History for the Rest of Us

Portunalia – Festival Honoring Portunus

Portunalia – Festival Honoring Portunus

Aug 17, 2012

Portunus, an ancient Roman god, was the god of keys, gates or doors (porta), and livestock. He protected grain warehouses and barns. Eventually he also became associated with ports, and harbors (portus – gateway to the sea) as well. Specifically, Portunus protected the portus Tiberinus, a river harbor within Rome, and the wharves at Ostia. The portus Tiberinus was located near the Forum Boarium, also known as the ‘Cattle Market’. The Temple of Portunus was consecrated on August 17 in the first century BC, and still stands to this day. Portunalia, the festival celebrated in honor of Portunus, was held annually on August 17. It was celebrated at Rome by the Pons Aemilius and also at Ostia. The Romans threw keys (the symbol of Portunus) in a solemn manner into a fire during Portunalia for good luck. During the Roman Republic, Portunus was one of the fifteen deities with an official cult. A priest (flamen) was assigned to each of the deities which were divided into three flamen maiores (major priests) and twelve flamen minores. The priest of Portunus was one of the flamen minores. The flamen Portunalis performed a ritual of oiling a spear (hasta) on the statue of the god Quirinus with an ointment especially prepared for this purpose and stored in a small vase (persillum). Related Stories: Neptunalia Ludi Apollinares Vestalia Mercuralia...