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should be noted that early legal language (like C.™s here) is vague about the subjects of
verbs, which change from clause to clause without warning. The notes on C.™s code (here
and in Book ) are brief: C.™s own commentary, which follows, should be consulted.
A longer list of allegorical gods is at On the Nature of the Gods .±.

Book 

among their slaves when work has been ¬nished; and let it be ordained
that they correspond to the changing seasons of the year. Let priests make
public offerings of speci¬c crops and fruits on days prescribed for speci¬c
sacri¬ces; [20] and let them reserve other days for the offerings of milk and
offspring. And so that offense against this may not be possible, let the
priests set out the plan and annual pattern for these rites, and let them pre-
scribe what sacri¬cial victims are seemly and pleasing to each divinity.
Let there be different priests for the different divinities; let there be pon-
ti¬ces for all, and let there be ¬‚amines for individual gods.· Let the Vestal
Virgins in the city guard the eternal ¬re of the public hearth.
That these things may take place duly and with the proper ritual both pri-
vately and publicly, let those who are ignorant learn from the public
priests. Let there be three types of these: one to preside over ceremonies
and rituals; a second to interpret the mysterious utterances of prophets
and soothsayers summoned by the senate and people. And also let the in-
terpreters of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the public augurs, see to the future
by signs and auspices; [21] let them maintain the discipline; let them in-
struct the priests;° let them employ augury for vineyard and orchard and
for the safety of the people; let them advise by augury the leaders of mili-
tary and civic affairs; and let these leaders obey them. Let them foresee the
anger of the gods and take heed of it; let them observe lightning in the sky
in the customary regions; let them keep free and well-de¬ned the city, the
¬elds, and the temples.± Whatever an augur has declared to be unjust,
wrong, criminal or ill-omened, let those things be void; and let anyone who
does not obey be put to death.
Of treaties of peace, of war, of injuries to ambassadors let the fetials be
judges and messengers; let them make decisions in regard to wars.
If the senate so order, let them refer prodigies and omens to the Etrus-
can soothsayers, and let Etruria teach its leaders the discipline. Let them
perform expiatory rites to whatever divinities they decree, and let them
also expiate lightning and things struck by lightning.
Let there be no nocturnal rites of women other than those which are
duly performed on behalf of the people. Let them initiate no one except
For the ¬‚aminate cf. On the Commonwealth . n. ·.

The three varieties are the ponti¬ces, the board of ±µ for performing rituals (quindecimuiri

sacris faciundis) who were in fact in charge of the oracular Sibylline books, and the augurs.
I.e. the ˜˜Etruscan discipline™™ of interpreting various forms of omens.
Accepting de Plinval™s :docento9.

The text of this sentence and its meaning are very unclear.
The meaning here is uncertain and the text corrupt; this translation accepts Rawson™s
emendation of indotiarum to iniuriarum, retains the manuscript reading oratorum, and
accepts Vahlen™s nontii for the manuscripts™ non.
In particular, the ritual of the Bona Dea celebrated in the home of the urban praetor (the
occasion for Clodius™ sacrilege: below, .).

On the Laws

to Ceres in the customary Greek rite.
[22] Whatever offense against religion is committed that cannot be ex-
piated shall be judged to have been committed impiously; let the public
priests expiate what can be expiated.
At public games which take place without chariots and physical com-
batµ let them supervise public joy in song with lyre and ¬‚ute, and let them
join it with honors to the gods.
Let them observe the best of the ancestral rites.
Other than the slaves of the Idaean Mother “ and they on the permitted
days only “ let no one beg for alms.
Whoever steals or snatches something consecrated or entrusted to a con-
secrated place, let him be as a murderer.
For perjury the divine penalty is destruction; the human one, disgrace.
Let the pontiffs punish incest by the ultimate penalty.
Let no impious person dare to appease the anger of the gods with gifts.
Let vows be carried out scrupulously. Let there be a penalty for the viol-
ation of this law.
Let no one consecrate a ¬eld. Let there be moderation in dedications of
gold, silver, and ivory.
Let private rituals remain in perpetuity.
Let the rights of the spirits of the dead be holy. Let them hold good men
who have died to be gods. Let them limit expense and mourning for them.
[]  ©  µ: How succinctly you have constructed this great law!
But it seems to me that your establishment of religion is not very di¬er-
ent from the laws of Numa and our own customs.·
  µ: Given that Africanus, in the work On the Commonwealth,
seems persuasive in claiming that our early state was the best of all
commonwealths, don™t you think that it is necessary to give laws corre-
sponding to the best commonwealth?
 ©  µ: Indeed I do.
  µ: Then you should expect laws which maintain that best
type of commonwealth; and if I happen to propose some today that nei-
ther are nor have been part of our government, they were in any case
part of ancestral custom, which then had the force of law.

A Greek priestess from southern Italy was in charge of the ritual of Ceres, parallel to the
Eleusinian Mysteries in Athens.
There may be something missing in the text describing the athletic contests.
The Idaean Mother is Cybele (Magna Mater), whose worship was introduced in Rome
from Phrygia in ° ; her slaves were the castrated Galli.
For the laws of Numa see On the Commonwealth ..

Book 

[]  © µ : Then please argue in favor of your law, so that I may
vote for it.
  µ : Really, Atticus? You won™t disagree?
 © µ : Certainly I would suggest nothing major, and in minor
matters I will defer to you, if you wish.
± µ© ® µ : My opinion is the same.
  µ : Be careful; it may take a long time.
 © µ : I hope so. What else would we rather do?
 µ : The law orders people to approach the gods in purity “ pu-
rity of mind, of course, in which everything else resides. It doesn™t ex-
clude physical purity, but it should be understood how much the mind
is superior to the body: purity of body should be respected in approach-
ing the gods, but it is all the more important to preserve that of the
mind. Physical impurity can be removed by a splash of water or the
lapse of a ¬xed number of days, but a stain on the mind does not fade
with time, nor can it be washed out by any river. [µ] As for the com-
mands to display piety and remove luxury, they signify that integrity is
pleasing to god, and expense should be rejected. Surely that is so: if we
wish poverty and wealth to be treated equally among men, then why
should we bar poverty from approaching the gods by adding expense to
rituals? Especially as nothing will be less appealing to the god himself
than not to permit all people equal access to pleasing and cultivating
him. The establishment of the god himself rather than a judge as the en-
forcer of the law seems to reinforce religion by the fear of imminent
For people to worship their own gods, either new or foreign, makes
for confusion of religions and for ceremonies unknown to our priests.
[] It is right for the gods handed down by our ancestors to be wor-
shiped if our ancestors themselves obeyed this law.
I believe that there should be sanctuaries in cities, and I do not fol-
low the view of the Persian magi under whose persuasion Xerxes is said
to have burned the temples of Greece because they enclosed within
walls gods for whom everything ought to be open and free and whose
temple and home is this entire universe.° The view of the Greeks and
of our own people is better, who wanted the gods to dwell in the same
cities as we do in order to increase piety towards the gods. This view
So also On the Nature of the Gods .·±.

Compare On the Commonwealth .“· on Numa™s religious laws.

See On the Commonwealth .±.

On the Laws

supplies a religion useful to states, inasmuch as the statement of Py-
thagoras, a most learned man, is true, that piety and religion occupy
people™s minds most particularly when we are attending to divine wor-
ship; Thales, the wisest of the Seven Sages, also said that humans
ought to think that all which they see is full of the gods, and that all
people would then be more pure, just as when they were in the most
sacred shrines. People think that there is a way in which the gods ap-
pear to our sight as well as to our minds. [·] Groves in the country
have the same rationale, nor should we reject the worship of the Lares,
handed down by our ancestors for both masters and slaves, placed in
sight of the farm and farmhouse.
As for preserving the rituals of family and ancestors, that is “ since
antiquity comes as close as possible to the gods “ to preserve a religion
that is almost handed down by the gods.
That the law orders the worship of those of the human race who
have been consecrated, like Hercules and the rest, indicates that the
souls of all people are immortal but that those of the brave and good are
divine. [] It is also good that Intelligence, Piety, Virtue, and human
Faith be consecrated, to all of whom temples at Rome have been public-
ly dedicated, so that people who have those qualities “ and all good
people have them “ should think that they have actual gods located in
their minds. For what the Athenians did after the expiation of the
crime of Cylon under the advice of Epimenides the Cretan was wrong:
they made a shrine to Insult and Impudence. It is proper to consecrate
virtues, not vices. The ancient altar to Fever on the Palatine, and the
other on the Esquiline to Bad Luck are execrable, and all such are to be
rejected. If names are to be invented for gods, then that of Vicapota
(named for conquest and control) is preferable, or Stata for standing
¬rm; so also the titles Stayer and Unconquerable for Jupiter, and the
names of desirable things, such as Safety, Honor, Resource, and Vic-
tory. And since the mind is aroused by the expectation of good things,
it was right for Calatinus to consecrate Hope. Let there be a Luck of
This Day “ which is good for all days “ or Luck Paying Notice for
bringing aid, or Chance Luck, signifying uncertain events particularly,
or Luck First Born, from birth . . .±
[] The reason for holidays and festivals is to provide respite from
lawsuits and quarrels for free men, and rest from work and toil for

There is a gap in the text, and the last word of the paragraph is corrupt.

Book 

slaves; and the organization of the year ought to match these to the com-
pletion of agricultural work. In order that the sacri¬cial o¬erings and
the young animals referred to in the law may be kept for this occasion,
it is important to keep close account of intercalation; that practice was
skillfully instituted by Numa but has collapsed through the negligence
of later ponti¬ces. Furthermore, the traditional instructions of the
ponti¬ces and haruspices concerning sacri¬ces should not be altered:
what victims should be o¬ered to which god, and to which god there
should be sacri¬ces of full-grown animals, to which of suckling, to
which male, to which female.
That there should be a number of priests for all the gods, and single
ones for individual gods, provides ease in interpreting the law and per-
forming religious observances. And since Vesta almost contains the
hearth of the city (so she is named using the Greek name, to which ours
is amost identical, not a translation), six virgins should preside over
her worship, so that they may more easily be alert in guarding the ¬re
and so that women may recognize that the nature of woman permits
complete purity.
[°] The clause that follows, however, is relevant not only to religion
but also to the condition of the state: that proper private worship
should not be possible without the people who are in charge of public
rites. For it sustains the commonwealth to have the people always be in
need of the judgment and authority of the nobility, and the organiz-
ation of the priesthoods omits no type of legitimate religion. Some are
established to please the gods, and they are in charge of recurring rit-
uals; others, for interpreting the prophecies of soothsayers “ not so
many soothsayers that their task should be unending, nor in such a way
that anyone outside the college should know even those that are the ob-
ject of public attention. [±] The greatest and most important right in
the commonwealth, which has great authority as well, is that of the au-
gurs. I think this not because I am an augur myself, but because we are
obligated to hold this opinion. If we are considering law, what is more
important than to be able to dismiss electoral or legislative assemblies
summoned by the highest magistrates and o¬cials or to rescind their ac-

Until Caesar™s reform of the calendar in  , regular intercalation of months was

necessary to keep the civil calendar in line with the solar year. In the late republic, the
practice was not adequately maintained, and to correct the calendar the year  had µ
days. Greek hestia is both the hearth and the goddess.
C. was coopted into the augural college in µ.

On the Laws

tions even after they have been taken? What is more solemn than for
business once begun to be broken o¬ if a single augur says ˜˜on another
day™™? What is more grand than to be able to decree that the consuls
should resign their o¬ce? What is more deeply involved in religion
than to give or refuse the right of conducting assemblies of the people
or the plebs?µ Or to annul a law if it was not legally passed, as Titius™
law was annulled by the decree of his colleague, as Livius™ laws were by
the judgment of Philippus who was both consul and augur? Or that
nothing done by a magistrate in civil or military matters can be ap-
proved without their authority?
[]   ©µ : All right; I see and agree that all that is very import-
ant. But there is a great dispute in your college between Marcellus and
Appius, both excellent augurs “ I happen to have been reading their
books. One says that the auspices were established for utility to the
commonwealth; the other, that your discipline is capable of divination.
I would like to know what you think.
  µ: Me? I believe that there is such a thing as divination,
which the Greeks call mantike, and that the portion of it which con-
cerns birds and other omens belongs to our discipline. If we admit that
gods exist and that the universe is ruled by their mind, and that they
also pay attention to the human race and are capable of showing us
signs of future events, then I don™t see why I should deny the existence
of divination.· [] And since my assumptions are true, then we must
necessarily reach the desired conclusion. Our own commonwealth is re-
plete with numerous instances, and so too are all kingdoms, nations,
and tribes, that many things beyond belief have turned out to be true in
accordance with the predictions of augurs. Polyidus would not have
such a great reputation, nor would Melampus or Mopsus or Am-
phiaraus or Calchas or Helenus, nor would so many nations retain au-
gury up to this time, such as the Phrygians, Lycaonians, Cilicians, and
particularly the Pisidians, if antiquity had not shown them to be true.
Our own Romulus would not have taken the auspices before founding

˜˜The people™™ includes both patricians and plebeians, and met in the regular voting
assemblies (comitia tributa and comitia centuriata); the plebs did not include the patricians,
and met as the concilium plebis. Measures that it passed were technically plebiscita, not
laws, but from the third century  they had the force of laws.
On Titius and Livius see above, .±. Philippus was consul in ±.

On this topic see On Divination ±.“. The grounds for belief in divination given here

are Stoic.
Mythical seers whose prophetic activities were reported in early Greek epic.

Book 

the city, nor would the name of Attus Navius have been remembered
for so long, if all these men had not said many things remarkable for
their truthfulness. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the
scienti¬c discipline of augury has faded away through negligence and
the passage of time. And so I agree neither with the one in his denial
that this knowledge ever existed in our college, nor with the other in his
assertion that it still exists. It seems to me that it had two uses for our
ancestors: occasionally for crises in the commonwealth, very frequently
in deliberations on policy.
[]   ©µ : I certainly believe that is true, and I agree with your
explanation. But explain the rest.
  µ : I will explain it as brie¬‚y as I can. What follows concerns
the law of war; we have ordained that in undertaking, waging, and end-
ing wars both justice and good faith should be as strong as possible, and
that there should be o¬cial interpreters of them.µ°
Concerning the religious role of the haruspices and about expiations
and puri¬cations, I think that the law itself is clear enough.
 © µ : I agree, since this whole section concerns religious actions.
  µ : But as to what follows, I am very curious to know, Titus,
how you might agree or how I might refute you.
 © µ : What is that?
[µ]   µ : About women™s nighttime rituals.
 © µ : In fact I agree with you, and particularly with the excep-
tion made in the law for regular public sacri¬ces.
  µ : Then what will become of Iacchus and our Eumolpids, and
those revered mysteries, if we remove nocturnal rites? We are not mak-
ing laws for the Roman people, but for all good and established nations.
[]   © µ : You make an exception, I believe, for those rites in
which we have been initiated ourselves.µ±
  µ : I will make an exception. Your beloved Athens seems to
me to have brought forth many superb and divine things and given
them to human life, but nothing is better than the Mysteries through
which we have been developed and civilized from a rustic and crude
existence into humanity. We recognize the initiations, as they are
called, as the true beginning of life, and we have accepted with joy not
only this plan for living in happiness, but also a better expectation in
For Romulus and the auspices see On the Commonwealth .±; for Attus Navius, ..

On the law of war (fetial law) see On the Commonwealth .±.

The Eleusinian mysteries, into which many Roman visitors to Greece were initiated.

On the Laws

death. What displeases me about nocturnal rites is shown by the comic
poets. If such license were given at Rome, what would that man have
done who brought his lewd plans into a sacri¬cial rite on which it was a
sin to gaze even unintentionally?µ
 ©  µ: You can pass that law for Rome, but leave our own laws to
[·]   µ : Then I will go back to my own laws. There is certain-
ly need for very careful regulation, so that broad daylight may guard
the reputation of women by having many witnesses, and they should be
initiated to Ceres by the ritual in use at Rome. The sternness of our an-
cestors in matters of this sort is shown by the old senatorial decision
concerning Bacchanals, along with the inquiry and punishments by the
consuls using military force.µ This should not make us seem too harsh:
consider Diagondas of Thebes in the heart of Greece, who eliminated
all nocturnal rites by a permanent law.µ Aristophanes, the cleverest
poet of the old comedy, attacks new gods and the all-night rituals that
are a part of their worship so vigorously that in his works Sabazius and
several other foreign gods are tried and expelled from the state.µµ
The public priest should liberate from fear imprudent actions that
have been carefully atoned for; but he should condemn and judge as im-
pious the boldness [that causes the deliberate violation of religious
[] Since public festivals are divided between the theater and the cir-
cus, in the latter there should be athletic contests “ footrace, boxing,
wrestling, and chariot racing towards a speci¬ed goal. The theater
should resound with singing to the lyre and ¬‚ute, so long as it be moder-
ate in accordance with the law. I agree with Plato that nothing so easily

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