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NOT only was an earthquake regularly reported, and expiatory offerings made on that account, but I also find it mentioned in early records, that report was made to the senate when the spears of Mars 1 had moved in the sanctuary in the Regia. 2 Because of such an occurrence, a decree of the senate was passed in the consulship of Marcus Antonius and Aulus Postumius, 3 of which this is a copy: “Whereas Gaius Julius, son of Lucius, the pontifex, has reported that the spears of Mars have moved in the sanctuary in the Regia, the senate has therefore decreed with reference to that matter, that Marcus Antonius the consul should make expiation to Jupiter and Mars with full-grown victims, and with unweaned victims to such of the other gods as he thought proper. They decided that it should be regarded as sufficient for him to have sacrificed with these. If there should be any need of additional victims, the additional offerings should be made with red victims.”

Inasmuch as the senate called some victims succidaneae, it is often inquired what that word means. [p. 333] Also in the comedy of Plautus which is entitled Epidicus I hear that inquiry is made about that same word, which occurs in these verses: 4

Should I the victim of your folly be
And let you sacrifice my back to it,
As substitute for yours?
Now it is said that the victims were called succidaneae —which is equivalent to succaedaneae, the diphthong ae, according to the custom in compound words, being changed to i—because if the expiation was not effected by the first victims, other victims were brought and killed after them; and since these, after the first had already been offered, were substituted for the sake of making atonement and were “slain in succession to” the others, they were called succidaneae, 5 the letter i, of course, being pronounced long; for I hear that some barbarously shorten that letter in this word.

Moreover, it is on the same linguistic principle that praecidanea is applied to those victims which are offered on the day before the regular sacrifices. Also the sow is called praecidalea 6 which it was usual to offer up to Ceres before the harvesting of the new crops, for the sake of expiation in case any had failed to purify a defiled household, or had performed that rite in an improper manner.

But that a sow and certain victims are called praecidaneae, as I have said, is a matter of common knowledge; that some festivals are called praecidaneae is a fact I think that is not known to the general public. Therefore I have quoted a passage from the fifth book of the treatise which Ateius Capito compiled On Pontifical Law: 7 “Tiberius [p. 335] Coruncanius, the pontifex maximus, appointed feriae praecidaneae, or “a preparatory festival,” for a day of ill-omen. The college of pontiffs voted that there need be no religious scruple against celebrating the feriae praecidaneae on that day.” 8

1 The spears sacred to Mars and the sacred shields (ancilia) were said to move of their own accord when danger threatened. According to Dio, xliv. 17, they shook violently before the death of Caesar.

2 A building in the Roman Forum, near the temple of Vesta, the official headquarters of the pontifex maximus. According to tradition, it was built and dwelt in by Numa. It contained a sanctuary of Mars, in which the sacred spears and shields (ancilia) were sometimes kept. Dio, however, xliv. 17, tells us that at the time of Caesar's death they were in his house, i. e. the domus public (see Suet. Jul. xlvi.).

3 99 B. C.

4 139 f.

5 From sub and caedo.

6 From prae and caedo, “slay beforehand.”

7 Fr. 8, Huschke; 1, Bremer.

8 So little is known about the feriae praecidaneae that it is not easy to tell whether this vote was for that occasion only (“on that day” ) or was general (“on such a day” ). Since Gellius, v. 17. 2, quotes Verrius Flaccus as saying that no sacrifice could properly be made on a dies ater, the former seems the more probable. In any case, the action of Coruncanius was evidently criticized, and his colleagues came to his rescue. Possibly preliminary sacrifices might be offered on such a day, or praecidaneae as applied to feriae may not have involved sacrifices. The statement in Smith's Dict. of Antiq. 3rd ed., ii. p. 839, that feriae praecidaneae were “often” dies atri, and were “on certain occasions” inaugurated by the chief pontiff, does not seem warranted by this passage, which is the only one in which the phrase occurs.

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