Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Fugalia, or Regifugium, Roman calendar

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

This was a festival for men, not gods, symbolizing the end of the old year, as the old Roman New Year began on March 1 (equating to the modern Mardi Gras or Carnival). The Latin name ‘Regifugium’ means ‘running for office’. On this day, kings of ancient Rome literally ran for office, fleeing on foot from the Forum.

The custom came down from an ancient annual rite in which the monarch was pursued by an eager band of would-be sovereigns. If he was overtaken by any of them, the king faced certain dethronement, and possible execution. Sounds a little like Sydney's annual City-to-Surf race, only harsher.

This flight (fugium) of the king (regis) is paralleled in other cultures, in which the ruler must prove his physical and spiritual stamina. According to Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough, such a ruler in Rome underwent the Regifugium "with particular rigor to ensure that no personal defect should incapacitate him for the performance of those sacred rites and ceremonies on which, even more than on the despatch of his civil and military duties, the safety and prosperity of the community depended" ...

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