Let the games begin. Today is the first day of Floralia in the ancient Roman tradition. The circus games and racing of chariots were popular during the festival that honored the spring Goddess Floria. There were two nationalized teams that raced chariots, the greens and the blues. The greens belonged to Floria. The Goddess had been a part of the races since legendary times.
In addition to games, goats and hares were set loose. The people displayed bean flowers, vetch, decorative wheat and, best of all, roses. People arranged wreaths of various flowers for the occasion. They attired themselves in bright, cheery clothing. All of this was integral with the most popular fertility festival in the Republic and Empire.
Floralia began as a moveable feast that was proclaimed with the blooming of plants. Later, the date was associated with the dedication of Floria’s temple on the 27th of April by the Julian calendar, the 28th by today’s reckoning. By the time that Rome had grown to Empire status, Floralia had blossomed to seven days. The races had become a regular feature and rather racy theatrical presentations were extremely popular. What is less known, is that Floralia devolved into a more abandoned and licentious affair than December’s Saturnalia.
The legend of Floria expanded to include her rule over all the flowering plants. She is reputed to have cultivated a magical flower for Juno to allow Her to conceive without needing a male. The conception and virgin birth of Mars came about this way.
It’s interesting to think of today’s traditions of changing our wardrobes to more light clothing and decorating our homes and offices with cheerful flowers in celebration of Springtime.
The Blue Jay of Happiness smiles while thinking of the spectacles at the Floralia Circus in 30 CE. One of which was presented by the Emperor Galba which featured a tightrope-walking elephant.