Numa establishes new priesthoods, and the office of the Pontifex Maximus.
At that time, he turned his mind to appointing priests although he himself performed many more sacraments, especially those which now pertain to the flamen of Jupiter1. But since, in a state so bellicose, he calculated that there would be more kings like Romulus than Numa, they themselves going away to wars, so that they would not desert the sacraments of the regal office, he appointed a priest as an ever-attending flamen of Jupiter and adorned him with a distinctive vestment and regal chariot seat. To this he added two flamines, one for Mars, another for Quirinus2, he chose the maidens for Vesta3, a priestly office descended from Alba, the tribe of the founder, and thus scarcely foreign. To these, so that there would be ever-attending high-priestesses of the temple, he set a stipend from the public treasury ; by virginity and other observances he made them sacred and venerated. Likewise the Salii4, he chose twelve for Mars Gradivus, and gave the insignia of an embroidered tunic and over the tunic, a bronze covering for the breast ; and the heavenly arms, which are called the sacred shields, he bid them to carry and to go through the city singing songs with dances and ceremonial leaping. Then as pontifex, he chose Numa Marcius, son of Marcus, from the fathers and to him he delivered all the sacraments written out and recorded, by which sacrifices, upon which days, and at which temples they would be done, and whence money would be paid out to them as expenses. And all the remaining sacraments, both public and private he made subject to decree of the pontifex, so that he would be to whom the plebs would come for consulting, and so that none of the divine laws would be disturbed by neglecting ancestral rituals or by adopting foreign ; such that the pontifex likewise prescribed not just the heavenly observances, but the right funerary rites as well, and for placating the shades, and each portent sent by thunderbolt, or by any other sighting, was undertaken and dealt with. For eliciting these from the divine thoughts of Jupiter Elicius he dedicated an altar on the Aventine and consulted the god by auguries concerning which were to be undertaken.
1. From Gould & Whitely: the flamen of Jupiter was “the chief… of fifteen flamines, or priests of particular divinities.
2. Another name for Romulus.
3. The Vestal Virgins, of course. Vesta was a goddess of the hearth and her maidens were tasked to care for a sacred fire, and keep it always burning.
4. The Salii draw their name from the verb salire, to jump or leap, named for their ritual dances.
Effect of Numa’s reforms on Rome and her neigbours ; success of his peaceful policy.
Once the whole multitude were turned away from force and arms to consulting and procuring these sacraments, both their minds were occupied by accomplishing something, and also the ever-attending, abiding care of the gods, since the heavenly will seemed to be amidst human affairs, the breasts of all were imbued with piety such that faith and the sworn oath ruled the state instead of excessive fear of the laws and punishment. And when those very men modeled themselves on the character of the king, a unique example as it were, even the bordering people at the time, who formerly considered Rome a war-camp not a city, placed in their midst for the purpose of vexing the peace of all men, were led into respect for her, such that they thought it impious for an entire state turned toward the worship of the gods to be violated. There was a grove, the midst of which a spring watered from a dark cave, by its perennial water. Since Numa quite often brought himself here for the goddess without witnesses, for sessions as it were, he made this grove sacred to the Camenae, because their counsels with their spouse, Egeria, were here. And he instituted the rite of the Oath1 alone. He ordered that flamines be carried to this sanctuary in a covered chariot by a pair of horses, and that with the hand covered right to the fingers, they perform the divine function, signifying that an oath must be kept and that its abode is also sacred in the right hand2. He dedicated many other sacrifices and places for performing rites which the pontifex calls Argei. Yet the greatest of all his works was that by his keeping there was for the whole time of his reign scarcely less peace than reign. Thus two kings successively increased the state, each by a different way, one by war, the other by peace. Romulus reigned seven and thirty years, Numa three and forty. And by the arts of war and peace the state was not only powerful but disciplined.
1. The word I’m translating as “oath” is the Latin, fides. Fides is one of those slippery words that can mean a lot of things, depending on the context. It is usually translated as “faith” or “trust” but it can be extended from that meaning to a number of different senses, such as here, “oath” or “pledge”.
2. Oaths are made with the right hand. See Latinus to Aeneas in Chapter 1, or Hercules to Evander in Chapter 7.