Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Month of March in Roman Mythology 1914

THE STORY OF MARCH, article in the Nebraska Teacher 1914

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 Like the month of January, March gets its name from the Romans. They called it so in honor of their god Mars, for they thought he was born on the first day of this month. He had Jupiter for his father and Juno for his mother.

I am sure he would not have seemed very lovable to us, but the Romans were very fond of him and called him the protector of their nation.

He was very large and strong and had such a great voice that he could roar as loud as nine or ten thousand men. Perhaps this is another reason for naming March for him, for you know on some days the wind roars very loudly.

The Saxons, another old nation, used to call March “the loud and stormy month.”

Mars was the god of war and liked fighting and battles. He was very fortunate in battle, but once when he was wounded, he fell with such a loud noise that it sounded like thousands of men going down together. Another time the goddess of wisdom, Minerva, hit him with a stone, making him fall again, and when he was on the ground there was so much of him that he covered seven acres of ground. That is a great deal of land and would make many lots the size of the one on which this house stands.

Mars was also, so they thought, the giver of light. They fancied he held thunderbolts in his hand, and when it thundered they supposed it was because Mars threw something that made the sound.

They used to pray to Mars to send them rain, and when the land was very dry indeed, the priests took from one of the temples a stone and carried it through the city, hoping that when Mars saw it he would send them rain.

Many temples were built in honor of Mars, and when the people wanted something from him they would go to one of these temples and offer to him a horse or a sheep, or a wolf, or a vulture or a magpie. But even then they were not quite sure that Mars would give them what they wanted.

So they tried to fancy Mars sent them an answer. And what do you suppose they believed brought the message for them? I am afraid you would not guess if I gave you a whole month in which to try, so I will tell you. In a certain part of Rome were some trees business it was to look for them. If they were about to begin a new war, someone would go to an augur. Then this wise man, who really did not know any more of what was to happen than you or I, would take his staff and go out of doors. There he would pray to Mars or some other of his gods. Then he would look at the sky for an answer. He would find it in the lightning, or in the way in which certain birds flew.

There was one thing they never neglected to send with an army when it was starting out,-a “chicken coop.” The chickens in it were called “sacred chickens.” Just before a battle, when the people were very anxious to know which side would win, they would go to this coop and throw some food in to the “sacred chickens.” If they ate it quickly and scattered it about as chickens are likely to do, it was thought to mean that the Romans would win. But sometimes the chickens were tired of being carried around, and instead of coming out to eat they would mope in the corner of the coop. This would make the Romans very sad, for they were quite sure it meant that the battle would be lost.

Many marble and bronze statues have been made of Mars. You will know him if you remember that he is dressed like a Roman warrior. In his right hand he carries a long spear to represent the lightning, and on his back is a large shield, which is the thunder cloud filled with rain. In some places he will look like an old man riding in a chariot. Then he is drawn by two horses named Terror and Flight.

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