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p996 Bidental

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p996 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

BIDENTAL, the name given to a place where any one had been struck by lightning (Festus, s.v. fulguritum), or where any one had been killed by lightning and buried. Such a place was considered sacred. Priests, who were called bidentales (i.e. sacerdotes), collected the earth which had been torn up by the lightning, and everything that had been scorched, and burnt it in the ground with a sorrowful murmur (Lucan, I.606). The officiating priest was said condere fulgur (Juv. Sat. VI.587; compare Orelli, Inscr. vol. I p431 No. 2482); he further consecrated the spot by sacrificing a two-year‑old sheep (bidens), whence the name of the place and of the priest, and also erected an altar, and surrounded it with a wall or fence. It was not allowable to tread on the place (Persius, II.27), or to touch it, or even to look at it (Amm. Marc. XXIII.5). Sometimes a bidental which had nearly fallen to decay from length of time was restored and renovated (Orelli, Inscr. No. 2483); but to remove the bounds of one (movere bidental), or in any way to violate its sacred precincts, was considered as sacrilege (Hor. Art. Poet. 471). From the passage in Horace, it appears to have been believed that a person who was guilty of profaning a bidental, would be punished by the gods with frenzy; and Seneca (Nat. Quaest. II.53) mentions another belief of a similar kind, that wine which had been struck by lightning would produce in any one who drank it death or madness. Persons who had been struck by lightning (fulguriti) were not removed, but were buried on the spot (Pers. Sat. II.27; Plin. H. N. II.54; Hartung, Religion der Römer, vol. II p13).


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