Omens of War from Actium to Ukraine
Mon, 08/01/2022 – 14:30
As early as December 2021, two months before Russian troops attacked Ukraine, the White House released intelligence findings that a possible invasion was looming. Two weeks before Russia’s attack in February, foreign diplomats began pulling out of Kyiv. The world took these as omens that Putin’s military buildup was no bluff but the genuine prelude to war.
Ancient people too looked for omens of war, but with more attention to divine signs. Before beginning a battle, pagans would communicate with the gods. The Romans, for example, would sacrifice an animal and examine the entrails, especially the liver, for signs of the gods’ approval or disapproval. The Romans also consulted sacred chickens. On one famous occasion in 249 B.C. the admiral Publius Claudius Pulcher turned to the chickens before launching an attack on the Carthaginian fleet in Sicily. No luck: he obtained a bad omen because the chickens weren’t eating. Nothing daunted, Claudius supposedly said, “If they won’t eat, let them drink,” and had the fowl thrown overboard. He went on to lose the battle.
When a city was under attack, the gods were thought to be the arbiters …read more
Source:: Hoover Institution