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Augustus, Chapter 94: Omens at his birth.
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Since we are upon this subject, it may not be improper to give an account of the omens, before and at his birth, as well as afterwards, which gave hopes of his future greatness, and the good fortune that constantly attended him. A part of the wall of Velletri having in former times been struck with thunder, the response of the soothsayers was, that a native of that town would some time or other arrive at supreme power; relying on which prediction, the Velletrians both then, and several times afterwards, made war upon the Roman people, to their own ruin. At last it appeared by the event, that the omen had portended the elevation of Augustus. Julius Marathus informs us, that a few months before his birth, there happened at Rome a prodigy, by which was signified that Nature was in travail with a king for the Roman people; and that the senate, in alarm, came to the resolution that no child born that year should be brought up; but that those amongst them, whose wives were pregnant, to secure to themselves a chance of that dignity, took care that the decree of the senate should not be registered in the treasury. I find in the theological books of Asclepiades the Mendesian, that Atia, upon attending at midnight a religious solemnity in honour of Apollo, when the rest of the matrons retired home, fell asleep on her couch in the temple, and that a serpent immediately crept to her, and soon after withdrew. She awaking upon it, purified herself, as usual after the embraces of her husband; and instantly there appeared upon her body a mark in the form of a serpent, which she never after could efface, and which obliged her, during the subsequent part of her life, to decline the use of the public baths. Augustus, it was added, was born in the tenth month after, and for that reason was thought to be the son of Apollo. The same Atia, before her delivery, dreamed that her bowels stretched to the stars, and expanded through the whole circuit of heaven and earth. His father Octavius, likewise, dreamt that a sun-beam issued from his wife's womb. Upon the day he was born, the senate being engaged in a debate on Catiline's conspiracy, and Octavius, in consequence of his wife's being in childbirth, coming late into the house, it is a well-known fact, that Publius Nigidius, upon hearing the occasion of his coming so late, and the hour of his wife's delivery, declared that the world had got a master. Afterwards, when Octavius, upon marching with his army through the deserts of Thrace, consulted the oracle in the grove of father Bacchus, with barbarous rites, concerning his son, he received from the priests an answer to the same purpose; because, when they poured wine upon the altar, there burst out so prodigious a flame, that it ascended above the roof of the temple, and reached up to the heavens; a circumstance which had never happened to any one but Alexander the Great, upon his sacrificing at the same altars. And the next night he dreamt that he saw his son under more than human appearance, with thunder and a sceptre, and the other insignia of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, having on his head a radiant crown, mounted upon a chariot decked with laurel, and drawn by six pair of milk-white horses. Whilst he was yet an infant, as Gaius Drusus relates, being laid in his cradle by his nurse, and in a low place, the next day he was not to be found, and after he had been sought for a long time, he was at last discovered upon a lofty tower, lying with his face towards the rising sun. When he first began to speak, he ordered the frogs that happened to make a troublesome noise, upon an estate belonging to the family near the town, to be silent; and there goes a report that frogs never croaked there since that time. As he was dining in a grove at the fourth mile-stone on the Campanian road, an eagle suddenly snatched a piece of bread out of his hand, and, soaring to a prodigious height, after hovering, came down most unexpectedly, and returned it to him. Quintus Catulus had a dream, for two nights successively after his dedication of the Capitol. The first night he dreamt that Jupiter, out of several boys of the order of the nobility, who were playing about his altar, selected one, into whose bosom he put the public seal of the common-wealth, which he held in his hand; but in his vision the next night, he saw in the bosom of Jupiter Capitolinus, the same boy; whom he ordered to be removed, but it was forbidden by the God, who declared that it must be brought up to become the guardian of the state. The next day, meeting Augustus, with whom till that hour he had not the least acquaintance, and looking at him with admiration, he said he was extremely like the boy he had seen in his dream. Some give a different account of Catulus's first dream, namely, that Jupiter, upon several noble lads requesting of him that they might have a guardian, had pointed to one amongst them, to whom they were to prefer their requests; and putting his fingers to the boy's mouth to kiss, he afterwards applied them to his own. Marcus Cicero, as he was attending Julius Caesar to the Capitol, happened to be telling some of his friends a dream which he had the preceding night, in which he saw a comely youth, let down from heaven by a golden chain, who stood at the door of the Capitol, and had a whip put into his hands by Jupiter. And immediately upon sight of Augustus, who had been sent for by his uncle Caesar to the sacrifice, and was as yet perfectly unknown to most of the company, he affirmed that it was the very boy he had seen in his dream. When he assumed the manly toga, his senatorial tunic becoming loose in the seam on each side, fell at his feet. Some would have this to forbode, that the order, of which that was the badge of distinction, would some time or other be subject to him. Julius Caesar, in cutting down a wood to make room for his camp near Munda, happened to light upon a palm-tree, and ordered it to be preserved as an omen of victory. From the root of this tree there put out immediately a sucker, which, in a few days, grew to such a height as not only to equal, but overshadow it, and afford room for many nests of wild pigeons which built in it, though that species of bird particularly avoids a hard and rough leaf. It is likewise reported, that Caesar was chiefly influenced by this prodigy, to prefer his sister's grandson before all others for his successor. In his retirement at Apollonia, he went with his friend Agrippa to visit Theogenes, the astrologer, in his gallery on the roof. Agrippa, who first consulted the Fates, having great and almost incredible fortunes predicted of him, Augustus did not choose to make known his nativity, and persisted for some time in the refusal, from a mixture of shame and fear, lest his fortunes should be predicted as inferior to those of Agrippa. Being persuaded, however, after much importunity, to declare it, Theogenes started up from his seat, and paid him adoration. Not long afterwards, Augustus was so confident of the greatness of his destiny, that he published his horoscope, and struck a silver coin bearing upon it the sign of Capricorn, under the influence of which he was born. |
Event: The youth of Augustus
|Et quoniam ad haec ventum est, non ab re fuerit subtexere, quae ei prius quam nasceretur et ipso natali die ac deinceps evenerint, quibus futura magnitudo eius et perpetua felicitas sperari animad vertique posset. Velitris antiquitus tacta de caelo parte muri, responsum est eius oppidi civem quandoque rerum potiturum; qua fiducia Veliterni et tunc statim et postea saepius paene ad exitium sui cum populo Romano belligeraverant; sero tandem documentis apparuit ostentum illud Augusti potentiam portendisse. Auctor est Iulius Marathus, ante paucos quam nasceretur menses prodigium Romae factum publice, quo denuntiabatur, regem populo Romano naturam parturire; senatum exterritum censuisse, ne quis illo anno genitus educaretur; eos qui gravidas uxores haberent, quod ad se quisque spem traheret, curasse ne senatus consultum ad aerarium deferretur. In Asclepiadis Mendetis Theologumenon libris lego, Atiam, cum ad sollemne Apollinis sacrum media nocte venisset, posita in templo lectica, dum ceterae matronae dormirent, obdormisse; draconem repente irrepsisse ad eam pauloque post egressum; illam expergefactam quasi a concubitu mariti purificasse se; et statim in corpore eius exstitisse maculam velut picti draconis nec potuisse umquam exigi, adeo ut mox publicis balineis perpetuo abstinuerit; Augustum natum mense decimo et ob hoc Apollinis filium existimatum. Eadem Atia prius quam pareret somniavit, intestina sua ferri ad sidera explicarique per omnem terrarum et caeli ambitum. Somniavit et pater Octavius utero Atiae iubar solis exortum. Quo natus est die, cum de Catilinae coniuratione ageretur in curia et Octavius ob uxoris puerperium serius affuisset, nota ac vulgata res est P. Nigidium, comperta morae causa, ut horam quoque partus acceperit, affirmasse dominum terrarum orbi natum. Octavio postea, cum per secreta Thraciae exercitum duceret, in Liberi patris luco barbara caerimonia de filio consulenti, idem affirmatum est a sacerdotibus, quod infuso super altaria mero tantum flammae emicuisset, ut supergressa fastigium templi ad caelum usque ferretur, unique omnino Magno Alexandro apud easdem aras sacrificanti simile provenisset ostentum. Atque etiam sequenti statim nocte videre risus est filium mortali specie ampliorem, cum fulmine et sceptro exuviisque Iovis Optimi Maximi ac radiata corona, super laureatum currum, bis senis equis candore eximio trahentibus. Infans adhuc, ut scriptum apud C. Drusum exstat, repositus vespere in cunas a nutricula loco plano, postera luce non comparuit, diuque quaesitus tandem in altissima turri repertus est iacens contra solis exortum. Cum primum fari coepisset, in avito suburbano obstrepentis forte ranas silere iussit, atque ex eo negantur ibi ranae coaxare. Ad quartum lapidem Campanae viae in nemore prandenti ex inproviso aquila panem ei e manu rapuit et, cum altissime evolasset, rursus ex inproviso leniter delapsa reddidit. Q. Catulus post dedicatum Capitolium duabus continuis noctibus somniavit: prima, Iovem Optimum Maximum e praetextatis compluribus circum aram ludentibus unum secrevisse atque in eius sinum signum rei publicae quam manu gestaret reposuisse; at insequenti, animadvertisse se in gremio Capitolini Iovis eundem puerum, quem cum detrahi iussisset, prohibitum monitu dei, tanquam is ad tutelam rei publicae educaretur; ac die proximo obvium sibi Augustum, cum incognitum alias haberet, non sine admiratione contuitus, simillimum dixit puero, de quo somniasset. Quidam prius somnium Catuli aliter exponunt, quasi Iuppiter compluribus praetextatis tutorem a se poscentibus, unum ex eis demonstrasset, ad quem omnia desideria sua referrent, eiusque osculum delibatum digitis ad os suum rettulisset. M. Cicero C. Caesarem in Capitolium prosecutus, somnium pristinae noctis familiaribus forte narrabat: puerum facie liberali, demissum e caelo catena aurea, ad fores Capitoli constitisse eique Iovem flagellum tradidisse; deinde repente Augusto viso, quem ignotum plerisque adhuc avunculus Caesar ad sacrificandum acciverat, affirmavit ipsum esse, cuius imago secundum quietem sibi obversata sit. Sumenti virilem togam tunica lati clavi, resuta ex utraque parte, ad pedes decidit. Fuerunt qui interpretarentur, non aliud significare, quam ut is ordo cuius insigne id esset quandoque ei subiceretur. Apud Mundam Divus Iulius, castris locum capiens cum silvam caederet, arborem palmae repertam conservari ut omen victoriae iussit; ex ea continuo enata suboles adeo in paucis diebus adolevit, ut non aequiperaret modo matricem, verum et obtegeret frequentareturque columbarum nidis, quamvis id avium genus duram et asperam frondem maxime vitet. Illo et praecipue ostento motum Caesarem ferunt, ne quem alium sibi succedere quam sororis nepotem vellet. In secessu Apolloniae Theogenis mathematici pergulam comite Agrippa ascenderat; cum Agrippae, qui prior consulebat, magna et paene incredibilia praedicerentur, reticere ipse genituram suam nec velle edere perseverabat, metu ac pudore ne minor inveniretur. Qua tamen post multas adhortationes vix et cunctanter edita, exilivit Theogenes adoravitque eum. Tantam mox fiduciam fati Augustus habuit, ut thema suum vulgaverit nummumque argenteum nota sideris Capricorni, quo natus est, percusserit.|