The enforcement of Justice through Faith by Numa Pompilius

Here we present an excerpt from Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ book ‘The Roman Antiquities‘ (The Loeb Classical Library). Dionysius informs us here about how and why Numa Pompilius erected a temple to Faith.

numacoin

“By such laws Numa brought the State to frugality and moderation. And in order to
encourage the observance of justice in the matter of contracts, he hit upon a device which was unknown to all who have established the most celebrated constitutions.
For, observing that contracts made in public and before witnesses are, out of respect for
the persons present, generally observed and that few are guilty of any violation of them, but that those which are made without witnesses—and these are much more numerous than the others—rest on no other security than the faith of those who make them, he thought it incumbent on him to make this faith the chief object of his care and to render it worthy of divine worship. For he felt that Justice, Themis, Nemesis, and those the Greeks call Erinyes, with other concepts of the kind, had been sufficiently revered and worshipped as gods by the men of former times, but that Faith, than which there is nothing greater nor more sacred among men, was not yet worshipped either by states in their public capacity or by private persons. As the result of these reflexions he, first of all men, erected a temple to the public Faith (Πίστεως δημοσίας) and instituted sacrifices in her honour at the public expense in the same manner as to the rest of the gods. And in truth the result was bound to be that this attitude of good faith and constancy on the part of the State toward all men would in the course of time render the behaviour of the individual citizens similar. In any case, so revered and inviolable a thing was good faith in their estimation, that the greatest oath a man could take was by his own faith, and this had greater weight than all the testimony taken together. And if there was any dispute between one man and another concerning a contract entered into without witnesses, the faith of either of the parties was sufficient to decide the controversy and prevent it from going any farther. And the magistrates and courts of justice based their decisions in most causes on the oaths of the parties attesting by their faith. Such regulations, devised by Numa at that time to encourage moderation and enforce justice, rendered the Roman State more orderly than the best regulated household.”

Research-Selection: Isidoros Aggelos

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