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Ficus Navia

Richardson, L. jr

Ficus Navia: a fig tree in the Comitium named for Attus Navius, near whose statue in front of the Curia Hostilia it stood (Festus 168-70L; Dion. Hal. 3.71.5). Pliny (Pliny HN 15.77) says it grew from a spot struck by lightning (fulguribus ibi conditis) and was regarded as sacred, but was also revered because of the memory of the Ficus Ruminalis (q.v.) and the she-wolf, "a miracle proclaimed in bronze nearby, as though she had crossed the Comitium while Attus Navius was taking the omens." The text is difficult and has been emended to say that Attus Navius had miraculously transported the Ficus Ruminalis to the Comitium by augury, but that seems a patent absurdity. Rather, it appears that what Pliny means is that the statue of Attus Navius showed him with raised lituus, as though taking omens, and near enough the fig and the statue to permit association with them was a bronze she-wolf in an attitude not unlike that of the Capitoline Wolf. The Capitoline Wolf stood for centuries in Piazza S. Giovanni in Laterano, but mounted on a lofty column in the manner popular in the Middle Ages and certainly not its original base. It is therefore possible that this is the wolf intended, though the Capitoline Wolf seems more likely to be the wolf mentioned by Cicero (Cicero Cat. 3.19, Cicero Div. 1.20, Cicero Div. 2.47) as having been in Capitolio and struck by lightning in 65 B.C., because there are traces of such damage (EAA, s.v. "Lupa Capitolina").

The Ficus Navia was regarded as important to the well-being of Rome. Whenever it died this was taken as an omen, and the priests planted a replacement (Pliny HN 15.77). It died in A.D. 58 but then revived, and put forth new shoots (Tacitus Ann. 13.58). Tacitus calls it the Arbor Ruminalis, perhaps in the belief that it was a descendant of, or surrogate for, the Ficus Ruminalis, which by this time had disappeared.

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