[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Sacrificing to standards

I sent the following message to Orion last evening, but have not seen it 
appear.  Please forgive me if this presents a duplication.

David Suter
Saint Martin's College


Here's what I came up with five years ago when I looked into the issue of 
the cult of the standards and the date of the Habakkuk Pesher in 
developing a critique of Eisenman's use of the reference to argue for a 
late date for the pesher.  The argument about the conservative character 
of religious practice (in general) comes from Gosta Ahlstrom, one of my 
professors, whom TLT and NPL normally think highly of (although I don't 
know if they'd go along with this particular argument.  The bottom line 
is that it is not possible to prove that the cult of the standards 
existed in republican times, but it is not possible to rule it out either.

The most important of the legionary standards was not the image of the 
emperor but the <L>aquila</L> or eagle of the legion, which was given to 
the various units under the reforms of Gaius Marius in 104 BCE.  The 
eagle was the <L>numen legionis</L>, had an altar dedicated to it, and 
received sacrifices when the legion was victorious.  Its loss in battle 
was the equivalent of the death of the legion.  While there is no direct 
evidence that the cult of the standards antedates imperial times, it is 
entirely within the realm of possibility that it does -- particularly since 
the introduction of the <L>aquila</L> by Marius was one of several steps 
designed to make the army a more effective and professional fighting 
force.  The fact that religious practice is generally conservative in 
character likewise suggests the possibility of a republican date for the 
cult.  In any case, the detail cannot be used to rule out a date for the 
Habakkuk Pesher as early as 63 BCE, the beginning of the Roman presence 
in Israel.  

For information on the cult of the standards, see Michael Grant, <B>The 
Army of the Caesars</B> (New York: Scribners, 1974), p. 5; N.G.L. Hammond 
and H. H. Scullard, eds., "Signa Militaria" and "Standards, Cult of," <B>The 
Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd edition</B> (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970), 
pp. 988 and 1011; H.M.D. Parker, <B>The Roman Legions</B> (New York: 
Barnes and Noble, 1958), p. 36; and Lawrence Keppie, <B>The Making of the 
Roman Army:  From Republic to Empire</B> (Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble, 
1984), p. 67.  Keppie points out that prior to the Marian reforms the 
five symbols on the standards -- eagle, wolf, minotaur, horse, and boar -- 
were all "animal totems, reflecting the religious beliefs of an 
agricultural society" (ibid.), another factor suggesting that the cult of 
the standards has its roots in traditional Roman religion and is not an 
innovation of the Empire.

Could the last comment in any way illuminate the "horses and beasts" in 
the Habakkuk Pesher?

Hope this is helpful,

> > > 

David W. Suter
Saint Martin's College
Lacey, WA 98503