previous next


The Tuscan books inform us, that there are nine Gods who discharge thunder-storms, that there are eleven different kinds of them, and that three of them are darted out by Jupiter. Of these the Romans retained only two, ascribing the diurnal kind to Jupiter, and the nocturnal to Summanus2; this latter kind being more rare, in consequence of the heavens being colder, as was mentioned above. The Etrurians also suppose, that those which are named Infernal burst out of the ground; they are produced in the winter and are particularly fierce and direful, as all things are which proceed from the earth, and are not generated by or proceeding from the stars, but from a cause which is near at hand, and of a more disorderly nature. As a proof of this it is said, that all those which proceed from the higher regions strike obliquely, while those which are termed terrestrial strike in a direct line. And because these fall from matter which is nearer to us, they are supposed to proceed from the earth, since they leave no traces of a rebound; this being the effect of a stroke coming not from below, but from an opposite quarter. Those who have searched into the subject more minutely suppose, that these come from the planet Saturn, as those that are of a burning nature do from Mars. In this way it was that Volsinium, the most opulent town of the Tuscans, was entirely consumed by lightning3. The first of these strokes that a man receives, after he has come into possession of any property, is termed Familiar4, and is supposed to prognosticate the events of the whole of his life. But it is not generally supposed that they predict events of a private nature for a longer space than ten years, unless they happen at the time of a first marriage or a birth-day; nor that public predictions extend beyond thirty years5, unless with respect to the founding of colonies6.

1 Seneca gives us an account of the opinions of the Tuscans; Nat. Quæst. ii. 32; and Cicero refers to the "libri fulgurales" of the Etrurians; De Divin. i. 72.

2 According to Hardouin, "Summanus est Deus summus Manium, idem Orcus et Pluto dictus." Lemaire, i. 349; he is again referred to by our author, xxix. 14; Ovid also mentions him, Fast. vi. 731, with the remark, "quisquis is est."

3 The city of Bolsena is supposed to occupy the site of the ancient Volsinium. From the nature of the district in which it is situate, it is perhaps more probable, that the event alluded to in the text was produced by a volcanic eruption, attended by lightning, than by a simple thunderstorm.

4 "Vocant et familiaria.....quæ prima fiunt familiam suam cuique indepto." This remark is explained by the following passage from Seneca; Nat. Quæst. ii. 47. "Hæc sunt fulmina, quæ primo accepto patrimonio, in novo hominis aut urbis statu fiunt." This opinion, as well as most of those of our author, respecting the auguries to be formed from thunder, is combated by Seneca; ubi supra, § 48.

5 This opinion is also referred to by Seneca. in the following passage; "privata autem fulmina negant ultra decimum annum, publica ultra trigesimum posse deferri;" ubi supra.

6 "in deductione oppidorum;" according to Hardouin, Lemaire, i. 350, "quum in oppida coloniee deducuntur."

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (9 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 1.74
  • Cross-references to this page (3):
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (5):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: