were soothsayers or diviners, who interpreted the will of the gods. They
originally came to Rome from Etruria, whence haruspices were often sent for
by the Romans on important occasions (Liv.
; Cic. Catil. 3.8
; de Div.
2.4, 11). The art
of the haruspices resembled in many respects that of the augurs; but they
never acquired that political importance which the latter possessed, and
were regarded rather as means for ascertaining the will of the gods than as
possessing any religious authority. They did not in fact form any part of
the ecclesiastical polity of the Roman state during the republic; they are
never called sacerdotes,
they did not form a
collegium, and had no magister at their head. The mere fact that they were
salaried marks them off sharply from the national priesthoods (C. I.
6.2161; Eph. Epigr.
iii. p. 91). The account
of Dionysius (2.22
) that the haruspices
were instituted by Romulus, and that one was chosen from each tribe, is
opposed to all the other authorities, and is manifestly incorrect. Claudius
first (Tac. Ann. 11.15
) founded a collegium
of haruspices, which consisted of sixty members (C. I. L.
6.2161). it is an error of the older commentators to suppose that this
collegium existed before his time. cicero (de Div.
in speaking of a summus haruspex,
means only a
soothsayer of high distinction. He may, however, have been the head of a
school in Etruria.
The art of the haruspices, which was called haruspicina,
consisted (1) in explaining and interpreting the
will of the gods from the appearance of the entrails (extra
) of animals offered in sacrifice, whence they are
sometimes called extispices,
and their art
de Div. 2.1. 1
, 26; Suet. Nero 56
); (2) in dealing with the significance of
extraordinary phenomena in nature, to which the general name of portenta
was given (Valer. Max. 1.1.1; Cic. de Harusp. Resp. 9
, 18; Liv. 1.56
), and averting the evils portended by
thunder-bolts (cf. Müller, Etrusk.
2.165 ff.); (3)
in interpreting the meaning of lightning. But while the last two also fell
under the cognisance of the pontiffs and the augurs, the art of the
haruspices was supposed to enable them to deal with them with greater
detail. (Cf. Mommsen, Hist.
1.190.) Their art
is said to have been invented by a fabulous Etruscan dwarf Tages (Cic. de Div. 2.2. 3
Festus, s. v. Tages
), and was contained in
certain books called libri haruspicini,
(Cic. de Div. 1.3. 3
compare Macrob. Saturn.
This art was at one time considered by the Romans so important, that the
senate decreed that ten young Etruscans from each of the states, belonging
to the principal families, should always be instructed in it. (Cic. de Div. 1.4. 1
, 92; cf.
Müller's text, and C. O. Müller, Etrusk.
ii. p. 4.) The senate sometimes consulted the haruspices (Cic. de Div. 1.4. 3
, 97; 2.35,
74; Liv. 27.37
), as did also private persons
(Cic. de Div. 2.2. 9
62). In later times, however, their art fell into disrepute among
well-educated Romans; and Cicero (de Div.
2.24, 51) relates a
saying of Cato, often absurdly misapplied to the augurs, that he wondered
that one haruspex did not laugh when he saw another. Cicero (Cic. Fam. 6.18
) is very indignant at the
admission of a haruspex into the senate. The Emperor Claudius attempted to
revive the study of the art, which had then become neglected; and the
senate, under his directions, passed a decree that the pontifices should
examine what parts of it should be retained and established (Tac. Ann. 11.15
); but we do not know what
effect this decree produced. Haruspices appear as late as the time of Alaric
The name of haruspex is sometimes applied to any kind of soothsayer or
prophet (Prop. iii. (iv.) 13, 59); whence Juvenal (6.550) speaks of Armenius vel Commagenus haruspex.
The latter part of the word haruspex
the root spec;
and Donatus (ad
4.4, 28) derives the former part from haruga,
a victim. The root har
occurs also in Greek χορδή,
&c., and denotes
“twisted,” hence “entrail.” (Cf. Corssen, 1.509.)
Compare Festus, s. v. Harviga,
de Ling. Lat.
5.98, ed. Müller.
(Göttling, Gesch. der Röm. Staatsverf.
213; Walter, Gesch. des Röm. Rechts,
§§ 142, 770, 2nd ed.; Brissonius, De
1.29; Marquardt, Röm.