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King Momus

In Pernambuco, the first Momus King contest took place in Recife’s carnival of 1965.

King Momus

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 11/10/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Until the end of XIX century, it would be spoken about the Deos Momo, a character which had lost his divine condition, becoming a human being and turning out as a king.

In Greek mythology, Momus is the son of Sleepiness and of Night, the god of festivities. Happy, casual, mocker, irreverent, sarcastic and satirical, he used to ridicule the other gods, the reason he was expelled from the Olympus and sent out to Earth.

He was represented by a youth removing a mask, displaying a mocking face and shaking up rattles, holding a revelry flag, the reason for his existence.

Later on, he began being represented with similar clothing as the French monarch Louis XIV, known as the Sun King.
There are historical records on the existence of Momus Kings prior to the Christian era. In century 4 B. C., Greeks and Romans would already incorporate this mythological figure in some of their commemorative parties, mainly the orgies, involving sex and drinking. Momus was very overweight in order to symbolize prosperity and abundance.

In ancient Rome, there were big parties, yearly, in honor of their god of the weather, Saturn, the so called Saturnalia, in which people of all social classes would partake in, from nobles to slaves. During the undertaking of the party, the most handsome soldier would be singled out and he would be given up the crown of King Momus, which would allow him to drink, eat and enjoy at his will, without restraints. Upon termination of the party, he would be solemnly conducted to be sacrificed to god Saturn.

Historically, the clown, a miner (mineiro) circus artist and singer named Benjamin de Oliveira was the first Momus King crowned in Brazil, in 1910. However, the character was only acknowledged as a carnival commander in Rio de Janeiro, in 1933. A sports columnist of the carioca newspaper called A Noite – The Night – presented to the carnival festivity revellers a cardboard doll, suggesting that it should parade around the city as the festivity revelry’s commander. Afterwards it was placed on the throne so as to preside, symbolically, over the carnival celebrations that year.

Later, the newspaper’s owners decided to create a true Momus King. The horse racing section’s overweight boss was selected, that is, the journalist called Moraes Cardoso. Dressed as a king, he would parade down the streets of Rio de Janeiro while he received greetings coupled with a lot of confetti, carnival paper ribbons and ether sprays.

The “reign“ for Moraes Cardoso lasted until his death, in 1948. His substitutes, up to the year of 1967 were singled out upon carnival guild undertakings and also by journalist guilds. Starting from 1968, the Momus King election would then be officially signed into law by way of state laws, and, in 1988, by way of municipal laws.

In 1934, the first Paulista Momus King (one from São Paulo) was elected, in the city of Santos: the bohemian, sportsman, singer and carnival reveller Eugênio de Almeida, also known by the nickname of Tosca.

In Pernambuco, the first Momus King contest took place in Recife’s carnival of 1965.

In February, 1963, the Secretariat of Tourism, Culture and Sports of the city of Santos promoted the I National Convention of Momus Kings, gathering in that city representatives of the states of Minas Gerais, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Maranhão and São Paulo. During a plenary session, subjects like the dignity of the character were discussed and the standardization of its outfit. The II National Convention was also carried out in Santos, in the year of 1966, counting on participation of the Momus Kings who had been in the I Convention, plus the representatives of the states of Pará and Rio Grande do Norte.

Today, in some Brazilian cities/towns, it is not necessary to be overweight in order to partake in the contest. So as not to incentivize obesity, this requirement was designed; prioritizing other criteria such as the ability of communication, gaiety, affinity and irreverence. In 2004, the Rio de Janeiro City Hall settled on to no longer require a minimum weight for the candidates.

After much controversy, and opposing the tradition, a trade dealer called Clarindo Silva de Jesus was crowned as the Momus King for the city of Salvador, Bahia, in 2008, weighing only 58 kilos.
In 2011, Recife’s town hall decided to end the contest for Momus King, traditionally performed in at the São Pedro Patio – Saint Peter’s Patio. The candidates for the position of carnival king and queen of Recife will be singled out during the Municipal Ballroom Dance of Recife. Being overweight is no longer a criterion for winning the contest for Momus King. For the city hall, people’s health must be above cultural traditions, wherein it is not suitable to encourage practices that may hold people’s lives at stake.

The current Momus King of Recife’s Carnival, elected four times is the choreographer named Ivanildo Silva, who, in 2010 weighed 178 kilos.

Along the Carnival, King Momus receives the city Keys, becoming a symbolic governor.

Recife, 10 February 2011.

sources consulted

BANDEIRA JÚNIOR. Convenção nacional de reis Momos. Cadernos do CERU, São Paulo, n. 11, p. 48-49, set. 1978.

CONHEÇA a história do Rei Momo. Available at: <>. Accessed: 1º fev. 2011.

DANNEMANN, Fernando Kitzinger. Rei Momo: o dono do carnaval, 2006. Available at: <>. Accessed: 1º fev. 2011.

FIM do concurso para Rei Momo do Recife. Diario de Pernambuco, Recife, 22 jan. 2011.

QUAL a origem do Rei Momo? Available at: <>. Accessed: 2 fev. 2011.

SAGRADO e profano o Carnaval é! Available at: <>. Accessed: 1º fev. 2011.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Rei Momo. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day  month year. Exemple: 6 August 2009.