Happy Birthday!

Facets of everyday Roman life, from food to travel to petkeeping. "How did the Romans...?" answered here!

Moderator: Aldus Marius

Happy Birthday!

Postby Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Mon Mar 24, 2003 8:03 pm

Avete Romani,

I was just wondering if the Romans also celebrated the birthday. If so, what did they do? Did they sacrifice animals or did they just throw a party and got drunk?


Tiberius Dionysius Draco
User avatar
Tiberius Dionysius Draco
Posts: 458
Joined: Sun Sep 01, 2002 5:18 pm
Location: Belgica

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Mon Mar 24, 2003 8:32 pm

salve Tiberii
think and i base my opinions on pure speculation, that the Romanwhose birthday it was, got up prayed performed a ritual or libation to their patron deity for saying thanks that it is his birthday, celebrated his birthday and probably got drunk.
Like i said: pure speculation.
Quintus Aurelius Orcus
Rector ColRel
Princeps gentis Aureliae
User avatar
Quintus Aurelius Orcus
Posts: 937
Joined: Sat Sep 14, 2002 5:05 pm
Location: Ghent, Belgica

Postby Horatius Piscinus on Tue Mar 25, 2003 2:08 pm


One celebrates their birthday with an offering to their genius if a man or to their juno if a woman. You can get some idea from what Tibillus wrote for a young girl:

Juno of her birth, a young girl offers to you holy incense heaped in a sacrificial bowl held in her soft hands. Today she is all yours; most joyfully adorned she stands before your altar for all to see. Be gracious, and come shining forth next year, when this same devotion in the ancient tradition she?ll once more lovingly offer. III.xii.1-4; 19-20

For his friend and patron Tibillus wrote:

Speak no ill words today, good men and women, as we honor our friend on his birthday. Burn frankincense, burn fragrant herbs from lands at the very ends of the earth, even those sent from Arabia. His own spirit comes to receive his honors, a holy wreath to crown his soft crown of hair. This pure nard distilled for his temples and, sated on wine and honey cakes, he gives his assent. And to you, Cornutus, may everything you wish for be granted. II.ii.1-9

Moravius Piscinus
M Horatius Piscinus

Sapere aude!
User avatar
Horatius Piscinus
Posts: 1194
Joined: Sun Sep 15, 2002 7:39 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Postby Publius Dionysius Mus on Tue Mar 25, 2003 10:18 pm

Salve Tiberi

A birthday is also often used as a day to commemorate a person. Evidence of this is available in many inscriptions throughout the empire. An example:

CIL XI, 6520 / ILS 6647
Dis manibus Cetraniae Publi filiae Severinae sacerdoti divae Marcianae, Titus Baebius Gemellinus augustalis coniugi sanctissimae.
Caput ex testamento Cetraniae Severinae: Collegis dendrophororum fabrum centonariorum municipii Sassinatis sestertium sena milia nummum dari volo, feideique vestrae collegiali committo, uti ex reditu sestertium quaternorum milium nummum omnibus annis pridie idus Iuniarum, die natalis mei, oleum singulis vobis dividatur et ex reditu sestertium binum milium nummum Manes meos colatis. Hoc ut ita faciatis, fidei vestrae committo.

This is an inscription on the grave of Cetrania Severina, together with an excerpt from her will. She gives the colleges of the dendrophori, fabri and centonarii 6000 sesterces. She demands that they will use the revenue on her birthday (pridie idus Iuniarum) to give free oil (to use in the thermae) to the members of those colleges (to be exact, the revenue of 4000 sesterces), and also to honour her Manes (with the revenue of 2000 sesterces). She wants to be remembered forever, and people should think about her every year, on her birthday.

There are many inscriptions like these, with so called 'foundations' to commemorate a person, most often on his/her birthday. These foundations ould also be used to give food and drinks, so sometimes they could maybe have a party (unfortunately the celebrated one is dead then, so he won't be able to enjoy the fun anymore...)

Vale bene
Publius Dionysius Mus

No Spartiate soul left alive to tell
How bravely they fought
By treason they fell
(Ancient Rites - Thermopylae)
User avatar
Publius Dionysius Mus
Posts: 236
Joined: Wed Aug 28, 2002 11:55 pm
Location: Belgium

That reminds me...

Postby Aldus Marius on Wed Mar 26, 2003 1:39 am

Only tangentially on-topic...

Will we be seeing the return of the "This Month's Birthdays" listings that Helia Allegra used to put together? They were a small thing, but it is the little graces that lend character to a community.

Missing the party is...
Aldus Marius Peregrinus.
User avatar
Aldus Marius
Posts: 2173
Joined: Wed Sep 11, 2002 3:16 am
Location: Within hailing distance

Return to Collegium Vitae Quotidianae

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests