Your guide to religion in Roman politics and how pretending to hear thunder could literally prevent your enemy from getting elected

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Your guide to religion in Roman politics and how pretending to hear thunder could literally prevent your enemy from getting elected

Post by Morgan Landry on 4/11/2016, 12:24 pm

What do you mean the Homework help forum is gone? Can we make that a thing again? Cause otherwise the OOC is likely to be spammed with Ancient History topics over the next few weeks.

Anyway. Yo. I've got an Ancient History essay to do and I need to get my ideas straight so before I put on my nerd glasses and get all academical on my actual paper I'm gonna let it out here to get my ideas organized&sh!t. Now buckle your seatbelts punks cause I'm about to tell you about some fcked up politics and hah this is just the starter pack lite

So back in the late Roman Republic (and if that doesn't ring a bell it's like, 300-27 BC) people were big on omens. Like, birds flying and sht. Literally they consulted haruspices before any kind of political activity and decided whether or not to go to battle based on chickens eating cakes. If they ate the cakes, great! You could get out there and kick some Samnite @ss. If not well, maybe next time. (And if they didn't give you the omens you wanted you could just do like Pulcher and throw the chickens into the sea. But I digress. He got his butt kicked by the way.)
But basically, omens were used as an easy shortcut to do a lot of stuff. Sometimes when the Senate didn't like a law they could go like, hey, you didn't take the auspices properly before you passed that, and there went your law.
They could also break up meetings and assemblies. Like at some point, Pompey (and I mean the Pompey, gnaeuspompeiusmaximus.badass, not the other ones) really didn't want Cato the Younger elected praetor. So after the first group of people voted for him he stood up and said WAIT I HEARD THUNDER THIS ELECTION CAN'T CONTINUE and broke up the assembly. After everyone went home he made some guys who were for Cato quit the assembly, gave others some dank sheckles to be sure of their support, and when the election took place again he managed to get this guy Varinius elected instead of Cato.
What's actually quite funny is that a Senate meeting could not be disrupted because of omens like that. The senators could do that to every other assembly out there, they could fck over whoever they liked, and but no one was allowed to meme them back. (What a bunch of trolls.) But seriously, this is part of how the Senate managed to control a lot of what was going on in Rome.
Now, admitting you weren't a senator or anything, but you still wanted to get some backing up for whatever (military promotion, politics, idk you name it), what you could do is go up to people and convince them you had the favour of the gods. Pompey did that too. (He did a lot of stuff.) He got Cicero's full backing for military command literally on the grounds that he was favoured by the gods. It's kinda hypocritical of Cicero though, cause he spent a lot of time criticizing the religion and doubting the gods and stuff. But hey! Yay for corrpution! *jazzhands*

Next on our list of how to manipulate state religion for your personal political benefit. The Pontifex Maximus.
Now the Pontifex Maximus was the highest priest you could ever high priest in your career of high priest in Rome. Such high much priest wow amaze. He had a crap ton of power like:

- Testament stuff
- public morals
- fining
- patrician marriages (remember that patricians didn't really do love marriages and it was all a chess game of alliance up there. It may not look like much but getting the seal of approval from the Pontifex Maximus was kinda a big deal.)
- the calendar

Yeah. That's right. The fcking calendar. Now hear me out cause that one's tricky:

So back in the days you had what we call the early Roman calendar. 10 months, 355 days. Now that's not quite right, is it? Even back then they knew the solar year had a couple of days more than that. So what did they do?

Well they had this random @ss month called Mercedonius that they would fit in after February once every two years to keep everything in pace. The only thing is that, well... this random month could come in reaaaally handy to the Pontifex. You gotta remember, politics and religion then weren't the same as politics and religion now. Back then, it was pretty much the same thing, they were super close and often merged. The Pontifex and the college of pontiffs in general were active politicians, hell, some of them were even senators. Now remember what we said about omens and the Senate earlier? Yeah. It could be real good for you to have a pontiff on your side of the Senate (just in case your jerkface neighbour's thinking of becoming praetor).
Anyway, the Pontifices Maximi had a lot of fun with Mercedonius over the years. If they had a good friend in some high office, they'd pop it in to keep their pal in place a while longer. On the other side, if there was someone they didn't like, they could shorten the year by a month and get the guy out of business earlier. Like seriously the calendar got so fcked up that even the people of Rome had no fcking clue what date it was.
Cause yeah, that was another thing. The calendar wasn't public.

Well of course it wasn't xD would've been too easy. And what's better, the Pontifices were totally in the right to not justify their actions. With that little month, there was a lot of sht they could do: control not only elections and job lengths but also taxes, when assemblies met, when wars were fought, etc. By the time Julius Caesar came along they were like 90 days behind on the solar year so that the year 45 BC had to be extended to 445 days instead of 355. And if you think that's not hilarious enough then how about this: Caesar crossed the Rubicon in January 49 BC according to the calendar. Wanna know when he actually crossed, in real time? Mid-autumn.
So yeah there was a lot of crap going on because of the calendar, which is why Julius Caesar put up the Julian calendar shortly after his 3rd consulship. Lengthened the year to 12 months, 365 days. So if you ever wonder why December is the not the 10th month or October isn't the 8th one... well now you know.

Right stuff is a bit clearer in my head but I'm not done so tune in soon for the deification of Roman emperors! Or how to suck your own dck without rib surgery
Morgan Landry
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