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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Roman Antiquities

Dionysius of Halicarnassus

published in Vol. VII
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1950

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. VII) Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Roman Antiquities

 p329  Excerpts from Books XVII and XVIII

1 1 (16.11) The Samnite war was once more kindled into flame,​1 beginning from some such cause as the following. After the treaty which the Samnites had made with Rome, they waited a short time and then made an expedition against the Lucanians, who were their neighbours, being moved thereto by some long-standing feud. 2 At first the Lucanians carried on the war relying on their own forces; but getting the worst of it in all the engagements, and having lost many districts already and being in danger of losing all the rest of their land, they were forced to have recourse to the Romans' assistance. They were conscious, to be sure, of having broken the compact they had made with the Romans earlier, in which they had pledged friendship and alliance, but did not despair of persuading them if they should send to them along with their ambassadors the most prominent boys from every city as hostages. 3 (12) For when the ambassadors arrived and  p331 made many entreaties, the senate voted to accept the hostages and to join friendship with the Lucanians; and the popular assembly ratified their vote. 4 Upon the conclusion of the treaty with the emissaries of the Lucanians the oldest and most honoured of the Romans were chosen by the senate and sent as ambassadors to the general council of the Samnites to inform them that the Lucanians were friends and allies of the Romans and to warn them not only to restore the land they had taken away from them but also to commit no further act of hostility, since Rome would not permit her suppliants to be driven out of their own land.

2 1 (16.13) The Samnites, having listened to the ambassadors, were indignant and declared in their own defence, first of all, that they had not made the peace on the understanding that they were to count no one as their friend or enemy unless the Romans should bid them to do so; and again, that the Romans had not previously made the Lucanians their friends, but only just now, when they were already enemies of the Samnites, thereby trumping up an excuse that was neither just nor seemly for setting aside the treaty. 2 When the Romans answered that subjects who had agreed to follow them​2 and had obtained a termination of the war on that condition must obey all orders of those who had assumed the rule over them, and threatened to make war upon  p333 them if they did not voluntarily do as they were ordered, 3 the Samnites, regarding the arrogance of Rome as intolerable, ordered the ambassadors to depart at once, while, as for themselves, they voted to make the necessary preparations for war both jointly and each city for itself.

3 1 (16.14) The published reason, then, for the Samnite war and the one that was plausible enough to be announced to the world was the assistance extended to the Lucanians who had turned to them for help, since this was a general and time-honoured practice with the Roman state to aid those who were wronged and turned to her for help. But the undisclosed reason and the one which was more cogent in leading them to give up their friendship with the Samnites was the power of that nation, which had already become great, and promised to become greater still if, upon the subjugation of the Lucanians and, because of them, of their neighbours, the barbarian tribes adjoining them were going to follow the same course. The treaty, accordingly, was promptly abrogated after the return of the ambassadors, and two armies were enrolled.

4 1 (16.15) Postumius the consul, now that his succession to his father's estate was imminent, thought very highly of himself both because of the reputation of his family and because he had already been honoured with two consul­ships. 2 His colleague was at first indignant at this, feeling that he was being excluded from an equal share of honours, and he frequently presented his claims against him before the senate; but later, recognizing that in dignity of  p335 ancestry, the number of his friends, and in other sources of influence he was inferior to the other (for he was a plebeian and one of those who had but recently come to public notice), he yielded to his colleague and let him have the command of the Samnite war. 3 This was the first thing that aroused prejudice against Postumius, occasioned as it was by his great arrogance; and on top of it came another action that was too offensive for a Roman commander. He chose, namely, about two thousand men out of his army, and taking them to his own estate, ordered them to cut down a thicket without axes; and for a long time he kept the men on his estate performing the tasks of labourers and slaves.​3 4 (16) After displaying such arrogance before setting out on the campaign, he showed himself even more domineering in the acts which he committed in the course of the campaign itself, thus affording the senate and the people grounds for just hatred. For though the senate had voted that Fabius, who had been consul the year before and had conquered the Samnite tribe called the Pentrians, should remain in the camp and, holding the proconsular power, make war against that part of the Samnites, Postumius nevertheless sent him a letter ordering him to evacuate the Samnite country, on the ground that the command belonged to him alone. 5 And to the envoys sent by the senators to demand that he should not hinder the proconsul from remaining in the camp nor act in opposition to their decrees he gave a haughty answer worthy of a tyrant, declaring that the senate did  p337 not govern him, so long as he was consul, but that he governed the senate. 6 Then, having dismissed the envoys, he led his army against Fabius, intending, in case he were not willing to give up command voluntarily, to force him by arms to do so. And coming upon Fabius as he was besieging the town of Cominium, he drove him out of the camp, showing a vast contempt for the ancient usages and an outrageous arrogance. Fabius, accordingly, yielded to his madness and relinquished the command.

5 1 (16.17) This same Postumius first took Cominium by siege, after spending but a short time in assaults, and then captured Venusia, a populous place, and ever so many other cities, of whose inhabitants 10,000 were slain and 6,200 surrendered their arms. 2 Though he accomplished all this, he not only was not granted any mark of favour or honour by the senate, but even lost the esteem which was his before. For when 20,000 colonists were sent out to one of the cities captured by him, the one called Venusia, others were chosen leaders of the colony, while the man who had reduced the city and had made the proposal for the dispatch of the colonists was not found worthy even of that honour. 3 (18) Now if he had borne these reverses with a prudence based upon reason and had assuaged the harshness of the senate by the therapy of courteous words and actions, he would have experienced no further misfortune leading to disgrace. But as it was, being exasperated and harsh in his turn, he not only presented the soldiers  p339 with all the booty he had taken from the enemy, but also, before his successor in the command was sent out, dismissed his forces from the standards; and finally, though it was granted to him by neither the senate nor the people, he celebrated a triumph on his own authority. 4 In consequence of all this, still greater hatred flared up on the part of all, and as soon as he turned over his magistracy to the consuls who succeeded him he was cited to a public trial by two tribunes. And being accused before the popular assembly, he was condemned by all the tribes, the indictment calling for a fine of 50,000 denarii.4

Ferentinum, a city of the Samnites in Italy. Eth.5 Ferentanus.​6 Ferentii also is used, as Dionysius, Roman Antiquities XVII.

Milonia,​7 a very prominent city of the Samnites. Dionysius XVII. Eth. Miloniates (?). (cf. Livy X.3; 34.)

Nequinum, a city of the Umbrians. Dionysius, Roman Antiquities XVII. Eth. Nequinates. (cf. Livy X.9 f.)

Narnia, a city of the Samnites,​8 named from the river Nar which flows past it. Dionysius, Roman Antiquities XVIII. Eth. Narniensis. (cf. Livy X.9 f.)

Ocriculum, a city of the Tyrrhenians. Dionysius, Roman Antiquities XVIII. Eth. Ocriculanus, idem. (cf. Livy IX.41.)

The Editor's Notes:

1 For chaps. 1‑3 cf. Livy X.11.11‑12.3.

2 Or, following Ursinus' reading, "those who had agreed to be their subjects."

3 Cf. Livy, Periocha to Book XI.

4 The word denarii is uncertain; the Greek says, literally, "50,000 in silver." The word usually used by Dionysius for denarius is drachma, but at other times he gives the sum in asses. Nowhere does he clearly refer to a sestertius, which, like the denarius, was a silver coin.

5 See the note on p257.

6 Probably an error for Frentanus. Cf. XIX.12.

7 The name should be Milionia; the Eth. is conjectural, as it does not occur in Latin literature.

8 An error for Sabines? Narnia was built on the site of the ancient Nequinum.

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