• antiquitatem en Español
  •    
NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

God “Terminus” is the guarantor of private property of the field

Published | 0 Comments

Terminus is a Roman god who sets the boundaries of the fields and cities and is also at the crossroads. He is represented as a rectangular stone block whose top is usually included head of Hermes or Mercury. It is also sometimes depicted with male genitalia, given its apotropaic character to "turn away" harm or evil influences. So he is called Hermes.

About this divinity we spoke recently. See http://en.antiquitatem.com/boundary-stone-herm-mercury-termin .

At that time we referred to its role as guarantor of private property. This was evidenced in the passage of the Ovid’s Fasti, in which are described the ceremonies and sacrifices being honored on the occasion of the celebrations  of Terminalia, which were held on February 23, the end of the primitive Roman year, by the owners of the two neighboring fields.

I would now insist on the guarantor of private property of Terminus, adding to the text of Ovid, which I reproduce again, another of Livy, in his History book Ab urbe condita (From the founding of the city, of course Rome -), Lib. I, ch. 55.

Livy tells us as when Tarquin wished to build the temple of Jupiter on Mount Tarpeyo had to desecrate and drive out to the gods existing in the area and so I allowed the omens, but there was one exception: there was the milestone, the boundary stone, Terminus, signaling the place, and the omens did not allow moving to another site. So the solution was that Terminus share the temple with Jupiter. The story may seem innocent, but do not. Actually is devoting the inviolability of the limits set by Terminus.

Ovid tells us clearly that God guarantees the boundaries and ownership of each of the fields to their owners and how without him  the conflict in the countryside would be permanent.


Thou dost set bounds to peoples andcities and vast kingdoms;

without thee every field would be a root of wrangling.

Thou courtest no favour thou art bribed by no gold:

the lands entrusted to thee thou dost guard in loyal good faith”

'tu populos urbesque et regna ingentia finis:
     omnis erit sine te litigiosus ager.              
nulla tibi ambitio est, nullo corrumperis auro,
     legitima servas credita rura fide.

    ……
Recall how often in the field to move  a landmark,  a  boundary stone,  causes conflict or tragedy. In early Rome who moved a marker was considered cursed and could be killed, then the death penalty was replaced by a fine.

Shortly after Ovid continues:

From that abide in that station in which thou hast been placed.
Yield not an inch to a neighbour, though he ask thee,
lest thou shouldst seem to value man above Jupiter.
And whether they beat thee with ploughshares or with rakes, cry out,
‘This is thy land, and that is his.”

"Termine, post illud levitas tibi libera non est:
     qua positus fueris in statione, mane;
nec tu vicino quicquam concede roganti,               675
     ne videare hominem praeposuisse Iovi:
et seu vomeribus seu tu pulsabere rastris,
     clamato "tuus est hic ager, ille tuus".'

These verses of Ovid, as above, are of an undeniable emotion and elegance: Terminus is the cairn, the stone that marks the limits, but also a god with whom you can talk;  at two addresses colloquially the poet: "stone, god, do not get moving, if the farmer while works pushes you with ploughshare (perhaps intentionally) or the rake, you do not move and yell 'this is your field, that is another.”

And he said again: "if you let yourself to Jupiter how you yield to any man." And this explains perfectly the text of Livy I offer below:

And that the site might be free from all other religious claims and belong wholly to Jupiter and his temple, which was building there, he determined to annul the consecration of several fanes and shrines which had been first vowed by King Tatius at the crisis of the battle against Romulus, and had afterwards been consecrated and inaugurated.  At the very time when he began this task the gods are said to have exerted their power to show the magnitude of this mighty empire. For whereas the birds permitted that the consecrations of all the other shrines should be rescinded, they refused their consent for the shrine of Terminus. Benjamin Oliver Foster, Ph.D., Ed.

Et ut libera a ceteris religionibus area esset tota Iovis templique eius quod inaedificaretur, exaugurare fana sacellaque statuit quae aliquot ibi, a Tatio rege primum in ipso discrimine adversus Romulum pugnae vota, consecrata inaugurataque postea fuerant. Inter principia condendi huius operis movisse numen ad indicandam tanti imperii molem traditur deos; nam cum omnium sacellorum exaugurationes admitterent aues, in Termini fano non addixere.

We now better understand the verses of Ovid. The temples and shrines of other gods could be desecrated and moved to another site, the Terminus no.

Livy accepts the consequence of what the omen and the appearance seem certify and Roman nationalist tradition is repeating: the boundaries of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome, will be fixed and eternal. But a second reading of great importance: it certifies that the story is that the limits set by Terminus are absolutely inviolable, even for Jupiter, the father of the gods, nothing is above property right that guarantees Terminus.

It is a glaring example of the practicality of the Romans, which affects all its cultural creation, even religion. Here is  a belief, a myth, a ritual, with a practical and effective in social life: ensuring ownership of the Roman farmer and avoid conflict.

I offer the full chapter Livy’s  work for better contextualization of these comments. Ab condita city, I, 55

Having got possession of Gabii, Tarquinius1 made peace with the Aequian nation and renewed the treaty with the Etruscans. He next turned his attention to affairs in the city. Here his first concern was to build a temple of Jupiter on the Tarpeian Mount2 to stand as a memorial of his reign and of his name, testifying that of the two Tarquinii, both kings, the father had made the vow and the son had fulfilled it.  And that the site might be free from all other religious claims and belong wholly to Jupiter and his temple, which was building there, he determined to annul the consecration of several fanes and shrines which had been first vowed by King Tatius at the crisis of the battle against Romulus, and had afterwards been consecrated and inaugurated.  At the very time when he began this task the gods are said to have exerted their power to show the magnitude of this mighty empire. For whereas the birds permitted that the consecrations of all the other shrines should be rescinded, they refused their consent for the shrine of Terminus.  This omen and augury was thus construed: the fact that the seat of Terminus was not moved, and that of all the gods he alone was not called away from the place consecrated to him, meant that the whole kingdom would be firm and steadfast.  When this auspice of permanence had been received, there followed another prodigy foretelling the grandeur of their empire. A human head, its features intact, was found, so it is said, by the men who were digging for the foundations of the temple.  This appearance plainly foreshowed that here was to be the citadel of the empire and the head of the world, and such was the interpretation of the soothsayers, both those who were in [p. 193]the City and those who were called in from Etruria3 to consider the matter. Benjamin Oliver Foster, Ph.D., Ed.

Gabiis receptis Tarquinius pacem cum Aequorum gente fecit, foedus cum Tuscis renovavit. Inde ad negotia urbana animum convertit; quorum erat primum ut Iovis templum in monte Tarpeio monumentum regni sui nominisque relinqueret: Tarquinios reges ambos patrem vovisse, filium perfecisse. Et ut libera a ceteris religionibus area esset tota Iovis templique eius quod inaedificaretur,exaugurare fana sacellaque statuit quae aliquot ibi, a Tatio rege primum in ipso discrimine adversus Romulum pugnae vota, consecrata inaugurataque postea fuerant.  Inter principia condendi huius operis movisse numen ad indicandam tanti imperii molem traditur deos; nam cum omnium sacellorum exaugurationes admitterent aues, in Termini fano non addixere; idque omen auguriumque ita acceptum est non motam Termini sedem unumque eum deorum non euocatum sacratis sibi finibus firma stabiliaque cuncta portendere.Hoc perpetuitatis auspicio accepto, secutum aliud magnitudinem imperii portendens prodigium est: caput humanum integra facie aperientibus fundamenta templi dicitur apparuisse. Quae visa species haud per ambages arcem eam imperii caputque rerum fore portendebat; idque ita cecinere uates quique in urbe erant quosque ad eam rem consultandam ex Etruria acciuerant.

Ovid: Fasti, 2, 639 ff.  (Translated by  JAMES G. FRAZER )

When the night had passed, see to it that the god who marks the boundaries of the tilled lands receives his wonted honour. O Terminus, whether thou art a stone or stump buried in the field, thou too hast been deified from days of yore. Thou art crowned by two owners on opposite sides; they bring thee two garlands and two cakes. An altar is built. Hither the husbandman’s rustic wife brings with her own hands on a potsherd the fire which she has taken from the warm hearth. The old man chops wood, and deftly piles up the billets, and strives to fix the branches in the solid earth: then he nurses the kindling flames with dry bark, the boy stands by and holds the broad basket in his hands. When from the basket he had thrice thrown corn into the midst of the fire, the little daughter presents the cut honeycombs. Others hold vessels of wine. A portion of each is cast into the flames. The company dressed in white look on and hold their peace. Terminus himself, at the meeting of the bounds, is sprinkled with the blood of a slaughtered lamb, and grumbles not when a suckling pig is given him. The simple neighbours meet and hold a feast, and sing thy praises, holy Terminus: “Thou dost set bounds to peoples and cities and vast kingdoms; without thee every field would be a root of wrangling. Thou courtest no favour thou art bribed by no gold: the lands entrusted to thee thou dost guard in loyal good faith. If thou of old hadst marked the bounds of the Thyrean land, three hundred men had not been done to death, nor had the name of Othryades been read on the piled arms. O how he made his fatherland to bleed! What happened when the new Capitol was being built? Why, the whole company of gods withdrew before Jupiter and made room for him; but Terminus, as the ancients relate, remained where he was found in the shrine, and shares the temple with great Jupiter. Even to this day there is a small hole in the roof of the temple, that he may see naught above him but the stars. From that abide in that station in which thou hast been placed. Yield not an inch to a neighbour, though he ask thee, lest thou shouldst seem to value man above Jupiter. And whether they beat thee with ploughshares or with rakes, cry out, ‘This is thy land, and that is his.’” There is a way that leads folk to the Laurentine fields, the kingdom once sought by the Dardanian chief: on that way the sixth milestone from the City witnesses the sacrifice of the woolly sheep’s guts to thee, Terminus. The land of other nations has a fixed boundary: the circuit of Rome is the circuit of the world.

Nox ubi transierit, solito celebretur honore
     separat indicio qui deus arva suo.
Termine, sive lapis sive es defossus in agro
     stipes, ab antiquis tu quoque numen habes.
te duo diversa domini de parte coronant,
     binaque serta tibi binaque liba ferunt.
ara fit: huc ignem curto fert rustica testo               645
     sumptum de tepidis ipsa colona focis.
ligna senex minuit concisaque construit arte,
     et solida ramos figere pugnat humo;
tum sicco primas inritat cortice flammas;
     stat puer et manibus lata canistra tenet.               650
inde ubi ter fruges medios immisit in ignes,
     porrigit incisos filia parva favos.
vina tenent alii: libantur singula flammis;
     spectant, et linguis candida turba favet.
spargitur et caeso communis Terminus agno,               655
     nec queritur lactans cum sibi porca datur.
conveniunt celebrantque dapes vicinia simplex
     et cantant laudes, Termine sancte, tuas:
'tu populos urbesque et regna ingentia finis:
     omnis erit sine te litigiosus ager.               660
nulla tibi ambitio est, nullo corrumperis auro,
     legitima servas credita rura fide.
si tu signasses olim Thyreatida terram,
     corpora non leto missa trecenta forent,
nec foret Othryades congestis lectus in armis.               665
     o quantum patriae sanguinis ille dedit!
quid, nova cum fierent Capitolia? nempe deorum
     cuncta Iovi cessit turba locumque dedit;
Terminus, ut veteres memorant, inventus in aede
     restitit et magno cum Iove templa tenet.               670
nunc quoque, se supra ne quid nisi sidera cernat,
     exiguum templi tecta foramen habent.
Termine, post illud levitas tibi libera non est:
     qua positus fueris in statione, mane;
nec tu vicino quicquam concede roganti,               675
     ne videare hominem praeposuisse Iovi:
et seu vomeribus seu tu pulsabere rastris,
     clamato "tuus est hic ager, ille tuus".'
est via quae populum Laurentes ducit in agros,
     quondam Dardanio regna petita duci:               680
illa lanigeri pecoris tibi, Termine, fibris
     sacra videt fieri sextus ab Urbe lapis.
gentibus est aliis tellus data limite certo:
     Romanae spatium est Urbis et orbis idem.

 

   
Comments

    No comment published yet.

You must be registered to write a comment.

Esta web utiliza cookies, puedes ver la política de cookies, aquí Si continuas navegando estás aceptándola
Política de cookies +