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Bill Thayer

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I: Part 2

This webpage reproduces part of
The Epitome of Roman History


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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I: Part 4

Lucius Annaeus Florus

The two books of the Epitome,
extracted from Titus Livius,
of all the wars of seven hundred years

Book I (continued)

VII. The War with the Gauls.
VIII. Further Wars with the Gauls.
VIIII. The Latin War.
X. The Sabine War.
XI. The Samnite War.
XII. The War against the Etruscans, Samnites and Gauls.

 p41  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VII. The War with the Gauls

I, 13 At this point, owing to the envy of the gods or a decree of fate, the rapid progress of the growing empire was checked for a while by the invasion of the Gallic Senones. 2 Whether this period should rather be considered harmful to the Roman people through the disasters which it brought, or glorious owing to the test which it gave of their valour, I cannot say. 3 At any rate the force of calamity was such that I can only think that it was inflicted upon them by heaven as a test, because the immortal gods wished to know whether Roman valour deserved the empire of the world.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 4 The Gallic Senones were a naturally wild race and quite uncivilized; moreover, by their vast stature and proportionately huge arms and all sorts of other circumstances, they inspired such terror that they seemed created for the destruction of human life and the ruin of cities. 5 Having originally set out with a huge host from the remotest shores of earth and the all-encircling ocean, after they had laid waste all the intervening land, they settled between the Alps and the Po, and then, not content even with this territory, they began to wander through  p43 Italy; finally they besieged the city of Clusium. 6 The Romans intervened on behalf of their allies and confederates; and, according to the usual custom, ambassadors were sent to protest. But what sense of justice could be expected from barbarians? They only acted with greater ferocity, with the result that an open conflict ensued. 7 The Senones turned away from Clusium and, as they marched upon Rome, were met by the consul Fabius with an army at the river Alia.º One could not easily find a more disgraceful defeat, and so Rome has set a black mark against that day in its calendar. 8 The Roman army having been routed, the enemy were approaching the walls of the city, and there was no garrison. It was then, as upon no other occasion, that the true Roman valour showed itself. 9 In the first place the older men who had held the highest offices collected in the forum and there consecrated themselves to the infernal deities, the chief pontiff performing the ceremony; 10 they then immediately returned each to his own house and, still clad in their official robes and richest attire, they seated themselves in their curule chairs, so that, when the enemy arrived, they might all die with proper dignity. 11 The pontiffs and priests dug holes and buried some of the most sacred objects which were in the temples and carried off others with them on waggons to Veii. 12 At the same time the virgins of the priesthood of Vesta, barefooted, accompanied the sacred objects in their flight. It is said, however, that a plebeian, Albinius, assisted the virgins in their escape, and having set down his wife and children, received them in his waggon; to such an extent, even in the utmost extremities,  p45 did the respect for religion prevail over personal affection. 13 A band of young men, whose number is generally held to have been scarcely a thousand, under the leader­ship of Manlius, took up a position on the citadel of the Capitoline hill, having called upon Jupiter himself, as though he were there in very presence, to defend their valour as they themselves had met to guard his temple. 14 Meanwhile the Gauls arrived and entered the open city, at first in alarm lest some hidden stratagem was in the background, but afterwards, when they saw no one about, with equal noise and impetuosity. They approached the houses, which were everywhere open: here they were overawed by the elders in their purple-edged robes seated in their curule chairs as though they were gods and genii;​1 but presently, when it was obvious that they were mortals, and when, besides, they disdained to answer a word, they slaughtered them all, acting with the same brutality, and hurled torches into the houses and razed the whole city to the ground with fire and sword and the labour of their hands. 15 For six months (who could credit it?) the barbarians clung round that single hill, making every kind of attempt upon it by night as well as by day. Manlius, on his part, roused by the cries of a goose, hurled them from the top of the rock as they were climbing up at night and, in order to deprive the enemy of their hopes, though he was suffering the extremities of famine, cast down loaves of bread from the citadel so as to create the impression that he was confident. 16 Also on the appointed day he sent Fabius the pontiff through the midst of the enemy's guards to perform a solemn sacrifice on the Quirinal  p47 Hill; he returned safely, protected by the sacred character of his mission, through the enemies' weapons, and announced that the gods were propitious. 17 Finally, when the barbarians had been worn out by their own siege-operations and were offering to depart for a payment of 1000 pounds of gold (making their offer, moreover, in an insolent manner by throwing a sword into the scale to make the weights unfair, and uttering the proud taunt "Woe to the vanquished!"), Camillus, suddenly attacking them from the rear, made such a slaughter as to wipe out all traces of the burning of the city with the delegate of Gallic blood. 18 We are inclined to thank the gods that the destruction of the city was so complete; for they were the huts of shepherds that the fire overwhelmed, and the flames buried Romulus' poor little settlement. What other effect then did the fire produce except that the city, destined to be the abode of men and gods, seemed not so much to have been destroyed and overthrown as to have been sanctified and purified? 19 Thus, when the city had been saved by Manlius and restored by Camillus, the Roman people rose up again against their neighbouring foes with increased vigour and force.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VIII. Further Wars with the Gauls

First of all, not content with having driven away this particular tribe of the Gauls from the walls, Camillus followed them so closely, as they were dragging their shattered remains across Italy, that to‑day no trace is left of the Senones. 20 On one occasion a slaughter of them took place on the River Anio, during which, in single combat, Manlius took from a barbarian, among other spoils, a torque  p49 of gold, which gave their name to the family of the Torquati. On another occasion, in the Pomptine territory, in a similar fight Valerius, aided by a sacred bird which settled on his helmet, won spoils from the foe, and from this incident the Corvini derived their name.​2 21 Moreover, some years later, near the Lake of Vadimo in Etruria, Dolabella destroyed all that remained of the tribe, so that none might survive of the race to boast that he had burnt the city of Rome.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VIIII. The Latin War

I, 14 In the consul­ship of Manlius Torquatus and Decius Mus,​3 the Romans turned their attention from the Gauls to the Latins, who, always their foes through rivalry of empire, at this time, in their contempt for the burnt city, demanded the rights of citizen­ship and a share in the government and public offices, and dared to meet them in battle at Capua. 2 Who will wonder that on this occasion the enemy yielded, when one of the consuls put his own son to death, though he had been victorious, because he had fought against his order (thus showing that to enforce obedience was more important than victory), 3 while the other consul, as though acting upon a warning from heaven, with veiled head devoted himself to the infernal gods in front of the army, in order that, by hurling himself where the enemy's weapons were thickest, he might open up a new path to victory along the track of his own life-blood?

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] X. The Sabine War

I, 15 After the Latins they attacked the race of the Sabines, who, forgetful of the relation­ship formed under Titus Tatius,​4 had become as it were infected by the spirit of the Latins and had joined in their wars. 2 During the consul­ship of Curius Dentatus,​5 the Romans laid waste with fire and sword all the tract of country which is enclosed by the Nar, the Anio and the sources of the Velinus, and bounded by the Adriatic Sea. 3 By this conquest so large a population and so vast a territory was reduced, that even he who had won the victory could not tell which was of the greater importance.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XI. The Samnite War

I, 16 Next, moved by the prayers of the Campanians, the Romans attacked the Samnites, not on their own behalf but, what is more honourable, on that of their allies. 2 A treaty had been made with both nations, but that made with the Campanians was more formal and older, having been accompanied by the surrender of all their possessions. Thus the Romans entered upon war with the Samnites as though they were fighting for themselves.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3 The district of Campania is the fairest of all regions not only in Italy but in the whole world. Nothing can be softer than its climate: indeed it has spring and its flowers twice a year. Nowhere is the soil more fertile; 4 for which reason it is said to have been an object of contention between Liber and Ceres. Nowhere is the coast more hospitable,  p53 which contains the famous harbours of Caieta, Misenus, Baiae with its hot springs, and the Lucrine and Avernian Lakes where the sea seems to enjoy perpetual repose. 5 Here are the vine-clad mountains of Gaurus, Falernus and Massicus, and Vesuvius, the fairest of them all, which rivals the fires of Etna. 6 Towards the sea-coast lie the cities of Formiae, Cumae, Puteoli, Naples, Herculaneum and Pompeii, and Capua, queen among cities, formerly accounted among the three greatest in the world. 7 It was on behalf of this city and these regions that the Roman people attacked the Samnites, a race which, if you would know its wealth, was clad, even to the point of ostentation, in gold and silver armour and motley-coloured raiment; if you would learn its craft, it usually attacked its foes from its defiles and the ambushes of its mountains; if you would know its rage and fury, it was hounded on by its hallowed laws and human sacrifices to destroy our city; if you would know its obstinacy, it had been exasperated by a treaty six times broken and by its very disasters. 8 In fifty years, however, under the leader­ship of two generations of the Fabii and Papirii, the Romans so thoroughly subdued and conquered this people and so demolished the very ruins of their cities that to‑day one looks round to see where Samnium is on Samnite territory, and it is difficult to imagine how there can have been material for twenty-four triumphs over them. 9 Yet a most notable and signal defeat was sustained at the hands of this nation at the Caudine Forks in the consul­ship of Veturius and Postumius.​6 10 The Roman army having been entrapped by an ambush in that defile and being unable to escape, Pontius  p55 the commander of the enemies' forces, dumbfounded at the opportunity offered to him, asked the advice of his father Herennius. The latter, with the wisdom of advanced years, had advised him either to let them all go free or else to slay them all; 11 Pontius preferred to strip them of their arms and send them under the yoke,​a so that they were not made his friends by an act of kindness but rendered bitterer enemies by the affront put upon them. The result was that the consuls by a generous act of devotion immediately wiped out the disgrace of the treaty by voluntarily surrendering themselves; and the soldiers, under the leader­ship of Papirius, calling for vengeance, rushed furiously along (horrible to relate) with their swords drawn as they advanced before they came to blows, and, when the encounter took place, the enemy affirmed that the eyes of all the Romans blazed with fire. Nor was an end put to the slaughter until they retaliated by making the enemy and the captured general pass under the yoke.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XII. The War against the Etruscans, Samnites and Gauls

I, 17 Hitherto the Roman people had waged war against single nations; they soon had to meet a combined attack. Yet even so they were a match for them all. Twelve tribes of the Etruscans, the Umbrians, the most ancient people in Italy and up to that time unassailed in war, and the survivors of the Samnites suddenly conspired together to destroy the very name of Rome. 2 The simultaneous attack of so many powerful peoples caused the greatest terror. The hostile standards of four  p57 armies fluttered far and wide through Etruria. 3 Meanwhile the Ciminian forest, which lay between Rome and Etruria, and which was formerly as pathless as the Caledonian or the Hercynian forest, inspired such terror that the senate forbade the consul to venture to face its perils. 4 But no such warning could frighten the general from reconnoitring a passage by sending forward his brother, who, disguised as a shepherd, by night spied out the land and brought back news of a safe route. 5 In this way Fabius Maximus brought a most dangerous war to a close without running any danger; for he suddenly attacked the enemy as they were disordered and straggling, and having captured commanding heights, launched his thunders at his own pleasure on the enemy below — 6 a species of warfare which resembled the hurling of weapons upon the giants from the heaven and clouds above. 7 But it was not a bloodless victory, for one of the consuls, Decius, being surprised in the bend of a valley, following the example of his father, offered his life as a sacrifice to the gods below, and thus by performing an act of devotion, which was habitual in his family, paid the price of victory.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 i.e. tutelar deities of the place.

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2 Corvinus from corvus, a crow.

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3 340 B.C.

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4 See p13.

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5 290 B.C.

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6 321 B.C.

Thayer's Note:

a For "passing under the yoke", see the last paragraph of the article Jugum in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities and my note there.

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Page updated: 29 Oct 08