Lupercalia, the ancient Roman festival of purification and expiation, celebrated annually on the 15th of February (a month called from Februa, another name for the festival), in honor of Lupercus (surnamed Februus, from februum, a purgation), the god of fertility. The appropriate sacrifices were goats and dogs, after the offering of which two patrician youths were led forward to the altar, and one of the priests touched their foreheads with a sword dipped in the blood of the victims; another immediately washed off the stain with wool and milk. The priests next partook of a banquet, at which they were plentifully supplied with wine. This over, they cut the skins of the goats that had been sacrificed into pieces, with some of which they covered parts of their bodies, in imitation of Lupercus, who was represented half naked, and half clad in goat skins; with the other pieces, cut into thongs, they ran through the streets, striking every person whom they met, especially females, who courted the flagellation from an opinion that it averted sterility and the pangs of parturition. Antony, on the day when he offered Caesar the diadem, was officiating as a priest of Lupercus. The ceremonies of this festival are supposed to have symbolized the purification of the people.

The order of the Luperci, said to have been instituted by Romulus and Remus, formed a college of which none could originally be members save the noblest patrician youths. This college at first consisted of two classes, styled the Fabiani and Quintiliani, to which Caesar added a third, named Juliani; and hence the two former classes are termed by later writers Luperci veteres.