Last night I spent hunched over a hot scanner, transforming a text book from paper into a PDF. My first reason for doing so is that it is simply more accessible in that format. The library charges $8 to borrow it, and lends it to me for a fortnight. That isn’t long enough to do more than look briefly at it. The other reason, simply, is that in PDF form it is searchable and far more useful. It also doesn’t occupy floor-space in these ridiculously small modern houses. It was 400 pages, so it took a while.
While so doing, I continued to read about the fetiales priests, and their spokesman, the pater patratus. It’s really very clear that the priests existed to ensure that, when Rome went to war, the gods were onside, or at least not on the side of the other guy. So these chaps did the rituals that were necessary, delivered warnings and threats, and generally acted as backup-men for the senate. Divine retribution was something that, in the Roman mind, should always happen to the other guy. They took the possibility seriously, and acted to prevent it. The priests were, in other words, a state responsibility. Each of the early Latin cities did the same and had the same kinds of people, under the same names even. Even in the time of Claudius, a representative of Lanuvium, concluding a treaty with Rome, held the same title when he performed the role and is recorded under it. Nothing suggests that it was a permanent post; nor, really, that it was not. But there were 20 fetiales, a delegation consisted of 4; and presumably, therefore, they chose one of their number to do the role for that trip. It would be pretty unlikely that one poor chap had to go on every embassy, which is the other alternative.
So where does this leave us, when we find a follower of Mithras with that title? Does it relate to the cult in any way? Or is it merely a role that he held for other reasons, and so is mentioned on his inscription?
We shall consider it.
Meanwhile another project of mine is going forward. Eusebius’ Commentary on Luke is being translated for the first time. The first two columns from the Patrologia Graeca edition hit my inbox today. The work may or may not be Eusebian, but it is certainly interesting!