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Quote of the day: Antonius Felix, indulging in every kind
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 3: Continued Pestilence -- Fresh Attempts at Proitiation.[363 BC]
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However, the first introduction of plays, though intended as a means of religious expiation, did not relieve the mind from religious terrors nor the body from the inroads of disease. Owing to an inundation of the Tiber, the Circus was flooded in the middle of the Games, and this produced an unspeakable dread; it seemed as though the gods had turned their faces from men and despised all that was done to propitiate their wrath.

Gaius Genucius and Lucius Aemilius Mamercus were the new consuls, each for the second time. The fruitless search for effective means of propitiation was affecting the minds of the people more than disease was affecting their bodies. It is said to have been discovered that the older men remembered that a pestilence had once been assuaged by the dictator driving in a nail. The senate believed this to be a religious obligation, and ordered a dictator to be nominated for that purpose. Lucius Manlius Imperiosus was nominated, and he appointed Lucius Pinarius as his Master of the Horse.

There is an ancient instruction written in archaic letters which runs: Let him who is the praetor maximus fasten a nail on the Ides of September. This notice was fastened up on the right side of the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, next to the Chapel of Minerva. This nail is said to have marked the number of the year -- written records being scarce in those days -- and was for that reason placed under the protection of Minerva because she was the inventor of numbers. Cincius, a careful student of monuments of this kind, asserts that at Volsinii also nails were fastened in the temple of Nortia, an Etruscan goddess, to indicate the number of the year.

It was in accordance with this direction that the consul Horatius dedicated the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in the year following the expulsion of the kings (1); from the consuls the ceremony of fastening the nails passed to the dictators, because they possessed greater authority. As the custom had been subsequently dropped, it was felt to be of sufficient importance to require the appointment of a dictator.

Lucius Manlius was accordingly nominated, but, regarding his appointment as due to political rather than to religious reasons and eager to command in the war with the Hernici, he caused a very angry feeling among the men liable to serve by the inconsiderate way in which he conducted the enrolment. At last, in consequence of the unanimous resistance offered by the tribunes of the plebs, he gave way, either voluntarily or through compulsion, and laid down his dictatorship.

(1): Livy obviously means to imply that the first nail was then driven in and the "custom" observed annually by the consuls on Sept. 13. If this date happened to fall during an interregnum then it was necessary to nominate a dictator to perform the office.

Event: Pestilence of 365 BC

Nec tamen ludorum primum initium procurandis religionibus datum aut religione animos aut corpora morbis leuauit; quin etiam, cum medios forte ludos circus Tiberi superfuso inrigatus impedisset, id uero, uelut auersis iam dis aspernantibusque placamina irae, terrorem ingentem fecit. Itaque Cn. Genucio L. Aemilio Mamerco iterum consulibus, cum piaculorum magis conquisitio animos quam corpora morbi adficerent, repetitum ex seniorum memoria dicitur pestilentiam quondam clauo ab dictatore fixo sedatam. Ea religione adductus senatus dictatorem claui figendi causa dici iussit; dictus L. Manlius Imperiosus L. Pinarium magistrum equitum dixit. Lex uetusta est, priscis litteris uerbisque scripta, ut qui praetor maximus sit idibus Septembribus clauum pangat; fixa fuit dextro lateri aedis Iouis optimi maximi, ex qua parte Mineruae templum est. Eum clauum, quia rarae per ea tempora litterae erant, notam numeri annorum fuisse ferunt eoque Mineruae templo dicatam legem quia numerus Mineruae inuentum sit. Volsiniis quoque clauos indices numeri annorum fixos in templo Nortiae, Etruscae deae, comparere diligens talium monumentorum auctor Cincius adfirmat.M. Horatius consul ea lege templum Iouis optimi maximi dedicauit anno post reges exactos; a consulibus postea ad dictatores, quia maius imperium erat, sollemne claui figendi translatum est. Intermisso deinde more digna etiam per se uisa res propter quam dictator crearetur. Qua de causa creatus L. Manlius, perinde ac rei gerendae ac non soluendae religionis gratia creatus esset, bellum Hernicum adfectans dilectu acerbo iuuentutem agitauit; tandemque omnibus in eum tribunis plebis coortis seu ui seu uerecundia uictus dictatura abiit.