Ver sacrum (ancient)

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The ver sacrum ( Latin for 'holy spring') was a custom among the ancient Italians , in which a group of young men, often an entire year, were expelled from the tribal union or even only sent out to conquer new land for their own support so to start a new tribe.

All living beings that were born in the coming spring (March, April) were consecrated to the gods. Animals were sacrificed, and the newborn males were sent out as colonists as soon as they were adults.

Sometimes this custom was performed in times of need. It existed in various forms, especially among the Italian peoples , the Celts, and discussed controversially among the Germanic peoples in the context of sacral continuity ( royal salvation ), or the sacred so-called cult groups of the warlike “men's associations”. For example, it has come down to us from the Samnites .

The reports about it are based on legendary tradition. There is only one single such Ver-Sacrum victim in Roman history. It is the ver sacrum of the Romans after their defeat on Lake Trasimeno in the Second Punic War . About the vow in the year 217 BC And the execution in 195 BC. The Roman historian Titus Livius reports . The reason for the defeat was seen in a "negligence in ceremonies and auspices " and this violation should be atoned for by a ver sacrum. The period of 22 years between the vow and its fulfillment is explained by the time that had to pass between the birth and the age of majority required for the sending of this year.


  1. Little Pauly . Volume 5, columns 1181 ff.
  2. ^ Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita 22.9.7: "neglegentia caeremoniarum auspiciorum <que>."


  • Jacques Heurgon : Trois études sur le 'Ver sacrum' , Brussels, 1957.
  • Gianluca Tagliamonte: Figli di Marte: Mobilità, Mercenari e Mercenariato Italici in Magna Grecia e Sicilia , Rome, 1994.