Friday, March 20, 2009

Who Invented Spring Break? The Romans, of course!

As it turns out, students in Ancient Rome went on school holiday in March too! The Quinquatrus was a festival celebrated on the 19th of March, five days after the Ides. The Quinquatrus started out as a one day celebration, but as William Smith points out in his Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd edition, Revised and Enlarged, 1891), "a false etymology led to its being afterwards regarded as a five-days festival."

Therefore, the Quinquatria (now pluralized) became a five day long spring festival, lasting from March 19th to the 23rd. At some point, the Quinquatria became associated with Minerva, as the Romans chose this time to dedicate the temple of Minerva on the Aventine. The Quinquatria became a time to celebrate trades and arts. As a five day holiday, schools were in recess. The first day was reserved for making offerings at the Temple of Minerva, and the other four days were marked by gladiator shows and "a season of general merrymaking." The fifth day of the Quinquatria was called the Tubilustrium, or the sounding of the trumpets.