Thursday, March 17, 2016

17 March Meant Hanky Panky in Ancient Rome

Almost shoulder to shoulder with ancient Rome's Ides of March on 15th came Bacchanalia and Liberalia on 17th.

The ancient Roman calendar had only ten months and started the year on 1 March. It was dedicated to Roman God of War, Mars who was honored daily with parades of the priests of Mars dancing through the streets. The culmination of the year end celebration was March 16 and 17th which were the feast days of Bacchus which was how Dionysus was known throughout the Roman empire. Fear of a powerful non-roman religious hierarchy resulted in restrictions by Senate decree in 186 AD which were not repealed until Julius Caesar was in power. Into this vacuum flowed numerous other cults whose mythic stories often replayed the great cosmic drama of life-death-rebirth. (See here)

Roman historian Livy took against all that Bacchanalian cavorting, but quite likely slid into hyperbole - a slide not unknown among writers in the USA, in our own time:

When wine, lascivious discourse, night, and the intercourse of the sexes had extinguished every sentiment of modesty, then debaucheries of every kind began to be practiced, as every person found at hand that sort of enjoyment to which he was disposed by the passion predominant in his nature. Nor were they confined to one species of vice -- the promiscuous intercourse of free-born men and women; but from this store-house of villainy proceeded false witnesses, counterfeit seals, false evidences, and pretended discoveries. From the same place, too, proceeded poison and secret murders, so that in some cases, not even the bodies could be found for burial. Many of their audacious deeds were brought about by treachery, but most of them by force; it served to conceal the violence, that, on account of the loud shouting, and the noise of drums and cymbals, none of the cries uttered by the persons suffering violence or murder could be heard abroad.

While it does seem that the religious activities of the Bacchanalia did expand to include violence against its initiates and apostates, some of Livy’s criticism may have been directed at the co-mingling of different types and classes of citizens and residents.

Between whatever the reality was and the opposition Livy was able to motivate, Rome eventually decided it had had enough. Not only were the Bacchanalia severely regulated, many of its practitioners were persecuted in a violent campaign not matched until Rome went after the Christians.
According to Livy, 7,000 people were arrested. More than half of them were killed.(See here)

Interesting considerations:
It is possible that Dionysian mythology would later find its way into Christianity. There are many parallels between the legends of Dionysus and Jesus; both were said to have been born from a mortal woman but fathered by a god, to have returned from the dead, and to have transformed water into wine. The modern scholar Barry Powell also argues that Christian notions of eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Jesus in order for individual followers to feel Jesus within them was influenced by the cult of Dionysus.

Certainly the Dionysus myth contains a great deal of cannibalism, in its links to Ino. Dionysus was also distinct among Greek gods, as a deity commonly felt within individual followers. In a less benign example of influence on Christianity, Dionysus' followers, as well as another god, Pan, are said to have had the most influence on the modern view of Satan as animal-like and horned. It is also possible these similarities between Christianity and Dionysiac religion are all only representations of the same common religious archetypes.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that the story of Jesus turning water into wine is only found in the Gospel of John, which differs on many points from the other Synoptic Gospels. That very passage, it has been suggested, was incorporated into the Gospel from an earlier source focusing on Jesus' miracles.
(See here)

The Bacchanalia proper was, later on, generally replaced by the Liberalia on 17 March, in honor of another aspect of Bacchus, Liber or Liber Pater.

Liberalia, a rustic festival when Roman youths generally first assumed the male toga, began dressing like adults - akin to moving from wearing short trousers to long trousers for youths of our day, perhaps.

...young men discarded the Etruscan-derived toga praetexta, which was decorated with a broad purple border and worn by boys and girls. The boys then donned the clothing of adulthood, the pure white toga virilis (man’s gown). The garment identified him as a citizen of Rome, making him an eligible voter. This ancient ceremony was a country or rustic ceremony. The processional featured a large phallus which the devotees carried throughout the countryside to bring the blessing of fertility to the land and the people. The procession and the phallus were meant also to protect the crops from evil.

At the end of the procession, a virtuous and respected matron placed a wreath upon the phallus.
While Liberalia is a relatively unknown event in the modern time, references to Liberalia and the Roman goddess Libera are still found today online and in astrology.
See here)



mike said...

Our current-day evangelicals believe that Bacchanalia is heartily celebrated constantly in every neighborhood around the country...good thing they're here to save us, or at least put-up with us until the Rapture arrives. There is a contemporary re-write to "Book of Revelation" that will be well understood by those of the distant future and seen as a relevant dispensation extant. It's called "Left Behind", a series of 16 books. Today's state of global affairs is proof that Tribulation has arrived.

I wonder if boys with short fingers were forever confined to their toga praetexta back then? Times have changed and we now allow short-fingered boys to dress as adult males and "carry the phallus".

mike (again) said...

BTW - Happy Green to you and anyjazz! Are you two wearing some green plaid and indulging in green cocktails this evening? I can't say that I understand why St Patrick made sainthood, except for the Vatican's desire to have their trophies. St Patrick's biography makes him sound schizophrenic with his many visions and otherworldly voices for his ears only.

mike (again) said...

Our latest controversy here in the body-of-christ, self-proclaimed Holy Land, where diablo runs rampant:|main5|dl40|sec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D393274758

Twilight said...

mike ~ LOL! Well, I think people of the distant future (if there is to be one) will label our era as Age of Lunacy - or's being mean to the Moon...
Age of Madness!

DT should definitely still be sporting that purple edged toga...although, maybe not - he actually IS the dick in all this madness. :-) He'd like nothing better than to be carried through the streets to be decorated with a floral wreath by a "respected matron" who would qualify? Hillary!

(again) ~ I'd forgotten about St Patrick's Day. No we don't do any green - no Irish blood here - none that we know of anyway. Back in England, long ago, we used to receive little pots of shamrock in the mail on 17 March, from a friend of my late partner, he was born in Northern Ireland. Due to The Unpleasantnesses of the 1970s (IRA attacks in Britain) there was always a bitter-sweetness to that though.

Twilight said...

mike (again) Re the cross....Groan!!
First thing i thought of when I read that was a quip by the late lamented comedian Bill Hicks - not about the cross as monument, but same thing applies:

“A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back he ever wants to see a fucking cross? It's like going up to Jackie Onassis wearing a rifle pendant.”

mike (again) said...

LOL Hicks! I believe Sarah "Mama Grizzly" Palin is the dick-anointed "respected matron".

Twilight said...

mike (again) ....But of course she is! :-)