Zonaras 7.5 Part III – Numa’s Religious Reforms

Numa Pompilius attempts to civilize the Romans by turning their minds from war to the cultivation of divine favor:

Bound by these considerations, Numa sacrificed to the gods and then set out to Rome, where the senate and people sang his praises and greeted him warmly. When they then called together the assembly and presented him with the regal insignia, he ordered them to hold off and said that he needed Jupiter, too, to ratify his rule. He then ascended the Capitoline, made a sacrifice, and then finally taking up the regal insignia, he descended once again.

As soon as he assumed the throne, he disbanded the group of three-hundred, which Romulus always had about his person. For he said that it was not right to distrust those who trusted him, nor did he think it a worthy thing to be king of those who distrusted him. Next, he undertook to make the city, which to this point was rough and warlike, a bit more civilized and peaceful. He forbid the erection of an anthropomorphic statue of Zeus by the Romans. For this reason, there was among them no drawn or sculpted images of the god, and in a period of 170 years they made no anthropomorphic images in the shrines which they erected, considering it irreligious to manufacture things which were superior to our hands, and because it was not possible to seize upon a god otherwise than as he intended. Numa also ordered that sacrifices be made bloodless by using barley and libations, because it was necessary that the gods, being as they were guardians of peace and justice, should be pure of any murder. Nor, he insisted, should anyone listen or watch anything pertaining to the gods as a distraction or with little care; rather, they should take a break from other affairs and focus their attention upon piety, since it was the most important affair. From these things and many more which I have not mentioned, Numa fashioned from custom the religious constitution of the state for the people of the time. They say that Numa himself was so hung up on his hopeful notions about the gods that when it was announced to him in the middle of a sacrifice that Rome’s enemies were at hand, he simply smiled and said, “Ah, but I am sacrificing.” Numa also distributed the land, which Romulus had acquired in war, to the needy citizens; in so going, he alleviated their poverty, which he considered a necessary cause of injustice, and turned it into the pursuit of agriculture, which he thought helped to soften the people while making their love of a powerful peace much more keenly perceptible.

Τούτοις ἐνδεδωκὼς ὁ Νόμας θύσας τοῖς θεοῖς προῆγεν εἰς ῾Ρώμην· ὑπήντα δὲ ἡ βουλὴ καὶ ὁ δῆμος εὐφημοῦντες καὶ χαίροντες. ἐπεὶ δὲ κατέστησαν εἰς τὴν ἀγοράν, προσφερομένων αὐτῷ τῶν βασιλικῶν παρασήμων, ἐπισχεῖν κελεύσας ἔφη δεῖσθαι καὶ θεοῦ τὴν βασιλείαν ἐμπεδοῦντος αὐτῷ. ἄνεισιν οὖν εἰς τὸ Καπιτώλιον, καὶ θύσας, οὕτω τε τὴν βασιλικὴν ἀναλαβὼν ἐσθῆτα, κατέβαινε.

Παραλαβὼν δὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν πρῶτον μὲν τὸ τῶν τριακοσίων διέλυσε σύστημα, οὓς περὶ τὸ σῶμα ῾Ρωμύλος εἶχεν ἀεί· οὐ γὰρ δεῖν ἀπιστεῖν πιστεύουσιν ἔλεγεν, οὐδὲ βασιλεύειν ἀπιστούντων ἠξίου· εἶτα τὴν πόλιν ἐκ σκληρᾶς καὶ πολεμικῆς ἐπεχείρει μαλακωτέραν ποιῆσαι καὶ εἰρηνικωτέραν. ἀνθρωποειδῆ τε καὶ ζωόμορφον εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἀνιστᾶν ῾Ρωμαίοις ἀπείρηκεν· ὅθεν οὐδ’ ἦν παρ’ αὐτοῖς οὔτε γραπτὸν οὔτε πλαστὸν εἶδος θεοῦ, ἐν ἑκατὸν δὲ πρὸς ἑβδομήκοντα ἔτεσι ναῶν αὐτοῖς ἀνεγειρομένων οὐδὲν ἔμμορφον ἐποίουν ἀφίδρυμα, ὡς οὔτε ὅσιον ἀφομοιοῦν τοῖς χείροσι τὰ βελτίονα οὔτε ἐφάπτεσθαι ἄλλως θεοῦ δυνατὸν ἢ νοήσει. καὶ τὰς θυσίας δὲ ἀναιμάκτους ποιεῖσθαι ἐθέσπισε δι’ ἀλφίτων τε καὶ σπονδῆς· δεῖν γὰρ τοὺς θεούς, εἰρήνης καὶ δικαιοσύνης φύλακας ὄντας, φόνου καθαροὺς εἶναι· μήτε δὲ ἀκούειν τι τῶν θείων μήτε ὁρᾶν ἐν παρέργῳ καὶ ἀμελῶς, ἀλλὰ σχολὴν ἄγοντας ἀπὸ τῶν ἄλλων καὶ προσέχοντας τὴν διάνοιαν ὡς πράξει μεγίστῃ τῇ περὶ τὴν εὐσέβειαν. ἐκ δὲ τούτων καὶ ἄλλων πλειόνων, ἃ διὰ τὸ πλῆθος παρήκαμεν, διάθεσιν πρὸς τὸ θεῖον τοῖς τότε ἀνθρώποις ἐξ ἐθισμοῦ ὁ Νόμας ἐνεποίησεν. αὐτὸν δὲ οὕτω φασὶν εἰς τὸ θεῖον ἀνηρτῆσθαι ταῖς ἐλπίσιν ὥστε προσαγγελίας αὐτῷ θύοντί ποτε γινομένης ὡς ἐπέρχονται πολέμιοι μειδιᾶσαι καὶ εἰπεῖν “ἐγὼ δὲ θύω.” καὶ τὴν χώραν δὲ ἣν αἰχμῇ ῾Ρωμύλος ἐκτήσατο διένειμεν οὗτος τοῖς ἀπόροις τῶν πολιτῶν, ἀφαιρῶν ἐξ αὐτῶν τὴν ἀπορίαν, ὡς ἀνάγκην τῆς ἀδικίας ποιητικήν, καὶ τρέπων εἰς γεωργίαν, ὡς ταύτης ἐξημερούσης τὸν δῆμον καὶ δριμὺν εἰρήνης δυναμένης ἐμποιεῖν ἔρωτα.

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