The Roman world of gods, as we have already indicated,(1) was a higher counterpart, an ideal reflection, of the earthly Rome, in which the little and the great were alike repeated with painstaking exactness. The state and the clan, the individual phenomenon of nature as well as the individual mental operation, every man, every place and object, every act even falling within the sphere of Roman law, reappeared in the Roman world of gods; and, as earthly things come and go in perpetual flux, the circle of the gods underwent a corresponding fluctuation. The tutelary spirit, which presided over the individual act, lasted no longer than that act itself: the tutelary spirit of the individual man lived and died with the man; and eternal duration belonged to divinities of this sort only in so far as similar acts and similarly constituted men and therefore spirits of a similar kind were ever coming into existence afresh. As the Roman gods ruled over the Roman community, so every foreign community was presided over by its own gods; but sharp as was the distinction between the burgess and non-burgess, between the Roman and the foreign god, both foreign men and foreign divinities could be admitted by resolution of the community to the freedom of Rome, and when the citizens of a conquered city were transported to Rome, the gods of that city were also invited to take up their new abode there.
Oldest Table of Roman Festivals
We obtain information regarding the original cycle of the gods, as it stood in Rome previous to any contact with the Greeks, from the list of the public and duly named festival-days (-feriae publicae-) of the Roman community, which is preserved in its calendar and is beyond all question the oldest document which has reached us from Roman antiquity. The first place in it is occupied by the gods Jupiter and Mars along with the duplicate of the latter, Quirinus. To Jupiter all the days of full moon (-idus-) are sacred, besides all the wine-festivals and various other days to be mentioned afterwards; the 21st May (-agonalia-) is dedicated to his counterpart, the "bad Jovis" (-Ve-diovis-). To Mars belongs the new-year of the 1st March, and generally the great warrior-festival in this month which derived its very name from the god; this festival, introduced by the horse-racing (-equirria-) on the 27th February, had during March its principal solemnities on the days of the shield-forging (-equirria- or -Mamuralia-, March 14), of the armed dance at the Comitium (-quinquatrus-, March 19), and of the consecration of trumpets (-tubilustrium-, March 23). As, when a war was to be waged, it began with this festival, so after the close of the campaign in autumn there followed a further festival of Mars, that of the consecration of arms (-armilustrium-, October 19). Lastly, to the second Mars, Quirinus, the 17th February was appropriated (-Quirinalia-). Among the other festivals those which related to the culture of corn and wine hold the first place, while the pastoral feasts play a subordinate part. To this class belongs especially the great series of spring-festivals in April, in the course of which sacrifices were offered on the 15th to Tellus, the nourishing earth (-fordicidia-, sacrifice of the pregnant cow), on the 19th to Ceres, the goddess of germination and growth (-Cerialia-) on the 21st to Pales, the fecundating goddess of the flocks (-Parilia-), on the 23rd to Jupiter, as the protector of the vines and of the vats of the previous year's vintage which were first opened on this day (-Vinalia-), and on the 25th to the bad enemy of the crops, rust (-Robigus-: -Robigalia-). So after the completion of the work of the fields and the fortunate ingathering of their produce double festivals were celebrated in honour of the god and goddess of inbringing and harvest, Census (from -condere-) and Ops; the first, immediately after the completion of cutting (August 21, -Consualia-; August 25, -Opiconsiva-); and the second, in the middle of winter, when the blessings of the granary are especially manifest (December 15, -Consualia-; December 19, -Opalia-); between these two latter days the thoughtfulness of the old arrangers of the festivals inserted that of seed-sowing (Saturnalia from -Saeturnus- or -Saturnus-, December 17). In like manner the festival of must or of healing (-meditrinalia-, October 11), so called because a healing virtue was attributed to the fresh must, was dedicated to Jovis as the wine-god after the completion of the vintage; the original reference of the third wine-feast (-Vinalia-, August 19) is not clear. To these festivals were added at the close of the year the wolf-festival (-Lupercalia-, February 17) of the shepherds in honour of the good god, Faunus, and the boundary-stone festival (-Terminalia-, February 23) of the husbandmen, as also the summer grove-festival of two days (-Lucaria-, July 19, 21) which may have had reference to the forest-gods (-Silvani-), the fountain-festival (-Fontinalia-, October 13), and the festival of the shortest day, which brings in the new sun (-An-geronalia-, -Divalia-, December 21).
Of not less importance—as was to be expected in the case of the port of Latium—were the mariner-festivals of the divinities of the sea (-Neptunalia-, July 23), of the harbour (-Portunalia-, August 17), and of the Tiber stream (-Volturnalia-, August 27).
Handicraft and art, on the other hand, are represented in this cycle of the gods only by the god of fire and of smith's work, Vulcanus, to whom besides the day named after him (-Volcanalia-, August 23) the second festival of the consecration of trumpets was dedicated (-tubilustrium-, May 23), and eventually also by the festival of Carmentis (-Carmentalia- January 11, 15), who probably was adored originally as the goddess of spells and of song and only inferentially as protectress of births.
Domestic and family life in general were represented by the festival of the goddess of the house and of the spirits of the storechamber, Vesta and the Penates (-Vestalia-, June 9); the festival of the goddess of birth(2) (-Matralia-, June 11); the festival of the blessing of children, dedicated to Liber and Libera (-Liberalia-, March 17), the festival of departed spirits (-Feralia-, February 21), and the three days' ghost-celebration (-Lemuria- May 9, 11, 13); while those having reference to civil relations were the two—otherwise to us somewhat obscure—festivals of the king's flight (-Regifugium-, February 24) and of the people's flight (-Poplifugia-, July 5), of which at least the last day was devoted to Jupiter, and the festival of the Seven Mounts (-Agonia- or -Septimontium-, December 11). A special day (-agonia-, January 9) was also consecrated to Janus, the god of beginning. The real nature of some other days—that of Furrina (July 25), and that of the Larentalia devoted to Jupiter and Acca Larentia, perhaps a feast of the Lares (December 23)—is no longer known.
This table is complete for the immoveable public festivals; and—although by the side of these standing festal days there certainly occurred from the earliest times changeable and occasional festivals—this document, in what it says as well as in what it omits, opens up to us an insight into a primitive age otherwise almost wholly lost to us. The union of the Old Roman community and the Hill-Romans had indeed already taken place when this table of festivals was formed, for we find in it Quirinus alongside of Mars; but, when this festival-list was drawn up, the Capitoline temple was not yet in existence, for Juno and Minerva are absent; nor was the temple of Diana erected on the Aventine; nor was any notion of worship borrowed from the Greeks.
Mars and Jupiter
The central object not only of Roman but of Italian worship generally in that epoch when the Italian stock still dwelt by itself in the peninsula was, according to all indications, the god Maurs or Mars, the killing god,(3) preeminently regarded as the divine champion of the burgesses, hurling the spear, protecting the flock, and overthrowing the foe. Each community of course possessed its own Mars, and deemed him to be the strongest and holiest of all; and accordingly every "-ver sacrum-" setting out to found a new community marched under the protection of its own Mars. To Mars was dedicated the first month not only in the Roman calendar of the months, which in no other instance takes notice of the gods, but also probably in all the other Latin and Sabellian calendars: among the Roman proper names, which in like manner contain no allusion to any gods, Marcus, Mamercus, and Mamurius appear in prevailing use from very early times; with Mars and his sacred woodpecker was connected the oldest Italian prophecy; the wolf, the animal sacred to Mars, was the badge of the Roman burgesses, and such sacred national legends as the Roman imagination was able to produce referred exclusively to the god Mars and to his duplicate Quirinus. In the list of festivals certainly Father Diovis—a purer and more civil than military reflection of the character of the Roman community—occupies a larger space than Mars, just as the priest of Jupiter has precedence over the two priests of the god of war; but the latter still plays a very prominent part in the list, and it is even quite likely that, when this arrangement of festivals was established, Jovis stood by the side of Mars like Ahuramazda by the side of Mithra, and that the worship of the warlike Roman community still really centred at this time in the martial god of death and his March festival, while it was not the "care-destroyer" afterwards introduced by the Greeks, but Father Jovis himself, who was regarded as the god of the heart-gladdening wine.
Nature of the Roman Gods
It is no part of our present task to consider the Roman deities in detail; but it is important, even in an historical point of view, to call attention to the peculiar character at once of shallowness and of fervour that marked the Roman faith. Abstraction and personification lay at the root of the Roman as well as of the Hellenic mythology: the Hellenic as well as the Roman god was originally suggested by some natural phenomenon or some mental conception, and to the Roman just as to the Greek every divinity appeared a person. This is evident from their apprehending the individual gods as male or female; from their style of appeal to an unknown deity,—"Be thou god or goddess, man or woman;" and from the deeply cherished belief that the name of the proper tutelary spirit of the community ought to remain for ever unpronounced, lest an enemy should come to learn it and calling the god by his name should entice him beyond the bounds. A remnant of this strongly sensuous mode of apprehension clung to Mars in particular, the oldest and most national form of divinity in Italy. But while abstraction, which lies at the foundation of every religion, elsewhere endeavoured to rise to wider and more enlarged conceptions and to penetrate ever more deeply into the essence of things, the forms of the Roman faith remained at, or sank to, a singularly low level of conception and of insight. While in the case of the Greek every influential motive speedily expanded into a group of forms and gathered around it a circle of legends and ideas, in the case of the Roman the fundamental thought remained stationary in its original naked rigidity. The religion of Rome had nothing of its own presenting even a remote resemblance to the religion of Apollo investing earthly morality with a halo of glory, to the divine intoxication of Dionysus, or to the Chthonian and mystical worships with their profound and hidden meanings. It had indeed its "bad god" (-Ve-diovis-), its apparitions and ghosts (-lemures-), and afterwards its deities of foul air, of fever, of diseases, perhaps even of theft (-laverna-); but it was unable to excite that mysterious awe after which the human heart has always a longing, or thoroughly to embody the incomprehensible and even the malignant elements in nature and in man, which must not be wanting in religion if it would reflect man as a whole. In the religion of Rome there was hardly anything secret except possibly the names of the gods of the city, the Penates; the real character, moreover, even of these gods was manifest to every one.
The national Roman theology sought on all hands to form distinct conceptions of important phenomena and qualities, to express them in its terminology, and to classify them systematically—in the first instance, according to that division of persons and things which also formed the basis of private law—that it might thus be able in due fashion to invoke the gods individually or by classes, and to point out (-indigitare-) to the multitude the modes of appropriate invocation. Of such notions, the products of outward abstraction—of the homeliest simplicity, sometimes venerable, sometimes ridiculous—Roman theology was in substance made up. Conceptions such as sowing (-saeturnus-) and field-labour (-ops-) ground (-tellus-) and boundary-stone (-terminus-), were among the oldest and most sacred of Roman divinities. Perhaps the most peculiar of all the forms of deity in Rome, and probably the only one for whose worship there was devised an effigy peculiarly Italian, was the double-headed lanus; and yet it was simply suggestive of the idea so characteristic of the scrupulous spirit of Roman religion, that at the commencement of every act the "spirit of opening" should first be invoked, while it above all betokened the deep conviction that it was as indispensable to combine the Roman gods in sets as it was necessary that the more personal gods of the Hellenes should stand singly and apart.(4) Of all the worships of Rome that which perhaps had the deepest hold was the worship of the tutelary spirits that presided in and over the household and the storechamber: these were in public worship Vesta and the Penates, in family worship the gods of forest and field, the Silvani, and above all the gods of the household in its strict sense, the Lases or Lares, to whom their share of the family meal was regularly assigned, and before whom it was, even in the time of Cato the Elder, the first duty of the father of the household on returning home to perform his devotions. In the ranking of the gods, however, these spirits of the house and of the field occupied the lowest rather than the highest place; it was—and it could not be otherwise with a religion which renounced all attempts to idealize—not the broadest and most general, but the simplest and most individual abstraction, in which the pious heart found most nourishment.
This indifference to ideal elements in the Roman religion was accompanied by a practical and utilitarian tendency, as is clearly enough apparent in the table of festivals which has been already explained. Increase of substance and of prosperity by husbandry and the rearing of flocks and herds, by seafaring and commerce—this was what the Roman desired from his gods; and it very well accords with this view, that the god of good faith (-deus fidius-), the goddess of chance and good luck (-fors fortuna-), and the god of traffic (-mercurius-), all originating out of their daily dealings, although not occurring in that ancient table of festivals, appear very early as adored far and near by the Romans. Strict frugality and mercantile speculation were rooted in the Roman character too deeply not to find their thorough reflection in its divine counterpart.
Respecting the world of spirits little can be said. The departed souls of mortal men, the "good" (-manes-) continued to exist as shades haunting the spot where the body reposed (-dii inferi-), and received meat and drink from the survivors. But they dwelt in the depths beneath, and there was no bridge that led from the lower world either to men ruling on earth or upward to the gods above. The hero-worship of the Greeks was wholly foreign to the Romans, and the late origin and poor invention of the legend as to the foundation of Rome are shown by the thoroughly unRoman transformation of king Romulus into the god Quirinus. Numa, the oldest and most venerable name in Roman tradition, never received the honours of a god in Rome as Theseus did in Athens.
The most ancient priesthoods in the community bore reference to Mars; especially the priest of the god of the community, nominated for life, "the kindler of Mars" (-flamen Martialis-) as he was designated from presenting burnt-offerings, and the twelve "leapers" (-salii-), a band of young men who in March performed the war-dance in honour of Mars and accompanied it by song. We have already explained(5) how the amalgamation of the Hill-community with that of the Palatine gave rise to the duplication of the Roman Mars, and thereby to the introduction of a second priest of Mars—the -flamen Quirinalis- —and a second guild of dancers—the -salii collini-.
To these were added other public worships (some of which probably had an origin far earlier than that of Rome), for which either single priests were appointed—as those of Carmentis, of Volcanus, of the god of the harbour and the river—or the celebration of which was committed to particular colleges or clans in name of the people. Such a college was probably that of the twelve "field-brethren" (-fratres arvales-) who invoked the "creative goddess" (-dea dia-) in May to bless the growth of the seed; although it is very doubtful whether they already at this period enjoyed that peculiar consideration which we find subsequently accorded to them in the time of the empire. These were accompanied by the Titian brotherhood, which had to preserve and to attend to the distinctive -cultus- of the Roman Sabines,(6) and by the thirty "curial kindlers" (-flamines curiales-), instituted for the hearth of the thirty curies. The "wolf festival" (-lupercalia-) already mentioned was celebrated for the protection of the flocks and herds in honour of the "favourable god" (-faunus-) by the Quinctian clan and the Fabii who were associated with them after the admission of the Hill-Romans, in the month of February—a genuine shepherds' carnival, in which the "Wolves" (-luperci-) jumped about naked with a girdle of goatskin, and whipped with thongs those whom they met. In like manner the community may be conceived as represented and participating in the case of other gentile worships.
To this earliest worship of the Roman community new rites were gradually added. The most important of these worships had reference to the city as newly united and virtually founded afresh by the construction of the great wall and stronghold. In it the highest and best lovis of the Capitol—that is, the genius of the Roman people—was placed at the head of all the Roman divinities, and his "kindler" thenceforth appointed, the -flamen Dialis-, formed in conjunction with the two priests of Mars the sacred triad of high-priests. Contemporaneously began the -cultus- of the new single city-hearth—Vesta—and the kindred -cultus- of the Penates of the community.(7) Six chaste virgins, daughters as it were of the household of the Roman people, attended to that pious service, and had to maintain the wholesome fire of the common hearth always blazing as an example(8) and an omen to the burgesses. This worship, half-domestic, half-public, was the most sacred of all in Rome, and it accordingly was the latest of all the heathen worships there to give way before the ban of Christianity. The Aventine, moreover, was assigned to Diana as the representative of the Latin confederacy,(9) but for that very reason no special Roman priesthood was appointed for her; and the community gradually became accustomed to render definite homage to numerous other deified abstractions by means of general festivals or by representative priesthoods specially destined for their service; in particular instances—such as those of the goddess of flowers (-Flora-) and of fruits (-Pomona-)—it appointed also special -flamines-, so that the number of these was at length fifteen. But among them they carefully distinguished those three "great kindlers" (-flamines maiores-), who down to the latest times could only be taken from the ranks of the old burgesses, just as the old incorporations of the Palatine and Quirinal -Salii- always asserted precedence over all the other colleges of priests. Thus the necessary and stated observances due to the gods of the community were entrusted once for all by the state to fixed colleges or regular ministers; and the expense of sacrifices, which was presumably not inconsiderable, was covered partly by the assignation of certain lands to particular temples, partly by the fines.(10)
It cannot be doubted that the public worship of the other Latin, and presumably also of the Sabellian, communities was essentially similar in character. At any rate it can be shown that the Flamines, Salii, Luperci, and Vestales were institutions not special to Rome, but general among the Latins, and at least the first three colleges appear to have been formed in the kindred communities independently of the Roman model.
Lastly, as the state made arrangements for the cycle of its gods, so each burgess might make similar arrangements within his individual sphere, and might not only present sacrifices, but might also consecrate set places and ministers, to his own divinities.
Colleges of Sacred Lore
There was thus enough of priesthood and of priests in Rome. Those, however, who had business with a god resorted to the god, and not to the priest. Every suppliant and inquirer addressed himself directly to the divinity—the community of course by the king as its mouthpiece, just as the -curia- by the -curio- and the -equites-by their colonels; no intervention of a priest was allowed to conceal or to obscure this original and simple relation. But it was no easy matter to hold converse with a god. The god had his own way of speaking, which was intelligible only to the man acquainted with it; but one who did rightly understand it knew not only how to ascertain, but also how to manage, the will of the god, and even in case of need to overreach or to constrain him. It was natural, therefore, that the worshipper of the god should regularly consult such men of skill and listen to their advice; and thence arose the corporations or colleges of men specially skilled in religious lore, a thoroughly national Italian institution, which had a far more important influence on political development than the individual priests and priesthoods. These colleges have been often, but erroneously, confounded with the priesthoods. The priesthoods were charged with the worship of a specific divinity; the skilled colleges, on the other hand, were charged with the preservation of traditional rules regarding those more general religious observances, the proper fulfilment of which implied a certain amount of knowledge and rendered it necessary that the state in its own interest should provide for the faithful transmission of that knowledge. These close corporations supplying their own vacancies, of course from the ranks of the burgesses, became in this way the depositaries of skilled arts and sciences.
Under the Roman constitution and that of the Latin communities in general there were originally but two such colleges; that of the augurs and that of the Pontifices.(11)
The six "bird-carriers" (-augures-) were skilled in interpreting the language of the gods from the flight of birds; an art which was prosecuted with great earnestness and reduced to a quasi-scientific system. The six "bridge-builders" (-Pontifices-) derived their name from their function, as sacred as it was politically important, of conducting the building and demolition of the bridge over the Tiber. They were the Roman engineers, who understood the mystery of measures and numbers; whence there devolved upon them also the duty of managing the calendar of the state, of proclaiming to the people the time of new and full moon and the days of festivals, and of seeing that every religious and every judicial act took place on the right day. As they had thus an especial supervision of all religious observances, it was to them in case of need—on occasion of marriage, testament, and -adrogatio- —that the preliminary question was addressed, whether the business proposed did not in any respect offend against divine law; and it was they who fixed and promulgated the general exoteric precepts of ritual, which were known under the name of the "royal laws." Thus they acquired (although not probably to the full extent till after the abolition of the monarchy) the general oversight of Roman worship and of whatever was connected with it—and what was there that was not so connected? They themselves described the sum of their knowledge as "the science of things divine and human." In fact the rudiments of spiritual and temporal jurisprudence as well as of historical recording proceeded from this college. For all writing of history was associated with the calendar and the book of annals; and, as from the organization of the Roman courts of law no tradition could originate in these courts themselves, it was necessary that the knowledge of legal principles and procedure should be traditionally preserved in the college of the Pontifices, which alone was competent to give an opinion respecting court-days and questions of religious law.
By the side of these two oldest and most eminent corporations of men versed in spiritual lore may be to some extent ranked the college of the twenty state-heralds (-fetiales-, of uncertain derivation), destined as a living repository to preserve traditionally the remembrance of the treaties concluded with neighbouring communities, to pronounce an authoritative opinion on alleged infractions of treaty-rights, and in case of need to attempt reconciliation or declare war. They had precisely the same position with reference to international, as the Pontifices had with reference to religious, law; and were therefore, like the latter, entitled to point out the law, although not to administer it.
But in however high repute these colleges were, and important and comprehensive as were the functions assigned to them, it was never forgotten—least of all in the case of those which held the highest position—that their duty was not to command, but to tender skilled advice, not directly to obtain the answer of the gods, but to explain the answer when obtained to the inquirer. Thus the highest of the priests was not merely inferior in rank to the king, but might not even give advice to him unasked. It was the province of the king to determine whether and when he would take an observation of birds; the "bird-seer" simply stood beside him and interpreted to him, when necessary, the language of the messengers of heaven. In like manner the Fetialis and the Pontifex could not interfere in matters of international or common law except when those concerned therewith desired it. The Romans, notwithstanding all their zeal for religion, adhered with unbending strictness to the principle that the priest ought to remain completely powerless in the state and—excluded from all command— ought like any other burgess to render obedience to the humblest magistrate.
Character of the -Cultus-
The Latin worship was grounded essentially on man's enjoyment of earthly pleasures, and only in a subordinate degree on his fear of the wild forces of nature; it consisted pre-eminently therefore in expressions of joy, in lays and songs, in games and dances, and above all in banquets. In Italy, as everywhere among agricultural tribes whose ordinary food consists of vegetables, the slaughter of cattle was at once a household feast and an act of worship: a pig was the most acceptable offering to the gods, just because it was the usual roast for a feast. But all extravagance of expense as well as all excess of rejoicing was inconsistent with the solid character of the Romans. Frugality in relation to the gods was one of the most prominent traits of the primitive Latin worship; and the free play of imagination was repressed with iron severity by the moral self-discipline which the nation maintained. In consequence the Latins remained strangers to the excesses which grow out of unrestrained indulgence. At the very core of the Latin religion there lay that profound moral impulse which leads men to bring earthly guilt and earthly punishment into relation with the world of the gods, and to view the former as a crime against the gods, and the latter as its expiation. The execution of the criminal condemned to death was as much an expiatory sacrifice offered to the divinity as was the killing of an enemy in just war; the thief who by night stole the fruits of the field paid the penalty to Ceres on the gallows just as the enemy paid it to mother earth and the good spirits on the field of battle. The profound and fearful idea of substitution also meets us here: when the gods of the community were angry and nobody could be laid hold of as definitely guilty, they might be appeased by one who voluntarily gave himself up (-devovere se-); noxious chasms in the ground were closed, and battles half lost were converted into victories, when a brave burgess threw himself as an expiatory offering into the abyss or upon the foe. The "sacred spring" was based on a similar view; all the offspring whether of cattle or of men within a specified period were presented to the gods. If acts of this nature are to be called human sacrifices, then such sacrifices belonged to the essence of the Latin faith; but we are bound to add that, far back as our view reaches into the past, this immolation, so far as life was concerned, was limited to the guilty who had been convicted before a civil tribunal, or to the innocent who voluntarily chose to die. Human sacrifices of a different description run counter to the fundamental idea of a sacrificial act, and, wherever they occur among the Indo-Germanic stocks at least, are based on later degeneracy and barbarism. They never gained admission among the Romans; hardly in a single instance were superstition and despair induced, even in times of extreme distress, to seek an extraordinary deliverance through means so revolting. Of belief in ghosts, fear of enchantments, or dealing in mysteries, comparatively slight traces are to be found among the Romans. Oracles and prophecy never acquired the importance in Italy which they obtained in Greece, and never were able to exercise a serious control over private or public life. But on the other hand the Latin religion sank into an incredible insipidity and dulness, and early became shrivelled into an anxious and dreary round of ceremonies. The god of the Italian was, as we have already said, above all things an instrument for helping him to the attainment of very substantial earthly aims; this turn was given to the religious views of the Italian by his tendency towards the palpable and the real, and is no less distinctly apparent in the saint-worship of the modern inhabitants of Italy. The gods confronted man just as a creditor confronted his debtor; each of them had a duly acquired right to certain performances and payments; and as the number of the gods was as great as the number of the incidents in earthly life, and the neglect or wrong performance of the worship of each god revenged itself in the corresponding incident, it was a laborious and difficult task even to gain a knowledge of a man's religious obligations, and the priests who were skilled in the law of divine things and pointed out its requirements—the -Pontifices- —could not fail to attain an extraordinary influence. The upright man fulfilled the requirements of sacred ritual with the same mercantile punctuality with which he met his earthly obligations, and at times did more than was due, if the god had done so on his part. Man even dealt in speculation with his god; a vow was in reality as in name a formal contract between the god and the man, by which the latter promised to the former for a certain service to be rendered a certain equivalent return; and the Roman legal principle that no contract could be concluded by deputy was not the least important of the reasons on account of which all priestly mediation remained excluded from the religious concerns of man in Latium. Nay, as the Roman merchant was entitled, without injury to his conventional rectitude, to fulfil his contract merely in the letter, so in dealing with the gods, according to the teaching of Roman theology, the copy of an object was given and received instead of the object itself. They presented to the lord of the sky heads of onions and poppies, that he might launch his lightnings at these rather than at the heads of men. In payment of the offering annually demanded by father Tiber, thirty puppets plaited of rushes were annually thrown into the stream.(12) The ideas of divine mercy and placability were in these instances inseparably mixed up with a pious cunning, which tried to delude and to pacify so formidable a master by means of a sham satisfaction. The Roman fear of the gods accordingly exercised powerful influence over the minds of the multitude; but it was by no means that sense of awe in the presence of an all-controlling nature or of an almighty God, that lies at the foundation of the views of pantheism and monotheism respectively; on the contrary, it was of a very earthly character, and scarcely different in any material respect from the trembling with which the Roman debtor approached his just, but very strict and very powerful creditor. It is plain that such a religion was fitted rather to stifle than to foster artistic and speculative views. When the Greek had clothed the simple thoughts of primitive times with human flesh and blood, the ideas of the gods so formed not only became the elements of plastic and poetic art, but acquired also that universality and elasticity which are the profoundest characteristics of human nature and for this very reason are essential to all religions that aspire to rule the world. Through such means the simple view of nature became expanded into the conception of a cosmogony, the homely moral notion became enlarged into a principle of universal humanity; and for a long period the Greek religion was enabled to embrace within it the physical and metaphysical views—the whole ideal development of the nation—and to expand in depth and breadth with the increase of its contents, until imagination and speculation rent asunder the vessel which had nursed them. But in Latium the embodiment of the conceptions of deity continued so wholly transparent that it afforded no opportunity for the training either of artist or poet, and the Latin religion always held a distant and even hostile attitude towards art As the god was not and could not be aught else than the spiritualizattion of an earthly phenomenon, this same earthly counterpart naturally formed his place of abode (-templum-) and his image; walls and effigies made by the hands of men seemed only to obscure and to embarrass the spiritual conception. Accordingly the original Roman worship had no images of the gods or houses set apart for them; and although the god was at an early period worshipped in Latium, probably in imitation of the Greeks, by means of an image, and had a little chapel (-aedicula-) built for him, such a figurative representation was reckoned contrary to the laws of Numa and was generally regarded as an impure and foreign innovation. The Roman religion could exhibit no image of a god peculiar to it, with the exception, perhaps, of the double-headed Ianus; and Varro even in his time derided the desire of the multitude for puppets and effigies. The utter want of productive power in the Roman religion was likewise the ultimate cause of the thorough poverty which always marked Roman poetry and still more Roman speculation.
The same distinctive character was manifest, moreover, in the domain of its practical use. The practical gain which accrued to the Roman community from their religion was a code of moral law gradually developed by the priests, and the -Pontifices- in particular, which on the one hand supplied the place of police regulations at a time when the state was still far from providing any direct police-guardianship for its citizens, and on the other hand brought to the bar of the gods and visited with divine penalties the breach of moral obligations. To the regulations of the former class belonged the religious inculcation of a due observance of holidays and of a cultivation of the fields and vineyards according to the rules of good husbandry—which we shall have occasion to notice more fully in the sequel—as well as the worship of the heath or of the Lares which was connected with considerations of sanitary police,(13) and above all the practice of burning the bodies of the dead, adopted among the Romans at a singularly early period, far earlier than among the Greeks—a practice implying a rational conception of life and of death, which was foreign to primitive times and is even foreign to ourselves at the present day. It must be reckoned no small achievement that the national religion of the Latins was able to carry out these and similar improvements. But the civilizing effect of this law was still more important. If a husband sold his wife, or a father sold his married son; if a child struck his father, or a daughter-in-law her father-in-law; if a patron violated his obligation to keep faith with his guest or dependent; if an unjust neighbour displaced a boundary-stone, or the thief laid hands by night on the grain entrusted to the common good faith; the burden of the curse of the gods lay thenceforth on the head of the offender. Not that the person thus accursed (-sacer-) was outlawed; such an outlawry, inconsistent in its nature with all civil order, was only an exceptional occurrence—an aggravation of the religious curse in Rome at the time of the quarrels between the orders. It was not the province of the individual burgess, or even of the wholly powerless priest, to carry into effect such a divine curse. Primarily the person thus accursed became liable to the divine penal judgment, not to human caprice; and the pious popular faith, on which that curse was based, must have had power even over natures frivolous and wicked. But the banning was not confined to this; the king was in reality entitled and bound to carry the ban into execution, and, after the fact, on which the law set its curse, had been according to his conscientious conviction established, to slay the person under ban, as it were, as a victim offered up to the injured deity (-supplicium-), and thus to purify the community from the crime of the individual. If the crime was of a minor nature, for the slaying of the guilty there was substituted a ransom through the presenting of a sacrificial victim or of similar gifts. Thus the whole criminal law rested as to its ultimate basis on the religious idea of expiation.
But religion performed no higher service in Latium than the furtherance of civil order and morality by such means as these. In this field Hellas had an unspeakable advantage over Latium; it owed to its religion not merely its whole intellectual development, but also its national union, so far as such an union was attained at all; the oracles and festivals of the gods, Delphi and Olympia, and the Muses, daughters of faith, were the centres round which revolved all that was great in Hellenic life and all in it that was the common heritage of the nation. And yet even here Latium had, as compared with Hellas, its own advantages. The Latin religion, reduced as it was to the level of ordinary perception, was completely intelligible to every one and accessible in common to all; and therefore the Roman community preserved the equality of its citizens, while Hellas, where religion rose to the level of the highest thought, had from the earliest times to endure all the blessing and curse of an aristocracy of intellect. The Latin religion like every other had its origin in the effort of faith to fathom the infinite; it is only to a superficial view, which is deceived as to the depth of the stream because it is clear, that its transparent spirit-world can appear to be shallow. This fervid faith disappeared with the progress of time as necessarily as the dew of morning disappears before the rising sun, and thus the Latin religion came subsequently to wither; but the Latins preserved their simplicity of belief longer than most peoples and longer especially than the Greeks. As colours are effects of light and at the same time dim it, so art and science are not merely the creations but also the destroyers of faith; and, much as this process at once of development and of destruction is swayed by necessity, by the same law of nature certain results have been reserved to the epoch of early simplicity—results which subsequent epochs make vain endeavours to attain. The mighty intellectual development of the Hellenes, which created their religious and literary unity (ever imperfect as that unity was), was the very thing that made it impossible for them to attain to a genuine political union; they sacrificed thereby the simplicity, the flexibility, the self-devotion, the power of amalgamation, which constitute the conditions of any such union. It is time therefore to desist from that childish view of history which believes that it can commend the Greeks only at the expense of the Romans, or the Romans only at the expense of the Greeks; and, as we allow the oak to hold its own beside the rose, so should we abstain from praising or censuring the two noblest organizations which antiquity has produced, and comprehend the truth that their distinctive excellences have a necessary connection with their respective defects. The deepest and ultimate reason of the diversity between the two nations lay beyond doubt in the fact that Latium did not, and that Hellas did, during the season of growth come into contact with the East. No people on earth was great enough by its own efforts to create either the marvel of Hellenic or at a later period the marvel of Christian culture; history has produced these most brilliant results only where the ideas of Aramaic religion have sunk into an Indo-Germanic soil. But if for this reason Hellas is the prototype of purely human, Latium is not less for all time the prototype of national, development; and it is the duty of us their successors to honour both and to learn from both.
Such was the nature and such the influence of the Roman religion in its pure, unhampered, and thoroughly national development. Its national character was not infringed by the fact that, from the earliest times, modes and systems of worship were introduced from abroad; no more than the bestowal of the rights of citizenship on individual foreigners denationalized the Roman state. An exchange of gods as well as of goods with the Latins in older time must have been a matter of course; the transplantation to Rome of gods and worships belonging to less cognate races is more remarkable. Of the distinctive Sabine worship maintained by the Tities we have already spoken.(14) Whether any conceptions of the gods were borrowed from Etruria is more doubtful: for the Lases, the older designation of the genii (from -lascivus-), and Minerva the goddess of memory (-mens-, -menervare-), which it is customary to describe as originally Etruscan, were on the contrary, judging from philological grounds, indigenous to Latium. It is at any rate certain, and in keeping with all that we otherwise know of Roman intercourse that the Greek worship received earlier and more extensive attention in Rome than any other of foreign origin. The Greek oracles furnished the earliest occasion of its introduction. The language of the Roman gods was on the whole confined to Yea and Nay or at the most to the making their will known by the method of casting lots, which appears in its origin Italian;(15) while from very ancient times—although not apparently until the impulse was received from the East—the more talkative gods of the Greeks imparted actual utterances of prophecy. The Romans made efforts, even at an early period, to treasure up such counsels, and copies of the leaves of the soothsaying priestess of Apollo, the Cumaean Sibyl, were accordingly a highly valued gift on the part of their Greek guest-friends from Campania. For the reading and interpretation of the fortune-telling book a special college, inferior in rank only to the augurs and Pontifices, was instituted in early times, consisting of two men of lore (-duoviri sacris faciundis-), who were furnished at the expense of the state with two slaves acquainted with the Greek language. To these custodiers of oracles the people resorted in cases of doubt, when an act of worship was needed in order to avoid some impending evil and they did not know to which of the gods or with what rites it was to be performed. But Romans in search of advice early betook themselves also to the Delphic Apollo himself. Besides the legends relating to such an intercourse already mentioned,(16) it is attested partly by the reception of the word -thesaurus- so closely connected with the Delphic oracle into all the Italian languages with which we are acquainted, and partly by the oldest Roman form of the name of Apollo, -Aperta-, the "opener," an etymologizing alteration of the Doric Apellon, the antiquity of which is betrayed by its very barbarism. The Greek Herakles was naturalized in Italy as Herclus, Hercoles, Hercules, at an early period and under a peculiar conception of his character, apparently in the first instance as the god of gains of adventure and of any extraordinary increase of wealth; for which reason the general was wont to present the tenth of the spoil which he had procured, and the merchant the tenth of the substance which he had obtained, to Hercules at the chief altar (-ara maxima-) in the cattle-market. Accordingly he became the god of mercantile covenants generally, which in early times were frequently concluded at this altar and confirmed by oath, and in so far was identified with the old Latin god of good faith (-deus fidius-). The worship of Hercules was from an early date among the most widely diffused; he was, to use the words of an ancient author, adored in every hamlet of Italy, and altars were everywhere erected to him in the streets of the cities and along the country roads. The gods also of the mariner, Castor and Polydeukes or, in Roman form, Pollux, the god of traffic Hermes—the Roman Mercurius—and the god of healing, Asklapios or Aesculapius, became early known to the Romans, although their public worship only began at a later period. The name of the festival of the "good goddess" (-bona dea-) -damium-, corresponding to the Greek —damion— or —deimion—, may likewise reach back as far as this epoch. It must be the result also of ancient borrowing, that the old -Liber pater- of the Romans was afterwards conceived as "father deliverer" and identified with the wine-god of the Greeks, the "releaser" (-Lyaeos-), and that the Roman god of the lower regions was called the "dispenser of riches" (-Pluto- - -Dis pater-), while his spouse Persephone became converted at once by change of the initial sound and by transference of the idea into the Roman Proserpina, that is, "germinatrix." Even the goddess of the Romano-Latin league, Diana of the Aventine, seems to have been copied from the federal goddess of the lonians of Asia Minor, the Ephesian Artemis; at least her carved image in the Roman temple was formed after the Ephesian type.(17) It was in this way alone, through the myths of Apollo, Dionysus, Pluto, Herakles, and Artemis, which were early pervaded by Oriental ideas, that the Aramaic religion exercised at this period a remote and indirect influence on Italy. We clearly perceive from these facts that the introduction of the Greek religion was especially due to commercial intercourse, and that it was traders and mariners who primarily brought the Greek gods to Italy.
These individual cases however of derivation from abroad were but of secondary moment, while the remains of the natural symbolism of primeval times, of which the legend of the oxen of Cacus may perhaps be a specimen,(18) had virtually disappeared. In all its leading features the Roman religion was an organic creation of the people among whom we find it.
Religion of the Sabellians
The Sabellian and Umbrian worship, judging from the little we know of it, rested upon quite the same fundamental views as the Latin with local variations of colour and form. That it was different from the Latin is very distinctly apparent from the founding of a special college at Rome for the preservation of the Sabine rites;(19) but that very fact affords an instructive illustration of the nature of the difference. Observation of the flight of birds was with both stocks the regular mode of consulting the gods; but the Tities observed different birds from the Ramnian augurs. Similar relations present themselves, wherever we have opportunity of comparing them. Both stocks in common regarded the gods as abstractions of the earthly and as of an impersonal nature; they differed in expression and ritual. It was natural that these diversities should appear of importance to the worshippers of those days; we are no longer able to apprehend what was the characteristic distinction, if any really existed.
Religion of the Etruscans
But the remains of the sacred ritual of the Etruscans that have reached us are marked by a different spirit. Their prevailing characteristics are a gloomy and withal tiresome mysticism, ringing the changes on numbers, soothsaying, and that solemn enthroning of pure absurdity which at all times finds its own circle of devotees. We are far from knowing the Etruscan worship in such completeness and purity as we know the Latin; and it is not improbable—indeed it cannot well be doubted—that several of its features were only imported into it by the minute subtlety of a later period, and that the gloomy and fantastic principles, which were most alien to the Latin worship, are those that have been especially handed down to us by tradition. But enough still remains to show that the mysticism and barbarism of this worship had their foundation in the essential character of the Etruscan people.
With our very unsatisfactory knowledge we cannot grasp the intrinsic contrast subsisting between the Etruscan conceptions of deity and the Italian; but it is clear that the most prominent among the Etruscan gods were the malignant and the mischievous; as indeed their worship was cruel, and included in particular the sacrifice of their captives; thus at Caere they slaughtered the Phocaean, and at Traquinii the Roman, prisoners. Instead of a tranquil world of departed "good spirits" ruling peacefully in the realms beneath, such as the Latins had conceived, the Etruscan religion presented a veritable hell, in which the poor souls were doomed to be tortured by mallets and serpents, and to which they were conveyed by the conductor of the dead, a savage semi-brutal figure of an old man with wings and a large hammer—a figure which afterwards served in the gladiatorial games at Rome as a model for the costume of the man who removed the corpses of the slain from the arena. So fixed was the association of torture with this condition of the shades, that there was even provided a redemption from it, which after certain mysterious offerings transferred the poor soul to the society of the gods above. It is remarkable that, in order to people their lower world, the Etruscans early borrowed from the Greeks their gloomiest notions, such as the doctrine of Acheron and Charon, which play an important part in the Etruscan discipline.
But the Etruscan occupied himself above all in the interpretation of signs and portents. The Romans heard the voice of the gods in nature; but their bird-seer understood only the signs in their simplicity, and knew only in general whether the occurrence boded good or ill. Disturbances of the ordinary course of nature were regarded by him as boding evil, and put a stop to the business in hand, as when for example a storm of thunder and lightning dispersed the comitia; and he probably sought to get rid of them, as, for example, in the case of monstrous births, which were put to death as speedily as possible. But beyond the Tiber matters were carried much further. The profound Etruscan read off to the believer his future fortunes in detail from the lightning and from the entrails of animals offered in sacrifice; and the more singular the language of the gods, the more startling the portent or prodigy, the more confidently did he declare what they foretold and the means by which it was possible to avert the mischief. Thus arose the lore of lightning, the art of inspecting entrails, the interpretation of prodigies—all of them, and the science of lightning especially, devised with the hair-splitting subtlety which characterizes the mind in pursuit of absurdities. A dwarf called Tages with the figure of a child but with gray hairs, who had been ploughed up by a peasant in a field near Tarquinii—we might almost fancy that practices at once so childish and so drivelling had sought to present in this figure a caricature of themselves—betrayed the secret of this lore to the Etruscans, and then straightway died. His disciples and successors taught what gods were in the habit of hurling the lightning; how the lightning of each god might be recognized by its colour and the quarter of the heavens whence it came; whether the lightning boded a permanent state of things or a single event; and in the latter case whether the event was one unalterably fixed, or whether it could be up to a certain limit artificially postponed: how they might convey the lightning away when it struck, or compel the threatening lightning to strike, and various marvellous arts of the like kind, with which there was incidentally conjoined no small desire of pocketing fees. How deeply repugnant this jugglery was to the Roman character is shown by the fact that, even when people came at a later period to employ the Etruscan lore in Rome, no attempt was made to naturalize it; during our present period the Romans were probably still content with their own, and with the Greek oracles.
The Etruscan religion occupied a higher level than the Roman, in so far as it developed at least the rudiments of what was wholly wanting among the Romans—a speculation veiled under religious forms. Over the world and its gods there ruled the veiled gods (-Dii involuti-), consulted by the Etruscan Jupiter himself; that world moreover was finite, and, as it had come into being, so was it again to pass away after the expiry of a definite period of time, whose sections were the -saecula-. Respecting the intellectual value which may once have belonged to this Etruscan cosmogony and philosophy, it is difficult to form a judgment; they appear however to have been from the very first characterized by a dull fatalism and an insipid play upon number.
Notes for Book I Chapter XII
1. I. II. Religion
2. This was, to all appearance, the original nature of the "morning-mother" or -Mater matuta-; in connection with which we may recall the circumstance that, as the names Lucius and especially -Manius- show, the morning hour was reckoned as lucky for birth. -Mater matuta-probably became a goddess of sea and harbour only at a later epoch under the influence of the myth of Leucothea; the fact that the goddess was chiefly worshipped by women tells against the view that she was originally a harbour-goddess.
3. From -Maurs-, which is the oldest form handed down by tradition, there have been developed by different treatment of the -u -Mars-, -Mavors-, -Mors-; the transition to -o (similar to -Paula-, -Pola-, and the like) appears also in the double form Mar-Mor (comp. -Ma-murius-) alongside of -Mar-Mor- and -Ma-Mers-.
4. The facts, that gates and doors and the morning (-ianus matutinus-) were sacred to Ianus, and that he was always invoked before any other god and was even represented in the series of coins before Jupiter and the other gods, indicate unmistakeably that he was the abstraction of opening and beginning. The double-head looking both ways was connected with the gate that opened both ways. To make him god of the sun and of the year is the less justifiable, because the month that bears his name was originally the eleventh, not the first; that month seems rather to have derived its name from the circumstance, that at this season after the rest of the middle of winter the cycle of the labours of the field began afresh. It was, however, a matter of course that the opening of the year should also be included in the sphere of Ianus, especially after Ianuarius came to be placed at its head.
5. I. IV. Tities and Luceres
6. I. VI. Amalgamation of the Palatine and Quirinal Cities
7. I. VII. Servian Wall
8. I. III. Latium
9. I. VII. Relation of Rome to Latium
10. I. V. Burdens of the Burgesses, I. XI. Crimes
11. The clearest evidence of this is the fact, that in the communities organized on the Latin scheme augurs and Pontifices occur everywhere (e. g. Cic. de Lege Agr. ii. 35, 96, and numerous inscriptions), as does likewise the -pater patratus- of the Fetiales in Laurentum (Orelli, 2276), but the other colleges do not. The former, therefore, stand on the same footing with the constitution of ten curies and the Flamines, Salii, and Luperci, as very ancient heirlooms of the Latin stock; whereas the Duoviri -sacris faciundis-, and the other colleges, like the thirty curies and the Servian tribes and centuries, originated in, and remained therefore confined to, Rome. But in the case of the second college—the pontifices—the influence of Rome probably led to the introduction of that name into the general Latin scheme instead of some earlier—perhaps more than one—designation; or—a hypothesis which philologically has much in its favour— -pons- originally signified not "bridge," but "way" generally, and -pontifex- therefore meant "constructor of ways."
The statements regarding the original number of the augurs in particular vary. The view that it was necessary for the number to be an odd one is refuted by Cicero (de Lege Agr. ii. 35, 96); and Livy (x. 6) does not say so, but only states that the number of Roman augurs had to be divisible by three, and so must have had an odd number as its basis. According to Livy (l. c.) the number was six down to the Ogulnian law, and the same is virtually affirmed by Cicero (de Rep. ii. 9, 14) when he represents Romulus as instituting four, and Numa two, augural stalls. On the number of the pontifices comp. Staatsrecht, ii. 20.
12. It is only an unreflecting misconception that can discover in this usage a reminiscence of ancient human sacrifices.
13. I. XII. Nature of the Roman Gods
14. I. XII. Priests
15. -Sors- from -serere-, to place in row. The -sortes- were probably small wooden tablets arranged upon a string, which when thrown formed figures of various kinds; an arrangement which puts one in mind of the Runic characters.
16. I. X. Hellenes and Latins
17. I. VII. Servian Wall
18. I. II. Indo-Germanic Culture
19. I. IV. Tities and Luceres