Pagan prayers to various deities (drawn from the plays of Plautus)
by: N. Moravius Vado
PRAYER TO IUPPITER
Iuppiter, qui genus colis alisque hominem, per quem vivimus vitalem aevom, quem penes spes vitae sunt hominum omnium, da diem hunc sospitem quaeso meis rebus agundis.

O Iuppiter, who dost cherish and nurture the human race, through whom we live and draw the breath of being, in whom rest the hopes and lives of all humankind, I beg you to grant that this day may prosper that which I have in hand.

- Poenulus 1187-89
THANKSGIVING TO IUPPITER
Iovi disque ago gratias merito magnas…Serva, Iuppiter supreme, et me et meum gnatum mihi per tuom te genium obsecro, exi, te volo.

To Jove and the gods I deservedly give great thanks…Jove Supreme, look down and keep me and my son, I do beseech you by your good genius. Come out! I want you.

- Captivi 922; 976-7

Id ego si fallo, tum te, Iuppiter, quaeso, ut semper iratus sies.

If in that I should fail, then, mighty Jupiter, I pray that you will forever let your anger fall on (me).

- Amphitryon 933-4
THANKSGIVING TO IUPPITER FOR WEALTH
Iovi opulento, incluto, Ope gnato, supreme, valido, viripotenti, Opes, spes bonas, copias commodanti; lubens disque omnibus ago gratias vitulorque merito, quia meo amico amiciter hanc copiam danunt, argenti mutui ut ei egenti optem adferam.

O Jove, opulent, glorious son of Ops, deity supreme, powerful and mighty, bestower of wealth, good hopes and bounty, gladly I give you thanks and duly offer praise also that all the gods kindly bestow this generous benefit by enabling me to help my friend in his need with an opulent loan.

- Persa 251-6
THANSGIVING TO IUPPITER AS PATRON
Iuppiter supreme, servas me measque auges opes maximus optimitates opiparasque offers mihi laudem lucrum, ludum iocum, festivitatem ferias pompam penum, potationis saturitatem, gaudium nec cuiquam homini supplicare. Nunc certum est mihi: nam vel prodesse amico possum vel inimicum perdere. Ita hic me amoenitate amoena amoenus oneravit dies sine sacris hereditatem sum aptus effetissimam.

Great Jupiter supreme, you who are my patron god, it is you who makest me rich and givest to me wealth in sumptuous abundance, honor and gains, and games and play and festivals, and trains of servants bringing meat and drink, fullness and joy! It is certain now that I do not need to beg of any man. Nay, for now I can do a good turn for a friend, or ruin a foe. The pleasure of my days is brought to such sweet delight, with an ample heritage to pass on with all attachments worn away.

- Captivi 768-775
THANKSGIVING TO IUPPITER FOR VICTORY
Hostibus victis, civibus salvis, re placida, pacibus perfectis, bello exstincto, re bene gesta, integro exercitu et praesidis, cum bene nos, Iuppiter, iuvisti, dique alii omnes caelipotentes, eas vobis habeo grates atque ago, quia probe sum ultus meum inimicum.

Now our foes are beaten and our citizens safe, our state at peace, peace assured, and the war brought to a triumphant conclusion, with our army and garrisons intact, I thank you, Iuppiter, for your kindly aid, and all the other divine powers of heaven, that I am avenged on my enemy.

- Persa 753-6
TO BACCHUS
Vinipollens lepidus Liber.

Wine-bringing, lovely Liber.

- Curculio 117
THANKSGIVING TO NEPTUNUS
Neptuno has ago gratias meo patrono, qui salsis locis incolit piscolentis, quom me ex suis locis pulchre ornatum expedivit, reducem et tempulis, plurima praeda onustum salute horiae.

Thanks be to Neptune my patron, who dwells in the fish-teeming salt sea, for speeding me homeward from his sacred abode, well laden and in a good hour.

- Rodens 906-910
THANKSGIVING TO NEPTUNUS
Iovis fratre et Nerei Neptuno, laetus lubens laudes ago et grates gratiasque habeo... Atque ego, Neptune, tibi ante alios deos gratias ago atque habeo summas. ... Abi laudo, scis ordine, ut aequom’st tractare homines; hoc dis dignum’st.

O Neptunus, brother of Jove and Nereus, heartily and gladly I give you praise and grateful thanks. And to you, Neptunus, before all other gods I offer and accord you the highest thanks. I give you praise, for you know how to treat men fairly; this befits the gods.

- Trinummus 819-30
TO NEPTUNUS, THE TEMPESTATES AND MERCURIUS
Quom bene re gesta salvos convortor domum Neptuno grates habeo et Tempestatibus; simul Mercurio, qui me in mercimoniis iuvit lucrisque quadruplicavit rem meam.

Thanks be to Neptunus and the Tempestates, for returning me safe home again, my venture a success! And also to Mercurius, who helped me in my mercantile affairs and quadrupled my fortune with profit.

- Stichus 402-5
TO THE LAR FAMILIARIS AND THE DI PENATES
Di Penates meium parentum, familiai Lar pater, vobis mando, meum parentum rem bene ut tutemini.

Divine Penates of my parents, Lar father of the family, I commend to you the good fortune of my parents, (and ) that you guard them well.

- Mercator 834-5

Larem corona nostrum decor(o)... venerare ut nobis haec habitatio bona fausta felix fortunataque evenat.

I... adorn our Lar with a garland, so that we and our house may have good fortune, happiness and prosperity.

- Trinummus 39-41

Di, obsecro vostram fidem.

Gods, keep faith, I beg you.

- Cistellaria 663
TO SPES BONA (GOOD HOPE)
Spes Bona, obsecro, subventa mihi, exime ex hoc miseram metu.

Good Hope, please hear and aid me, and help me out of my misfortune.

- Rudens 231-2

Spes mihi sancte subveni.

Holy Hope come now to my aid.

- Cistellaria 670
TO DEATH
Recipe me ad te, Mors, amicum et benevolum.

Take me into your arms, O Death, you who are friendly and benevolent to me.

- Cistellaria 639-40
PRAYER TO APOLLO
Apollo, quaeso te, ut des pacem propitius, salutem et sanitatem nostrae familiae, meoque ut parcas gnato pace propitius.

Apollo, I beseech you, graciously grant peace, safety and sound health to our family, and spare my son by your gracious favour.

- Mercator 678-680
TO APOLLO AGAINST THIEVES
Apollo, quaeso, subveni mi atque adiuva confige sagittis fures thensaurarios cui in re tali iam subvenisti antidhac.

Apollo, please, help me, and with your arrows slay these treasure-laden thieves. As you have done before, swiftly come to my aid and draw your bow.

- Aulularia 394-6
TO LAVERNA AGAINST THIEVES
Ita me bene amet Laverna, <uti> te iam nisi reddi mihi vasa iubes, pipulo hic differum ante aedis.

May Laverna love me, she who watches over thieves. If you do not order those thieves to return to me my things, I shall make a row before your temple.

- Aulularia 445-6
TO MERCURY AS PATRON OF SWINDLERS
Perfidiae laudes gratiasque habemus merito magnus quom notris sycophantiis, dolis astutiisque.

Great praise and thanks ought we to justly pay to the great god of swindling (Mercury) for our conniving ways, our deceitfulness, and our sly cunning not to end any time soon.

- Asinaria 545-6
TO THE ROADSIDE LARES
Invoco vos, Lares viales, ut me bene tutetis.

I call upon you, Lares of the roadside, that you protect me well.

- Mercator 865
PRAYER AT AN UNKNOWN SHRINE
Quisquis est deus, veneror ut nos ex hac acrumna eximat.

Whoever this god be, I entreat that we be rescued from this wretchedness.

- Rudens 257-8
TO THE GENII OF A CITY
Deos deasque veneror, qui hanc urbem colunt, ut quod de mea re hunc veni rite venerim... di vostram fidem.

You gods and goddesses who cherish this city, reverently I ask that, having come here, the object of my coming may be happily attained.

- Poenulus 950-3
TO MARS AND BELLONA
Nam neque Bellona mi umquam neque Mars creduat ni illum exanimalam faxo, si convenero nive exheredem fecero vitae suae.

Mars and Bellona, never trust me again, if I do not make him breathless, if ever I should meet him once more and not take away his vital breath.

- Bacchides 847-9
TO A DOORWAY
Bibite, festivae fores; potate, fite mihi volentes propitiae

Drink, doors of festivity, drink, and be inclined to favour me.

- Curculio 89
TO NIGHT
Nunc te Nox, que me mansisti, mitto uti cedas die ut mortalis inlucescat luce clara et candida atque quanto, Nox, fuisti longior hac proxuma tanto brevior dies ut fiat faciam, ut atque disparet.

Now you Night who stayed your course to speed my plans, depart, give place to day that men may have its bright light shine down on them, and by however much this night was made longer than the last, then by so much shorten this day, so there will be no disparity and Night may succeed day as ever it will.

- Amphitryon 546-9
LIBATION TO VENUS
Venus, de paulo paululum hoc tibi dabo... libenter.

Venus, of the little I have I give you a very little... willingly.

- Poenulus 125
PRAYER TO VENUS
Veneri pol habeu gratiam, eandemque et oro et quaeso, ut eius mihi sit copia quem amo quemque expetesso benignusque erga me ut siet, quod cupiam ne gravitur.

I offer thanks to Venus, and beg and entreat her that I may win the man I love and long for, and that he may be gracious to me, and not grudge me my desire.

- Miles Gloriosus 1228-30
SUPPLICATION TO VENUS
Tibi auscultamus et, Venus alma, ambae te obsecramus, aram amplexantes hanc tuam lacrumantes, gentibus nixae, in custodelam nos tuam ut recipias et tutere; illas scelestos, qui tuom fecerunt fanum parvi, fac ut ulciscare nosque ut hanc tua pace aram obsidere patiare... ne invisas habeas neve idcirco nobis vitio vortas, minus quod bene esse lautum tu arbitrare.

Kindly Venus, we tearfully entreat, as we kneel and clasp this your altar, take us under your protection and defend us. Punish the evil ones who have belittled your sanctuary, and in your good grace let this altar be our refuge... be not offended with us, nor hold us at fault, if there be anything about us that to you is unclean.

- Rodens 694-701

Venus, aequam has petere intellego: decet abs te id impetrari ignoscere hic te convenit: metus has id ut faciunt subigit te ex concha natam esse autumant, cave ut harum conchas spernas.

Venus, I think that this is a fair request and that you should grant it. Their fears have driven them to it. If you yourself, as they say, came from a seashell, then you should not object to the soiled shell of their garments.

- Ibid. 702-5
The Pimp’s Prayer Against Venus

In way of contrast, Plautus also provides a glimpse of the other side in the reciprocal relationship Romans held towards the gods. Here, with his sacrifices unaccepted, his prayers unanswered, a pimp seeks to punish Venus. Plautus turns this into a humorous scene, and is careful to have this impious attitude expressed by a sordid character. However, it was not an uncommon way of treating the gods at times. When news reached Rome of the death of the popular Germanicus, the urban mobs stormed the temples, broke down their doors, withdrew the images of the gods into the street and began kicking them, as a way of expressing their anger at the gods for allowing this.

- ~M Horatius
Di illum in felicent omnes qui post hunc diem, leno ullam Veneri umquam immolarit hostiam quive ullum turis granum sacru ficaverit. Nam ego hodie infelix dis meis iratissumis sex immolavi agnos, nec potui tamen propitiam Venerem facere uti esset mihi. Quoniam litare nequeo, abii illim ilico iratus votui exta prosicarier; [neque ea poricere volui quoniam non bona haruspex dixit: deam esse indignam credidi] eo pacto avare Veneri pulchre adii manum. Quando id quod sat erat satis habere noluit, ego pacisam feci. Sic ago, sic me decet. Ego faxo posthac di deaeque ceteri contentiores mage erunt atque avidi minus, quom scibunt, Veneri ut adierit leno manum condigne haruspex, non homo trioboli, omnibus in extis aibat portendi mihi, malum damnumque et deos esse iratos mihi quid ei divini aut humani aequomst credere?

May the gods damn any pimp who after this day offers a single victim to Venus, or presents her with a single grain of incense. Today, like a fool, with the gods angry at me, I sacrificed six lambs, and still could not make Venus propitious. Since I could not appease her, I immediately left in anger. I refuse to have the sacrificial meat cut off. [I didn’t want to offer it since the haruspex said it wasn’t good; I didn’t think the goddess deserved it.] In this way I cleverly got the better of that greedy Venus. Since she was not willing enough to have what was enough to offer, I put a stop to it! That’s the way I am, that’s the way I ought to act. I’ll guarantee that all the other gods and goddesses will be more contented and less greedy after this, after they hear how a pimp outsmarted that Venus! That haruspex is a fine one to tell me, not worth two cents! He said that all the entrails foretold misfortune for me and all the gods angry at me. Hah, I should trust anything divine or human to a fellow like that?
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