Roman Augury Xu

Roman augury involves observing the flight patterns and songs from birds. Roman legislators cared deeply about augury, and every major decision had to be accompanied by an augury. To learn more, visit the following page on EdX.

To make a prediction, augurs must wait patiently for the flight of a bird across the sky. Once a bird flies across the sky, the augur incorporates the bird’s flight pattern, height, and position relative to a reference frame to make a (confusing) prediction (EdX). The system has a random element with bird flights, which are usually spontaneous. It also incorporates a human element because the interpretation of flight depends on both the augur and the government. The meaning of a prediction is debated on the senate by Roman legislators. Furthermore, an augury can be invalidated if government officials reported "spontaneous signs of gods".

Although Roman augury incorporates a random element, the source of its power comes from determinism. The Romans believed that the gods would communicate to the people through a 'code' in the flight and song of birds together with other elements of nature. By providing offerings and ceremonies, the gods would answer requests of the people (Smith). Roman augury is closely tied to the Roman religion where gods control the future. People cannot change the future, but only try to understand what the Gods’ intentions are. Therefore, augury contributes to determinism rather than free will.

Roman auguries affect both individuals and the roman society. Augurs, given their important role in Roman legislature, likely enjoyed high status in society. Furthermore, each augur keeps their position for life as soon as they are appointed. These two factors might encourage #individuals to pursue augury, although the position is only accessible to members of the ruling class (EdX). Additionally, other citizens of the #society would comment on the power of augury. Many famous books and epics, including Ovid's Fasti and Virgil's Aeneid, refer to "the interaction between gods and augural birds ... and cast doubt on its overall beneficence" (Green 148). Roman auguries were essential to the Roman culture and affect both individuals and the society.


Works Cited:

Green, Steven J. “Malevolent Gods and Promethean Birds: Contesting Augury in Augustus's Rome.” Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), vol. 139, no. 1, 2009, pp. 147–167. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Smith, William, D.C.L., LL.D. "Augur, Augurium." A dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875. pp. 174-179.

See also: #divinersguide