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The Discovery of Numa’s Writings: Roman Sacral Law and the Early Historians

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Chapter Summary

In 181 bce, one of the most exciting pieces of historical evidence surfaced at Rome. During construction work at the foot of the Janiculum a stone chest was found in the ground, covered with a lid that was fastened with lead. Upon being opened, the chest revealed the writings of king Numa. The discovery was a huge sensation, but it also triggered the pressing question about how the Roman senate should deal with this source of authority. The article places the discovery in the public discourse environment of Rome which was pivotal both for the immediate future of the books—they were burnt in the Forum—and for their lasting tradition and reception.



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