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Cicero on haruspicy.

Cicero on haruspicy (De Divinatione 2.16):

Caput est in iecore, cor in extis: iam abscedet, simul ac molam et vinum insperseris; deus id eripiet, vis aliqua conficiet aut exedet.

There is a ‘head’ in the liver, a heart among the entrails. It may immediately disappear as soon as you have sprinkled on the groats and wine—a god may pull it out; some force may destroy or devour it.

He is here discussing the ‘how’ of extispicy. It’s a grave omen, for example, for the victim of a sacrifice to be found without a heart. The strange part is how a creature which should have presumably had a heart thus far in its existence to remain alive would be found without it when dead. The idea that some deity or other would step in and rearrange the organs at death, or that these mutations would pop into our out of existence from nothing, not from natural causes, is highlighted by Cicero here; he says:

Quis hoc physicus dixit umquam? Haruspices dicunt; his igitur quam physicis credendum potius existumas?

What scientist ever said such a thing? The haruspices say it; do you think, then, that it’s more believable from them than from the scientists?

The caput iecoris ‘head of the liver’ is one of the parts consulted in haruspicy. A couple of sources that equate it with modern terminology unify it with the caudate lobe (or some part of it), which is an interesting reversal.

Mola is supposed to be ‘emmer groats‘, salted and used in the process of sacrifice, among other things. The gloss is nearly as obscure as the original, and it might make just as much sense to leave the word untranslated.

[For abscedo.]

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