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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



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Seneca The Younger, Quaestiones Naturales, 2.32.4
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1. Cicero, On Divination, 1.12, 1.118-1.119, 2.9, 2.16, 2.18-2.21, 2.30, 2.35-2.39, 2.53, 2.56-2.57, 2.72, 2.76, 2.80, 2.82-2.83 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.12. Quae est autem gens aut quae civitas, quae non aut extispicum aut monstra aut fulgora interpretantium aut augurum aut astrologorum aut sortium (ea enim fere artis sunt) aut somniorum aut vaticinationum (haec enim duo naturalia putantur) praedictione moveatur? Quarum quidem rerum eventa magis arbitror quam causas quaeri oportere. Est enim vis et natura quaedam, quae tum observatis longo tempore significationibus, tum aliquo instinctu inflatuque divino futura praenuntiat. Quare omittat urguere Carneades, quod faciebat etiam Panaetius requirens, Iuppiterne cornicem a laeva, corvum ab dextera canere iussisset. Observata sunt haec tempore inmenso et in significatione eventis animadversa et notata. Nihil est autem, quod non longinquitas temporum excipiente memoria prodendisque monumentis efficere atque adsequi possit. 1.118. Sed distinguendum videtur, quonam modo. Nam non placet Stoicis singulis iecorum fissis aut avium cantibus interesse deum; neque enim decorum est nec dis dignum nec fieri ullo pacto potest; sed ita a principio inchoatum esse mundum, ut certis rebus certa signa praecurrerent, alia in extis, alia in avibus, alia in fulgoribus, alia in ostentis, alia in stellis, alia in somniantium visis, alia in furentium vocibus. Ea quibus bene percepta sunt, ii non saepe falluntur; male coniecta maleque interpretata falsa sunt non rerum vitio, sed interpretum inscientia. Hoc autem posito atque concesso, esse quandam vim divinam hominum vitam continentem, non difficile est, quae fieri certe videmus, ea qua ratione fiant, suspicari. Nam et ad hostiam deligendam potest dux esse vis quaedam sentiens, quae est toto confusa mundo, et tum ipsum, cum immolare velis, extorum fieri mutatio potest, ut aut absit aliquid aut supersit; parvis enim momentis multa natura aut adfingit aut mutat aut detrahit. 1.119. Quod ne dubitare possimus, maximo est argumento, quod paulo ante interitum Caesaris contigit. Qui cum immolaret illo die, quo primum in sella aurea sedit et cum purpurea veste processit, in extis bovis opimi cor non fuit. Num igitur censes ullum animal, quod sanguinem habeat, sine corde esse posse? †Qua ille rei novitate perculsus, cum Spurinna diceret timendum esse, ne et consilium et vita deficeret; earum enim rerum utramque a corde proficisci. Postero die caput in iecore non fuit. Quae quidem illi portendebantur a dis immortalibus, ut videret interitum, non ut caveret. Cum igitur eae partes in extis non reperiuntur, sine quibus victuma illa vivere nequisset, intellegendum est in ipso immolationis tempore eas partes, quae absint, interisse. 2.9. Etenim me movet illud, quod in primis Carneades quaerere solebat, quarumnam rerum divinatio esset, earumne, quae sensibus perciperentur. At eas quidem cernimus, audimus, gustamus, olfacimus, tangimus. Num quid ergo in his rebus est, quod provisione aut permotione mentis magis quam natura ipsa sentiamus? aut num nescio qui ille divinus, si oculis captus sit, ut Tiresias fuit, possit, quae alba sint, quae nigra, dicere aut, si surdus sit, varietates vocum aut modos noscere? Ad nullam igitur earum rerum, quae sensu accipiuntur, divinatio adhibetur. Atqui ne in iis quidem rebus, quae arte tractantur, divinatione opus est. Etenim ad aegros non vates aut hariolos, sed medicos solemus adducere, nec vero, qui fidibus aut tibiis uti volunt, ab haruspicibus accipiunt earum tractationem, sed a musicis. 2.16. Medicus morbum ingravescentem ratione providet, insidias imperator, tempestates gubernator; et tamen ii ipsi saepe falluntur, qui nihil sine certa ratione opitur; ut agricola, cum florem oleae videt, bacam quoque se visurum putat, non sine ratione ille quidem; sed non numquam tamen fallitur. Quodsi falluntur ii, qui nihil sine aliqua probabili coniectura ac ratione dicunt, quid existimandum est de coniectura eorum, qui extis aut avibus aut ostentis aut oraclis aut somniis futura praesentiunt? Nondum dico, quam haec signa nulla sint, fissum iecoris, corvi cantus, volatus aquilae, stellae traiectio, voces furentium, sortes, somnia; de quibus singulis dicam suo loco; nunc de universis. 2.18. Qui thesaurum inventum iri aut hereditatem venturam dicunt, quid sequuntur? aut in qua rerum natura inest id futurum? Quodsi haec eaque, quae sunt eiusdem generis, habent aliquam talem necessitatem, quid est tandem, quod casu fieri aut forte fortuna putemus? Nihil enim est tam contrarium rationi et constantiae quam fortuna, ut mihi ne in deum quidem cadere videatur, ut sciat, quid casu et fortuito futurum sit. Si enim scit, certe illud eveniet; sin certe eveniet, nulla fortuna est; est autem fortuna; rerum igitur fortuitarum nulla praesensio est. 2.19. Aut si negas esse fortunam et omnia, quae fiunt quaeque futura sunt, ex omni aeternitate definita dicis esse fataliter, muta definitionem divinationis, quam dicebas praesensionem esse rerum fortuitarum. Si enim nihil fieri potest, nihil accidere, nihil evenire, nisi quod ab omni aeternitate certum fuerit esse futurum rato tempore, quae potest esse fortuna? qua sublata qui locus est divinationi? quae a te fortuitarum rerum est dicta praesensio. Quamquam dicebas omnia, quae fierent futurave essent, fato contineri. Anile sane et plenum superstitionis fati nomen ipsum; sed tamen apud Stoicos de isto fato multa dicuntur; de quo alias; nunc quod necesse est. 2.20. Si omnia fato, quid mihi divinatio prodest? Quod enim is, qui divinat, praedicit, id vero futurum est, ut ne illud quidem sciam quale sit, quod Deiotarum, necessarium nostrum, ex itinere aquila revocavit; qui nisi revertisset, in eo conclavi ei cubandum fuisset, quod proxuma nocte corruit; ruina igitur oppressus esset. At id neque, si fatum fuerat, effugisset nec, si non fuerat, in eum casum incidisset. Quid ergo adiuvat divinatio? aut quid est, quod me moneant aut sortes aut exta aut ulla praedictio? Si enim fatum fuit classes populi Romani bello Punico primo, alteram naufragio, alteram a Poenis depressam, interire, etiamsi tripudium solistumum pulli fecissent L. Iunio et P. Claudio consulibus, classes tamen interissent. Sin, cum auspiciis obtemperatum esset, interiturae classes non fuerunt, non interierunt fato; vultis autem omnia fato; 2.21. nulla igitur est divinatio. Quodsi fatum fuit bello Punico secundo exercitum populi Romani ad lacum Trasumennum interire, num id vitari potuit, si Flaminius consul iis signis iisque auspiciis, quibus pugnare prohibebatur, paruisset? Certe potuit. Aut igitur non fato interiit exercitus, aut, si fato (quod certe vobis ita dicendum est), etiamsi obtemperasset auspiciis, idem eventurum fuisset; mutari enim fata non possunt. Ubi est igitur ista divinatio Stoicorum? quae, si fato omnia fiunt, nihil nos admonere potest, ut cautiores simus; quoquo enim modo nos gesserimus, fiet tamen illud, quod futurum est; sin autem id potest flecti, nullum est fatum; ita ne divinatio quidem, quoniam ea rerum futurarum est. Nihil autem est pro certo futurum, quod potest aliqua procuratione accidere ne fiat. 2.30. Democritus tamen non inscite nugatur, ut physicus, quo genere nihil adrogantius: Quód est ante pedes, némo spectat, caéli scrutantúr plagas. Verum is tamen habitu extorum et colore declarari censet haec dumtaxat: pabuli genus et earum rerum, quas terra procreet, vel ubertatem vel tenuitatem; salubritatem etiam aut pestilentiam extis significari putat. O mortalem beatum! cui certo scio ludum numquam defuisse; huncine hominem tantis delectatum esse nugis, ut non videret tum futurum id veri simile, si omnium pecudum exta eodem tempore in eundem habitum se coloremque converterent? Sed si eadem hora aliae pecudis iecur nitidum atque plenum est, aliae horridum et exile, quid est, quod declarari possit habitu extorum et colore? 2.35. sed tamen eo concesso qui evenit, ut is, qui impetrire velit, convenientem hostiam rebus suis immolet? Hoc erat, quod ego non rebar posse dissolvi. At quam festive dissolvitur! pudet me non tui quidem, cuius etiam memoriam admiror, sed Chrysippi, Antipatri, Posidonii, qui idem istuc quidem dicunt, quod est dictum a te, ad hostiam deligendam ducem esse vim quandam sentientem atque divinam, quae toto confusa mundo sit. Illud vero multo etiam melius, quod et a te usurpatum est et dicitur ab illis: cum immolare quispiam velit, tum fieri extorum mutationem, ut aut absit aliquid aut supersit; 2.36. deorum enim numini parere omnia. Haec iam, mihi crede, ne aniculae quidem existimant. An censes, eundem vitulum si alius delegerit, sine capite iecur inventurum; si alius, cum capite? Haec decessio capitis aut accessio subitone fieri potest, ut se exta ad immolatoris fortunam accommodent? non perspicitis aleam quandam esse in hostiis deligendis, praesertim cum res ipsa doceat? Cum enim tristissuma exta sine capite fuerunt, quibus nihil videtur esse dirius, proxuma hostia litatur saepe pulcherrime. Ubi igitur illae minae superiorum extorum? aut quae tam subito facta est deorum tanta placatio? Sed adfers in tauri opimi extis immolante Caesare cor non fuisse; id quia non potuerit accidere, ut sine corde victuma illa viveret, iudicandum esse tum interisse cor, cum immolaretur. 2.37. Qui fit, ut alterum intellegas, sine corde non potuisse bovem vivere, alterum non videas, cor subito non potuisse nescio quo avolare? Ego enim possum vel nescire, quae vis sit cordis ad vivendum, vel suspicari contractum aliquo morbo bovis exile et exiguum et vietum cor et dissimile cordis fuisse; tu vero quid habes, quare putes, si paulo ante cor fuerit in tauro opimo, subito id in ipsa immolatione interisse? an quod aspexit vestitu purpureo excordem Caesarem, ipse corde privatus est? Urbem philosophiae, mihi crede, proditis, dum castella defenditis; nam, dum haruspicinam veram esse vultis, physiologiam totam pervertitis. Caput est in iecore, cor in extis; iam abscedet, simul ac molam et vinum insperseris; deus id eripiet, vis aliqua conficiet aut exedet. Non ergo omnium ortus atque obitus natura conficiet, et erit aliquid, quod aut ex nihilo oriatur aut in nihilum subito occidat. Quis hoc physicus dixit umquam? haruspices dicunt; his igitur quam physicis credendum potius existumas? 2.38. Quid? cum pluribus deis immolatur, qui tandem evenit, ut litetur aliis, aliis non litetur? quae autem inconstantia deorum est, ut primis minentur extis, bene promittant secundis? aut tanta inter eos dissensio, saepe etiam inter proxumos, ut Apollinis exta bona sint, Dianae non bona? Quid est tam perspicuum quam, cum fortuito hostiae adducantur, talia cuique exta esse, qualis cuique obtigerit hostia? At enim id ipsum habet aliquid divini, quae cuique hostia obtingat, tamquam in sortibus, quae cui ducatur. Mox de sortibus; quamquam tu quidem non hostiarum causam confirmas sortium similitudine, sed infirmas sortis conlatione hostiarum. 2.39. An, cum in Aequimaelium misimus, qui adferat agnum, quem immolemus, is mihi agnus adfertur, qui habet exta rebus accommodata, et ad eum agnum non casu, sed duce deo servus deducitur? Nam si casum in eo quoque dicis esse quasi sortem quandam cum deorum voluntate coniunctam, doleo tantam Stoicos nostros Epicureis inridendi sui facultatem dedisse; non enim ignoras, quam ista derideant. 2.53. Hoc civili bello, di inmortales! quam multa luserunt! quae nobis in Graeciam Roma responsa haruspicum missa sunt! quae dicta Pompeio! etenim ille admodum extis et ostentis movebatur. Non lubet commemorare, nec vero necesse est, tibi praesertim, qui interfuisti; vides tamen omnia fere contra, ac dicta sint, evenisse. Sed haec hactenus; nunc ad ostenta veniamus. 2.56. Tu vates Boeotios credis Lebadiae vidisse ex gallorum gallinaceorum cantu victoriam esse Thebanorum, quia galli victi silere solerent, canere victores. Hoc igitur per gallinas Iuppiter tantae civitati signum dabat? An illae aves, nisi cum vicerunt, canere non solent? At tum canebant nec vicerant. Id enim est, inquies, ostentum. Magnum vero! quasi pisces, non galli cecinerint! Quod autem est tempus, quo illi non cantent, vel nocturnum vel diurnum? Quodsi victores alacritate et quasi laetitia ad canendum excitantur, potuit accidisse alia quoque laetitia, qua ad cantum moverentur. 2.57. Democritus quidem optumis verbis causam explicat, cur ante lucem galli cat; depulso enim de pectore et in omne corpus diviso et mitificato cibo cantus edere quiete satiatos; qui quidem silentio noctis, ut ait Ennius, favent faucíbus russis Cantú plausuque premúnt alas. Cum igitur hoc animal tam sit canorum sua sponte, quid in mentem venit Callistheni dicere deos gallis signum dedisse cantandi, cum id vel natura vel casus efficere potuisset? 2.72. Hoc intellegere perfecti auguris est; illi autem, qui in auspicium adhibetur, cum ita imperavit is, qui auspicatur: dicito, si silentium esse videbitur, nec suspicit nec circumspicit; statim respondet silentium esse videri. Tum ille: dicito, si pascentur .— Pascuntur .— Quae aves? aut ubi? Attulit, inquit, in cavea pullos is, qui ex eo ipso nominatur pullarius. Haec sunt igitur aves internuntiae Iovis! quae pascantur necne, quid refert? Nihil ad auspicia; sed quia, cum pascuntur, necesse est aliquid ex ore cadere et terram pavire (terripavium primo, post terripudium dictum est; hoc quidem iam tripudium dicitur)—cum igitur offa cecidit ex ore pulli, tum auspicanti tripudium solistimum nuntiatur. 2.76. Sed de hoc loco plura in aliis, nunc hactenus. Externa enim auguria, quae sunt non tam artificiosa quam superstitiosa, videamus. Omnibus fere avibus utuntur, nos admodum paucis; alia illis sinistra sunt, alia nostris. Solebat ex me Deiotarus percontari nostri augurii disciplinam, ego ex illo sui. Di immortales! quantum differebat! ut quaedam essent etiam contraria. Atque ille iis semper utebatur, nos, nisi dum a populo auspicia accepta habemus, quam multum iis utimur? Bellicam rem administrari maiores nostri nisi auspicato noluerunt; quam multi anni sunt, cum bella a proconsulibus et a propraetoribus administrantur 2.80. Omitte igitur lituum Romuli, quem in maximo incendio negas potuisse comburi; contemne cotem Atti Navii. Nihil debet esse in philosophia commenticiis fabellis loci; illud erat philosophi potius, totius augurii primum naturam ipsam videre, deinde inventionem, deinde constantiam. Quae est igitur natura, quae volucris huc et illuc passim vagantis efficiat ut significent aliquid et tum vetent agere, tum iubeant aut cantu aut volatu? cur autem aliis a laeva, aliis a dextra datum est avibus ut ratum auspicium facere possint? Quo modo autem haec aut quando aut a quibus inventa dicemus? Etrusci tamen habent exaratum puerum auctorem disciplinae suae; nos quem? Attumne Navium? At aliquot annis antiquior Romulus et Remus, ambo augures, ut accepimus. An Pisidarum aut Cilicum aut Phrygum ista inventa dicemus? Placet igitur humanitatis expertis habere divinitatis auctores? 2.82. Quae autem est inter augures conveniens et coniuncta constantia? Ad nostri augurii consuetudinem dixit Ennius: Tum tonuit laevum bene tempestate serena. At Homericus Aiax apud Achillem querens de ferocitate Troianorum nescio quid hoc modo nuntiat: Prospera Iuppiter his dextris fulgoribus edit. Ita nobis sinistra videntur, Graiis et barbaris dextra meliora. Quamquam haud ignoro, quae bona sint, sinistra nos dicere, etiamsi dextra sint; sed certe nostri sinistrum nominaverunt externique dextrum, quia plerumque id melius videbatur. 2.83. Haec quanta dissensio est! Quid? quod aliis avibus utuntur, aliis signis, aliter observant, alia respondent, non necesse est fateri partim horum errore susceptum esse, partim superstitione, multa fallendo? Atque his superstitionibus non dubitasti etiam omina adiungere. Aemilia Paulo Persam perisse, quod pater omen accepit; Caecilia se sororis filiae sedes suas tradere. Iam illa: Favete linguis et praerogativam, omen comitiorum. Hoc est ipsum esse contra se copiosum et disertum. Quando enim ista observans quieto et libero animo esse poteris, ut ad rem gerendam non superstitionem habeas, sed rationem ducem? Itane? si quis aliquid ex sua re atque ex suo sermone dixerit et eius verbum aliquod apte ceciderit ad id, quod ages aut cogitabis, ea res tibi aut timorem adferet aut alacritatem? 1.12. Now — to mention those almost entirely dependent on art — what nation or what state disregards the prophecies of soothsayers, or of interpreters of prodigies and lightnings, or of augurs, or of astrologers, or of oracles, or — to mention the two kinds which are classed as natural means of divination — the forewarnings of dreams, or of frenzy? of these methods of divining it behoves us, I think, to examine the results rather than the causes. For there is a certain natural power, which now, through long-continued observation of signs and now, through some divine excitement and inspiration, makes prophetic announcement of the future. [7] Therefore let Carneades cease to press the question, which Panaetius also used to urge, whether Jove had ordered the crow to croak on the left side and the raven on the right. Such signs as these have been observed for an unlimited time, and the results have been checked and recorded. Moreover, there is nothing which length of time cannot accomplish and attain when aided by memory to receive and records to preserve. 1.12. The Divine Will accomplishes like results in the case of birds, and causes those known as alites, which give omens by their flight, to fly hither and thither and disappear now here and now there, and causes those known as oscines, which give omens by their cries, to sing now on the left and now on the right. For if every animal moves its body forward, sideways, or backward at will, it bends, twists, extends, and contracts its members as it pleases, and performs these various motions almost mechanically; how much easier it is for such results to be accomplished by a god, whose divine will all things obey! 1.118. But it seems necessary to settle the principle on which these signs depend. For, according to the Stoic doctrine, the gods are not directly responsible for every fissure in the liver or for every song of a bird; since, manifestly, that would not be seemly or proper in a god and furthermore is impossible. But, in the beginning, the universe was so created that certain results would be preceded by certain signs, which are given sometimes by entrails and by birds, sometimes by lightnings, by portents, and by stars, sometimes by dreams, and sometimes by utterances of persons in a frenzy. And these signs do not often deceive the persons who observe them properly. If prophecies, based on erroneous deductions and interpretations, turn out to be false, the fault is not chargeable to the signs but to the lack of skill in the interpreters.Assuming the proposition to be conceded that there is a divine power which pervades the lives of men, it is not hard to understand the principle directing those premonitory signs which we see come to pass. For it may be that the choice of a sacrificial victim is guided by an intelligent force, which is diffused throughout the universe; or, it may be that at the moment when the sacrifice is offered, a change in the vitals occurs and something is added or taken away; for many things are added to, changed, or diminished in an instant of time. 1.119. Conclusive proof of this fact, sufficient to put it beyond the possibility of doubt, is afforded by incidents which happened just before Caesars death. While he was offering sacrifices on the day when he sat for the first time on a golden throne and first appeared in public in a purple robe, no heart was found in the vitals of the votive ox. Now do you think it possible for any animal that has blood to exist without a heart? Caesar was unmoved by this occurrence, even though Spurinna warned him to beware lest thought and life should fail him — both of which, he said, proceeded from the heart. On the following day there was no head to the liver of the sacrifice. These portents were sent by the immortal gods to Caesar that he might foresee his death, not that he might prevent it. Therefore, when those organs, without which the victim could not have lived, are found wanting in the vitals, we should understand that the absent organs disappeared at the very moment of immolation. [53] 2.9. I am impressed with the force of the questions with which Carneades used to begin his discussions: What are the things within the scope of divination? Are they things that are perceived by the senses? But those are things that we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Is there, then, in such objects some quality that we can better perceive with the aid of prophecy and inspiration than we can with the aid of the senses alone? And is there any diviner, anywhere, who, if blind, like Tiresias, could tell the difference between white and black? Or, who, if deaf, could distinguish between different voices and different tones? Now you must admit that divination is not applicable in any case where knowledge is gained through the senses.Nor is there any need of divination even in matters within the domain of science and of art. For, when people are sick, we, as a general rule, do not summon a prophet or a seer, but we call in a physician. Again, persons who want to learn to play on the harp or on the flute take lessons, not from a soothsayer, but from a musician. 2.9. What inconceivable madness! For it is not enough to call an opinion foolishness when it is utterly devoid of reason. However, Diogenes the Stoic makes some concessions to the Chaldeans. He says that they have the power of prophecy to the extent of being able to tell the disposition of any child and the calling for which he is best fitted. All their other claims of prophetic powers he absolutely denies. He says, for example, that twins are alike in appearance, but that they generally unlike in career and in fortune. Procles and Eurysthenes, kings of the Lacedaemonians, were twin brothers. 2.16. By the use of reason the physician foresees the progress of a disease, the general anticipates the enemys plans and the pilot forecasts the approach of bad weather. And yet even those who base their conclusions on accurate reasoning are often mistaken: for example, when the farmer sees his olive-tree in bloom he expects also, and not unreasonably, to see it bear fruit, but occasionally he is disappointed. If then mistakes are made by those who make no forecasts not based upon some reasonable and probable conjecture, what must we think of the conjectures of men who foretell the future by means of entrails, birds, portents, oracles, or dreams? I am not ready yet to take up one by one the various kinds of divination and show that the cleft in the liver, the croak of a raven, the flight of an eagle, the fall of a star, the utterances of persons in a frenzy, lots, and dreams have no prophetic value whatever; I shall discuss each of them in its turn — now I am discussing the subject as a whole. 2.18. But what course of reasoning is followed by men who predict the finding of a treasure or the inheritance of an estate? On what law of nature do such prophecies depend? But, on the other hand, if the prophecies just mentioned and others of the same class are controlled by some natural and immutable law such as regulates the movements of the stars, pray, can we conceive of anything happening by accident, or chance? Surely nothing is so at variance with reason and stability as chance? Hence it seems to me that it is not in the power even of God himself to know what event is going to happen accidentally and by chance. For if He knows, then the event is certain to happen; but if it is certain to happen, chance does not exist. And yet chance does exist, therefore there is no foreknowledge of things that happen by chance. 2.19. But if you deny the existence of chance and assert that the course of everything present or future has been inevitably determined from all eternity, then you must change your definition of divination, which you said was the foreknowledge of things that happen by chance. For if nothing can happen, nothing befall, nothing come to pass, except what has been determined from all eternity as bound to happen at a fixed time, how can there be such a thing as chance? And if there is no such thing as chance, what room is there for that divination, which you termed a foreknowledge of things that happen by chance? And you were inconsistent enough, too, to say that everything that is or will be is controlled by Fate! Why, the very word Fate is full of superstition and old womens credulity, and yet the Stoics have much to say of this Fate of yours. A discussion on Fate is reserved for another occasion; at present I shall speak of it only in so far as it is necessary. [8] 2.21. Again, if it was the will of Fate that the Roman army should perish at Lake Trasimenus in the Second Punic War, could that result have been avoided if the consul Flaminius had obeyed the signs and the auspices which forbade his joining battle? Assuredly not. Therefore, either the army did not perish by the will of Fate, or, if it did (and you are certainly bound as a Stoic to say that it did), the same result would have happened even if the auspices had been obeyed; for the decrees of Fate are unchangeable. Then what becomes of that vaunted divination of you Stoics? For if all things happen by Fate, it does us no good to be warned to be on our guard, since that which is to happen, will happen regardless of what we do. But if that which is to be can be turned aside, there is no such thing as Fate; so, too, there is no such thing as divination — since divination deals with things that are going to happen. But nothing is certain to happen which there is some means of dealing with so as to prevent its happening. [9] 2.35. yet, suppose the concession is made, how is it brought about that the man in search of favourable signs will find a sacrifice suitable to his purpose? I thought the question insoluble. But what a fine solution is offered! I am not ashamed of you — I am actually astonished at your memory; but I am ashamed of Chrysippus, Antipater, and Posidonius who say exactly what you said: The choice of the sacrificial victim is directed by the sentient and divine power which pervades the entire universe.But even more absurd is that other pronouncement of theirs which you adopted: At the moment of sacrifice a change in the entrails takes place; something is added or something taken away; for all things are obedient to the Divine Will. 2.36. Upon my word, no old woman is credulous enough now to believe such stuff! Do you believe that the same bullock, if chosen by one man, will have a liver without a head, and if chosen by another will have a liver with a head? And is it possible that this sudden going or coming of the livers head occurs so that the entrails may adapt themselves to the situation of the person who offers the sacrifice? Do you Stoics fail to see in choosing the victim it is almost like a throw of the dice, especially as facts prove it? For when the entrails of the first victim have been without a head, which is the most fatal of all signs, it often happens that the sacrifice of the next victim is altogether favourable. Pray what became of the warnings of the first set of entrails? And how was the favour of the gods so completely and so suddenly gained?[16] But, you say, Once, when Caesar was offering a sacrifice, there was no heart in the entrails of the sacrificial bull; and, and, since it would have been impossible for the victim to live without a heart, the heart must have disappeared at the moment of immolation. 2.37. How does it happen that you understand the one fact, that the bull could not have lived without a heart and do not realize the other, that the heart could not suddenly have vanished I know not where? As for me, possibly I do not know what vital function the heart performs; if I do I suspect that the bulls heart, as the result of a disease, became much wasted and shrunken and lost its resemblance to a heart. But, assuming that only a little while before the heart was in the sacrificial bull, why do you think it suddenly disappeared at the very moment of immolation? Dont you think, rather, that the bull lost his heart when he saw that Caesar in his purple robe had lost his head?Upon my word you Stoics surrender the very city of philosophy while defending its outworks! For, by your insistence on the truth of soothsaying, you utterly overthrow physiology. There is a head to the liver and a heart in the entrails, presto! they will vanish the very second you have sprinkled them with meal and wine! Aye, some god will snatch them away! Some invisible power will destroy them or eat them up! Then the creation and destruction of all things are not due to nature, and there are some things which spring from nothing or suddenly become nothing. Was any such statement ever made by any natural philosopher? It is made, you say, by soothsayers. Then do you think that soothsayers are worthier of belief than natural philosophers? [17] 2.38. Again, when sacrifices are offered to more than one god at the same time, how does it happen that the auspices are favourable in one case and unfavourable in another? Is it not strange fickleness in the gods to threaten disaster in the first set of entrails and to promise a blessing in the next? Or is there such discord among the gods — often even among those who are nearest of kin — that the entrails of the sacrifice you offer to Apollo, for example, are favourable and of those you offer at the same time to Diana are unfavourable? When victims for the sacrifice are brought up at haphazard it is perfectly clear that the character of entrails that you will receive will depend on the victim chance may bring. Oh! but someone will say, The choice itself is a matter of divine guidance, just as in the case of lots the drawing is directed by the gods! I shall speak of lots presently; although you really do not strengthen the cause of sacrifices by comparing them to lots; but you do weaken the cause of lots by comparing them with sacrifices. 2.39. When I send a slave to Aequimelium to bring me a lamb for a sacrifice and he brings me the lamb which has entrails suited to the exigencies of my particular case, it was not chance, I suppose, but a god that led the slave to that particular lamb! If you say that in this case too chance is, as it were, a sort of lot in accordance with the divine will, then I am sorry that our Stoic friends have given the Epicureans so great an opportunity for laughter, for you know how much fun they make of statements like that. 2.53. Ye gods, how many times were they mistaken in the late civil war! What oracular messages the soothsayers sent from Rome to our Pompeian party then in Greece! What assurances they gave to Pompey! For he placed great reliance in divination by means of entrails and portents. I have no wish to call these instances to mind, and indeed it is unnecessary — especially to you, since you had personal knowledge of them. Still, you are aware that the result was nearly always contrary to the prophecy. But enough on this point: let us now come to portents. [25] 2.56. You believe that the Boeotian bards at Lebadia foretold victory for the Thebans from the crowing of cocks; for cocks, you say, are wont to be silent when defeated and to crow when victorious. Do you really believe that Jupiter would have employed chickens to convey such a message to so great a state? And is it true that these fowls are not accustomed to crow except when they are victorious? But at that time they did crow and they had not yet been victorious. Oh! that was a portent, you say. A fine portent indeed! you talk as if a fish and not a cock had done the crowing! But come; is there any time, day or night, when they are not liable to crow? And if the pleasant sensation — or joy if you will — which comes from victory causes them to crow, then, possibly, joy springing from some other source may have the same effect. 2.57. By the way, Democritus gives a very good explanation of why cocks crow before day. Their food, he says, after it has been digested, is expelled from the craw and is distributed over the entire body. By the time that process is completed they have had sleep enough and begin to crow. And then, in the silence of the night, as Ennius says, they indulge their russet throats in song and beat their flapping wings. In view, then, of the fact that this creature is prone to crow of its own volition at any time, and may be made to crow either by nature or by chance, how did it ever occur to Callisthenes to say that the gods conveyed prophecies to men by the crowing of cocks? [27] 2.72. To understand that belongs to a perfect augur.) After the celebrant has said to his assistant, Tell me when silence appears to exist, the latter, without looking up or about him, immediately replies, Silence appears to exist. Then the celebrant says, Tell me when the chickens begin to eat. They are eating now, is the answer. But what are these birds they are talking about, and where are they? Someone replies, Its poultry. Its in a cage and the person who brought it is called a poulterer, because of his business. These, then, are the messengers of Jove! What difference does it make whether they eat or not? None, so far as the auspices are concerned. But, because of the fact that, while they eat, some food must necessarily fall from their mouths and strike upon the ground (terram pavire), — this at first was called terripavium, and later, terripudium; now it is called tripudium — therefore, when a crumb of food falls from a chickens mouth a tripudium solistimum is announced to the celebrant. [35] 2.76. But we shall discuss the latter point at greater length in other discourses; let us dismiss it for the present.Now let us examine augury as practised among foreign nations, whose methods are not so artificial as they are superstitious. They employ almost all kinds of birds, we only a few; they regard some signs as favourable, we, others. Deiotarus used to question me a great deal about our system of augury, and I him about that of his country. Ye gods! how much they differed! So much that in some cases they were directly the reverse of each other. He employed auspices constantly, we never do except when the duty of doing so is imposed by a vote of the people. Our ancestors would not undertake any military enterprise without consulting the auspices; but now, for many years, our wars have been conducted by pro-consuls and pro-praetors, who do not have the right to take auspices. 2.82. Moreover, there is no uniformity, and no consistent and constant agreement between augurs. Ennius, speaking with reference to the Roman system of augury, said:Then on the left, from out a cloudless sky,Joves thunder rolled its goodly omen forth.But Homers Ajax, in complaining to Achilles of some ferocious deed or other of the Trojans, speaks in this wise:For their success Jove thunders on the right.So we regard signs on the left as best — Greeks and barbarians, those on the right. And yet I am aware that we call favourable signs sinistra, or left-hand signs, even though they may be on the right. Undoubtedly our ancestors in choosing the left side and foreign nations the right were both influenced by what experience had shown them was the more favourable quarter in most cases. 2.83. What a conflict this is! In view, then, of the differences between different nations in the responses, in the manner in which observations are made and in the kinds of birds and signs employed, need I assert that divination is compounded of a little error, a little superstition, and a good deal of fraud?[40] And to these superstitions you have actually joined omens! For example: Aemilia told Paulus that Persa was dead and her father accepted this as an omen. Caecilia said that she surrendered her seat to her sisters daughter. Then you go on and speak of the order of silence, favete linguis and the prerogative, or omen of the elections. This is indeed turning the artillery of ones eloquence and learning against oneself! For while on the watch for these oracles of yours could you be so free and calm of mind that you would have reason and not superstition to guide your course? Now, if a person in the course of his own business or conversation should make some remark, and a word spoken by him happened to apply to what you were doing or thinking, do you really believe that such an accident should cause you either fear or joy?
2. Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, 2.160 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

2.160. As for the pig, it can only furnish food; indeed Chrysippus actually says that its soul was given it to serve as salt and keep it from putrefaction; and because this animal was fitted for the food of man, nature made it the most prolific of all her offspring. Why should I speak of the teeming swarms of delicious fish? or of birds, which afford us so much pleasure that our Stoic Providence appears to have been at times a disciple of Epicurus? and they could not even be caught save by man's intelligence and cunning; — although some birds, birds of flight and birds of utterance as our augurs call them, we believe to have been created for the purpose of giving omens.
3. Lucretius Carus, On The Nature of Things, 1.645-1.664, 2.655-2.659, 5.1081-5.1086 (1st cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

4. Vergil, Georgics, 1.351-1.355, 1.415-1.423 (1st cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.351. Coeus, Iapetus, and Typhoeus fell 1.352. And those sworn brethren banded to break down 1.353. The gates of heaven; thrice, sooth to say, they strove 1.354. Ossa on placeName key= 1.355. Aye, and on Ossa to up-roll amain 1.415. Wields with red hand the levin; through all her bulk 1.416. Earth at the hurly quakes; the beasts are fled 1.417. And mortal hearts of every kindred sunk 1.418. In cowering terror; he with flaming brand 1.419. Athos , or Rhodope, or Ceraunian crag 1.420. Precipitates: then doubly raves the South 1.421. With shower on blinding shower, and woods and coast 1.422. Wail fitfully beneath the mighty blast. 1.423. This fearing, mark the months and Signs of heaven
5. Seneca The Younger, Natural Questions, 2.32.3 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

6. Porphyry, On Abstinence, 3.5.3 (3rd cent. CE - 4th cent. CE)

7. Epicurus, Letters, 116, 115

8. Epicurus, Letters, 116, 115



Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
chaldeans Williams (2012), The Cosmic Viewpoint: A Study of Seneca's 'Natural Questions', 313
chance Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218
cicero Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 63; Gale (2000), Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition, 85
diogenes of sinope Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 62
disciplina auguralis,greek Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 62, 63
disciplina auguralis,pliny on Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 63
disciplina auguralis,porphyry on Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 63
disciplina auguralis,xenophon on Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 62
divination Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218; Gale (2000), Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition, 85
divination and omens. see also mosollamus story,cicero on Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 63
epicureanism Gale (2000), Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition, 85
god and the divine Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218
gods,in the georgics Gale (2000), Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition, 85
jupiter Gale (2000), Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition, 85
mosollamus story,not written by greek Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 62
nature Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218
portents Gale (2000), Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition, 85
providence Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218
rosen,r. r. Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218
seneca Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218
sluiter,i. Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218
socrates Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 62
sorabji,r. Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218
stoicism Gale (2000), Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition, 85
stoics Bar Kochba (1997), Pseudo-Hecataeus on the Jews: Legitimizing the Jewish Diaspora, 63
teleology Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218
wilcox,a.' Del Lucchese (2019), Monstrosity and Philosophy: Radical Otherness in Greek and Latin Culture, 218