lesbiassparrow: (Sacred chickens)
[personal profile] lesbiassparrow
I have just discovered the awesome fact that you could keep sacred chickens at home for personal consultation! Apparently Tiberius Gracchus (one of the Gracchi brothers who fought for land reform in Rome) had a coop of them. One morning he consulted their keeper who told him not to go the Campus Martius. Tiberius ignored this excellent advice (and stubbing his foot as he was leaving, plus the fact that three crows attacked him as he left home and tossed a tile at him) only to be killed by a Senatorial lynch mob. Alas, that the sacred chickens could not save him as he and his brother Gaius are both great heroes of mine.

And once in a while apparently the sacred chickens would make a break for it. Gaius Hostilius Mancinus was on his way to Spain as consul, when he decided to consult the chickens. Off they flew into a nearby wood never to be found again. Then when he was about to board a ship a voice cried out 'Stay, Mancinius.' And as if that weren't enough bad luck when he decided to board ship somewhere else a giant snake appeared and then disappeared. These all portended horrible disasters in Spain, which all came to pass. And would you doubt that they would once the sacred chickens got in on the act?

And in other information that will make you wonder how the Romans ever managed to create a mighty empire, the evil omen of a SQUEAKING MOUSE made Fabius Maximus give up his dictatorship and his lieutenant his Mastership of the Horse. I repeat, A MOUSE.

And just so we don't leave out the gods: the goddess Juno gave the Carthaginians victory during the Second Punic War in the battle of Cannae because the consul Varro had when an aedile placed a very handsome boy actor in the wagon of Jupiter Optimus Maximus and hadn't expiated the insult to her honour. During this same war we are told that an child was born with the head of an elephant (never a good sign, not least for the poor labouring mother), that a wolf in Gaul stole a sentry's sword from its sheath, and an ox owned by Gnaeus Domitius cried out "Beware, Rome!" A busy time for omens, indeed.

This information is brought to you by book 1 of Valerius Maximus' Memorable Deeds and Sayings
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lesbiassparrow

August 2011

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