98 Pages

Part 10 Religion and Burial

There is no Latin word for religion. The closest is the phrase cultus deorum, derived from the more concrete co/ere deos, 'worshipping the gods'. Religio, from which our English word derives, is itself a puzzle. It may have something to do with a root meaning 'bind'. Its negative seems to be negligere, 'to neglect'. Often it means 'superstition'. Caerimonia, from which we derive our word 'ceremony', is also puzzling. Its root is unknown, and it is often found in the plural. Pietas, the origin of 'piety', has a very different connotation. It stands for a sense of duty, to other members of the family, or within the extended family, or within the state, or within other contractual relations. It is not a religious word except in so far as all those relations are religious, and protected by gods. Sacer, our 'sacred', means 'set apart for or by the gods', in blessing or cursing. In a sacrifice, sacriftcium, the animal or other offering is made over to the gods. There is an early distinction, difficult to analyse precisely, between sacer, dedicated to a god, sanctus, which is applied to gates and walls, set under divine protection for the defence of those within, and religiosus, dedicated to the underworld powers. All are under supernatural protection; a temple is sacer, a gate sanctus, a tomb religiosus. Fas has to do with that which is religiously permitted, as ius with that which is legally permitted; the ancients derived it from a root meaning 'speak'; it is perhaps thus connected with fa tum, 'fate'. Days were Jasti or nefasti according to whether they were or were not propitious for public business.