Romans 14 Doubtful Disputations by Livy
Paul in Romans 14 understood that "First, then, a great part of them are women, and this was the source of the evil; the rest are males, but nearly resembling women; actors and pathics in the vilest lewdness; night revelers, driven frantic by wine, noises of instruments, and clamors. Livy, History of Rome, Book XXXIX, Bacchanalibus. The Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus, 186 BCE
8. The following year diverted Spurius Postumius Albinus and Quintus Marcius Philippus from the care of armies, and wars, and provinces, to the punishing of an intestine conspiracy. The praetors cast lots for their provinces, Titus Maenius obtained the city jurisdiction; Marcus Licinius Lucullus, that between citizens and foreigners; Caius Aurelius Scaurus, Sardinia; Publius Cornelius Sulla, Sicily; Lucius Quintius Crispinus, Hither Spain; Caius Calpurnius Piso, Farther Spain.
The making of inquisition concerning clandestine meetings was decreed to both the consuls. A Greek of mean condition came, first, into Etruria,
not with one of the many trades which his nation, of all others the most skillful in the cultivation of the mind and body, has introduced among us,
but a low operator in sacrifices, and a soothsayer;
- nor was he one who, by open religious rites,
- and by publicly professing his calling and teaching,
- imbued the minds of his followers with terror,
but a priest of secret and nocturnal rites.
These mysterious rites were, at first, imparted to a few,
but afterwards communicated to great numbers, both men and women.
To their religious performances were added the pleasures of wine and feasting,
to allure a greater number of proselytes.
When wine, lascivious discourse, night, and the intercourse of the sexes had extinguished every sentiment of modesty, then debaucheries of every kind began to be practiced, as every person found at hand that sort of enjoyment to which he was disposed by the passion predominant in his nature.
Nor were they confined to one species of vice---the promiscuous intercourse of free-born men and women;
but from this store-house of villainy proceeded false witnesses,
counterfeit seals (marks), false evidences, and pretended discoveries.
From the same place, too, proceeded poison and secret murders, so that in some cases, not even the bodies could be found for burial. [Judas was a siccari or assassin and his bag carried mouthpieces for wind instruments]
Many of their audacious deeds were brought about by treachery, but most of them by force;
it served to conceal the violence, that, on account of the loud shouting, and the noise of drums and cymbals, none of the cries uttered by the persons suffering violence or murder could be heard abroad.
9. The infection of this mischief, like that from the contagion of disease, spread from Etruria to Rome; where, the size of the city affording greater room for such evils, and more means of concealment, cloaked it at first; but information of it was at length brought to the consul, Postumius, principally in the following manner.
Publius Aebutius, whose father had held equestrian rank in the army, was left an orphan, and his guardians dying, he was educated under the eye of his mother Duronia, and his stepfather Titus Sempronius Rutilus. Duronia was entirely devoted to her husband; and Sempronius, having managed the guardianship in such a manner that he could not give an account of the property,
wished that his ward should be either made away with,
or bound to compliance with his will by some strong tie.
The Bacchanalian rites were the only way to effect the ruin of the youth.
His mother told him, that, "during his sickness, she had made a vow for him, that if he should recover, she would initiate him among the Bacchanalians; that being, through the kindness of the gods, bound by this vow, she wished now to fulfill it;
that it was necessary he should preserve chastity for ten days, and on the tenth, after he should have supped and washed himself, she would conduct him into the place of worship."
There was a freedwoman called Hispala Fecenia, a noted courtesan, but deserving of a better lot than the mode of life to which she had been accustomed when very young and a slave, and by which she had maintained herself since her manumission.
As they lived in the same neighborhood, an intimacy subsisted between her and Aebutius, which was far from being injurious to either to the young man's character or property;
for he had been loved and wooed by her unsolicited; and as his friends supplied his wants illiberally, he was supported by the generosity of this woman; nay, to such a length did she go under the influence of her affection, that, on the death of her patron, because she was under the protection of no one, having petitioned the tribunes and praetors for a guardian, when she was making her will, she constituted Aebutius her sole heir.
10. As such pledges of mutual love subsisted, and as neither kept anything secret from the other, the young man, jokingly, bid her not be surprised if he separated himself from her for a few nights; as, "on account of a religious duty, to discharge a vow made for his health, he intended to be initiated among the Bacchanalians."
On hearing this, the woman, greatly alarmed, cried out, "May the gods will more favorably!" affirming that "it would be better, both for him and her, to lose their lives than that he should do such a thing," she then imprecated curses, vengeance, and destruction on the head of those who advised him to such a step.
The young man, surprised both at her expressions and at the violence of her alarm, bid her refrain from curses, for "it was his mother who ordered him to do so, with the approbation of his stepfather."
"Then," said she, "your stepfather (for perhaps it is not allowable to censure your mother) is in haste to destroy, by that act, your chastity, your character, your hopes, and your life." To him, now surprised by such language, and inquiring what was the matter, she said (after imploring the favor and pardon of the gods and goddesses, if, compelled by her regard for him,
she disclosed what ought not to be revealed) that "when in service, she had gone into that place of worship, as an attendant on her mistress;
but that, since she had obtained her liberty, she had never once gone near it: that she knew it to be the receptacle of all kinds of debaucheries; that it was well known that,
for two years past, no one older than twenty had been
When any person was introduced he was delivered as a victim to the priests, who led him away to a place
resounding with shouts, the sound of music, and the beating of cymbals and drums, lest his cries, while suffering violation, should be heard abroad."
She then entreated and besought him to put an end to that matter in some way or other; and not to plunge himself into a situation, where he must first suffer, and afterwards commit, every thing that was abominable. Nor did she quit him until the young man gave her his promise to keep himself clear of those rites.
Gnostics believed that those who passed through initiation (as in the earlier Mysteries) and achieved Gnosis, had the right to interpret the message of Jesus in their own way.
In an introduction to the finds at Nag Hammadi, the distinguished Gnostic historian Elaine Pagels writes about Professor Gilles Quispel's dicovery of a complete text of the Gospel of Thomas
11. When he came home, and his mother made mention of such things pertaining to the ceremony as were to be performed on that day and on the several following days, he told her that he would not perform any of them, nor did he intend to be initiated.
His stepfather was present at this discourse. Immediately the woman observed, that Ahe could not deprive himself of the company of Hispala for ten nights; that he was so fascinated by the caresses and baneful influence of that serpent, that he retained no respect for his mother or stepfather, or even the gods themselves."
His mother on one side and his stepfather on the other loading him with reproaches, drove him out of the house, assisted by four slaves. The youth on this repaired to his aunt Aebutia, told her the reason of his being turned out by his mother, and the next day, by her advice,
gave information of the affair to the consul Postumius, without any witnesses of the interview. The consul dismissed him, with an order to come again on the third day following.
In the mean time, he inquired of his mother-in-law Sulpicia, a woman of respectable character, whether she knew an old matron called Aebutia, who lived on the Aventine hill?" When she answered that "she knew her well, and that Aebutia was a woman of virtue, and of the ancient purity of morals," he said that he required a conference with her, and that a messenger should be sent for her to come.
Aebutia, on receiving the message, came to Sulpicia's house, and the consul, soon after, coming in, as if by accident, introduced a conversation about Aebutius, her brother's son. The tears of the woman burst forth, and she began to lament the unhappy lot of the youth:
"who, after being robbed of his property by persons whom it least of all became, was then residing with her, being driven out of doors by his mother, because, being a good youth (may the gods be propitious to him,)
he refused to be initiated in ceremonies devoted to lewdness, as report goes.
12. The consul, thinking that he had made sufficient inquiries concerning Aebutius, and that his testimony was unquestionable, having dismissed Aebutia, requested his mother-in-law to send again to the Aventine, and bring from that quarter Hispala, a freedwoman, not unknown in that neighborhood; for there were some queries which he wished to make of her.
Hispala being alarmed because she was sent for by a woman of such high rank and respectable character, and being ignorant of the cause, after that she saw the lictors in the porch, the multitude attending on the consul and the consul himself, was very near fainting. The consul led her into a retired part of the house, and, in the presence of his mother-in-law, told her that "she need not be uneasy, if she could resolve to speak the truth. She might receive a promise of protection either from Sulpicia, a matron of such dignified character, or from himself. That she ought to tell him, what was accustomed to be done at the Bacchanalia, in the nocturnal orgies in the grove of Stimula." When the woman heard this, such terror and trembling of all her limbs seized her, that for a long time she was unable to speak; but recovering, at length she said, that Awhen she was very young, and a slave, she had been initiated, together with her mistress; but for several years past, since she had obtained her liberty, she knew nothing of what was done there." The consul commanded her so far, as not having denied that she was initiated, but charged her to explain all the rest with the same sincerity; and told her, affirming that she knew nothing further, that "there would not be the same tenderness or pardon extended to her, if she should be convicted by another person, and one who had made the whole from her, and had given him a full account of it.
13. The woman, now thinking without a doubt that it must certainly be Aebutius who had discovered the secret, threw herself at Sulpicia's feet, and at first began to beseech her "not to let the private conversation of a freedwoman with her lover be turned not only into a serious business, but even capital charge;" declaring that Ashe had spoken of such things merely to frighten him, and not because she knew any thing of the kind." On this Postumius, growing angry, said, "she seemed not to know she was speaking in the house of a most respectable matron, and to a consul." Sulpicia raised her, terrified, from the ground, and while she encouraged her to speak out, at the same time pacified her son-in-law's anger. At length she took courage, and, having censured severely the perfidy of Aebutius, because he had made such a return for the extraordinary kindness shown to him in that very instance, she declared that "she stood in great dread of the gods, whose secret mysteries she was to divulge; and in much greater dread of the men implicated, who would tear her asunder with their hands if she became an informer. Therefore, she entreated this favor of Sulpicia, and likewise the consul, that they would send her away to some place out of Italy, where she might pass the remainder of her life in safety." The consul desired her to be of good spirits, and said that it should be his care that she might live securely in Rome.
Hispala then gave a full account of the origin of the mysteries. At first," she said, "those rites were performed by women. No man used to be admitted. They had three stated days in the year on which persons were initiated among the Bacchanalians, in the daytime. The matrons used to be appointed priestesses, in rotation.
Paculla Minia, a Campanian, when priestess,
made an alteration in every particular,
as if by the direction of the gods.
For she first introduced men, who were her own sons, Minucius and Herrenius, both surnamed Cerrinius; changed the time of celebration, from day to night; and, instead of three days in the year, appointed five days of initiation, in each month.
1Th.5:7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
Eze.8:12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth.
Ep.5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
Ep.6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
1Th. 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
1Th. 5:7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
1Pe.4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
Komos (g2970) ko'-mos; from 2749; a carousal (as if a letting loose): - revelling, rioting.
From the time that the rites were thus made common, and men were intermixed with women, and the licentious freedom of the night was added, there was nothing wicked, nothing flagitious, that had not been practiced among them. There were more frequent pollution of men with each other than with women. If any were less patient in submitting to dishonor, or more averse to the commission of vice, they were sacrificed as victims.
To think nothing unlawful was the grand maxim of their religion.
The men, as if bereft of reason, uttered predictions, with frantic contortions of their bodies;
the women, in the habit of Bacchantes, with their hair disheveled, and carrying blazing torches, ran down to the Tiber; where, dipping their torches in the water, they drew them up again with the flame unextinguished, being composed of native sulphur and charcoal.
They said that those men were carried off by the gods, whom the machines laid hold of and dragged from their view into secret caves.
These were such as refused to take the oath of the society, or to associate in their crimes, or to submit to defilement. This number was exceedingly great now, almost a second state in themselves, and among them were many men and women of noble families.
During the last two years it had been a rule, that no person above the age of twenty should be initiated;
for they sought for people of such age as made them more liable to suffer deception and personal abuse.
14. When she had completed her information, she again fell at the consul's knees, and repeated the same entreaties, that he might send her out of the country. The consul requested his mother-in-law to clear some part of the house, into which Hispala might remove; accordingly, an. apartment was assigned her in the upper part of it, of which the stairs, opening into the street, were stopped up, and the entrance made from the inner court. Thither all Fecenia's effects were immediately removed and her domestics sent for. Aebutius, also, was ordered to remove to the house of one of the consul's clients. When both the informers were by these means in his power, Postumius represented the affair to the senate, laying before them the whole circumstance, in due order; the information given to him at first, and the discoveries gained by his inquiries afterwards.
Great consternation seized on the senators; not only on the public account, lest such conspiracies and nightly meetings might be productive of secret treachery and mischief, but, likewise, on account of their own particular families, lest some of their relations might be involved in this infamous affair. The senate voted, however, that thanks should be given to the consul because he had investigated the matter with singular diligence, and without exciting any alarm.
They then committed to the consuls the holding of an inquiry, out of the common course, concerning the Bacchanals and their nocturnal orgies. They ordered them to take care that the informers, Aebutius and Fecenia, might suffer no injury on that account; and to invite other informers in the matter, by offering rewards. They ordered that the officials in those rites, whether men or women, should be sought for, not only at Rome, but also throughout all the market towns and places of assembly, and be delivered over to the power of the consuls; and also that proclamation should be made in the city of Rome,
and published through all Italy, that "no persons initiated in the Bacchanalian rites
should presume to come together or assemble on account of those rites,
or to perform any such kind of worship;
and above all, that search should be made for those who had assembled or conspired for personal abuse,
or for any other flagitious practices. The senate passed these decrees.
The consuls directed the curule aediles to make strict inquiry after all the priests of those mysteries, and to keep such as they could apprehend in custody until their trial; they at the same time charged the plebeian aediles to take care that no religious ceremonies should be performed in private. To the capital triumvirs the task was assigned to post watches in proper places of the city, and to use vigilance in preventing any meetings by night. In order likewise to guard against fires, five assistants were joined to the triumvirs, so that each might have the charge of the buildings in his own separate district, on this side the Tiber.
15. After despatching these officers to their several employments, the consuls mounted the rostrum; and, having summoned an assembly of the people, one of the consuls, when he had finished the solemn form of prayer which the magistrates are accustomed to pronounce before they address the people, proceeded thus: Romans, to no former assembly was this solemn supplication to the gods more suitable or even more necessary: as it serves to remind you, that these are the deities whom your forefathers pointed out as the objects of your worship, veneration, and prayers:
and not those which infatuated men's minds with corrupt and foreign modes of religion,
and drove them, as if goaded by the furies, to every lust and every vice.
I am at a loss to know what I should conceal, or how far I ought to speak out; for I dread lest, if I leave you ignorant of any particular, I should give room for carelessness, or if I disclose the whole, that I should too much awaken your fears. That the Bacchanalian rites have subsisted for some time past in every country in Italy, and are at present performed in many parts of this city also, I am sure you must have been informed, not only by report, but by the nightly noises and horrid yells that resound through the whole city; but still you are ignorant of the nature of that business.
Part of you think it is some kind of worship of the gods; others, some excusable sport and amusement, and that, whatever it may be, it concerns but a few. As regards the number, if I tell you that they are many thousands, that you would be immediately terrified to excess is a necessary consequence; unless I further acquaint you who and what sort of persons they are.
First, then, a great part of them are women, and this was the source of the evil; the rest are males, but nearly resembling women; actors and pathics in the vilest lewdness; night revelers, driven frantic by wine, noises of instruments, and clamors.
The conspiracy, as yet, has no strength; but it has abundant means of acquiring strength, for they are becoming more numerous every day.
Your ancestors would not allow that you should ever assemble casually, without some good reason; that is, either when the standard was erected on the Janiculum, and the army led out on occasion of elections; or when the tribunes proclaimed a meeting of the plebeians, or some of the magistrates summoned you to it.
And they judged it necessary, that whatever a multitude was, there should be a lawful governor of that multitude present. Of what kind do you suppose are the meetings of these people? In the first place, held in the night, and in the next,
composed promiscuously of men and women.
If you knew at what ages the males are initiated, you would feel not only pity but also shame for them.
Romans, can you think youths initiated, under such oaths as theirs, are fit to be made soldiers? That arms should be intrusted with wretches brought out of that temple of obscenity?
Shall these, contaminated with their own foul debaucheries and those of others, be champions for the chastity of your wives and children?
16. "But the mischief were less, if they were only effeminated by their practices; of that the disgrace would chiefly affect themselves; if they refrained their hands from outrage, and their thoughts from fraud.
But never was there in the state an evil of so great a magnitude, or one that extended to so many persons or so many acts of wickedness. Whatever deeds of villainy have, during late years,
been committed through lust; whatever, through fraud; whatever, through violence;
they have all, be assured, proceeded from that association alone.
They have not yet perpetrated all the crimes for which they combined. The impious assembly at present confines itself to outrages on private citizens; because it has not yet acquired force sufficient to crush the commonwealth;
but the evil increases and spreads daily; it is already too great for the private ranks of life to contain it, and aims its views at the body of the state.
Unless you take timely precautions, Romans, their nightly assembly may become as large as this, held in open day, and legally summoned by a consul.
Now they one by one dread you collected together in the assembly; presently, when you shall have separated and retired to your several dwellings, in town and country, they will again come together, and will hold a consultation on the means of their own safety, and, at the same time, of your destruction.
Thus united, they will cause terror to every one of you. Each of you, therefore, ought to pray that his kindred may have behaved with wisdom and prudence;
and if lust, if madness, has dragged any of them into that abyss, to consider such a person as the relation of those with whom he has conspired for every disgraceful and reckless act, and not as one of your own.
I am not secure, lest some, even of yourselves, may have erred through mistake;
for nothing is more deceptive in appearance than false religion.
When the authority of the gods is held out as a pretext to cover vice, fear enters our minds, lest, in punishing the crimes of men, we may violate some divine right connected therewith. Numberless decisions of the pontiffs, decrees of the senate, and even answers of the haruspices free you from religious scruples of this character. How often in the ages of our fathers was it given in charge to the magistrates,
to prohibit the performance of any foreign religious rites;
to banish strolling sacrificers and soothsayers from the forum, the circus, and the city;
to search for, and burn, books of divination; and to abolish every mode of sacrificing that was not conformable to the Roman practice!
Acts 19:19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
Acts 19:19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
Acts 19.19 hikanoi de tōn ta perierga praxantōn sunenegkantes tas biblous katekaion enōpion pantōn: kai sunepsēphisan tas timas autōn kai heuron arguriou muriadas pente.
periergos , on,
3. curious, superstitious, “hierourgiai” Plu.Alex.2; ta p. curious arts, magic, Act.Ap.19.19.
Plut. Alex. 2  But concerning these matters there is another story to this effect: all the women of these parts were addicted to the Orphic rites and the orgies of Dionysus from very ancient times (being called Klodones and Mimallones [Bacchantes], and imitated in many ways the practices of the Edonian women and the Thracian women about Mount Haemus, from whom, as it would seem, the word ‘threskeuein’ came to be applied to the celebration of extravagant and superstitious ceremonies.  Now Olympias, who affected these divine possessions more zealously than other women, and carried out these divine inspirations in wilder fashion, used to provide the revelling companies with great tame serpents, which would often lift their heads from out the ivy and the mystic winnowing-baskets, 3 or coil themselves about the wands and garlands of the women, thus terrifying the men.
3 Sacred to Dionysus, and carried on the heads of the celebrants.
orgi-asmos , ho,
Strab. 10.3.11 In Crete, not only these rites, but in particular those sacred to Zeus, were performed along with orgiastic worship and with the kind of ministers who were in the service of Dionysus, I mean the Satyri. These ministers they called "Curetes," young men who executed movements in armour, accompanied by dancing, as they set forth the mythical story of the birth of Zeus; in this they introduced Cronus as accustomed to swallow his children immediately after their birth, and Rhea as trying to keep her travail secret and, when the child was born, to get it out of the way and save its life by every means in her power; and to accomplish this it is said that she took as helpers the Curetes, who, by surrounding the goddess with tambourines and similar noisy instruments and with war-dance and uproar, were supposed to strike terror into Cronus and without his knowledge to steal his child away; and that, according to tradition, Zeus was actually reared by them with the same diligence; consequently the Curetes, either because, being young, that is "youths,"1 they performed this service, or because they "reared" Zeus "in his youth"2 (for both explanations are given), were accorded this appellation, as if they were Satyrs, so to speak, in the service of Zeus. Such, then, were the Greeks in the matter of orgiastic worship.
1 "Coroi" (see note on "youths," 10. 3. 8).
2 "Curo-trophein," to "rear youth."
A. winnowing-fan, i.e. a broad basket, in which the corn was placed after threshing, and then thrown against the wind so as to winnow the grain from the chaff, Arist.Mete.368b29; sacred to Dionysus, and carried on the head at his festivals, AP6.165 (Phal.); also to Athena, S.Fr.844; cf. liknitēs, liknophoros.II. cradle, h.Merc.21.150, al., Call.Jov.48, Arat.268
Matthew 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
g3039. likma¿w likmao, lik-mah´-o; from likmos likmos, the equivalent of li÷knon liknon (a winnowing fan or basket); to winnow, i.e. (by analogy), to triturate: — grind to powder.
hierourg-ia , hē,A. religious service, sacrifice, Hdt.5.83 (in Ion. form hirorgiai, with vv.ll.), Pl.Lg.775a,
Hdt. 5.83  In the course of this struggle, they did the Epidaurians much damage and stole their images of Damia and Auxesia. These they took away and set them up in the middle of their own country at a place called Oea, about twenty furlongs distant from their city.  Having set them up in this place they sought their favor with sacrifices and female choruses in the satirical and abusive mode. Ten men were appointed providers of a chorus for each of the deities, and the choruses aimed their raillery not at any men but at the women of the country. The Epidaurians too had the same rites, and they have certain secret rites as well. CHORE´GUS LEITU´RGIA TELOS
I. in Act. of the gods and their oracles, proclaim, abs., “khreiōn muthēsato Phoibos” 8.79: “khreiōn ek daphnēs gualōn hupo Parnēsoio” h.Ap.396: c. acc. rei, khrēsō anthrōpoisi Dios boulēn ib.132,
“khrē moi toiauth' ho Phoibos” S.El.35; “soi d' ouk ekhrēsen ouden” E.Hec.1268; “kh. phonon” Id.El.1267: also c. acc. cogn., “kh. khrēsmon” Id.Ph.409; “humnōdian” Id.Ion681 (l
II. that cannot be spoken or expressed, “adianoēton kai a. kai aphthegkton kai alogon” Pl.Sph.238c: hence, unspeakable, immense, App.BC3.4; “epithumia” Phld.Ir.p.50 W.; “eukharistia”
IV. of numbers, arrēta, ta, irrationals, surds, opp. rhēta, Pl.Hp.Ma.303b, cf. R.546c
For they, completely versed in every divine and human law, maintained that nothing tended so strongly to the subversion of religion as sacrifice, when we offered it not after the institutions of our forefathers, but after foreign customs.
Thus much I thought necessary to mention to you beforehand, that no vain scruple might disturb your minds when you should see us demolishing the places resorted to by the Bacchanalians, and dispersing their impious assemblies.
We shall do all these things with the favor and approbation of the gods; who, because they were indignant that their divinity was dishonored by those people's lusts and crimes,
have drawn forth their proceedings from hidden darkness into the open light; and who have directed them to be exposed, not that they may escape with impunity, but in order that they may be punished and suppressed.
The senate have committed to me and my colleague an inquisition extraordinary concerning that affair. What is requisite to be done by ourselves, in person, we will do with energy. The charge of posting watches through the city, during the night, we have committed to the inferior magistrates; and, for your parts, it is incumbent on you to execute vigorously whatever duties are assigned you, and in the several places where each will be placed, to perform whatever orders you shall receive, and to use your best endeavors that no danger or tumult may arise from the treachery of the party involved in the guilt.
17. They then ordered the decrees of the senate to be read, and published a reward for any discoverer who should bring any of the guilty before them, or give information against any of the absent, adding, that if any person accused should fly, they would limit a certain day upon which, if he did not answer when summoned, he would be condemned in his absence; and if any one should be charged who was out of Italy, they would allow him a longer time, if he should wish to come and make his defense. They then issued an edict, that "no person whatever should presume to buy or sell anything for the purpose of leaving the country; or to receive or conceal, or by any means aid the fugitives." On the assembly being dismissed, great terror spread throughout the city; nor was it confined merely within the walls, or to the Roman territory, for everywhere throughout the whole of Italy alarm began to be felt, when the letters from the guest-friends were received, concerning the decree of the senate, and what passed in the assembly, and the edict of the consuls.
During the night, which succeeded the day in which the affair was made public, great numbers, attempting to fly, were seized, and brought back by the triumvirs, who had posted guards at all gates; and informations were lodged against many, some of whom, both men and women, put themselves to death. Above seven thousand men and women are said to have taken the oath of the association. But it appeared that the heads of the conspiracy were the two Catinii, Marcus and Caius, Roman plebeians; Lucius Opiturnius, a Faliscan; and Minius Cerrinius, a Campanian: that from these proceeded all their criminal practices, and that these were the chief priests and founders of the sect. Care was taken that they should be apprehended as soon as possible. They were brought before the consuls, and, confessing their guilt, caused no delay to the ends of justice.
18. But so great were the numbers that fled from the city, that because the lawsuits and property of many persons were going to ruin, the praetors, Titus Maenius and Marcus Licinius, were obliged, under the direction of the senate, to adjourn their courts for thirty days, until the inquiries should be finished by the consuls. The same deserted state of the law-courts, since the persons, against whom charges were brought, did not appear to answer, nor could be found in Rome, necessitated the consuls to make a circuit of the country towns, and there to make their inquisitions and hold the trials. Those who, as it appeared, had been only initiated, and had made after the priest, and in the most solemn form, the prescribed imprecations, in which the accursed conspiracy for the perpetration of every crime and lust was contained, but who had not themselves committed, or compelled others to commit, any of those acts to which they were bound by the oath---all such they left in prison. But those who had forcibly committed personal defilements or murders, or were stained with the guilt of false evidence, counterfeit seals, forged wills, or other frauds, all these they punished with death.
A greater number were executed than thrown into prison; indeed, the multitude of men and women who suffered in both ways, was very considerable. The consuls delivered the women, who were condemned, to their relations, or to those under whose guardianship they were, that they might inflict the punishment in private; if there did not appear any proper person of the kind to execute the sentence, the punishment was inflicted in public.
A charge was then given to demolish all the places where the Bacchanalians had held their meetings; first in Rome, and then throughout all Italy; excepting those wherein should be found some ancient altar or consecrated statue. With regard to the future,
the senate passed a decree, "that no Bacchanalian rites should be celebrated in Rome or in Italy;" and ordering that,
"in case any person should believe some such kind of worship incumbent upon him, and necessary; and that he could not, without offence to religion, and incurring guilt, omit it, he should represent this to the city praetor, and the praetor should lay the business before the senate. If permission were granted by the senate, when not less than one hundred members were present,
then he might perform those rites, provided that no more than five persons should be present at the sacrifice, and that they should have no common stock of money, nor any president of the ceremonies, nor priest."
19. Another decree connected with this was then made, on a motion of the consul, Quintus Marcius, that "the business respecting the persons who had served the consuls as informers should be proposed to the senate in its original form, when Spurius Postumius should have finished his inquiries, and returned to Rome." They voted that Minius Cerrinus, the Campanian, should be sent to Ardea, to be kept in custody there; and that a caution should be given to the magistrates of that city, to guard him with more than ordinary care, so as to prevent not only his escaping, but his having an opportunity of committing suicide. Spurius Postumius some time after came to Rome, and on his proposing the question, concerning the reward to be given to Publius Aebutius and Hispala Fecenia, because the Bacchanalian ceremonies were discovered by their exertions, the senate passed a vote, that "the city quaestors should give to each of them, out of the public treasury, one hundred thousand asses; and that the consuls should desire the plebeian tribunes to propose to the commons, as soon as convenient, that the campaigns of Publius Aebutius should be considered as served, that he should not become a soldier against his wishes, nor should any censor assign him a horse at the public charge."
They voted also, that "Hispala Fecenia should enjoy the privileges of alienating her property by gift or deed; of marrying out of her rank, and of choosing a guardian, as if a husband had conferred them by will; that she should be at liberty to wed a man of honorable birth, and that there should be no disgrace or ignominy to him who should marry her; and that the consuls and praetors then in office, and their successors, should take care that no injury should be offered to that woman, and that she might live in safety. That the senate wished, and thought proper, that all these things should be so ordered." All these particulars were proposed to the commons, and executed, according to the vote of the senate; and full permission was given to the consuls to determine respecting the impunity and rewards of the other informers.
Quintus Marcius, the son of Lucius, and Spurius Postumius, consulted the senate on the Nones of October [i.e., the 7th], at the temple of the Bellonae. Marcus Claudius, son of Marcus, Lucius Valerius, son of Publius, and Quintus Minucius, son of Gaius, were the committee for drawing up the report. Regarding the Bacchanalia, it was resolved to give the following directions to those who are in alliance with us: No one of them is to possess a place where the festivals of Bacchus are celebrated; if there are any who claim that it is necessary for them to have such a place, they are to come to Rome to the praetor urbanus, and the senate is to decide on those matters, when their claims have been heard, provided that not less than one hundred senators are present when the affair is discussed. No man is to be a Bacchantian, neither a Roman citizen, nor one of the Latin name, nor any of our allies unless they come to the praetor urbanus, and he in accordance with the opinion of the senate expressed when not less than one hundred senators are present at the discussion, shall have given leave. Carried.
No man is to be a priest; no one, either man or woman, is to be an officer (to manage the temporal affairs of the organization);
nor is anyone of them to have charge of a common treasury; no one shall appoint either man or woman to be master or to act as master; henceforth they shall not form conspiracies among themselves, stir up any disorder, make mutual promises or agreements, or interchange pledges; no one shall observe the sacred rites either in public or private or outside the city, unless he comes to the praetor urbanus, and he, in accordance with the opinion of the senate, expressed when no less than one hundred senators are present at the discussion, shall have given leave. Carried.
No one in a company of more than five persons altogether, men and women, shall observe the sacred rites, nor in that company shall there be present more than two men or three women, unless in accordance with the opinion of the praetor urbanus and the senate as written above.
See that you declare it in the assembly for not less than three market days; that you may know the opinion of the senate that this was their judgment: if there are any who have acted contrary to what was written above, they have decided that a proceeding for a capital offense should be instituted against them; the senate has justly decreed that you should inscribe this on a brazen tablet, and that you should order it to be placed where it can be easiest read; see to it that the revelries of Bacchus, if there be any, except in case there be concerned in the matter something sacred, as was written above, be disbanded within ten days after this letter shall be delivered to you. In the Teuranian field.
From: From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 65-77.
Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.
This text is part of the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
Kenneth Sublett E.Mail
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