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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


III. From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XIII - Faith and Manners


The Original Greek New Testament

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 15

Irreligious Spirit

This exaggeration of conscientiousness was already a symptom of its incipient torpor; and the reaction against it--indifference and unbelief--failed not soon to appear. Even in the first Punic war (505) an instance occurred in which the consul himself made an open jest of consulting the auspices before battle--a consul, it is true, belonging to the peculiar clan of the Claudii, which alike in good and evil was ahead of its age.

Towards the end of this epoch complaints were loudly made that the lore of the augurs was neglected, and that, to use the language of Cato, a number of ancient auguries and auspices were falling into oblivion through the indolence of the college. An augur like Lucius Paullus, who saw in the priesthood a science and not a mere title, was already a rare exception, and could not but be so, when the government more and more openly and unhesitatingly employed the auspices for the accomplishment of its political designs, or, in other words, treated the national religion in accordance with the view of Polybius as a superstition useful for imposing on the public at large.

Where the way was thus paved, the Hellenistic irreligious spirit found free course. In connection with the incipient taste for art the sacred images of the gods began as early as the time of Cato to be employed, like other furniture, in adorning the chambers of the rich. More dangerous wounds were inflicted on religion by the rising literature.

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