By Daryn Lehoux
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Extra resources for What Did the Romans Know?: An Inquiry into Science and Worldmaking
61. Leg. 33. 62. De div. 75. natu r e, gods, a nd gov er na nce 37 In neither passage does Cicero say that he himself thinks divination is simply true or false. , but also by scandalous behavior such as P. 64 Recent studies have to some extent moved away from a belief/disbelief dichotomy, but sceptical readings of various sorts do still see the light of day. Krostenko, for example, thinks that Cicero is arguing in the De div. that neither belief nor scepticism is adequate, and instead he attempts to paint a divination that “is purely formal and symbolic,”65 but I do not see how this avoids the sceptical reading.
For Marcus’ “old women” are Roman “old women” and the measure of what counts as gullible needs to be handled carefully. Not every story Quintus will tell would be seen by Cicero’s intended audience as ridiculous, whatever the modern reader may think of them, and so to know whether he is in fact being portrayed as a dupe, we need to attend carefully to how a Roman would have heard the stories Quintus recounts of prediction by lightning, dreams, livers, and the eating habits of sacred chickens. There is a little more to this admonition than may appear at first sight.
And so, when Cicero finally comes to laying out the details of the specific laws of the ideal state, we find the mapping out of the duties of people to gods as the first order of business. Not just any gods, but public gods, for the public good. Thus at the outset, Cicero establishes not the existence of the gods, for he thinks that is a given, but the parameters and responsibilities of the state religion, and he roots this in a conception of law as given in nature itself. 45 All Roman magistrates were both political and cultic functionaries, and priestly offices were simultaneously public.