You are here

Lecture XIII | The Augurs and the Art of Divination

“The one great corruption to which all religion is exposed is its separation from morality. The very strength of the religious motive has a tendency to exclude, or disparage, all other tendencies of the human mind, even the noblest and best. It is against this corruption that the prophetic order from first to last constantly protested... . Mercy and justice, judgment and truth, repentance and goodness—not sacrifice, not fasting, not ablutions,—is the burden of the whole prophetic teaching of the Old Testament.”1

The over-formalising, or ritualising, of any religion is sure to bring about that result against which the Jewish prophets protested. We saw at the end of the last lecture how the pontifices contributed to such a result. We are now to study the contribution of the other great college, the augurs. For instead of developing, as did the wise man or seer of Israel, into the mouthpiece of God in His demand for the righteousness of man, the Roman diviner merely assisted the pontifex in his work of robbing religion of the idea of righteousness. Divination seems to be a universal instinct of human nature, a perfectly natural instinct, arising out of man's daily needs, hopes, fears; but though it may have had the chance, even at Rome, it never has been able, except among the Jews, to emerge from its cramping chrysalis of magic and become a really valuable stimulant of morality.

By divination I mean the various ways and methods by which, in all stages of his development, man has persuaded himself that what he is going to do or suffer will turn out well or ill for him. It is probably judicious, with Dr. Tylor and with the majority of recent anthropologists, to consider it as belonging to the region of magic;2 and it is obvious that it affords excellent examples of that inadequacy which characterises magical attempts to overcome the difficulties man meets with in his struggle for existence.3 It belongs, like other forms of magic, to a stage in which man's idea of his relation to the Power manifesting itself in the universe is both rude and rudimentary. But it shares with magic the power or property of surviving, in form at least, through the animistic stage into that of religion, and it is largely practised at the present day even among highly civilised peoples.

But I must observe, before I go on, that divination as an object of anthropological inquiry still stands in need of a thorough scientific examination. At present it seems to puzzle anthropologists;4 and the reason probably is that the material for studying it inductively has not as yet been collected and sifted. Strange to say, it does not appear in the index to Dr. Westermarck's great work, which I have so often quoted: it is hardly to be found even in the Golden Bough: nor can I find a thoroughgoing treatment of it in any other books about the early history of mankind. And any sort of guesswork under these circumstances only increases our difficulties. Some years ago the great German philosophical lawyer, von Jhering, in an interesting work called the Evolution of the Aryan, made some most ingenious attempts to explain the origin of Roman divination. He fancied that the practice of examining the entrails of a victim, for example, began in the course of Aryan migration, because when you encamped in a new region you would catch and kill some of the native cattle in order to see whether they were wholesome enough to tempt you to stay.5 Again, the study of the flight of birds was prompted by the desire to get information about the mountain passes and the course of great rivers; and this study grew into an elaborate art as the leader of the host, the prototype of the Roman augur, gained experience by constant observation from elevated ground.6 Such a theory as this last might be worth something if it were based upon known facts; as it is, it is only most ingenious guesswork. This great legal writer did not know, as we do now, that divination by both these methods is found all over the world and cannot be explained by any supposed needs of migrating Aryans.

Whatever be the origin of the several forms of divination, the object of the practice in ancient Italy and Greece is beyond doubt—to find out whether the Power with whom you wish to be in right relation is favourable to certain human operations, or willing to aid in removing certain forms of human suffering. According to our definition, it was a part of religion, whether or no it belonged originally to magic. It was a practical expression of that doubt or anxiety to which I believe the Romans attached the word religio. In the agricultural period it must have been specially useful and even inevitable,7 because the tiller of the soil is always in need of knowledge as to the best times and seasons for his operations, and his out-of-door life gives him constant opportunity of observing natural phenomena, diosemeia, signs from heaven, and the utterances and movements of birds and other animals. It is interesting to reflect that these last may often be of real service in foretelling the weather, which is so important to the farmer. As I write this on a December day I recall the fact that I have myself within the last week successfully foretold a spell of cold after observing a great arrival of winter thrushes from the north. This particular branch of augury is, in fact, neither so inadequate nor so absurd as most others. Von Jhering may turn out to be right in his notion that at least some forms of divination have their origin in practical needs and in the skill of uncivilised man in discerning the signs of the weather—a skill which it is well to remember far exceeds that of the house-dweller of modern civilisation. But with the growth of the City-state and the habits of life in a town, these early instincts and methods of the agriculturist came to be caught up into a system of religious practice, adapted to the conditions of civil and political existence; thus they gradually lost their original meaning and such real value as they ever possessed. I have pointed out that the Roman festivals and the ritual of the oldest calendar gradually got out of relation with the agricultural life in which they for the most part originated:8 so it was with divination, which in the hands of the State authorities became formalised into a set of rules for ascertaining the good-will of the gods, and obtaining their sanction for the operations of the community, which had no scientific basis whatever, no relation to truth and fact. Of all the methods for putting yourself in right relation with the Power, this was the least valuable, and indeed the most harmful; it came in course of time to be a positive obstacle to efficiency and freedom of action, it wasted valuable time, and it often served as the means of promoting private ends to the detriment of the public interest.

Before I go on to consider the development of the highly formalised system of public divination, let me clear the ground by a few remarks about such forms of the practice as were not sanctioned by the State. That these existed throughout Roman history there is no doubt, as they existed in Greece, among the Jews, and elsewhere in the East, alongside of the advanced and organised methods of official and authorised experts.

Our information about private divination is scattered about in Roman literature, and even when brought together there is not a great deal of it. What is prominent both in Roman literature and Roman history is the divination authorised by the State and systematised by its authorities; even in Cicero's treatise de Divinatione, though the subject-matter is of a general kind, drawn from Greece as well as Rome, it is, I think, apart from philosophical questions, chiefly the art of augurs and haruspices that interests the writer, who was himself an augur when he wrote it. In Greek literature exactly the opposite is the case; there we hear little of State-authorised divination, and a great deal of wandering soothsayers, soothsaying families, and oracles which (except at Delphi) were not under the direct control of a City-state.9 The methods of divination are much the same in both peninsulas, and indeed vary little all the world over; the difference lies simply in this,—that at Rome the adoption and systematisation by the State of certain methods, especially those which dealt with birds and lightning, had the effect of discrediting, if not excluding, an immense amount of private practice of this kind. I mean that if the State strongly sanctions some forms of divination, working them by its own officials, it casts a shadow of discredit over the rest. As the ius divinum tended to exclude magic and the barbarous in ritual, so did the ius augurale, which was a part of it, exclude the quack in divination. And in this particular department of human delusion the result may be said to have been happy; for though divination belongs to religion as having survived from an earlier stage into a religious one, yet it is the least valuable, the least fruitful, part of it.10 True, the augural systematisation, as we shall see, had a sinister effect on political progress; but even there the very emptiness and absurdity of the whole business helped to bring contempt on it, and, as Cicero tells us in a well-known passage, even old Cato declared that he could not imagine why a haruspex did not laugh when he met a brother of the craft.11 In Greece, on the contrary, it might, I believe, be shown that the absence of systematisation by the State only served to prolong the credit and influence of the professional quack.

Greece was at all periods full of these quacks; did the sham prophet exist at Rome in the period we have now under review? Later on the Oriental soothsayer found his way there; of these Chaldaei and mathematici I shall have a word to say in another lecture, and we shall see how the State authorities made occasional attempts to exclude them. Of the frantic type of diviner, the ενθεος, so common in Greece, we hear nothing in the sober Roman annals; the idea of a human being “possessed by a spirit of divination” seems foreign to the Roman character.12 The only soothsayer, so far as I know, who appears in Roman legend in a private capacity is that Attus Navius who gave Tarquinius Priscus the benefit of his knowledge; and he is represented as a respectable Sabine, and his art as an augural one learnt from the Etruscans.13 There are, indeed, ancient traces of a prophetic art at Rome, but, as the historian of divination has well observed, they are all connected not with human beings, but with divinities, a fact which explains the Latin word divinatio.14 To take what is perhaps the best example, the ancient deity Carmenta, who had a flamen and a double festival in the month of January, may very probably represent some dim tradition of a numen at whose shrine women might gain some knowledge as to their fortunes in childbirth, just as outside Rome, at Praeneste and Antium, Fortuna seems to have had this gift in historical times.15 So St. Augustine interpreted Carmenta,16 probably following Varro; and to Virgil she was the “vales fatidica, cecinit quae prima futuros Aeneadas magnos et nobile Pallanteum.”

But Carmenta, Picus, Faunus, are dim mythical figures which for us can have no bearing on Roman religious experience; it would be more to the point to ask what was the original meaning and history of the word vates, if the question were answerable in the absence of an early Roman literature. All we can say about this is that this word had, as a rule, a certain dignity about it, which enabled it eventually to stand for a poet, and that it rarely has a sinister sense, unless accompanied by some adjective specially used in order to give it.17 The real word for a quack is hariolus, and the fact that it is comparatively rare suggests that the character it expresses was not a common one. It occurs here and there in fragments of old plays, where unluckily, we cannot be quite sure whether it represents a Greek or a Latin idea. The following lines from the Telamo of Ennius shows us the hariolus, as well as the word vates with a discreditable adjective attached:

sed superstitiosi vates impudentesque harioli

aut inertes, aut insani, aut quibus egestas imperat,

qui sibi semitam non sapiunt, alteri mostrant viam,

quibu' divitias pollicentur, ab iis drachmam ipsi petunt.18

A more satisfactory bit of evidence as to the existence of the quack in the second century B.C., when Greece and the East were beginning to pour their unauthorised religionists into Italy, is the interesting passage in old Cato's book on agriculture, in which he urges that the bailiff of an estate should not be permitted to consult either a haruspex, augur, hariolus, or Chaldaeus19 But on the whole, such little evidence as we possess seems to confirm the view I hazarded just now, that the overwhelming prestige of State authority at Rome discouraged and discredited the quack diviner both in public and private life. His work in private life was largely that of fortune-telling, of foretelling the future in one sense or another; and this was exactly what the State authorities never did and never countenanced, at any rate until the stress of the Hannibalic war, and then only in a very limited sense. Their object was a strictly religious one, to get the sanction of the divine members of the community for the undertakings of the human ones. Even the so-called Sibylline oracles, as we saw, were not prophecies; and the augural art never provided an answer to the question, “What is going to happen?” but only to that much more religious one, “Are the deities willing that we should do this or that?”20

But before I leave the subject of private divination, I must note that there was a department of it which may be called legitimate, as distinguished from that of the quack. I mean the auspicia of the family religion, and also the comparatively harmless folklore about omens of all sorts and kinds.

Naturally we have little information about legitimate auspicia in the life of the family; but we have seen that the religious instinct of the Roman forbade him to face any important undertaking or crisis without making sure of the sanction of the numina concerned, and among the methods of insurance (if I may use a convenient word) the auspicia must have had a place from the earliest times. No important thing was done, says Cicero in the de Divinatione, “nisi auspicato, ne privatim quidem.”21 Valerius Maximus says the same in so many words, and some other evidence has been collected by De Marchi in his work on the private religion of the Romans.22 But only in the case of marriage do we hear of auspicia in historical times, and even there they seem to have degenerated into a mere form. “Auspices nuptiarum, re omissa, nomen tantum tenent”—so Cicero wrote of his own time;23 he seems to be thinking of augury by means of birds, for he adds,”nam ut nunc extis sic tunc avibus magnae res impetrari solebant.” As we have already seen, the object of the examination of a victim's entrails was simply to ascertain its fitness to be offered; but by Cicero's time the Etruscan art of divination by this method must have penetrated into private life. I think we may conjecture that in the life of the family on the land the auspicia, as the word itself implies, were worked chiefly by observation of birds. Nigidius, Figulus, the learned mystic of Cicero's time, wrote a book, de Augurio Privato, of which one fragment survives which has to do with this kind of divination, and with the distinction between omens from birds seen on the right or left, and from high or low flyers.24 In the familiar ode of Horace beginning, “Impios parrae recinentis omen,”25 the corvus and cornix are mentioned besides the parra, and in that wholesome old out-of-door life of the farm, as I said just now, there was a certain basis of truth and fact in the observation of such presages. But Horace mentions other animals, wolf, fox, and snake, and some at least of the folklore about omens which is to be found in Pliny's descriptions of animals may help us to appreciate the nature of the old Roman ideas on this subject. The tiller of the land and the shepherd on the uplands used their eyes and ears, not wholly without advantage to themselves; but in the life of the city such observation became gradually formal and meaningless, and degenerated into the superstition reflected in Horace's ode. I must parenthetically confess to a personal feeling of regret that this people, who in their early days had good opportunities made little or no contribution to the knowledge of animals and their habits.26 But I must pass on to the more important subject of divination as developed and formalised by the authorities of the State.

In explaining the ritual of the ius divinum I laid stress on the fact that its main object was to maintain the pax deorum, the right relation between the divine and human citizens.27 To make this pax secure, it was necessary that in every public act the good-will of the gods should be ascertained by obtaining favourable auspices—it must be done auspicato. To take the first illustration that occurs, Livy describes a dictator about to fight a battle as leaving his camp auspicato, after sacrificing to obtain the pax deorum.28 It is for this reason that the auspicia have a leading place in the foundation legends of the city. We are all familiar with the story of the auspicia of Romulus and Remus, which goes back at least as far as Ennius;29 and we find them also in the foundation of coloniae in historical times.30 I do not know that I can better express the place which the auspicia occupied in the mind of the Roman than by quoting the words which Livy puts into the mouth of Appius Claudius in 367 B.C., when supposed to be inveighing against the opening of the consulship to plebeians: “Auspiciis hanc urbem conditam esse, auspiciis bello ac pace, domi militiaeque, omnia geri, quis est qui ignoret?” He goes on to argue that these auspicia belong to patricians only, that no plebeian magistrate is created auspicato, that the man who wants to allow plebeians to become curule magistrates, tollit ex civitate auspicia. “Nunc nos, tanquam iam nihil pace deorum opus sit, omnes caerimonias polluimus.”31 This is, of course only Livy's rhetoric, but it represents the fundamental Roman idea of the public auspicia.

The passage is also useful because it alludes to the fact that the right of taking the auspicia belonged ultimately to the whole patrician body of fully qualified citizens.32 But so far as we can discern in the dim light of the earliest period, this body entrusted the right and duty to its chief magistrate, the Rex, exactly as it entrusted him with the imperium, the supreme power of command in civil matters. Thus the auspicia and the imperium were indissolubly connected; as Dr. Greenidge says,33 “they are the divine and human side of the same power,” and may be found together in a thousand passages in Roman literature and inscriptions. But at the side of the Rex we find, according to tradition, two helpers or advisers called augures, the three together perhaps forming a collegium.34 Now there was certainly an important difference between the Rex and the augurs; the latter were aiders and interpreters, but the Rex only was said habere auspicia, just as the whole patrician body had this right, though they delegated it to the Rex during his lifetime, and on his death received it again. The man who “habet auspicia” has the right of spectio, i.e. of taking the auspices in a particular case,35 of watching the sky or the conduct of the sacred fowls in eating; this right the augurs never had. Their power was limited to guidance and interpretation. This follows necessarily from the fundamental principle that the auspicia and the imperium were indissolubly connected; for the augur, of course, never possessed the imperium by virtue of his office. It is true that of the augur in the regal period we know almost nothing; his art, as we shall see directly, was kept strictly secret, and he was bound by oath not to reveal it.36 But we may safely argue back in general terms from the relation of magistrate and augur under the later Republic to the relation of augur and Rex, from whom descended the magistrate's imperium. The one essential thing to remember is that it was in all periods the magistrate who was responsible, under the sanction and advice of his assistants the pontifices and augurs, for the maintenance of the pax deorum. The lay element in the actual working of the constitution never lost this prerogative. Rome was never hierarchically governed.

It would be going beyond the scope of these lectures if I were to plunge at this point into the thorny question of the exact relation between magistrate and augur in respect of details. Nor do I propose to go into the minutiae of augural lore, which are not instructive, like those of sacrifice, for our survey of Roman religious experience. It will be sufficient to state in outline what I believe to be necessary for our purpose.37 The person who had the auspicia, i.e. originally the Rex, like the later magistrate, had to watch for signs from heaven; in order to do so he marked out a templum, a rectangular space, by noting certain objects, trees or what not, beyond which, whether he looked at earth or sky, he need take no notice of what he saw. The spot where he took up his position for this purpose was itself a rectangular space,38 marked out on a similar principle; in each case the space was liberatus effatus, i.e. freed from previous associations by a form of words, and ready, if need were (as in the case of loca sacra) to be further handed over to the deities as their property; this consecration, however, did not, of course, follow in the ordinary procedure of the auspicia. In the urbana auspicia all loca effata must be within the sacred boundary of the pomoerium. Within this the magistrate watched in silence at the dead of night for such signs as he especially asked for (auspicia impetrativa); those which offered themselves without such specification (oblativa) he was not bound to take cognisance of unless some one claimed his attention for them. The signs were originally in the regal period, if we may guess from the word auspicium, only such as birds supplied, and the space in which they were watched for was not complicated by the divisions of the later augural art.39 The business of the augur was, we may suppose, to see that the details were carried out correctly, and to interpret the signs; but those signs were not sent to him, for he was not the actual representative of the State in this ritual.

If the constitutional position and duty of the augurs have now been made sufficiently clear, I may go on to explain briefly, as in the case of the pontifices, how the office became gradually secularised, and the duty formalised, so that if there ever had been anything of a really religious character in this art, any genuine belief in the manifestation by the Power of his will in matters of State life, such character, such belief, had become by the second century B.C. entirely paralysed and destroyed. But the history of the augurate is much more difficult to follow than that of the pontificate. The work of the pontifices touched the life of every day, public and private, at many points, with the result that their secrets ceased to be secrets by the end of the fourth century B.C. The work of the augurs was occasional, and more technical than that of the other college; it can hardly be said to have affected the religion of family life, nor did it continually bear upon public life, as did the pontifical knowledge of the ius divinum and the calendar. Hence the augural lore was never published, under pressure of public opinion, and neither ancient nor modern scholars have had to waste their time in investigating it. Books were indeed written about it in later times by one or two curious students, but in the time of Cicero, who was himself an augur, the neglect of it was general, even by members of the college.40

This mysterious augural lore was preserved in books, like that of the pontifices; and in all probability these books were put together in the same period as the latter, viz., the two centuries immediately following the abolition of the kingship.41 I think there is a strong probability that the augurate emerged from the age of Etruscan rule which marks the latter part of the kingly period, with increased importance and fresh activity, the result of immediate contact with Etruscan methods of divination.42 It is likely that they began in this way to cultivate the art of divination by lightning, which was peculiarly Etruscan, and to divide their templum into regiones, which, as I said just now, were not apparently needed for the observation of omens from birds. How far they carried this art we cannot tell, owing to the loss of their books and the commentaries upon them; but about the Etruscan discipline we do know something. Those who wish to have a glimpse of it may consult the first chapter of the fourth volume of Bouche-Leclercq's History of Divination, as a more intelligible account than any known to me.43 But all I need to insist on now is the likelihood that the augurs began the Republican period with a power of interpretation which was the more important because the art was changed; it is now the depository not only of the old bird lore, but of the new lightning lore. And as this last became the peculiar characteristic of the art of public divination, and as the augurs were, like the pontifices, a close self-electing corporation until 104 B.C. and a close self-electing patrician body until the lex Ogulnia of 300 B.C., holding secret meetings every month on the arx,44 and recording their lore in books which were never made public, they might well have grown into a powerful hierarchy, if they had only been possessed of the right of spectio. What saved Rome from this fate was simply the fact that the college was a body of interpreters only, or, in other words, the principle that the auspicia belonged exclusively to the magistrate. The auspicia were in fact a matter of public law, not of religion, properly speaking; the idea on which they were based, that the sanction of the deities was needed for every public action, very early lost its true significance, and the process of taking them became a mere form, the religious character of which was almost entirely forgotten. They ceased to be matter of religion just as the amulet or any other form of preventive magic fails to be reckoned as within the sphere of religion; the feeling was there that they must be attended to (though even that feeling lost its strength in course of time), but only as a matter of custom, not because the Power was really believed to sanction an act in this way.

Thus it seems that the importance of the augurs belongs to Roman public law, and not to the history of Roman religious experience. It will be found fully explained, in that connection, in Mommsen's Staatsrecht, or in Dr. Greenidge's volume on Roman Public Life.45 All we have to note here is the complete secularisation of what was once really a part of the Roman religion; the augurs themselves were public men and could hold magistracies, and their art of interpretation came to be used for secular and political purposes only. They could declare a magistrate vitio creatus, whether they had been present at the taking of the auspices or not; they could also on appeal stop the proceedings at a public assembly, whether for election or legislation; it may be said of them that in one way or another they had a veto on every public transaction.46 As Cicero expresses it in his ius divinum, in the second book of his work on the constitution: “Quae augur iniusta nefasta vitiosa dira defixerit inrita infectaque sunto, quique non paruerit, capital esto.”47 But in spite of the fine words iniusta nefasta vitiosa, there was no religious principle involved in this solemn injunction. When Bibulus in 59 B.C. sought as consul to stop Caesar's proceedings by using his right of spectio, all he had to do was to announce that he was going to look for lightning (obnuntiare); and if there had been the smallest remnant of religious belief left in the Roman mind about such transactions, it would quietly have acquiesced, in the conviction that Jupiter would send lightning to the Roman magistrate who asked for it; as it was, Caesar took no notice, and the Roman people only laughed. Caesar was at the time, let us note, the head of the Roman religion, pontifex maximus. So with the augurs as the interpreters of the magisterial spectio; proud as Cicero was of becoming an augur, with all the old surviving elective ritual,48 he never, we may be sure, believed for a moment that he had the power of interpreting the will of the gods. A century before his augurship the whole business of public divination had been regulated by statute, like any other secular matter; and in his own day it was an open question with men of education whether there were such a thing as divination at all.49 True, as we shall see, the illegitimate forms of divination were at this very time gaining ground, as the current of superstition increased in strength which marks this last period of the republic; but the augur's art and the spectio of the magistrate were still surviving as mere constitutional fossils, and were not destined to share largely in Augustus' heroic attempt to put fresh life into the ius divinum. Vile damnum, as Tacitus said of the foreign quacks banished to Sardinia by Tiberius; for neither in the sphere of religion nor later in that of politics can the art of divination be said to have had any lasting value.

I have not dealt at any length with the augurs and the State system of divination, but I hope I have said enough to show that, as I hinted at the beginning of this lecture, it affords an excellent illustration of the way in which the religious instinct, the desire to be in right relation with the Power manifesting itself in the universe, was first soothed and satisfied, then hypnotised and paralysed, by the formalisation and gradual secularisation of religious processes. The desire to obtain the sanction of the Power by seeking for favourable signs or omens seems to be a universal instinct of human nature, though a perverse one; if left to itself it will apparently pass into the region of harmless folklore, where it does not seriously interfere with human progress, either secular or religious; but where, as at Rome, it is taken up into the ritual of a religious system, and is further allowed to express itself mechanically in the region of public law, it exhausts itself rapidly, loses all its original significance, and becomes a clog on human progress.

In ancient Italy this instinct for divination was nowhere so strongly and so perversely developed into a mechanical system as in Etruria, and it is highly probable that this development contributed largely to the rapid political and moral decay of the Etruscan people. The narrow aristocratic constitution of the Etruscan cities, worked by a kind of priestly nobility, seems to have afforded great opportunities for the cultivation of the perverse art which (as we are now beginning to recognise) this people had brought with them from the East.50 I have already suggested that an Etruscan dominion at Rome had very probably unfortunate results in developing and formalising the art of the augurs. But the age of the Tarquinii was not the only one in which the sinister influence of this strange people was brought to bear on Roman religious institutions; and before I close this lecture I must say a very few words about a second invasion of Etruscan perversity, which began some two centuries and a half later. This was the result of that renewed religio, that feeling of anxiety and sometimes of despair characteristic of the last half of the third century B.C., the perilous era of the Punic wars, with which I shall deal more particularly in the next lecture. The state religion could not soothe it; neither pontifices nor augurs had any sufficient native remedy for it, and as the ritual of worship was reinforced from Greece and the East, so the ritual of divination was reinforced from Etruria.

The Etruscans seem to have educated their diviners with care and system. We do not know the details of such education, but it seems likely that there were schools of these prophets, by means of which the art was handed down and developed.51 The word for the person thus trained was haruspex in its Italian form as known to us, though it had an Etruscan original.52 The art acquired was of three kinds—the interpretation of lightning; the explanation and interpretation of the entrails of victims,

and especially of the liver; and, thirdly, the explanation and expiation of portents and prodigia.53 All three departments seem to have been carried to an extreme degree of perverse development. To give an idea of it I need but refer to recent discussions of the relation between the divisions marked on a bronze model of a victim's liver (found in 1877 at Piacenza), in which are written the Etruscan names of a great number of deities, and the somewhat similar divisions of the templum of the heavens as given by Martianus Capella in explanation of the celestial dwellings of the Italian deities. A study of this unprofitable subject, of which the only interest lies in the illustration it offers of the prostitution of human ingenuity, will be found in a little work by Carl Thulin, published in the series called Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten.54

Just as the Roman authorities had recourse from time to time to the Sibylline books, so also they occasionally, though not apparently before the Punic wars, sought the help of the trained Etruscan diviners. We shall come across instances of this in the next two lectures, and I need not specify them now. They seem to have used their art in all its departments; and in the most degraded of these, the examination of entrails, it was found so convenient to have their services in a campaign that in course of time one at least seems to have accompanied every Roman army.55 The complicated art of augury might in fact be dispensed with if you had a haruspex ready and willing at a moment's notice to give you a good report of the victim's liver. To keep up the supply of experts, the senate, probably in the second century B.C., determined to select and train ten boys of noble family in each Etruscan city. This was the last service that the degenerate Etruscan people rendered to its conquerors, and a more degrading one it is impossible to imagine. These foreign diviners were never admitted to the dignity of a collegium;56 they rather played the part of the domestic chaplain kept to say grace before meat. For moment they attract our attention in connection with the persecution of Cicero by his political enemies, and the consecratio after his exile of the site of his house on the palatine hill.57 For a moment again we meet with them in the reign of Claudius, who was interested in the Etruscans and wrote a work about them, and once raised the question in the senate of the revival of the haruspices and their art—such part of it, at least, as might seem worth preserving—“ne vetustissima Italiae disciplina per desidium exolesceret.”58 And strange to say, though in fact no part of this ancient Italian discipline was in the least worth preserving, it survived in outward form into the fourth century of the empire.59 We read with astonishment in the code of the Christian emperor Theodosius, that if the imperial palace or other public buildings are struck by lightning the haruspices are to be consulted, according to ancient custom, as to the meaning of the portent.60 Thirteen years after the death of Theodosius, in 408, Etruscan experts offered their services to Pompeianus, prefect of Rome, to save the city from the Goths. Pompeianus was tempted, but consulted Innocent, the Bishop of Rome, who “did not see fit to oppose his own opinion to the wishes of the people at such a crisis, but stipulated that the magic rites should be performed secretly.” What followed is uncertain. “The Christian historian says that the rites were performed, but were unavailing; the pagan Zosimus affirms that the aid of the Tuscans was declined.”61 So hard died the futile arts of the most unfruitful of all Italian races.

  • 1.

    Stanley's Jewish Church (ed. 1906), vol. i. p. 398 foll.

  • 2.

    Hist, de divination dans I'antiquite, vol. i. p. 7 foll.; divination is “contemplative,” magic “active.” But this learned author did not deal with divination except as it existed in Greece and Italy; and in view of our present extended knowledge this differentia is not instructive.

  • 3.

    See Tylor's article in the last edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and his Gifford Lectures, Pt. ii. ch. iv.; Haddon, Magic and Fetishism, p. 40. Bouche-Leclercq, Hist. de divination dans Pantiquite“, vol. i. p. 7, distinguishes divination from magic; but his knowledge of the subject was limited to civilised races.

  • 4.

    Mr. Marett seems doubtful about it: see his Threshold of Religion, pp. 42 and 83. In the latter passage he says that it may or may not be treated as a branch of magic, and may be “originally due to some dim sort of theorising about causes, the theory engendering the practice rather than the practice the theory.” I should doubt whether, when the facts have been fully collected, this will be the conclusion to which they point.

  • 5.

    Evolution of the Aryan, Drucker's translation, p. 369.

  • 6.

    Ib. pp. 364, 374.

  • 7.

    A curious survival of divination from the agricultural period which was taken over by the State, but not fixed to a day in the calendar, is the augurium canarium. The exta of red puppies which had been sacrificed were consulted, apparently with a view to ascertain the probability of the corn ripening well (Festus, p. 285, quoting Ateius Capito). See R.F. p. 90, and the references there given; also Cic. de Legibus, ii. 20; Fest. 379; and Wissowa in Pauly-Wissowa, p. 2328.

  • 8.

    See above, p. 102.

  • 9.

    See Dr. Jevons' account in Gardner and Jevons, Manual of Greek Antiquities, ch. vii.

  • 10.

    Bouche-Leclercq in the introduction to his first volume (p. 3) expresses a different opinion. He thinks that the benefit conferred by divination in the conduct of life was the most valuable part of religion. With this I entirely disagree.

  • 11.

    Cic. de Divinatione, ii. 51.

  • 12.

    See Bouche-Leclercq, iv. 119 foll. In a recently published essay, De antiquorum daemonismo, by J. Tamburnino (Giessen, 1909), the only genuine Roman evidence adduced of possession is Minucius Felix, Octavius, ch. 27, i.e. it belongs to the late second century A.D. In the so-called Italian oracles there is no question of it: e.g. the lots at Praeneste were worked by a boy (Cic. de Div. ii. 86).

  • 13.

    Livy i. 36; Cic. de Div. i. 17. It is Dion. Hal. iii. 70 who says that his art was Etruscan.

  • 14.

    Bouchd-Leclercq, iv. 120.

  • 15.

    For Carmenta see R.F. 167 and 291 foll. For Fortuna, ib. 223 foll.; cp. 170 foll.

  • 16.

    Aug. de Civ. Dei, iv. 11; he uses the plural Carmentes; see R.F. as above. Virgil, Aen. viii. 336.

  • 17.

    As “superstitiosi vates” in the passage of Ennius quoted below. In his imaginary ius divinum Cicero uses the word for “fatidici” authorised by the State (de Legg. ii. 20). He is perhaps thinking of the haruspices.

  • 18.

    Ribbeck, Fragm. tragicorum Romanorum, p. 55. For hariolus outside the play-writers, Cic. de Nat. Deor. i. 20. 55, where it is combined with haruspices, augures, vates, and coniectores (interpreters of dreams). Ad Att. viii. 11. 3.

  • 19.

    Cato, R.R. ch. 54; cp. Columella, i. 8 and xi. 1.

  • 20.

    See P. Regell, De augurum publicorum libris, p. 6 “Omnia illa auguria quae futurarum rerum aliquid predicunt... augurum publicorum disciplinae abroganda sunt: aut privati sunt augurii, aut Tuscorum disciplinae.” Cp. Cic. de Har. Resp. 9. 18.

  • 21.

    Cic. de Div. i. 16. 28; Val. Max. ii. 1. 1.

  • 22.

    La Religione nella vita domestica, i. 153 foll.; 232 foll.

  • 23.

    Cic. de Div. i. 16, 28.

  • 24.

    This fragment is preserved in Gellius vii. 6. 10. Nigidius may be responsible for many of Pliny's omens. Regell, op. cit. p. 8.

  • 25.

    Hor. Odes, iii. 27. 1 foll.

  • 26.

    Exactly the same misfortune occurred in the middle ages. The monks had abundant opportunity of observation, but were occupied with other matters, and have left behind them no works on natural history.

  • 27.

    See above, p. 169 foll.

  • 28.

    Livy vi. 12.

  • 29.

    See the fragment of Ennius' Annates in Cic. de Div. i. 107.

  • 30.

    Wissowa, R.K. p. 450; Lex coloniae Genetivae, 66 and 67.

  • 31.

    Livy vi. 41.

  • 32.

    See a good account in the Dict. of Antiquities, vol. i. 252 and 255; and Wissowa in Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. “auspicia.”

  • 33.

    Roman Public Life, p. 162.

  • 34.

    Wissowa, R.K. 451, note 2; Marq. 241.

  • 35.

    Mommsen, Staatsrecht, i. 86.

  • 36.

    Wissowa, R.K. 451, note 7; Plut. Quaest. Rom. 99; Pliny, Ep. 4. 8. Plutarch asks why an augur can never be deprived of his office, and answers that the secrecy of his art made it impossible. Cp. Paulus, 16.

  • 37.

    The latest authoritative account of the auspicia is in Pauly-Wissowa, s.v., where the necessary literature and material will be found for a study of an extremely complicated subject.

  • 38.

    The technical term was templum minus, in contradistinction to the templum maius, i.e. the space in which he was to look for signs. See Bouche-Leclercq, iv. 197; Fest. 157. The usual place was the arx, where was the auguraculum, on which the magistrate taking the auspices “pitched his tent” (tabernaculum), looking to the east, with the north as his left or lucky side. Von Jhering, op. cit. p. 364, makes some ingenious use of this procedure to support his theory that the origin of such institutions is to be found in the period of migration.

  • 39.

    That the division of the templum into regiones was necessary only for the auguria caelestia, and not for the observation of birds, is the conclusion drawn by Wissowa (R.K. 457, note 2) from the words of Cicero (de Legibus, ii. 21) in his ius divinum: “caelique fulgura regionibus ratis temperanto” (i.e. the magistrates).

  • 40.

    Cicero expressly says that even old Cato complained of the neglect of the auspicia by the college: de Div. i. 15. 28; above, in sec. 25, he had said the same thing of the augurs of his own day i.e. including himself. We know of a work on the auspicia by M. Messalla, an augur, from which Gellius, xiii. 15, quotes a lengthy extract (cp. ch. 14). This man was consul in 53 B.C.; Schanz, Gesch. der rom. Lit., ii. 492. Just at the same time Appius Claudius, Cicero's predecessor as governor of Cilicia, wrote libri augurales, to which Cicero more than once alludes in his correspondence with Appius: ad Fam. iii. 9. 3 and 11. 4. It is plain that the old augural lore is now treated only as a curiosity, of which the secrecy need no longer be respected.

  • 41.

    P. Regell, De augurum publicorum libris, whose excellent little work has never been superseded, thinks (p. 19) that the libri were the result of the neglect of the art, i.e. that it was necessary to put it in writing, because otherwise it would be forgotten. “Tota eius vita,” he says, “lenta est mors.” The lore was complete about the time of the decemvirate, but decreta must have been continually added (p. 23). The nucleus may be represented in Cicero, de Legibus, ii. 20. 21, and perhaps existed in Saturnian verse (Festus, 290). The additions in the way of decree or comment would probably range over the fourth and third centuries B.C. like those of the pontifices. No doubt the Hannibalic war had the effect of diminishing the importance of the lore, as the next lecturfe should show. On the whole we may put the great period of the college between the decemvirate and the war with Hannibal.

  • 42.

    This is the opinion of Bouche-Leclercq, op. cit. vol. iv. p. 205 foll.; cp. Wissowa, R.K. p. 457. Cicero calls the augurs “interpretes Iovis Optimi maximi” (de Legibus, ii. 20), and herein could hardly have made a mistake, as he was himself an augur. As the great deity was of Etruscan origin in this form, I should conjecture that the college took new ground and gained new influence under the Etruscan dynasty.

  • 43.

    Cp. also Müller-Deecke, Die Etrusker, ii. 165 foll. Our knowledge comes chiefly from the learned but obscure writer Martianus Capella (ed. Eyssenhardt), who wrote under the later Empire.

  • 44.

    For these meetings see Cic. de Div. i. 41. 90; Regell, p. 23. They were obsolete in Cicero's time, but seem to have still existed in the time of Scipio Aemilianus: Cic. Lael. 2. 7.

  • 45.

    Staatsrecht, i. 73 foll.; Greenidge, Roman Public Life, p. 172 foll.

  • 46.

    The best account of the constitutional power of the augurs is in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopadie, s.v. “augur,” vol. i. p. 2334 foll.; cp. Wissowa, R.K.457–8.

  • 47.

    De Legibus, ii. 21.

  • 48.

    The outward form of co-optatio was still preserved, like our “election” of a bishop by a chapter. Cicero was co-opted by Hortensius after nomination by two other augurs. See his interesting account of this in his Brutus, ch. i. The survival may be taken as throwing light on the original secrecy and closeness of the collegium.

  • 49.

    For the leges Aelia et Fufia, cf. Greenidge, op. cit. p. 173. The Stoics of the last century B.C. were divided on this point. See below, p. 399. In the second book of his de Divinatione, following the Academic or agnostic school, he himself confutes his brother Quintus' argument for divination contained in Bk. I.

  • 50.

    This is the view of Thulin, Die Gorter des Martianus Capella und der Bronzeleber von Piacenza (Giessen, 1906), p. 7 foll., and it seems at present to hold the field: see Gruppe, Die mythologische Literatur aus den Jahren 1898–1905, p. 336.

  • 51.

    Müller-Deecke, vol. ii. p. 7 foll.

  • 52.

    See Deecke's note on p. 12 of Müller-Deecke, vol. ii. It is possibly connected with hariolus.

  • 53.

    Wissowa, R.K. p. 470, and Müller-Deecke, vol. ii. 165 foll.

  • 54.

    See above, note 50.

  • 55.

    References to Livy will be found in Wissowa, R.K. p. 473, note 11. One of these, to Livy xxvii. 16. 14, is worth quoting as suggesting that a haruspex might give useful advice in spite of his art: “Hostia quoque caesa consulenti (Fabio) deos haruspex, cavendum a fraude hostili et ab insidiis, praedixit.”

  • 56.

    They were not sacerdotes publici Romani, nor is a collegium mentioned till the reign of Claudius: Tac. Ann. xi. 15. The proper term seems to have been ordo, which occurs in inscriptions of the Empire: Marq. p. 415.

  • 57.

    See the oration De haruspicum responsis (especially 5. 9), the genuineness of which is now generally acknowledged. Asconius quotes it as Cicero's (ed. Clark, p. 70): so also Quintilian, v. 11. 42.

  • 58.

    Tac. Ann. 11. 15.

  • 59.

    The haruspices mentioned in inscriptions (above, note 56) were not the genuine article; they were Romans and equites. Probably this was only one of the many ways of finding dignity or employment for persons of good birth under the Empire.

  • 60.

    Cod. Theod. xvi. 10. 1 (of the year 321 A.D.), quoted by Wissowa, R.K. p. 475, note 1. In ix. 16. 3. 5, however, the practice of consulting such experts is strictly prohibited.

  • 61.

    The story is told in Prof. Dill's Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, ed. 1, p. 41.