Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Book III

This webpage reproduces a Book of
Roman History

Cassius Dio

published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1914

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!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Book V

Cassius Dio
Roman History

Thayer's Note: Before e-mailing me with questions, comments, or corrections involving the numbering of Books, chapters, and sections in this text, please read the orientation page.

 p101  Fragments of Book IV

Tzetzes, Chil. 6, 201‑223

Larta Porsenna, an Etruscan, or, perhaps, Klara Porsenna, was proceeding against Rome with a great army. But Mucius, a noble Roman soldier, after equipping himself in arms and dress of Etruscans, then set out to spy upon them, wishing to kill Porsenna. With the latter at that time was sitting his secretary, who in the Etruscan tongue was called Clusinus; and Mucius, doubtful which was the king, killed Clusinus instead of the king. He was arrested, and when Porsenna asked him, "Why in the world did you do this thing? What injury had you received from him?" the other cried out: "I am really not (an) Etruscan but Roman; and three hundred others of like mind with myself are now hunting you to slay you." This he had spoken falsely; and with his right hand thrust into the fire he gazed on Porsenna as though another were suffering; and when the prince inquired, "Why do you gaze fixedly upon us?" he said: "Reflecting how I erred and failed to slay you but in our stead killed one whom I thought Porsenna." And when Porsenna exclaimed, "You shall now become my friend!" Mucius rejoined, "If you become the Romans' friend." Porsenna, admiring the man for his valour, became a friend to the Romans and checked the tide of battle.

Schol. Ioann. Tzetz. Epist., p8 (Pressel)

Clusinus was the name of Porsenna's secretary, according to Dio.

Zonaras' account of Mucius, based upon Plutarch, contains the following from Dio:

(1) Cordus [cognomen of Mucius]; (2) nicknamed Scaevola, which means the One-handed, or Maimed; (3) his secretary, who was seated beside him and similarly dressed.


14 1 Dio, Book IV. "And he [Porsenna] presented to the maiden [Cloelia] not only arms, as some say, but also a horse."

 p105  15b Dio, Book IV. "And they not only assigned them [the quaestors?] very different duties from those of the consuls, but also gave them distinct titles."

15a Dio, Book IV. "But they overran the Roman territory."

Dio, Book IV. "They ravaged everything up to the wall."

 p107  16 1 To a large extent success is the result of planning secretly, acting at the opportune moment, following one's own counsel, and having no chance to fall  p109 back upon any one else, but being obliged to take upon one's self the responsibility for the outcome, whatever it be.

7 12 After this the Tarquins endeavoured on several occasions, by forming alliances with tribes bordering on Roman territory, to recover the kingdom; but they all perished in the battles save the sire, who was also called Superbus, that is, Proud. Subsequently he found his way to Cumae, among the Oscans, and there died.

13 1 And the management of the funds he [Publicola] assigned to others in order that the men holding the consul­ship might not possess the great influence that would spring from their having the revenues in their power. Now for the first time treasurers began to be appointed, and they called them quaestors. These in the first place tried capital cases, from which fact they have obtained this title — on account of their questionings and on account of their search for truth as the result of questionings. But later they acquired also management of the public funds and received the additional name of treasurers [tamiai]. After a time the courts were put in charge of others, while these officials continued to manage the funds.

But the Sabines, making this also a pretext for war, advanced upon Rome with a large army. Publicola led out the Romans to meet them, and by his excellent general­ship all but completely destroyed them.

The Sabines, however, because of wrath at their treatment, did not keep quiet even through the winter, but overran the Roman territory and discomfited Postumius when he was for the second time consul. And they would have captured him with his entire force, had not Menenius Agrippa, his colleague, come to his aid. Then the consuls assaulted them and killed a number, with the result that the rest withdrew. After this Spurius Cassius and Opiter Verginius, as consuls, made peace with the Sabines. And capturing the city of Camerium, they slew most of the inhabitants; the remnant they took alive and sold, and razed the city to the ground.

Postumius Cominius and Titus Lartius arrested and put to death some slaves who were conspiring to seize the Capitoline. Servius Sulpicius and Marcus Tullius in their turn anticipated a second conspiracy composed of slaves and some others who had joined them; for it was reported to the consuls by certain men privy to the plot. They surrounded and hemmed in the conspirators and then cut them down. To the informants citizen­ship and other rewards were given.

When a new war was stirred up on the part of the Latins against Rome, the populace demanded that there should be a cancellation of debts, and refused to take up arms. Therefore the nobles then for the first time established a new office to have jurisdiction over both classes. Dictator was the name given to the man honoured with this position, and he possessed power equal in all respects to that of the kings. People hated the name of king on account of the Tarquins, but desiring the benefit to be derived from sole leader­ship, which seemed to exert a potent influence amid conditions of war and revolution, they chose it under another name. Hence the dictator­ship was, as has been said, so far as its authority went, equivalent to the kingship, except that the dictator might not ride on horseback unless he were about to set out on a campaign, and was not permitted to make any expenditure from the public funds unless the right were specifically voted. He might try men and put them to death at home as well as on campaigns, and not merely such as belonged to the populace, but also men from the knights and from the senate itself. No one, not even the tribunes, had the power to make any complaint against him or to take any action hostile to him, and no appeal could be taken from him. The office of dictator extended for a period of not more than six months, in order that no such official by lingering on in the midst of so great power and unhampered authority should become haughty and be carried away by a passion for sole leader­ship. This was what happened later to Julius Caesar, when, contrary to lawful precedent, he had been adjudged worthy of the dictator­ship.


They had recourse to civil strife; and the reason was this. Those whose money gave them influence desired to surpass their inferiors in all respects as though they were their sovereigns, and the weaker  p111 citizens, sure of their own equal rights, were unwilling to obey them even in the smallest particular. The one class, insatiate of freedom, sought to enjoy also the possessions of the other; and this other class, uncontrolled in its desire for public honours, was bent also on subjecting the persons of the former class. 2 So it was that they sundered their former relations, wherein they had been wont harmoniously to assist each other with mutual profit, and no longer made distinctions between the citizen and the foreigner. Indeed, both classes disdained moderation, the one setting its heart upon an extreme of authority, the other upon an extreme of resistance to servitude; and, as a result, they not only failed of these objects but at the same time inflicted upon each other many grievous injuries, partly in requital for wrongs received and partly by way of anticipating others. Hence  p113 more than all the rest of mankind they were at variance save in the midst of the gravest of dangers incurred in the course of the successive wars that were due chiefly to their own dissensions; hence, for the sake of the respite, many of the foremost men on numerous occasions brought on these conflicts purposely. From this beginning, then, they suffered far more harm from each other than from outside nations. And in view of these circumstances I am led to prophesy that they cannot possibly be deprived of either their power or their sway, unless they shall be brought low by their own contentions.

4 Furthermore they were indignant because the senators were not of the same mind after obtaining something from them as they were while requesting it, but after making them many fine promises while in the midst of danger, failed to perform the slightest one of them when safety had been secured.

 p115  5 So, in order to they might not fight as a single army but that each nation should have to struggle separately in defence of its own territory and so become easier to conquer, they divided the army.

6 The populace, as soon as Valerius, the dictator, became a private citizen, began a most bitter contest, going so far even as to make changes in the government. The well-to‑do classes insisted, in the case of debts, upon the very letter of the agreement, refusing to abate one iota of it, and so they both failed to secure its fulfilment and were deprived of many other advantages; they had failed to recognize the  p117 fact that extreme poverty is a most grievous curse, and that the desperation which results from it, especially if shared by a large number of people, is very difficult to combat. 7 This is why not a few politicians voluntarily choose the course which is expedient in preference to that which is absolutely just. Justice is often worsted in an encounter with human nature and sometimes suffers total extinction, whereas expediency, by parting with a mere fragment of justice, preserves the greater portion of it intact. Thus the uncompromising attitude of the rich class toward the poor was responsible for very many ills that befell the Romans. 8 Indeed, among the many remedies afforded them against delays in the payment of debts, was one to the effect that in case several persons had been lending to one man, they had authority to divide his body piecemeal according to the proportionate amounts that he was owing. And yet, however  p119 well this principle may have been recognized, it surely had never been put into practice. For how could a nation have proceeded to such lengths of cruelty when it frequently granted to those convicted of some crime a refuge for their safety and allowed such as were thrust from the cliffs of the Capitoline to live in case they survived the experience?

9 Those who were owing debts took possession of a certain hill, and after placing one Gaius at their head, proceeded to secure their food from the contrary as from hostile territory, thereby demonstrating that laws were weaker than arms, and justice weaker than their desperation. The senators, fearing both that these men might become more estranged and that the neighbouring tribes might, in view of the crisis, attack them simultaneously, proposed terms to the seceders, offering everything that they hoped might please them. 10 The latter at first maintained  p121 a bold front, but were brought to reason in a remarkable way. When they kept up a series of disorderly shouts, Agrippa, one of the envoys, begged them to hearken to a fable, and having obtained their consent, spoke as follows: "Once all the Members of Man began a contention against the Belly, declaring that they worked and toiled without food or drink, being at the beck and call of the Belly in everything, whereas it endured no labour and alone got its fill of nourishment. 11 And finally they voted that the Hands should no longer convey aught to the Mouth nor the latter receive anything,  p123 to the end that the Belly might so far as possible come to lack both food and drink and so perish. Now when this decision had been reached and put into execution, at first the entire body began to wither away and next it gave out and collapsed. Accordingly, the Members through their own desperate state grew conscious that in the Belly lay their own salvation and restored to it its nourishment." 12 On hearing this the multitude comprehended that  p125 the abundance of the prosperous also supports the cause of the poor; therefore they became milder and were reconciled on being granted a release from their debts and from seizures therefor. These terms, then, were voted by the senate.

14 And it did not seem to be inconsistent with human nature, and to many others also, some willingly, some unwillingly . . .

Whenever a large number of men band together and seek their own advantage by violence, they have for the time being some equitable agreement and display boldness, but later they become divided and are punished on various pretexts.

14 1 At this time, then, when Lartius became dictator, the populace made no uprising, but presented themselves under arms. But when the Latins had come to terms and were now quiet, the lenders proceeded to treat the debtors somewhat harshly; and the populace for this reason again rebelled and even came running in a throng into the senate. And all the senators would then and there have perished at the hands of the inrushing mob, had not some persons reported that the Volsci had already invaded the country. In the face of such news the populace became calm — not, however, out of leniency toward the senate, but because they expected that body to be destroyed forthwith by the enemy. Hence they did not man the walls or render any assistance until Servilius released the prisoners held for default of payment and decreed a suspension of taxes for as long a period as the campaignºshould last and promised to reduce the debts. Then, in consequence of these concessions, they proceeded against the enemy and won the day. Inasmuch, however, as they were not relieved of their debts and in general met with no decent treatment, they again raised a clamour and grew full of wrath and made an uprising against both the senate and the praetors.

But upon the outbreak of another war the praetors decreed a cancelling of debts, though others opposed this measure; and so Marcus Valerius was named dictator. He was of the family of Publicola and was beloved by the people. Then, indeed, so many gathered, and they were animated with such zeal (for he had promised them prizes, too) that they conquered not only the Sabines, but also the Volsci and Aequi who were allied with them. As a result, the populace voted many honours to Valerius, among them the title of Maximus; this name, translated, means Greatest. And he, wishing to show the populace some favour, addressed the senate at great length, but could not get it to follow his guidance. Consequently he rushed out of the senate-house in a rage, and after delivering to the populace a tirade against the senate, resigned his command.

And the populace was all the more provoked to revolt. As for the money-lenders, by insisting in the case of debts upon the very letter of the agreement and refusing to make any concession to the debtors, they both failed to secure the full amount and also lost many other advantages. For poverty with the resulting desperation is a grievous curse, and is, if shared by a large number of people, very difficult to combat. Thus the uncompromising attitude at this time of the rich toward the poor was responsible for very many ills that befell the Romans. For as the soldiery came to be hard pressed by dint of campaigns and was baffled out and out in frequent hopes frequently entertained, and the debtors were repeatedly abused and maltreated by the money-lenders, they became inflamed to such a pitch of fury that many of the destitute abandoned the city or withdrew from the camp, and like enemies lived on the country.

When this situation had been brought about, since numbers came flocking to the side of the seceders, the senators, dreading both that the latter might become more estranged and that the neighbouring tribes might take advantage of the sedition and attack them simultaneously, proposed terms, in which they promised to do everything for them that they desired. But when the others displayed a bolder front than ever and would accept no offer, one of the envoys, Menenius Agrippa, begged them hearken to a fable. After obtaining their consent he spoke as follows: "Once all the Members of the Body began a contention against the Belly. And the Eyes said: 'We give the Hands the power to work and the Feet the power to walk.' And the Tongue and the Lips: 'Through us the counsels of the Heart are made known.' And then the Ears: 'Through us the words of others are conveyed to the Mind.' And the Hands: 'We are the workers and lay up stores of wealth.' And again the Feet: 'We tire ourselves out carrying the whole body in its journeying and working and standing.' And all in a chorus: 'While we labour so, thou alone, free from contribution and labour, like a mistress art served by us all and the fruit of all our labours thou thyself alone dost enjoy.' The Belly herself admitted that this was so, and added: 'If you like, furnish me nothing and leave me unsupplied.' This proposition was accepted, and the Members voted unanimously nevermore to supply the Belly by their common effort. When no food was presented to her, the Hands were not able to work, being relaxed on account of the Belly's need, nor were the Feet possessed of strength, nor did any other of the Members show its proper activity unimpaired, but all were inefficient, slow, or completely motionless. And then they comprehended that the offerings made to the Belly had been supplied no more to her than to themselves and that each one of them incidentally enjoyed the benefit conferred upon her."

Through these words the multitude comprehended that the abundance of the prosperous tends also to the advantage of the poor, and that even though the former be advantaged by their loans and though they increase their abundance, the outcome of this is not hurtful to the interests of the many; since, if it were not for the wealth possessed by the rich, the poor would not have in times of need persons to lend to them and would perish under the pressure of want. Thereupon they became milder and were reconciled, after the senate had voted a lightening of their debts and release from seizures therefor.

15 1 They feared, however, that when their league had been disbanded they might either find their agreements ineffectual or might be harmed through their separation, being arrested and punished one after another on various pretexts.

So they formed a compact to lend aid to one another in case any one of them should be wronged in any particular; and they took oaths to this effect and forthwith elected from their own number two representatives, — and afterward still more, — in order that each class might  p127 have a helper and avenger. And this they did not once only, but the idea now conceived in this form kept growing, and they appointed their representative for a year, as to some office. The men were called in the tongue of the Latins tribuni, — the same name that was given to the commanders of a thousand, — but were styled dêmarchoi [leaders of the people] in the Greek language. In order, however, to distinguish between the titles of the tribunes, they added in the one case the phrase "of the soldiers," and in the other the phrase "of the people." Now these tribunes of the people (or dêmarchoi) became responsible for great evils that befell Rome. For though they did not immediately secure the title of magistrates, they gained power beyond all others, defending every one who begged protection and rescuing every one who called upon them not only from private individuals, but from the very magistrates, except the dictators. If any one ever invoked them when absent, he, too, was released from the person holding him prisoner and was either brought before the populace by them or was set free. And if ever they saw fit that anything should not be done, they prevented it, whether the person acting were a private citizen or a magistrate; and if the populace or the senate was about to do or to vote anything and a single tribune opposed it, the action or the vote became null and void. As time went on, they were allowed, or allowed themselves, to summon the senate, to punish anybody who disobeyed them, to practise divination, and to hold court. And in the case of anything that was unlawful for them to do, they gained their point by their incontestable opposition to every project undertaken by others. For they introduced laws to the effect that whoever should obstruct them by deed or word, be he private citizen or magistrate, should be "devoted" and under a curse. This being "devoted" meant destruction; for this was the term applied to everything that was consecrated, like a victim, for slaughter. The tribunes themselves were termed by the multitude sacrosanct, since they served as sacred walls, so to speak, for the shelter of such as invoked them; for sacra among the Romans means "walls," and sancta "sacred." Many of their actions were unwarrantable, for they threw even consuls into prison and put men to death without granting them a hearing. Nobody ventured to oppose them; or, in case anyone did, he himself became "devoted." If, however, persons were not condemned by all the tribunes, they would call to their help those who had not concurred in the verdict, and so were given a regular trial before the tribunes themselves or before a jury or before the populace, and were subject to the deciding vote. In the course of time the number of the tribunes was fixed at ten, and as a result of this most of their power was overthrown.


 p129  15 Through the tendency, natural to most persons, to differ with their fellow officials, — since it is always difficult for a number of men to attain harmony, especially  p131 in a position of any influence, — all their power was being dissipated and torn to shreds; for none of their resolutions was valid in case even one of them opposed it. They had originally received their office for no other purpose than to resist such as were oppressing anybody, and this he who tried to prevent any measure from being carried into effect was sure to prove stronger than those who supported it.

For as if by very nature, yet more by reason of jealousy, fellow-officials invariably quarrel; and it is difficult for a number of men, especially in a position of influence, to attain harmony. No sooner did others, planning to shatter their influence, go to intriguing, in order that dissension might make them weaker, than the tribunes actually attached themselves some to the one party and some to the other. If even one of them opposed a measure, he rendered the decision of the rest null and void.

Now at first they did not enter the senate-house, but sat at the entrance and watched proceedings, and in case anything failed to please them, they would then and there oppose it. Next they were invited inside. Later, however, the ex-tribunes became members of the senate, and finally some of the senators even sought to be tribunes — unless one chanced to be a patrician. Patricians the people would not accept; for after choosing the tribunes to defend them against the patricians, and advancing them to so great power, they feared that a patrician might turn this power to contrary purposes and use it against them. But if a man abjured the rank given him by birth and changed his status to that of a common citizen, they received him gladly. And a  p133 number of the most prominent patricians actually did renounce their nobility, through desire for the immense influence possible, and so became tribunes.

Such was the origin of the power of the tribunes. In addition to them the people chose two aediles to be their assistants in the matter of documents. These took charge of everything that was submitted in writing to the plebs, to the populace, and to the senate, and kept it, so that nothing that was done escaped their notice. This and the trying of cases were the objects for which they were chosen anciently, but later they were charged, among other duties, with the supervision of the provision market, whence they came to be called agoranomoi [market-overseers] by the Greeks.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 16 Apr 11