Ides of March

The big day for us haruspexes and other soothsayers!

Although Shakespeare does not tell us what prognosticatory technology was used by the Soothsayer who leapt forward to warn Caesar of the day’s danger, we are told, by Cicero and Suetonius, that it was indeed an Etruscan haruspex (they were always Etruscan), Spurinna, who interpreted the strange appearance of the viscera upon Caesar’s sacrifice of an ox: a missing heart, a malformed liver. In Cicero’s two books on divination, he moves from the position that, while we cannot understand the way haruspicy, or more broadly extispicy, works (maybe by a divine force guiding the choice of sacrificial animal, if not indeed causing sudden changes to the entrails), we should accept it since it was so widely believed, to a more skeptical position, doubting either of those possibilities and scoffing at the idea that Caesar’s sacrifice could have lived without a heart. (Public portents in Republican Rome, Susanne William Rasmussen.)

Etruscan bronze model of divinatory liver

Etruscan bronze model of divinatory liver


It appears, by the way, that I was wrong about the use of chickens. However, that’s what we have here on Sackett Street, while oxen or even sheep are hard to come by, so I’m sticking to it.

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3 thoughts on “Ides of March

  1. anna says:

    Thanks for this topical and interesting tidbit, Ms. Haruspex.

  2. schwa says:

    Truly fascinating! Thanks!

  3. […] little something to read on Haruspicy on the Ides of March. I have only glanced at it myself. Here‘s what I said on […]

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