Arval Brothers

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Arval Brothers

(är`vəl), in Roman religion, college of 12 priests chosen from the most distinguished senatorial families. It was said that the original brothers were sons of Acca LarentiaAcca Larentia
or Acca Larentina
, in Roman mythology, wife of the shepherd Faustulus and foster mother of Romulus and Remus. Her 12 sons founded the priesthood of the Arval Brothers. According to one legend she was a wealthy courtesan who left all her money to the people of Rome.
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. Theirs was chiefly an agricultural cult, but they were also concerned with the well-being of the imperial house. The Roman emperor was necessarily a member of the college. Their most important ceremony, held in May, was in honor of Dea Dia, a goddess of fields and crops.

Arval Brothers

 

(Fratres Arvales, or “plowmen brothers,” from arvum, or “plowland”), in ancient Rome, one of the oldest priestly colleges. (A college consisted of 12 men.)

The Arval brothers were connected with the cult of fertility gods—the goddess Dea Dia, Mars, Flora, Lares, and others. The principal holiday of the Arval brothers was the Ambarvalia, which was celebrated annually for three days in May, during the ripening of crops. The Arval brothers would pray for the future harvest and sacrifice grain from past and current harvests, as well as cattle, sheep, and young pigs. They would set out community meals in the house of the master of the college and dance around the altar of Dea Dia. The college had lost its importance by the end of the republic, but it was revived by Emperor Augustus to become a highly aristocratic college, which included the emperor and members of his family. It lasted until the fourth century.