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Quirinus, retired Roman deity, was usually depicted wearing part clerical and part military clothes, and a beard. Hora was the name of his consort. His festival (the Quirinalia or Quinnalia) was celebrated on the 17th of February, and his sacred plant was the myrtle.

Orignially he was the god of the Sabines, an Italian tribe that lived just outside Rome. The people eventually was absorbed by the expanding city, and their god with them. The fortified settlement of the Sabines, known as the Quirinal, became the Roman hill of Quirinalis, and Quirinus became one of the Roman gods. Sometimes he is placed in a triad together with greater deities Jupiter and Mars, other times with two lesser ones, Janus and Saturn.

The origin of the reccurring name Quirinus is, unsurprisingly, not known for certain. It is thought to mean wielder of the spear, but can also come from the Sabine town of Cures, or from the word for oak, quercus. His followers the Quirites were, at least in the beginning, fierce warriors who probably did wield oaken spears. Maybe all explanations are true.

In the later republic and in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Quirinus was identified with Romulus, founder of Rome and son of Mars. Romulus was exposed into the wilderness, but survived because a she-wolf nursed him. Quirinus was the name this real founding father received when he was brought to heaven on a bolt of lightning and deified. His wife Hersilia was also granted godhood and the name of Hora. The Quinnalia feast day now came to celebrate the memory of this miracle.

The Sacellum Quirinus, the deity's temple, stood on the Quirinal hill and was one of the oldest in Rome. In later times it was said to have been built on the order of Romulus himself. Outside it grew two myrtle trees called patricia and plebeia. The former tree flourished for as long as the Senate remained in power, but seemed to lose its vitality to the other during the social war.

Inspired by the E2 Dictionary of Classical Mythology

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