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Bill Thayer

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II: Part 1

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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II: Part 3

Lucius Annaeus Florus

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

Book II (continued)

VI. The War against the Allies.
VII. The Servile War.
VIII. The War against Spartacus.

 p233  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VI. The War against the Allies

III, 18 Though we call this war a war against allies, in order to lessen the odium of it, yet, if we are to tell the truth, it was a war against citizens. For since the Roman people united in itself the Etruscans, the Latins and the Sabines, and traces the same descent from all alike, it has formed a body made up of various members and is a single people composed of all these elements; 2 and the allies, therefore, in raising a rebellion within the bounds of Italy, committed as great a crime as citizens who rebel within a city. 3 So when the allies very justly demanded the rights of citizen­ship, for which Drusus, in his desire for power, had encouraged them to hope as members of a State which they had aggrandized by their exertions, the same brand which had consumed him kindled the allies, 4 after he had fallen through the perfidy of his fellow-citizens, to take up arms and attack the city. 5 What could be sadder, what more disastrous than this calamity? All Latium and Picenum, all Etruria and Campania, and finally all Italy rose against their mother and parent city. 6 The flower of our bravest and most trusted allies were led, each under their several standards, by the most eminent leaders from the country towns, Poppaedius commanding the Marsians and Paeligni, Afranius the Latins, Plotius the Umbrians, Egnatius the Etruscans, and Telesinus the Samnites and  p235 Lucanians. 7 The people who had been the arbiters of the fates of kings and nations failed to rule themselves, and Rome, the conqueror of Asia and Europe, was attacked from Corfinium.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 8 The first plan of campaign was to murder the consuls, Julius Caesar and Marcius Philippus​1 on the Alban Mount amid the sacrifices and altars at the celebration of the Latin Festival.​2 9 This crime having been defeated by betrayal, the full fury of the rising broke out at Asculum, where representatives who were present at the time from Rome were butchered amid the crowd which had gathered for the games. This act served as the oath which pledged them to civil war. 10 Thereupon from all sides the various calls to arms rang out through the peoples and cities of every part of Italy, as Poppaedius, the leader and instigator of the war, hurried from place to place. 11 The devastation wrought by Hannibal and Pyrrhus was less serious. Lo! Ocriculum, Grumentum, Faesulae, Carseoli, Aesernia, Nuceria and Picentia​a were utterly laid waste by fire and sword. The forces both of Rutilius and of Caepio were routed. 12 Julius Caesar himself, after the loss of his army, being brought back still dripping with blood, was borne through the midst of the city with pitiable funeral rites. 13 But the great good fortune of the Roman people, never so great as in the hour of misfortune, asserted itself afresh in all its vigour. Attacking the various peoples separately, Cato scattered the Etruscans, Gabinius the Marsians, Carbo the Lucanians, and Sulla the Samnites, 14 while Pompeius Strabo wasted the whole country with  p237 fire and sword and did not make an end of slaughter until, by the destruction of Asculum, he made atonement in some measure to the shades of so many armies and consuls and to the gods of the devastated cities.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VII. The Servile War.

III, 19 Although we fought with allies — in itself an impious act — yet we fought with men who enjoyed liberty and were of free birth; but who could tolerate with equanimity wars waged by a sovereign people against slaves? 2 The first attempt at war on the part of slaves took place in the city itself in the early days of its history under the leader­ship of Herdonius the Sabine. On this occasion, while the State was taken up with the troubles caused by the tribunes, the Capitol was besieged and afterwards rescued by the consul; but it was a local rising rather than a war. It is difficult to believe that, at a later date, while the forces of the empire were engaged in various parts of the world, Sicily was far more cruelly laid waste in a war against slaves than during the Punic War. 3 This land, so rich in corn,º a province lying, as it were, at our very doors, was occupied by large estates in the possession of Roman citizens. The numerous prisons for slaves employed in tilling the soil and gangs of cultivators who worked in chains provided the forces for the war. 4 A certain Syrian named Eunus (the seriousness of our defeats causes his name to be remembered), counterfeiting an inspired frenzy and waving his dishevelled hair in honour of the Syrian goddess, incited the slaves to arms and liberty on the pretence  p239 of a command from the gods. 5 In order to prove that he was acting under divine inspiration, he secreted in his mouth a nut which he had filled with sulphur and fire, and, by breathing gently, sent forth a flame as he spoke. 6 This miracle first of all collected 2,000 men from those whom he encountered, but presently, when the prisons had been broken open by force of arms, he formed an army of more than 60,000 men. Adorning himself — in order to fill up the cup of his wickedness — with the insignia of royalty, he laid waste fortresses, villages and towns with pitiable destruction. 7 Nay, even the camps of the praetors were captured — the most disgraceful thing thatº can occur in war; nor will I shrink from mentioning the names of these commanders, who were Manlius, Lentulus, Piso and Hypsaeus. Thus those who ought to have been hauled away by the overseers, themselves pursued praetorian generals in flight from the battle-field. 8 At last punishment was inflicted upon them under the leader­ship of Perperna, who, after defeating them and finally besieging them at Enna, reduced them by famine as effectually as by a plague and requited the surviving marauders with fetters, chains and the cross. He was content with an ovation for his victory over them, so that he might not sully the dignity of a triumph by the mention of slaves.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 9 Scarcely had the island recovered itself, when, in the praetor­ship of Servilius, the command suddenly passed from the hands of a Syrian into those of a Cilician. A shepherd, Athenio, having murdered his master, released the slaves from their prison and formed them into an organized force. 10 Himself arrayed in a purple robe, carrying a silver sceptre  p241 and crowned like a king, he collected an army quite as large as that of his fanatical predecessor, and with even greater energy, on the pretext of avenging him, plundering villages, towns and fortresses, vented his fury with even greater violence upon the slaves than upon their masters, treating them as renegades. 11 He too routed praetorian armies and captured the camps of Servilius and Lucullus. But Titus​3 Aquilius following the example of Perperna, reduced the enemy to extremities by cutting off their supplies and easily destroyed their forces in battle when they were reduced by starvation. They would have surrendered, had they not, in their fear of punishment, preferred voluntary death. 12 The penalty could not be inflicted upon their leader, although he fell alive into their hands; for, while the crowd was quarrelling about his apprehension, the prey was torn to pieces in the hands of the disputants.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VIII. The War against Spartacus

III, 20 One can tolerate, indeed, even the disgrace of a war against slaves; for although, by force of circumstances, they are liable to any kind of treatment, yet they form as it were a class (though an inferior class) of human beings and can be admitted​4 to the blessings of liberty which we enjoy. But I know not what name to give to the war which was stirred up at the instigation of Spartacus; 2 for the common soldiers being slaves and their leaders being gladiators — the former men of the humblest, the latter men of the worst,º class — added insult to the injury which they inflicted upon Rome.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3 Spartacus, Crixus and Oenomaus, breaking out of  p243 the gladiatorial school of Lentulus with thirty or rather more men of the same occupation, escaped from Capua. When, by summoning the slaves to their standard, they had quickly collected more than 10,000 adherents, these men, who had been originally content merely to have escaped, soon began to wish to take their revenge also. 4 The first position which attracted them (a suitable one for such ravening monsters) was Mt. Vesuvius. Being besieged here by Clodius Glabrus, they slid by means of ropes made of vine-twigs through a passage in the hollow of the mountain down into its very depths, and issuing forth by a hidden exit, seized the camp of the general by a sudden attack which he never expected. 5 They then attacked other camps, that of Varenius and afterwards that of Thoranus; and they ranged over the whole of Campania. Not content with the plundering of country houses and villages, they laid waste Nola, Nuceria, Thurii and Metapontum​b with terrible destruction. 6 Becoming a regular army by the daily arrival of fresh forces, they made themselves rude shields of wicker-work and the skins of animals, and swords and other weapons by melting down the iron in the slave-prisons. 7 That nothing might be lacking which was proper to a regular army, cavalry was procured by breaking in herds of horses which they encountered, and his men brought to their leader the insignia and fasces captured from the praetors, 8 nor were they refused by the man who, from being a Thracian mercenary, had become a soldier, and from a soldier a deserter, then a highwayman, and  p245 finally, thanks to his strength, a gladiator. 9 He also celebrated the obsequies of his officers who had fallen in battle with funerals like those of Roman generals, and ordered his captives to fight at their pyres, just as though he wished to wipe out all his past dishonour by having become, instead of a gladiator, a giver of gladiatorial shows. 10 Next, actually attacking generals of consular rank, he inflicted defeat on the army of Lentulus in the Apennines and destroyed the camp of Publius​5 Cassius at Mutina. 11 Elated by these victories he entertained the project — in itself a sufficient disgrace to us — of attacking the city of Rome. 12 At last a combined effort was made, supported by all the resources of the empire, against this gladiator, and Licinius Crassus vindicated the honour of Rome. Routed and put to flight by him, our enemies — I am ashamed to give them this title — took refuge in the furthest extremities of Italy. 13 Here, being cut off in the angle of Bruttium and preparing to escape to Sicily, but being unable to obtain ships, they tried to launch rafts of beams and casks bound together with withies on the swift waters of the straits. Failing in this attempt, they finally made a sally and met a death worthy of men, fighting to the death​6 14 as became those who were commanded by a gladiator. Spartacus himself fell, as became a general, fighting most bravely in the front rank.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Consuls in 91 B.C.

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2 sc. feriarum.

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3 Other authorities give his name as Manius Aquilius.

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4 i.e. by manumission.

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5 The inferior MSS. read Gaius, which is supported by other authorities.

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6 Sine missione is a technical term from the gladiatorial contests.

Thayer's Notes:

a This bald catalogue can be brought to life by a map; the devastation was indeed widespread, covering most of Italy from northern Etruria to Lucania:

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b This group of towns, on the other hand, is found in a much narrower area, most of it being the ancient region of Lucania.

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Page updated: 26 Oct 18