CHAPTER VII. WORSHIP OF THE STATE
Sacred, Iuppiter, Character, Roman, Festival, Days
Since, in the matter of religion, the Roman state is in the main but the agricultural household magnified, we shall not, in considering its worship, be entering on a new stratum of ideas, but rather looking at the development of notions and sentiments already familiar. To deal, however, with the state-worship in full would not only far exceed the limits of this sketch, but would lead us away from religious ideas into the region of what we might now call 'ecclesiastical management.' I propose therefore to confine myself to two points, firstly, the broadening of the old conceptions of the household and the fields and their adaptation to the life of the state, and secondly—to be treated very shortly and as an indication of the Roman character—the organisation of religion.
1. Development of the Worship of House and Fields.—Here we shall find two main characteristics. The state in the first place, as we have several times hinted in anticipation, establishes its own counterpart of the household and rustic cults and adapts to its own use the ideas which they involve: in the second, and particularly in connection with some of the field-deities, it evolves new and very frequently abstract notions, foreign to the life of the independent country households, but necessary and vital to the life of an organised community. Let us look first at the fate of the household deities.
Ianus.—We left Ianus as the numen of the house-door: he passes into the state exactly in the same capacity: the state too has its 'door,' the gate at the north-east corner of the Forum, and this becomes the seat of his state-cult—the door which, according to Augustan legend, is opened in the time of war and only shut when Rome is at peace with all the world. But reflection soon gets to work on Ianus: a door has two sides, it can both open and shut; therefore, as early as the song of the Salii, he has developed the cult-epithets 'Opener,' 'Shutter' (Patulci, Cloesi), and as soon as he is thought of as anything approaching a personality he is 'two-headed' (bifrons), as he appears in later representations. The door again is the first thing you come to in entering a house: the 'door-spirit' then, with that tendency to abstraction which we shall see shortly in other cases, becomes the god of beginnings. He watches over the very first beginning of human life in his character of Consevius; to him is sacred the first hour of the day (pater matutinus), the Calends of every month, and the first month of the year (Ianuarius); to him too is offered by the rex sacrorum the first sacrifice of the year, the Agonium on the 9th of January. In this capacity, moreover, his name comes first in all the formulæ of prayer, and he is looked upon—not indeed as the father of the gods—for that is a much too anthropomorphic notion—but as what we might now term their 'logical antecedent': divum deus, as the song of the Salii quaintly puts it, principium deorum, as later interpretation explained it. Yet through all he remains the most typical Roman deity: he does not acquire a temple till 217 B.C., nor a bust until quite late, nor is he ever identified with a Greek counterpart. In his capacity as pater matutinus he has a native female counterpart in Matuta, a dawn-deity, who becomes a protectress in childbirth, and as such is the centre of the matrons' festival, the Matralia of June 11.
Vesta.—The history of Vesta is perhaps less romantic, but it affords a more exact parallel between household and state. In the primitive community the king's hearth is not merely of symbolical importance, but of great practical utility, in that it is kept continually burning as the source of fire on which the individual householder may draw: hence it is the duty of the king's daughters to care for it and keep the flame perpetually alight. In Rome the temple of Vesta is the king's hearth, situated, as one would expect, in close proximity to the regia. The fire is kept continually blazing except on the 1st of March of every year, when it is allowed to go out and is ceremonially renewed. The Vestal virgins, sworn to perpetual virginity and charged with the preservation of the sacred flame, are 'the king's daughters,' living in a kind of convent (atrium Vestæ) and under the charge of the king's representative, the pontifex maximus. It is their duty too, as the natural cooks of the sacred royal household, to make the salt cake (mola salsa) to be used at the year's festivals and to preserve it and other sacred objects, such as the ashes of the Fordicidia, in the storehouse of Vesta (penus Vestæ). In the month of June from the 7th to the 15th, with a climax on the 9th, the day of the Vestalia, the matrons who all the year round have tended their own hearths, come in solemn procession bare-footed to make their homely offerings at the state-hearth, and the virgins meanwhile offer the cakes that they have made. For eight days the ceremony continues, during which time the bakers and millers keep holiday; the days are religiosi (marriages are unlucky and other taboos are observed) and also nefasti (no public business may be performed); until the ceremony closes on the 15th, with the solemn cleansing of the temple and the casting of the refuse into the Tiber, and then the normal life of the state may be renewed—Q. St. D. F. (Quando Stercus Delatum Fas) is the unique entry in the Calendars. This is all less imaginative than the development of Ianus, but the underlying feeling is intensely Roman and there could be no clearer idea of the natural adaptation of the household-cult to the religion of the state.
Penates, Lares, and Genius.—The other household deities too have their counterpart, though not so prominently marked, in the worship of the state. The magistrates, on entering office, took oath by Iuppiter and the Di Penates populi Romani Quiritium, and that the conception was as wide in the state as in the household is shown by the fact that on less formal occasions the formula appears as Iuppiter et ceteri di omnes immortales. The Penates of the state then would include all the state-deities; but that their original character is not lost sight of we can see from the statement of Varro that in the penus Vestæ (the 'state storehouse') were preserved their sigilla—not apparently sensuous representations, but symbolic objects, such as we have seen before in cases like that of the silex of Iuppiter. The Lares again find their counterpart in the Lares Praestites of the state, and their rustic festival, the Compitalia, has its urban reproduction, which, as it involved considerable license on the part of populace and slaves, was often in the later period of the Republic a cause of serious political disturbance. Even the Genius, though rather vaguely, passes over to the state and we hear of the Genius populi Romani or the Genius urbis Romæ, with regard to which Servius quotes from an inscription on a shield the characteristic addition, sive mas sive femina: in much later times we find the exact counterpart of the domestic worship of the Genius of the pater familias in the cult of the Genius of the Emperor—the foundation of the whole of the imperial worship.
We have observed already how the cults of the fields were taken over by the state and their counterparts established in the great festivals of the Calendar. Naturally enough most of the deities concerned, existing only for the part they played in these festivals, retained their original character without further development. But with a few it was different: it was their fate to acquire new characteristics and new functions, and, developing with the needs of the community, to become the great gods of the state: of these we must give some brief account.
Iuppiter.—We have known Iuppiter hitherto either in connection with certain very primitive survivals, or in the genuine Roman period as a sky-numen, concerned with the grape-harvest in the two Vinalia and the Meditrinalia, and the recipient at the family meal of a daps as a general propitiation before the beginning of the sowing. As sky-god he passes to the state: Lucetius (lux) is his title in the song of the Salii and to him are sacred the Ides of every month—the time of the full moon, when there is most light in the heavens by night as well as day. In his agricultural connection he has his wine-festivals in the state as in the country, and the household daps becomes the more elaborate epulum Iovis, in which the whole community, as it were, entertained him at a banquet. As a sky-deity, too, he is particularly concerned with the thunderbolt and the lightning-flash (Iuppiter Fulmen, Fulgur), and to him are sacred the always ominous spots which had been struck by lightning (bidentalia): with the more alarming occurrence of lightning by night he has a special connection under the cult-title Iuppiter Summanus. But as the little community grew, and especially perhaps after the union of the two settlements, the worship of Iuppiter Feretrius, associated with the sacred oak upon the Capitol—the hill between Palatine and Quirinal—comes more and more into prominence as a bond of union and the central point of the state's religious life: it tends indeed to take the place of priority, which had previously been occupied by Ianus. The community goes to war with its neighbours, and after a signal victory the spolia opima must be dedicated on the sacred oak: indeed Iuppiter is in a special sense with them in the battle and must now be worshipped as the 'stayer of rout' (Stator) and the 'giver of victory' (Victor). War is a new province of the state's activity, but, characteristically enough, it does not evolve its own numen, but enlarges the sphere of the somewhat elastic spirits already existing. So too in the internal organisation of the state there is felt the need of a religious sanction for public morality, and Iuppiter—though vaguely at first—takes on him the character of a deity of justice. In this connection he is primarily the god of oaths: we have seen how his sacred silex was used in the oath of treaty: it is also the most solemn witness to the oath of the citizen. Iuppiter Lapis becomes specially the Dius Fidius, a cult-title which subsequently sets up for itself and produces a further offshoot in the abstract Fides. Finally, towards the end of our period the Iuppiter of the Capitol emerges triumphant, as it were, from his struggle with his rivals and, with the new title of Iuppiter Optimus Maximus,—the 'best and greatest,' that is, of all the Iuppiters—takes his place as the supreme deity of the Roman state and the personification of the greatness and majesty of Rome itself. To his temple hereafter the Roman youth will come to make his offering when he takes the dress of manhood; here the magistrates will do sacrifice before entering on their year of office: here the victorious general will pass in procession with the spoils of his victory: on the walls shall be suspended treaties with foreign nations and offerings sent by subject princes and states from all quarters of the world: all that Rome is to be, will be, as it were, embodied in the sky-spirit of the sacred oak, the god of justice and of victory in war.
Iuno.—Iuppiter carries with him into the state-worship his female counterpart, Iuno, with his own characteristics, in a certain degree, and his own privileges. She is Lucina and Fulgura as he is Lucetius and Fulgur: white cows are her offerings as white steers are his: as the Ides are sacred to Iuppiter, so—though they are not a festival—are the Calends to Iuno. But from the first she shows a certain independence and develops on lines of her own. In the curious ceremony of the fixing of the Nones (the first quarter of the month), held on the Calends in the curia Calabra, she seems to appear as a moon-goddess: the rex sacrorum, after a report from a pontifex as to the appearance of the new moon, announces the result in the formula: 'I summon thee for five (or seven) days, hollow Iuno' (dies te quinque [septem] kalo, Iuno Covella: hence the name Kalendae). But far more prominently—either as a female divinity herself, or, as some think, owing to the supposed influence of the moon on female life—does Iuno figure as the deity of women, and especially in association with childbirth and marriage. As Lucina she is, as we have seen, the presiding deity of childbirth, and her festival on the 1st of March, though not in the Calendars (because confined to women and not therefore a festival of the whole people), attained immense popularity under the title of the Matronalia. She has too a general superintendence of the rites of marriage, and the various little numina, who play so prominent a part in the ceremonies, tend to attach themselves to her as cult-titles. The festival of the servant-maids in honour of Iuno Caprotina on the 7th of July shows the same notion of Iuno as the women's goddess, which appears again in common parlance when women speak of their Iuno, just as men do of their Genius. Later on Iuno acquires the characteristics of majesty (Regina) and protection in war (Curitis, Sospita), partly no doubt as Iuppiter's counterpart, but more directly through the introduction of cults from neighbouring Italian towns.
Mars.—We have seen reason to believe that in the earlier stages of Roman religion Mars was a numen of vegetation, but though the Ambarvalia was duly taken over into the state-cult and attained a very high degree of importance, yet there can be no doubt that in the state-religion Mars was pre-eminently associated with war. Iuppiter might help at need in averting defeat and awarding victory, but it was with Mars that the general conduct of war rested. His sacred animal is the warlike wolf, his symbols the spears and the sacred shields (ancilia), which during his own month (Martius)—the 1st of which is his special festival—his priests (Salii) wearing the full war-dress (trabea and tunica picta) carry with sacred dance and song round the city. His altar is in the Campus Martius, outside the city-walls and therefore within the sphere of the imperium militiae, and the other festivals associated with him are of a warlike character: the races of the war-horse (Equirria) on March 14 and February 27, and the great race on the Ides of October, when the winner was solemnly slain: the lustration of the arms at the Quinquatrus on March 19 and the Armilustrium of October 19—at the beginning and end of the campaigning season: and the lustration of the war-trumpets on the 23rd of March and the 23rd of May. But above all in honour of Mars is held the great quinquennial lustrum associated with the census, when the people are drawn up in military array around his altar in the Campus Martius and the solemn offering of the suovetaurilia (is this a faint relic of his agricultural character?) after being carried three times round the gathered host, is offered on his altar in prayer for the military future of the state. Hardly any god in the state-cult has his character so clearly marked, and we may regard Mars as a deity who, taking on new functions to suit the needs of the times, almost entirely lost the traces of his original nature.
Quirinus.—Iuppiter and Mars then became the great state-deities of the developed community and to them is added, as the contribution of the Colline settlement, their own particular deity, Quirinus. He, like them, has his own flamen; like Mars he has his Salii, and his festival finds its place in the Calendars on February the 17th. But of his ritual and character we know practically nothing: the ritual was obscured because his festival coincided with the much more popular festival of the curiae, the stultorum feriae: of his character, we can only conjecture that he was to the Colline settlement what Mars was to the Palatine, whereas later after the complete amalgamation he seems to have been distinguished from Mars as representing 'armed peace' rather than war—an idea which is borne out by the associations of the closely allied word Quirites. Be that as it may, we have in Iuppiter, Mars, and Quirinus the great state-triad of the synœcismus, who held their own until at the beginning of the next epoch they were supplanted by the new Etruscan triad of the Capitol, Iuppiter, Iuno and Minerva.
2. Organisation.—It might perhaps be thought that the organisation of religion is a matter remote from its spirit, and is not therefore a suitable subject for discussion, where the object is rather to bring out underlying motives and ideas: but in dealing with the Roman religion, where ceremonial and legal precision were so prominent, it would be even misleading to omit some reference to the very characteristic manner in which the state, taking over the rather chaotic elements of the agricultural worship, organised them into something like a consistent whole. Its most complete achievement in this direction was without doubt the regulation of the religious year. We have spoken many times of the Calendars (Fasti): it is necessary now to obtain some clearer notion of what they were. In Rome itself and various Italian towns have been found some thirty inscriptions, one almost complete (Maffeiani), the others more or less fragmentary, giving the tables of the months and marking precisely the character and occurrences of every day in the year. We may take as a specimen the latter half of the month of August from the Fasti Maffeiani.
In the first column are given the nundinal letters of the days, showing their position in the eight days' 'week' from one market day (nundinae) to the next. In the second column are noted first the great divisions of the month, Calends, Nones, and Ides, and then the religious character of each individual day is indicated by certain signs, whose explanations throw a good deal of light on Roman religions notions. It will be seen that the letters of most frequent occurrence are F, C, and N (or in our extract NP ): these correspond to the broad distinction between days profane and sacred. F (fastus) denotes a day on which the business of the state may be performed, on which the praetor may say (fari) the three words, do, dico, addico, which summed up the decisions of the Roman law: C (comitialis) marks a day on which the legislative assemblies (comitia) may be held: it is by implication F as well. N (nefastus), on the other hand, denotes the sacred day, consecrated to the worship of the gods, on which therefore state-business may not be transacted: similarly the very mysterious and much disputed sign NP, whether it differs in precise signification from N or not, certainly marks a day of sacred character. EN, which occurs once in this extract (from endotercisus, the old Latin form of intercisus) signifies a 'split' day (dies fissus), the beginning and end of which were sacred, while the middle period was free for business. In the second column also (in large letters in some of the other Calendars) are named the feriae publicae, the great annual state-festivals, fixed for one particular day (feriae stativae): such, in this case, are the Portunalia, Vinalia, and Consualia.
These fasti were exhibited in the Forum and on the walls of temples, and the conscientious Roman could have no possible difficulty in finding out when he might lawfully transact his business and what festivals the state was observing: of the 355 days of the old Calendar 11 were fissi, 235 were fasti (192 comitiales), and 109 nefasti. We may remark as curious features in the Calendar, denoting rigid adherence to principle, that with one exception, the Poplifugia of July 5, no festival ever occurs before the Nones, that with two exceptions, the Regifugium of February 24 and the Equirria of the 14th of March, no festival falls on an even day of the month, and that there is a marked avoidance of successive feast-days: even the three days of the Lemuria allow an interval of a day between each.
In the matter of ritual and observance, state-organisation—and its absence—are alike significant. Of the general exactness of ritual and its specific variations on different occasions a fair notion has perhaps already been gathered; it may help to fill out that notion if we can put together a sketch of the normal process of a sacrifice to the gods. Before the sacrifice began the animal to be offered was selected and tested: if it had any blemish or showed any reluctance, it was rejected. If it were whole and willing, it was bound with fillets (infulae) around its forehead, and long ribbons (vittae) depending from them. It was then brought to the altar (ara) by the side of which stood a portable brazier (foculus). The celebrant—magistrate or priest—next approached dressed in the toga, girt about him in a peculiar manner (cinctus Gabinus), and carried up at the back so as to form a hood (velato capite): the herald proclaimed silence, and the flute-player began to play his instrument. The first part of the offering was then made by the pouring of wine and scattering of incense on the brazier: it was followed by the ceremonial slaughter (immolatio) of the animal. The celebrant sprinkled the victim with wine and salted cake, and made a symbolic gesture with the knife. The victim was then taken aside by the attendants (victimarii), and actually slaughtered by them: from it they extracted the sacred parts (exta), liver, heart, gall, lungs, and midriff, and after inspecting them to see that they had no abnormality—but not in the earlier period for purposes of augury—wrapped them in pieces of flesh (augmenta), cooked them, and brought them back to the celebrant, who laid them as an offering upon the altar, where they were burnt. The rest of the flesh (viscera) was divided as a sacred meal between the celebrant and his friends—or in a state-offering among the priests, and probably the magistrate. We cannot refrain from remarking here the extreme precision of ritual, the scrupulous care with which the human side of the contract was fulfilled and the—almost legal—division of the victim between gods and men. But though the ritual was so exact, one must not be led away by modern analogies to suppose that there was ever anything like a rigid constraint on the private citizen for the observance of festivals. The state-festivals were in the strictest sense offerings made to the gods by the representative magistrates or priests, and if they were present, all was done that was required: the whole people had been, by a legal fiction, present in their persons. No doubt the private citizen would often attend in large numbers at the celebrations, especially at the more popular festivals, but from some, such as the Vestalia, he was actually excluded. On the other hand, though it did not demand presence, the state did—at least theoretically—demand the observance of the feast-day by private individuals. The root-notion of feriae was a day set apart for the worship of the gods, and on it therefore the citizen ought to do 'no manner of work.' The state observed this condition fully in the closing of law-courts and the absence of legislative assemblies, and in theory too the private citizen must refrain from any act which was not concerned with the worship of the gods, or rendered absolutely necessary, as, for instance, if 'his ox or his ass should fall into a pit.' But it is characteristic of Rome that the state did not seek for offence, but only punished it if accidentally seen: on a feast-day the rex sacrorum and the flamines might not see work being done; they therefore sent on a herald in advance to announce their presence, and an actual conviction involved a money-fine. Perhaps more scrupulously than the feriae were observed the dies religiosi, days of 'abstinence,' on which certain acts, such as marriage, the beginning of any new piece of work, or the offering of sacrifice to the gods, were forbidden: such, in the oldest period, were the days on which the mundus was open, or the temple of Vesta received the matrons, the days when the Salii carried the ancilia in procession, and the periods of the two festivals of the dead in February and May; but for eluding their observance too devices were not unknown.
In the state-organisation of religion, then, we seem to see just the same features from which we started: as a basis the legal conception of the relation of god to man, as a result the extreme care and precision in times and ceremonials, as a corollary in the state the idea of legal representation and the consequent looseness of hold on the action of the individual.
|Written By Cyril Bailey|
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