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In the religion of ancient Rome, a haruspex (plural haruspices; also called aruspex) was a person trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy (haruspicina), the inspection of the entrails ( exta —hence also extispicy (extispicium)) of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry. The reading of omens specifically from the liver is also known by the Greek term hepatoscopy (also hepatomancy).
The Roman concept is directly derived from Etruscan religion, as one of the three branches of the disciplina Etrusca . Such methods continued to be used well into the Middle Ages, especially among Christian apostates and pagans, with Thomas Becket apparently consulting both a haruspex and a chiromancer prior to a royal expedition against Brittany.
The Latin terms haruspex and haruspicina are from an archaic word, haru = "entrails, intestines" (cognate with hernia = "protruding viscera" and hira = "empty gut"; PIE *ǵʰer- ) and from the root spec- = "to watch, observe". The Greek ἡπατοσκοπία hēpatoskōpia is from hēpar = "liver" and skop- = "to examine".
The spread of hepatoscopy is one of the clearest examples of cultural contact in the orientalizing period. It must have been a case of East-West understanding on a relatively high, technical level. The mobility of migrant charismatics is the natural prerequisite for this diffusion, the international role of sought-after specialists, who were, as far as their art was concerned, nevertheless bound to their father-teachers. We cannot expect to find many archaeologically identifiable traces of such people, other than some exceptional instances.— Walter Burkert, 1992. The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age (Thames and Hudson), p. 51.
The Babylonians were famous for hepatoscopy. This practice is mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel 21:26:
For the king of Babylon standeth at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he shaketh the arrows to and fro, he inquireth of the teraphim, he looketh in the liver.
The Nineveh library texts name more than a dozen liver-related terms. The liver was considered the source of the blood and hence the basis of life itself. From this belief, the Babylonians thought they could discover the will of the gods by examining the livers of carefully selected sheep. A priest known as a bārû was specially trained to interpret the "signs" of the liver, and Babylonian scholars assembled a monumental compendium of omens called the Bārûtu. The liver was divided into sections, with each section representing a particular deity.[ citation needed ]
One Babylonian clay model of a sheep's liver, dated between 1900 and 1600 BC, is conserved in the British Museum. [ citation needed ]The model was used for divination, which was important to Mesopotamian medicine. This practice was conducted by priests and seers who looked for signs in the stars, or in the organs of sacrificed animals, to tell them things about a patient's illness. Wooden pegs were placed in the holes of the clay tablet to record features found in a sacrificed animal's liver. The seer then used these features to predict the course of a patient's illness.
Haruspicy was part of a larger study of organs for the sake of divination, called extispicy, paying particular attention to the positioning of the organs and their shape. There are many records of different peoples using the liver and spleen of various domestic and wild animals to forecast weather. There are hundreds of ancient architectural objects, labyrinths composed of cobblestones in the northern countries that are considered to be a model of the intestines of the sacrificial animal, i.e. the colon of ruminants.[ citation needed ]
The Assyro-Babylonian tradition was also adopted in Hittite religion. At least thirty-six liver-models have been excavated at Hattusa. Of these, the majority are inscribed in Akkadian, but a few examples also have inscriptions in the native Hittite language, indicating the adoption of haruspicy as part of the native, vernacular cult.
Divination called haruspicy was also practiced in ancient Greece. Several Greek vases show images of liver divination.[ citation needed ]
Roman haruspicy was a form of communication with the gods. Rather than strictly predicting future events, this form of Roman divination allowed humans to discern the attitudes of the gods and react in a way that would maintain harmony between the human and divine worlds (pax deorum).Before taking important actions, especially in battle, Romans conducted animal sacrifices to discover the will of the gods according to the information gathered through reading the animals' entrails. The entrails (most importantly the liver, but also the lungs and heart) contained a large number of signs that indicated the gods' approval or disapproval. These signs could be interpreted according to the appearance of the organs, for example, if the liver was "smooth, shiny and full" or "rough and shrunken".
Haruspicy in Ancient Italy originated with the Etruscans. Textual evidence for Etruscan divination comes from an Etruscan inscription: the priest Laris Pulenas' (250–200 BCE) epitaph mentions a book he wrote on haruspicy. A collection of sacred texts called the Etrusca disciplina, written in Etruscan, were essentially guides on different forms of divination, including haruspicy and augury.In addition, a number of archeological artifacts depict Etruscan haruspicy. These include a bronze mirror with an image of a haruspex dressed in Etruscan priest's clothing, holding a liver while a crowd gathers near him. Another significant artifact relating to haruspicy in Ancient Italy is the Piacenza Liver. This bronze model of a sheep's liver was found on accident by a farmer in 1877. Names of gods are etched into the surface and organized into different sections. Artifacts depicting haruspicy exist from the ancient Roman world as well, such as stone relief carvings located in Trajan's Forum.
In Greek mythology, the Cabeiri or Cabiri, also transliterated Kabeiri or Kabiri, were a group of enigmatic chthonic deities. They were worshiped in a mystery cult closely associated with that of Hephaestus, centered in the north Aegean islands of Lemnos and possibly Samothrace—at the Samothrace temple complex—and at Thebes. In their distant origins the Cabeiri and the Samothracian gods may include pre-Greek elements, or other non-Greek elements, such as Thracian, Tyrrhenian, Pelasgian, Phrygian or Hittite. The Lemnian cult was always local to Lemnos, but the Samothracian mystery cult spread rapidly throughout the Greek world during the Hellenistic period, eventually initiating Romans.
In ancient Roman religion, the diiNovensiles or Novensides are collective deities of obscure significance found in inscriptions, prayer formulary, and both ancient and early-Christian literary texts.
Etruscan religion comprises a set of stories, beliefs, and religious practices of the Etruscan civilization, originating in the 7th century BC from the preceding Iron Age Villanovan culture, heavily influenced by the mythology of ancient Greece and Phoenicia, and sharing similarities with concurrent Roman mythology and religion. As the Etruscan civilization was assimilated into the Roman Republic in the 4th century BC, the Etruscan religion and mythology were partially incorporated into ancient Roman culture, following the Roman tendency to absorb some of the local gods and customs of conquered lands.
Tages was claimed as a founding prophet of Etruscan religion who is known from reports by Latin authors of the late Roman Republic and Roman Empire. He revealed a cosmic view of divinity and correct methods of ascertaining divine will concerning events of public interest. Such divination was undertaken in Roman society by priestly officials called haruspices.
Animal sacrifice is the ritual killing and offering of an animal, usually as part of a religious ritual or to appease or maintain favour with a deity. Animal sacrifices were common throughout Europe and the Ancient Near East until the spread of Christianity in Late Antiquity, and continue in some cultures or religions today. Human sacrifice, where it existed, was always much more rare.
An omen is a phenomenon that is believed to foretell the future, often signifying the advent of change. It was commonly believed in ancient times, and still believed by some today, that omens bring divine messages from the gods.
Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion of the city of Rome that the Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in so far as they became widely followed in Rome and Italy. The Romans thought of themselves as highly religious, and attributed their success as a world power to their collective piety (pietas) in maintaining good relations with the gods. The Romans are known for the great number of deities they honored, a capacity that earned the mockery of early Christian polemicists.
In the material culture of classical antiquity, a phiale or patera is a shallow ceramic or metal libation bowl. It often has a bulbous indentation in the center underside to facilitate holding it, in which case it is sometimes called a mesomphalic phiale. It typically has no handles, and no feet. Although the two terms may be used interchangeably, particularly in the context of Etruscan culture, phiale is more common in reference to Greek forms, and patera in Roman settings, not to be confused with the Greek (Πατέρας) Patéras or Father.
Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or "cults" in the plural, though most of them shared similarities.
Anthropomancy is a method of divination by the entrails of dead or dying men or women, often virgin female children, through sacrifice. This practice was sometimes also called splanchnomancy. In ancient Etruria and Rome, the usual variety of divination from entrails was haruspicy, in which the sacrifice was an animal.
Walter Burkert was a German scholar of Greek mythology and cult.
The religions of the ancient Near East were mostly polytheistic, with some examples of monolatry. Some scholars believe that the similarities between these religions indicate that the religions are related, a belief known as patternism.
Ornithomancy is the practice of reading omens from the actions of birds followed in many ancient cultures including the Greeks, and is equivalent to the augury employed by the ancient Romans.
The Liver of Piacenza is an Etruscan artifact found in a field on September 26, 1877, near Gossolengo, in the province of Piacenza, Italy, now kept in the Municipal Museum of Piacenza, in the Palazzo Farnese.
In ancient Roman culture, the olla is a squat, rounded pot or jar. An olla would be used primarily to cook or store food, hence the word “olla" is still used in some Romance languages for either a cooking pot or a dish in the sense of cuisine. In the typology of ancient Roman pottery, the olla is a vessel distinguished by its rounded “belly,” typically with no or small handles or at times with volutes at the lip, and made within a Roman sphere of influence; the term olla may also be used for Etruscan and Gallic examples, or Greek pottery found in an Italian setting.
The vocabulary of ancient Roman religion was highly specialized. Its study affords important information about the religion, traditions and beliefs of the ancient Romans. This legacy is conspicuous in European cultural history in its influence on later juridical and religious vocabulary in Europe, particularly of the Western Church. This glossary provides explanations of concepts as they were expressed in Latin pertaining to religious practices and beliefs, with links to articles on major topics such as priesthoods, forms of divination, and rituals.
Satre or Satres was an Etruscan god who appears on the Liver of Piacenza, a bronze model used for haruspicy. He occupies the dark and negative northwest region, and seems to be a "frightening and dangerous god who hurls his lightning from his abode deep in the earth." It is possible that Satre is also referred to with the word "satrs" in the Liber Linteus, the Etruscan text preserved in Ptolemaic Egypt as mummy wrappings.
The Bārûtu, the “art of the diviner,” is a monumental ancient Mesopotamian compendium of the science of extispicy or sacrificial omens stretching over around a hundred cuneiform tablets which was assembled in the Neo-Assyrian/Babylonian period based upon earlier recensions. At the Assyrian court, the term extended to encompass sacrificial prayers and rituals, commentaries and organ models. The ikribu was the name of collections of incantations to accompany the extispicy. The bārûtu's extant predecessors date back to Old Babylonian times with the liver models from Mari and where the order of the exta were largely fixed.
A bārû, in ancient Mesopotamian religion, is a practitioner of a form of divination based on hepatoscopy, reading of omens from a liver of a sacrificial animal, known as bārûtu. Baru began the divination ceremony by first addressing the oracle gods, Šamaš and Adad, with prayers and benedictions, requesting them to "write" their message upon the entrails of the sacrificial animal. During the Sumerian period, the predictions offered by the divination ceremony were in a form of binary, yes or no answers. In the late Assyrian period, the method evolved to predict specific events, that were in turn considered to be either favorable or unfavorable. The totals of favorable and unfavorable events were tallied to generate either a positive or a negative verdict. Divinations of baru were not universally trusted and there is evidence that Sennacherib separated baru into groups to avoid collusion in situations that necessitated reliable reports to important questions.
Mesopotamian divination was divination within the Mesopotamian period.