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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces one of
The Parallel Lives


published in Vol. VI
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

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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(Vol. VI) Plutarch, The Parallel Lives

 p261  The Life of Aemilius

1 1a I began the writing of my "Lives" for the sake of others, but I find that I am continuing the work and delighting in it now for my own sake also, using history as a mirror and endeavouring in a manner to fashion and adorn my life in conformity with the virtues therein depicted. 2 For the result is like nothing else than daily living and associating together, when I receive and welcome each subject of my history in turn as my guest, so to speak, and observe carefully "how large he was and of what mien,"​1 and select from his career what is most important and most beauti­ful to know.

3 "And oh! what greater joy than this canst thou obtain,"​2

and more efficacious for moral improvement? 4 Democritus says we ought to pray that we may be visited by phantoms which are propitious, and that from out the circumambient air such only may encounter us as are agreeable to our natures and good, rather than those which are perverse and bad, thereby intruding into philosophy a doctrine which is not true, and which leads astray into boundless superstitions. 5 But in my own case, the study of history and the familiarity with it which my writing produces,  p263 enables me, since I always cherish in my soul the records of the noblest and most estimable characters, to repel and put far from me whatever base, malicious, or ignoble suggestion my enforced associations may intrude upon me, calmly and dispassionately turning my thoughts away from them to the fairest of my examples. 6 Among these were Timoleon the Corinthian and Aemilius Paulus, whose Lives I have now undertaken to lay before my readers; 7 the men were alike not only in the good principles which they adopted, but also in the good fortune which they enjoyed in their conduct of affairs, 8 and they will make it hard for my readers to decide whether the greatest of their success­ful achievements were due to their good fortune or their wisdom.

 p359  2 1 That the Aemilii were one of the ancient and patrician houses at Rome, most writers agree. 2 And that the first of them, and the one who gave his surname to the family, was Mamercus, a son of Pythagoras the philosopher, who received the surname of Aemilius for the grace3 and charm of his discourse, is the statement of some of those writers who hold that Pythagoras was the educator of Numa the king.​4 3 Now, most of this family who rose to distinction by their cultivation of virtue, were blessed with good fortune; and in the case of Lucius Paulus, his misfortune at Cannae gave testimony alike to his wisdom and valour. 4 For when he could not dissuade his colleague from giving battle, he took part with him in the struggle, though reluctantly, but would not be a partner in his flight; nay, though the one who had brought on the peril left him in the lurch, he himself kept his post and died fighting the enemy.5

5 This Paulus had a daughter, Aemilia, who was the wife of Scipio the Great, and a son, Aemilius Paulus, whose Life I now write. He came of age at a time which abounded in men of the greatest reputation and most illustrious virtue, and yet he was a conspicuous  p361 figure, although he did not pursue the same studies as the young nobles of the time, nor set out on his career by the same path. 6 For he did not practise pleading private cases in the courts, and refrained altogether from the salutations and greetings and friendly attentions to which most men cunningly resorted when they tried to win the favour of the people by becoming their zealous servants; not that he was naturally incapable of either, but he sought to acquire for himself what was better than both, namely, a reputation arising from valour, justice, and trustworthiness. In these virtues he at once surpassed his contemporaries.

3 1 At all events, when he sued for the first of the high offices in the state, the aedile­ship, he was elected over twelve competitors,​6 all of whom, we are told, afterwards became consuls. 2 Moreover, when he was made one of the priests called Augurs, whom the Romans appoint as guardians and overseers of the art of divination from the flight of birds and from omens in the sky, he so carefully studied the ancestral customs of the city, and so thoroughly understood the religious ceremonial of the ancient Romans, 3 that his priestly function, which men had thought to be a kind of honour, sought merely on account of the reputation which it gave, was made to appear one of the higher arts, and testified in favour of those philosophers who define religion as the science of the worship of the gods. 4 For all the duties of this office were performed by him with skill and care, and he laid aside all other concerns when he was engaged in these, omitting nothing and adding nothing new, but ever contending even  p363 with his colleagues about the small details of ceremony, and explaining to them that, although the Deity was held to be good-natured and slow to censure acts of negligence, still, for the city at least it was a grievous thing to overlook and condone them; 5 for no man begins at once with a great deed of lawlessness to disturb the civil polity, but those who remit their strictness in small matters break down also the guard that has been set over greater matters.

6 Furthermore, he showed a like severity in scrutinising and preserving his country's military customs and traditions also, not courting popular favour when he was in command, nor yet, as most men did at this time, courting a second command during his first by gratifying his soldiers and treating them with mildness; 7 but, like a priest of other dread rites, he explained thoroughly all the details of military custom and was a terror to disobedient transgressors, and so restored his country to her former greatness, considering the conquest of his enemies hardly more than an accessory to the training of his fellow-citizens.

4 1 After the Romans had gone to war with Antiochus the Great, and while their most experienced commanders were employed against him, another war arose in the West, and there were great commotions in Spain. 2 For this war Aemilius was sent out as praetor,​7 not with the six lictors which praetors usually have, but adding anotherº six to that number, so that his office had a consular dignity. 3 Well, then, he defeated the Barbarians in two pitched battles, and slew about thirty thousand of them;  p365 and it would seem that his success was conspicuously due to his general­ship, since by choosing favourable ground and by crossing a certain river he made victory easy for his soldiers; moreover, he made himself master of two hundred and fifty cities, which yielded to him of their own accord. 4 He left the province in peace and bound by pledges of fidelity, and came back to Rome, nor was he richer by a single drachma from his expedition. 5 And, indeed, in all other ways he was a rather indifferent money-maker, and spent generously and without stint of his substance. But this was not large; indeed, after his death it barely sufficed to meet the dowry due to his wife.

5 1 He married Papiria, a daughter of Maso, who was a man of consular dignity, and after he had lived with her a long time he divorced her, although she had made him father of most glorious sons; for she it was who bore him that most illustrious Scipio, and Fabius Maximus. 2 No documentary grounds for the divorce have come down to us, but there would seem to be some truth in a story told about divorce, which runs as follows. A Roman once divorced his wife, and when his friends admonished him, saying: "Is she not discreet? is she not beauti­ful? is she not fruitful?" he held out his shoe (the Romans call it "calceus"), saying: 3 "Is this not handsome? is it not new? but no one of you can tell me where it pinches my foot?" 4 For, as a matter of fact, it is great and notorious faults that separate many wives from their husbands; but the slight and frequent frictions arising from some unpleasantness or incongruity of characters, unnoticed as they may be by everybody else, also produce  p367 incurable alienations in those whose lives are linked together.

5 So then Aemilius, having divorced Papiria, took another wife; and when she had borne him two sons he kept these at home, but the sons of his former wife he introduced into the greatest houses and the most illustrious families, the elder into that of Fabius Maximus, who was five times consul, while the younger was adopted by the son of Scipio Africanus, his cousin-german, who gave him the name of Scipio. 6 Of the daughters of Aemilius, one became the wife of the son of Cato, and the other of Aelius Tubero, a man of the greatest excellence, and one who, more than any other Roman, combined the greatest dignity with poverty. 7 For there were sixteen members of the family, all Aelii; and they had a very little house, and one little farm sufficed for all, where they maintained one home together with many wives and children. 8 Among these wives lived also the daughter of that Aemilius who had twice been consul and twice had celebrated a triumph, and she was not ashamed of her husband's poverty, but admired the virtue that kept him poor. 9 Brethren and kinsmen of the present day, however, unless zones and rivers and walls divide their inheritances and wide tracts of land separate them from one another, are continually quarrelling. 10 These, then, are considerations and examples which history presents to those who are willing to profit by them.

6 1 Aemilius, then, having been appointed consul,​8 made an expedition against the Ligurians along the Alps, whom some call also Ligustines, a warlike  p369 and spirited folk, and one whose proximity to the Romans was teaching it skill in war. 2 For they occupy the extremities of Italy that are bounded by the Alps, and those parts of the Alps themselves that are washed by the Tuscan sea and face Africa, and they are mingled with Gauls and the Iberians of the coast. 3 At that time they had also laid hold of the sea with piratical craft, and were robbing and destroying merchandise, sailing out as far as the pillars of Hercules. 4 Accordingly, when Aemilius came against them, they withstood him with a force of forty thousand men; but he, with eight thousand men all told, engaged their fivefold numbers, and after routing them and shutting them up in their walled towns, gave them humane and conciliatory terms; 5 for it was not the wish of the Romans to extirpate altogether the Ligurian nation, since it lay like a barrier or bulwark against the movements of the Gauls, who were always threatening to descend upon Italy. 6 Accordingly, putting faith in Aemilius, they delivered their ships and cities into his hands. Their cities he restored to them, either doing them no harm at all, or simply razing their walls; but he took away all their ships, and left them no boat that carried more than three oars; 7 he also restored to safety those whom they had taken captive by land or sea, and these were found to be many, both Romans and foreigners. Such, then, were the conspicuous achievements of this first consul­ship.

8 Afterwards he often made it clear that he was desirous of a second consul­ship, and once actually announced his candidacy, but when he was passed by and not elected, he made no further efforts to obtain the office, giving his attention to his duties  p371 as augur, and training his sons, not only in the nature and ancestral discipline in which he himself had been trained, but also, and with greater ardour, in that of the Greeks. 9 For not only the grammarians and philosophers and rhetoricians, but also the modellers and painters, the overseers of horses and dogs, and the teachers of the art of hunting, by whom the young men were surrounded, were Greeks. 10 And the father, unless some public business prevented, would always be present at their studies and exercises, for he was now become the fondest parent in Rome.

7 1 As to public affairs, that was the period when the Romans were at war with Perseus,​9 the king of Macedonia, and were taking their generals to task because their inexperience and cowardice led them to conduct their campaigns ridiculously and disgracefully, and to suffer more harm than they inflicted. 2 For the people which had just forced Antiochus, surnamed the Great, to retire from the rest of Asia, driven him over the Taurus mountains, and shut him up in Syria, where he had been content to buy terms with a payment of fifteen thousand talents; 3 which had a little while before set the Greeks free from Macedonia by crushing Philip in Thessaly; and which had utterly subdued Hannibal, to whom no king was comparable for power or boldness; 4 this people thought it unendurable that they should be compelled to contend with Perseus as though he were an even match for Rome, when for a long time already he had carried on his war against them with the poor remains of his father's routed army; 5 for they were not aware that after his defeat Philip had  p373 made the Macedonian armies far most vigorous and warlike than before. This situation I will briefly explain from the beginning.

8 1 Antigonus, who was the most power­ful of Alexander's generals and successors, and acquired for himself and his line the title of King, had a son Demetrius, and his son was Antigonus surnamed Gonatas. 2 His son in turn was Demetrius, who, after reigning himself for a short time, died, leaving a son Philip still in his boyhood. 3 The leading Macedonians, fearing the anarchy which might result, called in Antigonus, a cousin of the dead king, and married him to Philip's mother, calling him first regent and general, and then, finding his rule moderate and conducive to the general good, giving him the title of King. He received the surname of Doson, which implied that he was given to promising but did not perform his engagements. 4 After him Philip succeeded to the throne, and, though still a youth, flowered out in the qualities which most distinguish kings, and led men to believe that he would restore Macedonia to her ancient dignity, and that he, and he alone, would check the power of Rome, which already extended over all the world. 5 But after he was defeated in a great battle at Scotussa by Titus Flamininus,​10 for a time he took a humble posture, entrusted all his interests to the Romans, and was content to come off with a moderate fine. 6 Afterwards, however, his condition oppressed him, and thinking that to reign by the favour of the Romans was more the part of a captive  p375 satisfied with meat and drink than of a man possessed of courage and spirit, he turned his thoughts to war, and made his arrangements for it in secrecy and with cunning. 7 Thus, those of his cities which lay on the highroads and the seashore he suffered to become weak and rather desolate, so as to awaken contempt, while in the interior he was collecting a large force; he also filled the fortresses, strongholds, and cities of the interior with an abundance of arms, money, and men fit for service, in this way preparing himself for the war, and yet keeping it hidden away, as it were, and concealed. 8 Thus, he had arms to equip thirty thousand men laid up in reserve, eight million bushels of grain had been immured in his strongholds, and a sum of money sufficient to maintain for ten years ten thousand mercenaries fighting in defence of the country.

9 But Philip, before he could put these plans and preparations into effect, died of grief and anguish of mind;​11 for he came to know that he had unjustly put to death one of his sons, Demetrius, on false charges made by the other, who was his inferior. 10 The son, however, whom he left, Perseus, along with his father's kingdom, inherited his hatred of the Romans, but was not equal to the burden because of the littleness and baseness of his character, in which, among all sorts of passions and distempers, avarice was the chief trait. 11 And it is said that he was not even a true-born son, but that Philip's wife took him at his birth from his mother, a certain sempstress, an Argive woman named Gnathaenion, and passed him off as her own. 12 And this was the chief reason, as it would seem, why he feared Demetrius  p377 and compassed his death, lest the royal house having a true-born heir to the throne, should uncover his own spurious birth.

9 1 However, although he was ignoble and mean, the strength of his position led him to undertake the war, and he kept up the struggle for a long time, repulsing Roman commanders of consular rank with great armies and fleets, and actually conquering some of them. 2 Publius Licinius, for example, who was the first that invaded Macedonia, he routed in a cavalry battle, slew twenty-five hundred good men, and took six hundred prisoners besides; 3 then he made an unexpected attack upon the Roman fleet which was lying at anchor near Oreus, seized twenty ships of burden with their cargoes, and sank the rest together with the grain that filled them; he also made himself master of four quinqueremes. 4 He fought a second battle, too, in which he repulsed the consul Hostilius as he was trying to force his way into Macedonia at Elimiae; and after Hostilius had broken into the country undetected by way of Thessaly, he gave him a challenge to battle which he was afraid to accept. 5 Furthermore, as a side issue of the war, he made an expedition against the Dardanians, implying that he ignored the Romans and that time hung heavy on his hands; he cut to pieces ten thousand of the Barbarians and drove off much booty. 6 He also secretly stirred up the Gauls settled along the Danube, who are called Basternae,​b an equestrian host and warlike; and he invited the Illyrians, through Genthius their king, to take part with him  p379 in the war. And a report prevailed that the Barbarians had been hired by him to pass through lower Gaul, along the coast of the Adriatic, and make an incursion into Italy.

10 1 When the Romans learned of these things, they decided that they would bid good-bye to the favours and promises of those who wanted to be generals, and themselves summon to the leader­ship a man of wisdom who understood how to manage great affairs. 2 This man was Paulus Aemilius, now advanced in life and about sixty years of age, but in the prime of bodily vigour, and hedged about with youthful sons and sons-in‑law, and with a host of friends and kinsmen of great influence, all of whom urged him to give ear to the people when it summoned him to the consul­ship. 3 At first he was for declining the appeals of the multitude, and tried to avert their eager importunities, saying that he did not want office; but when they came daily to his house and called him forth into the forum and pressed him with their clamours, he yielded; 4 and when he presented himself at once among the candidates for the consul­ship, he did not appear to come into the Campus in order to get office, but as one who brought victory and might in war and offered them to the citizens. 5 With such eager hopes did all receive him, and they made him consul for the second time,​12 and did not permit a lot to be cast for the provinces, as was the custom, but at once voted him the conduct of the Macedonian war. 6 And it is said that when he had been appointed general against Perseus, and had been escorted home in splendid fashion by the whole people, he found there his daughter Tertia, who was still a little child,  p381 in tears. 7 He took her in his arms, therefore, and asked her why she grieved. And she, embracing him and kissing him, said: "Pray dost thou not know, Father, that our Perseus is dead?" meaning a little pet dog of that name. 8 And Aemilius cried "Good fortune! my daughter, I accept the omen." Such, then, is the story which Cicero the orator relates in his work "On Divination."13

11 1 It was the custom for those who obtained the consul­ship to return thanks, as it were, for the great favour in a friendly speech to the people from the rostra; but Aemilius, having gathered an assembly of the citizens, said he had sued for his first consul­ship because he himself wanted office, but for his second because they wanted a general; 2 wherefore he was under no obligation to them; on the contrary, if they thought the war would be carried on better by another, he resigned the conduct of it; but if they had confidence in him they must not make themselves his colleagues in command, nor indulge in rhetoric about the war, but quietly furnish the necessary supplies for it, since, if they sought to command their commander, their campaigns would be still more ridiculous than they were already. 3 By these words he inspired the citizens with great reverence for himself, and with great expectations of the future, and all were glad that they had passed by the flatterers and chosen a general who had resolution and frankness of speech. 4 Thus was the Roman people, to the end that it might prevail and be greatest in the world, a servant of virtue and honour.

12 1 Now, that Aemilius Paulus, after setting out  p383 upon his campaign, had a fortunate voyage and an easy passage and came speedily and safely to the Roman camp, I attribute to the favour of Heaven; 2 but when I see that the war under his command was brought to an end partly by his fierce courage, partly by his excellent plans, partly by the eager assistance of his friends, and partly by his resolute adoption of fitting conclusions in times of danger, I cannot assign his remarkable and brilliant success to his celebrated good fortune, as I can in the case of other generals. 3 Unless, indeed, it be said that the avaricious conduct of Perseus was good fortune for Aemilius, since it utterly subverted the great and brilliant prospects of the Macedonians for the war (wherein their hopes ran high), because Perseus played the coward with his money. 4 For there came to him from the Basternae, at his request, ten thousand horsemen with ten thousand men to run at their sides, all professional soldiers, men who knew not how to plough or to sail the seas, who did not follow the life of herdsmen, but who were ever practising one business and one art, that of fighting and conquering their antagonists. 5 And when these had encamped in Maedica and mingled with the soldiers of the king, — men of lofty stature, admirable in their discipline, great boasters, and loud in their threats against their enemies, — they inspired the Macedonians with courage and a belief that the Romans could not withstand them, but would be utterly terrified by their looks and movements, which were strange and repulsive. 6 But after Perseus had disposed the feelings of his men in this way and filled them with so great hopes, upon being asked to pay each captain of the mercenaries a  p385 thousand pieces, he was bewildered and crazed at the amount of gold required, and out of parsimony renounced and abandoned the alliance, as if he were a steward, rather than a foe, of the Romans, and was to give an exact account of his expenditures for the war to those against whom he waged it; 7 and yet he had his foes to give him lessons, for, apart from their other preparations, they had a hundred thousand men assembled and ready for their needs. 8 But he, though contending against so large a force, and in a war where such large reserves were maintained, measured out his gold and sealed it up in bags, as afraid to touch it as if it had belonged to others. 9 And this he did although he was no Lydian or Phoenician born, but laid claim to a share in the virtues of Alexander and Philip, whose descendant he was, — men who mastered the world through their belief that empire was to be bought with money, not money with empire. 10 At all events, it was a common saying that the cities of Greece were taken, not by Philip, but by Philip's money. 11 And Alexander, when he was starting on his expedition to India, and saw that his Macedonians were dragging along after them their Persian wealth, which was already burdensome and heavy, set fire to the royal baggage-waggons first, and then persuaded his followers to do the same with theirs, and to set out for the war in light marching order, like men released from bondage.​c 12 But Perseus would not consent to pour out his gold upon himself, his children, and his kingdom, and thus purchase salvation with a small part of his treasures, but chose to be carried with many treasures as the wealthy captive, and to show the  p387 Romans how much he had saved and watched for them.

13 1 For he not only sent away the Gauls after playing them false, but also, after inducing Genthius the Illyrian, on payment of three hundred talents, to assist him in the war, he showed to the king's messengers the money all counted out, and suffered them to put their seals upon the bags; 2 then, when Genthius, convinced that he had the price he had asked, committed a dreadful and impious deed, arresting and imprisoning a Roman embassy that had been sent to him, Perseus, thinking that the money was no longer needed to make Genthius an enemy of Rome, since before getting it he had given a lasting earnest of his hatred and had involved himself in the war by the great wrong which he had done, 3 deprived the poor wretch of the three hundred talents, and suffered him in a little while to be taken from his kingdom with his wife and children, as birds from the nest, by Lucius Anicius, a general sent against him with an army.

4 Aemilius, coming against such an adversary, scorned him indeed, but admired his preparations and his army. For Perseus had four thousand horsemen, and not much fewer than forty thousand heavy-armed footmen. 5 And planting himself with the sea behind him, along the foot-hills of Mount Olympus, on ground which nowhere afforded an approach, and which had been fortified on all sides by him with bulwarks and outworks of wood, he lay in great security, thinking that by delay and expense he would wear out Aemilius. 6 But Aemilius was a man who clung to his purpose, and tested every plan and method of attack; seeing, however, that his  p389 army, by reason of their former license, was impatient of delay, and inclined to dictate to their general many impracticable things, he rebuked them, and instructed them to take no thought or concern for anything, except how each man might keep himself and his armour in readiness for action, and ply his sword in Roman fashion, when their general gave them the opportunity. 7 Furthermore, he ordered the night watchmen to keep watch without their spears, with the idea that they would be more on the alert and would struggle more success­fully against sleep, if they were unable to defend themselves against their enemies when they approached.

14 1 But his men were annoyed especially by the lack of drinking water, since only a little of it issued forth and collected in pools at the very edge of the sea, and that was bad. Aemilius, therefore, seeing that the lofty and wooded mountain of Olympus lay near, and judging from the greenness of its trees that there were veins of water coursing under ground, dug a number of vents and wells for them along the foot of the mountain. 2 These were at once filled with streams of pure water, which, under the weight and impulse of the pressure that was upon them, discharged themselves into the vacuum afforded.

3 And yet some deny that stores of ready water lie hidden away beneath the places from which springs flow, and that they merely come to light or force a passage when they issue forth; 4 they hold rather that the water is generated and comes into existence then and there through the liquefaction of matter, and that moist vapour is liquefied by density and cold,  p391 whenever, that is, it is compressed in the depths of earth and becomes fluid. 5 For, they argue, just as the breasts of women are not, like vessels, full of ready milk which flows out, but by converting the nourishment that is in them produce milk and strain it out; 6 so those places in the ground which are chilly and full of springs do not have hidden water, nor reservoirs which send forth the currents and deep waters of all our rivers from a source that is ready at hand, but by forcibly compressing and condensing vapour and air, they convert them into water. 7 At all events, those places which are dug open gush and flow more freely in response to such manipulation, just as the breasts of women do in response to sucking, because they moisten and soften the vapours; 8 whereas all places in the ground which are packed tight and unworked, are incapable of generating water, since they have not been subjected to the agitation which produces moisture. 9 But those who hold this doctrine give the sceptical occasion to object that, on this reasoning, there is no blood in living creatures, but it is generated in response to wounds by a transformation of some vapour or flesh, which causes its liquefaction and flow. 10 Moreover, they are refuted by the experience of men who dig mines, either for sieges or for metals, and in the depths encounter rivers of water, which are not gradually collected, as must naturally be the case if they come into existence at the instant that the earth is agitated, but pour forth in a great mass. 11 And again, when a mountain or rock is smitten asunder, a fierce torrent of water often gushes forth, and then ceases entirely. So much on this head.

 p393  15 1 Aemilius kept still for several days, and they say that never was there such quiet when armies of such size had come so close together. 2 But when, as he was trying and considering everything, he learned that there was one passage and one only that still remained unguarded, namely, the one through Perrhaebia past the Pythium and Petra, he conceived more hope from the fact that the place was left unguarded than fear from the roughness and difficulty of it which caused it to be so left, and held a council of war upon the matter. 3 Among those present at the council, Scipio, surnamed Nasica, a son-in‑law of Scipio Africanus, and afterwards of the greatest influence in the senate, was first to offer himself as leader of the enveloping force. 4 And second, Fabius Maximus, the eldest of the sons of Aemilius, though he was still a young man, eagerly volunteered. 5 Aemilius, accordingly, delighted, gave them, not as many men as Polybius states,​14 but as many as Nasica himself says they took, in a short letter which he wrote concerning these exploits to one of the kings, 6 that is, three thousand of his Italians who were not Romans, and his left wing numbering five thousand. 7 In addition to these, Nasica took a hundred and twenty horsemen, besides two hundred of the mixed Thracians and Cretans with Harpalus, set out on the road towards the sea, and encamped by the Heracleum, as though he intended to sail round by sea and envelope the camp of the enemy. 8 But when his soldiers had taken supper and darkness had come, he told his chief officers his real design, and then led his forces by night in the opposite direction, away from the sea,  p395 and halted below the Pythium, where he gave his army a rest. 9 From this point Olympus rises to a height of more than ten furlongs, as is signified in an inscription by the man who measured it:—

10 "The sacred peak of Olympus, at Apollo's Pythium, has a height, in perpendicular measurement, of ten full furlongs, and besides, a hundred feet lacking only four. It was the son of Eumelus who measured the distance, Xenagoras; so fare thee well, O King, and be propitious in thy gifts."

11 And yet the geometricians say that no mountain has a height, and no sea a depth, of more than ten furlongs. It would seem, however, that Xenagoras took his measurement, not carelessly, but according to rule and with instruments.​d

16 1 Here, then, Nasica passed the night; but to Perseus, who did not infer what was going on because he saw Aemilius remaining quietly in his position, there came a Cretan deserter who had run away on the march, bringing him news of the circuit which the Romans had taken. 2 Though Perseus was confounded at this, he did not move his camp, but sent out ten thousand foreign mercenaries and two thousand Macedonians under Milo, with orders to make haste and occupy the passes. 3 These men, according to Polybius,​15 were still asleep when the Romans fell upon them; but Nasica says that a  p397 sharp and perilous conflict took place for possession of the heights, and that he himself slew a Thracian mercenary, who engaged him, by striking him through the breast with his javelin, and that after the enemy had been driven away, and while Milo was flying most disgracefully without his armour or his cloak, he followed after them without danger, and brought his army with him down into the plain.

4 After this disaster, Perseus hastily broke camp and retired; he had become exceedingly fearful, and his hopes were shattered. 5 But nevertheless he was under the necessity of standing his ground there in front of Pydna and risking a battle, or else of scattering his army about among the cities and so awaiting the issue of the war, which, now that it had once made its way into his country, could not be driven out without much bloodshed and slaughter. 6 In the number of his men, then, he was superior where he was, and they would fight with great ardour in defence of their wives and children, and with their king beholding all their actions and risking life in their behalf. 7 With such arguments his friends encouraged Perseus. So he pitched a camp and arranged his forces for battle, examining the field and distributing his commands, purposing to confront the Romans as soon as they came up. 8 The place afforded a plain for his phalanx, which required firm standing and smooth ground, and there were hills succeeding one another continuously, which gave his skirmishers and light-armed troops opportunity for retreat and flank attack. 9 Moreover, through the middle of it ran the rivers Aeson and Leucus, which were not very deep at that time (for it was the latter end of summer),  p399 but were likely, nevertheless, to give the Romans considerable trouble.

17 1 Aemilius, after effecting a junction with Nasica, came down in battle array against the enemy. 2 But when he saw how they were drawn up, and in what numbers, he was amazed, and came to a halt, considering with himself. 3 His young officers, however, who were eager for battle, rode up and begged him not to delay, especially Nasica, who was emboldened by his success at Mount Olympus. 4 But Aemilius, with a smile, said to him: "Yes, if I had thy youth; but many victories teach me the mistakes of the vanquished, and forbid me to join battle, immediately after a march, with a phalanx which is already drawn up and completely formed." 5 After this, he ordered his foremost troops, who were in sight of the enemy, to form into cohorts and give the appearance of a battle line, while the others, wheeling to the rear, dug trenches and marked out a camp. 6 And in this way, the troops next to the last wheeling off in due succession, before the enemy knew it he had broken up his battle line and brought all his men without confusion into their intrenchments.

7 Now, when night had come, and the soldiers, after supper, were betaking themselves to rest and sleep, on a sudden the moon, which was full and high in the heavens, grew dark, lost its light, took on all sorts of colours in succession, and finally disappeared.​e 8 The Romans, according to their custom, tried to call her light back by the clashing of bronze utensils and by holding up many blazing fire-brands and torches towards the heavens; the Macedonians, however, did nothing of this sort, but amazement  p401 and terror possessed their camp, and a rumour quietly spread among many of them that the portent signified an eclipse of a king. 9 Now, Aemilius was not altogether without knowledge and experiences of the irregularities of eclipses, which, at fixed periods, carry the moon in her course into the shadow of the earth and conceal her from sight, until she passes beyond the region of shadow and reflects again the light of the sun; 10 however, since he was very devout and given to sacrifices and divination, as soon as he saw the moon beginning to emerge from the shadow, he sacrificed eleven heifers to her. 11 And as soon as it was day, he sacrificed as many as twenty oxen to Hercules without getting favourable omens; but with the twenty-first victim the propitious signs appeared and indicated victory if they stood on the defensive. 12 Accordingly, having vowed to the god a hecatomb and solemn games, he ordered his officers to put the army in array for battle; 13 but he himself, waiting for the sun to pass to the west and decline, in order that its morning light might not shine in the faces of his men as they fought, passed the time sitting in his tent, which was open towards the plain and the enemy's encampment.

18 1 Towards evening, Aemilius himself, as some say, devised a scheme for making the enemy begin the attack, and the Romans, pursuing a horse which they had driven forth without a bridle, came into collision with them, and the pursuit of this horse brought on a battle; 2 others say that Thracians, under the command of Alexander, set upon Roman beasts of burden that were bringing in forage, and  p403 that against these a sharp sally was made by seven hundred Ligurians, whereupon reinforcements were sent to either party, and thus the engagement became general. 3 So then Aemilius, like a pilot, judging from the surging commotion in the armies the greatness of the coming storm, came forth from his tent and went along in front of his legionary troops encouraging them, 4 and Nasica, after riding out to the skirmishers, saw that the whole force of the enemy was all but at close quarters.

5 First the Thracians advanced, whose appearance, Nasica says, was most terrible, — men of lofty stature, clad in tunics which showed black beneath the white and gleaming armour of their shields and greaves, and tossing high on their right shoulders battle-axes with heavy iron heads. 6 Next to the Thracians, the mercenaries advanced to the attack; their equipment was of every variety, and Paeonians were mingled with them. 7 Next to these came a third division, picked men, the flower of the Macedonians themselves for youthful strength and valour, gleaming with gilded armour and fresh scarlet coats. 8 As these took their places in the line, they were illumined by the phalanx-lines of the Bronze-shields which issued from the camp behind them and filled the plain with the gleam of iron and the glitter of bronze, the hills, too, with the tumultuous shouts of their cheering. 9 And with such boldness and swiftness did they advance that the first to be slain fell only two furlongs from the Roman camp.

19 1 As the attack began, Aemilius came up and found that the Macedonian battalions had already planted the tips of their long spears in the shields  p405 of the Romans, who were thus prevented from reaching them with their swords. 2 And when he saw that the rest of the Macedonian troops also were drawing their targets from their shoulders round in front of them, and with long spears set at one level were withstanding his shield-bearing troops, and saw too the strength of their interlocked shields and the fierceness of their onset, amazement and fear took possession of him, and he felt that he had never seen a sight more fearful; often in after times he used to speak of his emotions at that time and of what he saw. 3 But then, showing to his soldiers a glad and cheerful countenance, he rode past them without helmet or breastplate. 4 The king of the Macedonians, on the other hand, according to Polybius, as soon as the battle began, played the coward and rode back to the city, under pretence of sacrificing to Heracles, a god who does not accept cowardly sacrifices from cowards, nor accomplish their unnatural prayers. 5 For it is not in the nature of things that he who makes no shot should hit the mark exactly, or that he who does not hold his ground should win the day, or, in a word, that he who does nothing should be success­ful in what he does, or that a wicked man should be prosperous. 6 But the god listened to the prayers of Aemilius, who kept wielding his spear as he prayed for might and victory,​f and fought as he invited the god to fight with him.

7 However, a certain Poseidonius, who says he lived in those times and took part in those actions, and who has written a history of Perseus in several books, says it was not out of cowardice, nor with the excuse of the sacrifice, that the king went away, but because on the day before the battle a horse had  p407 kicked him on the leg. 8 He says further that in the battle, although he was in a wretched plight, and although his friends tried to deter him, the king ordered a pack-horse to be brought to him, mounted it, and joined his troops in the phalanx without a breastplate; 9 and that among the missiles of every sort which were flying on all sides, a javelin made entirely of iron smote him, not touching him with its point, indeed, but coursing along his left side with an oblique stroke, and the force of its passage was such that it tore his tunic and made a dark red bruise upon his flesh, the mark of which remained for a long time. 10 This, then, is what Poseidonius says in defence of Perseus.

20 1 The Romans, when they attacked the Macedonian phalanx, were unable to force a passage, and Salvius, the commander of the Pelignians, snatched the standard of his company and hurled it in among the enemy. 2 Then the Pelignians, since among the Italians it is an unnatural and flagrant thing to abandon a standard, rushed on towards the place where it was, and dreadful losses were inflicted and suffered on both sides. 3 For the Romans tried to thrust aside the long spears of their enemies with their swords, or to crowd them back with their shields, or to seize and put them by with their very hands; 4 while the Macedonians, holding them firmly advanced with both hands, and piercing those who fell upon them, armour and all, since neither shield nor breastplate could resist the force of the Macedonian long spear, hurled headlong back the Pelignians and Marrucinians, who, with no consideration but with animal fury rushed upon the strokes that  p409 met them, and a certain death. 5 When the first line had thus been cut to pieces, those arrayed behind them were beaten back; and though there was no flight, still they retired towards the mountain called Olocrus, 6 so that even Aemilius, as Poseidonius tells us, when he saw it, rent his garments. For this part of his army was retreating, and the rest of the Romans were turning aside from the phalanx, which gave them no access to it, but confronted them as it were with a dense barricade of long spears, and was everywhere unassailable.

7 But the ground was uneven, and the line of battle so long that shields could not be kept continuously locked together, and Aemilius therefore saw that the Macedonian phalanx was getting many clefts and intervals in it, as is natural when armies are large and the efforts of the combatants are diversified; portions of it were hard pressed, and other portions were dashing forward. 8 Thereupon he came up swiftly, and dividing up his cohorts, ordered them to plunge quickly into the interstices and empty spaces in the enemy's line and thus come to close quarters, not fighting a single battle against them all, but many separate and successive battles. 9 These instructions being given by Aemilius to his officers, and by his officers to the soldiers, as soon as they got between the ranks of the enemy and separated them, they attacked some of them in the flank where their armour did not shield them, 10 and cut off others by falling upon their rear, and the strength and general efficiency of the phalanx was lost when it was thus broken up; and now that the Macedonians engaged man to man or in small detachments, they could only hack with their small daggers against the firm and  p411 long shields of the Romans, and oppose light wicker targets to their swords, which, such was their weight and momentum, penetrated through all their armour to their bodies. They therefore made a poor resistance and at last were routed.

21 1 But the struggle between them was fierce. Here, too, Marcus, the son of Cato and the son-in‑law of Aemilius, while displaying all possible prowess, lost his sword. 2 Since he was a young man of the most generous education and owed to a great father proofs of great valour, he thought life not worth the living if he abandoned such spoil of his own person to the enemy, and ran along the ranks telling every friend and companion whom he saw of his mishap and begging them for aid. 3 These made a goodly number of brave men, and making their way with one impulse through the rest, they put themselves under his head and fell upon the enemy. 4 With a great struggle, much slaughter, and many wounds, they drove them from the ground, and when they had won a free and empty place, they set themselves to looking for the sword. 5 And when at last it was found hidden among great heaps of armour and fallen bodies, they were filled with exceeding joy, and raising songs of triumph fell yet more impetuously upon those of the enemy who still held together. 6 Finally, the three thousand picked men of the Macedonians, who remained in order and kept on fighting, were all cut to pieces; and of the rest, who took to flight, the slaughter was great, so that the plain and the lower slopes of the hills were covered with dead bodies, and the waters of the river Leucus were still mingled with blood when the Romans crossed it on  p413 the day after the battle. 7 For it is said that over twenty-five thousand of their enemies were slain; while of the Romans there fell, according to Poseidonius, a hundred, according to Nasica, eighty.

22 1 And this greatest of all struggles was most speedily decided; for the Romans began fighting at three o'clock in the afternoon, and were victorious within an hour; the rest of the day they spent in the pursuit, which they kept up for as many as a hundred and twenty furlongs, so that it was already late in the evening when they returned. 2 All the rest were met by their servants with torches and conducted with joyful shouts to their tents, which were ablaze with light and adorned with wreaths of ivy and laurel; but Aemilius their general was a prey to great sorrow. 3 For the two sons who were serving under him, the younger was nowhere to be found, and Aemilius loved him especially, and saw that he was by nature more prone to excellence than any of his brothers. 4 But he was of a passionate and ambitious spirit, and was still hardly more than a boy in years, and his father concluded that he had certainly perished, when, for lack of experience, he had become entangled among the enemy as they fought. 5 The whole army learned of the distress and anguish of their general, and springing up from their suppers, ran about with torches, many to the tent of Aemilius, and many in front of the ramparts, searching among the numerous dead bodies. 6 Dejection reigned in the camp, and the plain was filled with the cries of men calling out the name of Scipio. For from the very outset he had been admired by everybody, since, beyond any other one of his family,  p415 he had a nature adapted for leader­ship in war and public service.

7 Well, then, when it was already late and he was almost despaired of, he came in from the pursuit with two or three comrades, covered with the blood of the enemies he had slain, having been, like a young hound of noble breed, carried away by the uncontrollable pleasure of the victory. 8 This was that Scipio who, in after times,​16 destroyed Carthage and Numantia, and became by far the most noble and influential Roman of his day. 9 Thus Fortune, postponing to another season her jealous displeasure at the great success of Aemilius, restored to him then in all completeness his pleasure in his victory.17

23 1 But Perseus was away in flight from Pydna to Pella, since practically all his horsemen came safely off from the battle. 2 But when his footmen overtook his horsemen, and, abusing them as cowards and traitors, tried to push them from their horses and fell to beating them, the king, afraid of the tumult, turned his horse out of the road, drew his purple robe round and held it in front of him, that he might not be conspicuous, and carried his diadem in his hands. 3 And in order that he might also converse with his companions as he walked, he dismounted from his horse and led him along. 4 But of these companions, one pretended that he must fasten a shoe that had become loose, another that he must water his horse, another that he himself wanted water to drink, and so they gradually lagged behind and ran away, because they had more fear of his cruelty than of the enemy. 5 For he was lacerated  p417 by his misfortunes, and sought to turn the responsibility for his defeat away from himself and upon everybody else. 6 He entered Pella during the night, and when Euctus and Eulaeus, his treasurers, came to meet him, and, what with their censure for what had happened and their unseasonably bold speeches and counsels, enraged him, he slew them, smiting both of them himself with his small-sword. After this no one remained with him except Evander the Cretan, Archedamus the Aetolian, and Neon the Boeotian. 7 Of his soldiers, only the Cretans followed after him, not through good will, but because they were as devoted to his riches as bees to their honeycombs. 8 For he was carrying along vast treasures, and had handed out from them for distribution among the Cretans drinking cups and mixing bowls and other furniture of gold and silver to a value of fifty talents. 9 He arrived at Amphipolis first, and then from there at Galepsus, and now that his fear had abated a little, he relapsed into that congenital and oldest disease of his, namely, parsimony, and lamented to his friends that through ignorance he had suffered some of the gold plate of Alexander the Great to fall into the hands of the Cretans, and with tearful supplications he besought those who had it to exchange it for money. 10 Now those that understood him accurately did not fail to see that he was playing the Cretan against Cretans; but those who listened to him, and gave back the plate, were cheated. 11 For he did not pay them the money he had promised, but after craftily getting thirty talents from his friends, which his enemies were to get soon afterwards, he sailed across with them to  p419 Samothrace, where he took refuge as a suppliant in the temple of the Dioscuri.

24 1 Now, the Macedonians are always said to have been lovers of their kings, but at this time, feeling that their prop was shattered and all had fallen with it, they put themselves into the hands of Aemilius, and in two days made him master of all Macedonia. 2 And this would seem to bear witness in favour of those who declare that these achievements of his were due to a rare good fortune. 3 And still further, that which befell him at his sacrifice was a token of divine favour. When, namely, Aemilius was sacrificing in Amphipolis, and the sacred rites were begun, a thunderbolt darted down upon the altar, set it on fire, and consumed the sacrifice with it. 4 But an altogether more signal instance of divine favour and good fortune is seen in the way the rumour of his victory spread. For it was only the fourth day after Perseus had been defeated at Pydna, and at Rome the people were watching equestrian contests, when suddenly a report sprang up at the entrance of the theatre that Aemilius had conquered Perseus in a great battle and reduced all Macedonia. 5 After this the rumour spread quickly among the multitude, and joy burst forth, accompanied by shouts and clapping of hands, and prevailed in the city all that day. 6 Then, since the story could not be traced to any sure source, but seemed to be current everywhere alike, for the time being the rumour vanished into thin air; but when, a few days afterwards, they were clearly informed of the matter, they were astonished at the tidings which had reached them first, seeing that in the fiction there was truth.

 p421  25 1 It is said also that a report of the battle fought by the Italian Greeks at the river Sagra​18 reached Peloponnesus on the same day, and so did that of the battle with the Medes at Mycale come on the same day to Plataea.​19 2 And when the Romans had conquered the Tarquins, who had taken the field against them with the Latins, two tall and beauti­ful men were seen at Rome a little while after, who brought direct tidings from the army. These were conjectured to be the Dioscuri. 3 The first man who met them in front of the spring in the forum, where they were cooling their horses, which were reeking with sweat, was amazed at their report of the victory.​20 4 Then, we are told, they touched his beard with their hands, quietly smiling the while, and the hair of it was changed at once from black to red, a circumstance which gave credence to their story, and fixed upon the man the surname of Ahenobarbus, that is to say, Bronze-beard. 5 And all this is made credible by that which has happened in our time. When, namely, Antonius was in revolt from Domitian,​21 and a great war was expected from Germany, and Rome was in commotion, suddenly and spontaneously the people of their own accord spread abroad a report of a victory, and a story coursed through Rome that Antonius himself had been slain, and that of his defeated army not a portion was left alive. Belief in the story became so strong and distinct that many of the magistrates actually offered sacrifices. 6 When, however, the author of the story was sought, none  p423 could be found, but it eluded all pursuit from one man to another, and finally disappeared in the limitless throng, as in a yawning sea, and was seen to have no sure source. This rumour, then, quickly melted away in the city; but when Domitian was setting out with an army for the war and was already on the march, messages and letters announcing the victory came to meet him.​22 7 And the success itself was gained on the day when the rumour of it came to Rome, although the distance between the places was more than twenty thousand furlongs.​g These facts are known to every one of our time.

26 1 But to resume, Gnaeus Octavius, the admiral of Aemilius, came to anchor off Samothrace, and while he allowed Perseus to enjoy asylum, out of respect to the gods, he took means to prevent him from escaping by sea. 2 However, Perseus somehow succeeded in persuading a certain Cretan named Oroandes, the owner of a small skiff, to take him on board with his treasures. 3 So Oroandes, true Cretan that he was, took the treasures aboard by night, and after bidding Perseus to come during the following night to harbour adjoining the Demetrium, with his children and necessary attendants, as soon as evening fell sailed off. 4 Now, Perseus suffered piti­fully in letting himself down through a narrow window in the fortress, together with his wife and little children, who were unacquainted with wandering and hardships; but most piti­ful of all was the groan he gave when some one told him, as he wandered along the shore, that he had seen Oroandes already out at sea and under full  p425 sail. 5 For day was beginning to dawn, and so, bereft of every hope, he fled back to the fortress with his wife, before the Romans could prevent him, though they saw him. 6 His children were seized and delivered to the Romans by Ion, who of old had been a favourite of Perseus, but now became his betrayer, and furnished the most compelling reason for his coming, as a wild beast will do when its young have been captured, and surrendering himself to those who had them in their power.

7 Accordingly, having most confidence in Nasica, he called for him; but since Nasica was not there, after bewailing his misfortune and carefully weighing the necessity under which he lay, he gave himself into the power of Gnaeus, thus making it most abundantly clear that his avarice was a less ignoble evil than the love of life that was in him, and that led him to deprive himself of the only thing which Fortune cannot take away from the fallen, namely, pity. 8 For when at his request he was brought to Aemilius, Aemilius saw in him a great man whose fall was due to the resentment of the gods and his own evil fortune, and rose up and came to meet him, accompanied by his friends, and with tears in his eyes; 9 but Perseus, a most shameful sight, after throwing himself prone before him and then clasping his knees, broke out into ignoble cries and supplications. These Aemilius could not abide and would not hear; but looking upon him with a distressed and sorrow­ful countenance, said: 10 "Why, wretched man, dost thou free Fortune from thy strongest indictment against her, by conduct which will make men think that thy misfortunes are not undeserved, and that thy former prosperity,  p427 rather than thy present lot, was beyond thy deserts? 11 And why dost thou depreciate my victory, and make my success a meagre one, by showing thyself no noble or even fitting antagonist for Romans? 12 Valour in the unfortunate obtains great reverence even among their enemies, but cowardice, in Roman eyes, even though it meet with success, is in every way a most dishonourable thing."

27 1 Notwithstanding his displeasure, he raised Perseus up, gave him his hand, and put him in charge of Tubero, while he himself drew his sons, his sons-in‑law, and of the other officers especially the younger men, into his tent, where for a long time he sat in silent communion with himself, so that all wondered. 2 Then he began to discourse of Fortune and of human affairs, saying: "Is it, then, fitting that one who is mortal should be emboldened when success comes to him, and have high thoughts because he has subdued a nation, or a city, or a kingdom? or should his thoughts dwell rather on this reversal of fortune, which sets before the warrior an illustration of the weakness that is common to all men, and teaches him to regard nothing as stable or safe? 3 For what occasion have men to be confident, when their conquest of others gives them most cogent reason to be in fear of Fortune, and when one who exults in success is thrown, as I am, into great dejection by reflecting upon the allotments of Fate, which take a circling course, and fall now upon some and now upon others? 4 Or, when the succession of Alexander, who attained the highest pinnacle of power and won the greatest merit, has fallen in the space of a single hour and has been put beneath your feet, or when you see kings who but just now  p429 were surrounded by so many myriads of infantry and thousands of cavalry, receiving from their enemy's hands the food and drink requisite for the day, can you suppose that we ourselves have any guarantee from Fortune that will avail against the attacks of time? 5 Abandon, then, young men, this empty insolence and pride of victory, and take a humble posture as you confront the future, always expectant of the time when the Deity shall at last launch against each one of you his jealous displeasure at your present prosperity." 6 Many such words were uttered by Aemilius, we are told, and he sent the young men away with their vainglorious insolence and pride well curbed by his trenchant speech, as by a bridle.

28 1 After this, he gave his army a chance to rest, while he himself went about to see Greece, occupying himself in ways alike honourable and humane. 2 For in his progress he restored the popular governments and established their civil polities; he also gave gifts to the cities, to some grain from the royal stores, to others oil. 3 For it is said that so great stores were found laid up that petitioners and receivers failed before the abundance discovered was exhausted. 4 At Delphi, he saw a tall square pillar composed of white marble stones, on which a golden statue of Perseus was intended to stand, and gave orders that his own statue should be set there, for it was meet that the conquered should make room for their conquerors. 5 And at Olympia, as they say, he made that utterance which is now in every mouth, that Pheidias had moulded the Zeus of Homer. 6 When the ten commissioners arrived from Rome, he restored to the Macedonians their country  p431 and their cities for free and independent residence; they were also to pay the Romans a hundred talents in tribute, a sum less than half of what they used to pay to their kings. 7 He also held all sorts of games and contests and performed sacrifices to the gods, at which he gave feasts and banquets, making liberal allowances therefor from the royal treasury, while in the arrangement and ordering of them, in saluting and seating his guests, and in paying to each one that degree of honour and kindly attention which was properly his due, he showed such nice and thoughtful perception that the Greeks were amazed, 8 seeing that not even their pastimes were treated by him with neglect, but that, although he was a man of such great affairs, he gave even to trifling things their due attention. 9 And he was also delighted to find that, though preparations for entertainment were ever so many and splendid, he himself was the pleasantest sight to his guests and gave them most enjoyment; and he used to say to those who wondered at his attention to details that the same spirit was required both in marshalling a line of battle and in presiding at a banquet well, the object being, in the one case, to cause most terror in the enemy, in the other, to give most pleasure to the company. 10 But more than anything else men praised his freedom of spirit and his greatness of soul; for he would not consent even to look upon the quantities of silver and the quantities of gold that were gathered together from the royal treasuries, but handed them over to the quaestors for the public chest. 11 It was only the books of the king that he allowed his sons, who were devoted to learning, to choose out for  p433 themselves, and when he was distributing rewards for valour in the battle, he gave Aelius Tubero, his son-in‑law, a bowl of five pounds weight. 12 This was the Tubero, who, as I have said,​23 dwelt with fifteen relations, and a paltry farm supported them all. 13 And that is said to have been the first silver that ever entered the house of the Aelii, brought in as an honour bestowed upon valour, but up to that time neither they themselves nor their wives used either silver or gold.

29 1 When he had put everything in good order, had bidden the Greeks farewell, and had exhorted the Macedonians to be mindful of the freedom bestowed upon them by the Romans and preserve it by good order and concord, he marched against Epirus, having an order from the senate to give the soldiers who had fought with him the battle against Perseus the privilege of pillaging the cities there. 2 Wishing to set upon the inhabitants all at once and suddenly, when no one expected it, he sent for the ten principal men of each city, and ordered them to bring in on a fixed day whatever silver and gold they had in their houses and temples. 3 He also sent with each of these bodies, as if for this very purpose, a guard of soldiers and an officer, who pretended to search for and receive the money. 4 But when the appointed day came, at one and the same time these all set out to overrun and pillage the cities, so that in a single hour a hundred and fifty thousand persons were made slaves, and seventy cities were sacked; 5 and yet from all this destruction and utter ruin each soldier received no more than  p435 eleven drachmas as his share, and all men shuddered at the issue of the war, when the division of a whole nation's substance resulted in so slight a gain and profit for each soldier.

30 1 Aemilius, then, after executing a commission so contrary to his mild and generous nature, went down to Oricus. 2 From there he crossed into Italy with his forces, and sailed up the river Tiber on the royal galley, which had sixteen banks of oars and was richly adorned with captured arms and cloths of scarlet and purple, so that the Romans actually came in throngs from out the city, 3 as it were to some spectacle of triumphant progress whose pleasures they were enjoying in advance, and followed along the banks as the splashing oars sent the ship slowly up the stream.

4 But the soldiers, who had cast longing eyes upon the royal treasures, since they had not got as much as they thought they deserved, were secretly enraged on this account and bitterly disposed towards Aemilius, while openly they accused him of having been harsh and imperious in his command of them; they were therefore not very ready to second his eager desires for a triumph. 5 And when Servius Galba, who was an enemy of Aemilius, although he had been one of his military tribunes, perceived this, he made bold to declare openly that the triumph ought not to be allowed him. 6 He also sowed many calumnies against their general among the masses of the soldiery, and roused still further the resentment they already felt, and then asked the tribunes of the people for another day in which to bring his accusations, since that day was not sufficient, of which only four hours still remained. 7 But when  p437 the tribunes ordered him to speak, if he had anything to say, he began a speech which was long and full of all sorts of injurious statements, and so consumed the time remaining in the day. 8 When darkness came, the tribunes dissolved the assembly, but the soldiers, now grown bolder, flocked to Galba, formed themselves into a faction, and before it was light proceeded to take possession of the Capitol; for it was there that the tribunes proposed to hold the assembly.

31 1 As soon as it was day the voting began, and the first tribe was voting against the triumph, when knowledge of the matter was brought down to the rest of the people and the senate. 2 The multitude, deeply grieved at the indignity offered to Aemilius, could only cry out against it in vain; but the most prominent senators, with shouts against the ignominy of the thing, exhorted one another to attack the bold license of the soldiers, which would proceed to any and every deed of lawlessness and violence if nothing were done to prevent their depriving Aemilius Paulus of the honours of his victory. 3 Then pushing their way through the throng and going up to the Capitol in a body, they told the tribunes to put a stop to the voting until they could finish what they wished to say to the people. 4 All voting stopped, silence was made, and one who had slain twenty-three foes in single combat, Marcus Servilius, a man of consular dignity, came forward and said that he knew now better than ever before how great a commander Aemilius Paulus was, when he saw how full of baseness and disobedience the army was which he had used in the success­ful accomplishment of such great and  p439 fair exploits; 5 and he was amazed that the people, while exulting in triumphs over Illyrians and Ligurians, begrudged itself the sight of the king of Macedonia taken alive and the glory of Alexander and Philip made spoil by Roman arms. 6 "For is it not a strange thing," said he, "that when an unsubstantial rumour of victory came suddenly and prematurely to the city, you sacrificed to the gods and prayed that this report might speedily be verified before your eyes; but now that your general is come with his real victory, you rob the gods of their honour, and yourself of your joy in it, as though afraid to behold the magnitude of his successes, or seeking to spare the feelings of your enemy? 7 And yet it were better that out of pity towards him, and not out of envy towards your general, the triumph should be done away with. But," said he, "to such great power is malice brought by you that a man without a wound to show, and whose person is sleek from delicate and cowardly effeminacy, dares to talk about the conduct of a general and his triumph to us who have been taught by all these wounds to judge the valour and the cowardice of generals." 8 And with the words he parted his garment and displayed upon his breast an incredible number of wounds. Then wheeling about, he uncovered some parts of his person which it is thought unbecoming to have naked in a crowd, and turning to Galba, said: 9 "Thou laughest at these scars, but I glory in them before my fellow-citizens, in whose defence I got them, riding night and day without ceasing. 10 But come, take these people off to their voting; and I will come down and follow along with them all, and will learn who are base and thankless  p441 and prefer to be wheedled and flattered in war rather than commanded."

32 1 This speech, they tell us, so rebuffed the soldiery and changed their minds that the triumph was voted to Aemilius by all the tribes. 2 And it was conducted,​24 they say, after the following fashion.​h The people erected scaffoldings in the theatres for equestrian contests, which they call circuses, and round the forum, occupied the other parts of the city which afforded a view of the procession, and witnessed the spectacle arrayed in white garments. 3 Every temple was open and filled with garlands and incense, while numerous servitors and lictors restrained the thronging and scurrying crowds and kept the streets open and clear. 4 Three days were assigned for the triumphal procession. The first barely sufficed for the exhibition of the captured statues, paintings, and colossal figures, which were carried on two hundred and fifty chariots. 5 On the second, the finest and richest of the Macedonian arms were borne along in many waggons. The arms themselves glittered with freshly polished bronze and steel, and were carefully and artfully arranged to look exactly as though they had been piled together in heaps and at random, 6 helmets lying upon shields and breast-plates upon greaves, while Cretan targets and Thracian wicker shields and quivers were mixed up with horses' bridles, and through them projected naked swords and long Macedonian spears planted among them, 7 all the arms being so loosely packed that they smote against each other as they were borne along and gave out a harsh and dreadful sound, and the sight of them, even though  p443 they were spoils of a conquered enemy, was not without its terrors. 8 After the waggons laden with armour there followed three thousand men carrying coined silver in seven hundred and fifty vessels, each of which contained three talents and was borne by four men, 9 while still other men carried mixing-bowls of silver, drinking horns, bowls, and cups, all well arranged for show and excelling in size and in the depth of their carved ornaments.

33 1 On the third day, as soon as it was morning, trumpeters led the way, sounding out no marching or processional strain, but such a one as the Romans use to rouse themselves to battle. 2 After these there were led along a hundred and twenty stall-fed oxen with gilded horns, bedecked with fillets and garlands. Those who led these victims to the sacrifice were young men wearing aprons with handsome borders, and boys attended them carrying gold and silver vessels of libation. 3 Next, after these, came the carriers of the coined gold, which, like the silver, was portioned out into vessels containing three talents; and the number of these vessels was eighty lacking three. 4 After these followed the bearers of the consecrated bowl, which Aemilius had caused to be made of ten talents of gold and adorned with precious stones, and then those who displayed the bowls known as Antigonids and Seleucids and Theracleian,​25 together with all the gold plate of Perseus's table. 5 These were followed by the chariot of Perseus, which bore his arms, and his diadem lying upon his arms. 6 Then, at a little interval, came the children of the king, led along as slaves, and with them a throng of foster-parents, teachers, and tutors, all  p445 in tears, stretching out their own hands to the spectators and teaching the children to beg and supplicate. 7 There were two boys, and one girl, and they were not very conscious of the magnitude of their evils because of their tender age; 8 wherefore they evoked even more pity in view of the time when their unconsciousness would cease, so that Perseus walked along almost unheeded, while the Romans, moved by compassion, kept their eyes upon the children, and many of them shed tears, and for all of them the pleasure of the spectacle was mingled with pain, until the children had passed by.

34 1 Behind the children and their train of attendants walked Perseus himself, clad in a dark robe and wearing the high boots of his country, but the magnitude of his evils made him resemble one who is utterly dumbfounded and bewildered. 2 He, too, was followed by a company of friends and intimates, whose faces were heavy with grief, and whose tearful gaze continually fixed upon Perseus gave the spectators to understand that it was his misfortune which they bewailed, and that their own fate least of all concerned them. 3 And yet Perseus had sent to Aemilius begging not to be led in the procession and asking to be left out of the triumph. But Aemilius, in mockery, as it would seem, of the king's cowardice and love of life, had said: "But this at least was in his power before, and is so now, if he should wish it," 4 signifying death in preference to disgrace; for this, however, the coward had not the heart, but was made weak by no one knows what hopes, and became a part of his own spoils.

5 Next in order to these were carried wreaths of  p447 gold, four hundred in number, which the cities had sent with their embassies to Aemilius as prizes for his victory. 6 Next, mounted on a chariot of magnificent adornment, came Aemilius himself, a man worthy to be looked upon even without such marks of power, wearing a purple robe interwoven with gold, and holding forth in his right hand a spray of laurel. 7 The whole army also carried sprays of laurel, following the chariot of their general by companies and divisions, and singing, some of them divers songs intermingled with jesting, as the ancient custom was, and others paeans of victory and hymns in praise of the achievements of Aemilius, who was gazed upon and admired by all, and envied by no one that was good. 8 But after all there is, as it seems, a divinity whose province it is to diminish whatever prosperity is inordinately great, and to mingle the affairs of human life, that no one may be without a taste of evil and wholly free from it, but that, as Homer says,​26 those may be thought to fare best whose fortunes incline now one way and now another.

35 1 For Aemilius had four sons, of whom two, as I have already said,​27 had been adopted into other families, namely, Scipio and Fabius; and two sons still boys, the children of a second wife, whom he had in his own house. 2 One of these, fourteen years of age, died five days before Aemilius celebrated his triumph, and the death of the other, who was twelve years of age, followed three days after the triumph, 3 so that there was no Roman who did not share the father's grief; nay, they all shuddered at the cruelty of Fortune, seeing that she had not scrupled to bring such great sorrow into a house that was full of gratulations,  p449 joy, and sacrifices, or to mingle lamentations and tears with paeans of victory and triumphs.

36 1 Aemilius, notwithstanding, rightly considering that men have need of bravery and courage, not only against arms and long spears, but against every onset of Fortune as well, so adapted and adjusted the mingled circumstances of his lot that the bad was lost sight of in the good, and his private sorrow in the public welfare, thus neither lowering the grandeur nor sullying the dignity of his victory. 2 The first of his sons who died he buried, and immediately afterwards celebrated the triumph, as I have said; and when the second died, after the triumph, he gathered the Roman people into an assembly and spoke to them as a man who did not ask for comfort, but rather sought to comfort his fellow-citizens in their distress over his own misfortunes. 3 He said, namely, that he had never dreaded any human agency, but among agencies that were divine he had ever feared Fortune, believing her to be a most untrustworthy and variable thing; and since in this war particularly she had attended his undertakings like a prosperous gale, as it were, he had never ceased to expect some change and some reversal of the current of affairs. 4 "For in one day," said he, "I crossed the Ionian Sea from Brundisium and put in at Corcyra; thence, in five days, I came to Delphi and sacrificed to the god; and again, in anotherº five days, I took command of the forces in Macedonia, and after the usual lustration and review of them I proceeded at once to action, and in anotherº fifteen days brought the war to the most glorious issue. 5 But I distrusted Fortune because the current of my affairs ran so smoothly, and  p451 now that there was complete immunity and nothing to fear from hostile attacks, it was particularly during my voyage home that I feared the reversal of the Deity's favour after all my good fortune, since I was bringing home so large a victorious army, such spoils, and captured kings. 6 Nay more, even when I had reached you safely and beheld the city full of delight and gratulation and sacrifices, I was still suspicious of Fortune, knowing that she bestows upon men no great boon that is without alloy or free from divine displeasure. 7 Indeed, my soul was in travail with this fear and could not dismiss it and cease anxiously forecasting the city's future, until I was smitten with this great misfortune in my own house, and in days consecrated to rejoicing had carried two most noble sons, who alone remained to be my heirs, one after the other to their graves. 8 Now, therefore, I am in no peril of what most concerned me, and am confident, and I think that Fortune will remain constant to our city and do her no harm. 9 For that deity has sufficiently used me and my afflictions to satisfy the divine displeasure at our successes, and she makes the hero of the triumph as clear an example of human weakness as the victim of the triumph; except that Perseus, even though conquered, has his children, while Aemilius, though conqueror, has lost his."

37 1 With such noble and lofty words, we are told, did Aemilius, from an unfeigned and sincere spirit, address the people. 2 But for Perseus, although he pitied him for his changed lot and was very eager to help him, he could obtain no other favour than a removal from the prison which the Romans called "carcer" to a clean place and kindlier treatment; and there, being closely watched, according to most  p453 writers the king starved himself to death. But some tell of a very unusual and peculiar way in which he died, as follows. 3 The soldiers who guarded him found some fault with him and got angry at him, and since they could not vex and injure him in any other way, they prevented him from sleeping, disturbing his repose by their assiduous attentions and keeping him awake by every possible artifice, until in this way he was worn out and died. 4 Two of his children also died. But the third, Alexander, is said to have become expert in embossing and fine metal work; he also learned to write and speak the Roman language, and was secretary to the magistrates, in which office he proved himself to have skill and elegance.

38 1 To the exploits of Aemilius in Macedonia is ascribed his most unbounded popularity with the people, since so much money was then brought into the public treasury by him that people no longer needed to pay special taxes until the times of Hirtius and Pansa, who were consuls during the first war between Antony and Octavius Caesar.​28 2 And this, too, was peculiar and remarkable in Aemilius, that although he was admired and honoured by the people beyond measure, he remained a member of the aristocratic party, and neither said or did anything to win the favour of the multitude, but always sided in political matters with the leading and most power­ful men. 3 And this attitude of Aemilius was in after times cast in the teeth of Scipio Africanus by Appius. For these men, being then greatest in the city, were candidates for the censor­ship,​29 the one having the senate and the nobles to  p455 support him, for this was the hereditary policy of the Appii, while the other, although great on his own account, nevertheless always made use of the great favour and love of the people for him. 4 When, therefore, Appius saw Scipio rushing into the forum attended by men who were of low birth and had lately been slaves, but who were frequenters of the forum and able to gather a mob and force all issues by means of solicitations and shouting, he cried with a loud voice and said: 5 "O Paulus Aemilius, groan beneath the earth when thou learnest that thy son is escorted to the censor­ship by Aemilius the common crier and Licinius Philonicus." 6 But Scipio had the good will of the people because he supported them in most things, while Aemilius, although he sided with the nobles, was no less loved by the multitude than the one who was thought to pay most court to the people and to seek their favour in his intercourse with them. 7 And they made this manifest by conferring upon him, along with his other honours, that of the censor­ship,​30 which is of all offices most sacred, and of great influence, both in other ways, and especially because it examines into the lives and conduct of men. 8 For it is in the power of the censors to expel any senator whose life is unbecoming, and to appoint the leader of the senate, and they can disgrace any young knight of loose habits by taking away his horse. They also take charge of the property assessments and the registry lists. 9 Accordingly, the number of citizens registered under Aemilius was three hundred and thirty-seven thousand four hundred and fifty-two; he also declared Marcus Aemilius Lepidus first senator, a man who had  p457 already held this presidency four times, and he expelled only three senators, men of no note, and in the muster of the knights a like moderation was observed both by himself and by Marcius Philippus his colleague.

39 1 After he had performed most of the more important duties of this office, he fell sick of a disease which at first was dangerous, but in time became less threatening, though it was troublesome and hard to get rid of. 2 Under the advice of his physicians he sailed to Velia in Italy, and there spent much time in country places lying by the sea and affording great quiet. Then the Romans longed for him, and often in the theatres gave utterance to eager desires and even prayers that they might see him. 3 At last, when a certain religious ceremony made his presence necessary, and his health seemed to be sufficient for the journey, he returned to Rome. 4 Here he offered the public sacrifice in company with the other priests,​31 while the people thronged about with manifest tokens of delight; and on the following day he sacrificed again to the gods privately in gratitude for his recovery. 5 When the sacrifice had been duly performed, he returned to his house and lay down to rest, and then, before he could notice and be conscious of any change, he became delirious and deranged in mind, and on the third day after he died.​32 He was fully blessed with everything that men think conducive to happiness. 6 For his funeral procession called forth men's admiration, and showed a desire to adorn his virtue with the best and most enviable obsequies. 7 This was manifest, not in gold or ivory or  p459 the most ambitious and expensive preparations for such rites, but in good will and honour and gratitude on the part, not only of his fellow citizens, but also of his enemies. 8 At all events, out of all the Iberians and Ligurians and Macedonians who chanced to be present, those that were young and strong of body assisted by turns in carrying the bier, while the more elderly followed with the procession calling aloud upon Aemilius as benefactor and preserver of their countries. 9 For not only at the times of his conquests had he treated them all with mildness and humanity, but also during all the rest of his life he was ever doing them some good and caring for them as though they had been kindred and relations.

10 His estate, we are told, hardly amounted to three hundred and seventy thousand drachmas, to which he left both his sons heirs; but the younger, Scipio, who had been adopted into the wealthier family of Africanus, allowed his brother to have it all. Such, as we are told, was the life and character of Paulus Aemilius.

The Editor's Notes:

1 As Priam admired Achilles, Iliad, XXIV.630.

2 An iambic trimeter from the Tympanistae of Sophocles (Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag.2, p270).

3 Plutarch suggests the identity of the Latin Aemilius with the Greek αἱμύλιος (winning). Cf. Odyssey, I.56.

4 See the Numa, i.2 f.

5 See the Fabius Maximus, chapters xiv and xvi.

6 In 192 B.C.

7 In 191 B.C.

8 In 182 B.C.

9 171‑168 B.C.

10 In 197 B.C. The battle is usually named from a range of hills near Scotussa called Cynoscephalae. See the Flamininus, chapters iii and iv.

11 In 179 B.C.

12 In 168 B.C.

13 Cicero, De Divinatione, I.103.

14 In a lost portion of Book XXIX.

15 In a lost portion of Book XXIX.

16 In 146 and 133 B.C.

17 The battle of Pydna is described by Livy in XLIV.36‑41 (Latin text or English translation).

18 A battle between the Locrians and Crotoniats, at some time in the sixth century B.C.

19 It was when the Greeks at Mycale were about to attack the Persians that a rumour came to them of the victory of the Greeks at Plataea over Mardonius (Herodotus, IX.100).

20 See the Coriolanus, iii.4.

21 In 91 A.D.

22 Antonius did not get the help he expected from German auxiliaries, and was defeated by Appius Norbanus.

23 Chapter v.6.º

24 In November, 167 B.C.

25 These last were named from a famous Corinthian artist.

26 Iliad, XXIV.525 ff.

27 Cf. chapter v.5.º

28 The so‑called "War of Mutina," in 43 B.C.; cf. the Cicero, xlv.3‑5.

29 In 142 B.C.

30 In 164 B.C.

31 See chapter iii.1‑3.

32 Seven years after his triumph, 160 B.C.

Thayer's Notes:

a This first chapter of the Life of Aemilius Paulus was moved by the Loeb editors from its place in the MSS. to the beginning to the Life of Timoleon, to serve as an Introduction there; I've moved it back to where it belongs.

b Here, and in 12.4, the Loeb translation has the curious spelling Bisternae; I've restored the more usual form given in the facing Greek. These people are also called Bastarnae.

c Life of Alexander, 8.57.

d It would be interesting to know how and with what instruments; measuring the height of mountains was very difficult in Antiquity, and figures are usually quite wrong: far too high more often than not, but here they are far too low, since the height usually given today for Mount Olympus is 2917 meters. [A very good article, covering the subject from Antiquity pretty much to our own time, gives some idea of the difficulties: "History of Determinations of the Heights of Mountains" (Isis 12:482‑514).]

The tallest mountain is Everest at 8850 meters; the greatest known ocean depth is the Marianas Trench at 10,924 meters, respectively about five and six times the ten-furlong idea of the Greek theoreticians mentioned by Plutarch.

e One would think that this eclipse would date the battle in the firmest way possible; alas — welcome to the world of chronology — it does not. Worse yet, since the traditional dating of this very eclipse is one of a very few fixed points on which the entire chronology of Graeco-Roman Antiquity is founded, this matters a great deal.

To start with, eclipses of the Moon are never as helpful as those of the Sun. The reason is that for a solar eclipse to occur, the Moon and the Sun have to be very precisely aligned since the one just barely covers the other: in turn that means that on a day when a solar eclipse is possible, only a tiny fraction of the earth's surface will see it, so that when an ancient source tells us that an eclipse of the Sun was seen somewhere in a given context and within say a century, we immediately know its exact location and date. The Earth's shadow covers the Moon so amply on the other hand that as a rule, if a lunar eclipse is visible somewhere on earth, it will be visible anywhere on the night side of the earth: therefore not only do lunar eclipses offer no clue to the location at which they were observed, but since half the world sees each one, they appear to be much more frequent; on average, wherever you are, you will see one a year, provided you roust yourself out of bed, of course.

The date usually given for this particular eclipse, converted into Julian calendar, is June 21, 168 B.C. (‑167), and indeed there was a lunar eclipse on that date; from Fred Espenak's Table of Lunar Eclipses, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center we find that Earth's shadow first impinged on the moon at 16:51 UT, the beginning of totality was at 18:04, and mid-totality occurred at 18:42. The Moon started to edge out of the shadow at 19:20, and was completely clear by 20:33 UT. (This and the other eclipses in this note can be graphically tracked in the sky, by the way, at Sky View Cafe.) Since Pydna is at 22°34´ E, 40°23´ N, the longitude equivalent of Pydna is +1.504 hours: mid-totality was at 20:02 mean local time, and similarly with the other benchmarks.

How well does this fit Plutarch's account?

"Now, when night had come, and the soldiers, after supper, were betaking themselves to rest and sleep, on a sudden the moon, which was full and high in the heavens, grew dark, lost its light, took on all sorts of colours in succession, and finally disappeared."

First of all, night had not come (according to the U. S. Naval Observatory sunset at Pydna on that date in any given year varies by a couple of minutes around 1803 UT = 1933 local time); which at very most was late twilight by the end of the eclipse, and I doubt very much whether these soldiers were going to sleep at the time. Worse, Plutarch details the progress into the eclipse; but that occurred in daylight, i.e. when the Moon had not yet risen: the first part of this eclipse could not possibly have been seen at Pydna. Plutarch tells us specifically that the Moon was high in the heavens — yet at 22:03, the very last trace of the eclipse of June 21, 168 two and a half hours after sunset, she would have been only 25 to 30 degrees above the horizon at Pydna. And if somehow all of this fails to convince, June 21 is hardly "the latter end of summer" (θέρους γὰρ ἦν ὥρα φθίνοντος: literally, "summer wasting away") as stated in 16.9.

Since June 21, 168 was not the date, what was?

The nearest possibility can be quickly dismissed. It is the night of June 11‑12, 167 B.C. (-166), when the Moon entered eclipse at 2254 UT, reaching mid-totality at 0034 UT (0039 according to Sky View Cafe): in local time at Pydna, 12:24 and 2:04 a.m. respectively — a bit too late for soldiers to have been wrapping up dinner and hitting the sack — and even less was it in the waning days of summer.

Examining the eclipses in the general timeframe in question, we do find, however, a very good match in the eclipse of September 2, 172 B.C. (-171), which started at 2100 UT with mid-eclipse at 2231 UT (2226 according to Sky View Cafe): in local time at Pydna, 10:30 p.m. and 12:01 a.m. Its only flaw is that it is partial, but even then it was less than 7% from total; for matches that might be a bit better with respect to both time of night and season, we would need to be many years off from the commonly seen date: here we are only 4 years off.

If you like to have common opinion on your side, you may feel more comfortable in Spanish or French, where 172 is more commonly given as the year of the battle of Pydna than in English-language work; online, several pages could once be read, written by astronomers rather than classicists, who must therefore be taking their date from a standard source; a very good page on Apollonia on the site of the Archaeology office of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs took the 172 date for granted. With the continued shrinkage of the Web most of these pages have now disappeared.

Livy, by the way (XLIV.37), gives a date of September 3d-4th: nocte quam pridie nonas Septembres insecuta est dies ("during the night that is followed by the day before the Nones of September"); but I merely mention it for completeness' sake, since unfortunately the statement in no way confirms September 172 B.C. — despite appearances — nor any other date. The Roman calendar was out of whack in the early 2c: whether by one day or by seventy-some, it is not the Pydna eclipse that can decide: the student should remember that statements that the Roman calendar was shifted by 75 days are based . . . on the common identification of this very eclipse. By the same token, however, since we do not know how far off the Roman calendar was at the time of the battle, the near-coincidence of Livy's date with the modern Julian date is also inconclusive.

Livy has been used, mind you, to set the date of Pydna at 168. To quote a very clear summary of the case, that openеd an excellent page by D. M. Shkrabo (once found online on the site of the Physics Department of Moscow State University, but now vanished), in which the author poses the problem of these two conflicting eclipse dates and analyzes it in detail — to conclude in favor of 168:

In the battle of Pydna the Roman army of consul Lucius Aemilius Paulus defeated the forces of the Macedonian king Perseus. This battle concluded the 3d Macedonian war and put an end to the separate national existence of Macedonia. In the Westernº Mediterranean the hegemony of Rome had been established. On the eve of the battle there occurred a lunar eclipse. Together with other chronological indications in ancient sources this provides an opportunity, rare for republican Rome, to define the calendar date of the battle. Today the eclipse is dated to June 21, 168 B.C.E., and the battle to June 22, 168 B.C.E.1 At the same time among investigators other dates are found. As an example one may cite the work of John Stockwell.​2 He stated that the battle occurred on September 3, 172 B.C.E. At that time there was a widespread interest in the dating of historical events by means of eclipses. In the relation­ships among them it is proposed to take another look at the data, based on which one may date the battle by means of user-friendly eclipse calculation programs. The Roman historian Livy writes that from the foundation of Rome to the consulate of Appius Claudius, in which the 1st Punic war began, 487 years elapsed, and from the beginning of the 1st Punic war to the end of the 2d Punic war in the consulate of Cn. Cornelius Lentulus and P. Aelius Petus ? 63 years (Livy XXXI.1.2‑4). The 2d Macedonian war started under the next consuls, P. Sulpicius Galba and C. Aurelius, 551 A.U.C., within several months of the conclusion of the peace with Carthage that put an end to the 2d Punic war (Livy XXXI.5.1). Livy gives a year-by‑year account of the events, and for that reason it is easy to establish that the battle of Pydna occurred in the 32d year after the consulate of P. Sulpicius Galba and C. Aurelius, i.e., in the year 583 A.U.C. There existed many variants of the dating of the foundation of Rome. By collating the various chronological indications in Livy with data in other sources it is shown that he used an epoch in which the 1st year was in 751/750 B.C.E.3 Thus the battle of Pydna occurred in 168/167 B.C.E.

1 Hammond, H. G. L. The Battle of Pydna, in Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1984, Vol. 104, no. 1, p38.

2 Stockwell, J. N. On the True Date of the Battle of Pydna, in The Astronomical Journal, 1891, Vol. 11, pp5‑6.

3 Bikerman, E. Khronologiya drevnego mira. M[oscow], 1975, pp71, 86.

(my translation)

In effect, this amounts to stating that no conclusion can be reached from the passage of Livy on Pydna (I agree); ignoring the plain words of Plutarch even though the latter is not given to unsubstantiated details; and arriving at the 168 date by other means. Now chronological chains are not only as weak as their weakest link, but weaker: each link in the chain adds its own uncertainty. In this case the entire edifice reposes on the date viewed in Antiquity as that of the foundation of Rome, a notoriously vexed, perennially unsolved question admitting of several coherent solutions in which "750/751" is the underdog; followed by four intervals (487, 63, 1, and 32 years) each one of which may or may not be right. Even leaving aside the clear incompatibility of the astronomical data with the detailed and unambiguous testimony of Plutarch, which in my mind is enough on its own to sink the 168 date, there is enough doubt here to drive a phalanx thru.

Plutarch gives one more pointer to the true date of the battle of Pydna, which, while not absolutely unambiguous or exclusive, does add weight to September 2, 172. In  24.4 he speaks of a multitude watching equestrian contests at Rome on the fourth day after the battle, which the way I see it was thus September 8th (by the exclusive numeration idiomatic to Greek) or possibly September 7th (by the inclusive numeration the way the Romans would count the days): in either case, the date falls within the Ludi Romani, — also called the Ludi Magni ("Great Games") — at that time the most important civic and religious festival, the main features of which were horse and chariot races. Now you can watch a horse race whenever you please, but to draw a "multitude" it's got to be a big one, well organized and planned in advance: as Aemilius himself pointed out in connection with the triumph he celebrated as a result of Pydna (Diodorus, XXXI.8.13). June 26 or 25, on the other hand, was not the date of any annual festival at all, major or minor.

Now if you look into this carefully, gentle reader, you will find it stated in various places on the Web that the Ludi Taurei were held on both those days and included horse racing at least — and that they were quinquennales, every "five" years. None of this, however, seems to be true; in fact it looks very much like a modern tale fabricated for the express purpose of validating the 168 date! At any rate, I've been unable to find a single serious authority making these claims for the Ludi Taurei. It's very hard to prove a negative, of course, but, for starters, both Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities and Daremberg & Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquités grecques et romaines steer well clear of saying any such thing: see my page. It turns out, though, that it doesn't matter in the least: since the last recorded celebration was in 186 B.C., if quinquennales means every five years the way we count today, the Ludi Taurei would have been held in 171 and in 166, but not in 168; if every four years, they would have been held in 170 and in 166, but again, not in 168.

It does no good, by the way, to point out that the date of the Pydna eclipse is firmly established as 168 B.C. since there is a whole edifice of concordances of Roman consular dates to support it. Those consular dates, as for example in Broughton's Magistrates (a standard work on Roman chronology commonly used in the English-speaking world) are ultimately based on astronomical phenomena, and not very many of them: to include the very eclipse we're looking at — which invalidates that whole line of thought as circular reasoning.

It should also be noted that the standard Roman chronology includes the four vexed "decemviral years", the traditional account of which, by general agreement, raises intractable problems. Sure enough, without those four years, which in the estimation of many scholars simply did not exist, Pydna 168 B.C. would be Pydna 172 B.C.

f Some things never change! In the World War I idiom, "Praise God and pass the ammunition."

g No it isn't. Using Plutarch's own conversion for the furlong or stadion (C. Gracch. 7.2: "the Roman mile falls a little short of eight furlongs" — call it 7⅔ stadia to the mile), the distance given here is approximately 2610 Roman miles or roughly 3860 kilometers; but the straight line distance from Rome to even the farthest point on the Batavian coast is about 1320 km, and even the most circuitous route far around the Alps to the West will not triple that. Still, the distance is such, of course, that not until the airplane was it possible to cover it within a day.

h See also Diodorus' description of the triumph (XXXI.8.9‑13); though less fulsome, it was written nearly a century earlier.

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