Attus Navius

A renowned augur in the time of Taiquinius Priscus. In his boyhood he showed his skill in the art before he had received any instruction; but after he had been taught by the Etruscans, he excelled all the augurs of his time.

The most extraordinary proof of his knowledge of augury is related in the legend of Tarquinius Priscus. This king proposed to double the number of the equestrian centuries, and to name the three new ones after himself and two of his friends, but was opposed by Navius, because Romulus had originally arranged the equites under the sanction of the auspices, and consequently no alteration could be made in them without the same sanction. The tale then goes on to say that the king thereupon commanded him to divine whether what he was thinking of in his mind could be done, and that when Navius, after consulting the heavens, declared that it could, the king held out a whetstone and a razor to cut it with. Navius immediately cut it.

A statue of Attus Navius was placed in the Comitium, on the steps of the senate-house, the place where the miracle had been wrought, and beside the statue the whetstone was preserved. There was a current report, according to Dionysius, that Attus fell a victim to the anger of Tarquin. Attus Navius seems to be the best orthography, making Attus an old praenomen, though we frequently find the name written Attius.



  • Aurelius Victor. The Lives of the Illustrious Romans iii, 6.
  • Cicero. De Divinatione i, 17; On the Nature of the Gods ii, 3, iii, 6; De re publica, ii, 10.
  • Dionysius, iii, 70-72.
  • Flor. i, 5.
  • Livy. The History of Rome i, 36.
  • Niebuhr, B.G. (1845). History of Rome. Vol. 1, pp. 360, 361.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.