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FIDES . The Roman goddess Fides is the personification of an idea that in itself is secular: the idea of "confidence" (fides ) and, especially (in a more derivative sense of fides ), the "good faith" or "trustworthiness" that inspires confidence. Fides made her appearance in the Roman pantheon in the third century ce, about 250, when a temple was dedicated to her by A. Atilius Calatinus. This temple stood on the Capitol, directly next to the temple of Jupiter. But there must have been an earlier sanctuary of Fides (tradition says the cult was established by Numa, the second king of Rome), and the temple built by Calatinus was probably erected on the same site.

The site of the temple of Fides, next to that of Jupiter, is indicative of her origin, for everything points to her having emerged from the supreme deity by a process of hypostatization. In this light, it is easy to understand why Jupiter is guarantor, not only with Fides but also with Dius Fidius, of the observance of oaths and compacts (federa ). In fact, Dius Fidius, as "patron of good faith," is a first, archaic hypostatization of Jupiter. He is the god of oaths taken sub divo, that is, "in the open air." His temple, open to the sky, was located on the Quirinal, where it was situated on the Capitolium vetus ("old Capitol," or place of headship), next to the sacellum Iovis, Iunonis, Minervae ("chapel of Jupiter, Juno, Minerva"). Fides, for her part, appears in the wake of Jupiter Capitolinus. Her powers are broader and more flexible than those of Dius Fidius and include in particular the guaranteeing both of secrets and of the virtue (the interior disposition) of trustworthiness.

The goddess was honored by a special ritual: Each year some flamines (priests) journeyed to her temple in solemn fashion, riding in a covered cart. The sacrificing priestthe flamen of Jupitercelebrated the cult with his right hand wrapped in a piece of white material. The right hand was shielded in this way because it was considered as consecrated when used to swear fidelity. For this reason it was liable to the wrath of heaven if the fidelity was violated. Mucius Scaevola, who lost his right hand after swearing a false oath, is a mythical illustration of this belief. The rite of the veiled hand is also attested in Umbria in connection with the god Fisu Sakio, who closely resembles Dius Fidius. At Rome, too, it was the fidius aspect of Jupiter that was honored in this way in the person of Fides.

The temple of Fides stood on the area Capitolina (the level top of the Capitoline Hill), probably right against its southern edge. Its importance was considerable, because the goddess was patroness of all agreements entered into with a gesture of the right hand. From her commanding position, visible from many points in Rome, she also stood as guarantor of political accords and economic contracts; she encouraged the trustworthiness of citizens toward one another as well as that of the Roman people toward other nations. Her religious function was to procure confidence, credit, and hence often, albeit indirectly, wealth for her trustworthy disciples. (Her temple stood immediately next to that of Ops, a goddess of fertility and plenty.)

The cult of the goddess Fides, suspended during a good part of the first century bce, was probably restored by the emperor Augustus. Treaties and military documents were posted on the wall of her temple at least until the end of the first century ce. The many representations of Fides on coins minted after that date show that her influence extended well beyond the first century of the common era.


Dumézil, Georges. "Credo et fides." In his Idées romaines, pp. 4859. Paris, 1969.

Freyburger, Gérard. "Vénus et Fides." In Hommages à Robert Schilling, edited by Hubert Zehnacker and Gustave Hentz, pp. 101108. Paris, 1983.

Lombardi, Luigi. Dalla "fides" alla "bona fides." Milan, 1961. See especially pages 147162.

Piccaluga, Giulia. "Fides nella religione romana di età imperiale." In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, vol. 2.17.2, pp. 703735. Berlin and New York, 1981.

New Sources

Carcaterra, Antonio. "Dea fides e fides. Storia di una laicizzazione." Studia et Documenta Historiae Iuris 50 (1984): 199234.

Freyburger, Gérard. Fides. Étude sémantique et religieuse depuis les origines jusqu'à l'époque augustéenne. Paris, 1986.

Freyburger, Gérard. "La fides civique." In Antiquité et Citoyenneté. Actes du Colloque International tenu à Besançon les 3, 4 et 5 novembre 1999, edited by Stéphane Ratti, pp. 341347. Paris, 2002.

Ramelli, Ilaria. Studi su Fides. Premessa alle traduzioni di Eduard Fraenkel, Richard Heinze, Pierre Boyancé. Madrid, 2002.

Reusser, Christoph. Der Fidestempel auf dem Kapitol in Rom und seine Ausstattung. Rome, 1993.

GÉrard Freyburger (1987)

Translated from French by Matthew J. O'Connell
Revised Bibliography

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