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Auspicium



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AUSPICIUM. - This and Augurium are commonly used as convertible terms. But they are sometimes distinguished from one another. Auspicium was, strictly speaking, the foretelling of future events (avem specere) from inspection of birds, that is to say, from observing their flying, singing, and other actions. Augurium was the science of prediction, or of expounding the will of the gods from all kinds of omens and prodigies. One very prominent feature in the discipline of Roman religion, was, that nothing of importance was ever done either in public or private life, without the auspices having first been taken. The presence of an aruspex, or an augur, was not more necessary in deciding on peace to be preserved, or on war to be waged - the comitia to be held or broken off - a battle to be fought or shunned - than in determining the question whether a journey should be undertaken or whether a marriage should be solemnized. Quo ex more, says Cicero, nuptiis etiam nunc auspices interponuntur. So fond, indeed, was the predilection entertained for such whimsical ceremonies, as those connected with these auspices and auguries, by the early Romans, that some of their generals are recorded to have quitted the army, in the most sudden and abrupt manner, for the purpose, or under the pretext, of performing them. - Papirius Dictator, says Livy, a Pullario monitus, cum ad auspiciendum repetendum Romam proficeretur. But on the other hand, individuals were to be found amongst them, who made no scruple of manifesting all the contempt they felt for such wretched absurdities. Take Claudius Pulcher, for example, who caused "the sacred chickens" that would not eat, to be thrown into the sea with the words "let them then drink". - add to which the instance of the Consul Flaminius, who fought the enemy, in spite of augury, and beat the foes of his country under the most inauspicious signs ever interpreted by grave soothsayers, in prognostication of defeat to the Roman arms. - See Haruspex.



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