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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Roman History

by
C. Velleius Paterculus

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1924

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!


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Book II
Part 1

Velleius Paterculus, Roman History

p3 Book I

1 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Epeus,1 separated by a storm from Nestor, his chief, founded Metapontum. Teucer, disowned by his father Telamon because of his laxity in not avenging the wrong done to his brother,2 was driven to Cyprus and founded Salamis, named after the place of his birth. Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, established himself in Epirus; Phidippus3 in Ephyra in Thesprotia. 2 Agamemnon, king of kings, cast by a tempest upon the island of Crete, founded there three cities, two of which, Mycenae and Tegea, were named after towns in his own country, and the other was called Pergamum in commemoration of his victory.

p5 Agamemnon was soon afterwards struck down and slain by the infamous crime of Aegisthus, his cousin, who still kept up against him the feud of his house, and by the wicked act of his wife. 3 Aegisthus maintained possession of the kingdom for seven years. Orestes slew Aegisthus and his own mother, seconded in all his plans by his sister Electra, a woman with the courage of a man. That his deed had the approval of the gods was made clear by the length of his life and the felicity of his reign, since he lived ninety years and reigned seventy. Furthermore, he also took revenge upon Pyrrhus the son of Achilles in fair fight, for he slew him at Delphi because he had forestalled him in marrying Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus and Helen who had been pledged to himself.

4 About this time two brothers, Lydus and Tyrrhenus, were joint kings in Lydia. Hard pressed by the unproductiveness of their crops, they drew lots to see which should leave his country with part of the population. The lot fell upon Tyrrhenus. He sailed to Italy, and from him the place wherein he settled, its inhabitants, and the sea received their famous and their lasting names.4

After the death of Orestes his sons Penthilus and Tisamenus reigned for three years.

2 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] About eighty years after the capture of Troy,5 and a hundred and twenty after Hercules had departed to the gods, the descendants of Pelops, who, during all this time had sway in the Peloponnesus after they had driven out the descendants of Hercules, were again in turn driven out by them. The leaders in the recovery of the p7sovereignty were Temenus, Cresphontes, and Aristodemus, the great-great‑grandsons of Hercules.

It was about this time6 that Athens ceased to be governed by kings. The last king of Athens was Codrus the son of Melanthus, a man whose story cannot be passed over. Athens was hard pressed in war by the Lacedaemonians, and the Pythian oracle had given the response that the side whose general should be killed by the enemy would be victorious. Codrus, therefore, laying aside his kingly robes and donning the garb of a shepherd, made his way into the camp of the enemy, deliberately provoked a quarrel, and was slain without being recognized. 2 By his death Codrus gained immortal fame, and the Athenians the victory. Who could withhold admiration from the man who sought death by the selfsame artifice by which cowards seek life? His son Medon was the first archon at Athens. It was after him that the archons who followed him7 were called Medontidae among the people of Attica. Medon and all the succeeding archons until Charops continued to hold that office for life.8 The Peloponnesians, when they withdrew from Attic territory, founded Megara, a city midway between Corinth and Athens.

3 About this time, also, the fleet of Tyre, which controlled the sea, founded in the farthest district of Spain, on the remotest confines of our world, the city of Cadiz, on an island in the ocean separated from the mainland by a very narrow strait. The Tyrians a few years later also founded Utica in Africa.

The sons of Orestes, expelled by the Heraclidae, were driven about by many vicissitudes and by p9raging storms at sea, and, in the fifteenth year, finally settled on and about the island of Lesbos.

3 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Greece was then shaken by mighty disturbances. The Achaeans, driven from Laconia, established themselves in those localities which they occupy to‑day. The Pelasgians migrated to Athens, and a warlike youth named Thessalus, of the race of the Thesprotians, with a great force of his fellow-countrymen took armed possession of that region, which, after his name, is now called Thessaly. Hitherto it had been called the state of the Myrmidones.

2 On this account, one has a right to be surprised that writers who deal with the times of the Trojan war speak of this region as Thessaly. This is a common practice, but especially among the tragic poets, for whom less allowance should be made; for the poets do not speak in person, but entirely through mouths of characters who lived in the time referred to. But if anyone insists that the people were named Thessalians from Thessalus the son of Hercules, he will have to explain why this people never adopted the name until the time of this second Thessalus.

3 Shortly before these events Aletes, the son of Hippotes, descended from Hercules in the sixth generation, founded upon the isthmus the city of Corinth, the key to the Peloponnesus, on the site of the former Ephyre. There is no need for surprise that Corinth is mentioned by Homer,9 for it is in his own person as poet that Homer calls this city and some of the Ionian colonies by the names which they bore in his day, although they were founded long after the capture of Troy.

p11 4 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The Athenians established colonies at Chalcis and Eretria in Euboea, and the Lacedaemonians the colony of Magnesia in Asia. Not long afterwards, the Chalcidians, who, as I have already said, were of Attic origin, founded Cumae in Italy under the leadership of Hippocles and Megasthenes. According to some accounts the voyage of this fleet was guided by the flight of a dove which flew before it; according to others by the sound at night of a bronze instrument like that which is beaten at the rites of Ceres. 2 At a considerably later period, a portion of the citizens of Cumae founded Naples.10 The remarkable and unbroken loyalty to the Romans of both these cities makes them well worthy of their repute and of their charming situation. The Neapolitans, however, continued the careful observance of their ancestral customs; the Cumaeans,a on the other hand, were changed in character by the proximity of their Oscan neighbours. The extent of their walls at the present day serves to reveal the greatness of these cities in the past.

3 At a slightly later date a great number of young Greeks, seeking new abodes because of an excess of population at home, poured into Asia. The Ionians, setting out from Athens under the leadership of Ion, occupied the best known portion of the sea-coast, which is now called Ionia, and established the cities of Ephesus, Miletus, Colophon, Priene, Lebedus, Myus, Erythra, Clazomenae, and Phocaea, and occupied many islands in the Aegaean and Icarian seas, namely, Samos, Chios, Andros, Tenos, Paros, Delos, and other islands of lesser note. 4 Not long afterwards the Aeolians also set out from Greece, and after long wanderings took possession of places p13no less illustrious and founded the famous cities of Smyrna, Cyme, Larissa, Myrina, Mytilene, and other cities on the island of Lesbos.

5 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Then the brilliant genius of Homer burst upon the world, the greatest beyond compare, who by virtue of the magnitude of his work and the brilliance of his poetry alone deserves the name of poet. 2 His highest claim to greatness is that, before his day, no one was found for him to imitate, nor after his day has one been found to imitate him. Nor shall we find any other poet who achieved perfection in the field in which he was also the pioneer, with the exception of Homer and Archilochus. 3 Homer lived at a period more remote than some people think from the Trojan war of which he wrote; for he flourished only about nine hundred and fifty years ago, and it is less than a thousand since his birth.11 It is therefore not surprising that he often uses the expression οἷοι νῦν βροτοί εἰσιν,12 for by it is denoted the difference, not merely in men, but in ages as well. If any man holds to the view that Homer was born blind, he is himself lacking in all his senses.

6 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] In the following age — about eight hundred and seventy years ago13 — the sovereignty of Asia passed to the medes from the Assyrians, who had held it for ten hundred and seventy years. 2 Indeed, it was their king Sardanapalus, a man enervated by luxurious living, whose excess of fortune was his undoing. Thirty-third,14 in direct succession of father p15and son, from Ninus and Semiramis, who had founded Babylon, he was deprived alike of his empire and of his life by Arbaces the Mede.

3 At this time lived Lycurgus the Lacedaemonian, one of the most illustrious personages of Greece, a man of royal descent, the author of legislation most severe and most just, and of a discipline excellently adapted for the making of men. As long as Sparta followed it, she flourished in the highest degree.

4 In this period, sixty-five years before the founding of Rome, Carthage was established15 by the Tyrian Elissa, by some authors called Dido. 5 About this time also Caranus, a man of royal race, eleventh in descent from Hercules, set out from Argos and seized the kingship of Macedonia. From him Alexander the Great was descended in the seventeenth generation, and could boast that, on his mother's side, he was descended from Achilles, and, on his father's side, from Hercules. 6 Aemilius Sura says in his book on the chronology of Rome: "The Assyrians were the first of all races to hold world power, then the Medes, and after them the Persians, and then the Macedonians. Then through the defeat of Kings Philip and Antiochus, of Macedonian origin, following closely upon the overthrow of Carthage, the world power passed to the Roman people. Between this time and the beginning of the reign of Ninus king of the Assyrians, who was the first to hold world power, lies an interval of nineteen hundred and ninety-five years."16

7 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] To this period belonged Hesiod, separated p17from the age of Homer by about one hundred and twenty years.17 A man of an exquisite taste, famous for the soft charm of his poems, and an ardent lover of peace and quiet, he ranks next to Homer, not only in point of time, but also in the reverence in which his work is held. Avoiding the mistake which Homer made, he has indeed told us of his country and parents, but of his country, at whose hands he had suffered punishment, he speaks in the most disparaging terms.

2 While dwelling on the history of foreign countries, I now come to an event pertaining to our own, one in which there has been much error, and in which the views of the authorities show great discrepancy. For some maintain that about this time, eight hundred and thirty years ago, Capua and Nola were founded by the Etruscans. With these I myself am inclined to agree, but the opinion of Marcus Cato is vastly different. 3 He admits that Capua, and afterwards Nola, were founded by the Etruscans, but maintains that Capua had been in existence for only about two hundred and sixty years before its capture by the Romans. 4 If this is so, as it is but two hundred and forty years since Capua was taken, it is but five hundred years since it was founded. For my own part, with all due regard for Cato's accuracy, I can scarcely believe that the city could have had such growth, such prosperity, or could have fallen and risen again, in so short a space of time.18

8 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Soon afterwards the Olympic games, the most celebrated of all contests in sports, and one which was most effective in developing the qualities both of body and mind, had their beginning under the auspices of Iphitus, king of Elis. He instituted p19the games and the concourse eight hundred and twenty-three years19 before your consulship, Marcus Vinicius. 2 There is a tradition that Atreus began this sacred observance in the same place about twelve hundred and fifty years ago, when he held the funeral games in honour of his father Pelops20 and that at this celebration Hercules was the victor in every class of contest.

3 It was about this time21 that the archons at Athens ceased to hold their office for life. Alcmaeon was the last of the life archons. The archons now began to be elected for terms of ten years. This custom continued for seventy years, then the government was entrusted to magistrates elected annually. Charops was the first and Eryxias the last of those who held the office for ten years, and Creon was the first of the annual archons.

4 In the sixth Olympiad,22 two and twenty years after the first establishment of the Olympic games, Romulus the son of Mars, after avenging the wrongs of his grandfather, founded the city of Rome on the Palatine on the day of the festival of the Parilia. From this time to your consulship seven hundred and eighty-one years have elapsed. This event took place four hundred and thirty-seven years after the capture of Troy. 5 In the founding of Rome Romulus was assisted by the troops of his grandfather Latinus. I am glad to range myself with those who have expressed this view, since with the Veientines and other Etruscans, as well as the Sabines, in such close proximity, he could scarcely have established his p21new city with an unwarlike band of shepherds, even though he increased their numbers by opening an asylum between the two hills. 6 As a council to assist him in administering affairs of state he had one hundred chosen men called patres. This is the origin of the name patricians. The rape of the Sabine maidens . . .23

Nor at this time was Cimon, the son of Miltiades, less famous.

9 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] . . . than the enemy had feared.24 For two years Perses25 had kept up the struggle with the consuls with such varying fortune that he generally had the advantage in these conflicts, and succeeded in winning over a large part of Greece to ally itself with his cause. 2 Even the Rhodians, who in the past had been most loyal to the Romans, were now wavering in their fidelity, and, watching his success, seemed inclined to join the king's side. In this war King Eumenes26 maintained a neutral attitude, neither following the initiative of his brother nor his own established custom. 3 Then the senate and the Roman people chose as consul Lucius Aemilius Paulus, who had previously triumphed, both in his praetorship and in his consulship, a man worthy of the highest praise that can be associated with valour. p23He was a son of the Paulus27 who had met death at Cannae with a fortitude only equalled by his reluctance to begin a battle so disastrous to the republic. 4 Paulus defeated Perses in a great battle at a city in Macedonia named Pydna,28 put him to rout, despoiled his camp, destroyed his forces, and compelled him in his desperate plight to flee from Macedonia. Abandoning his country, Perses took refuge in the island of Samothrace, as a suppliant entrusting himself to the inviolability of the temple. 5 There Gnaeus Octavius, the praetor in command of the fleet, reached him and persuaded him by argument rather than force to give himself up to the good faith of the Romans. Thus Paulus led in triumph the greatest and the most illustrious of kings.29

In this year two other triumphs were celebrated: that of Octavius, the praetor in charge of the fleet, and that of Anicius, who drove before his triumphal chariot Gentius, King of the Illyrians. 6 How inseparable a companion of great success is jealousy, and how she attaches herself to the most eminent, may be gathered from this fact: although no one raised objections to the triumphs of Octavius and Anicius, there were those who tried to place obstacles in the way of that of Paulus. His triumph so far exceeded all former ones, whether in the greatness of King Perses himself, or in the display of statues and the amount of money borne in the procession, that Paulus contributed to the treasury two hundred million sesterces,b and by reason of this vast sum eclipsed all previous triumphs by comparison.

p25 10 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] About this time Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria — the Antiochus who began the Olympieum at Athens — was besieging Ptolemaeus, the boy king,30 at Alexandria. Marcus Popilius Laenas was dispatched on an embassy to order him to desist. 2 He delivered his message, and when the king replied that he would think the matter over, Popilius drew a circle around the king with his staff and told him that he must give his answer before he stepped out of the circle in the sand. In this way the firmness of the Roman cut short the king's deliberations, and the order was obeyed.

3 Now Lucius Paulus, who won the victory in Macedonia, had four sons. The two oldest he had given by adoption, the one to Publius Scipio, the son of Africanus, who resembled his great father in nothing except in name and in his vigorous eloquence; the other to Fabius Maximus. The two younger at the time of his victory had not yesterday assumed the toga of manhood. 4 On the day before his triumph, when, in accordance with the ancient custom, he was rendering an account of his acts before an assembly of the people outside the city walls,31 he prayed to the gods that if any of them envied his achievements or his fortune they should vent their wrath upon himself rather than upon the state. 5 This utterance, as though prophetic, deprived him of a great part of his family, for a few days before his triumph he lost one of the two sons whom he had kept in his household, and the other a still shorter time after it.

6 About this time occurred the censorship32 of Fulvius Flaccus and Postumius Albinus famed for its severity. p27Even Gnaeus Fulvius, who was the brother of the censor and co-heir with him in his estate, was expelled from the senate by these censors.

11 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] After the defeat and capture of Perses, who four years later died at Alba as a prisoner on parole, a pseudo-Philippus, so called by reason of his false claim that he was a Philip and of royal race, though he was actually of the lowest birth, took armed possession of Macedonia, assumed the insignia of royalty, but soon paid the penalty for his temerity. 2 For Quintus Metellus the praetor, who received the cognomen of Macedonicus by virtue of his valour in this war, defeated him and the Macedonians in a celebrated victory.33 He also defeated in a great battle the Achaeans who had begun an uprising against Rome.

3 This is the Metellus Macedonicus who had previously built the portico about the two temples without inscriptions which are now surrounded by the portico of Octavia,c and who brought from Macedonia the group of equestrian statues which stand facing the temples, and, even at the present time, are the chief ornament of the place. 4 Tradition hands down the following story of the origin of the group: that Alexander the Great prevailed upon Lysippus, a sculptor unexcelled in works of this sort, to make portrait-statues of the horsemen in his own squadron who had fallen at the river Granicus, and to place his own statue among them.

5 This same Metellus was the first of all to build a temple of marble, which he erected in the midst of these very monuments, thereby becoming the pioneer in this form of munificence, or shall we call it luxury? One will scarcely find a man of any race, p29or any age, or any rank, whose happy fortune is comparable with that of Metellus. 6 For, not to mention his surpassing triumphs, the great honours which he held, his supreme position in the state, the length of his life, and the bitter struggles on behalf of the state which he waged with his enemies without damage to his reputation, he reared four sons, saw them all reach man's estate, left them all surviving him and held in the highest honour. 7 These four sons bore the bier of their dead father to its place in front of the rostra; one was an ex-consul and ex-censor, the second an ex-consul, the third was actually consul, and the fourth was then a candidate for the consulship, an office which he duly held. This is assuredly not to die, but rather to pass happily out of life.

12 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Thereafter all Achaia was aroused to war though the greater part of it had been crushed, as I have already said, by the valour and arms of this same Metellus Macedonicus. The Corinthians, in particular, were the instigators of it, going so far as to heap grave insults upon the Romans, and Mummius, the consul, was appointed to take charge of the war there.

2 About the same time the senate resolved to destroy Carthage, rather because the Romans were ready to believe any rumour concerning the Carthaginians, than because the reports were credible. 3 Accordingly at this same time Scipio Aemilianus was elected consul, though but a candidate for the aedileship. He was a man whose virtues resembled those of his grandfather, Publius Africanus, and of his father Lucius Paulus (he was, as has been already said, the son p31of Paulus, and had been adopted by the son of Publius Scipio) — endowed with all the qualities essential to a good soldier and a good citizen, the most eminent man of his day both in native ability and acquired knowledge, who in his whole life was guilty of no act, word, or thought that was not praiseworthy. He had already received in Spain the mural crown,34 and in Africa the corona obsidionalis35 for his bravery, and while in Spain he had challenged and slain an enemy of great stature though himself a man of but ordinary physical strength. 4 The war against Carthage begun by the consuls two years previously he now waged with greater vigour, and destroyed to its foundations the city 5 which was hateful to the Roman name more because of jealousy of its power than because of any offence at that time. He made Carthage a monument to his valour — a city which had been a monument to his grandfather's clemency.36 Carthage, after standing for six hundred and seventy-two years, was destroyed in the consulship of Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus and Lucius Mummius,37 one hundred and seventy-three years from the present date. 6 This was the end of Carthage, the rival of the power of Rome, with whom our ancestors began the conflict in the consulship of Claudius and Fulvius38 two hundred and ninety-two years before you entered upon your consulship, Marcus Vinicius. Thus for one hundred and twenty years there existed between these two people either war, or preparations for war or a treacherous peace. 7 Even after Rome had conquered the world she could not hope for security so long as the name of Carthage remained p33as of a city still standing: to such an extent does hatred begotten of conflict outlast the fear which caused it; it is not laid aside even when the foe is vanquished nor does the object of it cease to be hated until it has ceased to be.

13 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Cato, the constant advocate of her destruction, died three years before the fall of Carthage, in the consulship of Lucius Censorinus and Manius Manilius. In the same year in which Carthage fell Lucius Mummius destroyed Corinth39 to her very foundations, nine hundred and fifty-two years after her founding by Aletes, son of Hippos. 2 The two conquerors were honoured by the names of the conquered races. The one was surnamed Africanus, the other Achaicus. Before Mummius no new man40 earned for himself a cognomen won by military glory.

3 The two commanders differed in their characters as in their tastes. Scipio was a cultivated patron and admirer of liberal studies and of every form of learning, and kept constantly with him, at home and in the field, two men of eminent genius, Polybius and Panaetius. No one ever relieved the duties of an active life by a more refined use of his intervals of leisure than Scipio, or was more constant in his devotion to the arts either of war or peace. Ever engaged in the pursuit of arms or his studies, he was either training his body by exposing it to dangers or his mind by learning. 4 Mummius was so uncultivated that when, after the capture of Corinth, he was contracting for the transportation to Italy of pictures and statues by the hands of the greatest artists, he gave instructions that the contractors should be warned that if they lost them, p35they would have to replace them by new ones. Yet I do not think, Vinicius, that you would hesitate to concede that it would have been more useful to the state for the appreciation of Corinthian works of art to have remained uncultivated to the present day, than that they will be appreciated to the extent to which they now are, and that the ignorance of those days was more conducive to the public weal than our present artistic knowledge.41

14 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Inasmuch as related facts make more impression upon the mind and eye when grouped together than when they are given separately in their chronological sequence, I have decided to separate the first part of this work from the second by a useful summary, and to insert in this place an account, with the date, of each colony founded by order of the senate since the capture of Rome by the Gauls; for, in the case of the military colonies, their very names reveal their origins and their founders. And it will perhaps not seem out of place, if, in this connexion, we weave into our history the various extensions of the citizenship and the growth of the Roman name through granting to others a share in its privileges.

2 Seven years after the capture of the city by the Gauls a colony was founded at Sutrium, another a year later at Setia, and another after an interval of nine years at Nepe. Thirty-two years later the Aricians were admitted to the citizenship. 3 Three hundred and sixty years from the present date, in the consulship of Spurius Postumius and Veturius Calvinus, the citizenship without the right of voting was given to the Campanians and a portion of the Samnites, and in the same year a colony was p37established at Cales.42 Then, after an interval of three years, the people of Fundi and of Formiae were admitted to the citizenship, in the very year of the founding of Alexandria. 4 In the following year the citizenship was granted to the inhabitants of Acerra by the censors Spurius Postumus and Philo Publilius.43 Three years later a colony was established at Tarracina, four years afterwards another at Luceria; others three years later at Suessa Aurunca and Saticula, and another two years after these at Interamna. 5 After that the work of colonization was suspended for ten years. Then the colonies of Sora and Alba were founded, and two years later that of Carseoli. 6 But in the fifth consulship of Quintus Fabius, and the fourth of Decius Mus,44 the year in which King Pyrrhus began his reign, colonists were sent to Minturnae and Sinuessa, and four years afterwards to Venusia. After an interval of two years the citizenship without the right of suffrage was given to the Sabines in the consulship of Manius Curius and Rufinus Cornelius.45 This event took place three hundred and twenty years ago. 7 In the consulship of Fabius Dorso and Claudius Canina, three hundred years before the present date, colonies were established46 at Cosa and Paestum. After an interval of five years, in the consulship of Sempronius Sophus47 and Appius, the son of Appius the Blind, colonists were sent to Ariminum and Beneventum and the right of suffrage was granted to the Sabines. 8 At the outbreak of the First Punic War Firmum and Castrum were occupied by colonies, a year later Aesernia, Aefulum and Alsium seventeen years later, and Fregenae two years afterward. Brundisium was established in the next year in the p39consulship of Torquatus and Sempronius,48 Spoletium three years afterwards in the year in which the Floralia were instituted. Two years afterwards a colony was established at Valentia, and Cremona and Placentia were established just before Hannibal's arrival in Italy.

15 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Thereafter, during Hannibal's stay in Italy, and in the next few years subsequent to his departure, the Romans had no leisure for the founding of colonies, since, while the war lasted, they had to find soldiers, rather than muster them out, and, after it was over, the strength of the city needed to be revived and concentrated rather than to be dispersed. 2 But, about two hundred and seventeen years ago, in the consulship of Gnaeusº Manlius Volso and Fulvius Nobilior,49 a colony was established at Bononia, others four years later at Pisaurum and Potentia, others three years later still at Aquileia and Gravisca, and another four years afterwards at Luca. 3 About the same time, although the date is questioned by some, colonists were sent to Puteoli, Salernum, and Buxentum, and to Auximum in Picenum, one hundred and eighty-five years ago, three years before Cassius the censor began the building of a theatre beginning at the Lupercal and facing the Palatine. But the remarkable austerity of the state and Scipio the consul successfully opposed him in its building, an incident which I regard as one of the clearest indications of the attitude of the people of that time. 4 In the consulship of Cassius Longinus and Sextius Calvinus50 — the Sextius who defeated the Sallues at the waters which are called Aquae Sextiae from his name — Fabrateria was founded about one hundred and fifty-three years p41before the present date, and in the next year Scolacium Minervium, Tarentum Neptunia, and Carthage in Africa — the first colony founded outside of Italy, as already stated. 5 In regard to Dertona the date is in question. A colony was established at Narbo Martius in Gaul about one hundred and forty-six years ago in the consulship of Porcius and Marcius.51 Eighteen years later Eporedia was founded in the country of the Bagienni in the consulship of Marius, then consul for the sixth time,52 and Valerius Flaccus.

It would be difficult to mention any colony founded after this date, except the military colonies.

16 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Although this portion of my work has already, as it were, outgrown my plan, and although I am aware that in my headlong haste — which, just like a revolving wheel or a down-rushing and eddying stream, never suffers me of stop — I am almost obliged to omit matters of essential importance rather than to include unessential details, yet I cannot refrain from noting a subject which has often occupied my thoughts but has never been clearly reasoned out. 2 For who can marvel sufficiently that the most distinguished minds in a branch of human achievement have happened to adopt the same form of effort, and to have fallen within the same narrow space of time? Just as animals of different species when shut in the same pen or other enclosure still segregate themselves from those which are not of their kind, and gather together each in its own group, so the minds that have had the capacity for distinguished achievement of each kind have set themselves apart from the rest by doing like things in the same period of p43time. 3 A single epoch, and that only of a few years' duration, gave lustre to tragedy through three men of divine inspiration, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. So, with Comedy, a single age brought to perfection that early form, the Old Comedy, through the agency of Cratinus, Aristophanes, and Eupolis; while Menander, and Philemon and Diphilus, his equals in age rather than in performance, within the space of a very few years invented the New Comedy and left it to defy imitation. 4 The great philosophers, too, who received their inspiration from the lips of Socrates — their names we gave a moment ago53 — how long did they flourish after the death of Plato and of Aristotle? 5 What distinction was there in oratory before Isocrates, or after the time of his disciples and in turn of their pupils? So crowded were they into a brief epoch that there were no two worthy of mention who could not have seen each other.

17 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] This phenomenon occurred among the Romans as well as among the Greeks. For, unless one goes back to the rough and crude beginnings, and to men whose sole claim to praise is that they were the pioneers, Roman tragedy centres in and about Accius; and the sweet pleasantry of Latin humour54 reached its zenith in practically the same range under Caecilius, Terentius, and Afranius. 2 In the case of the historians also, if one adds Livy to the period of the older writers, a single epoch, comprised within the limits of eighty years, produced them all, with the exception of Cato and some of the p45old and obscure authors. Likewise the period which was productive of poets does not go back to an earlier date or continue to a later. 3 Take oratory and the forensic art at its best, the perfected splendour of eloquence in prose, if we again except Cato — and this I say with due respect to Publius Crassus, Scipio, Laelius, the Gracchi, Fannius, and Servius Galba — eloquence, I say, in all its branches burst into flower under Cicero, its chief exponent, so that there are few before his day whom one can read with pleasure, and none whom one can admire, except men who had either seen Cicero or had been seen by him. 4 One will also find, if he follows up the dates closely, that the same thing holds true of the grammarians, the workers in clay, the painters, the sculptors, and that pre-eminence in each phase of art is confined within the narrowest limits of time.

5 Though I frequently search for the reasons why men of similar talents occur exclusively in certain epochs and not only flock to one pursuit but also attain like success, I can never find any of whose truth I am certain, though I do find some which perhaps seem likely, and particularly the following. 6 Genius is fostered by emulation, and it is now envy, now admiration, which enkindles imitation, and, in the nature of things, that which is cultivated with the highest zeal advances to the highest perfection; but it is difficult to continue at the point of perfection, and naturally that which cannot advance must recede. 7 And as in the beginning we are fired with the ambition to overtake those whom we regard as leaders, so when we have despaired of being able either to surpass or even to equal them, our zeal wanes with our hope; it ceases to follow what it p47cannot overtake, and abandoning the old field as though pre-empted, it seeks a new one. Passing over that in which we cannot be pre-eminent, we seek for some new object of our effort. It follows that the greatest obstacle in the way of perfection in any work is our fickle way of passing on at frequent intervals to something else.

18 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] From the part played by epochs our wonder and admiration next passes to that played by individual cities. A single city of Attica blossomed with more masterpieces of every kind of eloquence than all the rest of Greece together — to such a degree, in fact, that one would think that although the bodies of the Greek race were distributed among the other states, their intellects were confined within the walls of Athens alone. 2 Nor have I more reason for wonder at this than that not a single Argive or Theban or Lacedaemonian was esteemed worthy, as an orator, of commanding influence while he lived, or of being remembered after his death. 3 These cities, otherwise distinguished, were barren of such literary pursuits with the single exception of the lustre which Pindar gave to Thebes; for, in the case of Alcman, the claim which the Laconians lay to him is spurious.


The Editor's Notes:

1 The subject of the sentence has been lost in the lacuna. He was relating the return of the heroes from Troy. From Justin XX.2.1 it is clear that he is here speaking of Epeus, the builder of the Trojan horse. Justin's statement is as follows: "Metapontini quoque in templo Minervae ferramenta, (p3)quibus Epeus, a quo conditi sunt, equum Troianum fabricavit, ostendunt."

2 Ajax.

3 Phidippus was one the minor leaders in the Trojan war. According to Homer, Il. II.678, he came from the islands of Calydnae off the coast of Caria.

4 That is: Tyrrhenia, Tyrrhenians, and Tyrrhenian Sea.

5 The traditional date for the fall of Troy was 1183 B.C. according to the chronology of Eratosthenes; according to that of Callimachus it was 1127 B.C. But many other dates are given. See H. Fynes Clinton, Epitome of the Chronology of Greece, Oxford, 1851.

6 The death of Codrus, according to the chronology of Eusebius, is placed in 1068 B.C.

7 Not all his successors but only his immediate followers, thirteen in number.

8 According to Eusebius the period of the life archons was 1068‑753 B.C.

9 Iliad II.570, xiii.664.

10 Lubker, Reallexikon, places the date in the sixth century.

11 Clinton, op. cit. p146, estimates the period at which Homer flourished as 962‑927 B.C.

12 "Such as men are nowadays" (Il. V.304, XII.383, 449).

13 Barbarus and Castor, corroborated by Ctesias, place the revolt of the Medes in 843 B.C., which corresponds fairly well with the date here given.

14 Diodorus II.21.8º gives the number of Assyrian kings as thirty, and the length of their dynasty as 1360 years. This figure is considerably greater than the 1070 years given by Velleius, and would place the beginning of the dynasty in 2203‑2204 B.C.

15 The date, according to Timaeus, was 813‑814 B.C.

16 The overthrow of Carthage took place in 146 B.C. The date of the founding of the Assyrian kingdom, based on (p15)Diodorus, is 2203‑2204 B.C. The interval, according to this calculation, is 2058 years.

17 Clinton, op. cit. p146, gives the period at which Hesiod flourished as 859‑824 B.C. Porphyry gives the interval between him and Homer as one hundred years.

18 The fact that Capua was a city of the plain shows that its Etruscan foundation dates from the time when the Etruscan power was supreme in Campania, i.e. circa 600 B.C. and supports Cato's statement. It is not unlikely, however, that the foundation was on the site of a previous Oscan settlement.

19 Later chronology reckoned the Olympiads from 776 B.C., but the games were in existence long before that date.

20 The legendary connexion of the games with Pelops indicates that they were of pre-Dorian origin. The cult of Hercules was a later Dorian importation.

21 The administration of Athens by decennial archons began in 752‑751 B.C. The annual archons begin in 683‑682 B.C., with Creon as the first.

22 753 B.C., according to the Varronian era; 751, according to (p19)to the Catonian. Velleius sometimes follows the Catonian, but in this case the Catonian date would fall in the Seventh Olympiad.

23 See note on text.

24 The subject of expetit is lacking. It is not certain (p21)whether expetit is the correct reading, and, if it is, the tense is uncertain. In view of these uncertainties I have refrained from translating it.

25 In 171 B.C. the Romans had declared war on Perses, King of Macedonia. The Roman commanders thus far had been P. Licinius Crassus, consul for 171; A. Hostilius Mancinus, consul for 170; and Q. Marcius Philippus, consul for 169.

26 Eumenes II, King of Pergamum, 197‑159 B.C., the eldest son of Attalus I.

27 Lucius Aemilius Paulus, consul in 216 with Gaius Terentius Varro. His policy had been that of wearing Hannibal out by avoiding battle. His more hot-headed colleague, in command for the day, joined battle with Hannibal at Cannae, and the Romans suffered the most disastrous defeat of the war.

28 168 B.C.

Thayer's Note: The date given by the Loeb editor is the one usually asserted in English-speaking countries, but it is by no means a given. There are very good reasons to believe that the date of the battle of Pydna was 172 B.C., as is commonly seen in non-English-speaking scholarly works. For details see my note on Plutarch, Aem. 17.7 and the further references there.

The difference of opinion carries over to the next note, of course: the triumph was merely the following year, whatever year it was.

29 The triumph of Paulus took place in 167. Perses was kept a prisoner at Alba Fucensisº where he subsequently died.

30 Ptolemy VI Philometor.

31 A triumphant general was obliged to wait outside the walls until the day of his triumph.

32 174 B.C.

33 148 B.C.

34 The corona muralis, given for the storming of a wall, was of gold with embattled ornaments.

35 A crown or garland presented to a general by the army which he had saved from a siege, or from a disgraceful surrender. It was woven of grasses collected on the spot.

Thayer's Note: For full details and sources, see CORONA OBSIDIONALIS in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

36 Scipio the elder had spared it after the battle of Zama.

37 146 B.C.

38 264 B.C.

39 146 B.C.

40 A man who was the first of his family to hold a curule office was called a novus homo or "new man."

41 I am inclined to think that Velleius had in mind the fad for collecting Corinthian bronze referred to in Petronius, ch. 50. It is possible that he even means this in Corinthiorum, in which case he is in error. For the sentiment cf. Plutarch, Marcellus, ch. 27.

42 334 B.C.

43 332 B.C.

44 295 B.C.

45 290 B.C.

46 270 B.C.

47 266 B.C.

48 245 B.C.

49 244 B.C.

50 124 B.C.

51 118 B.C.

52 100 B.C.

53 As they do not occur in the extant portion of the work we must assume that they were mentioned in the portion which has been lost.

54 He is here referring to comedy. One wonders why the name of Plautus is omitted from the list. Has the name of (p43)Plautus dropped out of the text or is Velleius following the Augustan tradition expressed by Horace in the Ars Poetica 270?


Thayer's Notes:

a Prof. Shipley's translation reads Cumans; an alert reader, Patrick Waterson, writes me that modern scholarship reserves the latter term for a tribe active on the steppes of Russia in the 11‑12c A.D.

b The actual sum of money was (in 2003) very roughly equivalent to about $100,000,000 or £64,000,000; its impact on the Roman economy, however, in a state with only maybe five million inhabitants, would be something like the impact of a windfall of $5 billion on the U. S. today.

c The temples of Jupiter Stator and Juno Regina, originally in the smaller Portico of Metellus; see the article Aedes Jovis Statoris (2) in Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.


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