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Flora, a goddess of Sabine origin, who presided over flowers and gardens. The poets, in order to enoble her history, represented Flora as a nymph under the name of Chloris, and married her to Zephyr, the son of Aurora. The worship dedicated, in earlier times, to this divinity, took place some days before the beginning of May; as Ovid sings (Fast. iv 947):
"Incipis Aprili, transis in tempora Maii" (You commence in April, and are adjourned to May).
During the beautiful days of the latter month women and maidens are said to have assembled by themselves to enjoy the gay and probably then harmless pleasures of such a spring-tide celebration. The festivals of Flora received additional splendour, but lost their modest and inoffensive character, when a courtezan named Acea Martius left immense riches amassed during a life of prostitution to the Roman people as her heir. From that period, the Floral games were renewed each in her especial honour, and it was to this meretricious benefactress, that the people affected to apply the name of the goddess, to defray the expenses of whose yearly feasts, she had bequeathed her ill gotten wealth.
In Flora, no longer regarded as a presiding deity over the most lovely and innocent of natural objects, the profligate multitude saw only the patroness of harlots; and seizing on this pretext for authorizing exesses, they at legnth converted her worship into a source of public scandal. It was not however until the year 174 BC that the Floralia were celebrated every year. In these popular sports, obscenity and libertinism were carried to the highest pitch. This festival was frequently kept up by torch light, when night lent to indecency of gestures, her aid to cosummate its provacatives by deeds of debauchery.
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