Sancus

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In ancient Roman religion, Sancus (also known as Sangus or Semo Sancus) was the god of trust (fides), honesty, and oaths. His cult is one of the most ancient of Romans, probably derived from Umbrian influences.[1]

Contents

Oaths

Sancus was also the god who protected oaths of marriage, hospitality, law, commerce, and contracts in particular. Some forms of swearings were used in his name and honour at the moment of the signing of contracts and other important civil acts. Some words (like "sanctity" and "sanction" - for the case of disrespect of pacts) have their etymology in the name of this god, whose name is connected with sancire "to hallow" (hence sanctus, "hallowed").

Worship

The temple dedicated to Sancus stood on the Quirinal Hill, under the name Semo Sancus Dius Fidus. Dionysius of Halicarnassus[2] writes the worship of Semo Sancus was imported into Rome at a very early time by the Sabins who occupied the Quirinal Hill. According to tradition his cult is said to have been introduced by king Titus Tatius[3], who probably dedicated a small shrine. The actual construction of the temple is generally ascribed to Tarquin the Proud, although it was dedicated by Spurius Postumius on June 9th 466 B.C.[4]

He was considered the son of Iupiter, an opinion recorded by Varro and attributed to his teacher Aelius Stilo[5]. Sancus was the god of heavenly light, the avenger of dishonesty, the upholder of truth and good faith, the sanctifier of agreements. Hence his identification with Hercules, who was likewise the guardian of the sanctity of oaths. His festival day occurred on the nonae of June, i.e. June 5th.

The shrine on the Quirinal was described by XIX century archeologist R.A. Lanciani.[6] It was located near the Porta Sanqualis of the Servian walls[7], not far from the modern church of S. Silvestro, precisely on the Collis Mucialis.[8] It was described by classical writers as having no roof so as oaths could be taken under the sky.

It had a chapel containing relics of the regal period: a bronze statue of Tanaquil, her distaff, spindle and slippers[9]and after the destruction of Privernum in 329 B.C., brass medallions or bronze wheels (discs) made of money confiscated from Vitruvius Vaccus[10].

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