A lustrum was a term for a five-year period in Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....


The lustration
Lustration is the government process regulating the participation of former communists, especially informants of the communist secret police, in the successor political appointee positions or in civil service positions in the period after the fall of the various European Communist states in 1989 –...

 was originally a sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

 for expiation and purification
Ritual purification
Ritual purification is a feature of many religions. The aim of these rituals is to remove specifically defined uncleanliness prior to a particular type of activity, and especially prior to the worship of a deity...

 offered by one of the censors in the name of the Roman people at the close of the taking of the census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

. The sacrifice was often in the form of an animal sacrifice, known as a suovetaurilia
The suovetaurilia or suovitaurilia was one of the most sacred and traditional rites of Roman religion: the sacrifice of a pig , a sheep and a bull to the deity Mars to bless and purify land ....


These censuses were taken at five-year intervals, thus a lustrum came to refer to the five-year intercensal period.

Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

 reports that the first lustration occurred at the conclusion of the first census, conducted by king Servius Tullius
Servius Tullius
Servius Tullius was the legendary sixth king of ancient Rome, and the second of its Etruscan dynasty. He reigned 578-535 BC. Roman and Greek sources describe his servile origins and later marriage to a daughter of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, Rome's first Etruscan king, who was assassinated in 579 BC...

 in the 6th century BC by the lustration of the full Roman army.

This regular five-year interval between censuses was maintained in the early part of the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, which lasted from ca. 509 BC–27 BC, but later became more irregular (see Roman censor: Census statistics). The regular interval was restored by Octavianus Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 in 28 BC after a "41 year gap", as attested by the Res Gestae Divi Augusti
Res Gestae Divi Augusti
Res Gestae Divi Augusti, is the funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, giving a first-person record of his life and accomplishments. The Res Gestae is especially significant because it gives an insight into the image Augustus portrayed to the Roman people...

(see The Deeds of the Divine Augustus, § 8.). At the time of the census, new senators were also appointed to the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...


Other expressions for a period of five years include quinquennium and pentad
The pentad was a Pythagorean term for the quantity of five.-See also:*Related greek numerical terms**Monad **Dyad **Triad **Tetrad **Decad *Other...


"As, for instance, in the decade itself are involved ten monads, and the decade is composed both of these and of two pentads." (The Metaphysics of Aristotle by Aristotle, 1857).

Lustrum (novel)
Lustrum is a 2009 novel by British author Robert Harris. It is the sequel to Imperium and the middle volume of a trilogy about the life of Cicero....

is also the name of a novel by Robert Harris
Robert Harris (novelist)
Robert Dennis Harris is an English novelist. He is a former journalist and BBC television reporter.-Early life:Born in Nottingham, Harris spent his childhood in a small rented house on a Nottingham council estate. His ambition to become a writer arose at an early age, from visits to the local...

 in his trilogy about Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...


"Thus I turned over the last ten years in my mind, and then, fixing my anxious gaze on the future, I asked myself, 'If, perchance, thou shoulds't prolong this uncertain life of thine for yet two more lustra ... coulds't thou ... face death ... hopefully...?'"
-- Francis Petrarch, "Letter to Dionisio da San Sepolcro [The Ascent of Mount Ventoux]" ca. 1336. Trans. J.H Robinson/H.W. Rolfe.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, it is customary for universities and student organisations to celebrate each fifth anniversary. Such a celebration is called a Lustrum.

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