Birthday of Rome Festival

Jeremy J. Baer

According to tradition, Rome was founded on April 21st, 753 BCE by the band of divine twins, Romulus and Remus (though archaeology indicates settlements on the seven hills long before this). About seven centuries later Rome became the seat of a mighty empire which included much of Alexander’s former domains.

In the Greek East, Roma was worshipped as the personification of the city and its protective power. Roma was honored along with the genii, or spirits, of deified emperors. The cult was also connected with that of Zeus, who was identified with the Roman Jupiter. Wealthy and loyal citizens of the East were invested as priests of the cult and it was considered a great honor.

In my research I have not found any exact festivals for Roma in the East, nor exact dates on which any such ceremonies were conducted. I suspect different cities and provinces performed rites at different times. The birthdays of emperors, as well as any official visits from the emperor, would probably have been the opportune time to perform these rites.

The following is completely a modern re-imagining of a devotional, which in the absence of more concrete data tries to incorporate at the least the spirit of the occasion.  Rome’s “birthday” as it were on April 21st can serve as an excellent focal point for a modern yearly devotional to Rome. While the rites would have been performed in Greek or Latin, proper English should suffice.  While Roma was invoked to protect the cities and provinces of the East, today we shall ask her to bless the work of Neos Alexandria.

First, erect a shrine.  Red was the color of Jupiter and Republican Rome, and purple became associated with the personage of the emperor; if you have tablecloths in these colors, cover the shrine with them.  Next, find a statue or image of suitably civic deity from the Olympian pantheon and place it on the shrine.  Zeus would be the best deity, but Athene and Apollon can also suffice. The shrine should also have a place for a candle, as well as a place to burn incense or another scented offering. Next, on the shrine place an image evocative of Rome.  It can be a Roman coin from an authentic vendor, or a picture of the she-wolf nursing the divine twins. Finally, if you have busts or pictures of Roman emperors you wish to honor, place them on there as well.

Bathe, or at least wash your hands and face.  Put on some clean clothes.

Approach the shrine and light the candle.

Recite a hymn to the Olympian god whose image you placed on the shrine.  It can be one of your own making or a Homeric Hymn. Ask the deity to bless Neos Alexandria, and to protect and prosper its members.

Now recite a prayer to Roma along the following lines:

“Goddess Roma, Mistress of the World, who does rule over and bless the human race with peace and prosperity, I pray good prayers that you will look over me and Neos Alexandria. May you strengthen our organization and smile on our endeavors. Let us bring the light of Antiquity to the shores of the modern world, and let the multitudes come to proffer their respects to you and the other gods once more.”

Now recite prayers to any of the emperors you wish, and ask them for their blessings.

Light the incense or other scented offering.  Snuff out the candle respectfully.

In the immediate aftermath of the ritual would be a good time to read a book or watch a documentary on the Roman Empire and its emperors. Meditate on the good and bad of Roman imperialism, and what lessons can be applied from it to the modern world.


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