1. Education

The God of the Lupercalia

... and the Conclusion


Image ID: 1624072  Quod non noris, non ames [Latin proverb].  [[Do not love what you do not know]]

NYPL Digital Library

Image ID: 1624072 PAN Quod non noris, non ames [Latin proverb]. "Do not love what you do not know"

In "The God of the Lupercalia", T. P. Wiseman suggests a variety of related gods may have been the god of the Lupercalia. As mentioned above, Ovid counted Faunus as the god of the Lupercalia. For Livy, it was Inuus. Other possibilities include Mars, Juno, Pan, Lupercus, Lycaeus, Bacchus, and Februus. The god itself was less important than the festival.

The End of the Lupercalia

Sacrifice, which was a part of Roman ritual, had been prohibited since A.D. 341, but the Lupercalia survived beyond this date. Generally, the end of the Lupercalia festival is attributed to Pope Gelasius (494-496). Wiseman believes it was another late 5th century pope, Felix III.

The ritual had become important to the civic life of Rome and was believed to help prevent pestilence, but as the pope charged, it was no longer being performed in the proper manner. Instead of the noble families running around naked (or in a loincloth), riffraff was running around clothed. The pope also mentioned that it was more a fertility festival than a purification rite and there was pestilence even when the ritual was performed. The pope's lengthy document seems to have put an end to the celebration of Lupercalia in Rome, but in Constantinople, again, according to Wiseman, the festival continued to the tenth century.

The Pseudo Connection With Valentine's Day

~Lupercalia started out as a fun event with spectators serving occasionally as willing participants.

~Lovely naked bodies were unusually exposed to view.

~There was a fertility component.

~There was good food from the sacrificial animal.

~Everything centered around the place where the Vestal Virgin was raped by the god Mars in order to conceive the founder of Rome, Romulus.

It's this blend of fun, fertility, and erotic elements, as well as the date, that ties Lupercalia to Valentine's Day, but Lupercalia is not the direct, legitimate ancestor of the Valentine's Day holiday.


"Caesar at the Lupercalia," by J. A. North; The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 98 (2008), pp. 144-160.

"An Enigmatic Function of the Flamen Dialis (Ovid, Fast., 2.282) and the Augustan Reform," by A. W. J. Holleman. Numen, Vol. 20, Fasc. 3. (Dec., 1973), pp. 222-228.

"The God of the Lupercal," by T. P. Wiseman. The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 85. (1995), pp. 1-22.

"Postscript to the Lupercalia: From Caesar to Andromachus," by J. A. North and Neil McLynn; The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 98 (2008), pp. 176-181.

"Some Notes on the Lupercalia," by E. Sachs. The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 84, No. 3. (Jul., 1963), pp. 266-279.

"The Topography and Interpretation of the Lupercalia," by Agnes Kirsopp Michels. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 84. (1953), pp. 35-59.

"The Lupercalia in the Fifth Century," by William M. Green. Classical Philology, Vol. 26, No. 1. (Jan., 1931), pp. 60-69.

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