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supplicatio

in Roman religion, a rite or series of rites celebrated either as a thanksgiving to the gods for a great victory or as an act of humility after a national calamity. During those times the public was given general access to some or all of the gods; the statues or sacred emblems of the gods often were placed on platforms or couches. The people would then kneel or prostrate themselves in Greek fashion (thus the name supplicatio). On some occasions an expiatory supplicatio was celebrated in association with a lectisternium, in which images of pairs of gods were exhibited on couches before tables spread with food. Originally a supplicatio lasted from one to five days, but in later times it was extended to 10, 20, or even 50 days.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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