Although Africa had not as yet been openly declared a province, the senate keeping it a secret, I suppose, lest the Carthaginians should get intelligence of it beforehand, nevertheless, the most sanguine hopes were entertained in the city, that the enemy would be vanquished that year in Africa, and that the termination of the Punic war was at hand.
This circumstance had filled the minds of the people with superstitious notions, and they were strongly disposed to credit and propagate accounts of prodigies, and for that reason more were reported.
It was said, “that two suns had been seen; that it had become light for a time during the night; that at Setia a meteor had been seen, extending from the east to the west; that at Tarracina a gate, at Anagnia a gate and the wall in many places, had been struck by lightning; that in the temple of Juno Sospita, at Lanuvium, a noise had been heard, accompanied with a tremendous crash.”
There was a supplication for one day for the purpose of expiating these, and the nine days' sacred rite was celebrated on account of a shower of stones.
In addition to these cares, they had to deliberate about the reception of the Idaean Mother; for besides that Marcus Valerius, one of the ambassadors who had come before the rest, had brought word that she would be in Italy [p. 1250]
forthwith, a recent account had arrived that she was at Tarracina.
The senate was occupied with the determination of a matter of no small importance, namely, who was the most virtuous man in the state.
Every one doubtless would wish for himself the victory in this contest, rather than any office of command, or any honours, which could be conferred by the suffrages either of the senate or the people.
Publius Scipio, son of Cneius who had fallen in Spain, a youth not yet of the age to be quaestor, they adjudged to be the best of the good men in the whole state.
Though I would willingly record it for the information of posterity, had the writers who lived in the times nearest to those events mentioned by what virtues of his they were induced to come to this determination, yet I will not obtrude my own opinion, formed upon conjecture, relative to a matter buried in the obscurity of antiquity.
Publius Cornelius was ordered to go to Ostia, attended by all the matrons, to meet the goddess; to receive her from the ship himself, and, when landed, place her in the hands of the matrons to convey her away.
After the ship arrived at the mouth of the Tiber, Scipio, according to the directions given him, sailed out into the open sea, and, receiving the goddess from the priests, conveyed her to land.
The chief matrons in the state received her, among whom the name of Claudia Quinta alone is worthy of remark. Her fame, which, as it is recorded, was before that time dubious, became, in consequence of her having assisted in so solemn a business, illustrious for chastity among posterity.
The matrons, passing her from one to another in orderly succession, conveyed the goddess into the temple of Victory, in the Palatium, on the day before the ides of April, which was made a festival, while the whole city poured out to meet her; and, placing censers before their doors, on the way by which she was conveyed in procession, kindled frankincense, and prayed that she would enter the city of Rome willingly and propitiously.
The people in crowds carried presents to the goddess in the Palatium; a lectisternium was celebrated, with games called the Megalesian.