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II: Part 6

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 8

Lucius Annaeus Florus

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

Book II (continued)

XVIIII. The Parthian War under Ventidius.
XX. The Parthian War under Antonius.
XXI. The War against Antonius and Cleopatra.

p317 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XVIIII. The Parthian War under Ventidius

IIII, 9 Although, by the defeat of Cassius and Brutus, Caesar had demolished the republican faction and, by conquering Pompeius, had completely wiped out its very name, still he had not achieved a stable peace, as long as Antonius still survived a rock in his path, an unsolved problem, an obstacle1 to public security. 2 However, owing to his vices, he did not fail to work his own destruction; nay more, by trying every expedient to which his ambition and luxury prompted him, he freed first his enemies, then his fellow-citizens, and finally the age in which he lived, from any fear which he had inspired.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3 The disaster of Crassus had further increased the confidence of the Parthians, and they had heard with joy of the internal discords of the Roman people. So, as soon as there was a gleam of hope, they did not hesitate to break out, 4 being actually invited to do so by Labienus, who had been sent to Parthia by Cassius and Brutus, and — such was their mad fury — had urged the enemies of Rome to assist them. Under the leadership of Pacorus, a young prince, they had driven out the garrisons of Antonius, p319and the latter's lieutenant-general Saxa owed it to his sword that he did not fall into their hands. 5 At length Syria was snatched from us, and the trouble was like to spread more widely — the enemy making conquests for themselves on the pretence of helping others — had not Ventidius, another lieutenant-general of Antonius, with marvellous good luck severely defeated the forces of Labienus and Pacorus himself and all the Parthian cavalry over the whole area between the Euphrates and the Orontes. 6 The defeated force numbered more than 20,000. The defeat was not inflicted without a stratagem on the part of the general, who, under a pretence of panic, allowed the enemy to approach so close to the camp that he prevented them from making use of their arrows by depriving them of room to shoot. The king died fighting with great gallantry. 7 After his head had been carried round the cities which had revolted, Syria was recovered without further fighting. Thus we obtained compensation for the disaster of Crassus by the slaughter of Pacorus.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XX. The Parthian War under Antonius

IIII, 10 Now that the Parthians and Romans had made trial of one another, and Crassus and Pacorus had given proof of the strength of either side, friendship was renewed on the basis of mutual respect, and a treaty actually concluded with the king by Antonius himself. 2 But such was the exceeding vanity of the man that, in his desire for fresh titles of honour, he longed to have the Araxes and Euphrates inscribed beneath his statues, and, without any pretext or design and without even p321a pretended declaration of war, just as if it were part of the art of generalship to attack by stealth, 3 he left Syria and made a sudden attack upon the Parthians. The Parthians, who were crafty as well as confident in their arms, pretended to be panic-stricken and to fly across the plains. Antonius immediately followed them, thinking that he had already won the day, when suddenly a not very large force of the enemy unexpectedly burst forth, like a storm of rain, upon his troops in the evening when they were weary of marching, and overwhelmed two legions with showers of arrows from all sides. 4 No disaster had ever occurred comparable with that which threatened the Romans on the following day, if the gods in pity had not intervened. A survivor from the disaster of Crassus dressed in Parthian costume rode up to the camp, and having uttered a salutation in Latin and thus inspired trust by speaking their language, informed them of the danger that was threatening them. 5 The king, he said, would soon be upon them with all his forces; they ought, therefore, to retreat and make for the mountains, though even so, they would probably have no lack of enemies to face. The result was that a smaller body of the enemy than was anticipated came up with them. However, it did come up with them, 6 and the rest of their forces would have been destroyed, had not some of the soldiers, as though they had been drilled to it, by chance kneeled down, when the missiles fell like hail upon them, and raising their shields above their heads presented the appearance of dead men; whereupon the Parthians refrained from further use of their bows. 7 Then, when the Romans rose up again, p323it seemed like a miracle that one of the barbarians cried out, "Depart, Romans, and farewell; rumour deservedly calls you victorious over the nations, since you have escaped the weapons of the Parthians." The subsequent losses of the Romans on the march were quite as heavy as those inflicted by the enemy. 8 In the first place the lack of water in the district was fatal, but still more fatal to some was the brackish water which they drank; 9 and, finally, even fresh water was harmful when drunk with avidity by the soldiers in their already debilitated condition. Afterwards the heat in Armenia and the snows of Cappadocia and the sudden change from one climate to another were as destructive as a plague. 10 Thus, when scarcely a third part of the sixteen legions was left, and his silver plate had been cut up with hatchets and distributed, and the famous general had on several occasions begged his sword-bearer to put him to death, he at last reached Syria in flight, where, by an extraordinary perversion of mind, he grew even more self-confident, for all the world as if, by escaping, he had won the day.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XXI. The War against Antonius and Cleopatra

IIII, 11 The madness of Antonius, since it could not be laid to rest by the satisfaction of his ambition, was brought to an end by his luxury and licentiousness. After the Parthian expedition he acquired a loathing for war and lived a life of ease, and a slave to his love for Cleopatra, rested in her royal arms as though all had gone well with him. 2 The Egyptian woman demanded the Roman Empire from the drunken general as the price of her favours; and p325this Antonius promised her, as though the Romans were more easily conquered than the Parthians. 3 He, therefore, began to aim at sovereignty — though not for himself — and that in no secret manner; but, forgetful of his country, his name, his toga and the emblems of his office, he soon completely degenerated into the monster which he became, in feeling as well as in garb and dress. In his hand was a golden sceptre, at his side a scimitar; he wore a purple robe studded with huge gems; a crown only was lacking to make him a king dallying with a queen. 4 At the first rumour of his latest proceedings Caesar had crossed over from Brundisium to meet the approach of war, and, pitching his camp in Epirus had surrounded all the shore of Actium, the island of Leucas, Mount Leucate and the promontories enclosing the Ambracian Gulf with a formidable fleet. 5 We had more than four hundred ships, the enemy less than two hundred; but their size compensated for their numerical inferiority. For having from six to nine banks of oars and also rising high out of the water with towers and platforms so as to resemble castles or cities, they made the sea groan and the wind labour as they moved along. Their very size, indeed, was fatal to them. 6 Caesar's ships had from two to six banks of oars and no more; being, therefore, easily handled for any manoeuvre that might be required, whether for attacking, backing water or tacking, they scattered at their will the opposing vessels, which were clumsy and in every respect unwieldy, several of them attacking a single ship with missiles and with their beaks, and also with firebrands hurled into them. 7 The vastness of the enemy's forces was never more p327apparent than after the victory; for, as a result of the battle, the wreckage of the huge fleet floated all over the sea, and the waves, stirred by the winds, continually yielded up the purple and gold-bespangled spoils of the Arabians and Sabaeans and a thousand other Asiatic peoples. 8 The queen led the retreat, putting out into the open sea in her golden vessel with purple sails. 9 Antonius soon followed her, but Caesar was hard upon his tracks. And so neither their preparations for flight into the Ocean,2 nor their occupation of the two promontories of Egypt, Paraetonium and Pelusium, with garrisons availed them aught; they were almost within Caesar's grasp. Antonius was the first to seize the sword of a suicide; the queen, casting herself at Caesar's feet, tried to attract his glances, but in vain, for her beauty was unable to prevail over his self-control. 10 Her efforts were aimed not at saving her life, which was freely offered to her, but at obtaining a portion of his kingdom. Despairing of winning this from Caesar and perceiving that she was being reserved to figure in his triumph, profiting by the carelessness of her guard, she betook herself to the Mausoleum, as the royal sepulchre is called. 11 There, having put on the elaborate raiment by the side of her beloved Antonius in a coffin filled with rich perfumes, and applying serpents to her veins thus passed into death as into a sleep.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] IIII, 12 Thus the civil wars came to an end; the other wars were waged against foreign nations and broke out in different quarters of the world while the empire was distracted by its troubles. 2 Peace was a new state of affairs, and the proud and p329haughty necks of the nations, not yet accustomed to the reins of servitude, revolted against the yoke recently imposed upon them. 3 It was in particular the northern region, where dwelt the Noricans, the Illyrians, the Pannonians, the Dalmatians, the Moesians, the Thracians and Dacians, the Sarmatians and Germans, that showed the most spirit.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Nodus et mora is clearly a reminiscence of Vergil, Aen. X.428, pugnae nodumque moramque.

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2 Plutarch (vit. Ant. 89) tells us that a project was discussed of dragging the Egyptian fleet over the Isthmus of Suez into the Red Sea and escaping to found a new kingdom.

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Page updated: 29 Oct 08