previous next


In accordance with the usages of various nations, certain religious ideas have been attached to the knees. It is the knees that suppliants clasp, and it is to these that they extend their hands; it is the knees that they worship like so many altars, as it were; perhaps, because in them is centred the vital strength. For in the joint of either knee, the right as well as the left, there is on the fore-side of each a certain empty space, which bears a strong resemblance to a mouth, and through which, like the throat, if it is once pierced, the vital powers escape.1 There are also certain religious ideas attached to other parts of the body, as is testified in raising the back of the right hand to the lips, and extending it as a token of good faith. It was the custom of the ancient Greeks, when in the act of supplication, to touch the chin. The seat of the memory lies in the lower part of the ear, which we touch when we summon a witness to depose upon memory to an arrest.2 The seat, too, of Nemesis3 lies behind the right ear, a goddess which has never yet found a Latin name, no, not in the Capitol even. It is to this part that we apply the finger next the little finger, after touching the mouth with it, when we silently ask pardon of the gods for having let slip an indiscreet word.

1 Though wounds in the knee are highly dangerous, death does not ne- cessarily ensue.

2 Of another person, who had thus forfeited his bail. It was the custom to touch the ear of the attesting witness.

3 The goddess of retribution. See B. xxviii. c. 5, where he makes fur- ther mention of her statue in the Capitol.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: