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THE MAKING OF EUROPE / EARLY EUROPEAN HISTORY

From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS

IV. THE RISE OF ROME TO 264 B.C.

Em. Macron, Rediscovering the Path to Europe
Em. Macron, Rediscovering the Path to Europe


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Page 11

WORSHIP OF THE HOUSEHOLD DEITIES

The daily worship of these deities took place at the family meal. The table would be placed at the side of the hearth, and when the father and his family sat down to it, a little food would be thrown into the flames and a portion of wine poured out, as an offering to the gods. The images of the Lares and Penates would also be fetched from the shrine and placed on the table in token of their presence at the meal. This religion of the family lasted with little change throughout the entire period of Roman history.

 

JANUS AND VESTA

The early Roman state was only an enlarged family, and hence the religion of the state was modeled after that of the family. Some of the divinities, such as Janus and Vesta, were taken over with little change from the domestic worship. The entrance to the Forum formed a shrine of Janus, [13] which Numa himself was said to have built. The door, or gateway, stood open in time of war, but shut when Rome was at peace. At the south end of the Forum stood the round temple of Vesta, containing the sacred hearth of the city. Here Vesta was served by six virgins of free birth, whose duty it was to keep the fire always blazing on the altar. If by accident the fire went out, it must be relighted from a "pure flame," either by striking a spark with flint or by rubbing together two dry sticks. Such methods of kindling fire were those familiar to the prehistoric Romans.

[13] Since a door (janua) had two sides, Janus, the door god, was represented with the curious double face which appears on Roman coins. The month of January in the Julian calendar was named for him.

 

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THE MAKING OF EUROPE / EARLY EUROPEAN HISTORY: Table of Contents

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Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy

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