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31. We wish, then, to question you, and invite you to answer a short question, Whether you think it a greater offence to sacrifice to them no victims, because you think that so great a being neither wishes nor desires these; or, with foul beliefs, to hold opinions about them so degrading, that they might rouse any one’s spirit to a mad desire for revenge? If the relative importance of the matters be weighed, you will find no judge so prejudiced as not to believe it a greater crime to defame by manifest insults any one’s reputation, than to treat it with silent neglect. For this, perhaps, may be held and believed from deference to reason; but the other course manifests an impious spirit, and a blindness despaired of in fiction. If in your ceremonies and rites neglected sacrifices and expiatory offerings may be demanded, guilt is said to have been contracted; if by a momentary forgetfulness42364236    Lit., “an error of inadvertence.” any one has erred either in speaking or in pouring wine;42374237    Lit., “with the sacrificial bowl.” or again,42384238    So the ms., both Roman edd., Elm., Hild., and Oehler, reading rursus; the others in cursu—“in the course.” if at the solemn games and sacred races the dancer has halted, or the musician suddenly become silent,—you all cry out immediately that something has been done contrary to the sacredness of the ceremonies; or if the boy termed patrimus let go the thong in ignorance,42394239    Patrimus, i.e., one whose father is alive, is probably used loosely for patrimus et matrimus, to denote one both of whose parents were alive, who was therefore eligible for certain religious services. or could not hold to the earth:42404240    So the ms. reading terram tenere, for which Hild. would read tensam, denoting the car on which were borne the images of the gods, the thongs or reins of which were held by the patrimus et matrimus; Lipsius, siserram, the sacrificial victim. The reading of the text has been explained as meaning to touch the ground with one’s hands; but the general meaning is clear enough,—that it was unlucky if the boy made a slip, either with hands or feet. and yet do you dare to deny that the gods are ever being wronged by you in sins so grievous, while you confess yourselves that, in less matters, they are often angry, to the national ruin?


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