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Religion, cult and morality in Salona (I) Respect and duty towards the deities

Luka Donadini orcid id

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 6.342 Kb

str. 41-59

preuzimanja: 147



This article is the first part of the Religion, cult and morality in Salona series. The aim of the series is to investigate what moral beliefs and values were present in religious and cult communities of the ancient Mediterranean, during the period from the beginning of the Roman Principate (1st century) until the development of the cult of martyrs and Christianity in Salona (4-5th century). This goal is fulfilled by implementing the theoretical and methodological principles of both philosophy and historiography. The philosophical side of the inquiry helps us understand what the moral beliefs and values are in the first place. Asking questions about the components of morality naturally leads to the discipline of metaethics. The metaethical arguments and theories are the key
which helps us understand what we are searching for (when we are searching for moral values and beliefs). The metaethical theory which is employed in this series is plan-expressivism, which is developed by A. Gibbard. The theory shows that in order to investigate the moral beliefs and values of ancient religious communities, we need to research the religious beliefs that contain the norms about human’s actions in the world.
The historiographical side of the inquiry helps us reach the material and literary evidence about the religious and cult communities; religious beliefs, cult objects and practices. The historiographical investigation brings forth the data which is fundamental for our embodiment of the facts about the phenomena which was developed in the past. By implementing the various disciplines (archaeology, epigraphy, classical studies, and so on), it is possible to collect the knowledge regarding the state of affairs, and beliefs and values in the past. In this way, historiographical research provides the theoretical system made of
facts about the state of affairs and the facts about beliefs and values in the antiquity. In order to investigate the moral beliefs and values from the antiquity, we need to research the literary evidence from then-contemporary authors and various inscriptions which provide the information about the religious beliefs that contain certain norms about the human’s behavior. Now that we know what exactly we need to search for in order to investigate the morality of ancient cults and religions, we can start with the second part of inquiry – the description of the phenomena. The inquiry itself begins with collecting data from literary
evidence. The data brings forth both the information about the ancient thought regarding the relation between humans and supernatural entities, and about the conception of piety as a value in literal tradition of ancient Mediterranean. What follows is the description of right and wrong actions towards supernatural entities in Hellenic and Latin tradition. This part of article studies the religious beliefs regarding the proper respect and appropriate attitude towards the godly beings. Hellenic and Latin literary tradition use different terms to describe the right actions and duties of a human who relates to some kind of supernatural entity. While defining the human’s relation to godly beings, the Athenian philosophers and their followers claim that the entities need to be properly respected (εὐσέβεια). Further, they claim that the actions towards the supernatural entities must be done in accordance to usual dealings and rules (όσιτης). This topic is also mentioned by Cicero, who claims that a human needs to approach the godly beings with the sense of duty (pietas). He also claims there are additional
rules which must be followed, like the one that a person must clean (castus) when approaching the gods, that humans must show gratitude (gratia) and offer gifts. But that is by no means the end of it. A person must be cautious with her actions in the world, especially in respect to the objects and entities which are under supernatural protection (example: family or a ritual space). When a human fulfills all demands and approaches the supernatural entities with the proper respect and appropriate attitude, then the person adequately bestows the entities with honors (γέρας), which grants the good relations with the gods,
which in turn brings various mercies to the worshiper. During the Roman Mediterranean, a person could pray for various benefits like health, wellbeing, justice, success and so on. The Roman society also observed the signs which could show is their relationship with the supernatural beings disturbed. They would do various cult actions to observe the changes in the supernatural sphere, which verified is there a peace with the gods (pax deum) or the wrath of the gods (ira deum). The supernatural beings were not always merciful, but could bring trouble and pain. If someone made a bad relation with the gods, or made a sacrifice
without any respect; if they talked badly about the gods or said the wrong words, they could have brought misfortune and disaster to individuals and the community as a whole. Hellenic authors thought those actions as wrong, while the wrongdoing individual was thought of as hated by the gods. On the other hand, Cicero once claimed that the supernatural entities send disasters to show the Romans that their deeds were foul. To act rightly towards the supernatural sphere, the Latin tradition thought that humans need to offer the appropriate gifts for the gods, while approaching them with the sense of duty (pietas). The person must be clean (castus) and with clean (pura) and uncorrupted mind and voice. If something goes missing, the wrath of gods (ira deum) takes place. The
things which certainly brought ira deum were considered nefas and scelus. These terms were used to denote acts and objects which were threatening to the relation between the human and the supernatural entity. These actions and objects could make a person unclean and would result in some kind of ransgression against the gods. The cleanness of the body could be polluted with blood. The worst crime against the supernatural and natural sphere was the murder of the parent. The gods could also be offended by sexual transgression during the cult ceremonies and incest. On the other hand, the relation towards gods could be threatened if a person makes a wrong sacrifice. That is why Roman society encouraged various norms regarding the cult objects, ritual space and the person’s
behavior during the acts. The peace of gods could be disturbed by inadequate actions, or with a bad speech. That is why the worshipers had to follow the rule of silence (favete linguis) and speak only good words (dicamus bona verba). Worshipers had to bear in mind that they should not pollute the ritual space by any means, and that they offer clean gifts to the supernatural patrons. This information can be set in relation to the findings in the specific empirical situation – city of Salona. There stood an altar dedicated to Jupiter (137 AD). The inscription from the altar states that the space round it is marked and set under the divine
protection. The written evidence from the ancient authors claims that people had to take care of their actions and act properly in the area which is marked by the sacred borders. The ritual space had to be adequately marked and taken care of so that it does not get polluted. To ensure that the cult actions in close vicinity of the the altar are being done correctly, the inscription calls upon the laws which were written on the altar of Diana on the Aventine. In historiography, the laws are known as lex area Diane in Aventino. Outside of the Salona, they are mentioned on the inscriptions in Narbo and Ariminium (2nd century AD). Even
though the content of the laws is unknown, we can assume they were set up to secure the proper conduct towards the sanctuary and the cult objects. According to the written tradition, a person had to take care regarding the ritual formulas because it was believed that the improper sacrifice could summon the wrath of gods (ira deum). The inscription also brings the information regarding the worship. It states that the sacrifice is valid even in the case if someone makes an offering without exposing (or presenting) the additional parts of the victim (magmentum). As it was believed that wrongly committed sacrifice
could lead to the wrath of gods, a worshiper who read this line could be sure that she is not doing anything wrong that could hurt her relationship with the supernatural beings. While doing so, a worshiper could follow the instruction from the altar and act in accordance to it. In that case, the belief «that worship could be properly done even if someone does not expose the magmentum» functions as a norm which influences reasoning and behavior of the person who dwells in cult actions. In that respect, it is presumed that a written norm regarding the human actions in the world stood in Salona (137 AD), which could be followed during actions, and would ensure that a person acts in accordance to what is right, and avoids what is wrong; that the sacrifice is valid even though a person does not expose (or present) magmentum.

Ključne riječi

ancient Rome; religion; cult; morality; right; wrong; piety; duty; worship; pietas; eusebeia; Salona; Jupiter

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