In Etruscan and Roman religious practice, a haruspex (plural haruspices) is a person trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy, hepatoscopy or hepatomancy. Haruspicy is the inspection of the entrails (exta) of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry. Haruspicy is one of the three branches of the "Etruscan discipline" (disciplina Etrusca) preserved in written texts that were known to the Romans, along with ritual practice and divination from lightning.
The first element of the word haruspex originates ultimately in Proto-Indo-European gher-, ghor-na, "bowels, entrails", from which Latin hernia, "protruding viscera", and hira, "empty gut", also derive. The element -spex, "observer", is related to the Latin verb spicio, spicere, spectus, "watch".
Babylonian haruspicy 
- "For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the household idols, he looks at the liver."
The liver was considered the source of the blood and hence the base of life itself. From this belief, the Mesopotamians deemed the liver of special sheep the means to discover the will of the gods. The priest, called a bārû, was specially trained to interpret the "signs" of the liver and a monumental compendium of omens was assembled called the Bārûtu. The liver was divided into sections with each section representing a particular deity.
The Nineveh library texts name more than a dozen liver-related terms and before cuneiform writing was even deciphered, hints of the existence of Babylonian hepatoscopy were recorded in the Bible. One Babylonian clay model of a sheep's liver, dated between 2050 and 1750 BC, is conserved in the British Museum. The model was used for omen divination which was important to Mesopotamian medicine. This study was carried out by priests and seers who looked for signs in the stars, or in the organs of sacrificed animals, to tell them things about a patient’s illness. Wooden pegs were placed in the holes of the clay tablet to record features found in a sacrificed animal's liver. The priest or seer then used these features to predict the course of a patient's illness.
Haruspicy was part of a larger study of organs for the sake of divination, called extispicy, paying particular attention to the positioning of the organs and their shape. There are many records of different peoples using the liver and spleen of various domestic and wild animals to forecast weather. There are hundreds of ancient architectural objects, labyrinths composed of cobblestones in the northern countries that are considered to be a model of the intestines of the sacrificial animal, i.e. the colon of ruminants.
Etruscan haruspicy 
The Etruscans were also well known for the practice of divining by the entrails of sheep. A bronze sculpture of a liver known as the "Liver of Piacenza", dating to around 100 BC, was discovered in 1877 near the town of Piacenza in northern Italy. It is marked with the name of regions assigned to various deities of Etruscan religion.
The art of haruspicy was taught in the Libri Tagetici, a collection of texts attributed to Tages, a childlike being who figures in Etruscan mythology, and who was discovered in an open field by Tarchon; the Libri Tagetici were translated into Latin and employed in reading omens.
Around 1900, a professor of anatomy, Ludwig Stieda, sought to compare this artifact with a Mesopotamian one dated to a millennium earlier. If the Etruscans originated in Anatolian Lydia, as Herodotus suggested, haruspicy would have been among their inheritance from the Luwian heirs of the Hittites.
The continuity of the Etruscan tradition among the Romans is indicated by several ancient literary sources, perhaps most famously in the incident related by Suetonius in which a haruspex named Spurinna warned Julius Caesar to beware the Ides of March.
Roman haruspicy 
The emperor Claudius was a student of the Etruscan language and antiquities, and opened a college to preserve and improve their art, which lasted until the reign of Theodosius I, the Christian emperor who dismantled the last active vestiges of the traditional state cult. Further evidence has been found of haruspices in Bath, England where the base of a statue dedicated by a haruspex named Memor.
See also 
- BM WA 92668.
- Suetonius, Divus Julius 81.
- Walter Burkert, 1992. The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age (Thames and Hudson), pp 46–51.
- Derek Collins, "Mapping the Entrails: The Practice of Greek Hepatoscopy" American Journal of Philology 129 : 319-345
- Marie-Laurence Haack, Les haruspices dans le monde romain (Bordeaux : Ausonius, 2003).
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Haruspices.|
- Haruspices, article in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities
- Figurine of Haruspex, 4th Cent. B.C. Vatican Museums Online, Gregorian Etruscan Museum, Room III