Cicero, de Haruspicum Responso (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Har.].
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What games, then, are they which the soothsayers say have not been performed with due diligence, and have been polluted? Those of which the immortal gods themselves and the blessed mother Cybele chose you—you, O Cnaeus Lentulus, by the hands of whose ancestor she was originally received—to be a spectator. And unless you had chosen to be a spectator of the Megalesia on that day, I do not know whether we should have been allowed to be give and to complain of these things. For an enormous multitude of slaves in a state of great excitement, collected out of all the streets by this religious aedile, burst in on a sudden upon the stage from all the arch-ways and doors at a given signal. Your virtue,—yours, I say, O Cnaeus Lentulus,—was at that crisis shown to be equal to that formerly displayed by your ancestor as a private individual. The senate standing up, and the Roman knights and all virtuous men, followed you, and your name and your command, and your voice, aspect, and authority, when he had handed over the senate and people of Rome, hampered by the dense body in which they were sitting, chained as it were to the spectacle, and hindered by the crowd and narrow space, to a multitude of slaves and buffoons.

23 Shall we say that, if a sacred dancer stops, or a flute-player has on a sudden ceased to play, or if a boy [Note] with both father and mother alive has ceased to touch the ground, or has lost his hold of the sacred car, or of the reins, or if an aedile has used a wrong word or made the slightest mistake, then the games have not been duly celebrated, and those mistakes are forced to be expiated and the minds of the immortal gods are appeased by their repetition; and yet if the games are suddenly changed from a scene of joy to one of terror,—if they have been, not interrupted, but broken up and put an

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end to,—if those days of festival turned out nearly fatal to the through the wickedness of that man who wished to turn the games into a time of grief,—shall we doubt what games that noise warns us have been polluted?

24 And if we wish to recollect those things which have been handed down to us traditionally about each of the gods, we have heard that this mighty Mother; whose games were thus violated and polluted, and turned almost to a massacre and to the destruction of the city, does roam over the fields and through the groves with a certain degree of noise and roaring.

ch. 12

She, then, she it is, who has displayed to the Roman people these tokens of wickedness, and revealed to them these indications of danger. For why should I speak of those games which our ancestors ordered to be performed and celebrated on the Palatine Hill, in front of the temple, in the very sight of the mighty Mother, on the day of the Megalesia? [Note] which are in their institution and in the manner in which they are celebrated, above all other games chaste, solemn, and holy; in which games that great man Publius Africanus the elder, in his second consulship, gave for the first time the senate a place in front of the seats belonging to the people. Why need I tell how that foul pestilence polluted these games when if any freeman came near them either as a spectator or from some motive of religion, he was driven back by force and no matron approached them because of the number and violence of the slaves? And so these games—the reverence paid to which is so great that the goddess did not come to this city without having been sent for from the most distant countries,—which are the only games which have not even a Latin name, so that by their very name the religion is declared to have been a foreign one and imported hither and to have been undertaken in the name of the mighty Mother,—these games, I say, were celebrated by slaves, and had slaves alone for the spectators, and in every part, in this man's aedileship, were the Megalesia of slaves.

25 O ye immortal gods! How could you speak more plainly to us if you were living

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among and associating with us? You show us and plainly tell us that those games were profaned. What can be mentioned more deformed, polluted, altered and perverted, than for the whole body of slaves, as if they had been liberated by the permission of the magistrates, to be turned loose into one theatre, and set as guards over another, so that one body of spectators might be exposed to the power of slaves, and that the other might consist entirely of slaves? If during the games a swarm of bees had come on the stage, we should think it necessary to send for the soothsayers out of Etruria; and shall we all see on a sudden such vast swarms of slaves let loose upon the Roman people, blocked up and shut in, and not be moved by that? And perhaps, in the case of a swarm of bees, the soothsayers would warn us from the written books of the Etruscans to guard against the slaves.

26 That then which we should guard against, if indicated by some disjointed prodigy admitting of divers interpretations, shall we not be afraid of when it is its own prodigy, and when the danger is in that very thing from which danger is dreaded? Were such the Megalesia which your father celebrated? Did your uncle celebrate them in such a manner as this? And then he makes mention to me of his family, when he would rather celebrate the games after the fashion of Athenio or Spartacus, than like Caius or Appius Claudius. When these great men were celebrating games, they ordered all the slaves to depart from the theatre. But you turned slaves into one, and turned free men out of the other. Therefore they, who formerly used to be separated from free men by the voice of the herald, now, at your games, separated free men from themselves not by their voice, but by force.

ch. 13

Did not even this occur to you, being a priest so well acquainted with the Sibylline oracles, that our ancestors derived these games from the Sibylline books? if those books are yours, which you consult with imperious intentions, and read with profane eyes, and handle with polluted hands.

Cicero, de Haruspicum Responso (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Cic. Har.].
<<Cic. Har. 19 Cic. Har. 24 (Latin) >>Cic. Har. 29

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