Did the Romans have any kind of a national day, or did the Romans have a name for the national day of some other nation? Such days go by various names in different countries (e.g. independence day or day of the republic), and I am wondering what the Romans might have called such a day. The exact definitions of a nation and a national day are not important; I am looking for attested names for celebrations of one's country (or similar) in ancient Latin literature. I don't really know how close ancient traditions come to modern national days, and that is part of what I want to figure out. This question was inspired by Finland celebrating its hundredth independence day today, on December 6, 2017.

1 Answer 1


The festival days for the birth of Rome was, at least in the late Republic, the Parilia.

Wikipedia has more:

By the end of the late Republic, the Parilia became associated with the birthday of Rome. Numerous accounts of the founding of Rome exist, but the particular one related to the Parilia is described by Ovid in the Fasti. According to this myth, Romulus, upon reaching Rome on the day of the Parilia, took a stick and engraved a line in the ground that defined the boundaries of the new city (pomerium). He then prayed to the gods Jupiter, Mars, and Vesta asking for protection of this area. However, his brother Remus, unaware of the boundaries, crossed the line and was struck down by Romulus's henchman Celer.

Over time, and under the influence of several Roman rulers, the structure of the Parilia changed. First, after Julius Caesar heard the news of Roman Victory at Munda in 45 BC (around the date of the Parilia), he added games to the ceremony. At these games, the citizens would wear crowns in Caesar’s honor. Caligula instituted into the celebration a procession of priests, noblemen, boys and girls of noble birth singing of his virtues while escorting the Golden Shield, previously bestowed upon him by the citizens of Rome, to the Capitol.

  • I clarified my title. I had added a description of "national day" earlier in the form of two examples.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Dec 7, 2017 at 22:11
  • 1
    @JoonasIlmavirta English lacks an expression for a national day, but that didn't stop you from asking if the Romans had one. :) In the U.S., we might reach for "independence day" to stand for the generic concept, but that would be wrong. Many countries have independence days—days celebrating the country's transition from a colony or province to a sovereign nation—but of course not all countries have such an event in their history. "Independence day" is properly a species of national day. This makes me wonder: can you just use the phrase feriæ patriæ and reasonably expect to be understood?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Dec 8, 2017 at 3:42
  • 1
    I'm an Englishman and, despite what has been said in other comments, we have four national days in the UK. They celebrate the separate identities of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on the days of our national saints — respectively George, David, Andrew and Patrick. We celebrate more modestly in England, but just try telling the others that they have no national day, and they'll soon put you right!
    – Tom Cotton
    Dec 8, 2017 at 6:41
  • @BenKovitz I indeed thought that an independence day is a subclass of national days. I find "national day" to be the best generic term, but I'm open to suggestions. (For the record, I've heard Americans refer to a national day of any country as a "fourth of July".) National histories are vastly different and the types and numbers of national days vary greatly, as Tom Cotton reminded. You could suggest feriae patriae in another answer to see how it would work.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Dec 8, 2017 at 14:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.