Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": EXPIATION OF AN UMBRIAN TOWN

ARCHAIC ROMAN SACRIFICE


The following has been translated from texts inscribed in Umbrian dialect on bronze tablets from Gubbio, ancient Iguvium. Iguvium is one hundred miles north of Rome. The ritual described was probably typical of early Italian religion generally.

(VI. A) This sacrifice must begin with observation of the birds, when the owl and the crow are favourable [prospering) and the woodpeckers, male and female, are on the right hand [legitimizing]. The one who goes to observe the birds must sit in a fenced enclosure and call upon the priest: 'Specify, that I observe favourable owls, favourable crows, a male woodpecker on the right hand, a female woodpecker on the right hand, birds on the right, voices of birds on the right, sent by the god.' The priest shall specify accordingly: 'Observe there favourable owls, favourable crows, a male woodpecker on the right hand, a female woodpecker on the right hand, birds on the right, voices of birds on the right, sent by the gods for me, for the community of Iguvium, at this particular time.' While he sits in his seat-the one who goes to listen to the voices of the birds-no noise [whispering] shall be made, and no one shall come between [to obstruct his view], until he has returned-i.e. the one who went to listen to the voices of the birds. If any noise is made or any person sits between [him and the birds], it shall be invalid. . . .

(16) When the voices of the birds are heard, the one sitting in the enclosure shall announce it, calling the priest by name, '[I announce] favourable owls, favourable crows, a male woodpecker on the right hand, a female woodpecker on the right hand, birds on the right, voices of birds on the right hand for thee, for the community of Iguvium, at this particular time.' For all these sacred acts, for the procession about the people, for the expiation of the city, he must carry the sacred staff. The sacrificial hearth at the Treblanian gate, which is to be laid for the expiation of the city, thou shalt so arrange that fire may be kindled from fire. So likewise at the two other gates, the Tesenacan and the Veiine.

Before the Treblanian gate, three oxen shall be sacrificed to Jupiter Grabovius. At the offering shall be said: 'To thee I offer prayers, 0 Jupiter Grabovius, for the Fisian city, for the town of Iguvium, for the names of the city, for the names of the town; be friendly, be gracious to the Fisian city, to the town of Iguvium, to the name of the city, to the name of the town, 0 holy one, to thee I pray with supplications, 0 Jupiter Grabovius, trusting in the sacred [sacrificial?] rite, I pray to thee with supplications, 0 Jupiter Grabovius. 0 Jupiter Grabovius, to thee [I offer] these fat oxen [as an expiation] for the Fisian city' for the town of Iguvium, for the names of -the city, for the names of the town.

'O Jupiter Grabovius, by the effect of this [offering] if in the Fisian city a fire breaks out [as a result of lightning], if in the town of Iguvium the due rites are neglected, [look upon it] as if it had been unintentional. 0 Jupiter Grabovius, if in thine offering [anything] is amiss, or neglected, or omitted, or [fraudulently] held back, or at fault, or if in thine offering there be any blemish, whether seen or unseen, 0 Jupiter Grabovius, let it be expiated by those fat oxen for an expiation, as is right. 0 Jupiter Grabovius, expiate the Fisian city, the town of Iguvium. 0 Jupiter Grabovius, expiate the name of the Fisian city, the town of Iguvium; the full citizens, the sacred rites, slaves, cattle, the fruits of the field, expiate. Be kind, be gracious with thy favour to the Fisian city, the town of Iguvium, the name of the city, the name of the town. 0 Jupiter Grabovius, preserve the Fisian city, preserve the town of Iguvium. 0 Jupiter Grabovius, preserve the Fisian city, preserve the town of Iguvium; full citizens, sacred rites, slaves, cattle, fruits of the field, preserve. Be kind, be gracious with thy favour to the Fisian city, to the town of Iguvium, the name of the city, the name of the town. 0 Jupiter Grabovius, with these fat oxen as an expiation for the Fisian city, for the town of Iguvium, for the names of the city, for the names of the town, 0 Jupiter Grabovius, I call upon thee.'


Translation by Frederick C. Grant, in his Ancient Roman Religion, Library of Religion paperbook series (New York, 1957), pp. 4-6, from Franz Bucheler, Umbrica (1883). VI A

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