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Kneeling before the gods?

PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 12:19 pm
by Gaius Florius Lupus
C. Florius Lupus omnibus salutes plurimas dicit, salvete!

I cannot remember ever have seen iconography with Romans kneeling before the gods. In every religious ceremony that I can think of (indicated by capite velato) Romans stand rather than kneel.
We know that Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians kneel before their gods, but it almost seems that Romans never do that.

Are there any examples to the contrary either in iconography or text sources? Or are Romans really the exceptions in this regard?


Re: Kneeling before the gods?

PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 5:31 pm
by Lucius Aurelius Curio
Curio Sal.

I think you may be right on them being the exception here. Everything I've ever seen or read has them standing when performing rites. This keeps in line with their view on the Gods, that they were partners together in the management of the world.

Vale Bene!

L. Aurelius Curio

Re: Kneeling before the gods?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:35 pm
by Gaius Valerius Scipio
Salve Florius

From what I have seen and researched from ancient text and iconography it seemed very strange for any Roman to kneel before the Gods. I agree with the fact that many other religions kneel to their Gods or God in supplication, but we show our respect by standing. Though it would be interesting to find out why we do not kneel before the Gods, is it due to the Etruscan influences on Rome or the Greek?

Vale Bene
G Valerius Scipio

Re: Kneeling before the gods?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2017 7:55 pm
by Gaius Curtius Philo
The Romans were rather worried with the notion that they might be perceived as grovelling to the Gods. It was seen as superstitio to show fear to the Gods and slavishness. With that said I doubt there werent Romans who actually did so, simply because if people criticized it so much it kinda logically means it WAS done.

The Romans didn't have many furniture in their homes. They were rather minimalistic in that regard. So it could explain why they did so standing instead of, for example, sitting. They also usually ate while standing (unless they were on a banquet or something of the sort) and did most of their things standing. It seems mostly to be just normal modus operandi.

Personally, I like to sit while I pray. I find it more relaxing. So I usually grab a chair, sit down and pray in front of the altar. I only do things standing when in a proper rite, and that mostly out of convenience (it is easier to do sacrifices and coordinate things while standing).

I don't really notice any great philosophical thought by the fact they did rites standing. It just seems a lot related to normal cultural things.

Re: Kneeling before the gods?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:37 am
by Gaius Florius Lupus
Then did the Greek kneel before the gods? If not, we know where he Roman custom comes from.

Re: Kneeling before the gods?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2017 1:00 pm
by Lucius Aurelius Curio
Curio Sal.

After a bit of research, it does seem that the Greeks bowed before their gods. Alexander the Great attempted to integrate the Persian custom of bowing before those of higher social rank than yourself, but was unsuccessful as the Greeks believed you should only how to the gods, never a mortal.

Though it should be noted that the practice of kneeling or bowing when praying seemed to be reserved for infernal deities. Celestial deities such as Zeus seemed to be prayed to standing up, with hands towards the sky. When praying to infernal deities they would be on their knees, and would also slap the ground while praying to ensure they would be heard.

Valete Bene!

L. Aurelius Curio

Re: Kneeling before the gods?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:33 pm
by Paullus Aemilius Gallus

I found also a few sources saying that the roman prayer ends by a prostration ("supplicatio").

Livy in his Ab Urbe Condita Libri talks also about prostration (book 3, chapter 7).

The English translation uses the word "prostration" (in French "prosternation"). I'm not sure about the original text as I don't read latin...

The original text (at the end of chapter 7):
The English version:

The most "serious" source talking about bowing I've found (from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland):


Re: Kneeling before the gods?

PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 11:11 am
by Gaius Florius Lupus
Gratias vobis ago! This was very helpful.
So the Greeks bowed for the gods of the underworld, because they wanted to be close to them. And the Romans bowed in some occasions too, but rather seldom.

Re: Kneeling before the gods?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2017 8:04 am
by Gaius Florius Aetius
Personally 90% of the time I am standing, or sometimes when I wait for an omen or for my clarity I decide to sit in front of the altar or a shrine. It was in my Asatru days a common saying, "we do not kneel before our Gods, and they would disrespect us for that", and I assume the Roman way is similar. Sometimes, when I have very personal matters that trouble me a lot, I kneel. Yeah, pronbably not a very Roman habit, but a few times I just follow my heart in this matter.