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Richard's Writings > The Birth of Rome > Chapter 13: A Temple for Jupiter

Synopsis of Chapter 13: A Temple for Jupiter

The Phocaean Greeks have planted a colony at the headwaters of the River Rhodanus, named Massalia. Carthage and their Etruscan allies intend to remove the colony, and want that coordinated with an attack by Roma on the Greek colony of Cumae. Lucumo refuses and earns the respect of the Latin Confederation. The legion has expanded to ten phalanxes and its commander Marcus Junius is appointed Celerum Tribune. Lucumo's brother is killed by raiders and his wife and young son Arruns move in with Lucumo and Tanaquil. To thank the gods for their many blessings, Lucumo proposes to build a temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus.

Excerpt from Chapter 13: A Temple for Jupiter


"Yes. We should declare a day of thanksgiving."

"Or build a monument. We can build a great arch to commemorate peace."

The thirty members of the Comitia Curiata were discussing ways to memorialize their evasion of a grave crisis. In addition to the representatives of the three tribes sat Gaius Julius, Marcus Junius, and Tarchna Cneve, better known as Lucumo, the Chief, and recognized beyond the city as King Lucius Tarquinius of Roma.

"What is the first thing the average man in the street says when a tragedy has been averted?" Lucumo raised a rhetorical question. "He says something like 'thank all the gods' or 'by Jove, I was lucky!' What does that tell us?"

This time he expected an answer to his question, and looked at the counselors expectantly.

Old Albus Tatius remained sitting on his stool when he replied. "We Sabines have always known that the affairs of man are a mirror of the affairs of the gods, as a pond reflects the clouds above. If we feel the need to express our gratitude, it should be shown to the gods above."

"Thank you, old friend," Lucumo said softly. "That is how I feel as well. What say the rest of you?"

A general consensus of agreement was expressed by everyone at the same time. Gaius Julius stood and waited to be recognized, his thick fair hair not yet tinged by gray.

"I think it is time we recognized Jupiter in our city. I propose we build a temple in honor of Jupiter, the King of the Gods."

"But not Jupiter Latiaris," said Albus Tatius. "Jupiter Latiaris is a Latin god. We should not build a temple that favors one group over another."

"I believe Roma has a special relationship with the gods," alleged Lucumo. "We are especially favored, above and beyond all other peoples. We should dedicate our temple to the best and greatest of the gods. I propose a temple to Jupiter, the Best and Greatest." Marcus stood with a question showing on his face.

"I have never heard of such a god," Marcus said. "But even so, does not best and greatest mean the same thing?"

"We do not know how the gods wished to be addressed," Lucumo replied. "They understand our hearts and our minds better than our words. If we direct our prayers to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the Best and Greatest King of the Gods will receive our prayers. Do you all agree?"

The others nodded in agreement. Lucumo continued.

"The Latins pray to Jupiter Latiaris, while a military man like you might pray to Jupiter Stator, since Jupiter Stator is that aspect of Jupiter who gives soldiers the courage to stand and fight. But Roma is under the special protection of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the greatest of all the gods, and the best of all qualities. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Cneve, I think I do understand, and I agree with you. On the battlefield no one remains an atheist. I realize now that Roma needs a relationship with the gods, just as a soldier needs to pray to his gods when he goes into combat. You are right, Cneve. We need to build this temple, and it should be dedicated to the best and greatest of the gods."

"As our city grows, I find myself torn between the administration of the city, and my duties as Pontifex Maximus. I am asked to officiate at weddings, consecrate cornerstones before buildings are built, divine the omens, and so on. I need help. Therefore, I will let it be known that I am seeking volunteers to help me. I will create a College of Pontiffs, a college of those who feel a special closeness to the gods and an affinity for ceremony and ritual. I thought I might start with five men to begin with, and later expand the college to the sacred number of twelve. Does anyone have any objections to this idea?"

He waited for comment but there was none coming. To everyone in the room it made perfect sense.

"I have something else to propose." Lucumo looked out of the open bronze doors of the Curia Hostilia, at the people going about their business on the Forum. He turned to the counselors, his friends. "To symbolize our reverence for the Roman family, I propose we include Juno and Minerva in the temple we build for Jupiter. The main central cella will be dedicated to Jupiter, and smaller cellas on either side will be for his Queen and his daughter. I think we should build this temple on the Etruscan model, aligned with the lines of force, with a tall workplace pedestal, a double row of columns and a triangular pediment surmounting the fašade. When complete, I will move the stone box containing the Sibylline Prophecies from the Regia to the pedestal for safekeeping."

"And where shall we build this temple?" asked Albus Tatius.

"On the Capitoline Mount, of course." Lucumo smiled. "But rest assured, Albus, we will not disturb the ancient Sabine relics. Opis and the other faceless numina will always be honored. We don't want to disrupt our force of abundance, do we?" He smiled. "We will retain the old fortification walls, and in case of emergencies we will still be able to take refuge in the fortress on the Arx."


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