Among these prodigies, the lightnings, the apparitions of divine beings wrapped in marvelous lights and halos stand out and impress the Romans. The appearance of some goddess to small shepherds is documented already in an Egyptian text of the time of The Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2.000-1800 b.Ch.) to which I dedicate a next article.
The actions of the images and statues or representations of the divine beings that behave as if they were of flesh and bone and not of stone, wood or metal, also stand out. The statues which speak and send messages to humans, or jump and move from their stand or illuminate the pupil of their eyes with wonderful light, are especially attractive.
This behavior of the images responds to the diffuse and confused character of these statues that on one hand are mere representations of something that is not in this world and on the other hand they are the materialized divinity itself that lives with us. That is to say, the famous chryso-elephantine statue of Athena Parthenos, Virgin, of Athens is not a mere representation, but the materialized goddess herself.
And the same is true today with the images of modern saints and virgins, as it is revealed by the popular behavior that venerates them, touches them, invokes them, sings them, pleads with them, in contradiction to what reason says, even theological theory, which in reality does little to inform the people properly.
Well, these special effects are often used by poets. I will give only two examples of the indisputable Virgil and another of our poet of Hispanic origin Lucan.
Then I will present a famous text of Pliny the Younger on the appearance of a lady of great stature and prestige and of the ghosts, which also Tacitus refers in his Annals.
I will also quote a passage from The City of God of Saint Augustine, in which he refers and disqualifies these superstitions.
In this case, it calls powerfully the attention the clairvoyance with which he analyzes the superstitions of the others and the security with which he accepts the own quack theory. No doubt a reader alien to our culture would not appreciate any difference between the beliefs of pagans and the beliefs of Christians; in fact, historically, the latter feed on the former.
Today as yesterday the statues of the divine beings continue to cry, illuminating their pupils, jumping from the bases, appearing to the shepherds, sending messages, many times encrypted to the mortals. Read carefully the news of the day and you will find that somewhere in the world someone claims to have met with some similar phenomenon. In that struggle between reason and mystery, the confrontation continues.
In Greek and Roman epic poetry, the gods are actors in permanent relationship with mortals, in whose disputes they take sides for one or the other.
I will present first the text of the Hispanic poet Lucanus in which he maximizes the emotion that these prodigies can generate in his credulous readers. The text is a fragment of his poem Bellum Civile, later called "Pharsalia" from the name of the decisive battle in the civil war between Caesar and Pompey prior to the imposition of a personal and authoritarian regime in Rome, thus ending the long republican period and giving entrance to the imperial time. In this fragment, among other prodigies, the gods shed tears and the Lares gods sweat.
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Bellum Civile 1.1 lines 544 y ss.
The jaws of Aetna were agape with flame
That rose not heavenwards, but headlong fell
In smoking stream upon th’Italian flank.
Then black Charybdis, from her boundless depth,
Threw up a gory sea. In piteous tones
Howled the wild dogs; the Vestal fire was snatched
From off the altar; and the flame that crowned
The Latin festival was split in twain,
As on the Theban pyre,2 in ancient days;
Earth tottered on its base: the mighty Alps
From off their summits shook th' eternal snow.3
In huge upheaval Ocean raised his waves
O'er Calpe's rock and Atlas' hoary head.
The native gods shed tears, and holy sweat
Dropped from the idols; gifts in temples fell:
Foul birds defiled the day; beasts left the woods
And made their lair among the streets of Rome.
All this we hear; nay more: dumb oxen spake;
Monsters were brought to birth and mothers shrieked
At their own offspring; words of dire import
From Cumae's prophetess were noised abroad.
Bellona's priests with bleeding arms, and slaves
Of Cybele's worship, with ensanguined hair,
Howled chants of havoc and of woe to men.
Arms clashed; and sounding in the pathless woods
Were heard strange voices; spirits walked the earth:
And dead men's ashes muttered from the urn.
Those who live near the walls desert their homes,
For lo! with hissing serpents in her hair,
Waving in downward whirl a blazing pine,
A fiend patrols the town, like that which erst
At Thebes urged on Agave,4 or which hurled
Lycurgus' bolts, or that which as he came
From Hades seen, at haughty Juno's word,
Brought terror to the soul of Hercules.
Trumpets like those that summon armies forth
Were heard re-echoing in the silent night:
And from the earth arising Sulla's 5 ghost
Sang gloomy oracles, and by Anio's wave
All fled the homesteads, frighted by the shade
Of Marius waking from his broken tomb.
In such dismay they summon, as of yore,
The Tuscan sages to the nation's aid.
(Translated by Sir Edward Ridley. London. Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905.)
ora ferox Siculae laxauit Mulciber Aetnae, 545
nec tulit in caelum flammas sed uertice prono
ignis in Hesperium cecidit latus. atra Charybdis
sanguineum fundo torsit mare; flebile saeui
latrauere canes. Vestali raptus ab ara
ignis, et ostendens confectas flamma Latinas
scinditur in partes geminoque cacumine surgit
Thebanos imitata rogos. tum cardine tellus
subsedit, ueteremque iugis nutantibus Alpes
discussere niuem. Tethys maioribus undis
Hesperiam Calpen summumque inpleuit Atlanta.
indigetes fleuisse deos, urbisque laborem
testatos sudore Lares, delapsaque templis
dona suis, dirasque diem foedasse uolucres
accipimus, siluisque feras sub nocte relictis
audaces media posuisse cubilia Roma.
tum pecudum faciles humana ad murmura linguae,
monstrosique hominum partus numeroque modoque
membrorum, matremque suus conterruit infans;
diraque per populum Cumanae carmina uatis
uolgantur. tum, quos sectis Bellona lacertis
saeua mouet, cecinere deos, crinemque rotantes
sanguineum populis ulularunt tristia Galli.
conpositis plenae gemuerunt ossibus urnae.
tum fragor armorum magnaeque per auia uoces
auditae nemorum et uenientes comminus umbrae.
quique colunt iunctos extremis moenibus agros
diffugiunt: ingens urbem cingebat Erinys
excutiens pronam flagranti uertice pinum
stridentisque comas, Thebanam qualis Agauen
inpulit aut saeui contorsit tela Lycurgi
Eumenis, aut qualem iussu Iunonis iniquae
horruit Alcides uiso iam Dite Megaeram.
insonuere tubae et, quanto clamore cohortes
miscentur, tantum nox atra silentibus auris
edidit. e medio uisi consurgere Campo
tristia Sullani cecinere oracula manes,
tollentemque caput gelidas Anienis ad undas
agricolae fracto Marium fugere sepulchro.
haec propter placuit Tuscos de more uetusto
It is very interesting the fragment of the Aeneid of Virgil in which he relates the reaction of the image of Pallas, which had been stolen from his temple by Ulysses and the son of Tydeus. The text can also serve to compare the epic tone, elevated, solemn but far from the dramatic and baroque of Lucanus; but this is another matter.
Publius Virgilius Maro:
aeneida, 2, vv. 162 y ss.
Publius Vergilius Maro, Aeneid 2, v. 162 y ss.
All the hope of the Danaans and their confidence in beginning the war were ever stayed on the help of Pallas. But from the time that the ungodly son of Tydeus and Ulysses, the contriver of crime, dared to tear the fateful Palladium from its hallowed shrine, slew the guards of the citadelheight, and snatching up the sacred image, ventured with bloody hands to touch the fillets of the maiden goddess — from that time the hopes of the Danaans ebbed and, backward stealing, receded; their strength was broken and the heart of the goddess estranged.
And with no doubtful portents did Tritonia give signs thereof. Scarcely was the image placed within the camp, when from the upraised eyes there blazed forth flickering flames, salt sweat coursed over the limbs, and thrice, wonderful to relate, the goddess herself flashed forth from the ground with shield and quivering spear. Straightway Calchas prophesies that the seas must be essayed in flight, and that Pergamus cannot be uptorn by Argive weapons, unless they seek new omens at Argos, and escort back the deity, whom they have taken away overseas in their curved ships. And now that before the wind they are bound for their native Mycenae, it is but to get them forces and attendant gods; then, recrossing the sea, they will be here unlooked for. So Calchas interprets the omens. (Translated by H. Rushton Fairclough)
Omnis spes Danaum et coepti fiducia belli
Palladis auxiliis semper stetit. impius ex quo
Tydides sed enim scelerumque inuentor Vlixes,
fatale adgressi sacrato auellere templo
Palladium caesis summae custodibus arcis,
corripuere sacram effigiem manibusque cruentis
uirgineas ausi diuae contingere uittas,
ex illo fluere ac retro sublapsa referri
spes Danaum, fractae uires, auersa deae mens.
nec dubiis ea signa dedit Tritonia monstris.
uix positum castris simulacrum: arsere coruscae
luminibus flammae arrectis, salsusque per artus
sudor iit, terque ipsa solo (mirabile dictu)
emicuit parmamque ferens hastamque trementem.
extemplo temptanda fuga canit aequora Calchas,
nec posse Argolicis exscindi Pergama telis
omina ni repetant Argis numenque reducant
quod pelago et curuis secum auexere carinis.
et nunc quod patrias uento petiere Mycenas,
arma deosque parant comites pelagoque remenso
It is also interesting the end that Virgil offers us in Book I of his Georgics. It reminds us of the signs that announced the dreadful horrors of the civil war and pray to the gods who protect Rome and guarantee its time of peace and splendor.
Virgil, Georgics, 1, v.463 et seq.
Who dare charge the sun
With leasing? He it is who warneth oft
Of hidden broils at hand and treachery,
And secret swelling of the waves of war.
He too it was, when Caesar's light was quenched,
For Rome had pity, when his bright head he veiled
In iron-hued darkness, till a godless age
Trembled for night eternal; at that time
Howbeit earth also, and the ocean-plains,
And dogs obscene, and birds of evil bode
Gave tokens. Yea, how often have we seen
Etna, her furnace-walls asunder riven,
In billowy floods boil o'er the Cyclops' fields,
And roll down globes of fire and molten rocks!
A clash of arms through all the heaven was heard
By Germany; strange heavings shook the Alps.
Yea, and by many through the breathless groves
A voice was heard with power, and wondrous-pale
Phantoms were seen upon the dusk of night,
And cattle spake, portentous! streams stand still,
And the earth yawns asunder, ivory weeps
For sorrow in the shrines, and bronzes sweat.
Up-twirling forests with his eddying tide,
Madly he bears them down, that lord of floods,
Eridanus, till through all the plain are swept
Beasts and their stalls together. At that time
In gloomy entrails ceased not to appear
Dark-threatening fibres, springs to trickle blood,
And high-built cities night-long to resound
With the wolves' howling. Never more than then
From skies all cloudless fell the thunderbolts,
Nor blazed so oft the comet's fire of bale.
Therefore a second time Philippi saw
The Roman hosts with kindred weapons rush
To battle, nor did the high gods deem it hard
That twice Emathia and the wide champaign
Of Haemus should be fattening with our blood.
Ay, and the time will come when there anigh,
Heaving the earth up with his curved plough,
Some swain will light on javelins by foul rust
Corroded, or with ponderous harrow strike
On empty helmets, while he gapes to see
Bones as of giants from the trench untombed.
Gods of my country, heroes of the soil,
And Romulus, and Mother Vesta, thou
Who Tuscan Tiber and Rome's Palatine
Preservest, this new champion at the least
Our fallen generation to repair
Forbid not. To the full and long ago
Our blood thy Trojan perjuries hath paid,
Laomedon. Long since the courts of heaven
Begrudge us thee, our Caesar, and complain
That thou regard'st the triumphs of mankind,
Here where the wrong is right, the right is wrong,
Where wars abound so many, and myriad-faced
Is crime; where no meet honour hath the plough;
The fields, their husbandmen led far away,
Rot in neglect, and curved pruning-hooks
Into the sword's stiff blade are fused and forged.
Euphrates here, here Germany new strife
Is stirring; neighbouring cities are in arms,
The laws that bound them snapped; and godless war
Rages through all the universe; as when
The four-horse chariots from the barriers poured
Still quicken o'er the course, and, idly now
Grasping the reins, the driver by his team
Is onward borne, nor heeds the car his curb.
(Translation by J. B. Greenough. Boston. Ginn & Co. 1900. )
…. Solem quis dicere falsum
audeat. Ille etiam caecos instare tumultus
saepe monet fraudemque et operta tumescere bella.
Ille etiam exstincto miseratus Caesare Romam,
cum caput obscura nitidum ferrugine texit
inpiaque aeternam timuerunt saecula noctem.
Tempore quamquam illo tellus quoque et aequora ponti
obscenaeque canes inportunaeque volucres
signa dabant. Quotiens Cyclopum effervere in agros
vidimus undantem ruptis fornacibus Aetnam
flammarumque globos liquefactaque volvere saxa!
Armorum sonitum toto Germania caelo
audiit, insolitis tremuerunt motibus Alpes.
Vox quoque per lucos volgo exaudita silentis
ingens et simulacra modis pallentia miris
visa sub obscurum noctis, pecudesque locutae,
infandum! sistunt amnes terraeque dehiscunt
et maestum inlacrimat templis ebur aeraque sudant.
Proluit insano contorquens vertice silvas
fluviorum rex Eridanus camposque per omnis
cum stabulis armenta tulit. Nec tempore eodem
tristibus aut extis fibrae adparere minaces
aut puteis manare cruor cessavit et altae
per noctem resonare lupis ululantibus urbes.
Non alias caelo ceciderunt plura sereno
fulgura nec diri totiens arsere cometae.
ergo inter sese paribus concurrere telis
Romanas acies iterum videre Philippi;
nec fuit indignum superis, bis sanguine nostro
Emathiam et latos Haemi pinguescere campos.
Scilicet et tempus veniet, cum finibus illis
agricola incurvo terram molitus aratro
exesa inveniet scabra robigine pila
aut gravibus rastris galeas pulsabit inanis
grandiaque effossis mirabitur ossa sepulchris.
Di patrii, Indigetes, et Romule Vestaque mater,
quae Tuscum Tiberim et Romana Palatia servas,
hunc saltem everso iuvenem succurrere saeclo
ne prohibete! Satis iam pridem sanguine nostro
Laomedonteae luimus periuria Troiae;
iam pridem nobis caeli te regia, Caesar,
invidet atque hominum queritur curare triumphos;
quippe ubi fas versum atque nefas: tot bella per orbem,
tam multae scelerum facies; non ullus aratro
dignus honos, squalent abductis arva colonis
et curvae rigidum falces conflantur in ensem.
Hinc movet Euphrates, illinc Germania bellum;
vicinae ruptis inter se legibus urbes
arma ferunt; saevit toto Mars inpius orbe;
ut cum carceribus sese effudere quadrigae,
addunt in spatia et frustra retinacula tendens
fertur equis auriga neque audit currus habenas.
Other prodigies of great impact among the ancients are, as I said, the apparitions of the divine beings. As I also said, there is evidence of the appearance of an Egyptian goddess to a shepherd in a story that we have incomplete of only 25 lines; In it the pastor tells his companions the encounter with a woman who did not look like mortal .. This prodigy has not stopped repeating itself periodically until our days. In another moment I will dedicate an article to this subject.
But now I want to refer to another apparition that may remind us of a modern one. Pliny the Younger in a famous letter about the existence or not of the ghosts and the historian Tacitus tell it. I refer to the appearance of "a woman of superhuman stature to Curcius Rufus announcing that he would return to Africa as consul-elect.
I transcribe the whole letter of Pliny the Younger: Epistula 7,27
The present recess from business we are now enjoying affords you leisure to give, and me to receive, instruction. I am extremely desirous therefore to know whether you believe in the existence of ghosts, and that they have a real form, and are a sort of divinities, or only the visionary impressions of a terrified imagination ? What particularly inclines me to believe in their existence is a story f which I heard of Curtius Rufus. When he was in low circumstances and unknown in the world, he attended the governor of Africa into that province. One evening, as he was walking in the public portico, there appeared to him the figure of a woman, of unusual size and of beauty more than human. And as he stood there, terrified and astonished, she told him she was the tutelary power that presided over Africa, and was come to inform him of the future events of his life : that he should go back to Rome, to enjoy high honours there, and return to that province invested with the proconsular dignity, and there should die. Every circumstance of this prediction actually came to pass. It is said farther that upon his arrival at Carthage, as he was coming out of the ship, the same figure met him upon the shore. It is certain, at least, that being seized with a tit of illness, though there were no symptoms in his case that led those about him to despair, he instantly gave up all hope of recovery; judging, apparently, of the truth of the future part of the prediction by what had already been fulfilled, and of the approaching misfortune from his former prosperity. Now the following story, which I am going to tell you just as I heard it, is it not more terrible than the former, while quite as wonderful ? There was at Athens a large and roomv house, which had a bad name, so that no one could live there. In the dead of the night a noise, resembling the clashing of iron was frequently heard, which, if you listened more attentively, sounded like the rattling of chains, distant at first, but approaching nearer by degrees; immediately afterwards a spectre appeared in the form of an old man, of extremely emaciated and squalid appearance, with a long beard and dishevelled hair, rattling the chains on his feet and hands. The distressed occupants meanwhile passed their wakeful nights under the most dreadful terrors imaginable. This, as it broke their rest, ruined their health, and brought on distempers, their terror grew upon them, and death ensued.
Even in the day time, though the spirit did not appear, yet the impression remained so strong upon their imaginations that it still seemed before their eyes, and kept them in perpetual alarm. Consequently the house was at length deserted, as being deemed absolutely uninhabitable ; so that it was now entirely abandoned to the ghost. However, in hopes that some tenant might be found who was ignorant of this very alarming circumstance, a bill was put up, giving notice that it was either to be let or sold. It happened that Athenodorus the philosopher came to Athens at this time, and, reading the bill, enquired the price. The extraordinary cheapness raised his suspicion ; nevertheless, when he heard the whole Mory, he was so far from being discouraged that he was more strongly inclined to hire it, and, in short, actually did so. When it grew towards evening, he ordered a couch to be prepared for him in the front part of the house, and, after calling for a light, together with his pencil and tablets, directed all his people to retire. But that his inind might not, for want of employment, be open to the vain terrors of imaginary noises and spirits, he applied himself to writing with the utmost attention. The first part of the night passed in entire silence, as usual ; at length a clanking of iron and rattling of chains was heard : however, he neither lifted up his eyes nor laid down his pen, but in order to keep calm and collected tried to pass the sounds off to himself as something else. The noise increased and advanced nearer, till it seemed at the door, and at, last in the chamber. He looked up, saw, and recognised the ghost exactly as it had been described to him : it stood before him, beckoning with the finger, like a person who calls another, Athenodorus in reply made a sign with his hand that it should wait a little, and threw his eyes again upon his papers ; the ghost then rattled its chains over the head of the philosopher, who looked up upon this, and seeing it beckoning as before, immediately arose, and, light in hand, followed it. The ghost slowly stalked along, as if encumbered with its chains, and, turning into the area of the house, suddenly vanished. Athenodorus, being thus deserted, make a mark with nome grass and leaves on the spot where the spirit left him. The next day he gave information to the magistrates, and advised them to order that spot to be dug up. This was accordingly done, and the skeleton of a man in chains was found there ; for the body, having lain a considerable time in the ground, was putrefied and mouldered away from the fetters. The bones being collected together were publicly buried, and thus after the ghost was appeased by the proper ceremonies, the house was haunted no more This story I believe upon the credit of others ; what I am going to mention, I give you upon my own. I have a freedman named Marcus, who is by no means illiterate. One night, as he and his younger brother were lying together, he fancied he saw somebody upon his bed, who took out a pair of scissors, and cut off the hair from the top part of his own head, and in the morning, it appeared his hair was actually cut, and the clippings lay scattered about the floor. A short time after this, an event of a similar nature contributed to give credit to the former story. A young I lad of my family was sleeping in his apartment with the rest of his companions, when two persons clad in white came in, as he says, through the windows, cut off his hair as he lay, and then returned the same way they entered. The next morning it was found that this boy had been served just as the other, and there was the hair agaiu, spread about the room. Nothing remarkable indeed followed these events, unless perhaps that I escaped a prosecution, in which, if Domitian during whose reign this happened had lived some time longer, I should certainly have been involved. For after the death of that emperor, articles of impeachment against me were found in his scrutore, which had been exhibited by Cams. It may therefore be conjectured, since it is customary for persons under any public accusation to let their hair grow. + this cutting off the hair of my servants was a sign I should escape the imminent danger that threatened mo. Let me desire you then to give this question your mature consideration. The subject deserves your examination ; as, I trust, I am not myself altogether unworthy a participation in the abundance of your superior knowledge. And though you should, as usual, balance between two opinions, yet I hope you will lean more on one side than on the other, lest, whilst I consult you in order to have my doubt settled, you should dismiss me in the same suspense and indecision that occasioned you the present application. Farewell.
(Translation by William Melmoth,)
Et mihi discendi et tibi docendi facultatem otium praebet. Igitur perquam velim scire, esse phantasmata et habere propriam figuram numenque aliquod putes an inania et vana ex metu nostro imaginem accipere. Ego ut esse credam in primis eo ducor, quod audio accidisse Curtio Rufo. Tenuis adhuc et obscurus, obtinenti Africam comes haeserat. Inclinato die spatiabatur in porticu; offertur ei mulieris figura humana grandior pulchriorque. Perterrito Africam se futurorum praenuntiam dixit: iturum enim Romam honoresque gesturum, atque etiam cum summo imperio in eandem provinciam reversurum, ibique moriturum. Facta sunt omnia. Praeterea accedenti Carthaginem egredientique nave eadem figura in litore occurrisse narratur. Ipse certe implicitus morbo futura praeteritis, adversa secundis auguratus, spem salutis nullo suorum desperante proiecit. Iam illud nonne et magis terribile et non minus mirum est quod exponam ut accepi? Erat Athenis spatiosa et capax domus sed infamis et pestilens. Per silentium noctis sonus ferri, et si attenderes acrius, strepitus vinculorum longius primo, deinde e proximo reddebatur: mox apparebat idolon, senex macie et squalore confectus, promissa barba horrenti capillo; cruribus compedes, manibus catenas gerebat quatiebatque. Inde inhabitantibus tristes diraeque noctes per metum vigilabantur; vigiliam morbus et crescente formidine mors sequebatur. Nam interdiu quoque, quamquam abscesserat imago, memoria imaginis oculis inerrabat, longiorque causis timoris timor erat. Deserta inde et damnata solitudine domus totaque illi monstro relicta; proscribebatur tamen, seu quis emere seu quis conducere ignarus tanti mali vellet. Venit Athenas philosophus Athenodorus, legit titulum auditoque pretio, quia suspecta vilitas, percunctatus omnia docetur ac nihilo minus, immo tanto magis conducit. Ubi coepit advesperascere, iubet sterni sibi in prima domus parte, poscit pugillares stilum lumen, suos omnes in interiora dimittit; ipse ad scribendum animum oculos manum intendit, ne vacua mens audita simulacra et inanes sibi metus fingeret. Initio, quale ubique, silentium noctis; dein concuti ferrum, vincula moveri. Ille non tollere oculos, non remittere stilum, sed offirmare animum auribusque praetendere. Tum crebrescere fragor, adventare et iam ut in limine, iam ut intra limen audiri. Respicit, videt agnoscitque narratam sibi effigiem. Stabat innuebatque digito similis vocanti. Hic contra ut paulum exspectaret manu significat rursusque ceris et stilo incumbit. Illa scribentis capiti catenis insonabat. Respicit rursus idem quod prius innuentem, nec moratus tollit lumen et sequitur. Ibat illa lento gradu quasi gravis vinculis. Postquam deflexit in aream domus, repente dilapsa deserit comitem. Desertus herbas et folia concerpta signum loco ponit. Postero die adit magistratus, monet ut illum locum effodi iubeant. Inveniuntur ossa inserta catenis et implicita, quae corpus aevo terraque putrefactum nuda et exesa reliquerat vinculis; collecta publice sepeliuntur. Domus postea rite conditis manibus caruit. Et haec quidem affirmantibus credo; illud affirmare aliis possum. Est libertus mihi non illitteratus. Cum hoc minor frater eodem lecto quiescebat. Is visus est sibi cernere quendam in toro residentem, admoventemque capiti suo cultros, atque etiam ex ipso vertice amputantem capillos. Ubi illuxit, ipse circa verticem tonsus, capilli iacentes reperiuntur. Exiguum temporis medium, et rursus simile aliud priori fidem fecit. Puer in paedagogio mixtus pluribus dormiebat. Venerunt per fenestras – ita narrat – in tunicis albis duo cubantemque detonderunt et qua venerant recesserunt. Hunc quoque tonsum sparsosque circa capillos dies ostendit. Nihil notabile secutum, nisi forte quod non fui reus, futurus, si Domitianus sub quo haec acciderunt diutius vixisset. Nam in scrinio eius datus a Caro de me libellus inventus est; ex quo coniectari potest, quia reis moris est summittere capillum, recisos meorum capillos depulsi quod imminebat periculi signum fuisse. Proinde rogo, eruditionem tuam intendas. Digna res est quam diu multumque consideres; ne ego quidem indignus, cui copiam scientiae tuae facias. Licet etiam utramque in partem – ut soles – disputes, ex altera tamen fortius, ne me suspensum incertumque dimittas, cum mihi consulendi causa fuerit, ut dubitare desinerem. Vale.
Tacitus: Annals: 11, 21.:
Of the birth of Curtius Rufus, whom some affirm to have been the son of a gladiator, I would not publish a falsehood, while I shrink from telling the truth. On reaching manhood he attached himself to a quæstor to whom Africa had been allotted, and was walking alone at midday in some unfrequented arcade in the town of Adrumetum, when he saw a female figure of more than human stature, and heard a voice, "Thou, Rufus, art the man who will one day come into this province as proconsul." Raised high in hope by such a presage, he returned to Rome, where, through the lavish expenditure of his friends and his own vigorous ability, he obtained the quæstorship, and, subsequently, in competition with well-born candidates, the prætorship, by the vote of the emperor Tiberius, who threw a veil over the discredit of his origin, saying, "Curtius Rufus seems to me to be his own ancestor." Afterwards, throughout a long old age of surly sycophancy to those above him, of arrogance to those beneath him, and of moroseness among his equals, he gained the high office of the consulship, triumphal distinctions, and, at last, the province of Africa. There he died, and so fulfilled the presage of his destiny. (Translation by Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb)
De origine Curtii Rufi, quem gladiatore genitum quidam prodidere, neque falsa prompserim et vera exequi pudet. postquam adolevit, sectator quaestoris, cui Africa obtigerat, dum in oppido Adrumeto vacuis per medium diei porticibus secretus agitat, oblata ei species muliebris ultra modum humanum et audita est vox 'tu es, Rufe, qui in hanc provinciam pro consule venies.' tali omine in spem sublatus degressusque in urbem largitione amicorum, simul acri ingenio quaesturam et mox nobilis inter candidatos praeturam principis suffragio adsequitur, cum hisce verbis Tiberius dedecus natalium eius velavisset: 'Curtius Rufus videtur mihi ex se natus.' longa post haec senecta, et adversus superiores tristi adulatione, adrogans minoribus, inter pares difficilis, consulare imperium, triumphi insignia ac postremo Africam obtinuit; atque ibi defunctus fatale praesagium implevit.
St. Augustine, in his City of God, refers a prodigy well-known in antiquity: the tears shed by the statue of Apollo in Cumae, in Magna Graecia, on the occasion of the war between the Romans and the Greeks, when Publius Crassus died in a battle with Ariston. St. Augustine thinks that these are things of the demons that the poets present to us as true, but from then until today and also much earlier, many statues of gods, virgins and saints have wept frequently, acquiring the errors of men.
Augustine: De civitate Dei (The City of God), III,11
Of the statue of Apollo at Cumæ, whose tears are supposed to have portended disaster to the Greeks, whom the god was unable to succour.
And it is still this weakness of the gods which is confessed in the story of the Cuman Apollo, who is said to have wept for four days during the war with the Achæans and King Aristonicus. And when the augurs were alarmed at the portent, and had determined to cast the statue into the sea, the old men of Cumæ interposed, and related that a similar prodigy had occurred to the same image during the wars against Antiochus and against Perseus, and that by a decree of the senate gifts had been presented to Apollo, because the event had proved favourable to the Romans. Then soothsayers were summoned who were supposed to have greater professional skill, and they pronounced that the weeping of Apollo's image was propitious to the Romans, because Cumæ was a Greek colony, and that Apollo was bewailing (and thereby presaging) the grief and calamity that was about to light upon his own land of Greece, from which he had been brought. Shortly afterwards it was reported that King Aristonicus was defeated and made prisoner,—a defeat certainly opposed to the will of Apollo; and this he indicated by even shedding tears from his marble image. And this shows us that, though the verses of the poets are mythical, they are not altogether devoid of truth, but describe the manners of the demons in a sufficiently fit style. For in Virgil Diana mourned for Camilla, and Hercules wept for Pallas doomed to die. This is perhaps the reason why Numa Pompilius, too, when, enjoying prolonged peace, but without knowing or inquiring from whom he received it, he began in his leisure to consider to what gods he should entrust the safe keeping and conduct of Rome, and not dreaming that the true, almighty, and most high God cares for earthly affairs, but recollecting only that the Trojan gods which Æneas had brought to Italy had been able to preserve neither the Trojan nor Lavinian kingdom founded by Æneas himself, concluded that he must provide other gods as guardians of fugitives and helpers of the weak, and add them to those earlier divinities who had either come over to Rome with Romulus, or when Alba was destroyed. (Translated by the Rev. Marcus Dods, M.A.)
Neque enim aliunde Apollo ille Cumanus, cum adversus Achivos regemque Aristonicum bellaretur, quatriduo flevisse nuntiatus est ; quo prodigio haruspices territi cum id simulacrum in mare putavissent esse proiciendum, Cumani senes intercesserunt atque rettulerunt tale prodigium et Antiochi et Persis bello in eodem apparuisse figmento, et quia Romanis feliciter provenisset, ex senatus consulto eidem Apollini suo dona missa esse testati sunt. Tunc velut peritiores acciti haruspices responderunt simulacri Apollinis fletum ideo prosperum esse Romanis, quoniam Cumana colonia Graeca esset, suisque terris, unde accitus esset, id est ipsi Graeciae, luctum et cladem Apollinem significasse plorantem. Deinde mox regem Aristonicum victum et captum esse nuntiatum est, quem vinci utique Apollo nolebat et dolebat et hoc sui lapidis etiam lacrimis indicabat. Unde non usquequaque incongrue quamvis fabulosis, tamen veritati similibus mores daemonum describuntur carminibus poetarum. Nam Camillam Diana doluit apud Vergilium et Pallantem moriturum Hercules flevit . Hinc fortassis et Numa Pompilius pace abundans, sed quo donante nesciens nec requirens, cum cogitaret otiosus, quibusnam diis tuendam Romanam salutem regnumque committeret, nec verum illum atque omnipotentem summum Deum curare opinaretur ista terrena, atque recoleret Troianos deos, quos Aeneas advexerat, neque Troianum neque Laviniense ab ipso Aenea conditum regnum diu conservare potuisse: alios providendos existimavit, quos illis prioribus, qui sive cum Romulo iam Romam transierant, sive quandoque Alba eversa fuerant transituri, vel tamquam fugitivis custodes adhiberet vel tamquam invalidis adiutores.
I could give you many examples.