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The Roman fast days, or days of humiliation, celebrated originally in times of great distress, after the Sibylline books had been duly consulted. The whole population, both of the towns and surrounding country, free-born and emancipated men, women, and children, took part in the solemnity. The whole ceremony had a Greek rather than a Roman colour. From the temple of Apollo, priests and laymen, crowned with wreaths of bay, marched in procession to the sound of singing and the notes of the lyre, visiting all the holy places, especially those where lectisternia (q.v.) were held. According to the rite introduced from the oriental Greeks of Asia Minor, the Romans touched with their faces the threshold of the sanctuaries, prostrated themselves before the statues of the gods, clasping their knees and kissing their hands and feet. While the prayers were being said, incense and wine were offered, the prayers being rehearsed by the members of the collegium entrusted with the care of the Sibylline books (see SIBYLLAe), and the performance of the holy rites prescribed by them. On such days the temples ordinarily closed to the public, or only accessible under certain restrictions, were (so far as practicable) thrown open to all. The thanksgivings decreed by the Senate after great victories were celebrated in a similar manner. These originally lasted only one day, but in the course of time were lengthened, until, at the end of the Republic, they sometimes extended over forty or fifty days, and were often united with a public feasting of the people.
Type: Standard
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