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votum  

H. S. Versnel

A vow. Both Greeks and Romans habitually made promises to gods, in order to persuade them to grant a favour stipulated in advance. If the gods fulfilled their part, the vow-maker fell under the obligation to do as he had promised. Although the practice was no less popular in Greece, the vow developed an institutional form especially in Rome, owing to the practical and juridical aspect of Roman religion. Expressions such as v(otum) s(oluit) l(ibens) m(erito) (‘NN has paid his vow with pleasure and deservedly’), mainly in private votive gifts, and voti reus, voti damnatus (‘obliged to fulfil his vow’), mainly in public vows, belong to the fixed formulas. In the private sphere *prayers for recovery and good health, crops, childbirth, safe return from an expedition, etc. were, in case of fulfilment, answered by a great variety of *votive offerings. In public votive religion it was the magistrate who in the name of the state undertook to offer to a god or gods sacrifices, games, the building of a temple or an altar etc. , if the god on his side would give his assistance in such basic collective crises as war, epidemics, and drought. Formulas had to be pronounced in public and were very strict: mistakes required the repetition of the whole ceremony. In addition to these extraordinary vows there were also regular vota, pronounced for a definite period: e.