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One who was born on the day on which the building of the city was begun was chosen to be king after Romulus. Numa was his name. At the time when the Romans and the Sabines took him to be king over them Numa had no mortal wife--a Goddess was his companion. By a spring of clear water she would meet him and converse with him, instructing him in all affairs that lay between mortals and the immortal Gods. Egeria she was named.

And by a clear spring of water she would meet him and converse with him after he had become king in Rome. Now at that time a plague ravaged all Italy; the Roman people were made despondent by all the deaths they saw around them; their city, so lately built, would not last, they thought, for the folk in it would dwindle away through this plague. Then a sign was given to Numa. A brazen shield fell from Heaven. It was revealed to the king that as long as this shield was amongst them the fortunes of the Roman people would be prosperous. He had eleven other shields made, each in the likeness of the one that had fallen from Heaven: when the twelve shields were left together no one, not Numa himself, could tell one from the other. No single enemy, then, could slip in and take away the shield on which the fortunes of Rome depended. And the Romans, knowing that amongst them was a token of prosperity and that that token was secure, ceased to be despondent. Soon the plague left the land.

"Thou shalt not make libation of wine made from an unpruned vine. Thou shalt not make sacrifice without grain." These were two of the commandments that Numa, instructed by Egeria, gave to the people. And by these commandments he showed the Romans that they were to be cultivators, subduing the earth, and growing grain and pruning their vines. He gave the people arts and crafts; he formed companies of musicians, goldsmiths, metal-workers, carpenters, dyers, shoemakers,

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and potters; he appointed courts and councils for these companies, and he showed to each of them the particular religious ceremony it was to observe.

Then he built temples. First of all he built a temple for the Goddess of the sacred fire--Vesta she was named. Her temple was circular, and the everlasting fire within it was tended by virgins; as long as they in purity tended Vesta's fire the fortunes of Rome might not sink down. And after he had built the Temple of Vesta he built the Temple of Ianus. As the God Ianus has two faces so this temple has two gates: they stand open in time of war and are closed in time of peace. Very seldom in later times were the gates of the Temple of Ianus shut, but in Numa's time the gates were never seen open--no, not for a single day: for the space of over two score years the gates were unopened. Wars were not waged in those days. And not only were the people of Rome made quiet by Numa's influence, but the people of the neighbouring states and cities were made quiet too; they had peace; their lives were employed in the tilling of the soil, in the rearing of their children, and in the worship of the Gods. Of these days it was said:

Over the iron shields the spiders hang their webs.

[paragraph continues] And:

Rust eats the pointed spear and two-edged sword.
No more is heard the trumpet's brazen roar;
Sweet sleep is banished from our eyes no more.

Numa then arranged the months of the year. He put January, which is the month of the God of Peace, Ianus, first; he put March, which is the month of the War God, third; between, he put February, which is the month of purification: in February the Romans make offerings to their dead, and the festival of Lupercalia, a festival of purification, is held in February.

Iuppiter, the great God of the sky and of thunder, was brought down to earth by Numa. "If you would bespell the lighting and thunder so that they will do no harm, you must bespell them with heads," Iuppiter said, repeating an ancient doom. "With heads of onions," Numa answered. "Of men," Iuppiter said. "Hair of men's heads," Numa said. "With living------" "With living pilchards," said Numa.

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[paragraph continues] Iuppiter, without giving him an answer, withdrew from the earth. But to this day the Romans, to charm away the thunder and lightning of Iuppiter, sacrifice, not the heads of men, but onions, and the hair of men's heads, and living pilchards.

And so Numa made even the Gods milder in their dealings with men. Egeria it was who instructed him how to bring Iuppiter, the God of the sky and of thunder and lightning, down to earth so that he might be spoken to. Two very lowly Gods had to be captured by him first. Now there were two demi-gods who loved to play tricks on human beings, but who were very simple themselves and easily tricked: Picus and Faunus they were named; they frequented shady places and came beside clear springs. Into the spring that is on the mountain named Aventine, Numa poured a mixture of honey and wine. Picus and Faunus came to that spring: they bent to drink of the water there and they tasted of the wine and honey that was in the spring. They were delighted with what they tasted, and they lay by the water and drank, and played with each other and drank again. They drank till they became drunken and heavy; they fell into a sleep. Then Numa came upon them and took hold of them. The demi-gods changed themselves into all manner of shapes: Numa thought he had in his grasp a weasel and a bird, a shrub and a bunch of leaves. Still he held to them. He thought he had in his grasp a fish and a wolf-cub, a toad and a lizard. Still he held to them. At last Picus and Faunus came back to their own shapes and changed no more. Then Numa forced them to tell what they, the lowliest of the Gods, knew--how to bring Iuppiter down to the earth. They told him, and he let the odd-looking demi-gods run back into the shades. And thereafter he was able to speak with Iuppiter.

Once Numa invited the elders of the Romans to a feast in his house. They came; they found a house that was bare and a table and benches that were of the plainest kind. They knew that their king lived in this simple way and they honoured him for it. They sat at the table: there were wooden dishes on it, and the food that was set before them was bread and fruit and milk and wine. They ate with the king. Then, as they sat there, they came to know that another had come amongst them. They saw no one, but a great lustre came upon all that was in the room. The wooden dishes became changed into vessels of gold

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and silver; the simple food that they were eating took on the richest and most appetizing flavours. Those who were with Numa knew that Egeria had come amongst them.

They listened to a wondrous conversation between their king and the Goddess who was wont to instruct him. Not all of what they heard was clear to them. But they knew that Numa was soon to pass from amongst them.

And so it came to be. Numa died soon after that feast had been held. His body, by his own command, was not burned. Two coffins of stone were made ready: in one the King was laid; in the other were put the books he had written and the books he had consulted. The people knew that it was right to put these away; they knew that Numa, through his labours for them, through the training he had given them, had made all that was written in the books a part of their mind and their spirit. Then did they know how wise was the king who had ruled over them since the time that Romulus had departed from amongst them--Romulus who had made their state by means of war. This king had made the Muses known to them. He had taught them to reverence above all the Muse who is named Tacita, the Silent--the Roman Muse. Now he would bring them no more the counsel given him by the Goddess whom he sought beside the clear spring. Under the hill Ianiculum two coffins of stone were laid; one held Numa and the other held his sacred books.

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