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Book VI

This webpage reproduces a Book of
Roman History

Cassius Dio

published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1914

The text is in the public domain.

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Cassius Dio
Roman History

Thayer's Note: Before e-mailing me with questions, comments, or corrections involving the numbering of Books, chapters, and sections in this text, please read the orientation page.

Fragments of Book VII


25 1 The cause of the Gallic expedition was this. The people of Clusium had suffered injuries in the war at the hands of the Gauls and had turned for refuge to the Romans, having considerable hope that they could obtain some help at least in that quarter, from the fact that they had not taken sides with the Veientes, though of the same race. When the Romans failed to vote them aid, but sent envoys to the Gauls and were negotiating a peace for them, they set little store by this (for it was offered them in return for a portion of the land), and attacked the barbarians in battle right after the conference, taking the Roman envoys along with them. The Gauls, vexed at seeing these on the opposite side, at first sent an embassy in their turn to Rome, preferring charges against the envoys. And when no punishment was p209visited upon the latter, but they were all, on the contrary, appointed consular tribunes, the barbarians were filled with wrath, being naturally quick to anger, and since they held Clusium in contempt, they set out against Rome.

3 The Romans after going out to meet the invasion of the Gauls had no time even to recover breath, but went immediately from their march into battle, just as they were, and lost. Panic-stricken by the unexpectedness of the invaders' expedition, by their numbers, by the huge size of their bodies, and by the strange and terrifying sound of their voices, they forgot their training in military science and hence lost the use p211of their valour. 4 For skill contributes very largely to bravery, since when present it strengthens the power of men's resolutions and when wanting destroys the same more thoroughly by far than if they had never possessed it at all. Many persons, to be sure, without experience often carry things through by the impetuosity of their spirit, but those who fail of the discipline which they have learned lose also their strength of purpose. This caused the defeat of the Romans.

5 The Romans who were on the Capitol under siege had no hope of safety, unless through the aid of p213Heaven. For so scrupulously did they observe the mandates of religion, although in every extremity of evil, that when one of the sacred rites needed to be performed by the pontifices in another part of the city, Kaeso Fabius, who was then exercising the office of priest, descended for the purpose from the Capitol after arraying himself as was his wont, and passing through the enemy, performed the customary ceremony and returned the same day. 6 I marvel at the barbarians, on the one hand, because, either on account of the gods or his bravery, they spared him; yet still more do I marvel at the man himself, for two reasons: first, that he dared to descend alone among the enemy, and again, that when he might have withdrawn to some place of safety, he refused, and instead voluntarily returned up to the Capitol again into manifest danger. For he understood that they hesitated to abandon the spot which was the only part of their country they still held, but saw at the same time that no matter how much they desired to escape it was impossible to do by reason of the multitude of the besiegers.

p215 This same man [Camillus], when urged to let the leadership be entrusted to him, would not allow it, because he was an exile and could not take the position according to time-honoured usage. He showed himself so law-abiding and scrupulous a man that in so great a danger of his native land he made duty a matter of earnest thought and was unwilling to hand down to posterity the example of an illegal act.

7  23 (1) The European Gauls, of whom the Asiatic Gauls are thought to be an offshoot, . . .

(2) Meanwhile the people of Clusium with the Roman ambassadors lay in wait for the Gauls and attacked them.

(3) And he [Brennus] advanced with such speed that his followers came upon the city before the Romans had learned of their approach. Nevertheless, Heaven is said to have forewarned them of the attack. For as Marcus Caedicius was proceeding somewhere or other one night he heard a voice say: "The Gauls are coming." But when he reported this to the people and to the senate, they treated his story with ridicule and derision, until the Gauls were close at hand to announce themselves. Then indeed they eagerly sallied forth, but fighting in no orderly ranks, they met with a most disgraceful defeat. Many fell in battle, many while fleeing were overtaken and slain; great numbers moreover were crowded into the Tiber and there perished. The rest were scattered and managed to get away, some to Rome, and some to other places. The Romans in the city upon learning of the disaster were helpless, and in their despair neither manned the walls nor closed the city gates; instead, some of them deserted the city and fled, while others with their wives and children rushed up to the Capitol. Eighty men alone, who, according to some, were priests, according to others, the chief citizens in point of age, wealth, and family, arrayed themselves in sacred or very costly robes . . .

(4) The Gauls came the next day to Rome, but upon seeing the gates open and the wall unguarded they halted and did not enter, since they suspected an ambush. But on the third day they gained courage to rush in, and they captured the city.

(5) Then they attacked the Capitol also; but when, after attempts covering several days, they could accomplish nothing, some continued to guard the Capitol, while the others scoured the country for provisions, etc. And drunkenness proved their undoing; for upon finding a large quantity of wine they drank very intemperately, since they had never before tasted such a beverage.

(6) When after much difficulty, now crawling and now clambering, he [Pontius Cominius] had at last reached the top . . .

(7) But the barbarians went around by day and discovered where Pontius had approached the Capitol, drawing their inference from the fragments broken off the cliff as well as from the fact that the grass, which grew in abundance there, was in some places torn up, in other places crushed down. They determined therefore to climb up themselves the same way by night; and they did, in fact, make the attempt, and were getting up, painfully but surely, and would have escaped detection . . .

(8) They [the Romans] all but abandoned it [their ruined city]. They would not listen either to the officials or to the senate when these counselled them not to abandon the city, just saved from the enemy. But while they were all deliberating about the matter in the Forum, a centurion in command of a guard chanced to march directly past the assembly bath to call out to his men: "Halt! This is where you remain." The people thought these words had been uttered by divine foresight, and so gave up the p217thought of removal and turned with eagerness to the rebuilding of Rome.

(9) And attacking it [Sutrium] unexpectedly . . . he [Camillus] restored it that same day safe and uninjured to the inhabitants. Accordingly he celebrated a triumph as a result of these victories and was exalted to great honour.

(10) The populace, accordingly, led him [Capitolinus] up to the Capitol; and they took possession of it. As a result, Camillus was chosen dictator for the fourth time. Now when the senators and the magistrates had fallen into great fear and were doubtful what course to take, a slave approached them and promised to deliver up Capitolinus to them alive. Receiving for the purpose some heavy-armed troops and placing them secretly in ambush below the Capitol, he himself went forward in the guise of a deserter to meet Capitolinus; and he proceeded to praise him for his undertaking and to promise assistance from his fellow-slaves. While thus conversing with the man, he drew him apart from the bystanders, pretending that he had some communication for him in particular, and gradually approached that part of the Capitol where the ambuscade had been stationed; then he thrust him down. Thus Capitolinus was seized and brought before the court. But he proceeded to enumerate his valiant services and to point out to the jury and others present the Capitol, which was visible from that point, and reminded them of the preservation not only of the citadel itself but also of the citizens who had taken refuge there; as a result, the jurors were overcome with emotion, and postponed the vote.

p219 26 1 The people sentenced Capitolinus to death, his house was razed to the ground, his wealth confiscated, and his name and even likeness, wherever such existed, were erased and destroyed. At the present day, too, all these punishments, except the razing to the ground, are visited upon those who conspire against the commonwealth. They decreed as that no patrician should dwell upon the citadel, because Capitolinus had happened to have his house there. And the family of the Manlii prohibited any one of their number from being called Marcus, since that had been his name.

2 Such was the change, then, that Capitolinus underwent both in character and in fortune. Having made a speciality of warfare, he did not understand how to remain at peace; the Capitol he had once saved he occupied for the purpose of establishing a tyranny; although a patrician he became the prey of a servant; and whereas he was reputed a warrior, he was arrested after the manner of a slave and hurled down the very rock from which he had repulsed the Gauls.

3 Capitolinus was thrown headlong down the rock by the Romans. So true it is that nothing in human affairs, as a rule, remains fixed; and success, in particular, leads many people on into catastrophes equally great. It raises their hopes for continued good fortune, makes them always strive for more, and, when they fail, hurls them into the very opposite extreme.

p221 28 1 Camillus made a campaign against the Tusculans, but thanks to a remarkable course of dissimulation that they adopted they suffered no harm. For, just as if they themselves were guilty of no offence and the Romans were cherishing no anger against them, but were either coming to them as friends or else marching through their territory against some other tribes, they changed none of their accustomed habits and were not in the least disturbed; 2 instead, all without exception remained in their places, at their regular trades or occupations, just as in time of peace, and receiving the army within their borders, gave them hospitable gifts, and in other ways honoured them like friends. Consequently the Romans, so far from doing them harm, enrolled them subsequently among the citizens.

3 Dio, Book VII. "The Tusculans did not raise their hands against him."

Then many wars were stirred up both against Rome herself and against the cities subject to her; but the Romans went out against their enemies under the leadership sometimes of Camillus, sometimes of others, — for he was now very old, — and quelled these wars. Then they enjoyed profound peace with the outside nations, but were at variance among themselves. A certain Marcus Fabius, a patrician, who chanced to be the father of two daughters, had betrothed the elder to one Licinius Stolo, much inferior to him in rank, and married the younger to Sulpicius Rufus, who belonged to his own class.

29 1 When Rufus, who was consular tribune and was engaged in public service in the Forum, arrived at home, and the lictor, according to an ancient custom, knocked at the door, the woman was alarmed at this, being unfamiliar with anything of the sort, and was startled. Accordingly, both her sister and the others burst out into loud laughter at her expense, 2 and made fun of her as a woman ignorant of official etiquette, since her husband had never served in any position of authority. She took it terribly to heart, as women in particular, from their littleness of soul, usually do, and would not give up her resentment until she had set all the city in an uproar. Thus small and accidental events become, in some cases, the cause of many great evils, when a person meets them with envy and jealousy.

Now while Rufus was consular tribune and was in the Forum one day, his wife had a visit from her sister. Upon the arrival of the husband the lictor, according to an ancient custom, knocked at the door. The visitor was startled by the noise, as she was unfamiliar with this procedure; thereupon both her sister and the others present burst out laughing and made fun of her as an ignoramus. But she took the matter as a serious affront, and roused her husband to canvass for office. Stolo, accordingly, incited by his wife, took counsel with Lucius Sextus, a man of his own station, and forced the election of them both to the tribuneship; and they overthrew the established order of the state to such an extent that for four years the people had no rulers, since these men repeatedly obstructed the patrician elections.

p225 3 In the midst of evils expectation of rescue is very apt to persuade one to trust even in what is beyond reason.

4 For by their disputes they were constantly undermining in one way or another all these objects for which they were formerly accustomed to wage the greatest wars, they gained in time — not without factional quarrels, to be sure, but still with small difficulty.

5 Publius, when the citizens of Rome were quarrelling with one another, nearly reconciled them. For he chose as master of the horse Licinius Stolo, in spite of the fact that he was a man of the people. This innovation grieved the patricians, but conciliated the rest so much that they no longer laid claim to the consulship for the following year, but allowed consular tribunes to be chosen. As a result of this certain mutual concessions were made in other matters as well, and they would perhaps have become reconciled with each other, had not Stolo, the tribune, made some remark to the effect that they should not drink unless they would eat and so persuaded p227them to relinquish nothing, but to carry through as indispensable reforms all that they had taken in hand.

This state of affairs would have continued for a still longer time, had not news been brought that the Celts were again marching upon Rome. Accordingly they dropped all their quarrels with each other, chose Camillus dictator for the fifth time, and marched against the barbarians. A general engagement, however, did not take place at once, but first there was a combat between single champions. There was a certain Titus Manlius, a patrician, who had quarrelled with his father and had been living neglected in the country; but after becoming reconciled with his father he had been elected military tribune. This Manlius now presented himself against the Celt who had offered the challenge for a duel, vanquished him, and stripped from him his collar, which was of gold; and wearing this, he received the cognomen of Torquatus. Now when the armies joined in battle, the Celts were defeated, and desisted from their march upon Rome, but proceeded to ravage the Alban territory. The Romans permitted them to plunder the country, in order that they might freely indulge in food and drink, and so become easier to attack; then assailing them, they destroyed a great many and captured their camp. After this Camillus returned to Rome and resigned his office.

From this time the consular tribunes, who had p229replaced the consuls, ceased to be elected, and consuls were chosen — sometimes patricians, sometimes plebeians, and occasionally from both orders at the same time. Furthermore, a pestilence visited Rome, in the course of which Camillus died; and the Romans grieved greatly at his death.

Ioan. Tzetzes, Schol. ad Exeg. Iliad., p136, 17

25 It is related that after this a disaster befell Rome. The level land between the Palatine and the Capitoline is said to have become suddenly a yawning chasm, without any preceding earthquake or other natural phenomenon such as usually takes place in connexion with such events. For a long time the chasm remained thus, refusing to close at all or even to be filled, although the Romans brought and cast into it masses of earth and stones and all sorts of other material. In the midst of their uncertainty an oracle was given them to the effect that the aperture could in no wise be closed unless they threw into the chasm their best possession and that which was the chief source of their strength; in this way the prodigy would cease, and the city would command invincible power. Still the uncertainty remained unresolved, for the oracle was obscure. But Marcus Curtius, a patrician, young in years, of a remarkably handsome appearance, powerful physique, and courageous spirit, and conspicuous for intelligence, comprehended the meaning of the oracle. He came forward, therefore, before them all and addressed them, saying: "Why, Romans, do we blame the obscurity of the oracle rather than our own ignorance? We are this thing sought and debated. For nothing lifeless is to be accounted better than that which has life, nor shall that which is uncomprehending, speechless, and senseless be preferred to that which has comprehension and sense and the adornment of speech. What should any one deem superior to man to be cast into the earth-fissure, that therewith we might close it?

Dio Cassius Cocceianus, the compiler of Roman history, states that as a result of the wrath of Heaven a fissure opened in the ground round about Rome and would not close. After an oracle had been obtained to the effect that fissure would close if they should throw into it the mightiest possession of the Romans, one Curtius, a knight of noble birth,

30 2 There is no mortal creature either better or stronger than man. Do you not see that all the rest go bent downwards and look forever toward the earth and accomplish nothing save what is connected with their nourishment and the propagation of their species (for to these pursuits they have been condemned even by Nature herself), 3 while we alone gaze upwards and associate with heaven itself, despising the things on the earth and dwelling with the very gods, whom we believe to be similar to ourselves inasmuch as we are both their offspring and creation, not earthly, but heavenly. And for this reason we both paint and fashion those very beings according to our own forms; for, if I may speak somewhat boldly, man is p233naught else than a god with mortal body, and a god naught else than a man without body and consequently immortal. 4 That is why we surpass all other creatures. And there is no creature afoot which we do not enslave, overtaking it by speed or subduing it by force or catching it by some artifice, nor yet any that lives in the water or travels through the air; nay, even of these two classes, we pull the former up from the depths without seeing them and drag the latter down from the sky without going to them.

There is no mortal creature either better or stronger than man. For, if I may speak somewhat boldly, man is naught else than a god with mortal body, and a god naught else than a man without body and therefore immortal; and we are not far removed from divine power. This is what I think about the matter, and I ask you to accept this view.

But let no one think that I would have recourse to the lot or bid maiden or lad perish. I, of my own free accord, bestow myself upon you, that you may send me at once this very day as herald and envoy to the chthonian gods, to be your representative and helper forever." With these words Curtius proceeded to put on his armour and then mounted his horse. The rest grew mad with grief and mad with joy; and collecting various ornaments, some adorned the man himself with them as a hero, while others threw theirs into the chasm. Scarcely had Curtius sprung p235into it mounted, when the earth-fissure was closed and no one ever beheld either the chasm or Curtius. This is the way the story is related by the Romans; should any person judge it fabulous and not to be credited, he is at liberty to pay no attention to it.

when no one else was able to understand the oracle, himself interpreted it to mean a horse and man together. Straightway he mounted his horse and just as he was dashed heroically forward and plunged down that frightful pit. No sooner had he plunged down than the fissure closed; and the rest of the Romans from above scattered flowers. From this event the name of Curtius was applied also to the pit.

p237 32 1 Dio says: "Accordingly, although not accustomed to indulge in digressions, I have taken pains to make mention of this event and have stated in addition the Olympiad, in order that the date of the migration, of which most men are ignorant, may, from the precaution mentioned, become better known."

35 1 They put forward these proposals and a few others of similar nature, not because they expected to carry p239any of them into effect, — for they, if anybody, understood the purposes of the Romans, — but in order that failing to obtain their requests they might secure an excuse for complaints, on the ground that they were being wronged.

And again wars were waged against the Romans both by Gauls and by other nations, but they repelled all invaders, voting now for consuls, now for dictators. At this time occurred an incident of the following nature. Lucius Camillus had been chosen dictator, when the Gauls were overrunning the environs of Rome; and he had proceeded against the barbarians with the intention of using up time and not risking a conflict with men animated by desperation; inasmuch as he hoped to exhaust them more easily and securely through the failure of their provisions. But a Gaul challenged some one of the Romans to single combat, and there met him, accordingly, Marcus Valerius, a military tribune, and grandson of the famous Maximus. The course of the battle was brilliant on both sides: the Roman excelled in skill and unusual cleverness, and the Gaul in strength and daring. It was regarded as still more marvellous that a crow lighted on the helmet of Valerius and cawing all the while made dashes at the barbarian, confusing his sight and impeding his attack until he was finally slain. The Gauls, consequently, indignant at being vanquished by a bird, closed at once in their rage with the Romans and suffered a severe defeat. From the incident of the crow's assistance Valerius received the cognomen of Corvinus.

Thereafter, as the armies began to grow insubordinate and a civil war threatened to break out, the insurgents were brought to terms by the enactment of laws that no one's name should be erased from the list against his will, that any person who had served as tribune should not be centurion, that both of the consuls might be appointed from the plebs, and that the same man should not hold two offices at the same time nor hold the same office twice within ten years.

26 1 Now the Latins, although under treaty with the Romans, revolted and began war. They were filled with pride for the reason that they had an abundance of youthful warriors and had become thoroughly expert in warfare as a result of their constant campaigning with the Romans. The latter, upon hearing of this, chose Torquatus consul for the third time along with Decius, and came out to meet them. They fought a fierce battle with them, each side thinking that that day would be an accurate test of their fortune and of their valour. A certain event seemed to give the battle added distinction. The consuls, seeing that the Latins were equipped and spoke like the Romans, feared that some of the soldiers might make mistakes through not distinguishing their own and the hostile force with entire ease. Therefore they made proclamation to their men to observe instructions carefully and in no case to engage in single combat with any of their opponents. The rest observed this injunction, but the son of Torquatus, who was on the field among the cavalry and had been sent to reconnoitre the enemy's position, disregarded it — not through wilfulness, but through zeal. The leader of the Latin horse say him approaching and challenged him to single combat; and when the youth would not accept the challenge on account of the notice that had been served, he provoked him, saying: "Are you not the son of Torquatus? Do you not give yourself airs because of your father's collar? Or are you Romans strong and courageous against those plaguy Gauls, but fear us Latins? Why, then, do you presume to rule over us? Why do you give orders to us as to your inferiors? The Roman became frenzied with rage and readily forgot the injunction; he won the combat, and in high spirits conveyed the spoils to his father.


2 Dio, Book VII. "And for this reason I shall punish you, in order that even as you have obtained the prize for your prowess, so you may receive the penalty for your disobedience."

The latter, after assembling the army, said: "Nobly you have fought, my son, and for this I will crown you. But because you did not observe the orders issued, though under obligation both as a son and as a soldier to yield obedience, for this reason I shall punish you, in order that you may obtain both the prize for your prowess and the penalty for your disobedience."

With these words he at the same moment placed the garland on his head and cut off the very head that bore it.

4 It was evident to every one that they had awaited the outcome of the battle and had ranged themselves on the victorious side. Torquatus did not, however, question them about it, for fear they might revolt while relations between the Romans and the Latins were still tense. In fact he was not harsh in all cases nor in most matters the sort of man he had shown himself toward his son; on the contrary, he was admitted to be excellent both in council and in battle, so that it was said by the citizens and by their adversaries alike that he had held in his hands the destiny of the war, and that if he had been leader of the Latins, he would certainly have made them conquer.

p243 9 Although the Romans were vexed at Torquatus on account of his son to such an extent that they called the harshest deeds "Manlian" after him, and were angry, furthermore, that he had celebrated a triumph in spite of the death of that youth and in spite of the death of his colleague, nevertheless, when another war threatened them, they elected him again to a fourth consulship. But he refused to be their leader longer, and renounced the office, declaring: "I could not endure you nor you me."

Soon after, a dream that appeared similarly to both consuls the same night seemed to tell them that they should overcome the enemy, if one of the consuls would devote himself. Discussing the dream together in the daytime, they decided that it was of divine origin, and agreed that it must be obeyed. And they disputed with each other, not as to which should be saved, but as to which of them preferably should devote himself; and they even presented their arguments before the foremost men in the camp. Finally they settled it that one should station himself on the right wing and the other on the left, and that whichever of these two divisions should be defeated, the consul stationed there should give up his life. And there was so great rivalry between them in regard to the self-devotion that each of the consuls prayed that he might be defeated, in order to obtain the right to devote himself and the consequent glory. After joining battle with the Latins they carried on an evenly-balanced struggle for a long time, but finally the wing of Decius gave way before the Latins a little. On perceiving this Decius devoted himself. Slipping off his armour, he put on his purple-bordered clothing. Some say that in this costume he sprang upon a horse and rode toward the enemy and met his death at their hands, others that he was slain by a fellow-soldier of his own race.


7 Dio says: "I marvel that the death of Decius should have set the battle right again, and should have defeated the side that was winning and given victory to the men who were getting worsted; and yet I cannot conjecture what did bring about the result. When I reflect what some have accomplished, — for we know that many such experiences have befallen many persons before, — I cannot disbelieve the tradition; 8 but when I calculate their causes, I become involved in a great dilemma. For how is one to believe that by such a sacrifice of a single man so great a multitude of men turned at once to safety and to victory? Well, the truth of the affair and the causes responsible for it should be left to others to investigate."

When Decius had now perished, a decisive victory fell to the Romans and the Latins were all routed — yet certainly not on account of the death of Decius. For how can one believe that from such a death of a single man so great a multitude of human beings was destroyed in the one case and in the other was saved and won a conspicuous victory? So the Latins in this way were defeated, and Torquatus, though he had killed his son and though his colleague had perished, nevertheless celebrated a triumph.

Once again did they subdue these very Latins, who had revolted, and they subjugated in battle other nations, employing now consuls and now dictators.

p247 10 The Romans, by way of bringing the Latins in turn to a condition of friendliness, granted them citizenship, so that they secured equal privileges with themselves. Those rights which they would not share with that nation when it threatened war and for which they underwent so many dangers they voluntarily voted to it now that it had been conquered. Thus they rewarded some for their alliance and others because they had made no move to rebel.

11 The Romans passed a decree with reference to the inhabitants of Privernum, after first asking them what they deserved to suffer for conduct such as theirs. The others answered boldly: "Whatever is suitable for men who are free and desire to continue." To the next question of the consul, "And what will you do if you obtain peace?" they replied: "If we receive it on reasonable terms, we will cease from disturbance, but if any intolerable burden is placed upon us, we will fight." Admiring their spirit, the Romans not only made a much more favourable treaty with them than with the rest . . .

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