Roman Religion - Calendar
August, formerly Sextilis, the sixth month of the original ten month calendar, is named for Caius Octavianus Cæsar Augustus, he having restored the Julian calendar which had fallen into confusion during the interval between the assassination of Caius Julius and the pontificate of Augustus (The office fell vacant in 13 B.C. upon the death of the old triumvir, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who had been deprived of his other offices by Augustus, but was permitted to retain that last honor in his exile. Augustus then assumed the pontificate.) It was said that Augustus named Sextilis rather than September, the month of his birth, after himself, because he had won his first consulship and his greatest victories in it. Augustus had received that surname in 27 B.C. on the motion of Munatius Plancus, it being the habit of the Romans since ancient times to call August those things that were deserving of the highest respect. The surname Romulus had been proposed, as he was considered the second founder of the city, but this was thought an impropriety and an unnecessary innovation. (Furius Camillus had already been called the second Romulus, anyway.) In his youth, Caius Octavius had been given the cognomen Thurinus, because his ancestors had come from that town (the site of the destroyed city of legendary luxury, Sybaris), located in the "arch" of the Italian "boot".
Augustus was responsible for a religious revival that was matched in its scope only by his total reconstitution of the government or his rebuilding of Rome itself. He built temples and repaired those that had fallen into disrepair, restored the Lupercalia to its original rules (no beardless youths permitted to run), sponsored the Compitalia and provided for the erection of the shrines of the Lares Compitales throughout the city, which he paid to have decked with flowers twice a year, and rejuvenated the office of Flamen Dialis, which had been long neglected, first from the disrepute of its officers and later from vacancy. Perhaps most importantly, he had acted upon the old resolution of the Senate and the decree of the Praetor Atilius (q.v. July 5) and purged the city of books of prophecy and magic, and produced a new editon of the Sibylline Books, which were installed in a gilded chest in the pedestal of the Palatine Apollo. (On the advice of the augurs, Augustus had constructed the Shrine of Palatine Apollo in that portion of his palace which the god had supposedly selected by means of a lightning bolt that had struck the spot, an extravagant act of expiation. Augustus added wings to his palace connecting with the shrine to hold public libraries. Augustus had another electrifying experience, when a torch bearer walking before his litter was struck and killed by a thunderbolt. The Temple of Jupiter Thunderer on the Capitoline was the result of that incident. Thereafter, whenever a severe storm was approaching, he would wrap himself in a seal skin and retire in haste to a cellar.)
Paying court to the gods was apparently fraught with many nice complications. Augustus, perhaps prefiguring his own deification, was granted a colloquy with Jupiter Capitolinus in a dream. The god complained that all of his worshippers had deserted him and were, instead, paying their respects to Jupiter Thunderer. Augustus, with typical cunning and quick thinking, replied that he had built the Temple of Jupiter Thunderer so that the Thunderer would be the porter or doorman for Capitolinus. Upon awakening, Augustus ordered that bells of the type that were hung on front doors be suspended from the gable of the Temple of Jupiter Thunderer.
Among the other temples built by Augustus were those to the Divine Julius and that of Mar Ultor, Mars the Avenger, vowed by him at Philippi in honor of the venegance visited against the assassins of his adoptive father. This Temple of Mars Ultor adjoined the Forum of Augustus. From it were escorted the pro-magistrates who were being sent to their commands, and to it were returned spoils taken in war. (There was, according a footnote in Frazer's Loeb edition of Ovid's Fasti, a second Temple of Mars Ultor, in which the eagles lost by Crassus and the Antonine legions in Parthia, and recovered by Tiberius, were placed. It's location, however, is not given.) Augustus, who had varying success as a general and commander, but who always ended up as the survivor, also reformed the process by which military decorations were bestowed, allowing their award solely upon merit. He was, however, rather liberal in awarding triumphs, ovations, and the regalia of such.
Augustus encouraged his friends and relations and other prominent citizens to follow his example in the donation of public works. The Temple of Hercules of the Muses, reconstructed by Philippus, has already been mentioned above. And, of course, M. Vipsanius Agrippa built the original Pantheon, the portico of which still exists, attached to the Hadrianic dome.
Augustus received divine honors during his lifetime, allowing provincial governments to erect temples to him. In Rome, however, he would not permit any shrines to himself to be built, and he even melted down some silver statues of himself and applied the money coined from them to public works.
Numerous prodigies or portents were supposed to have presaged his greatness and deification. Of the portents, the one that is most fascinating, perhaps due to its echoing by the Christian evangelists, occurred in the year of his birth, 63 B.C (690 AUC). The portent was interpreted to warn that a king of Rome was to be born within the year, and this so unsettled the Senate that a decree was drafted to the effect, that no male child born in that year should be reared. However, some prominent men who knew of the portent and whose wives were pregnant, managed to prevent the tablet bearing the decree from being placed in the treasury (Aearium), thereby frustrating its enactment. The most interesting prodigy occurred when his father, C. Octavius, was leading an army through Thrace and paused to offer sacrifice at a shrine to Dionysus (Liber) in a grove once visited by Alexander the Great. When Octavius poured the wine of the sacrifice on the altar, a column of flame shot up to an immense height, extending even above the roof of the temple. This never had happened previously excepting once, during the sacrifice by Alexander, and it was taken to portend similar greatness for the Octavians.
Although it is obviously a fatuous plagarism, one other portent in this vein is worthy of note, because it touches on the religion of the times. It was recorded that his mother, Atia, attended the nightlong vigil of Apollo in his Temple in the Flaminian Meadows. She fell asleep, as did her attendants, and during that night dreamt that she had been visited by a serpent that had impregnated her. This dream had so impressed itself upon her that when she awoke she purified herself as though she had lain with her husband, lest she defile the temple and the rites. It was said that Atia thereafter bore a mark on her body with the coloring of the serpent, and that she ceased going to the public baths on that account. Augustus was born in due course of time, and was said to be the son of Apollo. This same story was told of Alexander Great, whose mother Olympias claimed that his father had been Zeus, not Philip, and that she had been impregnated by the god, who had assumed the form of a snake. To such lengths would sycophancy take a writer in search of patrons. All Freudian imagery aside, the story at least tells us that a vigil of Apollo fell in December, Augustus being born in September.
It is difficult to account for the unprecedented success that Augustus enjoyed throughout his life. He was not a man of large intellectual capacity or perspicacity, not a brilliant general, not especially forceful as an orator, nor even a wily and devious politician, qualities which were developed to the highest possible degree in his adoptive father. Compared even to his rivals, he was inferior in military acumen and practical experience of public affairs. Except for his exceptional beauty, which is attested by both his biographers and his portraitists, he was not physically prepossessing, being somewhat below the average in height, almost diminutive according Suetonius. Yet he was ultimately successful in every endeavor against whatever opponents were raised up against him by fate or fortune. What was it that raised him above his contemporaries, indeed, placed him on a level of success that has not been surpassed by any man or woman in history? Was it luck, or fate, or the favor of the gods, or some intangible and imperceptible personal quality that had to be experienced but could not be preserved in biography or history that made him successful?
Certainly, he was lucky in the circumstances of his family connections, for Julius Cæsar prepared the way for him as no other man could have. The aura of military genius and the precedent of unlimited political power were inherited with the estate of the Dictator. Yet Antony was as much the heir of Cæsar as was Augustus in that regard, and with much better credentials to back his claim. Antony had shared the miltary and political campaigns of Cæsar, and had been the first to stand forward as the avenger of the the man who had been as a second father to him. But it was Augustus who, with the ties of blood and the testament of Cæsar, became the focal point of public sympathy and the leader of the Cæsarians in public expectation. Something beside luck, which had placed him favorably, was to sustain him in that position. No man enjoys an uniform luck, and Augustus suffered reverses. But he always succeeded over them. Was it mere persistence? A general cannot fight a battle without an army, and Augustus always retained that army, even in defeat. Perhaps that is a clue to his success.
We need not concern ourselves with the affections of the mob, which are easily excited and as easily transferred or extinguished. What concerns us is the love of the puissiant and the self-possessed. The armies that suffered defeats did not run, did not abandon him. Why? Because they were his intimates. An army is not a rabble or a mob. It is a group of well organized and well trained soldiers, men who are accustomed to the manner and the habits of their commanders. The Roman general lived with his men, shared their discomforts and their dangers. Augustus was among his soldiers, and they were constantly in his presence. Augustus overawed men who were themselves potent political and martial figures. Men suffered from him insults to their dignity and to their pride which they would not have not have endured from even the greatest conqueror. Why? Because his very presence was somehow a compulsion.
We know from Suetonius that Augustus had a personal charm that was almost sublime. We are told that on one occassion a Gallic chieftain intended to assassinate Augustus by throwing him from a precipice, but that he lost heart for the murder when he looked upon the face of his intended victim, which bore an expression of such transcendent serenity that the murderer's courage melted before it . If Augustus could have such an effect upon a man who had plucked up the nerve to murder him, who probably nursed some deep feeling of injury, what then would have been his effect upon those who were predisposed to follow him? We know that in all of his life, only two of his friends ever betrayed him. What quality was it that made men love him?
There are men whose personalities are unresolvable, whose effect upon others cannot be calculated or analysed, but can only be experienced. Writing cannot capture it nor reading convey it. It is a quality of presence, which absence cannot know or imagine. Why did Lepidus meekly submit to being stripped of his legions? Why did Antony absent himself from Rome, even when his power in the East was firmly established, absent himself from the seat of power and the arena of political contest? Was it because the physical presence of Augustus was irresistible, that face to face, it was impossible to hate him, let alone oppose him? We shall never know.
August 2, 216 B.C. was the date of the battle of Cannae, in which the Consul and 50,000 Roman and Allied soldiers died. That day was thereafter a black day on which no sacrifices might be offered.
The Nones (7th) of July were devoted to Salus, the deity of Public Safety. Salus provided for the preservation of the state through times of war or other calamity. It was one of the accomplishments of Augustus to restore the augury of Salus, a ceremony that had been dormant for many years. Since this ceremony could only be performed in peace time, it is hardly amazing that it was not much practiced, the Romans so seldom being at peace. It was the boast of Augustus that he closed the doors of the Temple of Janus three times. The purpose of the augury of Salus was to inquire if it were permissible to offer prayers for the continued safety of the nation.
The Temple of Salus, founded in 302 B.C., was on the Quirinal, southwest of the Temple of Quirinus. The Gate of Salus was adjacent, on the western side of the temple's precincts.
Feast of Sol Indiges
The Festival of the Sabine god Sol was celebrated on the 9th of August. His temple was on the Quirinal. It would probably be an error to assume that this Sol was the same as Sol, the son of Helios.
Feast of Hercules Invictus
The Feast of Unconquered Hercules began on August 12. As related above, Hercules was said to have paused near the site of future Rome in his journey back to Greece with the cattle of Geryon, being welcomed by Evander, whose town was on the Palatine. According to legend, Evander began the worship to Hercules, which was graciously accepted, and Hercules himself helped by building the Ara Maxima and sacrificing two of the oxen. An annual communion was celebrated at the Ara Maxima and the adjacent Temple of Hercules Invictus in the Ox Market (Forum Boarium). Hercules, because of his participation in and sponsorship of athletic contests was one of the guardians (Hercules Custos) of the Flaminian Circus, where Sulla had had engraved dedicatory inscriptions to the Hero.
Hercules Invictus was served by an hereditary college of priests drawn from two families, the Potitii and the Pinarii, which must have been of aboriginal or Greek ancestry: the service of the worship of Hercules had been deputed to them directly by Evander. The Potitii were the senior colleagues, as signified by their right to have a portion of the sacrificial entrails, the first choice being given the deified hero himself. The Pinarii supposedly held the junior status because the original priests of their family showed up late for the first sacrifice. The college remained an hereditary office among the Potitii until the extinction of the family, when, according to Livy, the service was turned over to "servis publicis". This is the only instance in which slaves are said to have formed the priesthood of a Roman cult. However, as it was actually Greek in its rites, it might mean nothing more than that the service was handed over to Greeks, many educated and noble Greeks being retained as servants, either because they had been taken as prisoners of war or because of their superior educations. In this instance, we might be correct in assuming that the state assumed the reponsibility for the continuance of the worship and delegated this function to some Greeks on the public payroll, they being most familiar with the Greek rites for Hercules.
Near or before the Temple of Hercules Invictus was a statue of Hercules Triumphant of such antiquity that it was said to have been commissioned and dedicated by Evander. Whenever a triumph was declared for a victorious general, the statue was dressed in triumphal regalia.
There were other more famous statues of Hercules in the city, including a bronze of Myron that was in Pompey's Temple of Hercules in the Circus Maximus and another bronze that had been taken from Taranto and set up on the Capitoline. A very old terra cotta statue, sculpted by Vulca of Veii, was known as the Hercules Fictilis, the Clay Hercules.
There was another Temple to Hercules, that of Hercules Pompeianus, in the Ox Market. Hercules was credited with founding both Pompey and the city with his name, Herculaneum (modern Ercolano is upon it).
August 13 was celebrated as the Feast of Diana at Rome and at Nemi, a grove on the shores of Lake Nemi near Aricia. One of the distinguishing rituals performed on that day was the washing of their hair by the women of Rome. Presumably the ritual lustration did not ordinarily require the washing of one's hair, thus making the practice on this day special. Her Temple in Rome was on the Aventine.
The Temple of Diana at Nemi was most famous for its peculiar priesthood, the Rex Nemorensis, which could be held only by a runaway slave who had managed to kill his predecessor in single combat. Supposedly, the original priest/hero of the shrine had been Hippolytus, son of Theseus, the lad unlucky enough to have been lustfully pursued by his step-mother, Phaedra, daughter of Minos and Pasiphae. He rebuffed Phaedra, and she, in anger at his piety, falsely accused him to Theseus, who cast him out, calling upon Neptune to punish Hippolytus. As Hippolytus was driving his chariot along the shore, Neptune produced a raging bull from the breakers and sent it ashore after the chariot. The horses took fright and ran uncontrollably along the rocky coast, Hippolytus, tangled in the reins, being thrown from the chariot and dragged to his death. Ascelapius, the son of Apollo, patron of physicians, restored Hippolytus to life and healed his disfiguring wounds. Thus transformed, he was taken by Diana to Aricia where she placed him in the safety of the temple's grove, giving him the new name of Virbius . In his honor, horses were not permitted in the grove. (Hippolytus means "horse-breaker", or perhaps "broken by horses" would be more punningly correct.) Viribius the son of Hippolytus was said by Vergil to have participated in the war between Æneas and the aboriginal peoples.
According to Ovid, it was to the Grove of Nemi that Egeria made her way after the death of King Numa Pompilius, where, inconsolable and pining for very grief, she wasted away into a fountain.
Diana shared with her brother the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine.
The Feast of Portunus was celebrated on August 17. Portunus was described as the guardian of the port of Rome, located near the Aemilian Bridge on the Tiber. (As opposed to the Port City, Ostia.) According Sextius Pompeius Festus, the Latin grammarian, the flamen of Portunus had the honorable duty to anoint the armaments of Quirinus with a special unquent that was dispensed from a vessel called a persillum.
Persillum vocant sacerdotes rudiculum picatum, quo unguine flamen Portunalis arma Quirini unguet.
This is interesting in that it shows that the priesthoods of a particular god had responsibilities and honors outside their own peculiar areas of authority. It also might indicate that there was a relationship between Portunus and Quirinus.
Portunus is identified in some accounts as the Roman equivalent of Palaemon, who in mortal life had been called Melicertes, the son of Athamas and Ino. Their story is bound up with those of numerous other mythological figures, including Semele, sister of Ino and mother of Dionysus, Phrixus and Helle, who fled on the back of the golden-fleeced ram, and Ixion and Nephele, the cloud-maiden who was the double of Juno.
Nephele had been formed by Juno in her own image from clouds, to deceive Ixion who had fallen in love with the Queen of the gods. Nephele was later given in marriage to Athamas, King of Boeotia, by whom she conceived sons Phrixus and Leucon, and daughter Helle. Nephele, like many divine females, disdained her husband as a bad match, and he, in turn, came to resent her superiority, fixing his affections upon Ino. Ino was sister of Semele, mother of Bacchus by Jove. When Zeus had given birth to his son, he placed him in the care of Ino, the child's aunt, who concealed the infant in the palace of Athamas, disguised as a girl to protect him from the jealous rage of Juno. Ino bore two natural sons to Athamas, Learchus and Melicertes.
Nephele complained of this insult to Juno, who vowed her venegeance upon Athamas and his house, both for this slight to her daughter and double and for his complicity in the fostering of Bacchus. Nepehele demanded that the subjects of Athamas carry out the sentence handed down by Juno, the death of Athamas and Ino, but they refused, citing their love for both.
Ino contrived to get her own revenge against Nephele, secretly roasting the seed for next year's harvest, thereby insuring a failure of the crops. She knew that Athamas would send to the Oracle of Delphi to learn the reason for the famine and the means of expiation, and she bribed the messengers to bring back a false prophecy which would require the sacrifice of Phrixus, Nephele's son. When the plan worked as Ino had foreseen, Athamas, like Abraham, was tearfully about to sacrifice his son, when the golden-fleeced Ram appeared and the victim escaped, taking Helle with him. Their flight led them to Colchis, but Helle fell from the Ram's back and drowned in the water afterwards called by her name. Phrixus continued to Colchis, where he sacrificed the Ram in honor of Jove, who had sent it, and hung the fleece up in the temple, whence it was later taken by Jason.
Meanwhile, back in Boeotia, Ino's plot had failed, and Juno, her anger surpassing itself, drove Athamas mad. In his insanity, he mistook his son Learchus for a stag, and shot him dead with a single arrow. He then began to pursue Ino and Melicertes, but the infant Bacchus momentarily blinded the madman, and then caused Athamas to mistake a goat for his wife, which he proceeded to scourge, giving Ino time to escape with her son. She ran to the cliffs and threw herself and Melicertes into the sea, calling upon Venus for her protection. Ino and Melicertes drowned, but Neptune, at the request of Venus, revived them both and transformed them into sea-deities, Ino becoming Leucothea (White Goddess) and Melicertes becoming Palaemon, whose special creature was the dolphin. The Isthmian Games were held in his honor.
Leucothea was supposedly later known among Romans as the Mater Matuta, although that goddess was more likely the Sabine Venus herself, while Palaemon was called Portunus by the Romans. His imposing rectangluar temple still exists in a good state of preservation near the river in the Forum Boarium. Portunus was one of the old deities, having his own flamen to tend his rites. Portunus was sometimes pictured with a key in his hand.
According to Apuleius, however, Portunus and Palaemon were separate deities. Portunus he describes as blue-bearded, and Palaemon he calls the little driver of dolphins.
The god-hero of the Tiber, Tiberinus, was also feasted on that day.
The Second or Rural Vinalia was held on the 19th of August. Unlike the first Vinalia of 23 April, which was shared with Venus, this feast was to the Vine alone, and the new wine was sampled.
The Feast of Consus was on August 21, Livy (and Plutarch after him) relating that Consus was the Equine Neptune. The altar of Consus was covered with earth in the Circus Maximus on all days except those of the festival and during horse races. On the days of the feast, all equine beasts of burden, horses, asses, mules, were decked with garlands and given a vacation from their labors.
It was on this day that Romulus perpetrated the Rape of the Sabine Women, profaning the festival that he had proclaimed. Romulus claimed that he had discovered an altar, dedicated to Consus and buried in the earth. He invited the folk from surrounding communities to attend a festival in celebration of this invention, hopeful that the visitors would be so favorably impressed by the progress that had been made in the construction of the new city, that they would consent to allow their daughters to marry the Romulan men, but with the secret intention to take them by force in the event of a refusal. While the visitors were congratulatory and admiring, they did not soften their opposition to intermarriage. It was then, when the last hope of a peaceable relationship had been refused, that Romulus gave the signal to begin the abductions.
The use of a religious festival, during which truces were ordinarily observed and a peaceful reception guaranteed to all, for such an illicit purpose was sacrilege. On such occasions, the host city was neutral territory, even to citizens of those nations with which it might be engaged in hostilities. Breaches of the peace by the host were tanatmount to a declaration of war, and the offended communities were within their rights when they formed a league against Romulus to seek redress or to go to war if it were denied. This profanation of a religious feast is totally out of chaarcter for the Romans.
We have speculated that Consus might have been the deified Remus, because of the link between the dual consulship, the twin brothers, and the etymology of consus suggested by Plutarch. If that were the case, we would have to explain the association of the horse to the feast, which animal seems not to have had any relevance to Remus. Plutarch seems to have felt that Consus might have been a deity of Romulus's own creation, to provide the pretext for the gathering of the neighboring peoples. If the altar were truly found buried in the earth, we might conclude that it was a relic of the settlement of Evander, which seems to have vanished, except for the Boarium, by the time that the city of Romulus was begun. This would make Consus an Arcadian deity of such antiquity that the mystery of his identity could not be penetrated even in the time of Romulus. (The Arcadians were said to be older than the moon, which is likely to mean, older than the worship of Diana, old indeed.) Consus in that case would have been contemporary Saturn, who was said to have demanded the human sacrifices of the Argei, which was later remitted by Hercules to the use of straw men. Consus could have been one of the Titans, perhaps Cronos, Saturn himself.
Lexicographer Charlton Lewis, whose opinion regarding the extraction of the Samnites from the Sabine nation we have had occasion to notice, suggested that Consus was derived from condo (condere, "to found"). Might we not conclude from this and from the fact that his altar was buried in the earth, that Consus was the god of foundation, invoked during or after the founding of a building or city? As such, might he not be also the god of planning, which lays the foundation, so to speak, of action, and by degrees, of secret plans, conspiracies? This last function would agree with the circumstances in which he appeared in Roman legend, as the patron of the conspiracy of Romulus to abduct the Sabine women. If that is true, then Romulus would have felt justified in his breach of the peace at the festival of the god who encouraged such deceptions. His violation of the religious norms is otherwise irreconcilable with the Roman respect for religion.
Assuming all of the above, we are still left with some unaswered questions. Why was Consus not invoked at the foundation of the city but four months later? What relevance did the horse have to Consus? And what are we to make of the minor Consualia that occurs in December?
The first question, why the Consualia fell four months after the founding of the city, we might answer by reference to the second Consualia that fell four months later in December, which is itself four months prior to the anniversary of the foundation celebration of the Parilia. In other words, the ceremonies of the Birthday of Rome probably contained some reference to Consus that we have not yet found or not yet recognized if already found, and the observances in August and December were spaced in such a manner as to recur at a regular interval throughout the year with relation to the Parilia. The division of the year into thirds was thereby accomplished, although for what reason there is not sufficient matter from which to speculate.
We know that the Parilia was a bloodless feast, although the blood of the October Horse was one element in the purificatory fumigations of that celebration. Animals, thus, were given an holiday on the Parilia, after a fashion, as they were on the Consualia. This forms one link between the two feasts., and it goes some distance toward an explanation of the importance of the horse in the Consualia.
What are we to make of the horse in this context? The October horse was the lead horse of a four-horse team and was sacrificed after winning a race. Why this was done is not known, but the blood was saved for the Parilia, which could have been reason enough in and of itself. The horse was not a draught animal, but was used for riding and for pulling chariots, and sometimes as a pack animal. Oxen were used as draught animals, pulling plows and wagons. Asses were the common pack animals. Therefore, the horse would not have been used in the founding of a city to pull the plow that fixed the outline of the walls. What other use could it have had at a founding? We recall that the mares of Laomedon were the ostensible reason for the levelling of Troy by Hercules. Could the presence of the horse be a symbolic payment to Hercules by the descendants of Laomedon, to persuade him to allow the walls to stand? We also recall that Neptune, creator of the horse, was one of the gods who built the walls of Troy for Laomedon, and that he, likewise, had been cheated of his wages. Could the horse be a reference to Neptune as Consus, as Livy and Plutarch assert? Or could it be meant to appease Neptune, who was the Earthshaker, and have nothing to do with Consus? Certainly, more than one deity was invoked at the founding of a city. Therefore, Consus might not be Neptune, but Neptune might well have been associated in the rites, as symbolized by the horse.
The Feast of Vulcan was on August 23. The Temple of Vulcan was placed outside the city to forestall the destructive power of the fires which were under the control of Vulcan, although, given the number of times that Rome or large portions of it were burned, this precaution seems to have been taken in vain. An area of Vulcan existed within the walls, founded by Romulus with the spoils of victory, on the lower slope of the Capitoline near the northwestern corner of the Comitium (perhaps above the prison?). It was customary to dedicate part of the enemy's arms to Vulcan and to incinerate them on a pyre. This area may have been used for that purpose in the early years of Rome. A nettle tree, said by Pliny to be as old as the city, grew in the Precinct of Vulcan, its roots crossing under the Comitiuim from the Municipal Offices to the Forum of Julius Cæsar. A statue of Horace Cocles was also there.
Vulcan was patron of artificers rather than of artisans, of smiths, mecahnics, and other industrial metal workers. As a rude jest, the ugliest (he was halt and permanently sooty) of the Twelve Olympians was coupled with Venus, the most beautiful and fastidious.
It was said that Vulcan was the father of King Servius Tullius by the captive Ocresia, who had been queen of Corniculum. The lady conceived in the same manner as Rhea Silva, being impregnated by a phallus of fire that took form on the hearth. His divine paternity was confirmed when an halo or crown of fire appeared to encircle the brows of the child Servius while he was sleeping. It vanished when he awoke, leaving him unburned.
Opening of Mundus
The mundus was the trench which had been dug around the Comitium at the foundation of the city and into which fruits, vegetables, and offerings of all useful things, as well as earth from the cities of the immigrating founders, was deposited. The center of the mundus was regarded as the center of the city, and it was from that point that Romulus measured when he drove the plow which marked the outline of the walls of the new city. An altar was reared over the mundus.
Apparently the mundus was either roofed over or was covered in such a way that it was possible to open it and to descend into the subterranean space. According to some authorities, the mundus was opened three times in a year, this day, August 24, being one of them (October 5 and November 8 being the others). Those days were deemed religiosi, ill-omened, and no business of any kind could be conducted.
Festus says that the spirits of the dead were kept bottled up in the mundus and were able to emerge only on those days when the mundus was opened. The description reminds one of the burial vaults that are below the altars of many cathedrals in which the remains of bishops and other notable personages are interred. The city was, after all, itself a sacred space.
Cereris qui mundus appellatur, qui ter in anno solet patere: VIIII Kal. Sept. et III Non. Octobr. et VI Id. Novembr. Qui vel enim dictus est quod terra movetur. Festus
Mundus ut ait Capito Ateius in lib. VI Pontificali, ter in anno patere solet, diebus his: postridie Volkanalia et ante diem III. Non. Oct. et ante diem VI. Id. Nov.: qui quid ita dicatur sic refert Cato in commentaris iuris civilis: "Mundo nomen inpositum est ab eo mundo, qui supra nos est: forma enim eius est, ut ex is qui intravere cognoscere potui, adsimilis illae": eius inferiorem partem veluti consecratam Dis Manibus clausam omni tempore, nisi his diebus qui supra scripti sunt, maiores c . . . m; quos dies etiam religiosos iudicaverunt ea de causa, quod quo tempore ea, quae occultae et abditae religionis Deorum Manium essent, veluti in lucem quandam adducerentur et patefierent, nihil eo tempore in republica geri voluerunt. Itaque per eos dies non cum hoste manus conserebant: non exercitus scribebatur: non comitia habebantur: non aliud quicquam in republica, nisi quod ultima necessitas admonebat, administrabatur. Festus
The city is likened to a microcosm, with the mundus as its center, the Earth in the Ptolemaic cosmography. Some mystical connection existed between the mundus and world at large, and the maintenance of the mundus seemed to be necessary to keep the community of men and gods in harmony.
Quibus autem haec sunt inter eos communia, ei ciuitatis eiusdem habendi sunt. Si uero isdem imperiis et potestatibus parent, multo iam magis parent autem huic caelesti discriptioni mentique diuinae et praepotenti deo, ut iam uniuersus sit hic mundus una ciuitas communis deorum atque hominum existimanda. Et quod in ciuitatibus ratione quadam, de qua dicetur idoneo loco, agnationibus familiarum distinguuntur status, id in rerum natura tanto est magnificentius tantoque praeclarius, ut homines deorum agnatione et gente teneantur. Cicero De Legibus BK 1.
Frazer is of the opinion that Plutarch was in error when he placed the mundus around the Comitium, rather believing it to have been on the Palatine and to have coincided with the "Square Rome" of Romulus.
Festus says that the Square Rome was an area before the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine. However, the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine was of late date, and could not have been the same as the mundus which was made at the founding. Plutarch says that Romulus and Remus disagreed on the situation of the city, Remus preferring the Aventine, which was naturally fortified, while Romulus preferred the Square Rome, the location of which is not given. This would appear to have been a disagreement over the placement of the acropolis or citadel of the city, the inner city, so to speak, the most fortified and defensible position of any ancient city and the site of its most holy ground. It would also appear that Romulus based his selection upon the advice of the Etruscan seers, for the term "Square Rome" seems to be derived from the Etruscan templum, the four cardinal points of which form the corners of an inscribed square, the area known as the "tabernaculum", tabernacle, over which the augur's tent was erected. We are told later that Romulus brought in the Etruscans to advise on the ceremonies of foundation. Remus, however, based his opinion of the better site upon his own judgment of the lay of the land. We know that the Citadel and Capitol, containing the shrines of the three great protecting deities, were eventually located on the Capitoline, and we are told by Vitruvius that, theoretically, these were always to be placed at the center of a new city plan, which was based upon a diagram corresponding to the templum. It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that the Square Rome of Romulus was really the Capitoline Hill. The confusion with the Palatine seems to enter where it was said by Plutarch that Remus retired to the Aventine to receive the auspices, while Romulus took up a position on the Palatine, where he had been reared, to take the auspices. This indicates that Romulus based the importance of the Palatine as a place for taking his auspices solely upon its relationship to his personal history, not upon its strategic or templar qualities. The Square Rome of Festus would seem to have been either a misunderstanding or a later development, perhaps instituted under the Empire, in honor of Augustus.
This conclusion is further supported by the placement of the Golden Milestone and the Umbilicus (Navel or center of Rome), which were situated at either end of the Rostra at the foot of the Capitoline.