Templa, fana, area et cetera...
by M. Horatius Piscinus (Questions by Aldus Marius)
What exactly would a just-plain-Roman do at a Temple?
First, by temple, if you are thinking in terms of a modern Christian church, the Romans did not have them. A templum was a precinct, usually enclosed by either a wall or hedge, or line of trees perhaps. In such a precinct would be various facilities, some of which would be where your just-plain-Roman could go to do the things of which you enquire. But the Temple, that is, the aedes that was the house of a god, ordinary folk were not allowed inside. During festivals the doors might be opened so that the faithful could look inside and see an image of the god. More commonly images were brought out of the aedes and placed on couches on the portico of an aedes, or else they might be seen when placed on carts for processions. An aedes had a staff, mostly public slaves, to attend to the god. Seneca gives a glimpse of the attendants on the Capitolium, including hairdressers, those who bathed and oiled, announced visitors, and even one fellow who called out the hours of the day to the image of Jupiter. But you did not walk in off the street into the house of a god.
I'm pretty sure most of the public stuff took place outside, on the front steps...but would an ordinary Roman, come to pay his respects to a particular God, still park himself on the porch, or could he go inside? Would he be permitted to gaze upon the image of the God? Maybe leave an offering there?
Pay your respects, leave an offering, maybe catch a glimpse, sure. But not in the aedes or even on its front step most likely. The main altar was always outdoors, under the open sky where the gods might observe from above. That though was the public altar for public rites. In the templum would be other buildings where such things more likely took place. Most temple precincts had dining rooms, three to nine, usually very small, to hold a party of no more than fifteen, and more often fewer. For larger dining events some temple precincts did have large dining halls, but more often you would have larger groups hold picnics under the trees (most temple complexes were more like parks with zoos, libraries, theaters, and just happened to have the aedes of a god or two). It was in these little dining rooms, halls, porticos, or chapels that a person could place a small devotional altar on which to pour libations or burn incense. Other sacrifices were purchased on the grounds and the actual sacrifice was performed by the priests as part of the daily rites. There is one inscription giving the prices for sacrifices, that comes from Ostia I believe.
As for parking yourself, many did, and never left. Of course certain temple precincts offered sanctuary for slaves and debtors. That is where the Christians got their idea for sanctuary. Just as at Christian churches, the person would work in the complex, sweeping, painting, begging, not as a priest necessarily, but he or she also could not leave. Then too several temple complexes did have inns. Many were between cities rather than in cities, and temples became one of the safest places to stop along your journey. But even if you were a local, the local temple precinct is where you went to hang out, for a quick meal and a show (all theaters were in temple complexes), or just to enjoy the shade, as these served as parks do today.
I remember something about pilgrims to the Temple of Aesculapius 'sacrificing' clay images of injured body parts, then spending the night in the Temple in hopes of a divine healing. Did any other Temples do anything like that?
The practice of incubation was widely used throughout Italy before the cultus of Aesculapius arrived from Greece. We hear of it mostly in conjunction with Faunus, and these take place in groves, outdoors rather than in buildings it seems. When you went to see Aesculapius you did not exactly sleep inside His aedes but in special rooms meant for incubations. These, like dining halls, might be placed along the outside wall of an aedes, each with a separate entry and without access into the aedes itself. Otherwise it would be at a separate building altogether. Apparently not all incubations were made for healing. You could ask priests to help you with an incubation where you might call on a favorite god to see who would win the next chariot race. Dreams were the most common type of oracles, and oracles were used for everything.
At all temple precincts there were testimonials made of the god or goddess' beneficence. That is where your clay votives came in. There would also be clay votives of figures, of deities, of loaves of bread, or sometimes utensils. A very old cultus in Latium had figurines of young men and young women (these dressed in wedding costumes) left as votives. This may have been the practice when a person entered into adulthood. The youth donning his toga virilis, and the bride on the eve of her wedding would make visits to specific temples, the later rites we know something about perhaps related to the earlier rites that involved such votives. Then too, the temple precincts, their walls, all the columns, all the buildings, were covered in written testimonials. (White letters on red, or red letters on white) These told of miracle cures, prayers answered, prophecies fulfilled and so on.
What if a Roman had a personal problem with spiritual dimensions, and he just wanted to talk to a Priest? Where would he find the Priest--in the Temple itself, or in a dwelling-place nearby, or...?
As in, "sounds like a personal problem, go see the chaplain"? I suppose it would depend on how the Romans might consider a problem to be. Normally a person would consult with family and friends over personal problems, or if he felt the need of a more authoritative counselor he would go for advice to the house of a person of importance. Like going to his neighborhood "Godfather." But for some things a person would go to a temple precinct to seek advice.
During the late Republic, if you were ill, there were some Greek doctors in Rome. The first to come to the City was Archagathus around 220 BCE. Really not until the time of Trajan were there a number of doctors available, even different schools competing for business. Most Romans would instead seek medical advice at a temple precinct, close to which or in which would be such "doctor's offices," charlatans of all kinds, and then the priests as well. A sacerdotus might provide you with some known cure, more like magical spells, or offer you the services of the temple for an incubation by which to consult a god directly, or else would recommend purification rites involving sacrifice to a number of deities.
Spiritual counseling in a more modern sense apparently was offered by some priests. I suppose the best indication is the story of Pontifex Maximus Licinius Crassus compelling Valerius Flaccus to become flamen Dialis and change his former habits. Or you might consider the case where the censors Veturius and Licinius (the same Pontifex Maximus as with Valerius) compelled Marcus Livius to give up his mourning dress, shave, and return to the Senate. The higher priests could and did interfere in people's lives, advising them on their behavior, at times probably at the request of family members. For this you would go to their houses, see the "Godfather" as it were. You could do the same at a temple precinct with some of the lesser priests. Remember that some temple sacerdoti were public slaves, learned men and women retained at a temple precinct. But others had to be citizens, which meant they were freeborn or freedmen. The sacerdotus of the Bona Dea was a free woman, known to have prescribed remedies for women, probably advised on dealing with children and husbands as well. Also prominent in temple precincts would be philosophers. It was in the precincts that they would give dissertations because that is where crowds gathered. You might go talk to one of them. Plotinus we know was sought out for advice by many people, rich and poor, from the emperor down, and that he took in orphaned children, or else was made their guardians by a parent's will. Anyway there were a variety of people that would be in a temple precinct and you would seek them out as they strolled about, followed by crowds, almost in a carnival atmosphere.
And were all Gods worshipped in Temples...or did some of Them, e.g. Diana, still prefer Their sacred groves? If so, what went on in those places?
Ah, an interesting question. Not all gods had temples at Rome, not in the manner you speak. An aedes is more of an exception. The nature of the deity determined whether Their grove would also have an aedes. Faunus had groves in different parts of Italy. Livy does mention a temple vowed to him on the isle in the Tiber, but that too may have been a grove without an aedes. Could you worship just any old god at a temple? No. When an aedes, sacellum, or altar was dedicated there was usually included some rule that governed what could and could not be done. I know of one inscription for an altar that did allow it to be used for any deity, but not for one's Lares. Most of the time an altar was dedicated for a specific deity, or perhaps a group of deities. There were different kinds of altars that may have played into this. Some altars were mobile, being made of terracotta and no larger than a bread box. Some in this category could be quite large and had holes in them by which to be carried by poles. Most of the ones I have seen were intended for marriage or funerary services. Then there were the votive altars, a small pillar, knee high to chest high, always with an inscription to a specific deity. The public altars, U-shaped like the Ara Pacis or those at Lavinium, would have their own templum, that is, its own little walled off precinct, dedicated and with its own rule. The Ara Pacis had a rather elaborate wall surrounding it if you recall. The old fanum, before any aedes was built, consisted of only an altar and column inside an enclosing wall, such as the fanum beneath the Lapis Niger now usually identifed (wrongly in my opinion) as the Volcanal. Those larger altars too, AFAIK, were most often dedicated to a single deity.
With the Capitolium you have a single building, an aedes, that had three cells, each separately dedicated to a god or goddess. In the Capitolium templum, that is the temple district in which the temple building sat, there were other altars and sacella to other deities, and each of these would have their own templum partitioned off from the larger Capitolium templum. Also is the case of Claudius Marcellus who attempted to vow a joint temple to Virtus and Honos, but was prevented by the pontifices. The reason given was that if a bolt of lightning hit the temple it could not be determined which deity had been offended. It was a simple matter that in the Religio Romana each space used for worship had to be dedicated to a specific deity and no other. Likewise at a ritual, each deity must be called upon separately and given their own sacrifice. One does not pour a libation of wine to be shared by a multitude of deities. The only exceptions would be collective deities, like the Nymphs of Ceres, the Manes, the Penates, or something of a similar nature.
What went on in a sacred grove? Maybe you could be more specific in what you are asking. Quick answer, everything. Especially in the smaller towns and cities, templa contained what are today our theaters, malls, stadiums, parks, libraries, as well as the religious areas. The templum was the center of life. And a locus, that is usually translated as a sacred grove, was a templum.
I suspect the answers to these will depend somewhat on which God/dess is being addressed. My character [Ed. note: for a story he was writing] will be visiting Diana, Mars Ultor, and Vesta for sure, and I have scenes in mind for at least Mars and Diana.
And under what guise will your character be going? Marius the old soldier is not about to walk into the Temple of Vesta. The Grove of Diana on Agidius, or like that at Aricia, is a large enclosed park to wind through before getting to a place to leave an offering. The Temple of Mars Ultor would probably be a different experience. Probably that is where you will purchase a sacrifice be made in your name, like buying your indulgences I guess. Maybe if you were more specific in what you want your character to do or see we can go through each separately.
Last month while visiting a Catholic orphanage, I was invited by the resident priest to also visit his private chapel. It had been constructed in the attic of a house, the way to it by means of a steep, narrow, winding stairway through the common wall adjoining two houses. Believe me, a rather difficult passage for two old, arthritic priests such as we. When I arrived he said that normally they did not allow people to enter the chapel wearing shoes because "this is sacred ground." That piqued my curiosity because it was obvious that what the Catholic priest thought to be sacred was much different from what a Roman flamen thought.
In the Religio Romana a distinction is made between the three terms, sacrum, sanctum, and religionum. Roughly corresponding to "the sacred," "the holy," and "the religious," it is not always clear what the Romans meant by these terms. In De Religionibus C. Trebatius Testa wrote, "Sanctum is sometimes the same as sacrum, and sometimes the same as religionum, and now and then they differ, not being either sacrum or religionum (GRF Testa 4; Macr. Sat. 3.3.5)." And yet the Romans thought of them to be exclusive of one another. "Sanctum, according to Opillus Aurelius, is that which is neither sacrum nor religionum; and, according to Aelius (Stilo), it is whatever is other than that considered sacrum or religionum (GRF Stilo 70; Fest. p. 317b.22)." Then the Romans also distinguished between religio and superstitio as did Cicero in De Natura Deorum or as Nigidius Figulus explained. Commentariorum Grammaticorum liber XI: "It is opportune to be binding, what is prohibited by religiosum?For (whatever) reason a thing is said to be religiosum, whatever exceeds the (normal) practice of the religio is said to be superstitio, and as such, these corrupt things that pollute sacraments were assigned to what vitiates (religious practice)." (GRF Nigidius 4; Gell. 4.9.1)
In my estimate, what the Catholic priest claimed to be "sacred" exceeded what is proper in the religio and therefore must be regarded as superstitio. In the days ahead I will be posting different passages on this subject to distinguish out the sacred, holy and religious within the Religio Romana. From those posts I then intend to enter into another discussion on the Roman practice of the auspices and how that relates to us for establishing proper centers, both public and private, for the Religio Romana today.
The first consideration in distinguishing between sacred space and religious space is a matter of location. Varro wrote:
"Our public augurs set out in their discussions that there are five kinds of lands ? Roman lands, Gabine lands, also those that are foreign, lands that are hostile, and uncertain lands. Roman lands they say are from where lies the city of Rome, founded by Romulus, and Gabine lands from the town of Gabii. The Peregrinus are those foreign lands that are peaceful and friendly, that are external to Rome and Gabii, who favor the same method of taking auspices. Peregrinus they say comes from "to proceed," that is "to go out from," as when the Romans traveled outside of their own lands. For which reason Gabine lands might also be considered peregrinus, except that with Rome they share a singular method of taking auspices, from however else they may be distinguished. The hosticus they say are the lands of the enemy, while incertus are those lands extending to the four quarters of the earth of which we are ignorant (De Lingua Latina 5.53)."
The traditional lands of the Romans are noted as those where "we observe in the litany of the augurs the names of the rivers Tiber, Spino, Anemo, Nodinus, and other rivers close to Rome (Cicero De Natura Deorum 3, 20.52)." The Gabine lands may be taken as those other parts of Latium that were not held by Rome during the Regal period. Foreign lands were culturally distinct from the Latins, such as the Etruscans to the north, Sabellian Cumae to the south and Ferentum of the Hernicii to the east. We should note that this distinction remained in the religious tradition of Rome even after such foreign lands were incorporated into Roman provinces
"The first division of things is into two classes; for some are subject to divine law, some to human law. Within divine law some things are sacrum, some religiosum. Sacrum are those consecrated to the gods; things that are religiosum are dedicated to the Di Inferi. Nothing can become sacrum except by the authority of the Roman people, which can result through either the passage of a law or through a decree of the Senate. On the other hand, things can become religiosum by our own act of will when we bury the dead in our own ground, provided that the particular burial is our own business. On the soil of provinces (that are foreign lands), however, since individuals can only have possession or usufruct but not full dominion, which belongs to the Roman people alone, or else to the emperor, the ground can never become properly religiosum but only quasi religiosum. In the same way in the provinces, ground that has not been properly consecrated by the authority of the Roman people is not properly sacrum but quasi sacrum (Institutiones Iustiniani II. 1-11)."
This distinction is found as well in an exchange of letters between Pliny the Younger and the emperor Trajan. Pliny wrote the emperor on removing a temple of Magna Mater to a new location. Pliny?s question was whether Roman sacred law regarding dedicated lands should apply in his province. Trajan replied, "It need not concern you if a special (local) dedication law is not forthcoming, since the soil of a foreign state is incapable of receiving dedication, which takes place by our law (Letters X. 50)." In another matter regarding the relocation of foreign tombs, Pliny addressed a letter to Trajan as the pontifex maximus. Again Trajan said that the Roman laws pertaining to such religious matters could not feasibly be applied in the provinces (Letters X. 69).
The tradition of the Religio Romana retained these distinctions even after foreign lands were incorporated into the Roman state. The same would continue today. Peregrinus applies to any land beyond the modern Italian province of Lazio that were once held within the Roman empire. Lands that were known to the ancient Romans because they bordered the empire but were not in the empire are hosticus while all other lands that were not directly known to the Romans remain incertus. What this means is simply that any auspices taken in an incertus land could not be considered to apply in a land that is peregrinus, and so on.
The Romans went further in distinguishing the extent of auspices. Auspices did not extend across rivers. From Cicero, cited above, we know the augurs designated the traditional lands of Rome by its rivers. We also hear how consules had to perform certain rites when crossing the Tiber in order to hold assemblies of the comitia centuriata because their inaugurial auspicia auctoris did not extend beyond the pomerium or the Tiber into the Campus Martius (Cic. Nat. Deor. 2.10-12). More to the point is the case of Roman generals who were required to take new auspices each time his army crossed a river.
In auspicia privati the augurial station would necessarily have been on the family's traditional lands or whatever estate best represented its patrimony. The auspices were taken for the family as a whole, not for individuals as such. Therefore if auspices were taken regarding a business trip for example, the question still pertained to the patrimony represented in the family's lands, the individual travelling from and returning to those lands, rather than carrying the auspices along with him. In the case of a marriage, the family of the bride conducted auspices to see if the gods approved the bride's departure from the family, and then the groom's family would conduct another set of auspices upon the bride's arrival to see if the gods approved of her acceptance into her new family. In Gaius there are two considerations made regarding religiousum that pertains as well to all auspicia privati, that they be made on one's own land and concern only one's own business.
C. Trebatius Testa, De Religionibus Liber I: "Sacrum is whatever is held by the gods." (GRF Testa 1; Macro. Sat. 3.3.2)
Referring back to Gaius, any place or thing dedicated by mortals to the gods can only be considered quasi sacrum, while any land used for religious purposes is only quasi religiosum since at any time such dedications can be revoked or vitiated. Gaius was speaking in relative terms between the possession of land by any individual, colony or province to that of the dominion held by the Roman state. Under Roman law all imperium was held by the Roman people at all times, which could be exercised through the Roman state, as under the Republic when temporary imperium was bestowed by the Roman people on a magistrate. Land that was dedicated to the gods could only be sacrum when (1) it was part of the traditional Roman lands as determined by the augurs, and (2) the land had been made solemn by the augurs pronouncing its borders, dedication of the land had been made by the Roman people either through a comitia or the Senate, and the land had then been consecrated by special rite of the pontifices. Even under the empire, the emperor exercised Roman imperium and dedicated temples technically with the approval of the Senate. Today there is no Roman state to make such dedications, and all sites that had once been dedicated as sacred have since been polluted, thereby reverting to their former status, so that today there are no places that, under Roman law, can be regarded as sacrum. If today any group of Romani were to dedicate land for religious or sacred purposes it would still be only in a quasi status since a state government could at any time revoke legal possession, vitiate the dedication and pollute the site as occurred at Rome. The Roman state and the Roman people really only held a quasi imperium, temporary in nature, dependent upon the special relationship they had with the gods. The pact between the Roman people and the gods was then abrogated in 375*
Cicero wrote that no one should consecrate a field, NE QUIS AGRUM CONSECRATO (De Legibus II.21). He went on to explain that he took this provision from Plato, justified by "that the earth, like the hearth in a dwelling, is sacred to all gods; wherefore no one should consecrate it for a second time." [TERRA IGITUR, UT FOCUS DOMICILIORUM, SACRA DEORUM OMNIUM EST; QUO CIRCA NEQUIS ITERUM IDEM CONSECRATO (II.45)]
The earth being sacred to all gods, when mortals dedicate some location to a single deity in effect they deny it to all the other gods. Such a dedication can only be valid if first an augur takes the auspices to see if the gods approve of such an arrangement. The location will actually pass through different stages, changing from its virgin status to religiosum, sanctum, and sacrum in that order. In the final stage where a god or goddess would be invoked to enter the site and take up their abode there, the site becomes sacrum only when the deity takes possession. This process of transition reflects the development in the Religio Romana from its early period with rustic shrines as described by Tibullus to its later urban period. The developmental stages appear in Servius' commentary that "in ancient times the sacred houses of the gods (aedes) were first made as precincts (templa) set off and solemnized by the augurs, then at length they were consecrated by the pontifices, and finally temple edifices were built inside them (Ad Aen. 1.446)."
The site's status changes to religiosum once it has been selected for another purpose. Religiosum simply means that from that point on it becomes unlawful for mortals to use land for any other purpose since it has been promised to a god. In the same way, animals selected out from a herd or flock to eventually be offered as a sacrifice were called exima and considered to have a quasi numen that made them religiosum, i.e. unlawful to use for any other purpose (GRF Veranius 4). At the site a templum will be set up to serve as an augural station, in which an auspex sits to take the auspices. He will be assisted by augures. Depending on the circumstance, anyone may take auspices and thus act as an auspex. This templum or station is temporary, held to be religiosum or sanctum so long as it is being used. Only an augur, however, may make a templum that is sanctum (holy and solemn) and meant for continued use. The augur first makes a templum in the regular fashion in order to form a station where he may take the auspices. Then the locus is made solemn, turned into a holy shrine or effata, by pronouncing its boundaries "set according to the celestial auspices, separated out from the city or fields (Varro L. L. 6.53)." Each side of the site is also regarded as a separate templum (L. L. 7.8), and auspices are taken to determine its location. Such minor templa were then marked off either by setting up tablets to denote the boundaries, or by stringing a linen enclosure in which is left an opening (Fest. 157a). One such locus, the sacred grove of Diana at Aricia, is described by Ovid where "along hedgerows are covered with hanging threads, many placards give thanks to the goddess (Fasti 3.267-8)." This type of rustic shrine is the kind of which Cicero mentions as an ecfata of the countryside, his term meaning that the land has been transformed into sanctum (De legibus 2.19.21).
The initial augural station is rectangular in shape, usually in a 6:5 proportion. The final effata may be of any size and shape, usually conforming to the features of the land. In future posts I will go into the variety of sites, held to be either sacrum, sanctum, or religiosum. The solemnized templum called an effata can be quite large. We should call these templa "precincts" or "temple districts." A locus such as the Sacred Grove of Diana at Aricia can best be thought of as a park, selected and marked off from the surrounding region. In such a templum however there can be other templa set off as specialized areas. Thus inside a temple precinct dedicated to one particular god or goddess, another templum may set off a little shrine to a different deity, another templum would be made for an altar area, an altar established for one particular god and enclosed by a wall would be a fanum and it too would have its own templum inside the larger templum of the locus. Each temple building (aedes) inside the larger templum would likewise have its own templum. Where an effata may be taken as sanctum, a templum set off inside it could be religiosum if it was dedicated for a religious use alone. An aedes that would be built inside an effata would also begin with its own templum, and this would eventually become more than sanctum, since when it is dedicated and the proper rites performed it would become a place held by a god and thus considered sacrum.
"In the constitution of a tabernaculum, at first (the site) is spoiled land, then it was selected, but if afterward it was found polluted it will revert to its original status Tabernacula are chosen to take the auspices (Serv. Ad Aen. 2.178)." A tabernaculum is the tent erected at the center of a templum where the auspex sits during the rite of taking the auspices. Servius uses it here to represent the templum itself. In the process of forming any shrine, if it would later be discovered that an error had been made, the entire rite would have to be performed over. If something would occur to pollute the space, the site would again have to be reconstituted. For example, if fire damaged a temple building and repairs were then made, bringing iron implements into the templum, the site would become polluted and revert to its original status. That is why you find temples being rededicated. In some cases, as part of a dedication ceremony, provision was made in the rule of a temple to allow for repairs to be made without vitiating the site. (I will post some example temple rules found in dedications.) Whatever temples and temple districts that may have once existed in Rome and elsewhere, long ago these were desecrated and reverted to their original status. Today no ancient shrine could be considered sanctum or sacrum without being first properly reconstituted. They could be considered religiosum especially if any grave sites were found within.
Today, if we wanted to dedicate new shrines, I think we should go back to finding natural places as was originally done in the mos maiorum. That is, rather than trying to artificially establish shrines we should look to recognize sites as shrines where the presence of a numen may be felt to already exist. Necessarily these would be made religiosum. If a community of practitioners of the Religio Romana would recognize augures and proper rites conducted, then sanctum sites could be constituted. I have my doubts whether a site could today be constituted into sacrum properly by the mos maiorum, but there would be other things recognized as being held by the gods and thus some things may still be regarded as sacrum in the Religio Romana.
*NOTE: IMHO In 367/8 CE Gratianus was invested as augustus and co-emperor in the West without consent of the Senate (Ammianus 27.6), later he renounced his title as pontifex maximus and removed the Ara from the Senate. In 375 when Flavius Valentinianus died and Gratianus acknowledged Valentinian II as his co-emperor in the West, it therefore left the Religio Romana without any pontifex maximus. (Valens was still emperor in the East, thus not considered in this.) Then with the new emperor refusing to honor the plea of Symmachus to restore the Ara to the Senate, the gods withdrew their favor. The following year, 376, began the Gothic War that resulted in the defeat of Valens at Andrianople on 9 August 378. Up until 375, although Christians occasionally served as emperors, they still held title as pontifex maximus and had kept alive the mos maiorum. Flavius Valentinianus, although a Christian succeeding Julian the Blessed and Jovianus, who reversed Julian's policies of restoring the old faith, still Valerianus maintained Julian's policy of tolerance and honorably executed his duties as pontifex maximus. Others may have their own thoughts on this matter. There were some later individuals who historians claim to have been the last pagan emperor. Some might think the break comes earlier, but if I had to pin down some point I think the year 375 is the best candidate.
"Sacrima, as Aelius Stilo and Cloatius (Verus) said, is the must placed in the amphorae used as a sacrifice at Meditrinalia to benefit the vines, the wine itself that they produce, and the vessels that this is carried in, which things are then quasi sacra. It is what is made by Liber, as the wheat is earlier made by Ceres." (GRF Stilo 69; Fest. p.318a.23)
A numen of Ceres is that power by which the goddess effects each stage in the growth of plants, especially grain plants. The indigitamenta of Ceres, of which there were twelve recalled in the litany of Ceres, are those aspects of the goddess that wield a particular numen. Thus Sarritor is the indigitamentum of Ceres as She exerts Her numen of hoeing and weeding. A numen is an active force and we speak of it being present in some thing or place while it is actively acting on that place or thing. While being acted upon the place or thing may be said to be held by Ceres and thus in a sense is considered to be sacrum. The diminutive form of sacrimum is the outward appearing physical place or thing that holds what is possessed by the goddess and is sacrum.
This takes us into an Aristotelean concept and the disputes of the Medieval Scholastics between the essence of an object and those "accidents" that we perceive through our senses. Let us take a moment to look at the kinds of little shrines that may be found on a private estate. The Florides refers to family lands in the countryside being sanctified with "an altar wreathed with flowers, a grotto shaded with foliage, an oak hung with horns, a beech with animal skins, or a consecrated knoll surrounded by a fence (a puteal), a tree trunk in which a hatchet has carved a divine effigy, a patch of turf sprinkled with libations, a stone anointed with oil (1. 3-4)." The "oak hung with horns" may be compared with the "oak which the shepherds held sacred" that was atop the Capitolium (Livy 1.10.5). Or we may consider Horace's poem "To you (Diana) I dedicate this pine tree that now overhangs my villa, and each year the blood of a wild boar, who ponders an oblique thrust, I will gladly give to its roots as drink (Carmina Liber III.xxii.5-8)." The "stone anointed with oil" may refer to a boundary marker representing Terminus (Ovid Fasti 2.639-78). The stone itself, its physical composition, colour, taste, and texture are "accidents" that we perceive. A stone is only a stone. Terminus is of course not the stone itself. But the essence of the stone, on a higher plain of existence, can be taken as something other than just its physical appearance. All things emanating from the gods are imbued with deity. What holds deity, what mediates between the physical and the spiritual is that vehicle called a soul. Even a stone has a soul. It may not be the soul of an animal or that of a human, but a stone would have a vehicle that transmits its spiritual essence unto its physical form. A stone can be transformed, its essence altered, by being imbued with greater deity than any other stone may naturally possess. A stone placed as a boundary marker receives a greater portion of Terminus' numen as it actively protects the boundary it marks. That is, its essence is nolonger just that of a stone even though its "accidents" have in no way been altered. The stone is now sacrima as its essence has received something of Terminus, something that is held by Terminus and thus what is sacrum unlike the stone in which the sacrum has been deposited.
In the same way, must that is the crushed pulp of grapes, is sacrima since it has received a greater portion of Bacchus into its essence, a numen that when added transforms the juice of grapes into wine. The same is true of an image such as a statue, cut from wood or stone. Its physical being is no more than before, but a part of the spiritual being of the artist who carved it has been transferred to it, altering its essence, and if it would then be graced with the numen of a god or goddess it represents we may take the dedicated statue, entailing its physical, soulful, and spiritual form, to be sacrima, as it now holds something more that is sacrum. The same with a cenotaphium or tumulus, stone monument used as the dwelling place for the soul of a Roman whose body was lost at sea or in a distant land (Virgil Aen. 6.505-6; Livy 25.17.5; Tacitus Annales 2.7). Describe it however you like, there is a belief in the Religio Romana that even an inanimate object like a clump of dirt can be instilled with spiritual force, a numen, and move of its own volition. At times, when trying to explain it, the distinction is made between sacrum and the object holding it being called sacrima.
From whatever is sacrima emanates a numen that affects the area around it. There are two ways in which to establish a shrine. Either discover a locus that is an area affected by a numen emanating from some sacrima, or by placing what may be considered sacrima into some place and inviting a deity to send their numen to transform the place into a locus. Next we will begin to look at different kinds of shrines to see how they are discovered or built, established, sanctified and dedicated, and how this idea of sacrima plays a role in determining whether the site is religiosum, sactum, or sacrum.
DEORUM MANIUM IURA SANCTO SUNTO. SUOS LETO DATOS DIVOS HABENTO
The rights of the Manes shall be holy. Deceased family members shall be regarded as gods... (II.ix.22)
The first type of locus to consider is a tomb or cemetery. There are some things a tomb would have in common with other forms of Roman shrines, but the way it is formed would not necessarily involve the forming of a templum. We have already seen where Gaius said,
Things that are religiosum are dedicated to the Di Inferi... things can become religiosum by our own act of will when we bury the dead in our own ground, provided that the particular burial is our own business. (Institutiones II.1-11)
Also with C. Aelius Gallus in De Significatione Verborum Quae ad Ius Civile Pertinent:
Among things that are held to be sacrum, sanctum, or religiosum, however there are the most subtle differences. An edifice dedicated to a god is sacrum. A wall that surrounds a town is sanctum. Religiosum would be sepulchres where are buried the dead or else their cremated ashes. (GRF Aelius 18)
A tomb is set off as a locus with fixed boundaries. Grave markers sometimes specified the frontage and depth of a tomb area. This is borne out too in the literature as where Trimalchio gives instructions for his own tomb (Petronius Satyricon 71) and in Horace (Sat. 1.8.12-13: mille pedes in fronte, trecentos cippus in agrum).
Rites for the dead varied between culti geniale, but were more or less standardized in each. Special arrangements that went beyond the normal cultus geniale of the individual would be noted on the dedication stone. Sometimes a tomb dedication included a schedule of days when offerings were to be made. The common days were the national festivals for the dead, and the anniversary of the person's death. This last one is sometimes called a dies natalis since the person was thought born into a new life upon his or her death. ILS 8366 instructs that lamps be lit on the grave every kalends, nones, and ides of every month. CIL xiii. 5708 lists when ceremonial meals should be offered to G. Popilius Heracla, on the kalends of April, May, June, July, August, and October. The dedication inscription might also specify what gifts were appropriate: food, bread, cakes, sausages, fruit, wine, incense, and flowers, especially roses and violets. Some tomb areas were provided by collegia funeraticia. Dedications for such funeral clubs would include their regulations, specifying how often they met, what dues were owed, how the group was governed and what funerary benefits they provided. The locus of a tomb would include an altar (ILS 8184) and so these dedication markers gave a rule on appropriate rites just as were done in other types of shrines, arae, loci, fana, templa, aedes and so forth.
Between a holy shrine that was sanctum and a tomb that is religiosum the difference may seem only a matter of degree, or not to exist at all That is the attitude taken in Christianity where the terms religious, holy and sacred are often confused. In the Libri pontificale such a "subtle difference" played an important part of contention. The terms used in religious discourse were highly technical and very specific in meaning; distinctions that can at times may be lost in translation to our modern sensibilities as well as into other languages. At the top of this page, Cicero makes one of those subtle distinctions. Where a tomb can only be regarded as religiosum, the rites of the dead, what is rightly owed to our ancestors he distinguished as sanctum. The indignation of a Roman over a violation of sanctum has been carried over into our own language with their term of incestus. The charge Cicero often repeated against Clodius was not about an alluded incestuous relationship between Clodius and his sister Clodia, but rather Clodius' attempts to interrupt the rites of Cicero and his brother to their Lares by depriving them of their ancestral shrines. As aedilis Clodius introduced into the celebrations for the Magna Mater certain practices that were commonly offered in plebeian rites, but had not previously been used in the holy rites of patricians. Cicero also referred to that as incestus. (A little odd since Cicero was a plebeian and Clodius a patrician by birth). Anyway, as we begin to resurrect the Religio Romana and look forward to establishing our own shrines, we should be made aware of these subtle differences in terms of meaning.
Perhaps the easiest kind of shrine to recognize is a puteal. In the Florides that I quoted earlier, the puteal is described as "a consecrated knoll surrounded by a fence."
"To be sure, the superior form of stations used in augury is that which we call a capillor as this is a place touched by Jove. The capillor is said to have been consecrated by Jove's lightning bolt and the tree auspiciously seized (Serv. Aen. 10.423)."
When a person or place was struck by lightning it was regarded as a prodigy, and thus haruspices were called in to interpret its cause and what must be done to propitiate the anger of the gods. Caecina held that Jupiter sent three kinds of lightning. The first type is a gentle warning sent by Jupiter Himself. The second kind is also sent as a warning that Jupiter sends on the advice of His council of the twelve gods or Di consentes. While beneficial in its warning, it can also do damage. The third kind though is ordered by the Involuti, or Hidden Gods, and this "lightning destroys whatever it strikes and, particularly, alters the state of private or public affairs (Seneca Nat Quaes. II.41.2). Pliny wrote, "The Etruscan consider that nine gods employ eleven thunder bolts, because Jupiter has three kinds. The Romans have retained only two of these gods. They attribute daytime thunderbolts to Jupiter and ones at night to Summanus (N. H. II.138)." In fact the Romans also consider Minerva to cast lightning bolts on behalf of Jupiter on some occasions. Thunder bolts were always regarded as sacrum since they were held by a god. It was necessary to determine which god had cast it in order to appease the proper deity. Whatever it struck would thus be sacrima.
A special structure called a puteal was built as a tomb to "bury" the lightning bolt, housing the sacrima. Around the puteal would be an area established by an augur as a templum to form the area into a kind of locus. The capillor would then be a temporary templum established within this locus associated with the puteal. The resulting locus, whether on public or private land, would then be sanctum. The significance of auspices taken within a capillor could have wider effect than just the immediate area in which they are taken; that is, the auspices would apply to the entire neighborhood and not to just the family on whose land had been struck.
The puteal itself consists of four-sided wooden box without a bottom. In the box is placed everything that was scorched by the lightning bolt, including any scorched earth (Lucan 1.606). If a person were struck and killed by the lightning bolt, they, too, would be buried in the puteal. "It is not lawful to cremate a man who dies in this way, religious custom requires burial (Pliny N.H. 2.145)." Over the burial a mound is built up into a tumulus. Then a low circular, stone wall without footing surrounds the tumulus.
A special sacrifice is offered to appease Jupiter. This consisted of leeks, green onions, and a sardel fish (Ovid Fasti 3.327-48). Plutarch has a slightly different offering (see Life of Numa Pompilius). In addition, if a person was struck, a special sacrifice of a bidens was called required according to the haruspices. Usually this was taken to mean a two-year old sheep, but P. Nigidius Figulus, in De Extis, explained that bidens was any two-year old herd animal, sheep, goats or cattle (GRF Nig. 39; Gell. 16.6.12; Macrobius 6.9.5; Non. p 53.20; Fest. p 27). Each year on the anniversary of when the lightning bolt struck additional offerings were made by pouring a libation of wine onto the tumulus.
The best known puteal was the puteal Scribonianum near the Arcus Fabianus. Depictions of its altar show it decorated with pincers, a lyre, and a wreath of bay laurel (Cicero Pro Sestio 18; Horace Satires II.6.35; Ep. 1.19.8).
A locus that is privately dedicated, even if intended for public use, or a publicly dedicated locus intended for private devotions, are considered to be religiosum.
ILS 4909 prope Carpi
ANINIA SEX L GE IVNONIBUS HANC ARAM LOCVMQVE HIS LEGIBVS DEDICAVIT SI QVIS SARCIRE REFICERE ORNAR CORONAR VOLET LICET ET SI QVIT SACRIFICI QVO VOLET FERRE ET IBI VBI VOLET VTI SINE SCELERE SINE FRAVDE LICET
Aninia Sextia willingly carries forth for the junos and dedicates these rules for this altar and locus: If anyone wishes to repair, restore, adorn, or crown with wreathes, it is lawful, and it is possible to sacrifice (here) for whatever purpose one wants to carry out, and there on that occasion, as soon as she wants, without desecration and without fraud, this too will be permitted
Here is an example of a private individual dedicating a public altar and locus for what would be essentially private rites. It is interesting that the person making the dedication is a woman, and that the altar is given for junos, that is, for the geniuses of women. Normally one would think of people honoring their genius or juno in their family shrine. We are reminded here of Tibullus' poem to a girl's juno on her birthday:
Juno of her birth, a young girl offers to you holy incense heaped in a sacrificial bowl held in her soft hands. Today she is all yours; most joyfully adorned she stands before your altar for all to see. Be gracious, and come shining forth next year, when this same devotion in the ancient tradition she'll once more lovingly offer. III.xii.1-4; 19-20
The dedication is a little unusual too in that it is expressly not restrictive in its provisions. Sacrifices may be made to any gods or Manes, for any purpose, and without reference to any rule on sacrifices as is sometimes found. Provision is made for repairing and maintaining the locus, in any necessary manner, without vitiating the site. Compare then to the following dedication where restrictions are made.
ILS 4912 Luceria
IN HOCE LOUCARID STIRCUS NE QUIS FUNDATID NEVE CADAVER PROIECITAD NEVE PARENTATID SEI QUIS ARVORSU HAC FAXIT IN IUM QUIS VOLET PRO IOUDICATOD MANUM INIECTIO ESTOD SEIVE MAGISTERATUS VOLET MOLTARE LICETOD
Into this place nothing made of cast metal and no carcasses may be flung inside, and no sacrifices made for deceased parents. If against this rule a small altar is set up, then it will be permitted for a magistrate to hand down any judgement and set whatever fines he may wish.
What is described in the first dedication is an open air altar and the locus in which it was placed, that would necessarily have been enclosed. Although not as elaborate, it would have been similar in design to the Ara Pacis. The second inscription refers to small votive altars, usually set up in fulfillment of some vow. These loci we may assume had been set off by an augur as ecfata, and therefore the enclosing wall and the templum of the locus could be considered sanctum. In both cases these loci have been set up for private rites, what they contain, and the rites performed in them would therefore be regarded as religiosum. According to Aelius, "what has been dedicated to the gods for use by others in their own private practices, these the Roman pontifices did not regard as sacrum. On the contrary what are taken as sacrum in private rites, under pontifical law they have the same status as funerals or festivals and the places where these are conducted. They are sacrum only in so far as in the way it is a sacrifice, and that thing or place has been privately consecrated, these are hardly seen as sacrum. (GRF Aelius 21; Fest. p.318b.34 cf GRF 18)."
"Sacellum is a small locus hallowed by the gods and with an altar. Sacellum is posed to come from two words, sacrum and cella, meaning 'sacred room' (GRF Trebatius 3; Gell. 7.12.5)."
Festus defines publica sacra as "what are made at public expense for the benefit of the people, whether for those of the montes, the pagi, the curiae, or the sacella (245 a)." From December to March these pro populi festivals included the feriae sementivae, Septimonia, Paganalia, Compitalia, and the Fornacalia. These festivals were conceptivae, meaning their dates were movable and not recorded among the official feasts of the Fasti. They were generally conducted under the supervision of the lesser magistrates known as the magistris vicorum and curiones, and without the participation of the state priests (Ovid Fasti 2.527; Livy 34.2.2). An exception here is where the Virgines Vestales and flamines participated in rites for the Argei. Not all of Rome was represented in the festivities, but rather only certain neighborhoods. In the case of the Septimonia residents of the "seven mounts" only included those of the Velia, Caelian, two summits of the Palatine (Germalus and Palatium), and three spurs of the Esquiline (Oppius, Cispius, and Fagutal). Not among the montes were the people of the colles living on the Quirinal and Viminal. Since some of the montes are included in a list of celebrants at the archaic Albenses festival, and the mounts of the Pallatine and Esquiline are listed separate, it is believed that the Septimontia represents a pre-urban Rome. The Paganalia likewise represents an earlier organization of the countryside into pagi as was the case in the less developed regions of Samnia. The Fornacalia was conducted by the curiones, headed by a Curio Maximus. This too represented a very early form of organization within the city, dating back to the Regal Period. In each case, these festivals were conducted at small shrines scattered throughout the city and countryside that represented the earliest form of shrines in the Religio Romana.
At Satricum can be directly traced the development of its religious center following what Servius said about the origin of Rome's temples. Satricum begins with circular huts and associated cooking sheds arranged in a half circle around a central lacus on the acropolis. Similar cooking sheds have been found in the Forum and may relate to the Fornacalia since it was said that grains offered to Juno at that time had been prepared in an ancient form of oven. Then at Satricum, to the northeast of a central lacus, was built an oikos. This was a small, single chamber, rectangular building fronted by a portico with two columns. Behind the oikos and aligned with it is a separate building that has come to be called the sacellum. This represents the early type of housing made of stone and brick, with tiled roofs, being rectangular in shape rather than circular. At Rome such houses began to appear at the end of the seventh century. The one found by Boni in the Forum near the Sepulcretum measured 32.8 feet wide (10m), consisting of three rooms placed side by side and fronted by a columned portico and courtyard. The oikus and sacellum at Satricum were next replaced by an archaic temple, and that in turn with a second temple by 530 BCE along with votive deposits in favissa.
The Fornacalia was celebrated by the curiae. Each curia had a meeting place with a dining hall for sharing a sacrificial meal, and these seem to be of a very early type of house-temple with portico and courtyard, like the one called the sacellum at Satricum. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, however, called the meeting hall of a curia an oikos (Dion Hal. 2.23). We know that the Religio Romana develops from the culti geniale of the more important families. There can be seen in the developments of housing at Rome how the family shrines in the great houses began to serve a wider community, with the portico and courtyard house evolving into later temples. The particular room containing or used as a shrine in a public house was what was called a sacellum.
We hear of sacella in regard to the procession of the Argei. The Argeorum sacella were supposedly a number of small shrines distributed among the four Servian sections of Rome. Sacellum is also the term used for shrines of Isis erected in private homes at the time in the first century when the Senate tried to expel such shrines from within the pomerium. Later still Christian chapels built in private homes might also be regarded as sacella. We need not considered an entire room to be a sacellum. More likely it was a room that held a niche in a wall at one end. In private homes, as at Ostia and Pompeii, some of these niches are found in very small three sided rooms, opening onto the columned portico that surrounded the central garden of a private house. These garden niches may have been derived from the earlier sacella of portico and courtyard houses, transferred to the later atrium style Roman house. That is, the archaic portico and courtyard house, originally having a sacellum for a cultus geniale, gave rise to both the temple form of ancient Rome and the private shrines we usually call lararia, while still serving a function in these lesser known festivals.
From what Trebatius Testa says, inside the niche itself was held something regarded as sacrum. In later times this would have been an image dedicated to a particular god or goddess. In the earliest periods it may have been the remains of a revered ancestors or some object representing them. In the case of the Ageorum sacella an association was made with revered dead, the explanation of who exactly was variously given, and these chapels were used as the repositories of sacred items. At a ceremony held in March a procession went through the city to the various sacella numbering either 24 or 27. Then on 15 May reed puppets were taken from the sacella to be immersed in the Tiber River (Varro L. L. 545; Livy 1.24; Fest. 334, Ovid Fasti 3.791, etc.). The reed puppets relate to the rustic images in the domestic sanctuaries mentioned by Tibullus. Much speculation has been made over the little information we have of these publica sacra to suggest that they represent an original form of the Religio Romana. But it is really in the physical evidence of their associated sacella that a connection can be made to pre-urban, pre-Roman rites.
INVOCO VOS, LARES VIALES, UT ME BENE TUTETIS.
I call upon you, Lares of the roadside, that you protect me well. (Plautus Mercator 865)
"Compitia, Trebatius agrees, is a place where many avenues come together in itself, or in the same way where a network of pathways come together, whether with an altar or not, whether under a roof or in the open, where rustic pagans are accustomed to assemble at the sound of a shepherd's horn to gather in council (GRF Treb. 5; Serv. Dan. g. 2.383; Varro L. L. 6.25.43; Paul Fest. p. 40.3)."
Just as the sacella served as religious centers inside early villages, and later in Rome for various vici, in the countryside there were the compitia. In Samnia transhumance was practiced, where herds moved along the cales from valleys to mountain pastures and whole communities moved along with the herds. As such Samnia did not have permanent villages in the way we normally think of the countryside. Instead of towns and villages the Samnites were organized into pagi, a number of pagi then forming a tribe. A pagus was a region over which the herds ranged. Each pagus would have hilltop defensive positions called oppidia, but these were never permanently occupied either. Along the cales that interlinked the pagi there did develop almost permanent markets, not as clustered centers but strung out along the trail. At Rome the earliest stage of development would have been similar. The earliest evidence of human presence at Rome dates to about 1000 BCE with temporary shepherd's huts and cooking sheds. One such temporary shelter found on the Palatine was mistaken by Romans to have been the house of Romulus and Remus. Regarded by the Romans as the earliest festival, predating Romulus' arrival at Rome, the Lupercalia relates back to this archaic period when the seven hills were organized as a pagus. Varro suggested that the early name for Rome was Septimontium referring to its seven hills, or it may have referred to saepti montes as Holland proposed, alluding to seven hilltop fortifications or oppidia in a pagus.
From later periods can be found Roman roadside shrines even in the provinces. One now loaded to the list's files. is that of a stone carving of Silvanus Silvanus.jpeg In Roman art there are a variety of roadside shrines that may be seen in idyllic settings and in depictions of city streets. Some of these show a statue on a pedestal, or in a niche on a wall. Some show only a tree hung with offerings with a votive altar beneath. Others are simply a shelf on a wall where offerings were placed. There is mention of crossroads being used in different ways for religious purposes, and not always do these mention the presence of a shrine or compitium. There is for example Ovid's advice at Feralia to leave out simple offerings to the Manes on a pottery shard left in the crossroads (Fasti 537-40). Children abandoned to the care of Laverna were left in the middle of crossroads. When travelling to strange cities offerings to Mercury were made in the form of a stone placed at crossroads on a pile of stones left by previous travellers. Both Mercury and Laverna were patron deities of thieves, called upon by travellers for protection from thieves (Plaut. Asinaria 545-6; Aulularia 445-6). Proserpina and Hecate, when called upon in defixiones, are named as goddesses of the crossroads. Tombs were of course placed outside cities along roads, and spirits were thought to roam the roads. All crossroads were seen as places where spirits of the dead would congregate, especially those called Lemures who had no tombs or family to maintain their rites. When the Lemures then came upon a compitium that was maintained with offerings of fruit and drink, they would remain as guardians of the roads, as the Lares viales. And if a traveller did not pay his respects due to these roadside Lares? Well, accidents happen.
Also of note: An interesting petroglyph from Valcamonica might be related to the compitia. The so-called "Map of Bedolina" shows an archaic village with a number of houses shown as floor plans, connected by a network of paths. At one end of the village, in line with the main axis road, is a Camunian Rose. Such a design is depicted elsewhere being adored by warriors (Bedolina R. 16, Capo di Ponte), so it is known to be a sacred symbol. Here it possibly shows the location of a compitium in relation to the village. The Camunian Rose would date the map to the 7-6th centuries, it being known to have developed from a Villanovan motif; the Romans being a Villanovan culture until just after the establishment of the Republic.
"According to Cincius and Cassius, from where Evander would go off to speak to Faunus of the gods, it followed that at first the sacred temples were called fauna, and afterwards fana. And from this, those who by means of chanting spells could predict the future were called fanaticos, [that is, that they were inspired and made frenzied by Faunus] (GRF Cincius Alimentus; Serv. Geor. 1.10)."
The first templum at Rome was dedicated by Romulus to Jupiter Feretrus . Prior to Romulus' arrival on the Palatine there were already people living in the area, legend including Evander among them, and already on the Capitolium was "an oak which the shepherds held sacred (Livy 1.10.5-7)." From the end of the Regal period comes the story of the first construction of a sacred temple, an aedes, dedicated by Marcus Horatius in the first years of the Republic (Livy 2.8.6-8). In first planning out and preparing the site for the Capitolium, we are told that several fana already existed on monte Tarpeia. The augurs were called upon to see if the gods would approve the relocation of their fana and sacella, all agreeing except Terminus and Juventas (Livy 1.55.1-4; Ovid Fasti 667-70). The original shrines of Rome were objects of nature such as trees, rocks, springs, and groves that were intuited to possess numina of the gods. Around 650 BCE there was a change in Roman constructions with the introduction of the use of cut tufa stones in the foundations of rectangular houses (previously round huts of wood were all that were built) and along with this development also came the fana. A fanum consisted of an archaic stone altar, such as those found in the extramural sanctuary of the Thirteen Altars of Lavinium, next to the altar being a column on which stood a statue, and the entire place enclosed by a low stone wall. Some of these early fana were retained at Rome as the Ara Saturni and Ara Maxima of Hercules. The favissa associated with the Capitolium contain votive deposits of materials dating between 650-580 BCE that seems consistent with the period when fana were the prevalent form of public sanctuaries.
Down to the end of the Republic, on the slope behind and just above the Rostrum, was a fanum later to be covered in the Augustan Principate beneath the niger lapis in Comitio (Fest. p. 184 L). Today it is believed to represent the Volcanal based on questionable evidence. More likely this was a site once believed to have been where Tullus Hostilius attempted to reproduce Numa's elicitation of Jupiter "but with too little regard for the ritual, he was struck down (Pliny N. H. 2.140; 28.14)." In later periods some believed that beneath the lapis niger pavement was the tomb of Romulus, or a tomb meant for Romulus but used for Faustulus, or that there existed a shrine for the place where Romulus had ascended into the heavens. Others believed the site was the tomb of Tullus Hostilius, or of his grandfather. No tombs were ever found at the location. Instead was found a cippus bearing a partial inscription in archaic Latin with the words: SACROS, REGEI, KALATOREM, IOUXMENTA, and TOUESTOD. When first discovered the inscription was thought to refer to Romulus as king (regei=rex), but Dionysus of Halicarnassus, arriving at Rome in 30 BCE when the full text was in tact and visible, reported that it referred to Tullus Hostilius. Further excavations have indicated the site originally consisted of only the inscribed cippus and a basin for what appears to have been part of a cultus geniale, possibly of the plebeian gens Hostilia When the site was later transformed into a public shrine, into a fanum, its original kerb cut to make room for the altar, and then shortly afterward a column added, the statue placed atop the column was that of Horatius Cocles (Coarelli, In Foro Romana, 1997). Identification of this site with the Volcanal had been based on the discovery of a an Attic black-figure krater showing Hephaestus riding on a donkey. Such wares dated to 550-530 BCE, where supposedly the fanum was built in 580 along with the reconstruction of the Comitium. Two problems with such early dates for this fanum however. The Hephaestus krater was found along with Greek marble that did not arrive in Rome before the second century, and along with other material from the first century BCE, showing that it was only part of the fill placed there in the Augustan period and not really associated with the fanum itself. It offers no dating for the site. Secondly the cippus was of Grotto Oscura tufa from Veii. It is possible that Grotta Oscura was imported for the cippus from Veii. Large scale use of Grotta Oscura tufa, however, as is found in the so called Servian Wall, did not possibly predate the fourth century after Veii had fallen to Rome. Since the cippus can be demonstrated to have been on site before it became a fanum it does place into question the age of the site.
The Romans often mistook the remains they would find from earlier periods. Such was the case of the shepherd's hut found on the Palatine, then turned into a shrine as the house of Romulus. The Capitolium received its name from the discovery of a skull on monte Tarpeia, and this discovery of a burial in violation of Roman law could only be explained by referring to myth. Another case in point is the Heroon of Aeneas built just before 300 BCE, shortly after Rome's reorganization of Latium in 338. What had once been a tomb holding the cremated remains of a 6th century augur was mistaken by the Romans 250 years later to be the ancient tomb of Aeneas. Such errors were understandable and quite common. When Servius, writing in the fourth century, speaks of the antiquiti, he is really referring to authors from the last century before the common era. Even Seneca, Valerius Maximus, and Pliny writing in the first century of our era refer to Cincius and Nigidius Figulus as ancient sources when these authors were contemporaries of Caesar and Cicero. Cicero likewise relied for his sources on authors no more than two generations earlier. Our oldest textual reference come from the third century BCE with scraps of Naevius and plays of Ennius. Even the Libri Maximi that may have been used as a source by Livy dated back no further than the late second century. Livy tells us at the beginning of Book VI that what records may have once existed were destroyed in 390 during the Gallic sack of Rome. Roman understanding of their own antiquity was therefore very truncated.
In the quotation of Servius at the top he records the opinion of that last generation of the Republic who viewed anything from the fourth century and earlier in mythical terms. Shrines from the fourth century were placed into a distant, forgotten past associated with Faunus and the early kings. In the matter of fana we should also note the association made in the quote, that they were "where Evander would go off to speak to Faunus of the gods." Ovid speaks of Numa's consultations with Faunus through an incubation rite (Fasti 3.293-326; 4.641-68). Virgil speaks of Latinus performing the same rite to Faunus at the grove of Albunea (Aen. 7.81-101). In dedications of private shrines and altars is sometimes found the words ex visu. Shrines of this nature were set off due to visions received in such an incubation rite as was being described by Ovid and Virgil. We might then break down the various kinds of Roman shrines and sanctuaries into three types. Loci were those groves, grottoes, and springs where the presence of the numina of the gods were intuited or made manifest. They were sanctified through long use such as in the case of the grove of Alernus (Ovid Fasti 2.67-8). Fana were either such loci where incubation rites were conducted or such shrines as resulted from their visions. The third type were those sanctified through the rites of an augur. Although each of these types may be relevant to us today, it is this third type, formed first as an augur's templum that I wish to explore further.
"The templa of the Gods are nearly like those used in augury, that is to say, those called 'stations,' where it was that the augurs brought back a response to a matter under consideration, and within which locus' boundaries he had to remain while taking the auspices (Servius Ad Aen. 3.84)."
There are three different kinds of templa that need to be distinguished. The first type of templum is that which is drawn on the ground by an augur as a space in which he shall remain seated while taking the auspices. This type of templum is called a stativum or augural station. Of these there were two types, for most stativa were only temporary and reverted back to their previous state, while another type was the permanent augural station called the Auguraculum. There were only two Auguraculum, the one so named on the Arx and the other mentioned by Varro on the Quirinal. The second type of templum is the celestial templum, where in the sky is parted into sixteen portions and the auspices are observed to take place. The third type is that to which Servius refers above, the templa dei, that we may properly call temple precincts. This last type may be best thought like the plat of a surveyor, for it is an ideal form, a geometric plane, a spiritual plan determined by the celestial powers to which the physical boundaries of some precinct have been set. From Publius Servilius the augur it was said, "from the sky above, like the stars are the inaugurated places fixed (Fest. 351a)." These templa dei were then, "by certain words defined, ...had their corners adfixed to the earth (Fest. 157a)."
Now we come to matters that for modern practitioners of the Religio Romana should be of the greatest interest and to which they should afford their greatest consideration. When you wish to designate some place for religious purposes it does not matter for what type of shrine or sanctuary it will become, whether for private or public rites, whether sacrum or religiosum, for the celestial gods or the Di inferi, the process of transformation is essentially the same.
The process may be said to involve three parts. First is the matter of ritual purification, for this is a concern that applies to all rites, one made with regard to both the place in which a rite is made and the person(s) performing the rite. Second is the matter of taking the auspices, a process in itself. Finally is the matter of consecrating the site to its purpose. Of this last step it may be said that there was a basic, archaic rite from which arose the rites of consecrating a shrine or altar, sanctuary, temple district, or temple building, a colony, town, city, or military camp. Depictions of the consecration rite may be found in the rock paintings at Valcamonica, dating back to the Bronze Age, and are described among the Oscans and Umbrians, as well as among the Etruscans from whom the Romans claimed to have received the rite. In other words the rite of consecration was universally known and used by various Italian cultures as part of their common heritage. What differed Latins from other Italic cultures, what the Romans themselves noted as unique to Latins, was the manner in which they took the auspices. We have already seen that in defining the five types of lands, the augures distinguished one another by the process of taking auspices.
In future posts then, I intend to begin delving into details on taking the auspices. Roman augury being an integrated whole, every aspect interrelated to one another, at times it cannot be explained in a step by step manner. By necessity there would need to be some digressions. Certainly one step would be to observe the birds, but then one would have to digress into the various kinds of birds observed, their behavior, and how one might interpret them. It is like reading Plotinus' Enneads where each section is presented as though all other sections are assumed known. And I do not claim to be any expert on the subject, or know all there is on conducting Roman augury; only one who has read widely on the subject and has attempted its practice.
M Horatius Piscinus, Rector Collegii Religionis