ON DIVINATIONby Cicero
An excerpt from the beginning:
I. It is an old opinion, derived as far back as from the heroic times, and confirmed by the unanimous consent of the Roman people, and indeed of all nations, that there is a species of
- LendMe LendMe™ Learn More
Scanned, proofed and corrected from the original edition for your reading pleasure. (Worth every penny!)
An excerpt from the beginning:
I. It is an old opinion, derived as far back as from the heroic times, and confirmed by the unanimous consent of the Roman people, and indeed of all nations, that there is a species of divination in existence among men, which the Greeks call μαντική, that is to say, a presentiment, and foreknowledge of future events. A truly splendid and serviceable gift, if it only exists in reality; and one by which our mortal nature makes its nearest approach to the power of the Gods. Therefore, as we have done many other things better than the Greeks, so, most especially have we excelled them in giving a name to this most admirable endowment, since our nation derives the name which it gives to it, Divination, from the Gods (divis), while the Greeks derived the title which they gave it, namely μαντική, from madness (μανία). For that is Plato's interpretation of the word.
Now, as far as I know, there is no nation whatever, however polished and learned, or however barbarous and uncivilized, which does not believe it possible that future events may be indicated, and understood, and predicted by certain persons.
In the first place the Assyrians, that I may trace back the authority for this belief to the most remote ages and countries, as a natural consequence of the champaign country in which they lived, and of the vast extent of their territories, which led them to observe the heavens which lay open to their view in every direction, began to take notice also of the paths and motions of the stars; and having taken these observations for some time, they handed down to their posterity information as to what was indicated by their various positions and revolutions. And among the Assyrians, the Chaldaeans, a tribe who had this name not from any art which they professed, but from the district which they inhabited, by a very long course of observation of the stars are considered to have established a complete science, so that it became possible to predict what would happen to each individual, and with what destiny each separate person was born. The Egyptians also are believed to have acquired the knowledge of the same art by a continued practice of it extending through countless ages. But the nature of the Cilicians and Pisidians, and the Pamphylians, who border on them, nations which we ourselves have had under our government, think that future events are pointed out by the flight and voices of birds as the surest of all indications. And when was there ever an instance of Greece sending any colony Aeolia, Ionia, Asia, Sicily of Italy, without consulting the Pythian or Dodonaean oracle, or that of Jupiter Hammon? or when did that nation ever undertake a war without first asking counsel of the Gods?
II. Nor is there only one kind of divination celebrated both in public and in private. For, (to say nothing of the practice of other nations,) how many different kinds have been adopted by our own people. In the first placem the founder of this city, Romulus, is said not only to have founded the city in obedience to the auspices; but also to have been himself an augur of the highest reputation. After him the other kings also had recourse to soothsayers; and after the kings were driven out, no public business was ever transacted, wither at home or in war, without reference to the auspices. And as there appeared to be great power and usefulness in the system of soothsayers (haruspices), in reference to the people's succeeding in their objects, and consulting the Gods, and arriving at an understanding of the meaning of prodigies and averting evil omens; they introduced the whole of their science from Etruria, to prevent the appearance of allowing any kind of divination to be neglected. And as men's minds were often seen to be excited in two manners, without any rules of reason or science, by their own mere uncontrolled and free motion, being sometimes under the influence of frenzy, and at others under that of dreams, our ancestors, thinking that the divination which proceeded from frenzy was contained chiefly in verses of the Sibyl, ordained that there should be ten citizens chosen as interpreters of these compositions....
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews