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I: Part 4

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.
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I: Part 6

Lucius Annaeus Florus

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

Book I (continued)

 p77  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XVIII. The First Punic War

II, 1 Italy having been subdued and conquered, the Roman people, having almost reached its five hundredth year, since it can truly be said to have reached maturity, was now robust and vigorous — if ever there is robustness, if ever vigour, in a State — and became a match for the whole world. 2 Thus arose the wonderful and incredible phenomenon that a people, which had struggled in its own country five hundred years (so difficult had it been to establish supremacy in Italy), during the next two hundred years overspread Africa, Europe and Asia and, finally, the whole world with its wars and victories.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] II, 2 The Romans, then, victorious over Italy, having now extended their bounds to the Straits, halted for a space, like a fire, which, having laid waste the woods that lie in its course, is held up by an intervening river. 2 But soon, seeing in their neighbourhood a most wealthy prey which seemed somehow to have been rent away and as it were torn from their own land of Italy, they were kindled with so strong a desire for its possession that, since it could not be attached to by a mole or a bridge, they resolved that it should be reunited by arms and warfare, and thus restored to the continent to which it belonged. 3 But lo! the fates  p79 themselves opened a way and an opportunity was offered by the complaints which Messana, a Sicilian State allied by treaty to Rome, made about the tyrannical behaviour of the Carthaginians. This people, like the Romans, coveted Sicily, and both nations at the same time with equally strong desires and equal forces were aiming at the empire of the world. 4 On the pretext, therefore, of aiding their allies, but really stimulated by the desire for spoil, this rude, pastoral people, whose proper element was the land, although the strangeness of the undertaking alarmed them, yet (so great is confidence inspired by courage) showed that for the brave it is matter of indifference whether the fight is waged on horseback or on shipboard, on land or on sea.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5 In the consulship of Appius Claudius1 they first launched the ships across that strait, so ill-famed for fabulous monsters and swept by so violent a current. Yet so little were they alarmed that they welcomed the violence of the rushing tide as a godsend, 6 and immediately without delay defeated Hiero of Syracuse with a suddenness that made him confess that he was defeated before he set eyes upon the enemy.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 7 In the consulship of Duillius and Cornelius2 they ventured to meet the enemy at sea also. On this occasion the very speed with which they had constructed their fleet was an omen of victory; for within sixty days of the felling of the timber, a fleet of a hundred and sixty vessels rode at anchor, so that it seemed as if the trees had not been made into ships by the art of man, but changed and altered thereto by a dispensation of heaven. 8 The ordering of the battle too was wonderful, since  p81 the heavy, slow Roman vessels came to grips with the swift and active craft the enemy. Nought availed their usual manoeuvres of sweeping away the enemy's oars3 or frustrating their charge by flight; 9 for grappling-irons and strong appliances, which before the battle had caused much derision on the part of the enemy, fastened upon their ships and obliged them to fight as it were upon dry land. Thus victorious off the Liparae Islands, after sinking or routing the enemy's fleet, they celebrated their first naval triumph. 10 And how great was their joy! Duillius, who had been in command, not content with a single day's triumph, throughout his life, when he returned from supper, ordered torches to be lighted and pipes to play before him by way of celebrating a daily triumph. 11 In comparison with Duillius' great victory, the death of the other consul, Cornelius Asina, in an ambush was a trifling loss; but his invitation to a pretended conference and consequent seizure was a good example of Carthaginian treachery.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 12 In the dictatorship of Calatinus the Romans expelled almost all the Carthaginian garrisons — from Agrigentum, Drepanum, Panormus, Eryx and Lilybaeum. 13 On one occasion there was a panic in the forest of Camarina, but by the extraordinary bravery of Calpurnius Flamma, a military tribune, we extricated ourselves. He, with a chosen band of three hundred men, seized a knoll, which was beset by the enemy, and so delayed them long enough to give the whole army time to escape. 14 By the glorious result of his action he equalled the fame of Leonidas at Thermopylae, the Roman hero being more illustrious in that he survived his great  p83 exploit, though he did not write anything in his own blood.4

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 15 In the consulship of Lucius Cornelius Scipio,5 when Sicily was already a suburban province of the Roman people, the war spread further, and they crossed over to Sardinia and the adjoining island of Corsica. 16 They terrified the inhabitants by the destruction of Olbia in the former island and Aleria in the latter, and so completely cleared land and sea of the Carthaginians that only Africa itself still remained to be conquered.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 17 Under the leadership of Marcus Atilius Regulus the war was now transferred to Africa. There had been some, however, who quailed at the very mention of the Punic sea and the terror which it inspired, their alarm being further increased by the tribune Nautius; but the general, by threatening him the axe if he refused to obey, inspired them with courage for the journey through the fear of death. 18 All haste was then made with sails and oars, and the approach of the enemy so alarmed the Carthaginians that the gates of Carthage were almost opened and the city captured. 19 The war began with the taking of Clipea, which projects as a citadel or watch-tower from the Carthaginian coast. This and three hundred other fortresses were destroyed. 20 But the Romans had to contend not only with human beings, but also with monsters; for a serpent of wondrous size, which seemed to have been created for the defence of Africa, harassed their camp on the Bagradas. 21 But Regulus, everywhere  p85 victorious, having spread far and wide the terror of his name and having slain or holding as prisoners a large number of the enemy's troops and even of their generals, and having sent in advance to Rome a fleet laden with immense spoils and full of material for a triumph, was already threatening Carthage itself, the author of the war, with blockade and pressing hard upon its very gates. 22 At this point the breeze of fortune veered somewhat, but only in order to provide more evidence of the Roman valour, the greatness of which is more often put to the proof by misfortunes. 23 For when the enemy had resorted to foreign aid and Lacedaemon had sent Xanthippus to be their general, we were defeated by a very skilful leader — a disgraceful disaster such as the Romans had never before experienced — and the brave commander-in‑chief fell alive into the enemies' hands. But he proved himself able to face such a calamity; his spirit was not broken either by a Carthaginian prison or by the mission to Rome which he undertook. 24 For, contrary to the instructions of the enemy, he expressed an opinion against making peace or consenting to an exchange of prisoners. 25 His voluntary return to his enemies and his final sufferings, whether in prison or on the cross, in no way sullied his dignity; nay, rendered by all this only the more worthy of admiration, what did he do but triumph victorious over his victors and, since Carthage had not yielded, over Fortune herself? 26 The Roman people, on their part, were even more eager and intent on avenging Regulus than on obtaining a victory.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 27 In the consulship, therefore, of Metellus,6 when  p87 the Carthaginians became bolder and the war had been transferred back to Sicily, the Romans inflicted such a defeat upon their foes at Panormus that they gave up all thought of further attacks upon the island. 28 The extent of their victory is proved by the capture of about a hundred elephants — a vast prey even if they had captured them not in war but in the chase.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 29 In the consulship of Appius7 Claudius the Romans were defeated not by the enemy but by the gods, whose auspices he had despised, their fleet being immediately sunk on the spot where Appius Claudius had ordered the sacred chickens to be thrown overboard, because he was warned by them not to fight.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 30 In the consulship of Marcus Fabius Buteo8 they defeated the enemy's fleet near Aegimurus in the African sea, while it was actually sailing against Italy. 31 But what a triumph was ruined by the storm which then occurred, when the fleet, loaded with rich booty, driven by contrary winds, covered Africa, the Syrtes 32 and the shores of all the adjacent islands with its wreckage! A great calamity indeed! but it did not fail to redound to the honour of an imperial people that it was a storm9 which had intercepted their victory, and a shipwreck which had destroyed their triumph. And, seeing that the Carthaginian spoil floated off every promontory and island, even so the Roman people triumphed.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 33 In the consulship of Lutatius Catulus10 the war was at last brought to a close near the islands called the Aegatae. No greater fight was ever fought at sea. 34 For the enemy's fleet came up loaded with supplies, troops, towers and arms; indeed you might  p89 say that all Carthage was on board it. And it was this that caused its ruin; 35 for the Roman fleet, easily handled, light and unencumbered and in a way resembling a land army, was guided by its oars just as horses are guided by their reins in a cavalry engagement, and the beaks of the ships, moving rapidly to ram now this foe and now that, presented the appearance of living creatures. 36 And so in a moment of time the enemy's vessels were cut to pieces and covered the whole sea between Sicily and Sardinia with their wreckage. 37 In a word, so great was the victory that no question was raised of demolishing the enemy's walls; it seemed superfluous to vent their fury on a citadel and walls when Carthage had already been destroyed upon the sea.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 264 B.C.

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2 260 B.C.

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3 remos retorquere is the manoeuvre of sweeping away the oars by brushing against the enemy's ship; cp. Polyb. XVI.4.14, ταρσοὺς παρασύρειν.

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4 Florus here confuses Leonidas with another Spartan hero, Ohryades, who, being the sole survivor of the three hundred Spartans who fought against the Argives for the possession of Thyrea, slew himself on the battle-field after writing in blood on his shield that Thyrea belonged to the Spartans (Herod. I.82.7).

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5 259 B.C.

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6 250 B.C.

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7 249 B.C. His name was Publius, not Appius, Claudius.

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8 245 B.C.

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9 And not the enemy.

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10 242 B.C.

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Page updated: 29 Oct 08