The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.

On this page: Hermae



which the hcreditas might receive additions, were strictly void, and such acts could only have their legal effect on the supposition that the slave had an owner of a sufficient legal capacity ; and accord­ingly, the fiction of law gave validity to the act of the slave by relation to the known legal capacity of the late owner, and not by relation to the yet unascertained owner wlio might not have such legal capacity. The following are examples : — tfc When a Roman, who had a legal capacity to make a will, died intestate, and another person appointed as his heres a slave, who belonged to this hereditas which was still without an owner, such institution of a heres would be valid by virtue of this fiction, because it had reference to the legal capacity of the defunct. If there had been no such fiction, the validit}r of the institution would have been doubtful, for the unascertained legitimus heres might be an intestabilis, who (at least according to the old law) could not be instituted heres. — - If a soldier died and left a will, which was not yet opened, another testator might institute as heres a slave belonging to the soldier's hereditas, because the institution, according to this fiction, had refer­ence to the deceased ; but if there were not this fiction, the institution might be void, inasmuch as the unascertained heres might be a peregrinus who had no testamentifactio with this other testator. — It was to provide for such cases as these only, that •this fiction was introduced ; and it had no other object than to facilitate certain acquisitions by means of the slaves who belonged to an hereditas."

This masterly exposition is by Savigny (System des Jieut. 1?. R. vol. ii. p. 363).

(Gains, 2. 99—190, 3. 1—24; Ulpian, Fmg. xxii., Dig. 28, 29 ; Inst. 2, 3 ; Rein, Das 7?o- mische Privative/it, p. 361, &c. Erbrecht, a useful compendium of the Law of Hereditas, as it appears chiefly in the Latin classics ; Vangerow, Pandekten, &c. Erbrecht, vol. ii. The chapter on Erbrecht in Puchta's Institutioncn^ &c. iii. p. 215, &c. is concise and very clear.) [G. L.]

HERMAE (ep/xcu), and the diminutive Hermuli (epfu'Sta), statues composed of a head, usually that of the god Hermes, placed on a quadrangular pillar, the height of which corresponds to the stature of the human body (^7 rerpdy^uos epyao-ia, Thuc. vi. 27 ; t£> (r^/xa to Terpdywvov., Pans. iv. 33. § 4, s. 3). Some difficul ties are involved in the ques­tion of their origin, and of their meaning as symbols of Hermes. One of the most important features in the mythology of Hermes is his presidence over the common intercourse of life, traffic, journeys, roads, boundaries, and so forth, and there can be no doubt that it was chiefly in such relations as these that he was intended to be represented by the Jfermae of the Greeks and by the Termini of the Romans, when the latter were identified with the Hermae. It is therefore natural that we should look for the existence of this symbol in the very earliest times in which the use of boundary- marks was required ; and in such times the symbols would be of the simplest character, a heap of stones or an unhewn block of marble. Now we find that there were in many parts of Greece heaps of stones by the sides of roads, especially at their crossings, and on the boundaries of lands, which were called €p/.ta?a or ep^ueTa, Ipjucuoi Ao<|xu and '

* Lessing, Bottiger (Andeut. p. 45), and others derive these words, and also the name of the god,


(Hesych. s. fi\). An epjucuos Ao(/>os near Ithaca is mentioned in the Odyssey (xvi. 471) ; Strabo noticed many ep,ue?a on the roads in Elis (viii. p. 343) ; and even now an ancient heap of stones may be seen on the boundary of Laconia (Ross, Pelop. vol. i. pp. 18, 174). The religious respect paid to such heaps of stones, especially at the meet­ings of roads, is shown by the custom of each passer by throwing a stone onto the heap (Nicand. T/ter. 150) ; this custom was also observed with refer­ence to the Hermae of later times, at least to those which stood where roads met. (Anth. Grace, toe. infra tit.} Such heaps of stories were also seen by Strabo on the roads in Egypt (xvii. p. 818). Another mode of marking a boundary or other de­finite locality \vas by a pillar of stone, originally unhewn, the sacred character of which was marked by pouring oil upon it and adorning it (Theophrast. 16, comp. Genesis xxviii. 18, 22, xxxi. 45—48, where both the pillar and the heap of stones are set up for a witness, xxxv. 14). The Egyptian obelisk probably belongs to the same class of monu­ments.

Referring the reader, for the further examination of these matters, to works in which they are dis­cussed at length (Zoega, de Orig. et Us. Obelise., Romae, 1797, p. 217 ; Gerhard, de Religions Hcrmarum, Berol. 1845, 4to. ; Otto, de Diis Via-/*6«s, c. 7 ; Muller, Arch'doL d. Ktinsty § 66 ; Preller, in Pauly's Real-Encyc. d. Class. Atterth.

' V «^*

s. v. Mercitrius, vol. iv. p. 1845), we assume that, of these heaps of stones and pillars, those which marked boundaries were either originally symbols of, or were afterwards consecrated to, the god Hermes. It is not denied that such rude memo­rials were at first S}rmbols of the various gods alike, but at a very early period they came to be more especially associated with the worship of Hermes.

The first attempt at the artistic development of the blocks of stone and wood, by which, in the earliest period of idol-worship, all the divinities were represented, was by adding to them a head, in the features of which the characteristics of the god were supposed to be expressed ; and afterwards other members of the bod}'' were added, at first with a symbolical meaning. These changes pro­duced the Hermae, such as they arc described by the ancient authors, and as we now have them. The phallus formed an essential part of the symbol, probably because the divinity represented by it was in the earliest times, before the worship of Dionysus was imported from the East, the per­sonification of the reproductive powers of nature. So the symbol is described by Herodotus, who ascribes the origin of it to the Pelasgians, who communicated it to the Athenians, and they to the other Greeks. (Herod, ti. 51 ; Pint, an Seni sit Resp. ger. 28. p. 797, f. ; Cic. de Nat. Deor. iii. 22 ; comp. Creuzcr's Note, in Baehr's edition of He­rodotus.) Pausanias gives the same account of the matter (i. 24. § 3, iv. 33. § 3. s. 4), and also states that the Arcadians were particularly fond of the ciyaA/xa Terpdy&vov (viii. 48. § 4. s. 6 ; where the statue referred to is one of Zeus), which is

—— ———————————————.——-——————>—————.—-——————————————————————————————. ,

from ep,ua, a heap (comp. Buttmann, Lexil. pp. 302, 303). It would seem, at all events, that the words are in some way connected ; though the question, whether the god took his name from the symbol, or the symbol from the god, cannot be entered into here.

About | First | English Index | Classified Index | Latin Index | Greek Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of