Before the consuls set out there were nine days of rites,1
because stones had rained from the sky at Veii.
Following mention of one prodigy, as usual, others also were reported: that at Minturnae the Temple of Jupiter and the grove of Marica,2
also at Atella the city wall and a gate had been struck by [p. 359]
To make it more terrible, the men of3
Minturnae added that there had been a river of blood in the gate. And at Capua a wolf had entered a gate at night and mangled a sentry.
These prodigies were atoned for with full-grown victims, and a single day of prayer was observed by decree of the pontiffs. Then again the nine days of rites were repeated, because in the Armilustrum4
men saw a rain of stones.
Relieved of their religious scruples, men were troubled again by the report that at Frusino there had been born a child as large as a four-year-old, and not so much a wonder for size as because, just as at Sinuessa two years before,5
it was uncertain whether male or female.
In fact the soothsayers summoned from Etruria said it was a terrible and loathsome portent; it must be removed from Roman territory, far from contact with earth, and drowned in the sea.
They put it alive into a chest, carried it out to sea and threw it overboard. The pontiffs likewise decreed that thrice nine maidens should sing a hymn as they marched through the city.6
While they were in the Temple of Jupiter Stator, learning that hymn, composed by Livius the poet, the Temple of Juno the Queen on the Aventine was struck by lightning.
That this portent concerned the matrons was the opinion given by the soothsayers, and that the goddess must be appeased by a gift;
whereupon the matrons domiciled in the city of Rome or within ten miles of it were summoned by an edict of the curule aediles to the Capitol. And from their own number they themselves chose twenty-five, to whom they [p. 361]
should bring a contribution from their dowries.7
Out of that a golden basin was made as a gift and carried to the Aventine, and the matrons after due purification offered sacrifice.
At once a day was appointed by the decemvirs for another sacrifice to the same goddess; and the order of procedure was as follows: from the Temple of Apollo8
two white cows were led through the Porta Carmentalis into the city; behind them were carried two statues of Juno the Queen in cypress wood.
Then the seven and twenty maidens in long robes marched, singing their hymn in honour of Juno the Queen, a song which to the untrained minds of that time may have deserved praise, but now, if repeated, would be repellent and uncouth.9
Behind the company of maidens followed the decemvirs wearing laurel garlands and purple-bordered togas.
From the gate they proceeded along the Vicus Iugarius into the Forum. In the Forum the procession halted, and passing a rope from hand to hand the maidens advanced, accompanying the sound of the voice by beating time with their feet.
Then by way of the Vicus Tuscus and the Velabrum, through the Forum Boarium they made their way to the Clivus Publicius10
and the Temple of Juno the Queen. There the two victims were sacrificed by the decemvirs and the cypress statues borne into the temple.