The Argei: Sex, War, and Crucifixion in Rome and the Ancient Near East

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The purpose of the Roman Argei ceremony, during which the Vestal Virgins harvested made and paraded rush puppets only to throw them into the Tiber, is widely debated. Modern historians supply three main reasons for the purpose of the Argei: an agrarian act, a scapegoat, and finally as an offering averting deceased spirits or Lares. I suggest that the ceremony also related to war and the spectacle of displaying war casualties. I compare the ancient Near East and Rome and connect the element of war and husbandry and claim that the Argei paralleled the sacred marriage. in addition to an ... continued below

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Ewin, Kristan Foust May 2012.

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  • Ewin, Kristan Foust

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The purpose of the Roman Argei ceremony, during which the Vestal Virgins harvested made and paraded rush puppets only to throw them into the Tiber, is widely debated. Modern historians supply three main reasons for the purpose of the Argei: an agrarian act, a scapegoat, and finally as an offering averting deceased spirits or Lares. I suggest that the ceremony also related to war and the spectacle of displaying war casualties. I compare the ancient Near East and Rome and connect the element of war and husbandry and claim that the Argei paralleled the sacred marriage. in addition to an agricultural and purification rite, these rituals may have served as sympathetic magic for pre- and inter-war periods. As of yet, no author has proposed the Argei as a ceremony related to war. By looking at the Argei holistically I open the door for a new direction of inquiry on the Argei ceremony, fertility cults in the Near East and in Rome, and on the execution of war criminals.The Argei and new year’s sacred marriage both occurred during the initiation of campaign and spring planting and harvest season. Both in the ancient Near East and in Rome, animal victims were sacrificed and displayed through impaling, crucifixion, and hanging for fertility and in war. for both Rome and the Near East war casualties were displayed on sacred trees. Through the Near East cultures a strong correlation existed between impaling, hanging, and crucifixion in war and Sacred Tree fertility worship. By examining Roman tree worship, military rituals, and agricultural ceremonies a similar correlation becomes apparent. on the same day of the Argei, Mars was married to the anthropomorphized new year and within the month became a scapegoat expelled from the city. Additionally, on the first day of the Argei boys became soldiers.

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  • May 2012

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  • Nov. 6, 2012, 3:03 p.m.

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  • Nov. 16, 2016, 5:46 p.m.

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Ewin, Kristan Foust. The Argei: Sex, War, and Crucifixion in Rome and the Ancient Near East, thesis, May 2012; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc115076/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .