SPRING was now drawing on, and accordingly1
Hannibal moved out of his winter encampment. He had tried before this to cross the Apennines, but had failed because of the intolerable cold.
And the delay had been attended with the greatest danger and anxiety; for when the Gauls, whom the hope of spoil and pillage had excited to revolt, perceived that instead of harrying and plundering the fields of others, their own lands were the seat of war and were burdened with the winter quarters of both armies, they turned their hatred back again from the Romans upon Hannibal.
But though their leaders laid many a plot against him, their treachery to one another saved him, for they gave him information of these conspiracies with the same inconstancy with which they had conspired. Moreover, changing now his dress and now his headgear,2
he protected himself against their plots by the uncertainty which this gave rise to.
Still, the fear of such plots was another reason for quitting his winter quarters early.
About the same time, on the Ides of March, Gnaeus Servilius entered on his consulship at Rome.
On his then referring the state of the nation to the senate for discussion, their anger at Gaius Flaminius [p. 201]
was renewed. They had chosen two consuls, they said,3
but had only one; for what proper authority or right of auspices did Flaminius possess?
Magistrates, they urged, carried with them this prerogative when they set out from home —from their own and the nation's hearth —after celebrating the Latin Festival, sacrificing on the Alban Mount and duly offering up their vows on the Capitol;
but a private citizen could neither take the auspices with him, nor, if he had left Rome without them, receive them new from the beginning on foreign soil.4
Men's fears were augmented by the prodigies reported simultaneously from many places: that in Sicily the javelins of several soldiers had taken fire, and that in Sardinia, as a horseman was making the round of the night-watch, the same thing had happened to the truncheon which he held in his hand; that many fires had blazed up on the shore; that two shields had sweated blood; that certain soldiers had been struck with lightning; that the sun's disk had seemed to be contracted;
that glowing stones had fallen from the sky at Praeneste; that at Arpi bucklers had appeared in the sky and the sun had seemed to be fighting with the moon; that at Capena two moons had risen in the daytime;
that the waters of Caere had flowed mixed with blood, and that bloodstains had appeared in the water that trickled from the spring of Hercules itself; that at Antium, when some men were reaping, bloody ears of corn had fallen into their basket; that at Falerii the sky had seemed to be rent as it were with a great fissure; and through the opening a bright light had shone;
and that lots5
had shrunk [p. 203]
and that one had fallen out without being touched,6
on which was written, “Mavors7
brandishes his spear;”
that in Rome, about the same time, the statue of Mars on the Appian Way and the images of the wolves had sweated; that at Capua there had been the appearance of a sky on fire and of a moon that fell in the midst of a shower of rain.
Afterwards less memorable prodigies were also given credence: that certain folk had found their goats to have got woolly fleeces; that a hen had changed into a cock and a cock into a hen.
When the consul had laid these reports before the senate exactly as they had come to him and had introduced into the House the men who vouched for their truth, he consulted the Fathers regarding their religious import.
It was voted that these prodigies should be expiated, in part with greater, in part with lesser victims, and that a supplication should be held for three days at all the couches of the gods;
as for the rest, when the decemvirs should have inspected the Books, such rites were to be observed as they should declare, in accordance with the sacred verses,8
to be pleasing to the gods.
Being so admonished by the decemvirs, they decreed that the first gift should be made to Jupiter, a golden thunderbolt weighing fifty pounds; and that Juno and Minerva should be given offerings of silver;
that Juno Regina on the Aventine and Juno Sospita at Lanuvium should receive a sacrifice of greater victims, and that the matrons, each contributing as much as she could afford, should make up a sum of money and carry it as a gift to Juno Regina on the Aventine and there celebrate a lectisternium9
; and that even the very freed-women [p. 205]
should contribute money, in proportion to their10
abilities, for an offering to Feronia.11
These measures being taken, the decemvirs sacrificed at Ardea in the market-place with the greater victims. Finally-the month was now December —victims were slain at the temple of Saturn in Rome and a lectisternium
was ordered-this time senators administered the rite12
a public feast, and throughout the City for a day and a night “Saturnalia” was cried, and the people were bidden to keep that day as a holiday and observe it in perpetuity.13