Roman Empire | Roman Religious Practices

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I have already frequently mentioned the ius divinum, the law governing the relations between the divine and human inhabitants of the city, as the ius civile governed the relations between citizen and citizen.[340] When we examined the calendar of Numa, we were in fact examining a part of this law; we began with this our studies of the religion of the Roman city-state, because it is the earliest document we possess which illuminates the dark ages of city life, so far as religion is concerned. The study of the calendar naturally led us on to consider the evidence it yields, taken together with other sources of information, as to the nature of the deities for whose worship it fixes times and seasons, or, more accurately, the amount of knowledge to which the Romans had attained about their divine beings. But we must now return to the ius divinum, and study it in another aspect, for which the calendar itself does not suffice as evidence.

Perhaps the simplest way of explaining this ius is to describe it as laying down the rules for the maintenance of right relations between the citizens and their deities; as ordaining what things are to be done or avoided in order to keep up a continual pax, or quasi-legal covenant, between these two parties. The two words ius and pax, we may note, are continually meeting us in Roman religious documents. In a prayer sanctioned by the pontifices for use at the making of a new clearing, we read: "Si deus, si dea sit cuius illud sacrum est, ut tibi ius siet porco piaculo facere illiusce sacri coercendi ergo,"[341] i.e. "O unknown deity, whether god or goddess, whose property this wood is, let it be legally proper to sacrifice to thee this pig as an expiatory offering, for the sake of cutting down trees in this wood of thine." "Pacem deorum exposcere" (or "petere") is a standing formula, as all readers of Virgil know;[342] and it occurs in many other authors and religious documents. When Livy wants to express the horror of the old patrician families at the idea of plebeians being consuls--men who had no knowledge of the ius divinum and no right to have any--he makes Appius Claudius exclaim, "Nunc nos, tanquam iam nihil pace deorum opus sit, omnes caerimonias polluimus."[343] How can we maintain our right relations with the gods, if plebeians have the care of them?

Thus it is not going too far to describe the whole Roman religion of the city-state as a Rechtsverkehr,[344] a legal process going on continually. When a colonia was founded, i.e. a military outpost which was to be a copy in all respects of the Roman State, it was absolutely essential that its ius divinum should be laid down; it must have a religious charter as well as a civil one. Even at the very end of the life of the Republic, when Caesar founded a colony in Spain, he ordained that, within ten days of its first magistrates taking office, they should consult the Senate "quos et quot dies festos esse et quae sacra fieri publice placeat et quos ea sacra facere placeat," i.e. as to the calendar, the ritual, and the priesthood.[345] The Romans, of course, assumed that Numa, their priest-king, had done the same thing for Rome; Livy describes him as ordaining a pontifex to whom he entrusted the care of all these matters, with written rules to follow.[346] This was the imaginary religious charter of the Roman State. Without it the citizen, or rather his official representative, would not know with the necessary accuracy the details of the cura and caerimonia; without it, too, the deities could not be expected to perform their part of advancing the interests of the State, and indeed, as I think we shall find, could not be expected to retain the strength and vitality which they needed for the work. Support was needed on each side; the State needed the help of the gods, and the gods needed the help of the State's care and worship.

The ways and means towards the maintenance of this pax were as follows. First, the deities must be duly placated, and their powers kept in full vigour, by the ritual of sacrifice and prayer, performed at the proper times and places by authorised persons skilled in the knowledge of that ritual. Secondly, there must be an exact fulfilment of all vows or solemn promises made to the deities by the State or its magistrates, or by such private persons as might have made similar engagements. Thirdly, the city, its land and its people, must be preserved from all evil or hostile influences, whether spiritual or material or both, by the process broadly known as lustratio, which we commonly translate purification. Lastly, strict attention must be paid to all outward signs of the will of the gods, as shown by omens and portents of various kinds. This last method of securing the pax became specially prominent much later in Roman history, and I prefer to postpone detailed discussion of it for the present; but the other three we will now examine, with the help of evidence mainly derived from facts of cult, not from the fancies of mythologists.

First, then, I take sacrifice, dealing only with the general principles of sacrificial rites, so far as we can discern them in the numerous details which have come down to us. The word sacrificium, let us note, in its widest sense, may cover any religious act in which something is made sacrum, i.e. (in its legal sense) the property of a deity;[347] I am not now concerned to conjecture what exactly may have been the meaning of this immortal word before it was embodied in the ius divinum. "Sacrificium" is limited in practical use by the Romans themselves to offerings, animal or cereal, made on the spot where the deity had taken up his residence, or at some place on the boundary of land or city (e.g. the gate) which was under his protection, or (in later times at least) at a temporary altar erected during a campaign. Thus it was as much a sacrificium when the paterfamilias threw at each meal a portion of the food into the fire, the residence of Vesta, as when the consul offered a victim to Mars on the eve of a battle.

Sacrifices have generally been divided into the three classes of (1) honorific, where the offering is believed to be in some sense a gift to the deity; (2) piacular, or sin-offerings, where the victim was usually burnt whole, no part being retained for eating (though this was not the case at Rome); (3) sacramental sacrifices, where the worshippers enter into communion with the deity by partaking of the sacred offering together with him.[348] The two former are constant and typical in the Roman religion; but traces of the sacramental type, which Robertson Smith believed to be the oldest, are also found, and it will clear the ground if I refer to them at once. By far the most interesting example is that of the Latin festival on the Alban mount, where the flesh of the victim, a white heifer that had never felt the yoke, was partaken of by the deputies of all the cities of the Latin league, great importance being attached to the due distribution.[349] Here the Latin race "yearly acknowledges its common kinship of blood, and seals it by partaking in the common meal of a sacred victim," thus entering into communion with Jupiter, the ancient god of the race, and with each other, by participation in the flesh of the sacred animal. "This common meal is perhaps a survival from the age when cattle were sacred animals, and were never slain or eaten except on the solemn annual occasions when the clan or race renewed its kinship and its mutual obligations by a solemn sacrament." It is tempting to compare with this great sacrament the epulum Iovis on the Ides of September, the dedication-day of the Capitoline temple of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, which three deities seem to have been present in visible form to share the meal with the magistrates and senate.[350] But we have not yet arrived at the age when this temple was built, and we have no evidence enabling us to carry the rite back in any form to the pre-Etruscan period. There are, however, faint indications that the old Italians believed the deities to be in some sense present at their meals, though not in visible form; and at one festival, the Fornacalia, which was a concern not of the State as a whole, but of the thirty curiae into which it was divided,[351] there seems to be no doubt that a common meal took place in which the gods were believed to have a part, or at any rate to be present though invisible. Yet the ius divinum of the Roman State assuredly did not encourage this kind of sacrament; for in the regular round of State festivals, in which we cannot include even the feriae Latinae, the sacrifices, so far as we are informed, were all honorific or piacular. If I am not mistaken, the idea of participation by the people in solemn sacred rites was discouraged by the Roman priesthood; in the ius divinum the line drawn between sacrum and profanum was clear; scenes of gluttony or revelry, like the Greek hecatombs, were eliminated from the sacra publica, as I have already pointed out. Not till the advent of the Sibylline books and the Graecus ritus did the people take an active part in the State religion; their duty was merely to abstain from disturbance during the performance of sacred rites. "Feriis iurgia amovento" is the only reference in Cicero's imaginary sketch of the ius divinum to the conduct of the citizen on festival days.[352] Within the family, the curia, the gens, there might be direct and active participation in daily or yearly ceremonies, but it was an essential principle of the life of the city-state that its business, religious as well as civil, should be carried out for the citizens by officials specially appointed.

In the typical and organised worship of the State, i.e. sacrifice honorific and piacular, sanctioned by the ius divinum, the utmost care was taken that the whole procedure should be in every sense acceptable to the deity; that nothing profanum should cross the threshold of the divine; hence it was quiet, orderly, dignified. The feeling that communication with the deity invoked was impossible save under such conditions was very strong in the Roman mind, stronger perhaps than with any other people whose religious practice is known to us; and the sense of obligation and duty, pietas, as they called it, was thus very early developed, and of infinite value to the State in its youth. This is entirely in keeping with what we have learnt in the last two lectures of the ideas of the Romans about the nature of their deities, and throws additional light on those ideas. They did not as yet know too much about the divine beings and their powers and wishes; familiarity had not yet bred contempt; religio, as we saw, was still strong among them--the feeling of awe that is likely to diminish or disappear when you have your god before you in the form of an idol. It is a principle of human nature that where knowledge is imperfect, care must be taken to be on the safe side; this is true of all practical undertakings, and as the religion of the Romans was that of a practical people with a practical end in view, it was particularly true of them.

First then, in order that the worship might be entirely acceptable to the deity invoked, it was essential that the person who conducted it should be also acceptable. At the head of the whole system was the rex, who was priest as well as king. We do not know, of course, exactly how the rex was appointed; but in the case of the typical priest-king Numa, Livy has described his inauguratio in terms of the ius divinum of later times for the appointment of priests, and we may take it as fairly certain that the same principle held good from the earliest times.[353] After being summoned (so the story ran) from the Sabine city of Cures by the Senate, he consulted the gods about his own fitness. He was then conducted by the augur to the arx on the Capitol, and sat down on a stone facing the south. The augur took his seat on his left hand (the lucky side) with veiled head, holding the _lituus_[354] of his office in his right hand, with which, after a prayer, he marked out the regiones from east to west, the north being to the left, the south to the right, and silently noted some object in the extreme distance of the ager Romanus, as the farthest point where the appearance of an omen might be accepted. Then, passing the lituus to his left hand, he laid his right on the head of Numa, and uttered this prayer: "Father Jupiter, if it be thy will (fas) that this Numa Pompilius, on whose head my hand is laid, be king of Rome, I pray thee give us clear token within the limits which I have marked out." Then he said aloud what auspicia he sought for (i.e. whether of birds, lightning, or what); and when they appeared, Numa descended as rex from the citadel. This process was called inauguratio; it is attested for the confirmation of the election of the three flamines maiores, the rex, and the augurs, in historical times,[355] whatever was the method of that election, and without it the priest was not believed to be acceptable to the gods. It is not mentioned by Roman writers in connection with the Pontifices or the Vestals; if this be not merely from dearth of evidence, it is not easy to account for, unless the reason were that neither body was specially concerned with sacrifice. But the principle is perfectly clear--that the person who is to represent the community in worship must be one of whom the numina openly express approval.

A priest, sacerdos, is thus a person set apart by special ritual for the service of the sacra populi Romani. The rex no doubt himself made the selection and supervised the inauguratio of the other priests at whose head he was. When the kingship came to an end, his powers of this kind passed to the pontifex maximus; and it may be as well to add at once that his sacrificial powers, though they were in a special sense inherited by a priest who took his title, the rex sacrorum, passed with the civil power to all magistrates cum imperio, who wore the toga praetexta symbolic of priestly function, and had the right of presiding at sacrificial rites both at home and in the field. Thus magistrate and priest, though quite distinct under the Republic from the point of view of public law, have certain characteristics in common as deriving from a common source in the powers of the rex.[356]

But to return to the period of Numa and the calendar: it was not only necessary that the priest should be acceptable to the gods, but that he should be marked off from the rest of the community as being dedicated to their service. As Dr. Jevons says,[357] in all early religions priests are marked off from other worshippers, partly by what they do, and partly by what they may not do; and what he means is (1) that the priest originally was the person who alone could slay a victim; (2) that in consequence of his sacredness he was subject to a great number of restrictions. I have already spoken of these restrictions or priestly taboos in my second lecture; and as I believe that in the period we are now dealing with they were little more than a survival, I shall not return to them now. But of the outward insignia, which marked off the priest as alone entitled to perform the essential act of worship, the sacrifice, and which bring him out of the region of the profanum into that of sacrum, I must say a few words before going farther.

In historical times the actual slaying of the victim was done by subordinates, popae, victimarii, etc.; but there is no doubt whatever that it was originally the work of the priest, for he seems at all times to have used one gesture which is clearly symbolic of it,[358] and there are traces also of a practice of wearing the toga in such a way as to leave the right arm free for the act.[359] That toga, or any other special robe worn by the priest, was always in whole or part red or purple. The purple-edged toga praetexta was worn both by priests and magistrates, and by children under age; and I think there is good reason to believe that in all these cases the original idea was the same--that they took part, directly or indirectly, as primary or secondary agents in sacrificial acts. The Salii and the augurs wore the trabea, which was of purple or red, or both; the flamines had a special robe about the colour of which we are not informed, but the Flaminica Dialis wore a purple garment called rica, and a red veil called flammeum, which was also worn by the bride in the religious ceremony of marriage. Whether we are to see in this prevalence of red or purple any symbolism of the shedding of blood in sacrifice I cannot be sure, but the inference is a tempting one, and has been put forward with confidence by some recent investigators. It is worth noting that the Vestals, who did not sacrifice animals, wore white only.[360] If the red colour has anything to do with blood-shedding, it is probably more than merely symbolic; it may mean that the sacrificing priest partakes of that life and strength which he passes on to the god through the blood, that is the life, of the victim.[361]

The Roman priests had also other insignia, of which the original meaning is less evident. The Flamen Dialis, and probably all the flamines, wore a cap with an olive-twig fastened to the top of it; this is well shown in the sculptures of the Ara Pacis of Augustus.[362] The flaminicae had a head-dress called tutulus, which consisted in part, at least, of a purple fillet or ribbon. The flamines, when actually sacrificing, wore a galerus, or hood of some kind made of the skin of a victim, and the Flamen Dialis in particular wore one made of the skin of a white heifer sacrificed to Jupiter.[363] In these various ways all priests were outwardly shown to be holy men, sacerdotes, marked off from the profanum vulgus. Only for the pontifices we have no information as to a special dress, just as we also have none as to their inauguratio.[364]

Thus there is no question that the priests were chosen and separated from the people in such a way as to meet with the approval of the gods; and even the acolytes, camilli and camillae, boys and girls who frequently appear in sacrificial scenes on monuments, wore the toga praetexta, and, in order to be acceptable, must be the children of living parents.[365] This rule has lately been the subject of a discussion by Dr. Frazer, on which he has brought to bear, as usual, a great range of learning. He regards the restriction not so much as a matter of good omen, i.e. of freedom from contamination by the death of a parent, but as pointing to a notion that they were "fuller of life and therefore luckier than orphans."[366] Whether or no this explanation is the right one, it is quite consistent, as we shall see directly, with the general idea of sacrifice at Rome, and the learning by which it is supported is in any case of interest and value.

There is abundant evidence from historical times that all worshippers, and therefore a fortiori all priests, when sacrificing, had to be personally clean and free from every kind of taint; a rule which also held good for the utensils used in the worship, which in many cases at least were of primitive make and material, not such as were in common use.[367] The need of personal purity is well expressed by Tibullus in his description of a rural festival[368]:--

vos quoque abesse procul iubeo, discedat ab aris

cui tulit hesterna gaudia nocte Venus.

casta placent superis: pura cum veste venite

et manibus puris sumite fontis aquam.

These lines indicate an approach at least to the idea of mental as well as material purity; and Cicero in his ius divinum in the _de Legibus_[369] actually reaches that idea: "caste iubet lex adire ad deos, animo videlicet, in quo sunt omnia: nec tollit castimoniam corporis," etc. But this is the language of a later age, and does not reflect the notions of the old Roman, but rather those of the religious philosophy of the Greek. The personal purity which the Roman rule required was a survival from a set of primitive ideas, closely connected with taboo, which we are only now beginning to understand fully. They are common to all or almost all peoples who have made any progress in systematising their sacrificial worship. As Dr. Westermarck has recently expressed it,[370] "they spring from the idea that the contact of a polluting substance with anything holy is followed by injurious consequences. It is supposed to deprive a deity or holy being of its holiness.... So also a sacred act is believed to lose its sacredness by being performed by an unclean individual." And in the next sentence he goes still farther back in the history of the belief, pointing out that a polluting substance is itself held to contain mysterious energy of a baneful kind. But I must leave this interesting subject now; the story of the evolution of the habit of cleanliness from these ancient ideas will be found in the thirty-ninth chapter of his Origin and Development of Moral Ideas.

Coming next to the act of sacrifice itself, it is needless to say that the victim must be as exactly fitted to please the deity--if that be the right way to express the obligation--as the priest who sacrificed it. It must be of the right kind, sex, age, colour; it must go willingly to the slaughter, adorned with fillets and ribbons (infulae, vittae), in order to mark it off from other animals as holy; in the case of oxen, we hear also of the gilding of the horns, but this must have been costly and unusual.[371] All these details were doubtless laid down in the ius divinum, and in later times, when the deities dwelt in roofed temples, they were embodied in the lex or charter of each temple.[372] I do not need to go into them here minutely; for my present purpose, the elucidation of the meaning which the Romans attached to sacrificial worship, it will be sufficient to point out that all victims, so far as we know, were domestic animals, and in almost all cases they were valuable property (pecunia), such as belonged to the stock of the Latin farmer, ox, sheep, pig, varying according to age and sex. Goats were used at the Lupercalia, and a horse was sacrificed to Mars, as we have seen, on October 15, and at the Robigalia in April a red dog was offered to the spirit of the mildew. But though time forbids me to explain all these rules, a careful study of the evidence for them is most useful for any one who wishes to understand the influence of the ius divinum on the mind of the early Roman. In the family what rules were needed were matter of tradition; deities were few, and offerings limited. But in the city-state it was very different; here even the di indigetes were many, with diverse wishes and likings as well as functions: how were these to be ascertained and remembered at the right moment? Here, as in all methods of securing the pax deorum, a central supervising authority was needed, in whose knowledge and wisdom the whole community had confidence; and he was found in the rex, as is clearly shown in the whole traditional account of the priest-king Numa. Very naturally tradition also ascribed to Numa the institution of the pontifices, whom the historical Romans knew as succeeding the rex in the supervision of religious law.[373]

If all went well, the victim going willingly and no ill omen supervening, the actual slaughter followed at the altar. During the whole operation silence was enjoined; the priests' heads were veiled with the folds of the toga;[374] pipers (tibicines) continued to play, in order that no unlucky sound or word might be heard which would make it necessary to start afresh with another victim (instauratio). Immediately before the slaughter the victim was made holier than ever by sprinkling upon it fragments of sacred cake made of far (immolatio), and by pouring on it libations of wine from a foculus or movable altar containing this holy condiment, together with incense if that were used in the rite. As soon as it was dead, the internal organs were examined to make sure that there was no physical defect or abnormal growth, for it was, of course, quite as necessary that the animal should be "purus" within as without; this was the only object of the examination, until the Etruscan art of extipicina made its way to Rome. What became of the blood we are not told; I have already remarked that blood has curiously little part in Roman ritual and custom.[375] But the exta, i.e. internal organs of life, were separated from the rest of the carcase, and carefully cooked in holy vessels, before being laid upon the altar (porrectio), together with certain slices of flesh called magmenta, or increase-offerings, while the rest of the flesh, which had now lost its holiness, was retained for the use of the priests.[376] The time occupied in the actual slaughter and inspection of the organs was not long; but the cooking of these must have been often a lengthy process. Ovid tells us how on April 25 he met the Flamen Quirinalis carrying out the exta of a dog and a sheep, which had been sacrificed at Rome to Robigus that morning, in order to lay them on the altar of that deity at the fifth milestone on the Via Claudia.[377] Certain days in the calendar, called endotercisi, which were nefasti in morning and evening, were fasti in the middle of the day, between the slaying of a victim and the placing of its exta on the altar (inter hostiam caesam et exta porrecta).[378]

I have so far purposely omitted one important detail--the prayer which, so far as we know, invariably accompanied the sacrifice. It is not absolutely certain at what moment of the rite it was said at Rome; in the ritual of Iguvium we find it occurring immediately before the placing of the exta on the altar;[379] but as that ritual is a processional one, concerned with sacrifices at several spots, the two chief parts of the rite, the slaughter and the porrectio, probably followed closely on one another. We may perhaps guess that where these two parts were separated by a considerable interval, as in the majority of Roman festivals, the prayer was said by the priest also at the moment of porrectio. The prayer is so important a detail as to need separate handling--important because it helps us to interpret the ideas of the Romans about their sacrifices, and the attitude in which they conceived themselves as standing towards the deities whom they thus approached. I propose to occupy the rest of this lecture in considering this most interesting topic. I wish first to draw attention to a particular feature, or rather expression, which occurs in the authentic wording of certain prayers which we are lucky enough to possess, because I think it throws some light on the meaning which the Romans attached to the sacrifice it accompanied; and secondly, to consider the character of Roman prayers generally, in view of a question now being largely discussed, i.e. whether prayer is a development from spell or charm, belonging in its origin to the region of magic.

We have various forms of prayer surviving in Roman literature: some of them are versified by the poets, and therefore give us a general impression of the contents without the actual and genuine wording; we have also two fragments of ancient carmina which have the form of prayers, those of the Salii and the Fratres Arvales; and we have certain forms used on special occasions, such as the evocatio of the gods of a hostile community, or the formulae of vows (vota) which I must postpone to the next lecture. But the only unquestionably genuine old Roman prayers used at sacrifice, taken from the books of the pontifices and preserved word for word, are those which Cato embodied in his treatise on agriculture in the second century B.C., as proper to be used with sacrifice on certain occasions in the agricultural year.[380] It is here that we meet with the phrase, familiar in another form to all Latin scholars, on which I wish to lay stress now. It occurs in all the four forms of prayer which Cato copied down. The first is at the time of the flowering of the pear-trees, on behalf of the oxen: "Iuppiter dapalis, quod tibi fieri oportet in domo familia mea culignam vini dapi eius rei[381] ergo, macte hac illace dape polucenda esto." And again, when the wine is offered: "Iuppiter dapalis, macte istace dape polucenda esto. Macte vino inferio esto." So in the piacular sacrifice when a clearing is made, the unknown deity is addressed in the last words of the prayer thus: "harum rerum ergo macte hoc porco piaculo immolando esto." We find this macte esto again in the prayer for the ceremony of lustratio, at the end of the formula: "macte hisce suovetaurilibus lactentibus immolandis esto." In the rite of the porca praecidanea, to which I have already referred, the instruction for the invocation of Jupiter runs: "Fertum (i.e. a kind of cake) Iovi obmoveto et mactato sic, Iuppiter, te hoc ferto obmovendo bonas preces precor, uti sies volens propitius mihi liberisque meis domo familiaeque meae mactus hoc ferto." Janus gets another kind of cake (strues) and a wine-offering, and is addressed in the same way. Then we read, "Iovi fertum obmoveto mactatoque item, ut prius feceris."

What is the real meaning of this phrase macte esto, which must surely have been in universal use at sacrifices, not only at private rites like those of Cato, since it came to be used in common speech of congratulation or felicitation, e.g. macte virtute esto?[382] Servius in commenting on Virgil has made it sufficiently clear. He explains it as magis aucte, and connects it with magmentum, increase-offering, quasi magis augmentum, and adds that when the victims had been slain and their exta placed on the altar, they were said to be mactatae. So, too, in another comment he seems to connect the word with the victim rather than with the deity. But he is quite clear as to the meaning of the word, as signifying an increase or addition of some kind; and though his etymology is wrong, we may be sure that he was right in this respect, for it is beyond doubt built on a base, mac or mag, which produced magnus, maius, maiestas, and so on. "Macte nova virtute puer" means "Be thou increased, strengthened in virtus"; a fragment of Lucilius (quoted by Servius) brings this out well, "Macte inquam virtute simulque his viribus esto," and another from Ennius, "Livius inde redit magno mactatus triumpho."[383] We might almost translate it in these passages by "glorified"; but it most certainly includes the meaning of "strengthened" or "increased in might."

Now in the formulae of Cato we have seen that it is applied to the deity and not to the victim; this naturally did not occur to Servius, whose mind was occupied rather with Virgil and the literary use of the word than with the original use and meaning of the language of prayer. Undoubtedly he has made a mistake here, which Cato's piety has enabled us to detect. It was, in fact, the deity whose strength was to be increased by the offerings; so much at least seems to me to be beyond doubt. There is, indeed, no certain trace in the ritual, or in Roman literature, that the gods were supposed to consume the exta, or the cakes and wine offered them; that primitive notion must have been excluded from the ius divinum. But instead of it we find the more spiritual idea that by placing on the altar the organs of the life of the victim, with ancient forms of sacred cake and offerings of wine, the vitality of the deity, his power to help his worshippers, to make the corn grow and the cattle bring forth young, to aid the State against enemies, or what not, was really increased in this semi-mystic way. Let us remember that the Roman numina were powers constantly at work in their own sphere; they are the various manifestations of the one Power as conceived in immediate relation to man and his wants; they are sometimes addressed in prayer, as we have seen, by additional titles which suggest their strength and vitality: Virites Quirini, Nerio Martis, Moles Martis, Maia or Maiestas Volcani. What, then, could be more natural than that the Roman should call upon his divine fellow-citizen to accept that which, according to ancient tradition and practice, will keep up his strength, and at the same time increase his glory and his goodwill towards his worshippers? This is, then, the idea which I believe to have been at the root of Roman sacrificial ritual, and it seems to confirm the dynamic theory of sacrifice recently propounded by some French anthropologists, i.e. that a mystic current of religious force passed through the victim, from priest to deity, and perhaps back again.[384] I believe that we have here a transitional idea of the virtue of sacrifice--an idea that bridges over the gulf between the crude notion that the gods actually partake of the offering, and the later more spiritual view that the offering is an honorary gift "to the glory of God." It seems also to be found in the Vedic religion. Dr. Farnell writes: "In the Vedic ritual we find a pure and spiritual form of prayer; yet a certain spell-power may attach even to the highest types, for we find not infrequently the conception that not only the power of the worshipper, but the power of the deity also is nourished and strengthened by prayer, and the prayer itself is usually accompanied by a potent act (such as that of sacrifice). "May our prayers increase Agni": "The prayers fill thee with power and strengthen thee, like great rivers the Sindhu."[385]

I must now turn to the form and manner of Roman prayers, in order to gain further light on the question as to the mental attitude of the worshipper towards the deity invoked. Of late years there has been a strong tendency to find the origin of prayer in spell; or, in other words, to discover a bridge between that mental attitude which believes that a deity can be forced into a certain course of action by magical formulae, and the humble attitude of the petitioner in prayer, which assumes that the power of the deity altogether transcends that of his worshipper. The evidence of Roman prayers is, I think, of considerable value in dealing with this question; but it needs to be carefully studied and handled. The general impression conveyed by those who have written on the subject is that Roman prayers were dull, dry formulae, which were believed to have a constraining influence on the deity simply as formulae, if they were repeated with perfect precision the right number of times. Dr. Westermarck, for example, has no shadow of a doubt about this; quoting Renan, he says that "in the Roman, as in the majority of the old Italian cults, prayer is a magic formula, producing its effect by its own inherent quality." And again, he writes that the Romans were much more addicted to magic than to religion; "they wanted to compel the gods rather than to be compelled by them. Their religio was probably near akin to the Greek [Greek: katadesmos], which meant not only an ordinary tie, but also a magic tie or knot or a bewitching thereby."[386] I need not stop to point out the misconception of the word religio which suggested the whole of this passage; the supposed derivation from ligare was quite enough to suggest magic to those who are on the trail of it.[387] Let us go on to examine the prayers themselves; I think we shall find that though there is much truth in the common view of them, it is not quite the whole truth.

The oldest Roman prayers we possess are usually called hymns, because the Latin word for them was carmen, viz. the Carmen Saliare, which is too obscure and fragmentary to be of use to us, and the Carmen of the Arval Brethren, which is preserved on stone and is quite intelligible.[388] The word carmen, let us notice, was used by the old Romans for any kind of metrical formula, whether hymn, prayer, or spell. Pliny, when writing of magic and incantations, plainly includes prayer among them;[389] and Dr. Jevons has recently pointed out that singing, and especially singing in a low voice or muttered tones, is a characteristic of magic not only in Greece and Rome, but in many parts of the world at the present day.[390] The evidence of the word is thus strongly in favour of the view that these ancient carmina of Roman worship were really spells; and the Carmen Arvalium itself does not contradict it. After an elaborate sacrificial ceremonial the priests, using a written copy of the carmen (libellis acceptis), danced in triple rhythm (tripodaverunt) while they sang it; it consisted of six clauses, each repeated three times. "Enos Lases iuvate! Neve luerve Marmar sins incurrere in pleores! Satur fu fere Mars, limen sali, sta berber! Semunes alternei advocapit cunctos! Enos Marmar iuvato! Triumpe!" With the precise interpretation of these words I am not now concerned; but they obviously contain invocations to the Lares and Mars, which may be either petitions or commands, and which perhaps are really on the borderland between the two; and as thrice repeated, and accompanied with dancing and gesticulation, they seem certainly to belong rather to the region of magic than of religion proper.

It is interesting to compare with this carmen the prayers of the guild of brethren (Attiedii) at Iguvium; these are the best preserved of all old Italian prayers, and though not Roman, are the product of the same race. In the lustratio of the arx (Ocris Fisius) of Iguvium we find three several deities invoked, with elaborate sacrificial ritual, at three gates, and a long prayer addressed to each deity, thrice repeated, as in the Carmen Arvale. It is to be said under the breath (tacitus precator totum, vi. A. 55), which was a common practice also at Rome, and is believed to be characteristic of the magical spell;[391] and except in the case of the first prayer, which is addressed to the chief deity Jupiter Grabovius, it is accompanied by some kind of dancing or rhythmical movement (tripodatio).[392] Thus in outward form this ritual seems to show but little advance on the Roman prayer of the Arvales, and indeed it may in substance go back to a time as remote as that in which the latter had its origin. But when we examine the matter of the prayer, we find that it is cast in the language of petition beyond all doubt--if it be rightly interpreted, as we may believe it is:--

"Te invocavi invoco divum Grabovium pro arce Fisia, pro urbe Iguvina, pro arcis nomine, pro urbis nomine: volens sis, propitius sis arci Fisiae, urbi Iguvinae, arcis nomini, urbis nomini. Sancte, te invocavi invoco divum Grabovium. Sancti fiducia te invocavi invoco divum Grabovium. Dive Grabovie te hoc bove opimo piaculo pro arce Fisia, etc. Dive Grabovi, illius anni quiquomque in arce Fisia ignis ortus est, in urbe Iguvina ritus debiti omissi sunt, pro nihilo ducito. Dive Grabovi, quicquid tui sacrificii vitiatum est, peccatum est, peremptum est, fraudatum est, demptum est, tui sacrificii visum invisum vitium est, dive Grabovi, quicquid ius sit, hoc bove opimo piaculo piando.... Dive Grabovi, piato arcem Fisiam, piato urbem Iguvinam. Dive Grabovi, piato arcis Fisiae, urbis Iguvinae, nomen, magistratus, ritus, viros, pecora, fundos, fruges: piato, esto volens propitius pace tua arci Fisiae, etc. Dive Grabovi, salvam servato arcem Fisiam salvam servato urbem Iguvinam .... Dive Grabovi, te hoc bove opimo piaculo pro arce Fisia, pro urbe Iguvina, pro arcis nomine, pro urbis nomine, Dive Grabovi, te invocavi."[393]

That in this prayer, and the others which accompany it, exactness of wording was believed to be essential, as in the ritual which preceded it exactness of performance, there is no doubt; for at the end of the whole document (vi. B. 48) we find that if there had been any slip in the ritual, the Brethren had to go back to the first gate and begin all over again. There is plainly present the idea, surviving from an age of magic, that the deities had strong feelings about the right way of invocation, and would not respond to the performance unless those feelings were understood and appealed to; that they would miss something and decline to do their part. Yet are we justified in going on to assume that they were bound, as by a solemn contract, to perform their part, if there were no slip in the ritual? I confess it is difficult for me to take this further step, in view of the language of the prayers, which is so clearly that of petition, nay, of humble petition. We are not dealing here with vota, to which I shall come in the next lecture, and in which there is a kind of legal contract between the man and the god--the former undertaking to do something pleasing to the deity, if the latter shall have faithfully performed what is asked of him. These vota, so abundant in historical times, are really responsible for the idea that Roman prayer is simply a binding formula--a magical spell, let us say, which in the hands of a city priesthood has become a quasi-legal formula. But these prayers are not vota; they do not contain any language which betrays the notion of binding the deity. They seem to me to mark a process of transition between the age of spell and magic and the age of prayer and religion; they retain some of the outward characteristics of spell, but internally, i.e. in the spirit in which they were intended, they have the real characteristics of prayer.[394] The numina to whom they were addressed were powerful spirits, unknown, unfamiliar, until their wishes were discovered by the organised priesthood which handed down these forms of petition.

To return to Rome, and to the prayers in Cato's book, to which I referred just now when discussing the word macte. Attempts have been made to prove that these were originally written in metre;[395] and this is quite possible. If so, it only means that they retained the outward form of the primitive spell; it must not lead us on to fancy that the sacrifice which accompanied the prayer was a magical act, or that the whole process was believed to compel the deity. No doubt there was believed to be efficacy in the exact repetition, as is shown by the directions for piacular sacrifices in case of error of any kind.[396] But the language is the language of prayer, not of compulsion, nor even of bargaining: "Eius rei ergo te hoc porco piaculo immolando bonas preces precor, ut sies volens propitius mihi, domo familiaeque meis."[397] "Mars pater, te precor quaesoque uti sies volens propitius mihi, domo," etc.[398] No amount of vain repetition or scruple can deprive this language of its natural meaning. The god is powerful in his own sphere of action, and man has no control over him; man is fully recognised as liable to misfortune unless the god helps him; but he can worship in full assurance of faith that his prayer will be answered, if it be such as the authorities of the State have laid down as the right wording, and if the ritual accompanying it is equally in order. The faith is, indeed, thus founded upon man's devices rather than the god's good-will as such; it is a belief in the State and its authorities and ius divinum, which is conceived, not indeed as constraining the deity, but as calling upon him (invocare) to perform his part, in formulae which he cannot well neglect, simply because it would be unreasonable to do so, contrary to his nature as a deity of the Roman State and its ager.

It is obvious in all this sacrificial ritual that the officiating person or persons were expected to observe the traditional forms with the utmost care and exactness. Any slip or omission was, in fact, a piaculum, or sacrum commissum--terms of the ius divinum which seem to suggest, if I may use the expression, the obverse side of holiness. It is now well known that cleanness and uncleanness, holiness and its opposite, can be expressed in religious vocabulary by the same terms, for in both cases there is something beyond the ordinary, something dangerous, uncanny; thus we are not surprised to find that such words as I have just mentioned can be used to express some kind of impurity caused by a breach of ritual as well as that ritual itself. If we accept the latest theory of sacrifice, i.e. the dynamic theory, as it is called, we explain this intense nervousness about a ritualistic flaw as occasioned by the consciousness of a breach in the current of "religious force" (the expression is that of Messrs. Hubert and Mauss[399]), which must pass in regular sequence from the sacrificer through the victim to the deity, or vice versa. If this is the true explanation--and at present it may be said to hold the field--then the extreme exactness of the Roman ritual was a survival from an age when this strange feeling was a reality; but no more than a survival, for, so far as I can discover, the Roman idea was rather that the deity to whom the ritual was addressed was in some way offended by the omission.[400] The dynamic notion is lost, if it ever were there, and its place has been taken by one that we may perhaps call theological. But however that may be, the culprit was regarded as in a state of sin or impurity, "un être sacré," and had to get rid of this sin or impurity by another sacrifice before the whole ritual could be started afresh (instaurare).

According to the "dynamic" theory of sacrifice, we might naturally expect that the victim, as being destined to carry away the unholiness (or whatever we choose to call it) of the culprit, would be burnt whole, not offered to the deity in the form of exta, or eaten by the sacrificers.[401] But this does not seem to have been the case in the Roman practice; in all the examples of piacula of which we have details, the exta are laid on the altar as in the typical sacrifice.[402] The inference seems to be that the theological idea of sacrifice had established itself completely ever since the formation of the ius divinum; the victim is not a scapegoat in any sense, but really an expiatory offering; and not only does the sacrificer yield up something of value, but he offers it to increase the strength of the deity as well as to appease his anger.

A curious point may be noticed in the last place. The practical Roman mind seems to have invented a kind of sacrificial insurance, by which a piacular sacrifice might be offered beforehand to atone for any omission in the ritual which was to follow. Thus the Fratres Arvales, if they had to take an iron implement into their sacred grove, offered a piaculum before as well as after this breach of religious rule.[403] Again, the porca praecidanea, which I have already mentioned as offered before harvest, was an example of the same system of insurance; for the first cutting of the corn was a sacred rite, and one in which it was easy to take a false step. Writing of this, Gellius says in general terms that hostiae praecidaneae are those which are offered the day before sacrificia solennia.[404]

The term "piacular sacrifice" (piaculum) had a wide range of meaning, apart from the examples here given. With one important form of it I shall deal in the next lecture:[405] others we shall come across later on.

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