1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Terminus

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TERMINUS, in Roman mythology, the god of boundaries, the protector of the limits both of private property and of the public territory of Rome. He was represented by a stone or post, set up in the ground with the following religious ceremonies. A trench was dug, in which a fire was lighted; a victim was sacrificed, and its blood poured into the trench; the body, upon which incense and fruits, honey and wine were thrown, was then cast into the fire. When it was entirely consumed, the boundary stone, which had been previously anointed and crowned with garlands, was placed upon the hot ashes and fixed in the ground. Any one who removed a boundary stone was accursed (sacer) and might be slain with impunity; a fine was afterwards substituted for the death penalty. On the 23rd of February (the end of the old Roman year) the festival called Terminalia, according to Wissowa a festival not of the god but of the boundary stones (termini), was held. The owners of adjacent lands assembled at the common boundary stone, and crowned their own side of the stone with garlands; an altar was set up and offerings of cakes, corn, honey and wine were made (later, a lamb or a sucking pig was sacrificed). The proceedings closed with songs to the god and a general merrymaking, in which all the members of the family and the servants took part. A similar festival was also held at the old boundary of the Roman territory between the fifth and sixth milestones on the road to Laurentum. The custom of fixing the boundaries of property and the institution of the yearly festival were both ascribed to Numa. Another Sabine prince, Titus Tatius, had dedicated a stone to Terminus on the Capitoline hill. When Tarquinius Superbus desired to build a temple to Jupiter, the auguries forbade its removal, and it was enclosed within the walls of the new sanctuary, an indication of the immovability of such stones and of the permanence of the Roman territory. Terminus was probably in its origin only an epithet of Jupiter. The fact of the inclusion of his statue in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus; the hole cut in the temple roof so that he might be worshipped in the open air as being, like Jupiter, a god of the sky; and the later assumption of a Jupiter Terminus or Terminalis (cf. the Greek Ζεὺς ὅριος) support this view.

See Dion. Halic. ii. 74; Plutarch, Numa, 16 Quaest. Rom., 15; Livy i. 55; Horace, Epodes, ii. 59; Ovid, Fasti, ii. 637, 677; Siculus Flaccus in Gromatioi veteres, ed. Lachmann (1848); G. Wissowa, Religion und Kultur der Rӧmer (1902); W. W. Fowler, The Roman Festivals (1899); G. Jourde, Le Culte du dieu Terme (Paris, 1886).