This tradition is sometimes called "Religio Romana" or "Roman Paganism". To have your event listed here, send details to "editor AT cultusdeorumromanorum DOT org". Meetup tag for Twitter, Flickr and YouTube: #CDRMup.

Cultus Deorum Meetups Worldwide

Join us in our Facebook Group.
Follow cultusdeorum on Twitter
Join our discussions on Facebook or Yahoo!

Romans, though you’re guiltless, you’ll still expiate
your fathers’ sins, till you’ve restored the temples,
and the tumbling shrines of all the gods,
and their images, soiled with black smoke.
~Horace, Odes, III, 6; A. S. Kline trans.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Daily Roman Calendar by Email

In the traditional Roman calendar, some days were lucky and some days were unlucky. Some days were dedicated to certain gods, and there were the major annual festivals to keep track of. Add to this the unusual (to our minds today) calendar system, and there is ample room for confusion. The busy modern cultor can use some help.

The Yahoo group "fasti" has just one purpose: to deliver a daily Roman calendar (with major festivals and the character of each day indicated) to the mailboxes of subscribers. A great part of the utility of the daily messages is contained in the message header alone. There you will see the date in two formats, ancient (Latin) and modern (English). You will be told if a day is unlucky ("ater") and other information that is probably only of interest to those who are active in a sacer publica that is timed too match that of Roma Antiqua. There are notifications and descriptions of the major public holidays. Since these arrive just a day before the holiday, they are not very useful for planning, but all in all the fasti mailing list is a nice way to get in the rhythm of the Roman calendar and to get some daily exposure to Roman dates.

Message frequency:

  • 1 ordinary calendar post per day, arriving about 24 hours before the start of day.
  • no more than one "administrivia" post per month.
  • occasional special information posts.

To subscribe, send any mail (even empty) to "".
To unsubscribe, send any mail (even empty) to "".

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cicero—The Duties of Government Officials (Harper's Magazine)

Harper's Magazine recently carried a book notice which demonstrates the relevance of Cicero's "De Officiis" ("On Duties") to the 21st century. The pressures facing those in office, and the temptations, were well known to Cicero. In the third part of his book, Cicero challenges us to think outside the box. If we seem to be faced with a choice between doing what is "right" or doing what gives us "advantage", the basic problem is that we misunderstand the situation, says Cicero. He forces us to look more carefully, because, he says, doing the right thing is always the more advantageous choice, and he explains why.
"Cambridge University Press has just published Steve Sheppard’s new book I Do Solemnly Swear, an inquiry into the moral obligations of legal officials. Like Sir Edward Coke before him, Sheppard has taken a series of quotations from De Officiis as the epigram for each chapter, which in a sense is an extended meditation on Cicero’s text and an ample demonstration of its modernity. The work is a wonderful discussion of material that is, to our lasting harm, long underappreciated." Cicero—The Duties of Government Officials (Harper's Magazine)

Bill Thayer's site, Lacus Curtius, has the entire 1913 Loeb text of "De Officiis" (in English) online.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Introduction to Roman Religion

John Scheid, An Introduction to Roman Religion. Indiana University Press, 2003.

The work is divided into neatly arranged sections as follows: 1) The scholarly "baggage" that has conditioned the study of Roman religion. 2) Definition and concepts. 3) Rituals. 4) Sacred Time. 5) Sacred Space. 6) Sacrifices. 7) Auspices and Divination. 8)Priests. 9) Gods. 10) The historical interpretation of Roman Religion according to political, philosophical and mystical models.

This is a highly organized, clearly written text that manages to effectively convey its points. Those with no prior exposure to the serious study of Roman religion will have no problem following the author's thematic divisions of the subjects. There are sufficient charts, diagrams, illustrations, bullet points, and excerpts from other works to aid in the clarity of data. The book also contains a chronology of events, a glossary of terms, a listing of important people and a bibliography for more specialized study. In short, it's a triumph of elucidation.

The other triumph of the book is achieved in Scheid's introductory chapter. He attempts to counter some of the approaches to the study of Roman Religion that have held the subject hostage to biased and erroneous assumptions. If we are to study Roman Religion, we have to see it as it really is. Not through the hostile eyes of Christian contemporaries. Not as a carbon copy of Greek, Etruscan, or Indo-European religion. Certainly not through the now defunct "numina" theory. With scholars like Scheid, we can now finally begin to understand the Romans and their religions as what they really were, not what other people would want them to be.

Now for the negatives. Some of Scheid's conclusions are questionable, I would daresay. In one area, he denies the importance of the private cult of Vesta, heretofore seen as one of the linchpins of Roman religion. In another area he denies the impact of the Oriental cults on the development of Christianity. Scheid does offer something in the way of evidence for his assertions, but on the whole I'm far from convinced. Scheid may actually be going too far in his attempts to correct previous assumptions about Roman religion. Some of these assertions are practically revolutionary, and I feel revolutions need a better grounding than what I saw illustrated here.

My other complaint is that I felt some of the parts were lacking. I understand this is an "introductory" text, but I felt there was still room to cover some topics in greater detail. For instance, the chapter on the gods I felt was pretty slim. The author no doubt assumes we are familiar with Roman gods via widespread knowledge of Greek mythology. The problem with that is twofold. Fist, these days most people's exposure to Greek mythology and religion is superficial at best. Second, the Roman gods are oft viewed rather differently than their alleged Greek counterparts, and their cults evolved considerably over the course of the centuries. Delving into greater exposition would impress upon the reader the uniqueness of Roman polytheism, without seriously detracting from the brevity of an introductory text.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, but not unequivocally. I would recommend reading it in conjunction with another major scholar such as Robert Turcan. The serious study of Roman religion has just begun, and while Scheid certainly deserves his place in the epic, he is far from being the last word.

Originally posted at Thursday, 13 August 2009 15:02 Ursus

Sunday, November 21, 2010

December calendar

The first day of the month is the Kalends, sacred to Juno. The Nones falls on the 5th and the Ides, sacred to Jupiter, falls on the 13th. The 2nd, 6th and 14th are unlucky (ater).

Sacra Publica
17th to 23rd: Saturnalia
25th: Sol Invictus
Varies: Compitalia

Bona Dea: Rites to Bona Dea were conducted on a variable date near the beginning of December by the wife of the senior magistrate present in Rome, assisted by the Vestal Virgins. They were conducted in the magistrate's home, not at Bona Dea's temple. Participation was by invitation only and men were strictly excluded.

Saturnalia: "The best of days" according to the poet Catullus begins on the 17th and continues to the 23rd. Saturnalia is the festival honoring Saturnus, who introduced agriculture and the arts of civilized life. It was the season when agricultural work was completed; a sort of joyous Thanksgiving-type holiday of relaxation and merriment. During Saturnalia, businesses, courts and schools were closed. Learn more from the Saturnalia post.

Sol Invictus: 25th. Did a festival in honor of the sun form the basis of Christmas celebrations? Pope Leo I said there was no connection, but the New Catholic Encyclopedia says there is. It is clearly a vexed question and not a concern of ours. We do know that Sol had several temples in early Rome, so it is fitting that we honor Sol at some time. While it is true that other gods also were sometimes called "Invictus" (Undefeated), that does not prevent us from making the association of the Undefeated Sun with the beginning of the northward return of the sun, clearly visible on the 25th, several days after the winter solstice. Romans decorated living trees outdoors, and so can we, topping our trees with a sun, a symbol of our gratitude for his warmth.

Compitalia: The Compitalia is a feria conceptiva, a festival whose day was set annually by the magistrates or priests. The Compitalia was always in the winter, from a few days after the Saturnalia (Dionysus) to early January (the 2nd, says Cicero in a letter).


Get ready for Saturnalia and support this site by purchasing from our shops:
All proceeds go to supporting the Cultus Deoorum.

Saturnalia Events Worldwide

12th December: Aquincum Museum, Budapest, Hungary. More information.

16th December: Roman Saturnalia Parade, Chester, Cheshire, UK. 16 December. More Information.

18th December: Temple Of Venus Genetrix, Nashville TN, USA. Saturnalia Festival and Opalia. $20.00 per person. More information.

See the Meetup Everywhere map for more events!

Gift suggestions

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Get ready for Saturnalia!

(This entry is from our calendar, but Saturnalia is so popular, and the season is so busy, that it seems best to post this now, so there will be enough time to prepare.)

Saturnalia, "the best of days" according to the poet Catullus, begins on the 17th and continues to the 23rd. Saturnalia is the festival honoring Saturnus, who introduced agriculture and the arts of civilized life. It was the season when agricultural work was completed; a sort of joyous Thanksgiving-type holiday of relaxation and merriment. During Saturnalia, businesses, courts and schools were closed.

Albius Tibulus, the elegaic poet wrote of the time when Saturn reigned and all people lived a happy pastoral life (Tibulus I.3):

How fine was human life in Saturn’s reign, before the earth was opened up to far campaigns!

No mast had then yet dared to tempt the azure waves nor spread its billowing canvas to the winds;

no trader, wandering alien lands in search of gain, had yet weighed down his ship with foreign wares.

No burly oxen then submitted to the yoke; no broken horses tamely champed the bit.

No house had doors, no stones were fixed among the fields to mark off acreage in rigid bounds.

The oaks themselves dripped honey, and of themselves the ewes brought swollen udders to the carefree folk.

There were no battle-lines, no wrath, no wars, nor had the harsh smith’s ruthless cunning forged the blade.
Saturnalia was a time for gift-giving. The 13th and 14th books of Martial's Epigrams (titled Xenia and Apophoreta, respectively) and published on Saturnalia in 84 or 85 CE, give us the best information about the wide range of possible gifts; they are clever tags, describing the gifts in oblique ways. Most in Xenia are foods; smoked cheese, radishes, raisins, a jar of plums. The gifts in Apophoreta are more varied, ranging from dice, a stylus case and a toothpick to a dinner couch, Arretine vases and dishes inlaid with gold.

Saturnalia was a time when normal rules were broken. The formal toga was not worn, but the informal synthesis was worn instead. (Wear your most comfortable and colorful tunic.) The conical felt "freedman's cap" was worn as well. Slaves were allowed to gamble, and within bounds were allowed freedom when speaking to their masters. Slaves ate first and the masters later.

Saturnalia Today

"For how many years shall this festival abide! Never shall age destroy so holy a day! While the hills of Latium remain and father Tiber, while thy Rome stands and the Capitol thou hast restored to the world, it shall continue" (Statius, Silvae, I.6.98ff)

Saturnalia falls at the time when non-Romans are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice and/or Kwanzaa. Individuals may choose different approaches to the challenge of celebrating in the spirit of Rome without cutting themselves off from the culture in which they live. Here are some ideas:

  • Wear the colors of the holiday, green and gold.
  • Decorate over doorways, windows and even stairs with greenery. Garlands or wreaths are ideal. Add golden cutouts of the sun or golden pine-cones, nuts, acorns.
  • If you have living trees on your own property, hang them with sun symbols, stars, and faces of the God Janus (who watches over the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one). In Roman times, trees were not brought indoors but were decorated where they grew. It is also possible to decorate living plants in pots.
  • Make cookies in the shapes of fertility symbols, suns and moons and stars, and herd animal shapes. You can make your own cookie cutters if you're keen! Use green and/or gold food colors or sprinkles.
  • If you are of legal drinking age where you live, make some mulsum, a drink of wine and honey.
  • Greet people with the traditional cry of "Io, Saturnalia!" This is pronounced "eeyo sa-tur-NAL-ee-uh".
  • Invite your friends for a feast and a party on December 17th. Saturnalia is a joyous holiday and Romans shared it with friends and family.
  • Give small presents, including presents of food or sweets, or candles or lamps. Attach a clever note or a short witty poem to your gifts. Read the Roman poet Martial ("Xenia" and "Apophoreta") for some authentic examples from Roman times.
  • Clean your lararium. Safely light a candle there. Display and decorate a statue of Saturnus, if you have one, or a photo of a statue or painting of him.
  • Togas were not worn for Saturnalia, but tunics were. Tunic instructions are here, and also see elsewhere on this page for links to more Roman WikiHow articles.

Check the Meetup Everywhere map to find a Saturnalia event near you, or to create your own.


at CafePress

USA | UK | Canada | Australia
Get ready for Saturnalia and support this site by purchasing from our shops:

All proceeds go to supporting the Cultus Deorum.

Gift suggestions

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Google Translate - Latin is in alpha

Google Translate has rolled out Latin translation, which is still in the alpha stage. This is good news for all cultores because going back to the primary sources in the original Latin is a very good and rewarding thing. Anything that helps Latin to be more accessible is a good thing in our eyes, and we expect that Google Translate will be useful not only for quick translations but also as an aide to studying the Latin language.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Meetup Everywhere

To help cultores find each other, and to promote active participation in local community activities, a "Meetup Everywhere" site has been created here.

"Meetup Everywhere" is different from normal "Meetup" groups in not being associated with any particular place. "Meetup Everywhere" is worldwide in scope, and anyone can initiate a meeting. We hope that this will be a useful tool for our community.

NEW: Follow Meetup Everywhere activity on Twitter at @cultusdeorum. Meetup tag for Twitter, Flickr and YouTube: #CDRMup.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Survey of recent developments

M. Moravius Piscinus, Pontifex Maximus of Nova Roma, surveys developments over the last few years and talks about the future of the cultus deorum. This blog is independent of Nova Roma, and it is focused on the sacra privata, whereas Nova Roma has as its main focus the sacra publica. Still, M. Moravius has been a leading figure in the cultus deorum for quite some time, so it is worth reading what he has to say. This is an excerpt:

Ad Futura: The Ancient Religion of Rome in Modern Life

Conventus Dacia MMDCCLXI, Baiae Herculane, Romania, August 24, 2010

August 2008 was the first occasion when two Consuls of Nova Roma from different continents, one from North America and one from Europe, met one another while in office. It was also the first year when Pontifices from different countries held a conference and celebrated rituals together. This event came after the Consuls and Pontifices M. Horatius and T. Sabinus had for the first time in Nova Roma's history invited other organizations of the Religio Romana in joint religious celebrations.
But not all celebrations that year were happy occasions.
In May 2008 Nova Roma saw its first member to die while involved in a war. C. Popillius Strabo died in Iraq while serving in the U.S. Army. He received a military funeral in his hometown. At the request of his widow, his funeral recognized him as a cultor Deorum Romani and member of Nova Roma. Pont. Max. Horatius conducted additional ceremonies, inviting the genius of C. Popillius to return to his home, and called upon the sacred Lares to guide him on to the Blessed Isles.
Eastern Europe has become an exciting region for the Religio Romana....

Read the entire article here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Milestone in Sarmatia

This group in Sarmatia has reason to be proud. Their hard work has raised the foundations for the aedes of Jupiter Perunus above ground.

We are happy to announce that it is now possible to support this important work through PayPal.

Your Dollars, Euros, Yen or Pounds go a long way in Sarmatia. This is not only because of a favorable exchange rate, but also because the cultores there who are building the temple to Jupiter are volunteering their time, skills and labor.