A STUDY ON THE SERVICE OF CHILDREN IN WORSHIP
Odi profanum vulgus et arceo.
Favete Unguis; carmina non prius
Audita Musarum sacerdos
Virginibus puerisque canto.
In this celebrated Ode Horace does not speak as a mere poet,but as a seer, as a prophet and a priest. If the conception,
formulated by Altheim1), that the poets of the Augustan Restauration spoke and felt not only as poets laureate or patriotic
romantics, but as vates in the old sense of that word, is at all right, it certainly is so here. The scene is that of a sacred
act of worship; the profani are repudiated, the unpropitious word is prohibited; the priest commences his carmina, i.e. the
sacred formulae used in ritual. But at the same time the prophet speaks, the preacher, urging a new unheard-of doctrine: that
of returning to the simple life of the primitive Roman community2).
And this carmen of a novel kind in a very ancient and venerable form is sung with the cooperation of maidens
and youths 2 a ) .
The magnificent lines of Horace point to an interesting feature of Roman and Greek ritual, i.e. to the employment of children in worship: in investigating this feature, however, we will find an underlying conception of a much broader scope, viz. that of
the special aptitude of children for getting into contact with the Powers sought for or avoided by rites.
It may be supposed to be well-known that the aptitude for the performing of or the participating in rites varies according
to the “disposition” of different kinds of people. That there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and still
another of the stars, is also true of ritual. It is not the same thing to approach the Powers being a man or being a woman,
being a child, or being an adult, being young or being old.
There is a disposition, an aptitude that is given and may be either a drawback or an advantage in ritual. We all know that
the sexes are not equal in their relation to the Powers and we do not even need to visit a Synagogue to see it confirmed: we
do not see any women at the altar nor even, in most churches,in the pulpit3). In Roman ritual strangers, slaves, women and
girls are sometimes excluded: “hostis, vinctus, mulier, virgo exesto” 4). In constituting the relations of man to the Powers the
power of him who seeks to establish a contact, must be taken in account. The disposition of power in a man or woman may be
adverse to establishing that contact, or on the other hand it may be favorable. For that reason in some cults women are excluded,
in others men; in most communal worships strangers are regarded as bearers of a strange, unaccountable, dangerous
power and for that reason excluded.
In the following remarks we deal with the special “disposition”,the Power proper to children.
That power is apparent in a quite remarkable manner in the ancient Roman institution of the Patrimi and Matrimi. A puer
patrimus et matrimus was, according to Festus, a free-born boy,who ministered to the wants of the flamen dialis when sacrificing;
he was also called camillus 3). The designation patrimus matrimus means that both parents of the boy were still living °).
Servius in his commentary on the Aeneid tells us that the boys should be of tender age (impuberes), of patrician descent
and investes, i. e. not yet ripe for wearing the toga virilis. In his notes on the Georgica he adds that they should be born from
a marriage concluded after the ancient sacred manner, i.e. a confarreatio 7). The Flaminica was served by girls, camillae, in
the same way as the Flamen by the boys. The patrician descent was obligatory only as long as it was so for the priesthood
itself, i.e. until the promulgation of the Lex Ogulnia (300) 8).
In another passage of Festus the children are called flaminius and flaminia, and the ministering girl is designated as sacerdotula0).
The Greek counterpart to the patrimi et matrimi are the . according to Pollux, is one
whose parents are both living10). In Andromache’s complaint in the Iliad she evokes the moving scene of their child, Astyanax,
after his father’s death, being teased, beaten and driven away at meals by the other boys who are : the orphan
has no right among them:
The chief function of these children was to assist in sacrifice.
They are often mentioned together with the flute-player and are also called ministri12). In the acts of the Fratres Arvales
they are described as ministering with incense and wine and bringing them to the altar13). They were clad in a
short tunic, the legs bare, and they carry the acerra, i.e. the vessel containing the incense, and the praefericulum, the sacrificial
jug. They generally wear long hair and a wreath of laurel. A statue of the Vatican shows the ideal type14). The
rica or ricinium, a small cloak covering the shoulders often completed the dress. In Greece, especially in mystery cult the seem to have been wholly or nearly naked.
But of this there is no trace at Rome, as far as I can see 15).
But not only service in sacrificial cult proper was the task of camilli and camillae at Rome, of the ii/upi&a.i.tlc, in Greece.
All sorts of preparations for ritual and service in ritual were expected of them. So we hear that the rica, worn by the flaminica,
was manufactured by virgines ingenuae, patrimae, matrimae 16). The camilli also served at meals 17). In Greece the were employed to cut branches from the sacred trees, the laurel and the olive18). They have an important
function in festivals and processions, among them the marriage ceremonies. In the , held on different occasions, they
play an important part. In the wedding procession they carry the wedding torch, in that of the Salii they are at the head of
the train (Salii as well as Vestals should be chosen from among the patrimi et matrimi exclusively19). At Magnesia nine boys
and nine girls, u(i<ft9-ui.eiQ, were in the cult and probably also in the procession of Zeus Sosipolis 20). It is a who is the bearer of the Eiresione and places it at the doors of Apollo’s temple at the festival of the Pyanepsia21).
At the Roman wedding ceremony the camillus carries the cumerum, the nuptial vessel, filled with corn. According to Festus this vessel was also called camillum after the bearer22).
A special function he had also in games; Cicero states that “ludi non sunt rite facti, when a dancer stands still or a flute
player suddenly stops or puer ille patrimus et matrimus lets go the processional carriage or drops his whip, or when an
aedilis makes an error in the words (he has to recite) or in the (manipulating of) the sacrificial vessel” 23).
We have evidence that the pueri patrimi et matrimi were employed in mystery cults also. The great dionysiac inscription
of Torre Nova counts among a great many titles of dignitaries also two 24), and the magnificent mural paintings
of the Villa Item show us the picture of a naked boy occupied in learning to read from a scroll, who might well be such a dionysiac juvenile minister25).
A very important function the camilli had at the celebration of the Ludi saeculares. The great inscription commenting upon
the ritual of these games as instituted and renewed by Augustus,requires “pueros virginesque patrimos matrimosque ad carmen
canendum chorosque habendos frequentes ut adsint itemque ad ea sacrificia atque ad eos ludos parandos diligenter meminerint”,
it tells us further that “sacrificio perfecto pueri XXVII quibus denuntiatum erat patrimi et matrimi et puellae totidem
carmen cecinerunt” and finally that this song was composed by Q. Horatius Flaccus 26).
(TO BE CONTINUED)
BY G. VAN DER LEEUW
1) F. Altheim, Romische Religionsgeschichte III, 1933, 84 sqq.
2) Cf. G. van der Leeuw and P. J. Enk, Horatius in dezen tijd,1935-
2a) It is possible to translate: „to an audience of maidens and youths”, and „by maidens and youths”, but the latter translation is
much more appropriate.
3) Cf. G. van der Leeuw, Phono menologie der Religion, 1933,189 sq.
4) Festus, p. 82.
5) Festus, p. 93: puer dicebatur ingenuus patrimes et matrimes,qui flamini diali ad sacrificia praeministrabat: antiqui enim ministros camillos dicebant.
6) Festus, p. 126: Matrimes ac patrimes dicuntur quibus matres et patres adhuc vivunt.
7) Servius ad Aen. XI, 543: Romani quoque pueros et puellas nobiles et investes camillos et Camillas appellabant flaminicarum et
flaminum praeministros (the same text in Macrobius, Sat. 3, 8, 7);588: ministros enim et ministras impuberes camillos et Camillas in sacris vocabant. Ad Georg. I, 31: unde confarreatio appellabatur, ex quibus nuptiis patrimi et matrimi nascebantur.
8) Cf. Samter, in Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. Camillus. In the Ritus Graecus also the children of emancipated slaves are admitted as
camilli. Cf. Daremberg et Saglio, s.v.
9) Festus, p. 93. Cf. Aug. Rossbach, Untersuchungen iiber die romische Ehe, 1853, 138 sqq.
11) Ilias, XXII, 496.
12) Suetonius, Tib. 44; Galba 8; Ovidius, Fasti II, 630. Livius 37, 3, 6: decern ingenui, decern virgines, patrimi omnes matrimique
ad id sacrificium adhibiti.
13) Henzen 12 sq., cf. VI sq. Sec also Athenaeus X, p. 425 a;Arnobius, Adv. not. IV, 31.
14) Baumeister, Denkm. II, 1107 sq.; Habol, in Pauly-Wissowa,s.v. Acerra; Samter, hi Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. Camillus. Cf. the
scene of the sacrifice of the Suovetaurilia in the triumphal arch of Constantine, showing Marcus Aurelius, with tibicen etc. and a
camillus holding the acerra (repr. in Joh. Quasten, Musik und Gesang in den Kulten der heidnischen Antike und christl. Friihseit, 1930, 12,PL 5).
15) Festus p. 288; A. Oepke, M/tupc&aferg im griechischen und hell. Kult (Archiv fur Rel. wiss. 31, 1934), 53-
16) Festus, p. 288.
17) Henzen, VI sq.
18) Schol. Pindarus, Pyth. II, 4, 14 (p. 298 B). Cf. Stengel,Kultusaltertiimer, 36; Marquardt, Rom. Staatsverwaltung, III,
19) Dionysius Halic, Ant. Rom. II, 71; Rossbach, Unters., 138sqq. See also A. W. Cramer, Kleine Schriften, 1837, 92 sqq.
20) O. Kern, Die Religion der Griechen, III, 1938, 176 sqq.
21) Eustathius, Comm. in Iliad. XXII, 495 (p. 1283). Cf. Stengel in Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. •A!«pi&aXtu; Mercklin, Patrimi matrimi,
‘AiHft&iOjU (Zeitschr. f. d. Altertutnswiss. 12, 1854, Heft 2).
22) Festus, p. 63; cf. Olck in Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. Cumerum;Rossbach, Unters. 317 sqq. Prof. Wagenvoort draws my attention to
Apuleius, Apol. 44, where it is said that a child evidently meant to act as a camillus should be consecrated by the imposition of hands („cuius caput contingat”), cf. Quasten, Musik u. Gesang, 48.
23) Cicero, De liar. resp. n, 23; nearly the same text in Arnobius, Adv. Nat. IV, 31.
24) M. P. Nilsson, En marge da la grande inscription bacchique du Metropolitan Museum (Studi e Materiali di Storia delle religioni,
X, 1934, i sqq.); see also Kern, Rel. der Gr. I l l , 199 sq.
25) Cf. Oepke, 1.1. 53.
26) CIL VI, 32323; cf. Zosimus, 2, 5, 6.