Roman Empire | Roman Religious Practices

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Some of the survivals mentioned in the last two lectures seem to carry us back to a condition of culture anterior to the family and to the final settlement on the land. Some attempt has recently been made to discover traces of descent by the mother in early Latium;[131] if this could be proved, it would mean that the Latins were already in Latium before they had fully developed the patriarchal system on which the family is based. However this may be, the first real fact that meets us in the religious experience of the Romans is the attitude towards the supernatural, or "the Power that manifests itself in the Universe," of the family as settled down upon the land. The study of religion in the family, as we know it in historical times, is also that of the earliest organisation of religion, and of the most permanent type of ancient Italian religious thought. Aust, whose book on the Roman religion is the most masterly sketch of the subject as yet published, writes thus of this religion of the family:[132] "Here the limits of religion and superstition vanish ... and in vain we seek here for the boundary marks of various epochs." By the first of these propositions he means that the State has not here been at work, framing a ius divinum, including religion and excluding magic; in the family, magic of all kinds would be admissible alongside of the daily worship of the family deities, and thus the family would represent a kind of half-way house between the age of magic and all such superstitions, and the age of the rigid regulation of worship by the law of a City-state. By the second proposition he means that the religious experience of the family is far simpler, and therefore far less liable to change than that of the State. Greek forms and ideas of religion, for example, hardly penetrated into its worship:[133] new deities do not find their way in--the family experience did not call for them as did that of the State. It may be said without going beyond the truth that the religion of the family remained the same in all essentials throughout Roman history, and the great priesthoods of the State never interfered with it in any such degree as to affect its vitality.[134]

But in order to understand the religion of the family, we must have some idea of what the family originally was. When a stock or tribe (populus) after migration took possession of a district, it was beyond doubt divided into clans, gentes, which were the oldest kinship divisions in Italian society. All members of a clan had the same name, and were believed to descend from a common ancestor.[135] According to the later juristic way of putting it, all would be in the patria potestas of that ancestor supposing that no deaths had ever occurred in the gens; and, indeed, the idea that the gens is immortal in spite of the deaths of individuals is one which constitutes it as a permanent entity, and gives it a quasi-religious sanction. For primitive religion, as has been well said, disbelieves in death; most of the lower races believe both in a qualified immortality and in the non-reality or unnaturalness of death.[136] In regard to the kinship of a clan, death at any rate has no effect: the bond of union never breaks.

Now a little reflection will show that a clan or gens of this kind might be maintained intact in a nomadic state, or during any number of migrations; it is, in fact, manifestly appropriate to such a mobile condition of society, and expresses its natural need of union; and when the final settlement occurs, this body of kin will hold together in the process, whether or no it has smaller divisions within it. We may be certain that this was the one essential kin-division of the Latin stock when it settled in Latium, and all through Roman history it continues so, a permanent entity though families may die.[137] Every Roman lawyer will recognise this fact as true, and I need not dwell on it now.

It is when the gens has settled upon the land that the family begins to appear as a fact of importance for our purpose. Such operations as the building of a permanent house, the clearing and cultivation of a piece of land, can best be carried out by a smaller union than the gens, and this smaller union is ready to hand in the shape of a section of the gens comprising the living descendants of a living ancestor, whether of two, three, or even four generations.[138] This union, clearly visible to mortal eye, and realisable in every-day work, settles together in one house, tends its own cattle and sheep, cultivates its own land with the help of such dependants as it owns, slave or other, and is known by the word familia. This famous word, so far as we know, does not contain the idea of kinship, at any rate as its leading connotation; it is inseparable from the idea of land-settlement,[139] and is therefore essentially das Hauswesen, the house itself, with the persons living in it, free or servile, and with their land and other property, all governed and administered by the paterfamilias, the master of the household, who is always the oldest living male ancestor. The familia is thus an economic unit, developed out of the gens, which is a unit of kin and little more. And thus the religion of the familia will be a religion of practical utility, of daily work, of struggle with perils to which the shepherd and the tiller of the soil are liable; it is not the worship of an idea of kinship expressed in some dimly conceived common ancestor; the familia, as I hope to show, had no common ancestor who could be the object of worship, except that of the gens from which it had sprung. The life of the familia was a realisation of the present and its needs and perils, without the stimulus to take much thought about the past, or indeed about the future; for it, sufficient for the day was the evil thereof; for what had been and what was to come it could look to the gens to which it owed its existence. But in practical life the gens was not of much avail; and instead of it, exactly as we might expect, we find an artificial union of familiae, a union of which the essential thing is not the idea of kin, but that of the land occupied, and known all over Italy by the word pagus.[140] Before I go on to describe the religion of the family, it is necessary to put the familia into its proper relation with this territorial union.

The pagus is the earliest Italian administrative unit of which we know anything; a territory, of which the essential feature was the boundary, not any central point within the boundary. In all probability it was originally the land on which a gens had settled, though settlement produces changes, and the land of gens and pagus was not identical in later times. But within this boundary line, of which we shall hear something more presently, how were the component parts, the familiae of the gens, settled down on the land? Of the village community so familiar to us in Teutonic countries, there is no certain trace in Latium. Vicus, the only word which might suggest it, is identical with the Greek [Greek: oikos], a house; later it is used for houses standing together, or for a street in a town. But the vicus in the country has left no trace of itself as a distinct administrative union like our village community; the vico-magistri of the Roman city were urban officers; and what is more important, we know of no religious festivals of the vicus, like those of the pagus, of which there are well-attested records. The probability then is that the unit within the pagus was not the village but the homestead, and that these stood at a distance from each other, as they do in Celtic countries, not united together in a village, and each housing a family group working its own land and owning its own cattle.[141] The question of the amount and the tenure of the land of this group is a very difficult one, into which it is not necessary to enter closely here. There can, however, be no doubt that it possessed in its own right a small piece of garden ground (heredium), and also an allotment of land in the arable laid out by the settlers in common--centuriatus ager; whether the ownership of this was vested in the individual paterfamilias or in the gens as a whole, does not greatly matter for our purposes.[142] Lastly, as it is certain that the familia owned cattle and sheep, we may be sure that it enjoyed the right of common pasture on the land not divided up for tillage.

We see all this through a mist, and a mist that is not likely ever to lift; but yet the outlines of the picture are clear enough to give us the necessary basis for a study of the religion of the familia. The religious points, if I may use the expression--those points, that is, which are the object of special anxiety (religio)--lie in the boundaries, both of the pagus as a whole, and of the arable land of the familia, in the house itself and its free inhabitants, and in the family burying-place; and to these three may no doubt be added the spring which supplied the household with water. Boundaries, house, burying-place, spring,--all these are in a special sense sacred, and need constant and regular religious care.

Let us begin with the house, the central point of the economic and religious unit. The earliest Italian house was little more than a wigwam, more or less round, constructed of upright posts connected with wattles, and with a closed roof of straw or branches.[143] This would seem to have been the type of house of the immigrating people who settled on the tops of hills and lived a pastoral life; when they descended into the plains and became a settled agricultural people, they adopted a more roomy and convenient style of building, suitable for storing their grain or other products, and for the maintenance of a fire for cooking these. Whether the rectangular house, with which alone we are here concerned, was developed under Greek or Etruscan influence, or suggested independently by motives of practical convenience, is matter of dispute, and must be left to archaeologists to decide.[144]

This is the house in which the Latin family lived throughout historical times, the house which we know as the sacred local habitation of divine and human beings. It consisted in its simplest form, as we all know, of a single room or hall, the atrium, with a roof open in the middle and sloping inwards to let the rain fall into a basin (compluvium). Here the life of the family went on, and here was the hearth (focus), the "natural altar of the dwelling-room of man,"[145] and the seat of Vesta, the spirit of the fire, whose aid in the cooking of the food was indispensable in the daily life of the settlers. This sacred hearth was the centre of the family worship of later times, until under Greek influence the arrangement of the house was modified;[146] and we may be certain that it was so in the simple farm life of early Latium. In front of it was the table at which the family took their meals, and on this was placed the salt-cellar (salinum), and the sacred salt-cake, baked even in historical times in primitive fashion by the daughters of the family, as in all periods for the State by the Vestal virgins. After the first and chief course of the mid-day meal, silence was enjoined, and an offering of a part of the cake was thrown on to the fire from a small sacrificial plate or dish (patella).[147] This alone is enough to prove that Vesta, the spirit of the fire, was the central point of the whole worship, the spiritual embodiment of the physical welfare of the family.

Behind the hearth, i.e. farther at the back of the atrium, was the penus, or storing-place of the household. Penus was explained by the learned Scaevola[148] as meaning anything that can be eaten or drunk, but not so much that which is each day set out on the table, as that which is kept in store for daily consumption; it is therefore in origin the food itself, though in later times it became also the receptacle in which that food was stored. This store was inhabited or guarded by spirits, the di penates, who together with Vesta represent the material vitality of the family; these spirits, always conceived and expressed in the plural, form a group in a way which is characteristic of the Latins, and their plurality is perhaps due to the variety and frequent change of the material of the store. The religious character of the store is also well shown by the fact, if such it be, that no impure person was allowed to meddle with it; the duty was especially that of the children of the family,[149] whose purity and religious capability was symbolised throughout Roman history by the purple-striped toga which they wore, and secured also by the amulet, within its capsule the bulla, of which I spoke in the last lecture.

Vesta and the Penates represent the spiritual side of the material needs of the household; but there was another divine inhabitant of the house, the Genius of the paterfamilias, who was more immediately concerned with the continuity of the family. Analogy with the world-wide belief in the spiritual double of a man, his "other-soul," compels us to think of this Genius, who accompanied the Latin from the cradle to the grave, as originally a conception of this kind. The Latins had indeed, in common with other races, what we may call the breath-idea of the soul, as we see from the words animus and anima, and also the shadow-idea, as is proved by the word umbra for a departed spirit. But the Genius was one of those guardian spirits, treated by Professor Tylor as a different species of the same genus, which accompany a man all his life and help him through its many changes and chances;[150] and the peculiarity of this Latin guardian is that he was specially helpful in continuing the life of the family. The soul of a man is often conceived as the cause of life, but not often as the procreative power itself; and that this latter was the Latin idea is certain, both from the etymology of the word and from the fact that the marriage-bed was called lectus genialis. I am inclined to think that this peculiarity of the Latin conception of Genius was the result of the unusually strong idea that the Latins must have had, even when they first passed into Italy, of kinship as determined not by the mother but by the father.[151] It is possible, I think, that the Genius was a soul of later origin than those I have just mentioned, and developed in the period when the gens arose as the main group of kinsmen real or imaginary. I would suggest that we may see in it the connecting link between that group and the individual adult males within it; in that case the Genius would be that soul of a man which enables him to fulfil the work of continuing the life of the gens. We can easily imagine how it might eventually come to be his guardian spirit, and to acquire all the other senses with which we are familiar in Roman literature. With the development of the idea of individuality, the individuality of a man as apart from the kin group, the idea of the individuality of the Genius also became emphasised, until it became possible to think of it as even living on after the death of its companion;[152] in this way, in course of time, the Genius came to exercise a curious influence on the idea of the Manes. The history of the idea of Genius, and its application to places, cities, etc., is indeed a curious one, and of no small interest in the study of religion; but we must return to the primitive house and its divine inhabitants. There is one more of these who calls for a word before I pass to the land and the boundaries; we meet him on the threshold as we leave the dwelling.

It is, of course, well known to anthropologists that the door of a house is a dangerous point, because evil spirits or the ghosts of the dead may gain access to the house through it. Among the innumerable customs which attest this belief there are one or two Roman ones, e.g. the practice of making a man, who has returned home after his supposed death in a foreign country, enter the house by the roof instead of the door; for the door must be kept barred against ghosts, and this man may be after all a ghost, or at least he may have evil spirits or miasma about him.[153] It was at the doorway that a curious ceremony took place (to which I shall ask your attention again) immediately after the birth of a child, in order to prevent Silvanus, who may stand for the dangerous spirits of the forest, from entering in and vexing the baby.[154] Again, a dead man, as among so many other peoples, was carried out of the doorway with his feet foremost, so that he should not find his way back; and the old Roman practice of burial by night probably had the same object.[155] Exactly the same anxiety (religio) is seen in regard to the gates of a city; the wall was in some sense holy (sanctus), but the gates, through which was destined to pass much that might be dangerous, could not be thus sanctified. Was there, then, no protecting spirit of these doors and gates?

St. Augustine, writing with Varro before him, finds no less than three spirits of the entrance to a house: Forculus, of the door itself; Limentinus, of the threshold; and Cardea, of the hinges of the door; and these Varro seems to have found in the books of the pontifices.[156] I must postpone the question as to what these pontifical books really represented; but the passage will at least serve to show us the popular anxiety about the point of entrance to a house, and its association with the spirit world. Of late sober research has reached the conclusion that the original door-spirit was Janus, whom we know in Roman history as residing in the symbolic gate of the Forum, and as the god of beginnings, the first deity to be invoked in prayer, as Vesta was the last.[157] But Janus is also wanted for far higher purposes by some eminent Cambridge scholars; they have their own reasons for wanting him as a god of the sky, as a double of Jupiter, as the mate of Diana, and a deity of the oak.[158] So, too, he was wanted by the philosophical speculators of the last century B.C., who tried to interpret their own humble deities in terms of Greek philosophy and Greek polytheism. The poets too, who, as Augustine says, found Forculus and his companions beneath their notice, played strange tricks with this hoary old god, as any one may read in the first book of Ovid's Fasti. I myself believe that the main features of the theology (if we may use the word) of the earliest Rome were derived from the house and the land as an economic and religious unit, and I am strongly inclined to see in Janus bifrons of the Forum a developed form of the spirit of the house-door; but the question is a difficult one, and I shall return to it in a lecture on the deities of early Rome.

So far I have said nothing of the Lar familiaris who has become a household word as a household deity; and yet we are on the point of leaving the house of the old Latin settler to look for the spirits whom he worships on his land. The reason is simply that after repeated examination of the evidence available, I find myself forced to believe that at the period of which I am speaking the Lar was not one of the divine inhabitants of the house. When Fustel de Coulanges wrote his brilliant book La Cité antique, which popularised the importance of the worship of ancestors as a factor in Aryan civilisation, he found in the Lar, who in historical times was a familiar figure in the house, the reputed founder of the family; and until lately this view has been undisputed. But if my account of the relation of the family to the gens is correct, the family would stand in no need of a reputed founder; that symbol of the bond of kinship was to be found in the gens of which the family was an offshoot, a cutting, as it were, planted on the land. Still more convincing is the fact that when we first meet with the Lar as an object of worship he is not in the house but on the land. The oldest Lar of whom we know anything was one of a characteristic Roman group of which the individuals lived in the compita, i.e. the spots where the land belonging to various households met, and where there were chapels with as many faces as there were properties, each face containing an altar to a Lar,--the presiding spirit of that allotment, or rather perhaps of the whole of the land of the familia, including that on which the house stood.[159] Thus the Lar fills a place in the private worship which would otherwise be vacant, that of the holding and its productive power. In this sense, too, we find the Lares in the hymn of the Arval Brethren, one of the oldest fragments of Latin we possess; for the spirits of the land would naturally be invoked in the lustration of the ager Romanus by this ancient religious gild.[160]

But how, it may be asked, did the Lar find his way into the house, to become the characteristic deity of the later Roman private worship there? I believe that he gained admittance through the slaves of the familia, who had no part in the worship of the dwelling, but were admitted to the Compitalia, or yearly festival of which the Lares of the compita were the central object. Cato tells us that the vilicus, the head of the familia of slaves, might not "facere rem divinam nisi Compitalibus in compito aut in foco";[161] which I take to mean that he might sacrifice for his fellow-slaves to the Lar at the compitum, or to the Lar in the house, if the Lar were already transferred from the compitum to the house. In the constant absence of the owner, the paterfamilias of Rome's stirring days, the worship of the Lar at the compitum or in the house came to be more and more distinctly the right of the vilicus and his wife as representing the slaves, and thus too the Lar came to be called by the epithet familiaris, which plainly indicates that in his cult the slaves were included. And as it was the old custom that the slaves should sit at the meals of the family on benches below the free members (subsellia),[162] what more natural than that they should claim to see there the Lar whom alone of the deities of the farm they were permitted to worship, and that they should bring the Lar or his double from the compitum to the house, in the frequent absence of the master?[163]

The festival of the Lar was celebrated at the compitum, and known as Compitalia or Laralia; it took place soon after the winter solstice, on a day fixed by the paterfamilias, in concert, no doubt, with the other heads of families in the pagus. Like most rejoicings at this time of year, it was free and jovial in character, and the whole familia took part in it, both bond and free. Each familia sacrificed on its own altar, which was placed fifteen feet in front of the compitum, so that the worshippers might be on their own land; but if, as we may suppose, the whole pagus celebrated this rite on the same day, there was in this festival, as in others to be mentioned directly, a social value, a means of widening the outlook of the familia and associating it with the needs of others in its religious duties. This is the religio Larium of which Cicero speaks in the second book of his de Legibus, which was "posita in fundi villaeque conspectu," and handed down for the benefit both of masters and men from remote antiquity.[164]

There were other festivals in which all the familiae of a pagus took part. Of these we know little, and what we do know is almost entirely due to the love of the Augustan poets for the country and its life and customs; "Fortunatus et ille deos qui novit agrestes," wrote Virgil, contrasting himself with the philosopher poet whom he revered. Varro, in his list of Roman festivals,[165] just mentions a festival called Sementivae, associated with the sowing of the seed, and celebrated by all pagi, if we interpret him rightly; but Ovid has given us a charming picture of what must be this same rite, and places it clearly in winter, after the autumn sowing[166]:--

state coronati plenum ad praesaepe iuvenci:

cum tepido vestrum vere redibit opus.

rusticus emeritum palo suspendit aratrum:

omne reformidat frigida volnus humus.

vilice, da requiem terrae, semente peracta:

da requiem terram qui coluere viris.

pagus agat festum: pagum lustrate, coloni,

et date paganis annua liba focis.

placentur frugum matres Tellusque Ceresque,

farre suo gravidae visceribusque suis.

Ovid may here be writing of his own home at Sulmo, and what took place there in the Augustan age; but we may read his description into the life of old Latium, for rustic life is tenacious of old custom, especially where the economic conditions remain always the same. We may do the same with another beautiful picture left us by Tibullus, also a poet of the country, which I have recently examined at length in the Classical Review.[167] The festival he describes has often been identified with Ovid's, but I am rather disposed to see in it a lustratio of the ager paganus in the spring, of the same kind as the famous one in Virgil's first Georgic, to be mentioned directly; for Tibullus, after describing the scene, which he introduces with the words "fruges lustramus et agros," puts into perfect verse a prayer for the welfare of the crops and flocks, and looks forward to a time when (if the prayer succeeds) the land shall be full of corn, and the peasant shall heap wood upon a bonfire--perhaps one of the midsummer fires that still survive in the Abruzzi. Virgil's lines are no less picturesque;[168] and though he does not mention the pagus, he is clearly thinking of a lustratio in which more than one familia takes part--

cuncta tibi Cererem pubes agrestis adoret.

This is a spring festival "extremae sub casum hiemis, iam vere sereno"; and I shall return to it when we come to deal with the processional lustratio of the farm. Like the descriptions of Ovid and Tibullus, it is more valuable to us for the idea it gives us of the spirit of old Italian agricultural religion than for exact knowledge about dates and details. There was, of course, endless variety in Italy in both these; and it is waste of time to try and make the descriptions of the rural poets fit in with the fixed festivals of the Roman city calendar.

Nor is it quite safe to argue back from that calendar to the life of the familia and the pagus, except in general terms. As we shall see, the calendar is based on the life and work of an agricultural folk, and we may by all means guess that its many agricultural rites existed beforehand in the earlier social life; but into detail we may not venture. As Varro, however, has mentioned the Saturnalia in the same sentence with the Compitalia, we may guess that that famous jovial festival was a part of the rustic winter rejoicing. And here, too, I may mention another festa of that month, of which a glimpse is given us by Horace, another country-loving poet, who specially mentions the pagus as taking part in it. Faunus and Silvanus were deities or spirits of the woodland among which these pagi lay, and in which the farmers ran their cattle in the summer;[169] by Horace's time Faunus had been more or less tarred with a Greek brush, but in the beautiful little ode I am alluding to he is still a deity of the Italian farmer,[170] who on the Nones of December besought him to be gracious to the cattle now feeding peacefully on the winter pasture:--

ludit herboso pecus omne campo
cum tibi Nonae redeunt Decembres:
festus in pratis vacat otioso

cum bove pagus.

There is one more rite of familia or pagus, or both, of which I must say a word before I return for a while to the house and its inhabitants. One of the most important matters for the pagus, as for the landholding household, was the fixing of the boundaries of their land, whether as against other pagi or households, or as separating that land from unreclaimed forest. This was of course, like all these other operations of the farm, a matter of religious care and anxiety--a matter in which the feeling of anxiety and awe (religio) brought with it, to use an expression of Cicero's, both cura and caerimonia.[171] The religio terminorum is known to us in some detail, as it existed in historical times, from the Roman writers on agrimetatio; and with their help the whole subject has been made intelligible by Rudorff in the second volume of the Gromatici.[172] We know that many different objects might serve as boundary marks, according to the nature of the land, especially trees and stones; and in the case of the latter, which would be the usual termini in agricultural land at some distance from forest, we have the religious character of the stone and its fixing most instructively brought out. "Fruits of the earth, and the bones, ashes, and blood of a victim were put into a hole in the ground by the landholders whose lands converged at the point, and the stone was rammed down on the top and carefully fixed."[173] This had the practical effect--for all Latin religion has a practical side--of enabling the stone to be identified in the future. But Ovid[174] gives us a picture of the yearly commemorative rite of the same nature, from which we see still better the force of the religio terminorum. The boundary-stone is garlanded, and an altar is built; the fire is carried from the hearth of the homestead by a materfamilias, the priestess of the family; a young son of the family holds a basket full of fruits of the earth, and a little daughter shakes these into the fire and offers honey-cakes. Others stand by with wine, or look on in silence, clothed in white. The victims are lamb and sucking-pig, and the stone is sprinkled with their blood, an act which all the world over shows that an object is holy and tenanted by a spirit.[175] And the ceremony ends with a feast and hymns in honour of holy Terminus, who in Ovid's time in the rural districts, and long before on the Capitolium of Rome, had risen from the spirit sanctifying the stone to become a deity, closely connected with Jupiter himself, and to give his name to a yearly city festival on February 23.

These festivals on the land were, some of them at least, scenes of revelry, accompanied with dancing and singing, as the poets describe them, the faces of the peasants painted red with minium,[176] according to an old Italian custom which survived in the case of the triumphator of the glorious days of the City-state. But if we may now return for a moment to the homestead, there were events of great importance to the family which were celebrated there in more serious and sober fashion, with rites that were in part truly religious, yet not without some features that show the prevailing anxiety, rooted in the age of taboo, which we learnt to recognise under the word religio. Marriage was a religious ceremony, for we can hardly doubt that the patrician confarreatio, in which a cake made of the anciently used grain called far was offered to Jupiter, and perhaps partaken of sacramentally by bride and bridegroom, was the oldest form of marriage, and had its origin in an age before the State came into being. We must remember that the house was a sacred place, with religious duties carried on within it, and the abode of household spirits; and when a bride from another family or gens was to be brought into it, it was essential that such introduction should be carried out in a manner that would not disturb the happy relations of the human and divine inhabitants of the house. It was essential, too, that the children expected of her should be such as should be able to discharge their duties in the household without hurting the feelings of these spirits. Some of the quaint customs of the deductio of later times strongly suggest an original anxiety about matters of such vital interest; the torch, carried by a boy whose parents were both living, was of whitethorn (Spina alba), which was a powerful protective against hostile magic, and about which there were curious superstitions.[177] Arrived at the house, the bride smeared the doorposts with wolf's fat and oil, and wound fillets of wool around them--so dangerous was the moment of entrance, so sacred the doorway; and finally, she was carried over the threshold, and then, and then only, was received by her husband into communion of fire and water, symbolic of her acceptance as materfamilias both by man and deity.[178]

When the new materfamilias presented her husband with a child, there was another perilous moment; the infant, if accepted by the father (sublatus, i.e. raised from the earth on which it had been placed),[179] did not immediately become a member of the family in the religious sense, and was liable to be vexed by evil or mischievous spirits from the wild woodland, or, as they phrased it in later days, by Silvanus. I have already alluded to the curious bit of mummery which was meant to keep them off. Three men at night came to the threshold and struck it with an axe, a pestle, and a besom, so that "by these signs of agriculture Silvanus might be prevented from entering." The hostile spirits were thus denied entrance to a dwelling in which friendly spirits of household life and of settled agricultural pursuits had taken up their abode. Nothing can better show the anxiety of life in those primitive times, especially in a country like Italy, full of forest and mountain, where dwelt mischievous Brownies who would tease the settler if they could. But on the ninth day after the birth (or the eighth in the case of a girl) the child was "purified" and adopted into the family and its sacra, and into the gens to which the family belonged, and received its name--the latter a matter of more importance than we can easily realise.[180] From this time till it arrived at the age of puberty it was protected by amulet and praetexta; the tender age of childhood being then passed, and youth and maiden endued with new powers, the peculiar defensive armour of childhood might be dispensed with.[181]

Lastly, the death of a member of the family was an occasion of extreme anxiety, which might, however, be allayed by the exact performance of certain rites (iusta facere). The funeral ceremonies of the City-state were of a complicated character, and the details are not all of them easy to interpret. But the principle must have been always the same--that the dead would "walk" unless they had been deposited with due ceremony in the bosom of Mother Earth, and that their natural tendency in "walking" was to find their way back to the house which had been their home in life. Whether buried or burnt, the idea was the same: if burnt, as seems to have been common Roman practice from very early times, at least one bone had to be buried as representing the whole body. We have seen that certain precautions were taken to prevent the dead man from finding his way back, such as carrying him out of the house feet foremost; and if he were properly buried and the house duly purified afterwards, the process of prevention was fairly complete. His ghost, shade, or double then passed beneath the earth to join the whole body of Manes in the underworld,[182] and could only return at certain fixed times--such at least was the idea expressed in the customs of later ages. But if a paterfamilias or his representative had omitted iusta facere, or if the dead man had never been buried at all, carried off by an enemy or some wild beast, he could never have descended to that underworld, and was roaming the earth disconsolately, and with an evil will. The primitive idea of anxiety is well expressed in the Roman festival of the Lemuria in May, when the head of a household could get rid of the ghosts by spitting out black beans[183] from his mouth and saying, "With these I redeem me and mine." Nine times he says this without looking round: then come the ghosts behind him and gather up the beans unseen. After other quaint performances he nine times repeats the formula, "Manes exite paterni," then at last looks round, and the ghosts are gone.[184] This is plainly a survival from the private life of the primitive household, and well illustrates its fears and anxieties; but the State provided, as we shall see, another and more religious ceremony, put limitations on the mischievous freedom of the ghosts, and ordained the means of expiation for those who had made a slip in the funeral ceremonies, or whose dead had been buried at sea or had died in a far country.

I have thus tried to sketch the life of the early Latin family in its relations with the various manifestations of the Power in the universe. We have seen enough, I think, to conclude that it had a strong desire to be in right relations with that Power, and to understand its will; but we may doubt whether that desire had as yet become very effective. The circumstances of the life of the Latin farmer were hardly such as to rid him of much of the religio that he had inherited from his wilder ancestors, or had found springing up afresh within him as he contended with the soil, the elements, and the hostile beings surrounding him, animal, human, and spiritual. He is living in an age of transition; he is half-way between the age of magic and a new age of religion and duty.

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