Classics Society marks ‘Floralia’ in ancient Roman style


Classics Society lines up for chariot races on Alumni quad during Floralia. (Courtesy / Roxanne Gentilcore)

Carter Brannon, Crier Staff

The Saint Anselm Classics Society held their annual Floralia celebration and games on Alumni Quad on Saturday, April 22. The event, commemorating the ancient Roman spring holiday, featured a pentathlon, a chariot race, and barbecue food. 

Floralia is a Roman festival that celebrates the spring season. It is named after the minor goddess Flora, who is associated with the season.

“It’s a celebration of the changing season,” explained Elizabeth Palazzolo, a Professor in the Classics Department.  “That would have originally had more significance in an agricultural society, but we still enjoy the arrival of the good weather even if we don’t connect the change of seasons quite as closely with major changes in our lifestyle.”

This was the 14th year the Classics Society has celebrated Floralia.  After a few years of scaled-back celebrations with COVID restrictions, this year’s Floralia was a larger event.

“I wanted to go to Floralia since before I came here.  I heard about it from [Classics] Professor Gonzalez when I met him initially when I was considering transferring,” said Mary Margaret Fanning, ’24.  “What’s not to like about a Roman spring festival with chariots?”

Saint Anselm’s pentathlon games included a javelin throw, a discus throw, a long jump, a footrace, and a relay race. 

“Back in the old days, one of those events would have been replaced by wrestling,” explained Classics Society President Sam Cowan, ‘23.  “But ancient wrestling is too dangerous.”

While some students demonstrated impressive athletic skill, the competitions did not require much preparation.  Some athletes came not expecting to compete. Ryan Anderson ’26 had some new experiences being put onto a team that needed more people.

“As incriminating as it sounds, I think the most memorable thing was I threw a discus into the back and fell over, probably almost killed someone,” Anderson recalled.  “I’ve never thrown a discus before.”

“If I had known I was doing long jump before it, I would have been prepared for it,” said Isabelle Gross ’26, also surprised to participate in the games.  “I was wearing somewhat dressy clothes, and those weren’t really good attire for the event.  If you’ve ever tried to do a long jump in stocking feet — well I don’t think anyone besides me has actually tried to do this — I would not recommend it.”

A highlight of the festivities was the chariot race.  Four chariots were pulled and ridden by students as they raced each other on Alumni Quad.

“Honestly, being in the chariot was really fun,” recalled Enzo Scicchitano ’26.  “It felt super fast.  I was watching a video afterward, and it looked really slow, but when you’re in there, and the wind’s in your face, it’s crazy.”

The athletic events and chariot race were fun for the spectators too.

“Everyone gets very into it.  It was very entertaining,” spectator Louis Costanzo ’25 said. “The chariot race is always the best.  It’s kind of funny because it takes a lot of coordination to actually get those things to move straight, and then every time someone tries to go around the corner, they end up knocking the cone over.  It’s just fun.  Everyone’s just in a goofy mood.” 

“I did really enjoy the javelin toss,” commented Kathryn Gentile ’26, another spectator.  “It’s just really fun seeing people throwing sharp things.” 

Four teams competed in the pentathlon, and the team that won the most events were given wreaths of victory.

Like the ancient Roman tradition of feasting at festivals, Floralia also involved lunch.  Students and faculty enjoyed pulled pork, barbecue chicken, brisket, cornbread, baked beans, and coleslaw ordered from KC’s Rib Shack.  

“It was pretty good,” Fanning, the Classics Society secretary, said.  “It wasn’t authentically Roman, but it was authentically American.”

“Barbecue is sort of Roman,” explained Cowan.  “It’s sort of heroic, all that meat.” 

Floralia brings something fun for classics students to engage with outside the classroom, and also for other members of the college community to participate with the Classics Department.

“It’s a really nice opportunity to introduce some of what we do in the Classics Department with classics and classical archaeology majors with campus as a whole,” said Professor Palazzolo.

“I think a lot of the time people think studying can be boring.  Studying ancient history, the classics in particular, is boring, just sitting in class taking notes, but it can be fun and Floralia shows that,” Gross commented.  “We don’t just study about the chariot races in Rome.  We have our own version of the chariot races to watch!”