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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.

This text has not yet been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book X

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 IX


 p295  39 1 The Romans had learned that the Tarentines and some others were making ready to war against them, and had despatched Fabricius as an envoy to the allied cities to prevent any revolt on their part; but these people arrested him, and by sending men to the Etruscans, Umbrians, and Gauls caused a number of them also to secede, some immediately and some a little later.

3 The Tarentines, although they had themselves begun the war, nevertheless were sheltered from fear. For the Romans, who understood what they were doing, pretended not to know it on account of their temporary embarrassments. Hereupon the Tarentines, thinking either that they would get off with impunity or that they were entirely unobserved, because they were receiving no complains, behaved  p297 still more insolently and forced the Romans even against their will to make war upon them. This confirms the saying that even success, when it comes to men in undue measure, proves a source of misfortune to them; for it leads them on into folly — since moderation will not dwell with vanity — and causes them the gravest disasters. Just so these Tarentines, after enjoying exceptional prosperity, met in turn with misfortune that was an equivalent return for their insolence.

4 Dio, Book IX. "Lucius Valerius, who was admiral of the Romans and had been despatched on some errand by them.

5 Lucius was despatched by the Romans to Tarentum. Now the Tarentines were celebrating the Dionysia, and sitting gorged with wine in the theatre one afternoon, they suspected that he was sailing against them. Immediately, in a passion and partly under the influence of intoxication, they set sail in turn; and thus, without any show force on his part or the slightest suspicion of any hostile act,  p299 they attacked and sent to the bottom both him and many others. 6 When the Romans heard of this, they naturally were angry, but did not choose to take the field against Tarentum at once. However, they despatched envoys, in order not to appear to have passed over the affair in silence and in that way render them more arrogant. But the Tarentines, so far from receiving them decently or even sending them back with an answer in any way suitable, at once, before so much as granting them an audience, made sport of their dress and general appearance. 7 It was the city garb, which was in use in the Forum; and this the envoys had put on, either for the sake of dignity or else by way of precaution, thinking that this at least would cause the foreigners to respect their position. Bands of revellers accordingly jeered at them — they were also celebrating a festival, which, though they were at no time noted for temperate behaviour, rendered them still more wanton — and finally a man planted himself in the way of Postumius, and stooping over, relieved his bowels and soiled the envoy's clothing. 8 At this an  p301 uproar arose from all the rest, who praised the fellow as if he had performed some remarkable deed, and they sang many scurrilous verses against the Romans, accompanied by applause and capering steps. But Postumius cried: "Laugh, laugh while you may! For long will be the period of your weeping, when you shall wash this garment clean with your blood."

9 Hearing this, they ceased their jests, but made no move toward obtaining pardon for their insult; indeed, they took to themselves credit for a kindness in the fact that they had let the ambassadors withdraw unharmed.

10 Meton, failing to persuade the Tarentines not to engage in war with the Romans, retired unobserved from  p303 the assembly, put garlands on his head, and returned along with some fellow-revellers and a flute-girl. At the sight of him singing and dancing the cordax,a they gave up the business in hand to accompany his movements with shouts and hand-clapping, as people are apt to do under such circumstances. But he, after reducing them to silence, said: "Now it is our privilege both to be drunk and to revel, but if you accomplish what you plan to do, we should be slaves."

40 5 King Pyrrhus was said to have captured more cities by the aid of Cineas than by his own spear. For the latter, says Plutarch [Pyrrhus, 14], was skilled in speaking — the only man, in fact, to be compared in skill with Demosthenes. Now, as a sensible man, he recognized the folly of the expedition and endeavoured to dissuade Pyrrhus from it. For the  p305 latter intended by his prowess to rule the whole earth, whereas Cineas urged him to be satisfied with his own possessions, which were sufficient for enjoyment. But the king's fondness for war and fondness for leadership prevailed against the advice of Cineas and caused him to depart in disgrace from both Sicily and Italy, after losing in all of the battles countless thousands of his own forces.

3 King Pyrrhus was not only king of the district called Epirus, but had made the larger part of the Greek world his own, partly by conferring benefits and partly by inspiring fear. The Aetolians, who at that period possessed great power, and Philip the Macedonian, and the chieftains in Illyricum paid court to him. In natural brilliancy, in power acquired by education, and in experience of affairs he far surpassed all men, so as to be rated even beyond what was warranted by his own powers and those of his allies, great as these were.

 p307  4 Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus, had a particularly high opinion of his powers because he was deemed by foreign nations a match for the Romans; and he believed that it would be opportune to assist the fugitives who had taken refuge with him, especially as they were Greeks, and at the same time so forestall the Romans with some plausible excuse before he should suffer injury at their hands. For so careful was he about his good reputation that though he had long had his eye on Sicily and had been considering how he could overthrow the power of the Romans, he shrank from taking the initiative in hostilities against them, when no wrong had been done him.

 p309  6 Pyrrhus sent to Dodona and inquired of the oracle about the expedition. And when the response came to him, "You, if you cross into Italy, Romans shall conquer," he construed it according to his wish — for desire is very apt to deceive one — and did not even await the coming of spring.

 p311  7 The Rhegians had asked the Romans for a garrison, and Decius was the leader of it. But the majority of these guards, as a result of the abundance of supplies and the generally easy habits — for they were under far less rigid discipline than they had known at home — and at the instigation of Decius, formed the desire to kill the foremost Rhegians and occupy the city. It seemed as if they might be quite free to accomplish whatever they pleased, now that the Romans were busied with the Tarentines  p313 and with Pyrrhus. 8 They were the more easily persuaded owing to the fact that they saw Messana in the possession of the Mamertines. The latter, who were Campanians and had been appointed to garrison the place by Agathocles, the lord of Sicily, had slaughtered the inhabitants and occupied the city. The conspirators did not, however, make their attempt openly, since they were decidedly inferior in numbers. 9 Instead, Decius forged letters purporting to have been written to Pyrrhus by some citizens with a view to the betrayal of the Romans; he even assembled the soldiers and read these to them, stating that they had been intercepted, and by addressing them in words appropriate to the occasion he exasperated them still further. The effect was enhanced by the announcement of a man, who had  p315 been assigned to the rôle, that a portion of Pyrrhus' fleet had anchored off the coast, having come for a conference with the traitors. 10 Others, who had been instructed, magnified the matter, and shouted out that they must anticipate the Rhegians before they met with some harm, and that the traitors, ignorant of what was being done, would find it difficult to resist them. So some rushed into their lodging-places, and others broke into the houses and slaughtered great numbers; but a few had been invited to dinner by Decius and were slain there.

11 Decius, the commander of the garrison, after slaying the Rhegians, ratified friendship with the Mamertines, thinking that the similar nature of their outrages would render them most trustworthy allies. He was well aware that a great many men find the ties resulting from some common transgression stronger to unite them than the obligations of lawful association or the bonds of kinship.

12 The Romans suffered some reproach from them for a while, until such time as they took the field against them. For while they were busied with concerns that were greater and or urgent, they gave the impression that they regarded this affair as of slight moment.

13 The Romans, on learning that Pyrrhus was coming, were overcome with fear, since they had hear  p317 that he was a great warrior himself and had a large and irresistible army — just the sort of reports, of course, that always come to those inquiring about persons unknown to them who live at a very great distance.

8  2 Those to begin the wars were the Tarentines, who had associated with themselves the Etruscans, Gauls, and Samnites, and numerous other tribes. These allies the Romans engaged and defeated in various battles, with different consuls on different occasions; but the Tarentines, although they had themselves begun the war, nevertheless did not yet openly array themselves for battle. Now Lucius Valerius, the admiral, while proceeding with his triremes to a place whither he had been despatched with them, wished to anchor off Tarentum, supposing the country to be friendly. But the Tarentines, owing to a guilty sense of their own operations, suspected that Valerius was sailing against them, and in a rage set sail in turn, and attacking him when he was expecting no hostile act, sent to the bottom both him and many others. Of the captives they imprisoned some and put others to death. When the Romans heard of this they were indignant, but nevertheless despatched envoys, upbraiding them and demanding satisfaction. The offenders, however, not only failed to give them any decent answer, but actually jeered at them, going so far as to soil the clothing of Lucius Postumius, the head of the embassy. At this an uproar arose and the Tarentines indulged in loud guffaws. But Postumius cried: "Laugh, laugh while you may! For long will be the period of your weeping, when you shall wash this garment clean with your blood."

Upon the return of the envoys the Romans, learning what had been done, were grieved, and voted that Lucius Aemilius, the consul, should make a campaign against the Tarentines. He advanced to Tarentum and sent them favourable propositions, thinking they would choose peace on some fair terms. But they were at variance among themselves in their opinions. The elderly and well-to‑do were anxious for peace, but those who were youthful and who had little or nothing were for war; and the younger generation had its way. But feeling timid, nevertheless, they planned to invite Pyrrhus of Epirus to form and alliance, and sent to him envoys and gifts. Aemilius, learning of this, proceeded to pillage and devastate their country. They made sorties, but were routed, so that the Romans ravaged their country with impunity and got possession of some strongholds. Aemilius showed much consideration for those taken prisoners and liberated some of the more influential; and the Tarentines, accordingly, filled with admiration for his kindness, were led to hope for reconciliation, and so chose as general, with full powers, Agis, who was a good friend of the Romans. Scarcely had he been elected when Cineas, sent ahead by Pyrrhus, planted himself in the pathway of negotiations.

Now Pyrrhus, king of the district called Epirus, surpassed all men in natural cleverness, in power acquired by education, and in experience; and he had made the larger part of the Greek world his own, partly by conferring favours and partly by inspiring fear. Accordingly, when chance threw the envoys of the Tarentines in his way, he considered the alliance a piece of good luck. For a long time he had had his eye on Sicily and Carthage and Sardinia, but nevertheless he shrank from personally taking the initiative in hostilities against the Romans. So he promised to aid the Tarentines; but in order that he might not arouse suspicions (for the reasons stated) he announced that he would return home without delay, and insisted upon a clause being added to the agreement to the effect that he should not be detained by them in Italy further than actual need required. After making this agreement he detained the majority of the envoys as hostages, giving out that he wanted them to help him get the armies ready; a few of them, together with Cineas, he sent in advance with troops. As soon as they arrived, the Tarentines took courage, gave up their attempted reconciliation with the Romans, and deposing Agis from his command, elected one of the envoys general. Shortly afterward Milo, sent by Pyrrhus with a force, took possession of their acropolis to serve as headquarters for the king, and personally superintended the manning of their wall. The Tarentines rejoiced at this, since they did not have to do guard duty or undergo any other troublesome labour, and they sent regular supplies of food to the men and consignments of money to Pyrrhus.

Aemilius for a time held his ground, but when he perceived that the soldiers of Pyrrhus had arrived, and also found himself unable on account of the winter to hold out any longer, he started for Apulia. The Tarentines laid an ambush at a narrow pass through which he was obliged to go, and by means of their arrows, javelins and slings rendered progress impossible for him. But he put at the head of his line the captives whom he was conveying; and the enemy, fearing they might destroy their own men instead of the Romans, desisted from their attack.

Now Pyrrhus set out, not even awaiting the coming of spring, taking along a large, picked army, and twenty elephants, beasts never previously beheld by the Italians; hence they were invariably filled with alarm and astonishment. While crossing the Ionian Gulf he encountered a storm and lost many soldiers from his army; the remainder were scattered by the violent seas. Only with difficulty, even, and by a land journey did he reach Tarentum. He at once impressed those of military age into service along with his own soldiers, lest, if formed into separate companies of their own, they might become mutinous; he closed the theatre, ostensibly on account of the war and to prevent the people from gathering there and setting on foot any uprising; also he forbade them to assemble for banquets and revels, and ordered the youth to practise in arms instead of spending the day in the market-place. When some, indignant at this, left the ranks, he stationed guards from his own contingent so that no one could leave the city. The inhabitants, oppressed by these measures and by supplying food, and compelled to receive the guardsmen into their houses, repented, since they found in Pyrrhus a master instead of an ally. He, fearing for these reasons that they might lean to the Roman cause, took note of all the men who had any ability as politicians or could dominate the populace, and sent them one after another to Epirus to his son on various excuses; occasionally, however, he would quietly assassinate them instead. A certain Aristarchus, who was among the noblest of the Tarentines and was a most persuasive speaker, he made his bosom friend, to the end that he should be suspected by the people of having the interests of Pyrrhus at heart. When, however, he saw that he still had the confidence of the multitude, he gave him an errand to Epirus. Aristarchus, not daring to dispute his behest, set sail, but went to Rome.

3 Such was the behaviour of Pyrrhus toward the Tarentines. Those in Rome, learning that Pyrrhus had come to Tarentum, were overcome with fear, because the Italian states had been set at enmity with them, and because it was the common report that he was a great warrior and had an irresistible army.

So they proceeded to enlist soldiers and to gather money and to distribute garrisons among the allied cities to prevent them from revolting likewise; and learning in time that some were on the point of changing their allegiance, they punished the principal men in them. A handful of those from Praeneste were brought to Rome late one afternoon and thrown into the treasury for safe-keeping. Thereby a certain oracle was fulfilled concerning them. For an oracle had told them once that they should occupy the Roman treasury. The oracle, even, turned out in this way; but the men lost their lives.

Valerius Laevinus was despatched against Pyrrhus, the Tarentines, and the rest of their associates, but a part of the army was retained in the city. Laevinus accordingly set out at once on his march, so that he might carry on the war as far as possible from the Roman territory. He hoped it would frighten Pyrrhus when the very men whom the king had thought to besiege should of their own accord advance against his troops. In the course of his journey he seized a strong strategic point in the land of the Lucanians, and he left behind a force in Lucania to hinder the people from giving aid to his opponents.

 p319  Pyrrhus, on learning of Laevinus' approach, set forth before the latter came in sight, established his camp, and was desirous of using up time while waiting for his allies. And he sent a haughty letter to Laevinus with the purpose of overawing him. The contents were as follows: "King Pyrrhus to Laevinus, Greeting. I learn that you are leading an army against Tarentum. Send it away, therefore, and come to me yourself with a few attendants. For I will judge between you, if you have any charge to bring against each other, and I will compel the party at fault, however unwilling, to deal justly." Laevinus wrote back thus in reply to Pyrrhus: "You seem to me, Pyrrhus, to be perfectly crazy when you set yourself up as judge between the Tarentines and us, before rendering us an account of your crossing over into Italy at all. I will come, therefore, with my whole army and will exact the proper recompense both from the Tarentines and from you. What use have I for nonsense and palaver, when I can stand trial in the court of Mars, our progenitor?" After sending this reply he hurried on and pitched camp in such wise that the river which flows through that district was between him and the enemy. Having captured some scouts, he showed them his troops, and after telling them he had more of them — many times that number — he sent them back. Pyrrhus, alarmed at this, was not desirous of fighting, since some of the allies had not joined him, and also since he kept hoping that provisions would fail the Romans while they delayed on hostile soil. Laevinus also took this possibility into account, and was eager to join battle. But as the soldiers had become terrified at the reputation of Pyrrhus and because of the elephants, he called them together and delivered a speech containing many exhortations to courage; then he busily prepared to join issue with Pyrrhus, willing or unwilling.

 p321  14 For it is impossible that persons not brought up under the same institutions, or filled with the same ambitions, or accustomed to regard the same things as noble or base, should ever become friends with one another.

15 Ambition and distrust are ever the associates of tyrants, and so it is inevitable that these should possess no real friend. A man who is distrusted and envied could not love any one sincerely. Moreover, a similarity of habits and a like station in life and the fact that the same objects are disastrous and beneficial to persons are the only forces that can create true, firm friendships. Wherever any one of these conditions is lacking, you see a fictitious appearance of comradeship, but find it to be without secure support.

16 Generalship, if it be assisted by respectable forces, contributes greatly both to their preservation and to their victory, but by itself is worth nothing. Nor is there any other profession that avails aught without persons to coöperate and to aid in its administration.

The latter had no heart to fight, but in order to avoid an appearance of fearing the Romans he also in person addressed his men, inciting them to battle. Laevinus tried to cross the river opposite the camp, but was prevented. Retiring, therefore, he himself remained in position with the infantry, but sent the cavalry off, ostensibly on a marauding expedition, with instructions to march along some distance and even to cross the stream. In this way the cavalry assailed the enemy unexpectedly in the rear, while Laevinus in the midst of the foe's confusion crossed the river and took part in the battle. Pyrrhus came to the aid of his own men, who were in flight, but lost his horse by a wound; and they believed him to be dead. Then, with the one side dejected and the other scornfully elated, the situation had become altered. Pyrrhus became aware of this and gave his raiment, which was more striking than that of the rest, to Megacles, bidding him put it on and ride about in all directions, so that in the belief that the king was safe his opponents might be inspired with fear and his followers with courage. As for himself, he put on the dress of a private soldier and encountered the Romans with his full army, except for the elephants; and by bringing assistance to his troops wherever they were in trouble he aided them greatly. At first, even, for a large part of the day, they fought evenly; but when a man killed Megacles, thinking he had killed Pyrrhus and creating this impression in the minds of the rest, the Romans gained strength and their opponents began to give way.


 p323  18 When Megacles was dead and Pyrrhus had cast off  p325 his cap, the battle took an opposite turn. The one side was filled with much greater boldness as a result of his safety and the fact that he had survived contrary to their fears than if the idea had never gained ground that he was dead; the other side, deceived a second time, had no longer any zeal left, but since they had been once more cut short in their premature encouragement and because of the sudden change in their feelings to the expectation of disaster, they had no hope that he might perish after that.

 p327  19 When some men congratulated Pyrrhus on his victory, he accepted the glory of the exploit, but said that if he should ever conquer again in like fashion, it would be his ruin. Besides this story, it is also told of him that he admired the Romans even in their defeat and judged them superior to his own soldiers, declaring: "I should already have mastered the whole inhabited world, were I king of the Romans."

21 Pyrrhus became famous for his victory and acquired a great reputation from it, to such an extent that many who had been remaining neutral came over to his side and all the allies who had been watching the turn of events joined him. He did not openly display anger towards them nor did he entirely conceal  p329 his suspicions; he rebuked them somewhat for their delay, but otherwise received them kindly.

Pyrrhus, noting what was taking place, cast off his cap and went about with his head bare; and the battle took an opposite turn. Seeing this, Laevinus, who had horsemen in hiding somewhere outside the battle, ordered them to attack the enemy in the rear. As a counter-move to this Pyrrhus raised the signal for the elephants. Then, indeed, at the sight of the animals, which was out of all common experience, at their frightful trumpeting, and also at the clatter of arms which their riders made, seated in the towers, both the Romans themselves were panic-stricken and their horses became frenzied and bolted, either shaking off their riders or bearing them away. Disheartened at this, the Roman army was turned to flight, and in their rout some soldiers were slain by the men in the towers on the elephants' backs, and others by the beasts themselves, which destroyed many with their trunks and tusks (or teeth) and crushed and trampled under foot as many more. The cavalry, following after, slew many; and not one, indeed, would have been left, had not an elephant been wounded, and not only gone to struggling itself as a result of the wound but also by its trumpeting thrown the rest into confusion. This restrained Pyrrhus from pursuit and the Romans thus managed to cross the river and make their escape into an Apulian city. Many of Pyrrhus' soldiers and officers alike fell, so that when some men congratulated him on his victory, he said: "If we ever conquer again in like fashion, it will be our ruin." The Romans, however, he admired even in their defeat, declaring: "I should have mastered the whole inhabited world, were I king of the Romans."

Pyrrhus, accordingly, acquired a great reputation for his victory and many came over to his side; and the allies also espoused his cause. These he rebuked somewhat on account of their tardiness, but gave them a share of the spoils.

The result of showing excessive irritation would be, he feared, their open estrangement, 22 while if he failed to reveal his real feelings at all, he thought that he should either be condemned by them for his simplicity in not comprehending what they had done, or should be suspected of harbouring secret wrath. And such feelings would breed in them either contempt or hatred, and would lead to a plot against him, due to their desire to anticipate injuries that they might suffer at his hands. For these reasons, then, he conversed affably with them and gave them some of the spoils.

23 Pyrrhus at first tried to persuade the Roman captives, who were many, to join with him in a campaign against Rome; but when they refused, he treated them with the utmost consideration and did not put any of them in prison or harm them in any other way, his intention being to restore them voluntarily and through them to win over the city without a battle.

24 Although on account of the elephants, a kind of beast they had never before seen, the Romans had fallen into dismay, nevertheless, by reflecting on the mortal nature of the animals and the fact that no  p331 animal is superior to man, but that all of them in every way show inferiority, if not as regards strength, at least in respect of intelligence, they began to take heart.

25 The soldiers of Pyrrhus, moreover, both his native followers and the allies, showed tremendous eagerness for the plunder, which seemed to lie ready before them and to be free from danger.

26 The Epirots, displeased because they were getting nothing but trouble after entering upon the campaign in such high hopes, ravaged the territory of their friends. And this happened very opportunely for the Romans, inasmuch as the inhabitants of Italy who had been on the point of leaguing themselves with him, on seeing that his troops ravaged the possessions of allies and enemies alike, drew back; for they considered his acts rather than his promises.

4 The men of Rome were grieved at their defeat, but sent an army to Laevinus; and they summoned Tiberius from Etruria and put the city under guard when they learned that Pyrrhus was hastening against it. And Laevinus, as soon as he had cured his wounded soldiers and collected those scattered, and had also received the reinforcements from Rome, followed on the track of Pyrrhus and harassed him. Finding out that the king was eager to capture Capua, he occupied it in advance and guarded it. Disappointed there, Pyrrhus set out for Neapolis. But unable to accomplish anything at this place either, and being in haste to occupy Rome, he passed on through Etruria with the object of winning the people there also to his cause.


 p333  27 Pyrrhus became afraid of being cut off on all sides by the Romans while he was in unfamiliar regions. When his allies showed displeasure at this, he told them that he could see clearly from the country itself what a difference there was between them and the Romans. The subject territory of the latter had all kind of trees, vineyards, and tilled fields, and expensive farm fixtures; whereas the districts of his own friends had been pillaged to such an extent that it was impossible to tell whether they had ever been settled.

28 The same man, when, upon his retreat, he beheld the army of Laevinus much larger than it had been before, declared that the Roman legions when cut to pieces grew whole again, hydra-fashion. This did not, however, cause him to lose courage, but he in turn arrayed his forces, though he did not join battle.

 p335  29 Pyrrhus, when he learned that Fabricius and other envoys were approaching to treat on behalf of the captives, not only sent a guard for them as far as the border, to the end that they should suffer no violence at the hands of the Tarentines, but also went to meet them later, escorted them into the city, entertained them splendidly, and honoured them in other ways, expecting that they would ask for a truce and make such terms as became those who had been defeated.

30 Fabricius merely made this statement: "The Romans have sent us to get back the men captured in battle, and to pay ransoms for them of such size as shall be agreed upon by both of us." Thereupon Pyrrhus was quite dumbfounded because the envoy did not say that he was commissioned to treat about  p337 peace; and after removing them he took counsel with the friends who were usually his advisers, partly, to be sure, about the return of the captives, but chiefly about the war and its conduct, whether energetically or in some other way it . . .

31 ". . . to manage, or to run the risk of battles and combats, the outcome of which is doubtful. Do you therefore heed me, Milo, and the old proverb, and do not, either on the present occasion or any other, employ violence rather than skill, at least when the latter is possible; for Pyrrhus knows precisely what he has to do and does not need to be enlightened by us regarding a single detail." By this speech of Cineas they were brought to a unanimous decision, particularly because this course entailed neither loss nor danger, whereas the others were likely to involve both. 32 And Pyrrhus, being of  p339 this mind, said to the ambassadors: "Not willingly, Romans, did I make war upon you earlier, and I will not war against you now; I feel that it is of the highest importance to become your friend, and for this reason I release all the captives without ransom and make peace." Privately, also, he showed these men favour, in order that they might, if possible, espouse his cause, or at any rate might obtain the desired friendship for him.

33 Pyrrhus in addition to making friends of the rest conversed with Fabricius as follows: "Fabricius, I do not wish to be at war with you Romans any longer, and indeed I repent that I heeded the Tarentines in the first place and came thither, although I have beaten you badly in battle. I would gladly, then, be a friend to all the Romans, but most of all to you. For I see that you are  p341 a thoroughly upright and reputable man. Accordingly, I ask you to help me in securing peace and furthermore to accompany me home. I am desirous of making a campaign against Greece and need you as adviser and general." 34 Fabricius replied: "I commend you both for repenting of your expedition and for desiring peace, and will cordially assist you in that purpose, if it is to our advantage; for of course you will not ask me, an upright man as you say, to do anything against my country. But an adviser and general you must never choose from a democracy; as for me, I have no leisure whatever. Nor could I ever accept any of these presents, because it is not seemly for an ambassador to receive gifts at all. 35 I ask, now, whether in very truth you regard me as a reputable man or not. For, if I am a scoundrel,  p343 how is it that you deem me worthy of gifts? If, on the other hand, I am a man of honour, how can you bid me accept them? Be well assured, then, that I have many possessions and am in no need of more; what I have satisfies me, and I feel no desire for what belongs to others. You, however, even if you believe yourself ever so rich, are in unspeakable poverty. For you would not have crossed over to this land, leaving behind Epirus and the rest of your dominions, if you had been content with them and had not been reaching out for more.

Upon learning, however, that they had made a treaty with the Romans and that Tiberius was moving to meet him, while Laevinus was dogging his footsteps, he became afraid of being cut off on all sides by them while he was in unfamiliar regions, and he advanced no farther. When, now, as he was retreating and had reached the vicinity of Campania, Laevinus confronted him with an army much larger than it had been before, he declared that the Roman legions when cut to pieces grew whole again, hydra-fashion. And he in turn arrayed his forces, though he did not join battle. In order to terrify the Romans he had ordered his own soldiers before joining battle to smite their shields with their spears and utter a shout while the trumpeters and the elephants raised a united blare; but when the other side raised a much greater shout, actually terrifying the followers of Pyrrhus, he no longer cared to come to close quarters, but retired, as if he found the omens bad. And he arrived at Tarentum. Thither came Roman envoys, including Fabricius, to treat on behalf of the captives. These he entertained lavishly and showed them honour, expecting that they would conclude a truce and make terms now they were defeated. But Fabricius asked that he might get back the men captured in battle for such ransom as should be satisfactory to both. Thereupon Pyrrhus, quite dumbfounded because the envoy did not say that he was commissioned to treat about peace also, took counsel privately with his friends, as was his wont, about the return of the captives, but also about the war and how he should conduct it. Milo advised neither returning the captives nor making a truce, but overcoming all remaining resistance by war, since the Romans were already defeated; Cineas, however, gave advice just the opposite of his: he approved of surrendering the captives without price and sending envoys and money to Rome for the purpose of obtaining an armistice and peace. In his opinion the rest also concurred, and Pyrrhus, too, chanced to be of this mind. Having summoned the ambassadors, therefore, he said: "Not willingly, Romans, did I lately make war upon you, and I will not war against you now. It has been my desire to become your friend. Wherefore I release to you the captives without ransom, and am ready to make peace."

These words he addressed to the envoys as a body, and he gave them money, with the promise of more; but in conversation with Fabricius alone he said: "I would gladly become a friend to all the Romans, but most of all to you. For I see that you are an upright man, and I ask you to help me in securing peace." With these words he offered to bestow upon him a number of gifts. But Fabricius said: "I commend you, Pyrrhus, for desiring peace, and I will secure it for you, if it shall prove to our advantage. For you will not ask me, an upright man, as you say, to do anything against my country. Nay, I would not even accept any of these things which you offer. I ask you, now, whether in very truth you regard me as a reputable man or not. For, if I am a scoundrel, how is it that you deem me worthy of gifts? If, on the other hand, I am a man of honour, how can you bid me accept them? Be then assured that I have very many possessions, that I am satisfied with what I now have, and feel no need of more. You, however, even if you are ever so rich, are in unspeakable poverty. For you would not have crossed over to this land, leaving behind Epirus and the rest of your possessions, if you had been content with them and had not been reaching out for more."

36 Whenever a man is in this condition and sets no limit to his greed, he is the poorest of beggars. Why? Because he longs for everything not his own, as if it were absolutely necessary, and with the idea that he cannot live without it. Consequently I would gladly, since you call yourself my friend, afford you some of my own wealth. It is far more secure and imperishable than yours, and no one envies it or plots against it — neither populace nor tyrant; best of all, the larger the number of persons  p345 who share it, the greater it will grow. 37 In what, then, does it consist? In using what one has with as much satisfaction as if it were inexhaustible, in keeping one's hands off the possessions of others as if they contained some mighty curse, in wronging no man, in doing good to many, and a thousand other things which I could name if I had leisure. I, for my part, should choose, if it were absolutely necessary to suffer either one or the other, to perish by violence rather than by deceit. The former fate falls to the lot of some by the decree of Fortune, but the latter only as a result of folly and great greed of gain. 38 It is, therefore, preferable to be overthrown by the superior might of Heaven rather than by one's own baseness. In the former instance a man's body is brought low, but in the latter his soul is ruined as well; . . . while in this case a man becomes to a certain extent the slayer of himself, because he who has once taught his soul not to be content with the fortune already possessed, acquires a boundless desire for increased wealth."

39 And they presented themselves for the enlistment with the greatest zeal, each believing that his own failure to serve would mean the overthrow of the fatherland.

After this conversation had taken place as recounted, the envoys took the captives and departed. Pyrrhus despatched Cineas to Rome with a large amount of gold and women's apparel of every description, so that even if some of the men should resist, their wives, at least, won by the appeal of the finery, might corrupt them along with themselves. Cineas on coming to the city did not seek an audience with the senate, but lingered about, alleging now one reason, now another. He was visiting the houses of leading men, and by his conversation and gifts was gradually extending his influence over them. When he had won over a large number, he entered the senate-chamber and spoke as follows: "King Pyrrhus offers as his defence the fact that he came not to make war upon you, but to reconcile the Tarentines, in answer to their entreaties. And what is more, he has released your prisoners, waiving ransom, and though he might have ravaged your country and assaulted your city, he asks to be enrolled among your friends and allies, hoping to gain much assistance from you and to render you still more and greater benefits in return."

Thereupon the greater part of the senators were pleased because of the gifts and because of the captives; however, they made no reply, but continued to deliberate for several days more as to the proper course to pursue. There was a great deal of talk, but they were inclined, nevertheless, to make a truce. On learning this, Appius the Blind was carried to the senate-house — for by reason of his age and his infirmity he was confined to his house — and declared that the truce with Pyrrhus was not advantageous to the state. He urged them to dismiss Cineas at once from the city, and through him to make known to Pyrrhus that the king must first withdraw to his own country and from there make propositions to them about peace or about anything else he might wish. This was the advice Appius gave; and the senate delayed no longer, but forthwith voted unanimously to send Cineas that very day across the border and to wage implacable war upon Pyrrhus, so long as he should remain in Italy. They imposed upon the captives certain degradations in the campaigns, employing them no longer against Pyrrhus or for any other object as a body, — out of apprehension that if they were together they might mutiny, — but sending them to do garrison duty, a few here and a few there.

40 Such is the nature of oratory and so great is its power that it led even them to change, causing courage and hatred to take the place respectively of the fear inspired by Pyrrhus and the change of heart his gifts had wrought.

42 Every force which, contrary to expectation, is humbled in spirit, suffers a loss also in strength.

Thayer's Note:

a A sort of dance, Lydian in origin, associated with comedy; apparently a kind of parody of erotic dancing. (The degree of its salaciousness as reported on various websites online is inversely proportional to their overall reliability; I've been unable so far to come up with any proper reference. Translations that appeal to me: "bump-and‑grind", "cancan".)

Page updated: 16 Apr 11