Roman Empire | Roman Religious Practices

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We must now turn our attention to what is the most difficult part of our subject, the ideas of the early Romans about "the Power manifesting itself in the universe." In my first lecture I indicated in outline what the difficulties are which beset us all through our studies; they are in no part of it so insurmountable as in this. Material fails us, because there was no contemporary literature; because the Romans were not a thinking people, and probably thought very little about the divine beings whom they propitiated; and again, because comparative religion, as it is called, is of scant value in such a study. We have to try and get rid of our own ideas about God or gods, to keep our minds free of Greek ideas and mythology, and, in fact, to abstain from bringing the ideas of any other peoples to bear upon the question until we are pretty sure that we have some sort of understanding of those Roman ideas with which we are tempted to compare them. The first duty of the student of any system of religion is to study that religion in and by itself. As M. S. Reinach observed in an address at the Congress for the History of Religions at Oxford, it is time that we began to attend to differences as well as similarities; and this can only be done by the conscientious use of such materials as are available for the study of each particular religion.

The only materials available in the case of the earliest Rome are (1) the calendar which I was explaining in the last lecture, which gives us the names of the festivals of the religious year; (2) the names of the deities concerned in these festivals, so far as we know them from later additions to the calendar, from Roman literature, and from evidence, chiefly epigraphical, of the names of deities among kindred Italian peoples; (3) the fragments of information, now most carefully collected and sifted, about what the Romans did in the worship of their deities. The names and order of the festivals, the names of the deities themselves, the cult, or detail of worship, including priesthoods and holy places,--these are the only real materials we possess, and our only safe guides. To trust to legends is fatal, because such legends as there were in Italy were never written down until the Greeks turned their attention to them, colouring them with their own fancy and with reminiscences of their own mythology. For example, no sane investigator would now make use of the famous story told by Ovid and Plutarch about Numa's interview with Jupiter, and the astute way in which he deceived the god, as an illustration of the Roman's ideas of the divine; we know that it can be traced back to the greatest liar among all Roman annalists,[219] that it was in part derived from a Greek story, and in part invented to explain a certain piece of ritual, the procuratio fulminis. Even what was done in the cult must be handled with knowledge and discretion. Dr. Frazer has a theory that the Roman kings personated Jupiter, and uses as evidence of this the fact that in the triumph the triumphator was dressed after the fashion of the statue of the god in the Capitoline temple, with his face reddened with minium: forgetting that the temple, its cult and its statue, all date from the very end of the period of the kingship, and were the work of an Etruscan monarch, almost beyond doubt. There may be truth in his theory, but this is not the way to prove it; this is not the way to arrive at a true understanding of Roman religious ideas.

What did the old Romans know about the nature of the objects of their worship? All religion is in its development a process of gaining such knowledge: if it makes no progress it is doomed. It is because the Jews made such wonderful progress in this path, in spite of formalism and backsliding, that they were chosen to produce a Teacher whose life and doctrine revealed the will and the nature of His Father for the eternal benefit of mankind. The fear of the Lord is imperfect knowledge, it is but the beginning of wisdom; but it could become, in a Jew like St. Paul, the perfect knowledge of His will. It may seem absurd to think of two such religions as the Jewish and the Roman side by side; but the absurdity vanishes when we begin to understand the humble beginnings of the Jewish religion as scientific research has already laid it bare. Knowledge of the Power manifesting itself in the universe is open to all peoples alike, and some few have made much progress in it beside the Jews. The Romans were not among these, at any rate in all the later stages of their history; but we have to ask how far they got in the process, and later on again to ask also why they could go no farther.[220]

We have seen how one great forward step in the attainment of this knowledge was made in the religion of the household, when the house had become a kind of temple, being the dwelling of divine as well as human beings, and when the cultivated land had been separated by a sacred boundary from the mountain or forest beyond, with their wild and unknown spiritual inhabitants. We met, however, with nothing in the house or on the land that we can properly call a god, if we may use that word for the moment in the sense of a personality as well as a name, and a personality perfectly distinct from the object in which it resides. Vesta seems to be the fire, Penates the store, or at least spirits undistinguishable from the substance composing the store. But inasmuch as the farmer knew how to serve these spirits and address them, looking upon them as friends and co-habitants of his own dwelling, we may go so far as to guess that they were somewhat advanced in their career as spirits, and might possibly develop into powers of a more definite kind, if not into gods, real dei conceived as persons.[221] In other words--for it is better to keep as far as we can to the subjective or psychological aspect of them--the Roman might realise the Power better by getting to think of his nameless spirits as dei at work for his benefit if rightly propitiated. There are some signs in the calendar and the other sources I mentioned just now that such a process had been going on before the State arose; and it is certain that the whole field of divine operation had been greatly widened by that time, as we might expect from the enlarged sphere of man's experience and activity.

The deities originally belonging to the city of the four regions, i.e. to the city of the calendar of Numa, were known to Roman antiquarians as di indigetes, in contra-distinction from the di novensiles or imported deities, with which at present we have nothing to do. On the basis of the calendar, and of the names of the most ancient priesthoods attached to particular cults, the Rex and the Flamines, Wissowa (R.K. p. 16) has constructed a list of these di indigetes which may be accepted without any further reservation than he himself applies to it. They are thirty-three in number, but in two cases we have groups instead of individuals, viz. the Lares and the Lemures: the plurality of the Lares (compitales) we have already explained, and the Lemures, the ghosts of departed ancestors, we may also for the present leave out of account. Others are too obscure to help us, e.g. Carna, Angerona, Furrina, Neptunus, Volturnus,[222] except in so far as their very obscurity, and the neglect into which they and their cults fell in later times, is proof that they were not thought of as lively personal deities. Then, again, there are others whose names are suggested by certain festivals, Terminus, Fons, Robigus, who seem to be simply survivals from the animistic period--spirits inherent in the boundary-stone, the spring, or the mildew, and incapable of further development in the new conditions of city life. Faunus, the rural semi-deity, perhaps representing a group of such beings, appears in the list as the deity of the Lupercalia; but this is a point in which I cannot agree with Wissowa and the majority of modern authorities.[223]

We are struck, as we examine the list further, by the adjectival character of many of the names--Neptunus, Portunus, Quirinus, Saturnus, Volcanus, Volturnus: these are not proper names, but clearly express some character or function exercised by the power or numen to whom the name is given. Saturnus is the most familiar example; the word suggests no personality, but rather a sphere of operations (whether we take the name as referring to sowing or to seed maturing in the soil) in which a certain numen is helpful. Saturnus, Volcanus, Neptunus were indeed identified later on with Greek gods of a ripe polytheistic system, and have thus become quite familiar to us, far too familiar for a right understanding of early Roman ideas. We might naturally expect that the identification of Saturnus with Kronos, of Neptunus with Poseidon, would give us some clue to the original Roman conception of the numen thus Graecised, but it is not so. Neptunus may have had some connection with water, rain, or springs, but we have no real proof of it, and it is impossible to say why Saturnus became Kronos.[224] The only certain result that we can win from the study of these adjectival titles is that they represent a transition between animism and polytheism, a transition exactly expressed by the one word numen.

Numen is so important a word in the Roman religion that it is necessary to be perfectly clear as to what was meant by it. It must be formed from nuere as flumen from fluere, with a sense of activity inherent in the verb. As flumen is that which actively flows, so numen is that which actively does whatever we understand by the word nuere; and so far as we can determine, that was a manifestation of will. Adnuere is to consent, to give your good will to some act proposed or completed, and is often so used of Jupiter in the Aeneid. Nuere should therefore express a simple exercise of will-power, and numen is the being exercising it. In time it came to be used for the will of a god as distinct from himself, as in the fourth Aeneid (269)--

ipse deum tibi me claro demittit Olympo regnator, caelum ac terras qui numine torquet.

Or in the fourth Eclogue (47)--

concordes stabili fatorum numine Parcae,

where Servius explains it as "potestate, divinatione, ac maiestate." But beyond doubt this use is a product of the literary age, and the word originally indicated the being himself who exercised the will--a sense familiar to us in the opening lines of the Aeneid ("quo numine laeso") and in innumerable other passages. Thus von Domaszewski in his collected papers (p. 157) is undoubtedly right in defining a numen as a being with a will--"ein wollendes Wesen"; though his account of its evolution, and of the way in which in its turn it may produce a deus, may be open to criticism.

The word thus suggests that the Roman divine beings were functional spirits with will-power, their functions being indicated by their adjectival names. Proper names they had not as a rule, but they are getting cult-titles under the influence of a priesthood, which titles may in time perhaps attain to something of the definiteness of substantival names. This indeed could hardly have been so in the mind of the ordinary Roman even at a later age; and it is quite possible that if an intelligent Greek traveller of the sixth century B.C. had given an account of the gods of Rome,[225] he would have said, as Strabo said of an Iberian people in the time of Augustus, that they were without gods, or worshipped gods without names. But the name, even as a cult-title, is of immense importance in the development of a spirit into a deity, and in most cases, at any rate at Rome, it was the work of officials, of a state priesthood, not of the people. To address a deity rightly was matter of no small difficulty: how were you to know how he would wish to be addressed? Servius tells us that the pontifices addressed even Jupiter himself thus: "Iupiter optime maxime, sive quo alio nomine te appellari volueris." On the other hand, in the same comment he tells us that "iure pontificio cautum est, ne suis nominibus di Romani appellarentur, ne exaugurari possent," i.e. lest they should be enticed away from the city by enemies. This last statement seems indeed to me to be a doubtful one,[226] but it will serve to illustrate the nervousness about divine names, of which there is no doubt whatever. We know for certain that those religious lawyers the pontifices were greatly occupied with the task of drawing up lists of names by which numina should be invoked,--formularising the ritual of prayer, as we shall see in another lecture; and this must have become at one time almost a craze with them, to judge by the lists of Indigitamenta preserved in their books, to which Varro had access, and which were copied from him by St. Augustine.[227] But after all it needed the stimulus given by actual contact with a polytheistic system to turn a Roman numen into a full-fledged personal deity: the pontifices might carry the process some way, but they never could have completed it themselves without the help of the Greeks.

One deity seems to stand alone in the list--Tellus or Terra Mater, Mother Earth.[228] We are coming directly to the great deity of the heaven, and we might naturally expect that an agricultural folk would be much concerned with her who is his counterpart among so many peoples. She does not give her name to any of the festivals of the calendar; but at one of them, the Fordicidia in April, at a time when the earth is teeming with mysterious power, and when the festivals are of a peculiarly agricultural character, she has her own special sacrifice--a pregnant cow, whose young are torn from her womb, burnt by the Virgo vestalis maxima, and their ashes used in certain mystic rites, e.g. at the Parilia which followed on the 21st.[229] She seems to have had her function in human life as well; but about this we are much in the dark in spite of Dieterich's attempts to elucidate it in his Mutter Erde.[230] Whether she played a part at the birth of a child we cannot be sure; but at marriage there is little doubt that she was originally an object of worship, though in later days she gave way before Ceres and Juno.[231] And as at death the body was laid in her embrace, we are not surprised to find her prominent here also: she was the home of the dead whether buried or burnt, and of the whole mass of the Manes. We shall presently see how a Roman commander might devote himself and the whole army of the enemy to Tellus and the Manes; and it is interesting to find that a similar formula of devotio, of later date, combines Tellus with Jupiter, the speaker touching the ground when he mentions her name, and holding his hands upwards to heaven when he names the god.[232] Very curious, too, is the rite of the porca praecidanea, which in historical times was offered to Ceres as well as Tellus immediately before harvest; in case a man had wittingly or unwittingly omitted to pay the proper rites (iusta facere) to his own dead, it was his duty to make this offering, lest as a result of the neglect the earth-power should not yield him a good harvest.[233] Originally, we need hardly doubt, Tellus was alone concerned in this; but Ceres, who at all times represented rather the ripening and ripened corn than the seed in the bosom of the earth, gradually took her place beside her, and the idea gained ground that the offering was more immediately concerned with the harvest than with the Manes.[234] When Cato wrote his book on agriculture, he included in it the proper formula for this sacrifice, without any indication that Tellus or the Manes had any part in the business.[235] Tellus was not a deity whose life would be vigorous in a busy City-state destined gradually to lose its agricultural outlook; there the supply of grain, from whatever quarter it might come, was a far more important matter than the process of producing it, and it was natural that Ceres and her April festival should become more popular than Tellus and her Fordicidia, and that the Cerealia should eventually develop into ludi of no less than eight days' duration. Yet Tellus survived in such forms as that of the devotio; and even under the Empire we find her as Terra on sepulchral monuments, e.g.--

ereptam viro et matri mater me Terra recepit,


terra mater rerum quod dedit ipsa teget.

And there is a curious story, noticed by Wissowa and by Dieterich after him, that on the death of Tiberius the plebs shouted not only "Tiberius in Tiberim," but "Terram matrem deosque Manes," in order that his lot might be among the impii beneath the earth.[236]

So far we have met with nothing to suggest that the Roman idea of divinity had passed much beyond an advanced type of animism; we have found little or no trace of personal deities of a polytheistic cast. There is, however, a fact of importance now to be considered, which has some bearing upon this difficult subject. Some of the numina of the calendar had special priests attached to their cults; e.g. among those I have already mentioned, Volcanus, Furrina, Portunus, and Volturnus, to which we may now add Pales, Flora, Carmenta, Pomona, and a wholly unknown deity, Falacer. These nine all had flamines, a word which is generally derived from flare, i.e. they were the kindlers of the sacrificial fire.[237] Sacrificing priests they undoubtedly always were, each limited to the sacrificial rites of a particular cult, unless authorised by religious law to undertake those of some other deity whose name he did not bear, and who was destitute, like Robigus, of a priest of his own.[238] We have no certain evidence that all these flamines were of high antiquity; but those attached to deities of the calendar were probably of earlier origin than that document, and as we have no record of the creation of a new flaminium in historical times until the era of Caesar-worship, it is fair to conclude that the others I have mentioned were not younger.

Now what bearing has this fact on the question as to how the early Romans conceived the objects of their worship? There are, of course, so-called priests all the world over, even among the lowest fetishistic and animistic peoples, who exercise power over the various kinds of spirits by potent charms and spells; these should rather be called wizards, medicine-men, magicians, and so on.[239] But the flamines as we know them were not such; they were officials of a State, entrusted with the performance of definite ritualistic duties, more particularly with sacrifice, and therefore, as we may assume from universal Roman practice so far as we know it, also with prayer. If they did not actually slay the victims themselves--and in historical times this was done by an assistant--they superintended the whole process and were responsible for its correct performance.[240] Does the existence of such priests come into relation with the development of the idea of a deus out of a numen or a spirit? What is the influence of the sacrificing priest on the divinity whom he serves? This last is a question to which it is not easy to find a ready answer; the history of priesthood, and of the moral and intellectual results of the institution, has yet to be written. Even Dr. Westermarck, in his recently published great work on the development of moral ideas, has little to say of it. It is greatly complicated by the undoubted fact that among many peoples, perhaps to some extent even among the Latins, the earliest real priests had a tendency to personate the deity themselves, to be considered as the deity, or in some sense divine.[241] But in regard to Roman priests we may, I think, go at least as far as this. When a spirit was named and localised as a friendly being at a particular spot within the walls of the city, which is made over to him, and where he has his ara; when the ritual performed at this spot is laid down in definite detail, and undertaken by an individual appointed for this purpose by the head of the community with solemn ceremony; then the spirit, hitherto but vaguely conceived, must in course of time become individualised. The priestly if not the popular conception of him is fixed; there is now no question who he is or how he should be called; "quis deus incertum est"[242] can no longer be said of him. Once provided with a flamen and an ordered cult of sacrifice and prayer, I conceive that he had now in him the possibility of turning into a deus personally conceived, if he came by the chance.[243] A few did get the chance; others did not; Volcanus, for example, became a god after the model of the Greek Hephaestus, while Volturnus remained a numen and made no further progress, though he was doubtless ready to "take" the Graecising epidemic when it came. I do not say that he or any other numen was the better for the change. But I must not now pursue the story of this strange double fate of the old Roman deities; I have perhaps said enough to show that city life, with its priesthoods and its ordered ritual, had some appreciable effect on the deities who were admitted to it.

Among these deities there were four of whom I have as yet said nothing at all, though they are the most famous of all the divine inhabitants of Rome. I have mentioned nine flamines; there were in all twelve, and besides these there was in historical times a priest known as the rex sacrorum, the republican successor to some of the religious functions of the civil king. This rex, and the three flamines maiores, so called in contra-distinction to the other nine, were specially attached to the cults of Janus, Jupiter (Flamen Dialis), Mars (Flamen Martialis), and Quirinus (Flamen Quirinalis). I have kept these deities apart from the others already mentioned, not only because their priests stand apart from the rest, but because they themselves seem from the first to have been more really gods (dei); Quirinus is the only one who has an adjectival name. Two of them, Jupiter and Mars, remained throughout Roman history of real importance to the State, and in Jupiter there were at least some germs of possible development into a deity capable of influencing conduct and enforcing morality. Of Janus this cannot possibly be said; and as he is historically the least important of the four, I will begin by saying a few words about him as a puzzle and a curiosity only.

Janus, ever since he ceased to be an intelligible deity, has been the sport of speculators; and this happened long before the Roman religion came to an end. In the last century B.C. philosophic writers about the gods got hold of him, and Varro tells us that some made him out to be the heaven, others the universe (mundus).[244] Ovid amused himself with this uncertainty of the philosophers, and in the first book of his Fasti "interviewed" the god, whose answers are unluckily of little value for us.[245] At various times and in different hands Janus has been pronounced a sun-god, a heaven-god, a year-god, a wind-god; and now a Cambridge school of speculators, to whose learning I am in many ways indebted, has claimed him as an oak-god, the mate of Diana, the Jupiter of aboriginal Latium, and so on.[246] We have fortunately long left behind us the age when it was thought necessary to resolve the Greek and Roman gods into personifications of natural phenomena, and to try to explain all their attributes on one principle; but my learned friends at Cambridge have of late been showing a tendency to return to methods not less dangerous; they hanker, for example, after etymological evidence, which in the case of deities is almost sure to be misleading unless it is absolutely certain, and supported by the history of the name. This is unluckily not the case with Janus; his etymology is matter of dispute,[247] and he is therefore open, and always will be so, to the inquirer who is hunting a scent, and more concerned to prove a point than to discover what the early Romans really thought about a god. In this lecture I am but humbly trying to do this last, and I may therefore leave etymology, with the mythology and philosophy of a later age, and confine myself to such facts of the cult of Janus as are quite undisputed. They will admit of being put together very shortly.

The first and leading fact is that Janus was the first deity to be addressed in all prayers and invocations; of this we have abundant evidence, as also of the corresponding fact that Vesta came last.[248] Secondly, we know that he was the object of worship on the Kalends of January, and probably of every month, and that the sacrificing priest was in this case the rex sacrorum. Thirdly, we know that he had no temple until the year 260 B.C., but that he was associated with the famous gateway at the north-east end of the Forum--not a gate in the wall, but a symbolic entrance to the heart of the city, as the round temple of Vesta at the opposite end, with its eternal fire, was symbolic of the common life of the community. Fourthly, we know a few cult-titles of Janus, among them Clusius (or Clusivius), and Patulcius, in which the connection with gates is obvious; Junonius, which may have originated in the fact that Juno also was worshipped on the Kalends; Matutinus, which seems to be a late reference to the dawn as the opening or gate of the day, and Quirinus, which last is also almost certainly of late origin. Clusius and Patulcius are genuine old titles, if the text of the Salian hymn is rightly interpreted; so too is another, Curiatius, for it was used of the god only as residing in an ancient gateway near the Subura called the tigillum sororium.[249] These are all the most important facts we have to go upon; the double head of Janus on the earliest Roman as is of uncertain origin, and Wissowa seems to have conclusively shown that this representation was not admitted to the gate called Janus Geminus until towards the close of the republican period.[250] The connection of the god with the fortress on the hill across the Tiber, which still bears his name, admits of no quite satisfactory explanation.

Now if we recall the fact that the entrance to the house and the entrance to a city were points of great moment, and the cause of constant anxiety to the early Italian mind, we may naturally infer that they would be in the care of some particular numen, and that his worship would be in the care of the head of the family or community--in the case of the city, in the care of the rex, whose duties of this kind were afterwards taken over by the priest called rex sacrorum. The fact that the word for an entrance was ianus confirms this conjecture; Janus was perhaps the spirit guarding the entrance to the real wall of the earliest city, but when the city was enlarged in the age from which the calendar dates, a symbolic gateway was set up where you entered the forum from the direction of Latium, answering to the symbolic hearth in the aedes Vestae, and this very naturally took the name of the deity associated with entrances. Two other iani probably existed in the forum, and the name was later on transferred as a substantive to similar objects in Roman colonies, while a feminine form, ianua, came to be used for ordinary house entrances.[251] Whether there ever was a cult of the god at the real gateway of a city we do not know; there was none at the symbolic gateway of Rome, which was in no sense a temple. But the idea of entrance stuck to the old spirit of the doorway long after the reconstruction of the city, and the rex now sacrifices to him on the entrance-day of each month, and more particularly on the entrance-day of the month which bears his name and is the beginning of the natural year after the winter solstice. This is the best account to be had of the original Janus,[252] a deity, let it be remembered, of a simple agricultural and warlike people, without literature or philosophy. But it is not difficult to see how, when philosophy and literature did at last come in a second-hand form to this people, they might well have overlaid with cobwebs of story and speculation a deity for whom they had no longer any real use, who was best known to them by the mysterious double-head on the as and the gateway, and for whom they could find no conclusive parallel among the gods of Greece.

Next in order of invocation to Janus came Jupiter, and his priest, the Flamen Dialis, was likewise the second in rank, according to ancient rule, after the rex sacrorum. Unlike Janus, Jupiter (to use the spelling familiar in England) was at all times a great power for the Roman people, and one who could be all the more valued because he was intelligible. No one doubted then, and no one doubts now, that he was the god of the light and of heaven, Diovis pater, or rather perhaps the heaven itself[253] with all its manifestations of rain and thunder, of blessing and damage to the works of man; the common inheritance of the Italian peoples, dwelling and worshipped in their woods and on their hills; and, as we know now, also the common inheritance of all Aryan stocks, the "European Sky-god," as Mr. A. B. Cook has traced him with learning and ingenuity from the Euxine to Britain.[254]

Jupiter must have had a long and important history in Latium before the era of the Roman City-state; Dr. Frazer has seen this, and set it forth in his lectures on the early history of the kingship, though basing his conclusions on evidence much of which will not bear a close examination.[255] The one substantial proof of it lies in the unique and truly extraordinary character of the taboos placed on his flamen, and to some extent on the flamen's wife, by the Roman ius divinum. Even if we suppose that some of these may have been later inventions of an ecclesiastical college like the pontifices (and this is hardly probable), many of them are obviously of remote antiquity, and can only have originated at a time when the magical power of the man responsible for the conduct of Jupiter was so precious that it had to be safeguarded in these many curious ways. I have already suggested that the scene of the early paramount importance of Jupiter and his flamen, in that age perhaps a king of some kind, was Alba Longa, which by universal tradition was the leading city of Latium before Rome rose to importance, and where the sky-god was worshipped on his holy mountain as the religious centre of Latium from the earliest times. I have also suggested that when the new warlike city on the Tiber took the place of Alba, the worship was transferred thither, but lost its strength in the process, and that the flamen was little more than a survival even in the most primitive period of what we may call for the moment Roman history. This can be accounted for by the fact that the traditions of primitive Rome were connected much more closely with Mars than with Jupiter. Not till Etruscan kings founded the great temple on the Capitol, which was to endure throughout all later ages of Roman dominion, did the sky-god become the supreme guardian deity of his people, under the titles of Optimus Maximus, the best and greatest of all her deities.

But Jupiter was there; and we know certain facts of his cult which give us a pretty clear idea of what the Romans of the pre-Etruscan period thought about him. In the calendar all Ides belonged to him, were feriae Iovis;[256] he seems to be the source of light, whether of sun or moon, for neither of which the Romans had any special divinity; in the hymn of the Salii he is addressed as Lucetius, the giver or source of light. The festivals of the vintage belonged to him, since the production of wine specially needed the aid of sun and light, and his flamen was employed in the cult on these occasions.[257] When rain was sorely needed, the aid of the sky-god was sought under the cult-title Elicius, and as Fulgur or Summanus[258] he was the Power who sent the lightning by day and by night. The ideas thus reflected in the Roman cult were common to all Italian peoples of the same stock; everywhere we find him worshipped on the summits of hills, and in woods of oak, ilex, or beech,[259] where nothing but the trees he loved intervened between the heaven and the earth.

His oldest cult at Rome was on the Capitoline hill, but at all times quite distinct from that which became so famous afterwards; he was known here as Feretrius, a cult-title of which the meaning is uncertain,[260] and here, so far as we can guess, there must have been an ancient oak regarded either as the dwelling of the numen or as the numen himself, upon which Romulus is said to have hung the spolia opima taken from the king of the Caeninenses;[261] here we may see the earliest trace of the triumphal procession that was to be. Doubtless an ara was here from the first, and then followed a tiny temple, only fifteen feet wide as Dionysius describes it from personal knowledge in the time of Augustus,[262] who restored it. There was no image of the god, but in the temple was kept a silex, probably a stone celt believed to have been a thunderbolt;[263] this stone the Fetiales took with them on their official journeys, and used it in the oath, per Iovem lapidem, with which they ratified their treaties. As the Romans thought of Jupiter, not as a personal deity living in the sky like Zeus, but rather as the heaven itself, so they could think of him as immanent in this stone, Iuppiter lapis. And the use of the flint in treaty-making suggests another aspect of the god, which he retained in one way or another throughout Roman history; it is his sanction that is called in to the aid of moral and legal obligations, resulting from treaties, oaths, and contracts such as that of marriage. As Dius Fidius he was invoked in the common Roman oath medius fidius; as Farreus (if this were an old cult-title) he gave his sanction to the solemn contract entered into in the ancient form of marriage by confarreatio, where his flamen had to be present, and where in all probability the cake of far was eaten as a kind of sacrament by the parties to the covenant.[264] In much of this it is tempting to see, as we can see nowhere else in the Roman religion, faint traces of a feeling about the heaven-god brought from a remote pastoral life under the open sky, where neither forest nor mountain intervened to shelter man from the great Presence;[265] and it is also tempting to think that there was here, even for Latins who had learnt to worship Jupiter under the form of stocks and stones in the land of their final settlement, some chance of the development of a deity "making for righteousness."

Third and fourth in the order of invocation came Mars and Quirinus, and the same order held good for their flamines. These two priests may have been subject to some of the taboos which restricted the Flamen Dialis;[266] they too, that is, may have been to some extent precious, and have been endowed in a lost period of history with magical powers; but if so, the memory and importance of such disabilities was rapidly forgotten in the City-state, and they were early allowed to fill civil offices, a privilege which the Dialis did not attain till the second century B.C.[267] Of the sacrificial duties of the Martialis we know nothing for certain, and can get no help from him as to the ideas of the early Romans about their great deity Mars.

Mars is in some ways the most interesting of all the Roman deities; but except as the familiar war-god of Roman history he remains a somewhat doubtful conception. Like Jupiter and Janus he has attained to a real name; but of that name, which in various forms is still so often on our lips, no convincing account has ever been given. Comparative mythology used to be much occupied with him, and he has been compared with Indra, Apollo, Odin, and others. But as M. Reinach said, it is time to attend more closely to differences; and Mars seems to stand best by himself, as a genuine Italian religious conception. His name is found all over ancient Italy in various forms--Mavors, Mamers, Marmor, and as Cerfus Martius at Iguvium. His wild and warlike character, his association with the wolf and the spear, seem to suggest the struggle for existence that must have gone on among the tribes that pushed down into a peninsula of rugged mountain and dense forest, abounding with the wolves which are not yet wholly extinct there. Whether or no his antecedents are to be found in other lands, we shall not be far wrong in assuming that the Roman Mars was the product of life and experience in Italy, and Italy only.

There is an excellent general account of him in Roscher's article in his Lexicon, which, like that on Janus, has the advantage of being the result of a second elaborate study, free from the enticements of the comparative method. What we know for certain about his cult at Rome in early times can be very briefly stated. First, we have the striking fact that he is conspicuous, together with the Lares, in the carmen which has come down to us as sung by the Arval Brethren in their lustration of the cultivated land of the Roman city:[268] "Neve luerve Marmor sins incurrere in pleores, satur fu fere Mars!" One is naturally inclined to ask how this wild and warlike spirit can have anything to do with cultivation and crops. But there is no mistake; the connection is confirmed by the fact that he is also the chief object of invocation in the private lustratio of the farm, which Cato has preserved for us.[269] In each case the victims are the same, the suovetaurilia of ox, sheep, and pig, the farmer's most valuable property. Again, let us remember that the month which bears his name is that not only of the opening of the war season, but of the springing up of vegetation, and that the dances and singing of the Salii at this time may probably have been meant, like similar performances of savage peoples,[270] to frighten away evil demons from the precious cultivated land and its growing produce, and to call on the Power to wake to new life. The clue to the mystery is perhaps to be found in the cult-title Silvanus which we find in the prayer set down by Cato as proper for the protection of the cattle when they are on their summer pasture (in silva): "Marti Silvano in silva interdius in capita singula boum facito."[271] We know that wealth in early Italy consisted chiefly of sheep and cattle; we know that these were taken in the warm months, as they still are, into the forest (saltus) to feed;[272] and from this passage of Cato we know that Mars was there. It is only going one step farther if we conjecture that Mars, like Silvanus, who may have been an offshoot of his own being, was for the early settler never a peaceful inhabitant of the farm or the dwelling, but a spirit of the woodland of great importance for the cattle-owner, and of great importance, too, in all circumambulation of the boundaries which divided the woodland from the cultivated land.[273]

But with conjecture I deal on principle but sparingly. It is time to turn to the Mars of the City-state of Rome; and it is at once interesting to find that until the age of Augustus, who introduced a new form of Mars-worship, he had no temple within the walls, and even outside only two fana, one an altar in his own field the Campus Martius, the other a temple dedicated in 388 B.C. outside the Porta Capena. "He was always worshipped outside the city," says Dr. J. B. Carter in his Religion of Numa, "as a god who must be kept at a distance." Should we not rather say that the god was unwilling to come within those sacred boundaries encircling the works of man? So stated, we may see in this singular fact a reminiscence of the time when Mars was really the wild spirit of the "outland," where wolves and human enemies might be met with; he was perhaps in some sense a hostis, a stranger, like the many other deities originally strange to Rome who, until the second Punic war, were never allowed to settle within the sacred precincts.[274] In one sense, however, Mars was actually resident in the very heart of the city. In a sacrarium or chapel of the regia,[275] the ancient dwelling of the king, were kept the spears and shields which the Salii carried in their processions in March and October; and that the deity was believed to be there too must be inferred from the fact, if it be correctly stated by Servius, that the consul who was about to take the field entered the chapel and shook these spears and shields together, saying, "Mars vigila." I am, however, rather disposed to think that this practice belongs to a time when Mars was more distinctly recognised as a god of war, and when the weapons of the Salii were thought of rather as symbols of his activity than as objects in which he was immanent.[276]

These are the salient facts in the oldest cult of Mars, and they are entirely in keeping with all we know of the early history and economy of the Roman people--a people economically dependent on agriculture, and especially on cattle-breeding, living in settlements in the midst of a wilder country, and constantly liable to the attacks of enemies who might raid their cattle and destroy their crops. I do not see in him only a deity of agriculture, or only a god of war; in my view he is a spirit of the wilder regions, where dwell the wolf and woodpecker which are connected with him in legend: a spirit who dwells on the outskirts of civilisation, and can with profit be propitiated both for help against the enemies beyond, and for the protection of the crops and cattle within, the boundaries of human activity.

Fourth in invocations came Quirinus, and fourth in order of precedence was his flamen. But of Quirinus I need say little; there is, on the whole, a consensus of opinion that he was a form of Mars belonging to the community settled on the hill that still bears his name. The most convincing proof of his identity with Mars (though identity is doubtless too strong a word) lies in the well-known fact that there were twelve Salii Collini, i.e. belonging to the Collis Quirinalis, occupied with the cult of Quirinus, answering to the twelve Salii Palatini of the cult of Mars. "Quid de ancilibus vestris," Camillus says in Livy's glowing rhetoric, "Mars Gradive (the particular cult-title of the warlike Mars), tuque Quirine pater?"[277] Now the Quirinal was, of course, within the walls, and the Romans who identified the two deities noted this point of contrast with the Mars-cult; for Servius writes, "Quirinus est Mars qui praeest paci et intra civitatem colitur, nam belli Mars extra civitatem templum habet." In keeping with this is the use of the word Quirites of the Romans in their civil capacity; but unluckily we are altogether uncertain as to the etymology and history of both Quirites and Quirinus.[278] And as Quirinus never became, like Mars, an important property of the Roman people, but was speedily obscured and only revived by the legend of late origin which identified him with Romulus, he is not of importance for my subject, and I may leave him to etymologists and speculators.

There is one other deity of whom I might naturally be expected to say something; I mean Juno. But our familiarity with Juno in Roman literature must not be allowed to lead us into believing too rashly that she was one of those great numina of the early Roman State with whom I have just been dealing. She had no special festival in the calendar;[279] her connection with the Kalends she shared, as we have seen, with Janus. She had no special priest of her own; for in spite of all assertions that the flaminica Dialis was attached to her cult, I am convinced that I was right some years ago in maintaining that this is an error, though a natural one.[280] It cannot be proved that she had any ancient temple in the city; for the oldest known to us as strictly indigenous, that of Juno Moneta on the arx, was not dedicated till 344 B.C., and we do not know that there was an older altar on the same spot.[281] Assuredly Rome was not in early times a great centre of the Juno cult, as were some of the cities in her neighbourhood, e.g. Lanuvium, Falerii, and Veii;[282] and the gradual establishment of her position as a truly Roman goddess may be explained by her appearance in the trias of deities in the Capitoline temple at the end of the regal period, and by the removal to Rome of Juno Regina of Veii still later, after the destruction of that city.

What, then, was Juno originally to the Roman religious mind? There is no more difficult question than this in our whole subject; as we probe carefully in those dark ages she baffles us continually. Undoubtedly she was a woman's deity, and we may aptly say of her "varium et mutabile semper femina." The most singular fact we know about her cult is that women used to speak of their Juno as men spoke of their Genius;[283] and it is not by any means impossible that this may be the clue to the original Italian conception of her.[284] In that case we should have to explain her appearance as a well-defined goddess in so many Latin towns, as the anthropomorphising result of that penetration of Greek ideas into Latium from the south, of which I shall have something to say later on. Such ideas, when they reached Rome, may have produced the notion that she was the consort of Jupiter, for which I must confess that I can find no sufficient evidence in the early cult of either.[285] But I must here leave her, for in truth she does not belong to this lecture; and it would need at least one whole lecture to discuss her adequately in all her later aspects. The latest German discussion of her occupied sixty closely printed pages; and instructive as it was in some ways, arrived at the apparently impossible conclusion that she was a deity of the earth.

Last in the order of invocation, even to the latest days of Rome, came Vesta, "the only female deity among the highest gods of the most ancient State,"[286] for Juno can hardly be reckoned among them, and Tellus had no special cult or priesthood of her own. We have already noticed Vesta as the religious centre of the house, making it into a home in a sense almost more vivid than that in which we use the sacred word. Through all stages of development from house to city this religious centre must have been preserved, and in the Rome of historical times Vesta was still there, inherent in her sacred hearth-fire, which was tended by her six virgin priestesses, and renewed on the Roman New Year's day (March 1) by the primitive method of friction.[287] The Vestals beyond doubt represented the unmarried daughters of the primitive Latin family, and the penus Vestae, a kind of Holy of Holies of the Roman State, recalled the penus or store-closet of the agricultural home; this penus was cleansed on June 15 for the reception of the first fruits of the harvest, and then closed until June 7 of the following year.[288] These and other simple duties of the Vestals, all of them traceable to the old life on the farm, together with their own sex and maidenhood, preserved this beautiful cult throughout Roman history from all contamination. Vesta in her aedes, a round dwelling which was never a temple in the technical sense, was represented by no statue, and her title of Mater never suggested to the true Roman worshipper anything but her motherly grace and beneficence.[289] Far more than any other cult, that of Vesta represents the reality and continuity of Roman religious feeling; and the remains of her latest dwelling, and the statues of her priestesses with no statue of herself among them, may still give the visitor to the Forum some dim idea of the spirit of Roman worship.[290]

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