Matters of Augury

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Matters of Augury

Postby Gaius Claudius Quadratus » Fri Aug 05, 2016 7:45 pm

Salvete!

By tradition, the Nones is the day for consideration of matters relating to Augury. Today is Nonae Augusti. Since we do not yet have an officially functioning Collegium Augurum, I will take this opportunity to initiate informal discussion. Everyone may participate and is encouraged to contribute. Feel free to introduce new subjects. This discussion shall continue until the Ides.

I would like to raise the issue of just how Augurs and Magistrates jointly participate in the taking of auspices in the modern Roman world. In ancient times, Magistrates were the primary agents of taking auspices, with Augurs participating with them as assistants. In a sense, to be a Magistrate meant that one was also an Augur. Today, joint participation in such activity is not normally possible. So what should the current practice be?
Note that the question involves what is known as Auspicia Impetrativa - the taking of auspices with regard to major public activities, where a specific question of whether or not to proceed with an activity needs to be answered. This does not relate to Auspicia Oblativa, where an omen or a prodigy is received out of the blue without solicitation.

Please contribute to this discussion.

May the gods look with favor upon our Republic, its activities and its citizens!

Valete!

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Re: Matters of Augury

Postby Octavia Iunia Agrippina » Fri Aug 05, 2016 8:01 pm

Salve!

I admit that I know next to nothing about augury. Is it possible for augurs to work alone? What is the benefit of having that "assistant"?
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Re: Matters of Augury

Postby Lucius Aurelius Curio » Fri Aug 05, 2016 9:32 pm

Curio Quadrato Sal.

Thank you for raising this question. As you stated, it's difficult for the traditional practices of magistrates and Augurs to be in place. It is my humble opinion that the responsibility for the taking of auspices be on the Augurs. This is for two reasons. First, the distance issue between people. Secondly, Augurs are specifically trained in this field whereas most magistrates are not (though I would love to learn! :) )

Now, as we build our communities up, accumulating more Romans in a centralized area, to train magistrates in Augury would be much more feasible, and I personally would welcome a return to tradition.

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Re: Matters of Augury

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Fri Aug 05, 2016 10:51 pm

I agree with Curio. If one day it is possible it would be best to have the Magistrates perform Auspices in conjunction with an Augur, but until that is so I think the safest route both to respect the Gods as well as the institutions of the Republic would be to leave this matter on the hands of the Learned, on those that study the art of Auspices to the fullest and are specialists on the art. Thus, auspices should be carried out by Augurs whenever possible until we come to a point where joint auspices are feasable. My personal view on the matter.
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Re: Matters of Augury

Postby Gaius Claudius Quadratus » Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:04 am

Salve, Agrippina!

Thank you for participating in our discussion. At present it is pretty much a requirement that we work alone since it is not likely for an Augur and a Magistrate to reside in the same neighborhood. With regard to the "assistant" - it was actually the Augur who was the assistant, the Magistrate being the one primarily responsible for the taking of the auspices in matters of public importance.

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Re: Matters of Augury

Postby Gaius Claudius Quadratus » Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:26 am

Salvete, Curio et Victor!

I agree that for the foreseeable future, it is likely the Augur will be the one to perform the rite and then transmit the finding to the Magistrate. But, still, the Magistrate is the one who is responsible. If the Magistrate requests auspices for a specific event and then is the one who publishes the result that should suffice. By Imperial times, the situation degenerated into formality, as no Augur who valued his head would dare interfere with the plans of a Caligula. We must avoid that kind of rubber-stamp formality.

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Re: Matters of Augury

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:33 am

Gaius Claudius Quadratus wrote:Salvete, Curio et Victor!

I agree that for the foreseeable future, it is likely the Augur will be the one to perform the rite and then transmit the finding to the Magistrate. But, still, the Magistrate is the one who is responsible. If the Magistrate requests auspices for a specific event and then is the one who publishes the result that should suffice. By Imperial times, the situation degenerated into formality, as no Augur who valued his head would dare interfere with the plans of a Caligula. We must avoid that kind of rubber-stamp formality.

Valete!
Quadratus


Yes. We must avoid it as much as possible. That is also another good reason for auspices being taken from an independent body (the Collegium Augurum). That way they cannot be coerced to give any positive result. And I agree fully with you that by the end of the day the final responsibility is of the Magistrate to contact the Augures and proclaim the results.
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Re: Matters of Augury

Postby Lucius Aurelius Curio » Sat Aug 06, 2016 4:49 am

Curio Quadrato Sal

I echo Victor's thoughts in this regard. The Collegium Augurum as an independent body should be responsible for such a thing, with the Magistrates publishing the results. This would act in a way that ensures both parties are on the level, if you will. Utilizing auspices as a weapon to further a person's agenda should be guarded against at all times.

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Re: Matters of Augury

Postby Publius Iunius Brutus » Sun Aug 07, 2016 10:08 am

Brutus sal.

I am glad Augur Quadratus has announced this informal meeting. I staunchly believe that the RR is prepared to lead the restoration of these important practices in an academically mindful manner.

As a provisional Augur, I have scoured every academic source I could find on Roman augural tradition. Over the last three months, I am fairly sure I have read every modern English-language source that can be readily obtained. Below is a list of these works:

  • Rasmussen, Susanne William. Public Portents in Republican Rome. Rome: "L'Erma" Di Bretschneider, 2003.
    Annus, Amar. Divination and Interpretation of Signs in the Ancient World. Chicago, IL: Oriental Institute of the U of Chicago, 2010.
  • Vaahtera, Jyri. Roman Augural Lore in Greek Historiography: A Study of the Theory and Terminology. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2001.
  • Wildfang, Robin Lorsch., and Jacob Isager. Divination and Portents in the Roman World. Odense: Odense UP, 2000.
  • Santangelo, Federico. Divination, Prediction and the End of the Roman Republic., 2013
  • Faris, Suzanne B., and Lesley E. Lundeen. Ten Years of the Agnes Kirsopp Lake Michels Lectures At Bryn Mawr College. Pennsylvania: Bryn Mawr College, 2006.
  • Linderski, Jerzy. The Augural Law. Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 1986.

On the matter raised by Augur Quadratus, the sources suggest the following:

Augurs were intimately involved in observing signs for auspicia impetrativa (auspices that were requested). In this capacity, an augur provided assistance in interpreting auspices. The actual task of taking the auspices was initiated by the official taking the auspice. Similarly, the final interpretation of an auspicia impetrativa is left to the official. There were two classes of officials who could take auspics and therefore be assisted by augures. The first being magistrates with imperium. The second are inaugurated priests. These individuals could only take auspices for matters falling within their official jurisdiction.

Unrequested signs, auguria oblativa, were different. These signs or prodigies can occur at any time and are to be reported to augures by law. The interpretation of these signs was fully within the rights of the augures without interference.

In this way, an augur acts as a mediator and advisor between celestial Iupiter, who grants the signs, and the officials serving the Roman people who receive the message from Pater Iupiter.

Auspices and their interpretation could be challenged. Such challenges could only be filled by magistrates with imperium or the pontifex maximus. The challenge had to be filled to both the Senate and Collegium Augurum. The Collegium Augurum could collectively denounce auspices taken in error and nullify the results obtained. In this round-about way, the Collegium Augurum did have a final say in all auspices performed. However, such a challenge could not be independently initiated by the Collegium Augurum.

So how did the augur and official (magistrate with imperium or priest) interact during the taking of auspices, namely auspicia impetrativa? Both magistrate and augur would rise before dawn. They would travel to a location designated as a templum in terra, a physical space designated for the taking of auspices. The official would sit in the middle of the templum in terra facing south. The augur stood behind the offical, so to the north of the official and faced east while taking auspices. The augur would lay his right hand upon the head of the official, define the templum in acre in the sky, and the four quadrants it contained. The augur would then ask the official who initiated this process the reason for the auspices (eg. to open an assembly etc). The official would respond. The signs would then be observed by the augur while this position was maintained. Once the signs were seen the augur would describe the findings and his interpretiation to the official. He would whisper in the ear of the offical somthing like the following example:

I have observed ex auibus in the form of oscines, lone bird song in the southwest and alites were seen, one bird from the northwest. Ex caelo was not seen. Northwest divine messengers for this Comitia Curiata, established by this ordinance. These signs are not favorable for proceeding with the planned meeting of the Comitia Curiata and suggest divine disfavor for this course of action. AVES ABDICVNT!

The official could then reject or accept the auspices. The final report issued by the magistrate was the official result of the auspices taken. In this way, the official took the auspices with the assistance of an augur.

So how could this work for the modern Roman Republic? Well, I do not think much has to change for current times. Auspicia impetrativa should only be initiated by a magistrate with imperium or a sacerdos who has received inauguration. Today the augur and official cannot meet to take the auspices due to geographic limitations. Therefore, the augur should conduct the ceremony on behalf of the official. The report of the auspices should be issued to the official immediately after being witnessed. The official can then decide to accept or reject the report issued by the augur and proceed as they may. The only difference from antiquity is that the offical is not physically present during the wittnessing of the auspices.

Auguria oblativa should always be reported to an augur for they can summon the Collegium Augurum to issue a report. This report is binding.

A magistrate with imperium or a future pontifex maximus should be able to challenge auspicia impetrativa. Such a challenge should be decided collectively by the Collegium Augurum. If the Collegium Augurum agrees then the auspices taken can be nullified and later repeated.

I think such a procedure is consistent with our understanding of the historical tradition. Thoughts?
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Re: Matters of Augury

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Sun Aug 07, 2016 6:13 pm

Agreed. It divides the power in a way that avoids abuse, but it also leaves the ultimate interpretation in the hands of the Collegium Augurum (a collective body, instead of an individual). In that sense, if an Augur made their report and the magistrate refused their interpretation, the Augur could report them to the government or to the Collegium Pontificum. If the government, by some ill chance, is composed only of people that disrespect the Gods and our Traditions, the Collegium Pontificum would stand as a last defense mechanism against it, denouncing the auspices as false and asking the Collegium Augurum to nullify it. This maintains power very spread out and permits an efficient protection of each party against most injustices. I like it.

This musy be codified into law as soon as we have a Collegium Augurum.
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