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Form: Fratres Arvales=of the fields.
The Latin name for a college of priests consisting of twelve life-members, who performed the worship of Dea Dia, a goddess not otherwise mentioned, but probably identical with the old Roman goddess of cornfields, Acca Larentia (q.v.), who also is said to have founded this fraternity. Our more accurate knowledge of it we owe to its annual reports inscribed on the marble tablets, ninety-six in number, which have been dug up (1570-1869) on the site of its meeting-place, a grove at the fifth milestone from Rome, and which extend from A.D. 14-241. About its condition under the Republic we have no information; but under the Empire its members were persons of the highest rank. The emperors themselves belonged to it, either as ordinary members, or, if the numbers were filled up, as extraordinary. The election was by co-optation on the motion of the president (magister), who himself, together with a flamen, was elected for one year; their badge was a white fillet and a wreath of ears of corn. The Arvales held their chief festival on three days in May, on the 1st and 3rd in Rome, on the 2nd in the grove, with a highly complicated ceremonial, including a dance in the temple of the goddess, to which they sang the written text of a hymn so antiquated that its meaning could scarcely be understood. This Arval Hymn, in which the Lares and Mars are invoked, is one of the oldest monuments we possess of the Latin tongue. Amongst other duties of this priesthood should especially be mentioned the expiatory sacrifices in the grove. These had to be offered if any damage had been done to it through the breaking of a bough, the stroke of lightning, or other such causes; or again if any labour had been performed in it, though ever so necessary, especially if iron tools had been used. The Arval brothers had also to offer solemn vows on behalf of the Imperial House, both statedly on January 3rd, and on extraordinary occasions, and were bound to fulfil them.
Type: Standard
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