Moralia Roman Questions: Lupercalia


‘διὰ τί κύνα θύουσιν οἱ Λούπερκοι; Λούπερκοι δ᾽ εἰσὶν οἱ τοῖς Λουπερκαλίοις γυμνοὶ διαθέοντες ἐν περιζώμασι καὶ καθικνούμενοι σκύτει τῶν ἀπαντώντων.’
πότερον ὅτι καθαρμός ἐστι τῆς πόλεως τὰ δρώμενα; καὶ γὰρ τὸν μῆνα ‘Φεβρουάριον’ καλοῦσι καὶ νὴ Δία τὴν ἡμέραν ἐκείνην ‘φεβράτην,'’ καὶ ‘φεβρᾶρε’ τό τινι σκυτῶν εἴδει καθικνεῖσθαι, τοῦ ῥήματος τὸ καθαίρειν σημαίνοντος: τῷ δὲ κυνὶ πάντες ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν Ἕλληνες ἐχρῶντο καὶ χρῶνταί γε μέχρι νῦν ἔνιοι σφαγίῳ πρὸς τοὺς καθαρμούς: καὶ τῇ Ἑκάτῃ σκυλάκια μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων καθαρσίων ἐκφέρουσι καὶ περιμάττουσι σκυλακίοις τοὺς ἁγνισμοῦ δεομένους, περισκυλακισμὸν τὸ τοιοῦτον γένος τοῦ καθαρμοῦ καλοῦντες.
ἢ λύκος μὲν ὁ λοῦπός ἐστι καὶ Λύκαια τὰ Λουπερκάλια, λύκῳ δὲ κύων πολέμιος καὶ διὰ τοῦτο θύεται τοῖς Λυκαίοις;
ἢ ὅτι τοὺς Λουπέρκους ὑλακτοῦσι καὶ παραλυποῦσιν οἱ κύνες ἐν τῇ πόλει διαθέοντας;
ἢ Πανὶ μὲν ἡ θυσία γίγνεται, Πανὶ δὲ κύων προσφιλὲς διὰ τὰ αἰπόλια;
Why do the Luperci sacrifice a dog? The Luperci are men who race through the city on the Lupercalia, lightly clad in loin-cloths, striking those whom they meet with a strip of leather.
Is it because this performance constitutes a rite of purification of the city? In fact they call this month February, and indeed this very day, februata; and to strike with a kind of leather thong they call februare, the word meaning ‘to purify.’ Nearly all the Greeks used a dog as the sacrificial victim for ceremonies of purification ; and some, at least, make use of it even to this day. They bring forth for Hecatê puppies along with the other materials for purification, and rub round about with puppies such persons as are in need of cleansing, and this kind of purification they call periskylakismos (‘puppifrication’).
Or is it that lupus means ‘wolf’ and the Lupercalia is the Wolf Festival, and that the dog is hostile to the wolf, and for this reason is sacrificed at the Wolf Festival?
Or is it that the dogs bark at the Luperci and annoy them as they race about in the city?
Or is it that the sacrifice is made to Pan, and a dog is something dear to Pan because of his herds of goats?