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Quote of the day: At last, after well-merited commendation
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXVII Chapter 37: Bad omens and celebrations[207 BC]
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Prior to the departure of the consuls [Note 1] religious observances were kept up for nine days owing to the fall of a shower of stones at Veii. As usual, no sooner was one portent announced than reports were brought in of others. At Menturnae the temple of Jupiter and the sacred grove of Marica were struck with lightning, as were also the wall of Atella and one of the gates. The people of Menturnae reported a second and more appalling portent; a stream of blood had flowed in at their gate. At Capua a wolf had entered the gate by night and mauled one of the watch. These portents were expiated by the sacrifice of full-grown victims, and special intercessions for the whole of one day were ordered by the pontiffs. Subsequently a second nine days' observance was ordered in consequence of a shower of stones which fell in the Armilustrum. No sooner were men's fears allayed by these expiatory rites than a fresh report came, this time from Frusino, to the effect that a child had been born there in size and appearance equal to one four years old, and what was still more startling, like the case at Sinuessa two years previously, it was impossible to say whether it was male or female. The diviners who had been summoned from Etruria said that this was a dreadful portent, and the thing must be banished from Roman soil, kept from any contact with the earth, and buried in the sea. They enclosed it alive in a box, took it out to sea, and dropped it overboard. The pontiffs also decreed that three bands of maidens, each consisting of nine, should go through the City singing a hymn. This hymn was composed by the poet Livius, and while they were practicing it in the temple of Jupiter Stator, the shrine of Queen Juno on the Aventine was struck by lightning. The diviners were consulted, and they declared that this portent concerned the matrons and that the goddess must be appeased by a gift. The curule aediles issued an edict summoning to the Capitol all the matrons whose homes were in Rome or within a distance of ten miles. When they were assembled they selected twenty-five of their number to receive their offerings; these they contributed out of their dowries. From the sum thus collected a golden basin was made and carried as an oblation to the Aventine, where the matrons offered a pure and chaste sacrifice. Immediately afterwards the Keepers of the Sacred Books gave notice of a day for further sacrificial rites in honour of this deity. The following was the order of their observance. Two white heifers were led from the temple of Apollo through the Carmental Gate into the City; after them were borne two images of the goddess, made of cypress wood. Then twenty-seven maidens, vested in long robes, walked in procession singing a hymn in her honour, which was perhaps admired in those rude days, but which would be considered very uncouth and unpleasing if it were recited now. After the train of maidens came the ten Keepers of the Sacred Books wearing the toga praetexta, and with laurel wreaths round their brows. From the Carmental Gate the procession marched along the Vicus Jugarius into the Forum, where it stopped. Here the girls, all holding a cord, commenced a solemn dance while they sang, beating time with their feet to the sound of their voices. They then resumed their course along the Vicus Tuscus and the Velabrum, through the Forum Boarium, and up the Clivus Publicius till they reached the temple of Juno. Here the two heifers were sacrificed by the Ten Keepers, and the cypressimages were carried into the shrine.

Note 1: consuls = Gaius Claudius Nero and Marcus Livius