Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents Virtues and Vices Worshipped by the Ancients

Ques. What Virtues were particularly honored as divinities?

Ans. The ancients not only worshipped the different Virtues, but the abstract idea of virtue itself was personified as a goddess. The Romans dedicated two temples, one to this divinity, and another, adjoining, to Honor. As the temple of Honor could only be reached by passing through that dedicated to Virtue, the votaries were reminded that it was by walking in her paths, that true honor was to be attained.

Ques. What were the emblems of Truth?

Ans. She was generally represented as a beautiful and modest virgin, with garments as white as snow. She was the daughter of Time, or Saturn, because Time always brings truth to light.
Fides, or Fidelity, had a temple near the Capitol, which was said to have been founded by Numa Pompilius. The symbols of this goddess were, a white dog, two hands joined, or sometimes two maidens with joined hands.

Ques. What were the emblems of Peace?

 Ans. Pax, or Peace, was represented as a matron holding ears of corn, and crowned with olives and laurel. Her particular symbol was a caduceus, a white staff anciently borne by ambassadors when sent to treat of peace. A magnificent temple was dedicated to this goddess in the Roman Forum.
Justice was worshipped by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Her emblems have been described in the article on the goddess Astræa.

Hope had a temple at Rome in the herb market. It was destroyed by lightning.

Misericordia, or Mercy, had an altar at Athens This was a public sanctuary for the unfortunate, and it was unlawful to take any one from it by force. This altar is said to have been erected by the kindred of Hercules, after the death of that hero.

Pudicitia, or Modesty, had two temples, much frequented by the Roman matrons. The second of these was founded under peculiar circumstances.

Virginia, the daughter of Aulus, a patrician of high rank, married into a plebeian family. The noble ladies of Rome were so indignant at this alliance, that they would not permit her to enter the temple of Pudicitia, nor to offer sacrifice with them. She desired to repair this public affront by some memorable action. For this purpose, she built, in the Via Longa, a temple similar to that from which she had been expelled, and dedicated it likewise to Pudicitia. Virginia then assembled the plebeian matrons, and exhorted them to honor this Virtue in such a manner, that however the patrician ladies should surpass them in power or rank, they might still excel in modest behavior and purity of life. The two temples were from that time distinguished as Pudicitia Patricia, and Pudicitia Plebeia.

Ques. Was Fortune honored as a goddess?

Ans. Yes, the ancients worshipped under this name, a certain unseen power which was supposed to exercise a supreme dominion over human affairs. Fortune had many splendid temples in Italy. Servius Tullius dedicated two at Rome; one to Bona Fortuna, the other to Fors Fortuna. This capricious goddess was sometimes represented with her eyes bandaged, her feet winged, and her right hand resting on a wheel. In the temple of Fortune at Thebes, the goddess held Wealth, represented as an infant, in her arms.

The goddess Salus, or Health, was much honored by the Romans. In ancient times, certain days in the year were set apart for her worship. Her emblems were a bowl and a serpent.

Liberty was honored as a divinity. Her emblem was the peculiar cap with which we are familiar from the representations on our own coins.

Ques. Were not the Vices also honored by the ancients?

Ans. It is certain that both the Greeks and Romans erected temples and altars to certain vices, but it does not appear that their intention was to do them honor. In some instances, they strove to propitiate the powers of evil, that they might abstain from doing them harm. When they built a temple at Rome to Febris, or Fever, they undoubtedly wished to appease the demon or malignant deity who was supposed to send this calamity. The same superstition has been remarked among the modern Hindoos, who are said to have dedicated temples to thunder and lightning, earthquake, pestilence, etc. The Vices were always represented in such a manner as to excite abhorrence. We have an instance of this in the altar erected to Calumny at Athens.

Apelles drew an allegorical picture, in which the odious features of this Vice were strikingly portrayed. A man sits in a listening attitude, beckoning Calumny to approach. Two counsellors, Ignorance and Suspicion, stand near him. Calumny is beautiful in form and feature, but has a malignant countenance, and flashing eyes. Envy goes before, while Fraud and Conspiracy accompany her on either side. Repentance follows with woful mien and torn garments. She looks behind her, as if calling upon Truth, who is seen advancing slowly in the distance.

Discord, Fraud, etc., were represented with appropriate symbols.

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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