After Numa had thus established and regulated the priestly orders, he built, near the temple of Vesta, the so-called Regia, or royal house. Here he passed most of his time, performing sacred functions, or teaching the priests, or engaged in the quiet contemplation of divine things. He also had another house on the Quirinal hill, the site of which is still pointed out. At all public and solemn processions of the priests, heralds were sent on before through the city, bidding the people make holiday, and putting a stop to all labour.
For, just as it is said that the Pythagoreans do not allow men to worship and pray to their gods cursorily and by the way, but would have them go from their homes directly to this office, with their minds prepared for it, so Numa thought that his citizens ought neither to hear nor see any divine service while they were occupied with other matters and therefore unable to pay attention. They should rather be free from all distractions and devote their thoughts to the religious ceremony as a matter of the highest importance. They should also rid their streets of noise and clatter and clamour, and all such accompaniments of menial and manual labour, and clear them for the sacred ceremonies. And the Romans still preserve some traces of this earlier feeling. When a magistrate is busy taking auspices or sacrificing, the people cry
‘Hoc age,’ which means
’ and helps to make the bystanders attentive and orderly.
Many of his other precepts also resembled those of the Pythagoreans. For instance, the Pythagoreans said:
‘Don't use a quart-measure as a seat’;
‘Don't poke the fire with a sword’;
‘When you set out for foreign parts, don't turn back’; and
‘To the celestial gods sacrifice an odd number, but an even number to the terrestrial’; and the meaning of all these precepts they would keep hidden from the vulgar. So in some of Numa's rules the meaning is hidden; as, for instance,
‘Don't offer to the gods wine from unpruned vines’ ;
‘Don't make a sacrifice without meal’;
‘Turn round as you worship’; and
‘Sit down after worship.’
The first two rules would seem to teach that the subjection of the earth is a part of religion; and the worshippers' turning round is said to be an imitation of the rotary motion of the universe; but I would rather think that the worshipper who enters a temple, since temples face the east and the Sun, has his back towards the sunrise, and therefore turns himself half round in that direction, and then wheels fully round to face the god of the temple, thus making a complete circle, and linking the fulfilment of his prayer with both deities;
unless, indeed, this change of posture, like the Aegyptian wheels, darkly hints and teaches that there is no stability in human affairs, but that we must accept contentedly whatever twists and turns our lives may receive from the Deity. And as for the sitting down after worship, we are told that it is an augury of the acceptance of the worshipper's prayers and the duration of his blessings. We are also told, that, as different acts are separated by an interval of rest,
so the worshipper, having completed one act, sits down in the presence of the gods, in order that he may begin another with their blessing. But this, too, can be brought into agreement with what was said above: the lawgiver is trying to accustom us not to make our petitions to the Deity when we are busied with other matters and in a hurry, as it were, but when we have time and are at leisure.