 43–4
on Julius Caesar and the politicizing of the Lupercalia; valuabl
list of sources
pp. 182–183. *North, John. ''Roman Religion''. The Classical Association, 2000, pp. 4
and 50 on the problems of interpreting evidence for the Lupercalia. *Markus, R.A. ''The End of Ancient Christianity.'' Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 131–13
on the continued celebration of the Lupercalia among "uninhibited Christians" into the 5th century, and the reasons for the "brutal intervention" by Pope Gelasius. *Rissanen, Mika
Hirpi Sorani and the Wolf Cults of Central Italy.''
Arctos 46 (2012), pp. 115–135, on the common elements between the Lupercalia and other wolf cults of Central Italy. *Vuković, Krešimi
"Roman Myth and Ritual: the Groups of Luperci and Epigraphic Evidence"
78 (2016): 43-52. *Vuković, Krešimir
The Topography of the Lupercalia
, in ''The Papers of the British School at Rome'' 86 (2018): 1-24. *Wiseman, T.P. "The Lupercalia". In ''Remus: A Roman Myth''. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 77–88, limited previe
discussion of the Lupercalia in the context of myth and ritual. * Wiseman, T.P. "The God of the Lupercal", in Idem, ''Unwritten Rome''. Exeter, University of Exeter Press, 2008.

External links

Lupercalia {{Authority control Ancient Roman festivals February observances Wolves in folklore, religion and mythology She-wolf (Roman mythology)