[Sidenote: The soothsayers.]
There was a class of prophets in those days called by a name which has been translated soothsayers. These soothsayers were able, as was supposed, to look somewhat into futurity—dimly and doubtfully, it is true, but really, by means of certain appearances exhibited by the bodies of the animals offered in sacrifices These soothsayers were consulted on all important occasions; and if the auspices proved unfavorable when any great enterprise was about to be undertaken, it was often, on that account, abandoned or postponed. One of these soothsayers, named Spurinna, came to Caesar one day, and informed him that he had found, by means of a public sacrifice which he had just been offering, that there was a great and mysterious danger impending over him, which was connected in some way with the Ides of March, and he counseled him to be particularly cautious and circumspect until that day should have passed.
[Sidenote: The hawks and the wren.]
The Senate were to meet on the Ides of March in a new and splendid edifice, which had been erected for their use by Pompey. There was in the interior of the building, among other decorations, a statue of Pompey. The day before the Ides of March, some birds of prey from a neighboring grove came flying into this hall, pursuing a little wren with a sprig of laurel in its mouth. The birds tore the wren to pieces, the laurel dropping from its bill to the marble pavement of the floor below. Now, as Caesar had been always accustomed to wear a crown of laurel on great occasions, and had always evinced a particular fondness for that decoration, that plant had come to be considered his own proper badge, and the fall of the laurel, therefore, was naturally thought to portend some great calamity to him.
[Sidenote: Caesar’s agitation of mind.] [Sidenote: His dream.] [Sidenote: Calpurnia’s dream.] [Sidenote: The effect of a disturbed mind.]
The night before the Ides of March Caesar could not sleep. It would not seem, however, to be necessary to suppose any thing supernatural to account for his wakefulness. He lay upon his bed restless and excited, or if he fell into a momentary slumber, his thoughts, instead of finding repose, were only plunged into greater agitations, produced by strange, and, as he thought, supernatural dreams. He imagined that he ascended into the skies, and was received there by Jupiter, the supreme divinity, as an associate and equal. While shaking hands with the great father of gods and men, the sleeper was startled by a frightful sound. He awoke, and found his wife Calpurnia groaning and struggling in her sleep. He saw her by the moonlight which was shining into the room. He spoke to her, and aroused her. After staring wildly for a moment till she had recovered her thoughts, she said that she had had a dreadful dream. She had dreamed that the roof of the house had fallen in, and that, at the same instant, the