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auspicium


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Literally ‘bird‐watching’, but the term was applied to various types of divination. There were five types of auspical sign: from the sky (thunder and lightning), from birds (their number, position, flight, cries, and feeding), from sacred chickens (kept hungry in a cage; if food fell from their beaks when they were eating, this was an excellent sign), from quadrupeds (e.g. a wolf eating grass), and from unusual, threatening occurrences. They were either unsolicited or solicited. Through the auspices the gods only expressed their approval or disapproval of an action either contemplated or in progress. They were valid for one day only, and pertained solely to the time of an action, not to its substance. Auguries were the auspices that pertained not only to timing but also to substance. At inaugurations of priests and temples the deity gave approval not only for the day of the ceremony but also for the person or the place to be inaugurated. The auguries had no time limit, and to remove their effects a special ceremony was necessary. The auguries could be conducted only by the augurs; any person could use the auspices, hence the division into private and public auspices. The latter were administered by the magistrates. All public acts were performed after a consultation of solicited auspices, e.g. elections, census, military operations.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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