"Elicitor." A surname of Jupiter at Rome, where king Numa dedicated to Jupiter Elicius an altar on the Aventine.1 The same king was said to have instituted certain secret rites to be performed in honor of the god, which were recorded in his Commentarii.2
The origin of the name as well as the notion of Jupiter Elicius is referred to the Etruscans, who by certain prayers and sacrifices called forth (eliciebant or evocabant) lightning or invited Jupiter to send lightning.3 The object of calling down lightning was according to Livy's explanation to elicit prodigies ex mentibus divinis; and when the god appeared or sent his lightning in anger, it was an unfortunate sign to the person who had invited it. Seneca4 attests that the ancients distinguished a kind of lightning or fulmina, called fulmina hospitalia, which it was possible for man to draw down, and Pliny mentions Numa, Tullus Hostilius, and Porsena, among the persons who in early times had called down lightning, though Tullus and his family perished in the attempt.
Some writers think that the belief in the possibility of calling down lightnings arose out of certain observations or experiments in electricity, with which the ancients were acquainted, and some have even ventured upon the supposition that the ancients, and the Etruscans in particular, knew the use of conductors of lightning, which, though they cannot draw lightning from heaven, yet conduct it towards a certain point. Servius5 goes even so far as to say that the art of drawing down lightning was known to Prometheus.
- Livy. The History of Rome i, 20.
- ibid. i, 31.
- Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia ii, 54; Ovid. Fasti iii,327 ff.; Varro. On the Latin Language vi, 94.
- Naturales Quaestiones ii, 49.
- on Virgil's Eclogues, 6.42
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.