ROMAN RELIGION AND THE ADVENT OF PHILOSOPHY
INVESTIGATION AND SOURCES OF INFORMATION
THE constitutional aspect of the religion of Rome organized as a State-cult—the place of the ius druinum in the city-community—and its institutional development under the Colleges of thepontifices and augures have been dealt with in a previous chapter. Frequent reference too has been made to Roman religious customs and cults in so far as they afford evidence for the reconstruction of the early history of the Latins and the Romans. It is the task of the present chapter to trace the ‘religious experience’ of the Roman people from the time when they were one of the many agricultural settlements of Latium to the period at the end of the second century bc when Greek philosophy came to Rome and laid its hold on the educated classes as a substitute for a ‘creed outworn.’
Until comparatively recently scholars and historians were content to accept the strange Graeco-Roman compound, which dominates the poets and is criticized and commented on by Roman and Greek writers on antiquities, as the true Roman religion, to believe that Juno, Mars and Venus were indeed the Roman counterparts of Hera, Ares and Aphrodite, as fully anthropomorphic in their conception and as fully endowed with character and history. It has been the task of students of Roman religion for the last halfcentury to unravel the tangled skein, to clear away Greek and Etruscan accretions, to remove borrowings from other Italic peoples and so to present a picture of the early religion of Rome. As regards the later stages the task presents no great difficulties; it is possible to trace the period and circumstances and in many cases even the dates of the introduction of Greek and Oriental cults; historical records are available. With the growing knowledge of things Etruscan the changes brought about by the Etruscan domination can be recognized with greater certainty. But the genuine religion of the Romans, prehistoric and unrecorded, has to be pieced together by a process of excavation and inference. We have not, as we have in dealing with Greek religion, a wealth of mythology, from which ritual and belief may be inferred, nor of art, which may be taken as a representation of popular conceptions; for an animistic religion, which knows nothing of ‘gods,’ but only of vague ‘spirits’ or ‘powers’ (numina), can have neither art nor mythology, and both, when they appear in Rome, must be regarded with suspicion as evidence of Greek influence, coming either directly from Greek sources or through Etruria. Nor again for similar reasons can archaeology help much; it can tell of burial customs and thus by inference something of beliefs as to the condition of the dead, but little of deities who had no sensuous representation or symbols and did not dwell in ‘temples made with hands’. Considerable assistance is given by inscriptions, though these are all of a later age and usually contaminated by later ideas; most valuable among them are the Calendars, drawn up under pontifical influence, and though these date only from the first century ad, yet they preserve a true record of the ancient religious year of the ‘religion of Numa.’ The bulk of the evidence comes of course from literature, but it has to be used with discretion. The explanations of Roman and Greek antiquarians can never be accepted without question, for they had little understanding of the mental attitude of the people among whom the Roman religion grew up. But their records of custom and ritual are invaluable, for if the facts are known, comparative religion and the insight which we now have into the mind of primitive man can make interpretation often probable, sometimes certain. And of such facts, thanks to the intense conservatism of the Roman mind, which j ealously preserved ritual long after its meaning was gone, there is happily abundance. They are embedded in the remains of Roman antiquaries such as Cato,Nigidius Figulus, Verrius Flaccus (whois partially preserved in Festus) and Varro, whose Antiquitates Rerum Romanarum was the chief source of information to later writers, in the surviving Antiquitates of Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the Roman Questions of Plutarch; in the theological dialogues of Cicero and the miscellanies of Aulus Gellius and later of Macrobius; in the poets, especially in the Fasti of Ovid and the casual references of Plautus, Virgil, and Horace; in the incidental records of the historians, and mainly of Polybius and Livy; in the comments of scholiasts and in particular of Servius on Virgil, and in the fierce attacks of the Christian Fathers, especially of St Augustine, who has preserved for us many of the facts recorded by Varro about the pontifical indigitamenta. The task of collecting the information may be said to be almost complete, but much has yet to be done in the way of interpretation, and there are many puzzles for which a solution can hardly be expected. In the following sections an attempt has been made to put together the salient features of the genuine Roman religion and to trace the lines of its modification under alien influences.
TRACES OF PRIMITIVE IDEAS AND CUSTOMS
The early religion of Rome, thus disentangled from its later accretions, has been described above as a ‘well-developed Animism’. This description is in the main true, but it is rough and insufficiently comprehensive; for in fact the early religion is itself composite. The greater part is undoubtedly due to Indo-European invaders from the north, for ethnology has established that tribes of Indo-European race were in the first millennium bc settled all over Italy with the possible exception of Etruria; moreover, the undoubted identity of the Greek and Roman sky-deities, Zeus and Juppiter, associated among both peoples with the sacred oak, and of the hearth-spirits, Hestia and Vesta, are sufficient to show that some elements at least in Roman religion—and those not the least developed—must go back to a period before the two groups of northern invaders descended into the parallel peninsulas. But archaeology has revealed among the early inhabitants of Italy a succession of stages of culture, neolithic, bronze and iron: the first may represent a primitive Mediterranean people, the two latter Indo-European stocks, probably closely related. Which exactly of these ingredients went to the making of the Romans is still doubtful; but it is clear that they were a composite stock. Similarly, the religion of the early agricultural settlers in the neighbourhood of what was to be the city of Rome, reveals several strata and modes of thought, some of which go back to a period antecedent to Animism. Occasionally a very primitive practice survives intact and independent, more often it has become embedded in a later animistic cult or has dictated ritual which betrays a primitive attitude of mind, At the other end of the scale some of the vague ‘spirits’ are alreadyacquiring names and personality, and functions which extend beyond the restricted sphere of a numen.
Among these primitive elements may be reckoned first a certain class of rites concerned with sacred objects and in particular with stones, which, although in a later period they were associated with a deity, were clearly in origin themselves sacred and possessed divine or magic power. Such for instance were the ancient flints preserved in the temple of Juppiter Feretrius and used alike by individuals taking the most solemn oaths and by the fetiales in the striking of a treaty. The stone was in historical times known as Juppiter Lapis, but it is clear enough that the stone is older than Juppiter. Such again was the ‘Dripping-stone’ preserved near the Porta Capena and used in the magic rainmaking ceremony of the aquaelicium. Such, too, may have been the termini, the sacred boundary-stones of properties, laid with due rites to be annually renewed by the owners of the marching lands.
Whether there are traces of a stage of animal-worship among the Italians is a disputed point and it is safest to say that it is ‘not proven’. The theory was once held that when an animal or bird is found in constant association with a god, such as Juppiter’s eagle, Juno’s peacock or Mars’ wolf, the inference is that the animal was itself once a god. But it is more probable that the animal, if not a mere accompaniment, is, like the doves of the Cretan goddesses, a sign of the god’s epiphany. A nearer approach might be found in the occasions when worshippers dressed themselves in the skins of animals, as did the luperci in the skins of the goat-victims, or the priests of Soracte, who called themselves hirpi (‘wolves’). In such cases it has been held that the worshippers were attempting to assimilate themselves to an animal-deity; but it is simpler to believe that they were striving to acquire the ‘mana’ which always attaches to animals. Be this as it may, it is clear that the developed Roman religion knew nothing of animal-worship.
The primitive notion of taboo is manifest again and again in the ritual and custom of early Rome, and though it appears as a rule in connection with some well-developed institution, and may perhaps lie at the root of the Roman idea of religio as a ‘sense of awe’, yet it is in its nature akin to much more primitive ideas. In many ceremonies, both in the private and public cult, such as the worship of Silvanus in silva or of Hercules at the Ara Maxima, women were excluded; they were thought of in this connection as ‘infectious’. Strangers again and slaves are similarly excluded, and men at the rites of the Bona Dea. An odd instance of exclusive taboo was that which forbade the bringing of a horse into the grove of Diana at Aricia. But far the most conspicuous example of taboo is to be found in the regulations which surrounded the person of the flamen IDialis, who might not look upon an army drawn up for battle, might not do or see any kind of secular work, might wear no ring or girdle, and might only cut his hair or nails with a bronze knife. Some have seen evidence in these taboos that the flamen was originally a priest-king, but without subscribing to that view, we may safely say that the restrictions go back to a remotely ancient conception of a sacred person.
Most conspicuous of all are the traces in Roman ritual of magic, of ceremonies where no deity is concerned, but either man’s acts are supposed to constrain nature or the instruments he uses to contain supernatural efficiency in themselves. Reference has been made already to the lapis manalis at the Porta Capena, which in times of drought was carried in procession; what exactly was done with it is not known, but it was certainly some process of ‘sympathetic magic’ intended to produce rain. Of the same character most probably was the much-disputed ceremony of the Argei on May 15, when wicker figures, popularly known as senes, were thrown over the bridge into the Tiber—a symbolical wetting of the corn-spirit to procure the fertility of the crops. As an example of a magical instrument—another primitive idea buried in the strange compound ceremony of the Lupercalia—may be taken the februa, strips cut from the hide of the victim, with which the running luperci struck the bystanding women to procure their fertility—a transference, it would seem, of the mana of the sacrificed animal. Outside the range of the regular ceremonies of religion popular magic was rife in the dirae carmina, and defixiones, designed to bring harm to one’s enemies, of which there is abundant evidence. That magic lay behind Roman religion there can be little doubt, though care was exercised to exclude it from the State-cults. Magic and religion are not intellectually compatible—for magic implies an occult power in man, religion an appeal to a superhuman being—but they are often confused in practice.
The primitive ideas and customs which have just been noticed rest on two main beliefs, firstly that in the power of the sacred person or thing itself to work good or evil, and secondly that in the power of man by symbolical acts to control the workings of nature.
But the main body of Roman religion was based on a conception which anthropologists regard as a later development of the former of these two, the belief, that is, in the existence of ‘spirits’ or ‘powers,’ having their abode in natural objects or localities, or concerned functionally with natural processes or with definite activities. These spirits are regarded as having control in their special spheres, and on their favour or displeasure depends the prosperity or ill-fortune of man. Such ‘ Animism ’ may itself have many phases or stages of development varying from the cringing fear of evil spirits, which is characteristic of the more savage peoples—the Greek disidemonía, the Latin superstitio, which is seen in the demon-haunted religion of the Etruscans—up to a stable and, on the whole, happy relation of the ‘spirits’ and man, which is achieved by the more settled and civilized peoples, the relation which the Romans designated by religio. The religion of the early Roman was by no means free from the element of fear— indeed the word religio itself probably denotes primarily a sense of awe or anxiety—but, in the main, he believed that it was possible to establish and maintain a friendly understanding between ‘spirits’ and men. The object of his cults was the preservation of the pax deorum.
The numina whom the Romans worshipped were not, any more than the gods of the Greeks , ‘personifications of the powers of nature.’ There is no trace in the early religion of any worship of sun, moon or stars; the cult of Neptunus suggests no connection with the sea, a connection almost certainly due to his later identification with Poseidon; nor is there any Roman cult of wind-gods or storm-gods. Individual springs and streams and rivers were no doubt to them the abode of spirits, but their functions were strictly limited and local. In two instances alone could a case be made out for ‘nature-worship.’ Juppiter, the sky-god, was, as has been seen, an Indo-European inheritance and though he early attained a wide development, the Calendar suggests that his functions too were originally limited, for his special festival is the Vinalia. Of wider significance was Tellus, the earth, to whom an offering was made at the Feriae Sementivae in January to secure the fruitfulness of the sown seed, and pregnant cows sacrificed at the Fordicidia in April, a clear survival of a magic fertility rite; but in both of these ceremonies the worshipper is more concerned with his own particular plot of earth and not with any wide conception of the ‘Earth-Mother’: Tellus is not Demeter.
The ‘spirits’ are at once more limited and vaguer in conception than nature-powers. The word numen appears to denote ‘a being with will-power’, and it is as such that the ‘spirits’ are approached by their worshippers. The older and simpler notion of the numen is of the indwelling spirit of a place or object. A grove (lucus) may be his abode and it must not be entered save with a sense of awe and due offerings made to secure his goodwill; the ritual of the Arvai Brethren enjoined an expiatory offering (piaculum) if a tree in their grove, or even the branch of a tree, fell through old age or storm (vetustate tempestateve). A spring, a hill-top, or almost any chance locality might similarly be the abode of a numen. So in the house the door, the hearth and the store-cupboard are the sacred spots, where the numina live; on the farm they dwell in the boundary-stones (termini) and in the places where properties marched (compita), the seat of the worship of the field-spirits (Lares). And in the wilder land, on the borders of civilization, lived the Fauni and Silvanus, the denizen of the woods. But what marks out the religion of Rome as a ‘higher Animism’ is the extension of the numen-idea from sphere to function, the association of ‘spirits’ with actions, occasions and activities as well as with places. This is prominent throughout the festivals of the agricultural year, which are recorded in the Calendars. The ‘spirits’ are not there localized; they may be summoned to help by any farmer, wherever his land may be, provided that he appeals to them on the right occasion. It would be useless to pray to Consus, the spirit of the harvest-home, to assist in the sowing of the crops, or to Pales, the guardian of the flocks and herds, to protect the vine; each ‘spirit’ has its own function and must be worshipped and propitiated accordingly. The notion of function had ultimately more vitality in Roman religion than the notion of sphere and was immensely elaborated in the priestly indigitamenta, which assigned petty numina to every stage and action of human life.
The conception of the numen was also vague; there is no sense of a well-defined personality, such as that of a Greek god. It is often difficult to discover, as for instance at the Lupercalia, to what deity a festival is addressed and the solution may be that in origin the appeal was made ‘to all numina concerned’. Sive mas sive femina, sive deus sive dea, are constantly recurring prayerformulae. Again, certain ‘spirits’ are thought of in groups and not as individuals, such as the Lares, the ‘spirits’ of the field, the Penates, the ‘spirits’ of the store-cupboard (penus), who were only individualized and identified with other existing gods at a much later period, when anthropomorphism had come in. And even when the ‘ spirits ’ have names, these are in most instances either the name of the object with which they are associated, such as Fons, Tellus, Ianus (‘doorway’), or more often an adjectival formation indicative of locality or function, such as Silvanus, Saturnus, Consus, Portunus, and others obviously of like formation, though we do not know the function which they expressed, such as Neptunus, Volcanus, Volturnus. ‘Saturnus suggests no personality, but rather a sphere of operations in which a certain numen is helpful.’
The attitude of man to the ‘spirits’ is primarily one of awe; it starts from fear. And in some of the acts of worship fear is still uppermost: the ritual is apotropaic, the ‘spirits’ concerned are evil and must be banished. This is perhaps most apparent in the ceremonies of the Lemuria, the older of the two festivals of the dead; the spirits of the dead are hostile and must be exorcised—manes exite paterni—; it is seen, too, in the precautions taken to keep off evil spirits in the ceremonies attendant on birth and death. Normally the ‘ spirits ’ are not regarded as essentially hostile, but rather as neutral powers, whose goodwill can be secured, if the appropriate offerings are made to them on the appropriate occasion in the appropriate way. And so man’s life among the community of the ‘spirits’ comes to be looked on as a kind of compact, or when Rome later had developed her city life and her strong sense of law, as an almost legal contract. The worshipper offers the ‘spirits’ their due, be it the solemn blood-offering of the suovetaurilia, or the simplest rustic gifts, and then, if all is rightly performed, the ‘spirit’ is expected to reply with the gift of prosperity for himself, his household, his cattle or his crops for which he has prayed. And so the most frequent form of prayer is the expression of this anticipation: ‘Juppiter, I offer thee this cake and pray my prayer aright, in order that thou mayest be kind and propitious to me and my children, to my house and household.’ The spirit is not quite constrained, but is expected to do his duty.
It is manifest that this scrupulous care in the performance of the human part of the cult-contract would result soon enough in a meticulous formalism. And this is obviously so from the first. The right deity must be addressed at the right place, the offerings must be rightly chosen, the ‘mola salsa’ will not suffice when a blood-offering is required, nor must male animals be offered to a female deity. The traditional prayer-formula must be recited without slip or change; if anything is omitted or altered, the whole must be repeated from the beginning. The Roman was not always averse to subterfuge in covering lapses in the almost impossible liturgical rigidity demanded of him. It was common to engage the services of a tibicen to play during the sacrifice in order to drown by his music any unfavourable speech or profane noise; by a series of piacula the worshipper might atone for various faults and mistakes committed in the main ceremony; by the offering of the porca praecidanea before the beginning of the harvest atonement was characteristically made beforehand for any error which might occur. But the exception and its solemnity show more clearly the binding character of the obligation of exact ritual; it was indeed a ‘burden heavy to bear,’ and it made directly for the stereotyping of religious practice, which later deprived it of its reality.
These general characteristics of the early religion may be illustrated by the quotation of a prayer-formula of the Roman farmer to be recited when a clearing is made in a wood. ‘Be thou god or goddess, to whom this wood is sacred, as it is right to make expiation by the offering of a pig because of the clearing of this sacred wood, for this cause, that all may be rightly done, whether I have done it or another at my bidding, on this account, as I sacrifice this pig as expiation, I make pious prayer that thou wouldest be kind and gracious to me, my home, my household and my children; for which cause be thou enriched (matte esto) with the sacrifice of this pig for expiation’.
The application of these ideas may be seen first in the cults of the household and then in the worship of the fields.
CULTS OF THE HOUSEHOLD
The household was the prime religious unit. Though from time to time the actions of the individual and important occasions in his life might form the motive of household celebrations, the individual as such had no direct relation to the ‘spirits’, but only as a member of the family group. The group, consisting of all the living descendants of a living ancestor together with their wives and the slaves and dependents, were united under the rule of the paterfamilias, who in all religious matters was the family priest.
The household gods were few in number and in character form an interesting illustration of the various phases of Animism which were noted in the last section. Two of them are well-defined local ‘spirits’ with names and a clear sphere of action. One Ianus, ‘the door-way’ (ianua is a by-form), is the natural religious focus of the household in its relation to the outer world; it ‘faces both ways’, by it the members of the family ‘have their exits and their entrances’, it admits friends and excludes foes. Ianus is therefore in the later period of sensuous representation depicted as two-faced (bifrons). Oddly enough we have no record of the domestic cult of Ianus, and it is indeed an inference from the State-cult; but his position at the head of all invocations addressed to many spirits is sufficient indication of his importance. Vesta was, as has been noted, an Indo-European inheritance, and to the end she remains uncontaminated by anthropomorphism, the ‘spirit of the hearth-flame,’ the internal focus of the family life, the source of warmth and the provider of the family food. Her worship was never neglected, but was usually combined with that of the other household deities. As Ianus begins, so Vesta must close, the roll of deities in prayers. The Penates are a conspicuous example of a nameless ‘spirit-group,’ the guardians of the storecupboard, ‘whoever they may be’. Later on each household would select its own Penates among the known gods and in Pompeian shrines we find little statuettes set out, recognizable as Venus, Asclepius, and so on. Closely associated with the Penates is the Lar familiaris—the plural Lares does not occur in connection with domestic worship till Augustan times—a ‘spirit’ whose origin is disputed; he was once believed to be the family ancestor, but it may be taken as almost certain that he was one of the field Lares, brought in, as it were, to the house by the familia of slaves and adopted by the whole household.
The combined worship of Vesta, Penates and the Lar took place at the hearth (focus) and was of a simple character. There is evidence of ‘family prayers’ at the beginning of the day, but the chief offering was made at the main family meal. On the table, set before the hearth, lay the sacred salt-cake (mola salsa), and during the meal a portion of it was placed on the sacrificial dish (patella) and thrown into the fire. The meal could not be resumed till the announcement had been made ‘di propitii’, and the scrupulousness of ritual is testified by the requirement of a special piaculum in case any crumb of the cake fell on the floor. Pompeian drawings show a more elaborate family ritual, the paterfamilias standing by an altar with veiled head (operto capite, as always at Rome), the sons acting as acolytes (camilli) and bringing the victim, the tibicen playing in the background.
Rather apart from the other domestic ‘spirits’ lies the typically Roman conception of the Genius. Roman theory held that every male had his ‘genius’ and every woman her ‘iuno,’ not quite the ‘soul,’ which maintained life and departed at death, still less an attendant ‘spirit,’ like the Greek daimon, which acted as a ‘guardian-angel’, but rather, consistently with the general run of Roman ideas, the numen indwelling in the man or woman. That genius means ‘the begetter’ there can be no doubt, and its constant association with the marriage-bed (lectus genialis) bears this out; the idea which the word thus conveys is just the virile powers of the man, which make primarily for the continuance of the family; the woman’s ‘iuno’ may be similarly the powers in her which fit her to be a bride. But this is to some extent theoretical, and the Genius actually worshipped in the household is always that of the paterfamilias, the ultimate author of the family’s continuity, and the main celebration took place on his birthday. The idea proved capable of almost infinite extension and was one of the elements which paved the way for the worship of the emperor.
Family worship thus implied and maintained the sanctity of family life (pietas), and its ideas are those of the developed Animism which is the main basis of Roman religious conceptions. An examination of the ceremonies attendant on the important occasions of family life, birth, puberty, marriage, death—the ‘rites de passage’—shows a similar connection with religion, but it is interesting to find that here the underlying ideas are on the whole more primitive. Thus the custom that after the birth of a child three men should strike the threshold with staff, axe and broom in the name of the obviously functional ‘spirits’ Pilumnus, Intercidona and Deverra is clearly an early apotropaic rite, and though in later times it was said to be directed against the incursion of Silvanus, it is probable that the original enemy was a vaguer host of evil powers. Similarly, the bulla which was placed round the child’s neck on the ninth day after birth was a magic charm against evil and probably took the primitive form of the fascinum. It was solemnly laid aside when he assumed the toga virilis in his seventeenth year. So again in the marriage ceremony the parting of the bride’s hair with a spear-point, the obscene jests with which she was greeted on her journey to her new home, the carrying across the threshold, were all designed to insure good ‘luck,’ to avert evil influences and sterility and to promote fertility—all charms and symbols of magic power rather than religious acts. In the most solemn form of matrimony, however, the confarreatio, blessed by the presence of the pontifex maximus and the flamen Dialis, we have a higher conception in the partaking of the sacred cake of far by bride and bridegroom in communion with one another and with the gods. At death, although there is little ceremonial which is not merely secular, the intention seems to be the cleansing of the house and the survivors from the pollution caused by the presence of the dead body, and precaution against the return of the dead as an unholy visitor.
This interpretation is borne out by what can be gathered of early burial-customs and ideas of the relation of the living to the dead. The usual practice for the disposal of the dead—at any rate in the nobler families—was cremation, but the early Italian cemeteries show the burial-urns huddled together indiscriminately without marks of identification or care for any individual grave; later, no doubt, there were family vaults and tombs, but the special tomb of the particular person belongs to the highly civilized period of the late Republic. In correspondence with this practice the dead are thought of as the undiscriminated mass of the di manes (‘the kindly gods’), a term which may originally have included the chthonic deities as well as the human dead; the specialization of the di manes of an individual, so common in imperial inscriptions, is not met with till the last century of the Republic. There is no information as to any clear conception of the state of the dead; and the terrors of the future life, against which Lucretius argues so passionately, and which we must suppose held the popular mind in his day, were derived from Greek sources. Similarly, the notion of the permission to the dead to return at the opening of the mundus on three days round about the time of harvest, may well be a Graeco-Roman accretion (which may be compared with the ceremonies of the Anthesteria) on an original agricultural ceremony, the opening of the subterranean storehouse. The two festivals in the Calendar which were undoubtedly connected with the dead, the Lemuria in May and the Parentalia in February, reveal, as has often been pointed out, two different attitudes towards the di manes. The Lemuria, as we know it from Ovid’s vivid description, is essentially an apotropaic rite: the dead spirits are thought of as hostile and must be driven from the house by the spitting of black beans, the clashing of brass vessels and the repeated formula manes exite paterni, the days are marked in the Calendars as nefasti. That something of this primitive religio survived in the later festival of the Parentalia may be inferred from the typical chthonic offering of the blood of black beasts. But in the main the element of fear is gone and the festival is more a kindly recognition of the dead as still in a sense members of the family, who have a claim as such upon the living (ius sacrum). The family graves are visited and decorated with flowers and simple offerings of food and drink —water, milk and honey—are made. The day is not ‘nefast’ and concludes with a family feast, the Caristia or cara cognatio.
In all this there are two prominent features, firstly, that the dead are thought of collectively, and secondly, that though offerings are made, there is no idea of prayer or invocation. Such acts of prayer and worship to an individual as Aeneas, for instance, conducts at the tomb of Anchises, are derived from Greek customs of hero- worship. In the genuine Roman religion the dead are neither individualized nor worshipped. This conclusion would of course have to be modified, if it could be established that the Lar familiaris was the dead ancestor of the family, but it has been seen already that the evidence points to a quite different account of his origin.
WORSHIP IN THE FIELDS
Besides the cult of the ‘spirits’ in the house the early Roman was concerned as a farmer with many forms of ritual in the fields. These he conducted either for himself and his family on his own land, or with his neighbours as a member of a pagus; the community of farmers in a particular district—possibly in origin that occupied by the gens—each of whom probably owned his own arable land and had grazing rights in a common pasturage. These field-cults, too, are addressed partly to local, partly to functional ‘spirits,’ the former for the most part the inhabitants of the individual farm, the latter the deities operating in the seasonal celebrations of the pagus.
The natural local focus of the worship of the farm is the boundary of the property and with it are concerned several of the festivals of the farmer’s year. The festival of the boundary-stones (Terminalia) in February must go back to a remote antiquity; for, though in Ovid’s account of the ceremonies they are performed in honour of a god Terminus, yet the celebration of the rite by the two neighbouring farmers at the boundary-stone itself, which was garlanded and sprinkled with the blood of the victims, points clearly to a time when the stone was not merely the abode of a ‘spirit,’ but itself endowed with magic power. The Compitalia, celebrated at the end of the agricultural year in December, was a festival of the Lares regarded as spirits of the fields, which was held at the places where several properties marched. Here was a shrine of the Lares containing altars looking out on the various properties, the owners of which made simultaneous sacrifice. It was an occasion of general hilarity, shared by the slaves as well as the family, and it is notable that the offering might be made by the overseer, himself a slave. This is a celebration not so much of the boundaries as of the whole adjacent properties, and the Lares are exactly typical of the true animistic deity, limited in sphere and vague in conception. The most interesting and picturesque of the boundary festivals was the Ambarvalia, which occurred in May. Three times the farmer and his household traversed the boundaries of his fields driving the solemn offering of the pig, sheep and bull (suovetaurilia) which represented the best of his possessions, and at the conclusion of the third round the victims were sacrificed and a prayer made, of which Cato has preserved us a specimen; its petition is for the aversion of evil influences and the granting of prosperity to crops, cattle and household. Here is an unmistakable lustration, a purificatory rite with its usual double character, apotropaic and fertilizing. It does not seem easy to be certain what deity was concerned: Cato tells us it was Mars; from a famous passage in Virgil it would appear that it was Ceres and in the Acts of the Arvai Brethren—if it may be assumed that it was they who performed the Ambarvalia—the deity addressed is the Dea Dia. Possibly here again the ritual was originally directed to ‘all spirits concerned’ and the specialization came later and varied at different periods. But once again the rite is very old and the ‘spirits’ are local.
The second class of field-festivals consists of those celebrated by the farmers united in their pagus, the festivals of the agricultural year recorded in the Calendars. The Calendars belong to period when Rome had already become a city-state, and contain some ceremonies which are only appropriate to an urban community, but with a characteristically faithful conservatism they include the old agricultural festivals which were still kept up in the city-state, though they had lost their significance. These can easily be picked out and are seen to represent the normal activities of the farmer’s year.
They fall naturally into three main divisions: first the festivals of preparation in March, April and May, in which prayer is made either for the fertility of the crops, as at the Liberalia and Cerealia, direct celebrations of fertility deities, the Fordicidia, a magic offering of pregnant cows to give life to the young crops, and the Robigalia, an apotropaic rite for the aversion of mildew, or, as at the shepherds’ festival of the Parilia, for the increase and preservation of the flocks and herds. The second group is formed by harvest-homes, the Consualia on August 21 and the Opiconsivia four days later, and the third by the sowing festival of the Saturnalia and a renewal of offerings to the harvest deities in December. June and July were months of waiting; September, October and November contain little of an agricultural character; in January and February—the ‘blank period’ in the old ten-month Calendar—nothing is noted but a second sowing feast, the Feriae Sementivae, and the mysterious and complex festival of the Lupercalia, in which part of the intention was no doubt lustration, both apotropaic and fertilizing, as at the Ambarvalia.
As a typical example of these rustic festivals may be taken Ovid’s directions for the Feriae Sementivae,a movable feast held in January on the completion of the winter sowing. The cattle, he ordains, should be garlanded in their stalls and the yoke hung up upon a pole; both the earth and its tillers must have a rest. A lustral procession must make the round of the boundaries of the pagus and the accustomed cakes should be offered on the hearth of the pagus. The ‘mothers of the crops’, Tellus and Ceres, should be appeased with an offering of corn and the entrails of a pregnant sow, and prayer made to them for the protection of the sown crops from harm and positively for their fertility. Here are combined many of the characteristic features of the agricultural festival, the garlanding of the herds, as at the Parilia., the cessation of work, the lustration, the offering representing both crops and cattle, the symbolic magic of the pregnant sow, the prayer at once apotropaic and petitional.
The agricultural festivals thus confirm the picture derived from the study of the household cults. Worship is nowhere individual, but always that of the group, either the smaller unit of the household or the larger unit of the pagus. The offerings symbolize the normal life of the worshippers, a share in the family meal, the produce of the earth, animals from the flocks and herds. Their purpose is purely external: protection from harm for the household, crops and cattle, and the promotion of fertility. There is no moral or spiritual intention in the prayers, yet the union of the family in worship and to a less extent the union with their neighbours in the pagus created a bond of pietas which was not without its effect in practical life. The rites contain certain primitive elements of magic, but are mostly conceived as petition to ‘spirits’ to whom their due is rendered. The ‘spirits’ are often still thought of in the manner of earlier Animism as vague and impersonal, sometimes they are gathered together in indefinite groups like the Lares and Penates. But for the most part they have advanced to a later and more definite stage in which they have names. These are sometimes merely descriptive of their function, like Robigus, Consus, Ops, Saturnus, all clearly limited in sphere or function. Among them, however, even at this early date there are some numina who seem well on the way to become dei, emerging from animism into anthropomorphism. Of two deities in particular this may safely be asserted, and the test is that they have already begun to transcend the limitation of province. Mars is in this early period an agricultural deity and is so prayed to by the farmer at the Ambarvalia; but he is also already a god of war. The development of his military character came no doubt in the period of the State-cult, but the series of military ceremonies in March belong to the oldest stratum of the Calendars and, as far back as it is possible to go, his Salii are armed priests. Juppiter appears in the Calendar at the Vinalia with his limited province in the care of the vine; but from the first he is the skygod, with the control of the lightning by day (Juppiter Fulgur) and the lightning by night (Juppiter Summanus), and from a very early period the sky-god was the deity who watched over the sanctity of the oath, and was thus the first to assume a direct connection with morality. Here the confines of animism are passed, though the puzzle is not yet solved how a developed god, inherited from a time before the invasions of Italy, was embedded in a more primitive and animistic religion. When the first evidence of a synoecism on the Roman hills appears, these two emerge above the rest and with them is united Quirinus, the Mars of the Quirinal-Esquiline settlement—a trio of supreme deities, though not yet a triad. The way has been paved for a State-cult and for anthropomorphism.
THE STATE-CULT OF ROME
In course of time the early agricultural settlement became the city of Rome, and the religion of the State was developed and organized. Its institutional character has already been discussed, and here an attempt must be made to estimate the religious effect of the change in the minds and lives of the Romans.
In the first place a new religious unit had been created. In the agricultural communities there was the family and the pagus, and to these must be added the gens, though our knowledge of the gentile sacra and their effective influence is scanty. The State embraces them all; through its proper officials it performs religious ceremonies on behalf of the whole community, and by its efforts on a grand scale to secure the fax deorum it strives to insure the salus rei publicae. The State itself is essentially a religious institution. Later theorists could speak of the gods as a kind of senior citizens; the city of Rome had, according to tradition, been ‘inaugurated’ by Romulus with the religious ceremonies always afterwards used at the foundation of a new colony, and the pomoerium was a religious rather than a civic boundary, within which the admission of a new cult was jealously guarded. Thus a new and wider focus was applied to the religious conceptions of the Roman citizens. Not merely so, but the Statereligion took over the responsibility for the performance of the old cults on behalf of the community, provided for the presence of its own religious officials at many of them, and even claimed to be represented in private rites such as the celebration of marriage by confarreatio.
The general character of the transition to the State-cult may be described as conservative adaptation. There was little attempt to construct a religion suited to the needs of the State, or to become aware, so to speak, of other numina who might provide for the needs of town-dwellers; the introduction of Minerva was an almost solitary exception. The old numina of the household and the fields were taken over and worshipped, as best they might be, within the city-boundaries; adjustment and development were almost accidental or were forced by the change of circumstances. Thus among the household deities Vesta was adopted as the Hearth of the State and established in her ‘home’ (domus) at the end of the Forum, where the eternal fire, rekindled only on March 1, the first day of the State-year, was tended by her priestesses, the Vestal Virgins. Near her hearth was the penus Vestae, the receptacle now of sacred emblems and implements. Ianus becomes the doorway of the State, open so long as the State is at war, closed only in time of peace, and by a characteristic metaphorical transition, the spirit of beginnings, of the opening of the day (matutine pater, seu Iane libentius audis, Hor. Sat.), of the first day of the month, of the first month of the year (Ianuarius) in the later Calendar. The di Penates populi Romani Quiritium are united in a widely inclusive but still vague conception with Juppiter in the oath of the magistrates, and the household Lar gives rise to the Lares praestites of the State. Even the Genius has its counterpart in the Genius populi Romani or the Genius urbis Romae, though the idea did not become really popular till a later period, and the adaptation was felt to be easier when it could attach itself to the person of the Princeps.
More elastic in their transition were the field-cults at the boundaries. The State Terminalia was celebrated at the sixth milestone on the Via Laurentina, at one time the boundary of Roman territory; and the god Terminus, represented of course by a stone, has his place in the great temple of Juppiter on the Capitol, having refused to budge, so it was said, when the temple was built—possibly he was in origin just the boundary-stone between the Palatine and Quirinal settlements. The Compitalia were now kept at the places in the city where vici (streets with houses) met, at shrines built to the Lares Compitales. The festival, which never had a fixed date till late in the Empire, was celebrated at first by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and afterwards taken over by the State; here the whole process of transition and adaptation can be followed. In much the same way the Ambarvalia, the most persistent of the rites of the field, is not only celebrated as such at the fifth milestone on the Via Campana but gives rise to the parallel ceremony of the Amburbium, a lustration of the city-boundaries. In all these instances there seems to be a reasonable adaptation to new needs.
On the other hand, the festivals of the agricultural year were preserved with quite uninventive conservatism. The inhabitants of Rome ceased in course of time to till the land, yet the old festivals appear in the State-Calendar and were celebrated by the Stateofficials. Sometimes they would go out for this purpose beyond the city; the Robigalia was kept in a grove of Robigus at the fifth milestone on the Via Claudia, the festival of AnnaPerenna in the Campus Martius by the riverside, but for the most part sites in Rome were chosen with apparently little appropriateness. The Lupercalia was a lustration of the Palatine, Consus kept his harvest-home at an underground altar in the Circus Maximus and Ops hers in a shrine in the Regia. It is clear that all this made for unreality; the fiction of agricultural pursuits in the midst of urban life could not arouse or retain any real religious feeling among the citizens, and the keeping of the festivals passed unnoticed, except in so far as they stopped business either because their days were ‘nefast’—or because they were public holidays (feriae). Religion was at once stereotyped and sterilized.
A similar result was brought about by the institutional development of the State-religion and the placing of its performance on behalf of the State in the hands of priesthoods and priestly Colleges. It was not necessary for the ordinary citizen to take any part in the rites which were performed for him. The functions of the various deities became unknown and inexplicable; Varro tells us that in his day the very name of Furrina ‘was hardly known even to a few,’ and Ovid expresses a naive surprise and pleasure at meeting the ‘white procession’ celebrating the Robigalia. The regulation and formalization of cults by the pontifices told in the same direction and their attempts to rouse popular interest by the elaboration of little functional deities in the indigitamenta had no effect. The State-religion became a matter of antiquarian interest without vitality. Under the rule of the priestly Colleges Rome suffered from ‘an arrested religious development.’
Yet if ceremonial fiction and sacerdotalism made for the stunting of true religion, it would be untrue to say that the Statereligion was, in its earlier stages at least, entirely without development. If some of the early agricultural numina sank into oblivion, others expanded and grew both in function and personality. Prominent among these are the two which had already attained a kind of pre-eminence in the old agricultural days. Mars, shedding now his agricultural character, except perhaps in the stereotyped ritual of the Ambarvalia, waxed mighty in his military capacity, as war became more and more the business of the Roman citizen. His altar in the Campus Martius—the god of armies was never admitted inside the pomoerium till the time of Augustus— became, as it were, the radiating point of Rome’s military power. Around it would be encamped the armies which the consul was gathering to take with him on campaign, and the victorious legions waiting for their triumph; it too was the scene of the quinquennial lustratio of the whole people, marshalled as the exercitus. Even more notable was the development of Juppiter to cover almost the whole field of civic life; in war he becomes the stayer of rout (Stator) and the giver of victory (Victor), in peace the guardian of oaths (dius Fidius) and the custodian of justice; enthroned ultimately in his temple on the Capitol as Oftimus Maximus he was the centre of Roman patriotism. More and more he emerges into a prominence above the other gods with a spiritual personality comparatively untouched by anthropomorphic representation and legend, and thus, as religious thought developed, it is round Juppiter that there gathers the first tendency to syncretism and monotheism.
A lesser demonstration of a capacity for growth lies in the deification of abstract conceptions. It is possible that this arose through the intermediate cult-title, the Dius Fidius, for instance (an offshoot of Juppiter), giving birth to the abstract Fides, and Juppiter Victor similarly to Victoria. But the habit spread wider, Pax, Salus, Concordia, Virtus and others were given their altars and temples. How far these abstractions had a real religious association, how far they promoted the virtues after which they were named is a matter of doubt—the temple of Concord was rebuilt after the slaughter of the Gracchi—but the frequency of their formation may be taken as evidence of a semi-conscious desire to secure a closer association between religion and morality.
Despite these signs of life and growth, the general effect of the organization of religion in the State-cult was deadening, and the history of Roman religion from about the period of the Etruscan domination becomes a record of attempts to obtain fresh life by importations from without. The real centres of vitality are the household-cults, and outside Rome in Roman Italy some parts of the field-cult—the ‘paganism’ of later times—remained alive. Nor must it be forgotten that in the common people there was always a strong element of superstition, which found an outlet at first in the belief in omens, and was ready to accept, when they came, the obscurer forms of divination practised in Etruria, and later the astrology of the Orient.
(a) Other Italian Peoples
The agricultural settlement on the Palatine hill was only one of many such throughout Italy and at first it was neither very important nor very advanced. If the view now taken of the ultimate kinship of the majority of the Italian peoples and their general similarity in culture be correct, we should expect to find that the religion of other settlements did not differ materially from that of Rome: a special similarity would be natural among the peoples of Latium, Rome’s nearest kin, with greater divergence further afield. And this is indeed borne out; the evidence is scanty and is confined for the most part to cities in close contact with Rome, and to cults which Rome adopted, and it refers mostly to a stage when numina had become personalized as dei and their cult defined. But there is enough to give some notion of the religious life of the early Italian peoples.
By far the most important evidence is supplied by the famous Iguvine Tables, which were discovered at the Umbrian town of Iguvium (Gubbio) in 1444, but have only recently been satisfactorily interpreted. They give a tradition independent of Roman influence, afford a minute insight into ritual, and, though the existing bronze tablets cannot be placed earlier than the first century b.c., they record very ancient ceremonies; moreover, the strikingly close correspondence of ritual and underlying belief to that which is known of early Roman practice, occurring as it does among a non-Latin people, is strong evidence for a general uniformity of religion among the Italian peoples. The Tables are the records of a religious guild, the twelve Fratres Attiedii, who may be compared with the Fratres Arvales of Rome, and the most important documents contain directions for two ceremonies, the lustration of the Ocris Fisius, the sacred hill which rises at the back of the town, and the lustration of the people; these are preserved in a shorter and earlier form recorded in Umbrian characters, and in a later and more elaborate form, still in the Umbrian language but in the Roman alphabet. A full account must be sought elsewhere: here a few significant points may be noted. Both ceremonies are to be opened by the taking of the auspices: the celestial templum is marked out with its counterpart drawn as a guide upon the ground, the ‘adfertor’ (president of the Fratres) takes the omens but is told by the official what he is to observe, and he must make no movement. A procession moves round the boundaries and at certain points there is a halt—notably at the gates, which are the weak points in the religious defence of the city—and offerings are made. The offerings are simple, oxen, pigs and lambs for blood-offerings, cakes for bloodless: the direction at one point seu vino, seu lacte seems to look back to the period when wine was superseding milk as the libation and the offering of a dog to the apparently chthonic deity Hondus Jovius may be compared with that at the Robigalia. The details of ritual are minutely regulated even to the indication of the arrangement of dress—the head of course being veiled—and of the hand in which the sacred vessels are to be held. The prayers are set out in full and almost surpass Roman examples in their meticulous specification and their wearisome repetition: they are made for the safety and preservation of the sacred hill and the State of Iguvium, for their ‘name,’ and for the prosperity of men, herds and crops. Precaution is taken against mistakes in ritual and prayer: the deity is asked to ignore them (ne veils) and directions given for piaculum and, if necessary, for instauratio. Among the deities addressed Juppiter and Mars are recognized at once, Poimonus suggests the Roman Pomona and the epithet Sancius attached both to Juppiter and to Fisovius, the tutelary deity of the hill, recalls the Sabine Sancus: other deities such as Vofionus, Vesuna, Tursa, and Hondus are peculiar to the Tables and have no parallels. The prayers in the first lustration are addressed mainly to Juppiter, Mars and Vofionus, all with the hitherto unexplained cult-title of Grabovius. The deities in the second seem all to be within the sphere of Mars and are known as Cerfus Martius, Praestita Cerfi Martii, and Tursa Cerfia Cerfi Martii; the prefix Cerfus recalls the epithet kerriios in the inscription from Agnone and cerus in the hymn of the Salii, and is probably connected with the root seen in Ceres and creare. The points of contact with Roman ritual are both numerous and close and a Roman would have felt himself at home in all the ceremonies at Iguvium, save for a failure to recognize some of the deities concerned.
The only other record comparable to the Iguvine Tables is the bronze tablet in Oscan from Agnone, just referred to, which, besides its constant repetition of the epithet kerriios supplies links with Rome in the mention of Juppiter, Hercules, and Flora.
Such documents are unique and our main information is of the prevalence of certain cults in definite localities. In most cities there appear to have been one or more deities in a supreme position above others, holding the same place as Juppiter and Mars did in early Rome. Sometimes there is found a deity who is one of the di indigetes of Rome, and the antiquity of the cult precludes the explanation of borrowing from Rome and suggests rather a common Italian origin. Juppiter has already been seen at Iguvium and Agnone and his cult, as a common Indo-European inheritance, was spread all over the peninsula. Juno was a special favourite in Latium: in five Latin towns she gave her name to a month in the year and in many she was worshipped with special cult-titles which afterwards found their way to Rome, Juno Regina at Ardea, Juno Sospita at Lanuvium, Juno Curitis at Tibur, and, perhaps more famous than the others, Juno Lucina at Tusculum. Outside Latium her cult was prominent in Southern Etruria: Falerii, originally an Italic town, though within the borders of Etruria, had a famous cult of Juno Curitis, with which was associated an apparently Greek rite resembling the ‘sacred marriage’; Veii was the seat of a famous worship of Juno Regina, who is also found at Perusia, and her association in Etruria with Juppiter and Minerva in the State-triad is attested in many towns. In Umbria she is worshipped as Lucina and Regina in Pisaurum, and in Oscan territory she appears as Juno Populonia. Mars also had a wide popularity: he gave his name to a month not only in Latium and at Falerii but in Sabine communities; among the Umbrians he was worshipped at the ancient city of Tuder, and, as has been seen, played a prominent part at Iguvium, but in Etruria there is little evidence of his presence. Other di indigetes may similarly be traced in Italian towns; among the more unexpected of these are Flora, whose cult is found among both Oscan and Sabine communities and the Mater Matuta, who was worshipped in many mid-Italian cities including Cales, Cora and Praeneste.
These are all deities of common Italian stock: others would seem to be more local in character. Several such were prominent in Latium, of whom two at least were justly famous both for their worship in their original home and for their subsequent connection with Rome. Diana was worshipped at Aricia, where her sacred grove at the foot of the Alban Mount was associated with the strange ritual of the rex nemorensis, there she would appear to have been the religious centre of an early Latin synoecism or federation, like the more famous Latin league which had its focus in the worship of Juppiter Latiaris on the Alban Mount. Antium and still more Praeneste, where she had the strange title of Primigenia, were the seats of the worship of Fortuna, originally an agricultural numen of fertility, then of childbirth, then conceived as able to foretell the fate of children, then a prophetic deity in general: her temple at Praeneste, where men’s future was told by the drawing of lots, was almost the Italian equivalent of the Delphic oracle. Similarly, Venus, the protectress of gardens and fruit-trees, and later associated with the vine, had her homes in Latium at Ardea and Lavinium. Outside Latium, Minerva, the deity of handicraft, had her special seat at Falerii, while the cults of Feronia, a fertility goddess of the clan of Ceres, and Vortumnus, a deity, like Venus, of gardens and fruits, were common all over Italy. Finally, from the Greek colonies in South Italy and specially perhaps from Cumae, the worship of Greek gods penetrated the Italian towns and in some places attained to a position of supremacy. Thus in Tibur the Greek Heracles became the chief deity, his name Italicized as Hercules and his cult by an Italian specialization associated with commerce. In the same way the worship of the Dioscuri, their names once again Italicized as Castor and Pollux, was established at Capua, Assisi, Ardea and Ostia and in Latium specially at Tusculum.
It looks, then, as if the religious development among the majority of the Italian peoples—Etruria stands apart and must be treated separately—was parallel to that at Rome and this conclusion is borne out by the ease with which Rome assimilated many of their cults, when she came across them. Polytheism, it has often been said, is never exclusive; if you believe in many gods, why not one more? And the Roman was by nature impressible and acquisitive; the manners and customs, particularly the religious customs, of peoples whom he met in commerce or conquered in war interested him, and he was always ready in a spirit of experiment to take them for his own. And so, as far back as the time of the monarchy, new cults were introduced by Rome from her neighbours, and side by side with the original numina, the di indigetes, there came to be recognized a class of di novensiles or novensides (‘newcomers’). Diana of Aricia was established on the Aventine according to tradition by Servius Tullius in a shrine described as ‘commune Latinorum Dianae templum’—an attempt, it may be, to transfer the Diana-league to Rome. To Servius too is attributed the introduction of Fortuna of Praeneste, to whom he dedicated many shrines; prominent among them were the fanum Fortis Fortunae on the right bank of the Tiber and the aedes Fortunae in faro boario; the latter containing a wooden image of the goddess. Venus was similarly brought from Ardea and established both in the grove of Libitina, which led to a subsequent assimilation, and in the Circus Maximus. Feronia was placed in a temple in the Campus Martius and Vortumnus on the Aventine. Hardly different was the habit of re-establishing the di indigetes with a new cult-title and new associations learned from an Italian town; Juno Lucina takes her place on the Cispian hill and Juno Regina on the Quirinal. Each of these novensides or re-established indigetes must have brought some new element into Roman religious thought and practice and widened the horizon, but there are three of the cults to which special attention must be given, because they mark the beginnings of new contacts made by Rome, which were of lasting influence and importance.
The advent of Minerva to Rome seems to indicate the completion of the transition from rustic to city life. She is pre-eminently the goddess of handicraft, and has under her protection the guilds of scribes and actors, fullers and flute-players, doctors and schoolmasters—a wide range, but clearly indicative of the ordered life of an urban community; she was thus introduced not, as it were, by accidental contiguity, but to meet a new need, which could not be covered by any of the di indigetes. That she came to Rome from Falerii may be taken as established, and Falerii is within the borders of Etruria. It has therefore been assumed that she was an Etruscan goddess, introduced at the time of the Etruscan domination as a member of the ‘Etruscan triad’, Juppiter, Juno, Minerva, which was established in the great Etruscan temple on the Capitol. Of the building of that temple under Etruscan influence there can be no doubt, nor that the goddess was worshipped under the form Menvra in many Etruscan towns; but the name itself is Italic, not Etruscan, and it is highly probable that Minerva came to Rome before the period of Etruscan domination, and indeed that the triad itself had Roman sanction before it was consecrated in the Capitoline temple. But the introduction of Minerva raises for the first time the question of Etruscan influence.
The establishment of the other two cults, those of Hercules and of Castor and Pollux, marks the first—though as yet indirect— contact of Rome with Greece. The worship of Hercules graeco ritu, with unveiled head, at the ara maxima in the forum boarium, within the pomoerium, raises many difficult questions, but it may be taken as established that he is the Greek Heracles Latinized at Tibur in a commercial character marked by the offering of the decumae, and that he was brought thence to Rome and placed under the special care of the two patrician gentes of the Potitii and Pinarii, possibly the ‘patrons’ of settlers from Tibur in Rome. The cult of Castor and Pollux is even more clearly Greek in origin. Its introduction was traditionally connected with the building of the temple in the Forum as a thankoffering after the battle of Lake Regillus in 499 bc, but there is no doubt that the cult had come long before that from Tusculum. The connection of the Twins with oaths and their place in the Forum suggests a commercial character, and the association with horses and particularly with the cavalry is probably of later date.
(b) The Etruscans
Archaeology and the study of language have not yet reached any final conclusion as to the origin of the Etruscan people, and there is still strong support for each of the two very divergent views that they were an immigrant people from Asia Minor and that they were of ‘Villanovan’ descent with an admixture of ‘neolithic’ stock, to which they owed their language—substantially the two theories advanced in antiquity by Herodotus and Dionysius respectively. This is no place in which to take sides on this debatable question; all that is essential for the understanding of Etruscan influence on Roman religion is the assumption that they were at some period—whether in their Asiatic home or the rough commercial relations in Italy—subject to a very strong penetration of Greek ideas and Greek modes of religious cult. Further it must be postulated that in the latter part of the regal period there was an epoch of Etruscan domination in Rome, and that apart from this direct impress there was an early and continuous infiltration of ideas from a people separated from Rome only by the Tiber. On these points it may safely be said that all parties would agree.
It used to be the custom of historians to attribute a great deal in Roman religion to Etruscan influence—even such essentially Roman conceptions as the Lares and the Genius—and to suppose that when they became masters of Rome, they forced their civilization on a subject people with such success that it revolutionized Roman ideas and left a deep and permanent mark. Though it would be untrue to say that this idea has been abandoned, it has certainly been considerably modified, largely for two reasons. In the first place it is now clear that many elements in Etruscan civilization were in reality assimilated by them from the Italian peoples, so that even if Rome acquired them through the Etruscans, their origin was Italian. Of the great Etruscan ‘deity-triad’, for instance, Tinia, Uni and Menvra, Tinia is indeed a genuine Etruscan deity and his relation to Juppiter is one of identification, but Uni (Juno) and Menvra (Minerva) are purely Italian names; Juno was among the di indigetes of Rome, while Minerva, as has been seen, probably came to Rome from Falerii independently of Etruscan influence. Or again, the shape of the termplum, which is so prominent in the foundation of Roman towns and in the formation of their camps, was once thought to have come from the Etruscans as part of the ‘Etruscan’ system of augury: it is now known that it has its close parallels among the terremare people of the Bronze Age. And secondly, the more our knowledge of Etruscan custom and religion increases, the clearer it becomes that Rome had a great power of resistance to Etruscan ideas and tended only to assimilate that which was really akin to her own civilization or assisted in developing it. Etruscan tombpaintings, though late in date and based on Greek ideas, give evidence of demonic terrors associated with the underworld, which must be an expression of their own demon-haunted religious consciousness. No sign of this religion of terror re-appears in Roman literature or art; the fear of punishment after death, against which Lucretius wrote, is a far soberer thing, derived directly from Greek sources. It is significant again that there is not found in the Roman hierarchy a single deity of purely Etruscan origin.
But though caution must thus be observed in finding Etruscan influence in Roman things, yet it is certain that there are elements in the developed religion which Rome owed to her contact with Etruria. In the first place, Rome certainly learned from Etruria the practice of temple-building and probably the introduction of the cult-statue. The true Roman numen was worshipped on a locus sacer, where there was often an altar (ara) not of stone, but of piled sods (caespites), which might be covered by a loose open roof and so constitute a sacellum. Nor was the vague impersonal ‘spirit’ ever represented in sensuous form; ‘for more than 170 years,’ says Varro, with characteristic Roman exactitude in chronology, ‘the Romans worshipped their gods without images (simulacra)’. To the Etruscans these things would be known from their contact with the Greeks, and it is significant that the first temple in Rome, to which any date can be assigned, is the great temple on the Capitol, which is said to have been begun under the Tarquins and completed and dedicated in the first year of the Republic to the Etruscan triad Juppiter, Juno and Minerva. The temple was built in Etruscan style, its foundations were of Etruscan masonry and in it was a statue of Juppiter. It is of course possible that some of the ancient temples whose building cannot be dated, such as those of Diana and Minerva on the Aventine, were prior to the Capitoline temple, but none the less the inspiration probably came from Etruria. Thus the existing trend from animism to anthropomorphism received a strong stimulus, and there is much in varro’s comment that ‘those who first made images of the gods for the nations, both removed fear from their States and added error.’ The Roman lost fear because the visible representation of the deity bred familiarity: he learnt error because he substituted an anthropomorphic image for the idea of the numen, which was at least capable of a more spiritual development.
The other sphere in which Roman religious thought was certainly influenced by the Etruscans is that of divination. That the art was itself undoubtedly of genuine Roman origin is sufficiently proved by the Latin words auspicium and augur; the observation of the flight of birds was a genuine Roman practice. But the Etruscans had greatly elaborated the whole business of divination and the disciplina Etrusca had become a very complicated system. From it the Romans probably derived the framework of the State practice of augury, the division of the sky into templa and of the templa into regiones. Much, too, of the practice of divination by lightning was undoubtedly due to Etruscan ‘discipline,’ though the old cult-titles of Juppiter Fulgur and Juppiter Summanus (‘Juppiter of the lightning by day and the lightning by night’) suggest an early Roman observation of lightning for purposes of augury. At a later period, too, Rome learnt from Etruria the Greek practice of extispicium, divination from the examination of the entrails of birds, though it was not carried out by Romans themselves, but by harusppices summoned from Etruria for the purpose. The popularity of Etruscan divination was a downward step in the history of Roman religion: it increased superstition and encouraged the political manipulation of religious practices.
The influence of the Etruscans on Roman religion was thus less than has sometimes been supposed, but in these two respects, the encouragement of anthropomorphism through the introduction of temples and temple-statues, and the superstitious elaboration of divination, it had a lasting and deteriorating effect.
The beginnings of Rome’s indirect contact with Greek religious ideas, partly through the Etruscans and partly through the Italian towns to which Greek influence had penetrated, have already been noticed. But about the end of the regal period a more direct connection was established. The cities of Magna Graecia were still too far away to come into close contact with Rome, but much nearer was the Greek colony of Cumae. Now Cumae was a famous seat of the worship of Apollo and the home of one of the Sibyls, those strange sources of prophecy which had sprung up in several Greek cities in the sixth century. When exactly Apollo came to Rome is uncertain, but Wissowa is clearly right in maintaining that he must have been there at least as early as the beginning of the Sibylline period: he was established in an Apollinar in the prata Flaminia outside the pomoerium, where a temple was erected to him in 431 bc. The famous legend connects the coming of the ‘Sibylline books’ with the last of the Tarquins, but it is improbable that definite collections of the oracles existed so early, and more likely that the original duoviri sacris faciundis went on each occasion to seek their oracles at Cumae. In any case the start of ‘Sibylline influence’ must be placed before its first intervention in 493 bc when the oracle, at a time of corn-famine, ordered the building of a temple to Ceres, Liber and Libera at the foot of the Aventine. Apollo had been established in his own name, and this new triad is only a thin disguise for the introduction of the Greek corn-deities, Demeter, Iacchus and Persephone, with whom they are henceforth identified. From this time onwards the Sibylline oracles, to meet great crises of famine or war, when the old rites of the ius divinum were thought to have failed, ordered the introduction of Greek deities, sometimes with their names roughly Latinized like Aesculapius, sometimes identified with an equivalent Latin numem as Hermes was with Mercurius or Poseidon with Neptunus: the series ends with the advent of the Magna Mater from Asia Minor in 205 bc.
The historical facts and circumstances of these importations have no great religious significance, but it is of importance to note what changes of ritual came with them and to determine the motive of their introduction and the effect on the Roman mind. There can be no doubt that it was the failure of the State-cult, divorced from the life of the people, which led in a spirit of experiment to these innovations. As war or pestilence or famine pressed hard and no orthodox attempt to secure the pax deorum availed to stay it, it was felt that an appeal to a god of a new kind, worshipped in a new way, might prove more effective; it may be that even at this early date magistrates and Senate were deliberately using novelties to distract and soothe an agitated populace.
All these Greek divinities were housed outside the pomoerium and until the time of the Hannibalic War the distinction between di indigetes and di novensides is strictly maintained. But the new deities had their cult-statues, and they were worshipped graeco ritu, with the head uncovered, nor was it long before new methods of worship were introduced in which the populace had its part to play. In 399 bc, in a time of pestilence, the Sibylline books ordered a lectisternium: for eight days the images of three pairs of deities, all Greek or the Roman equivalents of Greek gods, were exhibited reclining on couches before tables spread with food and drink; here was at least a strange popular spectacle. Later on was instituted the supplicatio, in which men, women and children, wreathed and carrying branches of laurel, like Greek suppliants, went round the temples making prayer for deliverance or giving thanks for benefits received. Sometimes the two were combined and we read of supplicationes circum omnia pulvinaria. Here the people takes religious ceremony into its own hands and the outlet provided is strongly emotional.
In the terrible stress and anxiety of the war against Hannibal further developments and experiments were tried, though they look more like the devices of rulers to provide new outlets for popular feeling than spontaneous outbursts. Already in a time of pestilence in 349 bc the Sibylline books had ordained the institution of ludi scenici, now in the disastrous year of the defeat at Trasimene, 217 bc, the authorities ordered the addition of special games, ludi magni, to the regular ludi Romani, and again in 212 bc, in response to an oracle of the prophet ‘Marcius’, were instituted the ludi Apollinares. Though in effect the ludi contained but little of a religious character in them, and were more in the nature of a public amusement, yet their ostensible purpose was religious—the fulfilment of a vow or the offering of a spectacle pleasing to the gods—and once again the idea of the ludi came from Greece. The same year, 217, produced other expedients to relieve popular feeling. A ver sacrum was prescribed, the revival of an old Italian custom in which all the products of the year (including originally all male children born) were devoted to the gods; more strange and revolting, a Greek man and woman and a Gallic man and woman were buried alive in the forum boarium, sacra, as Livy says in narrating it, minime Romano, for human sacrifice, if it ever existed in Roman ritual, had long since been abolished. More interesting for the present purpose was the decreeing of a supplicatio and a lectisternium in which twelve gods, Greek and Roman side by side, were exhibited on the pulvinaria for the first time, as Wissowa notes, the distinction between di indigetes and novensides was broken down and Greek ritual applied to both. It is the turningpoint, and henceforth it may be said that the religion of Rome was not Roman but Graeco-Roman.
So far the cults and forms of worship introduced under Sibylline influence had been solely Greek, but the last Sibylline ordinance in 205 BC took a further step: it was announced that Hannibal would have to leave Italy, if the Magna Mater of Pessinus were brought to Rome. In April of the following year the black stone which represented the goddess was solemnly received by Scipio and the noblest women of the State, and deposited in the temple of Victory on the Palatine within the pomoerium. It may be that the Roman officials were unaware at the time of the orgiastic worship of the mutilated priests, but they soon came to know it and a senatusconsultum forbade any Roman citizen to take part in it. But the example of wild emotion had been given, and it is not surprising that twenty years later the Senate had similarly to suppress the Bacchanalia, which had come from Etruria or Magna Graecia and had spread with alarming and disastrous effect among the young people. These ordinances may have had an immediate effect, but the gates were now open for the novel and exciting cults of the East and Egypt. The flood did not come till the next century, but the religious temper of the common people was set and not even the judicious reaction of Augustus could turn it back.
While the religious practices of Greece were thus pandering to the emotions of the populace, its literature was having a corresponding effect on the newly-established literature of Rome. Legend and anthropomorphic mythology were the essential background at any rate of the epic and drama of the Greeks, and when they came to model their own new poetry on their Greek originals, Roman poets were in the difficulty that, from the very nature of their animistic religion, there were no stories of Roman gods and heroes to work upon. As for legends, though they made some attempts to work on native subjects, they were content for the most part to write Latin plays on Greek hero-stories, but this would not suffice for mythology. The State-religion had led the way by the identification of the Greek gods with the old Latin numina, and in literature this process spread apace. The Greek gods were all given their Latin counterparts and took their names; and on to these Latin gods were foisted all the personal features and characteristics, the relationships and the stories—creditable or discreditable—which had attached to their Greek originals. As early as Plautus we find the relationships of Juno, Saturn and Ops (Hera, Cronos and Rhea) a subject of jesting, and the Amphitruo is a burlesque of the amours of Juppiter (Zeus) in the manner of the Old Comedy. It is probable that the heavenly machinery and the elaborate mythology had for the poets themselves an aesthetic rather than a religious significance, and that this ‘religion of the poets’ had little popular effect except to put the seal on anthropomorphism. The educated classes, who had lost belief in the old religion, were to turn for their consolation to yet one more gift from Greece, philosophy.
THE ADVENT OF PHILOSOPHY
(a) Greek philosophy in the second century B.C.
The striking changes which came over Greek philosophy in the third century, the foundation of the two new schools of Epicureanism and Stoicism and the new turn in the teaching of the Academy under the influence of the scepticism of Pyrrhon, have been described in an earlier chapter. The second century saw no such great revolutions and contains no great names. It was rather a period of consolidation and development, in which the new schools took stock of their position and their relations to one another. Doctrine is defined and applied in new spheres; there is polemic and there is assimilation, and the way is prepared for the eclecticism of the next century, but there is little that is really new. The most salient feature is perhaps the emergence of the picture of the ‘Wise Man,’ viewed no longer in the abstract but in relation to practical life.
Among the Epicureans modification and development would not be expected. It was a cardinal principle of the school that the system set out by the Master, whom they spoke of as ‘a god,’ must not be added to, diminished or changed: ‘the faith once delivered’ must be maintained intact. The fragments which survive of the writings of Epicurus’ immediate disciples Metrodorus and Colotes are largely occupied with polemic both against the older writings of Plato and against contemporary critics; they show a certain anxious preoccupation as to the attitude taken up by the Master to culture and education and in particular to the arts of rhetoric and poetry. The names of the successive heads of the school are known, but little or nothing of their opinions; towards the end of the second century Apollodorus is said to have been an exceptionally prolific writer, and his successor, Zeno of Sidon, had a high reputation. But it was left to Philodemus in the next century, possibly under the influence of contact with Stoicism, to take a marked step in the widening of the field of Epicureanism.
The Stoic school showed a greater elasticity of development and could claim a larger number of distinguished teachers, of whom the most prominent were Boethus of Sidon, a contemporary of Chrysippus, Zeno of Tarsus, who wrote little but had many disciples, Diogenes of Seleuceia (circ. 238—150 bc), Antipater of Tarsus, who was unable to withstand Carneades to the face, but confuted him in many volumes, and in a later generation Apollodorus of Seleuceia, Archedemus of Tarsus and Crates of Mallus. These leaders extended the principles of Stoicism to new fields and demonstrated the comparative freedom of the school by controversies with one another. That Stoics, like Epicureans, found it necessary to define their relation to contemporary culture is shown by the treatises of Diogenes on music and rhetoric, which were afterwards much used by Philodemus, the Epicurean: the study of speech and of the elements of grammar was also promoted by Diogenes and became the principal interest of Crates: divination, too, and all the metaphysical questions it implies were studied by Boethus and Antipater. In the physical theory of Stoicism the main focus of interest would appear to have been the question of the periodical conflagration of the world, which was an essential part of the strict doctrine. Boethus denied it and maintained that the world was indestructible, giving as his reasons firstly that no causes of destruction, internal or external, could be adduced, and secondly that in the intervals between the destruction of one world and the creation of its successor, God, whose function was to look after the world, would be left idle. In this view he was followed by Panaetius, while Zeno and Diogenes in the latter part of his life stated that they ‘suspended judgment’ on the question: Posidonius returned to the older view. It was clearly a vexed problem. Of more significance were the modifications and discussions in the moral sphere. Diogenes openly proclaimed that the end of life is ‘reasonableness in the choice of natural ends,’ a clear move from the heavenly vision of the ideal sofós to a practical life on earth: the notion was pushed a step further by Archedemus who defined the good life as ‘the fulfilment of all practical duties.’ Apollodorus showed an inclination to compromise with other schools when he maintained that ‘cynicism was a short cut to virtue.’ In something of the same spirit these later Stoics dealt with problems of casuistry and Cicero gives us an interesting picture of a discussion between Antipater and Diogenes as to whether a vendor should always expose the defects of the article he was selling; the former maintained the strictest morality, Diogenes allowed a certain laxity. We might well ask ‘where is the sapiens now?’
These movements in Stoicism are not perhaps of great importance, but they are indicative of a real vitality in the school and are premonitory symptoms of a certain weakening in the base-principles and a tendency to adapt a theoretic system to the needs of ordinary life.
For some eighty years the followers of the New Academy appear to have been content to repeat the doctrines of Arcesilas, but towards the middle of the second century the school produced the most notable philosophical figure of the epoch in Carneades (214129 bc). He was a brusque uncouth creature, whose teaching was almost entirely oral; his doctrines were recorded by his pupil Clitomachus and are known to us chiefly from the accounts of Sextus Empiricus and their eclectic use in the philosophical and theological dialogues of Cicero. He shows himself in harmony with the spirit of his age in that while he reinforced the sceptical teaching of Arcesilas and applied it in new fields, he also endeavoured on a sceptical basis to provide a foundation for thought and practice. His chief contribution lay in the sphere of the ‘theory of knowledge.’ Attacking with even greater vigour than Arcesilas the Stoic belief in the ‘apprehensive presentation’, he yet maintained that we accept as a practical criterion of truth ‘ that which appears true ’ and is to us ‘convincing’ or ‘probable’. On this basis he built up a scale of three degrees of ‘probability’. The first stage is that which is probable in itself: this we may have to accept in circumstances which do not permit of further investigation, as, for instance, when we come upon a party of presumable enemies in a trench and have to flee without further investigation. But we never receive a single ‘presentation’ by itself: there is always a group and the second step in probability is when the ‘presentation’ is both ‘convincing’ in itself and ‘uncontroverted’ by any of the associated ‘presentations.’ Lastly the greatest security may be obtained when a ‘presentation’ is both ‘convincing’ and ‘uncontroverted’ and ‘tested’, when we have examined into all its concomitant circumstances and conditions, place, time, size, distance, etc., and find that they agree. These various grades of probability are required according to the importance of the decision to be based upon them. There is always a liability of falsehood in all our impressions but ‘the presentation is usually true and in practice we regulate our judgments and our actions by what usually happens.’ It is perhaps significant of the bias of Carneades’ philosophical interest that his examples are always those in which something is to be done and that the ‘tested’ presentation is said to be required ‘in matters which tend to happiness.’
In the field of theology, Carneades attacked in true sceptical manner not only the belief in prophecy and divination, but both the popular and the Stoic conceptions of God and even the belief in a divine being at all, and provided ‘an armoury of stock arguments’ for use in theological dialogues. Yet, Cicero tells us, ‘Carneades did not wish to deny the existence of the gods—for what could be less appropriate to a philosopher?—but only to discredit the Stoic arguments’: his destructiveness was largely a delight in argument. In a possibly more serious mood he would have none of the Stoic belief in fate and insisted on man’s free-will.
In the sphere of politics he argued, largely from the conflicting views persisting in different countries and different ages, that there was no such thing as justice in itself, but that it was a mere convention, approximating here to the teaching of Epicurus. In ethics he made an elaborate analysis of the six possible theories which could be held of the ‘highest good,’ according as they selected as the object of desire pleasure, the absence of pain or conformity with nature, and looked either to attainment or to the activity directed towards it: four of the six had in practice been recommended by the philosophical schools. To what view he himself inclined is not clear, but probably he believed that man should aim at ‘the first things in accordance with nature’.
Carneades is a strange figure in the history of philosophy, but he finds his place naturally in the general movement of the second century. As the Stoic was tending to lower his gaze from the abstract idealism of Zeno and Chrysippus to a practical standard for the ordinary man, so Carneades wished to extract from the paralysis of a pure scepticism a foundation of ‘probable’ thought and ‘reasonable’ action. For all their polemic the schools were approaching one another.
The first penetration of Greek philosophy to Rome may safely be dated from the knowledge of Greek literature acquired during and after the Second Punic War. Cicero indeed, though he rightly rejects on chronological grounds the old legend of the connection of Numa with Pythagoras, yet believes in an early permeation of Pythagorean influence in Italy, and sees evidence of it in a carmen of Appius Claudius Caecus. But this is fanciful, and the first real traces occur at the beginning of the second century, though even then they are vague and sporadic. Ennius was caught by the theory of Euhemerus that the gods were great men deified and tried to spread the doctrine in Rome; he, too, in significant lines expresses the Epicurean doctrine of the indifference of the gods to the lives of men. A well-known fragment of Pacuvius reproduces the physical teaching of Anaxagoras, and it is perhaps not unreasonable to attribute some of the moral aphorisms, of which the remains of Roman tragedy are full, to a superficial acquaintance with Greek moral teaching.
The expulsion from Rome of two Epicurean philosophers in 173 bc may represent a first failure to establish systematic teaching, but by the middle of the century it was becoming impossible to resist the movement. In 159 the Stoic Crates of Mallus, detained at Rome by an accident, started to lecture, and four years later the heads of three of the great philosophical schools, Critolaus the Peripatetic, Diogenes the Stoic and Carneades the Academic, coming to Rome from Athens on an embassy, made a considerable stay, during which they expounded their views; Carneades in a famous lecture startled Roman respectability by announcing his theory that justice was a convention. Shortly afterwards one C. Amafinius made a sensation by his writings and discussions in Latin on the doctrines of Epicurus.
Among the hearers of the ambassador-philosophers may well have been the band of young ‘intellectuals’ who were already gathering round the younger Scipio. Of these the most prominent Roman was Scipio’s intimate friend, C. Laelius, who figures as his interlocutor in several of Cicero’s dialogues; literature was represented by C. Lucilius, the satirist and Terence, the manumitted African slave, and to these were added two distinguished Greeks, Polybius, the historian, and, as the recognized teacher of philosophy in the ‘circle,’ Panaetius. In the work of Panaetius is seen for the first time a deliberate attempt to transplant Greek philosophy to Roman soil.
(b) Romanized Stoicism—Ranaetius
Panaetius was a member of a prominent Rhodian family, born probably between 185 and 180 bc. He was instructed first by Crates at Pergamum, and then went to Athens, where he attached himself to Diogenes and after his death to his successor Antipater of Tarsus, thus definitely giving his allegiance to the Stoic tradition. Somewhere about 144 he was already in the company of Polybius in Scipio’s entourage and in 141 went as Scipio’s sole companion during a mission of inspection and pacification in the East. For the next ten or twelve years Panaetius lived alternately in Rome and Athens, but after Scipio’s death in 129 he came to Rome no more and succeeded Antipater as head of the Stoic school in Athens, where he died in no or 109 bc. Of his personal character there is no information, but his writings were held in high esteem and he is said to have abandoned the traditionally rough and dry manner of the Stoic school, but in one branch of writing was more mellow, in another more luminous than they, and always had on his lips Plato, Aristotle, Xenocrates, Theophrastus and Dicaearchus’: Posidonius adds that he was in the habit of quoting the poets. This information suggests firstly a literary rather than an intellectual exposition of philosophy and secondly an eclectic choosing of his doctrine from different schools and teachers. Both are characteristic of his teaching and indeed of Roman philosophy as a whole.
The direct information about the doctrines of Panaetius is very scanty, but indirectly much can be known from the philosophical writings of Cicero, in particular from the first two books of the de Officiis, the de Republica and the de Legibus; in the two former treatises he explicitly acknowledges his debt to Panaetius and admits that he was following his lead. Modern research has disentangled the teaching of the master from the amplifications, additions and modifications of his Roman follower and it is possible to speak with confidence of Panaetius’ views on ethics and politics.
That Panaetius was a Stoic there can be no possible doubt: he was the disciple of Diogenes and Antipater, the successive heads of the Stoic school, and he himself succeeded them. Like them, he taught the more elastic Stoicism of the second century and was prepared to admire and adopt the theories of other schools. He had a profound admiration for Plato, whom he described as the ‘Homer among philosophers’ and, in his exposition of the forms of constitution in the State, followed the Republic closely. This was not inconsistent with orthodoxy, but elsewhere he is at variance with more fundamental Stoic conceptions. Thus he followed Boethus in the belief that the world, as it is, is eternal and rejected the idea of its periodical destruction by fire. Similarly he expressed doubt as to the validity of divination, which must mean that he did not accept the important Stoic doctrine on which it rested of the ‘sympathy’ between all parts of the universe. Other divergences may be detected in his astronomy and his psychology. All this is proof of the latitude claimed by the leaders of the Stoic school, and so incidentally of its vitality.
But apart from such divergences the Greek leaders of Stoicism at Rome must have been conscious of the necessity of some adaptation of its tenets to new surroundings. Stoicism had been founded at a period when the Greek city-state was collapsing, when the good man was no longer thought of as necessarily the good citizen, and the focus of attention had passed from the State to the individual. But Rome was still a city-state and was rapidly becoming a worldwide Empire. Political theory was therefore still an essential for any system which was to grip the Roman imagination, and if Stoicism was naturally defective on this side, it must be supplemented, and Plato and Aristotle pressed into the service. Again, the Roman character was profoundly different from that of the Greek and was but little attracted by general and abstract speculation; the Roman was a man of action, and if he reflected at all, he liked to think of the practical business of life and the requirements of his State. Physical theory about the ultimate constitution of the world did not greatly appeal to him—Lucretius was a solitary exception— and so, when it came to ethical discussion, the great abstract propositions so dear to earlier Stoicism that ‘the wise man is free’ and that ‘all sins are equal,’ and the like, no longer held the first place; the ideal sapiens and his perfect life are relegated by Cicero to a short dialogue which he characteristically entitles the ‘Paradoxes of the Stoics.’ Attention is concentrated on the ordinary man and his ‘duties’ and on such practical accord with nature and with reason as he can reach in his daily life as a Roman citizen.
A brief sketch of Panaetius’ theories of ethics and politics may serve to bring out this practical side of his Romanized Stoicism. The two subjects are closely united in the root-conception of ‘reason,’ the perfect possession of the gods, which is present in varying degrees in every man and so binds gods and men together in a great community. This idea rests on the Stoic physics and psychology. The ultimate reality is the ‘material spirit’ which is divine and by condensation forms the grosser elements which it always controls: the Stoic view of the world has been described as a ‘monistic dynamic materialism,’ or from another point of view as ‘Pantheism.’ The divine spirit immanent in and controlling the world manifests itself as ‘providence’, not an external fate, but an inner necessity. In plants the ‘spirit’ appears as the power of growth, in beasts soul is added and manifests itself in the five senses and the appetites, and in man comes the final gift of reason (logos). The moral end of man then is to live in accordance with reason. Such a life in its perfection could only be attained by the perfectly wise man, who is able to perform perfect action. The ordinary man, in whom Roman Stoicism is interested, can only attain to ‘middle’ actions, or ‘duties’, and it is with these Cicero deals in the first two books of the de Officiis, which are confessedly modelled on Panaetius’ irepl Officia. The realized end exhibits itself in ‘virtue,’ and ‘virtue’ for the ordinary man will vary in its form according to his own nature and his circumstances: for a man’s individual character depends on the degree of ‘tension’ of the ‘spirit’ in his soul, and his actions must be determined by his station, his profession and mode of life. Still, general principles may be laid down and ‘virtue’ is subdivided into the traditional Greek cardinal virtues, wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance. In his description of the virtues it is interesting to note that Panaetius in true Aristotelian manner finds that virtuous action is in each case a mean. Thus wisdom is a mean between careless or hasty judgment and—here the Roman comes out strong—a waste of time on unprofitable studies which bear no relation to practical life; temperance, again, is the mean between the gratification of desires and asceticism, and consists in the control of the appetites by reason, showing itself in a ‘propriety’ both in the greater actions of life and in details of dress, bearing and behaviour. In all this may be recognized the severer Stoicism of the old school mixed with the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle and watered down to suit the respectable characteristics of the Roman gentleman: the old Roman virtus and gravitas and pietas appear under the cloak of a philosophic sanction. Similarly, the second book of the de Officiis, again closely modelled on Panaetius, in which Cicero discusses the relation of the expedient (utile) to the morally good (honestum) and decides that there can be no real distinction between them, reads almost like a philosophic apology for the position of the well-to-do Roman citizen and the respected statesman. Cicero justifies Cicero, we may infer, by Panaetius’ justification of Scipio.
The political theory of Panaetius, contained in the first three Books of Cicero’s de Republica and re-echoed in the first Book of the de Legibus, rests on the same foundations, shows the same eclectic development and in an almost more marked degree a Roman bias. Men are bound to one another and to the gods by the common possession of the ‘reason’ which is the basis of personal virtue: it must therefore be also the foundation of the life of the community. The State is a ‘commonwealth of the people’ (res populi) or a ‘union’ of men, not an enforced union, as in the Epicurean view of the ‘Social Contract’, but ‘a combination of a number of men united by common consent to law and by a community of interest.’ In this community reason expresses itself by some sort of government (consilium), but there are various forms of government, the three main types being monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, of which the corrupt forms are tyranny, oligarchy and ochlocracy. Here the influence of Plato is obvious and his account of the ‘cycle’ in which these constitutions successively follow one another in the history of a State is also adopted with some modifications. Of the three Panaetius apparently selected monarchy as the best, placed aristocracy next and democracy last, but reversed the order in the corrupt forms, choosing ochlocracy as the least bad, oligarchy next and tyranny as the worst. Here Plato is deserted, as he is again most markedly in the conclusion, which since it occurs in Polybius as well as in Cicero, must be attributed to Panaetius, that the ideal constitution is that in which all the three elements are combined, as it was in Lycurgus’ constitution of Sparta and is still more conspicuously in that of Rome, where the magistrates represent monarchy, the Senate aristocracy, and the people democracy. In this theory the adaptation of Stoic tradition to its new surroundings is almost flagrant: Greek philosophy is indeed modifying itself to suit the taste of its new disciples.
The introduction of philosophy no doubt gave a new and permanent interest to the educated classes at Rome, but it was never a wholesale foisting of Greek thought on to an alien race. From the first Rome chose what she would study, modified the tradition she received and thought out her ethics and her politics to suit her own circumstances. Panaetius’ Stoicism is in this respect typical and prophetic of what was to follow in the next generation and under the Empire. It has been the fashion of late years to ascribe almost the whole of Roman Stoicism to the influence of Panaetius’ pupil Posidonius, nor can there be any doubt that he greatly impressed the generation of Cicero; he was in some respects more orthodox than his master. But Panaetius was at least as great a figure. To him is due the credit of having planted Stoicism at Rome and of grasping the lines on which it would have to be modified to win Roman approval.
It would be of great interest to know in detail what was Panaetius’ attitude to religion (which is after all the main subject of this chapter); unfortunately there are but scattered notices, which do not suffice for a general account. As a Stoic he was bound to base his theory on the root-conception of the immanent divine reason: his philosophic creed must have been the ‘materialistic pantheism ’ which was accepted generally by his school. Consistently with the prevalent Stoic view he was bound to reject the ordinary gods of mythology as the legendary fictions of poets or statesmen, and it has been noticed already that he had grave doubts as to divination and definitely rejected astrology. Yet, like most Stoics, he seems to have made some concessions to popular belief. He allowed himself to speak of ‘gods’ in the plural, though he seems to have tried to reconcile such common parlance with the esoteric belief of the philosopher: ‘men obey this celestial ordinance and the divine mind and the almighty god.’ In the State, too, he allowed that the gods have their place as a kind of senior citizens, though it is clear that he deprecated any lavish expense on their temples or worship. It is as though he again made the distinction between the perfect wisdom of the sapiens and the religion attainable by the ordinary man.
Two prominent conclusions may be made from this sporadic information, first that Panaetius rejected the popular religion and its manifestations, and second that he approached the whole question of religion with the eye of the statesman. That this was the attitude of the educated Roman of his time—at any rate of Scipio and his circle—is clear from the occasional comments of Polybius. In a passage where he is comparing the constitution of Rome with that of other peoples, he praises Rome for her attitude to the gods and in particular for the encouragement of superstition, not because it is true or rational, but because it holds the State together and is a valuable means of checking the extravagances of the people. And so in practice when he is later commenting on the story of the dream which impelled the elder Scipio to stand for the aedileship, he rejects it altogether and regards its invention as an instance of Scipio’s astute statesmanship. This is the attitude of the sceptic, who may indeed have some inner religious conviction of his own, but intends to use the superstition of the mob for political purposes. The history of the next century at Rome shows how strongly this attitude had seized the minds of the educated: the political use of augury and auspices in Cicero’s time is but the practical application of the theory of the Scipionic circle.
In the next generation the great jurist Q. Mucius Scaevola said that there were three classes of gods, those of the poets, those of the philosophers and those of the statesmen. This distinction had already begun to be true in the age of Scipio. Greek literature had brought myth and legend, Greek philosophy had brought scepticism and taught the politicians to play on the beliefs of the vulgar, but it had also brought the Stoic idea of divine immanence, which was destined to be the seed of educated religion for a long while to come and to find its expression in the Letters of Seneca and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. The immanent reason in the universe, which was in fact God, provided a new basis for religion, which was to some extent linked up with the old Roman cult, as the new idea of God was attached more and more to the name of Juppiter; and the reason in man, which bound him close to God, supplied a religious motive for morality, which in the old religion had, except possibly in the household, always been sadly lacking. Stoicism was indeed a nobler creed than Rome had yet known, and might have made a great popular appeal, but that it was too intellectual; a real active enthusiasm of humanity was wanting