Hestiasin

numa-and-egeria-bas-relief
Bertel Thorvaldsen, Numa Pompilius og Egeria

Τοῦτον τὸν ἄνδρα Ῥωμαῖοί φασι στρατείαν μηδεμίαν ποιήσασθαι, θεοσεβῆ δὲ καὶ δίκαιον γενόμενον ἐν εἰρήνῃ πάντα τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς χρόνον διατελέσαι καὶ τὴν πόλιν ἄριστα πολιτευομένην παρασχεῖν, λόγους τε ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ πολλοὺς καὶ θαυμαστοὺς λέγουσιν ἀναφέροντες τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην σοφίαν εἰς θεῶν ὑποθήκας. νύμφην γάρ τινα μυθολογοῦσιν Ἠγερίαν φοιτᾶν πρὸς ἀυτὸν ἑκάστοτε διδάσκουσαν τὴν βασιλικὴν σοφίαν, ἕτεροι δὲ οὐ νύμφην, ἀλλὰ τῶν Μουσῶν μίαν. καὶ τοῦτό φασι γενέσθαι πᾶσι φανερόν. ἀπιστούντων γὰρ, ὡς ἔοικε, τῶν ἀνθρώπων κατ’ ἀρχὰς καὶ πεπλάσθαι νομιζόντων τὸν περὶ τῆς θεάς λόγον, βουλόμενον αὐτὸν ἐπιδείξασθαι τοῖς ἀπιστοῦσιν ἐναργές τι μήνυμα τῆς πρὸς τὴν δαίμονα ὁμιλίας διδαχθέντα ὑπ’ αὐτῆς ποιῆσαι τάδε· καλέσαντα Ῥωμαίων πολλοὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ἐν ᾗ διαιτώμενος ἐτύγχανεν, ἔπειτα δείξαντα τοῖς ἐλθοῦσι τὰ ἔνδον τῇ τε ἄλλῃ κατασκευῇ φαύλως κεχορηγημένα καὶ δὴ καὶ τῶν εἰς ἑστίασιν ὀχλικὴν ἐπιτηδείων ἄπορα, τότε μὲν ἀπαλλάττεσθαι κελεύειν, εἰς ἑσπέραν δὲ καλεῖν αὐτοὺς ἐπὶ τὸ δεῖπνον· παραγενομένοις δὲ κατὰ τὴν ἀποδειχθεῖσαν ὥραν ἐπιδεῖξαι στρωμνάς τε πολυτελεῖς καὶ τραπέζας ἐκπωμάτων γεμούσας πολλῶν καὶ καλῶν ἑστίασίν τε αὐτοῖς παραθεῖναι κατακλιθεῖσιν ἁπάσης ἐδωδῆς, ἣν οὐδ’ ἂν ἐκ πολλοῦ πάνυ χρόνου παρασκευάσασθαί τινι τῶν τότε ἀνθρώπων ῥᾴδιον ἦν. τοῖς δὲ Ῥωμαίοις κατάπληξίν τε πρὸς ἕκαστον τῶν ὁρωμένων ὑπελθεῖν καὶ δόξαν ἐξ ἐκείνου τοῦ χρόνου παραστῆναι βέβαιον, ὅτι θεά τις αὐτῷ συνῆν.
(Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Rhōmaikē Archaiologia 2.60.4-7)

The Romans say that he* undertook no military campaign, but that, being a pious and just man, he passed the whole period of his reign in peace and caused the State to be most excellently governed. They relate also many marvellous stories about him, attributing his human wisdom to the suggestions of the gods. For they fabulously affirm that a certain nymph, Egeria, used to visit him and instruct him on each occasion in the art of reigning, though others say that it was not a nymph, but one of the Muses. And this, they claim, became clear to every one; for, when people were incredulous at first, as may well be supposed, and regarded the story concerning the goddess as an invention, he, in order to give the unbelievers a manifest proof of his converse with this divinity, did as follows, pursuant to her instructions. He invited to the house where he lived a great many of the Romans, all men of worth, and having shown them his apartments, very meanly provided with furniture and particularly lacking in everything that was necessary to entertain a numerous company, he ordered them to depart for the time being, but invited them to dinner in the evening. And when they came at the appointed hour, he showed them rich couches and tables laden with a multitude of beautiful cups, and when they were at table, he set before them a banquet consisting of all sorts of viands, such a banquet, indeed, as it would not have been easy for any man in those days to have prepared in a long time. The Romans were astonished at everything they saw, and from that time they entertained a firm belief that some goddess held converse with him.

* Numa Pompilius.

(tr. Earnest Cary)

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