For the true laurel-wreath which Glory weaves
Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves.
Stanza xli. lines 4 and 5.
The eagle, the sea calf, the laurel, and the white vine, were amongst the most approved preservatives against lightning: Jupiter chose the first, Augustus Cæsar the second, and Tiberius never failed to wear a wreath of the third when the sky threatened a thunder-storm. These superstitions may be received without a sneer in a country where the magical properties of the hazel twig have not lost all their credit; and perhaps the reader may not be much surprised that a commentator on Suetonius has taken upon himself gravely to disprove the imputed virtues of the crown of Tiberius, by mentioning that a few years before he wrote a laurel was actually struck by lightning at Rome.
Know, that the lightning sanctifies below.
Stanza xli. line 8.
The Curtian lake and the Ruminal fig-tree in the Forum, having been touched by lightning, were held sacred, and the memory of the accident was preserved by a pateal, or altar resembling the mouth of a well, with a little chapel covering the cavity supposed to be made by the thunder-bolt. Bodies scathed and persons struck dead were thought to be incorruptible; and a stroke not fatal conferred perpetual dignity upon the man so distinguished by heaven.
Those killed by lightning were wrapped in a white garment, and buried where they fell. The superstition was not confined to the worshippers of Jupiter: the Lombards believed in the omens furnished by lightning; and a Christian priest confesses that, by a diabolical skill in interpreting thunder,
- Plin., Hist. Nat., lib. ii. cap. 55.
- Columella, De Re Rustica, x. 532, lib. x.; Sueton., in Vit. August., cap. xc., et in Vit. Tiberii, cap. lxix.
- Note 2, p. 409, edit. Lugd. Bat. 1667.
- Vid. J. C. Boulenger, De Terræ Motu et Fulminib., lib. v. cap. xi., apud J. G. Græv., Thes. Antiq. Rom., 1696, v. 532.
- Οὐδεὶς κεραυνωθεὶς ἄτιμός ἐστι, ὅθεν καὶ ὡς θεὸς τιμᾶται. Artemidori Oneirocritica, Paris, 1603, ii. 8, p. 91.