The color is thematic: the disease was red, the requisite puppies (or sometimes bitches) had a red coat, the red of blood recalls the distinctively Roman incarnation of Mars as both a god of agriculture and bloodshed. William Warde Fowler, whose work on Roman festivals remains a standard reference, entertained the idea that Robigus is an "indigitation" of Mars, that is, a name to be used in a prayer formulary to fix the local action of the invoked god. The priest who presided was the flamen Quirinalis, the high priest of Quirinus, the Sabine god of war who become identified with Mars; the ludi were held for both Mars and Robigo. The flamen recited a prayer that Ovid quotes at length in the Fasti, his six-book calendar poem on Roman holidays which provides the most extended, though problematic, description of the day. The Robigalia was held at the boundary of the Ager Romanus. Verrius Flaccus sites it in a grove at the fifth milestone from Rome along the Via Claudia. Like many other aspects of Roman law and religion, the institution of the Robigalia was attributed to the Sabine Numa Pompilius, in the eleventh year of his reign as the second king of Rome. The combined presence of Numa and the flamen Quirinalis may suggest a Sabine origin.
Other April festivals related to farming were the Cerealia, or festival of Ceres, lasting for several days in mid-month; the Fordicidia on April 15, when a pregnant cow was sacrificed; the Parilia on April 21 to ensure healthy flocks; and the Vinalia, a wine festival on April 23. Varro considered these and the Robigalia, along with the Great Mother's Megalensia late in the month, the "original" Roman holidays in April. The Fasti Praenestini also record that on the same day the festival celebrated a particular class of sex workers: "pimped-out boys," following the previous day's recognition of meretrices, female prostitutes regarded as professionals of some standing. The Robigalia has been connected to the Christian feast of Rogation, which was concerned with purifying and blessing the parish and fields and which took the place of the Robigalia on April 25 of the Christian calendar. The Church Father Tertullian mocks the goddess Robigo as "made up," a fiction.
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