Cock-crow

The Hebrews divided the night into four watches: 1, The “beginning of the watches” or “even” (Lam. ii. 19); 2, “The middle watch” or “midnight” (Judg. vii. 19); 3, “The cock-crowing;” 4, “The morning watch” or “dawning” (Exod. xiv. 24).

“Ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning.” - Mark xiii. 35.

The Romans divided the night into sixteen parts, each one hour and a-half, beginning at midnight. The third of these divisions (3 a.m.) they called gallicinium, the time when cocks begin to crow; the next was conticinium, when they ceased to crow; and fifth was diluculum, dawn.

Probably the Romans sounded the hour on a trumpet (bugle) three times, and if so it would explain the diversity of the Gospels: “Before the cock crow” (John xiii. 38, Luke xxii. 34, and Matt. xxvi. 34); but

“Before the cock crow twice ” (Mark xiv. 30) - that is, before the “bugle” has finished sounding.

Apparitions vanish at cock crow.
This is a Christian superstition, the cock being the watch-bird placed on church spires, and therefore sacred.

The morning cock crew loud,
And at the sound it [the Ghost] shrunk in haste away, 
And vanished from our sight.

Shakespeare: Hamlet, i. 2.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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