Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/374

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


326 The European Sky -God.

human Jupiters by putting them to death on the approach of old age. This custom furnishes a clue to the curious ritual of the argei at Rome.^ On May 15 every year bundles of rushes resembling men bound hand and foot were taken down to the old Sublician Bridge by the pontiffs and praetors, and were thence cast into the river by the Vestal virgins. Tradition explained the rite by saying that old men, sixty years of age, used to be flung from the bridge as a sacrifice — witness the proverb sexagenaries de ponte — though authorities differed as to the god thereby propitiated : some thought Saturn,- some Dis Pater.^ Now one of the most remarkable features of the occasion is that the flaniinica Dialis, or priestess of Jupiter, who usually wore bridal attire, had to be present with dishevelled hair and signs of mourning.* But, as Mr. Warde Fowler points out, no mention is made of the flanien, her husband — a significant omission ! I conclude that the sexagc7tarius originally thrown from the bridge^ was the superannuated flame7i Dialis, who during the years of his vigour and maturity had been a worthy representative of Jupiter, but on reaching the age of sixty must be done to death lest by his bodily decline he should imperil the divine potency resident in him. Like Aeneas he must be drowned in the river before reaching senility.^ Indeed, it is not improbable that the office o'i fianien Dialis was instituted precisely in order that the said flamen might take upon himself the numerous taboos and unpleasant restrictions^ (death by drowning

^ See Warde Fowler Rommi Festivals p. 1 1 1 ff.

'^0\.fast. 5. 627, though he ascribes the institution of the rite to "oracular Jupiter" [ib. 626); Dionys. ant. Rom. i. 38.

^Fest. s.v. "sexagenaries" p. 259 Lind.

  • Gell. 10. 15, Plut. qitacstt. Rom. 86.

^ Manilius ap. Fest. loc. cit. speaks of one, Ovid loc. cit. of two, Dionysius loc. cit. of thirty.

^See further Class. Rev. xvii. 269 n. 2. "' Frazer Golden Bough ^ i. 241 f.