In Rome or near it many prodigies occurred that winter, or —as often happens when men's thoughts are once turned upon religion —many were reported and too easily credited. Some of these portents were: that a free-born infant of six months had cried “Triumph!”
in the provision market; that in the cattle market an ox had climbed,
of its own accord, to the third storey of a house and then, alarmed by the outcry of the occupants, had thrown itself down;
that phantom ships had been seen gleaming in the sky; that the temple of Hope, in the provision market, had been struck by lightning; that in Lanuvium a slain victim had stirred, and a raven had flown down into Juno's temple and alighted on her very couch; that in the district of Amiternum, in many places, apparitions of men in shining raiment had appeared in the distance, but had not drawn near to anyone;
that in the Picentian country there had been a shower of pebbles; that at Caere the lots had shrunk;1
that in Gaul a wolf had snatched a sentry's sword from its scabbard and run off with it.
For the other prodigies the decemviri were commanded to consult the Books,2
but for [p. 187]
the shower of pebbles in the Picentian country a3
nine days' sacrifice was proclaimed. They then set about the expiation of the other portents, and in this virtually all the citizens bore a part.
First of all, the city was purified, and major victims were offered up to the designated gods;
a gift of gold weighing forty pounds was carried to Lanuvium for Juno, and a bronze statue was dedicated to Juno, by the matrons, on the Aventine; a lectisternium
was ordered at Caere, where the lots had shrunk; and a supplication was ordered to be made to Fortune on Mount Algidus;
in Rome, too, a lectisternium
was specially appointed for Juventas, and a supplication at the temple of Hercules, and later the entire people was commanded to observe this rite at all the pulvinaria;4
also five major victims were slain in honour of the Genius of the Roman People; and Gaius Atilius Serranus the praetor was ordered to make a vow, “if the commonwealth should abide for ten years in its present state.”
The making of these vows and expiations, as prescribed by the Sibylline Books, went far to alleviate men's anxiety concerning their relations with the gods.