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Numa, chapter 13: Religious reforms by Numa and other laws[Ca 700 BC]
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The origin of the Salii is this. In the eighth year of the reign of Numa, a terrible pestilence, which traversed all Italy, ravaged likewise the city of Rome; and the citizens being in distress and despondent, a brazen target, they say, fell from heaven into the hands of Numa who gave them this marvelous account of it: that Egeria and the Muses had assured him it was sent from heaven for the cure and safety of the city, and that, to keep it secure, he was ordered by them to make eleven others, so like in dimension and form to the original that no thief should be able to distinguish the true from the counterfeit. He further declared, that he was commanded to consecrate to the Muses the place, and the fields about it, where they had been chiefly wont to meet with him, and that the spring which watered the field should be hallowed for the use of the vestal virgins, who were to wash and cleanse the penetralia of their sanctuary with those holy waters. The truth of all which was speedily verified by the cessation of the pestilence. Numa displayed the target to the artificers and bade them show their skill in making others like it; all despaired, until at length one Mamurius Veturius, an excellent workman, happily hit upon it, and made all so exactly the same that Numa himself was at a loss, and could not distinguish. The keeping of these targets was committed to the charge of certain priests, called Salii, who did not receive their name, as some tell the story, from Salius, a dancing-master born in Samothrace, or at Mantinea, who taught the way of dancing in arms; but more truly from that jumping dance which the Salii themselves use, when in the month of March they carry the sacred targets through the city; at which procession they are habited in short frocks of purple, girt with a broad belt studded with brass; on their heads they wear a brass helmet, and carry in their hands short daggers, which they clash every now and then against the targets. But the chief thing is the dance itself. They move with much grace, performing, in quick time and close order, various intricate figures, with a great display of strength and agility. The targets were called Ancilia from their form; for they are not made round, nor like proper targets, of a complete circumference, but are cut out into a wavy line, the ends of which are rounded off and turned in at the thickest part towards each other; so that their shape is curvilinear, or, in Greek, ancylon; or the name may come from ancon, the elbow, on which they are carried. Thus Juba writes, who is eager to make it Greek. But it might be, for that matter, from its having come down anecathen, from above; or from its akesis, or cure of diseases; or auchmon Iysis, because it put an end to a drought; or from its anaschesis, or relief from calamities, which is the origin of the Athenian name Anaces, given to Castor and Pollux; if we must, that is, reduce it to Greek. The reward which Mamurius received for his art was to be mentioned and commemorated in the verses which the Salii sang, as they danced in their arms through the city; though some will have it that they do not say Veturium Mamurium, but Veterem Memoriam, ancient remembrance.
Event: Religious reforms by Numa