Kalends September: Jupiter Thunderer and Juno Queen of the Gods

Jupiter and Juno touching cheeks

Jupiter & Juno on Mount Ida, James Barry 1790

Kalends September

Many Kalends are dedicated to specific deities, and September starts with Jupiter and Juno. Jupiter is honored throughout the month of September, with games in his honor as well as a ritual feast on the Ides. At some point this ritual feast was celebrated not only for Jupiter but for the Capitoline Triad, Jupiter, Juno, Minerva. Juno is often celebrated at the beginning of months. Even as we celebrate her in her role as Jupiter’s spouse and queen of the gods, we also see Latona (Leto) coming up later in the month. The marital life of the rulers of the gods was certainly not depicted as placid or uncomplicated. So if not even the home life of the gods is perfect, what hope do we mortals have? Perhaps the lesson is that marriage is messy, making a family and home is messy, and yet we persevere.

On this day, raise a toast in remembrance of the happy couple. This moment of marital bliss won’t last, but it will return.

Kalends Rites from Around the Web

Kalends Ritual (Nova Roma)

Kalends Rite for Jauns (Religio et Pietas)

A Kalends Tradition Renewed (Mea Pietas)

Rites of the Ides and Kalends (Roman Religion Workbook)



Gerechtigkeit, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1537

Image via Wikipedia

In Roman philosophy, Iustitia, or Justice, was very much tied to Pietas. Beyond holding up the notions of fairness and impartiality as good character traits, Justice was seen as the earthly manifestation of Pietas.  As Cicero explains it, Pietas is all about giving the Gods their due, while Iustitia is the same concept, but with human laws and fellow men instead of divine laws and the gods. Livy, on the other hand, firmly denounced replacing Fides with Iustitia, as his understanding of Justice is that of a somewhat one-sided virtue.

Unlike Fides, which has to do with mutual right relationships, Justice is about being fair to the people who one has power over.  The Roman state wished to appear just to its conquered territories, much as a father wishes to appear just in his dealing with his various children.  Iustitia depends very much on hierarchical relations and Fides does not.  Livy found Fides to be a more Roman virtue and thought of Iustitia as a Greek interpolation of weaker value. Even so, I think Livy would have to admit that Roman society was indeed patriarchal and hierarchical, and in those circumstances it is very important for the powers that be to be perceived as just.

As a personal virtue, Iustitia is a little hard for me to navigate. I of course wish to be just with my children and fair to my friends, but my children are only under my sphere of influence for a limited time and my friends are peers, not people I lord over in some way.  Other situations where I personally might think of applying Iustitia are more matters of Wisdom or Integrity.

On a societal level, however, Justice is absolutely vital to a healthy state and culture. Injustice harms those it favors as much as it harms those it pushes down.  We should always pay attention to how our authority is treating the least among us, and not simply because one day something might happen to make us the least. Our civic virtuous life is reflected in how our society treats the people on the bottom. Without a solid foundation of Justice, our state cannot stand and present itself as a right, moral, legitimate power.

And this is the last of my Roman virtues series. It took me a bit longer to finish than the ADF virtues, but it was time well spent. I’ve learned quite a bit about what I consider virtuous and have a lot of new material to help me live a self-examined life. I’ll be thinking very heavily on the virtues that I’ve rejected; why I rejected them, what it says about me, and how embracing might or might not improve my life.

  • Amicitia (titarufiaprisca.wordpress.com)
  • Severitas (titarufiaprisca.wordpress.com)
  • Courage (dragonflyhouse.wordpress.com)
  • Virtue (olmwsimpletruths.wordpress.com)


Istanbul Archaeological Museum - Portrait of C...

Cornelia Antonia as Pudicitia. Istanbul Archaeological Museum

“The loveliest form of beauty. . .the greatest adornment. . .pudicitia”, said Seneca to his mother Helvia. Seneca was especially close to his mother and aunt, and considered his mother to be one of the most chaste and modest women that he knew. Chastity and modesty were extremely important virtues for a Roman woman, to the point that Pudicitia was made into a goddess with her own cult following. Married women above all wished to radiate pudicitia, or chaste and modest sexual virtue. In an era when a woman could be divorced simply for being the target of evil gossip even if she had done nothing wrong, pudicita was a fragile and elusive virtue that could mean the difference between life and death.  To belong to the cult of pudicitia, a woman had have only slept with one man, her husband, and only one husband. If her husband died, she would have to choose between Pudicitia and remarriage.

Boys still wearing their bullas also were considered to be protected by Pudicitia, making them off limits to older men who might like to have homosexual relations with them. Pueri Romani, Roman boy citizens, were absolutely off-limits, unlike slave boys or non-citizens. And so pudicitia was not simply a female virtue,  but definitely mostly a virtue of the weak.  Though some writers refer to men when they speak of pudicitia, they’re mainly speaking of how men ought to make sure that their women and children are protected by and practice Pudicitia, and how they should reward them for this by being chaste themselves. Rome was very much the patriarchy.

Wealthy Roman women of high status could afford to no mind to pudicitia, as far as it actually governing their sex lives. But even the elite could get into trouble if public opinion turned against them, and lack of pudicitia could suddenly become desperately important. Historically, pudicitia was mainly a weapon to govern women’s behavior and punish those who didn’t play by the rules or who simply fell out of favor or were inconvenient in some way. I view any supposed virtue that is very hard to prove or disprove, and that is used to control women, as being a very poor virtue.

On the other hand, there is something to be said for not using sex as a purely recreational activity or bodily intoxicant. Even so, I return to the knowledge that pudicitia was mainly about controlling women and their bodies. I’ll have to pass on this ancient Roman “virtue”.


Herman Saftleven landscape

Herman Saftleven: Landscape with Roman Ruin

Severitas: a justifiable and necessary strictness

For Roman society, severitas was an absolutely necessary social control. To display too much indulgentia would make one seem weak, especially if you were the (male) head of household, a leader or politician, you had to be strict and yet fair and moderate. Even mothers well-stereotyped for their indulgent natures had to practice severitas if they wanted to raise up worthy sons and modest daughters for their houses.

But Seneca says that the opposite of severitas is not clementia, because virtues cannot be in opposition to each other. For Seneca, the opposite of severitas is  saevitia, cruelty, because for severitas to be true it must be justifiable and necessary.  Cicero, on the other hand, thought that sometimes both severitas and saevitia were required for control, though I don’t think he would have elevated cruelty to a virtue.

All the philosophical discussions of severitas reveal a very important thing about severitas– it is a very delicate virtue indeed. If it isn’t applied with the utmost control and delicacy, it becomes cruelty, crudity and oppression. So should it be a virtue for modern Roman pagans at all?

The thing is, if we have no ability at all to be strict with ourselves, it’s likely we won’t get much done. Setting a schedule and sticking to it, eating one cupcake and not the whole tray, saving money for a future purpose instead of spending it all on a whim– these are all perfectly necessary applications of severitas. Likewise exercising when required, practicing, and doing chores that are repetitive but necessary.

One area where the issue of severitas versus cruelty versus indulgentia comes up a lot is parenting. We want to be kind to our kids, give them great things and experiences, but we also want them to grow up to be responsible, healthy adults. And so we don’t let them eat a gallon of ice cream and stay up until 2 am on a school night. It seems very cruel to the kid at the time, but later they’ll thank us for our severitas.


The Young Cicero Reading, 1464 fresco, now at ...

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Amicitia translates literally as friendship. In Roman times it meant something a bit more subtle and political than what we consider friendship– the casual, social relations that we have with people who we enjoy associating with. We see some very good examples of amicitia in HBO Rome, between Atia of the Julii and Servilia of the Junii. These women don’t at all like each other in any sense that we understand and are in fact constantly plotting against each other, but officially they are “friends”. The benefits of the association outweigh their personal distaste.

In modern society we decry this sort of behavior, and indeed I’ve no desire to be nice to people in public while carving up defixiones for them at night. But being cordial to people and being friendly with people because we share common goals and worldviews is not a bad thing, even if I don’t especially want to invite them over for dinner. Not so much the “enemy of my enemy is my friend”, more “the friend of my worldview is my friend”.

Of course Romans did have different, deeper thoughts on friendship. Cicero wrote a whole dialogue on the subject “Laelius de Amicitia“, much of which would sound quite familiar by modern standards of what makes a good and “true” friend. Most interesting to me is his exploration of what friends should not ask of each other, such as to commit or cover for immoral acts.  Also interesting are his notions of the “false limits of friendship”, which goes along with a very Pagan statement that Cicero makes, that generosity is a natural condition of human nature. If we act as though we believe this is true, or if we really do believe this is true, then it makes the entire notion of friendship and close friendship possible. Without this philosophy, where would we ever find Cicero’s “good person” to be friends with?



Rome: Season 1, Episode 11–The Spoils

Ray Stevenson as Titus Pullo (left) and Kevin ...

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This episode’s theme was redemption, but of course there will be no redemption for Gaius Julius Caesar. Several characters hit rock bottom– Vorenus is reduced to bribing his fellow former brother soldiers into submission to Caesar’s plans, Pullo is out being a killer for hire and Brutus has finally realized what a total puppet he is.

Pullo’s redemption starts when he sacrifices and prays in his cell before being led away to the gladiatorial ring to pay for his crimes. Vorenus’s redemption comes full circle there, when he throws himself into the ring for the honor of the Legio XIII, and to support his brother Pullo. The scene where they leave the gladiatorial ring together is one of the most touching moments in the series. Brutus, meanwhile, is pushed beyond his ability to cope by Caesar’s “request” that he quit the city and become mayor of some far off place. He realizes that Caesar does not trust him because he has become untrustworthy, not because he has acted against Caesar but because he hasn’t acted in accordance with his own conscience. Of all the redemptive moments, I think Brutus’s is the weakest because Brutus of HBO Rome is a weak man. He has principals, but he doesn’t truly have the virtus to support them.

Pullo’s redemption is fullest because he can admit to himself where he’s gone wrong. His last prayer in the cell is for his friends and the woman he loves, not for himself.  However far away from the light he’s wandered, he is at heart a truly good guy, perhaps one of only two characters in the series (the other being Octavia) who has that interior nobility. Vorenus is still very conflicted between honor and duty, and that conflict will most likely destroy him.

Octavian, who I have been worrying about, got his moment too when he goes against Caesar’s wishes to try to hire a lawyer for Pullo.  This bit of defiance and doing what’s right instead of what’s politically expedient makes me think much more highly of this character. He’s still a bit problematic in certain aspects compared to the actual Octavian Augustus Caesar, but he’s coming along. Only one episode to go for Season One!

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Moderatio is the word from which we get our English word, moderation.  It means governance or control, guidance, regulation.  For Aristotle, the concept of moderation is central to the entire notion of “virtue”, since he said that virtue itself is having neither an excess nor a deficit of a trait.  Ancient Romans adored Greek philosophy, and moderation was a key Greek virtue. Entire branches of philosophical thought, such as Epicureanism, were based on the ideal of moderation.

As modern people, we tend to think of moderation in terms of temperance. Like Aristotle, we define being moderate by being not too extreme and by not under or overdoing things. To be moderate is to be “in the middle” and to strive for balance in our actions.  Epicurus is one of the progenitors of the Wiccan idea of “do no harm”, and many people who consider themselves moderates embrace a similar notion.  Moderates view extreme behavior as being harmful to people and society, and tend towards a “live and let live” ethic. Unfortunately, I think this can be a too passive form of moderation.

I think the Romans would have viewed moderatio primarily through the lens of self-control.  To practice  moderatio would be to actively practice  self-regulation.  It’s one thing to be moderate when it’s convenient or expedient to do so, and another to practice it actively. If the point of moderation is to avoid harm, then simply sinking into passive inaction and calling it moderate behavior won’t suffice. True moderation requires active self-governance, and taking action when needed, either by restraining one’s actions or by doing something to correct the unbalanced situation.

Rome: Season 1, Episode 10–Triumph

Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar

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The historical Caesar was honored with several Triumphs, which were celebratory religious parades. The one featured in this episode of Rome was the one that displayed Vercingetorix, the chieftain of the Averni and leader of the united Gauls, who was overthrown by Caesar in the first episode of the season. At the end of the triumph, Vercingetorix is ritually strangled in front of Caesar. Supposedly the Romans believed that this was a way to transfer the life energy and courage of their enemy to them.

Octavian, Caesar’s nephew and successor, is shown as  Pontifex Maximus. He comes out of Jupiter’s temple with a bowl of red to paint Caesar’s face with, red being Jupiter and Caesar standing as Jupiter’s avatar for the day. In the commentary, they mentioned that the slave who rode in the back of the chariot with him during the parade was supposed to whisper “remember that you are not a god, but a man” for the entire triumphal parade. I guess this was to keep things from going to the feted one’s head. Not that it seems to be working in this episode with Caesar, who is starting to believe his own line of chat that he is indeed a demi-god.

I’m still worrying about Octavian, who by historical counts was a deeply religious man, dedicated to the Gods of Rome and protecting the Roman state from the influence of foreign cults. In an earlier episode he says that he believes in a “one universal source but of course the gods aren’t real”, which I think is a poor representation of Octavian’s actual religious philosophy. In this episode, he extracts his sister from the clutches of a debased and unhealthy cult of Cybele. Cybele was a very popular imported goddess in Rome. Considering Octavian’s position on the corrupting influence of foreign cults, one would think this was fairly well done. Oddly enough, however, Octavian was known for bringing the Cybelean cult to prominence during his reign. Octavian seems to becoming more and more muddled in this show.

And Titus Pullo, suffering an extreme blow to his love life, kills one of Vorenus’s slaves. This is an action of disrespect and a breach of hospitality so deep that Vorenus ejects him from his house.  Vorenus is also running in a fixed election for a magistrate-type position, with much coaching from Caesar’s slave Posca. I don’t know if Vorenus has gotten more uppity because of his new higher position and deal with the Caesar-devil politics, but even if he has, I can see his point about Pullo disrespecting him and breaking the hospitality of the house. Hospitality was an important virtue at the time, and there were requirements to be fulfilled by both host and guest. Pullo really went beyond the pale with the wanton slave killing.

Previous Episode:

Rome: Season 1, Episode 9–Utica

Amore Coniugali

ancient roman marriage

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Marital fidelity was held up as a State virtue in ancient Roman times. On the surface, it was so important that Gaius Julius Caesar divorced one of his wives because gossip had been spread that she was unfaithful– and still divorced her even though she was proven innocent. Despite all this public theater holding up marital fidelity as a Gods-required virtue, infidelity seems to have run rampant. Roman men had mistresses, sometimes set up in their own residences. Roman women had affairs.  Virtuous Gaius Julius Caesar had a natural son with Cleopatra. So why this public virtue of Amore Coniugali?

Amore Coniugali is a weapon of control set on women. In a patriarchal system that demands purity of genetic birthright, it’s the ultimate tool of authority.  In order for the State to be well ordered, in order for men to pass their family name and bloodline on, womens’ sex lives must be rigorously controlled. Proper parentage must be assured.  But the important virtue seems to have been “don’t get caught”. Getting caught in adultery could be serious peril for a woman, depending on how angry her family was about it and how deeply her husband’s family wanted to prosecute it. A woman with a powerful family of origin could theoretically get away with more (and demand more fidelity from her husband), but in reality any woman caught or suspected of adultery was in deep trouble indeed. Men’s penalties were both less severe and not as well enforced. A woman  might divorce an adulterous husband if her family (mostly her father or other male relatives) agreed, but it would require a wealthy and relatively powerful family to have this sort of protection.

Unlike the Greeks or later Christians, being an illegitimate child didn’t have a deep level of stigma in Ancient Rome. It was better to be a legitimate child of the house, but illegitimate children could still inherit property and be citizens if their birth circumstances allowed.  In itself, this is pretty enlightened as people can’t help who their parents are, but it points out once again that Amore Coniugali is more about controlling women than any other thing.

Where does that leave us with this as a modern pagan virtue? Most pagans have a more open and egalitarian outlook on marriage, even if they don’t practice “open” marriage of the polyamorous kind.  A spouse should be a deeply cherished person, but people are no longer possessions. We don’t have slaves and we don’t rule over our wives as chattel.  Any return to that, any guarding wives’ or daughters’ virtue as a possession of fathers and husbands, offends me deeply.

As modern pagan women, we should “belong” only to ourselves. Our virtues belong to us, not to the men in our lives.  If in our marital agreements we agree to be monogamous, then both husbands and wives should honor that. This isn’t a matter of sexual purity, which is itself a repulsive concept to me, but a matter of love, care and honoring one’s agreements.   As virtuous, enlightened pagan people, we should not need a separate virtue to ensure that we love and honor those we have promised to love and honor in front of our Gods. No “amore coniugali”, not for this pagan woman.

Rome: Season 1 Episode 9– Utica

Both Cato and Scipio commit suicide at the beginning of this episode, hard to watch even though they’re very much portrayed as the “bad guys” here.  It really drives home how, by Roman standards, they feel as though their honor is completely irredeemable after their defeat at the battle of Utica. Back in Rome, Caesar watches a satiric play of it all and does not seem amused. He has been, of course, thwarted in his ability to forgive Cato and Scipio (and by doing so humiliate them all the more), but also I suspect that he thinks this satiric take-down lessens his own glorious victory.

It’s interesting commentary on period Roman mores. Although modern people also don’t find much honor in defeat, we also have ideas about being a gracious loser and living to fight another day that would be a bit foreign to the Romans. Some of the largest amount of internal conflict we see is with Brutus, who is horrified at himself for having not killed himself, which he feels would have been more honorable than surrendering to and deferring to Caesar. His mother is clearly displeased with him as well, feeling that his actions shame his family name.

Cicero says something, either in this episode or maybe back a couple, about how he has to be more careful of his family name and keep it “polished up” more than Brutus needs do with his, as Cicero doesn’t come from as old and noble a family line as Brutus.  Not disgracing the family name is more important than personal survival.  A grim and sobering POV indeed!

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