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Salii Sacerdotes



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   Salii Sacerdotes.-- The origin of the Salian
priesthood is uncertain. Its usages and ceremonies
do not appear to have ever been practised
by the Greeks, though it is probable that the
Romans modelled their institution in imitation
of the Pyrrhic system of religious dances. Numa
Pompilius was the first to establish a college of
them as priests of Mars, on the occasion of an
alleged prodigy, related by Dionysius of Halicarnassus. A buckler having fallen from heaven,
the Aruspices oracularly pronounced the event
to signify that the city, in which it should be
preserved, was destined to possess the empire of
the world. The politic monarch affecting to be
apprehensive lest this precious monument should
be stolen, caused eleven others to be made like
it, in order that the recognition of the true one
might be rendered impossible, and by his command
also they were all deposited in the temple
of Mars, where twelve young patricians, who
had father and mother, were appointed to guard
them. Tullus Hostilius doubled the number of
these priests, and also of the Ancilia, as the
sacred bucklers were called. And every year,
on the feast of the god, the Salians carried these
shields in procession through the city,  dancing
and leaping, whence came their name of Salii.
At these festivities, which lasted three days,
they also sang verses which bore reference to the
solemnity.-- This priesthood was held in great
veneration at Rome, and the noblest families of
the city regarded it as a high honour to have
any of their members admitted into the college
of the Salians. These priests, when performing
their functions, wore a gold embroidered tunic,
a sword in a belt of brass, and on their heads
either the cap called apex, or brazen helmets ;
in their right hand they held a lance, or a wand ;
and on the left arm each bore an ancilium.-- It
was thus dressed, accoutred, and armed that they
executed their leaping dances to the sound of
flutes, and between the dancing chanted obsolete
hymns of praise to all the deities, and in honour
of the great men of the republic.

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