Saturday, July 10, 2010

Duties and Restraints

If you’ve ever followed Tim O’ Neil’s blog at ‘Armarium Magnum’ you’ll know that one of the figures of Ancient Rome that comes up quite regularly is the Flamen Dialis, the pries
t of Jupiter. Aulus Gellius describes his duties and restraints in his Attic nights. The restraints seem a tad silly at first and matters deteriorate from there:

‘A great many ceremonies are imposed upon the Flamen Dialis [the priest of Jupiter], and also many restraints, about which we read in the books On The Public Priesthoods and also in Book I of Fabius Pictor's work.

Among them I recall the following…..He must have no knot in his head gear or in his girdle or in any other part of his attire; 8) If anyone is being led away to be flogged and falls at his feet as a suppliant, it is forbidden to flog him that day; 9) The hair of the Flamen Dialis is not to be cut, except by a freeman; 10) It is
customary for the Flamen neither to touch nor even to name a female goat, or raw meat, ivy, or beans; 11) He must not walk under a trellis for vines; 12) The feet of the bed on which he lies must have a thin coating of clay, and he must not be away from this bed for three successive nights, nor is it lawful for anyone else to sleep in this bed; 13) At the foot of his bed there must be a box containing a little pile of sacrificial cakes; 14) The nail trimmings and hair of the Dialis must be buried in the ground beneath a healthy tree; 15) Every day is a holy day for the Dialis; 16) He must not go outdoors without a head-covering---this is now allowed indoors, but only recently by decree of the pontiffs, as Masurius Sabinus has stated; it is also said that some of the other ceremonies have been remitted and cancelled; 17) It is not lawful for him to touch bread made with yeast; 18) His underwear cannot be taken off except in covered places, lest he appear nude under the open sky, which is the same as under the eye of Jove’

A military career was almost certainly out for the Flamen Dialis as he wasn’t allowed to even cast eyes on the army. Gellius says of his wife that:

‘she observes certain other and different ones, for example, that she wears a dyed gown, and that she has a twig from a fruitful tree tucked in her veil, and that it is forbidden for her to ascend more than three rungs of a ladder.

The strangest part of this for me is the need to have a box of cakes at the end of the bed, though, looking elsewhere Cato the Elder’s ‘The Harvest Ritual’ follows a similar theme.

Offer a pile of cakes to Janus, saying, "Father Janus, in offering these cakes to you, I humbly pray that you will be propitious and merciful to me and my children, my house and my household." Then make an offering of cake to Jupiter with these words: "In offering you this cake, O Jupiter, I humbly pray that you, pleased with this offering, will be propitious and merciful to me and my children, my house and my household." Then present the wine to Janus, saying: "Father Janus, as I have prayed humbly in offering you the cakes, so may you in the same way be honored by this wine now placed before you." Then pray to Jupiter thus: "Jupiter, may you be honored in accepting this cake; may you be honored in accepting the wine placed before you." Then sacrifice the porca praecidanea. When the entrails have been removed, make an offering of cakes to Janus, and pray in the same way as you have prayed before. Offer a cake to Jupiter, praying just as before. In the same way offer wine to Janus and offer wine to Jupiter, in the same way as before in offering the pile of cakes, and in the consecration of the cake.

This kind of cake bribery certainly works extremely well with my Grandma. I am somewhat sceptical that it would work on bloodthirsty Pagan deities.

Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum


Deef said...

Haha, excellent.

Anonymous said...

I once tried to appease my girlfriend with cake (so that she might take pity on me, a mere mortal who had forgotten to leave the toilet seat down). was not very effective in cooling her wrath.

Weekend Fisher said...

Aw c'mon, the pagan deities were softies for high living. Cake bribery was definitely 'in'.

Unknown said...

Cake bribery was definitely 'in'.

If I try that with my significant other I will get something along the lines of YOU'RE TRYING TO MAKE ME FAT!WELL, AREN'T YOU?!

Humphrey said...

If anyone works out how to appease your girlfriend/wife/significant other in the event of an household infraction (e.g leaving your socks behind the sofa) please let me know. As Anon and Karl point out cake offerings wont cut it.

Banshee said...

If you can bribe Cerberus with cakes, you can bribe anybody with cakes.

The rules seem to be that your Flamen has to touch earth, can't touch sky, has to remain totally unbound, and can't see anything harsh. Plus the cakes.

Tim O'Neill said...

I like to point out the Flamen Dialis, his magic condom-shaped Smurf hat and his clay-smeared bed etc when people try to tell me how "rational" the ancient world was and how Christianity led to a "rise in irrationality and superstition". It's kind of fun to list the bizarre taboos associated with the FD and ask "What, more irrational and superstitious than this crap?"

Though I once had a Medival-hating Romanophile try to defend the FD's taboos by explaining that these silly ideas weren't irrational because they were part of a holistic Roman world view, or something. But, strangely, the same excuse didn't cut any ice with him when it came to Medieval superstitions.