Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.12.34

Marie-Laurence Haack, Prosopographie des haruspices romains. Biblioteca di Studi Etruschi 42.   Pisa and Rome:  Istituto Nazionale di Studi Etruschi ed Italici, Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 2006.  Pp. 224.  ISBN 88-8147-424-7.  €295.00 (hb).  ISBN 88-8147-425-5.  €195.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Jean MacIntosh Turfa, University of Pennsylvania Museum (jturfa@sas.upenn,edu)
Word count: 2711 words

From third millennium Mesopotamia to Imperial Rome, access to divination has been strenuously controlled by many regimes with state religions. Depending upon the strength of public belief, a prediction of the fall of a ruler or a drastic social change could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So it is no surprise that many aspiring outsiders should have found in haruspicy the key to a better life within the Roman state, while many ethnic Etruscans may have taken advantage of the high regard for their traditions that Romans voiced, especially after the Etruscan cities had been subjugated. But the epitaphs and votive dedications of over 100 such men, covering six centuries of Roman rule, betray a broad spectrum of piety and civic service, and none of the cynicism of Cato's and Cicero's views on those who claimed to read the gods' will in victims' livers.

This catalogue of the evidence for individual haruspices in literature and epigraphic finds results from H.'s dissertation. It should prove to be an invaluable reference tool for anyone studying Etruscan or Roman religion, demography and society during the Late Republic and Empire. Since the Prosopographie is essentially a critical listing of documents, readers may need to consult simultaneously the analytical and synthetic works of Haack and her dissertation director, Dominique Briquel, listed in the bibliography (151-172).

We will be mining this volume for years to come for evidence of religious and civic practices, social hierarchy, and ethnic diversity, especially under the early empire. To better see the span of dates, locales and ethnic affiliations, though, I had to make myself a table; it would have been very helpful if H. herself had provided one. She does offer transcripts, (French) translations and critical notes on 122 persons who served as haruspices in various locales from the 2nd c. BC through the 4th c. AD. (See 149-150 for personages excluded; 11 individuals, nos. 111-121, have been attested as haruspices, but their inscriptions, all but one erected in Italy during the early Empire, are fragmentary and do not preserve names.) Although none of the inscribed monuments are illustrated, most are in CIL or recent publications; in cases of disputed readings (or no. 31, the Ostia narrative relief of C. Fulvius Salvis) readers will have to hunt down the published facsimiles or photos. H. weighs the dating of most items very carefully although a cases few remain where no datable details are obvious. Individuals are listed in alphabetical order, and thus some inscriptions appear in two different entries (e.g., nos. 1 and 82, for a dedication by two members of a college at Mainz). Personages attested only in literary references are interspersed with epigraphic finds: eight, like Sulla's Postumius or Caesar's Spurinna, fall in the politically fraught Late Republic/early Empire, and five were recorded for the 4th-century clash of pagan religion and Christianity.1 Just one man, Umbricius (no. 106), is attested by both literary references and epigraphic finds (Pliny, Tacitus, and a funerary inscription at Tarentum).

Those seeking Etruscan prosopography in this volume of the Biblioteca di Studi Etruschi will be disappointed. H. sends us to her 2003 book, Les haruspices dans le monde romain (Bordeaux 2003), which offers some background. She thus bypasses the strictly Etruscan monuments that identify earlier haruspices, such as the well-known 3rd-century sarcophagus of Lars Pulenas of Tarquinii whose effigy shows a scroll bearing his resumé and noting that he zich snetsrac -- "wrote on haruspicy." 2 Pulenas is also another example of priests who held office in multiple cults (Catha, Bacchus), and of high-ranking Etruscans with some foreign (albeit illustrious) heritage, in his case, the Greek priest Laris Pule (Polles).

Relatively few genuine Etruscan haruspices are known by name/epigraphy, but the cultic office is represented artistically at least as early as the 5th century BC, with characters depicted wearing the distinctive pointed hat and cloak.3 A Hellenistic stone urn from Chiusi names Nae (Gnaeus) Cicu as a netsvis (ET Cl 1.1036 = CIE 978), and the only other unequivocal Etruscan inscription is the famous Pesaro bilingual epitaph of Lars Cafates/Lucius Cafatius who was netsvis and trutnut frontac. (The three Etruscan words are rendered cryptically haruspex fulguriator in the Latin.) Cafates is counted in H.'s catalogue (no. 18) because of the Latin inscription; she accepts Rix's date (ET Um 1.7) of the last quarter of the first century BC.4

At least seven other Etruscan men are attested by funeral effigies that depict them in some subset of haruspical costume: Aule Lecu of Volterra (ET Vt 1.128, 1.129 = CIE 81, 92), capite velato, holds a sheep's liver or model thereof on the lid of his urn. Arnth Remzna of Chiusi (ET Cl 1.166 = CIE 1192) wears tunic, braid-edged mantle, and two-piece apex (his full title, zilath scupitnues, is a hapax.5 Two Tarquinian sarcophagi, one not inscribed, one from the Alvethna family (ET Ta 1.142, Studi Etruschi 20:264, 1), show men who wear the apex. Two Chiusine urns have effigies with conical hats -- one is possibly of the Sentinati family; the other shows a man with his lasa and liber linteus.6 The Tarquinian Tomba del Letto Funebre (ca. 460 BC) has a painted scene, under a canopy, of an empty couch on which are two pointed hats, one wreathed with ivy, the other with olive or pomegranate leaves -- they might mark a married couple as the equivalent of flamen and flaminica.7 The 4th-century Tomba Golini II of the Vercna-Cnezus family has mirror images possibly of the founder, driving a biga and wearing the apex; the inscription may preserve his name, Laris Vercnas, who was a zilath mechl rasnal (praetor Etruriae).8 Clearly, haruspical office was occupied by the Etruscan ruling classes, although the Roman inscriptions show that all levels above the strictly servile could officially participate.

Several bronze votive figurines depict either a costumed haruspex or a man in simpler clothing holding a liver: it seems likely that they were dedicated by haruspices or their families. Those inscribed with names cite Vel Sveitus, Temres, and Arnth Alitle Pumpu. 9 Several urns of the 3rd-2nd centuries, both Volterran and Chiusine, have relief scenes which include (in mythical narratives) a character wearing the apex; one (ET Vt 1.8 = CIE 23, excavated in 1739) may be from a tomb of the famous Ceicna (Caecina) family of Volterra, but the inscribed lid and relief chest cannot be securely linked. The well known Tuscania mirror (ca. 300 BC) depicting a youth labeled pava tarchies as a haruspex has been variously interpreted as the tale of the prophet Tages or the initiation of a noble Tarquinian youth.10

While mindful of the vagaries of archaeological preservation and discovery, we are tempted to consider the statistics of the 122 Roman priests identified over the period from the 2nd c. BC through 4th c. AD. There must have been many more haruspices at Rome than in African Lambaesis or Iberian Lusitania, but remote sites often have been less plundered. Thus, 26 locations in Etruria and Umbria are represented, with only 19 instances in Rome/environs, and 34 in the provinces outside Italy. Nearly three quarters of the inscriptions are funerary in nature, and over 30 record civic or votive activity.

Four haruspices are noted for the 2nd c. BC, and by the first c. AD haruspices appear in the provinces. The greatest number fall between the 1st c. BC and 2nd c. AD, and the latest are 3rd-4th centuries AD. H. emphasizes that there were various categories of haruspex, ranging from the elite Ordo LX of the Roman state (15 members are identified here, from 1st c.-BC Tarquinia to imperial Rome, Lyon and Ephesus). There were eventually haruspices attached directly to the emperor contrasting with public haruspices who could be hired by individuals, while others held office attached to a provincial governor, municipium or legion -- to understand all the distinctions, one must consult H.'s other works.

The presence and activity of freedmen -- and -women is evident throughout the terse personal histories preserved in inscriptions. Many wives of haruspices were freedwomen, and freedmen often dedicated monuments honoring their priestly patrons -- but a surprising number of haruspices themselves seem to have been manumitted. Eight inscriptions record freedmen as haruspices in Italy, Spain and Gallia Narbonensis (nos. 16, 40, 54, 58, 68, 72, 91, 119, perhaps also 4), and at least three more priests are sons of freedmen. Three equestrians are recorded, all holding high offices, and many haruspices also held public offices like sevir, quaestor, or censor in Rome or provincial governments. Some family names are old familiars in Roman politics and cults; others seem to show different backgrounds than one would expect for such important priesthoods. At Narbonne in the 1st c. AD, the haruspex was an Etruscan freedman named Arruns (Arruntio, no. 68) who had been manumitted by Sextus Parridius, a Celt.

H. states (9) that by the Empire, only a minority of haruspices could be considered Etruscan by birth or training, and rejects the thesis that the etrusca disciplina endowed Roman religion with prestige, but others may interpret the basic data differently. It is interesting to note (with H., p. 59) that many ethnic Etruscans retained distinctive spelling conventions, even when writing in Latin, and H. has used this at times to identify the ethnicity of those who are called harispex or even arrhespex: over 20 men, all but two securely within the period of 2nd c. BC to 1st c. AD.

Beginning, with H.'s list, in the 2nd c. BC, nearly 40 men within the Roman system were Etruscan or associated with Etruria; the numbers of ethnic Etruscans seem to peak in the 1st c. BC and into the 1st c. AD. Apart from the priests who offered supernatural assistance against Alaric in 409 AD (Zosimus 5.41.1-2), the latest Etruscan haruspex is attested in the 3rd c. AD. While acknowledging the Etruscan ancestry of men like C. Volcacius (no. 107, 2nd c. BC) who dedicated a votive deposit for Jupiter on the Tiber Island, H. downplays the level of Etruscan importance in Roman haruspicy, but has omitted reference to the works of John F. Hall on the prosopography of ethnic Etruscans who held office in the Late Republic-Principate: see "From Tarquins to Caesars: Etruscan Governance at Rome," in Etruscan Italy, ed. J.F. Hall (Provo, Utah 1996:149-189) and "The Municipal Aristocracy of Etruria and their Participation in Politics at Rome B.C. 91 - A.D. 14" (dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1984).

Italians in foreign service seem to have maintained a tradition of intermarrying among fellow Italians, such as the Vederna family, the first Etruscans in Noricum: nos. 93 and 96 show the daughter and son of haruspices marrying each other (2nd-3rd c. AD). The haruspical office sometimes passed from father to son or brother to brother -- at least 6 such cases are attested (nos. 12 and 120, 13 and14, 52 and 53, 63 and 64, and 91 and 92 are fathers and sons, nos. 94 and 95 are brothers, and several members of the Vibii family, nos. 100-102, in Campania and Norica, were haruspices). The Etruscan Lars Pulenas also came from a family of diviners. One baffling omission from the formal catalogue is the epitaph of a haruspex (harisp[ex]) probably known as Marcus Clipearius, Marci filius, either the brother or son of Gaius Clipearius listed as no. 21, and buried in a tomb that was excavated in 1851 on the road outside Falerii Novi. In addition to being a haracna, Gaius was a 7-term censor, and also a quaestor and sorex at the end of the 2nd c. BC, and (as H. notes) the inscription CIE 8353 (= CIL II, 1989), inscribed on tiles that sealed the loculus adjacent to his, commemorates a relative as ancoma harisp sor II censo[r]. This inscription had been whitewashed and repainted; all that can be read of the final version is that M. Clipearius was a censor, but harispex or something similar must have been in the lacuna, and clearly a second family member was indeed a haruspex, even if he had been replaced in the loculus by Marcus.11

At this distance, many lives are intriguing, for instance Q. Naevius Felix of Alba Fucens (no. 68), who, in addition to being a haruspex, was a teacher and erected a grave marker for his little pupil Benigna, who died at 7 years, 6 months, 16 days. The freedman haruspex A. Caedius Q.L. Sar. (no. 16) must have been of Punic origin, with Sar. interpreted as Saranus, "Carthaginian," according to his grave monument erected at Trebula Mutuesca at the end of the Republic. (H. notes that no haruspices are attested in Sardinia.)

Other men seem to have recognized the cachet of Etruscan religious expertise, such as A. Rubrius (no. 79), an Umbrian who styled himself Volsiniensis in the 1st c. BC. H. suggests that this expressed his having trained at Volsinii, presumably the Oxford of Roman religious academe, and that this is our earliest instance of an Etruscan office translating to an Italian/Roman position. No. 97 (CIL V, 5704), of the 1st-2nd c. AD, seems to record a lifespan of 135 years for Verginius Atilianus, buried by his Marcellina in the region of Milan. While this must be erroneous, there is some evidence for longevity among Etruscans of the Late Republic, for instance Larth Felsnas, buried at Tarquinia, who died aged 106, and had campaigned with Hannibal (Bonfante-2003:176 no. 63).

Fourteen individuals (or their families) followed the Etruscan practice of recording age at death -- some are Etruscan, others unequivocally Roman or, by the 3rd c. AD, provincials. (Seven lifespans are even listed to the day or hour, surely an indication of aristocratic record-keeping and family pride. Apart from a priest's pupil and some family members, all of whom died young, the haruspices themselves achieved varied ages, from 18 years, 5 months, 20 days (no. 120) to 80 years (no. 45). Half died between the ages of 25-33, and so, as with the general population of the Classical world, it appears that families were more apt to commemorate the untimely deceased.12

Many priests officiated in more than one cult, and the assimilation of foreigners into Roman cults is quite evident. At least four haruspices were Augustales or cited "Roma and Augustus," from Etruscan Roselle to Campania, Tarentum, and Istria. Others named Jupiter, Janus Pater (two), Justitia, or Fortuna. One in Latium (no. 59) was a flamen Martialis. In Dacia, C. Julius Valens (no. 48) made dedications to Sol Invictus, Venus Victrix and Nemesis Regina. Of foreign cults, Cybele, Dea Sulis (no. 56 -- at 1st-c. AD Bath, the only haruspex so far attested in Britain) and Mithras (three) are cited. Clearly the military facilitated the popularity of the last two. Among the others, Lucius Pontus (no. 74) was a soldier for 18 years before becoming a haruspex; he was buried in Istria during the 1st c. AD. At least 14 of the 122 men recorded affiliation with the ordo LX haruspicum, the inscriptions of nos. 21 and 31 attest cleromancy (sorex) as an additional function of these haruspices. L. Veturius Rufus (no. 99) in addition to being an extispicus, was also an avispex.

There is a wealth of information here awaiting readers' own investigations. It is very useful to have all the data at one's fingertips, including full text and translations, and reliable and sensible dating and interpretations. The author's text is meticulously arranged and referenced, but could have benefited from editorial touches: often terms or concepts are not defined at their first occurrence (e.g. the spelling harispex is not discussed until 59 no. 33, though it appears as early as 31 no. 11). The subject index is a bit sketchy, and does not always include terms that appear in the Latin inscriptions -- I found harispex only where the term had been repeated in the French discussion and would have missed several personages had I not checked each inscription. Minor corrections: table of contents: liex should be lieux; add to index and list (pp. 183, 16) no. 122 = Vettiarius Sex. F. Clu. (entry was added in press). Such minutiae emphasize the achievement of this reference work: the Prosopographie will be an abiding resource in the study of Romans and Etruscans, for a long time to come.


1.   For which period, see D. Briquel, Chrétiens et haruspices. La religion étrusque, dernier rampart du paganisme romain ( Paris 1997).
2.   See L. Bonfante and G. Bonfante, The Etruscan Language. An Introduction, 2nd ed. (Manchester 2002) 149-151; H. Rix and G. Meiser, eds., Etruskische Texte. Editio minor (Tübingen 1991) Ta 1.17 = CIE 5430. Hereafter cited as Bonfante-2003 and ET.
3.   The Etruscan prosopographic evidence has been summarized by Briquel, "Les haruspices. I. Données épigraphiques étrusques," in Prosopographie et histoire religieuse. Actes du colloque tenu en l'Université Paris XII-Val de Marne les 27 and 28 octobre 2000, eds. M.-F. Baslez and F. Prévot (Paris 2005) 181-185. For artistic representations, see A. Maggiani, "Immagini di aruspici," Atti del Secondo Congresso Internazionale Etrusco, Firenze 26 maggio - 2 giugno 1985, vol. III (Supplemento di Studi Etruschi) 1989:1557-1563. Although she cites the above, H.'s bibliography does not include F. Roncalli, "Die Tracht des Haruspex als frühgeschichtliches Relikt in historischer Zeit," in Die Aufnahme fremder Kultureinflüsse in Etrurien und das Problem des Retardierens in der etruskischen Kunst (Schriften des deutschen Archäologen-Verbands 5, 1981) 124-132.
4.   The only other securely attested fulguriator or trutnuth is the Etruscan Arnth Apries whose funerary cippus was erected at Tarquinia (4th to 2nd c. BC), but he was not called netsvis. (ET Ta 1.174 = CIE 5487). Two other curious terms probably refer to fulguriatores, trutvecie (a votive, ET OA 3.5 = CII 2603bis), and truthun, apparently the title of a member of the Leinie family of Volsinii (Tomba Golini I, 4th c. BC: ET Vs 7.6 = CIE 5082). Briquel (2005) accepts trutnuth as relating to a haruspex.
5.   See J.M. Turfa, Catalogue of the Etruscan Gallery of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Philadelphia 2005) 263-265 no. 295 (late 3rd c. BC).
6.   Other funerary representations of libri lintei also exist but cannot be associated with haruspices: a Caeretan man's sarcophagus and the bedside chest of the teenager Ramtha Matunai whose parents buried her in the central loculus of the Tomb of the Reliefs, also at Caere. See F. Roncalli, Carbasinis voluminibus implicati libri. Osservazioni sul liber linteus di Zagabria," JdI 95 (1980) 227-264.
7.   S. Steingräber, Etruscan Painting. Catalogue Raisonné of Etruscan Wall Paintings (eds. D. Ridgway and F. R. Serra Ridgway (New York 1986) 320 no. 82.
8.   ET Vs 7.20 and 7.27 = CIE 5101, 5108; Steingräber 1986:279 no. 33.
9.   Sveitus: Bonfante-2003:165 no. 46 = ET Vs 3.7 = CII 2614 ter. Temres: temres alpan tinias, a votive for Tinia/Jupiter, ET As 4.2. For Arnth Pumpu, see ET Ar 4.4 = CIE 2627, from the region of Arezzo; J.M. Turfa "Votive Offerings in Etruscan Religion," in The Religion of the Etruscans, Sixth Langford Conference Proceedings, eds. N. T. de Grummond and E. Simon) (Austin, Texas 2006:90-115) 106 fig. VI.17, end of 3rd c. BC.
10.   See M. Torelli, "Etruria principes disciplinam doceto. Il mito normative dello specchio di Tuscania," in Studia Tarquiniensia (Archeologica Perusina 9, Rome 1988) 109-118. See Maggiani 1989 for full treatment of Etruscan representational evidence. An Italic inscription from Crecchio, dated after 450 BC, may refer to divination by consulting a goat's liver in a procedure concerning land tenur, see L.B. van der Meer, The Bronze Liver of Piacenza. Analysis of a Polytheistic Structure (Amsterdam 1987) 163 note 22.
11.   For a survey of the office of sorex and divination by lots, see W.E. Klingshirn, "Inventing the sortilegus: lot divination and cultural identity in Italy, Rome, and the provinces," in C.E. Schultz and P.B. Harvey, eds., Religion in Republican Italy (Yale Classical Studies 31, Cambridge 2006:137-161).
12.   See J.M. Turfa, "Etruscan Religion at the Watershed: Before and After the Fourth Century B.C.," in in C.E. Schultz and P.B. Harvey, eds., Religion in Republican Italy (Yale Classical Studies 31, Cambridge 2006:62-89) 82-83.

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