Religious sacrificial ceremonies of Romans in ancient times.

ROME. RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES AND SACRIFICES.

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Roman religious sacrificial ceremonies.

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No. 1 represents an expiatory sacrifice, the Suovetaurilia, consecrated to Jupiter Capitolinus or Mars, usually offered by the triumphator (vir triumphalis, “man of triumph”,) at the end of a lustrum or after a triumphal procession. They consisted, as the name suggests, of a boar (sus), a ram (ovis) and a bull (taurus). They marched in solemn procession with the animals around the sacrificial site and then stabbed them in the throat.

In our picture the train goes around the camp. The emperor represents the place of the Flamen Martialis, the priest of mars, the god of war *), and sacrifices by pouring wine from a bowl (patera) into the flame burning on a brick altar. On one side of the imperial tent there are the standards and on the other side the cage with the holy hens that were used for auspices, i.e. prophecies.

*) Mars was one of the central gods in the ancient Italian religion, especially in Rome and the most important Roman god besides Jupiter. In the founding legend of Rome, Mars is the father of the twins Romulus and Remus and thus the progenitor of the Romans. The month of March, originally the first month of the year for the Romans, was dedicated to Mars.

The altar server at the sacrificial ceremony is Camillus (Latin for “sacrificial servant”), a boy who holds the wine jug; Spondaules blows the double flute, the tibia longa. The sacrificial butchers, Victimarii, carry the animals, which have been sprinkled with mola salsa, salted flour, before. This is the first part of the ceremony. The procession around the place to be cleaned is repeated three times. The bull wears a bandage, vitta, the pig a wreath, sertum. With the exception of the priest and Camillus, all those taking part in the sacrificial ceremony are wreathed.

The papa, an offering servant, opens the procession; his axe is used to stun the bull.
The cultrarius wields the knife that cuts the throats of the animals. The following sacrificial servants carry vessels. One is either an incense burner or a vessel to collect the blood. An offering cake seems to lie on the bowl.

At no. 2 only a bull and fruit are sacrificed; the pine cone is dedicated to the Cybele *). Here too, the emperor offers the sacrifice on the wreathed altar. Camillus holds the acerra, the box from which the incense is taken

*) Until late antiquity, the cult of Kybele and Attis was – similar to the Mithras cult – a mystery cult spread throughout the Roman Empire.

No. 3 also depicts the sacrificial Trajan. The altar is square, but there were also round altars. The altar, ara, was usually made of grass in the field; otherwise it was built of granite, bricks or marble. At the top, there was a cavity for the fire and at the side or at the bottom an opening through which wine, blood and other liquids could run off.

No. 4 shows the activity of the victimarii, the sacrificial servants; the popa uses the back of the axe to deliver the blow that is to stun the bull. They are all wreathed.

No. 5 is the fragment of a Neptune sacrifice; the bull is black. Black animals were also sacrificed to Pluto, the god of the underworld.

No. 6 represents a popa equipped with the malleus, the sacrificial hammer.

No. 7 is the representation of a bloodless sacrifice; in the background, two herm pillars supporting a temple entablature can be seen. This is obviously intended to indicate the holy district. Incense is burned on the altar. A girl serves as an altar girl, for the sacrificing woman, who holds the wine jug and a bowl of fruit or cake.

No. 8 is also a bloodless victim. The music for the holy act is played with a tambourine and a double trumpet.

Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 from the Trajan Column.
Nos. 4, 8 Roman marble reliefs. No. 7 a Roman ivory relief.

(After Montfaucon, L’Antiquité expliquée.)

Source: History of the costume in chronological development by Auguste Racinet. Edited by Adolf Rosenberg. Publisher: Firmin-Didot et cie. Paris, 1888.

Literature: Papers of the British School at Rome. VICTIMARII IN ROMAN RELIGION AND SOCIETY by Jack J. Lennon (2015).

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