Billeder på siden

Di Manes, Genius, and Iuno.

In the early belief of the Romans two classes of beings intervened between man and his gods. The spirits of the dead, the Di Manes or 'kindly deities,' still had an influence over the living; and their powers were so dreaded, when they returned as ghosts and specters, that offerings were made to them to induce them to refrain from visiting man and doing him harm. Further, there was the personal divinity, or double, the Genius of the male, and the Iuno of the female,-who came into being with each individual to initiate him into the mysteries of life, and who remained until death as counsellor and guide.

[ocr errors]

Organization of religion.

Romulus had instituted divination, and Numa had established sacrifice, the observance of these rites causing the gods to be propitious and enabling Rome to reach the height of her grandeur (Cicero, op. cit., iii, 2). The divine law (ius sacrum), being a part of the civil code (ius civile), concerned the safety of the State and was inseparable from it; religion organized by Numa, very early became a State institution; and the king, as the father of the State, was the chief priest. The catalogue of gods recognized by the State, the di indigetes, or 'indigenous gods,' was determined and closed forever, and their festivals were fixed on the calendar, all deities subsequently receiving official recognition being termed di novensides, or 'newly settled gods.' Each divinity worshipped must be publicly acknowledged or he was looked upon with suspicion, and his rites were deemed 'new and strange' (Cicero, de Leg., ii, 8). All religious affairs were under the control of three pontifices, who were organized into

8 Fowler, in ERE x, 845; also Preller, Römische Mythologie, i, 78 ff.; Wissowa, op. cit. (ed. 1902), pp. 154 ff.

a college with a pontifex maximus, the number being afterward increased to eight, to nine, and, still later, to fifteen. The flamines conducted the worship of the several gods and were subject to the pontifices; while the king was the rex sacrorum until the establishment of the Republic, when the chief priest of Ianus assumed that office; the religious authority, which was then separated from the civil, being given to the magistrates.

The rituals.

The pontifices arranged the rituals of worship and the ceremonies for festivals and other religious celebrations. The rituals were simple, without pomp or extravagance, but traditional in form; and it was essential that they should be performed with exactness and with attention to the minutest detail in word, voice, and gesture, lest the deity addressed be offended, for the slightest error vitiated the whole, so that it must be repeated with a piacular offering. Purification was obtained by the rites of lustration and expiation, and was the symbol for divine favor, and the sacrifices consisted of agricultural products, of animals, as of sheep, swine, cattle, and dogs; while for certain purposes the blood of the October horse was used. Public festivals were usually in honor of particular gods and were held on their natal days, which were kept sacred for the purpose, as the Vestalia to Vesta on June 9, and the Matralia to Mater Matuta on June 11. Additional sacrifices, supplications, festivals, and holidays (feria) were ordered by the Senate in time of public emergency, as for famine and pestilence, or to avert the calamities of war, and for thanksgivings; while on some occasions vows were made by the people (vota publica) to propitiate the divinities (Livy, xxxi, 9). Such extraordinary appeals to the deities were usually ordered on the advice of the augurs after they had consulted the aus

picia, or the Sibylline books, and the ceremonies prescribed included special supplications and sacrifices for purification and expiation, fasts, prostrations, humiliations, processions with choruses, extra festivals, and holidays with games, plays, and other spectacles.


In the early religion, there were no oracles, but the gods sent messages to man by the flight of birds, the action of animals, the entrails of victims, celestial phenomena, and ill omens of nature (prodigia), thus indicating their disposition as propitious or otherwise. Presages were supposed to be attached to all things, and it was of the utmost importance for the safety of the State and of the individual that they should be correctly interpreted. Three official diviners were appointed to consider every omen and prodigy, to determine its meaning, and to advise concerning measures necessary to appease the gods, to avoid disaster, and to take advantage of their favor. No serious business, public or private, was begun without first consulting the auspices to learn the attitude of the gods, and any action contrary to the omens was sure to bring dire punishment or disaster (Cicero, de Divinatione, i, 35). The signs of the heavens proceeded from Iupiter as his divine will; augury was a part of his cult; and the augures were his servants (id., de Leg., ii, 8). A college of Augures was formed, and their number was increased to nine with a rex; but they had no part in the worship, though with the pontifices they formed the consulting staff of the king and of the Senate. The highest magistrates also had the right of spectio, or taking public auspices, and they joined the pontifices in conciliating the gods; but all doubtful and important matters were referred to the augurs. The religion of the State was thus

9 G. Wissowa, "Divination (Roman)," in ERE iv, 820-826.

regulated by the two great collegia of Pontifices and Augures, the king, and the Senate, this organization remaining practically unchanged after the abolition of the Kingdom and throughout the Republic.

The Etruscan haruspices.

Following the accession of the Tarquins to the throne, the Etruscans on the north, of a different and more Oriental type of civilization, began to exercise an influence over religion; and Mars and Quirinus were displaced in favor of Iuno and Minerva, who, with Iupiter, now composed the great Capitoline triad. Thenceforth, until the third century of the Empire, they continued to be the supreme deities of Rome, whose temple, in the Etruscan style, was for many centuries the center of Roman religion and authority. The Etruscans were masters in the arts of divination and magic (Cicero, de Div., i, 41), which, in their cult, strongly resembled those of Babylonia;1o and their specialty was the interpretation of the signs of the heavens, of portents, and of prodigies by reading the livers and entrails of victims. Their methods were different from the Roman auspices, and on several occasions alarming prodigies were referred to their haruspicia for interpretation, but little reference is found to the use of Etruscan divination until the third century B.C., when the Disciplina Etrusca came into vogue, and Roman youths of patrician families were sent to Etruria for instruction in the art.11 11

The oracle of the Cumaan Sibyl.

From early times the Romans had recognized the Greeks as masters of divine lore, and the Sibyl of Cumæ, who had become renowned for her oracles, which had

10 Jastrow, Die Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens, ii, 213 ff. 11 Fowler, Religious Experience, pp. 292-311.

acquired such an authority that they were ascribed to the Delphic Apollo, possessed 'Books' that were believed to enshrine the precious results of Hellenic experience.12 Tarquinius Superbus, who had consulted her when the native gods had not availed, ultimately obtained her 'prophetic books,' placing them in the custody of the Capitoline temple in charge of two augurs, the Duoviri Sacris Faciundis, who, not understanding their contents, which were expressed in enigmatical terms, sent for two Greek interpreters (Dion Kassios, i, 75). These volumes, reputed to contain revelations for the future, were used as "religious prescriptions" for ceremonies in times of public emergency; and Cicero says (op. cit., ii, 54) that an ordinance of their ancestors required that the 'books' should not even be read except by decree of the Senate, and that they were to be used for putting down rather than for taking up religious fancies. The oracle was Greek and naturally advised the introduction of Hellenic deities and ceremonies, so that the use of the 'books' was thus "destined to change the form and content of Roman religion." In this movement the worship of Apollo was naturally the leader. The rites of the foreign gods, as they came to Rome, differed from the Italic cults, and while the latter were under the control of the pontifices, the former were placed in the charge of the Duoviri. The number in charge of the 'books' was increased to nine, then to ten, the Decemviri (367 B.C.); and, in the last year of the Republic, to fifteen, the Quindecemviri.

Three types of divination.

In their excessive fear of the spiritual powers, the Romans had introduced the science of divination from

12 J. S. Reid, "Worship (Roman)," in ERE xii, 809; also Fowler, in ERE x, 850-851; Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung, iii, 352, note 7; Fowler, Religious Experience, p. 247.

« ForrigeFortsæt »