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Bill Thayer

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I: Part 3

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 5

Lucius Annaeus Florus

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

Book I (continued)

XIII. The Tarentine War.
XIIII. The Picenian War.
XV. The Sallentine War.
XVI. The Volsinian War.
XVII. Of Civil Discords.

 p57  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XIII. The Tarentine War

I, 18 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Next followed the Tarentine war, in name and title a single campaign, but manifold in its victories; for it involved as it were in a single ruin alike the Campanians, the Apulians and the Lucanians and the Tarentines, who were the original cause of it — in fact, the whole of Italy — and, besides all these, Pyrrhus, the most renowned ruler in Greece. It  p59 thus at the same time completed the subjugation of Italy and inaugurated the triumphs of Rome beyond the sea. 2 Tarentum, built by the Lacedaemonians, formerly the capital of Calabria, Apulia and all Lucania, is famous for its size, its walls and its harbour, and admired for its situation; 3 for lying at the very exit of the Adriatic it sends forth its ships to all lands, to Istria, Illyricum, Epirus, Achaea, Africa and Sicily. The theatre lies immediately above the harbour in such a position as to command a view of the sea, and this was the cause of all the misfortunes which befell the unhappy city. 4 They happened to be celebrating a festival when they saw the Roman fleet rowing towards the shore, and thinking that they were enemies, they rushed out and began to hurl indiscriminate insults at them, asking who the Romans wereº and whence they had come. 5 Nor was this all; for when an embassy immediately came and lodged a complaint, they foully affronted them also by a shameful and indecent insult. The result was a declaration of war. 6 The preparations inspired terror, so numerous were the peoples who rose in the defence of the Tarentines, of whom the most active was Pyrrhus, who came to protect a city which was half Greek through its Lacedaemonian founders, with all the forces of Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia, and with elephants, till then unknown in Italy, threatening Rome by land and sea, with men, horses and arms and the added terror of wild beasts.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 7 The first battle was fought in the consul­ship of Laevinus​1 at Heracleia in Campania, near the river Liris, and was so fierce that Obsidius, the commander of the Ferentanean squadron, charged the  p61 king and put him to flight, forcing him to throw away his royal insignia and leave the battle-field. 8 All was over, had not the elephants come up and turned the battle into a wild-beast show; for the horses, frightened by their huge bulk and ugliness and also by their strange smell and trumpeting, imagining the unfamiliar monsters to be more formidable than they really were, caused panic and destruction far and wide. 9 A second and more successful engagement took place in the consul­ship of Curius and Fabricius​2 at Asculum in Apulia. By this time, to be sure, the terror inspired by the monsters had passed away, and Gaius Numicius,º a front-rank soldier of the fourth legion, had shown, by cutting off the trunk of one of them, that the monsters were mortal. 10 And so javelins were concentrated against them, and torches, hurled against the towers which they carried, covered all the ranks of the enemy with flaming ruins. The slaughter was brought to an end only when night separated the armies, and the king, the last to desert the field, was himself carried away by his attendants on his own shield wounded in the shoulder. 11 The last engagement was fought under the leaders already mentioned above on the so‑called Arusine Plains in Lucania. On this occasion the Romans won a complete victory. Chance brought about a result which valour otherwise would have secured. 12 For, when the elephants again moved forward into the front rank, a young one that happened to be among them was struck a heavy blow on the head with a spear and turned round; and when it was hurrying back through the confused mass of its fellows, trumpeting with pain, its dam recognized it and  p63 left her place to defend it, causing by her vast bulk as great a disturbance around her as if she were attacking the enemy. 13 Thus the same beasts which deprived the Romans of their first victory and equalized the second battle, gave them undoubted victory in the third fight. 14 And it was not only with arms and on the battle-field that the struggle with King Pyrrhus was carried on, but also by intrigue at home; for after his first victory the wily king, recognizing the valour of the Romans, immediately gave up hope of military success and had recourse to craft. 15 For he burnt the bodies of the slain, treated his prisoners with indulgence and gave them back without ransom, and sending ambassadors to Rome strove by every device to obtain a treaty and be admitted to friendship. 16 But in peace and war, at home and abroad, Roman valour proved its worth in every respect; and the victory in the Tarentine war, more than any other, showed the bravery of the Roman people, the wisdom of the senate and the magnanimity of the generals. 17 What kind of men were those who, we are told, were trampled underfoot by the elephants in the first battle? The wounds of all of them were upon their chests; some shared death with their foes, all had their swords still in their hands, a threatening mien still marked their features, and their anger yet lived even in death. 18 So struck was Pyrrhus with admiration that he exclaimed, "How easy were it for me to win the empire of the world if I had an army of Romans, or for the Romans to win it if they had me as their king!" Again, how great must have been their promptitude in  p65 replacing their losses! 19 For Pyrrhus said, "I plainly see that I am sprung of the seed of Hercules, when I see all these heads of foes cut off springing up again from their blood as they sprang from the Lernaean hydra." 20 Again, what was the character of the senate? When, on the proposal of Appius Caecus, the ambassadors of Pyrrhus had been expelled from the city with their presents and the king asked them what they thought of the abode of their enemies, they confessed that the city seemed to them to be a temple and the senate an assembly of kings. 21 Again, what kind of men were their generals? Even in the field, Curius sent back the physician who offered the head of Pyrrhus for sale, and Fabricius refused a share in his kingdom offered to him by the king; 22 in peace, Curius preferred his earthenware vessels to Samnite gold, and Fabricius, with all the authority of the censorial office, stigmatized as a luxury the possession of Rufinus, a man of consular rank, of ten pounds of silver. 23 Who then can wonder that with such moral principles and such military valour the Roman people were victorious, and that, in their single war against the Tarentines, they subdued, within the space of four years, the greater part of Italy, the bravest nations, the richest cities and the most fertile regions? 24 Or what can be more incredible than the contrast presented by the beginning of the war and its conclusion? Pyrrhus victorious in the first battle, while all Campania trembled, laid waste the banks of the Liris and Fregellae,º looked forth from the city of Praeneste upon a Rome which he had all but captured, and, at a distance of only about twenty miles, filled the eyes  p67 of the trembling citizens with his smoke and dust. 25 Yet afterwards, when this same king had twice had his camp captured and had been twice wounded and had been driven as a fugitive over sea and land back to his own land of Greece, peace and tranquillity ensued, and so rich a spoil was gathered from so many wealthy races that Rome could not contain the fruits of her victory. 26 Scarcely ever did a fairer or more glorious triumph enter the city. 27 Up to that time the only spoils which you could have seen were the cattle of the Volscians, the flocks of the Sabines, the waggons of the Gauls, the broken arms of the Samnites; now if you looked at captives, they were Molossians, Thessalians, Macedonians, Bruttians, Apulians and Lucanians; if you looked upon the procession, you saw gold, purple statues,​a pictures and all the luxury of Tarentum. 28 But upon nothing did the Roman people look with greater pleasure than upon those huge beasts, which they had feared so much, with towers upon their backs, now following the horses which had vanquished them, with heads bowed low not wholly unconscious that they were prisoners.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XIIII. The Picenian War

I, 19 Then all Italy enjoyed peace — for who could venture upon resistance after the defeat of Tarentum? — except that the Romans thought fit themselves to punish those who had been the allies of their enemies. 2 The people of Picenum were therefore subdued and their capital Asculum was taken under the leader­ship of Sempronius, who, when an earthquake occurred in the midst of the battle, appeased the goddess Earth by the promise of a temple.

 p69  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XV. The Sallentine War

I, 20 The Sallentines and Brundusium, the capital of their country, with its famous harbour, shared the fate of the people of Picenum at the hands of the Romans under the leader­ship of Marcus Atilius. During this struggle Pales, the goddess of shepherds, demanded further for herself a temple as the price of victory.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XVI. The Volsinian War

I, 21 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The last of the Italians who came under the protection of Rome were the Volsinians, the richest of all the Etruscans, who asked for help against those who had formerly been their slaves and had used against their masters the liberty which the latter had granted to them, and, having shifted the power to themselves, were playing the tyrants in the State; they too were punished by the Romans under the leader­ship of Fabius Gurges.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XVII. Of Civil Discords

I, 22 This period forms the second age, which may be called the youth, of the Roman people, during which it was most vigorous, and showed fire and heat in the flower of its strength. Hence there was still in it a certain spirit of ferocity inherited from shepherd ancestors, and an untamed spirit yet breathed. 2 Hence it was that the army mutinied in camp and stoned the general Postumius, when he denied them the spoils which he had promised; that under Appius Claudius they refused to defeat the enemy when it was in their power to  p71 do so; that when under the leader­ship of Volero many refused to serve, the consul's fasces were broken. 3 Hence it was that they punished with exile their most illustrious chiefs, because they opposed their will; Coriolanus, for example, when he ordered them to till their fields (and he would have avenged his wrongs by force of arms with even greater severity, if his mother Veturia had not disarmed him by her tears when he was already advancing), 4 and Camillus himself, because he was thought to have divided the spoils of Veii unfairly between the people and the army. Camillus, however, a truer patriot, lived to grow old in the city of Veii which he had captured, and afterwards took vengeance on behalf of those who implored his aid against the Gaulish foe. 5 With the senate, too, there were struggles which went beyond all justice and right, since the people even left their homes and threatened their country with desolation and ruin.

I, 23 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The first dispute was due to the tyranny of the usurers. When these actually vented their fury upon their persons as though they were slaves, the common people took up arms and seceded to the Sacred Mount, and were with difficulty induced to return (and then only after their demand for a tribune had been granted) at the instance of the eloquent and wise Menenius Agrippa. 2 The fable, quite in the old style of oratory, which was most efficacious in promoting concord, is still remembered, in which he said that the members of the human body once revolted, on the ground that, while they all performed their functions, the stomach alone lived without doing any duty, but afterwards, when they  p73 found themselves dying, owing to their separation from it, they returned to a good understanding with it, because they found that its service was to convert food into the blood which flows in them.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] I, 24 The second disagreement occurred in the very centre of the city and was caused by the lust of the Decemvirate. Ten eminent citizens had been chosen by order of the people, and had jointly drawn up a code of laws derived from Greece, and the whole system of justice had been arranged upon twelve tables; but they afterwards still retained, in the lawless spirit of the kings, the fasces which had been entrusted to them. 2 Appius attained such a spirit of insolence beyond all the rest that he destined a free-born maiden for dishonour, forgetful of Lucretia and the kings and the code which he himself helped to draw up. 3 And so when Virginius, the maiden's father, saw his daughter being dragged away to slavery after an unjust sentence, without a moment's delay he slew her in the midst of the forum with his own hand and, moving up companies of his fellow-soldiers, surrounded the whole band of tyrants with an armed force and dragged them from the Aventine Hill to prison and chains.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] I, 25 The third insurrection was caused by the question of marriage-dignity, arising from the demand that plebeians should intermarry with patricians. This disturbance burst into flames on the Hill of Janiculum at the instigation of Canuleius, the tribune of the people. 26 The fourth insurrection was due to the desire for office and the demand that magistrates should be elected from among the plebeians also. 2 Fabius Ambustus was the father of  p75 two daughters, one of whom he had given in marriage to Sulpicius, a man of patrician blood, while Stolo, the plebeian, had wedded the other. 3 The wife of the latter having been the object of somewhat insolent laughter on the part of her sister because she had been alarmed by the sound of the lictor's staff (a sound which was unfamiliar to her in her own home), Stolo could not endure the affront. 4 And so, when he obtained the tribunate, he extorted from the senate, against their will, a share in public offices and magistracies.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5 Even in these insurrections one may admire, not without good reason, this sovereign people, since at one time it championed liberty, at another chastity, at another the dignity of birth, at another the right to distinctions and insignia of office, and among all these things was a zealous upholder of nothing so much as of liberty, 6 and could not be corrupted by any kind of bribery to put it up for sale, although, as was to be expected in a large and daily increasing community, dangerous citizens arose from time to time. 7 The people punished by immediate execution Spurius and Cassius, who were suspected of aiming at the royal power, the former through his excessive largesses, the latter by his agrarian law. The punishment of Spurius was undertaken by his own father, while Cassius was stabbed in the middle of the forum at the order of Quinctius, the dictator, by Servilius Ahala, the master of the horse. 8 Manlius too, the saviour of the Capitol, they hurled from the very citadel which he had himself defended, when he began to behave in a manner too arrogant and ill-fitting a private citizen on the strength of having set free a number of debtors.

 p77  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 9 Such were the Roman people at home and abroad, in peace and in war, as it passed through the stormy waters of its youth, that is to say, the second age of its empire, during which it subdued by force of arms all Italy between the Alps and the Straits.3

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 280 B.C.

[decorative delimiter]

2 279 B.C.

[decorative delimiter]

3 The Straits of Messina.

Thayer's Note:

a The Loeb edition has "purple statues" with no comma between the words; on the other hand the Latin text on the facing page of the same has ". . . purpura, signa, . . ." with a comma. Now the punctuation in Latin texts is all modern, and not to be found in the manuscripts; on the other hand purple statues would have been very peculiar at this period, even if porphyry sculpture, though very rare, is known in Late Antiquity: so we have only probability to guide us here. By my lights, it's a no-brainer: the comma was a good idea, the purple items were not statues, and the translation should very likely read "purple (dyestuffs, cloth, robes), statues, . . .".

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Page updated: 29 Oct 08