It remains to trace the history of the college of augurs. We have already seen that it was a common opinion in antiquity that the augurship owed its origin to the first king of Rome, and it is accordingly stated, that a college of three augurs was appointed by Romulus, answering to the number of the early tribes, the Ramnes, Tities, and Lucerenses. This is the account of Cicero, who supposed Numa to have added two more, without, however, stating in what way these latter corresponded to the tribes. On the other side stand different statements of Livy, first, onewhich is probably an error, in which the first institution of augurs is attributed to Numa, seemingly on the theory that all the Roman religion was derived from the second king; secondly, a statement of far more importance , that at the passing of the Ogulnian law the augurs were but four in number, which Livy himself, who recognised the principle of the number of augurs corresponding to that of the tribes, supposes to have been accidental. This is improbable, as Niebuhr has shown, who thinks the third tribe was excluded from the college of augurs, and that the four, therefore, represented the Ramnes and Tities only. It is hard to suppose, however, that this superiority of the Ramnes and Tities over the third tribe could have continued down to the time of the Ogulnian law (B.C. 300): moreover, as two augurs apiece were appointed from each of the two first tribes, and the remaining five from the plebs, it does not appear how the Luceres could have ever obtained the privilege. A different mode of reconciling the contradictory numbers four and three is sought for in another statement of Cicero, that the kings were augurs, so that after their expulsion another augur may have been added instead of them to the original number which represented the tribes. Probably this is one of the many cases in early Roman history in which the only conclusion we can come to is, that the theory of what ought to have been according to antiquarians of a later age differed from what actually was according to the earliest accounts to which Livy had recourse.
The members of the college of augurs possessed self-election . At first they were appointed by the king, but as the king himself was an augur, their appointment by him was not considered contrary to this principle . They retained the right of co-optation until B.C.E. 103, the year of the Domitian law. By this law it was enacted that vacancies in the priestly colleges should be filled up by the votes of a minority of the tribes, i.e., seventeen out of thirty-five chosen by lot , but again restored B.C.E. 63, during the consulship of Cicero, by the tribune T. Annius Labienus, with the support of Caesar . It was a second time abrogated by Antony B.C. 44 , whether again restored by Hirtius and Pansa in their general annulment of the acts of Antony, seems uncertain. The emperors possessed the right of electing augurs at pleasure.
Our knowledge of augury as practised by the other Italian peoples is fragmentary, but in the Eugubine tables (still preserved at Gubbio) we have some most interesting remnants of the ritual of the Umbrian augurs, probably between the fourth and the second century B.C., showing striking resemblances to the Roman. The fame of the Marsi as augurs was widespread, but unenviable (Enn. ap. , 132). The augural science of the Sabines was preserved at Rome by the (Varr. L. L. 5.85). Among the Latins Gabii had the honour of being the traditional source of the augury of Romulus and Rome. (; ; Preller, Röm. Myth. p. 106.) The Sorani on Mount Soracte are mentioned as augurs by Cic. (de Div. 1.47). When Rome became mistress of Italy, collegiate bodies of augurs, in imitation of the Roman, were established in many Italian cities (; ; Orelli, 2287-8; Orelli-Henzen, 5777); also in the provinces. In the colony of Urso in Spain (Lex Col. Genet. lxvii. lxviii.) they were elected by the comitia, yet the phrase is still and it is to be noticed that conviction for a criminal offence deprived the augur of his office. Augurs also are found in the Album of Thamugas (Marq. 1.192). For numerous other examples, see Henzen, Index, p. 49.