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ancilae salii and archaic roman religion

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  • mrcaws <MrCaws@hotmail.com>
    In this post I will identify similarities in characteristic and apparent function betweem the Roman Salii, and the Curetes of Greece/Anatolia. One of the most
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31 3:41 PM
      In this post I will identify similarities in characteristic and
      apparent function betweem the Roman Salii, and the Curetes of
      Greece/Anatolia. One of the most striking of these is the use of the
      ancilae, a figure-eight shaped shield used primarily in bronze age
      The similarities are strong enough to warrant a question: In what
      manner are the Salii and Curetes related? By what means did the
      Romans develop a ceremonial group with such an overlap with the

      The Curetes were known mythologically as the atttendants of Rhea and
      protectors of the infant Zeus. They protected Zeus by drowning out
      his cries so that he would not be found by Kronos. They accomplished
      this by ritual dancing, singing hymns, playing flutes and clashing
      their spears or staves against their sacred shields, or ancilae. They
      were also a historical priesthood with associated with both Rhea and
      the infant Zeus.

      The Salii also carried the ancilae,or figure eight-shaped shield, and
      similarly beat their swords or spears against them while dancing,
      playing flutes and singing the hymn "Carmen Saliare". This song was
      in Latin that was considered archaic in Republican times. The Salii
      were especially associated with Mars and the time of his birth on
      March 1, also the date of the old Roman new year. The Salii were
      considered a priesthood, and only patricians could participate.
      There was an obscure myth about the ancilae invoving King Numa
      and a shadowy figure called Mamurius, who is thought to be a form of
      Mars or a blacksmith involved in the production of the shields. The
      myth is unclear, but Mamurius apparently constructed 11 ancilae
      imitating an original shield that fell from heaven, and the real and
      fake shields became confused. There was some ceremony involving the
      flagellation of Mamurius with hide-strips

      Ceremonial/decorative ancilae were discovered on Minoan Crete in
      Final Palatical times, associated with the Mycenaean-style warrior
      graves, as well as being found on mainland Myceneaen Greece. It may
      be worth noting that in Final Palatial Crete there is the first
      definite evidence for trade with Italy.

      Both the Salii and Curetes were thus forms of priesthoods/religious
      functionaries that carried the ancilae, and beat them with staves or
      spears while singing and dancing. Both were also associated with the
      birth of an important god. Going along with theories put forth by
      Jane Ellen Harrison, the baby-god figure is to be associated with
      the "year baby" associated with spring. Dumezil thought that the use
      of ancilae bt the Romans was quite ancient, but that the myths
      connecting them to King Numa were probably later additions.

      Unless we discard these similarities as some fantastic coincidence,
      that leaves a few possibilities.

      1.The ancilae and associated ceremony were diffused via Magna Graecia
      or Etruria in archaic/classical times.

      2. They were transmitted earlier in late bronze age times due to
      Mycenaean/Italic contacts.

      3. They were part of a widespread religious phenomenon practiced by
      both Mycenaean Greeks and Italic tribes whose origin must be sought
      in deep pre-historical times.


      Happy New Year
      Cort Williams
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