On divination/Book 1
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It is an old opinion, derived as far back as from the heroic times, and confirmed by the unanimous consent of the Roman people, and indeed of all nations, that there is a species of divination in existence among men, which the Greeks call μαντική, that is to say, a presentiment, and foreknowledge of future events. A truly splendid and serviceable gift, if it only exists in reality; and one by which our mortal nature makes its nearest approach to the power of the Gods. Therefore, as we have done many other things better than the Greeks, so, most especially have we excelled them in giving a name to this most admirable endowment, since our nation derives the name which it gives to it, Divination, from the Gods (divis), while the Greeks derived the title which they gave it, namely μαντική, from madness (μανία). For that is Plato's interpretation of the word.
Now, as far as I know, there is no nation whatever, however polished and learned, or however barbarous and uncivilized, which does not believe it possible that future events may be indicated, and understood, and predicted by certain persons.
In the first place the Assyrians, that I may trace back the authority for this belief to the most remote ages and countries, as a natural consequence of the champaign country in which they lived, and of the vast extent of their territories, which led them to observe the heavens which lay open to their view in every direction, began to take notice also of the paths and motions of the stars; and having taken these observations for some time, they handed down to their posterity information as to what was indicated by their various positions and revolutions. And among the Assyrians, the Chaldaeans, a tribe who had this name not from any art which they professed, but from the district which they inhabited, by a very long course of observation of the stars are considered to have established a complete science, so that it became possible to predict what would happen to each individual, and with what destiny each separate person was born. The Egyptians also are believed to have acquired the knowledge of the same art by a continued practice of it extending through countless ages. But the nature of the Cilicians and Pisidians, and the Pamphylians, who border on them, nations which we ourselves have had under our government, think that future events are pointed out by the flight and voices of birds as the surest of all indications. And when was there ever an instance of Greece sending any colony Aeolia, Ionia, Asia, Sicily of Italy, without consulting the Pythian or Dodonaean oracle, or that of Jupiter Hammon? or when did that nation ever undertake a war without first asking counsel of the Gods? (Latin)
Nor is there only one kind of divination celebrated both in public and in private. For, (to say nothing of the practice of other nations,) how many different kinds have been adopted by our own people. In the first placem the founder of this city, Romulus, is said not only to have founded the city in obedience to the auspices; but also to have been himself an augur of the highest reputation. After him the other kings also had recourse to soothsayers; and after the kings were driven out, no public business was ever transacted, wither at home or in war, without reference to the auspices. And as there appeared to be great power and usefulness in the system of soothsayers (haruspices), in reference to the people's succeeding in their objects, and consulting the Gods, and arriving at an understanding of the meaning of prodigies and averting evil omens; they introduced the whole of their science from Etruria, to prevent the appearance of allowing any kind of divination to be neglected. And as men's minds were often seen to be excited in two manners, without any rules of reason or science, by their own mere uncontrolled and free motion, being sometimes under the influence of frenzy, and at others under that of dreams, our ancestors, thinking that the divination which proceeded from frenzy was contained chiefly in verses of the Sibyl, ordained that there should be ten citizens chosen as interpreters of these compositions. And in the same spirit they have also, at times, thought the frantic predictions of conjurers and prophets worth attending to; as they did in the Octavian war in the case of Cornelius Culleolus. Nor indeed have men of the greatest wisdom thought it beneath them to attend to the warnings of important dreams, if at any time any such appeared to have reference to the interests of the republic. Moreover, even in our own time, Lucius Junius, who was consul, as colleague of Publius Rutulius, was ordered by a vote of the senate to erect a temple to Juno Sospita, in compliance with a dream seen by Caecilia, the daughter of Balearicus. (Latin)
And, as I apprehend, our ancestors were induced to establish this custom more because they had been warned, by the events which they saw, to do so, than from any previous conclusion of reason. But some exquisite arguments of philosophers have been collected to prove why divination may well be a true science. Now of these philosophers, to go back to the most ancient ones, Xenophanes the Colophonian appears to have been the only one who admitted the existence of Gods, and yet utterly denied the efficacy of divination. But every other philosopher except Epicurus, who talks so childishly about the nature of the Gods, has sanctioned a belief in divination; though they have not all spoken in the same manner. For, though Socrates, and all his followers, and Zeno, and all those of his school, adhered to the opinion of the ancient philosophers, and the Old Academy and the Peripatetics agreed with them; and though Pythagoras, who lived some time before these men, had added a great weight of authority to this belief—and indeed he himself wished to acquire the skill of an augur,—and though that most important authority Democritus, had in very many passages of his writings sanctioned a belief in the foreknowledge of future events; yet Dicaearchus the Peripatetic, on the other hand, denied all other kinds of divination, and left none except those which proceed from frenzy or from dreams. And my old friend Critappus, whom I consider equal to the most ancient among the Peripatetics, confined his belief to the same matters, and denied the correctness of any other kind of divination.
But as the Stoics defended nearly every kind, because Zeno in his Commentaries had amplified and extended his predecessor's observations; Chrysippus succeeded them, a man of the most acute and vivid genius; who discussed the whole belief in, and question about divination in two books on that subject, and a third on oracles, and a fourth on dreams. And he was followed by Diogenes the Babylonian, a pupil of his own, who published on treatise on the same subject; by Antipater, who wrote two books, and our friend Posidonius, who wrote five. But Panaetius, the tutor of Posidonius and pupil of Antipater, has degenerated in some degree from the Stoics, or at least from the most eminent men of that school; and yet he did not dare absolutely to deny that there was a power of divination, but said that he had doubts on the subjects. Now if he, a Stoic, was allowed to express a doubt on a matter very much against the inclination of the rest of that school, shall we not obtain leave from the Stoics to behave in a similar manner with respect to other subjects? especially when that very question which is a matter of doubt to Panaetius, is generally considered a thing as clear as day to the other philosophers of that sect. However, this praise of the Academy has been confirmed by the testimony and deliberate judgment of a most admirable philosopher. (Latin)
Indeed, since we are ourselves inquiring what we are to think of divination, because Carneades maintained a very long argument against the Stoics with great acuteness and variety of resource, and as we wish to be on our guard against admitting rashly any assertion which is incorrect, or the truth of which is not sufficiently ascertained, it appears necessary for us to compare over and over again the arguments on one side with those on the other, as we have done in the three books we have written on the Nature of the Gods. For, as in every discussion, rashness in assenting to propositions of others, and error in asserting such ourselves, is very discreditable, so above all is it in a discussion where the question for our decision is how much weight we are to attribute to auspices, and to divine ceremonies, and to religion. For there is danger lest, if we neglect these things, we may become involved in the guilt of blasphemous impiety, or if we embrace them, we may become liable to the reproach of old women's superstition. (Latin)
Now these topics I have often discussed, and I did so lately with more than usual minuteness, when I was with my brother Quintus, in my villa at Tusculum. For when, for the purpose of taking walking exercise, we had come into the Lyceum, (for that is the name of the upper Gymnasium)—I read, said he, a little while ago your third book on the Nature of the Gods; in which, although the arguments of Cotta have not wholly changed my previous opinions, they have undoubtedly a good deal shaken them. You are very right to say so, I replied; for, indeed, Cotta himself argues rather with a view to confute the arguments of the Stoics, than to eradicate religion from men's minds. Then, said Quintus, that is what Cotta himself says, and indeed he repeats it very often; I imagine, because he does not wish to seem to depart from the ordinary opinions; but still the zeal with which he argues against the Stoics seems to carry him on to the extent of wholly denying the existence of the Gods. I do not indeed think it necessary to reply to all he says, for religion has been sufficently defended in your second book by Lucilius; whose arguments, as you say at the end of the third book, appear to yourself to be much nearer to the truth. But with reference to the point which has been compassed over in those books, because, I presume, you considered that the inquiry into it could be carried on, and an argument held upon it with more convenience if it were taken separately, I mean Divination—which is a foreknowledge and a foretelling of those events which are usually considered fortuitous,—I should like very much at this momemt, if you please, to examine what power that science really has, and what its character is. For my own opinion is this; that if those kinds of divination which we have been in the habit of hearing of and respecting, are real, then there are Gods; and on the other hand that, if there really are Gods, then there certainly are men who are possessed of the art of divination. (Latin)
You are defending, I reply, the very citadel of the Stoics, O Quintus, by asserting the reciprocal dependence of these two conditions on one another; so that if there be such an art as divination, then there are Gods, and if there be such beings as Gods, then there is such an art as divination. But neither of these points is admitted as easily as you imagine. For future events may possibly be indicated by nature without the intervention of any God; and, even although there may be such beings as Gods, still it is possible that no such art as divination may be given by them to the human race
He replied,—But to me it is quite proof enough, both that there are Gods and that they have a regard for the welfare of makind, that I perceive that there are manifest and undeniable kinds of divination. With respect to which, I will, if you please, recount to you my own sentiments, provided at least that you have leisure and inclination to hear me, and have nothing which you would like in preference to this discussion. But I, said I, my dear Quintus, have always leisure for philosophical discussion; but at this moment, when I have actually nothing whatever which I wish to do, I shall be all the more glad to hear your sentiments on divination.
You will hear, said he, nothing new from me, nor do I entertain any ideas on the subject different from the rest of the world. For the opinion which I follow is not only the most ancient, but that which has been sanctioned by the unaimous consent of all nations and countries. For there are two methods of divining; one dependent on art, the other on nature. But what nation is there, or what state, which is not influenced by the omens derived from the entrails of victims, or by the predictions of those who interpret prodigies, or strange lights, or of augurs, or astrologers, or by those who expound lots (for these are about to come under the head of art); or, again, by the prophesies derived from dreams, or soothsayers (for these two are considered natural kinds of divination)? And I think it more desirable to examine into the results of these things than into the causes. For there is a certain power and nature, which, by means of indications which have been observed a long time, and also by some instinct and divine inspiration, pronounces a judgment on future events. (Latin)
So that Carneades may well give up pressing what Panaetius used also to insist upon, when he asked whether it was Jupiter who had ordained the crow to croak on the right-hand, or the raven on the left. For these occurrences have been observed for an immense series of time, and have been remarked and noted from the signification given to them by subsequent events. But there is nothing which a great length of time may not effect and establish by the use of memory retaining the different events, and handing them down in durable monuments. We may wonder at the way in which the different kinds of herbs and roots have been observed by physicians as good for the bites of beasts, for complaints of the eyes, and for wounds, the power and nature of which reason has never explained, but yet both the art and inventor of these medicines have gained universal approval from their utility. Let is also look at those things which, though of another kind, still have a resemblance to divination.
And often, too, the agitated sea
Gives certain tokens of impending storms,
When through the deep with sudden rage it swells,
And the fierce rocks, white with the briny foam,
Vie with hoarse Neptune in their sullen roar,
While the sad whistling o'er the mountain's brow
Adds horror to the crash of the iron coast.
And all your prognostics are full of presentiments derived from occurrences of this sort. Who, then, can trace back the causes of these presentiments? Though, indeed, I am aware that Boëthius the Stoic has endeavoured to do so. And indeed he has done some good to this extent, that he has explained the principle of those occurences which take place in the sea, or in heaven. But still, who has ever explained with any appearance of probability, why they take place at all?
And the white gull, uprising from the waves,
With horrid scream foretells th' impending storm,
Straining its trembling throat in ceaseless cry.
Oft, too, the woodlark from his chest pours forth
Notes of unusual sadness, waking up
The morn with grievous fear and endless plaint.
When first Aurora routs the nighly dew,
Sometimes the dusky crow runs o'er the shore,
Dipping its head beneath the rising surf.
And we see that these signs of the weather scarcely ever deceive us, though we certainly do not understand why they are so correct.
You too perceive the signs of future times,
Children of sweetest waters; and prepare
To utter warnings loud and salutary,
Rousing the springs and marshes with your cries.
Yet who could ever have suspected frogs of having such perception? However, there is in rivulets, and in frogs too, a certain nature indicating something which is cear enough by itself, but more obscure to the knowledge of men.
And cloven-footed oxen gazing up
To heaven's expanse, have often inhales the air
Laden with moisture.
I do not inquire why all this takes place, since I am acquainted with the fact that it does take place—
The mastic, ever green and ever laden
With its rich fruit, which thrice in every year
Doth swell to ripeness, by its triple crop
Points out three times when men should till the earth.
Here too, again, I do not ask why this one tree should bloom three times a year, or why it should adapt the proper season for ploughing the land to the token given by its bloom. I am content with this, that, even if I do not know how everything is done, I nevertheless do know what is done. And so in respect of every kind of divination I will answer as I have done in the cases which I have already mentioned. (Latin)
Now I know what effect the root of scammony has as a purgative, and what the efficact of aristolochia is in the case of bites of serpents, (and this herb has derived its name from its discoverer, who discovered it in consequence of a dream,) and that knowledge is quite enough. I do not know why these herbs are so efficacious; and in the same way I do not know on what principle the omens which we draw from the signs furnished to us by the winds and storms proceed; but I do know, and am certain of, and thankful for their power, and the results which flow from it. Again, in the same way I know what is indicated by a fissure in the entrails of a victim, or by the appearance of the fibres; but what the cause is that these appearances have this meaning I know not. And life is full of such things; for nearly every one has recourse to the entrails of animals. Need I say more? Is it possible for any one to doubt about the power of thunder-storms? Is not this too one of the most marvellous of marvellous things? When Summanus, which was a figure made of clay, standing on the top of the temple of the all-powerful and all-good Jupiter, was struck by lightning, and the head of the statue could not be found anywhere, the soothsayers said that it had been thrown down into the Tiber, and it was found in that very place which had been pointed out by the soothsayers. (Latin)
But who is there to whom I may more fitly appeal as an authority and as a witness than you yourself? For I have learnt the verses, and that with great pleasure, which the muse Urania pronounces in the second book of your "Consulship"—
See how almighty Jove, inflamed and bright,
With heavenly fire fills the spacious world,
And lights up heaven and earth with wondrous rays
Of his divine intelligence and mind;
Which pierces all the inmost sense of men,
And vivifies their souls, held fast within
The boundless caverns of eternal air.
And would you know the high sublimest paths
And ever revolving orbits of the stars,
And in what constellations they abide,—
Stars which the Greeks erratic falsely call,
For certain order and fixed laws direct
Their onward course; then shall you learn that all
Is by divinest wisdom fitly ruled.
For when you ruled the state, a consul wise,
You noted, and with victims due approach'd,
Propitiating the rapid stars, and strange
Concurrence of the fiery constellations.
Then, when you purified the Alban mount,
And celebrated the great Latin feast,
Bringing pure milk, meet offerings for the gods,
You saw fierce comets bright and quivering
With lights unheard of. In the sky you saw
Fierce wars and dread nocturnal massacre;
That Latin feast on mournful days did fall,
When the pale moon with dim and muffled light
Conceal'd her head, and fled, and in the midst
Of starry night became invisible.
Why should I say how Phoebus' fiery beam,
Sure herald of sad war, in mid-day set,
Hastening at undue season to its rest,
Or how a citizen struck with th' awful bolt,
Hurl'd by high Jove from our a cloudless sky,
Left the glad light of life; or how the earth
Quakes with affright and shook in every part?
Then dreadful forms, strange visions stalk'd abroad,
Scarce shrouded by the darkness of the night,
And warn'd the nations and the land of war.
Then many an oracle and augury,
Pregnant with evil fate, the soothsayers
Pour'd from their agitated breasts. And e'en
The Father of the Gods fill'd heaven and earth
With signs, and tokens, and presages sure
Of all the things which have befallen us since.
So now the year when you are at the helm,
Collects upon itself each omen dire,
Which when Torquatus, with his colleague Cotta,
Sat in the curule chairs, the Lydian seer
Of Tuscan blood breathed to affrighted Rome.
For the great Father of the Gods, whose home
Is on Olympus' height, with glowing hand
Himself attack'd his sacred shrines and temples,
And hurl'd his darts against the Capitol.
Then fell the brazen statue, honour'd long,
Of noble Natta; then fell down the laws
Graved on the sacred tablets; while the bolts
Spared not the images o' the immortal gods.
Here was that noble nurse o' the Roman name,
The Wolf of Mars, who from her kindly breast
Fed the immortal children of her god
With the life-giving dew of sweetest milk.
E'en her the lightning spared not; down she fell.
Bearing the royal babes in her descent,
Leaving her footmarks on the pedestal.
And who, unfolding records of old time
Has found no words of sad prediction
In the dark pages of Etruscan books?—
All men, all writings, all events combined,
To warn the citizens of freeborn race
To dread impending wars of civil strife,
And wicked bloodshed; when the laws should fall
In one dark rain, trampled and o'erthrown:
Then men were warn'd to save their holy shrines,
The statues of the gods, their city and lands,
From slaughter and destruction, and preserve
Their ancient customs unimpair'd and free.
And this kind hint of safety was subjoin'd,
That when a splendid statue of great Jove,
In godlike beauty, on its base was raised,
With eyes directed to Sol's eastern gate;
Then both the senate and the people's bands,
Duly forewarn'd, should see the secret plots
Of wicked men, and disappoint their spite.
This statue, slowly form'd and long delay'd,
At length by you, when consul, has been placed
Upon its holy pedestal;—'tis now
That the great sceptred Jupiter has graced
His column, on a well-appointed hour:
And at the self-same moment faction's crimes
Were by the loyal Gauls reveal'd and shown
To the astonish'd multitude and senate.
Well then did ancient men, whose monuments
You keep among you,—they who will maintain
Virtue and moderation; by these arts
Ruling the lands and people subject to them:
Well, too, your holy sires, whose spotless faith,
And piety, and deep sagacity
Have far surpass'd the men of other lands,
Worshipp'd in every age the mighty Gods.
They with sagacious care these things foresaw,
Spending in virtuous studies all their leisure,
And in the shady Academic groves,
And fair Lyuceum; where they well pour'd forth
The treasures of their pure and learned hearts.
And, like them, you have been by virtue placed,
To save your country, in the imminent breach;
Still with philosophy you soothe your cares,
With prudent care dividing all your hours
Between the muses and your country's claims.
Will you then be able to persuade your mind to speak against the arguments which I adduce on the subject of divination, you being a man who have performed such exploits as you have done, and who have admirably composed those verses which I have just recited? What—do you ask me, Carneades, why these things take place in this manner, or by what art it is possible for them to be brought about? I confess that I do not know; but that they do happen, I assert that you yourself are a witness. Yes, they happen by chance, you say. Is it so? Can anything be done by chance which has in itself all the features of reality? Four dice when thrown may by chance come up sixes. Do you think that if you were to throw four hundred dice it would be possible for them all to come up sixes by any chance in the world? Paints scattered at random on a canvass may by chance represent the features of a human face; but do you think that you could by any chance scattering of colours represent the beauty of the Coan Venus? Suppose a pig by burrowing in the ground with his snout were to make the letter A, would you on that account think it possible that the animal should by chance write out the Andromache of Ennius? Carneades used to tell a story that in cutting stones in the stone-quarries at Chios, there was once discovered a natural head of Pan. I dare say there may have been a figure not wholly unlike such a head, but still certainly it was not such that you could fancy it wrought by Scopas. For this is the nature of things, that chace can never imitate reality to perfection.
But, you will say, things which have been predicted sometimes fail to happen. What act is now liable to this observation? I mean of these acts which proceed on conjecture, and are founded on opinion. Is not medicine to be considered a real art? And yet how often is it deceived? Need I say more? Are not pilots of ships often deceived? Did not the army of the Greeks, and the captains of all that numerous fleet, depart from Troy, as Pacuvius says—
So glad at their departure, that they gazed
In idle mirth upon the wanton fish,
And never ceased from laughing at their gambols;
Meanwhile at sunset the vast sea grows rough,
The darkness lowers, black night and clouds surround them.
Did, however, the shipwreck of so many illustrious generals and sovereigns prove that there was no such art as navigation? Or is the science of generals good for nothing because a most illustrious general was lately put to flight, after the total loss of his army? Or are we to say that there is no room for the display of sound principles of politics, or wisdom in the administration of affairs of state, because Cnaeus Pompeius was often deceived, and even Cato and you yourself have been deceived in more instances than one? The same rule applies to the answers of soothsayers, and to all divination which rests on opinion: for it depends wholly on conjecture, and has no means of advancing further. And that perhaps sometimes deceives us, but still it more frequently directs us to the truth. For it is traced back to all eternity. And as in the infinite duration of time, things have happened in an almost countless number of ways with the self-same indications preceding each occurrence, an art has been concocted and reduced to rules from a frequent observation and notice of the same circumstances. (Latin)
But your auspices, how clear—how sure they are! which at this time are known nothing of by the Roman augurs, (excuse me for saying this so plainly,) though they are maintained by the Cilicians, Pamphylians, Pisidians, and Lycians. For why should I mention that man connected with us in ties of hospitality, that most illustrious and excellent man, king Deiotarus? He never does anything whatever without taking the auspices. And it happened once that he had started on a jorney which he had arranged and determined some time before; but, being warned by the flight of an eagle, he returned back again, and the very next night the house in which he would have been lodging if he had persisted in his journey, fell to the ground. And he was so moved by this occurrence, that, as he himself used to tell me, he often turned back in the same way in a journey, even when he had advanced many days on it. And what is most remarkable in his conduct is, that after he had been deprived by Caesar of his tetrarchy, his kingdom and his property, he still asserted that he did not repent of obeying those auspices which had promised success for him when he was setting out to join Pompey; for he considered that the authority of the senate, and the liberty of the Roman people, and the dignity of the empire had been upheld by his arms; and that those birds had taken good care of his honour and real interests, inasmuch as they had been his counsellors in adhering to the claims of good faith and duty; for that character was a thing dearer to him than his possessions. And in saying this he seems to me to form a very just estimate. For it is quite impossible, if a cake is thrown down before a chicken, but what some crumbs must fall out of his mouth when he feeds. And as you have it set down in your books that a tripudium takes place if any of the food falls on the ground, so you also call this compulsory augury which I have spoken of tripudium solistimum. And so, as that wise Cato complains, owing to the negligence of the college, many auguries and many auspices have been wholly lost and abandoned. (Latin)
Formerly there was, I may almost say, no affair of importance, not even if it only related to private business, which was transacted without taking the auspices. And this is proved even now by the Auspices Nuptiarum, who, though the custom has fallen into disuse, still preserve the name. For just as we now consult the entrails of victims, though even that very practice is observed less now than it used to be, so in ancient times, before all transactions of importance, men used to consult birds; and, therefore, from want of paying proper regard to ill omens, we often run into alarming and destructive dangers:—as Publius Claudius, the son of Appius Caecus, and his colleage Lucius Junius, lost a fine fleet, because they had put to sea in defiance of the omens. And, indeed, something of the same kind befel Agamemnon; for he, when the Grecians had begun
To murmur loudly, and with open scorn
T' asperse the skill of th' holy soothsayers,
Bade the crew bend the sails and put to sea,
Choosing the people's voice before the omens.
But why need we look for old examples of this? We have ourselves seen what happened to Marcus Crassus, because he neglected the notice which was given to him that the omens were unfavourable. On which occasion, Appius, your colleague, a good augur, as I have often heard you say, branded, when he was censor, an excellent man and a most illustrious citizen, Caius Ateius, without sufficient consideration, because he had cooperated in falsifying the auspices. However, let that pass. It may have been the duty of the censor to do so, if he thought that the auspices were falsified. But it certainly was not the duty of an augur to set down in the books that this was the cause of a fearful calamity befalling the Roman people. For even if that was the cause of the calamity, still the fault was not in the man who announced the state of the auspices, but in him who disregarded the announcement. For that the announcement was a correct one, as the same augur and censor bears witness, was proved by the event; for if the announcement had been false, it could not possibly have caused any calamity at all. In truth, prognostics of calamity, like other auspices, and omens, and tokens, do not produce causes why anything should happen, but merely give notice of what will happen unless you provide against it. It was not, therefore, the announcement of unfavourable omens, made by Ateius, which was the cause of calamity; all that he did was, by declaring to him what signs had been seen, to warn him what would happen if he did not take precautions against it. Accordingly, either that announcement had no effect at all, or else if, as Appius thinks, it had an effect, the effect was this, that guilt was attached, not to the man who gave the warning, but to him who did not attend to it. (Latin)
What shall I say more? From whence have you received that staff (lituus) of yours, which is the most celebrated ensign of your augurship? That is the staff with which Romulus parted out the several districts, when he founded the city. And that staff of Romulus, (that is to say, a stick curved and slightly bent forward at the top, which has derived its name from its resemblance to the trumpet (lituus) used in souding signals,) having been laid up in the meeting-house of the Salii, which was in the Palatine-hill, when that house was burnt to the ground, was found unhurt. What more need I say? Who of the ancient authors is there who does not relate what an arrangement of the districts of the city was made, many years after the time of Romulus, in the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, by Attius Naevius, who employed his staff in this manner? And it is said that he, when a boy, was forced through poverty to act as a swineherd; and one day, having lost one of his pigs, he made a vow that if he recovered it, he would give the god the finest grape which there was in the whole vineyard. Accordingly, when he had found the pig, he placed himself in the middle of the vineyard, with his eyes directed towards the south; and after he had divided the vineyard into four divisions, and had been directed by the birds to disregard three of the portions, in the fourth division, which remained, he found a grape of most wonderful size, as we find recorded in our books. And when this fact became known, all the neighbours used to consult him on all their affairs, until he gained a great name and reputation; in consequence of which king Priscus sent for him.
And when he had come to the king, he, wishing to make proof of his skill in augury, told him that he was thinking of something, and asked him whether it could possibly be done. He, having taken an augury, answered that it could. But Tarquin said that he had been thinking that it was possible that a whetstone might be cut through by a razor. On this Attius bade him try; and accordingly a whetstone was brought into the assembly, and, in the sight of king and people, cut through with a razor. And in consequence of this, it happened that Tarquinius always consulted Attius Navius as an augur, and that the people also were used to refer their private affairs to him. And we are told that that whetstone and that razor were buried in the comitium, and that puteal was built over it.
Let us deny everything; let us burn our annals; let us say that all these statements are false; let us, in short, confess everything rather than that the Gods regard the affairs of mankind. What? do not even your writings about Tiberius Gracchus sanction the theories of augurs and haruspices? For when he had unintentionally erected a tent to take the auspices informally, because he had crossed the pomoerium without taking the auspices, he held there the comitia for the election of the consuls. (The matter is one of notoriety, and committed to writing by you yourself.) However, Tiberius Gracchus, who was himself an augur, ratified the authority of the auspices by a confession of his error, and added great authority to the system of the haruspices; who, having at the recent comitia been introduced into the senate, asserted that the person who proposed the candidates to the comitia had no right to do so. (Latin)
I therefore agree with those authors who have asserted that there are two kinds of divination; one partaking of art, and the other wholly devoid of it. For art is visible in those persons who pursue anything new by conjecture, and have learnt to judge of what is old by observation. But those men, on the other hand, are devoid of art, who give way to presentiments of future events, not proceeding by reason or conjecture, nor on the observation and consideration of particular signs, but yielding to some excitement of mind, or to some unknown influence subject to no precise rules or restraint, (as if often the case with men who dream, and sometimes with those who deliver predictions in a frenzied manner,) as Bacis of Boeotia, Epimenides the Cretan, and the Erythrean Sibyl. And under this head we ought also to rank oracles; not those which are drawn by lot, but those which are uttered under the influence of some divine instinct and inspiration. And even lots are not to be despised where they are sanctioned by the authority of antiquity, like those which we are told used to rise out of the earth; which, however, are drawn in such a manner as to be apposite to the subject under consideration, which, indeed, is a thing that I conceive to be very possible by divine management. The interpreters of all of which appear to me to come very near the divining power of those whose interpreters they are (just as those grammarians do who are the interpreters of poets). What proof of sagacity is it, then, to wish to disparage things sanctioned by antiquity, by vile calumnies? I admit that I cannot discover the cause. Perhaps it lies hid, involved in the obscurity of nature. But God has not intended me to understand these matters, but only to use them. I will use them, then; nor will I be persuaded to think, either that all Etruria is mad on the subject of the entrails of victims, or that the same nation is all wrong about lightnings, or that it interprets prodigies fallaciously, when it has often happened that subterranean noises and crashes, often that earthquakes, have predicted, with terrible truth, many of the evils which have befallen our own republic and other states.
Why should I say more? The fact of a mule having brought forth is much ridiculed by some people; but because this parturition did take place in the case of an animal of natural barrenness, was there not an incredible crop of evils predicted by the soothsayers? Need I go further? Did not Tiberius Gracchus, the son of Publius Gracchus, who had been twice consul and censor, and who was also an augur of the highest skill and reputation, and a wise man, and a most virtuous citizen,—did not he (as Caius Gracchus, his son, has left recorded in his writings), when two snakes were caught in his house, convoke the soothsayers? And the answer which they gave him was, that if he let the male escape, his wife would die in a short time; but if he let the female escape, he would die himself: on which he thought it more becoming to encounter an early death himself, than to expose the youthful daughter of Publius Africanus to it. Accordingly, he released the female snake, and died himself a few days afterwards. (Latin)
Let us, after this, laugh at the soothsayers; let us call them useless and triflers, and despise those men whose principles the wisest men, and subsequent events and occurrences, have often proved. Let us despise also the Babylonians, and those who on mount Caucasus observe the stars of heaven, and follow all their revolutions in regular number and motion. Let us, say I, condemn all those people for folly, or vanity, or impudence, who, as they themselves assert, have exact records for four hundred and seventy thousand years carefully noted down, and let us decide that they are telling lies, and have no regard as to what the judgment of future ages concerning them will be. Come, then, you vain and deceitful barbarians, has the history of the Greeks likewise spokn falsely? Who is ignorant of the answer (that I may speak at present of natural divination) which the Pythian Apollo gave to Croesus, to the Athenians, the Lacedaemonians, the Tegeans, the Argives, and the Corinthians? Chrysippus has colleced a countless list of oracles—not one without a witness and authority of sufficient weight; but as they are known to you, I will pass them over. This one I will mention and defend. Would that oracle at Delphi have ever been so celebrated and illustrious, and so loaded with such splendid gifts from all nations and kings, if all ages had not had experience of the truth of its predictions? At present, you will say, it has no such reputation. Granted, then, that it has a lower reputation now, because the truth of oracles is less notorious; still I affirm that it would not have had such a reputation then, if it had not been distinguished for extraordinary accuracy. But it is possibly that that power in the earth, which excited the mind of the Pythian priestess by divine inspiration, may have disappeared, through old age, just as we know that some rivers have dried up, or have become changed and diverted into another channel. However, let it be owing to whatever you please; for it is a great question: only let this fact remain—which cannot be denied, unless we will overthrow all history—that the oracle told the truth for many ages. (Latin)
However, let us pass over the orackles; let us come to dreams. And Chrysippus discussing them, after collecting many minute instances, does the same that Antipater does when he investigates this subject, and those dreams which were explained according to the interpretation of Antipho, which indeed prove the acuteness of the interpreter, but still are not examples of such importance as to have been worthy of being brought forward.
The mother of Dionyius—of that Dionysius, I mean, who was the tyrant of Syracuse, as it is recorded by Philistus, a man of learning and diligence, and who was a contemporary of the tyrant—when she was pregnant with this very Dionysius, dreamt that she had become the mother of a little Satyr. The interpreters of prodigies, who at that time were in Sicily called Galeotae, gave her for answer when she consulted them about it, (according to the story told by Philistus,) that the child whom she was about to bring forth would be the most illustrious man of Greece, with very lasting good fortune. Am I recalling you to the fables of the Greek poets and those of our country? For the Vestal Virgin, in Ennius, says—
The agitated dame with trembling limbs
Brings in a lamp, and with unbridled tears,
Starting from broken sleep, pours forth these words:—
O daughter of the fair Eurydice,
You whom my father loved, see strength and life
Desert my limbs, and leave me helpless all.
I thought I saw a man of handsome form
Seize me, and bear me through the willow groves,
Along the river banks and places yet unknown.
And then alone,—I tell you true, my sister,—
I seem'd to wander, and with tardy steps
To seek to trace you, but my efforts fail'd;
While no clear path did guide my doubtful feet.
And then, I thought, my father thus address'd me,
With evil-boding voice:—Alas! my daughter,
What numerous woes by you must be endured;
Though fortune shall in after times arise
From our of the waters of this river here.
Thus, sister, spake my father, and then vanish'd;
Nor, though much wish'd for, did he once return.
In vain, with many tears, I raised my hands
Up to the azure vault of the highest heaven,
And with caressing voice invoked his name,
Or seem'd to do so. And 'twas long ere sleep,
Freighted with such sad dreams, did quit my breast.
Now these accounts, though they perhaps may be the mere inventions of the poets, still are not inconsistent with the general character of dreams. We may grant that that is a fictitious one by which Priam is represented to have been disturbed:—
Queen Hecuba dream'd—an ominous dream of fate—
That she did bear no human child of flesh,
But a fierce blazing torch. Priam, alarm'd,
Ponder'd with anxious fear the fatal dream;
And sought the gods with smoking sacrifice.
Then the diviner's aid he did entreat,
With many a prayer to the prophetic god,
If haply he might learn the dream's intent.
This spake Apollo with all-knowing mind:—
"The queen shall have a son, who, if he grew
To man's estate, shall set all Troy in flames—
The ruin of his city and his land."
Let us grant, then, that these dreams are, as I have said, merely poetic fictions, and let us add the dream of Aeneas, which Numerius Fabius Pictor relates in his Annals, as one of the same kind; in which Aeneas is represented as foreseeing, in his trance, all his future exploits and adventures. (Latin)
But let us come nearer home. What kind of dream was that of Tarquin the Proud, which the poet Accius, in his Tragedy of Brutus, puts into the mouth of Tarquin himself?—
Sleep closed my weary eyelids, when a shepherd
Brought me two rams. The one I sacrificed;
The other rushing at me with wild force
Hurl'd me upon the ground. Prostrate I gazed
Upon the heavens, when a new prodigy
Dazzled my eyes. The flashing orb of day
Took a new course, diverging to the right,
With all his kindling beams strangely transversed.
Of this dream the diviners gave the following interpretation—
Dreams are in general reflex images
Of things that men in waking hours have known;
But sometimes dreams of loftier character
Rise in the trancèd soul, inspired by Jove,
Prophetic of the future. Then beware
Of him, whom thou dost think as stupid as
The ram thou dreamest of. For in his breast
Dwells manliest wisdom. He may yet expel
Thee from thy kingdom. Mark the prophesy:
That change in the sun's course thou didst behold,
Betoken'd revolution in the state,
And as the sun did turn from left to right, we predict
So shall that revolution meet success.
Let us again return to foreign events. Heraclides of Pontus, an intelligent man, who was one of Plato's disciples and followers, writes that the mother of Phalaris fancied that she saw in a dream the statues of the gods whom Phalaris had consecrated in his house. Among them it appeared to her that Mercury held a cup in his right hand, from which he poured blood, which as soon as it touched the earth gushed forth like a fresh fountain, and filled the house with streaming gore. The dream of the mother was too fatally realized by the cruelty of the son.
Why need I also relate, out of the history of Persia by Dinon, the interpretations which the Magi gave to the celebrated prince, Cyrus? For he dreamed that beholding the sun at his feet, he thrice endeavoured to grasp it in his hands, but the sun rolled away and departed, and escaped from him. The Magi (who were accounted sages and teachers in Persia) thus interpreted the dream, saying, that the three attempts of Cyrus to catch the sun in his hands, signified that he would reign thirty years; and what they predicted really came to pass; for he was forty years old when he began to reign, and he reached the age of seventy. Among all barbarous nations, indeed, we meet with proof that they likewise possess the gift of divination and presentiment. The Indian Calanus, when led to execution, said, while ascending the funeral pile, "O what a glorious departure from life! when, as happened to Hercules, after my body has been consumed by fire, my soul shall depart to a world of light." And when Alexander asked him if he had anything to say to him; "Yes," replied he, "we shall soon meet again;" and this prophesy was soon fulfilled, for a few days afterwards Alexander died in Babylon.
I will quit the subject of dreams for awhile, and return to them presently. On the very night that Olympias was delivered of Alexander, the temple of Diana of the Ephesians was burned; and when the morning dawned, the Magi declared that the ruin and destroyer of Asia had been born that night. So much for the Magi and the Indians. Now let us return to dreams. (Latin)
Coelius relates that Hannibal, wishing to remove a golden column from the temple of Juno Lacinia, and not knowing whether it was solid gold or merely gilt, bored a hole in it; and as he had found it solid, he determined to take it away. But the following night Juno appeared to him in a dream, and warned him against doing so, and threatened him that if he did, she would take care that he should lose an eye with which he could see well. He was too prudent a man to neglect this threat; and therefore, of the gold which had been abstracted from the column in boring it, he made a little heifer, which he fixed to the capital.
And the same story is told in the Grecian history of Silenus, whom Coelius follows. And he was an author who was particularly diligent in relating the exploits of Hannibal. He says that when Hannibal had taken Saguntum, he dreamed in his sleep that he was summoned to a council of the gods, and that when he arrived at it, Jupiter commanded him to carry the war into Italy, and one of the deities in council was appointed to be his conductor in the enterprise. He therefore began his march under the direction of this divine protector, who enjoined him not to look behind him. Hannibal, however, could not long keep in his obedience, but yielded to a great desire to look back, when he immediately beheld a huge and terrible monster, surrounded with serpents, which, wherever it advanced, destroyed all the trees, and shrubs, and buildings. He then, marvelling at this, inquired of the god what this monster might mean; and the god replied, that it signified the desolation of Italy; and commanded him to advance without delay, and not to concern himself with the evils that lay behind him and in his rear.
In the history of Agothocles it is said, that Hamilcar the Carthaginian, when he was besieging Syracuse, dreamed that he heard a voice announcing to him, that he should sup on the succeeding day in Syracuse. When the morning dawned a great sedition arose in his camp between the Carthaginian and Sicilian soldiers. And when the Syracusans found this out, they made a vigorous sally and attacked the camp unexpectedly, and succeeded in making Hamilcar prisoner while alive, and thus his dream was verified. All history is full of similar accounts; and the experience of real life is equally rich in them.
That illustrious man, Publius Decius, the son of Quintus Decius, the first of the Decii who was a consul, being a military tribune in the consulship of Marcus Valerius and Aulus Cornelius, when our army was sorely pressed by the Samnites, and being accustomed to expose himself to great personal danger in battle, was warned to take greater care of himself; on which he replied (as our annals report), that he had had a dream, which informed him that he should die with the greatest glory, while engaged in the midst of the enemy. For that time he succeeded in happily rescuing our army from the perils that surrounded it. But three years after, when he was consul, he devoted himself to death for his country, and threw himself armed among the ranks of the Latins; by which gallant action the Latins were defeated and destroyed: and his death was so glorious that his son desired a similar fate. (Latin)
But let us now come, if you please, to the dreams of philosopher. We read in Plato that Socrates, when he was in the public prison at Athens, said to his friend Crito that he should die in three days, for that he had seen in a dream a woman of extreme beauty who called him by his name, and quoted in his presence this verse of Homer—
- On the third day you'll reach the fruitful Phthia."
And it is said that it happened just as it had been foretold.
Again, what a man, and how great a man, is Xenophon the pupil of Socrates! He, too, in his account of that war in which he accompanied the younger Cyrus, relates the dream which he saw, the accomplishment of which was marvellous. Shall we say, too, of Aristotle, a man of singular and almost divine genius? Was he deceived himself, or does he wish others to be deceived, when he informs us that Eudemus of Cyprus, his own intimate friend, on his way to Macedonia, came to Pherae, a celebrated city of Thessaly, which was then under the cruel sway of the tyrant Alexander. In that town he was seized with a severe illness, so that he was given over by all the physicians, when he beheld in a dream a young man of extreme beauty, who informed him that in a short time he should recover, and also the tyrant Alexander would die in a few days; and that Eudemus himself would, after five years' absence, at length return home. Aristotle relates that the first two predictions of this dream were immediately accomplished; for Eudemus speedily recovered, and the tyrant perished at the hands of his wife's brother; and that towards the end of the fifth year, when, in consequence of that dream, there was a hope that he would return into Cyprus from Sicily, they heard that he had been slain in a battle near Syracuse; from which it appeared that his dream was susceptible of being interpreted as meaning, that when the soul of Eudemus had quitted his body, it would then appear to have signifued the return home.
To the philosophers we may add the testimony of Sophocles, a most learned man, and as a poet quite divine, who, when a golden goblet of great weight had been stolen from the temple of Hercules, was in a dream the god himself appearing to him, and declaring who was the robber. Sophocles paid no attention to this vision, though it was repeated more than once. When it had presented itself to him several times, he proceeded up to the court of Areopagus, and laid the matter before them. On this, the judges issued an order for the arrester nominated by Sophocles. On the application of the torture the criminal confessed his guilt, and restored the goblet; from which event this temple of Hercules was afterwards called the temple of Hercules the Indicator. (Latin)
But why do I continue to cite the Greeks? when, somehow or other, I feel more interest in the examples of my fellow-countrymen. All our historians,—the Fabii, the Gellii, and, more recently, Coelius, bear witness to similar facts. In the Latin war, when they first celebrated the votive games in honour of the gods, the city was suddenly roused to arms, and the games being thus interrupted, it was necessary to appoint new ones. Before their commencement, however, just as the people had taken their places in the circus, a slave who had been beaten with rods was led through the circus, bearing a gibbet. After this event, a certain Roman rustic had a dream, in which an apparition informed him that he had been displeased with the president of the games, and the rustic was ordered to apprise the senate of that fact. He, however, did not dare to do so; on which the apparition appeared a second time, and warned him not to provoke him to exert his power. Even then he could not summon courage to obey, and presently his son died. After this, the same admonition was repeated in his dreams for the third time. Then the peasant himself became extremely ill, and related the cause of his trouble to his friends, by whose advice he was carried on a litter to the senate-house; and as soon as he had related his dreams to the senate, he recovered his health and strength, and returned home on foot perfectly cured. Thereupon, the thruth of his dreams being admitted to the senate, it is related that these games were repeated a second time.
It is recorded in the history of the same Coelius, that Caius Gracchus informed many persons that during the time that he was soliciting the quaestorship, his brother Tiberius Gracchus appeared to him in a dream, and said to him, that he might delay as much as he pleased, but that nevertheless he was fated to die by the same death which he himself had suffered. Coelius asserts that he heard this fact, and related it to many persons, before Caius Gracchus had become tribune of the people. And what can be more certain than such a dream as this? (Latin)
Who, again, can despise those two dreams, which are so frequently dwelt upon by the Stoics?—one concerning Simonides, who, having found the dead body of a man who was a stranger to him lying in the road, buried it. Having performed this office, he was about to embark in a ship, when the man whom he had buried appeared to him in a dream at night, and warned him not to undertake the voyage, for that if he did he would persih by shipwreck. Therefore, he returned home again, but all the other people who sailed in that vessel were lost.
The other dream, which is a very celebrated one, is related in the following manner:—Two Arcadians, who were intimate friends, were travelling together, and arriving at Megara, one of them took up his quarters at an inn, the other at a friend's house. After supper, when they had both gone to bed, the Arcadian, who was staying at his friend's house, saw an apparition of his fellow-traveller at the inn, who prayed him to come to his assistance immediately, as the innkeeper was going to murder him. Alarmed at this information, he started from his sleep; but on recollection, thinking it nothing but an idle dream, he lay down again. Presently, the apparition appeared to him again in his sleep, and entreated him, though he would not come to his assistance while he was yet alive, at least not to leave his death unavenged. He told him further, that the innkeeper had first murdered him, and then cast him into a dungcart, where he lay covered with filth; and begged him to go early to the gate of the town, before any cart could leave the town. Much excited by this second vision, he went early next morning to the gate of the town, and met with the driver of the cart, and asked him what he had in his waggon. The driver, upon this question, ran away in a fright. The dead body was then discovered, and the innkeeper, the evidence being clear against him, was brought to punishment. (Latin)
What can be more akin to divination than such a dream as this?
But why do I relate any more ancient instances of similar things, when such dreams have occurred to ourselves? for I have often told you mine, and I have often heard you talk of yours.
When I was proconsul in Asia, it appeared to me as I slept, that I saw you riding on horseback till you reached the banks of a great river, and that you were suddenly thrown off and precipitated into the waters, and so disappeared. At this I trembled exceedingly, being overcome with fear and apprehension. But suddenly you reappeared before me with a joyful countenance, and, with the same horse, ascended the opposite bank, and then we embraced each other. It is easy to conjecture the signification of such a dream as this; and hence the learned interpreters of Asia predicted to me that those events would take place which afterwards did come to pass.
I now come to your own dream, which I have sometimes heard from yourself, but more often from our friend Sallust. He used to say, that in that flight and exile of yours, which was so glorious for you, so calamitous for our country, you stayed awhile in a certain villa in the territory of Atina, when, having sat up a great part of the night, you fell into a deep and heavy slumber towards the morning. And from this slumber your attendants would not awake you, as you had given orders that you were not to be disturbed, though your journey was sufficiently urgent.
When at length you awoke about the second hour of the day, you related to Sallust the following dream:—That it had seemed to you that, as you were wandering sorrowfully thrugh some solitary district, Caius Marius appeared to you with his fasces covered in laurel, and that he asked you why you were afflicted. And when you informed him that you had been driven from your country by the violence of the disaffected, he seized your right hand, and urged you to be of good cheer, and ordered the lictor nearest to him to lead you to his monument, saying, that there you should find security. Sallust told me, that upon hearing this dream he himself exclaimed at once that your return would be speedy and glorious; and that you also appeared to be delighted with your dream. A short time afterwards I was informed, as you well know, that it was in the monument of Marius that, on the instance of that excellent and famous consul Lentulus, that most honourable decree of the senate was passed for your recal, which was applauded with shouts of incredible exultation in a very full assembly; so that, as you yourself observed, no dream could have a higher character of divination that this which occurred to you at Atina. (Latin)
But you will say that there are likewise many false dreams. No doubt there are some which are perhaps obscure to us; but, even allow that there are some which are actually false, what argument is that against those which are true?—of which, indeed, there would be a great many more if we went to bed in perfect health; but as it is, from our being overcharged with wine and luxuries, all our perceptions become troubled and confused. Consider what Socrates, in the Republic of Plato, says on this subject.
"When," says he, "that part of the soul which is capable of intelligence and reason is subdued and reduced to languor, then that part in which there is a species of ferocity and uncivilized savageness being excited by immoderate eating and drinking, exults in our sleep and wantons about unrestrainedly; and therefore all kinds of visions present themselves to it, such as are destitute of all sense or reason, in which we appear to be giving ourselves up to incest and all kinds of bestiality, or to be committing bloody murders, and massacres, and all kinds of execrable deeds, with a triumphant defiance of all prudence and decency. But in the case of a man who is accustomed to a sober and regular life, when he commits himself to sleep, then that part of his soul which is the seat of intellect and reason is still active and awake, being replenished with a banquet of virtuous thoughts; and that portion which is nourished by pleasure, is neither destroyed by exhaustion nor swollen by satiety, either of which is accustomed to impair the vigour of the soul, whether nature is deficient in anything, or superabundant or overstocked; and that third division also, in which the vehemence of anger is situated, is lulled and restrained; so, consequently, it happens, that owing to the due regulation of the two more violent portions of the soul, the third, or intellectual part, shines forth conspicuously, and is fresh and active for the admission of dreams; and therefore the visions of sleep which present themselves before it are tranquil and true." (Latin)
Such are the very words of Plato. Shall we, then, prefer listening to the doctrine of Epicurus on this point? As for Carneades, he sometimes says one thing and sometimes another, from his mere fondness for discussion. And yet, what are the sentiments which he utters? At all events, they are never expressed either with elegance or propriety. And will you prefer such a man as this to Plato or Socrates? men who, even if they were to give no reason for their tenets, should, by the mere authority of their names, outweight these minute philiosophers.
Plato then asserts that we should bring our bodies into such a disposition before we go to sleep as to leave nothing which may occasion error or perturbation in our dreams. For this reason, perhaps, Pythagoras laid it down as a rule, that his disciples should not eat beans, because this food is very flatulent, and contrary to that tranquillity of mind which a truth-seeking spirit should possess.
When, therefore, the mind is thus separated from the society and contagion of the body, it recollects things past, exasmines things present, and anticipates things to come. For the body of one who is asleep lies like that of one who is dead, while the spirit is full of vitality and vigour. And it will be yet more so after death, when it will have got rid of the body altogether; and therefore we see that even on the approach of death it becomes much more divine. For it aften happens that those who are attacked by a severe and mortal malady, foresee that their death is at hand. And in this state they often behold ghosts and phantoms of the dead. Then they are more than ever anxious about their reputations; and they who have lived otherwise than as they ought, then most especially repent of their sins.
And that the dying are often possessed of the gift of divination, Posidonius confirms by that notorious example of a certain Rhodian who, being on his death-bed, named six of his contemporaries, saying which of them would die first, which second, which next to him, and so on.
There are, he imagines, besides this, three ways in which men dream under the immediate impulse of the Gods: one, when the mind intuitively perceives things by the relation which it bears to the Gods; the second, arising from the fact of air being full of immortal spirits, in whom all the signs of truth are, as it were, stamped and visible; the third, when the Gods themselves converse with sleepers,—and that, as I hav said before, takes place more especially at the approach of death, enabling the minds of the dying to anticipate future events. An instance of this is the prediction of Calanus, of whom I have already spoken. Another is that of Hector, in Homer, who, when dying himself, foretels the approaching death of Achilles. (Latin)
If there were no such thing as divination, Plautus would not have been so much applauded for the following line:—
My mind presaged (praesagibat), when I first went out,
That I was going on a fruitless journey:—
for the verb sagio means, to feel shrewdly. Hence old women are sometimes called sagae (witches), because they are ambitious of knowing many things; and dogs are caled sagacious. Whoever, therefore, sagit (knows) before the event has come to pass, is said praesagire (to have the power of knowing the future beforehand).
There exists, therefore, in the mind a presentiment, which strikes the soul from without, and which is enclosed in the soul by divine operation. If this becomes very vivid, it is termed frenzy, as happens when the soul, being abstracted from the body, is stirred up by a divine inspiriation.
What sudden trsnport fires my virgin soul!
My mother, oh, my mother!—dearest name
Of all dear names! But oh, my breast is full
Of divination and impending fates,
While dread Apollo with his mighty impulse
Urges me onward. Sisters, my sweet sisters!
I grieve to anticipate the coming fate
Of our most royal parents. You are all
More filial and more dutiful than I.
I only am enjoin'd this cruel task,
To utter imminent ruin. You do serve them;
I injure them; and your obedience
Shines well, set-off by my disloyal rage.
O what a tender, moral, and delicate poem! though the beauty of it does not affect the question. What I wish to prove is, that that frenzy often predicts what is true and real.
I see the blazing torch of Troy's last doom,
Fire, and massacre, and death. Arm, citizens!
Bring aid and quench the flames.
In the following lines, it is not so much Cassandra who speaks, as the Deity enclosed in human form:—
Already is the fleet prepared to sail;
It bears destruction—rapidly it speeds:
A dreadful army traverses the shores,
Destined to slaughter.
I seem to be doing nothing but quoting tragedies and fables. (Latin)
I would mention a story I have heard from yourself, and that not an imaginary, but a real circumstance, and closely related to our present discussion. Caius Coponius, a skilful general, and a man of the highest character for learning and wisdom, who commanded the fleet of the Rhodians, with the appointment of praetor, came to you at Dyrrhachium, and informed you hat a certain sailor in the Rhodian galley had predicted that, in less than a month, Greece would be deluged with blood, that Dyrrhachium would be pillaged, and that the people would flee and take to their ships; that, looking back in their flight, they would see a terrible conflagration. He added, moreover, that the fleet of the Rhodians would soon return, and retire to Rhodes. You told me that you yourself were surprised at this intelligence, and that Marcus Varro and Marcus Cato, both men of great learning, who were with you, were exceedingly alarmed. A few days afterwards, Labienus, having escaped from the battle of Pharsalia, arrived and brought an account of the defeat of the army: and the rest of the prediction was soon accomplished; for the corn was dragged out of the granaries, and strewed about all the streets and alleys, and destroyed. You all embarked on board the ships in haste and alarm; and at night, when you looked back towards the town, you beheld the barges on fire, which were burned by the soldiers because they would not follow. At last you were deserted by the fleet of the Rhodians, and then you found that the prophet had been a true one.
I have explained as concisely as possible the forewarnings of dreams and frenzy, with which I said that art had nothing to do; for both these kinds of prediction arise from the same cause, which our friend Cratippus adopts as the true explanation—namely, that the souls of men are partly inspired and agitated from without. By which he meant to say, that there is in the exterior world a sort of divine soul, whence the human soul is derived; and that the portion of the human soul which is the fountain of sensation, motion, and appetite, is not separate from the action of the body; but that portion of the human soul which partakes of reason and intelligence is then most energetic, when it is most completely abstracted from the body.
Therefore, after having recounted veritable instances of presentiments and dreams, Cratippus used to sum up his conclusions in this manner:—"If," he would say, "the existence of the eyes is necessary to the existence and operation of the function of sight, though the eyes may not be always exercising that function, still he who has once made use of his eyes so as to see correctly, is possessed of eyes capable of the sensation of correct sight: just so if the functiojn and gift of divination cannot exist without the exercise of divination, and yet a man who has this gift may sometimes err in its exercise, and not foresee correctly; then it is sufficient to prove the existence of divination, that some event should have been once so correctly divined that none of its circumstances appear to have happened fortuitously. And as a multitude of such events have occurred, the existence of divination ought not to be doubted. (Latin)
But as to those divinations which are explained by conjecture, or by the observation of events; these, as I have said before, are not of the natural, but artificial order; in which artificial class are the haruspices, and augurs, and interpreters. These are discredited by the Peripatetics, and defended by the Stoics. Some of them are established by certain monuments and systems, as is evident from the ritual books of the ancient Etruscans respecting electrical interpretation of the omens conveyed by the entrails of victims and by lightning, and by our own books on the discipline of the augurs. Other divinations are explained at once by conjecture, without reference to any written authorities; such as the prophesy of Calchas in Homer, who, by a certain mumber of flying sparrows, predicted the number of years which would be occupied in the siege of Troy; and, as an event which we read recorded in the history of Sylla, which happened under your own eyes. For when Sylla was in the territory of Nola, and was sacrificing in front of his tent, a serpent suddenly glided out from beneath the altar; and when, upon this, the soothsayer Posthumius exhorted him to give orders for the immediate march of the army, Sylla obeyed the injunction, and entirely defeated the Samnites, who lay before Nola, and took possession of their richly-provided camp.
It was by this kind of conjectural divination that the fortune of the tyrant Dionysius was announced a little before the commencement of his reign; for when he was travelling through the territory of Leontini, he dismounted and drove his horse into a river; but the horse was carried away by the current, and Dionysius, not being able with all his efforts to extricate him, departed, as Philistus reports, lamenting his loss. Some time afterwards, as he was journeying further down the river, he suddenly heard a neighing, and to his great joy found his horse in very comfortable condition, with a swarm of bees hanging on his mane. And this prodigy intimated the event which took place a few days after this, when Dionysius was called to the throne. (Latin)
Need I say more? How many intimations were given to the Lacedaemonians a short time before the disaster of Leuctra, when arms rattled in the temple of Hercules, and his statue streamed with profuse sweat! At the same time, at Thebes (as Callisthenes relates), the folding-doors in the temple of Hercules, which were closed with bars, opened of their own accord, and the armour which was suspended on the walls was found fallen to the ground. And at the same period, at Lebadia, where divine rights were being performed in honour of Trophonius, all the cocks in the neighbourhood began to crow so incessantly as never to leave off at all; and the Boeotian augurs affirmed that this was a sign of victory to the Thebans, because these birds crow only on occasions of victory, and maintain silence in case of defeat.
Many other signs, at this time, announced to the Spartans the calamities of the battle of Leuctra; for, at Delphi, on the head of the statue of Lysander, who was the most famous of the Lacedaemonians, there suddenly appeared a garland of wild prickly herbs. And the golden stars which the Lacedaemonians had set up as symbols of Castor and Pollux, in the temple of Delphi, after the famous naval victory of Lysander, in which the power of Athens was broken, because those divinities were reported to have appeared in the Lacedaemonian fleet during that engagement, fell down, and were seen no more.
And the greatest of all the prodigies which were sent as warnings to those same Lacedaemonians, happened when they sent to consult the oracle of Jupiter at Dodona on the success of the combat; and when the ambassadors had cast their questions into the urn from which the responses were to be drawn, an ape, whom the king of Molossus kept as a pet, disturbed and confounded all the lots, and everything else which had been prepared for the purpose of giving a reply in due form. Upon which the priestess who presided at the oracular rites, declared that the Lacedaemonians must rather look to their safety than expect a victory. (Latin)
Must I say more? In the second Punic war, when Flaminius, being consul for the second time, despised the signs of future events, did he not by such conduct occasion great disaster to the state? For when, after having reviewed the troops, he was moving his camp towards Arezzo, and leading his legions against Hannibal, his horse suddenly fell with him before the statue of Jupiter Stator, without any apparent cause. But though those who were skiful in divination declared it was an evident sign from the Gods that he should not engage in battle, he paid no attention to it. Afterwards, when it was proposed to consult the auspices by the consecrated chickens, the augur indicated the propriety of deferring the battle. Flaminius asked him what was to be done the next day, if the chickens still refused to feed? He replied that in that case he must still rest quiet. "Fine auspices, indeed," replied Flaminius, "if we may only fight when the chickens are hungry, but must do nothing if they are full." And so he commanded the standards to be moved forward, and the army to follow him; on which occasion, the standard-bearer of the first battalion could not extricate his standard from the ground in which it was pitched, and several soldiers who endeavoured to assist him were foiled in the attempt. Flaminius, to whom they related this incident, despised the warning, as was usual with him; and in the course of three hours from that time, the whole of his army was routed, and he himself slain.
And it is a wonderful story, too, that is told by Coelius, as having happened at this very time, that such great earthquakes took place in Liguria, Gallia, and many of the islands, and throughout Italy, that many cities were destroyed, and the earth was broken into chasms in many places, and rivers rolled backwards, while the waters of the sea rushed into their channels. (Latin)
Skilful diviners can certainly derive correct presentiments from slight circumstances. When Midas, who became king fo Phrygia, was yet an infant, some ants crammed som grains of wheat into his mouth while he was sleeping. On this the diviners predicted that he would become exceedingly rich, as indeed afterwards happened. While Plato was an infant in his cradle, a swarm of bees settled on his lips during his slumbers; and the diviners answered that he would become extremely eloquent; and this prediction of future eloquence was made before he even knew how to speak.
Why should I speak of your dear and delightful friend, Roscius? Did he tell lies himself, or did the whole city of Lanuvium tell lies for him? When he was in his cradle at Solonium, where he was being brought up,―(a place which belongs to the Lanuvian territory,)―the story goes, that one night, there being a light in the room, his nurse arose and found a serpent coiled around him, and in her alarm at this sight she made a great outcry. The father of Roscius related the circumstance to the soothsayers, and they answered that the child would become preeminently distinguished and illustrious. This adventure was afterwards engraved by Praxiteles in silver, and our friend Archias celebrated it in verse.
What, therefore, are we waiting for? Are we to wait till the Gods are conversant with us and our affairs, while we are in the forum, and on our journeys, and when we are at home? yet though they do not openly discover themselves to us, they diffuse their divine influence far and wide—an influence which they not only inclise in the caverns of the earth, but sometimes extend to the constitutions of men. For it was this divine influence of the earth which inspired Pythia at Delphi, while the Sibyl received her power of divination from nature. Why should we wonder at this? Do we not see how various are the species and specific properties of earths?—of which some parts are injurious, as the earth of Ampsanctus in Hirpinum, and the Plutonian land in Asia: and some portions of the soil of the fields are pestilential, others salubrious; some spots produce acute capacities, others heavy characters. All which things depend on the varieties of atmosphere, and are inequalities of the exhalations of the different soils.
It likewise often happens that minds are affected more or less powerfully by certain expressions of countenance, and certain tones of voice and modulations,—often also by fits of anxiety and terror—a condition indicated in these lines of the poet:—
Madden'd in heart, and weeping like as one
By the mysterious rites of Bacchus wrought
Into wild ecstasy, she wanders lone
Amid the tombs, and mourns her Teucer lost.
And this state of excitement also proves that there is a divine energy in human souls. And so Democritus asserts, that without something of this ecstasy no man can become a great poet; and Plato utters the same sentiment: and he may call this poetic inspiration an ecstasy or madness as much as he pleases, so long as he eulogizes it as eloquently as he does in his Phaedon.
What is your art of oratory in pleading causes? What is your action? Can it be forcible, commanding, and copious, unless your mind and heart are in some degree animated by a kind of inspiration? I have often beheld in yourself, and, to descend to a less dignified example, even in your friend Aesop, such fire and splendour of expression and action, that it seemed as if some potent inspiration had altogether abstracted him from all present sensation and thought.
Besides this, forms often come across us which have no real existence, but which nevertheless have a distinct appearance. Such an apparition is said to have occurred to Brennus, and to his Gallic troops, when he was waging an impious war upon the temple of Apollo at Delphi. For on that occasion it is reported that the Pythian priestess pronounced these words:―"I and the white virgins will provide for the future." In accordance with which, it happened that the Gauls fancied that they saw white virgins bearing arms against them, and that their entire army was overwhelmed in the snow.
Aristotle thinks that those who become ecstatic or furious through some disease, especially melancholy persons, possess a divine gift or presentiment in their minds. (Latin)
But I know not whether it is right to attribute anything of this kind to men with diseases of the stomach, or to persons in a frenzy, for true divination rather appertains to a sound mind than to a sick body.
The Stoics attempt to prove the reality of divination in this way:—If there are Gods, and they do not intimate future events to men, they either do not love men, or they are ignorant of the future; or else they conceive that knowledge of the future can be of no service to men; or they conceive that it does not become their majesty to condescend to intimate beforehand what must be hereafter; or lastly, we must say that even the Gods themselves cannot tell how to forewarn us of them.
But it is not true that the Gods do not love men, for they are essentially benevolent and philanthropic; and they cannot be ignorant of those events which take place by their own direction and appointment. Again, it cannot be a matter of indifference to us to be apprised of what is about to happen, for we shall become more cautious if we do know such things. Nor do they think it beneath their dignity to give such intimations, for nothing is more excellent than benificence. And lastly, the Gods cannot be ignorant of future events. Therefore there are no Gods, and they do not give intimations of the future. But there are Gods: so therefore they do give such intimations; and if they do give such intimations, they must have given us the means of understanding them, or else they would give their information to no purpose. And if they do give us such means, divination must needs exist; therefore divination does exist. (Latin)
Such is the argument in favour of divination by which Chrysippus, Diogenes, and Antipater endeavour to demonstrate their side of the question. Why, then, should any doubt be entertained that the arguments that I have advanced are entirely true? If both reason and fact are on my side,—if whole nations and peoples, Greeks and barbarians, and our own ancestors also, confirm all my assertions,—if also it has always been maintained by the greatest philosophers and poets, and by the wisest legislators who have framed constitutions and founded cities, must we wait till the very animals give their verdict? and may not we be content with the unanimous authority of all mankind? Nor indeed is any other argument brought forward to prove that all these kinds of divination which I uphold have no existence, than that it appears difficult to explain what are the different principles and causes of each kind of divination. For what reason can the soothsayer allege why an injury in the lungs of otherwise favourable entrails should compel us to alter a day previously appointed, and defer an enterprise? How can an augur explain why the croak of a raven on the right hand, and a crow on the left, should be reckoned a good omen? What can an astrologer say by way of explaining why a conjunction of the planet Jupiter or Venus with the moon is propitious at the birth of a child, and why the conjunction of Saturn or Mars is injurious? or why God should warn us during sleep, and neglect us while awake? or lastly, what is the reason why the frantic Cassandra could foresee future events, while the sage Priam remained ignorant of them?
Do you ask why everything takes place as it does? Very right; but that is not the question now; what we are trying to find out is whether such is the case or not. As, if I were to assert that the magnet is a kind of stone which attracts and draws iron to itself, but were unable to give the reason why that is the case, would you deny the fact altogether? And you treat the subject of divination in the same way, though we see it, and hear of it, and read of it, and have received it as a tradition from our ancestors. Nor did the world in general ever doubt of it before the introduction of that philosophy which has recently been invented, and even since the appearance of philosophy, no philosopher who was of any authority at all has been of a contrary opinion. I have already quoted in its favour Pythagoras, Democritus, and Socrates. There is no exception but Xenophanes among the ancients. I have likewise added the old Academicians, the Peripatetics, and the Stoics: all supported divination; Epicurus alone was of the opposite opinion. But what can be more shameless than such a man as he, who asserted that there was no gratuitous and disinterested virtue in the world? (Latin)
But what man is there who is not moved by the testimony and declarations of antiquity? Homer writes that Calchas was a most excellent augur, and that he conducted the fleet of the Greeks to Troy,—more, I imagine, by his knowledge of the auspices than of the country. Amphilochus and Mopsus were kings of the Argives, and also augurs, and built the Greek cities on the coast of Cilicia. And before them lived Amphiaraus and Tiresias, men of no lowly rank or obscure fame, not like those men of whom Ennius says—
They hire out their prophesies for gold:
no; they were renowned and first rate men, who predicted the future by means of the knowledge which they derived from birds and omens; and Homer, speaking of the latter even in the infernal regions, says that he alone was consistently wise, while others were wandering about like shadows. As to Amphiaraus, he was so honoured by the general praise of all Greece, that he was accounted a god, and oracles were established at the spot where he was buried.
Why need I speak of Priam king of Asia? had not he two children possessed of this gift of divination, namely a son named Helenus, and a daughter named Cassandra, who both prophesied, one by means of auspices, the other through an excited state of mind and divine inspiration? of which description likewise were two brothers of the noble family of the Marcii, who are recorded as having lived in the days of our ancestors. Does not Homer inform us, too, that Polyidus the Corinthian predicted the various fates of many persons, and the death of his son when he was going to the siege of Troy? And as a general rule, among the ancients, those who were possessed of authority usually possessed the knowledge of auguries; for, as they thought wisdom a regal attribute, so did they esteem divination. And of this our state of Rome is an instance, in which several of our kings were also augurs, and afterwards even private persons, endued with the same sacerdotal office, ruled the commonwealth by the authority of religion. (Latin)
And this kind of divination has not been neglected even by barbarian nations; for the Druids in Gaul are diviners, among whom I myself have been acquained with Divitiacus Aeduus, your own friend and panegyrist, who pretends to the science of nature which the Greeks call physiology, and who asserts that, partly by auguries and partly by conjecture, he foresees future events. Among the Persians they have augurs and diviners, called magi, who at certain seasons all assemble in a temple for mutual conference and consultation; as your college also used to do on the nones of the month. And no man can become a king of Persia who is not previously initiated in the doctrine of the magi.
There are even whole families and nations devoted to divination. The entire city of Telmessus in Caria is such. Likewise in Elis, a city of Peloponnesus, there are two families, called Iamidae and Clutidae, distinguished for their proficiency in divination. And in Syria the Chaldeans have become famous for their astrological predictions, and the subtlety of their genius. Etruria is especially famous for possessing an intimate acquaintance with omens connected with thunderbolts and things of that kind, and the art of explaining the signification of prodigies and portents. This is the reason why our ancestors, during the flourishing days of the empire, enacted that six of the children of the principal senators should be sent, one to each of the Etrurian tribes, to be instructed in the divination of the Etrurians, in order that the science of divination, so intimately connected with religion, might not, owing to the poverty of its professors, be cultivated for merely mercenary motives, and falsified by bribery.
The Phrygians, the Pisidians, the Cilicians, and Arabians are accustomed to regulate many of their affairs by the omens which they derive from birds. And the Umbrians do the same, according to report. (Latin)
It appears to me that the different characteristics of divination have originated in the nature of the localities themselves in which they have been cultivated. For as the Egyptians and Babylonians, who reside in vast plains, where no mountains obstruct their view of the entire hemisphere, have applied themselves principally to that kind of divination called astrology, the Etrurians, on the other hand, because they, as men more devoted to the rites of religion, were used to sacrifice victims with more zeal and frequency, have especially applied themselvs to the examination of the entrails of animals; and as, from the character of their climate and the denseness of their atmosphere, they are accustomed to witness many meterological phenomena, and because for the same reason many singular prodigies take place among them, arising alike from heaven or from earth, and even from the conceptions of offspring of men or cattle, and have become wonderfully skilful in the interpretation of such curiosities, the force of which, as you often say, is clearly declared by the very names given to them by our ancestors, for because they point out (ostendunt), portend, show (monstrant), and predict, they are called ostents, portents, monsters, and prodigies.
Again, the Arabians, the Phygians, and Cilicians, because they rear large herds of cattle, and, both in summer and winter, traverse the plains and mountainous districts, have on that account taken especial notice of the songs and flight of birds. The Pisidians, and in our country the Umbrians, have applied themselves to the same art for the same reason. The whole nation of the Carians, and most especially the Telmessians, who reside in the most productive and fertile plains, in which the exuberance of nature gives birth to many extraordinary productions, have been very careful in the observation of prodigies. (Latin)
But who can shut his eyes to the fact that in every well constituted state auspices, and other kinds of divination, have been much esteemed? What monarch or what people has ever neglected to make use of them in the transactions of peace, and still more especially in time of war, when the safety or welfare of the commonwealth is implicated in a greater degree? I do not speak merely of our own countrymen,—who have never undertaken any martial enterprise without inspection of the entrails, and who never conduct the affairs of the city without consulting the auspices,—I rather allude to foreign nations. The Athenians, for example, always consulted certain divining priests, (whom they called μάντες,) when they convoked their public assemblies. The Spartans always appointed an augur as the assessor of their king, and also they ordained that an augur should be present at the council of their Elders, which was the name they gave to their public council; and in every important transaction they invariably consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, or that of Jupiter Hammon, or that of Dodona. Lycurgus, who formed the Lacdaemonian commonwealth, desired that his code of laws should receive confirmation from the authority of Apollo at Delphi; and when Lysander sought to change them, the same authority forbade his innovations. Moreover, the Spartan magistrates, not content with a careful superintendence of the state affairs, went occasionally to spend a night in the temple of Pasiphae, which is in the country in the neighbourhood of their city, for the sake of dreaming there, because they considered the oracles received in sleep to be true.
But I return to the divination of the Romans. How often has our senate enjoined the decemvirs to consult the books of the Sibyls! For instance, when two suns had been seen, or when three moons had appeared, and when flames of fire were noticed in the sky; or on that other occasion, when the sun was beheld in the night, when noises were heard in the sky, and the heaven itself seemed to burst open, and strange globes were remarked in it. Again, information was laid before the senate, that a portion of the territory of Privernum had been swallowed up, and that the land had sunk down to an incredible depth, and that Apulia had been convulsed by terrific earthquakes; which portentous events announced to the Romans terrible wars and disastrous seditions. On all these occasions the diviners and their auspices were in perfect accordance with the prophetic verses of the Sibyl.
Again, when the statue of Apollo at Cuma was covered with a miraculous sweat, and that of Victory was found in the same condition at Capua, and when the hermaphrodite was born,—were not these things significant of horrible disasters? Or again, when the Tiber was discoloured with blood, or when, as has often heppened, showers of stones, or sometimes of blood, or of mud, or of milk, have fallen,—when the thunderbolt fell on the Centaur of the Capitol, and struck the gates of Mount Aventine, and slew some of the inhabitants; or again, when it struck the temple of Castor and Pollux at Tusculum, and the temple of Piety at Rome,—did not the soothsayers in reply announce the events which subsequently took place, and were not similar predictions found in the Sibylline volumes? (Latin)
How often has the senate commanded the decemvirs to consult the Sibylline books! In what important affairs, and how often has it not been guided wholly by the answers of the soothsayers! In the Marsic war, not long ago, the temple of Juno the Protectress was restored by the senate, which was excited to this holy act by a dream of Caecilia, the daughter of Quintus Metellus. But after Sisenna, who mentions this dream, had related the wonderful correspondence of the event with the prediction, he nevertheless (being influenced, I suppose, by some Epicurean) proceeded to argue that dreams should never be trusted: however, he states nothing against the credit of the prodigies which took place, and which he reports, at the beginning of the Marsic war, when the images of the gods were seen to sweat, and blood flowed in the streams, and the heavens opened, and voices were heard from secret places, which foretold the dangers of the combat; and at Lanuvium the sacred bucklers were found to have been gnawed by mice, which appeared to the augurs the worst presage of all.
Shall I add further what we read recorded in our annals, that in the war against the Veientes, when the Alban lake had risen enormously, one of their most distinguished nobles came over to us and said, that it was predicted in the sacred books concerning the destinies of the Veientes, which they had in their own possession, that their city could never be captured while the lake remained full; and that if, when the lake was opened, its waters were allowed to run into the sea, the Romans would suffer loss,—if, on the contrary, they were so drawn off that they did not reach the sea, then we should have good success? And from this circumstance arose the series of immense labours, subsequently undertaken by our ancestors in conducting away the waters of the Alban lake. But when the Veientes, being weary of war, sent ambassadors to the Roman senate, one of them exclaimed that that deserter had not ventured to tell them all he knew, for that in those same sacred books it was predicted that Rome should soon be ravaged by the Gauls,—an event which happened six years after the city of Veii surrendered. (Latin)
The cry of the fauns, too, has often been heard in battle; and prophetic voices have often sounded from secret places in periods of trouble; of which, among others, we have two notable examples,—for shortly before the capture of Rome a voice was heard which proceeded from the grove of Vesta, which skirts the new road at the foot of the Palatine Hill, exhorting the citizens to repair the walls and gates, for that if they were not taken care of the city would be taken. The injunction was neglected till it was too late, and it afterwards was awfully confirmed by the fact. After the disaster had occurred, our citizens erected an altar to Aius the Speaker, which we may still see carefully fenced round, opposite the spot where the warning was uttered. Many authors have reported that once, after a great earthquake had happened, they heard a voice from the temple of Juno the Admonitress. Shall we then despise these oracular intimations, which the Gods themselves vouchsafed us, and which our ancestors have confirmed by their testimony?
The Pythagoreans had not only high reverence for the voice of the Gods, but they likewise respected the warnings of men (hominum), which they call omina. And our ancestors were persuaded that much virtue resides in certain words, and therefore prefaced their various enterprises with certain auspicious phrases, such as, "May good and prosperous and happy fortune attend." They commenced all the public ceremonies of religion with these words,—"Keep silence;" and when they announced any holidays, they commanded that all lawsuits and quarrels should be suspended. Likewise, when the chief who forms a colony makes a lustration and review of it, or when a general musters an army, or a censor the people, they always choose those who have lucky names to prepare the sacrifices. The consuls in their military enrolments likewise take care that the first soldier enrolled shall be one with a fortunate name; and you know that you yourself were very attentive to these ceremonial observances when you were consul and imperator. Our ancestors have likewise enjoined that the name of the tribe which had the precedence should be regarded as the presage of a legimate assembly of the Comitia. (Latin)
And of presages of this kind I can relate to you several celebrated examples. Under the second consulship of Lucius Paulus, when the charge of making watr against king Perses had been allotted to him, it happened that on the evening of that very same day, when he returned home and kissed his little daughter Tertia, he noticed that she was very sorrowful. "What is the matter, my Tertia," said he, "why are you so sad?" "My father," replied she, "Perses has perished." Upon which he caught her in his arms, and caressing her, exclaimed, "I embrace the omen, my daughter." But the real truth was, that her dog, who happened to be called Perses, had died.
I have heard Lucius Flaccus, a priest of Mars, say, that Caecilia, the daughter of Metellus, intending to make a matrimonial engagement for her sister's daughter, went to a certain temple, in order to procure an omen, according to the ancient custom. Here the maiden stood, and Caecilia sat for a long time without hearing any sound, till the girl, who grew tired of standing, begged her aunt to allow her to occupy her seat for a short period in order to rest herself. Caecilia replied, "Yes, my child, I willingly resign my seat to you." And this reply of hers was an omen, confirmed by the event, for Caecilia died soon after, and her niece married her aunt's husband. I know that men may despise such stories, or even laugh at them, but such conduct amounts to a disbelief in the existence of the Gods themselves, and to a contempt of their revealed will. (Latin)
Why need I speak of the augurs?—that part of the question concerns you. The defence of the auguries, I say, belongs peculiarly to you. When you were a consul, Publius Claudius, who was one of the augurs, announced to you, when the augury of the Goddess Salus was doubted, that a disastrous domestic and civil war would take place, which happened a few months afterwards, but was suppressed by your exertions in still fewer days. And I highly approve of this augur, who alone for a long period remained constant to the study of divination, without making a parade of his auguries, while his colleagues and yours persisted in laughing at him, sometimes terming him an augur of Pisidia or Sora by way of ridicule.
Those who assert that neither auguries nor auspices can give us any insight into or foreknowledge of the future, say that they are mere superstitious practices, wisely invented to impose on the ingnorant; which, however, is far from being the case: for our pastoral ancestors under Romulus were not, nor indeed was Romulus himself, so craft and cunning as to invent religious impositions for the purpose of deceiving the multitude. But the difficulty of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the auspices renders many who are indifferent to them eloquent in their disparagement, for they would rather deny that there is anything in the auspices than take the pains of studying what their really is. What can be more divine than that perdiction, which you cite in your poem of Marius, that I may quote your own authority in favour of my argument?—
Jove's eagle, wounded by a serpent's bite,
In his strong talons caught the writhing snake,
And with his goring beak tortured his foe
And slaked his vengeance in his blood. At last
He let the venemous reptile from on high
Fall in the whelming flood, then wing'd his flight
To the far east. Marius beheld, and mark'd
The augury divine, and inly smiled
To view the presage of his coming fame;
Meanwhile the thunder sounded on the left,
And thus confirm'd the omen.
Moreover, the augurial system of Romulus was a pastoral rather than a civil institution. Nor was it framed to suit the opinions of the ignorant, but derived from men of approved skill, and so handed down to posterity by tradition. Therefore Romulus was himself an augur as well as his brother Remus, if we may trust the authority of Ennius,—
Both wish'd to reign, and both agreed to abide
The fair decision of the augury.
Here Remus sat alone, and watch'd for signs
Of fav'ring omen, while fair Romulus
On the Aventine summit raised his eyes
To see what lofty flying birds should pass.
A goodly contest which should rule, and which
With his own name should stamp the future city.
Now like spectators in the circus, till
The consul's signal looses from the goal
The eager chariots, so the obedient crowd
Awaited the strife's victor and their king.
The golden sun departed into night,
And the pale moon shone with reflected ray,
When on the left a joyful bird appear'd,
And golden Sol brought back the radiant day.
Twelve holy forms of Jove-directed birds
Wing'd their propitious flight. Great Romulus
The omen hail'd, for now to him was given
The power to found and name th' eternal city.
Now, however, let us return to the original point from which we have been digressing. Though I cannot give you a reason for all these separate facts, and can only distinctly assert that those things which I have spoken of did really happen, yet have I not sufficiently answered Epicurus and Carneades by proving the facts themselves? Why may I not admit, that though it may be easy to find principles in which to explain artificial presages, the subject of divine intimations is more obscure? for the presages which we deduce from an examination of a victim's entrails, from thunder and lightning, from prodigies, and from the stars, are founded on the accurate observation of many centuries. Now it is certain, that a long course of careful observation, thus carefully conducted for a series of ages, usually brings with it an incredible accuracy of knowledge; and this can exist even without the inspiration of the Gods, when it has been once ascertained by constant observation what follows after each omen, and what is indicated by each prodigy.
The other kind of divination is natural, as I have said before, and may by physical subtlety of reasoning appear referable to the nature of the Gods, from which, as the wisest men acknowledge, we derive and enjoy the energies of our souls; and as everything is filled and pervaded by a divine intelligence and eternal sense, it follows of necessity that the soul of man must be influenced by its kindred with the soul of the Deity. But when we are not asleep, our faculties are employed on the necessary affairs of life, and so are hindered from communication with the Deity by the bondage of the body.
There are, however, a small number of persons, who, as it were, detach their souls from the body, and addict themselves, with the utmost anxiety and diligence, to the study of the nature of the Gods. The presentiments of men like these are derived not from divine inspiration, but from human reason; and from a contemplation of nature, they anticipate things to come,—as deuges of water, and the future deflagration, at some time or other, of heaven and earth.
There are others who, being concerned in the government of states, as we have heard of the Athenian Solon, foresee the rise of new tyrannies. Such we usually term prudent men; like Thales the Milesian, who, wishing to convict his slanderers, and to show that even a philosopher could make money, if he should be so inclined, bought up all the olive-trees in Miletus before they were in flower; for he had probably, by some knowledge of his own, calculated that there would be a heavy crop of olives. And Thales is said to have been the first man by whom an eclipse of the sun was ever predicted, which happened under the reign of Astyages. (Latin)
Physicians, pilots, and husbandmen have likewise presentiments of many events: but I do not choose to call this divination; as neither do I call that warning which was given by the natural philosopher Anaximander to the Lacedaemonians, when he forewarned them to quit their city and their homes, and to spend the whole night in arms on the plain, because he foresaw the approach of a great earthquake, which took place that very night, and demolished the whole town; and even the lower part of Mount Taygetus was torn away from the rest, like the stern of a ship might be. In the same way, it is not so much as a diviner, as a natural philosopher that we should esteem Pherecydes, the master of Pythagoras who, when he beheld the water exhausted in a running spring, predicted that an earthquake was nigh at hand.
The mind of man, however, never exerts the power of natural divination, unless it is so free and disengaged as to be wholly disentangled from the body, as happens in the case of prophets and sleepers.
Therefore, as I have said before, Dicaearchus and our friend Cratippus approve of these two sorts of divination, as long as it is understood that, inasmuch as they proceed from nature, though they may be the highest, they are not the only kind. But if they deny that there is any force in observation, then by such denial they exclude many things which are connected with the common experience and institutions of mankind. However, since they grant us some, and those not insignificant things, namely, prophesies and dreams, there is no reason why we should consider there as very formidable antagonists, especially when there are some who deny the existence of divination altogether.
Those, therefore, whose minds, as it were, despising their bodies, fly forth, and wander freely through the universe, being inspired and influenced by a certain divine ardour, doubtless perceive those things which those who prophesy predict. And spirits like these are excited by many influences that have no connexion with the body, as those which are excited by certain intonations of voice, and by Phrygian melodies, or by the silence of groves and forests, or the murmur of torrents, or the roar of the sea. Such are the minds which are susceptible of ecstasies, and which long beforehand foresee the events of futurity; to which the following lines refer:—
Ah, see you not the vengeance apt to come,
Because a mortal has presumed to judge
Between three rival goddesses?—he's doom'd
To fall a victim to the Spartan dame,
More dreadful than all furies.
Many things have in the same way been predicted by prophets, and not only in ordinary language, but also
In verses which the fauns of olden times
And white-hair'd prophets chanted.
It was thus that the diviners, Marcus and Publicius, are said to have sung their predictions. The mysterious responses of Apollo were of the same nature. I believe also that there were certain exhalations of certain earths, by which gifted minds were inspired to utter oracles. These, then, are the views which we must entertain of prophets. (Latin)
Divinations by dreams are of a similar order, because presentiments which happen to diviners when awake, heppen to ourselves during sleep. For in sleep the soul is vigorous, and free from the senses, and the obstruction of the cares of the body, which lies prostrate and deathlike; and, since the soul has lived from all eternity, and is engaged with spirits innumerable, it therefore beholds all things in the universe, if it only preserves a watchful attitude, unencumbered by excess of food or drinking, so that the mind is awake during the slumber of the body,—this is the divination of dreamers.
Here, then, comes in an important, and far from natural, but a very artificial interpretation of dreams by Antiphon: and he interprets oracles and prophesies the same way; for there are explainers of these things just as grammarians are expounders of poets. For, as it would have been in vain for nature to have produced gold, silver, iron, and copper, if she had not taught us the means of extracting them from her bosom for our use and benefit; and as it would have been in vain for her to have bestowed seeds and fruits upon men, if she had not taught them to distinguish and cultivate them,—for what use would any materials whatsoever be to us, if we had no means of working them up?—thus with every useful thing which the Gods have bestowed on us, they have vouchsafed us the sagacity by which its utility may be appreciated; and so, because in dreams, oracles, and prophesies there are many things necessarily obscure and ambiguous, some have received the gift of interpretation of them.
But by what means prophets and sleepers behold those things, which do not at the time exist in sensible reality, is a great question. But when we have once cleared up those points which ought to be investigated first, then the other subjects of our examination will be easier. For the discussion about the Nature of the Gods, which you have so clearly explained in your second book on that subject, embraces the whole question; for if we grant that there are Gods, and that their providence governs the universe, and that they consult for the best management of human affairs, and that not only in general, but in particular,—if we grant this, which indeed appears to me to be undeniable, then we must hold it as a necessary consequence that these Gods have bestowed on men the signs and indications of futurity.
The mode, however, by which the Gods endue us with the gift and power of divination requires some notice. (Latin)
The Stoics will not allow that the Deity can be interested in each cleft in entrails, or in the chirping of birds. They affirm that such interference is altogether indecorous—unworthy of the majesty of the Gods, and an incredible impossibility. They maintain that from the beginning of the world it has been ordained that certain signs must needs precede certain events, some of which are drawn from the entrails of animals, some from the note and flight of birds, some from the sight of lightning, some from prodigies, some from stars, some from visions of dreamers, and some from exclamations of men in frenzy: and those who have a clear perception of these things are not often deceived. Bad conjectures and incorrect interpretations are false, not because of any imposture in the signs themselves, but because of the ingnorance of their expounders.
It being, therefore, granted and conceded that there exists a certain divine energy, by which human life is supported and surrounded, it is not hard to conceive how all that happens to men may happen by the direction of heaven; for this divine and sentient energy, which expands throughout the universe, may select a victim for sacrifice, and may, by exterior agency, effect any change in the condition of its entrails at the period of its immolation: so that any given characteristic may be found excessive or defective in the animal's body. For, by very trifling exertions nature can alter, or new-model, or diminish many things. And the prodigies which happened a little before Caesar's death are of great weight in preventing us from doubting this,—when on that very day on which he first sat on the golden throne and went forth clad in a purple robe, when he was sacrificing, no heart was found in the intestines of the fat ox. Do you then suppose that any warm-blooded animal, unless by divine interference, can live an instant without a heart? He was himself surprised at the novelty of the phenomenon; on which Spurinna observed that he had reason to fear that he would lose both sense and life, since both of these proceed from the heart. The next day the liver of the victim was found defective in the upper extremity. Doubtless the immortal Gods vouchsafed Caesar these signs to apprize him of his approaching death, though not to enable him to guard against it.
When, therefore, we cannot discover in the entrails of the victim those organs without which the animal cannot live, we must necessarily suppose that they have been annihilated by a superintending Providence at the very instant the sacrifice is offered. (Latin)
And the same divine influence may likewise be the cause why birds fly in different directions on different occasions, why they hode themselves sometimes in one place and sometimes in another, and why they sing on the right hand or on the left. For if every animal according to its own will can direct the motions of its body, so as to stoop, to look on one side, or to look up, and can bend, twist, contract, or extend its limbs as it pleases, and does those things almost before thinking of doing them, how much more easy is it for a God to do so, whose deity governs and regulates all things.
It is the Deity, too, which presents various signs to us, many of which history has recorded for us; as for instance, we find it stated that if the moon was ecliped a little before sunrise in the sign of Leo, it was a sign that Darius should be slain and the Persians be defeated by Alexander and the Macedonians. And if a girl was born with two heads, it was a sign that there was to be a sedition among the people and corruption and adultery at home. If a woman should dream that she was delivered of a lion, the country in which such an occurrence took place would soon be subjected to foregn domination. Of the same kind is the fact mentioned by Herodotus, that the son of Croesus spoke, though the gift of speech was by nature denied him; which prodigy was an indication that his father's kingdom and family would be utterly destroyed. And all our histories relate that the head of Servius Tullius while sleeping appeared to be on fire, which was a sign of the extraordinary events which followed.
As, therefore, a man who falls asleep while his mind is full of pure meditations, and all circumstances around him adapted to tranquillity, will experience in his dreams true and certain presentiments; so also the chaste and pure mind of a waking man is better suited to the observation of the course of the stars, or the flight of birds, and the intimations of the truth to be collected from entrails. (Latin)
And connected with this principle is the tradition which we have received concerning Socrates, which is often affirmed by himself in the books of his disciples—that he possessed a certain divinity, which he called a demon, and to which he was always obedient,—a genius which never compelled him to action, but often deterred him from it. The same Socrates (and where can we find a better authority?) being consulted by Xenophon, whether he should follow Cyrus to the wars, gave him his counsel, and then added these words,— "The advice I give you is merely human : in such obscure and uncertain cases, it is best to consult the oracle of Apollo, to whom the Athenians have always publicly appealed in questions of importance."
It is likewise written of Socrates, that having once seen his friend Crito with his eye bandaged, and having asked him what was the matter with it, he received for answer, that as he was walking in the fields, a branch of a tree he had attempted to bend sprang back, and hit him in the eye. Upon this Socrates replied, "This is the consequence of your not having obeyed me when I recalled you, following the divine presentiment, according to my custom."
Another remarkable story is told of Socrates. After the battle in which the Athenians were defeated at Delium, under the command of Laches, he was to obliged to fly with that unfortunate general. At length reaching a spot where three ways met, he refused to pursue the same track as the rest. When they inquired the cause of his behaviour, he said that he was restrained by a God. The others, who left Socrates, fell in with the enemy's cavalry.
Antipater has collected many other instances of the admirable divination of Socrates, which I omit, for they are quite familiar to you, and I need not further enumerate them. I cannot, however, avoid mentioning one fact in the history of this philosopher, which strikes me as magnificent, and almost divine;— namely, that when he had been condemned by the sentence of impious men, he said, he was prepared to die with the most perfect equanimity ; because the God within him had not suffered him to be afflicted with any idea of impending evil, either when he left his home, or when he appeared before the court.
I think, therefore, that true divination exists, although those men are often deceived who appear to proceed on conjecture, or on artificial rules. For men are fallible in all arts, and we cannot suppose they are infallible here. It may happen that some sign, which has an ambiguous signification, is received in a certain one. It may happen that some particular has escaped the notice of the inquirer, or is purposely concealed by him, because opposed to his interest.
I should, however, consider my plea for divination sufficiently established, if only a few well-authenticated cases of presentiment and prophesies could be discovered ; whereas; in truth, there are many. I will even declare without hesitation, that a single instance of presage and prediction, all the points of which are borne out by subsequent events— and that definitely and regularly, not casually and fortuitously —would suffice to compel an admission of the reality of divination from all reasonable minds.
It appears to me, moreover, that we should refer all the virtue and power of divination to the Divinity, as Posidonius has done, as before observed; in the next place to Fate, and afterwards to the nature of things. For reason compels us to admit that by Fate all things take place. By Fate I mean that which the Greeks call είμαρμένη, that is, a certain order and series of causes—for cause linked to cause produces all things: and in this connexion of cause consists the constant truth which flows through all eternity. From whence it follows that nothing happens which is not pre- destined to happen; and in the same way nothing is predestined to happen, the nature of which does not contain the efficient causes of its happening.
From which it must be understood that fate is not a mere superstitious imagination, but is what is called, in the language of natural philosophy, the eternal cause of things; the cause why past things have happened, why present things do happen, and why future things will happen. And this we are taught by exact observation, what consequences are usually produced, by what causes, though not invariably. And thus the causes of future events may truly be discerned by those who behold them in states of ecstasy or quiet.
Since, then, all things happen to a certain fate, (as will be shown in another place,) if any man could exist who could comprehend this succession of causes in his intellectual view, such a man would be infallible. For being in possession of a knowledge of the causes of all events, he would necessarily foresee how and when all events would take place.
But as no being except the Deity alone can do this, man can attain no more than a kind of presentiment of futurity, by observing the events which are the usual consequences of certain signs. For those events that are to happen in future do not start into existence on a sudden But the regular course of time resembles the untwisting of a cable, producing nothing absolutely new, but all things in a grand concatenation or series of repetitions.
And this has been observed by those who possess the gift of natural divination, and by those who study the regular successions of certain things. For though they do not always apprehend the causes, yet they clearly discern the signs and marks of the causes. And by diligently investigating and committing to memory all such signs, and the traditions of our ancestors concerning them, they produce an elaborate system of that divination which is termed technical respecting the entrails of victims, thunder and lightning, prodigies, and celestial phenomena.
We must not therefore, be astonished that those who addict themselves to divination foresee many events which have no place of existence. For all things do even now exist, though they are removed in point of time. And as the vital embryo of all vegetation exists in seeds, from which they afterwards germinate, so are all things even now hidden in their causes, and perceived as hereafter to happen by the mind when it is thrown into an ecstasy, or relaxed in sleep, and cool reason and calculation is often granted a presenti- ment of them. And as the astrologers who watch the risings, settings, and various courses of the sun, moon, and other stars, can predict long before all their revolutions and phenomena ; so those who have noted the series and conse- quence of events, with constant and indefatigable atten tion, during a very long period, do generally, or (if that is too difficult) at least accasionally, foresee with certainty the things that are to come to pass.
Such are some of the arguments derived from the nature of fate, by which the reality of divination may be proved.
Another powerful plea in favour of divination, may be drawn from Nature herself, which teaches us how great is the energy of the mind when abstracted from the bodily senses, as it is most especially in ecstasy and sleep. For even as the Gods know what passes in our minds without the aid of eyes, ears or tongues, (on which divine omniscience is founded the feeling of men, that when they wish in silence for, or offer up a prayer for anything, the Gods hear them,) so when the soul of man is disengaged from corporeal impediments, and set at freedom, either from being relaxed in sleep, or in a state of mental excitement, it beholds those wonders which, when entanged beneath the veil of the flesh, it is unable to see.
It may be difficult, perhaps, to connect this principle of nature with that kind of divination which we have stated to result from study and art. Posidonius, however, thinks that there are in nature certain signs and symbols of future events. We are informed that the inhabitants of Cea, according to the report of Heraclides of Pontus, are accustomed carefully to observe the circumstances attending the rising of the Dog Star, in order to know the character of the ensuing season, and how far it will prove salubrious or pestilential. For if the star rose with an obscure and dim appearance, it proved that the atmosphere was gross and foggy, and its respiration would be heavy and unwholesome. But if it appeared bright and lucid, then that was a sign that the air was light and pure, and therefore healthful.
Democritus believed that the ancients had wisely enjoined the inspection of the entrails of animals which had been sacrificed, because by their condition and colour it is possible to determine the salubrity or pestilential state of the atmosphere, and sometimes even what is likely to be the fertility or sterility of the earth. And if careful observation and practice recognise these rules as proceeding from nature, then every day might bring us many examples which might deserve notice and remark; so that the natural philosopher whom Pacuvius introduces in his Cryses, seems to me very ignorant of the nature of things, when he says,—
All those who understand the speech of birds
And hearts of victims better than their own,
May be just listen'd to, but not obey'd.
Why should he make such a remark here, when a little after he speaks thus plainly in a contrary sense?—
Whatever God may be, 'tis he who forms,
Preserves and nutures all. Unto himself
He back absorbs all beings,—evermore
The universal Sire,—at once the source
And end of nature.
Why, then, since the universe is the sole and common home of all creatures, and since the minds of men always have existed, and will exist, why, I say, should they not be able to perceive the consequences, and what is the result indicated by each sign, and what events each sign foreshows?
These are the arguments which I had to bring forward on the subject of divination. For the rest, I in nowise believe in those who predict by lots, or those who tell fortunes for the sake of gain, nor those necromancers who evoke the manes, whom your friend Appius consulted.
Of little service are the Morsian prophet,
The Haruspi of the village, the astrologer
Of the throng'd circus, or the priest of Isis,
Or the imposturous interpreter
Of dreams. All these are but false conjurors,
Who have no skill to read futurity,
They are but hypocrites, urged on by hunger;
Ignorant of themselves, they would teach others,
To whom they promise boundless wealth, and beg
A penny in return, paid in advance.
Such is the style in which Ennius speaks of those pretenders of divination; and a few verses before, he has affirmed that though the Gods exist, they take no care of the human race. I am of a contrary opinion, and approve of divination, because I believe that the Gods do watch over men, and admonish them, and personify many things to them, all levity, vanity, and malice being excluded.
And when Quintus had said this, You are, indeed, said I, admirably prepared.
[The rest of this Book is lost.]
- Cicero had been proconsul of Cilicia, and had gained a very high reputation by the integrity and energy which he displayed in that government.
- Aruspex is derived from the Greek word ίερόν, and specio, to behold, because the Aruspex prophesied from the omens which he drew from an inspection of the entrails of the victims. Augur, from avis, and garrio, to chatter; because the omens were drawn from the noise made by birds in their flight.
- This was the civil war in the consulship of Cinna and Octavius, A.U.C. 666, which ended in Octavius being put to death by the orders of Cinna and Marius.
- This was Quintus Caecilius Metellus (the eldest son of Metellus Macedonicus), who was consul, B.C. 123, with T. Quinctius Flaminius; in which consulship he cleared the Balearic Isles of pirates, and founded several cities in the islands.
- All these predictions are translated by Cicero from Aratus.
- This is usually understood to have been a statue of Pluto.
- The new consuls used to celebrate the Feriae Latinae on the Albanus Mons.
- Great interest is attached to this passage by antiquaries, from the fact of there being a bronze statue still at Rome of a wolf suckling two children, with manifest marks of lightning on it, which is believed to be the very statue here mentioned by Cicero, and also in his third Oration against Catiline, c. viii.; it is described by Virgil too:—
Facerat et viridi foetam Mavortia in antro
Procubuisse lupam; geminos huic ubera circum
Ludere pudentes pueros, et lambere matrem
Impavidos; illam tereti cervice reflexam
Mulcere alternos et corpora fingere lingua.—Aen. viii. 630.
The cave of Mars was dress'd with mossy greens;
There by the wolf were laid the martial twins;
Intrepid, on her swelling dugs they hung,
The foster-dam loll'd out her fawning tongue;
They suck'd secure, while bending back her head,
She lick'd their tender limbs, and form'd them as they fed.
Dryden, Aen. viii. 835.
The statue in its present state is beautifully described by Byron:—
And thou the thunder-stricken nurse of Rome,
She-wolf! whose brazen imaged dugs impart
The milk of conquest yet within the dome,
Where, as a monument of antique art,
Thou standest, mother of the mighty heart,
Which the great founder suck'd from thy wild teat,
Scorch'd by the Roman Jove's etheral dart,
And thy limbs black with lightning,—dost thou yet
Guard thy immortal cubs, nor thy fond charge forget!
Thou dost—but all thy foster-babes are dead,
The men of iron; and the world hath rear'd
Cities from out their sepulchres.—Childe Harold', book. iv.
It may not be out of place here, to set before the reader the beautiful description, in the first Georgic, of the prodigies which happened at Rome on the death of Caesar:—
Denique quid vesper serus vehat, unde serenas
Ventus agat nubes, quid cogitet humidus Auster,
Sol tibi signa dabit: Solem quis dicere falsum
Audcat? ille etiam caecos instare tumultus
Saepe monet, fraudemque, et aperta tumescere bella;
Cum caput obscura nitidum ferrugine texit
Impiaque aetermam timuerunt saecula noctem,
Tempore quanquam illo tellus quoque et aequora ponti,
Obscoenique canes, importunaeque volueres
Signa dabant: quoties Cyclopum effervere in auras
Vidimus undantem ruptis fornacibus Aetnam,
Flammarumque globos liquefactaque volvere saxa.
Armorum sonitus toto Germania coelo
Audiit; insolitis tremuerunt motibus Alpes.
Vox quoque per lucos vulgo exaudita recentes
Ingens, et simulacra modis pallentia miris
Visa sub obscurum noctis: pecudesque locutae,
Infandum! sistunt amnes terraeque dehiscunt
Et moestum illacrymat templis ebur, aeraque sudant:
Proluit insano contorquens vertice sylvas
Fluviorum Rex Eridanus; camposque per omnes
Cum stabulis armenta trahit; nec tempore eodem
Tristibus aut extis fibrae apparere minaces
At puteis manare cruor cessavit, et alte
Per noctem resonare lupis ululantibus urbes;
Non alias coelo ceciderunt plura sereno
Fulgura, nec diri toties arsere cometae;
Ergo, etc.—Virgil, Georg. i. 488.
Which is translated by Dryden:—
The Sun reveals the secrets of the sky,
And who dares give the source of light the lie?
The change of empires he oft declares,
Fierce tumults, hidden treasons, open wars;
He first the fate of Caesar did foretell,
And pities Rome when Rome in Caesar fell:
In iron clouds conceal'd the public light,
And impious mortals fear'd eternal night.
Nor was the fact foretold by him alone,
Nature herself stood forth and seconded the Sun.
Earth, air, and seas with prodigies were sign'd,
And birds obscene and howling dogs divin'd.
What rocks did Aetna's bellowing mouth expire
From her torn entrails, and what floods of fire!
What clanks were heard in German skies afar,
Of arms and armies rushing to the war!
Dire earthquakes rent the solid Alps below,
And from their summits shook th' eternal snow;
Pale spectres in the close of night were seen,
And voices heard of more than mortal men.
In silent groves dumb sheep and oxen spoke;
And streams ran backward, and their beds forsook;
The yawning earth disclosed th' abyss of hell,
The weeping statues did the wars foretell,
And holy sweat from brazen idols fell.
Then rising in his might the king of floods
Rush'd through the forests, tore the lofty woods;
And rolled onward with a sweepy sway,
Bore houses, herds, and labouring hinds away.
Blood sprang from wells; wolves howl'd in towns by night;
And boding victims did the priests affright.
Such peals of thunder never pour'd from high,
Nor forky lightnings flash'd from such a sullen sky:
Red meteors ran across the etheral space;
Stars disappeared, and comets took their place.
Which Shakespeare has imitated with reference to the same event:—
Caesar, I never stood on ceremonies,
Yet now they fright me: there is one within,
Besides the things that we have heard and seen,
Recounds most horrid sights seen by the watch:
A lioness hath whelped in the streets,
And graves have yawn'd and yielded up their dead.
Fierce, fiery warriors fight upon the clouds,
In ranks and squadrons and right form of war,
Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol:
The noise of battle hurtled in the air;
Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan;
And ghosts did shriek and squeak about the streets.
O Caesar, these things are beyond all use,
And I do fear them . . . .
. . . . . . . .
When beggars die there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
. . . . . . . .
What say the augurers?
They would not have you stir forth today.
Plucking the entrails of an offering forth,
They could not find a heart within the beast.
- This refers to the column meant to serve as a pedestal for the statue of Jupiter, mentioned in the second book of this treatise, and also in the second oration against Catiline, as having been ordered in the consulship of Torquatus and Cotta, but not completed till the year of Cicero's consulship.
- This refers to the celebrated picture of Venus Anadyomene, painted by Apelles, who was a native of Cos.
- Scopas was a Parian, flourishing about 360 B.C. He was one of the greatest architects and sculptors of antiquity, and is mentioned as such by Horace, who says:—
- Divite me seilicet artium
- Quae sut Parrhasius protulit aut Scopas,
- Hie saxo, liquidis ille coloribus
- Solera nunc hominem ponerre nunc Deum.—Od. iv. 9. 6.
- "Tripudium, from terrapavium (see Cic. Div. ii. 34), a stamping on the ground. In divination, tripudium, or tripudium solitimum, when the birds (pulli) ate so greedily that the food fell from their mouths, and so rebounded on the ground, which was regarded as a good omen."—Riddle and Arnold, Lat. Dict.
- Bacis was believed to have lived and prophesied at Heleon, in Boeotia, ebing inspired by the nymphs of the Corycian cave. Some of his prophesies are given us by Herodotus, viii. 20, 77; ix. 43. (See also Aristophanes, Eq. 123; Pax, 1009.)
- Epimenides was a poet and prophet of Crete, who lived about 590 B.C. He was sent for by the Athenians to purify Athens when it was visited by a plague, in consequence of the sacrilege of Cylon. He is said to have lived to a great age.
- Hom. Il. ix. 363:—
- Ήματι κεν τριτάψ φθίην έρίβωλον ίκοίμην.
- This is a quotation from Pacuvius's play of Hercules; the speaker is Cassandra.