Prev | Next | Contents


I said in my first lecture that the whole story of Roman religious experience falls into two parts: first, that of the formularisation of rules and methods for getting effectively into right relations with the Power manifesting itself in the universe; secondly, that of the gradual discovery of the inadequacy of these, and of the engrafting on the State religion of Rome of an ever-increasing number of foreign rites and deities. The first of these stories has been occupying us so far, and before I leave it for what will be practically an introduction to succeeding lectures, it will be as well for me to sum up the results at which we have already arrived.

I began with what I called the protoplasm of religion, the primitive ideas and practices which form the psychological basis of the whole growth. The feeling of awe and anxiety about that which is mysterious and unknown, the feeling which the Romans called religio, seems to have manifested itself in Italy, as elsewhere, in those various ways which I discussed in my second and third lectures, in the various forms of magic, negative and positive. We find unmistakable evidence of the existence of those strict rules of conduct called taboos, which fetter the mind and body of primitive man, which probably arise from an ineffective desire to put himself in right relations with forces he does not understand, and which have their value as a social discipline. Again, we find surviving in historical Rome numerous forms of active or positive magic, by which it was thought possible to compel or overcome those powers, so as to use them for your own benefit and against your enemies. But I was careful to point out that on the whole little of all this evidence of the early existence of magic at Rome is to be found in the public religion of the Roman State, and that the natural inference from this is that at one time or another there must have been a very powerful influence at work in cutting away these obsolete root-leaves of the plant that was to be, and in making of that plant a neat, well-defined growth.

I went on to deal with the first stage in the working of this influence, which we found reflected in the religion of the family as we know it in historical times. The family, settled on the land, with its homestead and its regular routine of agricultural process, developed a more effective desire to get into right relation with the Power manifesting itself in the universe. Anxiety is greatly lessened both in the house and on the land, because within those limits there is a "peace" (or covenant) between the divine and human inhabitants who have taken up their residence there. The supernatural powers, conceived now (whatever they may have been before) as spirits, are friendly if rightly propitiated, and much advance has been made in the methods of propitiation; magic and religion are still doubtless mixed up together in these, but the tendency seems to be to get gradually rid of the more inadequate and blundering methods. In fact, man's knowledge of the Divine has greatly advanced; spirits have some slight tendency to become deities, and magic is in part at least superseded by an orderly round of sacrifice and prayer, which is performed daily within the house, and within the boundary of the land at certain seasons of the year. This stage of settlement and routine was the first great revolution in the religious experience of the Romans, and supplied the basis of their national character.

The second revolution which we can clearly discern, and far the most important as a factor in Roman history, is that of the organisation of the religion of the city-state of Rome. Doubtless there were stages intermediate between the two, but they are entirely lost to us. We had to concentrate our attention on the city of the four regions--the first city we really know--and to examine the one document which has survived from it, the so-called calendar of Numa. In my fifth lecture I explained the nature of that calendar, and noted how it reflects the life of a people at once agricultural and military, and how it must presuppose the existence of a highly organised legal priesthood, or of some powerful genius for political as well as religious legislation. The tradition of a great priest-king is not wholly to be despised, for it expresses the feeling of the Romans that religious law and order were indispensable parts of their whole political and social life. During the rest of these lectures I have been trying to interrogate this religious calendar, with such help as could be gained from any other sources, on two points: (1) the conception, or, if we can venture to use the word, the knowledge, which the Romans of that early city-state had of the Divine; (2) the chief forms and methods of their worship. We saw that they did not think of the divine beings as existing in human form with human weaknesses, but as invisible and intangible functional powers, numina. Each had its special limited sphere of action; and some were now localised within the pomoerium, or just outside it within the ager Romanus, and worshipped under a particular name. I suggested that this very settlement had probably some influence in preparing them for assuming a more definite and personal character, should the chance be given them. In regard to the forms of cult with which they were propitiated, I found in the ritual of sacrifice and prayer a genuine advance towards a really religious attitude to the deity, the sacrifices being meant to increase his power to benefit the community, and the prayers to diminish such inclination as he might have to damage it; but that there are in these certain survivals of the age of magic, which are, however, only formal, and have lost their original significance. I found some curious examples of such survivals in the rite of devotio, and in vows generally a somewhat lower type of method in dealing with the supernatural. But, on the other hand, the forms of lustratio, at the bottom of which seems to lie the idea of getting rid of evil spirits and influences, present very beautiful examples of what we may really call religious ceremony.

There was, then, in this highly-organised religion of the city-state, in some ways at least, a great advance. But in spite of this gain, it had serious drawbacks. Most prominent among these was the fact that it was the religion of the State as a whole, and not of the individual or the family. Religion, I think we may safely say, had placed a certain consecration upon the simple life of the family, which was, in fact, the life of the individual; for the essence of religion in all stages of civilisation lies in the feeling of the individual that his own life, his bodily and mental welfare, is dependent on the Divine as he and his regard it. But to what extent can it be said that religion so consecrated the life of the State as to enable each individual in his family group to feel that consecration more vividly? That would have constituted a real advance in religious development; that was the result, if I am not mistaken, of the religion of the Jewish State, which with all the force of a powerful hierarchical authority addressed its precepts to the mind and will of the individual. But at Rome, though the earliest traces and traditions of law show a certain consecration of morality, inasmuch as the criminal is made over as a kind of propitiatory sacrifice to the deity whom he has offended, yet in the ordinary course of life, so far as I can discern, the individual was left very much where he was, before the State arose, in his relation to the Divine.

In no other ancient State that we know of did the citizen so entirely resign the regulation of all his dealings with the State's gods to the constituted authorities set over him. His obligatory part in the religious ritual of the State was simply nil, and all his religious duty on days of religious importance was to abstain from civil business, to make no disturbance. Within the household he used his own simple ritual, the morning prayer, the libation to the household deities at meals; and it is exactly here that we see a pietas, a sense of duty consecrated by religion, which seems to have had a real ethical value, and reminds us of modern piety. But in all his relations with the gods qua citizen, he resigned himself to the trained and trusted priesthoods, who knew the secrets of ritual and all that was comprised in the ius divinum; and by passive obedience to these authorities he gradually began to deaden the sense of religio that was in him. And this tendency was increased by the mere fact of life in a city, which as time went on became more and more the rule; for, as I pointed out, the round of religious festivals no longer exactly expressed the needs and the work of that agricultural life in which it had its origin.

It would be an interesting inquiry, if the material for an answer were available, to try and discover how this gradual absorption of religion (or rather religious duties) by the State and its authorities affected the morality of the individual Roman. It has often been maintained of late that religion and morality have nothing in common; and even Dr. Westermarck,[464] who, unlike most anthropologists, treats the whole subject from a psychological point of view, seems inclined to come to this conclusion. For myself, I am rather disposed to agree with another eminent anthropologist,[465] that religion and morality are really elemental instincts of human nature, primarily undistinguishable from each other; and if that be so, then the over-elaboration of either the moral or religious law, or of the two combined, will tend to weaken the binding force of both. If, as at Rome, the citizen is made perfectly comfortable in his relations with the Power manifesting itself in the universe, owing to the complete mastery of the ius divinum by the State and its officials, there will assuredly be a tendency to paralyse the elemental religious impulse, and with it, if I am not mistaken, the elemental sense of right and wrong. For in the life of a state with such a legalised religious system as this, so long at least as it thrives and escapes serious disaster, there will be few or none of those moments of peril and anxiety in which "man is brought face to face with the eternal realities of existence,"[466] and when he becomes awakened to a new sense of religion and duty. In the life of the family, the critical moments of birth, puberty, marriage, and death regularly recur, and keep up the instinct, because man is then brought face to face with these eternal facts; there is no need of extraordinary perils, such as tempests or pestilences, to keep the instinct alive. But in the life of the State as such there were no such continually recurring reminders; even the old agricultural perils were out of sight of the ordinary citizen. Thus the farthest we can go in ascribing a moral influence to the State religion is in giving it credit for helping to maintain that sense of law and order which served to keep the life of the family sound and wholesome. That it did to some extent perform this service I have already pointed out;[467] and it is a remarkable fact that the decay of the State religion was coincident, in the last two centuries B.C., with the decay of the family life and virtues. But on the whole, as we shall see, the ius divinum had rather the effect of hypnotising the religious and moral instinct than of keeping it awake. It needed new perils for the State as a whole to re-create that feeling which is the root of the growth of conscience; and when the craving did at last come upon the Roman, which in times of doubt and peril has come upon individuals and communities in all ages, for support and comfort from the Unseen, it had to be satisfied by giving him new gods to worship in new ways--aliens with whom he had nothing in common, who had no home in his patriotic feeling, no place in his religious experience.[468]

I wish to conclude this first part of my subject by giving some account of the first beginning of this introduction of new deities, di novensiles as they were called,[469] into the old Roman religious world. Those, however, of whom I shall speak here were not introduced as the result of disaster or distress, but were simply the inevitable consequence of the growing importance of the city on the Tiber--of the beginnings of her commercial and political relations with her neighbours, and also of her own development in the arts of civilisation. The religious system with which I have so far been dealing was the exclusive property, we must remember, of those gentes, with the families composing them, which formed the original human material of the State, and were known as patrician. If we had no other reason for being sure of this, the fact that all State priesthoods were originally limited to patrician families would be sufficient to prove it;[470] even down to the latest times the rex sacrorum, the three flamines maiores, and the Salii were necessarily of patrician birth--a fact which had much to do with their tendency to disappear in the last age of the Republic.

But in the course of the period within which the Numan calendar was drawn up, this community of patrician burghers began to suffer certain changes. A population of "outsiders," as in so many Greek cities, had gained admittance to the site of Rome, though not into its political and religious organism.[471] So solid a city, in such an important position, was sure to attract such settlers, whether from the Latins dwelling about it, or from the Etruscans on the north, or the Greek cities along the coast southwards and in Sicily. The Latins were, of course, of the same stock as the Romans, and already in some loose political relation to them; and as each Latin city was open, like Rome, to Greek and Etruscan influences, we should probably see in Latium an indirect channel of communication between those peoples and Rome, to be reckoned in addition to the direct and obvious one. As Dr. J. B. Carter has well said,[472] "the Latins, becoming rapidly inferior to Rome, were enabled to do her at least this service, that of absorbing the foreign influences which came, and in certain cases of Latinising them, and thus transmitting them to Rome in a more or less assimilated condition." As Dr. Carter has been the first to explain the arrival of these new religious influences to English readers, I shall in what follows closely follow his footsteps. They indicate and also reflect a change from agricultural economy and habits to a society interested in trade and travel: I say interested, because we cannot be quite sure how far the old Romans engaged in such pursuits themselves, as well as admitting from outside those who did, with their worships. They indicate also the growth of an industrial population, organised in gilds, as in the Middle Ages; here beyond doubt the workers were mainly of native birth. Lastly, they indicate an advance in military efficiency and, as a result of this military progress, some change in the relation of Rome to her fellow-communities of Latium.

Perhaps the first of these new deities to arrive was the famous Hercules Victor or Invictus of the ara maxima in the Forum Boarium, who continued for centuries to accept the tithes of the booty of generals and the profits of successful merchants. Virgil in the eighth _Aeneid_[473] makes Evander show his guest this altar and the celebration of its festival, and tell him the tale of Cacus and the oxen and the cave on the Aventine hard by; the poet, like every one else until the last few years, believed the cult to be primeval and Roman. But one of the many gains for the history of Roman religion which have recently been secured--even since the publication of my Roman Festivals--is the certainty that the Italian Hercules is really the Greek Heracles acclimatised in the sister peninsula, and that the cult of the ara maxima, though that altar was inside the sacred boundary of the pomoerium, was not native in Rome.[474] It seems, however, almost certain that it did not come direct from any part of Hellas, though its position, close to the Tiber and its landing-place, might naturally lead us to think so. It is almost impossible to believe that Heracles would have been allowed inside the pomoerium, had he been introduced by foreigners in the strict sense of the word. No doubt much has yet to be learnt about Hercules in Italy; but recent painstaking researches have made it possible for us to acquiesce in the belief that this Hercules of the ara came from a Latin city,--from that Tibur which by tradition was of Greek origin--"Tibur Argeo positum colono,"--and which, like its neighbour Praeneste, was curiously receptive of foreign influence.[475] It is believed that the Greek traders from Campania and Magna Graecia made their way northwards through Latium, and thus eventually reached Rome with the deity whom they seem to have always carried with them. He was, in the words of Dr. Carter,[476] a deity of whom, by the contagion of commerce, the Romans already felt a great need, a god of great power from whom came success in the practical undertakings of life; and it was quite natural that his shrine should be in the busy cattle-market of the city, if we remember that the wealth of the early Romans, pecunia as they called it, mainly consisted in sheep and oxen. As Heracles in various forms was to be met with all over the Mediterranean coasts, it would indeed be strange if he were not found in the growing city commanding the central water-way of Italy; and his appearance there may be said to have put Rome in touch with the Mediterranean business of that day. There he was destined to remain, with all the honour of an oldest cult, though other cults of the same god came in later, and were established quite close to him; and though never a State deity of much importance, he exercised a wholesome influence in matters of trade, as the god who sanctioned your oath, and who accepted the tithe of your gain which you had vowed at the outset of an enterprise.[477]

In the same period, though the traditional date of their temple is later, came the Twin Brethren, Castor and Pollux, and found their way, like Hercules, into the city within the pomoerium. The famous temple of Castor (before whom his brother gradually gave way) was at the end of the Forum under the Palatine, close to the fountain of Juturna, where the Twins watered their horses after the battle of Lake Regillus; and there the beautiful remains of the latest reconstruction of it still stand.[478] This position alone should make us feel confident that the cult did not come direct from Greek sources; and it had its origin, perhaps, in the period when Rome was in close relation with Latin cities, which themselves had been gradually absorbing the cults and products of the Greeks of Campania. There is a strong probability that it came from Tusculum, with which the legend of the Regillus battle is closely connected, and where the cult had beyond doubt taken strong root.[479] Like the Hercules of the ara maxima, the Twins were no doubt brought by the course of trade, which was continually pushing up from the south; for they too were favourites of the merchant adventurer, and throughout Hellas were the special protectors of the seafarer. Their connection with horses is well known, and not as yet satisfactorily explained in its Roman aspect; but Dr. J. B. Carter thinks that they first became prominent in Greece when the Homeric use of chariots was abandoned for a primitive kind of cavalry, and that "the Castor-cult moved steadily northward (from Magna Graecia), carried, as it were, on horseback," and that when it reached Rome it became connected with the reorganisation of the cavalry. This seems to be almost pure guess-work, and, attractive as it is, I fear we cannot put much faith in it.[480] The position in the Forum, and the well-known connection of both twins with oaths,[481] seem to me rather to suggest a more natural origin in trade. I would suggest that the equine character of the cult in Latium was secondary, and that the connection of the temple and cult with the Roman cavalry was a natural result, but not a primary feature, of its introduction. I should be inclined to look on it as coming in with the building of the temple, which was probably of later origin than the original introduction of the cult.

Some time after the calendar was drawn up, a deity was established on the Aventine, i.e. not within the pomoerium, whose arrival marks a development in the organisation of handicraft. We cannot indeed prove that the settlement of Minerva on the Aventine took place so early, but we have strong grounds for the conclusion.[482] This temple was in historical times the religious centre of trade-gilds; and these gilds were by universal Roman tradition ascribed to Numa as founder, which simply means that they were among the oldest institutions of the City-state. As Minerva does not appear in the calendar, had no flamen, and therefore must have been altogether outside the original patrician religious system, the natural inference is that the temple was founded, like the shrines of Hercules and the Twin Brethren, towards the end of the period we are dealing with, and was from the first the centre of the gilds. Of those mentioned by Plutarch in his life of Numa (ch. 17), we know that the following gilds belonged to Minerva: tibicines, fabri (carpenters?), fullones, sutores; and it is a reasonable guess that the others, coriarii, fabri aerarii, and aurifices, were also under her protection. These trades, as Waltzing remarks in his great work on Roman gilds,[483] are all in keeping with the rudimentary civilisation of primitive Rome; they are those which were first carried on outside of the family. Workers in iron are not among them; bronze is still the common metal.

Now of course we must not go so far as to assume that none of these trades existed before the cult of Minerva came to Rome; but from her close association with them all through Roman history, and from the fact that the Romans were originally an agricultural folk, as the calendar shows, with a simple economy and simple needs, it is legitimate to connect the arrival of the goddess with the growth of town life and the demand for articles once made in rude fashion chiefly on the farms, and with a period of improvement in manufacture, and the use of better materials and better methods. Whence, then, did these improvements come? This is only another way of asking the question, Whence did Minerva come?

By the common consent of investigators she came from the semi-Latin town of Falerii in southern Etruria, where these arts were practised by Etruscans, or those who had learnt of Etruscans.[484] Her name is Italian, not Etruscan;[485] she was an old Italian deity taken over by the invading Etruscans from the peoples whose land they occupied. But while in the hands of Etruscans she had adopted Greek characteristics, especially those of Athene, the patroness of arts and crafts. She soon, indeed, appeared with some of the character of Athene Polias, as we shall see at the end of this lecture; but her real importance, far down into the period of the Empire, was in the temple on the Aventine, and in connection with the crafts. The dedication day of the temple was March 19, which was known, as we learn on the best authority, also as artificum dies.[486]

There was another famous temple on the Aventine which by universal consent is attributed to the same period as that of Minerva. Diana does not appear in the calendar, and had no flamen; Roman tradition ascribed her arrival to Servius Tullius, and we shall not be far wrong if we place it at or towards the end of the age of the kingship. The temple was celebrated as containing an ancient statue of Diana, the oldest or almost the oldest representation of a deity in human form known at Rome, which was a copy of a rude image of Artemis at Massilia, of the type of the famous [Greek: xoanon] of the Ephesian Artemis.[487] It also contained a lex templi in Greek characters, and a treaty or charter of a federation of Latin cities with Rome as their head, which was seen by Dionysius of Halicarnassus when in Rome in the time of Augustus.[488]

The explanation of the arrival of Diana is simple. The dies natalis of the temple is the same as that of the famous shrine of the same goddess at Aricia--the Ides of August.[489] Aricia was at this time the centre of a league of cities including Tusculum and Tibur, with both of which, as we have just seen, Rome was closely connected at this time; a league which is generally supposed to have superseded that of Alba, marking some revolution in Latium consequent on the fall of Alba.[490] Diana was a wood-spirit, a tree-spirit, as Dr. Frazer has taught us, with some relation to the moon and to the life of women; of late she has become familiar to every one, not as she was known later, in the disguise of Artemis, but as the deity of that shrine--"pinguis et placabilis ara Dianae"--of which the priest was the Rex Nemorensis: he who "slew the slayer and shall himself be slain."[491] But in those days it was only the fact that she was the chief local deity of Aricia, the leading city of the new league, which brought her suddenly into notice. When the strategic position of Rome gave her in turn the lead in Latium, Diana passed on from Aricia to the Tiber, entered on a new life, and eventually took over the attributes of Artemis, with whom she had much in common. The Diana whom we know in Roman literature is really Artemis; but Diana of the Aventine, when she first arrived there, was the wood-spirit of Aricia, and her temple was an outward sign of Rome's new position in Latium: it was built by the chiefs of the Latin cities in conjunction with Rome, and is described by Varro as "commune Latinorum Dianae templum."[492] It was appropriately placed on the only Roman hill which was then still covered with wood, and was outside the pomoerium.

There was one other goddess, a Latin one, who was traditionally associated with this period, and especially with king Servius Tullius--Fortuna, or Fors Fortuna; she does not appear in the calendar, had no flamen, and must have been introduced from outside. But it was long before Fortuna became of any real importance in Rome, and I shall leave her out of account here. She had two homes of renown in Latium, at Antium and Praeneste, and was in each connected with a kind of oracle, which seems to have been specially resorted to by women before and after childbirth. She was also very probably a deity of other kinds of fertility; and in course of time she took on the characteristics of the Greek Tyche, and became a favourite deity of good luck.[493]

Let us pause for one moment to reflect on the character of these new deities of whom I have been speaking: Hercules, Castor, Minerva, Diana. It must be confessed that, as compared with the great deities of the calendar, they are uninteresting; with the exception, perhaps, of Hercules, they do not seem to have any real religious significance. They are local deities brought in from outside, and have no root in the mind of the Roman people as we have so far been studying it. They seem to indicate the growth of a population in which the true old Roman religious instinct was absent; they represent commerce, business, handicraft, or politics, pursuits in which the old Roman and Latin farmers were not directly interested; they were suffered to be in Rome because the new population and the new interests must of necessity have their own worships, but they were not taken into the heart and mind of the people. So at least it seems to us, after we have been examining the development of the native religious plant from its root upwards. But we must remember that of that new population, its life and its needs, we know hardly anything, and it would not be safe to assume that the conception of Minerva had no influence on the conscience of the artisan, or that of Hercules no power of binding the trader to honest dealing and respect for his oath. As for Diana, though, as Dr. Carter says, she had been introduced "as part of a diplomatic game, not because Rome felt any religious need of her," the fact that the Latin treaty was kept in her temple has a certain moral as well as political significance which ought not to be overlooked. It is impossible to put ourselves mentally in the position of the men who brought these cults to Rome, or of the Romans who granted them admittance; but we shall be on the safe side if we imagine the former at least to have had a conviction that their dealings at Rome would not prosper unless they were carried out with the blessing of their own gods.

But we now come, in the last place, to the foundation of a cult of a very different kind from these, and of far greater import than any of them in the history of Roman religious experience. We have seen that the temple of Diana on the Aventine meant the transference of the headship of the Latin league from Aricia to Rome. When Rome took over this headship, and by removing its religious centre to Rome--or, perhaps more accurately, by offering Diana of Aricia a new home by the Tiber--removed also any danger of a new power growing up in Latium outside her own influence, she seems to have taken another important step in the same direction. Archæological evidence confirms the tradition that at this time the temple of Jupiter Latiaris, the real and original god of the league, on the Alban hill, was rebuilt;[494] and as the remains of its foundation are of Etruscan workmanship, we may believe that the work was undertaken at that period of an Etruscan dominion in Rome which no one now seriously doubts, and which is marked by the Etruscan name Tarquinius, and by the old tradition that Servius Tullius was really an Etruscan bearing the Etruscan name Mastarna.[495] Now those in power at Rome at this time, whoever they were, not content with rebuilding the ancient temple of Jupiter on the Alban hill, conceived the idea of also building a great temple at Rome, on the steep rock overlooking the Forum, to the same deity of the heaven who had long presided over the Latin league. The tradition was that this temple was vowed by the first Tarquinius, begun by the second, and finally dedicated by the first consul Horatius in the year 509.[496] It is quite possible that this tradition indicates the truth in outline--that it was an Etruscan who conceived the idea of the great work, and that the foreign domination gave way to a Roman reaction before the temple was ready for dedication. We cannot know what exactly was the Etruscan intention as to the cult; but we know that the temple was built in the Etruscan style, that its foundations were of Etruscan masonry,[497] and that the deities inhabiting it were three--a trias--a feature quite foreign to the native Roman religion.[498] Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva had each a separate dwelling (cella) within the walls of the temple, which, in order to meet this innovation, was almost as broad as it was long. Whether this trias was the one originally intended by the Etruscan king or kings it is impossible to say; but I have great doubts of it. I confess that I have no ground but probability to go on when I conjecture that a long period elapsed between the beginning of this great undertaking and the final completion, and that in the meantime many things had happened of which we have no record; that when the temple was finished it was in Roman hands, though retaining its Etruscan characteristics, and especially the combination of three deities; and that those three deities were essentially Roman in conception. Roman, too, was the idea that one of the three should be paramount; the two goddesses never attained to any special significance, and the temple always remained essentially the dwelling of the great Jupiter, the Father of heaven.[499]

The cult-titles of this Jupiter, Optimus Maximus, the best and greatest, seem to raise him to a position not only far above his colleagues in the temple, but above all other Jupiters in Latium or elsewhere, and presumably above all other deities. They thus suggest a deliberate attempt to place him in a higher position than even the Jupiter Latiaris of the Mons Albanus, whose temple had been rebuilt in the same period. The very novelty of such cult-titles betrays both power and genius in their originator; they are wholly unlike any we have met with so far; they do not suggest a function or a locality or a connection with some other deity; they stand absolutely alone in the history of the Roman religion till far on in the Empire.[500] Here is no numen needed at a particular season to bless some agricultural operation; Jupiter Optimus Maximus seems hardly to be limited by space or season, and is to be always there looking down on his people from his seat on the hill which was henceforward to be called Capitolinus, because the space which had been prepared there for his reception bore the name of Capitolium, the place of headship.[501] These titles, Best and Greatest, call for reflection, for more thought than we are apt to give them; one wonders whether they can be as old as tradition claimed, and in fact at least one recent writer has been tempted, without sufficient reason, to date the whole foundation two centuries later than the Tarquinii.[502] To me they rather suggest the hypothesis that the break-up of the Etruscan domination in Rome was the work of a man or men inspired by a new national feeling which ascribed the revolution to the great god of the race, to whose shrine on the same hill the kings had been used to bring the spoils of their enemies[503]; and that they took advantage of the uncompleted Etruscan temple, with its huge foundations and underground favissae, to settle there a new Jupiter, better and greater than any other, to whom his people would be for ever grateful, and in whom they would for ever put their trust. All older associations with cults of the Heaven-god were to be banished from the Capitolium, just as all other deities were believed to have fled from the spot, save only Terminus; the ancient priest of Jupiter, the Flamen Dialis, had no special connection with this temple and its cult, which were under the immediate charge of an aedituus only.[504] Here was the centre of the public worship of the State as a whole, not only of the old patrician State; and no such ancient curiosity as the Flamen Dialis, who, as I have suggested, was a survival from some older era of Latin religious history, was to be supreme there. Here the Consul of the free Republic was to offer, on entering office, the victim--the white heifer of the Alban cult--which his predecessor had vowed, and himself to bind his successor to a like sacrifice; and this he did on behalf of patrician and plebeian alike. Here the victorious general was to deposit his spoils, reaching the temple in the solemn procession of the triumphus, and wearing the ornamenta of the deity himself; for here, contrary to all precedent in the worship of Romans, there was an image of the god wrought in terra cotta and brought from Etruria.[505] It is in connection with such solemn events as these that we may find the origin of those imposing processions which for centuries were to impress the minds of the Roman people, and indeed of their enemies also, with the might and magnificence of their Empire; for apart from the triumphal processions with which we are all familiar, the scene at the entrance of new consuls on their office must have been most impressive. They were accompanied by the other magistrates, the Senate, the priests in their robes of office, and by an immense crowd of citizens. After the ceremony the Senate met in the temple to transact the first religious business of the year. Here too the tribal assembly met for the purpose of enrolling the new levies before each season of war, in order that the youths who were to fight the battles of Rome might realise the presence of Rome's great protecting deity. Even in the most degenerate days of the Roman religion, though Jupiter had suffered from the ridicule of playwrights or the speculations of philosophers, an orator's appeal to the Best and Greatest looking down on the Forum from his seat above it, could not fail to move the hearers; "Ille, ille Iuppiter restitit," cried Cicero in the peril of the Catilinarian conspiracy, "ille Capitolium, ille haec templa, ille cunctam urbem, ille vos omnes salvos esse voluit."[506]

Nor was it only the State as represented by its officials that could and did address itself to the worship of this great god. It seems probable that the new idea of a single guardian deity, with his two attendant goddesses, for which the Romans were indebted to the genius (whoever he may have been) who released them from the yoke of the Etruscan, opened the cult to the individual in a way which must have been a novelty in the religious life of the people.[507] The most memorable example of this is in the famous story told of Scipio, the conqueror of Hannibal, which is not likely to be an invention of the annalists. As Gellius records it, it stands thus: Scipio was wont to ascend to the temple just before daylight, to order the cella Iovis to be opened for him, and there to remain alone for a long time, as if taking counsel with the god about the affairs of the State. The dogs, it was said, which guarded the entrance, astonished the temple-keepers by treating him always with respect, while they would attack or bark at others.[508]

The reader may remark, that during the last few minutes I have wandered quite away from the Roman religion which we have so far been trying to understand, and he will be right. I have but just touched on this great cult, which properly belongs to Rome of the Republic, in order to show how great a change must have taken place, how great a revolution must have been consummated, when this temple arose on its Etruscan substructures. We have marked two forward steps in the social and political experience of the Romans: the settlement of the family on the land and the organisation of the City-state with its calendar. Here is a third, the liberation of that State from a foreign dominion, and the development, in matters both internal and external, which subjection and liberation alike brought with them. In regard to religious experience, the first produced the ordered worship of the household, which had a lasting effect on the Roman character; the second produced the ius divinum, the priesthoods and the ritual for the service of the various numina which had consented to take up their abode in the city and its precincts. These two taken together changed doubt and anxiety into confidence, stilled the religio natural to uncivilised man, and developed the machinery of magic into forms and ceremonies which were more truly religious. Now we note a third great social step forward, which brings with it a new conception and expression of the religious unity of the State; henceforward, alongside of a multiplicity of cults and of priests attached to them, we have one central worship to which all free citizens may resort, and a trinity of guardian deities, of whom one, Jupiter Best and Greatest, is the one presiding genius of the whole State.

Lastly, there can hardly be a doubt that this new cult marks a more extensive communication with neighbouring peoples than the State had as yet experienced or encouraged. Etruria, Latium, and Greece, all seem to have had a hand in it. Of its relation to the Latins and Etruscans I have already spoken. It only remains for me to note the fact that it was here, in this Capitoline temple, according to unanimous tradition, that those legendary "Sibylline books" were deposited which came from a Greek source, and according to the story, from Cumae.[509] These mysterious books were destined to change the whole character of the religion of the Romans during the next two centuries; and this is why the dedication of the great temple is a convenient halting-place on our journey. I propose to begin the second part of my subject by examining the nature of this change, and then to pass on to others, until we have reached the end of the religious experience of the genuine Roman people.

Prev | Next | Contents