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p673 Lectisternium

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p673 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.


[image ALT: An engraving of a marble chair with a drapery slung over it. It is an example of an ancient Roman pulvinar, or ceremonial chair for the gods.]

LECTISTE′RNIUM. Sacrifices being of the nature of feasts, the Greeks and Romans on occasion of extraordinary solemnities placed images of the gods reclining on couches, with tables and viands before them, as if they were really partaking of the things offered in sacrifice. This ceremony was called a lectisternium. Three specimens of the couches employed for the purpose are in the Glyptotek at Munich. The woodcut here introduced exhibits one of them, which is represented with a cushion covered by a cloth hanging in ample folds down each side. This beautiful pulvinar (Sueton. Jul. 76; Corn. Nep. Timoth. 2) is wrought altogether in white marble, and is somewhat more than two feet in height. At the Epulum Jovis, which was the most noted lectisternium at Rome, and which was celebrated in the Capitol, the statue of Jupiter was laid in a reclining posture on a couch, while those of Juno and Minerva were seated on chairs by his side; and this distinction was observed in allusion to the ancient custom, according to which only men reclined and women sat at table (Val. Max. II.1 §2). Nevertheless it is probable that at a later period both gods and goddesses were represented in the same position: at least four of them, viz. Jupiter Serapis and Juno or Isis, together with Apollo and Diana, are so exhibited with a table before them on the handle of a Roman lamp engraved by Bartoli (Luc. Ant. II.34). Livy (V.13) gives an account of a very splendid lectisternium, which he asserts to have been the origin of the practice.


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