The Ancient Library

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On this page: Ludi – Luna – Lupercalia – Lustrum




(From a black agate, formerly in Dr. Nott'a collection.)

is to prove by a profound investigation of the world of nature that all comes to be, exists, and perishes by eternal law, without any interference of supernatural powers, and hence to set men free from their fearful torture, terror, and superstition. The first elements of all existence are the imperish­able atoms which move . in infinite space (book i). By union of these come into ex­istence not only the material world (ii), but also soul and spirit, which consequently perish as soon as a dissolution of the atoms takes place (iii); perception, sensation, and thought are mental processes, occasioned by images which are ceaselessly being emitted by the surfaces of things (iv). Book v treats of the formation of the world, vi of single natural phenomena. This work is the only considerable composition in epic verse which has come down to us from the time of the Eepublic. It is also the first attempt at a systematic treatment of Greek philosophy in the Latin tongue. The greatest ad­miration is due to the art with which Lucretius gives poetic form to his unpoetical subject, and adapts to his purpose a language which had hitherto been little exercised on such topics. The matter causes the exposition to be often dry, but fre­quently it rises to a magnificent beauty, as in the famous description of the Athenian plague at the end of the poem. The scientific zeal with which the whole is imbued, and which stands aloof from all frivolity, must inspire respect. He ex­presses himself with simplicity and power, and his language has an antique colouring. He was prevented by death from putting the finishing touches to his work [or even from completing it. Thus there is nothing on the subject of ethics, which could not properly be omitted in an exposition of the teaching of Epicurus]. It is true that Cicero revised it before publication, yet the condition in which we have it is in great measure defective.

Ludi. See games.

Luna. The Italian goddess of the moon. She had in Rome an ancient sanctuary on the Aventine, in which as goddess of the month she received worship on the last day

of March, which was the first month of the old Roman year. As nociilucfi, " lamp of the night," she had a temple on the Palatine, which was illuminated at night.

Lupercalia. A festival held in Rome from time immemorial on February 15. It was in honour of Faunus, who was wor­shipped under the name Lupercus in the Luperml, a grotto in the Palatine Mount. The object of the festival was, by expiation and purification, to give new life and fruit-fulness to fields, flocks, and people. The cult was originally administered by two confraternities, which were chosen from the members of the Fabian and Quintilian families, and were named in consequence Luperci Fabiani and Luperci Quintiliam. To these was added in 44 b.c. that of the Luperci lulii in honour of Caesar. In con-se'quence of the civil wars the cult fell into desuetude, but was renewed by Augustus. In imperial times the members of these collegia were commonly of equestrian stand­ing, and retained the name of Luperci even after leaving the body. The festival was observed until 494 A.D., in which year Bishop Gelasius I changed it into the Feast of the Purification. The procedure at the Lupercalia was as follows. After the flamen Dialis had sacrificed some he-goats and a dog, two youths were touched on the forehead with a knife, smeared with the blood of the goats. It was then immediately wiped off with wool dipped in milk, where­upon they were bound to laugh. After the sacrificial feast the Luperci, crowned and anointed, and naked, except for an apron of goatskin, ran round the ancient city on the Palatine with thongs cut from the skin of the sacrificed goats in their hands. On their course women used to place them­selves in their way to receive blows from the thongs, which was believed to be a charm against barrenness. The thongs were called februa, from the old word februarS, " to purify"; the day, dies februatus, " the day of purification " ; and the whole month, februarius, " the month of purification."

Lustrum, among the Romans, was the purification, or absolution from sin, of the entire people. It took place at the close of each census (q.v.), commonly in May of the year following the censors' accession to office. The host of the people, horse and foot, in their newly constituted classes, was drawn up in full armour on the Campus Martius under the leadership of the censor to whom this duty fell by lot. The Suove-

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