XVII[17arg] Why the first days after the Kalends, Nones and Ides are considered unlucky; and why many avoid also the fourth day before the Kalends, Nones or Ides, on the ground that it is ill-omened.
VERRIUS FLACCUS, in the fourth book of his work On the Meaning of Words, writes 1 that the days immediately following the Kalends, Nones and Ides, which the common people ignorantly call “holidays,” are properly called, and considered, “ill-omened,” for this reason:—“When the city,” he says, “had been recovered from the Senonian Gauls, Lucius Atilius stated in the senate that Quintus Sulpicius, tribune of the soldiers, when on the eve of fighting against the Gauls at the Allia, 2 offered sacrifice in anticipation of that battle on the day after the Ides; that the army of the Roman people was thereupon cut to pieces, and three days later the whole [p. 433] city, except the Capitol, was taken. Also many other senators said that they remembered that whenever with a view to waging war a magistrate of the Roman people had sacrificed on the day after the Kalends, Nones or Ides, in the very next battle of that war the State had suffered disaster. Then the senate referred the matter to the pontiffs, that they might take what action they saw fit. The pontiffs decreed that no offering would properly be made on those days.” Many also avoid the fourth day before the Kalends, Nones and Ides, as ill-omened. It is often inquired whether any religious reason for that observance is recorded. I myself have found nothing in literature pertaining to that matter, except that Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius, in the fifth book of his Annals, says that the prodigious slaughter of the battle of Cannae occurred on the fourth day before the Nones of August. 3