The religio-political change in the reign of Augustus: the disappearance of public prodigies

Author: Chalupa, Aleš
Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2012, vol. 17, iss. 2, pp. [57]-67
Extent
[57]-67
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Type
Article
Language
English
License: Not specified license
Abstract(s)
The article explores the causes which led to the final disappearance of the Roman Republican practice of the expiation of public prodigies (ill-boding divinatory signs) in the beginning of the principate. After a short exposition of the system of Roman expiation of public prodigies, individual theories explaining their disappearance are explored in greater detail. These theories are dismissed as either erroneous or incomplete, e.g. these operating with the general decline of Roman republican religion, philosophical criticism of superstitious religious practices, abuse of prodigies in political controversies or for self-advertisement of important noblemen, loss of their importance after the political unification of Italy, etc. In conclusion, the author of this article formulates an alternative theory explaining the reasons behind their ultimate disappearance: they were so closely connected with the values of Roman political and religious elites and played such an important role in the process of building Roman national identity that they lost their rationale after the establishment of the principate, since from that time these values were invested into and this role played by Roman emperors and their families.
Summary language
Document
References:
[1] Alföldy, Géza. 1989. " Die Krise des Imperium Romanum und die Religion Roms ". In Eck, Werner [ed.]. Religion und Gesellschaft in der Römischen Kaiserzeit. Kolloquium zu Ehren von Friedrich Vittinghoff. Köln – Wien, 53–102.

[2] Allély, Annie. 2003. " Les enfants malformés et considérés comme des prodigia à Rome et en Italie sous la Républic ." Revue des études anciennes, 105, 127–156.

[3] Barrett, Justin – Nyhof, Melanie A. 2001. " Spreading Non-natural Concepts. The Role of Intuitive Conceptual Structures in Memory and Transmission of Cultural Materials ." Journal of Cognition and Culture, 1, 69–100. | DOI 10.1163/156853701300063589

[4] Beard, Mary. 1986. " Cicero and Divination. The Formation of a Latin Discourse ." Journal of Roman Studies, 76, 33–46. | DOI 10.2307/300364

[5] Beard, Mary – North, John – Price, Simon. 1998. Religions of Rome I. A History . Cambridge.

[6] Becher, Ilse. 1985. " Tiberüberschwemmungen. Die Interpretation von Prodigien in Augusteischer Zeit ." Klio, 67, 471–479.

[7] Bertrand-Encavil, Estelle. 1994. " Présages et propagande idéologique. À propos d'un list concernant Octavien August ." Mélanges de l'École Francaise de Rome, Antiquité, 106, 487–531.

[8] Beuret, Fraçois. 2001. Naissance prodigieuse d'animaux et animaux auteurs de prodigesdans l'Antiquité romaine . Neuchâtel. Available from URL [cit. 2006–11–24].

[9] Bloch, Raymond. 1963. Les prodiges dans l'antiquité classique (Grèce, Étrurie et Rome) . Paris.

[10] Boyer, Pascal. 1994. The Naturalness of Religious Ideas . Berkeley.

[11] Boyer, Pascal. 2000. " Functional Origins of Religious Concepts: Ontological and Strategic Selection in Evolved Minds ." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, (n.s.) 6, 195–214. | DOI 10.1111/1467-9655.00012

[12] Boyer, Pascal. 2001. Religion Explained. The human instincts that fashion gods, spirits and ancestors . London.

[13] Boyer, Pascal. 2002. " Why do gods and spirits matter at all? " In Pyysiäinen, Ilkka – Anttonen, Veikko [eds.]. Current Approaches in the Cognitive Science of Religion. London, 68–92.

[14] Champeaux, Jacqueline. 1996. " Pontifes, haruspices et décemvirs. L'expiation des prodiges de 207 ." Revue des études latines, 74, 67–91.

[15] Crake, J. E. A. 1940. " The Annals of the Pontifex Maximus ." Classical Philology, 35, 375–386. | DOI 10.1086/362426

[16] Detienne, Marcel – Svenbro, Jesper. 1989. " The Feast of the Wolves, or Impossible City ." In: Detienne, Marcel – Vernant, Jean-Pierre [eds.]. The Cuisine of Sacrifice among the Greeks. Chicago, 148–163.

[17] Drews, Robert. 1988. " Pontiffs, Prodigies, and the Disappearance of the Annales Maximi ." Classical Philology, 83, 289–299. | DOI 10.1086/367120

[18] Dumézil, Georges. 1970a. Archaic Roman Religion I . Baltimore – London.

[19] Dumézil, Georges. 1970b. Archaic Roman Religion II . Baltimore – London.

[20] Eckstein, Arthur M. 1982. " Human Sacrifice and Fear of Military Disaster in Republican Rome ." American Journal of Ancient History, 7, 69–95.

[21] Flory, Marleen B. 1989. " Octavian and the Omen of the Gallina Alba ." Classical Journal, 84, 343–356.

[22] Frier, B. W. 1979. Libri annales pontificum maximorum. The Origines of the Annalistic Tradition . Roma.

[23] Gordon, Richard. 1990a. " From Republic to Principate: Priesthood, Religion and Ideology ." In: Beard, Mary – North, John [eds.]. Pagan Priests. Religion and Power in the Ancient World. London, 179–198.

[24] Gordon, Richard. 1990b. " The Veil of Power: Emperors, Sacrificers and Benefactors ." In: Beard, Mary – North, John [eds.]. Pagan Priests. Religion and Power in the Ancient World. London, 201–231.

[25] Grandazzi, Alexandre. 1993. " Intermortua iam et sepulta verba (Festus, 242 L). Les mots de la divination chez Verrius Flaccus ." Caesarodunum Supplementum, 63, 31–92.

[26] Grandet, Pierre. 1986. " Les songes d'Atia et d'Octavius ." Revue d'histoire des religions, 203, 365–379.

[27] Günther, Rigobert. 1964. " Der politisch-ideologische Kampf in der römischen Religion in den letzten zwei Jahrhunderten v.u.Z ." Klio, 42, 209–297.

[28] Levene, David S. 1993. Religion in Livy . Leiden.

[29] Linderski, Jerzy. 1982. " Cicero and Roman Divination ." Parola del Passato, 37, 12–38.

[30] Linderski, Jerzy. 1990. " Mommsen and Syme. Law and Power in the Principate of Augustus ." In: Raaflaub, Kurt A. – Toher, Mark [eds.]. Between Republic and Empire: Interpretation of Augustus and His Principate. Berkeley, 42–53.

[31] Liebeschuetz, John H. W. G. 1979. Continuity and Change in Roman Religion . Oxford.

[32] Lisdorf, Anders. 2004. " The Spread of Non-Natural Concepts. Evidence from the Roman Prodigy Lists ." Journal of Cognition and Culture, 4, 151–173. | DOI 10.1163/156853704323074796

[33] MacBain, Bruce. 1982. Prodigy and Expiation. A Study in Religion and Politics in Republican Rome . Bruxelles.

[34] MacInnes, Deborah. 2000. " 'Dirum ostentum': Bee Swarm Prodigies at Roman Military Camps ." In: Deroux, Carl [ed.]. Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History X. Bruxelles, 56–69.

[35] MacMullen, Ramsey. 1981. Paganism in the Roman Empire . New Haven – London.

[36] Momigliano, Arnaldo. 1984. " The Theological Efforts of the Roman Upper Classes in the First Century B.C. " Classical Philology, 79, 199–211. | DOI 10.1086/366860

[37] Morgan, Gwyn M. 2001. " Omens in Tacitus' Histories I–III ." In: Wildfang, Robin Lorsch – Isager, Jacob [eds.]. Divination and Portents in the Roman World. Odense, 25–42.

[38] Mommsen, Theodor. 1909. " Epistula de Romanorum Prodigiis ad Ottonem Jahnem ." In: Mommsen, Theodor. Gesammelte Schiften VII. Berlin, 168–174.

[39] Moussy, Claude. 1977. " Esquisse de l'histoire de monstrum ." Revue des études latines, 55, 345–369.

[40] Pyysiäinen, Ilkka. 2004. Magic, Miracles, and Religion. A Scientist's Perspective . Walnut Creek.

[41] Rasmussen, Susanne W. 2001. " Cicero's Stand on Prodigies: A Non-existent Dilemma? " In: Wildfang, Robin Lorsch – Isager, Jacob [eds.]. Divination and Portents in the Roman World. Odense, 9–24.

[42] Rasmussen, Susanne W. 2003. Public Portents in Republican Rome . Roma.

[43] Rawson, Elizabeth. 1971. " Prodigy List and the Use of the Annales Maximi ." Classical Quarterly, 21, 158–169. | DOI 10.1017/S0009838800028895

[44] Rosenberger, Veit. 1998. Gezähmte Götter. Das Prodigienwesen der römischen Republik . Stuttgart.

[45] Ruoff-Väänänen, Eeva. 1972. " The Roman public prodigia and the ager Romanus ." Arctos, 7, 139–162.

[46] Sperber, Dan. 1996. Explaining Culture. A Naturalistic Approach . Oxford.

[47] Vigourt, Annie. 2001. Les présages impériaux d'Auguste à Domitien . Paris.

[48] Warde-Fowler, William. 1911. The Religious Experience of Roman People . London.

[49] Wardman, Alan. 1982. Religion and Statecraft among the Romans . Baltimore.

[50] Wildfang, Robin Lorsch. 2001. " The Propaganda Omens. Six Dreams Involving Augustus ." In: Wildfang, Robin Lorsch – Isager, Jacob [eds.]. Divination and Portents in the Roman World. Odense, 43–56.

[51] Wülker, Ludwig. 1903. Die geschichtliche Entwicklung des Prodigienwesens bei den Römern . Studien zur Geschichte und Überlieferung der Staatsprodigien, Leipzig.