Phases in the Religion of Ancient Rome




In the last chapter an endeavour was made to trace the changes in the conception of deity which came over the Roman people as anthropomorphism developed under foreign influences. We must now try to follow the alterations in worship which were brought about when the cults of the farmer's household became the religion of the State of Rome, and, if possible, to estimate their psychological effects. We shall find that in the main the changes are two, one, the inevitable unreality caused by the transference of country rites and festivals to the town, the other, the deadening of the religious instinct in the ordinary citizen through the development of an institutional cult in the hands of an organized priesthood. The effect of both was to stereotype procedure and to divorce religion from life.

Let us first consider how these great changes came about. The ancient Italian settlers, like their successors to-day, tilled the plains but lived on the hills: the plains, though affording the more fertile soil, were apt to be marshy and malarious, as the Campagna round Rome is to this day; the hills, though often rocky and barren, afforded at once a more healthy dwelling-place and a superior position in the face of attack. But there was this difference between the ancient and the modern method of habitation. To-day, as throughout the Middle Ages, it is small towns which are perched on the sides and tops of the Italian hills: the inhabitants were, and still often are, agriculturists, but they lived together in their narrow-streeted and often fortified towns and issued out to the fields which spread below them in the plain. But in prehistoric Italy we find few traces of towns: the farms were isolated, each in the neighbourhood of its fields, and even in historic times, when towns had sprung up all over Italy, the independent villa was still the basis of agriculture. The pagus, which was undoubtedly an early unit, was not in any sense a town or even a village, but only an ill-defined community of neighbouring farms, whose inhabitants met for the performance of certain common religious rites. It is to this organization—or rather lack of organization—that we may attribute the essentially family character of the early Roman religion; the paterfamilias was supreme and the sole priest both in the house and in the fields, and the priests of the pagus were but the united patresfamiliarum.

One such settlement must in very early times have existed on the Palatine hill. The steepness of its sides and the proximity of the river made an easily defensible position, yet it had ready access to the low-lying ground afterwards occupied by the Forum, to the Campus Martius, and away beyond to the Campagna. And so, it would seem, it gradually became more populated and approached the character of a Latin village. On the opposite hill, the Quirinal—a less easily defensible post—was situated a similar settlement, possibly a little later in date and containing, according to a persistent tradition, a Sabine element among its inhabitants. After some conflict the two settlements united, having as their common meeting-ground for trade and business the Forum, which lay between them, and for the centre of their common religious life, the Capitoline hill, which closed its western end. This synoecism was the germ of Rome. As it grew and others of the seven hills became inhabited, sacred spots were established in many places, in the Forum itself, on the other hills, especially the Aventine, and in the intervening valleys; most of them were within the sacred boundary of the pomoerium, but some, such as that of Mars, from the earliest time outside it. Thus there grew and expanded a common life, which the rule of the paterfamilias could. not cover, nor could the old cults provide adequate religious expression for it. It was inevitable that a State-cult should come into being.

If we ask what were the problems concerning its religion which, consciously or unconsciously, beset the growing city of Rome, we find that they were three: first, how to adapt the domestic and rustic religion of the Latin farmers to the use of the new urban population, second, how to develop fresh cults to express the needs of the new community in war and in peace, and lastly, how to organize the whole and provide for the permanent performance of ceremony and ritual. For each of these problems Rome attempted to find a solution, acting with a queer combination of conservatism and adaptation.

Of the agricultural festivals many no doubt were still kept up in Labium and in Italy in general. But these were private celebrations and were not enough; the festival must be also performed on behalf of the whole community with such modifications as were necessary in the city. Thus Varro informs us that the shepherd's festival of the Parilia was "both public and private," and Ovid, before he gives his vivid description of the country rite, refers to a city celebration, in which he had himself taken part. Similarly, while the Vinalia, the wine-festival, of April 23 was apparently celebrated in Rome, the Vinalia of August 19 was known as Rustica, and must therefore have been in origin at least, kept in the country. So too the Compitalia, the festival of the Lares, celebrated in the fields, at the cross-paths of properties, had its counterpart in Rome at the crossings of the vici (streets). Sometimes the names of a festival differ in country and city, but the coincidence of date and character justify identification. The Paganalia was a rustic January festival of the second sowing: in the city at the same time and for the same purpose was celebrated the Feriae Sementivae. Even the famous rustic lustration of the Ambarvalia seems to have had a corresponding city-festival in May, but, as though the Romans perceived the absurdity of a lustration of the fields within the city boundary, they added a lustration of the city (Amburbium) in February.

For the celebration of some of the old festivals a compromise was adopted: a site was selected, sufficiently distant to be in the country, yet near enough for a celebration by the townsmen. Thus the Terminalia as a State-festival took place at the, sixth milestone on the Via Laurentina, presumably at one time the boundary of the Roman State; the Robigalia was held in a grove of Robigus at the fifth milestone on the Via Claudia. The festival of the mysterious deity Feronia was held in the Campus Martius, which was also the scene "at the first stone on the Via Flam­inia" of the popular New Year's festival of Anna Perenna on the Ides of March: the Campus Martius was in historic times the nearest piece of open ground outside the walls.

But in other cases a festival of purely agricultural intention performed in the city, had, as far as we know, lapsed in the country. Thus at the Fordicidia, the old magic rite in which pregnant cows were sacrificed for the fertility of the crops, the celebration took place in each of the thirty curiae, the ancient divisions of the city, and on the Capitol for the whole State. Here it seems possible to see the process of gradual centralization through the curiae, but the ceremony is essentially one of country life and has no meaning as applied to the town-community. Similarly there can hardly have been two more typically agricultural festivals than the two harvest-homes, the Consualia of August 21 and the Opiconsivia of August 25: yet the former was celebrated at an underground altar of Consus in the Circus Maximus, symbolising perhaps the subterranean storehouse in which the countryman kept his corn, the latter at the shrine (sacrarium) of Ops in the Regia—in the King's store-cupboard. The Lupercalia again, had in all probability a rustic antecedent in a lustration-festival for the protection of the herds and the promotion of fertility, but it is only known to us as a town-ceremony with the course of its runners fixed around the base of the Palatine, and its fertility-charms are exercised now on the women of the city community. The strange rite of the Argeorum sacra, when wicker images were thrown into the Tiber by the Vestals, may have been celebrated in the country, as a rain-charm for the benefit of the crops, but historically it is associated only with the Pons Sublicius at Rome.

The transition from the country life to that of the town was thus effected religiously in several different ways. But in almost all instances an unintelligent conservatism prevails: the Romans have ceased to be tillers of the land or keepers of flocks, yet their calendar is based on the assumption that their occupations are still the same, and the festivals are performed with a meaningless tenacity of the old country rites close to the city or even within its boundaries. It is obvious at once that such irrational clinging to old custom must lead to an unreality, which only increased as time went on: more and more the rites were performed as a convention by State officials and priests and the private citizen took no part in them. Often the meaning of the rite was altogether lost, sometimes even the character and function of the deity concerned. The nature of the goddess Feronia, worshipped on November 13, was greatly disputed by the ancient authorities, and all that can be known is that freedmen took some part in the celebration; of Furring, who had a flamen of her own and a festival on July 25 Varro tells us that "even her name was scarcely known to a few people." This is the kind of decay that is worse than the crumbling of a temple and which no well-meaning Augustus could save.

A parallel development of State-cults took place in relation to the domestic deities, but the results were here not so incongruous, partly because there was nothing to prevent the continuance of the genuine household worship in the town as in the country, partly perhaps because here the State-cults had peculiar fea- tures of their own, which gave them something of a popular appeal: in consequence they never became so dead as the State reproductions of the agricultural festivals. Ianus, the door-spirit in the house, was worshipped at the famous gate at the north corner of the Forum, whose opening became the sign of war and its closing of peace: at least from Augustus' time onwards he was very much in the public eye. Vesta in her round-temple at the end of the Forum, became Vesta publica populi Romani Quiritium, the hearth of the State, on which the sacred fire must be jealously kept alight. The Lar familiaris has his counterpart in the Lares Praestites of the State, two figures assimilated in appearance to the Dioscuri and worshipped with great enthusiasm towards the beginning of the Empire in the streets (vici) of the city. The Penates publici were closely associated with Vesta, no doubt because the penus of the State was in her building and they were connected with Iuppiter in the oath sworn by the incoming magistrate. An apparently later development, but one of greater significance, is that of the Genius Publicus or Genius Populi Romani, to whom a State-offering was first made in B.C. 218, and a sacred precinct dedicated near the temple of Concord in the Forum towards the end of the Republic. A remarkable example of this idea is recorded by Servius who tells us that there was preserved in the Capitol a consecrated shield with the inscription "To the Genius of the city of Rome, be it male or female." Of the two domestic festivals of the dead, the Lemuria, at which the dead were thought of as hostile spirits to be exorcised, remained, as far as we know, always purely domestic, but the kindlier festival of the Feralia or Parentalia had its State counterpart. Thus the deities and rites of the household fared better in the State than those of the fields: there was no essential unreality in their transference and they seem to have retained vitality both in their public and private celebrations; their fate is in a large measure an interesting contrast to that of the agricultural ceremonies.

Yet secondly, even this tenaciously conservative people recognized that the rustic and domestic festivals could not provide adequately for the new urban life, and there are consequently festivals in the calendar which belong essentially to the city stage of civilization and which cannot have existed before the city-community was already formed. One such example has been noticed in the Amburbium, which presumes the existence of a city-boundary: others may probably be seen in the mysterious festivals of the Poplifugia on July 5 and the Regifugium on February 24, for whatever may have been their character and intention, their very names denote an organized society under a monarchy, such as cannot have existed before Rome became a city. But most conspicuous among these purely urban rites is the whole series of festivals associated with Mars in his capacity as god of war, for they were impossible, at least in their historic form, until he had become the leader of the organized host of a city. The lustration of the arms (Armilustrium) on October 19, the lustration of the trumpets (Tubilustrium) on March 23, the horse-races of March 15 and October 15, all suggest the war god of an established community, and that inference is borne out by the repeated dancing processions of his war-priests, the Salii, during the month of March. It is, no doubt, possible that far away in the past this leaping of Mars' priests may have had an agricultural significance as a fertility-rite, but as practised since the oldest days of the calendar, it is urban and military. The Salii, twelve from the Palatine, twelve from the Colline Mountain, were clothed in the full religious dress of the Roman warrior, the "broidered robe" (tunica picta) and the cavalry coat (trabea): they wear a metal breastplate and a helmet with the priestly tuft (apex); on the left arm they carry the Anglia, the sacred shields of antique pattern like the Mycenaean figure of eight shield, and in their left hands Mars' sacred spears. They pass through the city, stopping to dance at fixed spots and to sing their ancient song, and rest each evening at "halts" (mansiones Saliorum), where they hang up their arms and feast. Not only is the whole ceremony conceived as that of a military city, but the localities are all fixed in Rome.

With the third development it is necessary to deal at some length. In order that all these rites and ceremonies might be duly performed in the name of-the State, much organization was necessary, and there must be religious officials both to carry out the ritual acts and to preserve the sacred lore which regulated them. No doubt in the regal period the king was the State-priest, the true representative of the people in face of the gods; he was, as it were, the paterfamilias of the community. Even the warlike Romulus is represented in legend as making his sacrifices to the gods, and inaugurating with due rites the new-built Rome. His successor, Numa, is always looked on as a sacred and priestly person: he consults the nymph Egeria, he ordains the religious calendar, and later ages like to speak of the early cults as constituting the "Religion of Numa." Livy has described the process by which Numa was "inaugurated" as priest and king: he uses no doubt the language of a later period, derived from the consecration in historic times of the Rex Sacrorum, the flamines and the augurs, but just for that reason it is worth quoting in full, as it will give a clear idea of the manner in which the great priests were set apart for the State worship of the gods, and of the exactness of the ceremonies which they observed:

When Numa was summoned to Rome to be king, just as Romulus had won the kingship by founding the city after due augury, so he ordered that the gods' will should be asked concerning him. He was led to the citadel by the augur, who from that time forth as a mark of honour had for ever the right to perform this public act of service to the gods (sacerdotium), and there took his seat on the sacred. stone turning to the south. The augur sat on Numa's left with his head veiled, holding in his right hand a carved. staff without a knot, which they called the lituus. Then when he had taken a view towards the city and, the country he made prayer to the gods and marked out the "regions" of the sky from east to west, having the south on the right and the north on the left; he determined in his mind a mark as far as the eyes could see (to be the limit of the field of omens); then transferring the lituus to his left hand, and placing his right hand on the head of Numa, he uttered this prayer: "Father Iuppiter, if it is the will of heaven (fas) that this Numa Pompilius, whose head I hold in my hand, should be king of Rome, make clear to us sure signs within the limits which I have fixed." Then he declared aloud the auspices which he wished to be sent, and when they had been sent Numa was declared king and left the sacred precinct (templum).

It is a solemn rite and serves to show how the priest was set apart from the people for his sacred service, a separation of which there were, as will be seen, other indications in his privileges and restrictions.

None of the later kings seems to have been so definitely marked out as a sacred person, though Servius Tullius has his religious associations especially as the introducer of Etruscan practices, but we cannot doubt that all Numa's successors held this position as head of the religious life of the State.

After the expulsion of the kings the ceremonial duties of the king devolved upon the Rex Sacrorum, or, as he was less correctly called, Rex Sacrificulus. He was always reckoned as the first of the priesthoods and he had the first seat on ceremonial occasions. He must always be a patrician, whose father and mother were alive (patrimus et matrimus), and was solemnly inaugurated to his force in the comitia calata, doubtless with the ceremonies which were observed at the inauguration of the king. He, like the Pontifex Maximus, had the right of entry to the sacrarium of the Regina, the king's palace, and was entrusted with the secrets of the ius divinum. It is indeed probable that in the early republican period he played a large part, but later on his functions were mostly usurped by the Pontifex Maximus, and we find him doing little more than acting as the priest of Ianus and announcing to the people on the Nones the festival days of the month. Indeed so far had his office dropped, into obscurity that Augustus seems to have found it necessary to revive it as part of his religious reformation. But in earlier days he must have been regarded with much of the religious awe which surrounded the king.

The effective priesthoods of the Republic may be divided into three classes, the individual priests, Flam­ines, assigned to particular deities, the groups concerned. with the performance of special festivals or ceremonies, and the great priestly colleges. It is necessary to form some idea of all these in order to realize how completely the performance and organization of religion was taken out of the hands of the people and concentrated in this priestly class. There can be little doubt that the name flamen is derived from flare "to blow," and that he was therefore in origin the priest whose duty it was to kindle and "blow up" the fame for the sacrifice to his particular deity. The three greater Flamines were those of Iuppiter, Mars, and Quirinus, the three numina who, as has been seen, formed a pre-eminent group in the early days of Rome before the coming of the Etruscan triad. Of these the first and greatest was at all times the Flamen Dialis, the priest of Iuppiter. We have seen already (pp. 26 ff.) the "taboos" which were laid upon him and which distinguished him from his fellows: the sacredness of his office was emphasized socially in that he must be a patrician born in a wedlock celebrated by the solemn rite of confarreatio, and so wedded himself, and politically by the ordinance that he must not hold a civic magistracy. In return as it were for his restrictions he enjoyed certain privileges, the right to pardon condemned criminals who appealed to him, the exemption from the patria potestas of his father, the wearing of the toga praetexta and the privileges of having a victor of his own, of sitting on the curule chair, and having an ex officio place in the senate. Immediately below the Flamen Dialis ranked the Flamines of Mars and Quirinus, who had some but not all both of the restrictions and the privileges of Dialis. Then in the hierarchy of the priesthood came the Pontifex Maximus, after whom followed ten more Flamines, those of Volcanos, Ceres, Carmenta, Portunus, Volturnus, Pales, Furring, Flora, Falacer, and Pomona, the flamen Pomonalis always coming last, because, as Festus notes, she "presides over the most trifling product of the fields, the fruit." Both the antiquity of these priesthoods and their shadowy character in historical times are shown by the obscurity of some of the numina on whom they attended; Furring's obscurity has already been noted, nor have we any information about Falacer, though modern scholars have conjectured that he was a river, god. The Flamines were all confined in their functions to the worship of the particular deity to whom they were attached, except that occasionally they were assigned duties in connexion with other cults. Thus the Flamen Dialis was present at the Lupercalia, and his wife, the Flaminica, had association with the festival of the Argei. Similarly the Flamen Quirinalis sacrificed at the Robigalia and took part in the harvest-home of Consus; in both these latter cases the numen concerned in the cult had no special priest of his own. This, however, was exceptional, and all the indications are that this, the oldest of all the priesthoods, was almost completely specialized.

Of the group-priests we have already met the Fetiales, the Luperci, and the Salii in the performance of their duties. The work of the Fetiales gradually fell into disuse, as the empire of Rome grew and her wars were with distant peoples to whom their procedure would have been unintelligible, but it is characteristic of Rome that the declaration of war was still made in the old way by a legal fiction. Taking their stand, by a column of the temple of Bellona near the Circus Maximus, the Fetiales hurled a spear into a sod of earth, intended to represent the enemies' territory; this solemn drama was used by Augustus in declaring war against Antony and Cleopatra. The Luperci and the Salii both made a spectacular appeal to the populace on the occasions of their public appearance, and it is clear that belief in the fertility magic of the Luperci lasted on till a very late period. Neither of these priesthoods was so exclusively set apart as the Flamines, but this is natural seeing that their duties were confined to special occasions in the year. The Salii, who were obliged, like the Rex Sacrorum, to be patrimi et matrimi had the right to resign their position if elected to a civil magistracy, but were not permitted to hold any other priesthood in combination. The Luperci might combine their priesthood with other occupations and were not restricted by a birth qualification; for not only did Mark Antony, when consul, act as a Lupercus on the historic occasion in B.C. 44 when he offered the crown to Caesar, but an inscription tells us even of a freedman who held the office, and after Augustus' reforms the Luperci were regarded as essentially an equestrian priesthood.

As a type of the group-priesthoods, we may take the Vestal Virgins who present a sharply contrasting picture of religious seclusion. Six in number they dwelt in the Hall of Vesta (atrium Vestae), attached to the goddess' round temple at the south end of the Forum, and were bound at all times to attend to the sacred fire, which must never be allowed to go out, except at the end of the religious year on the last day of February, to be rekindled on the first day of March. They had charge, too, of the sacred storehouse (penus Vestae) and every year in June had to superintend the solemn cleansing of the temple. Occasionally they attended the functions connected with other deities. For a week in May (7–14) it was their duty to take the corn-ears of the new harvest, to roast, crush, and grind them and store the flour: from this, adding salt, they prepared the mola salsa for use at the Lupercalia, the Vestalia, and on the Ides of September. Similarly they received the blood of the "October horse," who was slain after his victory in the race on October 15, and preserved it to be mingled with the ashes of the unborn calf slaughtered at the Fordicidia and thrown on to the fire at the Parilia. They took their part in the Fordicidia, they threw the puppets into the river at the Argeorum sacra, they were present at the Parilia and at the harvest festivals of August, at most indeed of the greater agricultural celebrations.

The Vestals too must be of patrician birth and the children of living parents; they were chosen for their once between the ages of six and ten, and must remain in it for at least thirty years. It is possible, as has been conjectured, that in the regal period they were actually the king's daughters, appointed to tend the king's hearth and guard his storehouse; it is noticeable that the temple of Vesta adjoins the Regina. In Republican times they were released from the potestas of their own fathers and, were "in the hand" of the Pontifex Maximus, the king's successor on the legal side of religion, and were chosen by lot out of a number nominated by him. Under their head, the Virgo Vest­alis Maxima, they led a rigorous life of religious service and personal purity: they must suffer corporal punishment if they failed in their duty of preserving the sacred fire, and the awful penalty of death by immurement, if they sacrificed their chastity. They never left the Atrium Vesta,e except to fulfil one of their sacred duties, and the public appearance of a Vestal was always felt to be austere and awesome: sacrosanctitas and religio hung about her. Here was indeed the conception of a life apart, comparable to the life of a convent, and the total exclusion of men from the temple and the cult of Vesta, while it no doubt increased the awe, also removed the worship still further from the-life of the average citizen. It was all characteristically Roman: as Warde Fowler says

Far more than any other cult, that of Vesta represents the reality and continuity of Roman religious feeling; and the remains of her latest dwelling, and the statues of her priest-esses with no statue of herself among them, may still give the visitor to the Forum some dim idea of the spirit of Roman worship.

There remain the two great colleges, which had more influence than any other of the priesthoods on the State religion of Rome, those of the augurs and the pontifices. The augurs represent a side of religious belief and. practice which lies apart from the main current of worship: it was the augurs function not to petition the gods but to ascertain their will. An attempt has already been made (Chapter III) to consider the underlying ideas of divination, and we have in this chapter had the picture of the augur taking his part in the "inauguration" of the king. This was indeed his primary function, preserved in the Republic at the inauguration of the Rex Sacrorum and of the three great flamines: the word is almost certainly derived from the root of augere "to increase" or "bless" and has nothing to do with avis; the augur is the man who "asks the blessing." We find traces of similar truly augural functions in the vernisera auguria for the blessing on the spring crops, the augurium canarium, which appears to have been connected with the Robigalia, for the aversion of the red mildew, and the mysterious augurium salutis, a blessing on the life of the State, which could only be asked for when the world was at peace and there was no Roman army in the field.

In historical times the augur was more prominent in his secondary function as assistant to, the magistrate in the taking of the auspicia. Here the signs were still impetrativa, the gods were asked to give an indication of their pleasure or displeasure, and the function of the augur was that of an interpreter. He marked out the quarter of the sky in which the auspice was to be expected, he then sat blindfold, while the magistrate "watched the sky" (servare caelum) and reported what he saw; it was the augur's duty to say whether the sign was good or bad. This the augur decided in virtue of the expert knowledge of the signs of the gods which he had acquired for his own special purpose of "giving the blessing" in inauguratio. But whereas in that process the signs were always caelestia, phenomena of the sky, in the auspices they were in origin derived from the flight and cries of birds (avi-spicium) Later, and possibly under the influence of Etruria, omens from lightning were added. But neither in augury nor auspice was the inspection of entrails (extispicium) an element: this was a Greek form of omen-taking which was introduced to Rome from Etruria, but never practised by the augurs, only by the haruspices, who were in many cases themselves Etruscans.

A third function of the augur was to assist the magistrate in dealing with auguria oblativa, signs of the divine will given without being asked for. In the public life of Rome these unasked. omens became of great importance in the conduct of the comitia; for if during the meeting an unfavourable omen occurred, it was the duty of the presiding magistrate to adjourn proceedings. It lay in his hands first, to decide whether the omen reported should be taken notice of and secondly, to determine what was its character, but in both these capacities he was assisted by the expert advice of the augur, and seeing that he also had the right of nuntiatio, the announcement of the occurrence of an omen, it is clear that the augurate had a considerable influence on the political progress of events. The scandals which arose from the misuse of the auguria oblativa in the last century of the Republic are notorious and they culminated in the obstructionist tactics of Caesar's refractory colleague, Bibulous, in 59 B.C., who endeavoured to invalidate the whole of Caesar's legislation by means of adverse omens, or even by the mere declaration that he intended to "observe the heavens" (servare de caelo).

The augurs were a close college of originally three and later nine, and then fifteen persons: at first all were patricians, but in 300 B.C. the Lex Ogulnia, based no doubt on the growing political power of the augurate, gave the plebeians the larger share of members, five out of nine. But though in its composition the college had a popular element, it always remained very secret, and the lore of the disciplina auguralis was never, like parts at any rate of the ius divinum of the pontifices, divulged to the public; the knowledge of the meaning of the auguries must not be spread abroad. Partly on account of this secrecy, the augur's art fell into some contempt. Already in the Punic Wars Duilius could dispose summarily of the sacred chickens and Flamininus disregard the unfortunate auspices at his entry on the consulship. When Bibulous obstructed in 59, Caesar and his tribune Vatinius just set aside his omens, and in the next year Clodius carried the repeal of the Leges Aelia et Fufia, on which the whole system of augury rested. No doubt on each of these occasions there was a scandal and an outcry, but the outcry was not really religious, but rather an excuse for military and political discredit. The time for any real belief in the efficacy of augury and auspice was gone by, and Cicero, himself an augur and proud of his position, could discuss the whole question of divination in a sceptical spirit.

The origin of the greatest of the colleges, that of the pontifices, is hidden in darkness and we do not know what position, if any, they held in the regal period, though Livy certainly believed that they existed then. But if the obvious derivation of their name is right, and they were the "bridge-builders" who had charge of the old wooden Pons Sublicius, which had always a sacred character, we may suppose them to have been a comparatively subordinate functional group of priests. Be that as it may, they must have assumed a prominent place from the outset of the Republic. As the Rex Sacrorum inherited the ceremonial side of the king's religious functions, and with power ever dwindling became little more than the official who sacrificed to Ianus on the ninth of January, the pontifices who took over the administration and ordering of the State-cults and the legal aspect of religion, assumed an ever-growing control and in the practical sphere the undisputed leadership in all religious matters, except augury. At their head was the Pontifex Maximus, not only the chief of the pontifices, but head, as it were, of a unified corporation of priesthoods, embodying in his person the religious authority of the king. The king's palace, the Regina, became his force, where he and his colleagues held their meetings, on the walls of which their chronicles were ultimately inscribed, and the Vestals passed into his potestas.

The pontifices thus exercised a wide authority, which it is not easy to define; it was rather an all-pervading influence, but roughly it may be said that on the practical side they had in their hands the administration of the patrius ritus and were answerable for the preservation of the pax deorum; on the other, they were the repositories of the ius divinum and responsible for the maintenance of all its lore and traditions. In the former capacity the pontifices had a general care for all the ceremonies of the old religion which were not in the hands of special priesthoods, and sometimes there is special mention of their presence. The Pontifex Maximus was present, for instance, with the Vestal virgins at the Argeorum sacra, with the flamen Quirinalis at the parentatio at the Larentalia in December, with the flamen Martians at the ceremony of the October horse. In the ceremonies of private life, the Pontifex Maximus must be present with the flamen Dialis at the religious marriage rite of confarreatio, at the adoption from one family to another in the comitia calata, where they had to conduct the detestatio sacrorum, the religious operation of the forswearing of the sacra of the original family.

More far-reaching than their presence at individual festivals was the general care of the ius divinum. In early times all law was divine, but at Rome the ius civile gradually separated itself off from the ius divinum and became secularized, though retaining many of the terms and much of the form of religious law. When this separation was complete the magistrates and the juris-consults became the custodians of the civil law, but the ius divinum remained in the hands of the pontifices. As its custodians they were first of all responsible for the calendar. It was the pontifices who, until Caesar took it in hand, had to organize the Roman year, which was for so many centuries a strange and unsuccessful compromise between a solar year of 365 days and a lunar year of twelve months of 29 days. They too had the duty of settling the religious character of every day in the year, fast, nefast, comitialis, and all the subtle differentiations expressed by the letters prefixed to the days in the existing Fasti. Finally they kept the knowledge of the festival days throughout the year and had to see that they were duly announced to the people each month on the Nones. It was not until 304 B.C. that the calendar was made public by the scribe Cn. Flavius. It was their function too to know the proper religious course of action (actio) and the proper prayer-formula to be used not only on the regular recurrent festivals, but in any religious crisis which might arise. Livy, recording perhaps as history what he knew in practice tells us that Numa Pompilius appointed a certain Numa Marcius as pontifex "and gave over to him all the sacred, rites written out and sealed, with what victims, on what days, at what sacred spots (templa) the rites were to be performed and from what source the money was to be drawn to pay for them. He also made all public and private rites subject to the decrees of the pontiff, that there might be someone whom the common people might come to consult, that no part of the divine law might be upset by the neglect of ancestral rites and the introduction of foreign rites; that the pontifex, too, might give instruction not only in the ceremonies in honour of the gods above, but in the due performance of rites of burial and the placation of the gods of the lower world (manes), and tell them what portents sent by lightning or other manifestations should be regarded and expiated." This may be bad history, but it is a fine epitome of the pontifices functions in historic times. All this lore the pontifices preserved in their libri or commentarii, and. on this accumulation of formulae and procedure they became more and more intent: " the work," says Warde Fowler, "became as congenial to them as the systematisation of the law to Jewish scribes after the captivity, or as casuistry to the confessors of the middle ages." To their diligence was due the elaboration of the famous indigitamenta, or forms of address to various gods, the relics of which have preserved to us the names of tiny numina, presiding over countless small functions of life, many of which critics are now inclined to believe were the inventions of the pontifices. The effect of all this pedantry, in so far as it had any general effect at all, was probably twofold. On the one hand, it tended to emphasize the formal and stereotyped character of Roman religion, which was always its weakness, on the other, it developed its legal character; the contract idea of the relations of gods and men, not at first inherent in Roman religion, became more marked through the work of the pontifices. Both tendencies removed. real religion still farther from the thoughts of the common man.

When we read the history of the pontificate, it would seem that from time to time efforts were made to bring the force into closer relation with the populace of Rome and so perhaps to counteract the tendency to sacerdotal secrecy. Such a movement appears to have taken place at the end of the fourth century B.C. when the calendar was divulged and plebeians made eligible by the lex Ogulnia for selection as pontifices. A further step in the same direction was made two centuries later when under the lex Domitia of 103 B.C. a reformation was made in the method of election. Hitherto the college had recruited itself entirely by cooptation, in which it is clear that the pontifex maximus had the largest voice. Now, though the right of cooptation could not be touched, it was enacted that seventeen of the thirty-five tribes, chosen by lot, should nominate the candidate, whom they were to co-opt. It might have been supposed that the effect of these changes would be to give the people an interest in the personnel of the college and so to bring them into closer touch with the organization and ceremonial of the-State-religion. But the actual result seems to have been rather to secularize the office of pontiff and to make it, and especially the position of pontifex maximus, an object of political ambition. If we look at those who held the great office in the last century of the Republic, we find among them the great jurist, Q. Mucius Scaevola, who was no doubt well qualified by his learning for the office, but was the author of the disastrous saying that "it was expedient for States to be deceived in their religion," and. the last three holders of the century were Julius Caesar, Lepidus, and Augustus, the last of whom alone could be said to have any real interest in religion. The opening of the pontificate did nothing to break the pedantic tradition of the college, but only introduced a new element of unreality in the appointment of men of the world, who merely coveted the high office.

From this sketch of the State-region of Rome and its organization it will be seen that the effect of its establishment and development was to withdraw it from the religious experience of the ordinary citizen. The preservation of agricultural festivals in the surroundings of a city gave religious celebrations unreality; their concentration in the hands of a special priesthood left the common man unaffected by them, except in so far as his daily avocations were interrupted by the occurrence of a dies nefastus. The secrecy of the augurs at one time give their art the prestige of a mystery, but led ultimately to its degradation and ridicule; the elaboration of formula and ritual by the pontifical college only emphasized the natural Roman tendency to stereotyped formality. No doubt in the domestic worship of pious households something of the old feeling of the early religio remained, yet here, too, the decay of the State-religion must have had its influence on the domestic cult: why worship at home the gods who in the State meant little or nothing to you? By the time of the last two centuries B.C. all effective public religion must have been lost; "the old State-religion remained, but in stunted form and with paralysed vitality."

Yet there is one feature of real vitality amid this general paralysis, namely the worship of Iuppiter; which became more and more the supreme cult and the symbol of the State-life. It has often been observed that the worship of the tribal god is likely to become more and more political, as civilization increases and the conception of the State develops, until it is little more in effect than the worship of the tribe itself. In the early days of its history Rome was saved from this experience by her polytheism or 'multinuminism': the very numbers of the numina and the specialization of their functions made them all necessary to the Latin farmer and prevented any one deity from rising to supremacy. Yet, as has been noticed already, there were two deities who were very early prominent, if not supreme, and those two were Mars and Iuppiter. The cult of Mars is found all over Italy: his ubiquitous care for agriculture made him the farmer's god par excellence, and when agricultural settlements developed into cities and states, his corresponding association with war preserved a primacy which might otherwise have fallen away. Iuppiter did not make so universal an appeal throughout Italy, but he was pre-eminently the god of Labium, and tended to be what the Greeks called the πολιοῡχοσ, the guardian of the city. It was this political element in his character which gave him his position. His relation with country pursuits and particularly with the care of the vine soon dimmed and he was superseded at the Vinalia by Venus: even as sky god he was little more than the hurler of lightning by day (Iuppiter Fulgur) and by night (Summanus) and the rouser of storms a meteorological deity. But as a city-god he came into his own. Other deities might be prominent in individual towns, yet they had their Iuppiter; Hercules was a great one at Tibur, but so was Iuppiter Praestes; the Dioscuri at Tusculum, yet there, too, was Iuppiter Maius. Similarly we hear of Iuppiter Arcanus at Praeneste, Iuppiter Indiges at Lavinium, and even Iuppiter Anxurus among the Volscians: the very variety of his cult-titles is evidence of his independent popularity in many places. Nor was it only in one town or another that Iuppiter held sway, but he was conspicuously the deity of the united Latin peoples. There is evidence that at one time Diana of Aricia was head of a local league, but the united Latin league took its religious sanction from the combined cult of Iuppiter Latiaris on the Alban mount, and it is significant that Rome symbolized her headship of the Latin peoples by insisting that her magistrates should officiate at this great festival.

Now Rome, too, had her Iuppiter from the earliest days, the Iuppiter Feretrius, in whose shrine on the arx or northern summit of the Capitol, the sacred silex used by the fetials was kept and the winner of the spolia optima in battle came to dedicate his spoils. But this Iuppiter never rose to the greatest heights: it was his successor, theguppiter of the southern peak in the great temple, which he shared with Juno and Minerva, who was destined to become supreme. The two goddesses fell into the background and. Iuppiter Optimus Maximus, the greatest and best not only of all Iuppiters, but no doubt of all gods, surveys the life of Rome in a more and more exalted position, of supremacy. It is not difficult to see why it was so. The functional deities of the farmer's year lost their significance among the town community; the domestic numina held a somewhat fictitious place in the life of a city-state. Even Mars was active only on the battlefield, often far away from Rome, and was to some extent sinister in character, so that he was not admitted within the pomoerium. But Iuppiter, the upholder of the city, had a function not limited to times and sea sons: he was there always to protect and aid the State in all its activities. And so he develops new cult-titles to embrace Rome's many-sided life: he, too, can go out with her hosts and at the beginning of the third century victorious generals dedicated temples to him as the "stayer of rout" (Stator) and the "giver of victory" (Victor). In peace, too, as the Deus Fidius he can watch over oaths and the many pacts between citizen and citizen which go to make the corporate life. Once at least in his life-time every citizen visited the great Capitoline temple to "lay aside childish things" and assume the toga virilis. As soon as they had taken office the magistrates ascended to it to make the offering of white heifers, which their predecessors had vowed and to which they in their turn would bind by oath their successors. As the general departed to his army he made his offerings and his vows to the Capitoline Iuppiter, and to him he returned after a successful campaign in the most brilliant of all religious ceremonies, the procession of triumph. Clad in the garments and bearing the insignia of Iuppiter himself, with his face painted like the ancient earthenware statue in the Capitoline shrine, riding in the four-horsed chariot, Iuppiter's own vehicle, and followed by his army, his captives, and. his spoils, he made his way up the slope of the Capitol, there to make the offering of thanksgiving to Iuppiter and to lay on his lap the laurel wreath of victory. For the day the triumphant general was Iuppiter himself, and in his person was embodied the greatness of Rome.

Thus by his character as the supreme protector of the State and the consequent universality of his functions, and partly perhaps by the commanding position of his temple on the central height of the city above the Forum, Iuppiter rose, if not quite to the unique position of a monotheistic god, yet at least to a supremacy of unchallenged dignity; and his majesty was the majesty of Rome itself. Now the outcome of all this might have been the consecration of the life of the State to a great religious purpose, and the sense of the dependence of its prosperity on the divine will. To some extent this was no doubt true in the early days of the Republic. But here, too, the religious growth was arrested: for on the one hand, the continued development and success of Rome seemed almost to lift her above the necessity of divine help, on the other, there never arose a conception that the divine purpose could be anything else than the prosperity of Rome itself: "the kingdom of Iuppiter" was just the empire of Rome. And so when Virgil and the other poets identified Iuppiter with the fata Romae they were introducing no new theological conception, but only giving expression to an idea which was always implicit in the worship of Iuppiter. Thus this great cult of Iuppiter with all its impressiveness and magnificence tended in the long run not so much to consecrate the State, as to narrow and even to degrade the sense of religion. Iuppiter became in fact a magni­fied tribal god, and in worshipping him the Roman people saw but the reflected image of itself.

This is not perhaps the place to discuss in general the merits and demerits of an institutional religion, but there are certain reflexions inevitably suggested by the experience of the Roman people. As soon as religion ceases to be purely personal and individual, whenever a common expression of a common need or emotion is sought, it is inevitable that there must be organization and some form of religious institution must come into being. In the days of the agricultural settlement it was enough that the paterfamilias should pray for the prosperity of his own household, his own fields and flocks; he could join with his neighbours in a common festival, but even so it was largely his personal interest which predominated, In the Terminalia he was asking protection for his own boundaries, at the Compitalia for the blessing of the Lares on his own fields. But when once a community is formed, be it Church or State, whose interests are not merely common, but one and the same, then there must be a joint expression of the joint need. Rome had to make prayer as a community to Mars for protection from its external enemies and to Iuppiter for the maintenance of domestic peace and justice within the State. But the very essence of such corporate or institutional religion, if it is to be vital, is that it shall still remain the joint expression of the prayers of the individual members of the community. It is necessary, no doubt, to appoint officials who will organize, lead, and to some extent represent the common worshippers, but the fatal step is taken when such priests or elders become the substitutes for the community. When Rome permitted its pontiffs, flamens, and augurs to conduct the whole of the necessary rites and ceremonies, and the people themselves, satisfied that all that was needful for the preservation of the pax deorum was being done for them, ceased to take part or even to attend or regard the festivals, then religion died. No amount of priestly elaboration in the indigitamenta and the like could restore the lost vitality to popular religion, it only emphasized its deadness; the effort to renew and revive came from the people in the introduction of the emotional cults of the Orient. And this kind of petrifaction in religion is particularly dangerous when the institution is not an independent Church, but a political State. For then there are two new evils: religion is liable to be subordinated to politics, as it was in Roman augury, and the State itself is apt to become the object of worship. The Roman Iuppiter had in his supreme position the germs of a monotheism, which philosophy later on turned to good religious purpose. But in his place in the religion of the State he had become little else than its own impersonation: he had swamped and obscured the other cults and the lesser ideas of true religious significance for which they stood, and was himself the symbol of a religion essentially political. In all these ways institutionalism at Rome had killed the common instinct which it was intended. to foster.

Augustus, when his position as princeps was assured, made an attempt to stem the tide of religious decay. He had, it would appear, two objects. In the first place, he wished not only to revive the old Roman State religion but to fuse it with the Greek elements which had been imposed upon it. In the second, he wished to knit religion and morality more closely to­gether and to give conduct the sanction of religion. With these ends in view he passed a series of enactments concerning the family life, encouraging faithfulness and fruitful marriages, and by the mouth of his court-poets associated his enactments with the pietas and gravitas of the old Roman ideal, which had always its religious tinge. On the other hand, he restored, as he tells us in his official account of his reign, upwards of eighty temples and reinstituted rites which had fallen into decay, having a special preference for ceremonies which suggested the advent of a new religious era. Thus he revived—or as some think invented—the practice of the closing of the gates of Ianus' archway in time of peace, and proudly claimed that they had been shut three times in his own reign, whereas before there had been but one closing since Romulus. Still more significant of his purpose was the celebration in B.C. 17 of the ludi saeculares, an ancient festival which in the Republic had been kept at irregular intervals and of which the old idea seems to have been the burying of an old epoch and the blessing of a new. In this sense Augustus took it and combined the nightly offerings to the Greek chthonic gods, the Moirai (Parcae), Eilythuia, and Demeter (Ceres, Tellus) at a place called the Tarentum on the Tiber-bank, with a day celebration to Iuppiter and Iuno on the Capitol, the whole culminating in the singing of Horace's famous hymn to Apollo, the new imperial patron, and Diana (Artemis), first, outside the new temple of Apollo on the Palatine and then, apparently, again on the Capitol. Here was an attempt to fuse many strains of religious thought and feeling, and the prayers at the festival were similarly for the revival of religion, the cause of morality, and the prosperity of the crops, the cattle, and the State. And it is noticeable in Horace's hymn that Iuppiter and Iuno tend to fall into the background, while Augustus himself has a significant prominence with his selected patron deity, Apollo.

But however sincere may have been Augustus' intention to revive the feeling of the old religion and to fuse it with the new, the tide was too strong for him and to one looking back now the inevitable result of his reforms was the cult of the Caesars. For all Augustus' attempts to mark his new home on the Palatine as the seat of the worship of the old Roman Vesta and the Greek Apollo, the natural worship of the imperial house was that of the Genius of its housemaster, the emperor, and, as has been seen, that cult overflowed into the State; the worship of the Emperor became the real focus of the State-religion.

In the cults of the provinces of the Roman Empire we find a striking combination, which is in fact an epitome of the history of the State-cult at Rome. In almost all, the worship of Iuppiter Optimus Maximus, the old symbol of Rome's majesty, has a high place and in many were erected "Capitols," reproductions of the Roman Capitol with its great temple and often with its three cellae for Iuppiter, Iuno, and Minerva. Side by side with this was the cult of the dea Roma, but a little less important, and prominent above both cults the worship of the Divi and of the Genius of the living emperor: it was not long before the greatest distinction of a provincial citizen was to be one of the seviri Augustales, annually appointed to carry out the imperial cult. This tri-partite worship had certainly its fine elements; its political value in holding together the mass of men of "all nations and languages" which composed the Roman Empire was very great, and there can be no doubt that the worship of the imperial house had given a new life and reality to the State-cult. Yet as religion it was a poor thing and outward conformity to it brought little religious satisfaction to the individual. It is significant, as it was indeed inevitable, that Christianity, based on the religion of the individual, clashed with the Roman Empire just in this matter of the imperial cult. The Christian could accept the authority of Caesar, but he could not worship Caesar, and it was his refusal to do this that made him the object of persecution.

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