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LECTURE XII - THE PONTIFICES AND THE SECULARISATION OF RELIGION


In the last lecture we saw how the new experiences of the Roman people, during the period from the abolition of the kingship to the war with Hannibal, led to the introduction of foreign deities and showy ceremonies of a character quite strange to the old religion. But there was another process going on at the same time. The authorities of that old religion were full of vigour in this same period; it may even be said, that as far as we can trace their activity in the dim light of those early days, they made themselves almost supreme in the State. And the result was, in brief, that religion became more and more a matter of State administration, and thereby lost its chance of developing the conscience of the individual. It is indeed quite possible, as has recently been maintained,[556] that it stood actively in the way of such development. I have no doubt that there was a germ of conscience, of moral feeling, in the religio of old days--the feeling of anxiety and doubt which originally suggested the cura and caerimonia of the State; but the efforts of the authorities in this period were spent in gradually destroying that germ. True, they did not interfere with the simple religion of the family, which had its value all through Roman history; but the attitude of the individual towards public worship will react on his attitude towards private worship, which may also have lost some part of its vitality in this period.

The religious authorities of which I speak are of course the two great colleges of pontifices and augurs. Of the latter, and of the system of divination of which they held the secrets, I will speak in the next lecture. Here we have to do with the pontifices and their work in this period, a thorny and somewhat technical subject, but a most important one for the history of Roman religious experience.

I have so far assumed that this college existed in the age of the kings, and assisted the Rex in the administration of the ius divinum. It is legitimate to do this, but as a matter of fact we do not know for certain what was the origin of the college itself, or of its mysterious name. In the period we have now reached we come, however, upon a striking fact, which is luckily easy to interpret; the king's house, the Regia, has become the office of the head of the college, the pontifex maximus, and also the meeting-place of the college for business.[557] Obviously this head, whether or no he existed during the kingly period, has stepped into the place of the Rex in the control of the ius divinum. Again, we know that in the third century B.C., when written history begins, the pontifices and their head had reached a very high level of power, as we shall presently see more in detail; the process of the growth of this power must therefore lie in the two preceding centuries, during which Rome was slowly attaining that paramount position in Italy in which we find her at the time of the Punic wars. Thirdly, we know that in that third century B.C. the college was laid open to plebeians as well as to members of the old patrician gentes, and that one of the most famous of all its many distinguished heads was not only not a patrician, but a Latin from Cameria, Ti. Coruncanius. Putting these three facts together we can divine in outline the history of the pontifices during these two centuries. With the instinct for order and organisation that never failed them, the Romans have constructed a permanent power to take charge of their ius divinum, i.e. all their relations to the deities with whom they must maintain a pax; the circumstances of their career during two centuries have exalted this power to an extraordinary degree of influence, direct and indirect, internal and external; and, lastly, in a period which saw the gradual amalgamation into a unified whole of privileged and unprivileged, patres and plebs, they have with wonderful wisdom thrown open to all citizens the administration of that ius which was essential to the welfare of the united community. These are indisputable facts; and they are thoroughly characteristic of the practical wisdom of the Roman people in that early age.

In order to understand how the pontifices attained their great position, the one thing needful is to examine the nature of their work. This I propose to do next, and then to attempt to sum up the result of their activity on the Roman religious system.

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the college in the early history of Roman law; and for us in particular that importance lies in the fact that they were the sole depositaries of the religious law in the period during which the civil law was being slowly disentangled from it. If we look at the so-called leges regiae, which are probably the oldest rules of law that have come down to us (though they may have been made into a collection as late as the very end of the Republic),[558] we see at once that they belong to the ius divinum; and there is little doubt that they were extracted from those books of the pontifices which I shall have to explain later on.[559] In other words, it is the maintenance of the pax deorum that they are chiefly concerned with; the crime of the citizen is a violation of that pax, and the deity most concerned will punish the community unless some expiatory step is taken to re-establish the right relation between the human and divine inhabitants of the city. "Pellex aram Iunonis ne tangito; si tanget, Iunoni crinibus demissis agnum feminam caedito." "Si parentem puer verberit, ast olle plorassit, puer divis parentum sacer esto."[560] The harlot who touches the altar of Juno, the deity of married women, breaks the pax with that deity, and she must offer a piacular sacrifice to renew it; the son who strikes a parent is made over as the property of the divi parentum, i.e. those of the whole community,[561] the peaceful relation with whom his act has imperilled. With such rules as these the civil magistrate of the republic can have had nothing to do; they belong to an older period of thought and of government, and survived in the books of the college which under the republic continued to administer the ius divinum; for these rules doubtless continued to exist side by side with the civil law as it gradually developed itself, and the necessary modes of expiation were known to the pontifices only. Roman society was indeed so deeply penetrated for many ages with the idea of religio--the dread of violating the pax deorum,--that the idea of law as a matter of the relation of man to man, as "the interference of the State in the passions and interests of humanity only," must have gained ground by very slow degrees. This primitive religious law then, i.e. the regulation of the proper steps to be taken to avoid a breach of the pax deorum, was entirely in the hands of the religious authorities, the Rex at first and then the pontifices, as the only experts who could know the secrets of the ius divinum; and from their decisions and prescriptions there could be no appeal, simply because there was no individual or body in the State to whom an appeal was conceivable. But after the rule of the Etruscan kings, with all its disturbing influences, and after the revolution which got rid of them, there must have been an age of new ideas and increased mental activity, and also of increasing social complexity, the signs of which in the way of trade and industry we have already found in certain facts of religious history. In the domain of law this meant new problems, new difficulties; and these were met in the middle of the fifth century B.C., if the received chronology is to be accepted,[562] by the publication of the XII. Tables.

In order to get some idea of the work of the pontifices at this time, let us consider one or two of these difficulties and problems.

Within the family every act, every relation, was matter of religion; the numina had to be considered in regard to it. The end and aim, then as throughout Roman history, was the maintenance of the sacra of the family, without which it could not be conceived as existing--the due worship of its deities, and the religious care of its dead. Take marriage as an example: "the entry of a bride into the household--of one who as yet had no lot in the family life--meant some straining of the relation between the divine and human members,"[563] and the human part of the family must be assured that the divine part is willing to accept her before the step can be regarded as complete. She has to enter the family in such a way as to share in its sacra; and if confarreatio was (as we may believe) the oldest form of patrician marriage,[564] the bride was subjected to a ceremony which was plainly of a sacramental character--the sacred cake of far being partaken of by both bride and bridegroom in the presence of the highest religious authority of the State. In the simplest form of society there would be no call for further priestly interference in marriage; but in a society growing more numerous and complex, exceptions, abnormal conditions begin to show themselves, and new problems arise, which must be solved by new expedients, prescriptions, permissions, devices, or fictions. For these the religious authorities are solely responsible; for what is a matter of religious interest to the family is also matter of religious interest to the State, simply because the State is composed of families in the same sense as the human body is composed of cellular tissue. All this, we believe, was once the work of the Rex, perhaps with the college of pontifices to help him; when the kingship disappeared it became the work of that college solely, with the pontifex maximus as the chief authority.

So, too, in all other questions which concerned the maintenance of the family, and especially in regard to the devolution of property. I am here only illustrating the way in which the pontifical college acquired their paramount influence by having a quantity of new and difficult work forced upon them, and it is not part of my plan to explain the early history of adoptions and wills; but I may give a single concrete illustration for the benefit of those who are not versed in Roman law. It must constantly have happened, in that disturbed period which brought the kingship to an end, that by death or capture in war a family was left without male heirs. Daughters could not take their place, because the sacra of a family could not be maintained by daughters, who would, in the natural order of things, be sooner or later married and so become members of other families. Hence the expedient was adopted of making a filius familias of another family a member of your own; and this, like marriage, involved a straining of the relations between the human and divine members of your family, and was thus a matter for the religious authorities to contrive in such a manner as to preserve the pax between them. The difficulty was overcome by the practical wisdom of the pontifical college, which held a solemn inquiry into the case before submitting it to the people in specially summoned assembly (comitia calata);[565] and thus the new filius familias was enabled not only to renounce his own sacra (detestatio sacrorum), but to pass into the guardianship of another set of sacra, without incurring the anger of the numina concerned with the welfare of either.

Such difficult matters as these, and many more connected directly or indirectly with the devolution of property, such as the guardianship of women and of the incapable, the power to dispose of property otherwise than by the original rules of succession, the law of burial and the care of the dead,--all these, at the time of which I am speaking, must have been among the secrets of the pontifices; and we can also suspect, though without being sure of our facts, that the great increase of the importance of the plebs under the Etruscan dynasty offered further opportunities for the growth alike of the work and influence of the college.[566] Above all, we must remember that this work was done in secret, that the mysteries of adjustment were unknown to the people when once they had passed out of the ken of family and gens, and that there could have been no appeal from the pontifices to any other body. Nay, more, we must also bear in mind that this body of religious experts was self-electing. Until the lex Domitia of 104 B.C. both pontifices and augurs filled up their own colleges with persons whom they believed qualified both by knowledge and disposition. Thus it would seem that there was every chance that in that early Rome, where neither in family nor State could anything be undertaken without some reference to the religious authority, where the pax deorum was the one essential object of public and private life, a power might be developed apt one day not only to petrify religion and stultify its worshippers, but thereby also to cramp the energies of the community, acting as an obstacle to its development within its walls and without. Had Roman law remained entirely in the hands of this self-electing college, one of two things must have happened: either that college would have become purely secular in character, or the wonderful legal system that we still enjoy would never have had space to grow up. But this was not to be; with the publication of the XII. Tables a new era opens.

If we reject, as we conscientiously may, the latest attempts of criticism to post-date the drawing up of the Tables,[567] and in fact to destroy their historical value for us, what is their significance for our present purpose? It is simply that in the middle of the fifth century B.C. the pontifices lost a monopoly--ceased to be the sole depositaries of the rules of law affecting the pax deorum, and that new rules are being set down in writing, on the basis of old custom, which more especially affect the relations between the human citizens. For both the ius divinum and the ius civile are to be found in this collection, but the latter is beginning to assert its independence. I think we may say, without much hesitation, that this event, however doubtful its traditional details, did actually save Rome from either of the two consequences to which I alluded just now. The constitution developed itself on lay and not on ecclesiastical lines, leaving the pontifices other work to do, and Roman civil law was eventually able to free itself from the trammels of the ius divinum.

But for another century the college still found abundant legal work to do, for it was not likely that at Rome, the most conservative of all city-states, it could be quickly set aside, or that the old ideas of law could so speedily disappear. What then was this work?

When rules of civil law were written down, it was still necessary to deal with them in two ways which were open to the pontifices, and indeed at this early time to no one else. First, it was necessary to make their provisions effectual by prescribing in each case the proper method of procedure (actio). Now it is most important to grasp the fact that procedure in the ius civile was originally of precisely the same nature as procedure in the ius divinum, and that precisely the same rigid exactness is indispensable in both. Action and formula in civil law belong to the same class of practices as sacrifice and prayer in religious law, and spring from the same mental soil. Thus, for example, the most familiar case of action and formula in civil law, the sacramentum, was, as the name proves, a piece of religious procedure, i.e. the deposition in a sacred spot of a sum of money which the suitor in the case would forfeit if he lost it, together with the utterance of a certain formula of words which must be correctly spoken. If we choose to go back so far, we may even see in this combination of formularised act and speech a survival of magical or quasi-magical belief;[568] but this is matter rather for the anthropologist than the historian of religion. The point for us at this moment is that these acts and formulae (legis actiones, as they are known in Roman law) could not suddenly or rapidly pass out of the hands of that body of skilled experts which had so long been in sole possession of them; the publication of old and new rules of law in the XII. Tables made no immediate difference in this respect. The consuls, the new civil executive, were still in no sense necessarily skilled in such matters, and were without the prestige of the former executive, the Rex; they were also doubtless busy with other work, especially in the field. Nothing could be more natural than that the pontifices should continue to provide the procedure for the now written law, just as they had formerly supplied it for the unwritten.[569]

So, too, with the interpretation of the Tables; this was the second part of the work that still remained to them. Writing was in that age a mystery to the mass of the population, and doubtless the idea was still in their minds that there was something supernatural about it. Writing, in fact, as well as formularised action and speech, may have had the flavour of magic about it. However that may be, there can be no doubt that the interpretation of a legal document was in those days a much more serious, if a less arduous business, than it is now. Here again, then, it seems perfectly natural that there should be no rapid or violent change in the personnel of those deemed capable of such interpretation; there was no other body of experts capable of the work; the pontifices remained iuris-consulti, i.e. interpreters and advisers, and in the course of two and a half centuries accumulated an amount of material that formed a basis for the first published system of Roman law, the ius Aelianum or tripartita of 200 B.C. It is most useful to remember, as proof of this, that one member of the college was selected every year for the special purpose of helping the people with advice in matters of civil law, both in regard to interpretation and the choice of legis actiones; so we are expressly told by Pomponius, who adds that this practice continued for about a hundred years after the publication of the Tables, i.e. till the election of the first praetor in 366.[570] After that date the ius civile emerges more distinctly from the old body of law, which included also the ius divinum, and its interpretation was no longer a matter purely for religious experts. In 337 we hear of the first plebeian praetor--truly a momentous event, showing that the old profound belief is dying out, which demanded a religious and patrician qualification for all legal work. And at the end of the fourth century comes the publication, not only of the legis actiones, but of the Fasti, i.e. even of that most vital part of the ius divinum, which distinguished the times and seasons belonging to the numina from those belonging to the human citizens.[571] One might well suppose that the power of the pontifices was on the wane, for they had lost another monopoly.

And indeed in one sense this was so. It must have been so, for as the range of the State's activity increased, the sphere of religious influence became relatively less. Marriage, for example, though it still needed a religious ceremony in common opinion, ceased to need it in the eye of the law--a change which is familiar to us in our own age. The pontifex was no longer indispensable to the suitor at law, nor to the citizen who wished to know on what day he might proceed with his suit. The college undoubtedly ceased to be the powerful secretly-acting body in whose hands was the entire religio of the citizen, i.e. the decision of all points on which he might feel the old anxious nervousness about the good-will of the gods. But now we mark a change which gave the old institution new life and new work. At the end of this fourth century (300 B.C.) it was thrown open to plebeians by the lex Ogulnia; and, as I have already mentioned, within a few years we come upon a plebeian pontifex maximus, who was not even a Roman by birth, yet one of the most famous in the whole series of the holders of that great office. Most probably, too, the numbers of the members have already been increased from five to nine, of whom five must be plebeian. These members begin to be found holding also civil magistracies, and the pontifex maximus was often a consul of the year. It is quite plain then that this priestly office is becoming more and more secularised; it expands with the new order of things instead of shrinking into itself. It leaves religion, in the proper sense of the word, far behind. The sacrificing priests, the flamines, etc., who were the humbler members in a technical sense of the same college, go on with their proper and strictly religious work under the supervision of the pontifex maximus,[572] but they steadily become of less importance as the greater members become secularised in their functions and their ambitions. And these greater members, instead of becoming stranded on a barren shore of antique religion, boldly venture into a new sphere of human life, and add definite secular work to their old religious functions.

The events of the latter part of the fourth century B.C., culminating in the publication of the Fasti and the legis actiones, probably meant much more for the Romans than we can divine by the uncertain light of historical imagination. It is the age of expansion, internal and external; the old patrician exclusive rule was gone beyond recall; the plebeians had forced their way into every department of government, including at last even the great religious collegia; the old Latin league had been broken up, and the Latin cities organised in various new relations to Rome, each one being connected with the suzerain city by a separate treaty, sealed with religious sanctions. After the Samnite wars and the struggle with Pyrrhus, further organisation was necessary, and there arose by degrees a loose system of union which we are accustomed to call the Italian confederation. The adaptation of all these new conditions to the existing order of things at Rome was the work of the senate and magistrates so far as it concerned human beings only; but so far as it affected the relations of the divine inhabitants of the various communities it must have been the work of the pontifices. That work is indeed almost entirely hidden from us, for Livy's books of this period are lost, and Livy is the only historian who has preserved for us in any substance the religious side of Rome's public life. But what we have learnt in the course of these lectures will have made it plain that no political changes could take place without involving religious adaptation, and also that the only body qualified to undertake such adaptation was the pontifical college.

We may thus be quite certain, that though they had lost their old monopoly of religious knowledge, the pontifices found plenty of fresh work to do in this period. It is my belief that they now became more active than they ever had been. From this time, for example, we may almost certainly date their literary or quasi-literary activity; I mean the practice of recording the leading events of each year, which may have had its origin a century earlier, with the eclipse of the sun in or about 404 B.C.[573] I should guess that after the admission of the plebeians to the college in 300 B.C., the new members put fresh life and vigour into the old work, and developed it in various directions. It is in this period that I am inclined to attribute to the college that zeal for compiling and perhaps inventing religious formulae of all kinds, which took shape in the libri or commentarii pontificum, and embodied that strange manual of the methods of addressing deities, which we know as Indigitamenta. And again, in the skilled work of the admission of new deities and the dedication of their temples, occasioned by the new organisation and condition of Italy, and lastly, in the supervision of the proper methods of expiating prodigia, which (though the habit is doubtless an old one) began henceforward to be reported to the Senate from all parts of the ager Romanus and even beyond, their meetings in the Regia must have been fully occupied. Our loss is great indeed in the total want of detail about the life and character of the great plebeian pontifex maximus of the first half of the third century B.C., that Titus Coruncanius whom I have already mentioned as being a Latin by birth; for Cicero declares that the commentarii of the college showed him as a man of the greatest ability,[574] whose reputation remained for ages as one who was ready with wise counsel in matters both public and private. Coupling him with two other memorable holders of the office, he says that "et in senatu et apud populum et in causis amicorum et domi et militiae consilium suum fidemque praestabant."[575] This passage should be remembered as a valuable illustration of the way in which the college and its head were becoming more and more occupied with secular business; it is worth noting, too, that this great man was himself consul in the year 280, and took a useful part in the first campaign against Pyrrhus.[576] Yet Cicero makes it plain that he looked on him also as a great figure in religious matters--nay, even as a man whom the gods loved.[577]

I will finish this lecture by illustrating briefly this renewed and extended activity of the pontifices, so far as we can dimly trace it in this third century B.C. Most of it is connected more or less directly with the State religion, yet with a tendency to become more and more secular and perfunctory; the word cura would express it better than caerimonia, and caerimonia better than religio. The care of the calendar, for example (a technical matter which lies outside my province in these lectures), was originally of religious importance, because the oldest religious festivals marked operations of husbandry, and these, when fixed in the calendar, must occur at the right seasons.[578] It was the duty of the pontifices so to adjust the necessary intercalations as to effect this object--a duty to which they were, as it turned out, quite unequal. But continued city life broke the connection between the festivals and the agricultural work to which they originally corresponded, and what was once a cura of religious import became a secular matter of which the value was not appreciated. So too with another duty, for which both the Romans and ourselves have more reason to be grateful to them--the recording of the leading events of national history.

It is uncertain what prompted the college, or rather its head, to begin making these records, though there is no doubt about the fact. But it would be natural enough that those who had charge of the calendar, which would necessitate some record of years for purposes of intercalation, should go on to mark the names of the consuls and such striking events as would make a year memorable. In any case this was what actually happened. The pontifex maximus, we are told with precision, kept a tabula, or whited board, on which these events were noted down, with the consuls' names attached to them, or possibly a kind of almanac, made out for the whole year, on which they could append their notes to particular days.[579] This yearly tabula was no doubt at first kept secret, like all the pontifical documents, but sooner or later, perhaps at the same time as the publication of the fasti and legis actiones, it was exposed to public view in or at the Regia.[580] This went on for at least two centuries, and the records, which in the nature of things must have grown in length and detail as events became more startling and numerous, were edited in eighty books by the pontifex maximus P. Mucius Scaevola in 123 B.C.--the year of the first tribunate of C. Gracchus. The large number of these books has long been a stumbling-block to the learned, for we are expressly told that the annales maximi, as the records were called, were (in spite of their name) of a very meagre character; and many conjectures have quite recently been made to explain it.[581] But guessing is almost useless, seeing that there are no data for it. The editor may have added matter of his own, amplifying and adorning after the manner of writers of his day; or he may have worked in the contents of other pontifical books, libri or commentarii pontificales. The point for us is simply the continued activity of the pontifex maximus in this work, which must have become almost entirely secular in character. The notes may have been jejune, but they were probably accurate, and free from the perversions of family vanity or such lengthy rhetorical ornamentation as became the universal fashion among private writers of annalistic history. They were, we may suppose, exactly what our modern historical conscience demands. But all that is left of them, or almost all, is the list of consuls (fasti consulares) and of triumphs (fasti triumphales) which in their present form must, or at least may, have been extracted from them.[582] On the whole, we may reckon them as the most valuable work of the college; and they may be taken as marking a growing sense of the importance of Rome and her history, the commemoration of which is thus committed to an official who, as an individual, had invariably served the State well, and in whom all classes had perfect confidence.[583]

One important part of the work of the college in this century must have been the adjustment of the civic religion of the Italian communities to that of Rome. What deities were to be made citizens of Rome? Which were to be left in their old homes undisturbed? No doubt many other questions must have called for attention in religious matters after the conquest of Italy, but this is the one of which we know most. The temple foundations of this period have all been carefully put together (chiefly from Livy's invaluable records) by Aust,[584] and show that there was a certain tendency to bring in deities from outside, not so much because they represented some special need of the Romans, corn or art or industry, as two centuries earlier, but simply because they were deities of the conquered whom it might be prudent to adopt. The great Juno Regina of Veii was long ago induced by evocatio to migrate to Rome; Fors Fortuna from Etruria, Juturna from Lavinium, Minerva Capta from Falerii, Feronia, a famous Latin goddess from Capena, Vortumnus from Volsinii,[585] all attest the same liberal tone in religious matters which on the whole marks the secular Italian policy of the Senate in this period. If we had but more information about the former, we should be able to understand the latter far better. We should like to know why in some cases the chief deity of a community came to Rome, while in others there is not trace of migration. The famous Vacuna of Reate, for example, never left her home in the Apennines, possibly because she was a kind of Vesta, who could not be spared from Reate, and was not wanted at Rome.[586]

The list of foundations also points to other tendencies and experiences of the time. We might guess that there was some attempt, with the aid of pontifical skill, to encourage agriculture or give it a fresh start after the invasion of Pyrrhus; for between 272 and 264, the years of the pacification of Italy, we find temples built to four agricultural deities, three indigenous Roman ones, Consus, Tellus, Pales, and one Etruscan garden god, Vertumnus.[587] Then we have a group of foundations in honour of deities connected with water--Juturna, Fons, Tempestates, which seem to have some reference to the naval activity of the first Punic war; they all fall between 259 and 241 B.C.[588] Lastly, we notice a fresh accession of deified abstractions,--Salus (an old deity in a new form), Spes, Honos et Virtus, Concordia, and Mens.[589] I am glad to find that the latest investigator of these religious abstractions is at one with me in believing that they simply mark a developed stage in the religious bent of the earliest Roman. If the old Romans had the habit of spiritualising a great variety of material objects, in other words, if they were in an advanced animistic stage, there seems to be no reason why they should not have begun to spiritualise mental concepts also (for which they had words, as for the material objects), even at a very early period. The whole psychological aspect of such abstractions is most interesting, but I must pass it over here, merely suggesting that each of these abstractions was doubtless deified for some particular reason, under the direction, or with the sanction, of the pontifices.[590]

But we have not as yet reached what is, after all, for our purposes the most instructive part of the work of the pontifices--I mean the archives or memoranda (libri or commentarii) which they kept, and from which, indirectly, much of what I have had to say about the ius divinum has been drawn. It is here that we see the policy of maintaining the pax deorum carried to its highest point. These books contained a vast collection of formulae for every kind of process in which the deities were in any way concerned; here was the complete pharmacopoeia of the ius divinum.[591] We must remember that the pontifex maximus and his assessors had to be ready at any moment with the correct formula for all religious acts, whether extraordinary, like the devotio of Decius or the expiation of some startling "prodigium," or belonging to the ordinary course of city life, such as prayers in sacrificial ritual, vota both public and private, charters (leges) of newly founded temples, and so on. The idea that the spoken formula (ultimately, as we saw, derived from an age of magic) was efficient only if no slip were made, seems to have gained in strength instead of diminishing, as we might have expected it to do with advancing civilisation; and the pontifices not only responded to its importunity, but actually stimulated it. Vires acquirit eundo are words which apply well in all ages to the passion for organisation and precision. Though we cannot prove it, I myself have little doubt that the members of the college, or some of them, collected and invented formulae simply for the pleasure of doing it, and that the work became as congenial to them as the systematisation of the law to Jewish scribes after the captivity, or as casuistry to the confessors of the middle ages. When the art of writing became familiar to experts, the natural and primitive desire of the Roman to have exactness in the spoken word affected him also in his relations with the word as written. The scribe and the Pharisee found their opportunity. The whole public religion of the State, and to some extent also the private religion of the family, became a mass of forms and formulae, and never succeeded in freeing itself from these fetters.

We can best illustrate this superfluity of priestly zeal in that strange list of forms of invocation called Indigitamenta, which I have already explained with the help of Wissowa.[592] Working upon the old Roman animism, and the popular fondness for formulae, the pontifices drew up those lists in the fourth and third centuries B.C., which have so seriously misled scholars as to the genuine primitive religious ideas of the Romans. They are in the main priestly inventions, the work of ingenious formulators. We may even be tempted to look on them as an attempt to rivet the yoke of priestly formalism on the life of the individual as well as on the life of the State as a whole. But if ever this was the intention, it was too late. A people that was beginning to get into touch with the civilisation of Hellas could not possibly bear such a yoke. In the last lecture we have already seen a tendency towards emotional religion independent of the old State worship; the philosophy of individualism was to complete the work of emancipation in the last two centuries B.C. The old State religion remained, but in stunted form and with paralysed vitality; Rome was the scene of an arrested religious development. The feeling, the religious instinct (religio) was indeed there, though latent; the Romans were human beings, like the rest of us. But as we go on with the story we shall find that, when trouble or disaster brought it out of its hiding-place, it was no longer possible to soothe it on Roman principles or by Roman methods. These methods--in other words, the ius divinum as formulated by the authorities--had been meant to soothe it, and had indeed so effectually lulled it to sleep, that when at last it awoke again they had lost the power of dealing with it. When the craving did come upon the Roman, which in time of peril or doubt 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, gods from Greece and the East, some of them concealed under Latin names, but still aliens, not citizens of his own State, aliens with whom he had little or nothing in common, who had no home in his patriotic feeling, no place in his religious experience.[593] As I said at the beginning of the last lecture, we must not underrate the religiousness of the Roman character, which was never entirely lost; but the secret of its comparative uselessness lies in this--that the natural desire to be right with the Power manifesting itself in the universe, and to know more of that Power, became weakened and destroyed by an over-scrupulous attention to the means taken to realise it, and by the introduction of foreign methods which had no root in the mental fibre of the people, and reflected no part of its experience. Religion was effectually divorced from life and morality.



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