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Ennius and the ‘Isiaci Coniectores’

  • M. S. Salem


At the end of the first book of Cicero's De diuinatione there occurs a tantalising passage containing a specific mention of the ‘Isiac diviners.’ It used to be attributed to Ennius by the earlier editors of that author, but since the time of Bothe this view has not been generally accepted. The passage runs ‘non habeo denique nauci Marsum augurem, non vicanos haruspices, non de circo astrologos, non Isiacos coniectores, non interpretes somniorum; non enim sunt ii aut scientia aut arte divini.’ The text is sound and there is no variant reading for the words ‘Isiaci coniectores’ which interest us most particularly in this study. The Italian colour of the passage (cf. ‘Marsus augur, de circo astrologi’) excludes the possibility of a Greek origin, and the question is merely to whom, Ennius or Cicero, the words ‘Isiaci coniectores’ should be assigned. It must be admitted that the words ‘non habeo … divini’ are not metrical and it would be hopeless to defend them in their present form as the ipsissima verba of Ennius. But the possibility that they contain a more or less close paraphrase of Ennius is suggested by the use of ‘non habeo … nauci,’ a phrase which Cicero never used. ‘Isiacus’ too is a rare word, which does not appear elsewhere in Republican Latin (v. infra pp. 58, 59, n. 21 and 22).



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1 Columna, Hieronymus, Q. Ennii poetae vetustissimi quae supersunt fragmenta (Naples, 1590), 346 and 349 ff. Scriverius, Petrus, Collectanea veterum tragicorum … quibus accedunt castigationes et notae uberiores Gerardi Ioannis Vossii, Leyden, 1620 (Collectanea, 28, Castigationes, 44 f.).

2 Bothe, F. H., Poetae scenici Latinorum, I (Halberstadt, 1823), 62 f.; cf. O. Ribbeck, Tragicorum Romanorum fragmenta 3, 61; Lafaye, , Historie du culte des divinités d' Alexandrie (Bibl. des Écoles françaises d' Athènes et de Rome, xxxiii), 40, n. 3.

3 The only modern editor who prints the words ‘non habeo … somnium’ (sic) in verse from is W. A. Falconer, Cic. De diuinatione (Loeb Classical Library).

4 Vide Merguet, , Lexicon z. den philos. Schriften Cicero's, s.v.nauci’ vol. ii, p. 650; Lexicon z. den Reden des Cicero, vol. iii, p.244.

5 Pease ad Cic. De diuinatione, i, 132 (vol. i, p.366), note on ‘sed superstitiosi.’

6 G. Wissowa, RK 2 (1912), 64.

7 Dion. Hal., Ant. R., ii, 19, 5.

8 Livy, xxv, 1, 7; Fowler, W. W., Religious Experience of the Roman People, 324 f.; Grenier, A., The Roman Spirit of Religion, Thought and Art, tr. by Dobie (1926), 155.

9 Livy, xxxix, 8–17.

10 Livy, xl, 29, 3 ff.; Valerius Maximus, i, 1, 12; Pliny, NH, xiii, 13, 8487; Plutarch, Numa, xxii, 78; Augustine, St., De ciuit. Dei, vii, 34.

11 SIG 3, 280, ll. 42–45.

12 P. Roussel, Les cultes égyptiens à Délas (Ann. de l'Est., publ. par la Faculté des Lettres de Nancy, 29–30), inscript. no. 1, p. 71 ff.

13 G. F. Hill, Coins of Sicily, 204 f.; Head, B. V., Hist. Num.2, 134, 187.

14 CIL i2, 698 (Puteoli); for the date of the older Iseum at Pompeii, see Nissen, , Pomp. Studien, 170, 174.

15 CIL i2, 986, 1263; Catullus, x, 26–27; cf. also Apuleius, Met., xi, 30.

16 Livy, Per. 55.

17 Pliny, NH xxi, 3, 10.

18 Val. Max., ix, 14, 3; Pliny, l.c.

19 Livy, l.c.

20 Lafaye, G., Revue de l'hist. des relig. xi, 327 ff.

21 The word ‘coniector’ is not found in the extant fragments of Ennius; it is used, however, by Plautus (Amph. 1128, Curc. 249, Poen. 444), the elder contemporary of Ennius.

22 My sincere thanks are due to Professor Mountford of the University of Liverpool who read the draft of this article and made a number of corrections and to the editors of the Thes. Ling. Lat. for giving me full references to all the passages where the word ‘Isiacus’ occurs. Apart from the passage under discussion (Cic., De diu. i, 132) the adjective ‘Isiacus’ is found in prose in Firmicus Maternus, De errore profanarum religionum 2, 3, 27, 1; Scholia ad. Juv. ii, 92 (ed. Wessner, p. 24; ed. Jahn-Buecheler, p. 76), and vi, 539 (ed. Wessner, p. 108). In poetry it is met with in Ovid, Pont. i, 1, 52; Manilius, i, 918; Juvenal, vi, 489; Ausonius, De feriis Rom. (ed. Peiper, p. 105), 24; Ad Pontium Paulinnm (ed. Peiper, p. 286), 22. The word occurs as a noun in verse in Cyprianus of Nola, Carm. 32, 117 (ed. Hartel, , CSEL, 30, 333). In prose ‘Isiacus’ is found as a substantive in Val. Max. vii, 3, 8; Pliny, NH, xxvii, 53; Suet., Domit. 1, 2; Min. Felix, Octavius 22, 1; SHA, Commodus 9, 6; CIL vi, 1780, xiv, 18, 302, 343, 352, 4290.

23 Lafaye, G., Hisioire du culte des divinités d' Alexandrie (Bibl. des Écoles franç. d'Athènes et de Rome xxxiii), 42: ‘C'est pourquoi [the severity of the Roman authorities in the case of the so-called Books of Numa] nous ne croyons pas que, du temps d'Ennius, on vît des prêtres d'Isis abordés et consultés publiquement par des citoyens’; cf. also Pease ad Cic., De diu. i, 132, p. 335 (note 1: ‘Isiacos coniectores’).

Ennius and the ‘Isiaci Coniectores’

  • M. S. Salem


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