Front Page Titles (by Subject) ROMAN QUESTIONS. - The Morals, vol. 2
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ROMAN QUESTIONS. - Plutarch, The Morals, vol. 2 
Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878). Vol. 2.
Part of: Plutarch’s Morals, 5 vols.
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Question 1. Wherefore do the Romans require a new-married woman to touch fire and water?
Solution. Is it not for one of these reasons; amongst elements and principles, one is masculine and the other feminine; — one (fire) hath in it the principles of motion, the other (water) hath the faculty of a subject and matter? Or is it because fire refines and water cleanseth, and a married wife ought to continue pure and chaste? Or is it because fire without moisture doth not nourish, but is adust, and water destitute of heat is barren and sluggish; so both the male and female apart are of no force, but a conjunction of both in marriage completes society? Or is the meaning that they must never forsake each other, but must communicate in every fortune, and although there be no goods, yet they may participate with each other in fire and water?
Question 2. Why do they light at nuptials five torches, neither more nor less, which they call waxen tapers?
Solution. Whether it be (as Varro saith) that the Praetors use three, but more are permitted to the Aediles, and married persons do light the fire at the Aediles’ torches? Or is it that, having use of many numbers, the odd number was reckoned better and perfecter upon other accounts, and therefore more adapted to matrimony? For the even number admits of division, and the equal parts of opposition and repugnancy, whenas the odd cannot be divided, but being divided into parts leaves always an inequality. The number five is most matrimonial of odd numbers, for three is the first odd and two is the first even, of which five is compounded, as of male and female.
Or rather, because light is a sign of generation, and it is natural to a woman, for the most part, to bring forth so far as five successively, and therefore they use five torches? Or is it because they suppose that married persons have occasion for five Gods, Nuptial Jupiter, Nuptial Juno, Venus, Suada, and above all the rest Diana, whom women invocate in their travail and child-bed sickness?
Question 3. What is the reason that, seeing there are so many of Diana’s temples in Rome, the men refrain going into that only which stands in Patrician Street?
Solution. Is it upon the account of the fabulous story, that a certain man, ravishing a woman that was there worshipping the Goddess, was torn in pieces by dogs; and hence this superstitious practice arose, that men enter not in?
Question 4. Why do they in all other temples of Diana ordinarily nail up stags’ horns against the wall, whenas in that of the Aventine they nail up the horns of cattle?
Solution. Was it to put them in mind of an old casualty? For it is said, that among the Sabines one Antro Coratius had a very comely cow, far excelling all others in handsomeness and largeness, and was told by a certain diviner that whoever should offer up that cow in sacrifice to Diana on the Aventine, his city was determined by fate to be the greatest in the world and have dominion over all Italy. This man came to Rome, with an intention to sacrifice his cow there; but a servant acquainted King Servius privately with this privacy, and the king making it known to Cornelius the priest, Cornelius strictly commands Antro to wash in Tiber before he sacrificed, for the law equires men so to do who would sacrifice acceptably. Wherefore, whilst Antro went to wash, Servius took the opportunity to sacrifice the cow to the Goddess, and nailed up the horns to the wall in the temple. These things are storied by Juba and Varro, only Varro hath not described Antro by that name, neither doth he say that the Sabine was choused by Cornelius the priest, but by the sexton.
Question 5. Wherefore is it that those that are falsely reported to be dead in foreign countries, when they return, they receive not by the doors, but getting up to the roof of the house, they let them in that way?
Solution. Verily the account which Varro gives of this matter is altogether fabulous. For he saith, in the Sicilian war, when there was a great naval fight, and a very false report was rumored concerning many as if they were slain, all of them returning home in a little time died. But as one of them was going to enter in at his doors, they shut together against him of their own accord, neither could they be opened by any that attempted it. This man, falling in a sleep before the doors, saw an apparition in his sleep advising him to let himself down from the roof into the house, and doing so, he lived happily and became an old man; and hence the custom was confirmed to after ages. But consider if these things be not conformable to some usages of the Greeks. For they do not esteem those pure nor keep them company nor suffer them to approach their sacrifices, for whom any funeral was carried forth or sepulchre made as if they were dead; and they say that Aristinus, being one that was become an object of this sort of superstition, sent to Delphi to beg and beseech of the God a resolution of the anxieties and troubles which he had by reason of the custom then in force. Pythia answered thus: —
Aristinus, well understanding the meaning of the oracle, puts himself into the women’s hands, to be washed and wrapped in swaddling clouts, and sucks the breasts, in the same manner as when he was newly born; and thus all others do, and such are called Hysteropotmi (i.e. those for whom a funeral was made while living). But some say that these ceremonies were before Aristinus, and that the custom was ancient. Wherefore it is not to be wondered at, if the Romans, when once they suppose a man buried and to have his lot among the dead, do not think it lawful for him to go in at the door whereat they that are about to sacrifice do go out or those that have sacrificed do enter in, but bid them ascend aloft into the air, and thence descend into the open court of the house. For they constantly offer their sacrifices of purification in this open court.
Question 6. Wherefore do women salute their relations with their mouth?
Solution. What if it should be (as many suppose) that women were forbid to drink wine; therefore that those that drank it might not be undiscovered, but convicted when they met with their acquaintance, kissing became a custom? Or is it for the reason which Aristotle the philosopher hath told us? Even that thing which was commonly reported and said to be done in many places, it seems, was enterprised by the Trojan women in the confines of Italy. For after the men arrived and went ashore, the women set the ships on fire, earnestly longing to be discharged of their roving and seafaring condition; but dreading their husbands’ displeasure, they fell on saluting their kindred and acquaintance that met them, by kissing and embracing; whereupon the husbands’ anger being appeased and they reconciled, they used for the future this kind of compliment towards them. Or rather might this usage be granted to women as a thing that gained them reputation and interest, if they appeared hereby to have many and good kindred and acquaintance? Or was it that, it being unlawful to marry kinswomen, a courteous behavior might proceed so far as a kiss, and this was retained only as a significant sign of kindred and a note of a familiar converse among them? For in former time they did not marry women nigh by blood, — as now they marry not aunts or sisters, — but of late they allowed the marrying of cousins for the following reason. A certain man, mean in estate, but on the other hand an honest and a popular man among the citizens, designed to marry his cousin being an heiress, and to get an estate by her. Upon this account he was accused; but the people took little notice of the accusation, and absolved him of the fault, enacting by vote that it might be lawful for any man to marry so far as cousins, but prohibited it to all higher degrees of consanguinity.
Question 7. Why is a husband forbid to receive a gift from his wife, and a wife from her husband?
Solution. What if the reason be as Solon writes it, — describing gifts to be peculiar to dying persons, unless a man being entangled by necessity or wheedled by a woman be enslaved to force which constrains him, or to pleasure which persuades him, — that thus the gifts of husbands and wives became suspected? Or is it that they reputed a gift the basest sign of benevolence (for strangers and they that have no love for us do give us presents), and so took away such a piece of flattery from marriage, that to love and be beloved should be devoid of mercenariness, should be spontaneous and for its own sake, and not for any thing else? Or because women, being corrupted by receiving gifts, are thereby especially brought to admit strangers, did it seem to be a weighty thing to require them to love their own husbands that give them nothing? Or was it because all things ought to be common between them, the husbands’ goods being the wives’, and the wives’ goods the husbands’? For he that accepts that which is given learns thereby to esteem that which is not given the property of another; so that, by giving but a little to each other, they strip each other of all.
Question 8. Why were they prohibited from taking a gift of a son-in-law or of a father-in-law?
Solution. Is it not of a son-in-law, that a man may not seem to convey a gift to his wife by his father’s hands? and of a father-in-law, because it seems just that he that doth not give should not receive?
Question 9. Wherefore is it that they that have wives at home, if they be returning out of the country or from any remote parts, do send a messenger before, to acquaint them that they be at hand?
Solution. Is not this an argument that a man believes his wife to be no idle gossip, whereas to come upon her suddenly and unexpectedly has a show as though he came hastily to catch her and observe her behavior? Or do they send the good tidings of their coming beforehand, as to them that are desirous of them and expect them? Or rather is it that they desire to enquire concerning their wives whether they are in health, and that they may find them at home looking for them? Or because, when the husbands are wanting, the women have more family concerns and business upon their hands, and there are more dissensions and hurly-burly among those that are within doors; therefore, that the wife may free herself from these things and give a calm and pleasant reception to her husband, she hath forewarning of his coming?
Question 10. Wherefore do men in divine service cover their heads; but if they meet any honorable personages when they have their cloaks on their heads, they are uncovered?
Solution. The latter part of the question seems to augment the difficulty of the former. If now the story told of Aeneas be true, that whilst Diomedes was passing by he offered a sacrifice with his head covered, it is rational and consequent that, while we cover our heads before our enemies, when we meet our friends and good men we should be uncovered. This behavior before the Gods therefore is not their peculiar right, but accidental, continuing to be observed since that example of Aeneas.
If there is any thing further to be said, consider whether we ought not to enquire only after the reason why men in divine service are covered, the other being the consequence of it. For they that are uncovered before men of greater power do not thereby ascribe honor unto them, but rather remove envy from them, that they might not seem to demand or to endure the same kind of reverence which the Gods have, or to rejoice that they are served in the same manner as they. But they worship the Gods in this manner, either showing their unworthiness in all humility by the covering of the head, or rather fearing that some unlucky and ominous voice should come to them from abroad whilst they are praying; therefore they pluck up their cloaks about their ears. That they strictly observed these things is manifest in this, that when they went to consult the oracle, they made a great din all about by the tinkling of brass kettles. Or is it as Castor saith, that the Roman usages were conformable to the Pythagoric notion that the daemon within us stands in need of the Gods without us, and we make supplication to them with a covered head, intimating the body’s hiding and absconding of the soul?
Question 11. Why do they sacrifice to Saturn with an uncovered head?
Solution. Is this the reason, that, whereas Aeneas hath instituted the covering of the head in divine service, Saturn’s sacrifice was much more ancient? Or is it that they are covered before celestial Gods, but reckon Saturn an infernal and terrestrial God? Or is it that nothing of the truth ought to be obscure and darkened, and the Romans repute Saturn to be the father of truth?
Question 12. Why do they esteem Saturn the father of truth?
Solution. Is it not the reason that some philosophers believe that Κϱόνος (Saturn) is the same with Χϱόνος (time), and time finds out truth? Or is it for that which was fabled of Saturn’s age, that it was most just and most likely to participate of truth?
Question 13. Why do they sacrifice to Honor (a God so-called) with a bare head?
Solution. Is it because glory is splendid, illustrious, and unveiled, for which cause men are uncovered before good and honorable persons; and for this reason they thus worship the God that bears the name of honor?
Question 14. Why do sons carry forth their parents at funerals with covered heads, but the daughters with uncovered and dishevelled hair?
Solution. Is the reason because fathers ought to be honored by their sons as Gods, but be lamented by their daughters as dead, and so the law hath distributed to both their proper part? Or is it that what is not the fashion is fit for mourning? For it is more customary for women to appear publicly with covered heads, and for men with uncovered. Yea, among the Greeks, when any sad calamity befalls them, the women are polled close but the men wear their hair long, because the usual fashion for men is to be polled and for women to wear their hair long. Or was it enacted that sons should be covered, for the reason we have above mentioned (for verily, saith Varro, they surround their fathers’ sepulchres at funerals, reverencing them as the temples of the Gods; and having burnt their parents, when they first meet with a bone, they say the deceased person is deified), but for women was it not lawful to cover their heads at funerals? History now tells us that the first that put away his wife was Spurius Carbilius, by reason of barrenness; the second was Sulpicius Gallus, seeing her pluck up her garments to cover her head; the third was Publius Sempronius, because she looked upon the funeral games.
Question 15. What is the reason that, esteeming Terminus a God (to whom they offer their Terminalia), they sacrifice no living creature to him?
Solution. Was it that Romulus set no bounds to the country, that it might be lawful for a man to make excursions, to rob, and to reckon every part of the country his own (as the Spartan said) wherever he should pitch his spear; but Numa Pompilius, being a just man and a good commonwealthsman and a philosopher, set the boundaries towards the neighboring countries, and dedicated those boundaries to Terminus as the bishop and protector both of friendship and of peace, and it was his opinion that it ought to be preserved pure and undefiled from blood and slaughter?
Question 16. Why is it that the temple of Matuta is not to be gone into by maid-servants; but the ladies bring in one only, and her they box and cuff?
Solution. If to baste this maid be a sign that they ought not to enter, then they prohibit others according to the fable. For Ino, being jealous of her husband’s loving the servant-maid, is reported to have fell outrageously upon her son. The Grecians say the maid was of an Aetolian family, and was called Antiphera. Therefore with us also in Chaeronea the sexton, standing before the temple of Leucothea (Matuta) holding a wand in his hand, makes proclamation that no man-servant nor maid-servant, neither man nor woman Aetolian, should enter in.
Question 17. Why do they not supplicate this Goddess for good things for their own children, but for their brethren’s and sisters’ children?
Solution. Was it because Ino was a lover of her sister and nursed up her children, but had hard fortune in her own children? Or otherwise, in that it is a moral and good custom, and makes provision of much benevolence towards relations?
Question 18. Why do many of the richer sort pay tithe of their estates to Hercules?
Solution. Is this the reason, that Hercules sacrificed the tenth part of Geryon’s oxen at Rome? Or that he freed the Romans from the decimation under the Etrurians? Or that these things have no sufficient ground of credit from history, but that they sacrificed bountifully to Hercules, as to a certain monstrous glutton and gormandizer of good cheer? Or did they rather do it, restraining extravagant riches as a nuisance to the commonwealth, as it were to diminish something of that thriving constitution that grows up to the highest pitch of corpulency; being of opinion that Hercules was most of all honored with and rejoiced in these frugalities and contractions of abundance, and that he himself was frugal, content with a little, and every way sparing in his way of living?
Question 19. Why do they take the month of January for the beginning of the new year?
Solution. Anciently March was reckoned the first, as is plain by many other marks and especially by this, that the fifth month from March was called Quintilis, and the sixth Sextilis, and so forward to the last. December was so called, being reckoned the tenth from March; hence it came to pass that some are of opinion and do affirm that the Romans formerly did not complete the year with twelve months, but with ten only, allotting to some of the months above thirty days. But others give us an account that, as December is the tenth from March, January is the eleventh and February the twelfth; in which month they use purifications, and perform funeral rites for the deceased upon the finishing of the year; but this order of the months being changed, they now make January the first, because on the first day of this month (which day they call the Kalends of January) the first consuls were constituted, the kings being deposed. But some speak with a greater probability, which say that Romulus, being a warlike and martial man and reputing himself the son of Mars, set March in the front of all the months, and named it from Mars; but Numa again, being a peaceable prince and ambitious to bring off the citizens from warlike achievements, set them upon husbandry, gave the pre-eminence to January, and brought Janus into a great reputation, as he was more addicted to civil government and husbandry than to warlike affairs. Now consider whether Numa hath not pitched upon a beginning of the year most suitable to our natural disposition. For there is nothing at all in the whole circumvolution of things naturally first or last, but by law or custom some appoint one beginning of time, some another; but they do best who take this beginning from after the winter solstice, when the sun, ceasing to make any further progress, returns and converts his course again to us. For there is then a kind of tropic in nature itself, which verily increaseth the time of light to us and shortens the time of darkness, and makes the Lord and Ruler of the whole current of nature to approach nearer to us.
Question 20. When the women beautify the temple of the Goddess appropriate to women, which they call Bona, why do they bring no myrtle into the house, although they be zealous of using all budding and flowering vegetables?
Solution. Is not the reason (as the fabulous write the story) this, that the wife of Faulius a diviner, having drunk wine secretly and being discovered, was whipped by her husband with myrtle rods; hence the women bring in no myrtle, but offer to her a drink-offering of wine, which they call milk? Or is it this, that, as they abstain from many things, so especially they reserve themselves chaste from all things that appertain to venery when they perform that divine service; for they do not only turn their husbands out of doors but banish from the house every male kind, when they exercise this canonical obedience to their Goddess. They therefore reject myrtle as an abomination, it being consecrated to Venus; and the Venus whom at this day they call Murcia they anciently called Myrtia, as it would seem.
Question 21. Why do the Latins worship a woodpecker, and all of them abstain strictly from this bird?
Solution. Is it because one Picus by the enchantments of his wife transformed himself, and becoming a woodpecker uttered oracles, and gave oraculous answers to them that enquired? Or, if this be altogether incredible and monstrous, there is another of the romantic stories more probable, about Romulus and Remus, when they were exposed in the open field, that not only a she-wolf gave them suck, but a certain woodpecker flying to them fed them; for even now it is very usual that in meads and groves where a woodpecker is found there is also a wolf, as Nigidius writes. Or rather, as they deem other birds sacred to various Gods, so do they deem this sacred to Mars? For it is a daring and fierce bird, and hath so strong a beak as to drill an oak to the heart by pecking, and cause it to fall.
Question 22. Why are they of opinion that Janus was double-faced, and do describe and paint him so?
Solution. Was it because he was a native Greek of Perrhaebia (as they story it), and going down into Italy and cohabiting with the barbarians of the country, changed his language and way of living? Or rather because he persuaded those people of Italy that were savage and lawless to a civil life, in that he converted them to husbandry and formed them into commonwealths?
Question 23. Why do they sell things which pertain to funerals in the temple of Libitina, seeing they are of opinion that Libitina is Venus?
Solution. Was it that this was one of the wise institutions of King Numa, that they might learn not to esteem these things irksome nor fly from them as a defilement? Or rather is it to put us in mind that whatever is born must die, there being one Goddess that presides over them that are born and those that die? And at Delphi there is the statue of Venus Epitymbia (on a tomb), to which at their drink-offerings they call forth the ghosts of the deceased.
Question 24. Why have they three beginnings and appointed periods in the months which have not the same interval of days between?
Solution. What if it be this (as Juba writes), that on the Kalends the magistrates called (ϰαλεῖν) the people, and proclaimed the Nones for the fifth, while the Ides they esteemed an holy day? Or rather that they who define time by the variations of the moon have observed that the moon comes under three greatest variations monthly; the first is when it is obscured, making a conjunction with the sun; the second is when it gets out of the rays of the sun and makes her first appearance after the sun is down; the third is at her fulness, when it is full moon. They call her disappearance and obscurity the Kalends, for every thing hid and privy they call clam, and celare is to hide. The first appearance they call the Nones, by a most fit notation of names, it being the new moon (novilunium); for they call it new moon as we do. Ides are so called either by reason of the fairness and clear form (εἰ̂δος) of the moon standing forth in her complete splendor, or from the name of Jupiter (Διός). But in this matter we are not to search for the exact number of days, nor to abuse this approximate mode of reckoning; seeing that even at this day, when the science of astronomy has made so great increase, the inequality of the motion and course of the moon surpasseth all experience of mathematicians and cannot be reduced to any certain rule of reason.
Question 25. Why do they determine that the days after the Kalends, Nones, and Ides are unfit to travel or go a long journey in?
Solution. Was it (as most men think, and Livy tells us) because on the next day after the Ides of Quintilis (which they now call July), the tribunes of the soldiery marching forth, the army was conquered by the Gauls in a battle about the river Allia and lost the city, whereupon this day was reckoned unlucky; and superstition (as it loves to do) extended this observation further, and subjected the next days after the Nones and Kalends to the same scrupulosity? Or what if this notion meet with much contradiction? For it was on another day they were defeated in battle, which they call Alliensis (from the river) and greatly abominate as unsuccessful; and whereas there be many unlucky days, they do not observe them in all the months alike, but every one in the month it happens in, and it is most improbable that all the next days after the Nones and Kalends simply considered should contract this superstition. Consider now whether — as they consecrated the first of the months to the Olympic Gods, and the second to the infernals, wherein they solemnize some purifications and funeral rites to the ghosts of the deceased — they have so constituted the three which have been spoken of, as it were, the chief and principal days for festival and holy days, designating the next following these to daemons and deceased persons, which days they esteemed unfortunate and unfit for action. And also the Grecians, worshipping their Gods at the new of the moon, dedicated the next day to heroes and daemons, and the second of the cups was mingled on the behalf of the male and female heroes. Moreover, time is altogether a number; and unity, which is the foundation of a number, is of a divine nature. The number next is two, opposite to the first, and is the first of even numbers. But an even number is defective, imperfect, and indefinite; as again an odd number is determinate, definite, and complete. Therefore the Nones succeed the Kalends on the fifth day, the Ides follow the Nones on the ninth, for odd numbers do determine the beginnings. But those even numbers which are next after the beginnings have not that pre-eminence nor influence; hence on such days they take not any actions or journey in hand. Wherefore that of Themistocles hath reason in it. “The Day after the feast contended with the Feast-day, saying that the Feast-day had much labor and toil, but she (the Day after the feast) afforded the fruition of the provision made for the Feast-day, with much leisure and quietness. The Feast-day answered after this wise: Thou speakest truth; but if I had not been, neither hadst thou been.” These things spake Themistocles to the Athenian officers of the army, who succeeded him, signifying that they could never have made any figure in the world had not he saved the city.
Since therefore every action and journey worth our diligent management requires necessary provision and preparation, but the Romans of old made no family provision on feast-days, nor were careful for any thing but that they might attend divine service, — and this they did with all their might, as even now the priests enjoin them in their proclamations when they proceed to the sacrifices, — in like manner they did not rush presently after their festival solemnities upon a journey or any enterprise (because they were unprovided), but finished that day in contriving domestic affairs and fitting themselves for the intended occasion abroad. And as even at this day, after they have said their prayers and finished their devotion, they are wont to stay and sit still in the temples, so they did not join working days immediately to holy days, but made some interval and distance between them, secular affairs bringing many troubles and distractions along with them.
Question 26. Why do women wear for mourning white mantles and white kerchiefs?
Solution. What if they do this in conformity to the Magi, who, as they say, standing in defiance of death and darkness, do fortify themselves with bright and splendid robes? Or, as the dead corpse is wrapped in white, so do they judge it meet that the relations should be conformable thereto? For they beautify the body so, since they cannot the soul; wherefore they wish to follow it as having gone before, pure and white, being dismissed after it hath fought a great and various warfare. Or is it that what is very mean and plain is most becoming in these things? For garments dyed of a color argue either luxury or vanity. Neither may we say less of black than of sea-green or purple, “Verily garments are deceitful, and so are colors.” And a thing that is naturally black is not dyed by art but by nature, and is blended with an intermixed shade. It is white only therefore that is sincere, unmixed, free from the impurity of a dye, and inimitable; therefore most proper to those that are buried. For one that is dead is become simple, unmixed, and pure, freed from the body no otherwise than from a tingeing poison. In Argos they wear white in mourning, as Socrates saith, vestments rinsed in water.
Question 27. Why do they repute every wall immaculate and sacred, but the gates not so?
Solution. Is it (as Varro hath wrote) that the wall is to be accounted sacred, that they might defend it cheerfully and even lay down their lives for it? Upon this very account it appears that Romulus slew his brother, because he attempted to leap over a sacred and inaccessible place, and to render it transcendible and profane; but it could not possibly be that the gates should be kept sacred, through which they carried many things that necessity required, even dead corpses. When they built a city from the foundation, they marked out with a plough the place on which they intended to build it, yoking a bull and a cow together; but when they did set out the bounds of the walls, measuring the space of the gates, they lifted up the ploughshare and carried the plough over it, believing that all the ploughed part should be sacred and inviolable.
Question 28. Why do they prohibit the children to swear by Hercules within doors, but command them to go out of doors to do it?
Solution. Is the reason (as some say) that they are of opinion that Hercules was not delighted in a domestic life, but chose rather to live abroad in the fields? Or rather because he was none of their native country Gods, but a foreigner? For neither do they swear by Bacchus within doors, he being a foreigner, if it be he whom the Greeks call Dionysus. Or what if these things are uttered in sport to amuse children; and is this, on the contrary, for a restraint of a frivolous and rash oath, as Favorinus saith? For that which is done, as it were, with preparation causes delay and deliberation. If a man judges as Favorinus doth of the things recorded about Hercules, it would seem that this was not common to other Gods, but peculiar to him; for history tells us that he had such a religious veneration for an oath, that he swore but once only to Phyleus, son of Augeas. Wherefore the Pythia upbraids the Lacedaemonians with such swearing, as though it would be more laudable and better to pay their vows than to swear.
Question 29. Why do they not permit the new married woman herself to step over the threshold of the house, but the bridemen lift her over?
Solution. What if the reason be that they, taking their first wives by force, brought them thus into their houses, when they went not in of their own accord? Or is it that they will have them seem to enter into that place as by force, not willingly, where they are about to lose their virginity? Or is it a significant ceremony to show that she is not to go out or leave her dwelling-place till she is forced, even as she goes in by force? For with us also in Boeotia they burn the axletree of a cart before the doors, intimating that the spouse is bound to remain there, the instrument of carriage being destroyed.
Question 30. Why do the bridemen that bring in the bride require her to say, “Where thou Caius art, there am I Caia”?
Solution. What if the reason be that by mutual agreement she enters presently upon participation of all things, even to share in the government, and that this is the meaning of it, Where thou art lord and master of the family, there am I also dame and mistress of the family; while these common names they use promiscuously, as the lawyers do Caius, Seius, Lucius, Titius, and the philosophers use the names of Dion and Theon? Or is it from Caia Secilia, an honest and good woman, married to one of Tarquinius’s sons, who had her statue of brass erected in the temple of Sancus? On this statue were anciently hanged sandals and spindles, as significant memorials of her housewifery and industry.
Question 31. Why is that so much celebrated name Thalassius sung at nuptials?
Solution. Is it not from wool-spinning? For the Romans call the Greek τάλαϱος (wool-basket) talasus. Moreover, when they have introduced the bride, they spread a fleece under her; and she, having brought in with her a distaff and a spindle, all behangs her husband’s door with woollen yarn? Or it may be true, as historians report, that there was a certain young man famous in military achievements, and also an honest man, whose name was Thalassius; now when the Romans seized by force on the Sabine daughters coming to see the theatric shows, a comely virgin for beauty was brought to Thalassius by some of the common sort of people and retainers to him, crying out aloud (that they might go the more securely, and that none might stop them or take the wench from them) that she was carried as a wife to Thalassius; upon which the rest of the rabble, greatly honoring Thalassius, followed on and accompanied them with their loud acclamations, praying for and praising Thalassius; that proving a fortunate match, it became a custom to others at nuptials to call over Thalassius, as the Greeks do Hymenaeus.*
Question 32. Why do they that throw the effigies of men from a wooden bridge into the river, in the month of May, about the full moon, call those images Argives?
Solution. Was it that the barbarians that of old inhabited about that place did in this manner destroy the Grecians which they took? Or did their so much admired Hercules reform their practice of killing strangers, and teach them this custom of representing their devilish practice by casting in of images? The ancients have usually called all Grecians Argives. Or else it may be that, since the Arcadians esteemed the Argives open enemies by reason of neighborhood, they that belonged to Evander, flying from Greece and taking up their situation in Italy, kept up that malignity and enmity.
Question 33. Why would they not in ancient times sup abroad without their sons, whilst they were in nonage?
Solution. Was not this custom brought in by Lycurgus, when he introduced the boys to the public mess, that they might be inured to use of pleasures modestly, not savagely and rudely, having their superiors by them as overseers and observers? Verily it is of no small concernment that parents should carry themselves with all gravity and sobriety in the presence of their children. For when old men are debauched, it will necessarily follow (as Plato saith) that young men will be most debauched.
Question 34. What is the reason that, when the other Romans did offer their offerings and libations to the dead in the month of February, Decimus Brutus (as Cicero saith) did it in December? He verily was the first who, entering upon Lusitania, passed from thence with his army over the river Lethe.
Solution. May it not be that, as many were wont to perform funeral rites in the latter part of the day and end of the month, it is rational to believe that at the return of the year and end of the month also he would honor the dead? For December is the last month. Or were those adorations paid to the infernal Gods, and was it the season of the year to honor them when all sorts of fruits had attained ripeness? Or is it because they move the earth at the beginning of seed-time, and it is most meet then to remember the ghosts below? Or is it that this month is by the Romans consecrated to Saturn, whom they reckon to be one of the infernal Gods and not of the supernal? Or that whilst the great feast of Saturnals did last, thought to be attended with the greatest feasting and voluptuous enjoyments, it was judged meet to crop off some first-fruits of these for the dead? Or what if it be a mere lie that only Brutus did sacrifice to the dead in this month, since they solemnize funeral rites for Laurentia and offer drink-offerings at her tomb in the month of December?
Question 35. Why do they adore Laurentia so much, seeing she was a strumpet?
Solution. They say that Acca Laurentia, the nurse of Romulus, was diverse from this, and her they ascribe honor to in the month of April. But this other Laurentia, they say, was surnamed Fabula, and she became noted on this occasion. A certain sexton that belonged to Hercules, as it seems, leading an idle life, used to spend most of his days at draughts and dice; and on a certain time, when it happened that none of those that were wont to play with him and partake of his sport were present, being very uneasy in himself, he challenged the God to play a game at dice with him for this wager, that if he got the game he should receive some boon from the God, if he lost it he would provide a supper for the God and a pretty wench for him to lie with. Whereupon choosing two dice, one for himself and the other for the God, and throwing them, he lost the game; upon which, abiding by his challenge, he prepared a very splendid table for the God, and picking up Laurentia, a notorious harlot, he set her down to the good cheer; and when he had made a bed for her in the temple, he departed and shut the doors after him. The report went that Hercules came, but had not to do with her after the usual manner of men, and commanded her to go forth early in the morning into the market-place, and whomsoever she first happened to meet with, him she should especially set her heart upon and procure him to be her copemate. Laurentia accordingly arising and going forth happened to meet with a certain rich man, a stale bachelor, whose name was Taruntius. He lying with her made her whilst he lived the governess of his house, and his heiress when he died; some time after, she died and left her estate to the city, and therefore they have her in so great a reputation.
Question 36. Why do they call one gate at Rome the Window, just by which is the bed-chamber of Fortune, so called?
Solution. Was it because Servius, who became the most successful king, was believed to have conversed with Fortune, who came in to him at a window? Or may this be but a fable; and was it that Tarquinius Priscus the king dying, his wife Tanaquil, being a discreet and royal woman, putting her head out at a window, propounded Servius to the citizens, and persuaded them to proclaim him king; and that this place had the name of it?
Question 37. Why is it that, of the things dedicated to the Gods, the law permits only the spoils taken in war to be neglected and by time to fall into decay, and permits them not to have any veneration nor reparation?
Solution. Is this the reason, that men may be of opinion that the renown of ancestors fades away, and may always be seeking after some fresh monument of fortitude? Or rather because time wears out the marks of contention with our enemies, and to restore and renew them were invidious and malicious? Neither among the Greeks are those men renowned who were the first erectors of stone or brass trophies.
Question 38. Why did Q. Metellus, being a high priest and otherwise reputed a wise man and a statesman, prohibit the use of divination from birds after the Sextile month, now called August?
Solution. Is it not that — as we make such observations about noon or early in the day, and also in the beginning or middle of the month (when the moon is new or increasing), but beware of the times of the days or month’s decline as unlucky — so he also was of opinion that the time of year after eight months was, as it were, the evening of the year, when it declined and hastened towards an end? Or is it because they must use thriving and full-grown birds? For such are in summer; but towards autumn some are moulting and sickly, others chickens and unfledged, others altogether vanished and fled out of the country by reason of the season of the year.
Question 39. Why is it unlawful for such as are not mustered (although they be otherwise conversant in the army) to slay an enemy or wound him?
Solution. This thing Cato Senior hath made clear in a certain epistle, writing to his son and commanding him, if he be discharged of the army having fulfilled his time there, to return; but if he stay, to take commission from the general to march forth in order to wounding and slaying the enemy. Is it the reason, that necessity alone can give warrant for the killing of a man, while he that doth this illegally and without commission is a murderer? Therefore Cyrus commended Chrysantas that, when he was about to slay an enemy and had lifted up his scimitar to take his blow, hearing a retreat sounded, he let the man alone and smote him not, as being prohibited. Or is it that, if a man conflicts and fights with his enemies and falls under a consternation, he ought to be liable to answer for it, and not escape punishment? For verily he doth not advantage his side so much by smiting and wounding him, as he doth mischief by turning his back and flying. Therefore he that is disbanded is freed from martial laws; but when he doth petition to perform the office of a soldier, he doth again subject himself to military discipline and put himself under the command of his general.
Question 40. Wherefore was it unlawful for a priest of Jupiter to be anointed abroad in the air?
Solution. Was it not because it was neither honest nor decent to strip the sons naked whilst the father looked on, nor the son-in-law whilst the father-in-law looked on? Neither in ancient times did they wash together. Verily Jupiter is the father, and that which is abroad in the open air may be especially said to be as it were in the sight of Jupiter. Or is it thus? As it is a profane thing for him to strip himself naked in the temple or holy place, so did they reverence the open air and firmament, as being full of Gods and Daemons? Wherefore we do many necessary things within doors, hiding and covering ourselves in our houses from the sight of the Gods. Or is it that some things are enjoined to the priest only, other things to all by a law delivered by the priest? With us (in Boeotia) to wear a crown, to wear long hair, to carry iron arms, and not to enter the Phocian borders are peculiar, proper pieces of the magistrate’s service; but not to taste autumnal fruits before the autumnal equinox, and not to cut a vine before the spring equinox, are things required of all by the magistrate. For each of these has its season. After the same manner (as it appears) among the Romans it is peculiar to the priest neither to make use of a horse, nor to be absent from home in a journey more than three nights, nor to put off his cap, on which account he is called Flamen.* Many other things are enjoined to all sorts of men by the priest; of which one is not to be anointed abroad in the open air. For the Romans have a great prejudice against dry unction; and they are of opinion that nothing hath been so great a cause to the Grecians of slavery and effeminancy as their fencing and wrestling schools, insinuating so much debauchery and idleness into the citizens, yea, vicious sloth and buggery; yea, that they destroyed the very bodies of youths with sleeping, perambulations, dancing, and delicious feeding, whereby they insensibly fell from the use of arms, and instead of being good soldiers and horsemen, loved to be called nimble, good wrestlers, and pretty men. It is hard for them to avoid these mischiefs who are unclothed in the open air; but they that are anointed within doors and cure themselves at home do commit none of these vices.
Question 41. Why had the ancient coin on one side the image of double-faced Janus stamped, and on the other side the stern or stem of a ship?
Solution. What if it be (as they commonly say) in honor of Saturn, that sailed over into Italy in a ship? Or, if this be no more than what may be said of many others besides (for Janus, Evander, and Aeneas all came by sea into Italy), a man may take this to be more probable: whereas some things serve for the beauty of a city, some things for necessary accommodation, the greatest part of the things that beautify a city is a good constitution of government, and the greatest part for necessary accommodation is good trading; whereas now Janus had erected a good frame of government among them, reducing them to a sober manner of life, and the river being navigable afforded plenty of all necessary commodities, bringing them in partly from the sea and partly from the out-borders of the country, their coin had a significant stamp, on one side the double-faced head of the legislator (as hath been said) by reason of the change made by him in their affairs, and on the other a small ship because of the river. They used also another sort of coin, having engraven on it an ox, a sheep, and a sow, to show that they traded most in such cattle, and got their riches from these; hence were many of the names among the ancients derived, as Suillii, Bubulci, and Porcii, as Fenestella tells us.
Question 42. Why do they use the temple of Saturn for a chamber of public treasury, as also an office of record for contracts?
Solution. Is not this the reason, because this saying hath obtained credit, that there was no avarice or injustice among men while Saturn ruled, but faith and righteousness? Or was it that this God presided over the fruits of the field and husbandry? For the sickle signified as much, and not, as Antimachus was persuaded and wrote with Hesiod, —
Money is produced from plenty of fruit and the vent of them, therefore they make Saturn the author and preserver of their felicity. That which confirms this is that the conventions assembled every ninth day in the marketplace (which they call Nundinae) they reckon sacred to Saturn, because the abundance of fruit gave the first occasion of buying and selling. Or are these things farfetched, and was the first that contrived this Saturnine chamber of bank Valerius Publicola, upon the suppression of the kings, being persuaded it was a strong place, conspicuous, and not easily undermined by treachery?
Question 43. Wherefore did ambassadors, from whencesoever they came to Rome, go to Saturn’s temple, and there have their names recorded before the treasurers?
Solution. Was this the cause, that Saturn was a foreigner, and therefore much rejoiced in strangers? Or is this better resolved by history? Anciently (as it seems) the quaestors sent entertainment to the ambassadors (they called the present lautia), they took care also of the sick, and buried their dead out of their public stock; but now of late, because of the multitude of ambassadors that come, that expense is left off; yet it remains still in use to bring the ambassadors unto the treasurers, that their names may be recorded.
Question 44. Why is it not lawful for Jupiter’s priests to swear?
Solution. Is it not the reason, that an oath is a kind of test imposed on a free people, but the body and mind of a priest ought to be free from imposition? Or is it not unlikely that he will be disbelieved in smaller matters, who is entrusted with divine and greater? Or is it that every oath concludes with an execration of perjury? And an execration is a fearful and a grievous thing. Hence neither is it thought fit that priests should curse others. Wherefore the priestess at Athens was commended for refusing to curse Alcibiades, when the people required her to do it; for she said, I am a praying not a cursing priestess. Or is it that the danger of perjury is of a public nature, if a perjured and impious person presides in offering up prayers and sacrifices on the behalf of the city?
Question 45. Why is it that in the solemn feast called Veneralia they let wine run so freely out of the temple of Venus?
Solution. Is this the reason (as some say), that Mezentius the Etrurian general sent to make a league with Aeneas, upon the condition that he might have a yearly tribute of wine; Aeneas refusing, Mezentius engaged to the Etrurians that he would take the wine by force of arms and give it to them; Aeneas, hearing of his promise, devoted his wine to the Gods, and after the victory he gathered in the vintage, and poured it forth before the temple of Venus? Or is this a teaching ceremony, that we should feast with sobriety and not excess, as if the Gods were better pleased with the spillers of wine than with the drinkers of it?
Question 46. Wherefore would the ancients have the temple of Horta to stand always open?
Solution. Is this the reason (as Antistius Labeo hath told us), that hortari signifies to quicken one to an action, that Horta is such a Goddess as exhorts and excites to good things, and that they suppose therefore that she ought always to be in business, never procrastinate, therefore not to be shut up or locked? Or is it rather that Hora, as now they call her (the first syllable pronounced long), being a kind of an active and busy Goddess, very circumspect and careful, they were of opinion that she was never lazy nor neglectful of human affairs? Or is it that this is a Greek name, as many others of them are, and signifies a Goddess that always oversees and inspects affairs; and that therefore she has her temple always open, as one that never slumbers nor sleeps? But if Labeo deduceth Hora aright from hortari, consider whether orator may not rather be said to be derived from thence, — since the orator, being an exhorting and exciting person, is a counsellor or leader of the people, — and not from imprecation and prayer (orando), as some say.
Question 47. Why did Romulus build the temple of Vulcan without the city?
Solution. What if it were by reason of that fabled grudge which Vulcan had against Mars for the sake of Venus, that Romulus, being reputed the son of Mars, would not make Vulcan a cohabitant of the same house or city with him? Or may this be a silly reason; and was that temple at first built by Romulus for a senate house and a privy council, for him to consult on state affairs together with Tatius, where they might be retired with the senators, and sit in consultation about matters quietly without interruption from the multitude? Or was it that Rome was formerly in danger of being burnt from heaven; and he thought good to adore that God, but to place his habitation without the city?
Question 48. Wherefore did they, in the feasts called Consualia, put garlands on the horses and asses, and take these beasts off from all work?
Solution. Was it not because they celebrated that feast to Neptune the cavalier, who was called Consus, and the ass takes part and share with the horse in his rest from labor? Or was it that, after navigation came in and traffic by sea, there succeeded a kind of ease and leisure to the cattle in some kind or other?
Question 49. Wherefore was it a custom among the candidates for magistracy to present themselves in their togas without tunics, as Cato tells us?
Solution. Was it not that they should not carry money in their bosoms to buy votes with? Or is it that they preferred no man as fit for the magistracy for the sake of his birth, riches, or honors, but for his wounds and scars; and that these might be visible to them that came about them, they came without tunics to the elections? Or, as by courteous behavior, supplication, and submission, so by humbling themselves in nakedness did they gain on the affections of the common people?
Question 50. Why did the Flamen Dialis (Jupiter’s priest), when his wife died, lay down his priestly dignity, as Ateius tells us?
Solution. Is it not for this reason, because he that marries a wife and loses her after marriage is more unfortunate than he that never took a wife; for the family of a married man is completed, but the family of him that is married and loseth his wife is not only incomplete but mutilated? Or is it because his wife joins with the husband in consecration (as there are many sacred rites that ought not to be performed unless the wife be present), but to marry another immediately after he hath lost the former wife is not perhaps easy to do, and besides is not convenient? Hence it was not lawful formerly to put away a wife, nor is it at this present lawful; except that Domitian in our remembrance, being petitioned, granted it. The priests were present at this dissolution of marriage, doing many terrible, strange, and uncouth actions. But thou wilt wonder less, if thou art informed by history that, when one of the censors died, his partner was required to lay down his place. When Livius Drusus died, Aemilius Scaurus his colleague would not abandon his government before one of the tribunes of the people committed him to prison.
Question 51. Why is a dog set before the Lares, whom they properly call Praestites, while the Lares themselves are covered with dogs’ skins?
Solution. Is it that Praestites are they that preside, and it is fit that presidents should be keepers, and should be frightful to strangers (as dogs are) but mild and gentle to those of the family? Or is it rather what some Romans assert, that — as some philosophers who follow Chrysippus are of the opinion that evil spirits wander up and down, which the Gods do use as public executioners of unholy and wicked men — so the Lares are a certain sort of furious and revengeful daemons, that are observers of men’s lives and families, and are here clothed with dogs’ skins and have a dog sitting by them, as being sagacious to hunt upon the foot and to prosecute wicked men?
Question 52. Why do they sacrifice a dog to Mana Geneta, and pray that no home-born should become good?
Solution. Is the reason that Geneta is a deity that is employed about the generation and purgation of corruptible things? For this word signifies a certain flux (i.e. Mana from manare) and generation, or a flowing generation; for as the Greeks do sacrifice a dog to Hecate, so do the Romans to Geneta on the behalf of the natives of the house. Moreover, Socrates saith that the Argives do sacrifice a dog to Eilioneia (Lucina) to procure a facility of delivery. But what if the prayer be not made for men, but for dogs puppied at home, that none of them should be good; for dogs ought to be currish and fierce? Or is it that they that are deceased are pleasantly called good; and hence, speaking mystically in their prayer, they signify their desire that no home-born should die? Neither ought this to seem strange; for Aristotle says that it is written in the treaty of the Arcadians with the Lacedaemonians that none of the Tegeates should be “made good” on account of aid rendered to the party of the Lacedaemonians, i.e. that none should be slain.
Question 53. Why is it that to this very day, while they hold the games at the Capitol, they set Sardians to sale by a crier, and a certain old man goes before in way of derision, carrying a child’s bauble about his neck, which they call bulla?
Solution. Was it because a people of the Tuscans called Veientes maintained a fight a long time with Romulus, and he took this city last of all, and exposed them and their king to sale by an outcry, upbraiding him with his madness and folly? And since the Tuscans were Lydians at first, and Sardis was the metropolis of the Lydians, so they set the Veientes to sale under the name of Sardians, and to this day they keep up the custom in a way of pastime.
Question 54. Why do they call the flesh-market Macellum?
Solution. Was it not by corrupting the word μάγειϱος, a cook, as with many other words, that the custom hath prevailed? For c and g are nigh akin to one another, and g came more lately into use, being inserted among the other letters by Sp. Carbilius; and now by lispers and stammerers l is pronounced instead of r. Or this matter may be made clear by a story. It is reported, that at Rome there was a stout man, a robber, who had robbed many, and being taken with much difficulty, was brought to condign punishment: his name was Macellus, out of whose riches a public meat-market was built, which bare his name.
Question 55. Why are the minstrels allowed to go about the city on the Ides of January, wearing women’s apparel?
Solution. Is it for the reason here rehearsed? This sort of men (as it seems) had great privileges accruing to them from the grant of King Numa, by reason of his godly devotion; which things afterward being taken from them when the Decemviri managed the government, they forsook the city. Whereupon there was a search made for them, and one of the priests, offering sacrifice without music, made a superstitious scruple of so doing. And when they returned not upon invitation, but led their lives in Tibur, a certain freedman told the magistrates privately that he would undertake to bring them. And providing a plentiful feast, as if he had sacrificed to the Gods, he invited the minstrels; women-kind was present also, with whom they revelled all night, sporting and dancing. There on a sudden the man began a speech, and being surprised with a fright, as if his patron had come in upon him, persuaded the pipers to ascend the caravans that were covered all over with skins, saying he would carry them back to Tibur. But this whole business was but a trepan; for he wheeling about the caravan, and they perceiving nothing by reason of wine and darkness, he very cunningly brought them all into Rome by the morning. Most of them, by reason of the night-revel and the drink that they were in, happened to be clothed in flowered women’s robes; whereupon, being prevailed upon by the magistrates and reconciled, it was decreed that they should go up and down the city on that day, habited after this manner.
Question 56. Why are they of opinion that matrons first built the temple of Carmenta, and at this day do they worship her most?
Solution. There is a certain tradition that, when the women were prohibited by the senate from the use of chariots drawn by a pair of horses, they conspired together not to be got with child and breed children, and in this manner to be revenged on their husbands until they revoked the decree and gratified them; which being done, children were begot, and the women, becoming good breeders and very fruitful, built the temple of Carmenta. Some say that Carmenta was Evander’s mother, and going into Italy was called Themis, but as some say, Nicostrata; who, when she sang forth oracles in verse, was called Carmenta by the Latins; for they call verses carmina. There are some of opinion that Carmenta was a Destiny, therefore the matrons sacrifice to her. But the etymology of the word is from carens mente (beside herself), by reason of divine raptures. Hence Carmenta had not her name from carmina; but contrariwise, her verses were called carmina from her, because being inspired she sang her oracles in verse.
Question 57. What is the reason that, when the women do sacrifice to Rumina, they pour forth milk plentifully on the sacrifices, but offer no wine?
Solution. Is it because the Latins call a breast ruma, and that tree (as they say) is called ruminalis under which the she-wolf drew forth her breast to Romulus? And as we call those women that bring up children with milk from the breast breast-women, so did Rumina — who was a wet nurse, a dry nurse, and a rearer of children — not permit wine, as being hurtful to the infants.
Question 58. Why do they call some senators Patres Conscripti, and others only Patres?
Solution. Is not this the reason, that those that were first constituted by Romulus they called Patres and Patricians, as being gentlemen who could show their pedigree; but those that were elected afterwards from among the commonalty they called Patres Conscripti?
Question 59. Why was one altar common to Hercules and the Muses?
Solution. Was it because Hercules taught letters first to Evander’s people, as Juba tells us? And it was esteemed an honorable action of those that taught their friends and relations; for it was but of late that they began to teach for hire. The first that opened a grammar school was Spurius Carbilius, a freeman of Carbilius, the first that divorced his wife.
Question 60. What is the reason that, of Hercules’s two altars, the women do not partake or taste of the things offered on the greater?
Solution. Is it not because Carmenta’s women came too late for the sacrifices? The same thing happened also to the Pinarii; whence they were excluded from the sacrificial feast, and fasting while others were feasting, they were called Pinarii (from πεινάω). Or is it upon the account of that fabulous story of the coat and Dejaneira?
Question 61. What is the reason that it’s forbidden to mention, enquire after, or name the chief tutelary and guardian God of Rome, whether male or female? — which prohibition they confirm with a superstitious tradition, reporting that Valerius Soranus perished miserably for uttering that name.
Solution. Is this the reason (as some Roman histories tell us), that there are certain kinds of evocations and enchantments, with which they are wont to entice away the Gods of their enemies, and to cause theirs to come and dwell with them; and they feared lest this mischief should befall them from others? As the Tyrians are said to bind fast their images with cords, but others, when they will send any of them to washing or purifying, require sureties for their return; so did the Romans reckon they had their God in most safe and secure custody, he being unexpressible and unknown? Or, as Homer hath versified,
The earth all Gods in common have?*
that men might worship and reverence all Gods that have the earth in common, so did the ancient Romans obscure the Lord of their Salvation, requiring that not only this but all Gods should be reverenced by the citizens?
Question 62. Why among them that were called Feciales (in Greek, peace-makers) was he that was named Pater Patratus accounted the chiefest? But this must be one who hath his father living, and children of his own; and he hath even at this time a certain privilege and trust, for the Praetors commit to those men’s trust the persons of those who, by reason of comeliness and beauty, stand in need of an exact and chaste guardianship.
Solution. Is this the reason, that they must be such whose children reverence them, and who reverence their parents? Or doth the name itself suggest a reason? For patratum will have a thing to be complete and finished; for he whose lot it is to be a father whilst his father liveth is (as it were) perfecter than others. Or is it that he ought to be overseer of oaths and peace, and (according to Homer) to see before and behind? He is such a one especially, who hath a son for whom he consults, and a father with whom he consults.
Question 63. Why is he that is called Rex Sacrorum (who is king of priests) forbid either to take upon him a civil office or to make an oration to the people?
Solution. Was it that of old the kings did perform the most and greatest sacred rites and offered sacrifices together with the priests; but when they kept not within the bounds of moderation and became proud and insolent, most of the Grecians, depriving them of their authority, left to them only this part of their office, to sacrifice to the Gods; but the Romans, casting out kings altogether, gave the charge of the sacrifice to another, enjoining him neither to meddle with public affairs nor to hold office, so that they might seem to be subject to royalty only in their sacrifices, and to endure the name of king only with respect to the Gods? Hence there is a certain sacrifice kept by tradition in the market-place near the Comitia, which as soon as the king (i.e. the chief priest) hath offered, he immediately withdraws himself by flight out of the market-place.
Question 64. Why do they not suffer the table to be quite voided when it’s taken away, but will have something always to remain upon it?
Solution. What if it be that they would intimate that something of our present enjoyments should be left for the future, and that to-day we should be mindful of to-morrow? Or that they reckon it a piece of manners to repress and restrain the appetite in our present fruitions? For they less desire absent things, who are accustomed to abstain from those that are present. Or was it a custom of courtesy towards household servants? For they do not love so much to take as to partake, deeming that they hold a kind of communion with their masters at the table. Or is it that no sacred thing ought to be suffered to be empty? And the table is a sacred thing.
Question 65. Why doth not a man lie at first with a bride in the light, but when it is dark?
Solution. Is it not for modesty’s sake, for at the first congress he looks upon her as a stranger to him? Or is it that he may be inured to go into his own wife with modesty? Or, as Solon hath written, “Let the bride go into the bed-chamber gnawing a quince, that the first salutation be not harsh and ungrateful.” So did the Roman lawgiver command that, if there should be any thing absurd and unpleasant in her body, she should hide it? Or was it intended to cast infamy upon the unlawful use of venery by causing that the lawful should have certain signs of modesty attending it?
Question 66. Why was one of the horse-race rounds called Flaminia?
Solution. Is it because, when Flaminius, one of the ancients, bestowed a field on the city, they employed its revenue on the horse-races, and with the overplus money built the way which they call Flaminia?
Question 67. Why do they call the rod-bearers lictors?
Solution. Is this the reason, because these men were wont to bind desperate bullies, and they followed Romulus carrying thongs in their bosoms? The vulgar Romans say alligare, to bind, when the more refined in speech say ligare. Or is now c inserted, when formerly they called them litores, being liturgi, ministers for public service; for λῇτον until this day is writ for public in many of the Grecian laws, which scarce any is ignorant of.
Question 68. Why do the Luperci sacrifice a dog? The Luperci are they that run up and down naked (saving only their girdles) in the Lupercal plays, and slash all that they meet with a whip.
Solution. Is it not because these feats are done for the purification of the city? For they call the month February, and indeed the very day Februatus, and the habit of whip ping with thongs they call februare, the word signifying to cleanse. And to speak the truth, all the Grecians have used, and some do use to this very day, a slain dog for an expiatory sacrifice; and among other sacrifices of purification, they offer whelps to Hecate, and sprinkle those that need cleansing with the puppy’s blood, calling this kind of purifying puppification. Or is it that lupus is λύϰος, a wolf, and Lupercalia are Lycaea; but a dog is at enmity with a wolf, therefore is sacrificed on the Lycaean festivals? Or is it because the dogs do bark at and perplex the Luperci as they scout about the city? Or is it that this sacrifice is offered to Pan, and Pan loves dogs because of his herds of goats.
Question 69. Why, upon the festival called Septimontium, did they observe to abstain from the use of chariots drawn by a pair of horses; and even until now, do they that regard antiquity still abstain? They do observe the Septimontium feast in honor of the addition of the seventh hill to the city, upon which it became Septicollis, sevenhilled Rome.
Solution. What if it be (as some of the Romans conjecture) because the parts of the city are not as yet everywhere connected? Or if this conceit be nothing to the purpose, what if it be that, when the great work of building the city was finished and they determined to cease the increasing of the city and further, they rested themselves and rested the cattle that bore a share in the labor with them, and provided accordingly that they might participate of the holiday by rest from labor? Or was it that they would have all the citizens always present for the solemnity and return of a festival, especially that which was observed in remembrance of the compact uniting the parts of the city; and that none should desert the city for whose sake the feast is kept, they were not allowed to use their yoke chariots that day?
Question 70. Why do they call those Furciferi which are convict of thefts or any other of those slavish crimes?
Solution. Was it this (which was an argument of the severity of the ancients), that whenever any convicted his servant of any villany, he enjoined him to carry the forked piece of timber that is under the cart (the tongue of the cart), and to go with it through the next villages and neighborhood, to be seen of all, that they might distrust him and be aware of him for the future? This piece of wood we call a prop, the Romans call it furca, a fork; hence he that carries it about is called furcifer, a fork-bearer.
Question 71. Why do they bind hay about the horns of oxen that are wont to push, that they may be shunned by him that meets them?
Solution. It is that by reason of gormandizing and stuffing their guts oxen, asses, horses, and men become mischevous, as Sophocles somewhere saith,
Therefore the Romans say that M. Crassus had hay about his horns, for they that were turbulent men in the commonwealth were wont to stand in awe of him as a revengeful man and one scarce to be meddled with; although afterwards it was said again, that Caesar had taken away Crassus’s hay, being the first man of the republic that withstood and affronted him.
Question 72. Why would they have the lanthorns of the soothsaying priests (which formerly they called Auspices, and now Augures) to be always open at top, and no cover to be put upon them?
Solution. Is it as the Pythagoreans do, who make little things symbols of great matters, — as forbidding to sit down upon a bushel and to stir up the fire with a sword, — so that the ancients used many enigmatical ceremonies, especially about their priests, and such was this of the lanthorn? For the lanthorn is like the body encompassing the soul, the soul being the light withinside, and the understanding and judgment ought to be always open and quick-sighted, and never to be shut up or blown out. And when the winds blow, the birds are unsettled and do not afford sound prognostics, by reason of their wandering and irregularity in flying; by this usage therefore they teach that their soothsayers must not prognosticate when there are high winds, but in still and calm weather, when they can use their open lanthorns.
Question 73. Why were priests that had sores about them forbid to use divination.
Solution. Is not this a significant sign that, whilst they are employed about divine matters, they ought not to be in any pain, nor have any sore or passion in their minds, but to be cheerful, sincere, and without distraction? Or it is but rational, if no man may offer a victim that hath a sore, nor use such birds for soothsaying, that much more they should themselves be free from these blemishes, and be clean, sincere, and sound, when they go about to inspect divine prodigies; for an ulcer seems to be a mutilation and defilement of the body.
Question 74. Why did Servius Tullius build a temple of Small Fortune, whom they call Brevis?
Solution. Was it because he was of a mean original and in a low condition, being born of a captive woman, and by fortune came to be king of Rome? Or did not that change of his condition manifest the greatness rather than the smallness of his fortune? But Servius most of all of them seems to ascribe divine influence to Fortune, giving thereby a reputation to all his enterprises. For he did not only build temples of Hopeful Fortune, of Fortune that averteth evil, of Mild, Primogenial, and Masculine Fortune; but there is a temple also of Private Fortune, another of Regardful Fortune, another of Hopeful Fortune, and the fourth of Virgin Fortune. But why should any one mention any more names, seeing there is a temple also of Ensnaring Fortune, which they name Viscata, as it were ensnaring us when we are as yet afar off, and enforcing us upon business.* Consider this now, whether it be that Servius found that great matters are effected by a small piece of Fortune, and that it often falls out that great things are effected by some or do come to nought by a small thing being done or not done. He built therefore a temple of Small Fortune, teaching us to take care of our business, and not contemn things that happen by reason of their smallness.
Question 75. Why did they not extinguish a candle, but suffer it to burn out of its own accord.
Solution. Is this the reason, that they adored it as being related and akin to unquenchable and eternal fire? Or is it a significant ceremony, teaching us that we are not to kill and destroy any animated creature that is harmless, fire being as it were an animal? For it both needs nourishment and moves itself, and when it is extinguished it makes a noise as if it were then slain? Or doth this usage instruct us that we ought not to make waste of fire or water, or any other necessary thing that we have a superabundance of, but suffer those that have need to use them, leaving them to others when we ourselves have no further use for them?
Question 76. Why do they that would be preferred before others in gentility wear little moons on their shoes?
Solution. Is this the reason (as Castor saith), that this is a symbol of the place of habitation that is said to be in the moon, signifying that after death souls should have the moon under their feet again? Or was this a fashion of renown among families of greatest antiquity, as were the Arcadians of Evander’s posterity, that were called men born before the moon (πϱοσέληνοι)? Or is this, like many other customs, to put men who are lofty and high-minded in mind of the mutability of human affairs to either side, setting the moon before them as an example,
Or was this for a doctrine of obedience to authority, — that they would have us not discontented under it; but, as the moon doth willingly obey her superior and conform unto him, always vamping after the rays of the sun (as Parmenides hath it), so they that are subjects to any prince should be contented with their lower station, in the enjoyment of power and dignity derived from him?
Question 77. Why are they of an opinion that the year is Jupiter’s, but the months Juno’s?
Solution. Is it because Jupiter and Juno reign over the invisible Gods, who are no otherwise seen but by the eyes of our understanding, but the Sun and Moon over the visible? And the Sun verily causeth the year, and the Moon the months. Neither ought we to think that they are bare images of them, but the Sun is Jupiter himself materially, and the Moon Juno herself materially. Therefore they name her Juno (a juvenescendo, the name signifying a thing that is new or grows young) from the nature of the Moon; and they call her Lucina (as it were bright or shining), and they are of opinion that she helps women in their travail-pains. Whence is that of the poets:
for they suppose that women have the easiest travail at the full of the moon.
Question 78. What is the reason that a bird called sinister in soothsaying is fortunate?
Solution. What if this be not true, but the dialect deludes so many? For they render ἀϱιστεϱόν sinistrum; but to permit a thing is sinere, and they say sine when they desire a thing to be permitted; therefore a prognostic permitting an action (being sinisterium) the vulgar do understand and call amiss sinistrum. Or is it as Dionysius saith, that when Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, had pitched battle against Mezentius, a flash of lightning portending victory (as they prognosticated) came on his left hand, and for the future they observed it so; or, as some others say, that this happened to Aeneas? Moreover, the Thebans routing and conquering their enemies by the left wing of the army at Leuctra, they continued in all battles to give the left wing the pre-eminence. Or is it rather as Juba thinks, that to those that look toward the east the north is on the left hand, which verily some make the right hand and superior part of the world? Consider whether the soothsayers do not, as it were, corroborate left-hand things, as the weaker by nature, and do intimate as if they introduced a supply of that defect of power that is in them. Or is it that they think that things terrestrial and mortal stand directly over against heavenly and divine things, and do conjecture that the things which to us are on the left hand the Gods send down from their right hand?
Question 79. Why was it lawful to bring the bones of one that had triumphed (after he was dead and burnt) into the city and lay them there, as Pyrrho the Liparaean hath told us?
Solution. Was it for the honor they had for the deceased? For they granted that not only generals and other eminent persons, but also their offspring, should be buried in the market-place, for example, Valerius and Fabricius. And they say, when the posterity of these persons died, they were brought into the market-place, and a burning firebrand was put under them and immediately taken away; and thus all that might have caused envy was avoided, and the right to the honor was fully confirmed.
Question 80. Why did they that publicly feasted the triumphers humbly request the consuls, and by messengers sent beseech them, not to come to their supper?
Solution. Was it that it was necessary to give the supreme place and most honorable entertainment to the triumpher, and wait upon him home after supper; whereas, the consuls being present, they might do such things to none other but them?
Question 81. Why did not the tribune of the people wear a purple garment, whenas each of the other magistrates wore one?
Solution. What if the tribune is not a magistrate at all? For he neither hath lictors, nor sitting in tribunal doth he determine causes; neither do the tribunes, as the rest, enter upon their office at the beginning of the year, nor do they cease when a dictator is chosen; but as if they translated all magistratic power to themselves, they continue still, being (as it were) no magistrates, but holding another kind of rank. And as some rhetoricians will not have a prohibition to be judicial proceeding, seeing it doth something contrary to judicial proceeding, — for the one brings in an action at law and gives judgment upon it, but the other nonsuits it and dismisseth the cause, — after the like manner they are of opinion that tribuneship is rather a curb to magistracy, and that it is an order standing in opposition to government rather than a piece of government itself; for the tribune’s office and authority is to withstand the magistrate’s authority, even to curtail his extravagant power. Perhaps these and similar reasons may be mere ingenious devices; but in truth, since tribuneship takes its original from the people, popularity is its stronghold, and it is a great thing not to carry it above the rest of the people, but to be like the citizens they have to do with in gesture, habit, and diet. State indeed becomes a consul and a praetor; but as for a tribune (as Caius Curio saith), he must be one that even is trampled upon, not grave in countenance, nor difficult of access, nor harsh to the rabble, but more tractable to them than to others. Hence it was decreed that the tribune’s doors should not be shut, but be open night and day as a haven and place of refuge for distressed people. And the more condescending his outward deportment is, by so much the more doth he increase in his power; for they dignify him as one of public use, and to be resorted to of all sorts even as an altar; therefore by the reverence they give him, he is sacred, holy, and inviolable; and when he makes a public progress, it is a law that every one should cleanse and purify the body as defiled.
Question 82. Why before the chief officers are rods carried bound together, with the axes fastened to them?
Solution. What if it be a significant ceremony, to show that a magistrate’s anger ought not to be rash and ungrounded? Or is it that, while the rods are leisurely unloosing, they make deliberation and delay in their anger, so that oftentimes they change their sentence as to the punishment? Now, whereas some sort of crimes are curable, some incurable, rods correct the corrigible, but the axes are to cut off the incorrigible.
Question 83. What is the reason that the Romans, when they were informed that the barbarians called Bletonesians had sacrificed a man to the Gods, sent for their magistrates to punish them; but when they made it appear that they did it in obedience to a certain law, they dismissed them, but prohibited the like action for the future; whenas they themselves, not many years preceding, buried two men and two women alive in the Forum Boarium, two of whom were Greeks and two Gauls? For it seems absurd to do this themselves, and yet to reprimand the barbarians as if they were committing profaneness.
Solution. What if this be the reason, that they reckoned it profane to sacrifice a man to the Gods, but necessary to do so to the Daemons? Or were they of opinion that they sinned that did such things by custom or law; but as for themselves, they did it being enjoined to it by the Sibylline books? For it is reported that one Elvia, a virgin, riding on horseback was struck with lightning and cast from her horse, and the horse was found lying uncovered and she naked, as if on set purpose; her clothes had been turned up from her secret parts, also her shoes, rings, and head-gear all lay scattered up and down, here and there; her tongue also was hanging out of her mouth. And when the diviners declared that it was an intolerable disgrace to the holy virgins that it should be published, and that some part of the abuse did touch the cavaliers, a servant of a certain barbarian cavalier informed, that three vestal virgins, Aemilia, Licinia, and Martia, about the same time had been deflowered, and for a long time played the whores with some men, among whom was Butetius, the said informer’s master. The virgins being convict were punished; and the fact appearing heinous, it was thought meet that the priest should consult the Sibylline books, where there were oracles found foretelling these things would come to pass for mischief to the republic, and enjoining them — in order to avert the impending calamity — to provide two Grecians and two Gauls, and bury them alive in that place, in order to the appeasing some alien and foreign Daemons.
Question 84. Why do they take the beginning of the day from the midnight?
Solution. Is the reason that the commonweal had a military constitution at the first? For many matters of concern on military expeditions are managed by night. Or did they make sunrising the beginning of business, and the night the preparation for it? For men ought to come prepared to action, and not to be in preparation when they should be doing, — as Myso is reported to have said to Chilo the Wise, when he was making a fan in winter. Or as the noontide to many is the time for finishing public and weighty affairs, so did it seem meet to make midnight the beginning? This hath this confirmation, that a Roman governor would make no league or confederation in the afternoon. Or is it impossible to take the beginning and end of the day from sunrising to sunsetting? For, as the vulgar measure the beginning of the day by sense to be the first appearance of the sun, and take the first beginning of the night to be the complete withdrawment of the sun from sight, we shall thus have no equinoctial day; but the night which we suppose comes nearest in equality to the day will be manifestly shorter than the day by the diameter of the sun. Which absurdity the mathematicians, going about to solve, have determined that, where the centre of the sun toucheth the horizon, there is the true parting point between day and night. But this contradicts sense; for it must follow that whilst there is much light above the earth, yea, the sun illuminating us, we will not for all this confess it to be day, but must say that it is still night. Whereas then it is hard to take the beginning of the day from the rising and setting of the sun, by reason of the forementioned absurdities, it remains to take the zenith and the nadir for the beginning. The last is best, for the sun’s course from noon is by way of declination from us; but from midnight he takes his course towards us, as sunrising comes on.
Question 85. Wherefore did they not in ancient times suffer women to grind or play the cook?
Solution. Haply, because they remembered the covenant that they made with the Sabines; for after they had robbed them of their daughters, and fighting many battles became reconciled, among other articles of agreement this was recorded, that a wife was not to grind nor play the cook for a Roman husband.
Question 86. Why do they not marry wives in the month of May?
Solution. Is this the reason, that because May is between April and June, — concerning which months they have an opinion that that is sacred to Venus, this to Juno, both of them being nuptial Gods, — they either take an opportunity a little before May, or tarry till it be over? Or is it that in this month they offer the greatest expiatory sacrifice, now casting the images of men from a bridge into the river, and formerly men themselves? Moreover, it is by law required that the Flaminica, the reputed priestess of Juno, should be most sourly sullen during the time, and neither wash nor trim up herself. Or is it because many of the Latins in this month offer oblations unto the dead? And therefore perhaps they worship Mercury in this month, which from Maia derives its name? Or, as some say, is May derived from elder age (maior) and Juno from younger (iunior)? For youth is more suitable to matrimony, as Euripides hath said,
Therefore they marry not in May, but tarry till June, which is presently after May.
Question 87. Why do they part the hair of women when they are married with the point of a spear?
Solution. What if it be a significant ceremony, showing that they took their first wives in marriage by force of arms and war? Or is it that they may instruct them that they are to dwell with husbands that are soldiers and warriors, and that they should put on such ornamental attire as is not luxurious or lascivious, but plain? So Lycurgus commanded that all the gates and tops of houses should be built with saw and hatchet, and no other sort of workmen’s instrument should be used about them; yea, he rejected all gayety and superfluity. Or doth this action parabolically intimate divorce, as that marriage can be dissolved only by the sword? Or is it that most of these nuptial ceremonies relate to Juno? For a spear is decreed sacred to Juno, and most of her statues are supported by a spear, and she is surnamed Quiritis, and a spear of old was called quiris, wherefore they surname Mars Quirinus?
Question 88. Why do they call the money that is laid out upon the public plays lucar?
Solution. Is it because there are many groves consecrated to the Gods about the city, which they call luci, and the revenue of these they expend upon the said plays?
Question 89. Why do they call the Quirinalia the Feast of Fools?
Solution. Was it because they set apart that day for those that were unacquainted with their own curiae, as Juba saith? Or was it for them that did not sacrifice with their tribes, as the rest did, in the Fornicalia, by reason of business or long journeys or ignorance, so that it was allowed to them to solemnize that feast upon this day?
Question 90. What is the reason that, when there is a sacrifice to Hercules, they mention no other God and no dog appears within the enclosure, as Varro saith?
Solution. Is the reason of their naming no other God, because they are of opinion that Hercules was but a half God? And, as some say, Evander built an altar to him and brought him a sacrifice, whilst he was yet here among men. And of all creatures he had most enmity to a dog, for this creature always held him hard to it, as did Cerberus; and that which most of all prejudiced him was that, when Oeonus, the son of Licymnius, was slain for a dog’s sake by the Hippocoontidae, he was necessitated to take up the cudgels, and lost many of his friends and his brother Iphicles.
Question 91. Why was it unlawful for the patricians to dwell about the Capitol?
Solution. Was it because M. Manlius, whilst he dwelt there, affected arbitrary government; upon whose account the family came under an oath of abjuration that no Manlius should for the future bear the name of Marcus? Or was this an ancient suspicion? For the potent men would never leave calumniating Publicola, a most popular man, nor would the common people leave fearing him till he had plucked down his house, which seemed to hang over the market-place.
Question 92. Why do they put on a garland of oaken leaves on him that saves a citizen in battle?
Solution. Is it because it is easy to find an oak everywhere in the military expeditions? Or is it because a crown is sacred to Jupiter and Juno, who in their opinion are the city guardians? Or was it an ancient custom among the Arcadians, who are something akin to the oak? For they repute themselves the first men produced of the earth, as the oak among the vegetables.
Question 93. Why do they for the most part use vultures for soothsaying?
Solution. Was this the reason, because twelve vultures appeared to Romulus upon the building of Rome? Or because of all birds this is least frequent and familiar? For it is not easy to meet with young vultures, but they fly to us unexpectedly from some remote parts; therefore the sight of them is portentous. Or haply they learned this from Hercules, if Herodotus speak true that Hercules rejoiced most in the beginning of an enterprise at the sight of a vulture, being of opinion that a vulture was the justest of all birds of prey. For first, he meddles not with any living creature, neither doth he destroy any thing that hath breath in it, as eagles, hawks, and other fowls do that prey by night, but lives only upon dead carcasses; and next, he passeth by all those of his kind, for none ever saw a vulture feeding on a bird, as eagles and hawks do, which for the most part pursue birds like themselves, and slay them, even as Aeschylus hath it,
A bird that preys on birds, how can’t be clean?
And verily this bird is not pernicious to men, for it neither destroys fruits nor plants, nor is hurtful to any tame animal. Moreover if it be (as the Egyptians fabulously pretend) that the whole kind of them is of the female sex, and that they conceive by the reception of the east wind into their bodies, as the trees do by receiving the west wind, it is most probable that very certain and sound prognostics may be made from them; whereas in other birds (there being so many rapines, flights, and pursuits about copulation) there are great disturbances and uncertainties attending them.
Question 94. For what reason is the temple of Aesculapius placed without the city?
Solution. Was it because they reckoned it a wholesomer kind of living without the city than within? For the Greeks have placed the edifices belonging to Aesculapius for the most part on high places, where the air is pure and clear. Or is it that they suppose this God was fetched from Epidaurus? For the temple of Aesculapius is not close by that city, but at a great distance from it. Or is it that, by a serpent that went on shore out of a trireme galley into the island and disappeared, they think the God himself intimated to them the place of building his temple?
Question 95. Why was it ordained that they that were to live chaste should abstain from pulse?
Solution. Did they, like the Pythagoreans, abominate beans for the causes which are alleged, and the lathyrus and erebinthus as being named from Lethe and Erebus? Or was it because they used pulse for the most part in their funeral feasts and invocations of the dead? Or rather was it because they should bring empty and slender bodies to their purifications and expiations? For pulse are windy, and cause a great deal of excrements that require purging off. Or is it because they irritate lechery, by reason of their flatulent and windy nature?
Question 96. Why do they inflict no other punishment on Vestal Virgins, when they are defiled, than burying them alive?
Solution. Is this the reason, because they burn the dead, and to bury her by fire who hath not preserved sacred the divine fire would be unjust? Or was it that they judged it a wicked act to cut off a person sanctified by the greatest ceremonial purification, and to lay hands on a holy woman; and therefore they contrived a machine for her to die in of herself, and let her down into a vault made under ground, where was placed a candle burning, also some bread and milk and water, and then the den was covered with earth on top? Neither by this execrable manner of devoting them are they exempt from superstition; but to this day the priests going to the place perform purgatory rites.
Question 97. What is the reason that, at the horse-race on the Ides of December, the lucky horse that beats is sacrificed as sacred to Mars; and a certain man, cutting off his tail, brings it to a place called Regia, and besmears the altar with the blood of it; but for the head, one party coming down from the way called Sacred, and others from the Suburra, do fight?
Solution. Whether was it (as some say) that, reckoning that Troy was taken by a horse, they punish a horse, as being the
Renowned Trojan race commixt with Latin boys?
Or is it because a horse is a fierce, warlike, and martial beast, therefore they do sacrifice to the Gods the things that are most acceptable and suitable; and he that conquers is offered, because victory and prowess doth belong to that God? Or is it rather because to stand in battle is the work of God, and they that keep their ranks and files do conquer those that do not keep them but fly, and swiftness of foot is punished as the maintenance of cowardice; so that hereby it is significantly taught that there is no safety to them that run away?
Question 98. What is the reason that the censors entering upon their office do nothing before they have contracted for providing meat for the sacred geese, and for polishing the statue?
Solution. Is this the reason, that they begin with those things that savor of most frugality, and such things as want not much charge and trouble? Or is it in grateful commemoration of what these creatures did of old, when the Gauls invaded Rome and the barbarians scaled the walls of the Capitol by night? For the geese were sensible of it when the dogs were asleep, and they with their gaggling awaked the watch? Or, seeing the censors are the conservers of such things as are of greatest and most necessary concern, — to oversee and narrowly inspect the public sacrifices, and the lives, manners, and diet of men, — do they presently set before their consideration the most vigilant creature, and by the watchfulness of these instruct the citizens not to disregard or neglect sacred things? As for the polishing of the statue, it is necessary, for the minium (wherewith they of old colored the statues) soon fades.
Question 99. What is the reason that of the other priests they depose any one that is condemned or banished, and substitute another in his room; but remove not the augur from his priesthood so long as he lives, though he be convicted of the greatest crimes? They call them augurs who are employed in soothsaying.
Solution. Is the reason (as some say) that they will have none to know the mysteries of the priests who is not a priest? Or that the augur is bound by oath to discover to none the management of sacred things; therefore they refuse to absolve him from his oath, when he is reduced to a private capacity? Or is it that the name of augur is not a title of honor and dignity, but of skill and art? It would therefore be the like case to depose a musician from being a musician or a physician from being a physician, with that of prohibiting a diviner from being a diviner; seeing they cannot take away his faculty, though they deprive him of the title. Moreover they do not substitute augurs, because they will keep to the number of augurs that were at the beginning.
Question 100. What is the reason that in the Ides of August (which at first they called Sextilis) all the men-servants and maid-servants do feast, but the free women make it most of their business to wash and purge their heads?
Solution. Was it that King Servius about this day was born of a captive maid-servant, and hence the servants have a vacation time from work; and that rinsing the head was a thing that took its original from a custom of the maid-servants upon the account of the feast, and finally passed also into the free women?
Question 101. Why do they finify their boys with necklaces, which they call bullae?
Solution. What if this were for the honor of the wives which were taken by force? For as many other things, so this might be one of the injunctions laid on their posterity. Or did they it in honor of Tarquin’s manhood? For it is reported of him that, whilst he was but a boy, being engaged in a battle against the Latins and Tuscans, charging his enemies, he fell from his horse; yet animating those Romans which were engaged in the charge, he led them on courageously. The enemies were put to a remarkable rout, and sixteen thousand were slain; whereupon he had this badge of honor bestowed upon him by his father the king. Or was it that by the ancients it was neither lewd nor dishonorable to love beautiful slaves (as now the comedies testify), but that they resolvedly abstained from freeborn servants; and lest, by coming accidentally on naked boys, they should ignorantly transgress, the free boys wore this mark of distinction? Or was this a protector of good order, and after a manner a curb of incontinency; they being ashamed to pretend to manhood before they have put off the badge of children? That which they say who follow Varro is not probable, that boule by the Aeolians is called bolla, and this is put about children as a teaching sign of good counsel. But consider whether they do not wear it for the moon’s sake. For the visible face of the moon, when it is halved, is not spherical, but shaped like a lentil or a quoit; and (as Empedocles supposeth) so is also the side that is turned away from us.
Question 102. Why do they name boys when they are nine days old, and girls when they are eight?
Solution. Perhaps it’s a natural reason, that girls are forwarder, for the female grows up and comes to full stature and perfection before the male. But they take the day after the seventh, because the seventh is dangerous to infants by reason of the navel-string; for with many it falls off at seven days, and until it falls off, an infant is more like a plant than an animal. Or is it, as the Pythagoreans reckon, that the even number is the feminine, and the odd number the masculine? For it is a fruitful number, and excels the even in respect of its composition. And if these numbers be divided into units, the even, like a female, hath an empty space in the middle; the odd number always leaves a segment full in the middle, wherefore this is fit to be compared to the male, that to the female. Or is it thus, that of all numbers nine is the first square number made of three, which is an odd and perfect number, but eight is the first cube made of two, an even number; whence a male ought to be square, superexcelling, and complete; but a woman, like a cube, constant, a good housewife, and no gadding gossip? This also may be added that, as eight is a cube from the root two, and nine a square from the root three, so the female makes use of two names, and the males of three.
Question 103. Why do they call those whose fathers are not known Spurius?
Solution. It is not verily — as the Grecians suppose and as the rhetoricians say in their determinations — because they are begot of some promiscuous and common seed (as the Greeks say σπόϱος). But Spurius is found among first names, as Sextus, Decimus, Caius. But the Romans do not write all the letters of the first name; but either one letter, as T. for Titus, L. for Lucius, M. for Marcus; or two letters, as Ti. for Tiberius, Cn. for Cnaeus; or three, as Sex. for Sextus, and Ser. for Servius. Now Spurius is of those that are written with two letters, Sp. But with these same letters they write without father, S. for sine, and P. for patre, which truly hath caused the mistake. Moreover, we may meet with another reason, but it is more absurd. They say, that the Sabines called the privities of a woman spurius; and therefore they call him so, by way of reproach, who is born of a woman unmarried and unespoused.
Question 104. Why did they call Bacchus Liber Pater?
Solution. Was the reason because they make him, as it were, the father of liberty to tipplers? For most men become very audacious and are filled with too much licentious prattle, by reason of too much drink. Or is this it, that he hath supplied them with a libamen, a drink-offering? Or is it, as Alexander hath said, that Bacchus is called Eleutherius from his having his abode about Eleutherae, a city of Boeotia?
Question 105. For what cause was it, that on high holidays it was not a custom for virgins to marry, but widows did marry then?
Solution. Is the reason, as Varro saith, that virgins, forsooth, are married weeping, but women with joyful glee, and people are to do nothing of a holiday with a heavy heart nor by compulsion? Or rather is it because it is decent for virgins to marry with more than a few present, but for widows to marry with a great many present is indecent? For the first marriage is zealously affected, the second to be deprecated; yea, they are ashamed to marry a second husband while their first husband lives, and they grieve at doing so even when he is dead. Hence they are pleased more with silence than with tumults and pompous doings; and the feasts do attract the generality of people to them, so that they cannot be at leisure on holidays for such wedding solemnities. Or was it that they that robbed the Sabines of their daughters that were virgins on the feast-day raised thereby a war, and looked therefore upon it as unlucky to marry virgins on holidays?
Question 106. Why do the Romans worship Fortuna Primigenia?
Solution. Was it because Servius, being by Fortune born of a servant-maid, came to rule king in Rome with great splendor? And this is the supposition of most Romans. Or rather is it that Fortune hath bestowed on Rome itself its very original and birth? Or may not this matter require a more natural and philosophical reason, even that Fortune is the original of all things and that Nature itself is produced out of things that come by Fortune, when events that come by chance fall into an order among themselves?
Question 107. Why do the Romans call the artists who appear in the worship of Bacchus histriones?
Solution. Is it for the reason which C. Rufus tells us? For he says, that in ancient time, C. Sulpicius and Licinius Stolo, being consuls, a pestilence raging in Rome, all the actors upon the stage were cut off; wherefore, upon the request of the Romans, many and good artists came from Etruria, among whom he that excelled in fame and had been longest experienced on the public stages was called Histrus, and from him they named all the stage-players.
Question 108. Why do not men marry women that are near akin?
Solution. Is this the reason, that they design by marriage to augment their family concerns and to procure many relations, by giving wives to strangers and marrying wives out of other families? Or do they suspect that the contentions that would happen among relations upon marriage would destroy even natural rights? Or is it that, considering that wives by reason of weakness stand in need of many helpers, they would not have near akin marry together, that their own kindred might stand by them when their husbands wrong them?
Question 109. Why is it not lawful for the high priest of Jupiter, which they call Flamen Dialis, to touch meal or leaven?
Solution. Is it because meal is imperfect and crude nourishment? For the wheat neither hath continued what it was, neither is it made into bread as it must be; but it hath lost the faculty of seed, and hath not attained to usefulness for food. Wherefore the poet hath named meal, by a metaphor, mill-murdered (μυλήφατον), as if the corn were spoiled and destroyed by grinding. Leaven, as it is made by corruption, corrupts the mass that it is mingled with, for it is made thereby looser and weaker; and fermentation is a kind of corruption, which, if it be overmuch, makes the bread sour and spoils it.
Question 110. Why is the same high priest forbid to touch raw flesh?
Solution. Is it because custom makes them averse enough to raw flesh? Or is it that the same reason that makes them averse to meal doth also make them averse to flesh; for it is neither a living creature nor dressed food? Roasting or boiling, being an alteration and change, doth change its form; but fresh and raw flesh offers not a pure and unpolluted object to the eye, but such as is offensive to the eye, and like that of a raw wound.
Question 111. Why do they require the priest to abstain from a dog and a goat, and neither to touch or name them?
Solution. Was it that they abominated the lasciviousness and stink of a goat, or that they suspected it to be a diseased creature? For it seems this animal is more seized with the falling sickness than other creatures, and is contagious to them that eat or touch it while it hath this disease; they say, the cause is the straightness of the windpipe, often intercepting the breath, a sign of which they make the smallness of their voice to be; for it happens to men that are epileptical, that they utter a voice sounding much like the bleat of a goat. Now in a dog there may be less of lasciviousness and of an ill scent; although some say that dogs are not permitted to go into the high streets of Athens — no, not into the island Delos — by reason of their open coition; as if kine, swine, and horses did use coition in bed-chambers, and not openly and lawlessly. They do not know the true reason, — that, because a dog is a quarrelsome creature, they therefore expel dogs out of sanctuaries and sacred temples, giving safe access to suppliants for refuge. Wherefore it is very likely that the priest of Jupiter, being (as it were) an animated and sacred image, granted for refuge to petitioners and suppliants, doth banish or fright away none. For which cause a couch was set for him in the porch of the house, and they that fell on their knees before him had indemnity from stripes or punishment that day; and if one in fetters came and addressed him, he was unloosed, and his fetters were not laid down by the door but thrown from the roof. It would be therefore no advantage that he should carry himself so mild and courteous, if there were a dog at the door, scaring and frighting them that petitioned for sanctuary. Neither did the ancients at all repute this creature clean; for he is offered in sacrifice to none of the celestial Gods, but being sent to Hecate, an infernal Goddess, at the three cross-ways for a supper, takes a share in averting calamities and in expiations. In Lacedaemon they cut puppies in pieces to Mars, that most cruel God. In Boeotia public expiation is made by passing between the parts of a dog divided in twain. But the Romans sacrifice a dog in the cleansing month, on the festival which they call Lupercalia. Hence it was not without cause, to prohibit them whose charge it was to worship the highest and holiest God from making a dog familiar and customed to them.
Question 112. What is the reason that the priest of Jupiter is forbid to toucch an ivy, or to pass over that way that is overspread with vine branches?
Solution. Is it not of the like nature with those precepts of Pythagoras, not to eat in a chair, not to sit upon a measure called a choenix, and not to step over a broom? For the Pythagoreans do not dread and refrain from these things, but they prohibit other things by these. Now to go under a vine hath reference to wine, because it is not lawful for a priest to be drunk. For the wine is above the heads of those that are drunk, and they are depraved and debased thereby; whereas it is requisite that they should be above pleasure and conquer it, but not be subdued by it. As for the ivy, — it being unfruitful and useless to men, as also infirm, and by reason of its infirmity standing in need of other trees to climb upon, though by its shadow and sight of its greenness it doth bewitch the vulgar, — what if they judge it not convenient to nourish it about a house because it bringeth no profit, or to suffer it to clasp about any thing, seeing it is so hurtful to plants that bear it up, while it sticketh fast in the ground? Hence ivy is forbidden at the Olympic festivals, and neither at Athens in Juno’s sacrifices, nor at Thebes in those belonging to Venus, can any wild ivy be seen; though in the Agrionia and Nyctelia (which are services to Bacchus for the most part performed in the dark) it is to be found. Or was this a symbol of the prohibition of revels and sports of Bacchus? For women that were addicted to Bacchanal sports presently ran to the ivy and plucked it off, tearing it in pieces with their hands and gnawing it with their mouths, so that they are not altogether to be disbelieved that say it hath a spirit in it that stirreth and moveth to madness, transporting and bereaving of the senses, and that alone by itself it introduceth drunkenness without wine to those that have an easy inclination to enthusiasm.
Question 113. Why are not these priests allowed to take upon them or attempt civil authority, while they have a lictor and a curule chair for honor’s sake, and in some sort of consolation for their being excluded from magistracies?
Solution. Was it because in some places of Greece the dignity of priesthood was equal with kingship, and therefore they designated not ordinary persons to be priests? Or was it rather, — since they have appointed office-employments, whereas the charge of kings is unmethodical and indefinite, — that it would not be possible, if both fell out at the same time, that he should be able to attend both, but he must of necessity neglect one (both pressing together upon him), sometimes neglecting the worship of God, and sometimes injuring the subjects? Or else, seeing that there is no less necessity than power attending the administration of civil government, and that the ruler of the people (as Hippocrates saith of the physician) doth see weighty matters and hath to do with weighty matters, and from other men’s calamities procures troubles peculiar to himself, did they think him not sacred enough to sacrifice to the Gods and manage the sacrifices who had been present at the condemnation and execution of citizens, and often of some of his own kindred and family, as happened to Brutus?
[* ]See Livy, I. 9, 12.
[* ]See Varro, Ling. Lat. V. 84: Quod in Latio capite velato erant semper, ac caput cinctum habebant filo, flamines dicti. Festus, s. v. Flamen Dialis: Flamen, quasi filamen. (G.)
[* ]Il. XV. 193.
[* ]For an account of the various titles of Fortune at Rome, see Preller, Römische Mythologie, X. § 1; and Plutarch on the Fortune of the Romans, §§ 5, 10. (G.)
[* ]From Sophocles, Frag. 786.