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Augur (lat. augures) — a type of priest in ancient Rome, specialized in divination. He was a member of the Roman priestly college. Augurs performed official state divination (the most famous was auspices) to predict outcome of certain events based on a number of natural features and behavior of birds (the word itself comes from the latin "avis" - bird and "gero" - behave, act). The concept of augurium meant event itself, dedicated to divination. Augurs had several distinctive attributes: trabeia (subspecies togas), a priestly staff (lituus), and a special vessel (capis) for sacrifice. The knowledge and powers of the Augurs were called "ius augurium" and was attested in the corresponding books (libri augurales).

Roman altar with the image of the Augur (63 BC-14 AD)
Roman altar with the image of the Augur (63 BC-14 AD)
Image of lituus and kapis on the denarius Kv. Caecilia Metella Pius, 81 BC


The Augurs appeared under Romulus. Livy said that under Numa Pompilius, official position of augur was established, which was honorary andfor term of life. According to the law of Ogulnius of 300 BC, their number in ancient Rome was 9 people, of which there were 5 Plebeians. Under Sulla, their number increased to 15, and Caesar added one more-the 16th member of the college of augurs. The augurs of the college were self-elected (cooptati). However, since 154 BC, at the suggestion of the tribune of the people Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, the members of the college were elected by the Roman people. In 103 BC this law was repealed by Sulla and restored again in 63 BC. In 44 BC, Mark Antony again repealed the law, but Aulus Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa restored it to force. After that, under Augustus, the augurs were appointed by the emperor. The position of augur was still held for life, with 2 senior members of the college nominating candidates. The most senior member of the college was called a magister collegii. The election of new augurs was accompanied by festivities.

The etymology of the word "inauguration" is also interesting, as it comes from roman "augur". This word and the very tradition of the ceremony is derived from the Augurs. Initially, the "inauguration" is the blessing of the augurs and the ceremony of taking official position.

To record omens, the augurs first drew a templum (tescum), a small space from which observations were to be made, and behind it was located the area on which the omens took place. One of the augurs used his staff to draw two lines (the first line ran from north to south — cardo, and the second from east to west through the first line — decumanus) across the entire field of observation. After that, the augur connected their ends in straight lines in the form of a rectangle and began the rite of divination. At the site of the ritual in the urban environs of Rome (usually on the Capitol, where there was a special place, auguraculum, and during the gathering of centuriate comitia — on the Champ de Mars), a tent was pitched (templum minus).

The Augurs also solved other problems, including political ones. An example is the election of officials, when in 426 BC the question arose whether, without angering the gods, a military tribune with consular power could appoint a dictator. This question was addressed to the augurs, who dispelled doubts on this issue. Also in 175 BC, the Augurs answered the question of whether the consuls had made a mistake in choosing the place of military operations. In 168 BC the decision of the Augurs prevented the roman army from going on the campaign, as the consul was forced to go to Gaul only with Latin allies, leaving the legions in the city, because, in the opinion of the Augurs, he chose an unfortunate day to gather his troops.

Augur, reenactment

Related topics

Pontifex, Toga, Vestal, Roman Republic