Extracts From De Die Natali



The following is a loose translation of extracts from "De Die Natali" (285AD) by Censorinus. From these writings and the general acceptance of the date of 88 BCE as the end of the eighth Saeculum, we can calculate the birth date of the Etruscans as 968 BCE:

......and finally we shall talk about how the lifetime of man is determined according to the Etruscan tradition. According to the writings of Varro, the Etruscans also divide the life of man into a ten seven year periods as written in their sacred books known as the Libri Fatales, and believe that it is possible by prayers to persuade the gods to postpone the fatal moment by adding two additional periods to the first ten making a total of twelve periods of seven years.

However after the conclusion of eighty years of life, that is something which man should not request, which the gods cannot grant. It is considered that after eighty years of life, man is hardly more than than a body without soul, and it is not considered fit that the gods should perform miracles for him...............

Saeculum:

The definition of various authors;
Definition according to the Etruscan Rituals;
Definition of the Saeculum of the Romans;


Although the account is somewhat unclear, the Etruscans seem to state that a time period can be determined for the Saeculum for individual cities.

Indeed according to these books, the beginning of each Saeculum is determined on the basis of the foundation day of the city:

For those who were born on that day, the longest surviving will determine the length of the Saeculum. The day of his death corresponds to the end of the first Saeculum.

In turn, those born on the latter day, the death of the longest living survivor marks the end of the second century, and so on for each additional Saeculum.

But in ignorance of the truth, people sought the appearance of certain signs, by whom the gods informed mortals that each Saeculum was complete.

The Etruscans, considering their knowledge and skill in the art of the Haruspices, scrutinised these signs and recorded them them in their books. Therefore according to the Annals of Etruria, as described by Varro, he (Varro) was living in the eighth Saeculum of the (Etruscan) nation.

They (The Annals) tell us this, as well as how many Saecula of existence are allocated (for Etruria), how long each one lasted, and the signs which marked the conclusion of each Saeculum.

Thus we read that the first four Saecula consisted of 105 years; the fifth of 123 years, the sixth and seventh of 119, and that the eighth has almost finished. After that has finished, all that remains is the ninth and the tenth, after which the Etruscan name will disappear.

But in the fixing of this period called the Saeculum, our (Roman) ancestors had several reasons:

Firstly they had observed that a considerable number of their fellow-citizens lived to the predicted age. Then for a number of other reasons they wanted to imitate the Etruscans, for whom their first saeculum had been about one hundred years.

This is perhaps supported by Varro's writings on the Dioscorid astrologers in Alexandria, where they have the practice of embalming corpses to preserve them, and are persuaded that man cannot live more than one hundred years, proven by those who, enjoying the best of health, passed from life to death without the least deterioration of the body.

çBack to Etruscan Religion