"As you consider these momentous effects1
upon the affairs of men, of serving the deity and of neglecting him, do you begin, Quirites, to perceive how, though yet scarce clear of the wreckage of our former guilt and calamity, we are headed towards a grievous sin?
We have a City founded with due observance of auspice and augury; no corner of it is not permeated by ideas of religion and the gods; for our annual sacrifices, the days are no more fixed than are the places where they may be performed.
Do you intend, Quirites, to abandon all these gods, both of state and of family? How squares your conduct with that of the noble young man Gaius Fabius in the recent siege, which the enemy beheld with no less astonishment and admiration than yourselves, when he descended from the Citadel through the missiles of the Gauls and offered the annual sacrifice of the Fabian clan on the Quirinal Hill?
What? Would you suffer no interruption, even in war, of family rites, but desert the national worship and the gods of Rome in time of peace?
Would you have the pontiffs and the flamens less careful of the ceremonies of the state religion than a private citizen has been of the anniversary of his clan? Perhaps someone may say that we shall either do these things at Veii, or thence dispatch our priests to Rome to do them;
but of these courses neither can be followed without violation of the sacred usages.
For, not to enumerate all the kinds of rites and all the gods, is it possible at the feast of Jupiter2
that the couch should be spread elsewhere than in the Capitol? Why need I speak of Vesta's eternal fires, and the image3
which is preserved as a pledge of empire in her temple? or of your sacred [p. 177]
O Mars Gradivus and Quirinus our Father?5
All these holy things would you leave behind on unconsecrated ground —things coeval with the City, and some more ancient than its origin?
"And mark what a difference between us and our forefathers! They handed down to us certain rites to be solemnized on the Alban Mount and in Lavinium. But if we scrupled to transfer sacred rites from hostile cities to ourselves in Rome, can we shift them without sin from Rome to Veii, city of our enemies?
Recollect, I beg you, how often sacrifices are renewed because some point of antique ritual has been, through carelessness or accident, omitted. What was it, a while ago, after the portent of the Alban Lake, that brought relief to the commonwealth —then in the throes of war with Veii —if not a renewal of the sacred rites and auspices?
But, more than that, like men mindful of their old religious fervour, we have both brought in foreign deities to Rome and established new ones.
Queen Juno was lately conveyed from Veii and enshrined on the Aventine, and how notable was that day, for the zeal of the matrons and the throng! We have ordered a temple to be built for Aius Locutius because of the voice from heaven, clearly heard in the Nova Via.
We have added Capitoline Games to the other annual festivals, and by authority of the senate have established a new college for this purpose. Was there any of these things we needed to have undertaken, if we meant to retire from Rome along with the Gauls; if we remained not voluntarily in the Capitol, through so many months of siege, but constrained by fear of the enemy?
We talk of sacred rites and temples; [p. 179]
pray, what about the priests? Do you never think6
what a sacrilege you are about? The Vestals surely have but that one dwelling-place, from which nothing ever caused them to remove but the capture of the City; the Flamen Dialis may not lie for a single night outside the City, without sin.
Will you make these priests Veientine instead of Roman? Shall thy Virgins forsake thee, Vesta, and the Flamen, as he dwells abroad, bring, night after night, such guilt upon himself and the republic?
What about the other matters nearly all of which7
we transact, after taking auspices, within the pomerium? To what oblivion and neglect do we consign them?
The curiate comitia which deals with the business of war, the centuriate comitia, where you elect the consuls and military tribunes —where can these be held, with due observance of the auspices, save in the customary places?
Shall we transfer them to Veii? Or shall the people, for the sake of the comitia assemble with enormous inconvenience in this City, forsaken of god and man?