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In Roman mythology and religion, Quirinus (//; Latin: Quirīnus, [kʷɪˈriːnʊs]) is an early god of the Roman state. In Augustan Rome, Quirinus was also an epithet of Janus, as Janus Quirinus. His name may be derived from the Sabine word quiris "spear".
Quirinus is probably an adjective meaning "wielder of the spear" (Quiris, in the Sabine language, cf. Janus Quirinus). Other suggested etymologies are: (i) from the Sabine town Cures; (2) from curia, i.e. he was the god of the Roman state as represented by the thirty curies, first proposed by Krestchmer. A. B. Cook (Class. Rev. xviii., p. 368) explains Quirinus as the oak-god (quercus), and Quirites as the men of the oaken spear.
Quirinus was most likely a Sabine god of war. The Sabines had a settlement near the eventual site of Rome, and erected an altar to Quirinus on the Collis Quirinalis Quirinal Hill, one of the Seven hills of Rome. When the Romans settled in the area, the cult of Quirinus became part of their early belief system. This occurred before the later influences from the classical Greek culture.
In Plutarch's Life of Romulus, he writes that shortly after Rome's founder had disappeared under what some considered suspicious circumstances, a Roman noble named Proculus Julius reported that Romulus had come to him in a vision. He claimed that the king had instructed him to tell his countrymen that he, Romulus was Quirinus. By the end of the first century BC, Quirinus would be considered to be the deified legendary king.
Historian Angelo Brelich has argued that Quirinus and Romulus were originally the same divine entity which was split into a founder hero and a god when Roman religion became demythicised. To support this, he points to the association of both Romulus and Quirinus with the grain spelt, through the Fornacalia or Stultorum Feriae, according to Ovid's Fasti. The last day of the festival is called the Quirinalia and corresponds with the traditional day of Romulus' death. On that day, the Romans would toast spelt as an offering to the goddess Fornax. In one version of the legend of Romulus' death cited by Plutarch, he was killed and cut into pieces by the nobles and each of them took a part of his body home and buried it on their land.
Brelich claims that this pattern – a festival involving a staple crop, a god, and a tale of a slain founding hero whose body parts are buried in the soil – is a recognized archetype that arises when such a split takes place in a culture's mythology. The possible presence of the flamen Quirinalis at the festival of Acca Larentia would corroborate this thesis, given the fact that Romulus is a stepson of hers, and one of the original twelve arval brethren (Fratres Arvales). The association of Quirinus and Romulus is further supported by a connection with Vofionos, the third god in the triad of the Grabovian gods of Iguvium. Vofionos would be the equivalent of Liber or Teutates, in Latium and among the Celts respectively.
His early importance led to his inclusion in the first Capitoline Triad, along with Mars (then an agriculture god) and Jupiter. Over time, however, he became less significant, and he was absent from the later, more widely known triad (he and Mars had been replaced by Juno and Minerva). Varro mentions the Capitolium Vetus, an earlier cult site on the Quirinal, devoted to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, among whom Martial makes a distinction between the "old Jupiter" and the "new". Eventually, Romans began to favor personal and mystical cults over the official state belief system. These included those of Bacchus, Cybele, and Isis, leaving only his flamen to worship him. The Flamen Quirinalis who remained, however, was one of the patrician flamines maiores ("greater flamens") who had oversight over the Pontifex Maximus.
In earlier Roman art, he was portrayed as a bearded man with religious and military clothing. However, he was almost never depicted in later Roman belief systems. He was also often associated with the myrtle.
His festival was the Quirinalia, held on February 17.
Even centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Quirinal hill in Rome, originally named from the deified Romulus, was still associated with power – it was chosen as the seat of the royal house after the taking of Rome by the Savoia and later it became the residence of the Presidents of the Italian Republic.