Terminalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god
Terminus, who presided over boundaries. His statue was merely a stone
or post stuck in the ground to distinguish between properties. His
worship is said to have been instituted by Numa who ordered that every
one should mark the boundaries of his landed property by stones to be
consecrated to Jupiter Terminalis, and at which every year sacrifices
were to be offered at the festival of the Terminalia. On the
festival the two owners of adjacent property crowned the statue with
garlands and raised a crude altar, on which they offered up some corn,
honeycombs, and wine, and sacrificed a lamb or a suckling pig. They
concluded with singing the praises of the god. The public festival
in honour of this god was celebrated at the sixth milestone on the
road towards Laurentum doubtless because this was originally the
extent of the Roman territory in that direction.
The festival of the
Terminalia was celebrated a. d. VII. Kal. Mart.,
or the 23d of February on the day before the Regifugium. The
Terminalia was celebrated on the last day of the old Roman year,
whence some derive its name. We know that February was the last month
of the Roman year, and that when the intercalary month
added, the last five days of February were added to the intercalary
month, making the 23d of February the last day of the year. When
Cicero in a letter to Atticus says, Accepi tuas litteras a. d. V.
Terminalia (i.e. Feb. 19), he uses this strange mode of defining a
date, because being then in Cilicia he did not know whether any
intercalation had been inserted that year.
The central Terminus of Rome (to which all roads led) was the god's
ancient shrine on the Capitoline Hill. The temple of Jupiter, king of
the gods, had to be built around it (with a hole in the ceiling as
Terminus demanded open-air sacrifices) by the city's last king,
Tarquinius Superbus, who had closed down other shrines on the site to
make room for this prestigious project. But the augurs had read into
the flight patterns of birds that the god Terminus refused to be
moved, which was taken as a sign of stability for the city.
^ Dionysius, Roman Antiquities II, 74
^ Ovid, Fasti II.639, &c.
Ovid Fasti II.682
^ Varro, L. L. VI.13, ed. Müller
^ Calendarium, pp. 229, b. 230, a.
^ Livy, Ab urbe condita I.55
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1890). "Terminalia".
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd ed.). London: John
Roman festivals and games (ludi)