The Roman and Greek Questions, by Plutarch, tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, , at sacred-texts.com
40. Why is it not allowed the priest of Jupiter (Flamen Dialis) to anoint himself in the open air? b
Is it because it used not to be proper or decent for sons to strip in their father's sight, nor a son-in-law in the presence of his father-in-law, nor in ancient days did they bathe together? c Now Jupiter is our father, and whatever is in the open air is in some way thought to be particularly in his sight.
Or, just as it is against divine ordinance to strip oneself in a shrine or a temple, so also did they scrupulously avoid the open air and the space beneath the
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heavens, since it was full of gods and spirits? Wherefore also we perform many necessary acts under a roof, hidden and concealed by our houses from the view of Divine powers.
Or are some regulations prescribed for the priest alone, while others are prescribed for all by the law through the priest? Wherefore also, in my country, to wear a garland, to wear the hair long, not to have any iron on one's person, and not to set foot within the boundaries of Phocis, are the special functions of an archon; but not to taste fruit before the autumnal equinox nor to prune a vine before the vernal equinox are prohibitions disclosed to practically all alike through the archon; for those are the proper seasons for each of these acts.
In the same way, then, it is apparently a special obligation of the Roman priest also not to use a horse nor to be absent from the city more than three nights a nor to lay aside the cap from which he derives the name of, flamen. b But many other regulations are revealed to all through the priest, and one of them is the prohibition not to anoint oneself in the open air. For the Romans used to be very suspicious of rubbing down with oil, and even to-day they believe that nothing has been so much to blame for the enslavement and effeminacy of the Greeks as their gymnasia and wrestling-schools, which engender much listless idleness and waste of time in their cities, as well as paederasty and the ruin of the bodies of
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the young men with regulated sleeping, walking, rhythmical movements, and strict diet; by these practices they have unconsciously lapsed from the practice of arms, and have become content to be termed nimble athletes and handsome wrestlers rather than excellent men-at-arms and horsemen. It is hard work, at any rate, when men strip in the open air, to escape these consequences; but those who anoint themselves and care for their bodies in their own houses commit no offence.
41. Why did their ancient coinage have stamped on one side a double-faced likeness of Janus, on the other the stern or the prow of a ship? a
Is it, as many affirm, in honour of Saturn who crossed over to Italy in a ship?
Or, since this might be said of many, inasmuch as Janus, Evander, and Aeneas all landed in Italy after a voyage by sea, one might rather conjecture thus: some things are excellent for States, others are necessary; and of the excellent things good government is the chief, and of the necessary things facility of provision. Since, therefore, Janus established for them an ordered government by civilizing their life, and since the river, which was navigable and permitted transportation both from the sea and from the land, provided them with an abundance of necessities, the coinage came to have as its symbol the twofold form of the lawgiver, as has been stated, b because of the change he wrought, and the vessel as symbol of the river.
They also used another kind of coinage, stamped
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with the figures of a bull, a ram, and a boar, a because their prosperity came mostly from their live stock, and from these they also derived their affluence.
This is the reason why many of the names of the ancient families are such as the Suillii, Bubulci, Porcii, b as Fenestella c has stated.
42. Why do they use the temple of Saturn as the public treasury and also as a place of storage for records of contracts? d
Is it because the opinion and tradition prevailed that when Saturn was king there was no greed or injustice among men, but good faith and justice?
Or is it because the god was the discoverer of crops and the pioneer in husbandry? For this is what his sickle signifies and not as Antimachus, e following Hesiod, f has written:
[paragraph continues] Now abundant harvests and their disposal are what give rise to a monetary system; therefore they make the god who is the cause of their good fortune its guardian also. Testimony to support this may be found in the fact that the markets held every eight days and called nundinae g are considered sacred to
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[paragraph continues] Saturn, for it was the superabundance of the harvest that initiated buying and selling.
Or is this a matter of ancient history, and was Valerius Publicola the first to make the temple of Saturn the treasury, when the kings had been overthrown, because he believed that the place was well-protected, in plain sight, and hard to attack secretly?
43. Why do the ambassadors to Rome, from whatever country they come, proceed to the temple of Saturn, and register with the prefects of the treasury?
Is it because Saturn was a foreigner, and consequently takes pleasure in foreigners, or is the solution of this question also to be found in history? For it seems that in early days the treasurers a used to send gifts to the ambassadors, which were called lautia, and they cared for the ambassadors when they were sick, and buried them at public expense if they died; but now, owing to the great number of embassies that come, this expensive practice has been discontinued; yet there still remains the preliminary meeting with the prefects of the treasury in the guise of registration.
44. Why may not the priest of Jupiter (Flamen Dialis) take an oath? b
Is it because an oath is a kind of test to prove that men are free-born, and neither the body nor the soul of the priest must be subjected to any test?
Or is it because it is unreasonable to distrust in trivial affairs him who is entrusted with holy matters of the greatest importance?
Or is it because every oath concludes with a curse
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on perjury, and a curse is an ill-omened and gloomy thing? This is the reason why priests may not even invoke curses upon others. At any rate the priestess at Athens who was unwilling to curse Alcibiades at the people's bidding won general approval, for she declared that she had been made a priestess of prayer, not of cursing. a
Or is it because the danger of perjury is a public danger if an impious and perjured man leads in prayer and sacrifice on behalf of the State?
45. Why on the festival of the Veneralia do they pour out a great quantity of wine from the temple of Venus? b
Is it true, as most authorities affirm, that Mezentius, general of the Etruscans, sent to Aeneas and offered peace on condition of his receiving the year's vintage? But when Aeneas refused, Mezentius promised his Etruscans that when he had prevailed in battle, he would give them the wine. Aeneas learned of his promise and consecrated the wine to the gods, and after his victory he collected all the vintage and poured it out in front of the temple of Venus.
Or is this also symbolic, indicating that men should be sober and not drunken on festival days, since the gods take more pleasure in those who spill much strong drink than in those who imbibe it?
46. Why did the men of old keep the temple of Horta continually open?
Is it, as Antistius Labeo has stated, that since "to
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urge on" is expressed by hortari, Horta is the goddess who urges us on, as it were, and incites us to noble actions; and thus they thought that, since she was ever active, she should never be procrastinating nor shut off by herself nor unemployed?
Or rather do they call her, as at present, Hora, with the first syllable lengthened, an attentive and very considerate goddess, who, since she was protective and thoughtful, they felt was never indifferent nor neglectful of human affairs?
Or is this too, like many other Latin words, a Greek word, and does it signify the supervising and guardian goddess? Hence her temple was continually open since she neither slumbers nor sleeps.
If, however, Labeo be right in pointing out that Hora is derived from "parorman" a (to urge on), consider whether we must not declare that orator is thus to be derived, since an orator is a counsellor or popular leader who stimulates, as it were, and incites; and it is not to be derived from "imprecating" or "praying" (orare), as some assert.
47. Why did Romulus build the temple of Vulcan outside the city?
Was it in consequence of Vulcan's fabled jealousy of Mars because of Venus b that Romulus, the reputed son of Mars, did not give Vulcan a share in his home or his city?
Or is this a foolish explanation, and was the temple originally built as a secret place of assembly and council-chamber for himself and his colleague Tatius,
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that here they might convene with the senators and take counsel concerning public affairs in quiet without being disturbed?
Or was it that since Rome, from the very beginning, has been in great danger from conflagrations, they decided to show honour to this god, but to place his temple outside of the city? a
48. Why is it that at the festival of the Consualia they place garlands on both the horses and the asses and allow them to rest?
Is it because they celebrate this festival in honour of Poseidon, god of horses, b and the ass enjoys a share in the horse's exemption?
Or is it that since navigation and transport by sea have been discovered, pack animals have come to enjoy a certain measure of ease and rest?
49. Why was it the custom for those canvassing for office to do so in the toga without the tunic, as Cato has recorded? c
Was it in order that they might not carry money in the folds of their tunic and give bribes?
Or was it rather because they used to judge candidates worthy of office, not by their family nor their wealth nor their repute, but by their wounds and scars? Accordingly that these might be visible to those that encountered them, they used to go down to their canvassing without tunics.
Or were they trying to commend themselves to popular favour by thus humiliating themselves by their scanty attire, even as they do by hand-shaking, personal appeals, and fawning behaviour?
67:b Cf. Aulus Gellius, x. 15.
67:c p. 67 Cf. Cicero, De Oratore, ii. 55 (224), with Wilkins's note.
69:a p. 68 Livy, v. 52. 13, says "not even one night." Cf. also Tacitus, Annals, iii. 58 and 71.
69:b Cf. Life of Numa, chap. vii. (64 C); Life of Marcellus, chap. v. (300 c); Varro, De Lingua Latina, v. 84; Festus, p. 69 s.v. Flamen Dialis; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, ii. 64. 2. Varro's etymology is "Flamen quasi filamen"; Plutarch must have pronounced φλᾶμεν "ph(i)lamen," with "ph" a true aspirate as in "uphill," else there would be no justification for the alternative derivation from pileus (Numa, vii.).
71:a Cf. Athenaeus, 692 E; Ovid, Fasti, i. 229 ff.; Pliny, Natural History, xxxiii. 3 (45); Macrobius, Saturnalia, i. 7. 21–22.
71:b 269 A, supra.
73:a p. 72 Is Plutarch thinking of the suovetaurilia? Mr E. T. Newell, President of the American Numismatic Society, has been kind enough to inform me that no early Roman coinage bears these symbols.
73:b p. 73 Cf. Life of Publicola, chap. xi. (103 B); Varro, quoted by Nonius Marcellus, p. 189. 21 (ed. Müller).
73:c Peter, Frag. Hist. Rom. p. 272, Annales, Frag. 5.
73:d Cf. Life of Publicola, xii. (103 c).
73:e Kinkel, Epicorum Graec. Frag. p. 287, Antimachus, Frag. 35.
73:f Theogony, 160 ff.; cf. Apollonius Rhodius, iv. 984–986.
73:g That is, the ninth day, by the Roman inclusive system of reckoning (cf. Macrobius, Saturnalia, i. 16. 34). 73
75:a Presumably the quaestores aerarii.
75:b Cf. Livy, xxxi. 50; Aulus Gellius, x. 15.
77:a p. 76 Cf. Life of Alcibiades, xxii. (202 F).
77:b Cf. Ovid, Fasti, iv. 877 ff.; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, i. 65; Pliny, Natural History, xiv. p. 77 12 (88), where the authority cited is Varro. Plutarch speaks of the festival of Vinalia (April 23) as Veneralia perhaps because Venus (together with Jupiter) was the protecting deity of the vine.
79:a Plutarch here (in hōra, hŏrman, (h)ōrator), as often, makes havoc of etymology and quantity.
79:b Cf. Homer, Od. viii. 266–359.
81:a Cf. Vitruvius, i. 7. 1.
81:b Cf. Life of Romulus, chap. xiv. (25 D).
81:c Cf. Life of Coriolanus, chap. xiv. (219 F–220 A).