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The 7th Ludi Saeculares in the roman coinage.

April 27, 2019

The Saecular Games (Ludi Saeculares in latin) were a set of ludic-religious celebrations by which the end of a new century of existence of the Roman civilization was celebrated. This century, saeculum in Latin, had a duration of 110 years: the maximum time that was estimated could live a person.

 

The decision to celebrate the seventh edition of the Saecular Games in the year 204 was taken during the previous year. Once the priests of the "Council of the Fifteen" defined all the ceremonies (religious and playful) to be carried out, Septimius Severus was informed, obtaining his approval for everything proposed. The following was to communicate the good new to the people by means of an imperial edict, exhorting not only the inhabitants of Rome but also the foreign people to go to the capital of the Empire and participate in the festivities.

 

Figure 1.- General view of the Flavian amphitheater, universally known as the Coliseum, represented by Giovanni Battista Piranesi in his famous series of engravings “Views of Rome”. Circa 1757.

 

The purification ceremonies previous to the beginning of the Games were carried out during the last week of May. They consisted of sacrifices, prayers, donations, offerings and songs directed to get the favor of the main deities of the Roman pantheon (Jupiter, Juno, Diana and Apollo). On the first of June, just after midnight, a sacrifice was celebrated followed by a prayer to the parcae: responsible for the destiny of men and peoples. That was the beginning of the Saecular Games.

 

The long-awaited gladiatorial and venatory spectacles began on June 2nd. As expected, its magnificence was up to the circumstances. For three days and two nights, the coliseum and the maximus circus boiled with the roar of the wild beasts, the shouting of the crowds and the clanging of the clashing arms. Between one spectacle and another, Septimius and his sons were in charge of presiding over the numerous religious acts recommended by the priests to open the new century in a way pleasant to the gods. Caracalla was, apparently, in charge of directing the sacred prayers, Geta of pronuncing them correctly; Septimius was limited to observe.

Figure 2.- The great theater of Marcellus represented by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. "Views of Rome", circa 1757.

 

The religious ceremonies lasted three days with their nights at the end of which there were seven days of spectacles in the main entertainment venues of the city: the theater of Marcellus, the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus. The last ludic day began with a solemn chant, successively sung on the Palatine and the Capitol. The hymn in question was called Carmen Saeculare and its content was a praise to the greatness of the Empire, with its golden fields, its cities, its large merchant fleets, its armies, its people and their leaders, for all of whom the protection of the Rome gods was devoutly requested.

 

The celebration of the seventh Saecular Games left a significant mark on Roman numismatics. The most eloquent and also the most int