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[74] Again, do you not think that formerly it was the habit of the celebrants themselves to make observation of the heavens? Now they order the poulterer, and he gives responses!1 We regard lightning on the left as a most favourable omen for everything except for an election, and this exception was made, no doubt, from reasons of political expediency so that the rulers of the State would be the judges of the regularity of an election, whether held to pass judgements in criminal cases, or to enact laws, or to elect magistrates.

"'The consuls, Scipio and Figulus,' you say, 'resigned their office when the augurs rendered a decision based on a letter written by Tiberius Gracchus, to the effect that those consuls had not been elected according to augural law.' Who denies that augury is an art? What I deny is the existence of divination. But you say: ' Soothsayers have the power of divination'; and you mention the fact that, on account of the unexpected death of the person who had suddenly fallen while bringing in the report of the vote of the prerogative century, Tiberius Gracchus introduced the soothsayers into the Senate and they declared that 'the president' had violated augural law.2

1 Apparently Cicero ridicules the idea of a “poulterer” and not the “celebrant” taking the auspices.

2 See this incident more fully described in Cic. N.D. ii. chap. 4.; cf. i. 17. 33. The prerogative century—or the one which voted first at the election—had its rogator, or president, who collected the votes; and the entire assembly, made up of all the electors voting by centuries, had its rogator, usually the consul who received the reports of the subordinate presidents.

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load focus Introduction (William Armistead Falconer, 1923)
load focus Latin (C. F. W. Müller, 1915)
load focus Latin (William Armistead Falconer, 1923)
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