Ch. 18 :Cults and Religions in Pompei 

The Pompeian, like any man of antiquity, is surrounded by sacred;  in his house as well as in the street, in a private ceremony or a public event, it can not escape the presence of the gods he worships and he readily recalls the existence in the decor of a room, in ornamentation of a façade.  For the population of peasants that were men of Pompeii, religious traditionalism is marked by the attachment to the gods of nature and fertility.  Seduced by Hellenism which had its roots in the past of their city, Pompey greeted the gods of Rome before even bend to its political domination;  but the Roman religion is so imbued with heterogeneous elements that wearing Sarnum sees flowering oriental cults without the sensitivities are the least encountered world.


Chronologically, the devotion of Pompeii is for one of the three major triads: 

A) - Triad Guardianship of the city: Hercules, Bacchus-Liber, Venus;  

B) - Capitoline Triad: Jupiter, Juno, Minerva;   

C) - Triad Isiac: Isis, Serapis and Anubis.  

But they did not prevent also adopt the simultaneous presence of these triads, so natural to ancient consciences.

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A) - Triad Pompeian Hercules Bacchus Venus.
He was known to the ancient epigrams that Pompeii was under the triple invocation of Hercules, Bacchus and Venus. It was not a poet's fancy, as N. Popidius Florus, belonging to an old family Samnite, made a dedication to Venus, Liber (that is to say, Bacchus) and Hercules in his suburban villa. This triad protecting foremost wine production of Vesuvian campaigns.

a1). - Temple of Hercules legendary founder of Pompeii, it was certainly dedicated the oldest temple still standing, the Greek temple of the triangular forum, built in the sixth century BC.  Few remnants remain: the monument had to be burned at the end of the Samnite period.  It was a pseudo-peripteral building, which contained eleven colonnade columns on the long sides and seven on small.  Besides this monument, in front of the access stairway to the cella, where one would expect to find the main altar of the temple, a sacred enclosure, the Romans respected, marked the grave of heroes founder, has always venerated, whose presence forced him to postpone a temple on the corner three altars in pre-Roman tuff. At the time Samnite, Apollo and Artemis were revered there maybe then it would have sheltered the cult temple of Minerva, as reported by a Oscan inscription.

The continuity of worship, is marked in some lararia: these domestic shrines host of Hercules statues or paintings representing armed with his club and wearing the skin of the Nemean lion. Héraklès  (the Greek name ..) is invoked and it appears now everywhere in Pompeii.  However Pinarius Cerialis belongs to a priestly family tradition where the worship of Hercules is assured. In his house, a painting recalls the encounter of Hercules with Evander and the founding of the Ara Maxima. "A cratopinon". Among the discoveries, a bronze knife sacrifice accompanying a beautiful terracotta vase (Skyphos), covered with a glassy polish, with which the priest of Hercules was the libations of pure wine: "A cratopinon".


a2) - Bacchus-Liber, the Bacchanal.  Thus, Hercules joined the worship of Bacchus-Liber, established since long in the Pompeian region.  In December 1974, on the nearby hill, 700 meters south of the amphitheater, it was discovered a suburban temple dedicated to Dionysian divinities, a Bacchanal. On the pediment in tuff, one recognizes the characters of thiasos Bacchic Dionysus and Ariadne, heraldically faced on either side of a thyrsus decorated with ribbons;  the side of Dionysus, Silenus and a panther;  Ariane side, a Eros holding a fan, a swan or a duck.  The temple contained a stibadeion device (three-sided bed for six people).  This pre-Roman construction dates back in its oldest state in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC and Atiniis Maras, elected official of the Samnite city of Pompeii, made the dedication of the altar. It is remarkable that the crisis which led to the ban on associations Dionysian 186, has not swept the Dionysian cult, in a region of Campania, which had largely contributed to its spread.

Yet the text of the Senatus Consult was categorical: there consuls ordered the destruction of places of worship within ten days after receiving the text Senate.  It is of course decide that the ceremonies can take place either in a private or on public land or out of town, seems to fall foul of repression.  However, from the Senate, authorization could be granted following a slow and complicated process: no one doubts that the Pompeians did have obtained since the sanctuary has survived until the end of Pompeii .;  the same that enthusiasm for Bacchus had been growing since it Doric temple was expanded even two large dining rooms and a meeting room, attesting to the prosperity of the association of devotees of Dionysus, which should be part N. Popidius Florus and many other owners who honored the god of wine, guaranteeing their prosperity as much as their salvation.

a2a.) - Garden Dionysian The Pompeian lived in a Dionysian atmosphere, since, in his garden as much as in the decoration of his house, everything connects it to this god close to the primitive naturalism, grapes and ivy devoted to it .  In the house of the Golden Amours, lemnisques and masks contained in a decorated wreaths placed between the columns, and one can speak of the Dionysian decoration of Pompeian peristyle.  It is in a garden dating back to before Roman times, which had installed the theater of Dionysos and frolicking satyrs. And so pleasure gardens greeted Dionysian symbols. The house golden Amours offers the best example of this mystical current.  Scattered amidst ivy cords, reliefs evoke the cult of the god theatrical masks, hermes bacchanalian allude to the satyr play, coupled to the garden and Dionysus.  This symbolic staging from an owner who shares her devotions among the Capitoline gods and Egyptian gods, the campaign seeks to suggest.  In the Vettii garden decoration recalls this same Dionysian presence.

Lararia around, often located in the gardens, as the Lar was gradually introduced in the Dionysian procession to place the maenads, and all the statues that are part of the ornamental religion Sileni, fauns, Dionysus himself , Nymphs and Satyrs, hermaphrodites.  The type of the slope becomes a fountain Wildlife pattern and takes place in the garden.
 Thus it is the medium par excellence of thiasos bacchanalian, where the god of wine takes the dimensions of a god of vegetation, turning the garden into real drama unfolds garden where an eternal satyr play. The garden represents for the Pompeian a haven for a god of salvation, perpetuating a religious conception close to the primitive naturalism, but also dramatic enough to seduce an evolved spirit and mystique.

a2b) - The Dionysian decoration god appears in the decoration of the rooms of the house..  Childhoods god gave artists one of their favorite themes.  For example, in Lucretius Fronto, satyrs and maenads escorting a white bulls yoked cellar on which sits the old Silenus, holding on her lap child Dionysus, greeted as a triumph.  The discovery by the young god of sleeping Ariadne on Naxos is found on many tables; among Vettii, for example, the pair of happy lovers witnessed the fight of Pan and Eros.  Furthermore, the round of bacchanalian thiasos with his drunken Silenus supported by Satyrs and Bacchae, inspires more humorous than religious paintings.  The decoration of lararia where Bacchus has conquered an important place has a deeper resonance.  Crowned with ivy, wearing a red cloak, holding bunch of grapes and thyrsus, it is associated with Jupiter, Hercules, he often gives to drink a panther in a gesture similar to that of Lares.  In the room where was installed the lararium home centennial, we found a painting where Dionysos, wearing a giant cluster of grapes, appears in a landscape dominated by Vesuvius, must emphasize the religious atmosphere of Pompeii daily was Dionysian.

a3) -. Venus Fisica Last divinity of this triad, Venus is a topical goddess of the city.  Her name is Venus fisica;  the epithet is found only in the inscriptions of southern Italy as defined in synthrophos Greek equivalent alma;  it can translate Venus Naturist (physica), sung by the Epicurean Lucretius, gold, Epicureanism was widespread in Campania.  This Venus fisica also takes the name of Venus Fisica Pompeiana, the artists even paint better than the Roman occupation earned him extra honor by associating it with the Venus of Sulla.  The dictator does not he gives his new settlement the title of Colonia Cornelia Veneria. Thus is defined a formal type of Venus, presented by painting a shop in the rue de l'Abondance, is shown coated with a long tunic and a purple cloak, standing naked in a majestic pose.  Wearing a gold tiara, she holds in her right hand an olive branch; the left hand rests on an overturned helm and the scepter.  It is simultaneously Fortuna.

It is found painted on the outside of the manufacturer and pharmacy draper Mr Vecilius Verecundus.  Draped in azure, she wears a golden crown, which is the Fortune triumph, earning the crown and the palm that tend him two cupids.  In a rock painting, she painted with Tyche-Nemesis, mistress of the world;  the Pompeii Blicus Genius tends a hook with his right hand and holds a cornucopia of the left hand. This type of canonical Royal Venus victorious and mistress of the world says enough that Venus is in Pompeii official goddess and that she expects of good fortune and prosperity.  Naturist its appearance remains fundamental.  She is the heir to the land Aphrodite, Venus is the gardens, which explains the existence of Pompeian priestesses of Venus and Ceres, such Alleya;  she is appointed to the fertility of vineyards and gardens in the Pompeian Venus temple which is represented on a painting depicting the marriage of Heracles and Hebe.

Venus Pompeian either official goddess of the city, Venus Felix, patroness of Sylla, has contributed much: contaminated Dionysian mysticism, Venus Pompeiana receives favorable opinions Sylla what's engraved on the new coins of Rome, being responsible for political sense too, even if the painting is referred to as a double erotic image, very motif in Pompeii.
 Venus Pompeiana had one Temple at noon on the terrace, which we discover the high perimeter walls when one goes to the Forum after crossing the Marine Gate.  He towered directly above the lava front on the entire coast and was undoubtedly a landmark for sailors, who also venerate this last as Venus called Marine.  In lararia this Venus Pompeiana, poses in his majesty, is also a place of honor, and received the homage of the householder.
 So the naturalism of the unconscious Pompeians spoke in worship of this first Triad, which is referable Flora, agricultural deity honored by the Samnites as the Flussai and enjoyed the same religious evolution that Venus, eventually be patron goddess of youth Pompeian, Juventus, which was exercised in the arena.

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B) - Capitoline Triad: Jupiter-Juno-Minerva
Second Triad Capitoline Triad is not an Etruscan heritage, we know: the Temple of Jupiter Capitoline dates only from the second half of the 2nd century and its subsequent reconstruction it is republican era.  The cult of the Capitoline Triad political symbol of membership in the Roman sovereignty, can not have been very successful until the founding of the Colony Syllanienne.

b1) - Temple of Capitoline Jupiter.  The temple of Jupiter dominates the forum and its orientation follows that of tufa colonnade samnite Forum.  Ruined by the earthquake of 62, he had not yet been rebuilt in 79. Installed on a high podium of 3 meters, the temple reaches 37.5 meters long which almost half is occupied by the cella.  It is preceded by a colonnade with deep front and side six tall columns of 8,40 meters.  One reached the temple itself by two narrow staircases which then widened across the width of the monument.  This feature allowed to have in front of the temple, but at a certain height, a rostrum of "Rostra".  In the midst of this platform stood an altar, as it appears on the bas-relief of lararium L. Caecilius Jucundus.

The portico and the cella were covered with shuttering ceiling and the decoration of the cella was particularly rich: a row of Ionic columns decorated each long side and entablature supported rows of Corinthian columns. Against the back wall of the cella stood a pedestal, the base of which were arranged three small rooms.  The pedestal was designed to receive three images of deities, while the rooms were assigned to the worship service.  In the cella a dedication to Jupiter Maximus Optimns, dated 37 AD, Jupiter and head left no doubt about worship the master of Olympus and his two consorts of Capitoline worship, Juno and Minerva.  For the construction of the face, by the exceptional abundance of hair and beard, symbols of power, the Peul be compared head of Zeus bust, originally from Otricoli. It symbolized the quiet strength of Roman rule and is easy to understand why this temple and became the most important and why it occupies the side of the forum, which is facing the Curia.

b2) - Temple of Zeus Meilichios.  The Capitoline Triad, as ceramic statues, continues to be honored after 62 in the temple of Zeus Meilichios because it symbolizes the continuity of the state, beyond all disasters.  This is a small temple in the northeast corner of the district of the Triangular Forum, behind the Theater, preceded by a colonnaded courtyard which the altar is placed at the foot of the stairs.  Tetrastyle a portico leading to the cella whose masonry, quasi-crosslinked, is contemporary architecture of the small theater and therefore the date of the first years of the Roman colony. It replaced an older building, named in an Oscan inscription as the Temple of Zeus Meilichios honored in many places of Greece by farmers.  Although this worship was retained by Home, it is more or less confused with the Optimus Maximus Jupiter and the temple was chosen to host in times of misfortune the Capitoline Triad.

b3) - Public Worship and Worship Jupiter Optimus Maximus Deprived of prestige is such that in a dedication, it is associated with Venus and Física by decree decurions..  This official worship, is served by pontiffs and the augurs, but the triad, or at least Jupiter and Minerva, is also present in the heart of private religion in lararia.  In a house, Minerva, wearing a long purple red chiton with a green and a yellow coat, covers the chest and head Gorgon helmet triple crest. In her left hand she draws on a long spear and his right hand, holding patera, made a libation on an altar. Jupiter is seated on a throne which is thrown a green coat, feet resting on a stool.  The upper body is bare, the bottom of his person is draped in a red cloth, he rests his head on his left arm and looks to read the left;  the scepter is pressed his left shoulder, el in the right hand he holds the lightning.  In a garden lararium, Jupiter is standing, wearing a red cloak over his shoulder, he relies on a right scepter and an eagle holding left.  Minerva wearing a chiton embroidered, the umbrella on the chest and a helmet on his head;  right she holds a spear, a shield on the left.  The usual imaging shows that the Pompeians had adopted the Roman tradition and, as "N. Popidius Florus", they could meet with one heart and naturist Triad Capitoline Triad of Jupiter Optimus Maximus symbolized by.

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c1). - Isis cult of Origin The vogue of the Triad Isiac Pompeii seems a priori more strange. The Oriental religions are foreign cults Campans.  But the Roman religion has always been welcoming to the gods from elsewhere, when the Romans themselves in a period of crisis, do not deliberately sought to broaden their religious horizon.  the first, was introduced in Rome in 205 BC. Sérapis,  Serapis, from 105 BC, has a temple in Pozzuoli, this major international port where the Egyptians brought along some of their goods beliefs.  The introduction of the Alexandrian god had been favored by the Greek-Egyptian syncretism which tended to assimilate to Bacchus.  But Pompey could discover the Alexandrian gods in the Sicilian ports and also on Delos where we find, along with a temple deities of Alexandria, traces of the Campanian trading.


c1a) - The Devotees, the Lower Classes.  The vogue of Alexandrian divinities was considerable in Pompeii.  They had the little people for them, speaking Latin or Greek, slave and freedmen families who formed the clientele of large houses.  Even become free, descendants of freedmen and former slaves continue to show their devotion that ultimately reaches the aristocracy.
 The Higher Classes. The cult, by gradually gaining the upper layers of Pompeian people, becomes like an official cult of the city. Alors que le Capitole ne sera pas reconstruit entre 62 et 79,  While the Capitol will not be rebuilt between 62 and 79, it is intriguing to learn that a descendant of an old family Samnite Popidius Celsinus N., son of N. Popidius Ampliatus and Corelia Celsa, falls under its ruins the Temple of Isis razed by the earthquake of 62. This freed son was only six and generous gesture from his father opened the doors of the municipal senate such admission proves the enthusiasm Island municipal aristocracy Isis faithfully served the people Popidia (Family Popidia).

The Popidia people and Isiaci. N. Popidius Natalis,  Popidius Natalis, Petre head of the goddess and her devotees, the Isis, occupied a modest home in the perimeter of the temple of Isis: a bedroom, a dining room, a small kitchen;  six hydriae containing aerated water, were named after him. En 79,  In 79, the same association insiders mysteries of Isis supported the candidacies of Cn. Helvius Sabinus and Cuspius Pansa, to whom also say N. Popidius Natalis.



THE TEMPLE OF ISIS. The original temple, which disappeared in the storm of 62, was built or at least started, probably before the foundation of the syllanienne colony, once the temple of Serapis, raised in 105 Pozzuoli, meant that were from the time of Freedom of Worship.  We respected in the plan when the building was rebuilt after 62: however Growing popularity of the Isis religion made it necessary the addition of two parts at the expense of neighboring Samnite Palaestra.
You enter from the street of the Temple of Isis, in a colonnaded courtyard in the middle of which stands the building.  The court was occupied by the sacred garden and colonnade stops and gives way to two large pilasters to spare a monumental entrance to the devotees who will honor the gods.

The oblong cella is preceded by a facade made from a gantry six columns.  A sacrificial pit, covered and full of fruits, occupies a corner of the yard near the entrance;  in the other corner, a building looks like a small temple, two altars are close, a third is close to the temple and five other, smaller, are arranged between the columns.  On the south side, between the colonnade and the Grand Theatre, align parts of a modest dwelling.
 A right and left of the front of the cella two niches are projected forward without being organically linked to the body of the temple.  The stucco decoration abuse.  Besides the wide staircase facade, a second, narrower at the rear, led directly to the cella where two pedestals bore the statues of Isis and Osiris.In the niches stood Anubis and Harpocrates

The walls of the colonnade are painted in light colors on a dark red background.  Above a lower part red, white columns, like the temple, have the shine of marble.  Each of the panels that divide the walls of the colonnade is occupied by a priest of Isis, while marine motifs adorn the lower parts, recalling that Isis was the patron saint of sailors.
 The cult was provided by a clergy represented on the panels of the colonnade of the courtyard.  The sacred scribe, the "hierogrammateus" carries two hawk feathers.  A second priest, wearing a dog's head-shaped mask, takes the likeness of the god Anubis.  The third, carrying palms and yards, is an astrologer, if we believe in Clement of Alexandria.The fourth door a lamp shaped Navicelle symbol of Isis, patroness of navigation.  All priests have their heads shaved and face, linen garments and palm slippers or papyrus and their number says quite the vogue of Alexandrian religions.

The Imperial Cult
 We can not but add that the Pompeian has, among other things, a God on earth, and it is the emperor to whom he reserves the most numerous testimonies of devotion.  The imperial cult transcends all other religions and anything that is divine is strange to the emperor.
 Giving himself for the general ancestor of the Roman nation, by him Rome was born. The Emperor can only sum up in him and cause all the Triads of his time.  Assuming all the divine that back him, the emperor offers everyone the opportunity to honor and worship transcends social or ethnic differences. In this city or the domestic religion comes into its own, the lararia Augustalis have a dominant place in the house.
 For her dedication and devotion merge.  The Forum sings imperial glory of Augustus; the reconstruction of the Temple in the Forum emphasized the omnipresence of Imperial Cult.