« Prev Chapter I. Next »

Book V.


1. Admitting that all these things which do the immortal gods dishonour, have been put forth by poets merely in sport, what of those found in grave, serious, and careful histories, and handed down by you in hidden mysteries? have they been invented by the licentious fancy of the poets? Now if they seemed42784278    So most edd., inserting er; in ms. and Oehler, vid-entur. to you stories of such absurdity, some of them you would neither retain in their constant use, nor celebrate as solemn festivals from year to year, nor would you maintain them among your sacred rites as shadows of real events. With strict moderation, I shall adduce only one of these stories which are so numerous; that in which Jupiter himself is brought on the stage as stupid and inconsiderate, being tricked by the ambiguity of words. In the second book of Antias—lest any one should think, perchance, that we are fabricating charges calumniously—the following story is written:—

The famous king Numa, not knowing how to avert evil portended by thunder, and being eager to learn, by advice of Egeria concealed beside a fountain twelve chaste youths provided with chains; so that when Faunus and Martius42794279    So named either because he was said to have made use of the bird of Mars, i.e., a woodpecker (picus), in augury, or because according to the legend he was changed into one by Circe. Picus came to this place42804280    i.e., the Aventine. The story is told by Plutarch in his Life of Numa, c. 15, and by Ovid, Fasti, iii. 291 sqq. to drink,—for hither they were wont to come42814281    The ms. reads sollemniter hæc, corrected, as above, solenne iter huc by all edd. except Hild. to draw water,—they might rush on them, seize and bind them. But, that this might be done more speedily, the king filled many42824282    So the ms. and most edd., reading pocula non parvi numeri, for which Elmh. and Orelli have received from the margin of Ursinus, poc non parva mero—“cups of great size, with pure wine.” cups with wine and with mead,42834283    i.e., mulsum. and placed them about the approaches to the fountain, where they would be seen—a crafty snare for those who should come. They, as was their usual custom, when overcome by thirst, came to their well-known haunts. But when they had perceived cups with sweetly smelling liquors, they preferred the new to the old; rushed eagerly upon them; charmed with the sweetness of the draught, drank too much; and becoming drunk, fell fast asleep. Then the twelve youths threw themselves upon the sleepers, and cast chains round them, lying soaked with wine; and they,42844284    i.e., Faunus and Picus. when roused, immediately taught the king by what methods and sacrifices Jupiter could be called down to earth. With this knowledge the king performed the sacred ceremony on the Aventine, drew down Jupiter to the earth, and asked from him the due form of expiation. Jupiter having long hesitated, said, “Thou shalt avert what is portended by thunder with a head.”42854285    Capite. The king answered, “With an onion.”42864286    Cæpitio. Jupiter again, “With a man’s.” The king returned, “But with hair.”42874287    Jupiter is supposed to say humano, meaning capite, to be understood, i.e., “with a man’s head,” while the king supplies capillo—“with a man’s hair.” 490The deity in turn, “With the life.42884288    Anima(ms. lia). With a fish,”42894289    Mæna. There is here a lacuna in the text; but there can be no difficulty in filling it up as above, with Heraldus from Plutarch, or with Gelenius from Ovid, piscis—“with the life of a fish.” rejoined Pompilius. Then Jupiter, being ensnared by the ambiguous terms used, uttered these words: “Thou hast overreached me, Numa; for I had determined that evils portended by thunder should be averted with sacrifices of human heads, not42904290    The ms. and both Roman edd. read Numa, corrected by Gelenius, as above, non. with hair and an onion. Since, however, your craft has outwitted me, have the mode which you wished; and always undertake the expiation of thunder-portents with those things which you have bargained for.”

« Prev Chapter I. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection