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the chattering or singing of birds, the hooting of crows, pies, owls, etc., and from the running of beasts, as heifers, asses, rams, hares, wolves, foxes, weasels and mice, when these appeared in uncommon places, crossed the way, or ran to the right or left. They also pretended to draw a good or bad omen from the most trifling actions or occurrences of life, as sneezing, stumbling, starting, numbness of the little finger, the tingling of the ear, the spilling of salt upon the table, or the wine upon one's clothes, the accidental meeting of a bitch with whelp, etc. It was also the business of the augur to interpret dreams, oracles, and prodigies.
Nothing can be so surprising than to find so wise and valorous a people as the Romans addicted to such childish fooleries. Scipio, Augustus, and many others, without any fatal consequences, despised the sacred chickens, and other arts of divination : but when the generals had miscarried in any enterprise, the people laid the whole blame on the negligence with which these oracles had been consulted: and if an unfortunate general had neglected to consult them, the blame of miscarriage was thrown upon him who had preferred his own forecast to that of the fowls; while those who made these kinds of predictions a subject of raillery, were accounted impious and profane. Thus they construed, as a punishment of the gods, the defeat of Claudius Pulcher; who, when the sacred chickens refused to eat what was set before them, ordered them to be thrown into the sea ; “ If they won't eat," said
they shall drink.”
ARUSPICES, OR DIVINATIONS DRAWN FROM
BRUTE, OR HUMAN SACRIFICES.
In the earliest ages of the world, a sense of piety and a regard to decency had introduced the custom of never sacrificing to Him, whence all blessings emanated, any but the soundest, the most healthy, fat and beautiful animals; which were always examined with the closest and most exact attention. This ceremonial, which doubtless had its origin in gratitude, or in some ideas of fitness and propriety, at length degenerated into trifling niceties and superstitious ceremonies. And it having been once imagined that no favour was to be looked for from the gods, when the victim was imperfect, the idea of perfection was united with abundance of trivial circumstances. The entrails were examined with peculiar care, and if the whole was without blemish, their duties were fulfilled; under an assurance that they had engaged the gods to be on their side, they engaged in war, and in the most hazardous undertakings, with such a confidence of success, as had the greatest tendency to procure it. All the motions of the victims that were led to the altar, were considered as so many prophecies. If the victim advanced with an easy and natural air, in a straight line, and without offering any resistance, -if he made no extraordinary bellowing when he received the blow,- if he did not get loose from the
person who led him to the sacrifice, it was deemed a certain prognostic of an easy and flowing success.
The victim was knocked down, but before its belly was ripped open, one of the lobes of the liver was allotted to those who offered the sacrifice, and the other to the enemies of the state. That which was neither blemished nor withered, of a bright red, and neither smaller nor larger than it ought to be, prognosticated great prosperity to those for whom it was set apart; that which was livid, small or corrupted, presaged the most fatal mischiefs. The next thing to be considered was the heart, which was also examined with the utmost care, as was the spleen, the gall, and the lungs; and if any of these were let fall, if they smelt rank or were bloated, livid or withered, it presaged nothing but misfortunes.
After the examination of the entrails was over, the fire was kindled, and from this also they drew several presages. If the flame was clear, if it mounted up without dividing, and went not out till the victim was entirely consumed, this was a proof that the sacrifice was accepted; but if they found it difficult to kindle the fire, if the flame divided, if it played around instead of taking hold of the victim, if it burnt ill, or went out, it was a bad omen. The business, how. ever, of the Aruspices was not confined to the altars and sacrifices, they had an equal right to explain all other portents. The Senate frequently consulted them on the most extraordinary prodigies. The college of the Aruspices, as well as those of the other religious orders, had their registers and records, such as memorials of thunder and lightning, * the Tuscan histories, t etc.
DIVISIONS OF DIVINATION BY THE ANCIENTS
Divination was divided by the ancients into artificial and natural. The first is conducted by reasoning upon certain external signs, considered as indications of futurity; the other consists in that which presages things from a mere internal sense, and persuasion of the mind, without any assistance of signs; and is of two kinds, the one from nature, and the other by influx. The first supposes that the soul, collected within itself, and not diffused or divided
among the organs of the body, has from its own nature and essence, some fore-knowledge of future things; witness, for instance, what is seen in dreams, ecstasies, and on the confines of death. The second supposes the soul after the manner of a mirror to receive some secondary illumination from the presence of God and other spirits. Artificial divination is also of two kinds : the one argues
* Kennet's Roman Antiquities, Lib. XI, C. 4.
+ Romulus, who founded the institution of the Aruspices, borrowed it from the Tuscans, to whom the Senate afterwards sent twelve of the sons of the principal nobility to be instructed in these mysteries, and the other ceremonies of their religion. The origin of this act among the people of Tuscany, is related by Cicero in the following manner : “ A peasant,” says he, “ ploughing in the field, his ploughshare running pretty deep in the earth, turned up a clod, from whence sprung a child, who taught him and the other Tuscans the art of divination.” (Cicero, De Divinat. 1. 2.) This fable, undoubtedly means no more, than that this child, said to spring from the clod of earth, was a youth of a very mean and obscure birth, but it is not known whether he was the author of it, or whether he learnt it of the Greeks or any other nations.
from natural causes, as in the predictions of physicians relative to the event of diseases, from the tongue, pulse, etc. The second the consequence of experimen ts and observations arbitrarily instituted, and is mostly superstitious. The systems of divination reduceable under these heads are almost incalculable. Among these were the Augurs or those who drew their knowledge of futurity from the flight, and various other actions of birds ; the Aruspices, from the entrails of beasts; palmestry or the lines of the hands; points marked at random; numbers, names, the motions of a scene, the air, fire, the Prænestine, Homerian, and Virgilian lots, dreams, etc.
Whoever reads the Roman historians* must be surprised at the number of prodigies which are constantly recorded, and which frequently filled the people with the most dreadful apprehensions. It must be confessed, that some of these seem altogether supernatural; while ruch the greater part only consist of some of the uncommon productions of nature, which superstition always attributed to a superior cause, and represented as the prognostica
* Particularly Livy, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Pliny, and Valerius Maximus.