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ADORA´TIO (προσκύνησις) was paid to the gods in the following manner: The person prostrated himself (pronus, Juv. 11.47) before the statue of the god whom he wished to honour, then kissed his hand and waved it to the statue (cf. Apul. Met. 4.28, ad moventes oribus suis dexteram, primore digito in erectum pollicem residente--adorationibus venerabantur). While doing this he moved round his whole body, usually from left to right, but sometimes (e. g. in Gaul, Plin. Nat. 28.25; and in the temple of Aesculapius at Rome; Corp. Inscr. Gr. 5980) from right to left, for which custom Plutarch (Plut. Num. 14) gives some curious reasons; but the true reason is quite unknown. Hence the convertere se is used for adorare in Liv. 5.21 (cf. Plaut. Curc. 1.1, 69). It was also the practice to have the head and ears covered, so that only the forepart of the face remained [p. 1.29]uncovered (Plin. Nat. 1. c.; Minucius Felix, 2; Lucret. 5.1197). The adoratio differed from the oratio or prayers, which were offered with the palms open and upturned to heaven, the suppliant usually kneeling. (Il. 7.177; ὑπτιάσματα χερῶν, Aesch. Prom. 1005; caelo supinas ferre manus, Hor. Carm. 3.23.1.) Clasping of the hands (digitisinterse pectine iunctis, Ov. Met. 9.299; digitis pectinatim inter se implexis, Plin. Nat. 28.59) was a gesture only resorted to by witches, as a means of hindering child-birth. The adoration paid to the Roman emperors was borrowed from the Eastern mode of adoration, and consisted in prostration on the ground, and kissing

Adoratio, from a vase in the British Museum.

the feet and knees, or even the dress (cf. Ammian. 21.9, adorari purpuram principis) of the emperor (but this did not become the ordinary etiquette of the court before the time of Diocletian). Instances, however, of this servile adoration occur much earlier; thus Vitellius “adored” Caius Caesar when returning from Syria: capite velato circumvertensque se deinde procumbens (Suet. Vit. 2). This mode of prostration is also called adulatio (Liv. 9.18, 4, humi jacentium adulationes; cf. 30.16, 5).


hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Homer, Iliad, 7.177
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.299
    • Suetonius, Vitellius, 2
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 28.25
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 28.59
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 18
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 21
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 21.9
    • Plutarch, Numa, 14
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