Sacred Texts  Classics  Index  Previous 

p. 146


POLITICS had caused the downfall of the state religion. Weakened by the attacks of a sceptical philosophy, driven from the hearts of the common people by the rival cults of the Orient, the state religion had finally lost all its influence by the abuse of it as a political tool. Its priesthoods were deserted, its temples were falling into ruins with the grass carpeting their mosaic pavements and the spiders weaving new altar cloths. To us with our modern ideas it would have seemed impossible that this state religion could ever rise again; and probably no other state religion that the world has ever seen could have been brought to life again, because no other state religion has ever been so absolutely a part of the state, unless the state itself were a theocracy; and possibly no lesser genius than Augustus could have accomplished the task even under the slightly more favourable conditions which the state religion of Rome offered. Whether Julius Caesar would have attempted the restoration is one of the many questions which his death left

p. 147

unanswered. Certainly thoughtful men of his day hoped that he would, and it was in this hope that Varro dedicated his Divine Antiquities to him; and another contemporary, Granius Flaccus, his book On the Invocation of the Gods. But except for one law which he caused to be enacted "concerning the priesthoods," we have no knowledge either of his accomplishment or of his intentions, and the great task was left practically untouched for the master-hand of Augustus.

In order that we may understand what Augustus did and how he managed to succeed in relation to the state religion we must obtain some idea of the whole scheme of Augustus in relation to the state at large, of which his religious reorganisation was merely a part. One of the cleverest characterisations of the Emperor Augustus which has ever been written was that by the late Professor Mommsen, but its relatively secluded position in the Latin preface to an edition of Augustus's great autobiography, the Res Gestae, has prevented it from being generally known. Mominsen describes Augustus as "a man who wore most skilfully the mask of a great man, though himself not great." This epigrammatic statement is undoubtedly clever but it is not just, although it is the opinion concerning Augustus which we would expect a man to hold who, like Mommsen, had an almost unbounded admiration for Julius Caesar. There have been

p. 148

scattered through the pages of history even down to our own day men of whom we say that they were not great men, though they did a great work. In certain cases doubtless we can separate the man from his work and justify the assertion, but in other cases we are deceived by the man himself just as his contemporaries were and as he wished them to be. For it occasionally happens that a man who is called to rule over men and to reorganise a disordered government is able best to accomplish his end by a gentle diplomacy, a conciliatory manner, which is often misunderstood by those who surround him and who interpret gentleness of spirit as smallness of spirit and self-restraint as weakness. It would be truer to describe Augustus as a man who wore most skilfully the mask of an ordinary man though himself an extraordinary man. The more we study the chaotic condition of Rome under the Second Triumvirate and the more fully we realise not only the total disorganisation of the forms of government but also the absolute demoralisation of the individual citizen, the more we appreciate the almost impossible task which was set for Augustus and which he successfully accomplished. For one hundred years (B.C. 133-30, from Tiberius Gracchus to Actium, hardly a decade had passed which had not brought forth some terrible revolution for Rome. Even the great Caesar had failed, had not divined aright the only treatment to which the disease of the

p. 149

age would yield, for although the blows which actually killed Caesar may have been merely an accident in history, the deed of irresponsible men, his fall was no accident but was the inevitable logical outcome of his imperial policy. But Augustus succeeded in establishing a form of government which enabled himself and his connexion to occupy the throne for almost a hundred years, and even then though revolutions came, his constitution was the main bulwark of government in succeeding centuries. It would take us too far from our present subject to answer in any completeness the question of how he succeeded, but a word or two may be said in general, and the rest will become clearer when we examine his reorganisation of religion.

The secret of Augustus's success was the infinite tact and diplomacy by which he managed to strengthen the throne and his own position on it while apparently restoring the form of the republic and the manners of the old days. It is open to question whether he was actuated by a consideration of the good of the state, or by a regard for his own selfish ends, but it is beyond question that he gave to Rome the only form of government which could eradicate the habit of revolution, and thus saved the state. He succeeded because he did not underestimate the difficulty of the task, and accordingly brought to bear on it every possible influence, emphasising especially the psychological element

p. 150

and being willing to go a long way around in order to arrive at his goal. He was not content with a mere temporary makeshift, which might carry him to the end of his own life; he was laying foundations for the future. Nowhere is this more clearly stated than in one of his edicts, where he says:--"May it fall to my lot to establish the state firm and strong and to obtain the wished--for fruit of my labours, that I may be called the author of it and that when I die I may carry with me the hope that the foundations which I have laid may abide." These abiding foundations must be laid deep in the national psychology, and it was his grasp of the psychological problem which explains his reorganisation of religion. A century of civil war had totally destroyed the spirit of unity and created an infinite number of petty hatreds between man and man. Men had looked so long at their individual interests that they had almost forgotten the existence of the state. But if the spirit of patriotism could be quickened into a new life, then men would think of the state and forget themselves, and united in their love of this one universal object of devotion they would learn a lesson of union which might gradually be extended to their whole life. But the state must be presented not as it was in all its wretchedness, lacerated by civil struggle; the sight of the present would serve only to start the quarrel over again; instead it must be the ideal state, a

p. 151

state so far away, so distant from all the citizens, that they all seemed equally near. If this state were to be something more than a mere abstraction, it could be clothed only in the reverential garments of the past, it must be the Rome of the good old days. Yet if they were not for ever to mourn a "Golden Age" in the past and a paradise that was lost, there must also be a hope for the future, a paradise to be regained. In a word the belief in the eternity of Rome must be instilled into men's hearts. Thus was the idea of the "eternal city" born, and it is no mere coincidence that the first instance of this phrase in literature occurs in Tibullus, a poet of the Augustan age. Once convinced of the eternity of Rome men could look at the past for inspiration in full confidence that the beauties which had been could be obtained again. But Augustus was more than a sentimental enthusiast, and he saw that it was not enough for men to drop their swords at the epiphany of "Roma Aeterna," that their eyes would grow weary and looking to earth would behold the swords again. These swords must be beaten into ploughshares and pruning hooks; the deserted farms of Italy must be filled again, and the stability of the state must be increased by an enlargement of the agricultural community. But for the accomplishment of these reforms something was needed which was at once gentler and stronger than legal

p. 152

enactments. The poet must make smooth the way of the law. It was the poet who could best interest men in the past: and thus Augustan poetry was encouraged and directed by the emperor, that by pointing out the glories of old Rome it might inspire men to make a new Rome more glorious than the old. Practically every poet of the age was directly or indirectly under the influence of the ruler. It was the emperor's counsellor, Maecenas, who encouraged Virgil to write his Georgics, and these glowing pictures of farm life did quite as much to carry out the emperor's plans as the Aeneid later. And Virgil was not alone in writing of country life; Tibullus, even more gentle than the gentle bard of Mantua, was telling the same story in another form.

By this time the myths which Greece had given to Rome or which Rome had made for herself on Greek models were absolutely a part of the national past. These too entered into Augustus's scheme. Thus another protégé of Maecenas, the poet Propertius, was gradually weaned from love poetry and filled instead with a hunger for the myths of Roman temples and of old Roman customs, so that Cynthia slowly gives way to Tarpeia and Vertumnus, and the Rome of Augustus to the Rome of Romulus. Even the irrepressible Ovid tried in his exuberant fashion to assist in this work and started in his Fasti to write a history of the

p. 153

religious festivals of the Roman year. But above all these, and infinitely more important in its influence, towers the Aeneid of Virgil. All through the varied incidents of the twelve books there runs the scarlet thread of a great purpose, the glorification of Rome and of Augustus. From the sack of Troy, through the long wanderings and the fierce wars in Latium, down to the final conquest of the enemy, we see Aeneas led by the hand of the gods whose will it was that Rome should be. The lesson is very evident. The providence which guided us in the past still protects us; we have no right to be discouraged, and our future is assured us under the same gods who brought our fathers out of the land of the Trojans, through the midst of the Greeks. But there is concealed in the Aeneid another lesson, much more directly useful to Augustus. Its hero, the immaculate pious Aeneas, is the direct ancestor of the Julian house to which Augustus belongs, and the founding of Rome shows not only the good will of the gods toward the city, but in no less degree their special appointment and protection of the leader. The descendants of the house of Aeneas are therefore the divinely appointed rulers of Rome.

There can be no question but that this poetry had an effect none the less far reaching because its influence was difficult to estimate and analyse. It was not necessary for the psychological result that

p. 154

men should actually believe in these myths; much was gained if they allowed their thoughts to dwell on the ideas presented in them. It was the sedimentary deposit thus formed which was to fertilise the soil of patriotism which had grown so barren in the civil wars. But while Augustus was broad-minded enough to realise the value of the influence of literature, he did not fail to recognise that men could not live by myths alone, that they must be surrounded by visible cult acts and tangible temples of the gods in order that their faith might be aided by sight and their life filled with action. Literature was to encourage patriotism, and patriotism was the foundation for the spiritual restoration of the state religion, but the state itself must by legal enactment prepare the outward form which the religious activity was to take. The question of the sincerity of Augustus in these religious reforms is a very difficult one to answer. If the essence of religion consisted in acts and not in belief, in works and not in faith, Augustus was a devoutly religious man. Beyond that we cannot go, for our judgment is hampered not only by ignorance of the facts but by our inability to free ourselves from the modern standpoint in the interpretation of the few facts that we do know. There can be no question of the emperor's fitness for the task so far as priestly learning went, for he was from a very early age a member of three priesthoods: a pontiff, an augur,

p. 155

and a guardian of the Sibylline books. With characteristic modesty however he refrained from becoming Chief Pontiff until in B.C. 12 the death of Lepidus, the discarded member of the Second Triumvirate, left the position vacant.

One who understands the political reforms of Augustus will have no difficulty in understanding his reorganisation of religion, for they were both undertaken with the same general underlying principles and along similar lines. In both cases innovations and novelties were strenuously avoided, except of course those of a merely administrative character. In each case a successful effort was made to have it appear as if the old institutions of the republic were being reinstated, whereas as a matter of fact the form alone was old with its age artificially emphasised occasionally by an archaistic touch, while the content was quite new. The real result in each case was the strengthening of the monarchy, and the emphasising of the divine right of the Julian house. In our study of Augustus's restoration of religion we must not be content therefore with chronicling the old forms which were re-established, but we must examine in each case the new content which was put into them, even though the evidence of that content consists oftentimes of a mere tendency. The fondness of Augustus for the archaic is nowhere more clearly exhibited than in one of his earliest religious acts: the formal declaration

p. 156

of war against Antony and Cleopatra, in B.C. 32, by means of the Fetiales. The Fetiales were a very ancient priestly college which acted, under the direction of the Senate, as the representatives of international law. It was through them that all treaties and all declarations of war had been made, but it seems probable that this custom had fallen into desuetude after the Punic wars, and that accordingly the college had lapsed into insignificance, if it had not died out altogether. But now as the first step in the rebuilding of the priesthoods Octavian restored the college to its old rank and gained also the additional advantage that the people were impressed with the moral righteousness of their cause against Antony and Cleopatra, and also with the fact that it was a foreign, i.e. an international war, and not a civil one, in which they were about to engage. The effect of Octavian's restoration was a lasting one, for from this time on this priesthood was held in high honour during the whole of the empire, and the emperors themselves were members of it.

This was a very characteristic beginning to Augustus's activity. It was primarily the human element to which he was appealing in his religious changes, and hence the priesthoods needed especial attention. It was not long after the battle of Actium that he restored another very ancient priesthood, that of the Arval brothers. This was a very

p. 157

old priesthood consisting of twelve men who took part in the purification of the land, the Ambarvalia, so called because the ceremony consisted of a solemn procession around the boundaries of the fields. But as the Roman territory grew and such a ceremony in the old fashion became impossible and was carried out merely symbolically by sacrifices at various boundary points, the Arval brothers lost all their importance, so that even in these symbolic sacrifices their place was taken by the pontiffs. Augustus however recognised in this priesthood an effectual means of emphasising the agricultural side of Roman life, and of connecting the imperial family with the farming population. The centre of this new worship was the sanctuary in the sacred grove at the fifth milestone of the Via Campana, and it is there that the wonderful discoveries have been made of the inscriptions giving the "minutes" of the meetings of this curious corporation, beginning with Augustus. But the pastoral side of their worship was an insignificant matter, even in the age of Augustus, compared with their prayers and supplications in behalf of the imperial house, so that the records of this supposedly agricultural priesthood form one of our best sources for the study of emperor-worship.

Three other priesthoods, the pontiffs, the augurs, and the guardians of the Sibylline books (XVviri) did not need actual restoration, for their ability

p. 158

to interfere in politics had kept them alive during the closing centuries of the republic, when political usefulness was the surest means of surviving in the struggle for existence. But the fact that they had been politically powerful made the control of them all the more necessary for an emperor who wished to have in his hands all the possibilities of political influence. It was contrary to Augustus's policy openly to crush any of the institutions which had really been or, what was from his standpoint very much the same thing, had been thought to be a bulwark of republicanism. As a matter of fact however these priesthoods had been one of the chief means of bringing the republic into the control of one man. Hence for Augustus the problem was easy to solve; it was only necessary to appear to honour these priesthoods by raising their dignity still higher and by making only men of senatorial rank eligible, and then to take the chief position in them himself and to fill them with his own supporters. Thus the republic was apparently saved and the empire was really strengthened.

But the priesthood to which Augustus devoted his most especial attention was the priesthood of Vesta, the Vestal virgins. Here he was guided not only by his desire to improve the condition of the priesthoods in general but also by his especial interest in the cult of Vesta. The reasons for this interest in Vesta will be explained in a moment when we

p. 159

discuss the emperor's favourite cults; but a word about its effects on the priestesses of Vesta may be said here. The Vestal virgins had been relatively little contaminated by politics, but the priesthood had suffered along with all the rest of the religion of the state because of the general indifferentism and neglect of religious things which characterised the closing centuries of the republic. The best families in the state were not as ready as in the earlier days to devote their daughters to the service, and thus the rank and consequently the influence of the Vestals had to some extent declined. But now all this was immediately changed, the outward honour and the insignia of the Vestals were increased until they were allowed such privileges as not even the emperors possessed. When they went through the street, they were attended by a lictor as the higher officers of the state were, and they were given special seats at the theatre. But the most characteristic thing which Augustus did for them and that which helped their cause the most was the emperor's declaration, made to be repeated in public gossip, that if he had a grand-daughter of the proper age he would unhesitatingly make her a Vestal virgin.

Toward the close of his life Augustus prepared a statement of what he had accomplished during his reign, a sort of compte rendu of his stewardship. In a roundabout way almost all of this has been preserved to us and it naturally forms the

p. 160

greatest source of our knowledge of his activity. After reciting a large number of his religious reforms he adds:--"The spoils of war I have consecrated to the gods in the Capitoline temple, in the temple of the god Julius, in the temple of Apollo, in the temple of Vesta, in the temple of Mars the Avenger." These words give us a clue to the more especial religious interests of Augustus, a clue which is all the more needed because of his apparently catholic spirit, and his seemingly general interest in all the forms of old Roman religion. No man who restored and in some cases entirely rebuilt eighty-two temples to various deities could be accused of undue partiality in emphasising certain phases of religion to the total exclusion of others. But as a matter of fact underneath this general interest there were present certain very specific interests, and this passage in his own writing adds great strength to the other evidence as. to what these gods were. Naturally in every list of pre-eminent deities Juppiter must be present, hence the mention of the Capitoline temple first; as a matter of fact however Augustus's worship of Juppiter was much more a matter of form than of real interest. His attitude was one of graceful acceptance of the inevitable rather than of enthusiastic homage. Juppiter was not adapted to his purpose, because it was almost impossible to connect Juppiter with a specific form of government other than the republic, much less with a particular

p. 161

royal family like the Julian house. Juppiter had come to mean republicanism. The Capitoline temple had ushered in the republic in B.C. 509 and there was a halo of republicanism about it which was too genuine to be used as a mask for concealing imperial features. With the four other deities matters stood very differently. The god Julius, Apollo, Vesta, and Mars the Avenger were either already identical with the imperial family or could easily be connected with it.

The central feature of the religion of the empire was a thing altogether unique and unknown in the republic: the worship of the emperors as gods. From Augustus on this was the chief characteristic of the state religion; its beginnings must be sought therefore under his reign and he is largely accountable for it. According to our modern ideas it seems a very strange thing to worship a living man as a god; it seems also strange to worship a dead man as a god, but there we have at least the analogy of the worship of the saints, and the inherent instinct of the race toward ancestor-worship which unexpectedly crops out in all of us at intervals. But we must rid ourselves of modern ideas and try to appreciate the historical evolution of emperor-worship. This evolution is perfectly clear and we can trace every step of it, though in doing so we must remember that the various processes which we are compelled to take up one after

p. 162

another in our explanation went on in nature side by side, and exercised a sympathetic influence one upon the other, which we have to eliminate from our explanation but make allowance for in our finished concept.

We have seen that from the very beginning of religious life in Rome the idea was present that everything, each individual and each family, had its divine double, the individual in the shape of his Genius, the family in the shape of protecting spirits, Vesta, the Penates, and later the Lar. In addition to this, under the influence of the Greek myths which various families adopted, certain gods originally independent became especially associated with these families. Each family was naturally interested in the worship of its own gods, but this particular worship was quite as naturally confined to the particular family or its dependents. Now the first preliminary step toward emperor-worship was taken when the gods of the imperial family began to be worshipped by other families, then by all other families, and officially by the state. But from the very beginning the gods of each family had included also the deified ancestors, the Di Manes, at first thought of en masse and not as individuals, but toward the close of the republic they began to be individualised, so that the next step in emperor-worship was when the dead Julius, a particular ancestor therefore of Augustus, began to be worshipped

p. 163

by the whole people and officially by the state. But also from the beginning there had been still another element in family worship, the cult paid to the Genius or divine double of the living master of the house. There followed then correspondingly as another step toward emperor-worship, the homage paid by the whole state to the Genius of the living, emperor. These three steps: the worship by the whole state of the gods of the emperor's family, in its three forms, the gods of the family in general, and in particular the deified ancestor, and the Genius of the living representative, were all encouraged and officially established by Augustus. Lastly there came from the Orient a habit of thought in distinct contradiction to Roman ideas whereby not the Genius of the living emperor but the very man himself was divine in life and in death. Augustus fought against this concept but had to yield to it and allow himself to be worshipped directly as a god in the Orient itself and in certain coast towns of Italy which were under strong Oriental influence, but he forbade it in Rome, and thus established a precedent which was followed by all the better ones among the emperors who came after him.

This digression was necessary in order that we might appreciate the reasons for Augustus's preferences in emphasising certain cults. Unquestionably he did not foresee or plan for an emperor-worship such as eventually grew up out of his arrangements;

p. 164

he was however deeply interested in emphasising the worship of the special deities of his own family. The four gods therefore whose names he couples with that of Juppiter in the summary of his religious activity--Apollo, Vesta, Mars the Avenger, and the god Julius--are all intimately connected with his family; and if we add to this the worship of his own Genius, the Genius Augusti, we shall have the real kernel of his religious restoration. It remains for us to see in what way these deities are connected with his family, and how he managed to emphasise their cult and at the same time to bring them into close relationship to himself.

From the time of his first introduction into Rome Apollo had stood in a relation of contrast to Juppiter. Apollo's oracles, the Sibylline books, had brought in a host of Greek gods whose presence tended inevitably to lessen the unique position and the unparalleled prestige of Juppiter Optimus Maximus, the great representative of nationalism in Roman religion. At first this contrast was scarcely marked, and the very oracles of Apollo which were destined to undermine Juppiter's omnipotence were stored in Juppiter's temple and under his protection. The difference was felt more strongly as the priesthood of the Sibylline books began to grow in influence alongside of the pontiffs, the priests of the Juppiter cults. This opposition was emphasised in B.C. 367, when the priesthood of the oracles was opened to

p. 165

the plebeians, while the pontiffs were still patricians. At first unquestionably the object of the patricians was to keep for themselves the more sacred and the then more important college and to open the lesser priesthood to the plebeians. But in the struggle of the two orders those things which were opened to the plebeians grew in importance and entirely overshadowed those which were so scrupulously hedged about, and the elements which strove to resist progress were crushed beneath it; and just as the old assembly, the Comitia Curiata, which the patricians had kept for themselves, was later of no account compared with the Comitia Centuriata, which belonged to both orders, so the college of pontiffs lost significance while the keepers of the oracles gained steadily in power and influence. But it was not merely because Apollo was the great leader of the Greek movement in Roman religion that Augustus chose to honour him. A far more important consideration guided him, for Apollo was especially attached to the Julian house in all its mythical and historical fortunes. The first great public evidence of Apollo's favour in Augustus's career was at the battle of Actium; but while this led to the first proclamation of the emperor's devotion to Apollo, it was riot Actium which made him a worshipper of the god, but it was because he was a worshipper of Apollo from the beginning that Actium and all subsequent tokens of the god's favour were emphasised by him.

p. 166

[paragraph continues] However much or little the people of the day may have known about Apollo's previous relations to the Julian family, the legend of his assistance at Actium, and the immortalisation of that legend in the great temple on the Palatine were proofs enough. The moral effect of the Palatine temple cannot be overestimated, especially when we realise one fact, which is often neglected, that this temple gained infinitely in significance because it was on private ground, attached to the emperor's own private house, for we must not forget that the Palatine was only in process of transition into the imperial residence, and though the house of Augustus, when he left it, was the palace, during his lifetime it was merely his private residence. The temple of Apollo was therefore in its origin theoretically the private chapel of a Roman family rather than the seat of a state cult. It was the Apollo of the Julian house who was being worshipped there. And yet it was far more than a private worship, for it began very soon to be a cult centre in distinct rivalry to Juppiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline. The oracles of the Sibyl, even though they were the words of Apollo, had never been preserved in the old temple of Apollo on the Flaminian meadow, but instead they had always been in the custody of Juppiter on the Capitoline. But now these oracles, after being carefully revised by the emperor, were deposited in the new Palatine temple, and by this

p. 167

act the centre of all the Greek cults in Rome was transferred from Juppiter to Apollo, from the Capitoline to the Palatine, and the rivalry between the two was publicly declared. The temple was dedicated in B.C. 28 and Augustus allowed its influence to permeate the Roman people for more than a decade before he took the next step, a step which was virtually to parallel Apollo and his sister Artemis-Diana with Juppiter and Juno.

Among the Greek gods who came into Rome we saw the entrance in the middle of the third century before Christ of a pair of deities of the Lower World, Dis and Proserpina, and in connexion with the introduction the establishment of certain games called "secular" because they were to be repeated at the expiration of a century (saeculum). The initial celebration was in B.C. 249, one hundred years later with a slight delay they were celebrated again in B.C. 146, the next anniversary was omitted because it fell in the midst of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, but now Augustus wished to celebrate them. There were chronological difficulties, but they did not prove insurmountable. An oracle was set in circulation, or one actually in circulation was made use of, wherein it was declared that a great cycle of four times one hundred and ten years had passed and that a new age was now beginning. The emperor, if not responsible for this oracle, was very willing to accept it. It was an essential part

p. 168

of his plan that all things should become new, and that with the new age should come a new spirit. This new saeculum must be ushered in by games which should be at once like and unlike those of past centuries, They were to be celebrated at least in part on the hallowed spot, the Tarentum in the Campus Martius, they were to extend through three nights like the old games, but the three days were to be added as well, and the deities worshipped in the night, while they were no longer the old gods of the Lower World, Dis and Proserpina, were at least mysterious deities of fate and fortune, while the gods of the day, Apollo and Artemis, Juppiter and Juno, were as new to the games as the day celebrations themselves were. But the equality of Apollo and Juppiter was expressed not merely in the parallelisation of Juppiter-Juno with Apollo-Diana. It was still more in evidence on the third and greatest day of the festival, when the procession of three times nine youths and three times nine maidens sang the song in honour of Apollo and Diana, which Horace wrote and which has been preserved to us among his writings, the Carmen Saeculare, and to which in addition the recently found inscription giving an account of the games bears witness in the words carmen composuit Q. Horatius Flaccus (C.I.L. vi. 32323). On this day the procession started from the Apollo temple on the Palatine, and went over to the Juppiter temple

p. 169

on the Capitoline, and then back again to Apollo on the Palatine, thus indicating not only the equality of Apollo and Juppiter but even the superiority of the former. A new age had indeed begun, an age in which the new associations of the Palatine and the glamour of imperialism were to overcome the more democratic associations of the Capitoline with its incorrigibly republican Juppiter. Greek gods which had hitherto in theory at least been subordinated to the gods of old Rome were now granted not only equality but superiority. The specific cult of Apollo, to be sure, did not always retain the exalted position to which Augustus had raised it, but even it never entirely lost its prominence, whereas the general idea of the supremacy of the imperial cult was now established for all time to come. But this secular celebration of Augustus is interesting aside from the relation of Juppiter and Apollo, for it affords another illustration of the skilful combination of new and old in the Augustan reorganisation. In form the festival is avowedly the old one, hut in two respects at least it introduces a new element. In the first place participation in the old festival, as in all the old festivals, had been confined to Roman citizens. Others might look on, but they could not take part, nor were they the recipients of any of the blessings which were to follow. But now every free member of the community, with wife and child, might join

p. 170

in the celebration, and thus the note was struck which was to be the keynote of all that was best in the changes introduced by the empire whose "highest and most beautiful task," as Professor Mommsen Puts it, "and the one which she fulfilled most perfectly, was gradually to reconcile and thus to put an end to the contrast between the ruling city and the subordinate communities, and thus to change the old Roman law of city-citizenship into a community of the state which embraced all the members of the empire." But even this was not all; under the guise of this restoration of an old republican institution a blow was struck at the very foundation of all republican institutions, namely the power of the Senate. It was par excellence Augustus's festival, arranged by him or by those to whom he had committed the details. The Senate had little or nothing to say about it and yet the control of such religious celebrations had hitherto formed an inalienable part of the Senate's power. Even in the procession itself the republican magistrates do not seem to have been officially present. It was thus no longer the Senate inviting the magistrates and the citizens in good and regular standing to perform a certain divine function, but it was the emperor inviting all the members of the community, citizens and non-citizens alike, to join with him in worshipping the gods of the new state.

A great part of Augustus's success was unquestionably

p. 171

due to a certain form of moral courage. For all his diplomacy and his desire to feel the pulse of the people he was never lacking in the courage of his own convictions. This can be seen nowhere better than in his attitude toward his adoptive father Julius Caesar. From the very beginning when he took upon himself, even at the cost of temporary impoverishment, the payment of Caesar's legacy, he was supremely true to the man whose successor he was, and this faithfulness is especially apparent in the field of religion. Here there are two cults, both relating to Julius Caesar, for which Augustus was largely responsible, that of the god Julius himself, and that of Mars the Avenger.

In consideration of what Caesar had already done for the reorganisation of the state, and in view of what he was planning to carry out, his death was a national calamity, but his influence might still be rescued and preserved by elevating him into the rank of the gods. For the accomplishment of this it was necessary that the Senate should act, for in the hands of the Senate alone lay the power to receive new gods into the state. Thus the god Julius was created and the word divus received a new meaning. With that logic which was characteristic of Roman religion from the very beginning, the elevation of Julius into the ranks of the greater and more individual gods went side by side with his exclusion from the ranks of the ordinary deified ancestors, so

p. 172

that thereafter at the funeral processions of the Julian family his wax mask was absent from the processions of ancestors to which he no longer belonged, but in the parade of the circus he was present, drawn in a waggon among the greater gods. Nothing was left undone to render his cult both conspicuous and permanent. A special priest (flamen) was appointed to look after it, and as the irony of fate would have it one of the first incumbents of this position was Marc Antony after his reconciliation with Augustus in B.C. 40. Then too a special festival day was given him among the religious holidays of the year. It was intended that this day should be July 13, his birthday, but as that day happened to be already devoted to an important celebration in connexion with the games of Apollo, the day preceding it, July 12, was chosen. But more was needed than a priest and a holiday, there must be a cult centre as well, a temple of the Divus Julius. The site of this temple was already given in the associations connected with Caesar's death. There could be but one place for it, and that was in the Forum near the Regia where his body had been carried to be burned. There the temple was built and dedicated August 18, B.C. 29. An altar had been erected on the spot where Caesar's body had been burned, and the new temple was so placed that the altar was included in its boundaries, occupying a niche in the centre of the front line of the substructure. The temple had the usual history

p. 173

of destruction and rebuilding in antiquity until in early Christian times it was used for secular purposes, and the eyesore of the pagan altar was removed by building a wall across the front, the diameter of the semicircular niche, and by roofing the altar over on a level with the existing platform. Thus the altar with its historical and religious associations was entirely lost sight of, and though the temple in its main outlines had long been excavated, the altar was not discovered until 1898, when the wall was broken through and the whole thing laid bare. Thus by the vote of the Senate, the appointment of a priest, the setting apart of a holy day in the year, and the building of a temple, the worship of the god Julius was established; but it was the general irresistible tendency toward emperor-worship which kept it alive and made it the model for a tremendous subsequent development. Augustus had accomplished his desire. Men were looking on Caesar as a success after all and not as a failure. The Di Manes of a murdered emperor had been profitably exchanged for the Divus Julius, and just as the gods had founded the old Rome of Romulus, so again it was a god who had laid the foundations of the empire over which his successor was ruling.

But Augustus was not content with this; it was all very well for men to look upon the god Caesar as an illustration of justification after death, as an example of how heaven could right the wrongs of

p. 174

earthly existence, but that was not sufficient; the punishment of those who caused his earthly downfall must be emphasised, it must be shown that the gods were quite as much interested in punishing the sinner as in rewarding the righteous man who was sinned against. It was one thing to transfer one's ancestors to the gods, it was quite another thing to take measures to keep oneself from following in their footsteps, even though their last estate was theoretically desirable. Hence side by side with the cult of the Divus Julius went that of Mars Ultor, Mars the Avenger. The circumstances of the beginning of the cult show that it was no mere poetical title but a genuine cult-name born in an earnest moment: for the great temple subsequently built to Mars under this cognomen was vowed by Augustus "in behalf of vengeance for his father," in the war against the slayers of Caesar, Brutus and Cassius. This temple, vowed at Philippi in B.C. 42, was so slow in building that in the meantime Augustus erected a small round temple to Mars Ultor on the Capitoline. This was dedicated May 12, B.C. 20. In the years which followed Augustus proceeded with the difficult and extremely expensive task of purchasing property for his own Forum, and here was built and dedicated, August 1, B.C. 2, the great temple of Mars Ultor. But aside from being a very present reminder of the vengeance which the gods had in store for those who killed a Caesar, it stood also for the Julian

p. 175

house, for Mars was not alone in the temple but with him was Venus, the ancestral mother of the family of Julius and Augustus; and thus was once more emphasised the connexion between the ancestors of the ruling house and the great ancestor Mars, from whom all Romans were sprung.

A temple possessed of such strong associations with the imperial family became instantly a centre of their family worship, and in this respect produced another rival to the cult of Juppiter on the Capitoline. In connexion namely with the putting on of the toga virilis the members of the imperial family went to the temple of Mars Ultor instead of following the immemorial custom of ascending the Capitol to the shrine of Juppiter Optimus Maximus. More important yet the insignia of the triumph, which had always been in the keeping of the Capitoline Juppiter even before he was Optimus Maximus and while he was only the "Striker," Feretrius, were now preserved in the temple of Mars Ultor.

With all the state worshipping Apollo, the god of the emperor's own family, on the Palatine, celebrating the divinity of his ancestor the god Julius in the Roman Forum, and acknowledging Mars as the avenger of all those who did the emperor harm, in the emperor's own new Forum, it might have seemed to a less far-seeing man that religion had been sufficiently pressed into the service of the royal family. But so it did not seem to Augustus. These cults were

p. 176

all three of them essentially new, and new cults may, to be sure, easily become prominent; they usually do, but the test comes with time whether there is external pressure sufficiently continuous to give permanency to this prominence. As a matter of fact not one of these three cults continued later to hold the rank in importance which it had under Augustus. On the other hand if one went low enough and looked sufficiently deep down certain elements in the religious life of the community could be found which continued almost unchanged from century to century. These were the simple elements which were involved in family worship, the sacrifices at the hearth of Vesta, and those to the Genius of the master of the house. Here simple beliefs and elementary cult acts had continued virtually unchanged from the very earliest period down to the present. These cults did not need any formal restoration on the part of the emperor, for they had not experienced the decline which the other cults had suffered, but by just so much more they would afford a firm foundation for his empire and his own rule if he could in some way succeed in connecting them with himself In the case of Vesta this was comparatively easy. The Pontifex Maximus was the guardian of the Vestal virgins, and thus on March 6, B.C. 12, when Augustus became Pontifex Maximus, it was quite natural that there should be a festival to Vesta and that the day should continue as a public holiday. The Pontifex

p. 177

[paragraph continues] Maximus however was supposed to live in the Regia down in the Forum, where Julius Caesar as Pontifex Maximus had actually lived. This Augustus did not desire to do, hence he gracefully gave up the Regia to the Vestal virgins and made his official residence in his own house on the Palatine, fulfilling the religious requirements by consecrating a part of that house. On a portion of the section thus consecrated a temple of Vesta was built and dedicated April 28, B.C. 12. This was strictly speaking his own "Vesta," the hearth of his own house, but the prominence of the temple of Vesta there had an effect similar to the prominence of the temple of Apollo on the Palatine, and the whole state began thus to worship at the hearth of the emperor, and in time the emperor was worshipped at each individual hearth.

But the crowning touch of Augustus's religious policy was yet to come; this was the establishment of the worship of the Genius of the emperor. After Actium and in the earlier years of his reign it is certain that Augustus would not have thought of putting himself, even in the spiritualised form of his Genius, before the people as an object of worship. But the tendency to emperor-worship which Oriental influence had brought with it was not without its effects on the emperor himself, and perhaps these effects were all the stronger because of his valiant struggle against it. Then too the state was already worshipping the gods of his family, even Vesta

p. 178

[paragraph continues] Augusta, the goddess of his own hearth. He had become in substance, even if not yet in name, the father of his country. It had been an immemorial custom that the members of the household should worship the Genius of the master of the house. In every household in Rome that custom still existed. It was a very logical step, and one therefore which a Roman could easily take, to carry out the analogy of the family and to allow the whole state to worship the Genius of the emperor, who was the head of the family of the state. The idea therefore was not at all incongruous, nor was the way in which it was carried out, though the latter was so ingenious as to deserve special consideration.

In the old days when Rome was a farming community, the guardianship of the gods over the fields was one of the most important elements in religious life. The gods were above all the protectors of the boundary lines, and thus it came to pass that where two roads crossed and thus the corners of four farms came together the deities protecting these farms were worshipped together as the Lares Compitales, the Lares of the compita or cross-roads. Curiously enough this worship was later extended to the crossing of city streets, and as was natural it became more highly organised in the city than it had been in the country. Regular associations, collegia, were formed to look after the details of the worship, headed by the magistri vicorum, who were however not public officials

p. 179

but merely the elected heads of these colleges, men mainly from the lower ranks of society. The contagion of civil and political strife affected these colleges as well as their more aristocratic parallels, higher up in the social scale, and turned them into local political clubs. The part played by these clubs in the civil struggles which occupied the last century of the republic was such that the Senate in B.C. 64 was compelled to dissolve them, though they were restored again six years later and existed until Caesar destroyed them entirely. But now Augustus was creating a new organisation for the city, dividing it into fourteen regions, each region containing a certain number of subdivisions called vici. The old "colleges of the cross-roads" afforded him just the sort of opportunity which he never failed to seize, that of seeming to restore a neglected republican institution, and at the same time of making it into a support of the monarchy. The colleges had antiquity in their favour, and their repeated suppression was clear proof of their power. They must be recognised and taken over by the state, their officials must be made into officials of the state, but, most important, their worship must be permeated with the imperial idea. This was where Augustus's skill showed itself. At every shrine of the cross-roads where of old the two Lares had been worshipped alone, a third image now took its place between them. This was the Genius Augusti, who thus formed henceforth an integral part of the

p. 180

local worship of every part of the city. Under the presiding Genius Augusti the Lares themselves began to be known as the Lares Augusti and the cult grew in popularity so that it began to extend through all of Italy and even through the provinces of the empire, and wherever the Lares went, along with them went the worship of the Genius of the emperor.

Now that we have seen what Augustus did, the question arises irresistibly as to the measure of his success. There can be no question but that he was successful in obtaining the immediate object which he was seeking after. A formal religious life was unquestionably brought into being, and such strength as that life had was exerted in behalf of the empire. This is only in part true of the city but it is absolutely true of the provinces, where after all in the long run the balance of power was bound to lie. In every case the religious reform, begun in the city, spread rapidly through the rest of Italy and out into the provinces. There the negative elements, which hindered its growth in Rome itself, were absent. For the provinces the empire was all gain, and even a bad emperor was far better than none at all.

The politics of Augustus had recreated the religion which the politics of the last century of the republic had destroyed, had recreated it in as far as political considerations could. But the spirit of scepticism which had made possible the political

p. 181

abuse of religion could not be driven out by any further application of politics. A form might be created, both the paraphernalia of temples and the hierarchy of priests whose business it was to perform certain cult acts, but there the power of enactment ceased. In the main the religious life of the people went on for good or for ill entirely independent of these things. All that was alive and real in the simple domestic cult went on down into the empire, and those who were faithful were faithful still. The cults of the Orient, against which Augustus had done all that he dared, still captured the minds of the vast majority of the people, and a Mithras or an Isis meant infinitely more than a Mars or a Vesta, even if Mars were the avenger of a Caesar, and Vesta the goddess of the living emperor's own hearth. Among the more intellectual classes the folly of the one set of gods, the darlings of the common people, was felt as keenly as the folly of the others, those who had been worshipped by the men of former days. Philosophy, which had had its share in the breakdown of faith, beginning in the days of the Punic wars, was now offering out of itself a substitute for the faith which it had taken away. It no longer contented itself with a destructive criticism which resulted in a negative view of life, but in Stoicism at least it strove to provide something sufficiently constructive to afford not only a rule of living but also an inspiration to live.

p. 182

With the death of Augustus the last chapter in the history of old Roman religion was closed. His was the last attempt to fill the spiritual need of the people with the old forms and the old ideas; for what he offered was in the main old though certain new ideas were mixed with it. From now on the lifeless platitudes of philosophy and the orgiastic excesses of the Oriental cults divided the field between them, and it was with them rather than with the gods of Numa or even with the deities of the Sibylline books that Christianity fought its battles. That too is a fascinating study, but it is quite another story and with the death of Augustus our present tale is told. And when we look back over the whole of it the main outlines become perhaps even clearer because of the details into which we have been compelled to go.

We see at the start the simple religion of an agricultural people still strongly tinged with animism and inheriting from an animistic past a certain formalism which is so great that it almost becomes a content. Toward the close of the kingdom we see this religion developing through Italic influences so that it takes into itself a certain number of elements which were absent from the older religion because they had no concomitants in daily life, but whose presence is now rendered necessary. These elements are especially the ideas of politics, trade, commerce, and the liberal arts. Then for a moment under

p. 183

[paragraph continues] Servius an equilibrium seems to have been reached, and a religion to have been brought into being which was simple enough for the old lovers of simplicity and varied enough to satisfy the new demands of the community. But this was not for long, for the spiritual conquest of Rome by Greece began then, three centuries before the physical conquest of Greece by Rome. The hosts of Greek deities invaded and captured Rome under the leadership of the Sibylline books, and though at first they had been kept outside the pomerium, even this iron barrier was melted in the heat of the Second Punic War, and the new Greek gods swarmed into the city proper. At the same time as a last heritage from the baleful books an Oriental goddess, the Magna Mater, was taken into the cult and into the hearts of the people, and the elements of decay were thus all present. These elements were threefold: the natural spiritual reaction resulting from the excesses of the period of the Second Punic War; the fascination of the Orient, exhibited to Rome in the cult of the Magna Mater; and the new gift which Greece now made to Rome, the knowledge of her literature, especially of her philosophy. In the last two centuries of the republic then these forces alone would have been sufficient to cause the downfall of religion, but they were aided by politics, which fastened itself upon the formalism of the state religion and sucked the little life-blood that was left. Rome's scholars and wise men could deplore

p. 184

the result and point out the causes, but they could not cure the state of affairs. What politics had done, politics alone could undo, hence only the reform of an autocrat could restore something of the outward structure of the old state religion. But beyond this politics and the autocrat were alike powerless. Against philosophy and Oriental ecstasy they were of no avail. Hence the spirit had left the religion which Augustus had restored even before the marble temples which he had built in its honour had fallen into decay.

The age of formalism had passed, the religious demands of the individual could no longer be satisfied by a mere ritual. For good or for evil something more personal, more subjective, was needed. Men sought for it in various ways and with varying success but except in the simple forms of family worship old Roman religion was dead.