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The Roman festivals of the period of the Republic : an introduction to the… (1899)

by W. Warde Fowler

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One might wonder how useful a book originally published in 1899 is today. This book has been repeatedly reissued. H. H. Scullard, in the introduction to his 1981 book Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, singled out Fowler's book as a particularly valuable resource despite its age, writing, "I have not been so presumptuous as to attempt to provide an alternative." (see Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Warde_Fowler). The book is certainly not a primer on Roman religion: the author assumes a certain knowledge of Rome. Moreover, his quotations are left in the original language, whether Latin, Greek, German, etc.

Fowler works his way through the Roman year, beginning with the original first month, March. Using the fragments of calendars that have come down to us, as well as historic and literary references, he attempts to understand the various festivals. He quotes other modern sources, and weighs their arguments. Fowler assumes that the oldest festival were tied to agriculture, and their meaning changed and their importance receded as Rome became a large city. By the end of the Republican era, even the Romans were unsure of the meaning of some of their festivals. He is quite frank that there are limits to our knowledge: "There are festivals within the calendar about which we really know nothing at all, and must frankly confess our ignorance; there are others of which we know just enough to be doubtful ... ."

Although it requires Fowler's polyglot capabilities (or a good library of translations) to get full value from this book, I felt that I learned a great deal even though I could only read the English. ( )
  juglicerr | Mar 21, 2011 |
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I. The Roman Method of Reckoning the Year

There are three ways in which the course of the year may be calculated.  (Introduction)
The mensius Martius stands alone among the Roman months.  (main text)
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There are festivals within the calendar about which we really know nothing at all, and must frankly confess our ignorance; there are others of which we know just enough to be doubtful ...
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W. Warde Fowler puts together information from extant fragments of Roman calendars and various written Roman sources, and modern researchers, in order to reconstruct the sacred Roman year.
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