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Rituals before battle

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Romans were very superstitious. Before important events, especially before the battles and military expeditions, sacrifices were made to ensure the favor of the gods and signs were read.

Augustus was known for his respect for the deities. Appian describes the ritual of clearing the fleet before the expedition against pirates and the forces of Sextus Pompey. For this occasion he chose 1st of July 36 BCE, in order to memorize Julius Caesar’s birth. When the fleet was ready, Augustus made sacrifices for it, and this was done in the following way. The altars stood at the edge of the sea, and the full crew of ships surrounded them, remaining in complete silence. The priests stood on the shore and, making sacrifices, transported the offerings around the fleet three times in boats. The commanders also sailed with them and prayed that all misfortunes would turn to these offerings instead of the fleet. The offerings were then divided. Part of them were thrown into the sea, and some were taken to the altar and burned. The rest of the soldiers at the same time had to make fortune-telling shouts.

The fights ended with the victory of the Romans at Naulochos on September 3rd, in which the main role played Marcus Agrippa.

  • Appian, Civil Wars V, liber XVII, 96

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