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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces an article in the
American Journal of Philology
Vol. 36, No. 3 (1915), pp314‑322.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p314  GraboviusGradivus,
Plan and Pomerium of Iguvium

The efforts to solve the mystery of the word "Grabovius", an epithet of three gods in the Iguvian tables has thus far been fruitless. The latest summary of the situation, by Samter in the Pauly-Wissowa (V.14, s.v.) frankly says (p1686): "die Bedeutung und Etymologie des Namens ist ganz unsicher."

The word is Umbrian and appears only in these Iguvian tablets as an epithet of Jupiter, Mars and an unidentified god Vufiume or Vofione. An archaic way of spelling the word in tablet I is Krapuvi. Following the order in Samter's summary we find that it has been variously interpreted as gra-bos, a god who feeds cattle (Lassen); as gravis, a gracious god (Pott); as Krap- κρατ- a strong god; as derived from an original Grabus like Fisovius from Fisus (Aufrecht-Kirchhoff); as equivalent to lat. gradus, meaning 'growth', like gradivus, meaning the god who produces growth in nature (Bréal); and, finally, as the equivalent of "Gradivus" with the meaning of gradior (Keller).

Since philological speculation has left us in this impasse it may be worth while to consider the problem from the angle of archaeology, and in order to do so something needs to be said as to the Iguvian ritual in connection with the topography of the city, because it is in what appears to be the pomerial ritual that the real explanation of Grabovius is found.

The subject of this paper is mainly, therefore, the shape and arrangement of the plan of Iguvium and its pomerium. The Iguvian tables are conceded to represent archaic forms of pre-Roman ceremonial, through preserved only in late copies of the second or even first century B.C. They give the only long formulas of land consecration that we possess, and were handbooks of instruction for the priesthoods of Iguvium. Of the two principal ceremonies, one is for the annual purification of the area of the city and citadel with the renewal of their boundaries; the other is for the annual purification of the  p315 people themselves. They correspond to the Roman amburbium, ambarvale and lustratio populi.1

It is in the text of the first of these ceremonials that the term Grabovius is used. There are two versions of the ritual: a longer version in tablet VI; a shorter and more archaic in tablet I. The ritual in this amburbium is as follows: The auspices having been found favourable the priest proceeds first to the city gate called Porta Treblana. Here, in front of the gate he sacrifices three oxen to Jupiter Grabovius (IA2; VIA22) repeating a long prayer on behalf of the arx and the city. This prayer he recites three times, once for each victim. He then reënters the gate and at a point inside sacrifices three fallow sows to Trebius Iovius, with similar prayers. He goes on, after this, to the second gate, the Porta Tesenaca, where he sacrifices outside the gate three oxen to Mars Grabovius (IA11; VIB1) and inside the gate three sucking pigs to Fisus Sancius. Then on the third or Veian gate, where three oxen are offered outside to Vofionus Grabovius (IA20; VIB19) and inside the gate three sheep to Tefrus Iovius.

The sacrifices around the border-line of the city having been completed the sacred procession reënters it and proceeds first to the temple or lucus of Jupiter where three young bulls are offered to Mars Hodius and, finally, ends the ceremony at the temple or lucus of Coredius (Coredier) where the young bulls are offered to Hondus Serfius.2

The important feature of the ritual in this connection is that at each of the three gates of the city there is not a single but a double sacrifice. Neither sacrifice is at the gate itself; the first is at a point outside; the second at a point inside the gate. In all three cases of sacrifice outside the gate the epithet Grabovius is given to the god to whom the sacrifice is offered; in no case is it given to a god to whom an offering is made inside the gates. Is this merely a coincidence or has it a meaning?

What are these two sacrificial points outside and inside the  p316 gates? What can they be but the outside and inside boundary lines of the pomerium strip on which the walls were built? There has been considerable fluctuation of opinion in regard to the pomerium. It has been denied that it was a consecrated ribbon of land surrounding the urbs. It has been said to be merely a single boundary line or ditch. It has been run inside and parallel with the walls; or, again, outside the walls only. It has been imagined as an outside boundary strip not parallel with the line of the walls but as of curved form, like a magic circle. The bulk of scientific opinion has now returned, however, to Livy's definition that it was a strip of land on which the walls were built and which was wider in section outside the walls and narrower in the band inside the walls, to suit the best policy of defense. I have myself contributed toward defining the width of the pomerial strip outside the walls by pointing out that arches commonly called triumphal which were built outside the walls of certain Roman cities or on the border lines of the later unfortified colonies and municipalities throughout the Roman world, were placed on the outer boundary of the pomerial strip.​3 It was this outer boundary that was of the greatest importance. Here it was that jurisdiction changed from military to civil, as the urbs was approached, or vice-versa; where the area consecrated by the auspices was entered; where the rule of the city magistrates began. It was at this point that the ceremony of reconsecrating the urban area would naturally begin, as it does in the Iguvian ritual. It would be at this point, just beyond each gate, that the guardian gods of the urbs would be asked to speed the departing citizens or the armies of the state, and would be asked to accompany them and keep them, would be appealed to in their aspect of road-gods, as Mars was and as Janus was in Rome, when his temple-gate on the pomerium-line was opened each spring, and he was supposed to journey with the army and return with it.

It is singular that no critic of the Iguvian text has, I believe, seen that the double sacrifice outside and inside the gates was connected with the pomerium strip — was, in fact, a proof of its existence. There can be no question that Iguvium had a pomerium. The whole Iguvian ritual is based on the pomerial idea. It is the indispensable corollary of the templum. There  p317 could be no urbs without pomerium. Also, it is a well known fact that the entire circuit of a city's wall was consecrated. Now this presupposes that the land on which the walls stood was consecrated. If so, there must have been a line marking where this consecration began and where it ended. It must have extended on either side of the wall. It is only a question of how much. The porta of a city was, according to tradition, the only place where it was allowable to pass because the consecrated strip was here interrupted. That being so it seems as if any ceremony located at two points, one outside and the other inside every gate of a city must be referred to the only known topographical element at this point — the pomerial strip. All the cities of Latium and Etruria had both templum and pomerium. Whatever site was consecrated by augury and auspices had, of necessity, a pomerium to bound the consecrating formula.

In connection with the boundary line of the urbs of Iguvium and its three gates it is important to study the formula given in another part of the tablets for marking out the templum of the arx. Its importance is more than local: it affects our views as to the ground-plan of other early Italian cities, even of Rome. The formula shows that the templum of the citadel of Iguvium was undoubtedly triangular. I do not believe that such a thing as a triangular templum has thus far been even imagined. Yet it is incomprehensible how Bréal or any other student of the text could hold to the idea of a square templum for Iguvium. It was due, I suppose, to the orthodox hallucination that there could be no templum but a square templum. This fetish is so little founded that it is bound eventually to be abandoned, and I hope to contribute to its downfall. There were circular templa and triangular templa as well as rectangular templa. Varro expressly states (LL. VII.6‑13) that celestial and sub-terrestrial templa were of necessity circular, but that templa marked on the earth's surface could be made of any shape described in the consecrating formula. The proofs for circular templa I have already elaborated in another paper:​4 those for the triangular templum, besides the present Iguvian proof, will shortly appear. I may as well repeat here, however,  p318 this decisive passage in Varro from which we infer that surface templa could be of any shape, as it seems necessary in order to counteract the presupposition that the urban templum must be rectangular: templum tribus modis dicitur: ab natura, ab auspicando, a similitudine; ab natura in caelo, ab auspiciis in terra, a similitudine sub terra. After speaking of the whole hemisphere of heaven as the celestial hemisphere, he proceeds, as an example of the way a templum in terris can be marked out, to recite an early formula which describes a triangular form, a passage which has been as little circumstantially studied and understood as has the text of the Iguvian tables which will now be examined.

I am preparing a study of the triangular form of templum, which was very commonly at the basis of the plan of the early cities of Central Italy outside of Etruria. I will here confine myself to demonstrating the fact for Iguvium alone.

First in order is the annual reconsecration of the templum of the arx. I will quote Buecheler's version of the text in Umbrica:

Templum ubi flamen versatur arcis piandae id stativum sic finitum est: ab angulo in imo qui proxume ab ara divorum est, ad angulum summum qui proxume ab sellis auguralibus est; et ab angulo summo ad selles augurales ad urbicum finem; ab angulo imo ad aram divorum ad urbicum finem, et urbicis finibus utroque vorsum servato.

[image ALT: A diagram of a triangle, explained in the text.]

It will help if this description is turned into a diagram. The augural seat is at the upper corner, the angulus summus, of a triangular area. The priest in marking out the templum must be imagined as facing eastward, and as marking the first side of the triangle on his left, both because the left was the lucky side​5 and because in the only other formula for the consecration of the templum from the arx, the above-mentioned archaic Latin ritual preserved in Varro, the priest is described as  p319 running his first border line on his left hand. In the Iguvian ritual he does it by stretching his wand out toward the lower left-hand corner and then bringing it back toward himself in a motion from left to right. But in marking out the second line, that on his right hand, his motion is reversed. He starts it from his sellae augurales and runs it out toward the point where the arx joins the urbs. Why is this? Evidently because in this way he still keeps to the movement from left to right, which is the direction of luck, whereas had he done as before he would have followed the unlucky right to left movement. In marking the third or base line he does not simply continue the sweep of his arm from the fines urbici, but begins a fresh movement which starts at the opposite end, the angulus imus and ends at the fines urbici. The reason for this is the same: to preserve the lucky direction from left to right.

The first corollary of a triangular augural tabernacle or templum of the arx is that the larger templum of the urbs, whose consecration has been described above, was also triangular, with a gate probably in the centre of each side of the triangle.

The second corollary is that the boundaries marked out for the more elaborate ceremony of the lustration for the purification of the people of Iguvium were also triangular in shape. The general opinion seems to be that these boundaries were about a limited area, like the enclosure in the Campus Martius for the lustration of the Roman people. My own impression is that the area was large, was in fact that of the whole Iguvian canton, the ceremony and area corresponding to the ambarvale of the original canton of Rome, which was in charge of the Arval brothers. The phraseology used in describing the points through which the lustration boundary passed is made up of topographical terms suited to the country and not to the city.

This reflects some light on the course of the procession in the ceremony of the amburbium already described. In the sacrifices at the gates the procession must have moved from left to right, as this was the lucky direction, and have started at the gate on the left of the augural area, as the left side was the first to be inaugurated. In a number of cases I have found that the plan of pre-Roman cities consisted of two triangles: a smaller one for the arx and a larger one for the urbs, joined by a narrow neck. I shall not discuss this at present nor  p320 attempt to apply this scheme to Iguvium, but merely point out that the three gates and the triangular shape of the arx templum render the triangular scheme for the urbs practically certain, especially in view of what I shall now say of the other ceremony of the lustratio populi, where the triangular scheme is absolutely certain.

The territory is first cleared of all strangers by a proclamation three times repeated. Then the ceremony begins at a point called ad Fontulos or in Fontulis. Here three red or black boars are sacrificed to Serfius Martius. The procession then passes to its second station at place called ad Rubiniam, where three red or black sows are sacrificed to Praestota Serfia Serfi Martii. This point seems to be connected with the main highway leading out of the Iguvian canton because two long prayers are here recited closing the road to strangers and opening it to Iguvians.​6 A libation is poured out to Fisovius Sancius. The procession proceeds to the third and last station at Trans Satam, where three calves are sacrificed to Tursa Serfia Serfi Martii. This ends the first act; but this grand tour is repeated twice to the same places: first to distribute the animals sacrificed and then to break the libation vases. In seeking to reconstruct the topography of the three stations it should be noted that the text connects Fontuli with the Porta Treblana and Rubinia with the Porta Tesenaca so that it is a fair inference to connect the third station at trans Satam with the third or Veian gate. It is also a fair inference that the roads leading out from the gates passed the cantonal boundary at these points. The placing of the entire ceremony under the auspices of Mars, or rather of hypostases of Mars, is a further analogy to the Roman form of lustratio populi and ambarvale, for Mars was the cantonal god and is now recognized as originally a god of the fields and of agriculture and only secondarily the god of war, as protector of crops and flocks.7

 p321  It seems evident, from a study of these various ceremonies which constitute the major part of the Iguvian tables that the sacred bounds were of the greatest importance. In the lustration ritual the bounds were marked by single instead of double ceremonies at the three points: the reason probably is that the cantonal boundaries were either natural streams or ditches, fossae limitales, and that the water or ditch constituted a single barrier. On the contrary the amburbium ritual, with its double ceremony at each gate, corresponds to the two borders of the pomerial strip, each border having its particular function and outlook, the one facing the urbs, the other facing the outside world. Each face corresponded to a definite divine aspect: one to the pax deorum of the home of the clan, where its gods were at rest with their people, the other to the dangers of the beyond, into which it was hoped that the members of the clan would go forth under the aegis of its gods.

There is, then, a basic concept necessarily underlying the choice of the gods to whom sacrifice was made at the outer boundary of the pomerium, and a choice also in the epithets given to the gods invoked under this particular aspect. What, now, do we find? We find that Jupiter Grabovius was invoked on the outer pomerium of Porta Treblana, Mars Grabovius on that of Porta Tesenaca, and Vofionus Grabovius on that of Porta Veia. Also, we find that the epithet "Grabovius" is not used as an epithet of these gods — or of any others in any different connection. It seems associated with the outer pomerium border only. It is interesting to remember that when the early Romans marched out each spring to war, they also considered themselves as accompanied by three gods: Jupiter, Mars and Janus. Jupiter conferred on the leader of the host his imperium; Mars Gradivus marched with the army; Janus made safe the way. With the substitution of Vofionus for Janus, we have a corresponding triad at Iguvium.

The logical conclusion is, in the first place, that the equation GraboviusGradivus is correct, but that its meaning was not, as Bréal thinks, connected with growth and productivity. It is Keller who is closer to the truth, and Grabovius denotes the marching, moving, aspect of the god to which it is applied. With the Romans it became restricted to Mars, but in the more archaic and conservative ritual of Umbria, it was applied to  p322 any god invoked as an accompanying protector outside the boundary of the clan. The second conclusion is that the triangle was the form at the base of the templum, the arx, urbs and territory of Iguvium. This much seems incontestable. A third conclusion, while not so conclusively proved, is that the sacrifices inside and outside the gates mark the two borders of the pomerial strip and add to our evidence in favor of the strip form of the pomerium.8

A. L. Frothingham.

Princeton, N. J., December, 1914.

The Author's Notes:

1 Bréal, Les Tables Eugubines; Buecheler, Umbrica; Buck, A Grammar of Oscan and Umbrian, p260 ff. Aufrecht-Kirchhoff, Umbr. Sprachdenkm. etc. II; Conway, The Italic Dialects, I.399 ff.

2 The procedure is identical in the two versions of the ritual; there is merely more of detail in tablet VI which contains the text of the prayers that do not appear in tablet I.

3 De la véritable signification des monuments romains qu'on appelle arcs de triomphe, in the Revue Archéologique, 1905, II, p216 ff.

4 American Journal of Archaeology, 1914 (XVIII), 3 pp302‑320: Circular Templum and Mundus.

5 I have treated on ancient Orientation and the lucky left in a paper read, Dec. 30, 1914, before the Archaeological Institute and American Philological Association, at Haverford. In it I show that the left was lucky and the right unlucky for Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Etruscans and Romans. To this list I can now add China.

6 This inference is strengthened by the association of Mars with the Porta Tesenaca which the text connects with the road to ad Rubiniam: Mars was the gradivus deity par excellence.

7 The lustratio populi in Rome in the Campus Martius, as distinct from the lustratio urbis, was probably a late symbolic partial substitute for the original ambarvale. The substitution took place, as we may suppose, after the era of expansion was well under way, and the boundaries of the original canton of Rome — not more than five miles at its furthest — had become obsolete.

8 In justice to Professor Frothingham it must be noted that the proof failed to reach him in time — B. L. G.

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