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LI´TUUS Müller (Die Etrusker, 4.1, 5) supposes this to be an Etruscan word signifying crooked, but more probably it is connected with the verb litare, its augural sense being the original, and the military lituus being so called from a resemblance in shape. In the Latin writers it is used to denote--

1. The crooked staff borne by the augurs, with which they divided the expanse of heaven, when viewed with reference to divination (templum), into regions (regiones); the number of these according to the Etruscan discipline being sixteen, according to the Roman practice four (Müller, 3.6, 1; Cic. de Div. 2.1. 8, 42). Cicero (de Div. 1.17, 30) describes the lituus as “incurvum et leviter a summo inflexum bacillum;” and Livy (1.18) as “baculum sine nodo aduncum” (cf. Serv. ad Aen. 7.407; Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 3.402). It is very frequently exhibited upon works of art. The figure in the middle of the following illustrations is from a most ancient specimen of Etruscan sculpture in the possession of Inghirami (Monumenti Etruschi, tom. vi. tav. P. 5, 1), representing an augur; the two others are Roman denarii. It is thought with much probability that the pastoral staff of bishops (not the archiepiscopal crosier) was borrowed as regards its form from the augur's lituus, which in the earliest Christian representations it exactly resembles. (See Dict. of Christian Antiquities, s. v.)

2. A sort of trumpet slightly curved at the extremity (Festus, s.v. Gel. 5.8). It differed both from the tuba and the cornu (Hor. Carm. ii, 1, 17; Lucan, i, 237), the former being straight, while the latter was bent round into a spiral shape. Lydus (de Mens. 4.50) calls the lituus

Lituus, the Augural Staff.

the sacerdotal trumpet (ἱερατικὴν σάλπιγγα), and says that it was employed by Romulus when he proclaimed the title of his city. Ascon. (ad Hor. Carnm. 1.1, 23) asserts that it was peculiar to cavalry, while the tuba belonged to infantry. This is not quite correct, for in the armies of the Sabines and Romans (Ovid, Ov. Fast. 3.216), where the lituus is mentioned, it is clear that infantry are to be understood. The bucinator and the tubicen are both attached to the cavalry as well as the infantry (Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 2.553). As regards its shape, Seneca (Oedip. 733) says, “Sonuit refiexo classicum cornu Lituusque adunco stridulos cantus elisit aere.” Its tones are usually characterised as harsh and shrill ( “stridor lituum,Lucan 1.237 ; sonitus acutos, Ennius, ap. Fest. s.v. Stat. Theb. 6.228, &c.). The following representation is from Fabretti. See also the representation of

Lituus, a trumpet. (Fabretti.)

a liticen [under CORNU] from the altar of Julius Victor (Vol. I. p. 544).

[W.R] [G.E.M]

hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Lucan, Civil War, 1.237
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 18
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 2.1
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 5.8
    • Statius, Thebias, 6
    • Ovid, Fasti, 3
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