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The birds of the night also have crooked talons, such as the owlet,1 the horned owl, and the screech-owl, for instance; the sight of all of which is defective in the day-time. The horned owl is especially funereal, and is greatly abhorred in all auspices of a public nature: it inhabits deserted places, and not only desolate spots, but those of a frightful and inaccessible nature: the monster of the night, its voice is heard, not with any tuneful note, but emitting a sort of shriek. Hence it is that it is looked upon as a direful omen to see it in a city, or even so much as in the day-time. I know, however, for a fact, that it is not portentous of evil when it settles on the top of a private house. It cannot fly whither it wishes in a straight line, but is always carried along by a sidelong movement. A horned owl entered the very sanctuary of the Capitol, in the consulship of Sextus Palpelius Hister and L. Pedanius; in consequence of which, Rome was purified on the nones2 of March in that year.

1 Noetua, bubo, ulula." It is very doubtful what birds are meant by these names. Cuvier has been at some pains to identify them, and concludes that the noctua, or glaux of Aristotle, is the Strix brachyotas of Linnæus, the "short-eared screech-owl;" the bubo, the Strix bubo of Linnæus, and the ulula, the Strix aluco of Linnæus; our madgehowlet, grey or brown owl.

2 Seventh of March. The year of their consulship is not known.

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), EXE´RCITUS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), JUGUM
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SIGNA MILITARIA
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