The word Agonalia may derive from agonia meaning victim or agonium meaning festival.
The Agonalia took place several times a year; on January 9th, May 21, March 17 and December 11 and included sacrifices to both Janus Agonius. A ram was usually sacrificed to ensure the protection of the state.
Janus must be propitiated on the Agonal day.
The day may take its name from the girded priest
At whose blow the God’s sacrifice is felled:
Always, before he stains the naked blade with hot blood,
He asks if he should, Agatne? and won’t unless commanded.
Some believe that the day is called Agonal because
The sheep do not come to the altar but are driven (agantur).
Others think the ancients called this festival Agnalia,
‘Of the lambs’, dropping a letter from its usual place.
Or because the victim fears the knife mirrored in the water,
The day might be so called from the creature’s agony?
It may also be that the day has a Greek name
From the games (agones) that were held in former times.
And in ancient speech agonia meant a sheep,
And this last reason in my judgment is the truth.
Though the meaning is uncertain, Rex Sacrorum,
Must appease the Gods with the mate of a woolly ewe.
Gifts of dates, figs and jars of honey were also offered and given along with money as gifts to friends and family.