The stone, a surname of Jupiter at Rome, as we see from the expression Jovem Lapidem jurare.1 It was formerly believed that Jupiter Lapis was a stone statue of the god, or originally a rude stone serving as a symbol, around which people assembled for the purpose of worshiping Jupiter. But it is now generally acknowledged that the pebble or flint stone was regarded as the symbol of lightning, and that, therefore, in some representations of Jupiter, he held a stone in his hand instead of the thunderbolt.2 Such a stone (lapis Capitolinus3) was even set up as a symbolic representation of the god himself.4

When a treaty was to be concluded, the sacred symbols of Jupiter were taken from his temple, viz. his scepter, the pebble and grass from the district of the temple, for the purpose of swearing by them (per Jovem Lapidem jurare5). A pebble or flint stone was also used by the Romans in killing the animal, when an oath was to be accompanied by a sacrifice; and this custom was probably a remnant of very early times, when metal instruments were not yet used for such purposes.



  1. Cicero. Letters to his Friends vii, 12; Gellius. Noctes Atticae i, 21; Polybus, iii, 26.
  2. Arnobius. Adversus Nationes iv, 25.
  3. Augustine. City of God ii, 29.
  4. Servius on Virgil's Aeneid viii, 641.
  5. Livy. The History of Rome i, 24, xxx. 43; Festus, s.v. Feretrius.


  • Festus, s.v. Lapidem Silicem; comp. Livy. The History of Rome i, 24, ix, 5.
  • Plutarch. Sulla, 10.
  • Polybus. iii, 26.
  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.