In the middle of a discussion on different pagan Roman festivals, the Talmud in Tractate Avodah Zara 11b describes a certain Roman festival:

"Rav Yehuda says that Shmuel says: They have another festival in Rome: Once every seventy years they bring a man who is whole and free from any defect and have him ride on a lame man. And they dress him in the garments of Adam the first man and place on his head the scalp [karkifelo] of Rabbi Yishmael [which the Romans flayed when they executed him].

The clothes of Adam were garments of skins (typically thought to be animal skins) according to Jewish tradition (see Genesis 3:21 and Genesis Rabbah 20:12). Was there any Roman festival that featured something comparable to the description in the Talmud?

  • It seems unlikely a festival would have 70 years between celebrations. Almost everyone that could pass on the tradition would die between celebrations.
    – towr
    Apr 14, 2022 at 16:03
  • @towr forget the 70 years. Anything similar in terms of the skins or the scalp?
    – Harel13
    Apr 14, 2022 at 16:12
  • The only festival I can find on this list that has anything with skins is Lupercalia. It's not inconceivable that through the process of Chinese whispers that might end up as the story above. But I'd hold out for someone with some actual expertise on Roman festivals to give a definite answer.
    – towr
    Apr 14, 2022 at 17:18
  • There was indeed a festival celebrated every seventy years, such that people could only attend it once in their lives.
    – Mary
    Apr 15, 2023 at 1:02
  • @Mary can you please clarify? Which festival?
    – Harel13
    Apr 15, 2023 at 17:24

1 Answer 1


It turns out that back in the middle of the 19th century, it was suggested by Shlomo Yehudah Rapoport (Erech Milin, pp. 30-33) that the festival referred to in this Talmudic source is the Ludi Saecularis (at least that of ca. 247, 248 or 249 CE), which featured a lame dancer carrying a healthy person dressed in leather and wearing a mask. This suggestion seems to have been accepted by many scholars. See here, pp. 156-157, here and here, pp. 337-339.

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