Feriae Sementivae – time to get sowing in Ancient Rome!

Ancient Romans were a busy lot – and liked nothing better than a festival!

Starting around 24-26 January was the Feriae Sementivae – a Roman festival of sowing. The festival began at the end of January and honoured the Goddess Tellus, also known as Mother Earth.

The sowing and celebrations ran into February, linking up with the festival which honoured Ceres on 2 February. Ceres is the goddess of fertility, agriculture and, crops and motherly love. There is also a fasting day dedicated to Ceres on 4 October – the Festival of Ieiunium Cereris.

The Feriae Sementivae were dedicated to praying for a good crop, but the exact prayer day varied from year to year, according to the decision of local magistrates or priests.

The normal day’s business was suspended some feriae were private family affairs, while others took place in public.

Poppies in Cicus Maximus
Circus Maximus – stony ground was perfect for growing olive trees, as well as poppies!

Agriculture was an important part of life in Ancient Rome – the city of Rome was originally a small rural settlement before it developed into the magnificent city we know existed.  The main crops were grains, olives and – of course – grapes!

Owning land was also what distinguished the Roman elite from the plebeians (ordinary people, or plebs) – and working on farms or supervising slaves on farms provided vital employment for many Ancient Romans.

During the farming calendar, January and February in Ancient Roman life could be considered quieter months before spring. Originally the calendar began in March, so January/February were at the end of the year, not the beginning, as we know them.

It was, therefore, an ideal time to spend praying for a good crop and a plentiful harvest! Happy Feriae Sementivae – and may all your sowing bear fruit!


Orange trees growing on the street near the Quirinal Palace 

Main image: Gardens at the Borghese Museum

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