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Quote of the day: It had been the ancient policy of the fo
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXXVIII Chapter 11: Omens and appointments[206 BC]
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In the anxiety caused by the strain of such a serious war when men referred every occurrence, fortunate or the reverse, to the direct action of the gods, numerous portents were announced. At Tarracina the temple of Jupiter, at Satricum that of Mater Matuta were struck by lightning. At the latter place quite as much alarm was created by the appearance of two snakes which glided straight through the doors into the temple of Jupiter. From Antium it was reported that the ears of corn seemed to those who were reaping them to be covered with blood. At Caere a pig had been farrowed with two heads, and a lamb yeaned which was both male and female. Two suns were said to have been seen at Alba, and at Fregellae it had become light during the night. In the precinct of Rome an ox was said to have spoken; the altar of Neptune in the Circus Flaminius was asserted to have been bathed in perspiration, and the temples of Ceres, Salus and Quirinus were all struck by lightning. The consuls received orders to expiate the portents by sacrificing full-grown victims and to appoint a day of solemn intercession. These measures were carried out in accordance with the senatorial resolution. What was a much more terrifying experience than all the portents reported from the country or seen in the City, was the extinction of the fire in the temple of Vesta. The vestal who was in charge of the fire that night was severely flogged by order of Publius Licinius, the Pontifex Maximus. Though this was no portent sent by the gods, but merely the result of human carelessness, it was decided to sacrifice full-grown victims and hold a service of solemn supplication in the temple of Vesta. Before the consuls left for the seat of war, they were advised by the senate "to see to it that the plebeians were reinstated on their holdings. Through the goodness of the gods the burden of war had now been shifted from the City of Rome and from Latium, and men could dwell in the country parts without fear, it was by no means fitting that they should be more concerned for the cultivation of Sicily than for that of Italy." The people found it, however, anything but an easy matter. The small holders had been carried off by the war, there was hardly any servile labour available, the cattle had been driven off as plunder, and the homesteads had been either stripped or burnt. Still, at the authoritative behest of the consuls a considerable number did return to their farms. What led to the senate taking up this question was the presence of deputations from Placentia and Cremona, who came to complain of the invasion and wasting of their country by their neighbours, the Gauls. A large proportion of their settlers, they said, had disappeared, their cities were almost without inhabitants, and the countryside was a deserted wilderness. The praetor Mamilius was charged with the defence of these colonies; the consuls, acting on a resolution of the senate, published an edict requiring all those who were citizens of Cremona and Placentia to return to their homes before a certain day. At last, towards the beginning of spring, they left for the seat of war. The consul Quintus Caecilius took over the army from Gaius Nero, and Lucius Veturius, the one which Quintus Claudius had commanded, and this he brought up to its full strength with the fresh levies which he had raised. They led their armies into the district of Consentia, and ravaged it in all directions. As they were returning laden with plunder they were attacked in a narrow pass by a force of Bruttians and Numidian javelin-men, and not only the plunder but the troops themselves were in danger. There was, however, more alarm and confusion than real fighting. The plunder was sent forward and the legions succeeded in getting into a position free from danger. They advanced into Lucania, and the whole of the district returned to its allegiance to Rome without offering any resistance.