SPRING was now at hand, when Hannibal quitted his winter quarters, having both attempted in vain to cross the Apennines, from the intolerable cold, and having remained with great danger and alarm.
The Gauls, whom the hope of plunder and spoil had collected, when, instead of being themselves engaged in carrying and driving away booty from the fields of others, they saw their own lands made the seat of war, and burdened by the wintering of the armies of both parties, turned their hatred back again from the Romans upon Hannibal;
and though plots were frequently concerted [p. 766]
against him by their chieftains, he was preserved by the treachery they manifested towards each other; disclosing their conspiracy with the same inconstancy with which they had conspired; and by changing sometimes his dress, at other times the fashion of his hair, he protected himself from treachery by deception.
However, this fear was the cause of his more speedily quitting his winter quarters. Meanwhile Cneius Servilius, the consul, entered upon his office at Rome, on the ides of March.
There, when he had consulted the senate on the state of the republic in general, the indignation against Flaminius was rekindled. They said “that they had created indeed two consuls, that they had but one; for what regular authority had the other, or what auspices?
That their magistrates took these with them from home, from the tutelar deities of themselves and the state, after the celebration of the Latin holidays; the sacrifice upon the mountain being completed, and the vows duly offered up in the Capitol:
that neither could an unofficial individual take the auspices, nor could one who had gone from home without them, take them new, and for the first time, in a foreign soil.”
Prodigies announced from many places at the same time, augmented the terror: in Sicily, that several darts belonging to the soldiers had taken fire; and in Sardinia, that the staff of a horseman, who was going His rounds upon a wall, took fire as he held it in his hand; that the shores had blazed with frequent fires; that two shields had sweated blood at Praeneste;
that redhot stones had fallen from the heavens at Arpi; that shields were seen in the heavens, and the sun fighting with the moon, at Capena; that two moons rose in the daytime; that the waters of Caere had flowed mixed with blood; and that even the fountain of Hercules had flowed sprinkled with spots of blood.
In the territory of Antium, that bloody ears of corn had fallen into the basket as they were reaping. At Falerii, that the heavens appeared cleft as if with a great chasm; and, that where it had opened, a vast light had shone forth; that the prophetic tablets had spontaneously become less; and that one had fallen out thus inscribed, “Mars shakes his spear.”
During the same time, that the statue of Mars at Rome, on the Appian way, had sweated at the sight of images of wolves.
At Capua, that there had been the appearance of the heavens being on fire, and of the moon as falling amidst rain.
After these, credit [p. 767]
was given to prodigies of less magnitude: that the goats of certain persons had borne wool; that a hen had changed herself into a cock; and a cock into a hen:
these things having been laid before the senate as reported, the authors being conducted into the senate-house, the consul took the sense of the fathers on religious affairs.
It was decreed that those prodigies should be expiated, partly with full-grown, partly with sucking victims; and that a supplication should be made at every shrine for the space of three days;
that the other things should be done accordingly as the gods should declare in their oracles to be agreeable to their will when the decemviri had examined the books.
By the advice of the decemviri it was decreed, first, that a golden thunderbolt of fifty pounds' weight should be made as an offering to Jupiter; that offerings of silver should be presented to Juno and Minerva; that sacrifices of full-grown victims should be offered to Juno Regina on the Aventine; and to Juno Sospita at Lanuvium; that the matrons, contributing as much money as might be convenient to each, should carry it to the Aventine, as a present to Juno Regina; and that a lectisternium should be celebrated.
Moreover, that the very freed-women should, according to their means, contribute money from which a present might be made to Feronia. When these things were done, the decemviri sacrificed with the larger victims in the forum at Ardea.
Lastly, it being now the month of December, a sacrifice was made at the temple of Saturn at Rome, and a lectisternium ordered, in which senators prepared the couch and a public banquet.
Proclamation was made through the city, that the Saturnalia should be kept for a day and a night; and the people were commanded to account that day as a holiday, and observe it for ever.