We pass over chapters 17 and 18. The Interregnum. Numa Pompilius, a Sabine, is elected king.
Numa builds a temple to Janus. He claims to be guided by the goddess Egeria, and reforms the calendar.
Numa1, who thus gained possession of the throne, since the new city was founded by force and by arms, prepared to found it anew by right and law and by custom2. Amidst wars, however, it seemed impossible to grow accustomed to these things—for naturally the soul is made savage by military service—he reckoned to soften a ferocious people by disuse of arms, he made a temple to Janus at lowest Argiletum, an indicator of war or peace, open while the state was in arms, closed it signified that all the surrounding peoples were pacified.—Twice afterward following the reign of Numa it was closed, once while T. Manlius was consul after the first Punic war ended, and again, which the gods gave to our age that we might witness, after the war of Actium when peace was won on land and sea by the Emperor Caesar Augustus.—With it closed, after the spirits of all neighbouring around were joined by treaties and alliance, once the cares of external threats were set aside, so that their minds would not become indulgent in leisure, which the fear of enemies and the discipline of military service had held in check, he reckoned that first of all, the most effective tool for the ignorant and rustic multitude in that age was instilling fear of the gods. Since this would be unable to sink into the spirit without some invention of miracle, he pretended that he had nocturnal sessions with the goddess Egeria3 ; that by her admonition he instituted rituals which were most acceptable to the gods, and his priests to each of the gods. And first of all, into twelve months, according to the courses of the moon, he divided the year ; which, since the moon did not fill thirty days for each month, and was lacking six days from a full year, which is wheeled by the solar orb, he ordered thus by inserting intercalary months, so that for the twentieth year according to the same position of the sun whence they began, the days agreed with the full course of all the years. Likewise he made days fasti and nefasti4 since sometimes there was nothing useful expected to be done with the people.
1. Livy doesn’t name Numa here, but carries the name by a pronoun from the previous chapter. Since the previous chapter has been left untranslated, it was necessary to insert the name of Numa.
2. I inserted a causal sense and the verb “to be” (“since … was …”) to the first clause here in order to maintain the Latin order of the clauses and still have a sensical English sentence. The Latin looks more like, “He who thus gained possession of the throne, the new city founded by force and by arms, by right and law and by custom, he prepared to found it anew.”
3. Along with the deceits indicated in Chapter 16, Livy strikes me as very cynical when it comes to use of divinity by civic figures. Yet he also quite devoutly believes in the gods and that the events of history unfold according to divine will. Someone should examine that dichotomy more closely.
4. The lexicon at the back of Gould and Whiteley tells me that fasti days were “propitious for speech,” and nefasti were, “unpropitious for speech”. There was a lot more to them than this. Days were ceremonially divided by the Roman state into fasti and nefasti. Lewis & Short tells me that nefasti were those days “on which judgment could not be pronounced or assemblies of the people be held,” or more succinctly were “inauspicious” Conversely, on fasti days, all those things could be done, and were considered auspicious.