Homer Hesiod Hymns Tragedy Remythologizing Tools Blackboard Info
The Roman term for a favourable or unfavourable sign, especially a word spoken by chance, so far as it drew the attention of the hearers to itself and appeared to be a prognostic. An omen could be accepted or repudiated, and even taken in an arbitrary sense, except in the case of words which already had in themselves a favourable or unfavourable signification. For example, when Crassus was embarking on his unfortunate expedition against the Parthians, and a man in the harbour was selling dry figs from Caunus with the cry Cauneas, which sounded like cave ne eas, "beware of going," this was an evil omen [Cic., De Div. ii 84]. On festal occasions care was taken to protect oneself from such omens; for example, when sacrifice was being made, by veiling the head, by commanding silence, and by music that drowned any word spoken. People were particularly careful at solemn addresses, new year greetings, and the like. On the other hand, for the sake of the good omen, it was usual to open levies and censuses by calling out those names that were of good import, such as Valerius (from valere, to be strong), Salvius (from salvere, to be well), etc. [Cic., Pro Scauro, 30. The word omen probably means a voice or utterance].
Type: Standard
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