Attus Navius

Attus Navius

Attus Navius, in Roman legendary history, a famous augur during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus.

When the latter desired to double the number of the equestrian centuries, Navius opposed him, declaring that it must not be done unless the omens were propitious, and, as a proof of his powers of divination, cut through a whetstone with a razor. Navius's statue, with head veiled (capite velato), stood in the Comitium (Livy 1.36.5); the whetstone and razor were buried in the same place, and a puteal placed over them. According to Dionysius it was Tarquinius Priscus who set the statue up, 'in front of the senate-house near the sacred fig-tree; it was shorter than a man of average height and the head was covered'. The sacred fig-tree was named after Attius Navius: Navian.

It was reported that Navius was subsequently put to death by Tarquinius. According to Schwegler, the puteal originally indicated that the place had been struck by lightning, and the story is a reminiscence of the early struggle between the state and ecclesiasticism.

See Livy 1.36; Dion. Halic. 3.71.5; Sextus Aurelius Victor, De viris illustribus, 6; Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, bk. xv. 16.

A nearly identical story of Accius Navius the source has been attributed to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, originally published in 1898.

References

F. Coarelli, Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, s.v.

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