Junior Blog: Rosalia

Romans loved to celebrate and had many reasons to do so. Learn about Rosalia, the Roses Festival, which played an important part in military celebrations.

Firstly, what is so important about roses?

We have many examples of roses used as symbols throughout history. In the Roman Empire, they represented rebirth and rejuvenation. The rose of all flowers was particularly associated with spring and early summer.

There is also evidence from the 1st and 3rd century AD that suggests soldiers used roses when someone died. Graveside ceremonies were sometimes called rosaliae.

The Romans would decorate wreaths and garlands with roses as part of a celebration. They became important in both civilian and military life.

From this, we know roses represented death, rebirth, and used in military life.

So, what is Rosalia?

This is a Roman festival celebrated on two dates in May and involved the whole military community. On the 10th and last day of May, the Roman Army decorated their military standards with roses. Processions, public prayers and offerings of sacrifices were also part of this festival.

Marked on the military calendar shows that this was not only a civilian festival. Instead of a ceremony centred around a god, the focus was on the military standards.

But, what is a Roman Standard?

The Roman standard (signum) was a type of flag or banner, attached to a pole. It was a representation of a unit in the Roman Army. The standard represented not only the legion or cohort, but the army and the citizens of Rome in general. For soldiers it was the ultimate disgrace to lose their standard in battle.

The Roman Army divided soldiers into units. If you were a Roman citizen (born in Italy) you were part of a legion. If you came from other parts of the Roman Empire, you were part of an auxiliary cohort.

Here at Magna Fort, we know that there were units from Syria, Croatia, Serbia, and Germany. There were also soldiers, from Italy, from the Second Augusta legion. This shows how far the soldiers travelled across the Roman Empire!

Each unit would have a standard to represent them, which had their unit number and name. they would also have a figure or animal on top of the standard. This is their symbol.

Soldiers joined the Roman Army from all over the Empire. The standards acted as a unifying symbol for these recruits, who came from different religious and cultural backgrounds. As a new recruit, you gained an identity from your unit’s Standard.

The Standard united the soldiers around a central cause and were distinctive to military life. Any significant life event of the unit would involve a celebration of the standard.

Why did the Roman’s celebrate it?

There are a few different theories about why the Roman’s celebrated Rosalia. Some historians believe this celebration marked the start of the campaigning season. Other’s have understood it as welcoming in the return of spring and celebrate the resurrection of the earth.

Like with other Roman festivals, there would have been lots of eating, drinking, and celebrating!

Click here for a worksheet on how to make your own rose to celebrate Rosalia in your house.

Visit the Roman Army Museum during May to celebrate Rosalia with us.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience Read more