An ancient Italian divinity, who was worshiped by shepherds as the protector of their flocks against wolves, and at the same time as the promoter of the fertility among sheep, whence he was called Inuus or Ephialtes. On the north side of the Palatine hill there had been in ancient times a cave, the sanctuary of Lupercus, surrounded by a grove, containing an altar of the god and his figure clad in a goat-skin, just as his priests the Luperci. The Romans sometimes identified Lupercus with the Arcadian Pan.

The festival celebrated in honor of Lupercus and his priests was the Luperci, held on February 15. During this ancient purification ritual, his priests sacrificed two goats and a dog at the Lupercal cave: goats because Lupercus was a god a shepherds, and the dog because it guards the flocks. Afterward they marched, clothed only in the goat skins of the recently sacrificed animals, through the streets of Rome. They hit the spectators with straps made of goat skin. Childless women in particular would walk up to them, believing that being hit by the Luperci would release them of the shame of having no children. Because of the great exuberance associated with the festival, Emperor Augustus forbade men who were too young from participating.



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  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.