Friday, January 1, 2010

Vota pro salute imperatoris

The Romans had a very strict, almost juridical, from of a religion. The Vota pro salute imperatoris (for the health or safety of the emperor and his family) is one of the more extreme form of ritualised legal behaviour towards the gods. This was a vow that was renewed and for filled every year as long as the gods kept the emperor safe - it would, on the other hand, be considered breaking and agreement (from the gods side) if the emperor died.

The vow would normally be uttered on the 1st of January (OCD 3 s.v. votum), but notice that the (rather old) commentary on the quote below state that it was to eb done on December 30th.

The emperor Trajanus.

"To the emperor Trajan

We have acquitted, Sir, and renewed our annual vows for your
prosperity, in which that of the empire is essentially involved,
imploring the gods to grant us ever thus to pay and thus to repeat

"Trajan to Pliny

I received the satisfaction, my dearest Secundus, of being
informed by your letter that you, together with the people under
your government, have both discharged and renewed your vows to
the immortal gods for my health and happiness."

Pliny the elder - epistulae X 35 & 36
Translated by William Melmoth

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