Giving Thanks in Ancient Rome Posted by Brittany Britanniae on Nov 28, 2019 in Latin Language, Roman culture
The roots of the American thanksgiving may stem from history and celebrating survival among other things – original feasts and festivals for thankfulness date much older. In Ancient Rome where all aspects of life could be swayed by the will of the gods through sacrifices and prayers. Well, that is at least what the Romans believed. Below is one example of giving thanks relating to agriculture.
The following prater is from Cato, De Agricultura 132
An offering to Jupiter Dapalis (Jupiter of the feast) before ploughing.
This ritual is recommended by Cato for farmers as a yearly offering for their oxen, to be made when the pear-trees bloom before the ploughing seasons begins. The aim is to bring a divine blessing on the oxen as they undertake the ploughing of the fields, in order to ensure a healthy crop and a good yield. However, this ritual could equally be used on the occasion of any important enterprise or undertaking, e.g. opening a new business, buying a house, starting a new job, finalizing an important deal, etc. – Perhaps some people recall the seen in Rome where Vorenus has a feast for a new business/job/enterprise. Before the sowing of autumn or spring the peasant offered a banquet of roast beef and a cup of wine to Jupiter : it is natural that on such occasions he would entreat the god who has power over the weather, however Cato’s prayer is one of sheer offer and no request. The language suggests another attitude: Jupiter is invited to a banquet which is supposedly abundant and magnificent. The peasant may hope he shall receive a benefit, but he does not say it.
‘Dapem hoc modo fieri oportet. Iovi dapali culignam vini quantum vis polluceto. Eo die feriae bubus et bubulcis et qui dapem facient. Cum pollucere oportebit, sic facies: “Iuppiter dapalis, quod tibi fieri oportet in domo familia mea culignam vini dapi, eius rei ergo macte hac illace dape pollucenda esto.” Manus interluito, postea vinum sumito: “Iuppiter dapalis, macte istace dape pollucenda esto, macte vino inferio esto.” Vestae, si voles, dato. Daps Iovi assaria pecuina urna vini. Iovi caste profanato sua contagione.’
‘It is proper for the sacrificial feast to be made in this way. Offer to Jupiter Dapalis a cup of wine as great as you wish. It is a festival that day for the oxen and the ox-men and those who will carry out the sacrifice. When it will be proper to make the offering, speak thus: “Jupiter Dapalis, because it is proper for a cup of wine to be given to you in the house of my family for the sacred feast, for the sake of this thing may you be honoured by this, the feast offering.” Wash the hands, afterwards take the wine: “Jupiter Dapalis, may you be honoured by this feast offering, may you be honoured by the wine sacrificed.” Give to Vesta, if you wish. The sacred feast for Jupiter is roasted meat and an urn of wine. To Iuppiter you shall piously profane his [offerings] with [your] touch.’