Sunday, August 9, 2009

Aricia: Diana & Rex Nemorensis

FROM: Ancient Legends of Rome, by Ettore Pais (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1905)
page 143-146:

"This circumstance, added to the torch which adorned the statue of Diana Aricina, favors a belief in the direct derivation of the cult from Diana Phaeelitis (the torch-bearer), worshipped by the Greeks of Rhegium and of Messana. Moreover, it was related that Virbius, on returning to life, assumed the appearance of an old man, and, though remaining unknown to others, was accorded an ignoble, yet immortal, existence near his beloved Diana.

Virbius (according: to the declarations of the ancients) was the name of a river. Other texts inform us that Virbius was the Sun. The two statements, rather than being mutually exclusive, are supplementary to each other for, the water which descends from the skies is transformed into fountains and rivers. Janus is, at one and the same time, the god of the Sun and of the waters; he is the lover of the fountains Camesa and Juturna, and of the spring Venilia, - that is, of the nymph which represented the currents of the springs. Likewise, just as Hephaistos, among the Greeks was placed in relation with the ocean, so Vulcan, at Rome, was placed in dose connection with the Tiber. Again, the mention of Egerius as founder of the temple of Diana, and, in even greater degree, certain remains found in the area of the temple, prove that the cult of the waters was closely connected with that of Diana Aricina also. On the whole, it seems a probable supposition that the cult of Virbius and of Diana was related with the cult of the nocturnal light, and that it represents one of the many forms of popular and sacerdotal fancies regarding the relations between the Sun and the Moon which illuminates the woods with its nocturnal light.

The most characteristic touch of the cult was, however, that one relating to its priest. As also in other places, he was considered an emanation and a perpetuation of the god himself. The god was considered a divinity which had to lead an ignoble life, and his priest had to be an escaped slave who with weapons in hand for fear of being slain, continually wandered through the woods. Whosoever killed him became his successor, and inherited the name of rex nemorensus that is, the king of the woods. The general metamorphosis of the cult, and the softening of sentiments, brought it about that, to the writers of the end of the Republic, this cult already seemed strange. There was, however, nothing strange in such cult. It recalls the conditions obtaining in the easiest Latin civilization, reminding us of the roughness and the brutality of the Roman Lupercalia, and of the ferocity of the Luperci, or, better still, of the Hirpini on Mount Soracte, These latter, it will be remembered, in imitation of their totem, the wolf, lived entirely by rapine.

Thus the priest of the Nemus Aricinum, as well as the god, is himself called rex. This brings to mind the asylum which Romulus established on the Capitoline Hill, and that other asylum on the Gelian where Tullus Hostilius or Servius Tullhis received bandits and fugitives. The fact that the legend of the very humble origins of Rome was at no time rejected by the national tradition, and was only partly modified and softened in later ages, is in perfect harmony with this primitive phase of Latin civilization. Moreover, even today in certain regions of southern Italy (where forms of primitive social life still survive) the brigand inspires no averse feelings in the farmer, who does not avoid his society. The bandit is more often the subject of admiration than of fear in the mountain fastnesses of Calabria, Corsica and of Sardinia. Perhaps, too, one may note that, notwithstanding so many centuries of civilization and the softening of customs, the country round about Nerni and Gerizano even today recall at times the ferocity of the ancient inhabitants of the Alban hills. Another series of facts illustrates, in still greater degree, the analogies, indeed the identity, of the cult of the lake at Aricia with that of Diana on the Aventine, The Aventine, being the region sacred to slaves and to fugitives of all the Latin nations, was always excluded from the powerittm* On this hill, not only did the slaves and fugitives find refuge (as for instance in the time of the Gracchi), but here, as well as on the Mons Sacer, was the tribunate of the plebs supposed to have been established. And the plebs, in fact, were originally composed of fugitive slaves and of those without masters.

These analogies extend, also, to the representatives of the cult in the two temples,—the one at Rome, the other at Anew. The priest at Aricia was a servus rex and Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome,, was likewise the son of a slave woman. The servus rex of Aricia had to be a fugitive slave and was obliged to flee continually for fear of assassination by the aspirant to his office,. He was, indeed, the representative and the emanation of that Virbius represented as an aged man, who, under the name Hippolytus, had been trampled upon by the chariot-horses. Similarly, the old , Servius Tullius in vain endeavored to flee in a chariot, and was trampled upon in the Clivus Orbius (or Urbius), where the temple of Diana was situated. Indeed, the Clivus Virbius of Aricia was the street inhabited by beggars, and leading to the temple of Diana. Even today, in the popular speech of Italy, the Sun is called the father of the poor.

There are other points of contact still more remarkable. It is expressly said that Virbius was the Sun and the lover of Diana Aricina. This goddess was worshipped on the ides of August, in other words, in that month which the ancients gratefully placed under the guardianship (tutela) of Vulcan. The ancients also said that Servius Tullius was the son of Vulcan, or of the Sun. To him were sacred the Nones of each month, and his birth was said to have occurred towards the Ides of August. This day, a festal clay of the servi (slaves), was, too, considered the day on which King Serving Ttilltu* dedicated the temple of Diana on the Aventine. Though Virbius was the lover of Diana, Servius Tullius was beloved by Fortuna. In the sacred narratives officially accepted by the Roman priesthood, it was stated that Fortuna secretly visited Servius by night, entering: by the door called Fenesta. It is, therefore, easily understood how the various temples of Fortuna, and particularly that one in the Forum Boarium, were said to have been consecrated by Servius, The divinity worshipped in this temple seems to have been identified with Pudicitia Plebeia, a fact recalling the cult of Diana, which also at Aricia assumed special forms. So true is it, that she was there called Vesta, which reminds us of the Lares discovered in the temple of the goddess, and also of the fact that Servius was considered the son of the domestic Lar, or else of Vulcan.

At any rate, it is certain that chaste Fortuna, who was accustomed to pay her visits by night and veiled, is strongly reminiscent of Diana approaching the sleeping Endymion. To this must be added the fact that the Dianium, which was situated near the vicus Urbius (the later called sceleratus) and which was inhabitated by Servius Tullius, does not seem to differ from the temple and the sanctuary of Fortuna, or of Pudicitia Plebeia, who assisted Servius in his dying moments. The bones of Orestes (which were transported from Aricia) were not buried in the Dianium on the Aventine, but beneath the temple of Saturn in the Forum. The thought naturally arises that there may have been more or less similar cults in the different Latin cities, and that the two temples of Diana (at Rome and at Aricia) were not closely related to each other. Nevertheless, it must be remarked that Roman tradition is consistent in stating that the Aventine was inhabited by the Prisci Latini, and that the temple of Diana Aventinensis was erected by the entire Latin confederation."

Rex Nemorensis is a part of the history of the area. But other than the knowing the story is in Frazer's Golden Bough and mentioned by other classical historians, it does not play a strong part in the pratices associated with the tradition I follow. We do have a strong link to Diana's Day/August 13th. This celebration, known as the Nemoralia by others, is one of our Holy Days.

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