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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXI Chapter 62: Omens. The Sibylline books consulted[218 BC]
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|At Rome during this winter many prodigies either occurred about the city, or, as usually happens when the minds of men are once inclined to superstition, many were reported and readily believed; among which it was said that an infant of good family, only six months old, had called out Io triumphe" in the herb-market: that in the cattle-market an ox had of his own accord ascended to the third story, and that thence, being frightened by the noise of the inhabitants, had flung himself down; that the appearance of ships had been brightly visible in the sky, and that the temple of Hope in the herb-market had been struck by lightning; that the spear at Lanuvium had shaken itself; that a crow had flown down into the temple of Juno and alighted on the very couch; that in the territory of Amiternum figures resembling men dressed in white raiment had been seen in several places at a distance, but had not come close to any one; that in Picenum it had rained stones; that at Caere the tablets for divination had been lessened in size; and that in Gaul a wolf had snatched out the sword from the scabbard of a soldier on guard, and carried it off. On account of the other prodigies the decemvirs were ordered to consult the books; but on account of its having rained stones in Picenum the festival of nine days was proclaimed, and almost all the state was occupied in expiating the rest, from time to time. First of all the city was purified, and victims of the greater kind were sacrificed to those gods to whom they were directed to be offered; and a gift of forty pounds' weight of gold was carried to the temple of Juno at Lanuvium; and the matrons dedicated a brazen statue to Juno on the Aventine; and a lectisternium was ordered at Caere, where the tablets for divination had diminished; and a supplication to Fortune at Algidum; at Rome also a lectisternium was ordered to Youth, and a supplication at the temple of Hercules, first by individuals named and afterwards by the whole people at all the shrines; five greater victims were offered to Genius; and Gaius Atilius Serranus the praetor was ordered to make certain vows if the republic should remain in the same state for ten years. These things, thus expiated and vowed according to the Sibylline Books, relieved, in a great degree, the public mind from superstitious fears.||
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Lectisternium:It was essentially a banquet of the gods; richly covered couches were placed round tables which were loaded with offerings from the sacrifices which were going on in the temples and in private houses throughout the City. On these couches were laid either the emblems of the particular deity of draped wax effigies. Whether it was an importation from Greece or an old Italian rite seems doubtful.