The term is derived from extra and spiere, meaning to view or consider. It applied cheifly to the inspection of entrails for the purposes of augury.The officials were known as Extispieces or Auspieces and one of the instruments they used was called by the same name as their craft, the extispicium.
The practice of extispicy came to the Etrurians from the Babylonians as most forms of divination were derived from Mesopotamia. It is said that Romulus chose Aruspices from the Etrurians. The practiced also was employed throughout Greece where the priesthood was confined to two families.
The Roman auspieces had four distinct duties: to examine the victim or animal before it was opened, to examine the entrails, to observe the flame of the sacrificial fire, and to examine the meat and drink offered in accompaniment of the sacrifice.
It was a fatal sign when the heat of the fire was wanting. This occurred when two oxen were immolated on the day Caesar was killed.
Signs predicting a potential instant disaster were if the priest let the entrails fall, if there was more bloodiness than usual, or they entrails were of a livid color.
The Roman architect Vitruvius (46 BC) attempted to credit the origination of extispicy to the custom of making an encampment. The entrails of the animals in the area were examined to determine if the area was healthy to make camp in. Little value was given to this theory. A.G.H.