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HARU´SPICES or ARU´SPICES, 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. 27.37; Cic. Catil. 3.8, 19; 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. L. 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. 2.24, 52), 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 extispicium (Cic. 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, 5, 5.15), 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, 50; Festus, s. v. Tages), and was contained in certain books called libri haruspicini, fulgurales, and tonitruales. (Cic. de Div. 1.3. 3, 72; compare Macrob. Saturn. 3.7; Müller, Etrusk. 2.30.)

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 (Zosimus, 5.41).

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 contains the root spec; and Donatus (ad Ter. Phorm. 4.4, 28) derives the former part from haruga, a victim. The root har occurs also in Greek χορδή, hira, &c., and denotes “twisted,” hence “entrail.” (Cf. Corssen, 1.509.) Compare Festus, s. v. Harviga, and Varro, de Ling. Lat. 5.98, ed. Müller. (Göttling, Gesch. der Röm. Staatsverf. p. 213; Walter, Gesch. des Röm. Rechts, §§ 142, 770, 2nd ed.; Brissonius, De Formulis, 1.29; Marquardt, Röm. Staatsverw. 3.393-398.)

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hide References (14 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (14):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 6.18
    • Cicero, Against Catiline, 3.19
    • Cicero, Against Catiline, 3.8
    • Cicero, On the Responses of the Haruspices, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 5
    • Suetonius, Nero, 56
    • Tacitus, Annales, 11.15
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 15
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 56
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 1.3
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 1.4
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 2.2
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 2.1
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