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Superstitions of Ancient Romans

By Yona Williams    2/21/11

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Avoiding the cracks of a sidewalk as you walk or tossing salt over your shoulder for good luck aren’t the only superstitions to exist in history. All over the world, there have been strong beliefs regarding good luck and misfortunes that trace back to ancient times. In this article, you will encounter some of the superstitions that the ancient Romans believed in.

If a location had suffered the strike of a lightning bolt, it was considered sacred to Jupiter. However, the ancient Romans still feared lightning and would perform rituals to make sure that the occurrence was minimal. Some believed that if they touched the earth when they heard the sound of thunder, they could prevent a lightning strike.

Some ancient Romans would smooth out the impression left behind by a sleeping body so that another could not use it in a black magic spell.

Romans that lived during the days of the Late Republic typically thought that Civil Wars were a reflection of the Romulus and Remus legend. They believed that Rome would forever be affected by the curse to repeat the struggle.

During ancient Roman times, people regarded the random word or phrase as highly important.
To make soldier courageous, it was thought that garlic played an important role.

In order to keep the evil eye away, verbena, which possessed a lemon-like scent was often hung over a doorway.

Cabbage served many different purposes during ancient Roman days. It was a belief that the vegetable was significant in curing paralysis, preventing a drunken state, and gave protection against the plague.  

The days that followed the Kalendae (the first days of each month of the Roman calendar), the Nonae, and the Idus, were thought unlucky.

Other unlucky days in the ancient Roman calendar included anniversaries of certain military disasters. This included Trasimene (21 or 23 Junius) [after 217 BC], Arausio (6 October) [after 105 BC], the Disaster of the Alia [after 390 BC], as well as the extinction of the Gens Fabia at Cremara (18 Quintilis [after 477 BC]).  Also, it was considered unlucky to do anything important on 24 Sextilis, 5 October, 8 November, which were the dates of the year when the gate to the Underworld was thought to open. No matter how heated a battle, Roman armies would not engage the enemy on any of these days.

If you wanted to be a happy bride, it was suggested to stay away from planning nuptials in Maius, which was the month of the Lemuria. Other unlucky dates to get married fell in the first half of Junius or on the Kalendae, Nonae, or Idus of any month.

It was a sad day for people selling their wares on market day (also known as a Nundinae) when it fell on the Kalendae of the first month of the year [after 78 BC] or the Nonae of any month.

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