The Fest of grains in ancient Rome

The blonde goddess Ceres - included in the Aventine Triad (with Liber and Libera) – was celebrated in a big party that lasted eight days and fell in April, 12h-19h: Cerialia were the party of propitiation rather than agricultural work. The color white was a sign of celebration for all priestesses and devotees. The start was given at the party by a solemn procession that followed the games of Ceres, who distinguished themselves in circuses Ludi and Ludi scaenici, whose management was by the plebeian aediles. The most spectacular occurred on April 19th: the great day of solemn ritual and spectacular recreational activities, which included the race of foxes in the Circus Maximus.

In May, was celebrated the rite of “fake crop,” the very critical period in which the flowering of the corn could have been exposed to the risk of a possible last frost. 3 times, every other day, after the ninth and before the Ides of May, 10 12 and 14, as told by Servius (Eclogues VIII, 82), the three oldest Vestals prematurely plucked the ears of farricello, wheat dress, poorer, and laid it in the baskets that were then used to harvest: early filling those baskets meant that cultivation would be successful. Always the Vestals provided to prepare the fake bread, and by adding an appropriate amount of salt, pounded and baked, the so-called mola salsa, a blend which, transformed into a small part in the cake, was offered to Vesta while the rest, preserved was intended for sacrificial use. With this was sprinkled in fact the heads of animals offered in sacrifice to the gods which were thus “sacrificed”, before being killed. To produce the mola salsa was a must to use spring water, untouched, for a time was drawn from the source of Camene’s wood, outside Porta Capena the city walls, then by the Spring of Juturna in the Roman Forum, with containers that do not had to touch the ground, so that the bottom was the closest possible to the point of capsizing if on the ground.

The fake baking took place on the day of Vestalia, June 9, and not coincidentally on the same day after the feast was celebrated in the Guild of Pistores, the bakers adorned for the occasion with garlands of flowers the millstones of their mills (Ovid, Fasti VI, 311).

In the second week of June, between day 7, when Vesta aperitur, as stated in the calendar (when the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum was opened) and day 15th  when Vesta clauditur (when temple was closed),  a series of rituals were performed linked together and giving birth to a real cycle, which has been called of the “cereals“.

(Romolo Augusto Staccioli)