"When you behold such striking instances of the effects of honouring or neglecting the deity, do you perceive what an act of impiety we are about to perpetrate, scarcely emerging from the wreck of our former misconduct and calamity?
We possess a city founded under auspices and auguries; not a spot is there in it that is not full of religious rites and of the gods: the days for the anniversary sacrifices are not more definitely stated, than are the places in which they are to be performed.
All these gods, both public and private, do ye, Romans, pretend to forsake. What similarity does your conduct bear [to that] which lately during the siege was beheld with no less admiration by the enemy than by yourselves in that excellent Caius Fabius, when he descended from the citadel amid the Gallic weapons, and performed on the Quirinal hill the solemn rites of the Fabian family?
Is it your wish that the family religious rites should not be intermitted even during war, but that the public rites and the Roman gods should be deserted even in time of peace, and that the pontiffs and flamens should be more negligent of public religious ceremonies, than a private individual in the anniversary rite of a particular family?
Perhaps some one may say, that we will either perform these duties at Veii, or that we will send our priests hither from thence in order to perform them; neither of which can be done, without infringing on the established forms.
For not to enumerate all the sacred rites severally and all the gods, whether in the banquet of Jupiter can the lectisternium be performed in any other place, save in the Capitol?
What shall I say of the eternal fire of Vesta, and of the statue, which, as the pledge of empire, is kept under the safeguard of her temple? What, O Mars Gradivus, and you, father Quirinus, of your Ancilia? Is it right that these sacred things, coeval with the city, some of them more ancient than the origin of the city, should be abandoned to profanation?
And, observe the difference existing between us and our ancestors. They handed down to us certain sacred rites to be performed by us on the Alban and on the Lavinian mounts. Was it in conformity with religion that these sacred rites were transferred to us to Rome from the cities of our enemies? shall we transfer them hence [p. 387]
to Veii, an enemy's city, without impiety?
Come, recollect how often sacred rites are performed anew, because some ceremony of our country had been omitted through negligence or accident. On a late occasion, what circumstance, after the prodigy of the Alban lake, proved a remedy to the state distressed by the Veientian war, but the repetition of the sacred rites and the renewal of the auspices?
But further, as if duly mindful of ancient religious usages, we have both transferred foreign deities to Rome, and have established new ones. Very recently, imperial Juno was transferred from Veii, and had her dedication performed on a day how distinguished for the extraordinary zeal of the matrons, and with what a full attendance!
We have directed a temple to be erected to Aius Locutius, in consequence of the heavenly voice heard in the New Street. To our other solemnities we have added the Capitoline games, and, by direction of the senate, we have founded a new college for that purpose.
Which of these things need we have done, if we were to leave the Roman city together with the Gauls? if it was not voluntarily we remained in the Capitol for so many months of siege; if we were retained by the enemy through motives of fear?
We are speaking of the sacred rites and of the temples; what, pray, of the priests? Does it not occur to you, what a degree of profaneness would be committed in respect of them. The Vestals, forsooth, have but that one settlement, from which nothing ever disturbed them, except the capture of the city. It is an act of impiety for the flamen Dialis to remain for a single night without the city.
Do ye mean to make them Veientian instead of Roman priests? And shall the virgins forsake thee, O Vesta? And shall the flamen by living abroad draw on himself and on his country such a weight of guilt every night?
What of the other things, all of which we transact under auspices within the Pomaerium, to what oblivion, to what neglect do we consign them?
The assemblies of the Curias, which comprise military affairs; the assemblies of the Centuries, at which you elect consuls and military tribunes, when can they be held under auspices, unless where they are wont [to be held]? Shall we transfer them to Veii?
or whether for the purpose of holding their elections shall the people assemble at so great inconvenience into a city deserted by gods and men? [p. 388]