Text #9640

Halicarnassus. "Roman Antiquities"
[Bk. 9 Ch. 40 ]


The election of magistrates being at hand, Lucius Pinarius and Publius Furius were chosen consuls. At the very beginning of this year the city was filled with a kind of religious awe and fear of the gods owing to the occurrence of many prodigies and omens. All the augurs and the pontiffs declared that these occurrences were indications of divine anger, aroused because of some rites were not being performed in a pure and holy manner. And not long afterwards the disease known as the pestilence attacked the women, particularly such as were with child, and more of them died than ever before; for as they miscarried and brought forth dead children, they died together with their infants. And neither supplications made at the statues and altars of the gods nor expiatory sacrifices performed on behalf of the state and of private households gave the women any respite from their ills.

While the commonwealth was suffering from such a calamity, information was given to the pontiffs by a slave that one of the Vestal virgins who have the care of the perpetual fire, Urbinia by name, had lost her virginity and, though unchaste, was performing the public sacrifices. The pontiffs removed her from her sacred offices, brought her to trial, and after her guilt had been clearly established, they ordered her to be scourged with rods, to be carried through the city in solemn procession and then to be buried alive. One of the two men who had perpetrated the impious defilement killed himself; the other was seized by the pontiffs, who ordered him to be scourged in the Forum like a slave and then put to death. After this action the pestilence which had attacked women and caused so great a mortality among them promptly ceased.

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