This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
The office of Pontifex Maximus, of which he could not decently deprive Lepidus as long as he lived,1 he assumed as soon as he was dead. He then caused all prophetical books, both in Latin and Greek, the authors of which were either unknown, or of no great authority, to be brought in; and the whole collection, amounting to upwards of two thousand volumes, he committed to the flames, preserving only the Sibylline oracles; but not even those without a strict examination, to ascertain which were genuine. This being done, he deposited them in two gilt coffers, under the pedestal of the statue of the Palatine Apollo. He restored the calendar, which had been corrected by Julius Caesar, but through negligence was again fallen into confusion, 2 to its former regularity; and upon that occasion, called the month Sextilis, 3 by his own name, August, rather than September, in which he was born; because in it he had obtained his first consulship, and all his most considerable victories. 4 He increased the number, dignity, and revenues of the priests, and especially those of the Vestal Virgins. And when, upon the death of one of them, a new one was to be taken, 5 and many persons made interest that their daughters names might be omitted in the lists for election, he replied with an oath, "If either of my own grand-daughters were old enough, I would have proposed her." He likewise revived some old religious customs, which had become obsolete; as the augury of public health, 6 the office of high priest of Jupiter, the religious solemnity of the Lupercalia, with the Secular, and Compitalian games. He prohibited young boys from running in the Lupercalia; and in respect of the Secular games, issued an order, that no young persons of either sex should appear at any public diversions in the night-time, unless in the company of some elderly relation. He ordered the household gods to be decked twice a year with spring and summer flowers, 7 in the Compitalian festival. Next to the immortal gods, he paid the highest honours to the memory of those generals who had raised the Roman state from its low origin to the highest pitch of grandeur. He accordingly repaired or rebuilt the public edifices erected by them; preserving the former inscriptions, and placing statues of them all, with triumphal emblems, in both the porticos of his forum, issuing an edict on the occasion, in which he made the following declaration: "My design in so doing is, that the Roman people may require from me, and all succeeding princes, a conformity to those illustrious examples." He likewise removed the statue of Pompey from the senate-house, in which Caius Caesar had been killed, and placed it under a marble arch, fronting the palace attached to Pompey's theatre.
1 It had formed a sort of honourable retirement in which Lepidus was shelved, to use a familiar expression, when Augustus got rid of him quietly from the Triumvirate. Augustus assumed it A.U.C. 740, thus. centring the last of all the great offices of the state in his own person; that of Pontifex Maximus, being of high importance, from the sanctity attached to it, and the influence it gave him over the whole system of religion.
2 In the thirty-six years since the calendar was corrected by Julius Casar, the priests had erroneously intercalated eleven days instead of nine. See JULIUS, c. xl.
3 Sextilis, the sixth month, reckoning from March, in which the year of Romulus commenced.
4 So Cicero called the day on which he returned from exile, the day of his "nativity" and his "new birth," παλιγεννεσίαν, a word which had afterwards a theological sense, from its use in the New Testament.
5 Capi. There is a peculiar force in the word here adopted by Suetonius; the form used by the Pontifex Maximus, when he took the novice from the hand of her father, being Te capio amata, "I have you, my dear," implying the forcible breach of former ties, as in the case of a captive taken in war.
6 At times when the temple of Janus was shut, and then only, certain divinations were made, preparatory to solemn supplication for the public health, "as if," says Dio, " even that could not be implored from the gods, unless the signs were propitious." It would be an inquiry of some interest, now that the care of the public health is becoming a department of the state, with what sanatory measures these becoming solemnities were attended.
7 Theophrastus mentions the spring and summer flowers most suited for these chaplets. Among the former, were hyacinths, roses, and white violets; among the latter, lychinis, amaryllis, iris, and some species of lilies.
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.