I really like the idea of having a holiday to commemorate a mundane part of life.  The ancient Romans celebrated far more holidays than we do in the modern West.  In certain ways, designating a holiday makes it easier to be mindful of regular features and aspects of ones civilization.

Another aspect of having numerous holidays, is that people celebrated more things together, thus keeping the interpersonal connections closer and tighter.  The unity of the civilization became even more important as the Roman State expanded its territorial claims further and further away from Italy.   In this respect, the holiday, Terminalia, is a very important one.


This holiday honors the God Terminus.  His task was the job of protecting boundary markers.   The ancient sages said that Terminus worship began in Rome during the reign of Romulus, the first king, or during the rule of Numa Pompilius, the successor of Romulus.  The writers who credit Numa said that he prevented violent property disputes by introducing the ancient Sabine tribal god to the Roman Pantheon.  Plutarch tells us that the character of Terminus was pacific in that he was the guarantor of peace.

There was a stone altar dedicated to Terminus within the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in Rome.  Some Romans held the belief that Terminus was an emmanation of the God Jupiter.  More than one scholar of the day refered to the aspect as Jupiter Terminalis.

There is an opinion by modern scholars that Jupiter was associated with two lesser deities.  Juventas who watched over a man’s entry into society.  And Terminus who oversaw the fair division of man’s goods and property.

There are some ancient authors who said that Terminalia on the 23rd of Februarius indicated the end of the year.  Also, under the older Roman calendar, the Terminalia holiday was celebrated during the intercalary month of Mercedonius.  The Roman equivilant of a leap month.  Hence, the jurisdiction of Terminus also extended to the boundary of the year.

Roman property owners celebrated Terminalia by decorating their respective sides of the property marker with offerings of grain, honeycombs and wine.  During a ceremony, a lamb or suckling pig was sacrificed with the blood poured over the terminus stone.  Feasting and singing the praises of Terminus were practiced.

The celebration of Terminalia has no modern counterpart because it was terminated at the onset of the Christian era.  A person might still celebrate today by looking at one’s property line of the home.  Or thinking of a state or provincial boundary or even national boundaries.  The establishment and honoring of boundaries, of course, extends beyond February 23rd.  One could argue that blood sacrifices are still made on a regular basis by military actions and wars triggered by boundary disputes.


The Blue Jay of Happiness salutes Terminus but strongly discourages the sacrifice of living beings.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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