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Bill Thayer

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I: Part 12

This webpage reproduces part of
The Epitome of Roman History


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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


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II: Part 1

Lucius Annaeus Florus

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

Book I (end)

XLV. The Gallic War.
XLVI. The Parthian War.
XLVII. Recapitulation.

 p201  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XLV. The Gallic War

III, 10 Asia having been subdued by the might of Pompeius, fortune handed over to Caesar all that remained to be conquered in Europe. 2 Those who were still left were the most formidable of all races, the Gauls and the Germans, and also the Britons; for we were minded to conquer them, although they are a whole world away.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The first disturbance began with the Helvetii, who, being settled between the Rhone and the Rhine and being possessed of insufficient territory, came to ask us for new lands after burning their city, an act which stood for an oath that they would not return. 3 But Caesar, after asking for time to consider their request, having during the interval prevented their escape by breaking down the bridge over the Rhone, immediately drove back this warlike nation to its former abode, as a shepherd drives his flocks into the fold. 4 Next followed a far more sanguinary struggle with the Belgae, since they were fighting for their freedom. In this, while there were many notable exploits on the part of Roman soldiers, a remarkable feat was performed by the general himself; for when his troops were wavering and on the point of retiring, snatching a shield out of the hand of a retreating soldier, he rushed to the front line and by his own efforts restored the battle. 5 Next came a naval war with the Veneti; but it was a struggle rather against the ocean than against the enemy's fleet. For their vessels were rude and clumsy and went to pieces as soon as they had felt the beaks of our ships; but the battle was obstructed by the shallow water, since  p203 the ocean, retiring with usual fall of tide in the very middle of the engagement, seemed to take part in the struggle. 6 The operations of the war varied with the nature of the people and the country. The crafty Aquitani betook themselves to caves; Caesar ordered that they should be blockaded there. The Morini scattered amongst their forests; Caesar ordered that the forests should be burnt. Let no one say that the Gauls are mere savages, for they can act with cunning. 7 Indutiomarus stirred up the Treveri, Ambiorix the Eburones. In Caesar's absence these two tribes banded together and attacked the lieutenant-generals. Indutiomarus was bravely repulsed by Dolabella, and his head was brought back to the camp. 8 Ambiorix, however, defeated us by the stratagem of an ambush set in a valley, with the result that our camp was plundered and we lost the lieutenant-generals Aurunculeius Cotta and Titurius Sabinus. No immediate vengeance was taken upon the king, who eluded our vigilance by perpetual flight across the Rhine.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 9 The Rhine, therefore, was not left unattacked; for indeed it was not right that it should harbour and protect our enemies with impunity. 10 The first battle against the Germans on this river was fought on the most just of pretexts; for the Aedui complained of their incursions. 11 And how great was the insolence of King Ariovistus! When our ambassadors told him to come to Caesar, he replied, "Who is Caesar? Let him come to me if he likes: what does it matter to him what we in Germany do? 12 Do I interfere with the Romans?" So great was the alarm inspired in the camp by this unknown people, that there was a general making of wills even in the  p205 camp square. But the vaster the stature of our enemies, the more were they exposed to our swords and other weapons. 13 The ardour of our soldiers in the fray cannot be better illustrated than by the fact that, when the barbarians protected themselves by forming a "tortoise" with their shields raised over their heads, the Romans actually leaped on the top of the shields and from there fell upon their throats with their swords. 14 Further complaints against the Germans were brought by the Tencteri. On this occasion Caesar took the initiative and crossed the Moselle by a bridge of boats and made for the Rhine itself and the enemy in the Hercynian forests; but the whole tribe had fled away to their woods and marshes, so great was the panic caused by the appearance of the Romans on the further bank of the river. 15 Nor was this the only occasion on which the Rhine was crossed, but he penetrated across it a second time by a bridge which he had built. The alarm of the enemy was ever greater this time; for when they saw their Rhine placed as it were a prisoner under the yoke of the bridge, they fled again to their woods and marshes and, to Caesar's bitter disappointment, no enemy remained to be conquered.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 16 Having penetrated everywhere by land and sea, he turned his gaze towards the ocean and, as if this world of ours sufficed not for the Romans, set his thoughts on another. He, therefore, collected a fleet and crossed over to Britain with wonderful speed; for starting from the harbour of the Morini at the third watch he disembarked upon the island before midday. 17 The shores were crowded with a confused throng of the enemy, and their chariots were hurrying to and fro in panic at the strange  p207 sight before their eyes. This panic was as good as a victory for Caesar, who received arms and hostages from his frightened foes and would have advanced further if the ocean had not taken vengeance on his presumptuous fleet by wrecking it. 18 He, therefore, returned to Gaul and then, with a larger fleet and increased forces, made another attempt against the same ocean and the same Britons. Having pursued them into the Caledonian forests, he made one of their kings, Casuellanus, a prisoner. 19 Content with these achievements (for he sought a reputation rather than a province) he returned with greater spoil than before, the very ocean showing itself more calm and propitious, as though it confessed itself unequal to opposing him.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 20 The greatest, and at the same time the last, of all the risings in Gaul, took place when Vercingetorix, a chief formidable alike for his stature, his skill in arms, and his courage, endowed too with a name which seemed to be intended to inspire terror, formed a league alike of the Arverniº and Bituriges, 21 and at the same time of the Carnuntes and Sequani. He at their festivals and councils, when he found them collected in their greatest crowds in their groves, roused them by his ferocious harangues to vindicate their ancient rights of freedom. 22 Caesar was absent at the time holding a levy at Ravenna, and the Alps had been swollen by winter snows; hence they thought that his passage was blocked. But Caesar, starting just as he was on the receipt of the news, by a most successful act of daring made his way across Gaul with a light-armed force through ranges of mountains never before crossed and over ways and snows never trodden  p209 before, and collected his troops from distant winter quarters and was in the middle of Gaul before the terror of his approach had reached its borders. 23 Attacking the cities which were the headquarters of the enemy's forces, he burnt to the ground Avaricum, which was defended by 40,000 men, and Alesia, which had a garrison of 250,000. 24 All the most important operations were concentrated round Gergovia​a in the territory of the Averni. This mighty city, defended by a wall and citadel and steep river-banks, had a garrison of 80,000 men. 25 Caesar, surrounding it with a rampart, a palisade and a trench, into which he admitted water from the river, and also eighteen towers and a huge breastwork, first reduced it by starvation; and then, when the defenders attempted to make sallies, cut them down at the ramparts and palisades, and finally reduced them to surrender. 26 The king himself, to crown the victory, came as a suppliant to the camp, and placing before Caesar his horse and its trapping and his own arms, exclaimed, "Receive these spoils; thou thyself, bravest of men, hast conquered a brave enemy."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XLVI. The Parthian War

III, 11 While in the north the Roman people by the hand of Caesar were conquering the Gauls, in the east they received a serious blow from the Parthians. Nor can we complain of fortune; for it was a disaster which admitted of no consolation. 2 Both gods and men were defied by the avarice of the consul Crassus, in coveting the gold of Parthia, and its punishment was the slaughter of eleven legions  p211 and the loss of his own life. 3 For Metellus, the tribune of the people, had called down terrible curses on the general as he was leaving Rome; and after the army had passed Zeugma, the Euphrates swallowed up the standards, which were swept away by its swirling eddies; 4 and when Crassus had pitched his camp at Nicephorium, ambassadors arrived from King Orodes with a message bidding him remember the treaties made with Pompeius and Sulla. 5 Crassus, who coveted the royal treasures, answered not a word that had any semblance of justice, but merely said that he would give his reply at Seleucia. 6 The gods, therefore, who punish those who violate treaties, did not fail to support either the craft or the valour of our enemies. In the first place, Crassus deserted the Euphrates, which provided the sole means of transporting his supplies and protecting his rear, trusting to the advice of a pretended deserter, a certain Syrian named Mazaras. 7 Next, again under the same guidance, the army was conducted into the midst of vast plains, to be exposed to enemy attacks from every side. 8 And so he had scarcely reached Carrhae, when the king's generals, Silaces and Surenas, displayed all around him their standards fluttering with gold and silken pennons; then without delay the cavalry, pouring round on all sides, showered their weapons as thick as hail or rain upon them. Thus the army was destroyed in lamentable slaughter. 9 The consul himself, invited to a parley, would on a given signal have fallen alive into the hands of the enemy, had not the barbarians, owing to the resistance of the tribunes, used their swords to prevent his escape.​1 10 The general's son they overwhelmed  p213 with missiles almost within his father's sight. The remnants of the unhappy army, scattered wherever their flight took them, through Armenia, Cilicia and Syria, scarcely even brought back the news of the disaster. The head of Crassus was cut off and with his right hand was taken back to the king and treated with mockery which was not undeserved; for molten gold was poured into his gaping mouth, so that the dead and bloodless flesh of one whose heart had burned with lust for gold was itself burnt with gold.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XLVII. Recapitulation

III, 12 Such are the events overseas of the third period of the history of the Roman people, during which, having once ventured to advance outside Italy, they carried their arms over the whole world. 2 The first hundred years of this period were pure and humane and, as we have said, a golden age, free from vice and crime, while the innocence of the old pastoral life was still untainted and uncorrupted, and the imminent threat of our Carthaginian foes kept alive the ancient discipline. 3 The following hundred years, which we have traced from the destruction of Carthage, Corinth and Numantia and the inheritance of the Asiatic Kingdom of Attalus down to the time of Caesar and Pompeius and of their successor Augustus, with whose history we still have to deal, were as deplorable and shameful owing to internal calamities as they were illustrious for the glory of their military achievements. 4 For, just as it was honourable and glorious to have won the rich and powerful provinces of Gaul, Thrace, Cilicia and  p215 Cappadocia as well as the territory of the Armenians and Britons, which, though they served no practical purpose, constituted important titles to imperial greatness; 5 so it was disgraceful and deplorable at the same time to have fought at home with fellow-citizens and allies, with slaves and gladiators, and the whole senate divided against itself. 6 Indeed I know not whether it would not have been better for the Roman people to have been content with Sicily and Africa, or even to have been without these and to have held dominion only over their own land of Italy, than to increase to such greatness that they were ruined by their own strength. 7 For what else produced these outbreaks of domestic strife but excessive prosperity? It was the conquest of Syria which first corrupted us, followed by the Asiatic inheritance bequeathed by the king of Pergamon. 8 The resources and wealth thus acquired spoiled the morals of the age and ruined the State, which was engulfed in its own vices as in a common sewer. For what else caused the Roman people to demand from their tribunes land and food except the scarcity which luxury had produced? Hence arose the first and second Gracchan revolutions and the third raised by Apuleius. 9 What was the cause of the violent division between the equestrian order and the senate on the subject of the judiciary laws except avarice, in order that the revenues of the State and the law-courts themselves might be exploited for profit? Hence arose the attempt of Drusus and the promise of citizen­ship to the Latins, which resulted in war with our allies. 10 Again, what brought the servile wars upon us except the excessive size of our establishments? How else could those armies  p217 of gladiators have arisen against their masters, save that a profuse expenditure, which aimed at conciliating the favour of the common people by indulging their love of shows, had turned what was originally a method of punishing enemies into a competition of skill? 11 Again, to touch upon less ugly vices, was not ambition for office also stimulated by wealth? 12 Why, it was from this the Marian and Sullan disturbances arose. Again, were not the sumptuous extravagance of banquets and the profuse largesses due to a wealth which was bound soon to produce want? 13 It was this too that brought Catiline into collision with his country. Finally, whence did the lust for power and domination arise save from excessive wealth? It was this which armed Caesar and Pompeius with the fatal torches which kindle the flames that destroyed the State. 14 We will, therefore, now describe in their order all these domestic disturbances as distinct from foreign wars properly so called.

The Loeb Editor's Note:

1 The text adds: "Thus his head was carried back and treated with mockery by the enemy." These words are out of place here, and a similar statement occurs in its proper place a few lines further on.

Thayer's Note:

a I am indebted to Adam Favaro for pointing out that this should be not Gergovia, but Alesia: the mistake lies not with yours truly or with the Loeb editor, but with Florus himself, as scholars have noted, e.g. Joseph Reber, Das Geschichtwerk des Florus, p27 (in a long section on Florus' errors):

Aber alles, was Florus von Gergovia erzählt, bezieht sich noch auf Alesia, das im Innern anfänglich 80,000 Streiter zählte und zu dessen Entsatze 250,000 Mann herbeteilten; VII.75, 76. Florus verwechselt beide Städte.

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