HERE, wielding his Quirinal augur-staff,
Girt with scant shift and bearing on his left
The sacred shield, Picus appeared enthroned.
In these verses
that Virgil was in error, alleging that he did not notice that the words ipse Quirinali lituo
lacked something. “For,” said [p. 401]
he, “if we have not observed that something is lacking, the sentence seems to read ' girt with staff and scant shift,' which,” says he,“is utterly absurd; for since the lituus
is a short wand, curved at its thicker end, such as the augurs use, how on earth can one be looked upon as ' girt with a lituus?
As a matter of fact, it was Hyginus himself who failed to notice that this expression, like very many others, contains an ellipsis. For example, when we say “Marcus Cicero, a man of great eloquence” and “Quintus Roscius, an actor of consummate grace,” neither of these phrases is full and complete, but to the hearer they seem full and complete. As Vergil wrote in another place:
Victorious Butes of huge bulk,
that is, having huge bulk, and also in another passage:
Into the ring he hurled gauntlets of giant weight, and similarly:
A house of gore and cruel feasts, dark, huge within,
so then it would seem that the phrase in question ought to be interpreted as “Picus was with the Quirinal staff,” just as we say “the statue was with a large head,” and in fact est, erat
are often omitted, with elegant effect and without any loss of meaning.
And since mention has been made of the lituus,
I must not pass over a question which obviously may be asked, whether the augurs' lituus
is called after the trumpet of the same name, or whether the [p. 403]
trumpet derived its name lituus
from the augurs' staff; for both have the same form and both alike are curved.
But if, as some think, the trumpet was called lituus
from its sound, because of the Homeric expression λίγξε βιός,
The bow twanged,
it must be concluded that the augural staff was called litmus
from its resemblance to the trumpet. And Virgil uses that word also as synonymous with tuba
He even faced the fray
Conspicuous both with clarion (lituo) and with spear.