Quirinus: god of the People

On the Capitoline hill in Rome three deities had their temple, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. This cult was important enough that every city in Italy and later the Empire had its temple called the Capitola. Originally, however, the triad was made up of three gods: Jupiter, Mars and Quirinius.

Sabine God, Roman Cult

If you’re wondering who Quirinus was, you’re not alone. Even the Romans themselves don’t seem to have been too sure what his function was or how he joined the Roman pantheon.

He was an important god in some senses: he had his own temples and priests. There were 15 official priests, called flamens, state-appointed functionaries who ensured that the rituals were preformed and all the taboos associated with their office observed.1

Some of these 15 were unimportant, like the priests of Pomona, but the flamen Quirinalis was one of the big three, the flamines maiores, who served the first Capitoline Triad. The other two were the Flamens Dialis (Jupiter) and Martialis (Mars). Quirinus also received offerings of one-third of the arms captured after a war, the other two-thirds going to Jupiter and Mars. (Servius 6:589)

The first altar to Quirinus was built on the Quirinal Hill. This was originally Sabine territory, before becoming one of the seven hills of Rome. So Quirinus was a Sabine god. However, after the Romans conquered the Sabines, their territory became part of the Roman state, and their god was integrated into the Roman pantheon. (One explanation of his name is “he of the quirium,” making him the territorial god.)

Other explanations of Quirinus’ nature have seen him as a thunder-god, or else a war-god like Mars, deriving his name from the Sabine word for spear, quiris. Other theories point to the Sabine town of Cures.

Quirinus had four yearly festivals, with the main one falling on Febuary 17th, the Quirinalia. Not much is known about this festival, unfortunately, but his cult partner was Hora, the goddess of the hours. (A group of minor deities called the Virites Quirini shared his cult as well, perhaps personifications of the virtus or power of the god.)


Statue of Quirinus. NovaRoma.