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Title: The historians' history of the world in twenty-five volumes, volume 05

the Roman Republic

Editor: Henry Smith Williams

Release date: May 14, 2018 [eBook #57159]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by David Edwards and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note: As a result of editorial shortcomings in the original, some reference letters in the text don’t have matching entries in the reference-lists, and vice versa.








A comprehensive narrative of the rise and development of nations
as recorded by over two thousand of the great writers of
all ages: edited, with the assistance of a distinguished
board of advisers and contributors,


(decorative, publisher’s mark) PRIUS PLACENDUM QUAM DOCENDUM


The Outlook Company
New York

The History Association



Copyright, 1904,

All rights reserved.


Contributors, and Editorial Revisers.



The World Influence of Early Rome. By Dr. Eduard Meyer 1
The Scope and Development of Early Roman History. By Dr. Wilhelm Soltau 11
Introduction 25
Land and People 43
The land of Italy, 44. Early population of Italy, 48. Beginnings of Rome and the primitive Roman commonwealth, 51.
Early Legends of Rome—Æneas and Romulus (ca. 753-716 B.C.) 58
The Æneas legend, 59. The Ascanius legend, 60. The legend of Romulus and Remus, 61. The rape of the Sabines, 63. A critical study of the legends, 66. Explanation of the Æneas legend, 69. The Romulus legend examined, 70.
Legendary History of the Kings (ca. 716-510 B.C.) 75
Numa Pompilius, 75. Tullus Hostilius, 76. The combat of the Horatii and the Curiatii, 77. Ancus Marcius, 79. L. Tarquinius Priscus, 80. Servius Tullius, 82. [viii]Lucius Tarquinius the Tyrant, 83.
The Banishment of the Kings—Criticisms of Monarchial History (ca. 510 B.C.) 85
Tarquinius consults the oracle, 85. The rape of Lucretia, 86. Niebuhr on the story of Lucretia, 87. The banishment of Tarquinius, 88. Porsenna’s war upon the Romans; the story of Horatius at the bridge, as told by Dionysius, 90. Caius Mucius and King Porsenna, 92. Battle of Lake Regillus, 93. The myths of the Roman kings critically examined, 95. The historical value of the myths, 100.
Civilisation of the Regal Period (ca. 753-510 B.C.) 103
Organisation of the state, 103. The status of the monarchy, 105. Religion, 107. Constitution, 107. The organisation of the army, 111. Classes of foot soldiers, 112. Popular institutions, 113. The wealth of the Romans and its sources, 115. Roman education, 117. Morals and politics of the age, 118. The fine arts, 119.
The First Century of the Republic (510-391 B.C.) 121
Plebeians and patricians, 123. Spurius Cassius and the first Agrarian Law, 129. The institution of the decemvirate, 131. The story of Virginia told by Dionysius, 132. Fall of the decemvirate, 138. The Canuleian Law, 140. External wars, 142. Legends of the Volscian and Æquian wars, 145. Coriolanus and the Volscians, 145. Critical examination of the story of Coriolanus, 148. Cincinnatus and the Æquians, 149. Critical examination of the story of Cincinnatus, 151. The Fabian Gens and the Veientines, 152.
The Invasion of the Gauls and its Sequel (391-351 B.C.) 154
The Gauls, 155. Livy’s account of the Gauls in Rome, 156. Other accounts of the departure of the Gauls, 165. Niebuhr on the conduct of the Romans, 166. Sequel of the Gallic War, 167. The Licinian rogations, 170. Equalisation of the two orders, 172. External affairs, 175.
The Conquest of Central Italy (423-280 B.C.) 178
The Samnites, 178. The First Samnite War, 180. The Latin War, 183. The Second Samnite War, 186. The Third Samnite and Etruscan wars, 194. Lucanian, Gallic, and Etruscan wars, 199.
The Completion of the Italian Conquest (281-265 B.C.) 201
Pyrrhus in Italy, 203. The final reduction of Italy, 209. Government of the acquired territory, 210. Prefectures; municipalities, 211. Colonies; free and confederate states, 212.
The First Punic War (326-218 B.C.) 215
Causes of the First Punic War, 217. The war begins, 219. First period, 219. Second period, 221. Polybius’ account of Roman affairs, 224. Third period, 230. Events between the First and Second Punic wars, 233. Hamilcar and Hannibal, 237.
First Half of the Second Punic War (218-211 B.C.) 241
First period, 241. Polybius’ account of the crossing of the Alps, 244. Hannibal in Italy, 249. Second period, 260.
Close of the Second Punic War (210-202 B.C.) 269
Third period, 269. The death of Hasdrubal described by Polybius, 276. Rejoicing at Rome; Nero’s inhumanity and triumph, 277. The fourth and last period of the war, 278. The character of Scipio, 278. Scipio in Spain, 279. Scipio returns to Rome, 283. Scipio invades Africa, 284. The battle of Zama described by Polybius, 287. Terms dictated to Carthage; Scipio’s triumph, 292. An estimate of Hannibal, 294.
The Macedonian and Syriac Wars and the Third Punic War (200-131 B.C.) 296
The Macedonian War; war with Antiochus III, 296. Affairs of Carthage, 304. Outbreak of the Third Punic War, 305. Appian’s account of the destruction of Carthage, 310. The oration of Hasdrubal’s wife; Scipio’s moralising, 312. Plundering the city, 313. Sacrifices and the triumph, 314. The Achæan War, 314. Spanish wars: fall of Numantia, 317. Florus on the fall of Numantia, 321. First Slave War in Sicily, 322. The war against the slaves, 325.
Civilisation at the End of the Period of Conquest 327
Organisation of the government, 327. The army, 329. Polybius on Greek and Roman battle-orders, 329. The senate, 332. The centuriate assembly, 334. The assembly of the tribes, 334. Justice, 337. Provincial government, 337. Taxation, 338. Social conditions: the aristocracy and the people, 340. Slaves and freemen, 343. The Roman family: women and marriage, 346. Religion, 350. Treatment of other nations, 355. The fine arts, 355. Literature, 358.
The Gracchi and their Reforms (137-121 B.C.) 359
Tiberius Gracchus, 359. Return and death of Scipio the Younger, 366. Caius Gracchus and his times, 371.
The Jugurthine and Other Wars (123-101 B.C.) 381
The Jugurthine War, 383. Sallust’s account of Jugurtha at Rome, 385. A war of bribery, 387. Metellus in command, 388. Marius appears as commander, 389. Plutarch on Jugurtha’s death, 391. The Cimbrians and the Teutons, 392. The Second Slave War, 399.
The Beginning of Civil Strife (102-88 B.C.) 401
The sixth consulate of Marius, 402. Claims of the Latins and Italians to the civitas, 405. The Social War, 413. Marius assumes the command, 415.
Marius and Sulla (92-82 B.C.) 420
The First Mithridatic War, 421. The First Civil War, 422. Ihne’s estimate of Marius, 431. Sulla in Greece, 432. The return of Sulla; and the Second Civil War, 434. The proscriptions, 438.
The Dictatorship of Sulla (81-79 B.C.) 442
Sulla’s legislation, 446. Abdication of Sulla, 446. Rome’s debt to Sulla, 448. The Roman provinces, 450. The career of Verres, 454.
The Rise of Pompey (78-61 B.C.) 457
Lepidus and Sertorius, 457. The war of the Gladiators, 460. The consulship of Pompey and Crassus, 461. Pompey subdues the Cilician pirates, 464. The Second and Third Mithridatic wars, 467. The Armenian War, 469. The end of Mithridates, 473. Pompey in Jerusalem, 474.
The Conspiracy of Catiline (67-61 B.C.) 475
Marcus Porcius Cato, 475. Caius Julius Cæsar, 477. L. Sergius Catilina and his times, 480. The conspiracy, 483. Cæsar and the conspiracy, 488. The rise of Julius Cæsar, 494. The return of Pompey, 497.
Cæsar and Pompey (60-50 B.C.) 501
The first triumvirate, 501. Clodius exiles Cicero, 504. The recall of Cicero, 506. Second consulate of Pompey and Crassus, 508. The Parthian War of Crassus, 509. Anarchy at Rome, 511. Pompey sole consul, 513. The Gallic wars, 514. The battle with the Nervii, 516. The sea fight with the Veneti, 520. The massacre of the Germans, 522. The Roman army meets the Britons, 523.
Cæsar at War against Pompey (60-48 B.C.) 528
The war between Cæsar and Pompey, 529. Cæsar crosses the Rubicon, 532. Cæsar’s serious position, 534. Cæsar lord from Rome to Spain, 535. Cæsar in Greece, 536. Appian describes the battle of Dyrrhachium, 537. Pharsalia, 541.
From Pharsalia to the Death of Cato (48-46 B.C.) 544
Cæsar in Egypt, 544. The war with Pharnaces, 551. Cæsar returns to Rome, 552. The African War, 554. Sallust’s comparison of Cæsar and Cato, 558.
The Closing Scenes of Cæsar’s Life (46-44 B.C.) 560
The end of the African war, 560. The return to Rome, 562. Cæsar’s triumphs, 563. The last campaign, 566. The last triumph, 569. Cæsar’s reforms, 572. Cæsar’s life in Rome, 575. Events leading to the conspiracy, 578. The conspiracy, 579. The assassination, 581. Appian’s account of Cæsar’s last days, 583.
The Personality and Character of Cæsar 588
Appian compares Cæsar with Alexander, 599. Mommsen’s estimate of Cæsar’s character, 602. Mommsen’s estimate of Cæsar’s work, 607.
The Last Days of the Republic (44-29 B.C.) 609
Cæsar’s will and funeral, 610. The acts of the young Octavius, 611. The proscription, 617. Death of Cicero, 619. Brutus and Cassius, 621. Philippi, 622. Antony and Cleopatra, 624. Antony meets with reverses, 625. Octavian against Antony; the battle of Actium, 630. Death of Antony and Cleopatra, 631. An estimate of the personality of Antony, 633.
The State of Rome at the End of the Republic 637
A retrospective view of the republican constitution, 637. Literature, 643. The drama, 645. Poetry, 647. The fine arts, 651. Social conditions; religion, 652.
Brief Reference-List of Authorities by Chapters 655



























Written Specially for the Present Work


Professor of Ancient History in the University of Berlin.

It might have been supposed that with the death of Alexander the political connection between the eastern and western halves of the Mediterranean, which had subsisted throughout the whole course of Greek history, was severed except for such occasional and superficial points of contact as, in the nature of things, had never been wholly lacking. As a matter of fact, the West was left to its own devices. But it presently became evident that the development which there took place, untroubled by interference from without, was fraught with consequences of the utmost moment to the Hellenistic political system. By abstaining from peremptory interference while such interference was yet possible, the Macedonian kingdoms permitted a power to arise in Italy so strong that in a very short time it proceeded to aim a fatal blow at their own existence.

This new power did not take its rise among those who had hitherto been the most formidable foes of Greece—the Sabello-Oscan tribes, whom Plato dreaded. These last were a race of warlike mountaineers living under a free system of tribal government, something like the Swiss of the later Middle Ages, except that cavalry, as well as infantry, played an important part in their armies. Like the Swiss, they strove to extend their borders on every side beyond the narrow limits of their native land. But they lacked what the Swiss of the Four Cantons gained by their league with Berne and Zurich—a steady political aim; tribe jostled tribe, the remoter endeavouring to wrest from the nearer what the latter had won. Thus, though they might subjugate cities of Greece, they were incapable of creating a great homogeneous state. The Caraceni, Pentri, Caudini, and Hirpini, the four tribes of the mountain tract about the sources of the Volturnus and its tributaries, were the only ones which constituted a compact federation. After the middle of the fourth century these tribes began to press forward in every direction, against the Apulians to the east, the Lucanians to the south, the Campanians, Sidicinians, and Volscians to the west. But there they were confronted by a power which was destined to prove greater than they.


As early as the sixth century, during the Etruscan period, the city of Rome on the Tiber had grown into a large and important community. After the overthrow of foreign dominion and the fall of the monarchy, it maintained its supremacy over at least the majority of the country townships of the little Latin nation, which laboriously warded off the attacks of its neighbours under Roman hegemony. Not till about the year 400 did it succeed in driving the Æqui and Volscians back into their mountain fastnesses; and in 388 it took the neighbouring Etruscan city of Veii. The great Celtic invasion brought it to the verge of ruin; but having survived this peril it maintained its former predominance after the withdrawal of the enemy. With the Greeks it was on friendly terms; from of old, Greek civilisation had found almost as ready acceptance among the Latins as among the Etruscans, and in the struggle with the latter people Latins and Greeks had fought side by side. The middle of the fourth century witnessed a great expansion of Roman power; the Romans conquered the Volscians and several refractory Latin cities, and vanquished their Etruscan neighbours, and in the year 350 the Etruscan city of Cære joined the Roman confederacy. At the same time Rome extended her dominion in the valley of the Liris and towards the coast; and in the latter quarter the great city of Capua (together with Cumæ, now an Oscan city, and many others) threw themselves into the arms of Rome for protection against the Samnites. Soon after, in 336-334, Capua and the Latin towns, which had revolted, were completely subjugated, and most of them incorporated into the Roman body politic. Peace had been maintained up to this time with the Samnites, to whom the south of the Campania and the valley of the upper Liris had been abandoned; but when, in 325, Rome gained a footing in Fregellæ and took the Greeks of Naples under her protection, an open conflict broke out between the two states, each of which was doing its utmost to extend its borders in Italy.

In spite of the higher level of civilisation to which it had risen, the state of Rome, like that of the Samnites, was a state of farmers. But it possessed what the Samnite tribal organisation lacked, a superior political system, which gave it the advantage of the municipal form of government, on exactly the same lines as the municipal republics of Greece. But with this municipal organisation it combined (and therein lay the secret of its success) a capacity for expansion and an ever increasing extension of civil rights which offers the strongest contrast to the churlish spirit of the Greek cities. In the latter, purity of descent and the exclusion of all foreigners from civil rights was an axiom of political life, to which radical democracies, like Athens, clung even more tenaciously than the rest; and the consequence was that every success abroad led to the subjugation of the vanquished under the yoke of the ruling city. Rome, on the contrary, for all her conquests, made no subjects in Italy. In her own vicinity, and in Latium first of all, conquered communities were usually admitted to the Roman political confederacy on equal terms, and allowed to retain local autonomy (as municipia) under Roman supervision. She extended the same system far into middle Italy; the franchise and the right of voting in the Roman popular assemblies (comitia) being withheld only from communities of alien language, like the Etruscan Cærites, and the Campanians of Capua. In other cases, when Rome had vanquished a foe she took possession of a portion of the public lands, and established citizens there as settlers to cultivate the soil; the rest of the citizens retained complete liberty and political autonomy (Rome, however, altering the system of[3] government according to her own good pleasure and taking care that the administration fell into the hands of her own adherents), but were pledged by an everlasting covenant to follow the Roman standards as free allies. Moreover, Rome had founded colonies in the heart of the enemy’s country, daughter-cities organised as independent municipalities, which occupied the same position towards her as formerly (before 336) the cities of the Latin League, and were consequently known as Latin colonies. By this organisation Rome not only maintained possession, in every instance, of the territory she had won, but made provision for a constant supply of sound and capable peasantry, from whose ranks the army was recruited. While retaining, in her political administration, the form of a city, she had in effect far outgrown its limitations and become a great state, with all its forces at the disposal of the government unconditionally. To this circumstance it is due that while the constitution recognised the absolute sovereignty of the people (the abolition of the whole body of aristocratic privilege belongs to this very period)[1] the government remained vested in the hands of the great families of patrician and plebeian descent, and the dignity of office, which was degraded to a mere phantom in the Greek democracies, remained virtually undiminished in Rome. The interests of the farming class and of the dominant families went hand in hand; the former profited by the agrarian policy of expansion on which the latter insisted, and every success abroad, no matter at what cost, consolidated and increased the strength of the community, and led a step farther on the road to supreme dominion.

In numbers, military capacity, and martial ardour, the Samnites were at least a match for the Romans, their generals were possibly superior to those of Rome in ability; the Samnites won more victories than their adversaries in the open field. The Samnites’ farming communities perished through the defects of their political organisation; they could not make a breach in the solid fabric of the might of Rome, nor master the Roman fortresses, even though they might capture one now and again; while, thanks to her superior civilisation and the supplies of money, provisions, and war material furnished by the various cities within her territory, Rome was able to carry on war much more continuously than the Samnite farmer, whose armies could not remain in the field for more than a few weeks at a time, because, like the Peloponnesians in the war with Athens, their stock of provisions was exhausted and they were obliged to return home to till their land. In addition to this disadvantage, all their neighbouring tribes, the clans in the Abruzzi, the Apulians, and for a while even the Lucanians, took the part of Rome.

In spite of all their successes in the field the Samnites realised that they could not permanently withstand the Romans single-handed; they endeavoured to drag the other nations of Italy into the contest, and thus the long conflict took on the character of a decisive struggle for the sovereignty of Italy. Twice the Samnites succeeded in bringing about a great coalition; in 308 the Etruscans flung themselves upon Rome, in 295 the Samnite troops joined the hordes of the Celts in Umbria, while the Etruscans flew to arms once more. The Romans remained victors on both occasions, and the great battle of Sentinum in 295 decided the fate of Italy. When the war ended, in the year 290, Rome was the dominant power in Italy, and the submission of such portions of the country as still retained their independence was[4] merely a matter of time. It was too late then for Tarentum to step into the breach and invoke the aid of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, too late for the latter to resume the strife in the old spirit of the struggle of Greece against the Italians and Carthaginians. The particularist temper of the Greeks brought his successes to nought as soon as they were won; for all his superior ability as a commander, and though he defeated the Romans, he could not but recognise at once the superiority of their military system. Though he advanced to the frontiers of Latium and from afar saw the enemy’s capital at his feet, he could not shatter the framework of the Roman state, and he ultimately succumbed to the Romans on the battle-field of Beneventum (275).

Rome had now completed the conquest of Italy up to the margin of the valley of the Po, and had everywhere inaugurated the system sketched in broad outline above. How firmly she had welded it was proved by the fiery test of the war of Hannibal. There was no lack of the particularist spirit even in Italy, and the numerous nationalities which inhabited the peninsula, none of whom understood the language of the others, had no such common bond as knit the various tribes of Greece together. In the territory over which Rome ruled in 264, no less than six different languages were spoken, without counting the Ligurians, Celts, and Veneti. But Rome, by repressing all open insubordination with inflexible energy while at the same time pursuing a liberal policy with regard to the interests of the dependent communities and leaving scope for local autonomy as long as it was not dangerous to herself, did more than create a political entity; from this germ begins to grow a sentiment of Italian nationality that reaches beyond racial differences, and the new nation of the Italians or toga-wearers (togati) has come to the birth.

The mainspring of Roman success was the policy of agrarian expansion, and the farmers were the first to profit by it. This fact rendered impossible the development of a municipal democracy after the Greek model (such as Appius Claudius had attempted to set up in 308) based upon capital, trade, and handicraft, and the masses of the urban population, with an all-powerful demagogue at its head.

From that time forward the urban population, restricted as it was to four districts, was practically overridden, as far as political rights were concerned, in the comitia tributa (with which ordinary legislation rested) by the thirty-one districts of the agricultural class. But as the state grew into a great power and its chief town into a metropolis, the urban elements could not fail to acquire increasing influence, especially the wealthy capitalists (consisting largely of freedmen and the descendants of freedmen) who managed all matters of public finance. In the comitia centuriata which were organised on the basis of a property qualification, and whose functions included the election of magistrates and the settlement of peace and war, these circles exercised very great influence, and the wealthiest found a compact organisation in the eighteen centuries of knights.

The interests of the agricultural class did not extend beyond Italy; the late wars had provided plenty of land for distribution, and if more were wanted it could be found in the territory of the Celts on the Po, the southern portion of which had been conquered as early as 282 but not yet divided. The interests of the urban elements, the capitalists, on the contrary, extended beyond the sea. To them the most pressing business of the moment was to vindicate the preponderance of the state to the outside world, to adjust their relations abroad as best suited their own interests, and to deliver Italy from foreign competition, and, above all, from Carthage;[5] and not a few of the great ruling families were allured, like the Claudii, by the tempting prospect.

Carthage and Rome had come dangerously near together during the last few decades. As long before as the year 306 the two had concluded a compact by which Rome was not to intervene in Sicily nor Carthage in Italy. The rival states had indeed united against Pyrrhus, but without ever laying aside their mutual distrust; each feared that the other might effect a lodgment within its sphere of influence. And now, in the year 264, the Oscan community of the Mamertines in Messana (whilom mercenaries of Agathocles, who had exterminated the Greek inhabitants of the city) appealed to both Carthage and Rome for aid against Hiero, the ruler of Syracuse.

Rome was thus brought face to face with the most momentous decision in her whole history. The Romans were not untroubled by moral scruples nor blind to the fact that to accede to the petition would necessarily lead to war with Carthage, since Carthage had promptly taken the city under her protection and occupied it with her troops; but the opportunity was too tempting, and if it were allowed to pass, the whole of the rich island would undoubtedly fall under the sovereignty of Carthage for evermore, and her power, formidable already, would be correspondingly increased. The senate hesitated, but the consul Appius Claudius brought the matter before the comitia centuriata, and they decided in favour of rendering assistance, and thereby in favour of war.

It was a step that could never be retraced, a step of the same incalculable consequence to Rome as the occupation of Silesia was to Prussia, or the war with Spain and the occupation of Cuba and the Philippines to the United States of America. Its immediate consequences were a struggle of twenty-four years’ duration with Carthage for the possession of Sicily, and the creation of a Roman sea power which was not merely a match for that of Carthage, but actually annihilated it; its ultimate result was the acquisition of a dominion beyond sea in which Rome for the first time bore rule over tributary subjects governed by Roman magnates and exploited by Italian capitalists. A further consequence was that the Romans took advantage of the difficulties in which Carthage was involved by a mutiny of mercenaries in 237 to wrest Sardinia and Corsica from her and at the same time once more exact a huge indemnity.

In other directions, too, Rome became more and more deeply involved in the affairs of the outside world, and consequently with the political system of Hellenic states. As in the old conflict with the Etruscans and the recent war with Carthage, so a decade later she solved in the Levant a problem which had been propounded to Greece and for the solution of which she had not been strong enough. When the pirate state of the Illyrians of Scodra extended to the coasts of Italy the ravages it had inflicted upon the Greeks, Rome took vigorous action, used her lately acquired sea power for the speedy overthrow of the pirate state (229) and planted her foot firmly on the coast of the Balkan peninsula; thereby encroaching on the sphere of influence of Macedonia, which was constrained to be a helpless spectator.

On the other hand the close amity with the court of Alexandria, which had been inaugurated after the war with Pyrrhus, was cemented; there were no grounds for antagonism between the first maritime power of the East and the first land power of the West, while, as far as their rivals were concerned, the interests of the two in both spheres went hand in hand. One result of this development was the ever readier acceptance of Greek[6] civilisation at Rome. After the conclusion of the First Punic War the Greek drama, which formed the climax of the festivals of the Hellenic world, was adopted in the popular festivals of Rome, and a Greek prisoner of war from Tarentum, Livius Andronicus by name, who translated the Greek plays into Latin, likewise introduced Greek scholarship into Rome and translated the Odyssey, the Greek reading-book. There is no need to tell how with this the development of Latin literature begins, or how Nævius the Latin, who himself had fought in the First Punic War, takes his place beside the Greek author as a Roman national poet.

In other respects, however, Rome returned to her ancient Italian policy. After the year 236 she entered upon hostilities with the Ligurians north of the Arno; in 232 the border country taken from the Gauls was partitioned and settled by Caius Flaminius. This led to another great war with the Celts (225-222), the outcome of which was the conquest of the valley of the Po—involving the acquisition of another vast region for partition and colonisation. In this war the Veneti and the Celtic tribe of the Cenomani (between the Adige and the Addua) had voluntarily allied themselves with Rome, and her dominion therefore extended everywhere to the foot of the Alps.

But meanwhile a formidable adversary had arisen. At Carthage the Roman attack and the loss of the position maintained for centuries in the islands, as well as the loss of sea power, had no doubt been keenly felt by all classes of the population. But the government, i.e., the merchant aristocracy, had accepted the arbitrament of war as final. They could not bring themselves to make the sacrifices which another campaign against Rome must cost, especially as they clearly foresaw that even if victory were won after a fiercer contest than before, it would certainly bring their own fall and the establishment of the rule of the victorious general in its train. They accordingly resigned themselves to the new state of things, and endeavoured, in spite of all changes, to maintain amicable relations with Rome, since only thus could trade and industry continue to flourish, and Carthage, despite the loss of her supremacy at sea, remain, as before, the first commercial city of the western Mediterranean.

But side by side with the government a military party had come into being, and its leader, Hamilcar Barca, who had held his ground unconquered to the last moment in Sicily and who afterwards (in concert with Hanno the Great, the general of the aristocratic party) quelled the mutiny of the mercenaries, was burning with eagerness to take vengeance on Carthage’s autocratic and perfidious adversary. The power was in his hands and he was determined to use it to make every preparation for a fresh and decisive campaign. At the end of the year 237, immediately after the suppression of the mutiny, he proceeded on his own responsibility to Spain, and there conquered a new province for Carthage, larger than the possessions she had lost to Rome.

By allying himself with the popular party in Carthage, and giving his daughter in marriage to Hasdrubal, their leader, Barca gained a strong following in the capital; and even the dominant aristocracy, in spite of the suspicion with which they regarded the self-willed general—and not without good reason—could not but welcome gladly the revenues of the new province out of which they could defray the war indemnity to Rome. Hamilcar fell in 229; Hasdrubal, who took over his command, postponed the war against Rome and entered into an agreement with the latter, who was suspiciously watching developments in Spain, by which he pledged himself not[7] to cross the Ebro. This made it possible for Rome to bring the Celtic War to an end and conquer the valley of the Po while Hasdrubal was organising the government of Spain. But when, after the assassination of Hasdrubal in 221, his youthful brother-in-law, Hannibal, then twenty-four years of age, took over the command, he promptly revived his father’s projects.

In the year 219, by picking a quarrel with Saguntum, which had put itself under the protection of Rome, and attacking the city, which he took at the beginning of 218, he brought about a conflict which forced both Rome and the reluctant government of Carthage into hostilities. The declaration of war was brought to Carthage by a Roman embassy in the spring of 218. While Rome was making preparations for an attack on Spain and Africa simultaneously, Hannibal advanced by forced marches upon Italy by land, succeeded in evading the Roman army under Publius Scipio which had been landed at Massilia, and reached Italian soil before the beginning of winter. Rome was thereby foiled in her intention of taking the offensive. At the end of 218 and the beginning of 217 he had annihilated by a series of tremendous blows the Roman armies opposed to him, and, reinforced by hordes of Celts from the valley of the Po, had opened a way for himself into the heart of Italy.

Hannibal conceived of the war as a struggle against a state of overwhelming strength which by its mere existence made free action impossible for any other. He was perfectly well aware that he alone, with the army of twenty thousand seasoned veterans absolutely devoted to him, and the six thousand cavalry, which he had led into Italy, might defeat Rome in the field but could never overthrow her; in spite of any number of victories no attack on the capital could end otherwise than as the march of Pyrrhus on Latium had ended.

The Celts of the Po valley served to swell the ranks of his army but were of no consequence to the ultimate issue. Hannibal sacrificed them ruthlessly in every battle in order to save the flower of his troops for the decisive stroke. He made attempts again and again to break up the Italian confederacy, and after Cannæ, the greater part of the south of Italy, at least as far as Capua, went over to his side; but middle Italy, the heart of the country, stood by Rome with unfaltering loyalty. Carthage itself could do little, and its government would not do much; the Second Punic War is the war of Hannibal against Rome; Carthage took part in it only because and so far as she was ordered to do it. The fleets which Carthage sent against Italy could do nothing in face of Rome’s superiority at sea; no serious naval engagement was fought throughout the whole war.

A more conclusive result might perhaps have been arrived at if Hannibal had been able to keep open his communication with Spain, and if his brother Hasdrubal could have followed him immediately, so making it possible for them to sweep down upon Rome from both sides. It was a point of cardinal importance, and one which from the outset paved the way for the ultimate victory of Rome, that when the consul Publius Scipio found himself unable to overtake Hannibal on the Rhone in the August of 218, he hastened in person to Italy, where there were troops enough to set army after army in array against Hannibal; but by a stroke of genius he despatched his legions to Spain and thereby forced Hasdrubal to fight for the possession of that country instead of proceeding to Italy. By the time that Hasdrubal, having lost almost the whole of the peninsula to Publius Scipio the Younger, resolved in 207 to abandon the remainder of the Carthaginian possessions and march into Italy with his army, it was too late; he succumbed before the[8] Romans at the Metaurus. Complete success could only have been attained if Hannibal had succeeded in drawing the other states of the world into the war and carrying them with him in a decisive attack upon Rome.

The situation was in itself not unfavourable for such an undertaking. The Lagid empire, under the rule of Ptolemy II, surnamed Euergetes (247-221), had grown supine during that monarch’s latter years; the king felt his tenure of power secure and no longer thought it necessary to devote the same close attention to general politics or intervene with the same energy that his father had displayed. The fact that in the year 221 he left Cleomenes of Sparta to succumb in the struggle with Antigonus II of Macedonia and the Achæans, by withdrawing the subsidies which alone enabled him to keep his army together, is striking evidence of the ominous change which had taken place in the policy of the Lagidæ.

Ptolemy IV, surnamed Philopator, the son of Euergetes, was a monarch of the type of Louis XV, not destitute of ability but wholly abandoned to voluptuous living, who let matters go as they would. Accordingly in Asia the youthful Antiochus III, surnamed “the great” (221-187) was able to restore the ancient glories of the Seleucid empire, and although when he attacked Phœnicia and Palestine, he suffered a decisive defeat at Raphia in the year 217, Ptolemy IV made no attempt to reap the advantage of his victory. In Europe Philip V maintained his supremacy over Greece and kept the Achæans fast in the trammels of Macedonia.

Thus there was a very fair possibility that both kings might enter upon an alliance with Hannibal and a war with Rome. Philip V, a very able monarch, fully realised the importance of the crisis; we still have an edict dated 214, addressed by him to the city of Larissa, which shows that he rightly recognised the basis of Rome’s greatness, the liberality of her policy in the matter of civil rights and the continuous increase of national strength and territory which that policy rendered possible. But he could not extricate himself from the petty quarrels amidst which he had grown up; after a futile attempt to wrest their Illyrian possessions from the Romans he took no further part in the war, while Rome was able promptly to enter into an alliance with the Ætolians and Attalus of Pergamus and to take the offensive in Greece. Antiochus III, on the other hand, obviously failed altogether to grasp the political situation; to him the affairs of the west lay in the dim distance, and instead of taking action there he turned eastwards, to carry his arms once again to the Hindu Kush and the Indus.

The issue of the war was thus decided. From the moment when Rome determined not to give Hannibal a chance of another pitched battle but to confine herself to defensive measures and guerilla warfare, the latter could gain no further success. The fact that by this time he had won a great stretch of territory and was bound to defend it, hampered the mobility to which his successes had hitherto been due; the zenith of his victorious career was passed, he too was obliged to stand on the defensive, and could not avoid being steadily forced from one position after another. And now for the first time the vast strength of the Roman state stood forth in all its imposing majesty; for while defending itself against Hannibal in Italy it was able to take the offensive with absolute success in every other theatre of war, Spain, Sicily, and Greece.

How there arose on the Roman side a statesman and commander of genius in the person of Publius Scipio the Younger, who, after the conquest of Spain carried the war into Africa and there extorted peace, need not be recounted in this place. Rome had gained a complete victory, and with[9] it the dominion over the western half of the Mediterranean; thenceforth there was no power in the world that could oppose her successfully in anything she chose to undertake. The war of Hannibal against Rome is the climax of ancient history; if up to that time the development of the ancient world and of the Christian Teutonic nations of modern times have run substantially on parallel lines, here we come to the parting of the ways. In modern history every attempt made since the sixteenth century to establish the universal dominion of a single nation has come to naught; the several peoples have maintained their independence, and in the struggle political conglomerates have grown into states of distinct nationality, holding the full powers of their dominions at their own disposal to the same extent as was done by Rome only in antique times. On this balance of power among the various states and the nations of which they are composed, and upon the incessant rivalry in every department of politics and culture, which requires them at each crisis to strain every nerve to the utmost if they are to hold their own in the struggle, depends the modern condition of the world and the fact that the universal civilisation of modern times keeps its ground and (at present at least) advances steadily, while the leadership in the perpetual contest passes from nation to nation.

In ancient times, on the contrary, the attempt to establish a balance of power came to naught in the war of Hannibal; and from that time forward there is but one power of any account in the world, that of the Roman government, and for that very reason this moment marks first the stagnation, and then the decline, of culture. The ultimate result which grows out of this state of things in the course of the following centuries is a single vast civilised state in which all differences of nationality are abolished. But this involves the abolition of political rivalry and of the conditions vital to civilisation; the stimulus to advance, to outstrip competitors, is lacking; all that remains to be done is to keep what has already been gained, and, here as everywhere, that implies the decline and death of civilisation.

Rome herself, and with her the whole of Italy, was destined while endeavouring to secure the fruits of victory to experience to the full its disastrous consequences. She was dragged into a world-policy from which there was no escape, however much she might desire it; a return to the old Italian policy, with its circumscribed agrarian tendencies, had become impossible. Thus it comes about that the havoc wrought in Italy by the war of Hannibal has never been made good to this day, that the wounds it inflicted on the life of the nation have never been healed or obliterated. The state of Italy and the embryo Italian nation never came to perfection because the levelling universal empire of Rome sprang up and checked them.

There is no need to tell here how the preponderance of Rome made itself felt in political matters throughout the world immediately after the war with Hannibal, or how within little over thirty years all the states of the civilised world were subject to her sway. It is only necessary to point out that the ultimate result, the world-wide dominion of Rome, ensued inevitably from this preponderance of a single state, and was by no means consciously aimed at by Rome herself. All she desired was to shape the affairs of her neighbours as best consorted with her own interests and to obviate betimes the recurrence of such dangers as had menaced her in the case of Hannibal. Her ambition went no further; above all (though she kept Spain because there was no one to whom she could hand it over) she exhibited an anxious and well-grounded dread of conquests beyond sea. But she did not realise that by reducing all neighbouring states to helplessness[10] and impotence she deprived them of the faculty of exercising the proper functions of a state. Thenceforth they existed only by the good will of Rome; they found themselves constrained to appeal to Roman arbitration in every question, and involved Rome perpetually in fresh complications, while at the same time they felt most bitterly their dependence on the will of an alien and imperious power.

Thus Rome found herself at last under the necessity of putting an end to this state of things, first in one quarter and then in another, and undertaking the administration herself. In so doing she proceeded on no definite plan, but acted as chance or the occasion determined, letting other portions of her dominions get on as best they could, until matters had come to a crisis fraught with the utmost peril to Rome, and the only solution lay in a great war. For Rome, as for the world in general, it would have been far better if she had embarked on a career of systematic conquest.

Finally, let us briefly point out the effects of the policy of Rome on the development of civilisation. Rome and Italy assimilate more and more of the culture of Greece, and the latter, in its Latin garb, ultimately gains dominion over the entire West. Simultaneously, on the other hand, in the East a retrograde movement sets in. Rome strives by every means in her power to weaken the Seleucid empire, her perfidious policy foments every rebellion against it and places obstacles of all kinds in the way of its lawful sovereign. Thus, after a struggle of more than thirty years’ duration, all the East on the hither side of the Euphrates is lost to that empire. And although the Arsacid empire which succeeded it was neither nationalist nor hostile in principle to Hellenism, yet the mere fact that its centre was no longer on the Mediterranean but Babylonia, and that the connection of the Greek cities of the East with the mother-country was severed from that time forth, put an end to the spread of Hellenism and paved the way for the retrograde movement. It had already gained a firm footing in the Mediterranean; the support given by Antiochus IV, surnamed Epiphanes, to the Hellenising tendencies of certain Jews had driven the nationalist and religious party in Judea into revolt, and the disintegration of the empire by Roman intrigues gave them a fair field and enabled them to maintain their independent position. In the Lagid empire, about the same time, Ptolemy VII, surnamed Euergetes II, finally abandoned the old paths and the maxims of an earlier day, broke away from the Greeks, expelled the scholars of Alexandria, and sought to rely upon the Egyptian nationalist element among his subjects.

I shall not here trace beyond this point the broad outlines of the development of the ancient world. How the general situation reacted destructively upon the dominant nation; how the attempt to create afresh the farming class, which had been the backbone of Italy’s military prowess and consequently the foundation of her supremacy, resulted in the Roman revolution; how in that catastrophe, and the fearful convulsions that accompanied it, the embryo world-wide empire sought its appropriate form, and ultimately found in it the principate; and how the constitution was gradually transformed from a modified revival of the old Roman Republic to a denationalised and absolute universal monarchy—are all matters which must be left to another occasion for treatment.


[1] Not to the earlier date of 366, as is commonly supposed. The decisive political conflicts out of which the later system of Roman government was evolved fall within the period of the wars of the Latins and Samnites and come to a final end with the Lex Hortensia, in the year 287.




Written Specially for the Present Work


Professor of Ancient History in Zabern.

The early centuries of the history of Rome are closely bound up with the history of the rest of Italy. We must therefore briefly touch upon the development of the whole country.

About the middle of the second millennium B.C. certain Italic tribes made their way from the north into the Apennine peninsula, which up to that time had been inhabited first by an Iberian and then by a Ligurian race.

The settlement of the Balkan Peninsula was due, to a great extent, to successive immigrations of kindred tribes, who in most cases found a population of their own race in possession. In Italy it was not so. In the east we find the Messapians, a tribe akin to the Illyrians, settled for the most part in Apulia and Calabria. Tuscany and the valley of the Po received from the valleys of the Alps a population of Etruscans, a race whose origin and affinities are an enigma to students to this day. Their language is certainly not Indo-Germanic, their earliest settlements were the pile-dwellings of the Po valley, their later abode the natural fortresses of the Tuscan mountain peaks. Hence they cannot have come into the country by way of the sea. Nevertheless in Egyptian monuments of the thirteenth century B.C. we find mention of the auxiliary troops of the “Turisha.” They appear early to have won a certain reputation as pirates and soldiers in foreign service. Again, the Greeks believed that the Etruscans were akin to the Tyrrhenians of Asia Minor, and inscriptions in a language resembling Etruscan have been found in Lemnos, which seem to confirm this view. Whatever their origin, they represent a very ancient civilisation on Italian soil, and the Indo-Germanic tribes of Italy have been strongly influenced by them.

After the Etruscan immigration two other great tribes, this time of Aryan descent, pressed southward from the valley of the Po. Of these the first to come were probably the Siculi, a tribe which subsequently spread over Sicily and all the southwestern part of the mainland. The Ausonians[12] of Campania belonged to this race, as did the dwellers in the “lowland” south of the Tiber, i.e., in Latium.

The last to come was probably the Sabello-Umbrian race, which entered the country from the north by way of the Apennine valleys. For a long while it kept chiefly to the mountainous tracts of middle Italy, though some members of the tribe pushed forward, like advanced posts, to the west coast. The Umbrian settlement north of the Apennines was the only one which grew to large dimensions.

If we reflect that, besides these immigrations, a steady stream of Greek colonists had been occupying the coast of southern Italy ever since the eighth century B.C., their first settlements dating from two centuries earlier, and that, since the fifth century B.C. at latest, Gauls had been crossing the Alps to the valley of the Po, we can readily understand that Italy inevitably became the scene of violent conflicts. Yet she did not wholly miss the salutary effects of peaceful rivalry between the various racial elements. The population of southern Italy adopted the language, manners, and customs of the Greeks, and in the north the Etruscans served both as exponents of their own peculiar civilisation and as intermediaries between the Greeks and the mountain tribes.

Such were the conditions and influences under which Rome came into being. For centuries the Latins had fixed settlements in their mountain and woodland towns among the Alban Mountains. But the desire to secure themselves against Etruscan invasion on the one hand, and the growth of peaceful intercourse on the other, led them to found a colony on the Palatine “mount,” the last spur of a range of hills along the Tiber. The extremely advantageous situation of this new settlement led to the establishment of others in its vicinity, and ultimately to the conjunction which gave birth to the City of the Seven Hills. The Aventine and Cœlian hills did not as yet belong to it, but it included the Subura and the Velia, in addition to the Palatine mount, the Capitoline mount, the Esquiline mount, and the Quirinal and Viminal hills; and thus was even then one of the most considerable cities in Italy, with its fortified capitol, and its market-place or Forum between Mount Palatine and the “hill-town” (Collina) on the east. The colony soon threw Alba Longa, the mother-city, into the shade. Rome became the chief city of the Latin league. The capital of the confederate towns of Latium, the mistress of a small domain south of the lower Tiber, such is the aspect Rome bears when she emerges into history from the twilight of legend. The purity of the Latin language proves that she did not originate from a mixture of Latin, Sabine, and Etruscan elements as later inventions would have us believe. On the other hand there can be no question that Rome adopted many details of her civilisation and municipal organisation from her Sabine and Etruscan neighbours. A more important point is that she early received an influx of foreign immigrants, especially Tuscans, who in the capacity of handicraftsmen and masons, exercised a salutary influence upon the advance of civilisation among the Latin farmers.

Rome was at that time ruled by kings, assisted by a council of the elders of the city (the hundred senators). In important affairs they had to obtain the assent of the popular assembly (comitia curiata) which voted in thirty curiæ, according to the number of the thirty places of sacrifice in the city. For the rest, the kings had a tolerably free hand in the appointment of magistrates and priests.

From the legendary details of the history of the monarchy one thing only is clear, to wit, that in the sixth century B.C. Rome was ruled by monarchs[13] of Etruscan descent and was to some extent a dependency of the Etruscan rulers of the period.

In the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. the Etruscans had both vigorously repulsed the invasions of the Sabellians and taken the offensive on their own account. They had not only maintained and increased their dominion in the valley of the Po, but had established the Tuscan League of the Twelve Cities in Umbria, and thus put an end to Umbrian independence. At this time their sway extended southwards as far as Campania. A Tuscan stronghold (Tusculum) was built on the Alban hills. Etruscan sources of information, and first and foremost the pictures in Tuscan sepulchral chambers, leave no room to doubt that the Etruscan descent of the last three kings of Rome, the Tarquins and Servius Tullius, is a historic fact. Rome was therefore involved in the military operations of Etruscan commanders “Lucumones,” who fortified the city, adorned it with temples and useful buildings (among others the famous cloaca maxima, the first monument of vaulted architecture on Roman soil), and reorganised the army by the introduction of the Servian system of centuries, which afterwards became the foundation-stone of the Roman constitution. The whole body of the people was divided into four urban and sixteen rural recruiting districts (tribus), and all freeholders (assidui) were laid under the obligation of military service on the basis of a property qualification. Classes I to III served as heavy-armed soldiers, classes IV and V as light-armed. The whole number together constituted a body of 170 companies (170 × 100), divided into two legions on the active list and two in reserve, each 4200 strong, or 193 centuries inclusive of the centuries of mounted troops. From the establishment of the republic onwards this army was called together to elect consuls and vote upon laws under the title of the comitia centuriata.

The municipal comitia curiata ceased to be politically effective first under the military despotism of foreign rulers and then by reason of the expansion of the state till it included an area of nearly a thousand square kilometres. From that time forward the tribus became the basis of all political organisation, and remained so to the end.

But the army thus reorganised was a two-edged weapon. The tyrannical license of the last Tarquin roused the love of liberty in the breasts of the Romans. The army renounced its allegiance; through years of conflict and in sanguinary battles Rome, and all Latium with her, won back its independence of foreign Tuscan rulers.

The wars waged by Rome in the century after the expulsion of the kings are hardly worthy to be recorded on the roll of history. After valiantly repulsing the Etruscan commanders who endeavoured to restore Tarquin (496 B.C., battle of Lake Regillus), Rome entered into a permanent alliance with the Latin confederacy, an alliance that was not only strong enough to protect her against the constant attacks of mountain tribes (Æquians and Sabines on the northeast and Volscians on the southeast) but enabled her gradually to push forwards and conquer the south Etruscan cities of Veii and Fidenæ. Fidenæ fell in the year 428 B.C., Veii the emporium of southern Etruria, was reduced in 396, after a siege of ten years’ duration.

An attempt to intermeddle in the affairs of northern Etruria resulted in a catastrophe that threatened Rome with final annihilation. Some time earlier hordes of Gauls had penetrated into northern Italy through the passes of the Alps. At the beginning of the fourth century B.C. the Senonian Gauls effected a permanent settlement in the valley of the Po and from thence invaded Etruria. When they attacked Clusium (Chiusi) in middle Etruria[14] the Romans made an attempt at diplomatic intervention, but only succeeded in diverting the wrath of the enemy to themselves. The Gauls made a rapid advance, succeeded in routing the Roman forces at the little river Allia, only a few miles from Rome, and occupied the city itself. The citadel alone held out, but more than six months elapsed before the flood of barbarians subsided, and Rome was forced to purchase peace by humiliating concessions.

Rome arose after her fall with an energy that commands admiration, and she had soon won a position in middle Italy more important than that which she had held before the Gallic invasion. By partitioning southern Etruria among Roman citizens and founding colonies which at the same time served as fortresses and substantial bases for the advance of the Roman army she became a power of such consequence that she not only compelled the Æquians and Volscians by degrees to acknowledge her suzerainty but was able to assume the offensive in middle Etruria and the land of the Sabines.

When the Senonian Gauls returned to the attack, as they did two or three times a generation later (360, 349, and 330 B.C.), they found themselves confronted by the forces of the Latin league in such numbers that they declined to join issue in a pitched battle, presently retreated, and finally concluded a truce for thirty years (329-299 B.C.).

The increased strength of the Roman community within its own borders after the catastrophe of the Gauls is vouched for by the multiplication of municipal districts in spite of heavy losses in the field, the number and importance of the colonies, the gradual expansion of commerce and augmentation of the mercantile marine, the introduction of coined money (about 360 B.C.) in place of the clumsy bars of copper, and lastly, the increasingly active relations of Rome with foreign powers. About the year 360 B.C. the Romans sent votive offerings to Delphi, and made efforts both before and after to introduce Greek cults into their own country. But the strongest evidence of the extension of Roman trade and the esteem in which Rome was held as the contract-making capital of the commercial cities of middle Italy is furnished by her treaties with Carthage (probably 348 and 343 B.C.). The provisions (the text of which has come down to us) that Roman vessels should not sail westwards beyond a certain line in north Africa or in Spain, prove conclusively that the Carthaginians thought Italico-Roman competition a thing worth taking into account.

The internal development of the Roman state during this period (509-367 B.C.) is a matter of greater moment than many wars and military successes. The constitutional struggles which took place in an inland town in Italy are in themselves of small account in the history of the world. But the forms into which civil life and civil law were cast in Rome were subsequently (though in a much modified form) of great consequence to the whole Roman Empire. The division into curiæ obtained not only in Rome itself but in the remotest colonies of the empire in its day. The tribus, i.e., the districts occupied by Roman citizens enjoying full civil rights, afterward included all the citizens of the empire. Moreover, a particular interest attaches to the history of civil and private law among the Romans from the fact that its evolution has exercised a controlling influence on the juridical systems of the most diverse civilised peoples to this day.

The legal and constitutional changes which took place at Rome during this period were rendered imperatively necessary (in spite of the conservative character of the Roman people) by the changed status of the city. During the earlier half of the monarchy all civil institutions had been[15] arranged with an eye to municipal conditions. But the Rome of the Tarquins (in the sixth century B.C.) had hardly become the capital of a domain of nearly a thousand square kilometres before she found herself under the necessity of admitting her new citizens, first into the companies (centuriæ) of the army, and presently (after 509 B.C.) into the popular assemblies which voted by centuries. The old sacral ordinances, which were unsuited to any but municipal conditions, were superseded by the jus Quiritium, or Law of the Spearman, an ordinance of civil law.

It was no longer necessary to secure the assistance of the pontiff and the assent of the popular assembly voting by curiæ in order to make a will or regulate other points of family law. The civil testament and corresponding civil institutions took the place of the old system.

But the Roman state did not escape grievous internal troubles. After the expulsion of the kings the patrician aristocracy strove to get all power into their own hands. The senators were drawn exclusively from their ranks, civil and military office became the prerogative of a class. All priestly offices were occupied by members of patrician families. The patricians were supposed to be the only exponents of human and divine law. And it was an additional evil that the aristocratic comitia centuriata, which actually excluded the poorer citizens, were wholly deficient in initiative.

The Roman plebs suffered even more from the lack of legal security under an unwritten law arbitrarily administered by patrician judges than from the lack of political rights. In the famous bloodless revolution of 494 B.C. the plebs won the right of choosing guardians of their own, in the person of the tribunes of the people, who had the right of intervention even against the consuls, and soon gained a decisive influence in all public affairs. By decades of strife the hardy champions of civil liberty succeeded in securing first a written code of common law and then a share for the plebeians in public office and honours. From 443 B.C. onward there were special rating-officers (censors) independent of the consul, whose business it was to settle the place of individual citizens on the register of recruiting and citizenship, and to regulate taxation and public burdens.

But the most important triumph was that the assemblies of the plebs succeeded by degrees in securing official recognition for the resolutions they passed on legal, judicial, and political questions. After the year 287 B.C. the plebiscita had the same force as laws (leges) passed by the whole body of the people.

Although the subject classes had thus won a satisfactory measure of civil rights and liberties, they never forgot—and this is the most significant feature of the whole struggle for liberty—that none but a strong government and magistracy can successfully meet ordinary demands or rise to extraordinary emergencies. At Rome the individual magistrate found his liberty of action restrained in many ways by his colleagues and superiors. But within the scope of his jurisdiction, his provincia, he enjoyed a considerable amount of independence.

The senate was the only power which ultimately contrived to impose limits upon this independence. In that body the effective authority of the government was concentrated by gradual degrees. In face of the constant augmentation in the number of magistrates it frequently succeeded in getting its own way without much trouble. In the bosom of its members reposed the arcana imperii, the secrets of a policy which had known how to make Rome great. Selfishness, consistency, perfidy, perseverance—such were the motives, some noble, and some base, which shaped its resolutions.[16] Yet we cannot deny that there is a certain grandeur in the political aims represented by the senate. Nor did it fail of success; indeed, its achievements were marvellous.

In the year 390 B.C. the city of Rome was in the hands of the Gauls, and the Roman body politic had to all appearance perished. Exactly a hundred years later, at the end of the Second Samnite War, Rome was mistress of nearly the whole of Italy. A few years more, and she occupied Tarentum (272) and Rhegium (270). What is the explanation of this prodigious change?

It would be unjust not to assign its due share in the matter to the admirable temper of the Roman people. The self-sacrificing patriotism they invariably displayed, their stubborn endurance in perilous times, their manly readiness to hazard everything, even their very lives, if the welfare of the city so required—these qualities marked the Romans of that age, and they are capable of accomplishing great things. By them the admirable military system of Rome was first fitted for the great part it had to play in the history of the world, and became a weapon which never turned back before the most formidable of foes, and gave the assurance of lasting success.

In process of time the ancient Servian phalanx had been superseded by an admirably organised and mobile disposition of the troops in maniples of 160 men each. Ranged in three files, with lateral spaces between, these bodies relieved one another during the fight, and thus were able to quell the most vehement onslaught of the enemy by constantly bringing forward fresh troops, which first hurled their long javelins and then charged with their short swords.

It became more and more the practice of the Roman state to extend to the lower classes the obligation of military service, which in all other parts of Italy was a privilege of the assidui or freeholders. Large numbers of landless men and freedmen were enrolled in the recruiting districts (tribus) in war times by the famous censor Appius Claudius Cæcus.

Opportune political changes favoured the development of Roman supremacy in Italy. The Etruscan dominion had fallen into utter decay during the course of the fifth century. Rome’s victorious struggle for liberty, the advance of the Samnites in southern Italy, and the immigration of the Gauls into northern Italy, had reduced Etruria to a second-class power. In the south the power of the wealthy Greek cities had been broken by Dionysius of Syracuse. Step by step Roman colonists made their way into lower Italy. Where the sword was of no avail Rome had recourse to road-making, the occupation and cultivation of waste land, and fresh settlements. Above all, the Latin colonies which she established in concert with the Latin league were of the utmost importance in securing the supremacy of Rome in middle Italy. These colonies served as fortresses, the colonists were a garrison always ready to stand on the defensive. The colonies themselves were established in such a way as to obstruct the coalition of the various races of Italy. They spread abroad Latin law and the Latin language among foreigners. They once more united the Romans and Latins in a common work of civilisation, after the two peoples had so hotly fought against each other in what is known as the Great Latin War (340-338 B.C.).

The skilful diplomatic negotiations and settlements by which Rome contrived either to gain over her former adversaries or reduce them to neutrality before she engaged in the struggle with the Samnites for the hegemony of Italy (342-340 and 326-304) are particularly worthy of note. She protected her rear by concluding armistices for many years with the Etruscans (351-311)[17] and Gauls (329-299). She entered into friendly relations with the Greek cities, and won over many communities in Campania and Lucania which had put themselves under the protection of the Samnites. Nay, she did not shrink from purchasing the friendship of Carthage by allowing her to take and plunder the seaboard cities of middle Italy which had revolted against Roman dominion. And she further displayed remarkable skill in securing her tenure of the possessions won in the Samnite wars. Only a small part of them was incorporated with Roman territory. Many cities received an accession of Latin colonists and so retained their municipal autonomy under new conditions. On the other hand the connection between the recalcitrant cantons of the Sabellian, Etruscan, and Middle Italian tribes was completely broken. Isolated and deprived of the right of intercourse (commercium) the various small cities and communities ceased to be of any importance either economically or politically.

The Romans had hardly completed the conquest of Etruria and the Samnite confederacy in the Third Samnite War (298-290 B.C.), and subjugated the kindred districts of Lucania and Bruttium when they found themselves involved in the struggles which then agitated the Greek world.

After 301 the several parts of the empire of Alexander the Great had become independent kingdoms. But the quarrels among the various diadochi went on and ultimately led to the expulsion of Demetrius Poliorcetes from Macedonia and the fall of Lysimachus of Thrace.

The unsettled state of these kingdoms inspired hordes of Gauls, athirst for plunder, with the idea of crossing the Alps and conquering both the Apennine and Balkan peninsulas. Italy owed her salvation to the vigorous defence made by the Romans at the Vadimonian Lake (283 B.C.); but Macedonia was occupied for several years and the swarms of Gauls spread as far as Delphi, and finally settled in Asia Minor under the name of Galatians.

Even before the Gallic invasion, Pyrrhus of Epirus, who had taken possession of Macedonia for a while, had withdrawn to his own home, and he and his army of mercenaries turned their eyes westward, eager for action. The wished-for opportunity of there regaining the influence and reputation he had lost in the west was not slow to present itself. Tarentum, the last independent city of any importance in Italy, had provoked Rome to hostilities and was endeavouring to enlist mercenaries for the war. Pyrrhus went to the help of the Tarentines, even as Alexander of Epirus, a cousin of Alexander the Great, had gone before him (334 B.C.). After some initial successes the latter had lost his life in battle against the Lucanians (331 B.C.). His nephew did not fare much better. The generalship of Roman mayors, elected afresh every year, was at first no match for that of Pyrrhus, who had great military successes to look back upon. Up to this time the Macedonian phalanx had invariably proved the instrument of victory, especially in the opening encounters of a campaign, and even the men of Rome gave ground before the elephants, the “heavy artillery” of the Epirots. But the second victory which the king gained over the Romans was a “Pyrrhic victory,” for his gains did not compensate his losses. On this occasion Rome owed the victory mainly to the inflexible courage of her statesmen. The blind Appius Claudius, who thirty years before had borne an honourable part in the successful struggle with the Samnites, caused himself to be led into the senate and by his arguments induced the Romans inflexibly to refuse all offers of peace on less than favourable terms. “Never have the Romans concluded peace with a victorious foe.” These proud words contain the secret of the ultimate success of Rome in all her wars of that century.


Fortunately for the Romans, at that very time the Greeks of Sicily urgently craved the aid of the king of Epirus. They had been defeated by the Carthaginians and their independence was menaced. Pyrrhus accordingly departed from Italy for more than two years, to gain some initial successes in Sicily and end in failure. When he returned to Italy it was too late. The Romans had established their dominion over the Italian rebels and were once more harassing Tarentum. Pyrrhus suffered a disastrous defeat at Beneventum in Samnium (275 B.C.), and Tarentum submitted soon after (272 B.C.). Pyrrhus himself was slain in Greece about the same time.

The subjugation of Italy was now complete. After Rhegium, the southernmost city in Italy, had been wrested from the hands of mutinous mercenaries (270 B.C.), Rome likewise took upon herself the economic administration of Italy by introducing a silver coinage (269 B.C.).

The war with Pyrrhus had clearly shown that Rome could not stop and rest content with the successes she had already gained, but would presently be forced into a struggle for all the countries about the Mediterranean, that is to say, for the dominion of the world as then known.

She contrived, it is true, very quickly to resume friendly relations with the Greek cities of Italy, whose sympathies had in some cases been on the other side in the war with Tarentum. The autonomous administration she allowed them to enjoy on condition of furnishing her with ships, and the protection which they, for their part, received from the leading power in Italy, could not but dispose them favourably to a continuance of her suzerainty.

With Carthage the case was different. Down to the time of the war with Pyrrhus the interests of Rome and Carthage had gone hand in hand to a great extent, or at worst had led to compromises in the three treaties of alliance (348, 343, and 306 B.C.). But in the wars against Pyrrhus it was in the interests of Carthage that Pyrrhus should be kept busy in Italy, while the Romans had contrived to turn his energies against the Carthaginians. And when the Romans were preparing to occupy Tarentum, a Carthaginian fleet hove in sight and manifested a desire to seize upon that city, the most important port of southern Italy. A power which had one foot in Rhegium, as Rome had, was bound presently to set the other down in Messana, and that would be a casus belli under any circumstances. How could the Carthaginians endure to see the island for the possession of which they had striven for two hundred years pass into the hands of the Romans?

The actual pretext for the war is too dramatic to be passed over. The mutinous mercenaries of Agathocles (317-289 B.C.) had taken possession of the city of Messana. They were attacked by Hiero of Syracuse with such success that they appealed alternately to the Carthaginians and Romans for help. The Carthaginians came to the rescue first and put a garrison in the citadel of Messana. But the commander was so foolish as to enter into negotiations with the Roman legate, who had crossed the straits of Messana with a small body of troops, and in the course of them was taken prisoner—through his own perfidious treachery it must be acknowledged. Thus the key of Sicily fell into Roman hands, and war was declared. The history of the next hundred and twenty years is wholly occupied with the great struggle between these two cities, till at length, in 146 B.C., Carthage was laid level with the ground.

Thus the state of Rome, which had won for itself a leading position in Italy in the Wars of Liberation waged with the Etruscans and Sabellians,[19] and had then been forced by the Samnites into a contest for the sovereignty of Italy, found itself driven almost involuntarily into a decisive struggle for dominion over all the coasts of the Mediterranean. The perseverance with which Rome strove towards the goal of ever higher ambitions commands our admiration, and we admire no less the government of the many-headed senate which kept one constant aim in view and consistently pursued it; which, moreover, steered the ship of state safely through all dangers, when the incompetency of its annually elected chief magistrates resulted in the gravest catastrophes. There lay the weakness of the Roman commonwealth. How could Roman consuls, elected annually by the people, usually on political grounds, acquire the capacity to command armies, to master the art of strategy, or to lead troops and fleets in regions to which they themselves were strangers? To the ill effects of this preposterous system Rome owed the severe reverses of the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.) and the beginning of the Second. The situation began to improve when two capable leaders, Marcellus and the Scipios, were left in command for several consecutive years.

Nevertheless, the Roman armies were frequently led by gallant and judicious men, and won some lasting successes even in the First Punic War, one of the most protracted and sanguinary wars of ancient times.

Hiero, king of Syracuse, was defeated at the outset, and compelled to conclude an alliance with Rome, which he loyally observed till his death in 216. Agrigentum and many other Sicilian towns fell into the hands of Roman generals. The famous victory (Mylæ, 260) won by the Romans with their first real navy over the most famous sea power of ancient times is absolutely astonishing. But Rome could be conquered only in Italy, Carthage only in Africa, and the Romans therefore proceeded to cross over to Africa after another brilliant naval victory near Ecnomus in the south of Sicily (256 B.C.). Fortune favoured them in their first engagements. The position of Carthage itself became grave. But after one of the consuls (Manlius) had gone home at the conclusion of his year of office and the Carthaginians had enlisted a sufficient number of Greek mercenaries and Numidian horsemen, the Roman army was annihilated, and its commander, Regulus, taken prisoner. The Roman fleet, which had been created afresh within the space of a few months, did indeed succeed in destroying that of Carthage off the headland of Mercury (Cape Bon), and taking the remnant of the defeated army on board, only to be wrecked itself by tempest off Camarina on the south coast of Sicily (255 B.C.). A like fate befell many another Roman fleet in the years 253 and 249 B.C. The Romans were neither sufficiently versed in the periodic recurrence of storms—a knowledge indispensable to a maritime nation—nor familiar enough with the character of the coast, and the rocks and shallows, to anticipate lasting success in naval warfare with any confidence. The taking of Panormus (Palermo) in the year 254 B.C., and the great victory won by Metellus over a large army of the enemy under the walls of the city in 250, did not suffice to compensate for the naval disasters. In the year 249 B.C. the severe defeat of Publius Claudius Pulcher and his fleet at Drepanum (in the west of Sicily) and the wreck of another fleet forced the Romans definitively to abandon hostilities at sea. Once more the fleets of Carthage swept the Mediterranean, plundered the coasts of Italy, and even endangered Rome’s hold upon Sicily. In the west of the island Hamilcar Barca, the ablest of Carthaginian generals, had established himself upon Mount Eryx. From that[20] base he made successful raids into Roman Sicily. The war dragged on until it was ended at length by a fleet which the Romans built by voluntary contributions. By a brilliant naval victory in the Ægatian Islands, Lutatius Catulus destroyed the last considerable Punic fleet; and so forced the Carthaginians to come to terms. Sicily was ceded to Rome and a moderate war-indemnity exacted from the vanquished city. But the twenty-four years of hostilities in which she had strained her financial capacity to the utmost had exhausted the resources of Carthage, and she could no longer pay her mercenaries. The result was a formidable mutiny, which proclaimed to the world the bankruptcy of the whole body politic. Rome took advantage of her adversary’s embarrassment in a most perfidious fashion. In spite of the fact that peace had been restored she made a compact with the mutineers and prevailed upon them to hand Corsica and Sardinia over to her.

Generally speaking, indeed, the interval between the First Punic War (264-241) and the Second (218-201) can only be regarded as an armed truce. Both parties were fully aware that the decisive struggle was yet to come and must be fought out at no distant period. We stand amazed at the genius, energy, and success of Hamilcar Barca, who, after successfully suppressing the mutiny of the mercenaries, won for his country, even in the hour of her profoundest humiliation, new provinces, new resources, and new armies in Spain. But the Romans, on their part, likewise made good use of the time. In the Illyrian War (229-228) they assumed the character of patrons of the Greek cities and of Greek commerce, they insured maritime traffic against molestation in the Adriatic and curbed the power of the Illyrian pirate state to the best of their ability. They endeavoured energetically to repel the Celts in Picenum and Umbria (236 and 232). But the Cisalpine Gauls poured in countless hordes through the passes of the Alps to the aid of their fellow-tribesmen, and forced Rome into one of the most sanguinary wars Italy has ever witnessed (225-222 B.C.). Rome endeavoured to enlist all Italians in her defence. Her register of Italians capable of bearing arms amounted to a grand total of seven hundred thousand foot and seventy thousand horse. The Gauls, defeated in Etruria on the Po, and at Milan, sued for peace, although their territory north of the Po was yet unconquered. The military colonies of Placentia (Piacenza) and Cremona (established in 218) made some attempt at least to secure for the Romans part of the territory they had won. But when Hannibal, after taking Saguntum, pressed forward across the Pyrenees and the Alps and summoned the Gauls to revolt, the whole valley of the Po was lost once more. In the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.) the genius and energy of Hannibal brought Rome to the verge of ruin, and we know not which to admire most, the force of character that enabled the son of Hamilcar Barca to win the personal devotion of an army composed of the most incongruous elements and so to inspire them with enthusiasm for the cause of Carthage, or the generalship which, in the most critical situations, invariably made choice of the best expedient and carried it out in the best possible manner. In all the fifteen years which he spent in Italy (218-203 B.C.) Hannibal was never once defeated, nor did his army ever rebel against the measures he took, and his deadliest enemies could lay nothing to his charge unless it were his “more than Punic perfidy” (plus quam Punica perfidia)—a brilliant testimony not only to his constant superiority in state-craft but also to his personal integrity. And yet the stubborn perseverance and self-sacrificing patriotism of the Romans was[21] even more worthy of admiration and more fruitful of consequences, than the amazing energy of this greatest general of ancient times. By this time, too, the bond which united the Latin league of middle Italy had attained a firmness beyond the power of Hannibal’s armies or diplomatic arts to unknit. The national spirit of the race set bounds which his genius could not overpass.

At the beginning of the campaign the weakness of the Carthaginian naval forces had decided Rome to attempt to transfer the theatre of war to Africa and remain on the defensive on the Ebro. By crossing the Alps—a possibility which had never entered into Roman calculations—Hannibal made Italy the scene of the decisive struggle. After a victorious cavalry engagement not far from the Ticinus he enticed the Roman army posted at Placentia to cross the Trebia and then defeated it; only the smaller half of it made its way back to the fortress. He eluded the consul Sempronius, who was posted at Ariminum, crossed the Apennines into Etruria and destroyed the army of Flaminius in the narrow defiles on the shores of Lake Trasimene. Fabius Cunctator (the Dilatory) now persistently avoided joining issue with him, but when Hannibal marched through the provinces of middle Italy, pillaging as he went, the Romans ventured once more upon a pitched battle. At Cannæ, in Apulia, he found himself face to face with a force of eighty thousand men, and by a master-stroke succeeded in not merely defeating but positively annihilating the Roman troops in the open field with a force of only half their number (216 B.C.). It was the signal for the desertion of most of the allies (exclusive of the Latin colonies). Capua, Samnium, Lucania, Bruttium, and Apulia took the lead, and presently the whole of south and middle Italy went over to Hannibal, including even Tarentum. Syracuse revolted, and thus Sicily seemed lost; and Philip of Macedonia declared war against Rome (215 B.C.). But the policy of Rome was equal to the emergency. She contrived to win the Greek states of the second and third rank over to her interests. The Ætolians and Illyrians, Pergamus and Rhodes, kept Philip employed and prevented him from rendering Hannibal active assistance. Rome’s fleet ruled the sea and successfully hindered any coalition between the hostile powers, and thus the Carthaginians could neither save Syracuse, nor send adequate reinforcements to Hannibal, nor effect a junction with Philip’s fleet. Doughty commanders like Marcellus, the conqueror of Syracuse, contrived to exhaust his troops by frequent attacks.

The cause of the war in Italy presently began to stagnate more and more, especially after Capua and Tarentum had been retaken (in 211 and 209). Once, and once only, did the Carthaginians venture again to play for high stakes. Hasdrubal had skilfully evaded the Romans in Spain and had reached north Italy by way of the Pyrenees and Alps, intending there to join hands with his brother Hannibal (early in 207 B.C.). It was a critical moment, for both the consuls of the year 208 had fallen in battle. The speedy succour which the newly elected consul, Claudius Nero, despatched to his colleague, Livius, decided the victory in favour of the Romans. Hasdrubal lost both his army and his life (at Sinigaglia) on the banks of the Metaurus.

In the meantime the Romans had succeeded in wresting Spain from the Carthaginians. The two elder Scipios, Publius and Cneius, who, after fighting with varying fortune, had advanced as far as the Guadalquivir, both lost their lives in 211 B.C. But Publius Scipio the Younger, afterwards known as Africanus, a man of Hannibal’s own temper, had taken New Carthage (209 B.C.), defeated the Carthaginian armies at Bæcula (208) and Silpia (207), and occupied Gades, the southernmost city of Spain, in 206.


Carthage, nevertheless, could only be conquered in Africa. This view had little to commend it in the eyes of many a prudent member of the senate so long as Hannibal remained in Italy. For all that, Scipio succeeded in transferring the theatre of war in 204 from his own province of Sicily to northern Africa. Allying himself with the Numidian prince, Masinissa, he defeated the Carthaginians and their ally, Syphax of Mauretania, in the year 203 B.C., and brought the war to a close by the decisive victory of Zama (202 B.C.), in which he routed Hannibal, who had returned from Italy, and the flower of his troops.

Carthage lost not only her fleet and foreign provinces, but her sovereignty itself; she was not allowed to go to war without the permission of Rome, while an irksome sentinel was set over her in the person of her adversary, Masinissa, who had been enriched with Punic territory.

Even after this catastrophe the Carthaginians did not utterly lose heart. Their commerce soon revived and prospered, and Hannibal did all he could to restore the prestige of his native city as long as the Romans tolerated his presence there, and to raise up fresh enemies to Rome after he had been driven into exile.

Rome was not long left to the tranquil enjoyment of her victory. Peace had been concluded. Not the citizens of Rome alone, but all Italy, yearned for a lasting peace. And yet the Roman senate, in defiance of popular feeling, was constrained to embark promptly on the adventures of a new and perilous war or to be false to the whole tenor of its policy up to that time.

Rome’s success in dealing with Macedonia was due, as has already been stated, to the fact that she extended her protection to the smaller Greek states and thus gained a base from which she could hold the larger states of Greece, Macedonia first and foremost, in check. This policy obliged the Romans in the year 200 B.C. to go to the help of Egypt, which was hard pressed by the combined forces of Macedonia and Syria. Ever since the accession of the youthful Ptolemy Epiphanes in 205 B.C., Macedonia and Syria had united with a view to dividing the Egyptian empire and its dependencies between themselves.

Syria’s share was to be Egypt and Cyprus, Macedonia’s Cyrene, Ionia, and the islands of the Ægean Sea. Rome was the less able to be an indifferent spectator of the initial successes of these two great powers since they were won at the expense of the states of Pergamus, Rhodes, and Miletus, which were among her allies. In the case of Syria the Romans attained their object by the embassy of Marcus Æmilius Lepidus. Antiochus the Great evacuated Egypt. Philip, however, would not stay his hand, and thus the Macedonian War broke out, to be decided in favour of the Romans, after many years of indifferent success, by the advance of Flaminius into Thessaly and his victory at Cynoscephalæ (197 B.C.). At the Isthmian games Flaminius proclaimed that all Greeks were free, but the real effect of the proclamation was to reduce all Greek states to a common level of impotence and to give none of them any lasting satisfaction. The Ætolians, who had been the allies of Rome in the Macedonian War, and took no small credit to themselves for the result, were now the most bitterly enraged against her. Antiochus the Great, of Syria, profited by the prevailing sentiment to press forward in Asia Minor. Hannibal, who had been driven from Carthage, appeared at his court and endeavoured, though without success, to induce him to take the offensive against Italy. War was nevertheless inevitable. Antiochus had command of the sea, and crossed to Eubœa and Thessaly. The Ætolians rose in rebellion. The Romans, however, took up the quarrel[23] with no lack of spirit. After the flower of Antiochus’ forces had been vanquished at Thermopylæ, and the Syrian fleet, under the command of Hannibal, had twice suffered defeat, the Scipios crossed over into Asia Minor and destroyed the main army of Syria at Magnesia. A sanguinary conflict ended in the conquest of the mountain cantons of Ætolia (191-189) and the subjugation of the Galatian hordes (188). Antiochus was forced to resign his pretensions to Asia Minor.

That the Romans did not, at this time and during the ensuing decades, take advantage of their success to incorporate fresh provinces into their empire was partly due to their just appreciation of the fact that the conquest of the Greek world could be better and more easily achieved by breaking it up into isolated and impotent states, and partly to their melancholy experiences in the case of their latest acquisitions. For nearly seventy years after the Second Punic War Roman armies were fighting to maintain Rome’s supremacy over her Spanish provinces, and even then the north and west remained free. From 151 to 133 a fierce rebellion was rampant in southern Spain and Lusitania (Portugal). The feats of the patriotic Viriathus and the desperate defence of Numantia showed the Romans to what extremities valiant races—however well disposed towards them in the first instance—could be driven by their execrable provincial administration. Moreover they were compelled to fight year after year, sometimes against Gauls and Ligurians, sometimes against Illyrians and Dalmatians. Nor was the strength of the Hellenic congeries of states by any means broken. The wretched empire of Syria alone, ruled by worthless monarchs and torn by internal dissensions, was fast falling into utter decay. A word from a Roman ambassador was enough to reduce the cowardly Antiochus Epiphanes to obedience and cure him of his inclination to join the enemies of Rome. But Macedonia was gaining strength under Philip and Perseus, and the latter actually succeeded in bringing about a great coalition of the states of the Balkan peninsula against Rome. In the Third Macedonian War the empire of Alexander was finally destroyed after the victory of Pydna (168 B.C.). Even then Rome refrained from dividing Macedonia and Greece into provinces; nor did she alter her policy until after repeated sanguinary revolts in Macedonia, headed by the pretender Andriscus, and the rebellion of the Achæan League (141-146). After that the turn of the west of Asia Minor soon came, and it received the name of the province of Asia in 133 B.C.

The keystone of the fabric of Roman sovereignty over the coasts of the Mediterranean was, however, still lacking. Carthage had once more risen to prosperity. Her commerce and wealth—insignificant by themselves—were only likely to become formidable if Rome were constrained, as in the year 150, to face hostile powers in both Spain and the East. Consequently Rome could not rest until she had swept the rival of her greatness from the face of the earth. After frequent quarrels with Masinissa, and after threats and humiliating demands of every sort, the Carthaginians in despair took up arms for their last fight for liberty. Scipio Æmilianus took Carthage in the year 146 B.C. Well might the victor shed tears at the sight of the city delivered over to the flames; reflecting that a like fate would some day befall his own birthplace. For with the fall of her last foe abroad the dominion of Rome began to crumble from internal decay. Sanguinary revolts of slaves (140-133 B.C.), the corruption of the aristocracy, the decay of the classes of free citizens and free peasants, were enemies which inflicted far worse wounds on the Roman Empire than the sword of its foes abroad.


Her sturdy peasantry and the moral worth of her citizens were the forces that had made Rome great. Her expansion by conquest had enabled her to ameliorate the condition of the poorer citizens by founding colonies and partitioning public lands, and thus to augment the numbers of a capable agricultural population. In proportion as the system of plantations worked by slave labour took the place of this healthy development the masses of the urban proletariat increased, while their fitness for military service diminished, and the ancient Roman virtus speedily became a thing of the past. We know too well how little such civilising influences as the Etruscans, and after them the Greeks of south Italy, brought to bear upon Roman life, could offer in the way of compensation. Many forms and usages of religious worship, many games and theatrical performances imitated from Greek models, found acceptance at Rome. Under the influence of Greek teachers a school of poetry and an elaborate style of Latin prose developed. With admirable readiness the self-contained Romans familiarised themselves, not only with the Greek language, but with many aspects of Greek philosophy and rhetoric.

But the dark side of the picture almost counterbalanced the brightness of this advance in culture. With the Greek philosophers came Greek soothsayers and charlatans, with the Greek drama the airs and abominations of the Greek world; with the Greek tutor the cook, the barber, and the courtesan came to Rome from the East and freely exercised their corrupting influence. The proceedings against the Bacchanalia in 186 B.C., in which thousands of guilty members of the secret society of Bacchus were condemned to death, show how rapid was the decline of the severity of Roman morals.

The forces which had made Rome great and won her a high place in the civilisation of the human race were spent. The rigid moral code of a well-regulated family life, the strict military discipline and organisation of the sturdy Italian peasantry, had become very rare, if they had not passed away altogether. Outwardly the development of Roman law and the Roman constitution maintained the appearance of freedom, but the selfishness of the ruling and moneyed classes threatened to destroy even this palladium of Roman libertas. With the fall of Carthage we reach the eve of the revolution which led to the repeated conquest of the capital by its own citizens, to the unchaining of mob violence, to a prætorian administration, and so to the rule of the Cæsars. “The beasts of the forest,” as Tiberius Gracchus cried to the Romans of his day, “have their dens and burrows, but the lords of the world have no place where they can lay their heads.” Such is the reverse of the medal of which the obverse reads: Foundation of the universal empire of Rome, after Corinth and Numantia, Macedonia and Carthage, were laid in the dust.






Monumental remains, casting more or less light directly or by inference upon Roman history, are numerous. The Romans were great practical builders, and wherever they went—even into distant Britain—they left architectural remains, of which traces at least are still in existence. In Rome itself, such monumental structures as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trajan’s Pillar, and the ruins of the Forum, still bear testimony to the character of the ancient civilisation.

Even more interesting in some respects is the record brought to light through the exhumation of the buried cities of Herculaneum and of Pompeii. At Pompeii, in particular, the visitor of to-day finds himself in the midst of surroundings that give a most vivid impression of a Roman city of the golden age. The streets are flanked by the walls of buildings still intact as to their main structure; the road-beds themselves are paved with stones which still show deep channels made by the wheels of chariots that conveyed Romans of the time when Rome was mistress of the world. The broken pillars of the forums; the terraced seats of the great amphitheatres; the structure and contents of the private dwellings, unite to tell the story of the social life of a remote epoch with a vividness which no words can equal. And turning to details, the supply of interesting implements and utensils of every-day use which the lava and ashes of Vesuvius have preserved for us is almost inexhaustible.

Up to this point, the ruins of the buried Roman cities strongly suggest the ruins of Nineveh and Nippur, and those of the old Greek cities at[26] Hissarlik. The parallel with the Mesopotamian cities holds even further, for there are numerous treasures of art preserved at Pompeii. But unfortunately, no such inexhaustible literary treasures as rewarded the explorer in Babylonia and Assyria have been discovered in the ruins of the Roman cities. A few most interesting tablets have been found; such tablets as both the Grecians and the Romans used constantly, but of which, owing to their perishable material, no examples whatever have been preserved, except in these buried cities and in Egypt. Then, too, a single collection of books was found in the small library of a private dwelling at Herculaneum. This collection, comprising several hundred papyrus rolls, gave promise of great things, if only the parched bundles could be unrolled and their contents deciphered. But when, with infinite patience, this end was effected, in a large number of instances the result was most disappointing; for contrary to expectation no important lost works of antiquity—no works throwing new light on any phase of ancient history—were found. Many of the manuscripts were injured beyond repair, and others have not yet been unrolled; but enough has been done to prove the general character of the collection and to dissipate the hopes of the antiquarian.

Of inscriptions on various monuments and on coins and medals there is no dearth. But these are by no means so comprehensive in their scope as were some of the inscriptions of the early Egyptian and Assyrian monarchs; and speaking broadly, it may be said that the entire epigraphic and numismatic testimony as to the history of Rome—particularly for the earlier period—amounts to no more than incidental references, and would leave us with but a vague knowledge of the subject, were it unsupported by more extensive records.

The more extensive records in question are, of course, the manuscripts of books. From a rather early day there was no dearth of writers in Rome, and among these the historians, or, as they more generally termed themselves, the annalists, were fully represented. Indeed, this class of writers appears to have held almost complete possession of the field in the early day. In the later Augustan age, though votaries of polite literature had fuller representation, yet the historians, with Livy at their head, still took front rank among writers of prose. No original manuscripts of any of these writers have come down to us; indeed, no manuscripts of the classical period whatever have been preserved, except a few fragments in Egypt and the collection at Herculaneum just mentioned. Our copies of the Roman historians date from the Middle Ages, and few of them are intact. The works of the early annalists and chroniclers have disappeared almost entirely. Doubtless they were regarded as having little utility after such great master-builders as Dionysius and Livy had used them in the construction of their great works. Many of the writers of a later period fared not much better; and even the greatest of all have come down to us in a damaged condition. Livy himself is represented among extant manuscripts by only about one-fifth of his original history—to say nothing of his other writings, which have perished altogether. Dionysius has been no more fortunate, as only the earliest portion of his work is preserved.

Dionysius himself has left us a list of the early authorities upon whom he drew. His comment on his predecessors is interesting; after noting that “no accurate history of the Romans, written in the Greek language, has hitherto appeared, but only small accounts and short epitomes,” he criticises these synopses as follows:

“Hieronymus Cardianus (the first author I know of upon this subject) has given a cursory account of the Roman antiquities in his history of the[27] Epigoni. After him, Timæus, the Sicilian, treated of antiquities in his universal history, and placed in a separate work the wars of the Romans with Pyrrhus of Epirus. Besides these, Antigonus, Polybius, Silenus, and innumerable other authors have attempted this same subject, though in a different manner; each of whom has written some things concerning the Romans, which they have compiled from common reports without any diligence or accuracy. Like to these in all respects are the histories, which some Romans also have published in Greek, concerning the ancient transactions of their own nation; of whom the most ancient are Quintus Fabius, and Lucius Cincius, who both flourished during the Punic wars: each of these has related the actions, at which he himself was present, with great exactness, as being well acquainted with them, but has given a summary account of those early events that happened soon after the building of the city.”

Treachery of Tarpeia (Sixth Year of Rome)

(See p. 65)

It was to supply the deficiency thus noted, Dionysius alleged, that he undertook his work, being determined, he says, “not to pass over that beautiful part of the Roman history, which the ancient authors had disregarded.” But “lest some one should entertain the opinion that in introducing matter not found in the authors already mentioned, he resorted to invention,” Dionysius thinks it well to explain how he came by the materials for his history. He says:

“I came into Italy immediately after Augustus Cæsar had put an end to the civil war, in the middle of the hundred and eighty-seventh Olympiad; and having from that time to this present, that is, twenty-two years, lived at Rome, learned the Roman language and acquainted myself with their writings, I employed all that interval in preparing materials for this work; and some things I received from men of the greatest consideration among them[28] for learning, whose conversation I used; and others I gathered from histories, written by the most approved Roman authors; such as Porcius Cato, Fabius Maximus, Valerius Antias, Licinius Macer, the Ælii, Gellii, and Calpurnii, and several others of good note. Supported, therefore, by the authority of these histories, which are like the Greek annals, I undertook this work.”

Livy, our other great source for the early traditional history of Rome, unlike Dionysius, does not specifically enlighten us as to the sources of his information; but doubtless they were much the same as those employed by his great contemporary.

There was indeed a large company of early annalists and chroniclers, as the note of Dionysius indicates. Among others these names have come down to us: Q. Fabius Pictor and L. Cincius Alimentus, who lived in the time of the Second Punic War and wrote in Greek; the poet Ennius, who wrote annals from the earliest time to his own day; and A. Postumius Albinus and C. Acilius who wrote annals in Greek at about the same period. The original works of all of these, like those of many later historians, have been lost.

It appears that the Roman historians were accustomed to call their writings annals if they referred to ancient times, and histories if they described contemporary events. It will be recalled that Tacitus wrote both annals and histories. Necessarily, the works dealing with the early history of Rome were annals. Dionysius, however, termed his work Archæologia instead of annals. Dionysius lived in the latter half of the first century B.C., but he did not attempt to bring his historical records further down than the year 264 B.C.; his intention being to bridge the gap in Roman history preceding the time at which the work of Polybius begins. Livy’s scope was far more comprehensive, as his work covered the period to his own time. In other words it was, using the Roman terminology, annals and history combined. It is curious to note his own estimate of the relative values of these two portions of his work. He says:

“Whether in tracing the series of the Roman history, from the foundation of the city, I shall employ my time to good purpose, is a question which I cannot positively determine; nor, were it possible, would I venture to pronounce such determination; for I am aware that the matter is of high antiquity, and has been already treated by many others; the latest writers always supposing themselves capable, either of throwing some new light on the subject, or, by the superiority of their talents for composition, of excelling the more inelegant writers who preceded them. However that may be, I shall, at all events, derive no small satisfaction from the reflection that my best endeavours have been exerted in transmitting to posterity the achievements of the greatest people in the world; and if, amidst such a multitude of writers, my name should not emerge from obscurity, I shall console myself by attributing it to the eminent merit of those who stand in my way in the pursuit of fame. It may be further observed, that such a subject must require a work of immense extent, as our researches must be carried back through a space of more than seven hundred years; that the state has, from very small beginnings, gradually increased to such a magnitude, that it is now distressed by its own bulk; and that there is every reason to apprehend that the generality of readers will receive but little pleasure from the accounts of its first origin, or of the times immediately succeeding, but will be impatient to arrive at that period, in which the powers of this overgrown state have been long employed in working their own destruction.”

Obviously then, Livy regarded the portion of his history which dealt with remote antiquity as relatively unimportant. But posterity did not give suffrage[29] to this view; for successive generations of copyists preserved the early portion of the work entire, while allowing the latter part to be lost, except for occasional fragments.

Horatius Condemned

(See p. 79)

Livy’s preface continues: “On the other hand, this much will be derived from my labour, that, so long at least as I shall have my thoughts totally occupied in investigating the transactions of such distant ages, without being embarrassed by any of these unpleasing considerations, in respect of later days, which, though they might not have power to warp a writer’s mind from the truth, would yet be sufficient to create uneasiness, I shall withdraw myself from the sight of the many evils to which our eyes have been so long accustomed.

“As to the relations which have been handed down of events prior to the founding of the city, or to the circumstances that gave occasion to its being founded, and which bear the semblance rather of poetic fictions than of authentic records of history—these, I have no intention either to maintain or refute. Antiquity is always indulged with the privilege of rendering the origin of cities more venerable, by intermixing divine with human agency; and if any nation may claim the privilege of being allowed to consider its original as sacred, and to attribute it to the operations of the gods, surely the Roman people, who rank so high in military fame, may well expect, that, while they choose to represent Mars as their own parent, and that of their founder, the other nations of the world may acquiesce in this, with the same deference with which they acknowledge their sovereignty. But what degree of attention or credit may be given to these and such like matters I shall not consider as very material.”

Particular attention should be called to the remarks of Livy, just quoted; which seem clearly enough to show that he was by no means so credulous[30] regarding the traditions of early Rome as his manner of relating these traditions might lead one to suppose. It is probable that the judgment of later generations usually goes astray when attempting to estimate the exact level of credulity of any anterior generation. Doubtless the Romans as a class gave far more credence to the hero tales than we are disposed to give them now. We shall have abundant evidence that even in the golden period of the empire superstitions as to miracles and the like were not altogether repudiated, even by such writers as Tacitus; but, on the other hand, we may well believe that writers of such capacity as Livy allowed a desire for artistic presentation of a theme to conceal a scepticism which he would not otherwise have hesitated to avow. Be that as it may, posterity has all along clung to the myths of early Rome, and we of to-day cannot ignore them, whatever estimate we put upon their authenticity. It is through the pages of Dionysius and Livy, chiefly, that these fascinating tales have been preserved to us.

Coming down the centuries we find no great name until we reach the period when Rome, having firmly established her power in Italy, began to look out beyond the bounds of the peninsula and dream of foreign conquests. This great culminating epoch of Roman history found a great transcriber in Polybius. His work was avowedly written to describe and explain the events by which Rome “in the short period of fifty-three years,” conquered the world. Polybius was himself a Greek, born in Megalopolis. He was a practical statesman, and the personal friend of Aratus, the leader of the Achæan League. We have noted in a previous volume that Polybius was one of the thousand Greeks sent as hostages to Rome. He spent the greater part of the remainder of his life in Italy; became the personal friend of Scipio the Younger, and was present with that leader when Carthage was finally destroyed. Belonging thus to the later epoch of Grecian history, when the spirit of the age was philosophical rather than artistic, Polybius wrote such a work as might be expected of a man of genius of his time. His point of view is utterly different from that of his great predecessor Herodotus, though not altogether dissimilar to that of Thucydides. He himself tells us over and over—in fact he never tires of repeating—that his intention is to instruct rather than to entertain; to teach the causes of Rome’s success; to point the moral of her victories. Being a man of affairs, he not unnaturally holds that only men of affairs are competent to become reliable historians. He points out that there are two ways of gaining knowledge: “one derived from reading books, and the other from interrogating men;” he inveighs with some asperity against those historians, taking Timæus as a type, who confine themselves to the former method.

“The knowledge that is acquired by reading,” he says, “is gained without any danger or any kind of toil. If a man will only fix his residence in the neighbourhood of a library, or in a city that abounds with written memoirs, he may make his researches with perfect ease; and, reposing himself with full tranquillity, may compare the accounts and detect the errors of former writers. But the knowledge which is drawn from personal examination and inquiry, is attended with great fatigue and great expense. It is this, however, which is the most important, and which gives indeed the chief value to history. Historians themselves are ready to acknowledge this truth. For Ephorus says, that if it were possible for the writers of history to be present at all transactions, such knowledge would be preferable to any other. To the same purpose is that passage of Theopompus: that the experience which is gained in battles renders a man a consummate general; that[31] practice in pleading causes forms the perfect orator; and that the same observation is just with respect to the arts of navigation and of medicine.

“It was said by Plato,” Polybius continues, “that human affairs would be well administered when philosophers should be kings, or kings philosophers. In the same manner I would say: that history would be well composed if those who are engaged in great affairs would undertake to write it; not in a slight and negligent manner, like some of the present age; but regarding such a work as one of the noblest and most necessary of their duties, and pursuing it with unremitted application, as the chief business of their lives; or if those, on the other hand, who attempt to write, would think it necessary also to be conversant in the practice of affairs. Till this shall happen, there will be no end of mistakes in history.”

Scipio and Polybius

(From an old print)

But while thus speaking for men of affairs, Polybius has in mind also philosophers, for he declares that it is impossible to make a clear judgment of the victorious or vanquished by a bare account of events. We must know, he says, the laws and customs of the people, and the passions and circumstances which prevail among them with regard to public and private ends. With regard to the Romans in particular, he hopes by due attention to these things to present such a picture that the people of his own age will be able to discern “whether they ought to shun or choose subjection to the Romans; and posterity to judge whether the Roman government was worthy of praise and imitation or should rather be rejected as vicious and blamable;” for in this, he believes, must consist the utility of his history for his own and future ages.

All this is highly admirable; nor is it in dispute that Polybius attained a large measure of success along the lines he had laid down for his work. Only five of his forty books have come down to us entire, but these sufficiently[32] illustrate his method and its results. It has been said of them that no student of the period can ignore them, but that no one else would willingly read them. This criticism, like most other epigrammatic verdicts, is unjust. There is much in the work of Polybius that anyone who cares at all for historical writings may read with full interest. His descriptions of the major events are by no means so bald and unimaginative as some critics would contend. They do indeed eschew the marvellous and attempt to avoid exaggeration; but this surely is no fault; nor do these limitations exclude picturesqueness. But the really vital fault of Polybius is his method of construction. He uses virtually the plan which Diodorus adopted later of attempting to keep the narrative of events in different countries in the closest chronological sequence. This necessitates a constant interruption of his narrative, through shifting the scene of action from one country to another, until all sense of continuity is lost. Add to this an ineradicable propensity to be forever moralising,—interrupting the narrative of some startling event to explain in detail how startling events should be treated by the historian,—and the reasons are sufficiently manifest why Polybius is hard to read. It is a great pity that he did not, like Trogus Pompeius, find a Justin to epitomise his work; for by common consent he was one of the most dependable historians of antiquity; and he is recognised as the standard source for all periods of which his extant works treat. Indirectly his influence is even more extensive, since Livy made use of him as his authority for the events of the Second and Third Punic wars, and since Appian drew on him freely.

There is no great name among the Roman historians for about a century and a half after Polybius. Then comes Sallust, the historian of the Jugurthine War and the Catiline conspiracy; and Julius Cæsar, who has left us that remarkable record of his own exploits. Contemporary with Cæsar were Diodorus and Livy, the former of whom lived till about 7 B.C. and the latter till 17 A.D. Livy’s account of his own time, as has already been mentioned, has most unfortunately perished. The chief record of these times that has been preserved, is the work of Appian, an Alexandrian Greek who lived in the time of Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius; that is to say, in the early part of the second century A.D. His work is the sole authority—overlooking certain epitomes and fragments—for some periods of the civil wars. It was written in Greek, and is notable for the plan of its construction; which, departing radically from the method of Polybius, treated each important subject by itself. In other words his work is virtually a collection of monographs; the subject of each being one of the important wars of Rome. Appian has been charged with the opposite literary vice to that of Polybius; he is said to have thought more of manner than of matter. Nevertheless, he necessarily used the older writers for his facts, and if he sometimes used them carelessly and uncritically, these are faults of his time. In the main he shows a fair degree of accuracy. Accurate or otherwise, he is, as has been said, our sole source for certain important periods of the later time of the republic.

If to the writers just named we add Dion Cassius; the general historian Trogus Pompeius (in Justin’s celebrated epitome); and of the biographers Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos; and supplement our list with the names of the so-called epitomators, Eutropius, Velleius, Florus, Aurelius Victor, Zonaras, Festus Rufus, and Orosius (writers who made brief but more or less valuable epitomes based on the authorities), we shall have named practically all the important historians of Rome to the end of the republic whose works are now available in anything like their original form.


The modern historian gains incidental aid from various other fields: from the orations of Cicero, and the chance references of poets; from inscriptions on monuments and medals, and from the débris of ancient structures. Yet when all these have been examined, it is to the manuscripts that we must turn for the main incidents of the story.

Of the modern historians of Rome whose works have had much to do with the earliest period, it is sufficient here to mention the names of Niebuhr, Arnold, and Mommsen. More detailed notices of both ancient and recent authorities will be given from time to time as we proceed.



(All dates for this period are approximate.)

753-716. Romulus, a mythical king. Rape of the Sabine women, and war with the Sabines. Through the treachery of Tarpeia, the fortress on the Capitol taken by the Sabellian king Titus Tatius. Formation of the double state of the Romans and Sabines under the rule of Romulus and Tatius. Disappearance of Romulus during a thunder storm; he is known and worshipped from now on as the god Quirinus. 715-673. Numa Pompilius, of Cures, appointed king by the Romans after a year’s interregnum. Founds the religion of the Romans. Building of the temple of Janus. 672-641. Tullus Hostilius. War with Alba Longa. After a contest between the Horatii and Curatii, Alba submits to a decision in favour of Rome. Alba Longa destroyed and its population transferred to Rome. 641-616. Ancus Marcius. Formation of the Fetiales. After the conquest of four Latin cities their inhabitants are transferred and settled on the Aventine Hill. Fortification of Janiculum. Building of the “pons Sublicius” and foundation of Ostia. 615-578. Tarquinius Priscus. Building of the temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill begun. The city divided into four districts, and a new military system introduced. Increase of the senate to three hundred members and doubling of the number of equites. Successful campaigns against the Sabines, Latins, and Etruscans. Tarquinius is assassinated by the sons of Ancus. 578-534. Servius Tullius. The son of a slave woman, Ocrisia, and a god; he becomes the son-in-law of Tarquinius. Formation of the four “tribes.” Changes in the army, begun by Tarquinius, completed; distribution of all landholders into tribes, classes, and centuries. Wars with Veii. Rome joins the Latin league. Building of the walls of Rome. Assassination of Servius Tullius by his son-in-law. 534-510. Tarquinius Superbus. The Capitoline temple of Jupiter is completed. Subjugation of the Latin league. Suessa Pometia is conquered. Through the treachery of his son Sextus, Tarquinius captures the city of Gabii. Rape of Lucretia by Sextus the king’s son, whereupon the indignant Romans rise in revolt. L. Junius Brutus heads the insurrection, and Tarquin is deposed. Rome besieged by Lars Porsenna, prince of Clusium; he grants honourable terms of peace and withdraws. Battle of Lake Regillus. Tarquin seeks revenge at Cumæ. Overthrow of the monarchy.



510. Rise of the Republic. 509. Consuls for the first year are L. Junius Brutus and L. Tarquinius Collatinus. Collatinus, being a descendant of Tarquin, is compelled by a decree of the senate to give up his office. He is replaced by P. Valerius Publicola. According to Polybius, L. Junius Brutus and Marcus Horatius were consuls for the first year. The first dictator is Titus Lartius. Unsuccessful attempts to restore the Tarquinians. Execution of Brutus’ son. Commercial treaty between Rome and Carthage. 508. The Romans are defeated by the Etruscan king Porsenna of Clusium, are forced to disarm and surrender certain lands. Alliance of thirty Latin cities under the dictatorship of Octavius with the object of restoring the Tarquinians to the sovereignty of Rome. Death of Valerius Publicola. 497. The Latins declare war against Rome. Aulus Postumius is appointed dictator at Rome. Tradition credits the Romans with a great victory over the Latins at Lake Regillus. The Latin cities make peace with Rome, and agree to banish Tarquinius. 494. The plebeians secede to the Sacred Hill, and compel the patricians to make important concessions, among which is the abrogation of oppressive debts. Establishment of the tribunate and the plebeian ædileship. 493. The eternal alliance between Rome and the Latin league is renewed under the consulate of Spurius Cassius on the basis of equality. Rome gradually regains hegemony over the Latins. The tribunate is the cause of anarchy, and leads to further disputes between the patricians and plebeians. Attempts to abolish the tribunate. 491. Marcius Coriolanus. During a famine he suggests granting, at the expense of the state, grain to the plebeians, on condition that they relinquish their claim to the tribunate. He is summoned before the tribal assembly but fails to appear, and according to Livy is banished, goes over to the Volscians, and leads their troops against Rome; at the rebuke of Veturia his mother, and the entreaties of his wife Volumnia, he abandons the war against his native city. 487. The consul Aquilius defeats the Hernici who invade Roman territory. 486. Spurius Cassius Viscellinus consul for the third time. He again defeats the Hernici, after which they join the Latin league. He introduces the first agrarian law, and proposes that a portion of the public lands be divided between the needy plebeians and Latins; the remainder to be leased for the benefit of the state. He is attacked by the patricians and wealthy plebeians on account of this measure, and the poorer plebeians, being opposed to the granting of lands to the Latins, abandon him. At the expiration of his consulship he is condemned and executed. 479. Withdrawal of the Fabian gens. 477. The Etruscans destroy the Fabian gens at the Cremera. Genucius, the people’s tribune, assassinated for inquiring into the acts of two consuls. 472. Publilius Volero effects law that the tribal assembly henceforth shall elect plebeian magistrates. 468. Conquest of Antium from the Volscians; a Roman colony is sent thither. 463. Rome and all Italy visited by a terrible plague. Volscians and Æquians ravage the country up to the walls of Rome. The safety of the city secured by the Latin Hernicans, not by the Romans. 462. C. Terentilius Harsa introduces a bill to secure the plebeians a better footing in the state, and to reduce the laws to a written code. The patricians violently oppose the measure. 460. A band of Sabines and exiled Romans under Herdonius seize the Capitol; civil strife is renewed. 457. To meet the desire of the plebeians, the number of the tribunes of the people is raised from five to ten. 456. Aventine Hill is[35] divided into building lots and distributed among the poorer citizens. The dictatorship of L. Quinctius Cincinnatus. 454. Three ambassadors appointed to visit Greece and secure copies of the Solonian laws to be used as the groundwork of a new code of laws. 452. The ambassadors return. Rome free from domestic strife.


451. The decemvirs or consuls of ten appointed from the patricians with Appius Claudius and T. Genucius consuls for the first year, at their head. The code of the ten tables posted in the Forum and becomes law. 450. Appointment of the decemvirs. Appius Claudius the only one of the old decemvirs to be re-elected. Three plebeians are also elected. Two new tables are added to the code of laws. 449. The decemvirs under Appius Claudius, who have become more despotic than the early kings, remain in office during this year. Under the Valerii and Horatii an attempt on the part of the moderate aristocracy to compel the decemvirs to abdicate proves unsuccessful. Renewal of the border wars. The Sabines on the north and the Æquians on the northeast invade Roman territory. Two armies are sent to oppose them and both are defeated. Siccius Dentatus, a former tribune of the people, is murdered at the instigation of the decemvirs. Virginia, the betrothed of L. Icilius, the tribune who succeeded in allotting the Aventine Hill to the plebeians, is outraged by Appius Claudius. Her father Virginius stabs her in the Forum. These acts bring about a revolt against the decemvirs who abdicate. Appius Claudius is thrown into prison and commits suicide. Spurius Oppius, chief of the plebeian decemvirs, is accused by Numitorius and executed. 448. The new laws of Valerius Horatius. 445. A law making marriage legal between patricians and plebeians is passed by C. Canuleius. 444. Formation of military tribunes with consular authority. Plebeians and patricians both eligible. 443. A new office is created to which two patricians are elected and known as censors. 439. A wealthy plebeian Spurius Mælius charged with seeking regal power is assassinated by C. Servilius Ahala. 434. L. Æmilius Mamercus appointed dictator to conduct the war in lower Etruria. 431. Rome threatened by a combined attack of the Æquians and Volscians. They are defeated. 405-396. Siege of Veii. Dictator M. Furius Camillus captures and destroys Veii. 394. Camillus marches against Falerii, the chief city of the Falisci, who surrender. 391. Camillus is accused of unfairly dividing the booty at Veii, is impeached, and goes into exile. 390. The Gauls invade Rome and the senate accedes to their demand that the three Roman ambassadors who aided the Etruscans against the Gauls should be delivered to them, but the citizens reject the measure. Battle of the Allia in which the Romans are completely routed and their city left defenceless. Rome captured, plundered, and burned. The Gauls attack the Capitol but are repulsed and content themselves with a blockade. After a siege of seven months the Gauls agree to quit Rome on receiving one thousand pounds’ weight of gold. Rebuilding of the city.


376. New laws are proposed by C. Licinius and Lucius Sextius. 367. Licinian laws are passed. 366. L. Sextius Lateranus first plebeian consul. 367-349. Wars with the Gauls in upper Italy. 362-358. War with the[36] Hernicans and the insurgent Latin cities. A new alliance formed of Latins, Romans, and Hernicans. 358-351. War with Tarquinii and other Etruscan cities. Southern Etruria acknowledges Roman supremacy. 350-345. Wars with the Volscians and Aurunci, who are completely subjugated. 348. Renewal of the commercial treaty with Carthage. 343. First Samnite War. 340-338. The great Latin War. Subjugation of Latium. 337-326. Revolt of Cales. Treaty with Alexander of Molossia. Siege and destruction of Palæopolis. 326. The Second Samnite War begins. 321. The great defeat of the Roman army at Caudine Forks. 319. L. Papirius Cursor conquers Luceria. 312. The Etruscans, on the expiration of the forty years’ peace, join in the war against Rome. 309. L. Papirius Cursor utterly defeats the Samnites. 305. The Romans capture Bovianum, the Samnite capital. 304. End of the war. 299. The Third Samnite War. 295. The battle of Sentinum, in which the Romans prove victorious. 294. The allied Romans dissolve. 293. Defeat of the Samnites at Aquilonia. 290. The conclusion of peace. 285-282. War against the new league of Italian cities. 282. Opening of the war with Tarentum. 280. Pyrrhus lands in Italy. Battle of Heraclea. 279. Battle of Asculum. 275. Battle of Beneventum. Pyrrhus withdraws from Italy. 274-264. Final settlement of Italy.


264. First Punic War. The Carthaginians besiege Messana. 263. Invasion of Sicily by the Romans. The Syracusan king Hiero joins the Romans. 262. The Romans defeat Hanno and capture Agrigentum [Acragas]. 260. The Romans send a fleet under Cornelius Scipio against Lipara, which is defeated by the Carthaginians. Battle of Mylæ in which the Roman navy proves victorious. Sea fight off Ecnomus; defeat of the Carthaginian fleet. The Romans invade Africa. 255. Carthaginians under Xanthippus defeat the Romans under Regulus. Loss of the Roman fleet on homeward voyage. 254. Roman victory at Panormus. 251. Hasdrubal defeated at Panormus. 249. Carthaginian victory over the Romans at Drepanum. 248-243. Success of the Carthaginians under Hamilcar Barca on the Italian coast and in Sicily. 242. Romans defeat the Carthaginian fleet off Ægatian islands. 241. Hamilcar Barca concludes peace. The Carthaginians agree to pay indemnity and leave Sicily. 229-228. War with the Illyrians. 225-222. Annihilation of the Cisalpine Gauls. 218. The Second Punic War begins. The Roman army sent to Africa. Hasdrubal opposes Scipio in Spain. Hannibal crosses the Alps. 217. Hannibal defeats the Romans at Lake Trasimene. 216. The Romans annihilated at Cannæ. 215. First Macedonian War. Philip of Macedon joins Carthage. Hannibal is defeated in the battle of Nola. 214. Carthaginians land in Sicily. 212. Romans recover their position in Sicily. Carthaginian success in Spain. 211. The Romans besiege Capua. Hannibal at the gate of Rome. Hannibal’s retreat from Rome. Fall of Capua. Defeat of Hasdrubal at Bæcula. 209. Hasdrubal crosses the Pyrenees and Gaul, and appears in the north of Italy. 207. Hasdrubal defeated and slain at the battle of Metaurus. 206. Carthaginians expelled from Spain. Macedonian War concluded. 204. Scipio in Africa. 203. Scipio defeats the Carthaginians. Hannibal recalled to Carthage. 202. Scipio defeats Hannibal in the battle of Zama. 201. Treaty of peace concluded. 200. Second Macedonian War. 200-197. Subjugation of upper Italy. 197. Second Macedonian War concluded. 192-189. War with Syria. 190. Battle of Magnesia. 171. Third Macedonian[37] War. 168. Overthrow of the Macedonian monarchy. 149. Third Punic War begins. Siege of Carthage. Viriathus successful in Lusitania. 146. Carthage taken and destroyed; her territories become Roman provinces and are organised as such. Achæan War. Battle of Leucopetra. Corinth surrenders peacefully. Destruction of Corinth. 143-141. Numantine War against the rebellious Celtiberians. Viriathus maintains himself against the Romans, and finally concludes a peace unfavourable to them. 140. The Romans violate the peace and renew the war. 139. Viriathus is murdered at Roman instigation. The Lusitanians renew the war but are defeated and disarmed. This is their last rebellion on a formidable scale. 133. Numantia taken and destroyed by Scipio Africanus the younger. Having resisted successive Roman generals since the year 143 it is now subdued after fifteen months’ close investment. Its fall signalises the subjection of northern Spain to Rome. 135-132. First Servile War in Sicily. The slave Eunus leads an insurrection of the slaves and assumes the title of King Antiochus. A regular government is established, and in the war with Rome which follows the rebels are at first successful. When finally subdued they are punished by numerous executions. The consul Rupilius reorganises the administration of Sicily.


133. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus elected tribune. He proposes the resumption of “common lands” held by unauthorised persons and the revival of the Licinian law limiting the amount of such land to be occupied by one individual. By this means he hoped to mitigate the evils resulting from the concentration of these estates in the possession of a few persons. Tiberius obtains the illegal removal from office of the tribune Caius Octavius, who had vetoed the passing of the new (Sempronian) law, and that law is then passed by the popular assembly. Tiberius Gracchus, his brother Caius, and his father-in-law Appius Claudius appointed to carry out the decree. Attalus III king of Pergamus dies, making the Romans his heirs. Tiberius Gracchus proposes that the money shall be employed to start the new settlers on the resumed lands and that the kingdom of Attalus (the new province of Asia) shall be governed by the people instead of by the senate, who were legally entitled to the disposal of both land and money. Tiberius prepares other reforms, and in order to preserve and continue his work becomes a candidate for re-election as tribune, in defiance of the law forbidding re-election. He opposes the aristocratic resistance by force and is killed with many of his adherents in the ensuing riot. 131. C. Carbo, the tribune, obtains a law permitting secret voting for the ratification of laws by the popular vote. Scipio Africanus Minor obtains the defeat of Carbo’s measure to legalise the re-election of tribunes. 129. Aristonicus, a natural son of Attalus III of Pergamus, executed for making war against the Romans in assertion of his rights to his father’s kingdom. C. Carbo, Gracchus, and Marcus Fulvius Flaccus triumvirs for the execution of the Sempronian law; Scipio contrives to obtain a limitation of their powers, which virtually suspends the law. 125. Fulvius Flavius becomes consul. He raises the question of admitting the Latins to the Roman citizenship, and is then sent to Transalpine Gaul to aid the Massiliots against the Gauls. Fregellæ revolts against the Romans and is destroyed. 124. Aquæ Sextiæ (Aix) founded in Gaul. 123. Caius Gracchus clears himself from the charge of instigating the revolt of Fregellæ. He succeeds in driving into exile Popilius Lænas,[38] the survivor of the consuls of 132. Finding himself confronted by a powerful opposition, Caius endeavours to conciliate the people by means of the lex frumentarii, a law providing for the regular distribution of corn at the expense of the state. He originates the idea of provincial colonies. The lex judiciaria transfers judicial functions from the senate to the order of equites, the moneyed, as distinguished from the aristocratic class. This measure weakens the power of the senate but does not render the administration of justice less corrupt. By the lex de provincia Asia, C. Gracchus places that province at the disposal of the equites. Caius Gracchus re-elected tribune for a second year. 122. C. Gracchus goes to establish the colony of Junonia on the site of Carthage. In his absence M. Livius Drusus proposes the foundation of twelve colonies in Italy, a popular measure intended to divert the people’s favour from Gracchus. C. Gracchus attempts to extend the rights of citizenship to the Latins but is defeated by the united efforts of the senate and the mob. War with the Allobroges and Arverni and Roman victory of Vindalum. 121. Death of Caius Gracchus. This is the result of a riot originating in a murder committed by a partisan of Gracchus. The latter with his adherents takes possession of the Aventine, from which they were driven by the aristocratic party. 120. Agrarian law forbidding the sale of lands allotted to the peasants, repealed. Popilius Lænas recalled. 118. Common lands secured to those in possession on payment of a fixed tax. Narbo, afterwards the capital of the Narbonensis, founded. 113. Invasion of the Cimbrians. They defeat the consul Cn. Papirius Carbo at Noreia, and pass into Helvetia and Gaul. 111. Common lands in Italy declared to be the private property of those in possession. This date marks the final failure of the reforms of the Gracchi.


111. Outbreak of the Jugurthine War. This war was occasioned by the quarrel between the two kings of Numidia, Jugurtha and Adherbal. The latter appealed to Rome, and a commission appointed by the senate made a regular division of the kingdom between the two claimants. War again broke out between them, and Adherbal was besieged in his capital Cirta. It was taken and Adherbal put to death. Whereupon Rome declared war against Jugurtha. The consul Calpurnius concludes a treaty with Jugurtha which the senate refuses to sanction. 110. Aulus Albinus capitulates to Jugurtha with his whole army. 109. Battle of the Muthul; Metellus defeats Jugurtha. M. Junius Silanus defeated by the Cimbri in Gaul. 107. L. Cassius Longinus defeated by the Cimbri on the Garonne. Metellus defeats Jugurtha, who takes refuge in the desert. Bocchus, king of Mauretania, makes alliance with Jugurtha. C. Marius succeeds Metellus. He defeats Jugurtha near Cirta and takes Capsa and other towns. 106. L. Cornelius Sulla joins Marius. Jugurtha repulsed at Cirta. 105. Sulla induces Bocchus to betray Jugurtha. Numidia divided between Bocchus and Jugurtha’s half-brother Gauda. The Cimbri defeat the Romans at Arausio (Orange). 104. Marius elected consul. Preparations for defence of Italy against the barbarians. The Cimbri cross into Spain. Marius reorganises the Roman army. 103. Marius again consul. Second Servile insurrection in Sicily under Tryphon, who assumes the title of king. 102. The Cimbrians, Teutones, and Helvetians approach Italy in two bands. Battle of Aquæ Sextiæ. Marius defeats the Teutones and Ambrones. Catulus abandons the country north of the Po to the Cimbri. 101. Battle of[39] Vercellæ (Campi Raudii). Marius destroys the army of the Cimbri and thus saves Italy from the barbarians. Athenion, the successor of Tryphon, defeated and slain by the consul Manius Aquilius. The fugitives taken and killed to the number of thirty thousand.


100. Marius chosen consul for the sixth time. Saturninus coerces the assembly of the tribes into accepting a measure for distributing conquered lands among the soldiers of Marius, and containing a clause obliging the senate to confirm the law. Q. Metellus alone refuses to do so and goes into banishment. The popular party endeavour to secure the consulship for 99 to Glaucia. His supporters kill the rival candidate in the Forum. Marius interferes in the cause of order, attacks the rioters and captures Saturninus and Glaucia. While awaiting trial the popular leaders with many of their adherents are put to death by the aristocratic party. 99. Q. Metellus recalled. 98. Marius retires to Asia. 95. Rutilius Rufus falsely accused of extortion while legatus in Asia Minor and sent into banishment. This unjust sentence reveals the abuse of the judicial power in the hands of the equites. 92. Sulla as prætor in Cilicia restores the king of Cappadocia who had been expelled at the instigation of Mithridates, king of Pontus. 91. Marcus Livius Drusus tribune. He introduces laws: (a) taking the judicial power from the equites and restoring it to the senate, and (b) providing for a redistribution of lands. These laws, passed by the popular assembly, are declared invalid by the senate. Drusus proceeds to execute them and to introduce a measure for admitting Italians to the citizenship. Drusus dies suddenly. 90. Trials and banishment of the supporters of the Italians. The Social War (90-88). The Italians revolt from Rome and form a republic with Corfinium as its capital. They attack the Latin colonies. Venusia and several other cities fall into their hands before the Romans can take the field. Lucius Julius Cæsar, the consul, twice defeated by the Italians. Campania and Apulia fall into their hands. The consul Rutilius defeated and slain on the Tolenus. Marius fails to distinguish himself. Cn. Pompeius Strabo defeated and besieged in Firmum, from whence he attacks and routs the Italians. The year closes with the Italians on the whole successful and with news of disturbances in the provinces. Rome conciliates the Latins and the loyal Italians by granting them citizen rights. 89. The Romans repeatedly defeat the Italians. The lex Plautia-Papiria confers Roman citizenship on all Italians desiring it. They are enrolled in eight of the tribes. 88. Mithridates, king of Pontus, makes war on the king of Bithynia and defeats the Roman armies supporting the latter. The Greek cities of Asia join Mithridates and put to death all Italians found in them. Sulla appointed to command in the Mithridatic War. P. Sulpicius, a partisan of Marius, proposes to enrol Italians in all the thirty-five tribes. Sulla opposes the measure. The popular assembly transfers the command in the Mithridatic War to Marius. Sulla joins his army in Campania and marches on Rome. Marius makes a fruitless attempt to defend the city, but fails and has to flee to Africa. Sulla deprives the popular assembly of the right to vote on measures not previously sanctioned by the senate. 87. Sulla proceeds to the war against Mithridates, lands in Epirus, drives Mithridates’ generals from Bœotia, and besieges Athens, which had declared for the king of Pontus. Meantime the consul L. Cornelius Cinna endeavours forcibly to revive the laws of Sulpicius. He is expelled by the aristocratic[40] party. In conjunction with Marius he raises an army in Campania and occupies Rome. Five days spent in slaughter and pillage. Cinna interferes and orders the bands of Marius to be cut to pieces. 86. Marius a seventh time consul. Death of Marius. His colleague Cinna continues his tyrannical government.

TIME OF SULLA (86-78 B.C.)

86. Athens taken by Sulla. Battle of Chæronea won by Sulla. 85. Battle of Orchomenos won by Sulla. Sulla proceeds to Asia by way of Macedonia and Thrace. Another Roman army under the auspices of the democratic party wins successes against Mithridates, its leader, Fimbria, conducting the war in a savage fashion. 85. Sulla concludes a peace with Mithridates, by which the king surrenders all his conquests. Fimbria’s army goes over to Sulla. 83. Sulla returns and lands at Brundusium with a large force. He is joined by the young Cn. Pompeius (Pompey the Great). He guarantees the Italians the rights previously secured them, including that of voting in the thirty-five tribes. Battle of Mount Tifata. Sulla defeats the consul C. Norbanus. The army of the consul L. Scipio goes over to Sulla. In this year the second Mithridatic War began. It lasted till 81, and was carried on by the proprætor Murena, who invaded Pontus, and was there defeated by Mithridates. 82. The younger Marius and Papirius Carbo consuls. Battle of Sacriportus. Marius is defeated by Sulla and retires to Præneste, where he is besieged. The democratic leaders flee from Rome. Sulla enters Rome without opposition. Battle of the Colline Gate. The Samnites attack Rome and are repulsed with great slaughter. Many of the prisoners are massacred. Præneste falls. Suicide of Marius. Sulla displays great cruelty towards the conquered cities of Italy. He becomes dictator for an indefinite period, to reorganise the government. Proscription lists are published, the proscribed butchered, and their property confiscated. Senate reorganised and its privileges increased. The power of the tribunes reduced. 80. Sertorius, a distinguished member of the democratic party who had made himself an independent ruler in Lusitania, maintains himself against Fufidius and Q. Metellus. 79. Sulla abdicates his power. 78. Death of Sulla.


78. M. Æmilius Lepidus and Marcus Junius Brutus attempt to overthrow Sulla’s constitution. Lepidus is twice defeated. 77. Brutus defeated and put to death by Pompey. 76. Sertorius defeats Pompey in Spain. 75. Isauria, Pamphylia, and Pisidia occupied for Rome in consequence of a war against the Mediterranean pirates. 74. Bithynia bequeathed to Rome by Nicomedes III. Third Mithridatic War. Mithridates occupies Bithynia. Battle of Chalcedon. Mithridates defeats the Roman general Cotta. Lucullus relieves Chalcedon and Cyzicus. 73. Lucullus drives Mithridates from his kingdom. Third Servile War. Gladiators, who had escaped from a school at Capua, place themselves under the command of Spartacus, a Thracian captive, and being joined by numbers of slaves, ravage Italy. 72. Sertorius murdered by Perperna. Pompey defeats and executes Perperna. 71. Spartacus defeated and slain by M. Licinius Crassus. Pompey destroys the fugitives. 72-70. Lucullus reduces the cities on the Pontic coast and invades Armenia. 70. Privileges of the tribunes restored. 69. Battle of Tigranocerta. Lucullus defeats Tigranes, king of Armenia, and (68) advances across the Euphrates, but[41] is compelled to retreat owing to a mutiny. 67. Mithridates defeats the Roman general Triarius at Zela. Lucullus retreats. Mithridates reconquers Pontus and invades Bithynia and Cappadocia. Pompey receives supreme command of the Mediterranean and the disposal of all the resources of the Roman provinces and dependent states. In three months he succeeds in completely extirpating piracy, which had scourged the sea for many years. Pompey supersedes Lucullus and recovers Pontus. 66. Battle on the Lycus. Pompey defeats Mithridates. 65. Pompey makes an expedition against the Caucasian tribes. He goes to Syria. 64. Pompey proceeds to organise the provinces in Asia Minor. Catiline conspiracy. The united parties of the democrats under M. Crassus and C. Julius Cæsar and the anarchists under L. Sergius Catilina conspire to secure the consulship for Catiline and C. Antonius. Antonius and M. Tullius Cicero elected. Antonius deserts his supporters. 63. Plan of Catiline to murder his rivals for the consulship of 63 and seize the power by force. Cicero discovers and defeats the plot. 62. Battle of Pistoria. Catiline defeated and slain. 61. Cæsar proprætor in Farther Spain. Pompey returns to Italy. The senate refuses to ratify his dispositions in Asia and to fulfil his request respecting lands for his veterans.


60. First triumvirate: a league between Pompey, Cæsar, and Crassus. 59. Cæsar’s consulship. Pompey’s dispositions in Asia ratified and a decree for the distribution of lands obtained from the popular assembly. The government of Gallia Cisalpina, Illyricum, and Gallia Narbonensis conferred on Cæsar for five years with extraordinary powers. 58. Cato appointed to take possession of Cyprus. Cicero driven into exile. The Helvetians invade Gaul and are crushed by Cæsar at Bibracte (Autun). Suevi under Ariovistus repulsed at Vesontio (Besançon). 57. Belgic tribes subjugated by Cæsar. Cicero and Cato return to Rome. 56. Veneti in Armorica subdued by Cæsar and the Aquitani by his lieutenant. Pompey and Crassus coerce the assembly into electing them as consuls for 55. Cæsar’s command extended for another five years. 55. Cæsar crosses the Rhine and penetrates into Germany. Cæsar makes his first expedition to Britain. 54. Pompey delegates to his representatives the government of Spain, which had been conferred on him for five years. Crassus takes over the command of Syria. Cæsar makes a second expedition to Britain and encounters Cassivelaunus. 53. Battle of Carrhæ. Crassus defeated by the Parthians, and subsequently slain. Cæsar suppresses the revolt of the Eburones and other Gallic tribes. 52. P. Clodius, the partisan of the triumvirate, killed in a quarrel with T. Annius Milo. Consequent tumults. Pompey appointed sole consul to restore quiet. Vercingetorix leads a general revolt of the Gauls, which is suppressed by Cæsar after a hard contest. Breach between Cæsar and Pompey. 51. Cæsar completes the subjection and pacification of Gaul. 50. Cæsar’s recall decreed by the senate.


49. Cæsar crosses the Rubicon. Pompey flees to Brundusium. Cæsar marches through Italy, compels Domitius to surrender at Corfinium and besieges Brundusium. Pompey passes over into Greece with his troops. Cæsar subdues Pompey’s representatives in Spain. Curio subdues Sicily for Cæsar, wins the victory of Utica in Africa, and is defeated and slain at the[42] Bagradas by the king of Numidia. Cæsar is proclaimed dictator at Rome, but abdicates and is appointed consul for 48. 48. Cæsar goes to Greece and is defeated by Pompey at Dyrrhachium. Cæsar defeats Pompey in the battle of Pharsalia, who flees to Egypt, where he is murdered. Cæsar lands in Egypt and interferes in the disputes for the throne. The people of Alexandria rise against Cæsar. Egyptian fleet burned by Cæsar’s order. The great library perishes in the flames. Cæsar defeats the Egyptian army and establishes Cleopatra and her brother under Roman supremacy. 47. War with Pharnaces, son of Mithridates. Cæsar victorious in a five days’ campaign. 46. Battle of Thapsus. Cæsar defeats and slaughters Pompey’s adherents in Africa. Part of Numidia annexed to Africa. Death of Cato. Cæsar returns to Rome and is made dictator for ten years. Reform of the calendar. 45. Battle of Munda in Spain. Defeat and subsequent death of Pompey’s eldest son. Final triumph of Cæsar. Cæsar now proceeds to various measures for organising public affairs. He extends the franchise, enlarges the senate, and makes appointments to it himself. He plants new colonies abroad, arranges for a survey of the empire, and plans a codification of the law. He makes various schemes for the construction and improvement of public works. He arrogates to himself the final decision in judicial cases. He abolishes the system of farming the taxes, institutes military reforms, and takes measures to curb the abuse of power by the provincial governors. The extensive powers which he possesses are exercised by right of the numerous offices and titles conferred on him. 44. Cæsar refuses the crown offered him at the Lupercalia. Murder of Cæsar by M. Junius Brutus, Decimus Brutus, Cassius, etc. Mark Antony incites the people against the conspirators. They take to flight. Mark Antony supreme in Rome. Mark Antony besieges Decimus Brutus in Mutina.


43. The consuls and Cæsar’s nephew, Caius Julius Cæsar Octavianus, sent against Antony by the senate. Battle of Mutina. Antony defeated. Octavian obtains the consulship and the condemnation of the conspirators. Decimus Brutus taken and put to death. The second triumvirate. Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus assume the supreme power. Proscriptions and confiscations. Murder of Cicero. 42. Battle of Philippi. Defeat and death of Brutus and Cassius. Antony meets Cleopatra at Tarsus. 41. War of Perusia between Octavian and the brother and wife of Antony respecting the distribution of lands to the veterans. Octavian makes himself supreme in Italy. 40. The triumvirs divide the empire between them. 39. Treaty of Misenum. The triumvirs grant Sicily, Sardinia, and Peloponnesus to Sextus, the surviving son of Pompey. Antony goes to Egypt. 38. Sicilian War between the triumvirs and Sextus Pompeius. 36. Battle of Naulochus. Defeat and flight of Sextus. Unsuccessful campaign of Antony against the Parthians. 34. Artavasdes, king of Armenia, defeated and captured by Antony. 31. Battle of Actium. Octavian defeats the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra. 30. Suicide of Antony and Cleopatra. Egypt made a Roman province. Octavian sole ruler of the Roman dominions.




The fundamental peculiarity of Roman history is the fact that it is the history, not of a country or, in the proper sense, of a nation, but of a city. In Egypt, Thebes was at one time dominant, and Memphis at another; the supreme centre of Mesopotamia shifted between Babylon and Nineveh; whilst in Greece, Athens and Sparta long contested the supremacy. But in all these cases, with the possible exception of the Babylonian, the country as a whole gave its name to the people, and the city was, at best, only the heart of the civilisation; whereas Rome came into power as an isolated community within a little city, the very environs of which were at first hostile territory.

This city chanced to be located in Italy, but for some centuries the names “Roman” and “Italian” were in no sense synonymous. Indeed at an early date the main part of Italy was inhabited by people who were not at all under Roman dominion, and when the legions of Rome issued forth to conquer the territories and the little peninsula, the wars that led to this result had all the significance of foreign conquest. And when these conquests had spread beyond the bounds of Italy proper until, finally, they took in practically all of the civilised world that was worth conquering, except the Parthian kingdom in the far East, it was still the single city on the Tiber which was regarded as constituting the essence of the vast dominion; and the citizen who had come to share in the full rights and privileges of this vast domain needed no other specific designation than the single word “Roman.”

From the point of view of the ethnologist, Greeks and Romans had strong points of difference. The Greeks were dominated by a temperament perhaps more acute and sensitive than that of any other nation of the ancient world. They developed the fine arts in all their main branches—pottery, sculpture, architecture, grammar, and philosophy—to a height which has never been excelled by any subsequent people. But they paid the penalty of their sensibility and their versatility by an instability of purpose, a lack of civic discipline, which speedily worked their downfall.

The Romans developed comparatively little culture. Almost all the lasting monuments of the Romans were partly inspired by intercourse with the Greeks. On the other hand, as might have been expected of a people whose home was within the walls of a city, they were as eminent in the framing of laws, and in the art of government, as the Greeks were in the fine arts. The versatility and levity of the Greek, and his undisciplined life of individual freedom, ruined the nation of the noblest promise in all history.[44] The virile stability of the Roman, and his conception of freedom as subordinate to the duties of patriotism, made him master of the civilised world for many centuries.

To these two nations the world owes, perhaps, an equal debt. The peoples of modern Europe arose from the ruins of the Roman empire, and inherited from it the soundest laws and the best examples of government; which, in some respects, they have been able to improve upon; and, when they had progressed far enough in civilisation, they discovered the culture of the Greeks and developed it, each nation in accordance with its genius and its needs, into the civilisation of the later centuries.

The testimony of language has been accepted as proving that the Romans were Aryans, but that term itself has come to have a somewhat doubtful meaning, as we have already seen. The affinity of their language seems to make it clear that the Romans were more closely allied to the Greeks than to any other of their known contemporaries, and it has been assumed as proven that the ancestors of these two peoples remained in contact with each other long after their separation from the primitive Aryan swarm. But the problem in its entirety deals with many questions that are obscure in the extreme: just when or just how these supposititious Aryans migrated into Italy; what manner of people—what race even—they found there; to what extent they commingled ethnically with the races which they there met and conquered; these are all questions to which authentic history can give but the vaguest answers.a


It is difficult in attempting a geographical sketch for the purpose of elucidating Roman history, to determine where we ought to begin and where to end. For during a long period we are hardly carried out of sight of the Capitol; and at the close of that period we are hurried with startling rapidity into the heart of every country, from the Atlantic to the mountains of Asia Minor, from the ridges of the Alps to the plains that lie beneath Mount Atlas. But since the origin and composition of the people we call Roman depend upon the early state and population of Italy at large, and since in course of time all Italians became Romans, it will be well to follow the usual custom, and begin with a geographical sketch of the Italian peninsula.

This peninsula, the central one of the three which stretch boldly forward from the southern coasts of Europe, lies nearly between the parallels of north latitude 38° and 46°. Its length, therefore, measured along a meridian arc, ought to be about 550 miles. But since, unlike the other two Mediterranean peninsulas, it runs in a direction nearly diagonal to the lines of latitude and longitude, its real length, measured from Mont Blanc to Cape Spartivento, is somewhat more than seven hundred miles.

To estimate the breadth of this long and singularly shaped peninsula, it may conveniently be divided into two parts by a line drawn across from the mouths of the Po to the northern point of Etruria. Below this line the average breadth of the leg of Italy does not much exceed one hundred miles. Above this line both coasts trend rapidly outwards, so that the upper portion forms an irregularly shaped figure, which lies across the top of the leg, being bounded on the north and west by the Alpine range from Illyria to the mouth of the Var, on the south by the imaginary line before drawn, and on the east by the head of the Adriatic Sea. The length of this figure from east to west[45] is not less than 350 miles; while from north to south it measures, on the average, about 120 miles.

The surface of the whole peninsula, including both the leg of Italy and the irregular figure at the top, is estimated at about ninety thousand square miles, or an area nearly equal to the surface of Great Britain and Ireland. But a very large proportion of this surface is unproductive, and a great part even incapable of tillage.

The geographical features are simple. No deep gulfs and inlets are to be expected; for these are only found when mountain chains jut out into the sea, and maintain themselves as headlands, while the lower land between is eaten and washed away by the ceaseless action of the waves. Such phenomena are presented by Greece, and by the western coasts of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. But in Italy there is but one uniform mountain chain. On the northern or Adriatic slope of the Apennines, indeed, a number of gorges open to the sea in a direction transverse to the main line of the mountains. But the projecting spurs which form these gorges are not considerable in height; and on the southern or Mediterranean side the main range sinks towards the sea in subordinate or secondary ranges, more or less parallel to the principal chain, and therefore seldom admitting of abrupt headlands with deep embrasures between. There is, however, one exception. At the foot of Italy the central range forks off into two great branches, one running towards the toe of the peninsula, the other forming the heel. The low lands between these two ranges have been scooped out by the waves, and here has been formed the great Gulf of Tarentum, a vast expanse of sea, measuring from point to point no less than eighty miles. But except this great gulf, the coasts of the peninsula are indented by comparatively gentle curves. On the northern side the single inequality is presented by the projecting mass of Mount Garganus, which forms with the lower coast what is now called the Bay of Manfredonia. On the sole of the foot, below the Gulf of Tarentum, we find the Bay of Squillace (Sinus Scylacius). After passing the Straits of Messina, first occurs the Bay of St. Eufemia (Sinus Vibonensis), which is separated from that of Squillace by a mass of granitic rocks less than twenty miles in breadth. A little higher up we come to a wide sweep in the coast, known by the name of the Bay of Policastro.

That part of the southern coast which is most irregular deserves particular attention from the student of Roman history. Between the point where ancient Lucania borders on Campania, and that at which Latium begins, a distance of about 120 miles, the coast-line is broken into three fine bays, the Bay of Pæstum or Salerno on the south, the Bay of Gaeta on the north, and between them the smallest but most famous and most beautiful of the three—the Bay of Cumæ or Naples. From Cape Circello (Circeii), which forms the northern horn of the Bay of Gaeta, the coast-line runs onward to Genoa, unbroken save by the headlands of Argentaro and Piombino in Tuscany. But these do not project far enough to form any recess worthy to be named. Nor is the little Bay of Spezzia, just north of Tuscany, deserving of mention as a geographical feature.

The same circumstance which prevents Italy from abounding in deep bays and bold headlands also prevents its coasts from being studded with islands, which are but relics of projecting mountain chains. If we omit Sicily, which is in fact a continuation of the peninsula separated by a channel of two or three miles broad, and the Lipari islands, which are due to the volcanic action still at work beneath Etna and Vesuvius, the islands of Italy are insignificant. Capreæ (Capri) on the one hand, Prochyta (Procida) and[46] Ischia on the other, are but fragments of the two headlands that form the Bay of Naples. Igilium (Giglio) and Ilva (Elba) stand in a similar relation to the headlands of Argentaro and Piombino. Besides these may be named Pontiæ (Ponza), Pandataria, with a few more barren rocks off the Bay of Gaeta, and a few even less important on the coast of Tuscany.

Except in northern Italy, which abounds in noble rivers, the narrowness of the peninsula forbids the existence of really large streams. Yet, the Apennine range, which forms on its southern side long parallel valleys, enables numerous torrents and rills which descend towards the south to swell into rivers of not inconsiderable size. Such especially are the Arno and the Tiber. Their waters are separated by the hills which terminate in the headlands of Argentaro and Piombino, so that the Arno flows northward, and enters the sea on the northern frontier of Tuscany, after a course of about 120 miles; while the Tiber runs in a southerly direction receiving the waters of the Clanis from the west, and those of the Nar (Nera) and Velinus from the east, till its course is abruptly turned by the Sabine hills. The entire length of its channel is about 180 miles. These two well-known rivers, with their affluents, drain the whole of Etruria, the Sabine country, and the Campagna of Rome.

Similar in their course, but on a smaller scale, are the Anio (Teverone) and the Liris. They both rise in the Æquian hills, the Anio flowing northward to swell the stream of the Tiber a little above Rome; the Liris, joined by the Trerus (Sacco) from the west, running southward so as to drain southern Latium and northern Campania, till it turns abruptly towards the sea, and enters it about the middle of the Bay of Gaeta, after a course of about eighty miles.

The Vulturnus and the Calor run down opposite valleys from the north and south of the Samnite territory, till they join their streams on the frontier of Campania, and fall into the Bay of Gaeta only a short distance below the Liris. Both of these streams measure from their sources to their united mouth not less than one hundred miles.

The only other notable river on the western coast is the Silarus (Sele), which descends by a channel of about sixty miles from the central Apennines of Lucania into the Bay of Pæstum or Salerno. In the foot of Italy the mountains come down so close to the sea that from the mouth of the Silarus to the lower angle of the Gulf of Tarentum, the streams are but short and rapid torrents. Of these it is said that no fewer than eighty may be enumerated between Pæstum and the Straits of Messina. The Gulf of Tarentum receives some streams of importance. The Bradanus and Casuentus (Basento) enter the gulf within four miles of each other after a course of about sixty miles. The Aciris (Agri) is to the south of these. The Siris (Sinno), notable as the scene of the first battle between Pyrrhus and the Romans, is a mere torrent, as is the Galesus upon which Tarentum stands.

The northern or Adriatic coast is almost devoid of lateral valleys, such as are found on the other coast, and therefore has few considerable streams. The Aufidus (Ofanto) in Apulia, renowned in Roman history from the fact that the fatal battle of Cannæ took place upon its banks, rises on the opposite side of the same range from which the Calor flows, and runs a course of about eighty miles. The Sagrus (Sangro) stands in the same relation to the Vulturnus as the Aufidus does to the Calor, and conveys the waters of the Fucine Lake from the Æquian hills through Samnium, by a nearly similar length of channel. But the largest river of this side is the Aternus, which finds its way from the Sabine hills into a valley parallel to the main[47] range, and thus prolongs its course. It is joined by a number of smaller streams, and attains a considerable volume of water before it reaches the sea at the point where the Marrucinian coast abuts on that of Picenum.

The whole coast from Mount Garganus northward is ploughed by numberless torrents which descend in rapid course down steep mountain gorges. Of these we need but name the Æsis between Picenum and Umbria; the Metaurus in Umbria, famous for the defeat of Hasdrubal; the Rubicon, which formed the boundary of Roman Italy on the northern side, as did the Macra (Magra) on the opposite coast.

The limestone mountain tract that occupies the whole narrow peninsula from the great valley of the Po downwards is often too steep, bare, and rugged to be capable of cultivation. There are, however, many rich plains of limited extent, among which Campania ranks first; and many narrow but fertile valleys, in which nature rewards the smallest labour with bountiful returns.

Ancient Roman Tower near Rome

In speaking of lakes, we must resume our twofold division of the peninsula. On the Alpine slopes of the great valley of the Po, the granitic and ancient limestone rocks break into vast chasms at right angles to their general direction, in which the waters of the rivers that flow downwards to join the Po accumulate and form those lakes so well known to all lovers of natural beauty. Such are Lake Benacus (Lago di Garda) formed by the waters of the Mincius; Larius (Lago di Como) by those of the Adda; Verbanus (Lago Maggiore) by those of the Ticino; not to mention the lakes of Lugano, Orta, and others, smaller, indeed, but hardly less beautiful.

But Apennine Italy, considering the great extent of its mountain districts, does not present many considerable lakes. Nor are these formed by the accumulated waters of rivers flowing through them, like the lakes of northern Italy or Switzerland. For the most part, like the lakes of Greece, they have no visible outlet, but lose their waters partly by evaporation, partly by underground fissures and channels. The Fucine Lake in the Æquian hills feeds the Sangro, and Lake Bradanus in the south feeds the river of the same name. But the celebrated Lake Trasimene in Etruria, and the lakes of the volcanic district, as the “great Volsinian Mere,” the lakes of Alba, Nemi, Amsanctus, and others, have no visible outlet. These, in fact, are the craters of extinct volcanoes. Roman history contains legends which relate to the artificial tapping of these cauldrons; and some of the tunnels cut through their rocky basins still remain.

The abundance of water which is poured over the hills is apt to accumulate in marshy swamps in the low districts towards the sea. Such is the[48] case along the lower course of the Po, on the coast lands of Tuscany, and in the lower part of the Campagna of Rome. Mantua, which stands a little above the junction of the Mincio with the Po, is surrounded by marshes; and the whole coast between Venice and Ravenna is a swamp.

To keep the Po and its tributaries within their channels, the Lombards of the Middle Ages raised embankments on either side of the stream. But these embankments cause the rivers to deposit the whole of the mud with which they are charged within their channels, and the quantity thus deposited is so great that it is necessary to raise the embankments continually. Hence, in the course of centuries, the bottoms of the rivers have been elevated considerably above the plains; so that the streams of Lombardy in their lower course are in fact carried along huge earthen aqueducts. In time, human industry will not be equal to raise these embankments in sufficient strength, and a deluge will ensue more fearful than those which the poet of Mantua seems to have witnessed.


It is a common remark that mountains are the chief boundaries of countries, and that races of men are found in their purest state when they are separated by these barriers from admixture with other tribes. Italy forms an exception to this rule. It was not so much the “fatal gift of beauty,” of which the poet speaks, as the richness of its northern plain, that attracted successive tribes of invaders over the Alps. From the earliest dawn of historic knowledge, we hear of one tribe after another sweeping like waves over the peninsula, each forcing its predecessor onward, till there arose a power strong enough to drive back the current, and bar aggression for many an age. This power was the Roman Empire, which forced the Gauls to remain on the northern side of the Apennines, and preserved Italy untouched by the foot of the foreigner for centuries. No sooner was this power weakened, than the incursions again began.

But if the northern barriers of the peninsula failed to check the lust of invaders, its long straggling shape, intersected by mountains from top to bottom, materially assisted in breaking it up into a number of different nations. Except during the strength of the Roman Empire, Italy has always been parcelled out into a number of small states. In the earliest times it was shared among a number of tribes differing in race and language. Great pains have been taken to investigate the origin and character of these primeval nations. But the success has not been great, and it is not our purpose to dwell on intricate questions of this kind. We shall here only give results so far as they seem to be established.

It is well known that it was not till the close of the republic, or rather the beginning of the empire, that the name of Italy was employed, as we now employ it, to designate the whole peninsula, from the Alps to the Straits of Messina. The term Italia, borrowed from the name of a primeval tribe which occupied the southern portion of the land, was gradually adopted as a generic title in the same obscure manner in which most of the countries of Europe, or (we may say) the continents of the world have received their appellations. In the remotest times the name only included lower Calabria; from these narrow limits it gradually spread upwards, till about the time of the Punic Wars its northern boundary ascended the little river Rubicon (between Umbria and Cisalpine Gaul), then followed the ridge[49] of the Apennines westward to the source of the Macra, and was carried down the bed of that small stream to the Gulf of Genoa.

But under Roman rule even this narrower Italy wanted that unity of race and language which, in spite of political severance, we are accustomed to attribute to the name. Within the boundaries just indicated there were at least six distinct races, some no doubt more widely separated, but all marked by strong national characteristics. These were the Pelasgians, the Oscans, the Sabellians, the Umbrians, the Etruscans, and the Greeks.

It is certain that in primitive times the coasts and lower valleys of Italy were peopled by tribes that had crossed over from the opposite shores of Greece and Epirus. These tribes belonged to that ancient stock called the Pelasgian, of which so much has been written and so little is known. The names that remained in southern Italy were practically all of a half-Hellenic character. Such were, in the heel of Italy, the Daunians and Peucetians (reputed to be of Arcadian origin), the Messapians and Salentines; to the south of the Gulf of Tarentum, the Chaonians (who are also found in Epirus); and in the toe the Œnotrians, who once gave name to all southern Italy. Such also were the Siculians and other tribes along the coast from Etruria to Campania, who were driven out by the invading Oscan and Sabellian nations.

The Oscan or Opican race was at one time very widely spread over the south. The Auruncans of lower Latium belonged to this race, as also the Ausonians, who once gave name to central Italy, and probably also the Volscians and the Æquians. In Campania the Oscan language was preserved to a late period in Roman history, and inscriptions still remain which can be interpreted by those familiar with Latin.

The Umbrians at one time possessed dominion over great part of central Italy. Inscriptions in their language also remain, and manifestly show that they spoke a tongue not alien to the Latin. The irruption of the Sabellian and of the Etruscan nations was probably the cause which broke the power of the Umbrians, and drove them back to a scanty territory between the Æsis, the Rubicon, and the Tiber.

The greatest of the Italian nations was the Sabellian. Under this name we include the Sabines, who are said by tradition to have been the progenitors of the whole race, the Samnites, the Picenians, Vestinians, Marsians, Marrucinians, Pelignians, and Frentanians. This race seems to have been naturally given to a pastoral life, and therefore fixed its early settlements in the upland valleys of the Apennines. Pushing gradually along this central range, the mountaineers penetrated downwards towards the Gulf of Tarentum; and as their population became too dense to find support in their native hills, bands of warrior youths issued forth to settle in the richer plains below. Thus they mingled with the Opican and Hellenic races of the south, and formed new tribes, known by the names of Apulians, Lucanians, and Campanians. These more recent tribes, in turn, threatened the great Greek colonies on the coast, of which we shall speak presently.

We now come to the Etruscans, the most singular people of the peninsula. This people called themselves Rasena, or Rasenna—a name that reminds us of the Etruscan surnames Porsenna, Vibenna, Sisenna. At one time they possessed not only the country known to the Romans as Etruria (that is, the country bounded by the Macra, the central Apennine ridge, and the Tiber), but also occupied a large portion of Liguria and Cisalpine Gaul; and perhaps they had settlements in Campania. In early times they possessed a powerful navy, and in the primitive Greek legends they[50] are represented as infesting the Mediterranean with their piratical galleys. They seem to have been driven out of their trans-Apennine possession by early invasions of the Gauls; and their naval power never recovered the blow which it received in the year 480 B.C., when Gelo, tyrant of Syracuse, defeated their navy, combined with that of Carthage, on the same day on which the battle of Salamis crippled the power of Persia.[2]

But who this people were, or whence they came, baffles conjecture. It may be assumed as certain, that Hellenic settlers came in by sea from the western coasts of Epirus, which are distant from Italy less than fifty miles; and that the Opican, Umbrian, and Sabellian races came in from the north by land. But with respect to the Etruscans all is doubtful. One well-known legend represents them as Lydians, who fled by sea from Asia Minor to avoid the terrible presence of famine. Another indicates that they came down over the Alps, and the origin of their name Rasena is traced in Rætia. On the former supposition, Etruria was their earliest settlement, and, pushing northward, they conquered the plain of the Po; on the latter, they first took possession of this fertile plain, and then spread southward over the Apennines.

Their language, if it could be interpreted, might help to solve the riddle. But though characters in which their inscriptions are written bear close affinity to the Greek and Roman alphabets, the tongue of this remarkable people has as yet baffled the deftest efforts of philology.

Of the Greek settlements that studded the coast of lower Italy, and gave to that district the name of Magna Græcia, little need here be said. They were not planted till after the foundation of Rome. Many of them, indeed, attained to great power and splendour; and the native Osco-Pelasgian population of the south became their subjects or their serfs. Sybaris alone, in the course of two centuries, is said to have become mistress of four nations and twenty-five towns, and to have been able to raise a civic force of 300,000 men. Croton, her rival, was even larger. Greek cities appear as far north as Campania, where Naples still preserves in a corrupt form her Hellenic name, Neapolis. The Greek remains discovered at Canusium (Canosi) in the heart of Apulia, attest the extent of Hellenic dominion. But the Greeks seem to have held aloof from mixture with the native Italians, whom they considered as barbarians. Rome is not mentioned by any Greek writer before the time of Aristotle (about 340 B.C.).

From the foregoing sketch it will appear that Latium formed a kind of focus, in which all the different races that in past centuries had been thronging into Italy converged. The Etruscans bordered on Latium to the west; the Sabines, with the Umbrians behind them, to the north; the Æquians and Volscians, Oscan tribes, to the northeast and east; while Hellenic communities are to be traced upon the coast lands. We should then expect beforehand to meet with a people formed by a commixture of divers tribes; and this expectation is confirmed.

Tradition tells us that the aborigines of Latium mingled in early times with a people calling themselves Siculians; that these Siculians, being conquered and partly expelled from Italy, took refuge in the island, which was afterwards called Sicily from them, but was at that time peopled by a tribe named Sicanians; that the conquering people were named Sacranians, and had themselves been forced down from the Sabine valleys in the[51] neighbourhood of Reate by Sabellian invaders; and that from this mixture of aborigines, Siculians, and Sacranians arose the people known afterwards by the name of Latins. Where all is uncertain, conjecture is easy. But all conjectures bear witness to the compound nature of the Latin nation.b


About fourteen miles upstream from the mouth of the river Tiber, and on either bank of the latter, rise gentle slopes, the higher on the right, the lower on the left; to the latter for at least two and a half thousand years the name of the Romans has been affixed. It cannot, of course, be positively declared how and when it arose, it is only certain that in the oldest form of the name known to us, the inhabitants of the province were not called Romans but—with a change of pronunciation natural enough in the more ancient stages of a language but not continued in the Latin known to us—Ramnians or Ramnes; an eloquent witness to the immemorial antiquity of this name. The exact derivation cannot be determined; it is possible that the Ramnes are the people of the stream. But they did not dwell alone on the bank of the Tiber. In the oldest classification of the Roman citizens, we find traces showing that the nation derived its origin from the fusion into a single commonwealth of three once apparently independent tribes, the Ramnes, the Tities, and the Luceres: that is, from a synoikismos like that whence Athens arose in Attica.[3]

Again, after the union, each of these three ancient communities, which had now become demes, owned a third of the common lands, and was similarly represented in the militia as well as in the council of the elders, whilst in the religious organisation the numbers of the six vestal virgins, the three high priests of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, are apparently to be referred to this threefold division.

The most wanton absurdities have been founded on the existence of the three elements into which the ancient Roman commonwealth was divided; the irrational idea that the Roman nation was a mixed race is connected with it, and its supporters labour in various ways to represent the three great Italian races as the component elements of ancient Rome, and to transform the people which developed its speech, its government, and its religion with a purity and national spirit attained by few others, into a confused mass of Etruscan, Sabine, Hellenic, and, still worse, even Pelasgic elements. Setting aside the sometimes contradictory, sometimes groundless hypotheses, all that can be said concerning the nationality of the various elements of the ancient Roman commonwealth may be summed up in a few words. That the Ramnes were of Latin origin cannot be doubted, since they gave their name to the new Roman commonwealth and maintained the chief place amongst the three tribes, so that they must have decided the nationality of the united community.

As to the descent of the Luceres, nothing can be said except that there is no obstacle to their being regarded as a Latin tribe like the Ramnes. On the other hand the second of these tribes is unanimously derived from that of the Sabines, doubtless on the authority of a respectable and authentic tradition of the “Titian brotherhood” which claimed to have been founded[52] on the admission of the tribe to the confederacy for the preservation of its peculiar national ritual. Traces of such an aboriginal Sabine worship are in fact to be found in Rome; as for instance the honouring of Maurs or Mars and of Semo Sancus, side by side with the corresponding Latin Dius Fidius. It was at a very remote period, when the Latin and Sabine tribes were yet unquestionably far less distinctly unlike in language and customs than were the Roman and the Samnite later, that a Sabellian community entered into a Latin tribal union; exactly in the same way that some centuries afterwards the Sabine clan of Attus Clanzus, or Appius Claudius, and his clients emigrated to Rome, obtained a grant of land on the right bank of the Anio and was soon completely absorbed into the Roman community.

Death of Remus

(From a picture by Mirys)

A fusion of various nationalities did of course take place; but we are not therefore justified in counting the Romans amongst mixed peoples. With the exception of isolated national institutions transplanted into the ritual, the existence of Sabellian elements is never manifested in Rome, and in especial the Latin tongue affords no support to such an hypothesis. It would indeed be more than surprising if the addition to the Latin nation of a single tribe from one of the races nearest allied to the Latin, had affected its nationality in perceptible fashion; and in addition it must by no means be forgotten that, at the time when the Tities settled near the Romans, the Latin nationality had its headquarters at Latium, not at Rome. The new threefold Roman commonwealth was, in spite of its quickly assimilated Sabellian element, just what the tribe of the Ramnes had been—a part of the Latin nation.

Long before an urban settlement rose on the Tiber, those Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres may have had their township on the Roman hills and tilled[53] their fields from the surrounding villages, at first separately and afterwards in concert. The festival of the wolf, lupercalia, which the family of Quinctii celebrated on the Palatine Hill, may be a tradition of this earliest time; it was a festival of peasants and shepherds which preserves the homely sports of patriarchal simplicity in a way equalled by none other, and remarkably enough was the one of all the heathen festivals which survived for a time in Christian Rome.

From these settlements, then, sprang the later Rome. Of the actual foundation of the town as the legend relates it, we cannot of course in any sense speak; Rome was not built in a day. It is, however, well worth considering by what means Rome could have attained to her eminent political position in Latium, when the nature of the locality would rather lead us to an opposite expectation. The site on which Rome stands is less healthy and less fertile than that of most old Latin towns. The vine and the fig tree do not thrive in the immediate neighbourhood of Rome, and there is a lack of bountiful springs—for neither the excellent fount of Camenæ before the Porta Capena, nor the Capitoline well, afterwards enclosed in the Tullianum, yields much water. To all this was added the frequent overflowing of the river, which, owing to its very slight incline, was unable during the rainy season to carry seaward the copious influx from the mountain streams with speed enough to prevent its flooding the valleys and low tracts of land which opened between the hills, and reducing them to a mere marsh. The place is by no means alluring to the settler and even in ancient times it was said that it could not have been its fitness for colonisation which attracted the first immigrant farmers to that unhealthy and infertile spot in a favoured district; but that necessity, or rather some other very special reason, must have prompted the building of the town.

The strangeness of the choice is acknowledged even in the legend; the tale of the foundation of Rome by refugees from Alba, under the leadership of the Albanian princes Romulus and Remus, is nothing but a naïve attempt of early quasi-history to explain the strangeness of the establishment of the city on so unfavourable a site, and at the same time to connect the origin of Rome with the common metropolis of Latium. It is especially from such fairy tales which purport to be history and are nothing but inventions made on the spur of the moment and not particularly clever, that serious history has to disencumber itself; but perhaps it is permissible to go a step further, and after considering the special features of the neighbourhood, to advance a positive theory, not as to the origin of the place, but as to the cause of its swift and astonishing prosperity and of its peculiar position in Latium.

Let us look first at the ancient boundaries of the Roman territory. To the east the towns of Antemnæ, Fidenæ, Cænina, Collatia, and Gabii lie in the near neighbourhood, some of them not five miles distant from the gates of Servian Rome; the boundary of the province must consequently have been hard by the city gates. Fourteen miles to the south we come on the powerful communities of Tusculum and Alba, and here the Roman territory seems not to have extended farther than to the Fossa Cluilia, five miles from Rome. Similarly, in the southwesterly direction, the boundary between Rome and Lavinium was already encountered at the sixth milestone.

Whilst on the land side the Roman province was everywhere confined to the narrowest possible limits, on the other hand, from the earliest times it stretched uninterruptedly along both banks of the Tiber in the direction of the sea; and no place representing an ancient provincial centre nor any sort of trace of an ancient provincial border is encountered between Rome and[54] the coast. It is true that legend, which can assign an origin for everything, is here also able to inform us that the Roman possessions on the right bank of the Tiber, the “seven hamlets” (septem pagi), and the important salt-works at its mouth were taken by King Romulus from the Veientes, and that King Ancus fortified the tête de pont, the “Mount of Janus” (Janiculum), on the right bank of the Tiber, and on the left laid the foundation of the Roman Piræus, the harbour town at the “mouth” (ostia) of the river. But on the other hand the fact that the possessions on the Etruscan bank must have belonged to the very earliest Roman territory is attested by a better witness, namely by the grove of the creative goddess (Dea Dia) which stood in this very place, at the fourth milestone of the road subsequently made to the harbour, and was the original high place of the Roman Arval festival and Arval brotherhood. Indeed, from time immemorial, the clan of the Romilii, probably the most distinguished among all the Roman clans, had its seat here; the Janiculum was a part of the town itself and Ostia a citizen colony, that is, a suburb. This cannot have been mere chance. The Tiber was the natural highway of Latium, and its mouth, on a coast so poorly provided with harbours, was the necessary place of anchorage for ships.

Moreover, the Tiber formed, from the earliest times, the frontier defence of the Latin stock against their northern neighbours. No place is better qualified than Rome to be both the entrepôt of the Latin river and sea commerce and the frontier fortress of Latium. She combined the advantages of a strong position and the immediate neighbourhood of the river; she commanded both banks of the stream down to its mouth; she was equally convenient for the river-ships descending the Tiber or the Anio or, in those days of moderate-sized vessels, for those designed for the sea; and she afforded better protection against pirates than the towns lying immediately on the coast. That it was to these commercial and strategical advantages that Rome owed, if not her origin, at least her importance, numerous proofs are forthcoming, which are of far greater importance than the data furnished by historical romances. With these are connected her early relations with Cære, which was to Etruria what Rome was to Latium, and consequently became the city’s closest neighbour and commercial ally; thence came the extraordinary importance of the bridges over the Tiber, and of bridge building generally in the Roman commonwealth, and hence the galley in the city arms.

This was also the origin of the ancient Roman harbour dues, which were originally imposed only on goods for sale (promercale), and not on those which passed to and from Ostia for the shipper’s own use, and thus were really a tax on trade. And hence, to anticipate, arose the relatively early appearance of coined money in Rome and the commercial treaties with states over-sea. Thus, from this point of view at any rate, Rome may be regarded as the legend implies, rather as a created than a gradually developed town and rather as the youngest than the oldest of the Latin towns. Doubtless the land had been already to some extent brought under cultivation and towns planted on the Alban hills as well as many other heights of the surrounding country when the Latin frontier emporium rose on the Tiber.

Whether it was a decree of the Latin confederacy, or the genius and insight of some unknown founder, or the natural development of commerce, which called the city of Rome into existence, we have not even grounds to conjecture. But there is another point to be observed in connection with the position of Rome as the emporium of Latium. When history begins to dawn upon us Rome stands in contrast to the league of the Latin communities as a single enclosed city. The Latin custom of dwelling in open villages[55] and only using the common town as a fortress and place of assembly or in time of need, was, in all probability, far sooner restricted in the Roman province than anywhere else in Latium. Not that the Roman had ceased to manage his farm himself, or to regard it as his real home; but already the unhealthiness of the country air had had the effect of inducing him to fix his abode on the more airy and healthy heights of the town; and with the farmers a numerous non-agricultural population of foreigners and natives must have been established there for a long time. This to some extent accounts for the dense population of the Roman territory, which at most can only be reckoned as extending over 115 square miles of soil, part of it marsh and sand, and yet, according to the city’s oldest constitution, furnished a city militia of thirty-three hundred freemen, and therefore must have counted at least ten thousand free inhabitants.

But there is something more. Everyone acquainted with the Romans and their history is aware that the peculiarity of their public and private existence lies in their municipal and commercial life, and that the distinction between them and other Latins, and Italian nations generally, is before all the distinction between the citizen and the farmer. It is true that Rome was not a mercantile city like Corinth or Carthage; for Latium is an essentially agricultural district and Rome was, and remained, above everything a Latin town. But the distinction of Rome above the crowd of other Latin towns must still be referred to her commercial position and to the influence of that position upon the character of her citizens. If Rome was the emporium of the Latin district, it is easy to understand that here, over and above the Latin husbandry, a vigorous municipal life quickly developed itself and so laid the foundation of her pre-eminence. The tracing of the course of this mercantile and strategic development of the city of Rome is far more important and far easier than the thankless task of making a chemical analysis of the insignificant and very similar communities of antiquity; we can follow this development to some extent in the traditions concerning these successive walls and fortifications of Rome, whose erection must have gone hand in hand with the advance of the Roman commonwealth to importance as a city.

Both in former and recent times many attempts have been made to give an historical character to the legend that the three different communities which composed the ancient Roman nation once dwelt within separate walls on the Seven Hills; but the scientific inquirer is obliged to banish it to the same regions as the battle of the Palatine and the graceful story of Tarpeia.

There exists, it is true, a real and very decided distinction between the fortification of the Capitol and the erection of the town walls. The Capitol is in name and fact the Acra of Rome, the town with one gate and a town fountain, the carefully fenced “spring house” (tullianum). That this fortification dates far back to a time when as yet there was no settlement at all in this neighbourhood, is shown by a custom which was scrupulously observed down to a late period, and according to which private houses did not and perhaps were not allowed to stand on the twin peaks of the Capitol.

On the other hand the town contained a treasure chamber with the archives, the prison, and the oldest place of assembly for the councillors as well as the citizens. The space between the two peaks of the Capitoline Hill, the sanctuary of the angry Jupiter (Vediovis) or as it was called in the later hellenising period, the Asylum, was covered with a wood and evidently originally intended to shelter the peasants and their flocks when flood or war drove them from the plain.


In Rome, as everywhere else, the urban settlement must have begun not within but below the citadel; when it was considerable enough to call for the protection of a wall and moat, the town proper first came into being outside the Capitol, and to this, again, suburbs were added, and as these also prospered and required to be defended, new walls were added and in the marshes a new dike, until a whole series of such separate circumvallations surrounded the citadel. It was the memory of this which was preserved in the “festival of the Seven Hills” (Septimontium), whose celebration was continued long after the ancient fortifications had ceased to exist.

The “seven circles” are the Palatine; the Cermalus, a branch of the Palatine extending towards the swamp (Velabrum) which in early days stretched between it and the Capitol; the Velia, the ridge which connected the Palatine with the Esquiline and afterwards almost completely disappeared owing to the constructions erected under the empire; the three summits of the Esquiline, Oppius, Cispius, and Fagutal; and finally the Secusa or Subura, an ingenious stronghold on the low ground between the Capitol, the Esquiline, and the Palatine. It is obvious that these walls did not spring up all at once. According to credible witnesses the oldest constructions only embrace the Palatine or the primitive Rome, called at a later period “the square” (Roma quadrata) from the shape of the Palatine Hill which was that of an irregular square. The gates and walls of this ancient urban circle remained visible down to the time of the empire; the position of two of them, namely the Porta Romana, near S. Giorgio in Velabro, and the Porta Mugionis at the arch of Titus, are still known to us, and the wall encircling the Palatine is even described by Tacitus from his own observation, at least on the side facing the Aventine and the Cælian. Although, of course, the earliest seat of the trade of the community was not here but at the citadel, still there are sufficient indications to show that this was the centre and the original seat of the urban settlers. On the Palatine was to be found its holy symbol, the so-called “outfit vault” (mundus) in which they had deposited all the requisites of a household and added a handful of their beloved native earth. Here too stood the building in which the curiæ assembled, each at its own altar, for religious and other purposes (curiæ veteres). Here too was the sanctuary of “the wolves” (lupercal), the house of assembly for “the leapers” (curia saliorum), and the dwelling of Jupiter’s priest. It was on and round this hill that the legend of the founding of the city was principally localised, and the believer was shown the straw-covered house of Romulus, the shepherd’s hut of his foster-father Faustulus, the holy fig tree on to which the coffer containing the twins was driven, and other similar relics.

The Palatine was, and remained, the most aristocratic quarter of the city and therefore subsequently gave its name to the first Servian district. The oldest offshoots may have been the settlement on the branch of the Cermalus and the Velian heights, both of which were immediately connected with the Palatine and, under the Servian division of the town, were apparently included in the Palatine quarter. The position of the suburb on the Cermalus, between the town wall and that of the citadel, as well as the designation of the principal street by the name of “the Tuscan,” seems to indicate that this settlement was not voluntary but reserved for the custody of colonists of foreign race.

Beyond this there was a settlement on the Carinæ, the farthest summit of the Esquiline, with the fortress for defence against the Sabines in the valley of the Subura; this afterwards became the second Servian quarter.[57] At that time the Esquiliæ (which did not properly speaking include the Carinæ) formed, as the name signifies, a suburb (exquiliæ, the same as inquilinus). That the town should have extended itself in this direction is explained by the simple fact that the people remained on the heights, especially on the Palatine and the Velian, avoiding both the isolated hills and the swampy and wholly defenceless valleys which lay between. At a later time the suburb was included in the town, and under the Servian division it became the third quarter.

The “bridge of piles” (pons sublicius) thrown across that natural pier, the island in the Tiber, and the tête de pont on the Etruscan shore, the citadel of the Janiculum, remained outside the fortifications of the “Seven Hills.” And as, for military reasons, it was necessary to be able to break down or burn the bridge at the shortest notice, there arose a fixed rule which down to a very late period was observed as a traditional religious law, that no iron could be used in the construction of the bridge, but only wood. Thus a town came into being, but nevertheless the real and complete amalgamation of the various bodies which formed the settlement was not yet effected. As there was no common city altar, but the separate altars of the different curies merely stood side by side in the same neighbourhood, so not only did the distinction between citadel and town continue, but the seven circles themselves were rather a collection of urban settlements than a united town until the gigantic defensive works, ascribed to King Servius Tullius, surrounded the inner and outer city and the open suburbs with a single great wall. But before these strong works were set in hand, the position of Rome in relation to the surrounding district had doubtless entirely changed.

As the primitive uncommercial and inactive epoch of the Latin stock corresponds to the period in which the husbandman drove the plough on the Palatine as well as over the other hills of Latium, and the place of refuge on the Capitol, which in ordinary times stood empty, presented only the commencement of a fortified settlement; and as later the flourishing settlement on the Palatine and within the seven circles coincides with the occupation of the estuary of the Tiber by a Roman community and generally with the progress of the Latins to a free and active intercourse, and urban civilisation especially in Rome, and indeed to a firmer political consolidation both of the separate states and of the confederacy; so does the establishment of a single great city by means of the Servian rampart belong to that epoch in which the city of Rome was enabled to contend for the supremacy of the Latin confederacy and finally to get the upper hand.c


[2] [The decisive overthrow of the Etruscans was achieved by Hiero, his successor, in a battle fought off Cumæ in 474.]

[3] [Meyerd thinks it probable that the Roman (like the four Ionic) tribes were an artificial division patterned after a pre-existing ethnic scheme.]





It is not easy to determine between either the facts or the writers, which of them deserves the preference: I am inclined to think that history has been much corrupted by means of funeral panegyrics and false inscriptions on statues; each family striving by false representations to appropriate to itself the fame of warlike exploits and public honours. From this cause, certainly, both the actions of individuals and the public records of events have been confused. Nor is there extant any writer, contemporary with those events, on whose authority we can certainly rely.—Livy.

According to the legends immortalised by Virgilf if not by Livy,c Æneas, escaping from Troy, after its destruction by the Greeks (as narrated in the Homeric poems), fled to Italy, and there became the progenitor of the people afterwards to be known as the Romans. So firmly stamped did this legend become in classical literature that few or no writers share even Livy’s polite scepticism. For many centuries after the Roman Empire itself had passed away, the fabulous stories of the foundation of Rome were repeated by one generation after another of historians, as unequivocal fact.

It was only about a century ago, in an age of scepticism, that an iconoclastic critic arose to lay rude hands upon the time-honoured stories. This critic was the German Niebuhr.e He analysed legends not alone of the foundation, but of the supposed early history of Rome, and reached the indubitable conclusion that the familiar stories of early Roman kings and heroes were little better than pure fictions.

The work which Niebuhr began has been carried on by a school of successors, until it must be said that the entire fabric of once-accepted early Roman history has been torn into shreds. And in its place has been substituted—practically nothing. It is true that Niebuhr himself, iconoclast that he was, could not free himself from that hypothesis-forming tendency which is the heritage of all active minds, and put forward many prosaic guesses at the truth as substitutes for the old-time poetical guesses which he had dethroned. But these latter-day hypotheses, though accepted for the moment by many disciples of the master historian, have been treated with far scanter courtesy by the newer generation of critics, many of whom, however, have in turn supplied their own surmises. The net result of all the researches of the past century, and of all the surmises with which these researches have been supplemented, is to leave us practically without any acceptable hypothesis, except perhaps a meagre though consistent outline of institutional and civic development.


And scarcely less vague are the outlines of the story of the early growth of Rome, and of its internal government and external accomplishments during some centuries of its undoubted existence. That it was ruled in the early days by kings, has been accepted on the basis of universal tradition, but it can scarcely be said that any one of these kings is to be regarded to-day as a known historic personage. We are not even sure as to the time when the kings were banished and a republican form of government supplanted the monarchy, though the accepted dates ascribe this transition to the year 509 B.C.—which, curiously enough, was the time of the banishment of the Pisistratidæ from Athens. If this date be accepted, it would seem that the evolution of political ideas in Greece was curiously paralleled by the growth of the same spirit in Rome, and it would follow that the civilisations of the two peoples were more closely contemporaneous than they are usually considered to have been.

But the true fruitage of a nation is found in the permanent works which it transmits to posterity, and judged by this standard Rome surely did not come to its prime until Greece was on the path of its decadence. It may be true that Rome banished her kings and came under republican sway almost as early as Athens; but the Greek city had had a far longer preparation and burst at once into its full bloom of civilisation, as evidenced in the “Age of Pericles,” whereas the Roman civilisation had still to pass through many generations of development before it began to produce those lasting records which mark the difference between tradition and history. Even so, however, the gap in time between the Grecian and the Roman periods was not very great—there were but three centuries between Alexander and Cæsar. And in the time of the later emperors the two civilisations were curiously merged in the East, where the whole aspect of the Roman court became Grecian, and the Greek language even became the official medium of communication throughout the remnants of the Roman Empire.

Of these later phases of the development and decay of the Roman Empire, abundant and secure records are in evidence, as we shall see later on. Meantime, though the stories of the early or mythical period cannot be called history, in the narrower sense of the word, they were too long believed, and have too often been repeated to be suddenly ignored. They are no longer accepted as sober history, and yet the most sober historian dares not altogether discard them. As in the case of the Greek mythology, the happiest compromise seems to be that in which the more interesting tales are retained and repeated with the explicit qualification that they are to be accepted as legends only. This applies not merely to the stories of the foundation of Rome and of the earlier kings, but even, it must freely be admitted, to the hero tales of Horatius, the elder Brutus, Cincinnatus, Coriolanus, and the rest; though doubtless, as one comes down the years, the historical element makes itself more and more felt, and the legendary basis becomes less and less dominant. We have first to do, however, with a series of citations which, let it be said once for all, are purely legendary, and which each individual reader is quite at liberty to interpret as best suits his individual imagination.a


When the fatal horse was going to be brought within the walls of Troy, and when Laocoön had been devoured by the two serpents sent by the gods to punish him because he had tried to save his country against the will of[60] fate, then Æneas and his father Anchises, with their wives, and many who followed their fortune, fled from the coming of the evil day. But they remembered to carry their gods with them, who were to receive their worship in a happier land. They were guided in their flight from the city by the god Hermes, and he built for them a ship to carry them over the sea. When they put to sea the star of Venus, the mother of Æneas, stood over their heads, and it shone by day as well as by night, till they came to the shores of the land of the West. But when they landed the star vanished and was seen no more; and by this sign Æneas knew that he was come to that country wherein fate had appointed him to dwell.

The Trojans, when they had brought their gods on shore, began to sacrifice, but the victim, a milk-white sow just ready to farrow, broke from the priest and his ministers and fled away. Æneas followed her; for an oracle had told him that a four-footed beast should guide him to the spot where he was to build his city. So the sow went forward still she came to a certain hill, about two miles and a half from the shore where they had purposed to sacrifice, and there she lay down and farrowed, and her litter was of thirty young ones. But when Æneas saw that the place was sandy and barren, he doubted what he should do. Just at this time he heard a voice which said: “The thirty young of the sow are thirty years; when thirty years are passed, thy children shall remove to a better land; meantime do thou obey the gods, and build thy city in the place where they bid thee to build.” So the Trojans built their city on the spot where the sow had farrowed.

Now the land belonged to a people who were the children of the soil, and their king was called Latinus. He received the strangers kindly, and granted to them seven hundred jugera of land, seven jugera to each man, for that was a man’s portion. But soon the children of the soil and the strangers quarrelled; and the strangers plundered the lands round about them; and King Latinus called upon Turnus, the king of the Rutulians of Ardea, to help him against them. The quarrel became a war: and the strangers took the city of King Latinus, and Latinus was killed; and Æneas took his daughter Lavinia and married her, and became king over the children of the soil; and they and the strangers became one people, and they were called by one name, Latins.

But Turnus called to his aid Mezentius, king of the Etruscans of Cære. There was then another battle on the banks of the river Numicius, and Turnus was killed, and Æneas plunged into the river and was seen no more. However his son Ascanius declared that he was not dead, but that the gods had taken him to be one of themselves; and his people built an altar to him on the banks of the Numicius, and worshipped him by the name of Jupiter Indiges, which means,“the god who was of that very land.”


The war went on between Mezentius and Ascanius, the son of Æneas; and Mezentius pressed hard upon the Latins, till at last Ascanius met him man to man, and slew him in single fight. At that time Ascanius was very young, and there were only the first soft hairs of youth upon his cheeks; so he was called Iulus, or “the soft-haired,” because, when he was only a youth, he had vanquished and slain his enemy, who was a grown man. At length the thirty years came to an end, which were foreshown by the litter of thirty young ones of the white sow. Ascanius then removed with[61] his people to a high mountain, which looks over all the land on every side, and one side of it runs steep down into a lake: there he hewed out a place for his city on the side of the mountain, above the lake; and as the city was long and narrow, owing to the steepness of the hill, he called it Alba Longa, which is, “the white long city,” and he called it white, because of the sign of the white sow.

Ascanius was succeeded by a son of Æneas and Lavinia named Silvius, and the eleven kings of Alba who succeeded him all bore the surname of Silvius.


Numitor was the eldest son of Procas, the last king of Alba Longa, and he had a younger brother called Amulius. When Procas died, Amulius seized by force on the kingdom, and left to Numitor only his share of his father’s private inheritance. After this he caused Numitor’s only son to be slain, and made his daughter Silvia become one of the virgins who watched the ever-burning fire of the goddess Vesta. But the god Mamers, who is called also Mars, beheld the virgin and loved her, and it was found that she was going to become the mother of children. Then Amulius ordered that the children, when born, should be thrown into the river. It happened that the river at that time had flooded the country; when, therefore, the two children in their basket were thrown into the river, the waters carried them as far as the foot of the Palatine Hill, and there the basket was upset, near the roots of a wild fig tree, and the children thrown out upon the land. At this moment there came a she-wolf down to the water to drink, and when she saw the children, she carried them to her cave hard by, and gave them to suck; and whilst they were there, a woodpecker came backwards and forwards to the cave, and brought them food. At last one Faustulus, the king’s herdsman, saw the wolf suckling the children; and when he went up, the wolf left them and fled; so he took them home to his wife Larentia, and they were bred up along with their own sons on the Palatine Hill; and they were called Romulus and Remus.

When Romulus and Remus grew up, the herdsmen of the Palatine Hill chanced to have a quarrel with the herdsmen of Numitor, who stalled their cattle on the hill Aventinus. Numitor’s herdsmen laid an ambush, and Remus fell into it, and was taken and carried off to Alba. But when the young man was brought before Numitor, he was struck with his noble air and bearing, and asked him who he was. And when Remus told him of his birth, and how he had been saved from death, together with his brother, Numitor marvelled, and thought whether this might not be his own daughter’s child. In the meanwhile, Faustulus and Romulus hastened to Alba to deliver Remus; and by the help of the young men of the Palatine Hill, who had been used to follow him and his brother, Romulus took the city, and Amulius was killed; and Numitor was made king, and owned Romulus and Remus to be born of his own blood.

[ca. 753-716 B.C.]

The two brothers did not wish to live at Alba, but loved rather the hill on the banks of the Tiber where they had been brought up. So they said that they would build a city there; and they inquired of the gods by augury, to know which of them should give his name to the city. They watched the heavens from morning till evening, and from evening till morning; and as the sun was rising, Remus saw six vultures. This was told to Romulus; but as they were telling him, behold there appeared to him twelve vultures.[62] Then it was disputed again, which had seen the truest sign of the gods’ favour; but the most part gave their voices for Romulus. So he began to build his city on the Palatine Hill. This made Remus very angry; and when he saw the ditch and the rampart which were drawn round the space where the city was to be, he scornfully leaped over them, saying, “Shall such defences as these keep your city?” As he did this, Celer, who had the charge of the building, struck Remus with the spade which he held in his hand, and slew him; and they buried him on the hill Remuria, by the banks of the Tiber, on the spot where he had wished to build his city.

Roman Urn

The Sabines with their king dwelt on the hill Saturnius, which is also called Capitolium, and on the hill Quirinalis; and the people of Romulus with their king dwelt on the hill Palatinus. But the kings with their counsellors met in the valley between Saturnius and Palatinus, to consult about their common matters; and the place where they met was called Comitium, which means “the place of meeting.”

Soon after this, Tatius was slain by the people of Laurentum, because some of his kinsmen had wronged them, and he would not do them justice. So Romulus reigned by himself over both nations; and his own people were called the Romans, for Roma was the name of the city on the hill Palatinus; and the Sabines were called Quirites, for the name of their city on the hills Saturnius and Quirinalis was Quirium.

The people were divided into three tribes: the Ramnes, and the Tities, and the Luceres; the Ramnes were called from Romulus, and the Tities from Tatius; and the Luceres were called from Lucumo, an Etruscan chief, who had come to help Romulus in his war with the Sabines, and dwelt on the hill called Cælius. In each tribe there were ten curiæ, each of one hundred men; so all the men of the three tribes were three thousand, and these fought on foot, and were called a legion. There were also three hundred horsemen, and these were called Celerians, because their chief was that Celer who had slain Remus. There was besides a council of two hundred men, which was called a senate, that is, a council of elders.

Romulus was a just king, and gentle to his people; if any were guilty of crimes he did not put them to death, but made them pay a fine of sheep or of oxen. In his wars he was very successful, and enriched his people with the spoils of their enemies. At last, after he had reigned nearly forty years, it chanced that one day he called his people together in the Field of Mars, near the Goats’ Pool: when all on a sudden there arose a dreadful storm, and all was as dark as night; and the rain, and thunder, and lightning were so terrible, that all the people fled from the field, and ran to their several homes. At last the storm was over, and they came back to the Field of Mars, but Romulus was nowhere to be found; for Mars, his father, had carried him up to heaven in his chariot. The people knew not at first what was become of him; but when it was night, as one Proculus Julius was coming from Alba to the city, Romulus appeared to him in more than mortal beauty and grown to more than mortal stature, and said to him; “Go, and tell my[63] people that they weep not for me any more; but bid them to be brave and warlike, and so shall they make my city the greatest in the earth.” Then the people knew that Romulus was become a god; so they built a temple to him, and offered sacrifice to him, and worshipped him evermore by the name of the god Quirinus.b

The Rape of the Sabines

The Roman state was become so powerful, that it was a match for any of the neighbouring nations in war, but, from the paucity of women, its greatness could only last for one age of man; for they had no hope of issue at home, nor had they any intermarriages with their neighbours. Therefore, by the advice of the fathers, Romulus sent ambassadors to the neighbouring states to solicit an alliance and the privilege of intermarriage for his new subjects, saying that cities, like everything else, rose from humble beginnings; that those which the gods and their own merit aided, gained great power and high renown; that he knew full well, both that the gods had aided the origin of Rome, and that merit would not be wanting; wherefore that, as men, they should feel no reluctance to mix their blood and race with men. Nowhere did the embassy obtain a favourable hearing: so much did they at the same time despise and dread, for themselves and their posterity, so great a power growing up in the midst of them. They were dismissed by the greater part with the repeated question; whether they had opened any asylum for women also, for that such a plan only could obtain them suitable matches. The Roman youth resented this conduct bitterly, and the matter unquestionably began to point towards violence.

Romulus, in order that he might afford a favourable time and place for this, dissembling his resentment, purposely prepares games in honour of Neptunus Equestris; he calls them Consualia. He then orders the spectacle to be proclaimed amongst their neighbours; and they prepare for the celebration with all the magnificence they were then acquainted with, or were capable of doing, that they might render the matter famous, and an object of expectation. Great numbers assembled, from a desire also of seeing the new city; especially their nearest neighbours, the Cæninenses, Crustumini, and Antemnates. Moreover the whole multitude of the Sabines came, with their wives and children. Having been hospitably invited to the different houses, when they had seen the situation, and fortifications, and the city crowded with houses, they became astonished that the Roman power had increased so rapidly. When the time of the spectacle came on, and while their minds and eyes were intent upon it, according to concert a tumult began, and upon a signal given the Roman youth ran different ways to carry off the virgins by force.

A great number were carried off at haphazard, according as they fell into their hands. Persons from the common people, who had been charged with the task, conveyed to their houses some women of surpassing beauty, destined for the leading senators. They say that one, far distinguished beyond the others for stature and beauty, was carried off by the party of one Talassius, and whilst many inquired to whom they were carrying her, they cried out every now and then, in order that no one might molest her, that she was being taken to Talassius; that from this circumstance this term became a nuptial one.

The festival being disturbed by this alarm, the parents of the young women retired in grief, appealing to the compact of violated hospitality, and invoking the god, to whose festival and games they had come, deceived[64] by the pretence of religion and good faith. Neither had the ravished virgins better hopes of their condition, or less indignation. But Romulus in person went about and declared that what was done was owing to the pride of their fathers, who had refused to grant the privilege of marriage to their neighbours; but notwithstanding, they should be joined in lawful wedlock, participate in all their possessions and civil privileges, and, than which nothing can be dearer to the human heart, in their common children. He begged them only to assuage the fierceness of their anger, and cheerfully surrender their affections to those to whom fortune had consigned their persons. He added that from injuries love and friendship often arise; and that they should find them kinder husbands on this account, because each of them, besides the performance of his conjugal duty, would endeavour to the utmost of his power to make up for the want of their parents and native country. To this the caresses of the husbands were added, excusing what they had done on the plea of passion and love, arguments that work most successfully on women’s hearts.

The minds of the ravished virgins were soon much soothed, but their parents by putting on mourning, and tears, and complaints roused the states. Nor did they confine their resentment to their own homes, but they flocked from all quarters to Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines; and because he bore the greatest character in these parts, embassies were sent to him. The Cæninenses, Crustumini, and Antemnates were people to whom a considerable portion of the outrage extended. To them Tatius and the Sabines seemed to proceed somewhat dilatorily. Nor even do the Crustumini and Antemnates bestir themselves with sufficient activity to suit the impatience and rage of the Cæninenses. Accordingly the state of the Cæninenses by itself makes an irruption into the Roman territory. But Romulus with his army met them ravaging the country in straggling parties, and by a slight engagement convinces them that resentment without strength is of no avail. He defeats and routs their army, pursues it when routed, kills and despoils their king in battle, and having slain their general takes the city at the first assault.

From thence having led back his victorious army, and being a man highly distinguished by his exploits, and one who could place them in the best light, he went to the Capitol, carrying before him, suspended on a frame curiously wrought for that purpose, the spoils of the enemy’s general, whom he had slain; and there, after he had laid them down at the foot of an oak held sacred by the shepherds, together with the offering, he marked out the bounds for a temple of Jupiter, and gave a surname to the god: “Jupiter Feretrius.” He says, “I, King Romulus, upon my victory, present to thee these royal arms, and to thee I dedicate a temple within those regions which I have now marked out in my mind, as a receptacle for the grand spoils which my successors, following my example, shall, upon their killing the kings or generals of the enemy, offer to thee.” This is the origin of that temple, the first consecrated at Rome. It afterwards so pleased the gods both that the declaration of the founder of the temple should not be frustrated, by which he announced that his posterity should offer such spoils, and that the glory of that offering should not be depreciated by the great number of those who shared it. During so many years, and amid so many wars since that time, grand spoils have been only twice gained, so rare has been the successful attainment of that honour.

Whilst the Romans are achieving these exploits, the army of the Antemnates, taking advantage of their absence, makes an incursion into the Roman territories in a hostile manner. A Roman legion being marched out in[65] haste against these also, surprise them whilst straggling through the fields. Accordingly the enemy were routed at the very first shout and charge; their town was taken; and as Romulus was returning, exulting for this double victory, his consort, Hersilia, importuned by the entreaties of the captured women, beseeches him to pardon their fathers, and to admit them to the privilege of citizens; that thus his power might be strengthened by a reconciliation. Her request was readily granted. After this he marched against the Crustumini, who were commencing hostilities; but as their spirits were sunk by the defeat of their neighbours, there was still less resistance there. Colonies were sent to both places, but more were found to give in their names for Crustuminus, because of the fertility of the soil. Migrations in great numbers were also made from thence to Rome, chiefly by the parents and relatives of the ravished women.

The last war broke out on the part of the Sabines, and proved by far the most formidable; for they did nothing through anger or cupidity, nor did they make a show of war, before they actually began it. To prudence stratagem also was added. Sp. Tarpeius commanded the Roman citadel; Tatius bribed his maiden daughter with gold, to admit armed soldiers into the citadel; she had gone by chance outside the walls to fetch water for sacrifice. Those who were admitted crushed her to death by heaping their arms upon her; either that the citadel might seem rather to have been taken by storm, or for the purpose of establishing a precedent, that no faith should, under any circumstances, be kept with a traitor. A story is added, that the Sabines commonly wore on their left arm golden bracelets of great weight, and large rings set with precious stones, and that she bargained with them for what they had on their left hands; hence that their shields were thrown upon her instead of the golden presents. There are some who say that in pursuance of the compact to deliver up what was on their left hands, she expressly demanded their shields, and that appearing to act with treachery, she was killed by the reward of her own choosing.

The Sabines, however, kept possession of the citadel, and on the day after, when the Roman army, drawn up in order of battle, filled up all the ground lying between the Palatine and Capitoline hills, they did not descend from thence into the plain, till the Romans, fired with resentment, and with a desire of retaking the citadel, advanced to attack them. Two chiefs, one on each side, animated the battle—viz., Mettus Curtius on the part of the Sabines, Hostus Hostilius on that of the Romans. The latter, in the front ranks, supported the Roman cause by his courage and bravery, on disadvantageous ground. As soon as Hostus fell, the Roman line immediately gave way and was beaten to the old gate of the Palatium. Romulus, himself too carried away with the general rout, raising his arms to heaven, says, “O Jupiter, commanded by thy birds, I here laid the first foundation of the city on the Palatine Hill. The Sabines are in possession of the citadel, purchased by fraud. From thence they are now advancing hither, sword in hand, having already passed the middle of the valley. But do thou, father of gods and men, keep back the enemy at least from hence, dispel the terror of the Romans, and stop their shameful flight. Here I solemnly vow to build a temple to thee as Jupiter Stator, as a monument to posterity, that this city was saved by thy immediate aid.”

Having offered up this prayer, as if he had felt that his prayers were heard, he cries out, “At this spot, Romans, Jupiter, supremely good and great, commands you to halt, and renew the fight.” The Romans halted as if they had been commanded by a voice from heaven; Romulus himself flies[66] to the foremost ranks. Mettus Curtius, on the part of the Sabines, had rushed down at the head of his army from the citadel, and driven the Romans in disorder over the whole ground now occupied by the Forum. He was already not far from the gate of the Palatium, crying out, “We have defeated these perfidious strangers, these dastardly enemies. They now feel that it is one thing to ravish virgins, another far different to fight with men.” On him, thus vaunting, Romulus makes an attack with a band of the most courageous youths. It happened that Mettus was then fighting on horseback; he was on that account the more easily repulsed: the Romans pursued him when repulsed; and the rest of the Roman army, encouraged by the gallant behaviour of their king, rout the Sabines. Mettus, his horse taking fright at the din of his pursuers, threw himself into a lake; and this circumstance drew the attention of the Sabines to the risk of so important a person. He, however, his own party beckoning and calling to him, acquired new courage from the affection of his many friends, and made his escape. The Romans and Sabines renewed the battle in the valley between the hills; but Roman prowess had the advantage.

At this juncture the Sabine women, from the outrage on whom the war originated, with hair dishevelled and garments rent, the timidity of their sex being overcome by such dreadful scenes, had the courage to throw themselves amid the flying weapons, and making a rush across, to part the incensed armies, and assuage their fury; imploring their fathers on the one side, their husbands on the other, that as fathers-in-law and sons-in-law they would not contaminate each other with impious blood, nor stain their offspring with parricide, the one their grandchildren, the other their children. “If you are dissatisfied with the affinity between you, if with our marriages—turn your resentment against us; we are the cause of war, of wounds and of bloodshed to our husbands and parents. It were better that we perish than live widowed or fatherless without one or other of you.” The circumstance affected both the multitude and the leaders. Silence and a sudden suspension ensued.

Upon this the leaders came forward in order to concert a treaty, and they not only concluded a peace, but formed one state out of two. They associated the regal power, and transferred the entire sovereignty to Rome. The city being thus doubled, that some compliment might be paid to the Sabines, they were called Quirites, from Cures. As a memorial of this battle, they called the place where the horse, after getting out of the deep marsh, first set Curtius in shallow water, the Curtian Lake. This happy peace following suddenly a war so distressing, rendered the Sabine women still dearer to their husbands and parents, and above all to Romulus himself. Accordingly, when he divided the people into thirty curiæ, he called the curiæ by their names. Since, without doubt, the number of the Sabine women was considerably greater than this, it is not recorded whether those who were to give their names to the curiæ were selected on account of their age, or their own or their husbands’ rank, or by lot. At the same time three centuries of knights were enrolled, called Ramnes from Romulus; Tities, from Titus Tatius. The reason of the name and origin of the Luceres is uncertain.c

A Critical Study of the Legends

From the bare account of these two famous legends, it is interesting to turn to their critical consideration. The myth of the Trojan colony is said to have been handed down from generation to generation, but it nowhere[67] bears the characteristic features of genuine popular tradition. It is wholly devoid of poetic feeling, it has every appearance of being a made-up thing, the result of a dispassionate study of facts, customs, cults, antiquities, memorials, and names of places, out of which a spurious history has been spun. If real heroic deeds, performed by Æneas in the home-land of Latium, had passed from mouth to mouth, in what different and how much richer colours would the story have been painted. The sow of Lavinium and her thirty piglings would not play such a prominent part as it does. Æneas never became the national hero of the Romans: not all the art of Virgil could accomplish that. None of the numerous Roman festivals, none of the public games, celebrate his memory. Doubtless the tradition of him and his settlement in Latium rests upon no real historical tradition. In considering the Roman tradition of Æneas we must bear in mind the fact that it is not the only one of its kind.

Altar and Sarcophagi

(After Hope)

A host of Italian towns date their origin from the heroes of Greek legends, particularly those of the Homeric period. Thus Tusculum was supposed to have been built by Telegonus, the son of Ulysses and Circe; Præneste by the same Telegonus, or by a grandson of Ulysses and Circe, named Prænestes; Lanuvium by Diomedes; Ardea by the son of Circe so named, or by Danaë, the mother of Perseus; Antium by a son of Ulysses and Circe; Politorium by Polites son of Priamus; the towns of the Veneti by Antenor; the names of Diomedes, Ulysses, Philoctetes constantly appear in the myths of the foundations of the cities.

There is no lack of supposed settlements of fugitive Trojans. Besides the city of Segesta, and the tribe of the Elymi in Sicily, the town of Siris on the river Siris was a supposed Trojan settlement; and Cora owed its foundation to Dardanians. The tradition of the settlement of Æneas in Latium is to be judged by the same criterion as these sagas, which were no doubt generally credited in the various towns concerned. It is, however, no better authenticated or more worthy of belief than the rest, which have no historical foundation, and only arose from the attempt of many Italian cities to trace their origin to the figures of Greek mythology, and especially to connect themselves with the Trojan myth. The analogy therefore forces us to realise that the connection of the story of the settlement in Latium with the Æneas myth has no better authority.

The argument that this story became the state religion of the Romans eight hundred years later rests on a very slight foundation; moreover the[68] religion of the Roman state taught that Mars was the father of the founder of the city. There are countless traditions which (albeit at one time officially recognised) are mere historical fictions.

The test of the historical accuracy of a tradition is the age and the authenticity of the witness for it, not the universality of its recognition at a time in which there was neither the demand for, nor the means of, critical examination. Granted, for example, that Rome had been the city of Tusculum, which owed its origin to Telegonus, and that Rome was the seat of the Mamilii, who traced their descent from the same Telegonus, the Telegonus legend would then no doubt have been invested with the same glory as that of Æneas, and as much honour would have fallen to the Mamilii as was reflected on the Julii from Æneas in Rome.

The Swiss national story of Tell shows how easily romances of this kind grow from popular tales into popular beliefs, and even popular dogma, when they flatter the self-esteem of a people.

Confidently as we may speak of the want of historical foundation for the Roman legend of Æneas, we must recollect the many difficulties in the way of establishing its origin and motive. The Latin legend of Æneas cannot be satisfactorily explained unless light be thrown upon the relation of Æneas to Lavinium.

Lavinium was the Lares and Penates of the whole of Latium. According to Latin religious ideas, every city, every household, every greater community, every street, every crossway, every quarter of the town, had its Lares. In like manner public Lares were appointed for the political family to which all Latium belonged, and we must suppose that at the foundation of the Latin league a spot was appointed for the cult of the Lares of the community. Lavinium bore for Latium the same significance as the temple of Vesta and the temples of the Penates and the Lares bore for Rome. It was the religious centre, the spiritual capital of the Latin confederation.

The Lares and Penates of Rome, as a member, were naturally represented in the Lavinium sanctuary of the confederation. Hence solemn sacrifices were offered annually to the Penates, in the name of the Roman people, by the Roman augurs and flamens, and other sacred rites were performed in their honour. The Roman consuls, prætors, and dictators offered sacrifices to Vesta and the Penates on assuming and resigning office, as did also the Roman emperors when they visited the provinces. The custom may have originated at the time when Rome was a co-ordinate member of the Latin confederation, the members of which alternately appointed the prætor or general of the confederation, who had of course to sacrifice in his official capacity.

The miracles which occurred at the foundation of Lavinium likewise arose from the idea of a city of the Lares and Penates. The first of these prodigies is the sow which indicated the seat of the Penates at the foundation of the city. That a four-footed animal should indicate the seat of a colony is not unprecedented. At Ephesus it was a wild boar; the part is often played by an ox, a fact which led to the frequent appearance of the sacrificial ox in Latin legends. The choice of the sow to indicate the site of the city of the Lares and Penates at the building of Lavinium has its ground in the close association of swine with the Lares.

The second prodigy is the birth of the thirty pigs. It is evident that these thirty pigs symbolise the thirty cities of the confederation of which Lavinium was the religious capital. By ancient writers they are generally held to refer to the thirty years, which, according to tradition, elapsed between[69] the foundation of Lavinium and Alba. But this secondary meaning does not affect the original significance of the symbolical miracle. Timæus (as we see in Lycophron) rightly associates the thirty pigs with the thirty states of Latium; and according to another version, the sow did not give birth to the thirty pigs on the site of the future Lavinium but on the site of the future Alba Longa. A bronze statue of the Lavinian sow and pigs existed in the time of Varro, and no doubt in the time of Timæus also, in a public place at Lavinium. It symbolised the position of Lavinium as the mother of the thirty states of which Latium was composed, and which had their Lares represented as their guardian spirits there. According to Cassius Hemina, a Roman annalist, the prodigy of the thirty pigs was adopted by Rome. “When the shepherds,” he says, “appointed Romulus and Remus as kings, a miracle took place: a sow gave birth to thirty pigs and a sanctuary was erected to the grunting Lares.” These thirty pigs refer apparently to the political division of the thirty curiæ into which the newly built city was divided.

The prodigy of the spread table is an outcome of worship of the Penates, to whom the table was sacred. At every meal it was the custom to leave some food, doubtless as an offering to the Penates. In their honour a salt-cellar and a plate of food were always left standing. Dry bread and cakes were given to the Penates; they were called mensæ panicæ (“tables of bread”). These no Roman would eat unless in great straits; it was in the eyes of the Romans a sign of the greatest need or poverty. Therefore the most ancient and authentic form of the story of Æneas seems to be that in which the eating of “the tables” (mensæ) was prophesied with ominous meaning. In Virgil, the harpy Calæno tells the voyagers that it is decreed that they are not to find a home before they have suffered the extremest misery, and that their utter homelessness is to be the turning-point of their fate.

Explanation of the Æneas Legend

We will return now to the starting-point of our inquiry, the question of why the origin of Lavinium is referred to Æneas. The answer must take us back to the previously mentioned fact that a large number of Italian or Latin states ascribed their origin to heroes of the Greek and particularly of the Trojan collection of stories.

This fact cannot be fully explained; psychologically it is nothing really incomprehensible, and is not without analogy. We can well understand how the Italian cities and races, as they came into nearer communication with the Grecian colonies of lower Italy and thus became acquainted with the heroic legends and the epic cycle of the Greeks, thought it an honour to connect their remote origin with the brilliant, much-lauded names of Greek heroes. The epic poems of the Greeks exercised a far greater influence in ancient Italy than is generally thought. When they were looking for the founder of the Penates city of the land of Latium, no other hero seemed so fit as Æneas. The chief deed which shed such glory on his name was the rescue of the holy images of Troy. The most ancient poets who sang of the fall of Troy relate it, so does Stesichorus, as one may see on the Ilian tablet where Anchises carries in his hands or on his shoulders a little chapel-shaped ædicula. In short nobody seemed better qualified to be the founder of the city of the Penates than the honoured saviour of the Trojan Penates.

Virgil’s Æneid shows clearly that this is the leading reason for the introduction of Æneas into the Latin legend and his position as founder of[70] Lavinium and father of Latin glory. His greatest achievement consists in bringing the gods and sacred treasures to Latium. As the reputed founder of Lavinium, he could also be credited with bringing to honour its Latin name, for Latium as a political community only existed after the establishment of the Latin league and the founding of Lavinium as the sanctuary of the league.

One word in conclusion on the Trojan families. The tradition of the settlement of Æneas gave the vanity of the Roman families the wished-for ground for glorifying their pedigree. Thus the Cæcilii, Clodii, Gerganii, Memmii, Sergii, Cluentii, Junii, and Nautii, all traced their line back to Æneas. Dionysius says that at the foundation of Rome about fifty Trojan families came from Alba Longa to settle there, a number which is evidently exaggerated, as it exceeds the sum total of Roman patrician families in the time of Augustus. But it is evident from the writings of Varro and Hyginus on The Trojan Families, that a great number of Roman families boasted of Trojan descent.

We cannot of course ascertain what led to this belief among these families, but with many it was only a similarity of name. This is seen in the case of the origin of the Nautii. The worship of Minerva was in vogue among them. From the etymology of the name the founder of the family must have been a seaman, and so we come to the well-known story of Nautius, the companion of Æneas, taking away the palladium from Troy, or, according to another tradition, being intrusted with it by Diomedes.

O. Müller supposes that there was a similar ground in the worship of Apollo for the descent of the Julii from Æneas. Augustus, at any rate, refers very explicitly to Apollo as the tutelary god of the Julian family. Julius Cæsar, on the contrary, always speaks of Venus as the foundress of his family. So that the worship of Venus or Aphrodite can be attributed to the Julii with equal reason.

The connection of the Julian family with Æneas could be very simply established by the fiction that the eponymous founder of the family Iulus was one and the same person as Ascanius, the son of Æneas, who consequently had two names. The advantage gained by the Julian race from this fiction was considerable. The descent from Æneas gave a certain appearance of legitimacy to the claims of Julius Cæsar upon the sovereignty. Therefore Cæsar used every opportunity of certifying this origin of his race. Virgil’s Æneid has also the subordinate political aim of investing the monarchy of Augustus with the halo of legitimacy by basing it to a certain extent on the idea of succession.

The Romulus Legend Examined

The deeds and institutions ascribed by the Romans to Romulus are the outcome of their conception of him. In the first two kings of the Roman state legend has personified the two fundamental elements of the Roman state—the warlike spirit of the nation, and its religious character.

Accordingly the first king was made to found the Roman state on the power of arms, imbuing it with the spirit of conquest and the ambition for ascendency in arms, whilst the second, founding it on religion and morality, was made to give it a second birth.

Warlike activity is the chief feature of the influence of Romulus, his last word to his Romans and his political testament was the call to a zealous following of the art of war. A truthful conception incontestably lay at the root of this tradition.


The conditions of every state are in accordance with its origin, nothing can alter its historical basis; and if it be true that a kingdom must be maintained by the means by which it was founded, the opposite conclusion—that the means by which a state is maintained are those upon which its foundation was based—seems no less to be a truth. Hence a state which is maintained by the sword must owe its origin to the sword. In the legends of their origin many nations exhibit a very just knowledge of their national character and their mission in history. The trade and artifice claimed as the foundation of Carthage were a happy emblem of the spirit of this commercial race.

Rome was founded by the sword, a warrior hero made it, and no other founder was worthy of so great a military state. But Romulus, the first king, was not only credited with the foundation and military organisation of the rising state, but with the establishment of its fundamental political institutions. Accordingly he was supposed to have divided the people into tribes and curiæ, and some writers go so far as to credit him with their division into the two classes of patricians and plebeians, as well as the institution of patronage and clientage. Religion and religious law were attributed to Numa for the most part, though the Rome of Romulus could not have been quite destitute of religious worship. Some temples (those of Jupiter Feretrius and of Jupiter Stator) are unanimously reported by tradition to have been founded by Romulus. He is also said to have erected several chapels and altars, instituted festivals and services, founded priesthoods, the sacra of the curiæ, and, in particular, to have instituted the order and manner of the worship of the gods. But the particular form of worship which he is supposed to have introduced is not specified more clearly. There is even some doubt as to whether Romulus or Numa instituted the worship of Vesta, the primal worship of every colony.

On the other hand it is impossible for the institution of the augurs, which was wholly religious, to have originated with Numa. For the foundation—i.e., the existence of the Roman state, no less than that of her fundamental institutions, must have rested upon divine sanction, and been consecrated by divine protection, if the Roman nation’s consciousness of being a chosen people under the protection and guidance of the immortal gods has any historical foundation. The faith of the Romans in their divine origin and the institution of their state by providence necessarily involves the augustum augurium which decided the foundation of Rome and was the groundwork of Roman faith. Hence Romulus must have built the city after consulting the augurs, and in settling all the early institutions he must have been the first and best augur.

The warrior king must moreover have organised the war department of the young state as well as the political constitution; it is really his principal achievement. Directly after the foundation of the city he organised all men capable of bearing arms into a military system. According to Dionysius they numbered three thousand foot-soldiers and three hundred horsemen—a fact which clearly shows that this was the strength of the oldest legion. For it was supposed that the original fighting strength of Rome was a legion, each of the three tribes contributing a thousand foot-soldiers and a hundred horsemen. It is clear that these three thousand foot-soldiers and three hundred horsemen were originally regarded by tradition as the collective contingent of the three tribes, and it follows from the number itself, and from Plutarch’s account, that the original colony of Romulus consisted of three thousand householders—i.e., armed men. But later tradition has misunderstood that fact, and has falsely reported that the legion[72] was doubled to six thousand foot-soldiers and six hundred horsemen on the arrival of the Sabines; hence the original number should have been tripled at the arrival of the third tribe. Plutarch, contrary to his aforementioned report, speaks of several legions at the foundation of Rome, every one consisting of three thousand foot-soldiers and three hundred horsemen.

Dionysius goes further still, and says that the Roman army at the death of Romulus consisted of forty-six thousand foot-soldiers and not much less than one thousand horsemen—a stupid and in every respect an unskilfully calculated number, in which the careless hand of Valerius Antias is clearly perceptible.

In Dionysius’ account, which represents the cavalry as consisting of not much less than “a thousand horsemen,” we have the nine hundred horsemen according to the later tradition, being three hundred for the contingent of every tribe.

Græco-Roman Lamp Hook

On the other hand the more ancient account only speaks of three hundred horsemen in the whole of Romulus’ three centuriæ of knights. They are the three centuriæ, the equites of the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres. It is evident that these three hundred knights (centuriæ equitum) could not have existed before the recognition of the three tribes. If, therefore, the third tribe was only added after Romulus (about the time of the Albans),[4] there could only have been one centuria equitum (Luceres) from that time. The oldest name for these horsemen, or knights, was celeres. When Livy and Plutarch take the celeres for the bodyguard of the king, and distinguish these three hundred celeres or bodyguards from the three hundred horsemen, it is doubtless an error according to the etymological meaning of the name, as, according to better-informed authorities, the three hundred celeres and the three centuriæ equitum of Romulus are one and the same. The story of the bodyguard of Romulus rests partly upon the misconception of the archaic word “celeres,” and partly on the tradition that Romulus became a despot in the latter years of his reign, and was therefore obliged to have a bodyguard like the Greek tyrants. The leader of the three hundred celeres was called a tribunus celerum.

It is a fiction of later historians to credit Romulus with certain statutes of civil and sacred law, as, for example, those pertaining to the family and to marriage, as well as with the political and military system.

All these so-called Romulean laws are nothing more than ancient laws of custom which were not specified in writing or defined by legal acts. They may have existed in the Papirian collection, although of this we can only be absolutely certain in the case of one Romulean law; whilst the comparatively late origin of this collection itself can be proved to demonstration. The Tabula Marliani cannot be thought worthy of serious consideration at the present day.

The wars conducted by Romulus are purely fictitious, like so many supposititious accounts of the monarchy; they are a garbling of events of the historical period. The campaign against Fidenæ is evidently an imitation of the successful campaign of the year 328, in which a cleverly managed[73] ambuscade was the decisive factor, and Fidenæ was likewise conquered by the Romans entering the gates on the heels of the fleeing foe. The fall and conquest of Fidenæ is an event which so constantly recurs in history that we cannot avoid the suspicion that the annalists purposely multiplied it to swell the empty chronicles of the years of the monarchy. The tale that Veii was called to arms by the fall of Fidenæ is also borrowed from later history, in which Veii appears more than once in league with Fidenæ.

The traditional story of Romulus’ campaign against Veii is moreover quite devoid of colour and character. The hundred years’ truce is mentioned at random. Dionysius makes the condition of it the surrender of the Septem Pagi[5] and Salt plains, another incident borrowed from subsequent history. And yet these two short and uneventful campaigns are supposed to have occupied the long reign of a monarch so warlike, restless, and active, a monarch of whom it was said that he barbarised the Roman nation by his incessant wars. Not only is it clear that there exists no authentic account of these wars, but no mention is made of them in ancient tradition, which only records the entrance of Romulus into the world and his exit from it. The interregnum is occupied for the most part by literary inventions made to fill up the gaps in tradition and to present a complete historical account.

The method of Romulus’ departure from the world is the natural consequence of his earthly existence. He who had come into the world by a miracle could only leave it by a miracle. To accentuate the singularity of both events an eclipse celebrates both his arrival and his departure. Hercules is a parallel instance in Greek mythology. A thundercloud transports him to heaven, where he is reconciled to his enemy Hera, whose daughter Hebe he takes to wife.

Either this or a cognate myth in Greek mythology was in the mind of the Roman poets, because the conception of such an apotheosis was as foreign to the Italian religions as was the idea of sexual intercourse between gods and men, and the conception of men by gods. Both ideas are creations of Greek mythology. It was doubtless Ennius, learned in Greek lore, who first cast into poetic shape the apotheosis of Romulus and introduced the idea of it to Rome.

The deified Romulus was called Quirinus. As Romulus was the eponymous hero of the Palatine Romans, so Quirinus was the chief and most highly venerated, and perhaps the eponymous divinity of the Quiritian Sabines; hence the identification. It is a figure of the amalgamation of the two nations into one, a symbol of their complete unity in constitution and religion. The wife of Quirinus, the deified Romulus, was called Hora or Horta. She was presumably a female divinity united in the religion of the Sabines to Quirinus. The festival of the people’s flight (Poplifugia) or the Caprotinæ nones, which tradition has confused with the death of Romulus, is an ancient feast of purification; for, according to the story, Romulus disappeared during a feast of purification which he had ordained on that day. From other customs it is evident that the festival was chiefly a festival of female fecundity, to which purification from every pollution and sin was held to be conducive, by averting all pernicious influences, by propitiating the fructifying powers, and in short by purification or lustration. The festival of the Caprotinæ nones was very like the Lupercalian festival in purpose and significance. The particular resemblance between them was the part played by the goat, the symbol of animal fecundity. At the Lupercalia a goat was sacrificed, and[74] the luperci (the priests who officiated) ran through the streets, clothed in goatskins, lashing the women with whips made with the skins of the victims. There is a connection with the same festival in the name of the Caprotinæ nones. The Goats’ Pool on the Field of Mars was the place where it was held, the sacrifice was offered under a pine tree (caprificus), the milk of the tree was used, and under the shade of the pine trees the women and maidens were solemnly regaled.

Moreover, the symbolical people’s flight which figures in the festival customs of the Caprotinæ nones is suggestive of a similar rite in the Lupercalia—i.e., the running away (discurrere) of the luperci after the offering of the sacrifice. But the ancients say nothing definite concerning this symbolical flight of the people; they only explained it as due either to the sudden and fearful disappearance of Romulus, or to panic at the threatened attack of some neighbouring cities on Rome when she was exhausted and feeble from the Gallic reverse, or after a defeat at the hands of the Etruscans. A more exact interpretation is impossible. But if we are forced to assign the ceremony to the Caprotinan festival, it can only have been a ceremony of lustration. Probably, when the sin and impurity of the people had been symbolically laid upon a vicarious victim (like a sacrificial animal) the flight of the people symbolised their freedom and deliverance from sin. It had probably the same meaning as the flight of the rex sacrificulus from the Comitium. In the Greek religion we find the same ceremony of symbolical flight and there it is certainly a rite of lustration.

We now arrive at the question of how tradition came to celebrate the disappearance of Romulus at this festival of the Poplifugia or the Caprotinæ nones. What connection had the name or person of Romulus with this feast? Unfortunately the darkness which envelops the earliest religion of the Romans excludes all light on the question. One can only say that the same reason which conduced to the association of Romulus with the Lupercalian festival lay at the root of his connection with the kindred ceremony in the festival of the Caprotina.d


[4] [Cf. page 51, note.]

[5] “Pagus,” old word for “canton.”

Etruscan Jewelry

(In the British Museum)


Numa Pompilius chosen King

(From a drawing by Mirys)



Egeria! sweet creature of some heart
Which found no mortal resting-place so fair
As thine ideal breast; whate’er thou art
Or wert,—a young Aurora of the air,
The nympholepsy of some fond despair;
Or, it might be, a beauty of the earth,
Who found a more than common votary there
Too much adoring; whatsoe’er thy birth,
Thou wert a beautiful thought, and softly bodied forth.
Byron. Childe Harold.
[ca. 716-673 B.C.]

When Romulus was taken from the earth, there was no one found to reign in his place. The senators would choose no king, but they divided themselves into tens; and every ten was to have the power of king for five days, one after the other. So a year passed away, and the people murmured, and said that there must be a king chosen.

Now the Romans and the Sabines each wished that the king should be one of them; but at last it was agreed that the king should be a Sabine, but that the Romans should choose him. So they chose Numa Pompilius; for all men said that he was a just man, and wise, and holy.

Some said that he had learned his wisdom from Pythagoras, the famous philosopher of the Greeks; but others would not believe that he owed it to any foreign teacher. Before he would consent to be king, he consulted the gods by augury, to know whether it was their pleasure that he should reign. And as he feared the gods at first, so did he even to the last. He appointed many to minister in sacred things, such as the pontifices who were to see that all things relating to the gods were duly observed by all; and the augurs, who[76] taught men the pleasure of the gods concerning things to come; and the flamens, who ministered in the temples; and the virgins of Vesta, who tended the ever burning fire; and the salii, who honoured the god of arms with solemn songs and dances through the city on certain days, and who kept the sacred shield which fell down from heaven. And in all that he did, he knew that he should please the gods; for he did everything by the direction of the nymph Egeria, who honoured him so much that she took him to be her husband, and taught him in her sacred grove, by the spring that welled out from the rock, all that he was to do towards the gods and towards men. By her counsel he snared the gods Picus and Faunus in the grove on the hill Aventinus, and made them tell him how he might learn from Jupiter the knowledge of his will, and might get him to declare it either by lightning or by the flight of birds. And when men doubted whether Egeria had really given him her counsel, she gave him a sign by which he might prove it to them. He called many of the Romans to supper, and set before them a homely meal in earthen dishes; and then on a sudden he said that now Egeria was come to visit him; and straightway the dishes and the cups became of gold or precious stones, and the couches were covered with rare and costly coverings, and the meats and drinks were abundant and most delicious. But though Numa took so much care for the service of the gods, yet he forbade all costly sacrifices; neither did he suffer blood to be shed on the altars, nor any images of the gods to be made. But he taught the people to offer in sacrifice nothing but the fruits of the earth, meal and cakes of flour, and roasted corn.

For he loved husbandry, and he wished his people to live every man on his own inheritance in peace and in happiness. So the lands which Romulus had won in war, he divided out amongst the people, and gave a certain portion to every man. He then ordered landmarks to be set on every portion; and Terminus the god of landmarks had them in his keeping, and he who moved a landmark was accursed. The craftsmen of the city, who had no land, were divided according to their callings; and there were made of them nine companies. So all was peaceful and prosperous throughout the reign of King Numa; the gates of the temple of Janus were never opened, for the Romans had no wars and no enemies; and Numa built a temple to Faith, and appointed a solemn worship for her, that men might learn not to lie or to deceive, but to speak and act in honesty. And when he had lived to the age of fourscore years, he died at last by a gentle decay, and he was buried under the hill Janiculum, on the other side of the Tiber; and the books of his sacred laws and ordinance were buried near him in a separate tomb.


[ca. 673-641 B.C.]

When Numa was dead, the senators again for a while shared the kingly power amongst themselves. But they soon chose for their king Tullus Hostilius, whose father’s father had come from Medullia, a city of the Latins, to Rome, and had fought with Romulus against the Sabines. Tullus loved the poor, and he divided the lands which came to him as king amongst those who had no land. He also bade those who had no houses to settle themselves on the hill Cælius, and there he dwelt himself in the midst of them.


Tullus was a warlike king, and he soon was called to prove his valour; for the countrymen of the Alban border and of the Roman border plundered one another. Now Alba was governed by Caius Cluilius, who was the[77] dictator; and Cluilius sent to Rome to complain of the wrongs done to his people, and Tullus sent to Alba for the same purpose. So there was a war between the two nations, and Cluilius led his people against Rome, and lay encamped within five miles of the city, and there he died. Mettius Fuffetius was then chosen dictator in his room; and as the Albans still lay in their camp, Tullus passed them by, and marched into the land of Alba. But when Mettius came after him, then, instead of giving battle, the two leaders agreed that a few in either army should fight in behalf of the rest, and that the event of this combat should decide the quarrel. So three twin brothers were chosen out of the Roman army, called the Horatii, and three twin brothers out of the Alban army, called the Curiatii.b

The Combat of the Horatii and the Curiatii

The treaty being concluded, the twin brothers, as had been agreed, took arms. Whilst their respective friends exhortingly reminded each party that their country’s gods, their country and parents, all their countrymen both at home and in the army, had their eyes then fixed on their arms, on their hands. Naturally brave, and animated by the exhortations of their friends, they advanced into the midst between the two lines. The two armies sat down before their respective camps, free rather from present danger than from anxiety; for the sovereign power was at stake, depending on the valour and fortune of so few. Accordingly, therefore, eager and anxious, they have their attention intensely riveted on a spectacle far from pleasing.

The signal was given; and the three youths on each side, as if in battle array, rushed to the charge with determined fury, bearing in their breasts the spirits of mighty armies: nor did the one nor the other regard their personal danger; the public dominion or slavery is present to their mind, and the fortune of their country, which was ever after destined to be such as they should now establish it. As soon as their arms clashed on the first encounter, and their burnished swords glittered, great horror struck the spectators; and, hope inclining to neither side, their voice and breath were suspended. Then having engaged hand to hand, when not only the movements of their bodies and the rapid brandishings of their arms and weapons, but wounds also and blood were seen, two of the Romans fell lifeless, one upon the other, the three Albans being wounded. And when the Alban army raised a shout of joy at their fall, hope entirely, anxiety however not yet, deserted the Roman legions, alarmed for the lot of the one whom the three Curiatii surrounded. He happened to be unhurt, so that, though alone he was by no means a match for them all together, yet he was confident against each singly.

In order therefore to separate their attack, he took to flight presuming that they would pursue him with such swiftness as the wounded state of his body would suffer each. He had now fled a considerable distance from the place where they had fought, when, looking behind, he perceived them pursuing him at great intervals from each other; and that one of them was not far from him. On him he turned round with great fury. And whilst the Alban army shouted out to the Curiatii to succour their brother, Horatius, victorious in having slain his antagonist, was now proceeding to a second attack. Then the Romans encouraged their champion with a shout such as is usually given by persons cheering in consequence of unexpected success; he also hastened to put an end to the combat. Wherefore before the other, who was not far off, could come up, he despatched the second Curiatius also. And now, the combat being brought to an equality of numbers, one on each side remained,[78] but they were equal neither in hope nor in strength. The one his body untouched by a weapon, and by double victory made courageous for a third contest; the other dragging along his body exhausted from the wound, exhausted from running, and dispirited by the slaughter of his brethren before his eyes, presented himself to his victorious antagonist. Nor was that a fight. The Roman, exulting, said, “Two I have offered to the shades of my brothers: the third I will offer to the cause of this war, that the Roman may rule over the Alban.” He thrust his sword down into his throat, whilst faintly sustaining the weight of his armour, he stripped him as he lay prostrate.

The Romans received Horatius with triumph and congratulation; with so much the greater joy, as success had followed so close on fear. They then turned to the burial of their friends with dispositions by no means alike; for the one side was elated with the acquisition of empire, the other subjected to foreign jurisdiction: their sepulchres are still extant in the place where each fell; the two Roman ones in one place nearer to Alba, the three Alban ones towards Rome; but distant in situation from each other, and just as they fought.[6]c

Combat between the Horatii and the Curiatii

(After a drawing by Mirys)

Then the Romans went home to Rome in triumph, and Horatius went at the head of the army, bearing his triple spoils. But as they were drawing near to the Capenian Gate, his sister came out to meet him. Now she had been betrothed in marriage to one of the Curiatii, and his cloak, which she had wrought with her own hands, was borne on the shoulders of her brother; and she knew it, and cried out, and wept for him whom she had loved. At the sight of her tears Horatius was so wroth that he drew his sword, and stabbed his sister to the heart; and he said, “So perish the Roman maiden[79] who shall weep for her country’s enemy.” But men said that it was a dreadful deed, and they dragged him before the two judges who judged when blood had been shed. For thus said the law:

“The two men shall give judgment on the shedder of blood.
If he shall appeal from their judgment, let the appeal be tried.
If their judgment be confirmed, cover his head.
Hang him with a halter on the accursed tree;
Scourge him either within the sacred limit of the city or without.”

So they gave judgment on Horatius, and were going to give him over to be put to death. But he appealed, and the appeal was tried before all the Romans, and they would not condemn him because he had conquered for them their enemies, and because his father spoke for him, and said that he judged the maiden to have been lawfully slain. Yet as blood had been shed, which required to be atoned for, the Romans gave a certain sum of money to offer sacrifices to atone for the pollution of blood. These sacrifices were duly performed ever afterwards by the members of the house of the Horatii.

The Albans were now become bound to obey the Romans; and Tullus called upon them to aid him in a war against the people of Veii and Fidenæ. But in the battle the Alban leader, Mettius Fuffetius, stood aloof, and gave no true aid to the Romans. So, when the Romans had won the battle, Tullus called the Albans together as if he were going to make a speech to them; and they came to hear him, as was the custom, without their arms; and the Roman soldiers gathered around them, and they could neither fight nor escape. Then Tullus took Mettius and bound him between two chariots, and drove the chariots different ways, and tore him asunder. After this he sent his people to Alba, and they destroyed the city, and made all the Albans come and live at Rome; there they had the hill Cælius for their dwelling-place, and became one people with the Romans.

After this Tullus made war upon the Sabines, and gained a victory over them. But now, whether it were that Tullus had neglected the worship of the gods whilst he had been so busy in his wars, the signs of the wrath of heaven became manifest. A plague broke out among the people, and Tullus himself was at last stricken with a lingering disease. Then he bethought him of good and holy Numa, and how, in his time, the gods had been so gracious to Rome, and had made known their will by signs whenever Numa inquired of them. So Tullus also tried to inquire of Jupiter, but the god was angry and would not be inquired of, for Tullus did not consult him rightly; so he sent his lightnings, and Tullus and all his house were burned to ashes. This made the Romans know that they wanted a king who would follow the example of Numa; so they chose his daughter’s son Ancus Marcius to reign over them in the room of Tullus.


[ca. 642-616 B.C.]

Ancient history does not tell much of Ancus Marcius. He published the religious ceremonies which Numa had commanded, and had them written out upon whited boards, and hung up round the Forum, that all might know and observe them. He had a war with the Latins and conquered them, and brought the people to Rome, and gave them the hill Aventinus to dwell on. He divided the lands of the conquered Latins amongst all the Romans, and he gave up the forests near the sea which he had taken from the Latins, to be the public property of the Romans. He founded a colony at Ostia, by the[80] mouth of the Tiber. He built a fortress on the hill Janiculum, and joined the hill to the city by a wooden bridge over the river. He secured the city in the low grounds between the hills by a great dyke, which was called the dyke of the Quirites. And he built a prison under the hill Saturnius, towards the Forum, because as the people grew in numbers, offenders against the laws became more numerous also. At last King Ancus died, after a reign of three-and-twenty years.


[ca. 616-578 B.C.]

In the days of Ancus Marcius there came to Rome from Tarquinii, a city of Etruria, a wealthy Etruscan and his wife. The father of this stranger was a Greek, a citizen of Corinth, who left his native land because it was oppressed by a tyrant, and found a home at Tarquinii. There he married a noble Etruscan lady, and by her he had two sons. But his son found that for his father’s sake he was still looked upon as a stranger; so he left Tarquinii, and went with his wife Tanaquil to Rome, for there, it was said, strangers were held in more honour. Now as he came near to the gates of Rome, as he was sitting in his chariot with Tanaquil his wife, an eagle came and plucked the cap from his head, and bore it aloft into the air; and then flew down again and placed it upon his head, as it had been before. So Tanaquil was glad at this sight, and she told her husband, for she was skilled in augury, that this was a sign of the favour of the gods, and she bade him be of good cheer, for that he would surely rise to greatness.


Now when the stranger came to Rome, they called him Lucius Tarquinius, and he was a brave man and wise in council; and his riches won the good word of the multitude; and he became known to the king. He served the king well in peace and war, so that Ancus held him in great honour, and when he died he named him by his will to be the guardian of his children.


But Tarquinius was in great favour with the people; and when he desired to be king, they resolved to choose him rather than the sons of Ancus. So he began to reign, and he did great works both in war and peace. He made war on the Latins, and took from them a great spoil. Then he made war on the Sabines, and he conquered them in two battles, and took from them the town of Collatia, and gave it to Egerius, his brother’s son, who had come with him from Tarquinii. Lastly, there was another war with the Latins, and Tarquinius went round to their cities, and took them one after another; for none dared to go out to meet him in open battle. These were his acts in war.

He also did great works in peace; for he made vast drains to carry off the water from between the Palatine and the Aventine, and from between the Palatine and the Capitoline hills. And in the space between the Palatine and the Aventine, after he had drained it, he formed the Circus, or great race-course, for chariot and for horse races. Then in the space between the Palatine and the Capitoline he made a forum or market-place, and divided out the ground around it for shops or stalls, and made a covered walk round it. Next he set about building a wall of stone to go round the city; and he laid the foundations of a great temple on the Capitoline Hill, which was to be the temple of the gods of Rome. He also added a hundred new senators to the senate, and doubled the number of the horsemen in the centuries of the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres, for he wanted to strengthen his force of horsemen; and when he had done so, his horse gained him great victories over his enemies.

Now he first had it in his mind to make three new centuries of horsemen, and to call them after his own name. But Attus Navius, who was greatly skilled in augury, forbade him. Then the king mocked at his art, and said, “Come now, thou augur, tell me by thy auguries, whether the thing which I now have in my mind may be done or not.” And Attus Navius asked counsel of the gods by augury, and he answered, “It may.” Then the king said, “It was in my mind that thou shouldst cut in two this whetstone with this razor. Take them, and do it, and fulfil thy augury if thou canst.” But Attus took the razor and the whetstone, and he cut, and cut the whetstone asunder. So the king obeyed his counsels, and made no new centuries; and in all things afterwards he consulted the gods by augury, and obeyed their bidding.

Tarquinius reigned long and prospered greatly; and there was a young man brought up in his household, of whose birth some told wonderful tales, and said that he was the son of a god; but others said that his mother was a slave, and his father was one of the king’s clients. But he served the king well, and was in favour with the people, and the king promised him his daughter in marriage. The young man was called Servius Tullius. But when the sons of King Ancus saw that Servius was so loved by King Tarquinius, they resolved to slay the king, lest he should make this stranger his heir, and so they should lose the crown forever. So they set on two shepherds to do the deed, and these went to the king’s palace, and pretended to be quarrelling with each other, and both called on the king to do them right. The king sent for them to hear their story; and while he was hearing one of them speak, the other struck him on the head with his hatchet, and then both of them fled. But Tanaquil, the king’s wife, pretended that he was not dead, but only stunned by the blow; and she said that he had appointed Servius Tullius to rule in his name, till he should be well again. So Servius went forth in royal state, and judged causes amidst the people, and acted in all things as if he were king, till after a while it was known that the king[82] was dead, and Servius was suffered to reign in his place. Then the sons of Ancus saw that there was no hope left for them; and they fled from Rome, and lived the rest of their days in a foreign land.


[ca. 578-534 B.C.]

Servius Tullius was a just and good king; he loved the commons, and he divided among them the lands which had been conquered in war, and he made many wise and good laws, to maintain the cause of the poor, and to stop the oppression of the rich. He made war with the Etruscans, and conquered them. He added the Quirinal and the Viminal hills to the city, and he brought many new citizens to live on the Esquiline; and there he lived himself amongst them. He also raised a great mound of earth to join the Esquiline and the Quirinal and the Viminal hills together, and to cover them from the attacks of an enemy.

He built a temple of Diana on the Aventine, where the Latins, and the Sabines, and the Romans, should offer their common sacrifices; and the Romans were the chief in rank amongst all who worshipped at the temple.

He made a new order of things for the whole people; for he divided the people of the city into four tribes, and the people of the country into six-and-twenty. Then he divided all the people into classes, according to the value of their possessions; and the classes he divided into centuries; and the centuries of the several classes furnished themselves with arms, each according to their rank and order: the centuries of the rich classes had good and full armour, the poorer centuries had but darts and slings. And when he had done all these works, he called all the people together in their centuries, and asked if they would have him for their king; and the people answered that he should be their king. But the nobles hated him, because he was so loved by the commons; for he had made a law that there should be no king after him, but two men chosen by the people to govern them year by year. Some even said that it was in his mind to give up his own kingly power, that so he might see with his own eyes the fruit of all the good laws that he had made, and might behold the people wealthy and free and happy.

Now King Servius had no son, but he had two daughters; and he gave them in marriage to the two sons of King Tarquinius. These daughters were of very unlike natures, and so were their husbands: for Aruns Tarquinius was of a meek and gentle spirit, but his brother Lucius was proud and full of evil; and the younger Tullia, who was the wife of Aruns, was more full of evil than his brother Lucius; and the elder Tullia, who was the wife of Lucius, was as good and gentle as his brother Aruns. So the evil could not bear the good, but longed to be joined to the evil that was like itself: and Lucius slew his wife secretly, and the younger Tullia slew her husband, and then they were married to one another, that they might work all the wickedness of their hearts, according to the will of fate.

Then Lucius plotted with the nobles, who hated the good king; and he joined himself to the sworn brotherhoods of the young nobles, in which they bound themselves to stand by each other in their deeds of violence and of oppression. When all was ready, he waited for the season of the harvest, when the commons, who loved the king, were in the fields getting in their corn. Then he went suddenly to the Forum with a band of armed men, and seated himself on the king’s throne before the doors of the senate house,[83] where he was wont to judge the people. And they ran to the king, and told him that Lucius was sitting on his throne. Upon this the old man went in haste to the Forum, and when he saw Lucius, he asked him wherefore he had dared to sit on the king’s seat. And Lucius answered that it was his father’s throne, and that he had more right in it than Servius. Then he seized the old man, and threw him down the steps of the senate house to the ground; and he went into the senate house, and called together the senators, as if he were already king. Servius meanwhile arose, and began to make his way home to his house; but when he was come near to the Esquiline Hill, some whom Lucius had sent after him overtook him and slew him, and left him in his blood in the middle of the way.

Then the wicked Tullia mounted her chariot, and drove into the Forum, nothing ashamed to go amidst the multitude of men, and she called Lucius out from the senate house, and said to him, “Hail to thee, King Tarquinius!” But Lucius bade her to go home; and as she was going home, the body of her father was lying in the way. The driver of the chariot stopped short, and showed to Tullia where her father lay in his blood. But she bade him drive on, for the furies of her wickedness were upon her, and the chariot rolled over the body; and she went to her home with her father’s blood upon the wheels of her chariot. Thus Lucius Tarquinius and the wicked Tullia reigned in the place of the good king Servius.


[ca. 534-510 B.C.]

Lucius Tarquinius gained his power wickedly, and no less wickedly did he exercise it. He kept a guard of armed men about him, and he ruled all things at his own will; many were they whom he spoiled of their goods, many were they whom he banished, and many also whom he slew. He despised the senate, and made no new senators in the place of those whom he slew, or who died in the course of nature, wishing that the senators might become fewer and fewer, till there should be none of them left. And he made friends of the chief men among the Latins, and gave his daughter in marriage to Octavius Mamilius of Tusculum; and he became very powerful amongst the Latins, insomuch that when Turnus Herdonius of Aricia had dared to speak against him in the great assembly of the Latins, Tarquinius accused him of plotting his death, and procured false witnesses to confirm his charge; so that the Latins judged him to be guilty, and ordered him to be drowned. After this they were so afraid of Tarquinius, that they made a league with him, and followed him in his wars wherever he chose to lead them. The Hernicans also joined this league, and so did Ecetra and Antium, cities of the Volscians.

Then Tarquinius made war upon the rest of the Volscians, and he took Suessa Pometia, in the lowlands of the Volscians, and the tithe of the spoil was forty talents of silver. So he set himself to raise mighty works in Rome; and he finished what his father had begun, the great drains to drain the low grounds of the city, and the temple on the Capitoline Hill. Now the ground on which he was going to build his temple was taken up with many holy places of the gods of the Sabines, which had been founded in the days of King Tatius. But Tarquinius consulted the gods by augury whether he might not take away these holy places to make room for his own new temple. The gods allowed him to take away all the rest, except only the holy places of the god of youth, and of Terminus the god of[84] boundaries, which they would not suffer him to move. But the augurs said that this was a happy omen, for that it showed how the youth of the city should never pass away, nor its boundaries be moved by the conquest of an enemy. A human head was also found, as they were digging the foundations of the temple, and this too was a sign that the Capitoline Hill should be the head of all the earth.[7] So Tarquinius built a mighty temple, and consecrated it to Jupiter, and to Juno, and to Minerva, the greatest of the gods of the Etruscans.

At this time there came a strange woman to the king, and offered him nine books of the prophecies of the Sibyl for a certain price. When the king refused them, the woman went and burned three of the books, and came back and offered the six at the same price which she had asked for the nine; but they mocked at her and would not take the books. Then she went away, and burned three more, and came back and asked still the same price for the remaining three. At this the king was astonished, and asked of the augurs what he should do. They said that he had done wrong in refusing the gift of the gods, and bade him by all means to buy the books that were left. So he bought them; and the woman who sold them was seen no more from that day forwards. Then the books were put into a chest of stone, and were kept underground in the Capitol, and two men were appointed to keep them, and were called the two men of the sacred books.

Now Gabii would not submit to Tarquinius, like the other cities of the Latins, so he made war against it; and the war was long, and Tarquinius knew not how to end it. So his son Sextus Tarquinius pretended that his father hated him, and fled to Gabii; and the people of Gabii believed him and trusted him, till at last he betrayed them into his father’s power. A treaty was then made with them, and he gave them the right of becoming citizens of Rome, and the Romans had the right of becoming citizens of Gabii, and there was a firm league between the two people.

Thus Tarquinius was a great and mighty king; but he grievously oppressed the poor, and he took away all the good laws of King Servius, and let the rich oppress the poor, as they had done before the days of Servius. He made the people labour at his great works: he made them build his temple and dig and construct his drains; and he laid such burdens on them, that many slew themselves for very misery; for in the days of Tarquinius the tyrant it was happier to die than to live.b


[6] The two Roman champions, we have seen, fell in the one place, super alium alius; consequently were buried together; whilst the Curiatii fell in different places, as Horatius contrived to separate them to avoid their joint attack.

[7] [“After the work had been carried down to a great depth there was found the head of a man newly killed, with the face like that of a living man, and the blood which flowed from the abrasion warm and fresh.”—Dionysius.d]



The Execution of Titus and Tiberius

(From a drawing by Mirys)



[ca. 510 B.C.]

While King Tarquinius was at the height of his greatness, it chanced upon a time that from the altar in the court of his palace there crawled out a snake, which devoured the offerings laid on the altar. So the king thought it not enough to consult the soothsayers of the Etruscans whom he had with him, but he sent two of his own sons to Delphi, to ask counsel of the oracle of the Greeks; for the oracle of Delphi was famous in all lands. So his sons Titus and Aruns went to Delphi, and they took with them their cousin Lucius Junius, whom men called Brutus, that is, the dullard; for he seemed to be wholly without wit, and he would eat wild figs with honey. This Lucius was not really dull, but very subtle; and it was for fear of his uncle’s cruelty, that he made himself as one without sense; for he was very rich, and he feared lest King Tarquinius should kill him for the sake of his inheritance. So when he went to Delphi he carried with him a staff of horn, and the staff was hollow, and it was filled with gold, and he gave the staff to the oracle as a likeness of himself; for though he seemed dull, and of no account to look upon, yet he had a golden wit within. When the three young men had performed the king’s bidding, they asked the oracle for themselves, and they said, “O Lord Apollo, tell us, which of us shall be king in Rome?” Then there came a voice from the sanctuary and said, “Whichever of you shall first kiss his mother.” So the sons of Tarquinius agreed to draw lots between themselves, which of them should first kiss their mother, when they should have returned to Rome; and they said they would keep[86] the oracle secret from their brother Sextus, lest he should be king rather than they. But Lucius understood the mind of the oracle better; so as they all went down from the temple, he stumbled as if by chance, and fell with his face to the earth, and kissed the earth; for he said, “The earth is the true mother of us all.”

Now when they came back to Rome, King Tarquinius was at war with the people of Ardea; and as the city was strong, his army lay a long while before it, till it should be forced to yield through famine. So the Romans had leisure for feasting and for diverting themselves; and once Titus and Aruns were supping with their brother Sextus, and their cousin Tarquinius of Collatia was supping with them. And they disputed about their wives, whose wife of them all was the worthiest lady. Then said Tarquinius of Collatia, “Let us go, and see with our own eyes what our wives are doing, so shall we know which is the worthiest.” Upon this they all mounted their horses, and rode first to Rome; and there they found the wives of Titus, and of Aruns, and of Sextus, feasting and making merry. They then rode on to Collatia, and it was late in the night, but they found Lucretia, the wife of Tarquinius of Collatia, neither feasting, nor yet sleeping, but she was sitting with all her handmaids around her, and all were working at the loom. So when they saw this, they all said, “Lucretia is the worthiest lady.” And she entertained her husband and his kinsmen, and after that they rode back to the camp before Ardea.


But a spirit of wicked passion seized upon Sextus, and a few days afterwards he went alone to Collatia, and Lucretia received him hospitably, for he was her husband’s kinsman. At midnight he arose and went to her chamber, and he said that if she yielded not to him, he would slay her and one of her slaves with her, and would say to her husband that he had slain her in her adultery. So when Sextus had accomplished his wicked purpose, he went back again to the camp.

Then Lucretia sent in haste to Rome, to pray that her father Spurius Lucretius would come to her; and she sent to Ardea to summon her husband. Her father brought along with him Publius Valerius, and her husband brought with him Lucius Junius, whom men call Brutus. When they arrived, they asked earnestly, “Is all well?” Then she told them of the wicked deed of Sextus, and she said, “If ye be men, avenge it.” And they all swore to her, that they would avenge it. Then she said again, “I am not guilty; yet must I too share in the punishment of this deed, lest any should think that they may be false to their husbands and live.” And she drew a knife from her bosom, and stabbed herself to the heart.

At that sight her husband and her father cried aloud; but Lucius drew the knife from the wound, and held it up, and said, “By this blood I swear, that I will visit this deed upon King Tarquinius, and all his accursed race; neither shall any man hereafter be king in Rome, lest he do the like wickedness.” And he gave the knife to her husband, and to her father, and to Publius Valerius. They marvelled to hear such words from him whom men called dull; but they swore also, and they took up the body of Lucretia, and carried it down into the Forum; and they said, “Behold the deeds of the wicked family of Tarquinius.” All the people of Collatia were moved, and the men took up arms, and they set a guard at the gates, that none might go out to carry the tidings to Tarquinius, and they followed Lucius to Rome. There, too,[87] all the people came together, and the crier summoned them to assemble before the tribune of the Celeres, for Lucius held that office. And Lucius spoke to them of all the tyranny of Tarquinius and his sons, and of the wicked deed of Sextus. And the people in their curiæ took back from Tarquinius the sovereign power, which they had given him, and they banished him and all his family. Then the younger men followed Lucius to Ardea, to win over the army there to join them; and the city was left in the charge of Spurius Lucretius. But the wicked Tullia fled in haste from her house, and all, both men and women, cursed her as she passed, and prayed that the furies of her father’s blood might visit her with vengeance.b


This entire story, which Shakespeare himself put into poetry, has met with the wholesale scepticism that has visited all the Roman legends. But the incredulous Niebuhr, for one, accepts it: “It may easily be believed,” he says, “that Sextus Tarquinius committed the outrage on Lucretia, for similar things are still of every-day occurrence in Turkey, and were frequently perpetrated in the Middle Ages by Italian princes down to the time of Pietro Luigi Farnese (in the sixteenth century); in antiquity similar crimes are met with in oligarchies and tyrannies, as is well known from the history of Demetrius Poliorcetes at Athens. Cicero is quite right in saying that it was a misfortune that Sextus hit upon a woman belonging to one of the most powerful families. It may readily be believed that the woman tried to avenge herself, but the whole of the subsequent events, by which the story acquired individuality and its connection with the campaign against Ardea, are of no historical value. The king is said to have been encamped before Ardea, and to have concluded a truce for fifteen years; but Ardea was dependent upon Rome before that time, since it occurs among the towns on behalf of which Rome concluded the treaty with Carthage. All therefore that remains and bears the appearance of probability, is that Lucretia was outraged, and that her death kindled the spark which had long been smouldering under the ashes.

“We are in the same perplexity in regard to the person of Brutus. He is said to have feigned stupidity in order to deceive the king, and there were several traditions as to the manner in which he attempted to accomplish this object. His mission to Delphi along with the sons of Tarquinius, although the mission from Agylla at an earlier period cannot be doubted, seems to betray a later hand, and probably the same as introduced the stories from Herodotus into Roman history. It is further said that Tarquinius, in order to render the dignity of tribunus celerum the highest after that of the king, powerless for mischief, gave the office to Brutus. But there is every reason for believing that the whole story of Brutus’ idiocy arose solely from his name. Brutus is undoubtedly an Oscan word connected with the same root as Bruttii; it signifies ‘a runaway slave,’ a name which the insolent faction of the king gave to the leader of the rebels because he was a plebeian. How is it conceivable that a great king, such as Tarquinius really was, should have raised an idiot whom he might have put to death to the dignity of tribunus celerum—for the purpose of rendering it contemptible? Tarquinius was not a tyrant of such a kind as to be under the necessity of weakening the state in order to govern it; he might have given it power and vigour and yet ruled over it by his great personal qualities; nor did the Romans think differently of him, for his statue continued to be preserved in the Capitol.”f



Meanwhile King Tarquinius set out with speed to Rome to put down the tumult. But Lucius turned aside from the road, that he might not meet him, and came to the camp; and the soldiers joyfully received him, and they drove out the sons of Tarquinius. King Tarquinius came to Rome, but the gates were shut, and they declared to him, from the walls, the sentence of banishment which had been passed against him and his family. So he yielded to his fortune, and went to live at Cære with his sons Titus and Aruns. His other son, Sextus, went to Gabii, and the people there, remembering how he had betrayed them to his father, slew him. Then the army left the camp before Ardea, and went back to Rome. And all men said, “Let us follow the good laws of the good king Servius; and let us meet in our centuries, according as he directed, and let us choose two men year by year to govern us, instead of a king.” Then the people met in their centuries in the field of Mars, and they chose two men to rule over them, Lucius Junius, whom men called Brutus, and Lucius Tarquinius of Collatia.

But the people were afraid of Lucius Tarquinius for his name’s sake, for it seemed as though a Tarquinius were still king over them. So they prayed him to depart from Rome, and he went and took all his goods with him, and settled himself at Lavinium. Then the senate and the people decreed that all the house of the Tarquinii should be banished, even though they were not of the king’s family. And the people met again in their centuries, and chose Publius Valerius to rule over them together with Brutus, in the room of Lucius Tarquinius of Collatia.

Now at this time many of the laws of the good king Servius were restored, which Tarquinius the tyrant had overthrown. For the commons again chose their own judges, to try all causes between a man and his neighbour; and they had again their meetings and their sacrifices in the city and in the country, every man in his own tribe and in his own district. And lest there should seem to be two kings instead of one, it was ordered that one only of the two should bear rule at one time, and that the lictors with their rods and axes should walk before him alone. And the two were to bear rule month by month.

Then King Tarquinius sent to Rome, to ask for all the goods that had belonged to him; and the senate after a while decreed that the goods should be given back. But those whom he had sent to Rome to ask for his goods, had meetings with many young men of noble birth, and a plot was laid to bring back King Tarquinius. So the young men wrote letters to Tarquinius, pledging to him their faith, and among them were Titus and Tiberius, the sons of Brutus. But a slave happened to overhear them talking together, and when he knew that the letters were to be given to the messengers of Tarquinius, he went and told all that he had heard to Brutus and to Publius Valerius. Then they came and seized the young men and their letters, and so the plot was broken up.

After this there was a strange and piteous sight to behold. Brutus and Publius sat on their judgment seats in the Forum, and the young men were brought before them. Then Brutus bade the lictors to bind his own two sons, Titus and Tiberius, together with the others, and to scourge them with rods, according to the law. And after they had been scourged, the lictors struck off their heads with their axes, before the eyes of their father; and Brutus neither stirred from his seat nor turned away his eyes from the sight, yet men saw as they looked on him that his heart was grieving inwardly[89] over his children. Then they marvelled at him, because he had loved justice more than his own blood, and had not spared his own children when they had been false to their country, and had offended against the law.

When King Tarquinius found that the plot was broken up, he persuaded the people of Veii and the people of Tarquinii, cities of the Etruscans, to try to bring him back to Rome by force of arms. So they assembled their armies, and Tarquinius led them within the Roman border. Brutus and Publius led the Romans out to meet them, and it chanced that Brutus, with the Roman horsemen, and Aruns, the son of King Tarquinius, with the Etruscan horse, met each other in advance of the main battles. Aruns, seeing Brutus in his kingly robe, and with the lictors of a king around him, levelled his spear, and spurred his horse against him. Brutus met him, and each ran his spear through the body of the other, and they both fell dead. Then the horsemen on both parts fought, and afterwards the main battles, and the Veientines were beaten, but the Tarquinians beat the Romans, and the battle was neither won nor lost; but in the night there came a voice out of the wood that was hard by, and it said, “One man more has fallen on the part of the Etruscans than on the part of the Romans; the Romans are to conquer in the war.” At this the Etruscans were afraid, and believing the voice, they immediately marched home to their own country, while the Romans took up Brutus, and carried him home and buried him; and Publius made an oration in his praise, and all the matrons of Rome mourned for him for a whole year, because he had avenged Lucretia well.

When Brutus was dead, Publius ruled over the people himself; and he began to build a great and strong house on the top of the hill Velia, which looks down upon the Forum. This made the people say, “Publius wants to become a king, and is building a house in a strong place, as if for a citadel where he may live with his guards, and oppress us.” But he called the people together, and when he went down to them, the lictors who walked before him lowered the rods and the axes which they bore, to show that he owned the people to be greater than himself. He complained that they had mistrusted him, and he said that he would not build his house on the top of the hill Velia, but at the bottom of it, and his house should be no stronghold. And he called on them to make a law, that whoever should try to make himself king should be accursed, and whosoever would might slay him. Also, that if a magistrate were going to scourge or kill any citizen, he might carry his cause before the people, and they should judge him. When these laws were passed, all men said, “Publius is a lover of the people, and seeks their good”: and he was called Publicola, which means, “the people’s friend,” from that day forward.

Then Publius called the people together in their centuries, and they chose Spurius Lucretius, the father of Lucretia, to be their magistrate for the year, in the room of Brutus. But he was an old man, and his strength was so much gone, that after a few days he died. They then chose in his room Marcus Horatius.

Now Publius and Marcus cast lots which should dedicate the temple to Jupiter on the hill of the Capitol, which King Tarquinius had built; and the lot fell to Marcus, to the great discontent of the friends of Publius. So when Marcus was going to begin the dedication, and had his hand on the doorpost of the temple, and was speaking the set words of prayer, there came a man running to tell him that his son was dead. But he said, “Then let them carry him out and bury him”; and he neither wept nor lamented, for the words of lamentation ought not to be spoken when men are praying[90] to the blessed gods, and dedicating a temple to their honour. So Marcus honoured the gods above his son, and dedicated the temple on the hill of the Capitol; and his name was recorded on the front of the temple.


But when King Tarquinius found that the Veientines and Tarquinians were not able to restore him to his kingdom, he went to Clusium, a city in the farthest part of Etruria, beyond the Ciminian forest, and besought Lars Porsenna, the king of Clusium, to aid him. So Porsenna raised a great army, and marched against Rome, and attacked the Romans on the hill Janiculum, the hill on the outside of the city beyond the Tiber.b

When the two armies charged, they both fought bravely and sustained the shock for a considerable time, the Romans having the advantage of their enemies both in experience and perseverance, and the Tyrrhenians and Latins being much superior in number. And, many being killed on both sides, fear seized the Romans; first, those on the left wing, when they saw their two commanders, Valerius, and Lucretius, carried out of the field wounded; after which, those on the right wing, who had already the advantage over the forces commanded by Tarquinius, seeing the flight of their friends, were possessed with the same terror. And all of them, hastening to the city, and endeavouring to force their way in a body over the same bridge, the enemy made a strong attack upon them; and the city having no walls in that part next the river, was very near being taken by storm, which had certainly happened if the pursuers had entered it at the same time with those who fled. But three men put a stop to the pursuit of the enemy and saved the whole army; two of these were Spurius Lartius and Titus Herminius among the elders, who had the command of the right wing; and of the younger, Publius Horatius, who was called Cocles from the loss of one of his eyes, which had been struck out in a battle; a person, of all men, the most remarkable for the fine proportion of his limbs, and for his bravery. This man was nephew to Marcus Horatius, one of the consuls, but derived his high birth from Marcus Horatius, one of the three brothers who overcame the three Albans. These three without other assistance, placing their backs against the bridge, stopped the passage of the enemy for a considerable time, and stood their ground while a shower of all sorts of weapons fell upon them, and numbers also pressed them sword in hand, till the whole army passed the river.

When they judged their own men to be in safety, two of them, Herminius, and Lartius, their defensive arms being now rendered useless by continual strokes, retreated leisurely; while Horatius alone, though not only the consuls, but the rest of the people, solicitous above all things to preserve such a man for his country and his parents, called to him from the city to retire, could not be prevailed on, but remained upon the same spot where he first stood, and directed Herminius and Lartius to desire the consuls, as from him, to order that part of the bridge which was next the city immediately to be cut off (for there was but one bridge at that time, which was built of wood, and mortised together with timber alone, without iron, which the Romans preserve even to this day in the same condition) and that, when the greatest part of the bridge was broken down and little of it remained, they should give him notice of it by some signals, or by speaking louder than[91] ordinary; as to the rest, he told them he would take care of it. Having given these directions to these two persons, he stood upon the bridge itself, and when the enemy advanced upon him, he struck some of them with his sword, and beating down others with his shield, he repulsed all who attempted to pass the bridge; for these looking upon him as a madman, and one who had devoted himself to destruction, durst no longer approach him; at the same time, it was not easy for them to come near him, because the river defended him on the right and left, and before him lay a heap of arms and dead bodies. But standing all at a distance, they threw spears, darts, and large stones at him, and those who were not supplied with these, threw the swords and bucklers of the slain. But he fought still, making use of their own weapons against them; and throwing these among the crowd, he could not fail, as may well be supposed, to hit somebody. And now, overwhelmed with missive weapons, and having a great number of wounds in many parts of his body, but one particularly, occasioned by a spear, which, passing over the top of his thigh, pierced the forepart of one of his hips, and putting him to great pain, impeded his motion. When hearing those behind him call out that the greatest part of the bridge was broken down, he leaped, with his arms, into the river, and swimming across the stream with great difficulty (for the current, being divided by the piles, ran swift, and formed large eddies), he landed without losing any of his arms.

Horatius defending the Bridge over the Tiber

This action gained him immortal glory, for the Romans immediately crowned him, and conducted him into the city with songs, as one of the heroes; and all the inhabitants ran out of their houses, desiring to have the last sight of him before he died, for it was thought he could not long survive his wounds. And when he was recovered, the people erected a brazen statue of him all armed, in the most conspicuous part of the Forum, and gave[92] him as much of the public land as he himself could plough around in one day with a yoke of oxen. Besides these things bestowed upon him by the public, every particular man and woman in the city, at a time when they were all the most oppressed by a dreadful scarcity of necessary provisions, gave him as much as would maintain each of them one day, the number of people in the whole amounting to more than three hundred thousand. Thus Horatius, who had shown so great valour upon that occasion, was looked upon by the Romans with all possible admiration; but rendered useless by his lameness in the subsequent affairs of the commonwealth, and by reason of his calamity, he obtained neither the consulship nor any other military command.g

Caius Mucius and King Porsenna

But the Etruscans still lay before the city, and the Romans suffered much from hunger. Then a young man of noble blood, Caius Mucius by name, went to the senate, and offered to go to the camp of the Etruscans, and to slay King Porsenna. So he crossed the river and made his way into the camp, and there he saw a man sitting on a high place, and wearing a scarlet robe, and many coming and going about him; and, saying to himself, “This must be King Porsenna,” he went up to his seat amidst the crowd, and when he came near to the man he drew a dagger from under his garment, and stabbed him. But it was the king’s scribe whom he had slain, who was the king’s chief officer; so he was seized and brought before the king, and the guards threatened him with sharp torments, unless he would answer all their questions. But he said, “See now, how little I care for your torments”; and he thrust his right hand into the fire that was burning there on the altar, and he did not move it till it was quite consumed. Then King Porsenna marvelled at his courage, and said, “Go thy way, for thou hast harmed thyself more than me; and thou art a brave man, and I send thee back to Rome unhurt and free.” But Caius answered, “For this thou shalt get more of my secret than thy tortures could have forced from me. Three hundred noble youths of Rome have bound themselves by oath to take thy life. Mine was the first adventure; but the others will each in his turn lie in wait for thee. I warn thee therefore to look to thyself well.” Then Caius was let go, and went back again into the city.

But King Porsenna was greatly moved, and made the Romans offers of peace, to which they listened gladly, and gave up the land beyond the Tiber which had been won in former times from the Veientines; and he gave back to them the hill Janiculum. Besides this the Romans gave hostages to the king, ten youths and ten maidens, children of noble fathers, as a pledge that they would truly keep the peace which they had made. But it chanced as the camp of the Etruscans was near the Tiber, that Clœlia, one of the maidens, escaped with her fellows and fled to the brink of the river, and as the Etruscans pursued them, Clœlia spoke to the other maidens, and persuaded them, and they rushed all into the water, and swam across the river, and got safely over. At this King Porsenna marvelled more than ever, and when the Romans sent back Clœlia and her fellows to him, for they kept their faith truly, he bade her go home free, and he gave her some of the youths also who were hostages, to choose whom she would; and she chose those who were of tenderest age, and King Porsenna set them free. Then the Romans gave lands to Caius, and set up a statue of Clœlia in the highest part of the Sacred Way; and King Porsenna led away his army home in peace.


After this King Porsenna made war against the Latins, and his army was beaten, and fled to Rome; and the Romans received them kindly, and took care of those who were wounded, and sent them back safe to King Porsenna. For this the king gave back to the Romans all the rest of their hostages whom he had still with him, and also the land which they had won from the Veientines. So Tarquinius, seeing that there was no more hope of aid from King Porsenna, left Clusium and went to Tusculum of the Latins; for Octavius Mamilius, the chief of the Tusculans, had married his daughter, and he hoped that the Latins would restore him to Rome, for their cities were many, and when he had been king he had favoured them rather than the Romans.

So, after a time, thirty cities of the Latins joined together and made Octavius Mamilius their general, and declared war against the Romans. Now Publius Valerius was dead, and the Romans so loved and honoured him that they buried him within the city, near the hill Velia, and all the matrons of Rome had mourned for him for a whole year: also because the Romans had the Sabines for their enemies as well as the Latins, they had made one man to be their ruler for a time instead of two; and he was called the master of the people, or the commander, and he had all the power which the kings of Rome had in times past. So Aulus Postumius was appointed master of the people at this time, and Titus Æbutius was the chief or master of the horsemen; and they led out the whole force of the Romans, and met the Latins by the lake Regillus, in the country of Tusculum: and Tarquinius himself was with the army of the Latins, and his son and all the houses of the Tarquinii; for this was their last hope, and fate was now to determine whether the Romans should be ruled over by King Tarquinius, or whether they should be free forever.

There were many Romans who had married Latin wives, and many Latins who had married wives from among the Romans. So before the war began, it was resolved that the women on both sides might leave their husbands if they chose, and take their virgin daughters with them, and return to their own country. And all the Latin women, except two, remained in Rome with their husbands: but the Roman women loved Rome more than their husbands, and took their young daughters with them, and came home to the houses of their fathers.


Then the Romans and the Latins joined battle by the lake Regillus. There might you see King Tarquinius, though far advanced in years, yet mounted on his horse and bearing his lance in his hand, as bravely as though he were still young. There was his son Tarquinius, leading on to battle all the band of the house of the Tarquinii, whom the Romans had banished for their name’s sake, and who thought it a proud thing to win back their country by their swords, and to become again the royal house, to give a king to the Romans. There was Octavius Mamilius, of Tusculum, the leader of all the Latins, who said, that he would make Tarquinius, his father, king once more in Rome, and the Romans should help the Latins in all their wars, and Tusculum should be the greatest of all the cities whose people went up together to sacrifice to Jupiter of the Latins at his temple on the high top of the mountain of Alba. And on the side of the Romans might be seen Aulus Postumius, the master of the people, and Titus Æbutius, the master of the horsemen. There also was Titus Herminius, who had fought on the bridge[94] by the side of Horatius Cocles, on the day when they saved Rome from King Porsenna. There was Marcus Valerius, the brother of Publius, who said he would finish by the lake Regillus the glorious work which Publius had begun in Rome; for Publius had driven out Tarquinius and his house, and had made them live as banished men, and now they should lose their lives as they had lost their country. So at the first onset King Tarquinius levelled his lance, and rode against Aulus; and on the left of the battle, Titus Æbutius spurred his horse against Octavius Mamilius. But King Tarquinius, before he reached Aulus, received a wound into his side, and his followers gathered around him, and bore him out of the battle. And Titus and Octavius met lance to lance, and Titus struck Octavius on the breast, and Octavius ran his lance through the arm of Titus. So Titus withdrew from the battle, for his arm could no longer wield its weapon; but Octavius heeded not his hurt, but when he saw his Latins giving ground, he called to the banished Romans of the house of the Tarquinii, and sent them into the thick of the fight. On they rushed so fiercely that neither man nor horse could stand before them; for they thought how they had been driven from their country, and spoiled of their goods, and they said that they would win back both that day through the blood of their enemies.

Then Marcus Valerius, the brother of Publius, levelled his lance and rode fiercely against Titus Tarquinius, who was the leader of the band of the Tarquinii. But Titus drew back, and sheltered himself amidst his band: and Marcus rode after him in his fury, and plunged into the midst of the enemy, and a Latin ran his lance into his side as he was rushing on; but his horse stayed not in his career, till Marcus dropped from him dead upon the ground. Then the Romans feared yet more, and the Tarquinii charged yet more vehemently, till Aulus, the leader of the Romans, rode up with his own chosen band; and he bade them level their lances, and slay all whose faces were towards them, whether they were friends or foes. So the Romans turned from their flight, and Aulus and his chosen band fell upon the Tarquinii; and Aulus prayed, and vowed that he would raise a temple to Castor and to Pollux, the twin heroes, if they would aid him to win the battle; and he promised to his soldiers that the two who should be the first to break into the camp of the enemy should receive a rich reward. When behold there rode two horsemen at the head of his chosen band, and they were taller and fairer than after the stature and beauty of men, and they were in the first bloom of youth, and their horses were white as snow. Then there was a fierce battle, when Octavius, the leader of the Latins, came up with aid to rescue the Tarquinii; for Titus Herminius rode against him, and ran his spear through his body, and slew him at one blow; but as he was spoiling him of his arms, he himself was struck by a javelin, and he was borne out of the fight and died. And the two horsemen on white horses rode before the Romans; and the enemy fled before them, and the Tarquinii were beaten down and slain, and Titus Tarquinius was slain among them; and the Latins fled, and the Romans followed them to their camp, and the two horsemen on white horses were the first who broke into the camp. But when the camp was taken, and the battle was fully won, Aulus sought for the two horsemen to give them the rewards which he had promised; and they were not found either amongst the living or amongst the dead, only there was seen imprinted on the hard black rock, the mark of a horse’s hoof, which no earthly horse had ever made; and the mark was there to be seen in after ages. And the battle was ended, and the sun went down.

Now they knew at Rome that the armies had joined battle, and as the[95] day wore away all men longed for tidings. And the sun went down, and suddenly there were seen in the Forum two horsemen, taller and fairer than the tallest and fairest of men, and they rode on white horses, and they were as men just come from the battle, and their horses were all bathed in foam. They alighted by the temple of Vesta, where a spring of water bubbles up from the ground and fills a small deep pool. There they washed away the stains of the battle, and when men crowded round them, and asked for tidings, they told them how the battle had been fought, and how it was won. And they mounted their horses, and rode from the Forum, and were seen no more; and men sought for them in every place, but they were not found.

Then Aulus and all the Romans knew how Castor and Pollux, the twin heroes, had heard his prayer, and had fought for the Romans, and had vanquished their enemies, and had been the first to break into the enemies’ camp, and had themselves, with more than mortal speed, borne the tidings of their victory to Rome. So Aulus built a temple according to his vow to Castor and Pollux, and gave rich offerings, for he said, “These are the rewards which I promised to the two who should first break into the enemies’ camp; and the twin heroes have won them, and they and no mortal men have won the battle for Rome this day.”

So perished the house of the Tarquinii, in the great battle by the lake Regillus, and all the sons of King Tarquinius, and his son-in-law Octavius Mamilius, were slain on that battle-field. Thus King Tarquinius saw the ruin of all his family and of all his house, and he was left alone, utterly without hope. So he went to Cumæ, a city of the Greeks, and there he died. And thus the deeds of Tarquinius and of the wicked Tullia, and of Sextus their son, were visited upon their own heads; and the Romans lived in peace, and none threatened their freedom any more.b

Before leaving the Roman monarchy it is necessary to give a critical discussion of the myths of the kings as well as an estimate of their historical value. To do this we draw upon two of the most famous students of this period, Schweglerc and Otto Gilbert.d


Against Schlegelh we have maintained the position that, in the first place, the traditional history of primitive Rome was not the work of a Greek but an indigenous product of Roman national life,[8] in the second, that in its original form it was not the product of any literary activity whatever; against Niebuhrf that it is not a creation of popular poetry but a result of deliberate reflection. The process by which it came into being we may conclude—conjecturally, of course—to have been as follows.

The genuine and veracious tradition of the foundation and earliest fortunes of Rome seems to have soon perished—if indeed it ever existed. This could hardly have been otherwise. It had neither been safeguarded against destruction or travesty by written records, nor cast into fixed traditional form, in song at least, by becoming the subject of popular poetry; and it was therefore in the nature of things that during the course of generations it should pass into silence and oblivion.


It is possible—it is even probable—that as far back as the decemvirate the Romans had no trustworthy information concerning the origin of their city. But they did not rest content in their ignorance. They felt the need of affirming something definite about that period and those events none the less strongly for their lack of historical knowledge, and on the foundation of dim memories and isolated legends that had survived, of proper names, monuments, institutions, and customs, they therefore elaborated a superstructure of history to supply the gaps of tradition. There is not the slightest suggestion of conscious deceit or deliberate falsification of history in this; on the contrary they held in good faith that in these tales they had made successful guesses at the actual facts and thus reconstructed the original story—a naïve proceeding characteristic of myth-invention in general.

It is obvious that a history made up in this artificial fashion would not start as the connected whole presented to us in Roman historical works; this whole, in which the legend of the settlement of Æneas is brought into circumstantial relation with the founding and history of Alba Longa, and the dynasty of the Alban kings with the founding of Rome, so that the history of Rome and that of the antecedent period from the landing of Æneas to the fall of the younger Tarquin are held together by an unbroken thread of continuous historical narrative—this systematised whole must naturally have come into existence by a process of linking and welding together, the result, in part no doubt, of literary effort and reflection.

A Roman Officer

(After Vecellio)

If we resolve this history into its component parts and examine each of these parts separately as to its origin and genetic motive, we perceive that the Roman legends and traditions take origin from very diverse sources and demand very diverse explanations.

First of all, we cannot but recognise that certain fundamental facts in the traditional history of the monarchy are historically true and derived from historical reminiscence. The memory of the most vital moments in the development of the Roman constitution survived, though much confused, down to the age of written records. Hence we cannot refuse a certain amount of credence to traditions relating to public law. The double state formed by the union of Romans and Sabines, the three original tribes, the succession in which they originated, the three centuries of knights, the successive augmentations of the senate till it reached the number of three hundred, the rise of a plebeian class,[9] the creation of the inferior gentes, the introduction of the censorship, the fall of the monarchy, and the establishment[97] of the republic—these fundamental facts of early constitutional history are in all likelihood historical in essence, even though the circumstantial details (more particularly the estimates of numbers) with which they are adorned and the relation of cause and effect in which they are placed by the historian may be due to the ingenuity, or construed according to the opinion, of posterity. Round this stock of fact, however, has twined a luxuriant growth of fiction, a garland of legend, the origin of which we will forthwith proceed to examine, and so exhibit it in the germ.

A distinction is generally and rightly drawn between legend and myth. The legend is a reminiscence of remarkable events transmitted from generation to generation by oral tradition, especially by means of popular poetry, tinged with the marvellous by the imaginative faculty, more or less arbitrarily, though without conscious intention. The myth is the exact opposite. Where the legend has a kernel of historic fact, merely adorned and exaggerated by the accompaniment of fiction, the kernel and genetic motive of the myth is, on the contrary, a particular idea, and the facts of the story are merely the medium or material used by the poet to set forth and impress this idea.

If we consider the primitive history of Rome from this point of view we cannot deny that it contains both legends and myths, according to the definition just given. To take some examples—the heroic deeds of a Horatius Cocles, a Mucius Scævola, or a Clœlia, may rank as legends; Brutus is a legendary figure; the battle of Lake Regillus is coloured with the hues of legend; as are Coriolanus’ career of conquest, the destruction of the Fabii; and the march of Cincinnatus to Mount Algidus. On the other hand, we have a specimen of the myth in the begetting of Servius Tullius by the tutelary god of the Regia, a myth which expresses the idea that in this king the inmost spirit of the Roman monarchy was embodied.

A pure myth, again, and one which takes its rise from nature-symbolism, is the battle of Hercules (i.e., of Sancus the sky-god) with Cacus who belches forth fire and smoke. We have an instance of the historic myth in that which refers the disparate elements of Roman national character, in which military and political capacity were so curiously blended with religious superstition, to the disparate personality of the two original founders of Rome, the one a military ruler, regulating the state and military affairs, the other a prince of peace, regulating the religion and the worship of the gods.

But the majority of Roman traditions fall neither under the definition of legend nor of purely notional myth. Most of these traditions are what we may call ætiological myths, that is to say, they relate events and transactions which have been devised or worked up to explain genetically some present fact, the existence or the name of a ceremony, a custom, a cult, an institution, a locality, a monument, a sanctuary, and so forth. The ætiological myth is a curious variety of the myth proper. It is a myth in so far as the actual occurrences which it narrates are pure invention, but it differs from the genuine myth in this, that its starting-point and motive is not an idea or mental conception, but some external accident which the narrative is intended to show cause for and explain.

Ætiological myths are primitive, and for the most part puerile attempts at historical hypothesis. The early history of Rome is very rich in ætiological myths of this sort; the settlement of Evander, the presence of Hercules in Rome, the story concerning the Potitii and Pinarii, the Nautians taking charge of and rescuing the Palladium, the sow with the litter of[98] thirty, the rape of the Sabines, the fair one of Talassius, the fable of the Tarpeian, the foundation of the temple of Jupiter stator, the legends concerning the origin of the name of Lacus Curtius, the miracle of Attus Navius, and other legends of the same character may serve as examples, and will be explained from this point of view in the course of the present inquiry. Plutarch’se Roman Questions is a rich and instructive collection of such ætiological myths.

A sub-variety of the ætiological myth is the etymological myth, which takes as its starting-point a particular proper name and tries to explain the origin of it by a substructure of actual fact. The primitive history of Rome is rich in myths of this class also, and a multitude of the fables contained in it have been spun out of proper names. Such are the fables of Argos, Evander’s host; of the Argive colony in Rome; of the birth of Silvius Postumus in the forest; of the relations between the good Evander and the evil Cacus; the suckling of Romulus; the relation of the sucklings to the sacred fig-tree (Ficus ruminalis), the pretended origin of the Fossa Cluilia; the origin of the Tarquins from Tarquinii; the discovery of the head of Olus; the birth of Servius Tullius from a slave girl; the building of the Tullianum by the king of that name; the imbecility of Brutus; the burning of Scævola’s right hand; the conquest of Corioli by Coriolanus; and so forth.

There is another variety of Roman legend which must be distinguished from the ætiological and etymological myth: the legend which may be described as the mythic garb of actual conditions and events, and which thus stands midway between legend and myth. To this class belong, for example, the legend of the Sibyl who comes to Rome in the time of the younger Tarquin, and would have him buy nine books of divine prophecies for a great price, and who, being mocked by him, burns three books before his eyes, and yet another three, and finally sells the three remaining books to the king for the price she had asked at the beginning. There is not the slightest doubt that this legend is based on a substratum of fact, the fact that the Sibylline prophecies were probably brought from Cumæ to Rome under the second Tarquin, but this fact is clothed in a garb of poetical fiction; it is a cross between legend and myth. The same may hold good of the number of the Roman kings; these seven kings stand for and figure forth the seven fundamental facts of the ancient (pre-republican) history of Rome which have been held in historic remembrance.

Generally speaking, indeed, it is the peculiar and distinguishing characteristic of Roman myths that they are not, as a rule, pure inventions, not creations of the fancy, not, above all, like most of the tales of Greek mythology, myths based on natural philosophy or on nature-symbolism, but that they are historical myths, that a certain contemplation of actual conditions and real events lies at the bottom of them, either as the genetic motive or the raw material of the narrative. For instance, the figures of Romulus and Tatius are in themselves mythical; they never really existed, but the twofold sway ascribed to them has nevertheless something of historic truth in it; it is the mythical expression of actual historic conditions, the twofold state of the united Latins and Sabines. The same criticism applies to the conflict of Tarquinius Priscus with the augur Attus Navius; in the form in which it has been handed down it can hardly be historical; the story of the whetstone is a manifest fable, but none the less a real occurrence is imaged in it—namely, the historical conflict between the pre-Tarquinian hierarchy and the political ideas of the Tarquinian dynasty.[99] In this way most of the myths and legends of primitive Roman history contain a deposit of historic memories and views, which can be recovered if each myth is traced back to the general fundamental conception which forms its genetic motive.

It should hardly be necessary to vindicate this view of primitive Roman history, and of the myth in general, against such objections as have recently been brought forward, as when the objectors profess to find the “frivolity” and the “vain and idle play of fancy” displayed in such myth-invention incompatible with the severity of manners and the practical genius of the old Roman races. These objections would only hit the mark if the myths were arbitrary and conscious inventions—if they were deliberate falsehoods. But this is so little their character that we may rather say that they are the only language in which a race in a certain stage of civilisation could give expression to its thoughts and ideas. For example, at the stage which the Roman people had reached when the myth was invented, they had no vocabulary which could have furnished them with a definite and exhaustive exposition of the conflict between Tarquinian and pre-Tarquinian ideas in the body politic; and they therefore had recourse to the expedient of symbolising that conflict and the course of events connected with it, and presenting them in a single significant scene, a scene which, regarded empirically, is certainly non-historic, but which is nevertheless at bottom historically true.

Let us imagine any people feeling, in a particular stage of civilisation, the need of contemplating its original character, of forming a mental image of primitive conditions concerning which it has no historical knowledge, of basing its political and religious traditions upon their first causes—how can it satisfy this need except by myth-invention? As long as it is not intellectually mature enough to advance the statements which, on the basis of its present consciousness, it makes concerning its origin as historical hypotheses, it must of necessity express these statements in symbolical form, that is, in the language of myth.

In the foregoing pages we have shown the various motives and modes of origin of the Roman legends and traditions. The legends which originated in these ways were then spun out and linked together by rational reflection; and thus there gradually came into being the whole body of legendary lore which the Roman historians found ready to their hand and set down in writing. The legend of Silvius Postumus, the ancestor of the Alban Silvii, may serve as an example of this spinning-out process. This Silvius, the story goes, was so-called because he was born in the forest—evidently an etymological myth. Therefore, the deduction proceeds, at the time of his birth his mother Lavinia must have been sojourning in the forest; therefore, she must have fled thither, presumably after the death of her husband Æneas; therefore, probably in fear of her stepson Ascanius.

It is obvious that all these statements are not founded upon tradition but are mere sophistries. Similarly, the legend of the reputed origin of Rome from a mixed rabble, and the tale that for this reason the ambassadors whom Romulus sent with offers of connubium (the right to intermarry) to the neighbouring peoples were repulsed with scornful words, is certainly based on nothing but deductions and conclusions drawn from the (purely mythical) story of the rape of the Sabines. Again, the despotic power which Romulus is said to have exercised in the latter years of his reign, and the bodyguard with which he surrounded himself, seem to be mere inferences drawn from the legend (likewise mythical in origin) of the tearing of his body piecemeal, to serve as an explanation for that enigmatical proceeding.


It is self-evident that it would be impossible to clear up every single point of the traditional history; but the mode of origin of the whole will have been made sufficiently plain by the foregoing observations.c

The Historical Value of the Myths

Although as we proceed with critical examination we find abundant confirmation of a general kind for the assumption that the names of the Roman kings correspond severally to a like number of originally independent communities, it is nevertheless necessary to note at this stage more precisely a hypothesis which is of the greatest moment and consequence in the consideration and investigation of the early history of the city.

In the first place, there can be no doubt that the Tarquins are real historical personages, and must therefore be conceived of in quite another fashion than the more ancient figures about which the various genealogical legends centre, and whose historical existence is due to personification alone. By adding their names to the older names the pontifices arbitrarily connected two entirely different elements, which ought in reality to be kept quite apart. The more ancient figures only—Romulus, Titus Tatius, Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, and Servius Tullius—are personifications, and of them only does the statement hold good that they are the representatives of diverse and distinct communities and of diverse elements of nationality. Here as everywhere legend and history meet and mingle, combining into a single line personifications and genuine historical figures, which were originally cognate but not equivalent ideas.

As for the actual names of the kings, they, as we shall presently see in individual cases, are either the real names of the communities personified, or appellations taken from special conditions which characterised such communities; they always furnish some pregnant hint concerning the nature of the people personified. It is easy to understand how these names would ultimately stand forth as the names of kings: the “king” was the representative of the community before gods and men, and the nation, if personified, would naturally appear in the status and dignity of its legal representative. Accordingly, in the several Roman kings we must recognise a representation of the several communities under kingly rule which went to make up Rome, set forth under the figure of separate reigning monarchs.

Firmly as we must now hold to the kernel of historic truth underlying these regal figures, we must not disregard the possibility that they have been disguised, overlaid, and distorted, to a very great extent, by a quantity of extraneous accessories, mythical and fictitious.

The first point which we must bear in mind is that every legend of a nation, race, or community, is intimately connected with the religion of that nation or race. In other words, the legends of the ancestral hero, the eponym, tend to be confounded with the myths of the tribal divinity in course of time, the latter are set to the credit (in part at least) of the hero of the former, and the residuum of actual historic fact in the legend becomes more and more distorted and confused. This holds good in the case of the Roman kings. In considering them therefore these mythical elements must be discarded and left out of account.

We are next confronted by a unanimous tendency to make the kings, i.e. the communities personified in them, appear as Romans from the outset. The tendency is comprehensible: the name Roman took its rise originally from one community, but in the course of time it had become an honourable[101] title common to all, the descriptive cognomen of all citizens of the conjoint city, and every man desired to pose as a Roman of the old stock, a good citizen of the Roman commonwealth. This was, however, in direct contravention of history. The greater number of these kings, i.e. of these communities, were in reality originally strangers or even enemies, the destiny of the city had frequently accomplished itself through deadly feuds and bloody battles, and if it had been thought desirable to insist on these facts the ancient history of the city would have worn a very different aspect from that with which we are familiar. But in that case a very questionable light would have been thrown on most of the elements out of which it had grown; and hence there was naturally a general endeavour to obliterate the traces of ancient conflict. The remembrance of those old-world struggles was intentionally confused, or effaced by fictitious additions, modified by tradition, or rejected altogether.

In the only, or almost the only version in which it is known to us, the picture drawn by later hands of the most ancient history of Rome, both of the monarchy and the early days of the republic, conveys no hint, or at least only the remotest, of the crises which the city and state must have passed through before taking the form in which it became the basis of a common life and activity to all elements of the community alike. The attitude assumed by this false patriotism is chiefly responsible for the falsification of the earlier history, especially the records connected with the names of the kings.

Again, a third force which we must take into consideration as exercising a dubious influence on the form into which the primitive history of the city was cast, is the singular love of combination which distinguished the Roman priests and antiquaries. The true and original meaning of the ancient traditions, institutions, and antiquated terms in civil and ecclesiastical law, had passed out of mind in the lapse of years, and yet there was a general desire for enlightenment and a right understanding of these things. Whereupon sacerdotal wisdom, which seldom rose above the level of the schoolboy, combined with an absolute freedom, nay, an amazing boldness of arbitrary interpretation, and attempted by this means to render the ancient and extinct legends, institutions, and ideas, clear and comprehensible. From its confined point of view the most superficial likenesses, the most trivial relations, were naturally the most highly favoured in the interpretation of these traditions, ideas, and institutions. Above all, we must lay stress in this connection upon the incredible passion of these exponents for etymology. The remotest assonance of words or phrases sufficed to bring the underlying ideas into connection in their minds and to make them derive the one circumstantially from the other. These combinations and interpretations are handed on to us by antiquaries who either made them out for themselves or borrowed them as authoritative explanations and definitions from the priestly circles, or the writings of pontifices, augurs, etc. In every single case the keenest critical acumen is required to separate these manufactured combinations and deductions from the genuine deposit of older traditions.

Finally we must mention, as the last force which contributed to the distortion of primitive Roman history, the unbounded vaingloriousness of later times. The Romans suffered—the expression is permissible—from the vastness of the proportions of their state and city at a subsequent period. Theoretically they could still persuade themselves and believe that Rome had once been small, but the realisation of the fact in practical detail was[102] beyond them. Thus, in the idea of the city current in later days, it appears as a metropolis from the time of its foundation; the peasant fights become mighty wars skilfully conducted between powerful states and cities, detail and colour being provided by the observation and technical knowledge of a later date. Before attempting to explain the conditions of the Roman monarchy we must therefore always reduce them from the scale on which they are presented to us in this picture to the scale which really befits their original proportions. The gradual rise of the city, its inception and growth step by step from the federal union of villages and settlements, must first be sought for and studied in such instances as have remained free from the influence of sacerdotal handling and vainglory.d


[8] [In his desire to claim an origin for Roman legends separate from the Greek, Schwegler exaggerates the position of his opponent. In his lecture on The Influence of the Greeks over the Romans, Schlegel repeatedly admits that the debt of Rome to Greece for legendary material does not imply a total absence of original Roman matter.]

[9] [Myth, or tradition, however, represents the plebeian class as existing from the beginning of the city, though most modern writers have assumed that the plebs rose later as a class of aliens or conquered slaves.]

Costume of an Etruscan Woman of the Upper Class

(Based on Racinet)





[ca. 753-510 B.C.]

The people or citizens of Rome were divided into the three tribes of the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres,[10] to whatever races we may suppose them to belong, or at whatever time and under whatever circumstances they may have become united. Each of these tribes was divided into ten smaller bodies called curiæ; so that the whole people consisted of thirty curiæ: these same divisions were in war represented by the thirty centuries which made up the legion, just as the three tribes were represented by the three centuries of horsemen; but that the soldiers of each century were exactly a hundred, is apparently an unfounded conclusion.

We have said that each tribe was divided into ten curiæ; it would be more correct to say that the union of ten curiæ formed the tribe. For the state grew out of the junction of certain original elements; and these were neither the tribes, nor even the curiæ, but the gentes[11] or houses which made up the curiæ. The first element of the whole system was the gens or house, a union of several families who were bound together by the joint performance of certain religious rites. Actually, where a system of houses has existed within historical memory, the several families who composed a house were not necessarily related to one another; they were not really cousins more or less distant, all descended from a common ancestor. But there is no reason to doubt that in the original idea of a house, the bond of union between its several families was truly sameness of blood: such was likely to be the earliest acknowledged tie; although afterwards, as names are apt to outlive their meanings, an artificial bond may have succeeded to the natural one; and a house, instead of consisting of families of real relations, was made up sometimes of families of strangers, in the hope that law, and custom, and religion, might together rival the force of nature.


Thus the state being made up of families, and every family consisting from the earliest times of members and dependents, the original inhabitants of Rome belonged all to one of two classes: they were either members of a family, and, if so, members of a house, of a curia, of a tribe, and so, lastly, of the state; or they were dependents on a family; and, if so, their relation went no further than the immediate aggregate of families, that is, the house: with the curia, with the tribe, and with the state, they had no connection.

These members of families were the original citizens of Rome; these dependents on families were the original clients.

The idea of clientship is that of a wholly private relation; the clients were something to their respective patrons, but to the state they were nothing. But wherever states composed in this manner, of a body of houses with their clients, had been long established, there grew up amidst, or close beside them, created in most instances by conquest, a population of a very distinct kind. Strangers might come to live in the land, or more commonly the inhabitants of a neighbouring district might be conquered, and united with their conquerors as a subject people. Now this population had no connection with the houses separately, but only with a state composed of those houses: this was wholly a political, not a domestic relation; it united personal and private liberty with political subjection. This inferior population possessed property, regulated their own municipal as well as domestic affairs, and as free men fought in the armies of what was now their common country. But, strictly, they were not its citizens; they could not intermarry with the houses; they could not belong to the state, for they belonged to no house, and therefore to no curia, and no tribe; consequently they had no share in the state’s government, nor in the state’s property. With whatever belonged to the state in its aggregate capacity, these, as being its neighbours merely, and not its members, had no concern.

Such an inferior population, free personally, but subject politically, not slaves, yet not citizens, was the original plebs, the commons of Rome.[12]

The mass of the Roman commons were conquered Latins. These, besides receiving grants of a portion of their former lands, to be held by them as Roman citizens, had also the hill Aventinus assigned as a residence to those of them who removed to Rome. The Aventine was without the walls, although so near to them: thus the commons were, even in the nature of their abode, like the Pfahlbürger of the Middle Ages—men not admitted to live within the city, but enjoying its protection against foreign enemies.

It will be understood at once, that whatever is said of the people in these early times, refers only to the full citizens, that is, to the members of the houses. The assembly of the people was the assembly of the curiæ; that is, the great council of the members of the houses; while the senate, consisting of two hundred senators, chosen in equal numbers from the two higher tribes of the Ramnes and Tities, was their smaller or ordinary council.

Within the walls every citizen was allowed to appeal from the king, or his judges, to the sentence of his peers; that is, to the great council of the curiæ. The king had his demesne lands, and in war would receive his portion of the conquered land, as well as of the spoil of movables.



The dominion and greatness of the monarchy are attested by two sufficient witnesses; the great works completed at this period, and still existing; and the famous treaty with Carthage, concluded under the first consuls of the commonwealth, and preserved to us by Polybius.f Under the last kings the city of Rome reached the limits which it retained through the whole period of the commonwealth, and the most flourishing times of the empire. What are called the walls of Servius Tullius continued to be the walls of Rome for nearly eight hundred years, down to the emperor Aurelian. They enclosed all those well-known Seven Hills, whose fame has so utterly eclipsed the Seven Hills already described of the smaller and more ancient city.

The line of the mound or rampart may still be distinctly traced, and the course and extent of the walls can be sufficiently ascertained; but very few remains are left of the actual building. But the masonry with which the bank of the Tiber was built up, a work ascribed to the elder Tarquinius, and resembling the works of the Babylonian kings along the banks of the Euphrates, is still visible. So also are the massy substructions of the Capitoline temple, which were made in order to form a level surface for the building to stand on, upon one of the two summits of the Capitoline Hill. Above all, enough is still to be seen of the great cloaca or drain, to assure us that the accounts left us of it are not exaggerated. The foundations of this work were laid about forty feet under ground, its branches were carried under a great part of the city, and brought at last into one grand trunk which ran down into the Tiber exactly to the west of the Palatine Hill. It thus drained the waters of the low grounds on both sides of the Palatine; of the Velabrum, between the Palatine and the Aventine; and of the site of the Forum between the Palatine and the Capitoline. The stone employed in the cloaca is in itself a mark of the great antiquity of the work; it is not the peperino of Gabii and the Alban hills, which was the common building stone in the time of the commonwealth; much less the travertino, or limestone of the neighbourhood of Tibur, the material used in the great works of the early emperors; but it is the stone found in Rome itself, a mass of volcanic materials coarsely cemented together, which afterwards was supplanted by the finer quality of the peperino. Such a work as the cloaca proves the greatness of the power which effected it, as well as the character of its government. It was wrought by task-work, like the great works of Egypt; and stories were long current of the misery and degradation which it brought upon the people during its progress. But this task-work for these vast objects shows a strong and despotic government, which had at its command the whole resources of the people; and such a government could hardly have existed, unless it had been based upon some considerable extent of dominion.

What the cloaca seems to imply, we find conveyed in express terms in the treaty with Carthage. As this treaty was concluded in the very first year of the commonwealth, the state of things to which it refers must clearly be that of the latest period of the monarchy. It appears then that the whole coast of Latium was at this time subject to the Roman dominion: Ardea, Antium, Circeii, and Tarracina, are expressly mentioned as the subject allies (ὑπήκοοι) of Rome. Of these, Circeii is said in the common story to have been a Roman colony founded by the last Tarquinius; but we read of it no less than of the others as independent, and making peace or war with Rome, during the commonwealth down to a much later period. Now it is scarcely[106] conceivable that the Romans could thus have been masters of the whole coast of Latium, without some corresponding dominion in the interior; and we may well believe that Rome was at this time the acknowledged head of the Latin cities, and exercised a power over them more resembling the sovereignty of Athens over her allies than the moderate supremacy of Lacedæmon. On the right bank of the Tiber the Romans seem to have possessed nothing on the coast; but the stories of Etruscan conquests which we find in the common accounts of Servius Tullius, are so far justified by better testimony as to make it probable that in the direction of Veii the Roman dominion had reached beyond the Tiber, and that the territory thus gained from the Etruscans formed a very considerable part of the whole territory of Rome. It is well known that the number of local tribes established by the later kings was thirty; whereas a few years after the beginning of the commonwealth we find them reduced to twenty. Now, as even the common account of the war with Porsenna describes the Romans as giving up to the Veientines a portion of territory formerly conquered from them, it becomes a very probable conjecture that the Etruscans, soon after the expulsion of the kings, recovered all the country which the kings had taken from them; and that this was so considerable in extent, that by its loss the actual territory of the Roman people was reduced by one-third from what it had been before.

It may thus be considered certain that Rome under its last kings was the seat of a great monarchy, extending over the whole of Latium on the one side, and possessing some considerable territory in Etruria on the other. But how this dominion was gained it is vain to inquire. There are accounts which represent all the three last kings of Rome, Servius Tullius no less than the two Tarquins, as of Etruscan origin. Without attempting to make out their history as individuals, it is probable that the later kings were either by birth or by long intercourse closely connected with Etruria, inasmuch as at some early period of the Roman history the religion and usages of the Etruscans gave a deep and lasting colouring to those of Rome; and yet it could not have been at the very origin of the Roman people, as the Etruscan language has left no traces of itself in the Latin; whereas if the Romans had been in part of Etruscan origin, their language, no less than their institutions, would have contained some Etruscan elements.

The Etruscan influence, however introduced, produced some effects that were lasting, and others that were only temporary; it affected the religion of Rome, down to the very final extinction of paganism; and the state of the Roman magistrates, their lictors, their ivory chairs, and their triumphal robes, are all said to have been derived from Etruria. A temporary effect of Etruscan influence may perhaps be traced in the overflow of the free constitution ascribed to Servius Tullius, in the degradation of the Roman commons under the last king, and in the endeavours of the patricians to keep them so degraded during all the first periods of the commonwealth. It is well known that the government in the cities of Etruria was an exclusive aristocracy, and that the commons, if in so wretched a condition they may be called by that honourable name, were like the mass of the people amongst the Slavonic nations, the mere serfs or slaves of the nobility. This is a marked distinction between the Etruscans, and the Sabine and Latin nations of Italy; and, as in the constitution of Servius Tullius a Latin spirit is discernible, so the tyranny which, whether in the shape of a monarchy or an aristocracy, suspended that constitution for nearly two centuries, tended certainly to make Rome resemble the cities of Etruria, and may possibly be[107] traced originally to that same revolution which expelled the Sabine gods from the Capitol, and changed forever the simple religion of the infancy of Rome.


It is a remarkable story that towards the end of the sixth century of Rome, the religious books of Numa were accidentally brought to light by the discovery of his tomb under the Janiculum. They were read by A. Petillius, the prætor urbanus, and by him ordered to be burned in the comitium, because their contents tended to overthrow the religious rites then observed in Rome. We cannot but connect with this story what is told of Tarquinius the elder, how he cleared away the holy places of the Sabine gods from the Capitoline Hill, to make room for his new temple; and the statement which Augustine quotes from Varro, and which is found also in Plutarch, that during the first hundred and seventy years after the foundation of the city, the Romans had no images of their gods.

All these accounts represent a change effected in the Roman religion; and the term of one hundred and seventy years, given by Varro and Plutarch, fixes this change to the reigns of the later kings. It is said also that Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, the three deities to whom the Capitoline temple was dedicated, were the very powers whose worship, according to the Etruscan religion, was essential to every city; there could be no city without three gates duly consecrated, and three temples to these divinities. But here again we gain a glimpse of something real, but cannot make it out distinctly.

Images of the gods belong rather to the religion of the Greeks than of the Etruscans; and the Greek mythology, as well as Grecian art, had been familiar in the southern Etruscan cities from a very early period, whether derived from the Tyrrhenians, or borrowed directly from Hellas or the Hellenic colonies. Grecian deities and Greek ceremonies may have been introduced, in part, along with such as were purely Etruscan. But the science of the haruspices, and especially the attention to signs in the sky, to thunder and lightning, seems to have been conducted according to the Etruscan ritual; perhaps also from the same source came that belief in the punishment of the wicked after death, to which Polybius ascribes so strong a moral influence over the minds of the Romans, even in his own days. And Etruscan rites and ordinances must have been widely prevalent in the Roman commonwealth, when, as some writers asserted, the Roman nobility were taught habitually the Etruscan language, and when the senate provided by a special decree for the perpetual cultivation of the Etruscan discipline by young men of the highest nobility in Etruria; lest a science so important to the commonwealth should be corrupted by falling into the hands of low and mercenary persons.


Nothing is more familiar to our ears than the name of the classes and centuries of Servius Tullius; nothing is more difficult, even after the immortal labour of Niebuhr,c than to answer all the questions which naturally arise connected with this part of the Roman history. But first of all, in considering the changes effected in the Roman constitution during the later period of the monarchy, we find another threefold division of them[108] presenting itself. We have, first, the enlargement of the older constitution, on the same principles, in the addition to the number of senators and of the centuries of the knights, commonly ascribed to Tarquinius Priscus. Second, we have the establishment of a new constitution on different principles, in the famous classes and centuries of Servius Tullius. And, third, we have the overthrow, to speak generally, of this new constitution, and the return to the older state of things, modified by the great increase of the king’s power, in the revolution effected by Tarquinius Superbus, and in his subsequent despotism.

The old constitution was enlarged upon the same principles, in the increase of the number of senators, and of the centuries of the knights. It has been already shown that the older constitution was an oligarchy, as far as the clients and commons were concerned; it is no less true, that it was democratical, as far as regarded the relations of the citizens, or members of the houses, to each other. Both these characters, with a slight modification, were preserved in the changes made by Tarquinius Priscus. He doubled, it is said, the actual number of senators, or rather of patrician houses; which involved a corresponding increase in the numbers of the senate; but the houses thus ennobled, to use a modern term, were distinguished from the old by the title of the “lesser houses”; and their senators did not vote till after the senators of the greater houses.

A Vestal Virgin

According to the same system, the king proposed to double the number of the tribes, that is, to divide his newly created houses into three tribes, to stand beside the three tribes of the old houses, the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres. Now as the military divisions of the old commonwealths went along with the civil divisions, the tribes of the commonwealth were the centuries of the army; and if three new tribes were added, it involved also the addition of three new centuries of knights or horsemen; and it is in this form that the proposed change is represented in the common stories. But here it is said that the interest of the old citizens, taking the shape of a religious objection, was strong enough to force the king to modify his project. No new tribes were created, and consequently no new centuries; but the new houses were enrolled in the three old centuries, so as to form a second division in each, and thus to continue inferior in dignity to the old houses in every relation of the commonwealth. It may be fairly supposed, that these second centuries in the army were also second tribes and second curiæ in the civil divisions of the state; and that the members of the new houses voted after those of the old ones no less in the great council, the comitia of the curiæ, than in the smaller council of the senate.

The causes which led to this enlargement of the old constitution may be readily conceived. Whether Tarquinius was a Latin or an Etruscan, all the stories agree in representing him as a foreigner, who gained the throne by[109] his wealth and personal reputation. The mere growth of the Roman state would, in the natural course of things, have multiplied new families, which had risen to wealth, and were in their former country of noble blood; but which were excluded from the curiæ, that is, from the rights of citizenship at Rome; the time was come to open to them the doors of the commonwealth; and a foreign king, ambitious of adding to the strength of his kingdom, if it were but for the sake of his own greatness, was not likely to refuse or put off the opportunity. Beyond this we are involved in endless disputes and difficulties; who the Luceres were, and why Tarquinius raised them to a level with the old tribes, we never can determine.

That there were only four vestal virgins before, and that Tarquinius made them six, would certainly seem to show, that a third part of the state had hitherto been below the other two-thirds, at least in matters of religion; for it was always acknowledged that the six vestal virgins represented the three tribes of the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres, two for each tribe. But in the additions made to the senate and to the centuries, the new citizens must have been more than a third of the old ones; and indeed here the story supposes that in military matters, at any rate, the Luceres were already on an equality with the Ramnes and Tities. It is enough therefore to say, that there had arisen at Rome so great a number of distinguished families, of whatever origin, or from whatever causes, that an extension of the rights of citizenship became natural and almost necessary: but as these were still only a small part of the whole population, the change went no further than to admit them into the aristocracy; leaving the character and privileges of the aristocracy itself, with regard to the mass of the population, precisely the same as they had been before.

But a far greater change was effected soon afterwards; no less than the establishment of a new constitution, on totally different principles. This constitution is no doubt historical, however uncertain may be the accounts which relate to its reputed author. “The good king Servius and his just laws,” were the objects of the same fond regret amongst the Roman commons, when suffering under the tyranny of the aristocracy, as the laws of the good king Edward the Confessor amongst the English after the Norman conquest; and imagination magnified, perhaps, the merit of the one no less than of the other: yet the constitution of Servius was a great work, and well deserves to be examined and explained. Servius, like Tarquinius, is represented as a foreigner, and is said also, like him, to have ascended the throne to the exclusion of the sons of the late king. According to the account which Livyd followed, he was acknowledged by the senate, but not by the people; and this, which seemed contradictory so long as the people, populus, and the commons, plebs, were confounded together, is in itself consistent and probable, when it is understood that the people, who would not acknowledge Servius, were the houses assembled in their great council of the curiæ, and that these were likely to be far less manageable by the king whom they disliked, than the smaller council of their representatives assembled in the senate. Now supposing that the king, whoever he may have been, was unwelcome to what was then the people, that is, to the only body of men who enjoyed civil rights, it was absolutely necessary for him, unless he would maintain his power as a mere tyrant, through the help of a foreign paid guard, to create a new and different people out of the large mass of inhabitants of Rome who had no political existence, but who were free, and in many instances wealthy and of noble origin; who therefore, although now without rights, were in every respect well fitted to receive them.


The principle of an aristocracy is equality within its own body, ascendency over all the rest of the community. Opposed to this is the system, which, rejecting these extremes of equality and inequality, subjects no part of the community to another, but gives a portion of power to all; not an equal portion however, but one graduated according to a certain standard, which standard has generally been property. Accordingly, this system has both to do away with distinctions and to create them; to do away, as it has generally happened, with distinctions of birth, and to create distinctions of property. Thus at Rome, in the first instance, the tribes or divisions of the people took a different form.

The old three tribes of Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres, had been divisions of birth, real or supposed; each was made up of the houses of the curiæ, and no man could belong to the tribe without first belonging to a curia, and to a house; nor could any stranger become a member of a house except by the rite of adoption, by which he was made as one of the same race, and therefore a lawful worshipper of the same gods. Each of these tribes had its portion of the Ager Romanus, the old territory of Rome. But now, as many others had become Romans in the course of time, without belonging to either of these three tribes, that is, had come to live under the Roman kings, many in Rome itself, and had received grants of land from the kings beyond the limits of the old Ager Romanus, a new division was made including all these; and the whole city and territory of Rome, except the Capitol, were divided into thirty tribes, four for the city, and twenty-six for the country, containing all the Romans who were not members of the houses, and classing them according to the local situation of their property. These thirty tribes corresponded to the thirty curiæ of the houses; for the houses were used to assemble, not in a threefold division, according to their tribes, but divided into thirty, according to their curiæ: and the commons were to meet and settle all their own affairs in the assembly of their tribes, as the houses met and settled theirs in the assembly of their curiæ.

Thus then there were two bodies existing alongside of each other, analogous to the House of Lords and the House of Commons of England’s ancient constitution, two estates distinct from and independent of each other, but with no means as yet provided for converting them into states-general or a parliament. Nor could they have acted together as jointly legislating for the whole nation; for the curiæ still regarded themselves as forming exclusively the Roman people, and would not allow the commons, as such, to claim any part in the highest acts of national sovereignty.[13] There was one relation, however, in which the people and the commons felt that they belonged to one common country, in which they were accustomed to act together, and in which therefore it was practicable to unite them into one great body. This was when they marched out to war; then, if not equally citizens of Rome, they felt that they were alike Romans.

It has ever been the case, that the distinctions of peace vanish amidst the dangers of war; arms and courage, and brotherhood in perils, confer of necessity power and dignity. Thus we hear of armies on their return home from war stopping before they entered the city walls to try, in their military character, all offences or cases of misconduct which had occurred since they had taken the field: whereas when once they had entered the walls, civil relations were reassumed, and all trials were conducted according to other forms, and before other judges. This will explain the peculiar constitution[111] of the comitia of centuries, which was a device for uniting the people and the commons into a national and sovereign assembly in their capacity of soldiers, without shocking those prejudices which as yet placed a barrier between them as soon as they returned to the relations of peace.


But in order to do this with effect, and to secure in this great assembly a preponderance to the commons, a change in the military organisation and tactics of the army became indispensable. In all aristocracies in an early stage of society, the ruling order or class has fought on horseback or in chariots and their subjects or dependents have fought on foot. The cavalry service under these circumstances has been cultivated, that of the infantry neglected; the mounted noble has been well armed and carefully trained in warlike exercises, whilst his followers on foot have been ill armed and ill disciplined, and quite incapable of acting with equal effect. The first great step then towards raising the importance of the infantry, or in other words, of the commons of a state, was to train them to resist cavalry, to form them into thick masses instead of a thin extended line, to arm them with the pike instead of the sword or the javelin. Thus the phalanx order of battle was one of the earliest improvements in the art of war; and at the time we are now speaking of, this order was in general use in Greece, and must have been well known, if only through the Greek colonies, in Italy also. Its introduction into the Roman army would be sure to make the infantry from henceforward more important than the cavalry; that is, it would enable the commons to assert a greater right in Rome than could be claimed by the houses, inasmuch as they could render better service. Again, the phalanx order of battle furnished a ready means for giving importance to a great number of the less wealthy commons, who could not supply themselves with complete armour; while on the other hand it suggested a natural distinction between them and their richer fellows, and thus established property as the standard of political power, the only one which can in the outset compete effectually with the more aristocratical standard of birth; although in a later stage of society it becomes itself aristocratical, unless it be duly tempered by the mixture of a third standard, education and intelligence. In a deep phalanx, the foremost ranks needed to be completely armed, but those in the rear could neither reach or be reached by the enemy, and only served to add weight to the charge of the whole body. These points being remembered, we may now proceed to the details of the great comitia of Servius.

The traditional reformer, Servius Tullius, found the knights of Rome divided into three centuries of horsemen, each of which, in consequence of the accession to its numbers made by the last king, contained within itself two centuries, a first and a second. The old citizens, anxious in all things to keep up the old form of the state, had then prevented what were really six centuries from being acknowledged as such in name; but the present change extended to the name as well as the reality; and the three double centuries of the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres, became now the six votes (sex suffragia) of the new united assembly. To these, which contained all the members of the houses, there were now added twelve new centuries of knights,[14] formed,[112] as usual in the Greek states, from the richest members of the community, continuing, like the centuries below them, to belong to the thirty tribes of the commons.

Classes of Foot-soldiers

It remained to organise the foot-soldiers of the state. Accordingly, all those of the commons whose property was sufficient to qualify them for serving even in the hindmost ranks of the phalanx, were divided into four classes. Of these the first class contained all whose property amounted to one hundred and fifty thousand pounds’ weight of copper. The soldiers of this class were required to provide themselves with the complete arms used in the front ranks of the phalanx; the greaves, the coat of mail, the helmet, and the round shield, all of brass; the sword, and the peculiar weapon of the heavy-armed infantry, the long pike. And as these were to bear the brunt of every battle, and were the flower of the state’s soldiers, so their weight in the great military assembly was to be in proportion; they formed eighty centuries; forty of younger men, between the ages of fifteen and forty-five years complete; and forty of elders, between forty-five and sixty: the first to serve in the field, the second to defend the city. The second class contained those whose property fell short of 100,000 pounds of copper, and exceeded or amounted to 75,000 pounds. They formed twenty centuries, ten of younger men, and ten of elders; and they were allowed to dispense with the coat of mail, and to bear the large oblong wooden shield called scutum, instead of the round brazen shield, clipeus, of the first ranks of the phalanx. The third class contained a like number of centuries, equally divided into those of the younger men and elders; its qualification was property between 50,000 pounds of copper, and 75,000 pounds; and the soldiers of this class were allowed to lay aside the greaves as well as the coat of mail. The fourth class again contained twenty centuries; the lowest point of its qualification was 25,000 pounds of copper, and its soldiers were required to provide no defensive armour, but to go to battle merely with the pike and a javelin. These four classes composed the phalanx; but a fifth class divided into thirty centuries, and consisting of those whose property was between 25,000 pounds of copper and 12,500, formed the regular light-armed infantry of the army, and were required to provide themselves with darts and slings.[15]

The poorest citizens, whose property fell short of 12,500 pounds, were considered in a manner as supernumeraries in this division. Those who had more than 1,500 pounds of copper, were still reckoned amongst the taxpayers (assidui), and were formed into two centuries, called the accensi and velati. They followed the army, but without bearing arms, being only required to step into the places of those who fell; and in the meantime acting as orderlies to the centurions and decurions. Below these came one century of the proletarii, whose property was between 1,500 pounds and 375 pounds. These paid no taxes, and in ordinary times had no military duty;[113] but on great emergencies arms were furnished them by the government, and they were called out as an extraordinary levy. One century more included all whose property was less than 375 pounds, and who were called capite censi; and from these last no military service was at any time required, as we are told, till a late period of the republic.

Three centuries of a different character from all the rest remain to be described, centuries defined not by the amount of their property, but by the nature of their occupation; those of carpenters and smiths (fabrorum); of hornblowers (cornicines); and of trumpeters (tubicines), or, as Cicero calls them (liticines). The first of these was attached to the centuries of the first class, the other two to the fourth. The nature of their callings so connected them with the service of the army, that this peculiar distinction was granted to them.[16]

The position held in the comitia by the patricians’ clients is involved in great obscurity. We know that they had votes, and probably they must have been enrolled in the classes according to the amount of their property, without reference to its nature: at the same time Niebuhrc thinks that they did not serve in the regular infantry along with the plebeians. It would seem from the story of the three hundred Fabii, and from the adventures related of Caius Marcius, that the clients followed their lords to the field at their bidding, and formed a sort of feudal force quite distinct from the national army of the commons, like the retainers of the nobles in the Middle Ages, as distinguished from the free burghers of the cities.

Such is the account transmitted to us of the constitution of the comitia of centuries. As their whole organisation was military, so they were accustomed to meet without the city, in the Field of Mars; they were called together, not by lictors, like the comitia of the curiæ, but by the blast of the horn: and their very name was “the Army of the City,” Exercitus Urbanus.

It is quite plain that this constitution tended to give the chief power in the state to the body of the commons, and especially to the richer class among them, who fought in the first ranks of the phalanx. For wherever there is a well-armed and well-disciplined infantry, it constitutes the main force of an army; and it is a true observation of Aristotle, that in the ancient commonwealths the chief power was apt to be possessed by that class of the people whose military services were most important: thus when the navy of Athens became its great support and strength, the government became democratical; because the ships were manned by the poorer classes.


Other good and popular institutions were ascribed to the reign of Servius. As he had made the commons an order in the state, so he gave them judges out of their own body to try all civil causes; whereas before they had no jurisdiction, but referred all their suits either to the king or to the houses. These judges were, as Niebuhrc thinks, the centumviri, the hundred men of a later period, elected three from each tribe, so that in the time of Servius their number would probably have been ninety.

To give a further organisation to the commons, he is said also to have instituted the festivals called Paganalia and Compitalia. In the tribes in[114] the country, many strongholds on high ground, pagi, had been fixed upon as general refuges for the inhabitants and their cattle in case of invasion. Here they all met once a year to keep festival, and every man, woman, and child paid on these occasions a certain sum, which being collected by the priests gave the amount of the whole population. And for the same purpose, every one living in the city paid a certain sum at the temple of Juno Lucina for every birth in his family, another sum at the temple of Venus Libitina for every death, and a third at the temple of Youth for every son who came to the age of military service. The Compitalia in the city answered to the Paganalia in the country, and were yearly festivals in honour of the Lares or guardian spirits, celebrated at all the compita, or places where several streets met.

Other laws and measures are ascribed to Servius, which seem to be the fond invention of a later period, when the commons, suffering under a cruel and unjust system, and wishing its overthrow, gladly believed that the deliverance which they longed for had been once given them by their good king, and that they were only reclaiming old rights, not demanding new ones. Servius, it is said, drove out the patricians from their unjust occupation of the public land, and ordered that the property only, and not the person, of a debtor should be liable for the payment of his debt.

Further, to complete the notion of a patriot king, it was said that he had drawn out a scheme of popular government, by which two magistrates, chosen every year, were to exercise the supreme power, and that he himself proposed to lay down his kingly rule to make way for them. It can hardly be doubted that these two magistrates were intended to be chosen the one from the houses and the other from the commons, to be the representatives of their respective orders.

Ruins of a Temple of Saturn, Rome

But the following tyranny swept away the institutions of Servius, and much more prevented the growth of that society for which alone his institutions were fitted. No man can tell how much of the story of the murder of the old king and of the impiety of the wicked Tullia is historical; but it is certain that the houses, or rather a strong faction among them, supported Tarquinius in his usurpation: nor can we doubt the statement that the aristocratical brotherhoods or societies served him more zealously than the legal assembly of the curiæ; because these societies are ever to be met with in the history of the ancient commonwealths, as pledged to one another for the interests of their order, and ready to support those interests by any crime. Like Sulla in after-times, he crushed the liberties of the commons, doing away with the laws of Servius, and, as we are told, destroying the tables on which they were written; abolishing the whole system of the census, and consequently[115] the arrangement of the classes, and with them the organisation of the phalanx; and forbidding even the religious meetings of the Paganalia and Compitalia, in order to undo all that had been done to give the commons strength and union.

Further it is expressly said by Dionysiuse that he formed his military force out of a small portion of the people, and employed the great bulk of them in servile works, in the building of the circus and the Capitoline temple, and the completion of the great drain or cloaca; so that in his wars, his army consisted of his allies, the Latins and Hernicans, in a much greater proportion than of Romans. His enmity to the commons was all in the spirit of Sulla; and the members of the aristocratical societies, who were his ready tools in every act of confiscation, or legal murder, or mere assassination, were faithfully represented by the agents of Sulla’s proscription, by L. Catilina and his patrician associates. But in what followed, Tarquinius showed himself, like Critias or Appius Claudius, a mere vulgar tyrant, who preferred himself to his order, when the two came into competition, and far inferior to Sulla, the most sincere of aristocrats, who, having secured the ascendency of his order, was content to resign his own personal power, who was followed therefore by the noblest as well as by the vilest of his countrymen, by Pompey and Catulus no less than by Catiline.

Thus Tarquinius became hated by all that was good and noble amongst the houses, as well as by the commons; and both orders cordially joined to effect his overthrow. But the evil of his tyranny survived him; it was not so easy to restore what he had destroyed as to expel him and his family; the commons no longer stood beside the patricians as an equal order, free, wealthy, well armed, and well organised; they were now poor, ill armed, and with no bonds of union; they therefore naturally sank beneath the power of the nobility, and the revolution which drove out the Tarquins established at Rome not a free commonwealth, but on the other hand an exclusive and tyrannical aristocracy.


Niebuhrc has almost exhausted the subject of the Roman copper money. He has shown its originally low value, owing to the great abundance of the metal; that as it afterwards became scarce, a reduction in the weight of the coin followed naturally, not as a fraudulent depreciation of it, but because a small portion of it was now as valuable as a large mass had been before. The plenty of copper in early times is owing to this, that where it is found, it exists often in immense quantities, and even in large masses of pure metal on the surface of the soil. Thus the Copper Indians of North America found it in such abundance on their hills that they used it for all domestic purposes; but the supply thus easily obtained soon became exhausted.

The small value of copper at Rome is shown not only by the size of the coins, they having been at first a full pound in weight, but also by the price of the war-horse, according to the regulation of Servius Tullius, namely ten thousand pounds of copper.[17] This statement, connected as it is with the other details of the census, seems original and authentic; nor considering the great abundance of cattle, and other circumstances, is it inconsistent with the account in Plutarch’s life of Publicola, that an ox in the beginning of the[116] commonwealth, was worth one hundred oboli, and a sheep worth ten; nor with the provisions of the Aternian law, which fixed the price of the one at one hundred asses and the other at ten.

The sources of wealth amongst the Romans, under their later kings, were agriculture, and also, in a large proportion, foreign commerce. Agriculture, indeed, strictly speaking, could scarcely be called a source of wealth; for the portions of land assigned to each man, even if from the beginning they were as much as seven jugera, were not large enough to allow of the growth of much superfluous produce. The ager publicus, or undivided public land, was indeed of considerable extent, and this as being enjoyed exclusively by the patricians might have been a source of great profit. But in the earliest times it seems probable that the greatest part of this land was kept as pasture; and only the small portions of two jugera, allotted by the houses to their clients, to be held during pleasure, were appropriated to tillage.[18] The low prices of sheep and oxen show that cattle must have been abundant; the earliest revenue according to Plinyg was derived from pasture; that is, the patricians paid so much to the state for their enjoyment of the ager publicus, which was left unenclosed as pasture ground; and all accounts speak of the great quantities of cattle reared in Italy from time immemorial. Cattle then may have been a source of wealth; but commerce must have been so in a still greater degree.

The early foundation of Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber, ascribed to Ancus Marcius, could have had no object, unless the Romans had been engaged in foreign trade; and the treaty with Carthage, already alluded to, proves the same thing directly and undeniably. In this treaty the Romans are allowed to trade with Sardinia, with Sicily, and with Africa westward of the Fair Headland, that is, with Carthage itself, and all the coast westward to the Pillars of Hercules; and it is much more according to the common course of things that this treaty should have been made to regulate a trade already in activity, than to call it for the first time into existence. By this commerce great fortunes were sure to be made, because there were as yet so many new markets open to the enterprising trader, and none perhaps where the demand for his goods had been so steadily and abundantly supplied as to destroy the profit of his traffic.

But although much wealth must thus have been brought into Rome, it is another question how widely it was distributed. Was foreign trade open to every Roman, or was it confined to the patricians and their clients, and in a still larger proportion to the king? The king had large domains of his own, partly arable, partly pasture, and partly planted with vines and olives; hence he was in a condition to traffic with foreign countries, and much of the Roman commerce was probably carried on by the government for its own direct benefit, as was the case in Judea in the reign of Solomon. The patricians also, we may be sure, exported, like the Russian nobility, the skins and wool of the numerous herds and flocks which they fed upon their public land, and were the owners of trading ships, as it was not till three centuries afterwards that a law was passed with the avowed object of restraining senators, a term then become equivalent with patricians, from possessing ships of large burden.

All these classes then might, and probably did, become wealthy; but it may be doubted whether the plebeian landholders had the same opportunities[117] open to them. Agriculture was to them the business of their lives; if their estates were ill cultivated, they were liable to be degraded from their order.

Beyond this we have scarcely the means of proceeding. Setting aside the tyranny ascribed to Tarquinius, and remembering that it was his policy to deprive the commons of their lately acquired citizenship, and to treat them like subjects rather than members of the state, the picture given of the wealth and greatness of Judea under Solomon may convey some idea of the state of Rome under its later kings. Powerful amongst surrounding nations, exposed to no hostile invasions, with a flourishing agriculture and an active commerce, the country was great and prosperous; and the king was enabled to execute public works of the highest magnificence, and to invest himself with a splendour unknown in the earlier times of the monarchy. The last Tarquinius was guilty of individual acts of oppression, we may be sure, towards the patricians no less than the plebeians; but it was these last whom he laboured on system to depress and degrade, and whom he employed, as Solomon did the Canaanites, in all the servile and laborious part of his undertakings. Still the citizens or patricians themselves found that the splendour of his government had its burdens for them also; as the great majority of the Israelites, amid all the peace and prosperity of Solomon’s reign, and although exempted from all servile labour, and serving only in honourable offices, yet complained that they had endured a grievous yoke, and took the first opportunity to relieve themselves from it by banishing the house of Solomon from among them forever.b


The aim of education in the family and in public life was to repress the freedom of the individual in the interest of the state, to make a nation of brave warriors and of dutiful citizens. The highest results of this stern training were reached in the Samnite wars,—a period known thereafter as the golden age of virtue and of heroism. A citizen of this time was, in the highest degree, obedient to authority, pious, frugal, and generally honest. But though he was willing to sacrifice his life for the good of the state, he was equally ready to enrich himself at the expense of his neighbours; the wealthy did not hesitate to sell the poor into slavery for debt, till they were forbidden to do so by law. Their hard, stern souls knew neither generosity nor mercy. Severe toward the members of their family, cruel in the treatment of slaves, and in their business transactions shrewd and grasping, the Romans of the time, however admirable for their heroic virtues, were narrow, harsh, and unlovable. Greed was one of their strongest motives for conquest. Not for glory,—much less for the good of their neighbours,—did they extend their power over Italy; it was rather that more of the peasants might be supplied with farms and that the nobles might be given larger tracts of the public land and a greater number of places of honour and of profit to use and to enjoy.

As long as they remained poor and under strict discipline, they were moral. In the following period they were to gain greater freedom from the control of their magistrates and, at the same time, power and wealth. These new conditions were to put their virtue and even their government to the severest test.i



It is difficult to form a clear idea of the moral character of the Roman people under its kings, because we cannot be sure that the pictures handed down to us of that period were not copied from the manners of a later time, and thus represent in fact the state of the Commonwealth rather than that of the Monarchy. Thus the simple habits of Lucretia seem copied from the matrons of the republic in the time of its early poverty, and cannot safely be ascribed to the princesses of the magnificent house of the Tarquinii. Again, we can scarcely tell how far we may carry back the origin of those characteristic points in the later Roman manners, the absolute authority possessed by the head of a family over his wife and children. But it is probable that they are of great antiquity; for the absolute power of a father over his sons extended only to those who were born in that peculiar form of marriage called connubium, a connection which anciently could only subsist between persons of the same order, and which was solemnised by a peculiar ceremony called confarreatio; a ceremony so sacred, that a marriage thus contracted could only be dissolved by certain unwonted and horrible rites, purposely ordered as it seems to discourage the practice of divorce.

Roman Youth

(From a statue)

All these usages point to a very great antiquity, and indicate the early severity of the Roman domestic manners, and the habits of obedience which every citizen learned under his father’s roof. This severity, however, did not imply an equal purity; connubium could only be contracted with one wife, but the practice of concubinage was tolerated, although the condition of a concubine is marked as disreputable by a law so old as to be ascribed to Numa. And the indecency of some parts of the ancient religious worship, and the licence allowed at particular festivals, at marriages, and in the festal meetings of men amongst themselves, belong so much to an agricultural people, as well as to human nature in general, that these too may be safely presumed to be co-eval with the very origin of the Roman nation.

But the most striking point in the character of the Romans, and that which has so permanently influenced the condition of mankind, was their love of institutions and of order, their reverence for law, their habit of considering the individual as living only for that society of which he was a member. This character, the very opposite to that of the barbarian and the savage, belongs apparently to that race to which the Greeks and Romans both belong, by whatever name, Pelasgian, Tyrrhenian, or Sicelian, we choose to distinguish it. It has indeed marked the Teutonic race, but in a less degree: the Celts have been strangers to it, nor do we find it developed amongst the nations of Asia: but it strongly characterises the Dorians in[119] Greece, and the Romans; nor is it wanting among the Ionians, although in these last it was modified by that individual freedom which arose naturally from the surpassing vigour of their intellect, the destined well-spring of wisdom to the whole world. But in Rome, as at Lacedæmon, as there was much less activity of reason, so the tendency to regulate and to organise was much more predominant.

Accordingly we find traces of this character in the very earliest traditions of Roman story. Even in Romulus, his institutions go hand in hand with his deeds in arms; and the wrath of the gods darkened the last years of the warlike Tullus, because he had neglected the rites and ordinances established by Numa. Numa and Servius, whose memory was cherished most fondly, were known only as lawgivers; Ancus, like Romulus, is the founder of institutions as well as the conqueror, and one particular branch of law is ascribed to him as its author, the ceremonial to be observed before going to war. The two Tarquinii are represented as of foreign origin, and the character of their reigns is foreign also. They are great warriors and great kings; they extend the dominion of Rome; they enlarge the city and embellish it with great and magnificent works; but they add nothing to its institutions; and it was the crime of the last Tarquinius to undo those good regulations which his predecessor had appointed.


It is allowed, on all hands, that the works of art executed in Rome under the later kings, whether architecture or sculpture, were of Etruscan origin; but what is meant by “Etruscan,” and how far Etruscan art was itself derived from Greece, are questions which have been warmly disputed. The statue of Jupiter in the Capitol, and the four-horsed chariot on the summit of the temple, together with most of the statues of the gods, were at this period wrought in clay; bronze was not generally employed till a later age. There is no mention of any paintings in Rome itself earlier than the time of the commonwealth; but Plinyg speaks of some frescoes at Ardea and at Cære, which he considered to be older than the very foundation of the city, and which in his own age preserved the freshness of their colouring, and in his judgment were works of remarkable merit. The Capitoline temple itself was built nearly in the form of a square, each side being about two hundred feet in length; its front faced southwards, towards the Forum and the Palatine, and had a triple row of pillars before it, while a double row enclosed the sides of the temple. These, it is probable, were not of marble, but made either of the stone of Rome itself, like the cloaca, or possibly from the quarries of Gabii or Alba.

Of the Roman mind under the kings, Cicero knew no more than we do. He had seen no works of that period, whether of historians or of poets; he had never heard the name of a single individual whose genius had made it famous, and had preserved its memory together with his own. A certain number of laws ascribed to the kings, and preserved, whether on tables of wood or brass in the Capitol, or in the collection of the jurist Papirius, were almost the sole monuments which could illustrate the spirit of the early ages of the Roman people. But even these, to judge from the few extracts with which we are acquainted, must have been modernised in their language; for the Latin of a law ascribed to Servius Tullius is perfectly intelligible, and not more ancient in its forms than that of the[120] fifth century of Rome; whereas the few genuine monuments of the earliest times, the hymns of the Salii, and of the Brotherhood of Husbandry, Fratres Arvales, required to be interpreted to the Romans of Cicero’s time like a foreign language; and of the hymn of the Fratres Arvales we can ourselves judge, for it has been accidentally preserved to our days, and the meaning of nearly half of it is only to be guessed at. This agrees with what Polybius says of the language of the treaty between Rome and Carthage, concluded in the first year of the commonwealth; it was so unlike the Latin of his own time, the end of the sixth and beginning of the seventh century of Rome, that even those who understood it best found some things in it which with their best attention they could scarcely explain. Thus, although verses were undoubtedly made and sung in the times of the kings, at funerals and at feasts, in commemoration of the worthy deeds of the noblest of the Romans and although some of the actual stories of the kings may perhaps have come down from this source, yet it does not appear that they were ever written; and thus they were altered from one generation to another, nor can any one tell at what time they attained to their present shape. Traces of a period much later than that of the kings may be discerned in them; and we see no reason to differ from the opinion of Niebuhr,c who thinks that as we now have them they are not earlier than the restoration of the city after the invasion of the Gauls.

If this be so, there rests a veil not to be removed, not only on the particular history of the early Romans, but on that which we should much more desire to know—and which in the case of the Greeks stands out in such full light—the nature and power of their genius, what they thought, what they hated, and what they loved.b


[10] [Cf. page 51, note 1.]

[11] [According to Meyer,h Botsford,i and others, however, the gens was not primitive, but a growth of the late regal and early republican periods; the city developing from the canton, a group of villages with a common place of refuge on a hill-top.]

[12] [Though this view of the status of the social ranks is that of the majority of modern authorities, certain prominent historians like Meyerh are returning to the theory of the ancient writers—that the clients and the plebeians were citizens from the beginning, with the right of voting in the curiæ, and that the patricians were simply the nobles.]

[13] [Cf. page 104, note.]

[14] [According to some writers this was not done till a century later.]

[15] [Doubtless in the original organisation the classes were based not upon the money value of property but upon the amount of land possessed by the citizens, the value being later represented by its money equivalent. It is also asserted that the first three classes formed the phalanx of heavy-armed infantry, whereas the last two classes composed the light-armed force. It is asserted further that the centuriate organisation applied only to the army in the field. Towards the end of the regal period, then, the army in active service would consist regularly of eighty-four centuries of infantry and six centuries of cavalry. All scholars agree that the so-called Servian organisation was purely military, and that the comitia centuriata gradually developed from it. The army and the comitia were never strictly identical in composition: cf. Soltau.j]

[16] [There being in public life no difference between clients and plebeians, such stories as that of the Fabii and their clients may indicate the survival of a primitive military organisation after the phalanx was introduced.]

[17] [This valuation, however, originated after the coins had been lightened.]

[18] [More probably the clients received two jugera as private, hereditary property, while they tilled, as tenants or for hire, the arable lands of their lord.]

Roman Writing Implements

(In the British Museum)




[510-451 B.C.]

The next task of the Romans was to regain the old position of Servius Tullius in Latium. Aided by the pressure constantly brought to bear on the Latins by the Volscians, the Romans also succeeded, in the year 493, in renewing with the former people their earlier alliance—an alliance based on perfect equality and reciprocity.[19] Highly important, moreover, from a military point of view was the treaty concluded in 486 between the Romans and the Latins on the one side and the Hernicans on the other.

About this time began the lingering feuds between the Romans and their allies and the neighbouring populations on the line that reached from the Etruscan cities Veii and Fidenæ, through the country of the Sabines and the Æquians to the scattered colonies of the Volscians on the southern borders of Latium. These conflicts rarely bore the character of actual warfare, being confined for the most part to carrying on or repelling burning and marauding expeditions. Yet there was no lack, especially with the Etruscans, of more serious engagements which, as we shall see, had great influence in determining the future of Italy and the Romans. Meanwhile these struggles served the Romans as an excellent school of war; but their political importance was not nearly so great as that of the internal conflicts that marked the development of republican Rome.

The conditions in Rome after the expulsion of the Tarquins were similar to those which prevailed in Greece under what was called the Eupatridian rule. The supreme power which was formerly vested in the king, now passed into the hands of a magisterial body whose members were to be appointed by vote. These republican officials, now commonly called consuls, were then given the title of prætors; a title that since the time of the decemvirs fell into disuse as designating the head of the state, but was later applied to the incumbents of a newly created office. The weight of the high civil, military, and judicial authority that passed from the hands of the king into those of the head of the republic, became considerably lessened by the action of causes that were, from their very nature, bound to make themselves more and more strongly felt. From the beginning of the republic, the Romans always placed two consuls at the head in order that the actions of the one might be under the restraining influence of the other’s veto. The term of the highest office was never longer than one year. At the expiration of the year the consul returned to the class of citizens to which he belonged, but could at any time be called to account for his official acts.


This system of one-year tenure of office was later found to have grave defects: but so much a part was it of the patrician as well as the democratic republicanism of that day that it never occurred to any one to change it. To the eminently practical Roman mind, however, the disadvantages connected with a yearly change of officials must have been apparent in many ways. As the life of Rome developed in fulness and freedom, the “scribes,” those lower officials who were permanently appointed to their posts, came to be of great importance in the actual conduct of public affairs. In time of war when naturally every head of the republic did not show equal qualifications for military leadership, the command of the army was given to some experienced general who was specially appointed by the proper authorities. When a consul was confronted by great and unexpected difficulties, he was empowered by the senate to appoint the best man of the state as dictator, and this dictator was in his turn to select as his assistant a master of horse—magister equitum. The dictatorship, which was for the term of but six months, had control over all minor offices, and as the dictator could not be held accountable, and as there was no appeal from his decisions, the patricians frequently had recourse, during the course of internal struggles, to the appointment of one, in order effectually to quell the plebeian opposition.

The consuls were preceded by but twelve lictors bearing the axe and fasces, while to the dictators were given twenty-four, like the kings in earlier days. Owing to the constant increase in the volume of public affairs the consuls frequently appointed, for the performance of certain duties, deputies, whose term of office expired with their own. Associated with the consuls in the keeping of the state archives and treasure were the two quæstors, probably the same officials to whom was also entrusted the prosecution of criminals. Two commissioners were appointed by the consuls to judge cases of sedition and high treason; the consuls had further to select and instruct two private personages who were to decide all civil suits. The consuls had unlimited power to impose fines; and as punishment for disobedience to certain laws, notably those governing the recruiting service, could even pronounce sentence of death. In cases requiring corporal or capital punishment the consuls and their aids had jurisdiction in the first instance; but save in cases that came under martial law, delinquents whom they had condemned could after the foundation of the republic (by virtue of the Valerian law, 509 B.C.) appeal to the higher tribunal of the general assembly, this body having also, even before 451, entire jurisdiction in regard to heavy fines.

The most marked limitation of the consuls’ power arose from the altered position of the senate towards them. According to formal law the senators stood in the same relation to the consuls as they did to the kings, being not above but under the head of the republic: who every four years, on the occasion of assessment for taxes, revised the list of senators and appointed new ones to fill whatever vacancies had occurred. Now, however, little by little, but ever more sensibly, began to be felt the enormous predominance held in all ages by any large aristocratic corporation whose members, all men of great political experience, have a life-long tenure of office, over functionaries who are appointed to their responsible positions for but the term of a single year. The senate represented the unity, and the firmly established traditions of Roman politics and rule. Not all the proud self-consciousness of a few powerful consuls could prevent the office as a whole from coming to be considered as merely the executive organ of the senate.

Since the foundation of the republic the people’s assemblies had also assumed an entirely different character and position. The necessity felt by[123] the governing power at the overthrow of the Tarquins, to make sure of the sympathy of the lower classes had brought the centuriate assembly—in which both patricians and plebeians were bound together for the rendering of important decisions—into great prominence. The function of this body extended to the election of consuls, to the ratification or rejection of measures proposed by the higher government, to the declaration of wars of aggression, and lastly to the exercise of jurisdiction in criminal cases where appeal, now the privilege of the plebeian as well as of the noblest patrician, was permitted from the sentence of the quæstors.


The plebeians were soon forced to see, however, that under the new order all the advantages of public life fell to the patricians. If this class had at that time so far risen above its prejudices as to take into its own circles the more nearly related plebeian families, to admit them to equal marriage rights, to rights in the senate, and to eligibility for the various public offices; and if it had further opened the state’s domains to the mass of plebeians, and striven by a just apportionment of the land to found a new and more contented peasant order, there would be no need now to write the account of a hundred and fifty years’ struggle between these two classes. But instead of doing these things the Roman patricians displayed the most tenacious selfishness and greed—qualities manifested, it is true, in equal degree by all their plebeian kindred.

In matters pertaining to legal marriage, as well as in higher affairs of state, religious superstition played a very prominent part. It remained for some decades the honest belief of the patricians that they alone had the right of holding communications with the gods or of taking correct auspices, maintaining further that any intermingling by marriage with plebeian blood would impair if not destroy this power of reading signs. According to them, auspices taken by plebeians, being of no value, always failed in their effect; hence there could be no question of appointing plebeians to offices which were so indissolubly connected with the taking of public auspices.

Thus it came about that not long after the foundation of the republic, the populus, i.e., the patrician body, and the plebeian stood arrayed against each other like two entirely unrelated races—between whom there cannot possibly be any unity of feeling or equality of rights. Through absorption of the Sabellian clan of Appius Claudius—who, at variance with his own people, had gone over to the side of the Romans and at the head of five thousand followers had settled on the opposite shore of the Anio—the patrician party was much the stronger and more numerous, and having alone the right to make appointments to civil office and to the priesthood, was the true guardian and promoter of the legal traditions and spiritual knowledge of the state.

The election of consuls was by no means carried on by free vote; rather, it appears, a list of nominees was made out beforehand by the presiding consul and the senate, from which the voters must choose, having the right at most to reject the candidates offered without that of substituting others in their places. Should the majority of votes fall to an opposition candidate, however, the presiding consul was neither obliged to recognise the votes nor to proclaim the candidate elected. The curiate assembly of the patricians alone had the right to confer by the passage of a lex curiata de[124] imperio, the supreme power or imperium upon the successful candidate. In the beginning of the republic the system of allowing colleges of the priesthood to appoint their own members was introduced, as was also that of appointing isolated priests and vestals through the pontifical college—an institution modelled doubtless on that of the pontifex maximus.

It was not those plebeians who enjoyed greater material advantages who gave the first signs of dissatisfaction at the existing condition of things; neither was it in the domain of politics, using the word in a narrow sense, that the first reactionary movements were observed: the first epoch-making uprising of the plebs had its origin in the social condition of the poorer peasants and leaseholders.

This class had suffered long under the judicial system of the patricians, who decided all causes according to a code of laws unknown to the inferior orders; but still greater was the oppression felt from another source. It is undoubtedly true that there existed a scale of social importance among the patrician landholders themselves, and that the possessions of many of them did not exceed those of the better situated among the plebeians; yet in other directions there were open to them opportunities from which the plebeians were debarred. Many of the larger property owners among the patricians could be reckoned—there having as yet arisen in Rome no great and independent commercial class—as capitalists. The trade in products of the soil was entirely in the hands of these rich proprietors, who in common with the other patricians besides realised all the profits resulting from the exploitation of the public lands. A considerable portion of these lands could, with the consent of the government, be “temporarily” occupied and cultivated by patrician landowners on payment of a yearly rental—such domains never to lose their character as state property, nor the government to release the right of remanding them at any time.

As a matter of fact, however, these terms were rarely kept, and the state domains were given away, sold, bequeathed or hypothecated exactly as though they had been private property. Apart from the illegality of such proceedings, they worked considerable harm to the plebeians, who deeply and bitterly resented the injustice shown by the authorities in exempting these estates from payment of rent and taxation. Whenever the situation of the state made it necessary to tax the patricians, it was their private property only that was assessed, and this made their condition, by reason of their large tax-free domains, greatly superior to that of the plebeians, who possessed only assessable lands. There was further the extreme severity shown in leaving free from impost the money capital of the patricians, while in the case of the plebeians no allowance was made for mortgages on their property.

We touch now upon the darkest spot in the situation of the poorer plebeians. The conflicts that had repeatedly broken out since the fall of the Tarquins, between the Roman populations and the neighbouring peoples, had pressed hard upon the plebeians. The successive calls to arms, the devastation of their lands, the plundering of their belongings, together with the heavy war-tax, formed an almost unsupportable burden, which was but little lightened by the declaration that the increase in impost would be looked upon by the government as a mere temporary advance and would be returned at a later period.

The pressure of these conditions plunged the greater part of the poorer leaseholders heavily in debt. The legal rate of interest was enormously high, considering the pecuniary shortage that prevailed—so high that it was welcomed by the plebeians as a great relief when later (probably 357 B.C.)[125] the maximum was reduced to 8⅓ or 10 per cent. In case of failure to pay the interest on a debt, the accumulated interest was added to the original debt until the amount owed was increased to an overwhelming figure. It was a menace to the internal peace of the country that the creditors of the peasants were usually their patrician neighbours who, as capitalists, were the only ones in a position to lend. Analogous to the course pursued in Attica a century before, the Roman manor lords were now about to make the situation of the plebs one of economic dependence upon themselves. Hence in Rome, as in Attica, the first attack of the common people on the patrician classes was made on the ground of the extreme harshness of the Roman laws governing debt, framed, as they were, by a race which knew no mercy where its material interests were concerned. Sometimes the creditor, into whose hands the law gave complete possession of the person and property of the debtor, left this latter in nominal control and occupation of his land only to oppress him still further by demands for rent. To this arrangement the debtor frequently preferred taking advantage of the nexum, or usual form of loan contract under which he could place himself in bondage to the creditor to serve him as many years as were required to liquidate the debt, or until the creditor actually sold him as a slave in a foreign land.

Roman Peasant

(After Racinet)

It is no wonder that out of conditions so one-sided and oppressive, the deepest aversion should have arisen among the plebeians against the patrician rule. There were, indeed, some among the noble families who sought to establish better and more conciliatory relations between themselves and the lower people, notably the Valerii and the Horatii; but for the most part the patricians of those days were characterised by the harshest egotism and imperiousness. These qualities were particularly conspicuous in the Sabine Fabii, in the newly settled family of Appius Claudius,—who later displayed a certain eccentricity in good as well as evil that belied the usual conservative traits of the aristocracy,—and in the Quinctii and Manlii, who were the acknowledged supporters of a sort of iron military discipline to be applied in their relations with the lower classes. From all this it will be seen that only by a movement bordering on a general revolution could a new political adjustment be brought about that would insure an amendment in the social condition of the plebeians.


[495-457 B.C.]

According to the chronology, often faulty, of tradition, the distress of the plebeians and their consequent dissatisfaction had already, in the year 495 B.C., reached a momentous pitch. In 494 the plebs consented to serve only under the dictator Manius Valerius, beloved of the people, who conducted the first enlistments and met later with success in the field. But when his proposals looking to a modification of the laws against debtors fell through in the senate, the patience of the plebeians was at an end. Valerius, who was rightfully incensed, resigned his office; and the consuls of that year wishing to continue the war, the plebeian portion of the army withdrew from the main body and the patrician city, and under the conduct of their officers retired to the so-called “Sacred Mount” on the peninsula formed three Roman miles from Rome by the junction of the Anio and the Tiber.

This move was actuated by a desire on the part of the plebeians to cut themselves completely off from the rest of the people and establish themselves as an independent body at an entirely new point. The seriousness of the situation finally obliged the patricians and the senate to yield; and negotiations ensued, the effects of which were felt even as late as the imperial epoch.

The new compact between the two branches of the Roman population, to which was given an international form, provided that the plebeians residing in the state should be organised into an independent body, having their own official representatives that were to rival in power those of the patricians. In opposition to the consuls were placed two plebeian tribunes (usually called “people’s tribunes”) who were later increased in number to four, and after 457 to ten; who were appointed, according to all probability, by the state assemblies of the plebeians. Guardians of the community in the true sense of the word, their ædiles being ever at the service of the plebeians as police and general administration agents, these chosen tribunes had the right and duty to protect their fellow plebeians against injustice and maladministration on the part of the consuls, to resolutely uphold the right of appeal—in a word, to interfere whenever the interests of the plebeians seemed to be endangered. They were powerless only against the dictator and the military jurisdiction or imperium of the consuls outside the city. In Rome they had the right to prevent, by making prompt and personal protest, the execution of any patrician order whereat a citizen might take offence; and also to block or veto any patrician measure recommended to the citizen body, which was found to be unjust. This was called the right of intercession, or the veto of the plebeian tribunes.

From these circumstances it ensued that no tribune could, after the 10th of December, the date of accession to office, pass a single night outside the city during the whole official year;[20] his house, moreover, having to stand open night and day as a refuge for any who might need protection. To insure them perfect security in the performance of their duties the persons of the plebeian tribunes were declared “doubly sacred” and as such unassailable and inviolable. Whoever committed an attack on these personages was said to fall under the malediction of the gods and was, even according to earthly laws, adjudged guilty of a crime punishable with death. Hence every patrician, consuls included, who in any way infringed the tribunes’ rights, or offered them personal indignity could be held to strict account; in serious cases even arrested and brought before the tribunes themselves,[127] who had power to inflict a penalty of fines or death. From their judgment however it was possible to appeal to the plebeian assemblies.

[457-390 B.C.]

Up to the time of the great wars with the Veientines and the Celts, the civil dissensions with which Rome was torn constantly grew in importance and menace, until shortly after the so-called decemviral period the class conflicts had assumed a character entirely different from that borne by them during the first half of the fifth century B.C. Before the great crisis ushered in by the decemvirate the work of the plebeian party leaders had been limited to bringing their state within a state to completer organisation, widening the breach that existed between the plebeians and the populus, or patrician body, and endeavouring by every means in their power to lessen the authority exercised by patrician officials over the plebeians. This period during which the two divisions of the Roman people met in a conflict of unexampled ferocity and hate, presents little that can be dwelt on with pleasure. Incidents of the most revolting nature arose from the extreme arrogance of the patrician youth; even the word assassination has frequently to be employed, while the internal strife had a serious effect on the fortunes of the nation in the wars it was constantly waging abroad. Yet even in those troubled times the foreign foe would singularly misreckon who counted on the connivance of either patricians or plebeians to open to him the city’s door, since when an external common danger threatened, the divided factions united as a rule to present a front solid and impenetrable as a wall of brass.

Fortunately for the future of Rome the bent towards a constantly widening separation between the plebeians and the patricians received, in the decemvir period, an entirely different turn. From that time the plebeian leaders were chiefly occupied in winning for their constituents their proper social and political position in the Roman state, with the balance leaning strongly, up to the decisive battle for the hegemony on the Apennine peninsula, to the side of the purely political questions of dispute. The sympathy of modern observers is almost entirely with the plebeians. The demands were moderate and the political views of the energetic honourable Roman peasants were immeasurably higher than those of the Greek democrats.[21]

In spite of all the heat and passion evinced on both sides, revolution was the last thing the parties thought of up to the very time of the Gracchi. Whereas in Hellas the triumphant party rarely receded from a position once taken or abandoned any pretensions however lofty, the Roman peasant assemblies contented themselves with claiming merely what, according to our modern ideas, was their just due. Attacked as they frequently were in their deepest interests, the only revenge dreamed of by the plebeians was secession—the voluntary cutting of themselves adrift from the patrician state; and their end at last attained, in good qualities as in bad they manifested precisely the same robust qualities that characterised their patrician adversaries. Their subsequent acts fully justified their course, since in their public affairs they revealed a vigour and capacity well-nigh inexhaustible.

But we must not judge the patrician class too harshly; revolting as their laws against debtors appear to us, we are not justified in attributing their adroitly maintained policy of resistance purely to the arrogance and selfishness of a privileged class, nor their refusal to admit plebeians to equal marriage laws and municipal offices entirely to base hypocrisy. We must, moreover, take into account the natural hesitation of an old, experienced governing body to give the leadership in public affairs into the hands of new[128] and untried elements; and the plebeians themselves, far from despising the adversaries they so deeply hated, never failed to recognise those sterling qualities by which in peace and war they had achieved such signal service to the state, and elevated them to the position of models for their own character and conduct. And finally, at the decisive turning points in the evolution of Rome’s ancient constitution, it was not before superior might that the patricians lowered their banner and reached out the hand of friendship to their foe; it was solely in obedience to their own patriotic perception of what was best for the state and to the force of inner necessity.

[510-452 B.C.]

The wonderful tenacity displayed by both the divisions of the people in their conflicts with each other, proclaims them to be of one blood, and to have in actual fact but one cause, that of their agricultural interests. This kinship further explains the conservative character of these struggles, and the aristocratic tendencies constantly to be observed in the Roman administration from the time of the complete triumph of the plebeians down to that of the elder Cato. It was these class struggles and the manner in which they were carried on that gave the Roman constitution, as it gradually developed through succeeding generations, that stability and elasticity that later excited in more than one Greek statesman feelings of envy.

One failure, however, was not spared this people, in spite of that practical sense that led them on only tried political ground, and caused them to advance by successive cautious steps rather than by means of dangerous innovations. It was precisely this conservative character maintained throughout by the Roman constitution that prevented the problems that confronted it from ever finding complete solution, that cumbered it with a number of empty, useless forms, and gave new life to certain dangerous elements—notably that of dualism—that were later, when the creative power of the people was on the wane and the national character for ability and skill about to disappear, to unfold in disastrous might.

The first period of inner dissensions, that extending to the middle of the fifth century B.C., has not completely been made known to us; historical accounts being so intermingled with myths and the chronicles and traditions of noble families as to be wholly unreliable. The period was certainly characterised, however, by incessant feuds with the neighbouring populations, and in the interior by the phase of the conflict between the patricians and the plebeians which revealed the two factions under their least favourable aspect.

The resentment shown by the burghers and higher officials at the institution of the plebeian tribunes caused for a number of years the most common use of the latter’s authority to be the protection from encroachment by the patricians and from the consequences of their own acts, such plebeians as had resisted unlawful taxation, or refused to render military service. The tribunes also, after 476 repeatedly upheld the rights of the plebeians in cases of breach of the compact with the patricians, and had the power to condemn any individual patrician who was guilty of such a breach to a heavy fine or even exile. Gradually the personal sanctity and inviolability of the tribunes had come to serve them as a means of aggression rather than of mere defence. Wherever they chose to interpose, all hindrances disappeared from their path; it was only when they contemplated some decided step that their fellow tribunes had the right to interfere, all important measures being adopted by a council of the tribunes.

This right of intercession soon assumed a high significance. Without actual legal right to resist the laws passed by patrician rulers the tribunes[129] yet could, by simply declaring their readiness to support the plebeians in their passive stand against the demands of senate and consuls for troops of war, offer effectual opposition to the enforcement of the state’s decrees. In this way they came to have a widely extended power of intervention, and at an early date they claimed the right of being present at all meetings of the senate. Unquestionably the mass of the citizens would gladly have seen the plebeian tribunes driven from office, and on both sides party hatred ran high. In this period tradition, untrustworthy as history, places the murder (473) of Genucius, the tribune, and the legend of Coriolanus.


[494-466 B.C.]

The taxation abuses and the tyranny of the laws regulating debt, as well as the monopoly by patricians of state domains, had been allowed to go uncorrected until 494. In this year a high-minded citizen, Spurius Cassius Viscellinus, who was appointed consul for the third time in 486 and who then brought about the alliance with the Hernicans, as he had earlier, in 493, brought about that with the Latins, took an important conciliatory step in agrarian matters by proposing that the public lands be surveyed and given out in grants to the poorer plebeians, the remaining portions to be rented to patricians under much stricter conditions of payment than formerly. His law, it appears, was passed, but was never actually enforced.[22] Out of revenge his compeers hurled at him the accusation, fatal in republican Rome, of having aspired to mount the throne; and in the following year at the expiration of his term of office he was sentenced to death.

From this time until 466, when it was again driven into oblivion by the pressure of outside wars, the tribunes demanded the full enforcement of the Lex Cassia. Important advance in the development of the constitution was meanwhile made in another direction. With the institution of the tribunes, the informal, irregularly held meetings of the peasant assemblies were organised into the officially recognised diet of the whole plebeian body, which excluding the patricians and their clients (the latter now casting in their votes with the plebeians in the centuriata, thus considerably strengthening the position of the patricians in this assembly) broke up into smaller assemblies presided over by their tribunes and called the comitia tributa (or assembly of the tribes) from the twenty-one district tribes into which the new organisation had divided the plebeians. These assemblies or comitia offered an opportunity to the tribunes gradually to educate the commonalty up to the high political standard set by the ablest of the plebeians.

In this manner alone could the plebeians develop their full strength and importance as a class, since all the advantages conferred by ancient tradition and political routine, by a clear insight into their own needs, and a firmly established social, religious, and political position, were on the side of the patricians, the plebeians having further to contend against the disadvantage of being widely scattered over a great extent of territory and of having received no preparatory political training or instruction. It was precisely these hindrances to the advancement of their people that the more active[130] among the tribunes set about to overcome. A series of truly notable plebeian statesmen now came to the fore, the most prominent among them being the Icilii, the Virginii, and later the Duilii.

[492-452 B.C.]

As early as 492 an Icilius had passed a law making it a punishable crime to interrupt or in any way disturb the tribunes when in the act of laying their criminal decisions before the plebeians in the assembly of the tribes. Furthermore the tribunes, preventing as they did any violent interruption of the process of development by holding the plebeians, in all their upward strivings, strictly to the line of legal right, came to be the most powerful factor in the gradual development and formation of the Roman constitution. In domestic legislation they also constantly took the initiative, being chiefly concerned in gaining for the tribal assembly and their proceedings—which latter as merely “legislative monologues” had hitherto remained without result—a recognised position in the magistracy of the state. The centuriate assembly was at that time of comparatively little service to the plebeians. The plebeians eligible to vote greatly outnumbered the patricians of the same class; yet the arrangement of “voices” in the centuriata was such that the patricians largely predominated. The first census class consisted of eighty centuries, the mass of the members possessing the least means being united into one, while the second, third, fourth, and fifth census classes—those formed of the peasantry of the middle class—were divided up into ninety centuries.

Punishment of Cassius[23]

[482-452 B.C.]

It was long, however, before the tribunes gained for their tribal assembly the recognition of the state. It was as late as 482, that the commonalty[131] was entirely bound to the choice of the consuls and senate in consular elections, and it was only in 473—when the uprising provoked by the murder of the tribune Genucius, brought an able and energetic plebeian, Volero Publilius, forward as leader of the plebs—that any important step was made in advance. In the year 471 this tribune, by securing the passage of a law providing that the election of the tribunes and ædiles should be ratified by the tribal assembly, raised this body to a position beside that of the national assembly as an organ of the state with a special function in state legislation. The right of the plebs to deliberate and render decisions in their separate assemblies was thus recognised, and their hope of one day taking “legislative initiative” made an actual fact. All measures proposed by them, drawn up in the form of petitions to the senate, must pass through the hands of the tribunes, and the senate had no longer the right to reject such proposals straightway, but must first take counsel upon them with the tribunes. In case of approval by the senate the rogations (where they did not relate exclusively to the affairs of the plebeians) were laid before the curiate assembly as the last step preliminary to their passage as laws.[24]


According to the fragmentary accounts that have been handed down there was a long cessation of the civil strife in consequence of the heavy burden of wars and pestilence under which Rome at one time laboured: but the old struggle was finally renewed under conditions that made possible an entire change of tactics on the part of the plebeian leaders. In the year 462 the tribune Caius Terentilius Harsa proposed a measure—adopted the following year by the united college of tribunes—that empowered the commonalty to appoint a committee of five plebeians who should frame certain laws for the limiting and regulating of the arbitrary power of punishment exercised by the consuls in suits against plebeians; just so much judicial power as the plebeian allowed him should the consul wield, but he was not to rule according to his own whim and pleasure. The aim of this measure was to complete the organisation of the plebs as an independent organ of the state, and to restrict as far as possible the functions of patrician magistrates in the administration of justice. It naturally met with the most determined opposition on the part of the older citizens; and even the most liberal and clear sighted among the patrician statesmen were alarmed at this incursion of the plebeians into a new field, since the greatest sufferers from any increase in the rights and independence of the plebs that would inevitably widen the gulf already existing between governing power and people, would be themselves. Bitter and prolonged were the party struggles that ensued, the same tribunes being appointed year after year by the people’s assemblies, while the senate and the older citizens, with equal obstinacy, rejected again and again the same old measures. The senate tried to conciliate the plebs by making other concessions, but in vain; finally in the year 457 it gave its consent to the number of the tribunes being increased to ten—a doubtful victory for the plebs, since among so many one or another could surely be found who could be induced by patrician influence[132] to use his right of intercession against any plans of his colleagues that might be troublesome.[25]

[454-449 B.C.]

In one of the following years the consuls, A. Aternius and Sp. Tarpeius, passed a law limiting the hitherto unrestricted right of the consuls to impose property fines; according to its terms no man (except in cases of appeal) could be sentenced to a heavier fine than two sheep or thirty head of cattle in one day. In spite of all this the obstinacy of the people’s party remained unshaken until the senate finally succeeded in effecting a compromise, whereby the power of the consuls to inflict punishment was considerably lessened, while the dangerous power of initial rogation by the tribunes was completely done away with. Between 454-452 an agreement with the tribunes was reached that both divisions of the Roman people should have a common civil and criminal code, and the codification of the new statute book was intrusted to a commission of ten men appointed by the comitia centuriata. The choice was made in 452, and the commissioners—decemvirs, so-called, including none but patricians—entered upon their functions May 15th, 451. A complete reorganisation of the old system being the work in hand, the magistrates, particularly consuls and tribunes, were, according to an ancient custom, suspended from office under a proviso that safeguarded the sworn rights and liberties of the commonalty, while it bound the tribunes not to make appeal to the people, and their full power was given into the hands of the new governing body.

The manner in which the decemvirs at first discharged their duties is well known; so great was the legislative ability they displayed that during their first year of office, 451, they brought to completion the main object of their work. A code was shortly after approved by the senate, and accepted by the comitia centuriata, and affixed in the form of ten copper tablets to the speaker’s pulpit in the Forum. Ten new decemvirs were appointed for the year 450, and among these were several plebeians, the first non-aristocratic office holders to act as representatives for the entire Roman people. Whatever may have been the plan of the politicians of that day, it never reached fulfilment; as shortly after the completion of the new code, which comprised in all Twelve Tables, the decemvirate, headed by the brutally arrogant Appius Claudius,[26] began to assume the character of the most intolerable despotism. Dissatisfaction reached its height when Appius Claudius and his associates attempted, against all legal right, to retain their office after the 15th of May, 449, and undertook war against the Sabines and the Æquians.b


[449 B.C.]

A plebeian, whose name was Lucius Virginius, a man inferior to none in military accomplishments, had the command of a century in one of the five legions that were employed against the Æqui; this person had a daughter, called from her father, Virginia, who far surpassed all the Roman virgins in beauty, and was promised in marriage to Lucius, formerly a tribune, the[133] grandson of that Icilius who first instituted, and was first invested with, the tribunitian power. Appius Claudius, the chief of the decemvirs, having seen this virgin, who was now marriageable, as she was reading in a school (for the schools stood at that time near the Forum) he was presently captivated with her beauty, and the violence of his passion forcing him often to return to the school, his frenzy was, by this time, increased. But, finding it impossible for him to marry her, both because she was promised to another, and because he himself was married; and looking upon it, at the same time, to be below him to marry into a plebeian family, and contrary to the law, which he himself had inserted among those of the Twelve Tables, he first endeavoured to corrupt her with money; and, for that purpose, was continually sending some women to her governesses (for Virginia had lost her mother) and gave them much, and promised more. The women he sent to tempt the governesses had orders not to acquaint them with the name of the man who was in love with Virginia, but only that he was a person who had it in his power to do good and bad offices to those he thought fit. When he found himself unable to gain the governesses, and saw the virgin guarded even with greater care than before, his passion was inflamed, and he resolved upon more audacious measures. Then, sending for Marcus Claudius, who was one of his clients, a daring man, and ready for any service, he acquainted him with his passion; and, having instructed him what he would have him do and say, he sent him away, accompanied with a band of the most profligate men. Claudius, going to the school, seized the virgin, and attempted to lead her away publicly through the Forum; but there being an outcry, and a great concourse of people, he was hindered from carrying the virgin to the place he had designed, and addressed himself to a magistrate. This was Appius, who was then sitting alone in the tribunal to hear causes, and administer justice to those who applied for it. But, when Claudius was going to speak, the people, who stood round the tribunal cried out and expressed their indignation, and all desired he might stay till the relations of the virgin were present. And Appius ordered it should be so. In a short time, Publius Numitorius, uncle to Virginia by her mother, a man of distinction among the plebeians, appeared with many of his friends and relations; and, not long after, came Lucius, to whom she had been promised by her father, accompanied with a strong body of young plebeians. He came to the tribunal out of breath, and labouring for respiration, and desired to know who it was had dared to lay hands upon a virgin, who was a Roman citizen, and what he meant by it.

All being silent, Marcus Claudius, who had laid hold on Virginia, spoke as follows: “I have committed neither a rash nor a violent action in relation to this virgin, Appius Claudius; but, as I am her master, I take her according to law. I shall now inform you by what means she is become mine. I have a female slave, who belonged to my father, and has served a great many years. This slave, being with child, was engaged by the wife of Virginius, whom she was acquainted with, and used to visit, to give her the child she should be brought to bed of; and, in performance of this promise, when delivered of this daughter, she pretended to us that she was brought to bed of a dead child, and gave the girl to Numitoria; who, having no children, either male, or female, took the child; and, supposing it, brought it up. For a long time, I was ignorant of all this; but now being informed of it, and provided with many credible witnesses, and having also examined the slave, I fly to that law, which is common to all, and determines that the children shall belong to their mothers, not to those who suppose them; that,[134] if the mothers are free, the children shall be free; if those are slaves, the children shall be slaves also; and that both the children and the mothers shall have the same masters. In virtue of this law, I desire that I may take the daughter of my slave, and I am ready to submit my pretensions to a trial; and, if any one claims her, to give sufficient sureties to produce her at the time appointed; but if they desire to have this affair speedily determined, I am willing this minute to plead my cause before you, and shall neither give security for her appearance, nor offer anything that may create a delay. Let them choose which of these conditions they like best.”

After Claudius had said this, and added many entreaties that his claim might not be less regarded than that of his adversaries, because he was his client, and of mean birth, the uncle of Virginia answered in few words, and those such as were proper to be addressed to a magistrate, saying, that Virginius, a plebeian, was the father of this girl, and then abroad in the service of his country; that Numitoria, his own sister, a woman of virtue and worth, was her mother, who died not many years before; that the virgin herself had been educated in such a manner as became a person of free condition, and a citizen of Rome; that she had been solemnly betrothed to Icilius, and that the marriage had taken effect, if the war with the Æqui had not intervened; that, during no less than fifteen years, Claudius had never attempted to aver anything of this kind to the relations of Virginia, but that now the virgin was marriageable, and of distinguished beauty, he was charmed with it, and published an infamous calumny, contrived not indeed by himself, but by a man who thought he had a right to gratify all his passions by all the methods he could invent. He added that, as to the trial, the father himself would defend the cause of his daughter when he returned from the campaign; and that, in the meantime, as he was her uncle, and ready to support her right, he himself claimed her person, to which he was entitled by the laws; and in this, he insisted upon nothing that was either new, or not allowed to every Roman, if not to every other man, which is, that if it is pretended that any person is a slave, not the man who maintains that he is so, but he who asserts his liberty, shall have the custody of that person, till the decision of the contest. And he said that Appius was obliged, on many accounts, to observe this institution; first, because he had inserted this very law with the rest in the Twelve Tables; and, in the next place, because he was chief of the decemvirate; and, besides, that he was invested not only with the consular, but also with the tribunitian, power, the principal function of which was to relieve such of the citizens as were weak and destitute of all other help. He then desired him to compassionate a virgin, who fled to him for assistance, and who had long since lost her mother, and was then deprived of her father, and in danger of losing not only her paternal fortunes, but also her husband, her country, and, the greatest of all human blessings, her liberty. And, having lamented the abuse to which the virgin would be delivered up, and by that means raised great compassion in all present, he at last spoke of the time to be appointed for the decision of this cause. [He urged that he be given custody of the girl until the return of her father. Appius however refused this request. Icilius, the virgin’s betrothed lover, protested that the outrage should never be consummated while he lived.]

Icilius was going on, when the lictors, by order of the magistrate, kept him off from the tribunal, and commanded him to obey the sentence. Upon which Claudius laid hold on the virgin, and was going to take her away, while she hung upon her uncle, and her spouse. The people, who stood round the tribunal, seeing her in so moving an agony, cried out all at once,[135] and, without regarding the authority of the magistrate, fell upon those who were endeavouring to force her away. So that Claudius, fearing the violence, quitted Virginia, and fled for refuge under the feet of the decemvir. Appius, seeing all the people in a rage, was at first greatly disordered, and in doubt for a considerable time what measures to take; then calling Claudius to the tribunal, and speaking a few words to him, as it seemed, he made a sign for the audience to be silent, and said: “Since I find you are exasperated at the sentence I have pronounced, citizens, I shall waive the exactness of that part of it which relates to the giving sureties by Claudius for the appearance of Virginia; and, in order to gratify you, I have prevailed upon my client to consent that the relations of the virgin shall bail her till the arrival of her father. Take away the virgin, therefore, Numitorius, and acknowledge yourself bound for her appearance to-morrow. For this time is sufficient for you both to give Virginius notice to-day, and to bring him hither in three or four hours from the camp to-morrow.” And they desiring further time, he gave no answer, but rose up, and ordered his seat to be taken away.

He left the Forum full of anguish, distracted with love, and determined not to relinquish the virgin any more to her relations; but when she was produced by her surety, to take her away by force; to place a stronger guard about his person, in order to prevent any violence from the multitude, and early to post a great number of his friends and clients round the tribunal. That he might execute this resolution with a show of justice under the pretence of the non-appearance of the father, he sent some horsemen, whom he chiefly confided in, to the camp with letters for Antonius, who commanded the legion in which Virginius served, to desire he would detain the man in safe custody, lest, when he was informed of the situation of his daughter, he might escape out of the camp. But his design was prevented by the son of Numitorius, and the brother of Icilius, who being sent away by the rest of her relations upon the first motion of this affair, as they were young, and full of spirit, rode full speed; and, arriving at the camp before the men sent by Appius, informed Virginius of everything which had passed; who, going to Antonius, and concealing the true cause of his request, pretended that he had received an account of the death of some near relation, whose funeral and burial he was obliged by the law to perform; and, by that means obtained his dismission; and, setting out in the evening with the youths, he took a byroad for fear of being pursued both from the camp, and the city; which really happened; for Antonius, having received the letters about the first watch, detached a party of horse after him, and others, sent from the city, patrolled all night in the road that led from the camp to Rome. When Appius was informed of the unexpected arrival of Virginius, he was in a fury; and, going to the tribunal with a great number of attendants, ordered the relations of Virginia to appear. When they were come, Claudius repeated what he had said before, and desired Appius to decide the contest without delay, saying that both his informer and his witnesses were present, and that he was ready to deliver up the slave herself to be examined. He ended all with a feigned lamentation, grounded on a supposed fear of not obtaining the same justice with others, as he had said before, because he was his client; and also with desiring that Appius would not relieve those whose complaints were the most affecting, but whose demands were the most equitable.

On the other side, the father of the virgin, and the rest of her relations, brought many just and well-grounded proofs to show the child could not have been supposed; alleging that the sister of Numitorius, and wife of Virginius,[136] could have no probable reason to suppose a child, since she was then young, and married to a young man, and had brought forth a child no very considerable time after her marriage; neither, if she had been ever so desirous to introduce a foreign offspring into her own family, would she have taken the child of another person’s slave, rather than that of a free woman united to her by consanguinity, or friendship, whose fidelity might have secured to her the possession of the child she had taken; and, when she had it in her power to take either a male or a female child, she would have certainly chosen the former. For, after a woman is brought to bed, if she wants children, she must necessarily be contented with, and bring up, whatever nature produces; whereas, a woman who supposes a child will, in all probability, choose one of that sex which excels the other. As to the informer, and the credible witnesses which Claudius said he would produce in great numbers, they disproved their testimony by this reason, drawn from probability, that Numitoria would never have done a thing openly, and in conjunction with witnesses of free condition, which required secrecy, and might have been transacted by one person, and, by that means, have exposed herself to have the girl taken from her by the master of the mother, after she had brought her up.

While they were alleging these reasons, and many others of equal weight, and such as could admit of no reply, and at the same time representing the calamities of the virgin in a very affecting manner, all who heard them, when they cast their eyes upon her, compassionated the distresses in which her beauty had involved her (for, being dressed in mourning, her looks fixed on the ground, and the lustre of her eyes drowned in tears, she attracted the regard of all the spectators; such was her beauty, and such her grace, that she appeared more than mortal), and all bewailed this unexpected turn of fortune, when they considered from what prosperity she was fallen, and to what abuses and insults she was going to be exposed. They also reflected that, since the law which had secured their liberty was violated, nothing could hinder their own wives and daughters also from suffering the same treatment. While they were making these, and the like reflections, and communicating them to one another, they could not refrain from tears. But Appius, who was not in his nature a man of sense, being then corrupted with the greatness of his power, his mind distempered, and his heart inflamed with the love of Virginia, paid no regard to the reasons alleged in her favour, nor was moved with her tears, but even resented the compassion shown to her by the audience; since he looked upon himself to deserve greater compassion and to suffer greater torments from that beauty which had enslaved him. Wrought up to madness, therefore, by all these incentives, he had the confidence both to make a shameless speech, by which he plainly confirmed the suspicion that he himself had contrived the calumny against the virgin, and to commit a tyrannical and cruel action.

For, while they were going on to plead in her favour, he commanded silence; and all being silent, and the people in the Forum flocking to the tribunal from a desire to hear what he would say, he often turned his eyes here and there to observe the number of his friends, who by his orders had posted themselves in different parts of the Forum, and then spoke as follows: “This is not the first time, Virginius, and you who attend with him, that I have heard of this affair; I was informed of it long ago, even before I was invested with this magistracy. Hear now by what means it came to my knowledge: The father of this Marcus Claudius, when he was dying, desired me to be trustee for his son, whom he was leaving an infant; for the Claudii are hereditary[137] clients to our family. During the time of this trust, I had information given me that Numitoria had supposed this girl, whom she had received from the slave of Claudius; and, upon examining into the matter, I found it was so. As it did not become me to stir in this affair myself, I thought it best to leave it to this man, when he grew up, either to take away the girl if he thought fit, or to come up to an accommodation with those who had brought her up, for a sum of money, or to gratify them with the possession of her. Since that time, being engaged in public affairs I gave myself no further concern about those of Claudius. But it is probable that when he was taking an account of his own fortunes he also received the same information concerning this girl which had before been given to me; neither does he claim anything unwarranted by law, in desiring to take the daughter of his own slave. If they would have accommodated this matter, it had been well; but, since it is brought into litigation, I give this testimony in his favour, and decree him to be the master of the girl.”

When those who were uncorrupted and friends of justice heard this sentence, they held up their hands to heaven, and raised an outcry mixed with lamentation and resentment; while the flatterers of the oligarchy gave acclamations capable of inspiring the men in power with confidence. And the assembly being inflamed and full of various expressions and agitations, Appius commanded silence, and said: “Disturbers of the public tranquillity, and useless both in peace and war, if you cease not to divide the city and to oppose us in the execution of our office, necessity shall teach you to submit. Think not that these guards in the Capitol and the fortress are placed there by us only to secure the city against a foreign enemy, and that we shall suffer you to sit here and taint the administration of the government. Be more prudent for the future than you are now; depart all of you who have nothing to do here, and mind your own affairs, if you are wise. And do you, Claudius, take the girl, and lead her through the Forum without fearing anyone, for the twelve axes of Appius shall attend you.” After he had said this, the people withdrew from the Forum, sighing, beating their foreheads, and unable to refrain from tears; while Claudius was taking away the virgin, who hung round her father, kissing him, and calling upon him with the most endearing expressions. In this distress Virginius resolved upon an action, deplorable indeed, and afflicting for a father, but at the same time becoming a lover of liberty and a man of great spirit; for, having desired leave to embrace his daughter for the last time without molestation, and to say what he thought fit to her in private before she was taken from the Forum, he obtained it from the magistrate; and his enemies retiring a little, he held her in his arms, while she was fainting, sinking to the ground, and scarce able to support herself, and for some time called upon her, kissed her, and wiped off her tears that flowed without ceasing; then, drawing her on by degrees, when he came to a cook’s shop, he snatched up a knife from the table and plunged it in her breast, saying only this, “I send thee, child, to the manes of thy ancestors with liberty and innocence, for if thou hadst lived, that tyrant would not have suffered thee to enjoy either.”[27] An[138] outcry being raised, he held the bloody knife in his hand, and, covered as he was with the blood of his daughter, he ran like a madman through the city and called the citizens to liberty. Then, forcing his way through the gates, he mounted a horse that stood ready for him, and rode to the camp accompanied by Numitorius, who had attended him from thence to the city. He was followed by about four hundred other plebeians.e


[449-445 B.C.]

The plebeian legions, infuriated by the story of the outrage, as related by Virginius, advanced on the city and invested the Aventine. Icilius in concert with the liberal patricians, L. Valerius Potitus and M. Horatius Barbatus, had already organised a party in Rome; and as the decemvirs, supported by a contingent of the old citizens, persisted in their refusal to relinquish their office, the plebeians, on the advice of M. Duilius, again withdrew in a body to the Sacred Mount on the Anio. This new secession forced the decemvirs to resign; and by means of negotiations with the senate carried on by Valerius and Horatius in the summer of 449, important concessions were gained, which assured—the old order of things having meanwhile been resumed—the future position of the plebs in the Roman state. As before there were appointed two magistrates (Valerius and Horatius being the first to fill this office) elected by the free choice of the citizens, to whom the name consul was now for the first time properly applied, and the plebs were again represented by their tribunes. The only legacy of the decemvirs to be taken up was the new system of laws, the complete revision and codification of all the legal forms and processes that had hitherto been current in Rome. In the “Twelve Tables” the whole Roman people had now a just and uniform code of marriage, property, civil, and criminal laws.[28][139] Apparently an attempt was made to mitigate their severity in certain respects; but the law of debtor and creditor still remained extremely harsh, and the maintenance of the prohibition against marriage between patricians and plebeians, with the denial of all legal rights to the issue of such marriages, kept alive the most intense phase of the animosity felt toward each other by the divided classes. On the other hand the new statutes sought to overthrow the former evil practices in consequence of which patricians and plebeians accused of capital political crimes were certain to receive severe sentence, the first from the tribal assembly, the second from the curiata. Hereafter the centuriate assembly was to be the sole organ of the people’s will in the trial and judgment of criminal offences. It was apparently at this epoch also that the Romans first caused their raw supplies of copper ore to be minted in copper coins.

Under the conduct of the consuls Horatius and Valerius, and of the able and energetic tribune of the plebs, M. Duilius, the affairs of Rome were soon brought into a condition of order and peace. A series of laws were set in operation which may be looked upon as the Magna Charta of the plebs, and on the proposition of the consuls the right of appeal was confirmed by the centuriate assembly, and given the most solemn and binding form, so that no magistrate (the dictator himself, who had retained all his former power, not excepted) who had pronounced sentence of death without admitting the right of appeal to the people could be a second time elected to office. The inviolability of the people’s tribunes was again declared, and safeguarded anew by a special enactment of the citizens under the sanction of the gods; and, representatives of the entire people as they were henceforth, their official organisation underwent important changes.

Roman Arms and Standard

This was the beginning of the period during which patricians were driven by various causes to seek the protection of the tribunes, and the senate frequently availed itself of their support to break the opposition of the consuls. Their share in the transactions of the senate was now formally recognised; but they could still impose only money penalties on patrician opponents summoned before the tribal assembly, and when they contemplated bringing a capital charge they were obliged to apply first to the patrician magistrate, who would himself lay the charge before the centuriata. With the increase in importance of their position the tribunes received the right to take auspices. The election of quæstors, who as yet acted only in matters of finance, was also given over, in 447, to the tribunes under supervision by the consuls.

The great advance made by the plebs during the crisis the state had passed through was best evidenced by the altered position of the tribal assembly which, in obedience to the Valerio-Horatian law that declared the decisions of the plebs as uttered in the tribal assembly to be binding on the entire people, was given equal rights with the centuriata and elevated[140] beside it to the importance of a second national assembly. Widely different interpretations have been given of the actual functions and position of the tribal assembly up to the time of the Tarentine War; but the views which seem most acceptable state that in order to become laws the decisions of the tributa in general matters, as well as those of the centuriata, needed the sanction of the senate, merely as a form, perhaps, and without any special proviso attached. The position of the senate appears to have remained unchanged in so far as that the tribunes were obliged to take counsel with that body and obtain its consent or authority before undertaking the passage of any measures that might require in their carrying out the full executive machinery of the state. This was the more necessary in that the senate, under the republic, had gradually assumed entire control of the state’s finances; and neither the consuls nor the dictator himself, with all his unlimited power, could touch any of the public funds without the senate’s express consent.

The tribal assembly, unhampered as it was by the complicated business routine that marked the proceedings of the centuriate assembly, offered the best field for the further development of the Roman state. Here the popular assemblies under the tribunes took a leading part in legislation, and the plebeians carried into the camp of the old citizens an active political war that was as ever directed towards levelling the distinctions that still separated them from the aristocratic classes, and gaining for themselves the rights and privileges that should be theirs under an impartial state rule.

Thus we see that from the close of the great crisis the plebs continued to gain ground slowly but surely. Aside from the rustic population, that lived widely scattered in villages or on country estates and were seldom brought into the current of political agitation unless great interests were at stake; there was still another class of plebeians who took no part in the general strife but bent their energies solely towards securing and making permanent their newly won advantage, and establishing peaceful relations with the aristocratic families. These designs were greatly aided by the fact that the leadership in all the upward movements of the plebs fell naturally into the hands of the richest and most able, politically, among them. It was only at a later period, when the issue at stake was the winning of a great political and agricultural victory for the benefit of the entire community, that the lesser and poorer peasant landholders, whose interests were more deeply involved than those of any other class, rose in union and brought to bear on the higher rank that mighty, irresistible pressure which is in their power to exert. Under these conditions the political conflict took on the character of a “class war,” with all the statesmanship, shrewdness, and craft, usual to such contests.


[445-421 B.C.]

The first successful assault made since the great crisis on the position of the aristocracy in the state was that of the tribune Caius Canuleius, who in 445 B.C. caused the passage of a rogation which raised the prohibition against marriages between patricians and plebeians, and declared the full legality of such contracts. The chief object of this reform was to assure the rank and position of the patrician father to the children of plebeian women, the old law having declared all children of mixed marriages to belong to the order of plebs. This victory was particularly important from a political point of view, since it paved the way for the final coalescence[141] of the two parties of the state. Encouraged by their success the tribunes prepared to push a new measure which, brought forward simultaneously with the rogation of Canuleius, had for design to facilitate the appointment of plebeians to the consulate, by leaving it open to the citizens to select for the office either plebeians or patricians. After a prolonged contest the old citizens yielded in so far as to effect a compromise agreeing to admit to consular power such plebeians as had distinguished themselves in a military career. The centuriate assembly appointed in place of consuls and to the same term of office military tribunes, invested with full consular authority, and to this position, which was decidedly inferior to that of consul in dignity and rank, plebeians were now eligible. For long this victory was one in theory only to the plebeians, the question constantly arising whether at the next election consuls or consular tribunes were to be appointed. Finally, in 444, the old-citizen party forced the newly elected military tribunes, among whom were doubtless two plebeians, to resign after only a few months, by pretexting errors made in taking the auspices at their election; and for the remainder of that year and the whole of the year following patrician consuls were appointed. As a result of such chicanery the consulship was filled by none but patricians up to the year 401 B.C.

Simultaneously with the establishment of consular tribunes the patricians introduced a new system of tactics to defend their political position, being led thereto partly by the constantly increasing mass of public affairs that passed under their hands. They withdrew one after the other from the consulship several important functions which they placed in the hands of officials newly created for that purpose, and thus secured to themselves the conduct of some of the weightiest of the state’s affairs. As the plebeian consular tribunes were persistently denied all share in the administration of justice, two new patrician officers of state were appointed called censors, to whom was entrusted the estimate and establishment every five years of the budget, the framing of the list of citizens, the assessment for taxation, the holding of the census, and the right of filling vacancies in the senate and of striking undesirable names off the lists of senators, knights, and citizens.

The office of censor as originally instituted was to last for the period of a lustrum, or five years; but in 434 the term was limited to one year and a half. Usually filled by former consuls or military tribunes, the position of censor gradually rose in dignity and power until it came to be the highest office in the Roman state. The later censors also had the right of punishing such citizens as had been guilty of dishonourable or immoral conduct, without laying themselves directly open to the action of the law, by means of a so-called censorial “note.” All senators who had fallen under their censure must resign their seat, all knights must forego performing their duties on horseback, and all citizens must withdraw from the associations of their tribe and submit to an increased tax.

Meanwhile the slow but steady onward march of the plebeians was not to be withstood. In the year 421 a proposal was made and adopted declaring them eligible to the quæstorship, and in 409 three out of four positions of quæstor were awarded to plebeian candidates. From the fact that after 400 one or more plebeians were regularly appointed to the military tribunate[29] it would appear that the road to political equality between the two great[142] Roman orders at last lay open. And indeed the nation would have progressed to full and peaceful development both at home and abroad had not the orderly course of events been suddenly and disastrously broken in upon by a terrible storm of war.


[483-449 B.C.]

Since the conclusion of the alliance with the Latins and the Hernicans scarcely a year had passed that was not marked by conflicts between the Romans, aided by their new allies, and one or another of their foes in central Italy—the attitude of the Romans during these hostilities, as late as the middle of the fifth century, being for the most part one of defence. At the time of the institution of the people’s tribunate Rome’s most dangerous enemy were the Etruscans of Veii, a people with whom she had waged, since 483, a bitter and disastrous frontier war. After a defeat suffered by the Veientines in 475, a truce to last four hundred months was concluded, which was not broken until 437.

During this time the feuds with other adversaries raged all the fiercer, that with the Sabines, which had commenced in 505, lasting until the great victory won by the consul, M. Horatius, in 449. Since then Rome’s peace had not been menaced from that quarter, all the vigorous young men of true Sabine blood having, as it appears, deserted their native cantons to follow the fortunes of their Sabellian kindred in the conquest of southern Italy. Hence the more prolonged and obstinately fought were the heavy wars carried on by the Romans against the brave Æquians, and those ancient foes of Latium, the mighty, warlike Volscians.b

While Rome in her early wars was for the most part triumphing over her enemies, and laying the foundations of her future power and glory, the daring enterprise of a handful of adventurers achieved what even the Gauls failed to accomplish, and struck a blow at her very heart. A band of slaves and exiles, amounting to about 4000, or not much more, and led by Herdonius, a Sabine, having descended the Tiber in boats in the dead of night, landed near the Capitoline Hill, apparently just beyond the wall which ran from the hill to the river, and where, as we have seen, its bank was unprotected. Hence Herdonius led his men towards the Forum and up the ascent of the Capitoline, without meeting with any resistance till he arrived at the Porta Pandana, and here only from the guard; for we have already mentioned that this gate was always left open. The guard being forced, the invaders proceeded up the hill, took possession of the Capitol and Arx, and invoked the slaves of Rome to strike for freedom. The origin of this daring attempt is involved in mystery. It may possibly have been organised by Cæso Quinctius, son of Cincinnatus, who was an exile; but that he took a personal share and perished in the enterprise, as Niebuhr, and after him Dr. Arnold, have assumed, there is not a tittle of evidence to show. It was not possible that the attempt should be permanently successful, yet, from the dissensions then prevailing at Rome, it caused great embarrassment and was only put down with the aid of the Tusculans. The Capitol was retaken by storm; Herdonius and many of his band were slain in the affray; the rest were captured and put to death.g

In these wars all the efforts of the Volscians were directed towards acquiring the territory to the north, and that on the seacoast and on the river Trerus, while the Æquians strove to extend their dominions westward and southwestward as far as the Latin-Roman domains.


[487-425 B.C.]

The Romans, on their side, sought to check the growth of the Volscians by spreading out parallel with them; and they immediately planted settlements or rather military posts all through the mountain regions between the Trerus and the Pomptine marsh, to separate the eastern tribes of the Volscians from those of the western. At times very serious in character, this war was carried on for a long period without any advantage to the Latins or the Romans, until at last, after 487, the struggle was brought almost to the very doors of Rome.[30] Step by step the Æquians pushed on until they gained possession of the Latin marshes as far as Mount Algidus, on the eastern wall of the Alban hills; and it was this chain of mountains that the latter made the starting-point of all their marauding expeditions into the Roman territory. It was 459 before a change came that was favourable to the Romans. In this year the western branch of the Volscians which for seventy years had not taken up arms against Rome, concluded a formal peace with the Romans, doubtless sacrificing thereto their capital, Antium, which had so frequently been the object of dispute. Relieved on that side, the Romans could now direct all their power against the Æquians and the eastern Volscians and in 431 there came a decidedly favourable turn in their affairs.

Probably the Volscians had been considerably weakened by incursions from the constantly expanding Sabellian tribes in their rear, and the Romans now took the offensive against them with growing success until piece by piece they regained all the territory that had formerly been taken from the Latins. The Æquians were driven back to their highlands, and the country of the eastern Volscians, turned into a seat of war, was traversed in 408 by the Romans who plundered on all sides. So weakened were Rome’s adversaries in 404 that they looked on passively at the siege and capture of Veii. In 400 Tarracina was taken, and in 393 Circeii was freshly colonised, so that even in the later period when it had attained its greatest size all of Latium was either subject or allied to Rome. Moreover as a result of these struggles, and during their course, the compact between the Romans and their Latin allies grew into a sort of hegemony, the Romans claiming the sole right to decide in all matters relating to wars and contracts, while the Latin prætors ceased to alternate with the Roman generals as commanders-in-chief of the army, and the positions of staff officers in the allied troops, at first open only to men appointed by the Romans, soon came to be filled almost exclusively by the Romans themselves.

The close of the fifth century was also marked by new conflicts between the Roman-Latin nations and the Veientines. The peace with this people which had lasted so many years came to an end in 438, when the Roman city Fidenæ, on the Tiber, fell into the possession of Veii. In 437 a war broke out that was interrupted in 434 by the conclusion of an eight years’ truce, then resumed until the total overthrow of Fidenæ in 425, after which it terminated in a second truce of twenty years. During all this period of truce the political situation of the Rasena, the race that had for long been powerful in Italy, was so adverse that the Romans were led to entertain the project of entirely destroying Veii and then proceeding northward from the Tiber on a grand conquering expedition against Etruria. The power of the Rasena had attained its height in the beginning of the fifth century when, firmly established on their three mainland districts, in alliance with the Carthaginians they made Greeks and Italians feel their supremacy on the[144] Tyrrhenian Sea. Etruria had also owned for many decades—as Carthage had, since 500, owned the island of Sardinia—the coast lands of Corsica; but these possessions were seriously threatened by the rise in power of the Hellenes.

[425-395 B.C.]

Since the crushing defeat suffered by the Etruscans in 474 at the hands of Hiero I of Syracuse and the Greeks of Cyme, in a sea battle near that town, Syracuse, Tarentum, and Massilia had further impaired their predominance on the Italian seas. The Campanian province of Etruria and northern Italy were also about that time menaced simultaneously by different but equally powerful enemies. The danger on the Campanian side was from the Sabellian populations. At the time of Tarquinius’ departure the Samnites had probably been long in possession of the mountainous regions extending between the lowlands of the Apulian and Campanian coasts, and since the middle of the fifth century had sent out successive conquering expeditions which, penetrating further and further southward and seaward, threatened equal danger to the Italians and the Etruscans. Simultaneously with the uprising of the Lucanian Sabellians in Magna Græcia, in the third decade before the close of the fifth century, Campanian Sabellians invaded the beautiful regions on the Gulf of Naples. In 420 the Greeks lost Cyme—henceforth Italian Cumæ—but continued to have dominion in and around Naples for several centuries, and in 424, when Etruscan Capua fell, the Rasena were driven forever from that part of Italy.

More disastrous still to the Rasena of northern Italy were the conquests of the Celts, a people destined to play the gloomy rôle of destroyer, who had lately made violent irruption among the Italian races.

Their irresistible onward sweep against the Etruscans seems to have taken place in the early part of the fifth century, some time after the first migratory tribes had wandered out of Gaul. During the last three decades of the century the Celtic swarms also crossed the Padus and extended their conquests into the lowlands as far as the Adriatic Sea. So engrossed were the Etruscans of the regions between the Arno and the Tiber in their efforts to repel these invading hordes, that they had neither time nor thought to give to Veii which had been harassed by the Romans since 405. This war, during the course of which Veii was first blockaded in 404, then regularly invested in 403, marks a threefold epoch in the history of Rome. With it the Romans took the first step in the perilous path of foreign conquest, and departed from their old-time custom of short summer campaigns, the troops remaining the whole winter through in the lines and camps with which Veii was surrounded. This innovation was made possible by a resolution adopted by the senate that foot soldiers should be paid wages by the state; and a great amelioration was brought in the condition of the peasants and their grown sons, who were obliged to leave their farms in charge of their wives and servants while serving in the army, though they were under the same necessity of raising tribute as before. The perseverance of the Romans, coupled with the ability of their first true military leader, M. Furius Camillus, at last gained for them a victory over the stubbornly defended town. The list of Rome’s great generals opens with the name of the conqueror of Veii. A man possessing in the highest degree all the qualities of a commander, he first came into prominence in 401; and it was as dictator, in 396, that he took Veii by storm and completely destroyed it as a political commonwealth, thereby achieving the greatest victory, from a political, military, and territorial point of view, that had fallen to the Roman arms since the expulsion of the Tarquinians.


[395-391 B.C.]

The warlike spirit of the Romans and their thirst for conquest were raised to a high pitch by this success. Soon their might extended unbroken from the limits of the Ciminian forest, then an impenetrable wilderness, which they conquered between 395 and 391, to the southern frontiers of Latium. But their difficult apprenticeship was not yet at an end, for just then the Celts subjected them to a test which their political and military ability could not withstand; and both in its inner and outer development the Roman state received a check from which it could not readily recover.b

Legends of the Volscian and Æquian Wars

There are some famous legends connected with these threefold wars, which cannot be omitted by any writer of Roman history. These are the legends of Coriolanus, of Cincinnatus, and of the Fabian gens. The exact time to which they refer is uncertain; nor is it material to determine. They fall, however, within the period now under consideration.


Caius Marcius was a youth of high patrician family, descended from the Sabine king, Ancus Marcius; and he was brought up by his mother Volumnia,[31] a true Roman matron, noble and generous, proud and stern, implacable towards enemies, unforgiving towards the faults of friends. Caius grew up with all the faults and virtues of his mother, and was soon found among the chief opponents of the plebeians. He won a civic crown of oak for saving a fellow-citizen at the battle of Lake Regillus, when he was seventeen years of age. But he gained his chief fame in the Volscian Wars. For the Romans, being at war with this people, attacked Corioli, a Latin city which then had fallen into the hands of the Volscians. But the assailants were driven back by the garrison; when Caius Marcius rallied the fugitives, turned upon his pursuers, and, driving them back in turn, entered the gates along with them; and the city fell into the hands of the Romans. For this brave conduct he was named after the city which he had taken, Caius Marcius Coriolanus.

Now it happened, after this, that the Roman people being much distressed by having their lands ravaged in war, and tillage being neglected, a great dearth ensued. Then Gelo, the Greek king of Syracuse, sent them ships laden with corn, to relieve the distress. It was debated in the senate how this corn should be distributed. Some were for giving it away to the poorer sort; some were for selling it at a low price; but Coriolanus, who was greatly enraged at the concessions that had been made to the plebeians, and hated to see them protected by their new officers, the tribunes, spoke vehemently against these proposals, and said: “Why do they ask us for corn? They have got their tribunes. Let them go back to the Sacred Hill, and leave us to rule alone. Or let them give up their tribunes and then they shall have the corn.” This insolent language wrought up the plebeians to a height of fury against Caius Marcius, and they would have torn him in pieces; but their tribunes persuaded them to keep their hands off; and then cited him before the assembly to give account of his conduct. The main body of the patricians were not inclined to assist Coriolanus; so, after some[146] violent struggles, he declined to stand his trial, but left Rome, shaking the dust from his feet against his thankless countrymen (for so he deemed them), and vowing that they should bitterly repent of having driven Caius Marcius Coriolanus into exile.

Banishment of Coriolanus

He went straight to Antium, another Latin city which had become the capital of the Volscians, and going to the house of Attius Tullius, one of the chief men of the nation, he seated himself near the hearth by the household gods, a place which among the Italian nations was held sacred. When Tullius entered, the Roman rose and greeted his former enemy: “My name,” he said, “is Caius Marcius; my surname, Coriolanus—the only reward now remaining for all my services. I am an exile from Rome, my country; I seek refuge in the house of my enemy. If ye will use my services, I will serve you well; if you would rather take vengeance on me, strike, I am ready.”

Tullius at once accepted the offer of the “banished lord”; and determined to break the treaty which there then was between his people and the Romans. But the Volscians were afraid to go to war. So Tullius had recourse to fraud. It happened that one Titus Atinius, a plebeian of Rome, was warned in a dream to go to the consuls, and order them to celebrate the great games over again, because they had not been rightly performed the first time. But he was afraid and would not go. Then his son fell sick and died; and again he dreamed the same dream; but still he would not go. Then he was himself stricken with palsy; and so he delayed no longer, but made his friends carry him on a litter to the consuls. And they believed his words, and the great games were begun again with increased pomp; and many of the Volscians, being at peace with Rome, came to see them. Upon this Tullius went secretly to the consuls, and told them that his countrymen were thronging to Rome, and he feared they had mischief in their thoughts. Then the consuls laid this secret information before the senate; and the[147] senate decreed that all Volscians should depart from Rome before sunset. This decree seemed to the Volscians to be a wanton insult, and they went home in a rage. Tullius met them on their way home at the fountain of Ferentina, where the Latins had been wont to hold their councils of old; and he spoke to them and increased their anger, and persuaded them to break off their treaty with the Romans. So the Volscians made war against Rome, and chose Attius Tullius and Caius Marcius the Roman to be their commanders.

The army advanced against Rome, ravaging and laying waste all the lands of the plebeians, but letting those of the patricians remain untouched. This increased the jealousy between the orders, and the consuls found it impossible to raise an army to go out against the enemy. Coriolanus took one Latin town after another, and even the Volscians deserted their own general to serve under his banners. He now advanced and encamped at the Cluilian Fossa, within five miles of the city.

Coriolanus received by the Volscians

(From a picture by Mirys)

Nothing was now to be seen within the walls but consternation and despair. The temples of the gods were filled with suppliants; the plebeians themselves pressed the senate to make peace with the terrible Coriolanus. Meantime the enemy advanced to the very gates of the city, and at length the senate agreed to send five men, chiefs among the patricians, to turn away the anger of their countryman. He received them with the utmost sternness; said that he was now general of the Volscians, and must do what was best for his new friends; that if they wished for peace they must restore all the lands and places that had been taken from the Volscians, and must admit these people to an equal league, and put them on an equal footing with the Latins. The deputies could not accept these terms, so they returned[148] to Rome. The senate sent them back, to ask for milder terms; but the haughty exile would not suffer them to enter his camp.

Then went forth another deputation, graver and more solemn than the former—the pontiffs, flamens, and augurs, all attired in their priestly robes, who besought him, by all that he held sacred, by the respect he owed to his country’s gods, to give them assurance of peace and safety. He treated them with grave respect, but sent them away without relaxing any of his demands.

It seemed as if the glory of Rome were departing, as if the crown were about to be transferred to the cities of the Volscians. But not so was it destined to be. It chanced that as all the women were weeping and praying in the temples, the thought arose among them that they might effect what patricians and priests had alike failed to do. It was Valeria, the sister of the great Valerius Publicola, who first started the thought, and she prevailed on Volumnia, the stern mother of the exile, to accompany the mournful train. With them also went Virgilia, his wife, leading her two boys by the hand, and a crowd of other women. Coriolanus beheld them from afar, as he was sitting on a raised seat among the Volscian chiefs, and resolved to send back them also with a denial. But when they came near, and he saw his mother at the head of the sad procession, he sprang from his seat, and was about to kiss her. But she drew back with all the loftiness of a Roman matron, and said: “Art thou Caius Marcius, and am I thy mother? or art thou the general of the Volscian foe, and I a prisoner in his camp? Before thou kissest me, answer me that question.” Caius stood silent, and his mother went on: “Shall it be said that it is to me, to me alone, that Rome owes her conqueror and oppressor? Had I never been a mother, my country had still been free. But I am too old to feel this misery long. Look to thy wife and little ones; thou art enslaving thy country, and with it thou enslavest them.” The fierce Roman’s heart sank before the indignant words of her whom he had feared and respected from his childhood; and when his wife and children hanging about him added their soft prayers to the lofty supplications of his mother, he turned to her with bitterness of soul, and said: “O my mother, thou hast saved Rome, but lost thy son!”

So he drew off his army, and the women went back to Rome and were hailed as the saviours of their country. And the senate ordered a temple to be built and dedicated to “Woman’s Fortune” (Fortuna Muliebris); and Valeria was the first priestess of the temple.

But Coriolanus returned to dwell among the Volscians; and Tullius, who had before become jealous of his superiority, excited the people against him, saying that he had purposely spared their great enemy the city of Rome, even when it was within their grasp. So he lost favour, and was slain in a tumult;[32] and the words he had spoken to his mother were truly fulfilled.c

Critical Examination of the Story of Coriolanus

“If we examine the particulars of the foregoing narrative,” says Wilhelm Ihne, “we find that no single feature of it can be considered historical, and that it consists altogether of baseless fictions of a later period, which betray a great want of skill in the invention of a probable narrative, and even ignorance of the institutions and manners of the Roman people. The conquest of Corioli is evidently invented to account for the name Coriolanus. For the[149] whole of the alleged history of the campaign in which Corioli is reported to have been conquered, the annalists, as Livy himself admits, had no positive testimony. And so thoughtless and ignorant were the Roman annalists, that they mentioned as the benefactor of the distressed Romans the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse. This chronological error was discovered by the learned archæologist Dionysius, who was too well acquainted with the history of his disreputable namesake of Syracuse to suppose that he could have sent corn to Rome about half a century before he was born. He therefore substitutes Gelo as the Greek tyrant who is said to have sent the corn. It is evident that the removal of a gross blunder does not amount to positive evidence, and the learning and ingenuity of Dionysius are therefore thrown away.

“The accusation and sentence of Coriolanus by the plebs, almost immediately after the first election of tribunes, was impossible. According to Livy, the Volscians conquered, in the course of one summer, twelve—and, according to Dionysius, fourteen—Latin towns, overran the whole of Latium, and penetrated into the immediate neighbourhood of Rome. When we consider what a small measure of success usually followed a campaign, how difficult, even in the time of their undisputed supremacy, the Romans found it to reduce a single town, it may well be looked upon as a miracle that the Volscians took seven towns, as Dionysius says, in thirty days. But what is still more wonderful than the rapid conquest of so many Latin towns by the Volscians, is the ready restoration of them to the Latins.

“As a punishment for this treachery, which the Volscians, as it appears, were obliged to submit to, they were reported to have cruelly murdered Coriolanus at the end of the campaign. Yet another, and probably older, form of the legend says nothing of this revenge, but allows him to attain a great age among the Volscians, and to lament his banishment from his fatherland. The simple-minded old annalist saw nothing unnatural in the fact that a Roman exile should restore to the Romans towns conquered by the military strength of the Volscians.

“The germ from which the whole legend sprang is the story of the filial love of Coriolanus, and of the great authority exercised in olden times by Roman matrons over their sons and husbands. Now it is not beyond the range of possibility that, at one time or other, a Roman party leader, expelled in one of the numerous civil broils, may have joined the national enemies, and may have been induced by the tears of his mother and wife to desist from hostilities against his native city; but the story of Coriolanus, as given by Livy and Dionysius, relates things utterly impossible in Rome. The Roman senate could at no time have dreamed of sending an embassy of priests to ask for peace from a public enemy; still less can we reconcile a deputation of matrons with what we know of Roman manners and law, granting even that such a deputation was self-appointed, and not formally commissioned by the senate to act for the Roman people.”d


In the course of these wars, Minucius, one of the consuls, suffered himself to be cut off from Rome in a narrow valley of Mount Algidus, and it seemed as if hope of delivery there was none. However, five horsemen found means to escape and report at Rome the perilous condition of the consul and his army. Then the other consul consulted the senate, and it was[150] agreed that the only man who could deliver the army was L. Quinctius Cincinnatus. Therefore this man was named dictator, and deputies were sent to acquaint him with his high dignity.

Now this Lucius Quinctius was called Cincinnatus, because he wore his hair in long curling locks (cincinni); and, though he was a patrician, he lived on his own small farm, like any plebeian yeoman. This farm was beyond the Tiber, and here he lived contentedly with his wife Racilia.

Two years before he had been consul, and had been brought into great distress by the conduct of his son Cæso, a wild and insolent young man, who despised the plebeians and hated their tribunes, like Coriolanus. Like Coriolanus, he was impeached by the tribunes, but on very different grounds. One Volscius Fictor alleged that he and his brother, an old and sickly man, had been attacked by Cæso and a party of young patricians by night in the Subura; his brother had died of the treatment then received. The indignation of the people rose high; and Cæso, again like Coriolanus, was forced to go into exile. After this the young patricians became more insolent than ever, but they courted the poorest of the people, hoping to engage them on their side against the more respectable plebeians. Next year all Rome was alarmed by finding that the Capitol had been seized by an enemy during the night. This enemy was Appius Herdonius, a Sabine, and with him was associated a band of desperate men, exiles and runaway slaves. The first demand he made was that all Roman exiles should be restored. The consul, P. Valerius, collected a force, and took the Capitol. But he was himself killed in the assault, and L. Quinctius Cincinnatus, father of the banished Cæso, was chosen to succeed him. When he heard the news of his elevation, he turned to his wife and said, “I fear, Racilia, our little field must remain this year unsown.” Then he assumed the robe of state, and went to Rome. Now it was believed that Cæso had been concerned in the desperate enterprise that had just been defeated. What had become of him was unknown, but that he was already dead is pretty certain; and his father was very bitter against the tribunes and their party, to whom he attributed his son’s disgrace and death. P. Valerius, the consul, had persuaded the plebeians to join in the assault of the Capitol, by promising to gain them further privileges: this promise Cincinnatus refused to keep, and used all his power to frustrate the attempts of the tribunes to gain its fulfilment. At the end of his year of office, however, when the patricians wished to continue him in the consulship, he positively declined the offer, and returned to his rustic life as if he had never left it.

It was two years after these events that the deputies of the senate, who came to invest him with the ensigns of dictatorial power, found him working on his little farm. He was clad in his tunic only; and as the deputies advanced, they bade him put on his toga, that he might receive the commands of the senate in seemly guise. So he wiped off the dust and sweat, the signs of labour, and bade his wife fetch his toga, and asked anxiously whether all was right or not. Then the deputies told him how the army was beset by the Æquian foe, and how the senate looked to him as the saviour of the state. A boat was provided to carry him over the Tiber; and when he reached the other bank he was greeted by the senate, who followed him to the city, while he himself walked in state, with his four-and-twenty lictors. Cincinnatus then chose L. Tarquitius as his master of the horse. This man was a patrician, but, like the dictator himself, was poor—so poor that he could not afford to keep a horse, but was obliged to serve among the foot-soldiers.


That same day the dictator and his master of the horse came down into the Forum, ordered all shops to be shut, and all business to be suspended. All men of the military age were to meet them in the Field of Mars before sunset, each man with five days’ provisions and twelve stakes; the older men were to get the provisions ready, while the soldiers were preparing the stakes. Thus all was got ready in time; the dictator led them forth, and they marched so rapidly that by midnight they had reached Mount Algidus, where the army of the consul was hemmed in.

Then the dictator, when he had discovered the place of the enemy’s army, ordered his men to put all their baggage down in one place, and then to surround the enemy’s camp. They obeyed, and each one raising a shout, began digging the trench and fixing his stakes, so as to form a palisade round the enemy. The consul’s army, which was hemmed in, heard the shout of their brethren, and flew to arms; and so hotly did they fight all night, that the Æquians had no time to attend to the new foe, and next morning they found themselves hemmed in on all sides by the trench and palisade, so that they were now between two Roman armies. They were thus forced to surrender. The dictator required them to give up their chiefs, and made their whole army pass under the yoke, which was formed by two spears fixed upright in the ground, and a third bound across them at the top.

Cincinnatus returned to Rome amid the shouts and exultation of his soldiers; they gave him a golden crown, in token that he had saved the lives of many citizens; and the senate decreed that he should enter the city in triumph.

So Cincinnatus accomplished the purpose for which he had been made dictator in twenty-four hours. One evening he marched forth to deliver the consul, and the next evening he returned victorious. But he would not lay down his high office till he had avenged his son Cæso. Accordingly he summoned Volscius Fictor, the accuser, and had him tried for perjury. The man was condemned and banished; and then Cincinnatus once more returned to his wife and farm.c

Critical Examination of the Story of Cincinnatus

“That this story belongs less to the region of history than to that of fancy,” says Ihne, “is evident from the physical impossibilities it contains. The distance between Rome and the hill Algidus is more than twenty miles. This distance the Roman army under Cincinnatus is said to have accomplished between nightfall and midnight, though the soldiers were burthened with three or four times the usual number of stakes for intrenchments. Then, after such a march, the men were set to work to make a circumvallation round the whole Æquian army, which itself enclosed the army of Minucius, and must, therefore, have occupied a considerable extent of ground. The work of circumvallation was accomplished in the same night, uninterrupted by the Æquians, though the Romans at the very commencement had raised a shout to announce their arrival to the blockaded army of Minucius. With these details the story is, of course, mere nonsense. But if, following the example of Dionysius, we strip off from the popular legend all that is fanciful, exaggerated, or impossible, and place the heroic deed of Cincinnatus on such a footing that it assumes an air of probability, we shall gain nothing, because by such a rationalising process we shall not be able to convert a legend into genuine history.”


“We arrive at the same conclusion by observing the fact that the story of Cincinnatus, in its general and characteristic features, is related no less than five times.”d

Defeat of the Fabii


It has already been related that, after the final expulsion of the Tarquins, the patricians withdrew from the plebeians those rights which they had originally obtained from King Servius, and which had been renewed and confirmed to them during the time that the Tarquins were endeavouring to return. And for a number of years it appears that the Fabii engrossed a great share of this power to themselves. For we find in the lists of consuls that for seven years running (from 485 to 479 B.C.), one of the two consuls was always a Fabius. Now these Fabii were the chief opponents of the Agrarian law; and Cæso Fabius, who was three times consul in the said seven years, was the person who procured the condemnation of Sp. Cassius, the great friend of the plebeians. This Cæso, in his second consulship, found himself as unpopular as Appius Claudius. His soldiers refused to fight against the enemy. But in his third consulship, which fell in the last of the seven years, he showed an altered spirit, he and all his house. For the Fabii saw the injustice they had been guilty of towards the plebeians, and the injury they had been doing to the state; and Cæso himself came forward, and proposed that the Agrarian law of Sp. Cassius should be carried into full effect. But the patricians rejected the proposal with scorn; and so the whole Fabian gens determined to leave Rome altogether. They thought they could serve their country better by warring against the Veientines[153] than by remaining at home. So they assembled together on the Quirinal Hill, in all 306 men, besides their clients and followers, and they passed under the Capitol, and went out of the city by the right-hand arch of the Carmental gate. They then crossed the Tiber, and marked out a place on the little river Cremera, which flows into the Tiber below Veii. Here they fortified a camp, and sallied forth to ravage the lands of the Veientines and drive their cattle.

So they stood between Rome and Veii for more than a year’s time, and the Romans had peace on that side, whereas the Veientines suffered greatly. But there was a certain day, the Ides of February, which was always held sacred by the Fabii, when they offered solemn sacrifices on the Quirinal Hill, to the gods of their gens. On this day, Cæso their chief led them forth for Rome; and the Veientines, hearing of it, laid an ambush for them, and they were all cut off. And the plebeians greatly mourned the loss of their patrician friends, and Menenius, the consul, who was encamped near at hand, but did not assist them, was accused by the tribunes of treacherously betraying them, as has been above recorded.

But one young Fabius, who was then a boy, was left behind at Rome when the rest of his gens went forth to settle on the Cremera. And he (so it was said) was the father of the Fabii who were afterwards so famous in the history of Rome. After this, it is said, the men of Veii asked and obtained a peace of forty years.c


[19] [It must be remembered, however, that formerly Rome had been a member of the Latin league; while the treaty of 493 was ratified by Rome on the one side and the Latin league on the other.]

[20] [In the time of the Punic Wars, however, we find the tribunes sometimes undertaking long journeys on public commissions.]

[21] [This idealised view is not held by all scholars.]

[22] [More probably, according to Herzog,m his bill never became a law; and, as no record was made of unpassed bills, we do not know the precise nature of his proposal. Possibly it aimed to give the peasants a better title to the lands they held.]

[23] [According to some authorities, he was hurled from the Tarpeian Rock; other ancient writers assert that his father put him to death.]

[24] [The comitia centuriata was now the great legislative body. At this early period the tribunes could influence legislation by moral suasion or by obstructing the levy of troops, disturbing public business, and threats of violence. The tribal assembly had as yet no legislative power. Cf. Herzog.m]

[25] [As long as the function of the tribunes was limited to the protection of the weak and to the obstruction of public business, an increase in number added strength; but when they acquired a right to initiate legislation, their great number weakened them, as the text makes clear.]

[26] [Recent researches convince Fisken that Appius Claudius was a liberal, far-sighted statesman, neither brutal nor unnecessarily despotic; but it is hardly probable that anything can now dispel the traditional view. Unfavourable contemporary judgments are seldom reversed by posterity.]

[27] [Livyh makes Virginius say: “In this manner, my child, the only one in my power, do I secure your liberty.” Livy continues as follows: “Then looking back on Appius, ‘With this blood, Appius,’ said he, ‘I devote thee and thine head to perdition.’ Appius, alarmed by the cry raised at such a horrid deed, ordered Virginius to be seized. But he, clearing a passage with the weapon wherever he went, and protected also by a great number of young men who escorted him, made his way to the gate. Icilius and Numitorius raised up the lifeless body and exposed it to the view of the people, deploring the villainy of Appius, the fatal beauty of the maiden, and the necessity which had urged the father to the act. The matrons who followed joined their exclamations: ‘Are these the consequences of rearing children? Are these the rewards of chastity?’ with other mournful reflections, such as are suggested by grief to women, and which, from the greater sensibility of their tender minds, are always the most affecting. The discourse of the men, and particularly of Icilius, turned entirely on their being deprived of the protection of tribunes, and consequently of appeals to the people, and on the indignities thrown upon all.”]

[28] [The Twelve Tables were considered as the foundation of all law, and Cicero always mentions them with the utmost reverence. But only fragments remain, and those who have bestowed the greatest labour in examining these can give but an imperfect account of their original form and contents. A few provisions only can be noticed here.

(1) The patricians and their clients should be included in the plebeian tribes. And when we speak of clients, we must now comprehend also the freedmen (libertini), who were a large and increasing class. Further, the three old patrician tribes now, or before this, became obsolete; and henceforth a patrician was known not as a Ramnian, a Titian, or a Lucerian, but as a burgess of the Pollian, Papirian, or some other local tribe.

(2) The law of debt was left in its former state of severity. But the condition of borrowing money was made easier; for it was made illegal to exact higher interest than 10 per cent. For this is the meaning of fœnus unciarium. Uncia (derived from unus) is one of the twelve units into which the as was divided, each being one-twelfth part of the whole. Now ⅟₁₂ of the capital is 8⅓ per cent.; but as the old Roman year was only ten months, we must add two months’ interest at the same rate; and this amounts to 10 per cent. for the year of twelve months.

(3) No private law or privilegium—that is a law to impose any penalty or disability on a single citizen, similar in character to our bills of attainder—was to be made.

(4) There was to be an appeal to the people from the sentence of every magistrate; and no citizen was to be tried for his life except before the centuriate assembly.

(5) The old law or custom prohibiting all intermarriage (connubium) between the two orders was now formally confirmed, and thus a positive bar was put to any equalisation of the two orders. No such consummation could be looked for, when the code of national law proclaimed them to be of different races, unfit to mingle one with the other.

(6) To this may be added the celebrated law by which any one who wrote lampoons or libels on his neighbours was liable to be deprived of civil rights (diminutio capitis). By this law the poet Nævius was punished when he assailed the great family of the Metelli.c]

[29] [As a matter of fact, plebeians were represented in the office for but two or three years; it then fell exclusively into the hands of the patricians. Cf. Herzog.m]

[30] [“After these events,” says Eutropius,f “a census was held in the city, in which the number of the citizens was found to be 119,319.”]

[31] [That is, according to Plutarch.i Other authorities give Veturia as the name of his mother and Volumnia as that of his wife.]

[32] [Eutropiusf writes him this dismal epitaph: “He was the next after Tarquin that acted as general against his country.”]

The Body of Virginia Carried through the Streets of Rome




We come now to a period in which Roman courage and fortitude were put to a severe test—when one of the unknown peoples of the north, henceforth to be familiar as Gauls, invaded Italy, and came, at last, to the walls of Rome itself. They were hardy warriors, as full of courage seemingly as the Romans themselves, and accustomed to carry all before them.

The exact details of their conflict with the Romans have been so mingled with tradition that no one, nowadays, pretends to know just what they really were. A full story of their alleged doings is given by Livy,c and may well be reproduced here as showing what has passed for history during all these centuries, and what is, perhaps, as near to history as we can hope to attain in this matter. If for no other reason we must turn to this account because it contains incidents that have become proverbial. It is here, for example, that one finds the tale of the cackling geese which awakened Marcus Manlius, and through him saved the city from the Gauls, who were surreptitiously scaling the heights. Here, again, is the story that the Romans, forced finally to capitulate through famine and pestilence, made complaint of unfair weights used by the Gauls, and that Brennus, the conquering leader, threw his sword into the scale, crying insolently, “Woe to the conquered!” The dramatic climax, with true theatrical precision, makes the once exiled Camillus, now dictator of the Romans, appear just at this moment to offer the insolent Brennus the sword instead of gold, and in the final outcome to conquer him and his hosts, destroying them to the last man.

This is the completion of the story which Livy and his successors have made famous for all time. It matters little now as to just how much of this is true, and how much fable; and even if it did matter, the facts can never be known. We must be content, despite all the bickerings of specialists as to this or that feature of the transaction, to believe that the Gauls actually did invade Italy at this period; that they actually did conquer and ravish Rome, destroying most of its precious records, and that finally, for some reason unknown to us, the conquerors retired, leaving the Romans to rebuild their city and to take up anew the interrupted course of their progress.

The lasting importance of the invasion was, perhaps, due more to the destruction of the Roman records, thus shutting us out from the true history of early Roman times, than to any other direct evils which the Gauls inflicted upon their enemies.a



[391-390 B.C.]

The course of Roman history, hitherto disturbed only by petty border wars, now suffers a great convulsion. Over her neighbours on the east and north the republic was in the ascendant; on the west the frail oligarchies of Etruria had sunk before Camillus and his hardy soldiers; when, by an untoward union of events, Rome saw her best general banished, and heard of the barbarian host which was wasting the fair land of Italy. The Gauls burst upon Latium and the adjoining lands with the suddenness of a thunderstorm. It swept over the face of Italy, crushing and destroying. The Etruscans were weakened by it; and if Rome herself was laid prostrate, the Latins also suffered greatly, the Volscians trembled, and the Æquians were irrecoverably weakened.

The Gauls were a tribe of that large race of mankind who are known under the name of Celts, and who at the time in question peopled nearly the whole of western Europe, from the heart of Germany to the ocean. The northern and central parts of the continents were already in the hands of various nations, called by the common name of Germans or Teutons, to whom belonged the Goths, Saxons, Danes, Normans, Lombards, Franks, and Alamanni, while the Celts possessed France, a great part of Germany, most of Spain and Portugal, together with the British Isles. Of these Celts there were two great divisions, commonly called Gael and Cymri, differing in habits and language. The ancient inhabitants of France were Gael, those of Britain and Belgica were Cymri; and the Druidical religion, though sometimes adopted by the Gael, was properly and originally Cymric. Gael are still found in Ireland and in the Highlands of Scotland; Cymri in Wales and Low Brittany; and they have left traces of their name in Cumberland.

Before the time we are now speaking of, there had been a great movement in the Celtic nations. Two great swarms went out from Gaul. Of these, one crossed the Alps into Italy; the other, moving eastward, in the course of time penetrated into Greece, and then passed into Asia Minor, where they were known under the name of Galatians.

It is supposed that the Gael who dwelt in the eastern parts of Gaul, being oppressed by Cymric tribes of the west and north, went forth to seek new homes in distant lands, as in later times the Gothic and German nations were driven in the contrary direction by the Huns and other Asiatic hordes, who were thronging into Europe from the east. At all events, it is certain that large bodies of Celts passed over the Alps before and after this time, and having once tasted the wines and eaten the fruits of Italy, were in no hurry to return from that fair land into their own less hospitable regions. The course taken by these adventurers was probably over divers passes of the Alps, from the Mount Cenis and the Little St. Bernard to the Simplon. Pouring from these outlets, they overran the rich plains of northern Italy, and so occupied the territory which lies between the Alps, the Apennines, and the Adriatic, that the Romans called this territory Gallia Cisalpina, or Hither Gaul. The northern Etruscans gave way before these fierce barbarians, and their name is heard of no more in those parts. Then the Gauls crossed the Apennines into southern Etruria, and while they were ravaging that country they first came in contact with the sons of Rome.

The common date for this event is 390 B.C. How long before this time the Gallic hordes had been pouring into Italy we know not. But whenever it was that they first passed over the Alps, it is certain that now they first crossed the Apennines.


The tribe which took this course were of the Senones, as all authors say, and therefore we may suppose they were Gaelic; but it has been thought they were mixed with Cymri, since the name of their king or chief was Brennus, and brenhin is Cymric for “a king.” They are described as large-limbed, with fair skins, yellow hair, and blue eyes, in all respects contrasted with the natives of southern Italy. Their courage was high, but their tempers fickle. They were more fitted for action than endurance; able to conquer, but not steady enough to maintain and secure their conquests.

Brennus and his barbarians (it was said or sung) passed into Etruria at the invitation of Aruns, a citizen of Clusium (Chiusi), whose daughter had been dishonoured by a young Lucumo or noble of the same place. To avenge his private wrongs this Etruscan called in the Gauls, as Count Julian in the Spanish romance called in the Moors to avenge the seduction of his daughter by Roderic the Goth. The Gauls, nothing loath, crossed the mountains, and laid siege to Clusium; on which the Etruscans of the city, terrified and helpless, despairing of effectual succour from their own countrymen, sent to seek aid from the city of the Tiber, which had conquered so many old Etruscan cities. Common danger makes friends of foes; and the senate determined to support the Etruscans against the barbarians. However, all they did was to send three ambassadors, sons of Fabius Ambustus, the pontifex maximus, to warn the Gauls not to meddle further with the men of Clusium, for Clusium was the ally of Rome. The barbarians took slight notice of the message, and continued the war. Now it chanced that there was a battle fought while the three Fabii were still at Clusium; and they, forgetting their peaceful character of envoys, took part with the Clusians against the Gauls, and one of them was seen stripping the arms off a Gallic champion whom he had slain. The barbarians, in high wrath, demanded to be led straight against the city whose sons were so faithless; but their chiefs restrained them, and sent an embassy to Rome demanding that the envoys should be given up. Then the senate, not caring to decide so weighty a matter, referred it to the people; and so far was the people from listening to the demands of the Gaul, that at the comitia next ensuing, these very envoys were all three elected military tribunes. On hearing of this gross and open insult, Brennus broke up his camp at Clusium, and marched southward for Rome. The river Clanis, upon which stood Clusium, led them down to the Tiber beneath Volsinii. Having crossed that river, and pouring down its left bank, they found themselves confronted by the Romans on the banks of the Allia, a little stream that rises in the Sabine hills and empties itself into the Tiber at a point nearly opposite the Cremera. Their left rested on the Tiber, the Allia was in their front, and their right occupied some hilly ground. Brennus attempted not to attack in front, but threw himself with an overpowering force upon the right flank of the enemy; and the Romans, finding their position turned, were seized with panic fear and fled. The greater part plunged into the Tiber in the hope of escaping across the river to Veii, and many made their escape good; but many were drowned, and many pierced by Gallic javelins. A small number reached Rome.b


[390 B.C.]

The miraculous attainment of so sudden a victory held even the Gauls in a state of stupefaction. And at first they stood motionless with panic, as if not knowing what had happened; then they apprehended a stratagem; at[157] length they began to collect the spoils of the slain, and to pile up the arms in heaps, as is their custom. Then, at length, when no appearance of anything hostile was anywhere observed, having proceeded on their journey, they reach the city of Rome not long before sunset: where, when some horsemen, who had advanced before, brought back word that the gates were not shut, that no guard was posted before the gates, no armed troops on the walls, another cause of amazement similar to the former made them halt; and dreading the night and ignorance of the situation of the city, they posted themselves between Rome and the Anio, after sending scouts about the walls and the several gates to ascertain what plans the enemy would adopt in their desperate circumstances.

Battle between Romans and Gauls at the River Allia

With respect to the Romans, as the greater part had gone to Veii from the field of battle, and no one supposed that any survived except those who had fled back to Rome—being all lamented as lost, both those living and those dead—they caused the entire city to be filled with wailings. The alarm for the public interest stifled private sorrow, as soon as it was announced that the enemy were at hand. Presently the barbarians patrolling around the walls in troops, they heard their yells and the dissonant clangour of their arms. All the interval up to the next day kept their minds in such a state of suspense that an assault seemed every moment about to be made on the city: on their first approach, when they arrived at the city (it was expected); for if this were not their design, that they would have remained at the Allia; then towards sunset, because there was not much of the day remaining, they imagined that they would attack them before night; then that the design was deferred until night, in order to strike the greater terror. At length the approach of light struck them with dismay; and the calamity itself followed closely upon their continued apprehension of it, when the[158] troops entered the gates in hostile array. During that night, however, and the following day, the state by no means bore any resemblance to that which had fled in so dastardly a manner at the Allia. For as there was not a hope that the city could be defended, so small a number of troops now remaining, it was determined that the youth fit for military service, and the abler part of the senate with their wives and children, should retire into the citadel and Capitol, having collected stores of arms and corn; and thence from a fortified post, that they should defend the deities, and the inhabitants, and the Roman name: that the flamen (Quirinalis) and the vestal priestesses should carry away far from slaughter and conflagration the objects appertaining to the religion of the state; and that their worship should not be intermitted, until there remained no one who could continue it. If the citadel and Capitol, the mansion of the gods, if the senate, the source of public counsel, if the youth of military age, should survive the impending ruin of the city, the loss of the aged, the crowd left behind in the city, and who were sure to perish[33] under any circumstances would be light. And in order that the plebeian portion of the multitude might bear the thing with greater resignation, the aged men, who had enjoyed triumphs and consulships, openly declared that they would die along with them, and that they would not burden the scanty stores of the armed men with those bodies, with which they were now unable to bear arms, or to defend their country. Such was the consolation addressed to each other by the aged now destined to death.

Their exhortations were then turned to the band of young men, whom they escorted to the Capitol and citadel, commending to their valour and youth whatever might be the remaining fortune of a city which for 360 years had been victorious in all its wars. When those who carried with them all their hope and resources parted with the others, who had determined not to survive the ruin of their captured city, both the circumstance itself and the appearance (it exhibited) was really distressing, and also the weeping of the women and their undecided running together, following now these, now those, and asking their husbands and children what was to become of them, (all together) left nothing that could be added to human misery. A great many of them, however, escorted their friends into the citadel, no one either preventing or inviting them; because the measure which was advantageous to the besieged, that of reducing the number of useless persons, was but little in accordance with humanity.

The rest of the crowd, chiefly plebeians, whom so small a hill could not contain, nor could they be supported amid such scarcity of corn, pouring out of the city as if in one continued train, repaired to the Janiculum. From thence some were dispersed through the country, some made for the neighbouring cities, without any leader or concert, following each his own hopes, his own plans, those of the public being given up as lost. In the meantime the flamen Quirinalis and the vestal virgins, laying aside all concern for their own affairs, consulting which of the sacred deposits should be carried with them, which should be left behind, for they had not strength to carry them all, or what place would best preserve them in safe custody, considered it best to put them into casks and to bury them in the chapel adjoining to the residence of the flamen Quirinalis, where then it was profane to spit out. The rest they carried away with them, after dividing the burden among themselves, by the road which led by the Sublician bridge to the Janiculum.


Meanwhile at Rome, all arrangements being now made, as far as was possible in such an emergency, for the defence of the citadel, the crowd of aged persons having returned to their houses, awaited the enemy’s coming with minds firmly prepared for death. Such of them as had borne curule offices, in order that they might die in the insignia of their former station, honours, and merit, arraying themselves in the most magnificent garments worn by those drawing the chariots of the gods in procession, or by persons riding in triumph, seated themselves in their ivory chairs, in the middle of their halls. Some say that they devoted themselves for their country and the citizens of Rome, Marcus Fabius, the chief pontiff, dictating the form of words.

The Gauls, both because by the intervention of the night they had abated all angry feelings arising from the irritation of battle, and because they had on no occasion fought a well-disputed fight, and were then not taking the city by storm or violence, entering the city the next day, free from resentment or heat of passion, through the Colline Gate which lay open, advance into the Forum, casting their eyes around on the temples of gods, and on the citadel, which alone exhibited any appearance of war. From thence, after leaving a small guard, lest any attack should be made on them whilst scattered, from the citadel or Capitol, they dispersed in quest of plunder; the streets being entirely desolate, some of them rushed in a body into the houses that were nearest; some repair to those which were most distant, considering these to be untouched and abounding with spoil.

Afterwards being terrified by the very solitude, lest any stratagem of the enemy should surprise them whilst being dispersed, they returned in bodies into the Forum and the parts adjoining to the Forum, where the houses of the commons being shut, and the halls of the leading men lying open, almost greater backwardness was felt to attack the open than the shut houses; so completely did they behold with a sort of veneration men sitting in the porches of the palaces, who besides their ornaments and apparel more august than human, bore a striking resemblance to gods, in the majesty which their looks and the gravity of their countenance displayed. Whilst they stood gazing on these as on statues, it is said that Marcus Papirius, one of them, roused the anger of a Gaul by striking him on the head with the ivory, while he was stroking his beard, which was then universally worn long; and that the commencement of the bloodshed began with him, that the rest were slain in their seats. After the slaughter of the nobles, no person whatever was spared; the houses were plundered, and when emptied were set on fire.

But whether it was that all were not possessed with a desire of destroying the city, or it had been so determined by the leading men of the Gauls, both that some fires should be presented to their view (to see) if the besieged could be forced into a surrender through affection for their dwellings, and that all the houses should not be burned down, so that whatever portion should remain of the city, they might hold as a pledge to work upon the minds of the enemy; the fire by no means spread either indiscriminately or extensively on the first day, as is usual in a captured city.

The Romans beholding from the citadel the city filled with the enemy, and their running to and fro through all the streets, some new calamity presenting itself in every different quarter, were neither able to preserve their presence of mind, nor even to have perfect command of their ears and eyes. To whatever direction the shouts of the enemy, the cries of women and children, the crackling of the flames, and the crash of falling[160] houses, had called their attention, thither, terrified at every incident, they turned their thoughts, faces, and eyes, as if placed by fortune to be spectators of their falling country, and as if left as protectors of no other of their effects, except their own persons: so much more to be commiserated than any others who were ever besieged, because, shut out from their country, they were besieged, beholding all their effects in the power of the enemy. Nor was the night, which succeeded so shockingly spent a day, more tranquil; daylight then followed a restless night; nor was there any time which failed to produce the sight of some new disaster. Loaded and overwhelmed by so many evils, they did not at all abate their determination (resolved) though they should see everything in flames and levelled to the dust, to defend by their bravery the hill which they occupied, small and ill-provided as it was, being left (as a refuge) for liberty. And now, as the same events recurred every day, as if habituated to misfortunes, they abstracted their thoughts from all feeling of their circumstances, regarding their arms only, and the swords in their right hands, as the sole remnants of their hopes.

The Gauls also, after having for several days waged an ineffectual war against the buildings of the city, when they saw that among the fires and ruins of the captured city nothing now remained except armed enemies, neither terrified by so many disasters nor likely to turn their thoughts to a surrender, unless force were employed, determined to have recourse to extremities, and to make an attack on the citadel. A signal being given at break of day, their entire multitude was marshalled in the Forum; thence, after raising the shout and forming a testudo, they advanced to the attack. Against whom the Romans, acting neither rashly nor precipitately, having strengthened the guards at every approach, and opposing the main strength of their men in that quarter where they saw the battalions advancing, suffered the enemy to ascend, judging that the higher they ascended, the more easily would they be driven back down the steep. About the middle of the ascent they met them; and making a charge thence from the higher ground, which of itself bore them against the enemy, they routed the Gauls with slaughter and destruction, so that never after, either in parties or with their whole force, did they try that kind of fighting.

Laying aside all hope of succeeding by force of arms, they prepare for a blockade; of which having had no idea up to that time, they had, whilst burning the city, destroyed whatever corn had been therein, and during those very days all the provisions had been carried off from the land to Veii. Accordingly, dividing their army, they resolved that one part should plunder through the neighbouring states, that the other part should carry on the siege of the citadel, so that the ravagers of the country might supply the besiegers with corn.

The Gauls, who marched from the city, were led by fortune herself, to make trial of Roman valour, to Ardea, where Camillus was in exile: who, more distressed by the fortune of the public than his own, whilst he now pined away arraigning gods and men, fired with indignation, and wondering where were now those men who with him had taken Veii and Falerii, who had conducted other wars rather by their own valour than by the favour of fortune, heard on a sudden that the army of the Gauls was approaching, and that the people of Ardea in consternation were met in council on the subject.

Both friends and enemies were satisfied that there existed nowhere at that time a man of equal military talent. The assembly being dismissed,[161] they refreshed themselves, carefully watching for the moment the signal should be given; which being given, during the silence of the beginning of the night they attended Camillus at the gates. Having gone forth to no great distance from the city, they found the camp of the Gauls, as had been foretold, unprotected and neglected on every side, and attacked it with a shout. No fight anywhere, but slaughter everywhere; their bodies, naked and relaxed with sleep, were cut to pieces. Those most remote, however, being roused from their beds, not knowing what the tumult was, or whence it came, were directed to flight, and some of them, without perceiving it, into the midst of the enemy. A great number flying into the territory of Antium, an attack being made on them in their straggling march by the townspeople, were surrounded and cut off.

A like carnage was made of the Tuscans in the Veientian territory; who were so far from compassionating the city which had now been its neighbour for nearly four hundred years, overpowered as it now was by a strange and unheard-of enemy, that at that very time they made incursions on the Roman territory; and laden with plunder, had it in contemplation to lay siege to Veii, the bulwark and last hope of the Roman race. The Roman soldiers had seen them straggling over the country, and collected in a body, driving the spoil before them, and they perceived their camp pitched at no great distance from Veii. Upon this, first self-commiseration, then indignation, and after that resentment, took possession of their minds: “Were their calamities to be a subject of mockery to the Etrurians, from whom they had turned off the Gallic war on themselves?” Scarce could they curb their passions, so as to refrain from attacking them at the moment; and being restrained by Quintus Cædicius, the centurion, whom they had appointed their commander, they deferred the matter until night. A leader equal to Camillus was all that was wanted; in other respects matters were conducted in the same order and with the same fortunate result. And further, under the guidance of some prisoners, who had survived the nightly slaughter, they set out to Salinæ against another body of Tuscans; they suddenly made on the following night still greater havoc, and returned to Veii exulting in their double victory.

Meanwhile, at Rome, the siege, in general, was slow, and there was quiet on both sides, the Gauls being intent only on this, that none of the enemy should escape from between their posts; when, on a sudden, a Roman youth drew on himself the admiration both of his countrymen and the enemy. There was a sacrifice solemnised at stated times by the Fabian family on the Quirinal Hill. To perform this Caius Fabius Dorso having descended from the Capitol, in the Gabine cincture, carrying in his hands the sacred utensils, passed out through the midst of the enemy’s post, without being at all moved by the calls or threats of any of them, and reached the Quirinal Hill; and after duly performing there the solemn rites, coming back by the same way with the same firm countenance and gait, confident that the gods were propitious, whose worship he had not even neglected when prohibited by the fear of death, he returned to the Capitol to his friends, the Gauls being either astounded at such an extraordinary manifestation of boldness, or moved even by religious considerations, of which the nation is by no means regardless.

In the meantime, not only the courage, but the strength of those at Veii increased daily, not only those Romans repairing thither from the country who had strayed away after the unsuccessful battle, or the disaster of the city being taken, but volunteers also flowing in from Latium, to come in for share of the spoil. It now seemed high time that their country should be[162] recovered and rescued from the hands of the enemy. But a head was wanting to this strong body. The very spot put them in mind of Camillus, and a considerable part consisted of soldiers who had fought successfully under his guidance and auspices, and Cædicius declared that he would not give occasion that any one, whether god or man, should terminate his command rather than that, mindful of his own rank, he would himself call (for the appointment of) a general. With universal consent it was resolved that Camillus should be sent for from Ardea, but not until the senate at Rome were first consulted; so far did a sense of propriety regulate every proceeding, and so carefully did they observe the distinctions of things in their almost desperate circumstances. They had to pass at great risk through the enemy’s guards. For this purpose a spirited youth, Pontius Cominius, offered his services, and supporting himself on cork was carried down the Tiber to the city. From thence, where the distance from the bank was shortest, he makes his way into the Capitol over a portion of the rock that was craggy, and therefore neglected by the enemy’s guard: and being conducted to the magistrates, he delivers the instructions received from the army. Then having received a decree of the senate, both that Camillus should be recalled from exile at the comitia curiata, and be forthwith appointed dictator by order of the people, and that the soldiers should have the general whom they wished, he passed out the same way and proceeded with his despatches to Veii; and deputies being sent to Camillus to Ardea, conducted him to Veii: or else the law was passed by the curiæ, and he was nominated dictator in his absence; for I am more inclined to believe that he did not set out from Ardea until he found that the law was passed; because he could neither change his residence without an order of the people, nor hold the privilege of the auspices in the army until he was nominated dictator.

Whilst these things were going on at Veii, in the meanwhile the citadel and Capitol of Rome were in great danger. For the Gauls either having perceived the track of a human foot where the messenger from Veii had passed, or having of themselves remarked the easy ascent by the rock at the temple of Carmentis, on a moonlight night, after they had at first sent forward an unarmed person, to make trial of the way, delivering their arms, whenever any difficulty occurred, alternately supported and supporting each other, and drawing each other up, according as the ground required, they reached the summit in such silence that they not only escaped the notice of the sentinels, but of the dogs also, an animal extremely wakeful with respect to noises by night.

A Roman Soldier

The notice of the geese they did not escape, which, as being sacred to Juno, were spared though they were in the greatest scarcity of food. Which circumstance was the cause of their preservation. For Marcus Manlius, who three years before had been consul, a man distinguished in war, being aroused from sleep by their cackling and the clapping of their wings, snatched up his arms, and at the same time calling the others to do the same, proceeded to the spot; and whilst the others were thrown into confusion, he struck with[163] the boss of his shield and tumbled down a Gaul, who had already got footing on the summit; and when the fall of this man as he tumbled threw down those who were next him, he slew others, who in their consternation had thrown away their arms, and caught hold of the rocks to which they clung. And now the others also having assembled, beat down the enemy by javelins and stones, and the entire band, having lost their footing, were hurled down the precipice in promiscuous ruin. The alarm then subsiding, the remainder of the night was given up to repose (as far as could be done considering the disturbed state of their minds), when the danger, even though past, still kept them in a state of anxiety.

Day having appeared, the soldiers were summoned by sound of trumpet to attend the tribunes in assembly, when recompense was to be made both to merit and to demerit; Manlius was first of all commended for his bravery and presented with gifts, not only by the military tribunes, but with the consent of the soldiers, for they all carried to his house, which was in the citadel, a contribution of half a pound of corn and half a pint of wine: a matter trifling in the relation, but the prevailing scarcity had rendered it a strong proof of esteem, when each man, depriving himself of his own food, contributed in honour of one man a portion subtracted from his body and from his necessary requirements. Then the guards of that place where the enemy had climbed up unobserved, were summoned; and when Quintus Sulpicius declared openly that he would punish all according to the usage of military discipline, being deterred by the consentient shout of the soldiers who threw the blame on one sentinel, he spared the rest. The man, who was manifestly guilty of the crime, he threw down from the rock, with the approbation of all. From this time forth the guards on both sides became more vigilant; on the part of the Gauls, because a rumour spread that messengers passed between Veii and Rome, and on that of the Romans, from the recollection of the danger which occurred during the night.

But beyond all the evils of siege and war, famine distressed both armies; pestilence, moreover, oppressed the Gauls, both as being encamped in a place lying between hills, as well as heated by the burning of the houses, and full of exhalations, and sending up not only ashes but embers also, whenever the wind rose to any degree; and as the nation, accustomed to moisture and cold, is most intolerant of these annoyances, and, suffering severely from the heat and suffocation, they were dying, the diseases spreading as among cattle, now becoming weary of burying separately, they heaped up the bodies promiscuously and burned them; and rendered the place remarkable by the name of Gallic piles.

A truce was now made with the Romans, and conferences were held with the permission of the commanders; in which when the Gauls frequently alluded to the famine, and referred to the urgency of that as a further motive for their surrendering, for the purpose of removing that opinion, bread is said to have been thrown in many places from the Capitol, into the advanced posts of the enemy. But the famine could neither be dissembled nor endured any longer. Accordingly, whilst the dictator is engaged in person in holding a levy, in ordering his master of the horse, Lucius Valerius, to bring up the troops from Veii, in making preparations and arrangements, so that he may attack the enemy on equal terms, in the meantime the army of the Capitol, wearied out with keeping guard and with watches, having surmounted all human sufferings, whilst nature would not suffer famine alone to be overcome, looking forward from day to day, to see whether any succour would come from the dictator, at length not only food but hope also[164] failing, and their arms weighing down their debilitated bodies, whilst the guards were being relieved, insisted that there should be either a surrender, or that they should be bought off, on whatever terms were possible, the Gauls intimating in rather plain terms, that they could be induced for no very great compensation to relinquish the siege. Then the senate was held and instructions were given to the military tribunes to capitulate.

Upon this the matter was settled between Quintus Sulpicius, a military tribune, and Brennus, the chieftain of the Gauls, and one thousand pounds weight of gold was agreed on as the ransom of a people, who were soon after to be the rulers of the world. To a transaction very humiliating in itself, insult was added. False weights were brought by the Gauls, and on the tribune objecting, his sword was thrown in in addition to the weight by the insolent Gaul, and an expression was heard intolerable to the Romans, “Woe to the vanquished!”

The Romans’ Treaty with the Gauls

(After Mirys)

But both gods and men interfered to prevent the Romans from living on the condition of being ransomed; for by some chance, before the execrable price was completed, all the gold being not yet weighed in consequence of the altercation, the dictator comes up, and orders the gold to be removed, and the Gauls to clear away. When they, holding out against him, affirmed that they had concluded a bargain, he denied that the agreement was a valid one, which had been entered into with a magistrate of inferior authority without his orders, after he had been nominated dictator; and he gives notice to the Gauls to get ready for battle. He orders his men to throw their baggage in a heap, and to get ready their arms, and to recover their country with steel, not with gold, having before their eyes the temples of the gods, and their wives and children, and the soil of their country disfigured by the calamities of war, and all those objects which they were[165] solemnly bound to defend, to recover, and to revenge. He then draws up his army, as the nature of the place admitted, on the site of the half-demolished city, and which was uneven by nature, and he secured all those advantages for his own men, which could be prepared or selected by military skill.

The Gauls, thrown into confusion by the unexpected event, take up arms, and with rage, rather than good judgment, rushed upon the Romans. Fortune had now changed; now the aid of the gods and human prudence assisted the Roman cause. At the first encounter, therefore, the Gauls were routed with no greater difficulty than they had found in gaining the victory at Allia. They were afterwards beaten under the conduct and auspices of the same Camillus, in a more regular engagement, at the eighth stone on the Gabine road, whither they had betaken themselves after their defeat. There the slaughter was universal: their camp was taken, and not even one person was left to carry news of the defeat.

The dictator, after having recovered his country from the enemy, returns into the city in triumph; and among the rough military jests which they throw out on such occasions he is styled, with praises by no means undeserved, Romulus, and parent of his country, and a second founder of the city. His country, thus preserved by arms, he unquestionably saved a second time in peace, when he hindered the people from removing to Veii, both the tribunes pressing the matter with greater earnestness after the burning of the city, and the commons of themselves being more inclined to that measure; and that was the cause of his not resigning his dictatorship after the triumph, the senate entreating him not to leave the commonwealth in so unsettled a state.c


[390-349 B.C.]

Such was the conclusion of the legend. But, unfortunately for Roman pride, here also, as in the tale of Porsenna, traces of true history are preserved which show how little the Roman annalists regarded truth. Polybius tells us, as if he knew no other story, that the departure of the Gauls was caused by the intelligence that the Venetians, an Illyrian tribe, had invaded their settlements in northern Italy, and that they actually received the gold and marched off unmolested to their homes. It is added by a later historian, that Drusus, the elder brother of the emperor Tiberius, recovered this very gold from the Gauls of his own day.

The Gauls left the city in ruins, in whatever way they were compelled to retire, whether by the sword of Camillus, or by the softer persuasion of gold. Two later inroads of the Gauls are distinguished by two famous legends: the last, or nearly the last, which occur in the pages of Roman history.

In the Manlian house there was a family which bore the name of Torquatus. This name was said to have been won by T. Manlius, who fought with a gigantic Gallic champion on the bridge over the Anio in 361 B.C., and slew him. From the neck of the slain enemy he took the massy chain (torques) which the Gallic chiefs were in the habit of wearing. He put it round his own neck, and returning in triumph to his friends, was ever after known by the name of T. Manlius Torquatus. Of him we shall hear more.

Again, when L. Camillus, a nephew of the great Camillus, was pursuing the Gauls through the Volscian plains in 349 B.C., a champion challenged[166] any one of the Roman youth to single combat. The challenge was readily accepted by M. Valerius, who, by the side of the huge Gaul, looked like a mere stripling. At the beginning of the combat (wonderful to tell) a crow lighted upon his helmet; and as they fought, the bird confounded the Gaul by flying in his face and striking him with his beak, and flapping its wings before his eyes; so that he fell an easy conquest to the young Roman. Hence M. Valerius was ever after known by the name of Corvus, and his descendants after him. Him also we shall hear of hereafter; for he lived to be a great general, and more than once delivered his country from great danger.b

Thus runs the legend of the first great event in Roman history—an event so important that the echo reached even to Greece. “The capture of Rome by the Gauls,” says George Cornewall Lewis,f “is the first event in Roman history which, so far as we know, attracted the notice of the contemporary Greeks. Plutarch says that Heraclides of Pontus spoke of a report from the far West, which described an Hellenic city called Rome, situated somewhere near the great sea, as having been taken by an army from the distant land of the Hyperboræans.”

Ihneg is very incredulous of most of the legends, even suggesting that the legend of the geese had an ætiological origin and was merely invented to explain a religious ceremony in which a dog was impaled and a goose decorated with gold, instead of being actually the origin of that annual ceremony. Lewis, however, finds the older story amply substantiated.[34] Among the chief sceptics are Mommsen,h Schwegler,i and Paisj the most radical of all. Niebuhr’se story of the whole event is worth quoting, beginning with his comments on the story that Aruns of Clusium brought in the Gauls.a


Though history rejects the incident as demonstrably false, it is well suited to the legend; and every legend which was current among the people long before the rise of literature among them, is itself a living memorial of ancient times,—even though its contents may not be so,—and deserves a place in a history of Rome written with a due love for the subject.

The determination to sacrifice the old men certainly cannot be called inconceivable in a people of antiquity. This however is inconceivable, that they should have been so far influenced by the example of the patricians, as to await their doom like devoted victims. Could they be sure that a wished-for death would speedily release them? that wanton cruelty would not protract it by torture? that they should not be driven along as slaves, without regard to their strength, at the mere caprice of the barbarians? They might have defended the walls and the gates, might have maintained a resistance with all sorts of missiles in the interior of the city, might have made many of their enemies share their fate; had the quarters that held out been set fire to, the victor would have been deprived of his spoil. But in fact Livy is the only writer who speaks of this torpid resignation. Others related that, while all the rest of the people quitted their homes, eighty priests and aged patricians of the highest rank sat down in the Forum on their curule thrones in festal robes awaiting death. That such a resolution should have been freely taken by[167] men of the same class, who deemed it intolerable to outlive the republic and the worship of the gods, is by no means improbable; least of all if, after resolving to face death, they solemnly devoted themselves by the hands of the chief pontiff for the republic and for the destruction of her foes. On the other hand it is utterly inconceivable that the chief part of the women and children should not have retired from the city, where every kind of insult and outrage inevitably awaited them, when it was yet possible for them to be saved by flight. It is said that a great number pressed forward at the last moment and gained admittance into the Capitol and the citadel; as if, had this been feasible, they would not all have forced their way in; as if that small place could have held more than the men requisite to defend it, with provisions for them. Finally, the story that the Romans in their despair did not close the gates of the city, and that nothing but the fear of some stratagem withheld the conquerors from marching in, sounds very incredible. On this point, however, we do not want any internal reasons; since the authentic account in Diodorus states that the Gauls, on finding the walls entirely deserted, burst open the gates.

It would be extremely unjust to impute what has here been said about Livy’s narrative to a design of detracting from his merits. Such criticisms cannot impair his imperishable fame. As soon as we cease to call for what it was Livy’s least care to supply, nothing remains to disturb the pleasure which his description must yield to every unprejudiced mind. If there be one so distempered as to forego that pleasure, because his account has been proved to be historically untenable, we may pity, but we must not indulge its perverseness.

A writer who adopts a dry and neglected report in preference to a well-known and masterly narrative, must justify himself, and show that it is not from the love of paradox, that he has discarded the more beautiful story. [Niebuhr reminds his readers of his previously expressed admiration for Livy with renewed assurances of his entire sincerity. He then concludes thus eloquently]: And in his own peculiar excellencies, in that richness and that warmth of colouring which many centuries after were the characteristics of the Venetian painters born under the same sky, Livy never shone more brilliantly than in this very description; a more vivid one is not to be found in any Latin or Greek historian.e


[390-384 B.C.]

We can imagine better than describe the blank dismay with which the Romans, on the departure of the Gauls, must have looked upon their ancient homes. Not only was the country ravaged, as had often happened in days of yore, but the city itself, except the Capitol, was a heap of ruins. It is not strange that once again the plebeians should have thought of quitting Rome forever. Not long before they had wished to migrate to Veii; now, they had actually been living there for many months. Rome no longer existed; patriotism, they said, no longer required them to stand by their ancient home; why should not all depart—patricians with their clients and freedmen, as well as plebeians—and make a new Rome at Veii? In vain Camillus opposed these arguments with all the influence which his late services had given him. Standing in the Forum, under shadow of the Capitol, with the citadel defended by Manlius over their heads, in the sight of their country’s gods, now brought back from Cære, the plebeians were[168] ready to agree to a general migration of the whole people, when (so runs the story) a sudden omen changed their hearts. A certain centurion was leading a party of soldiers through the city, and, halting them in the Forum while the question was in hot debate, he used these memorable words: “Standard-bearer, pitch the standard here; here it will be best for us to stay!”

It was therefore resolved to rebuild the city, and the senate did all in their power to hasten on the work. They took care to retrace, as far as might be, the ancient sites of the temples; but it was impossible to prescribe any rules for marking out the streets and fixing the habitations of the citizens. All they did was to supply tiling for the houses at the public expense. So men built their houses where they could, where the ground was most clear of rubbish, or where old materials were most easy to be got. Hence, when these houses came to be joined together by others, so as to form streets, these streets were narrow and crooked, and, what was still worse, were often built across the lines of the ancient sewers, so that there was now no good and effectual drainage. The irregularity continued till Rome was again rebuilt after the great fire in the time of the emperor Nero.

Great were the evils that were caused by this hurry. The healthiness of the city must have been impaired, order and decency must have suffered, but there was one particular evil at the moment which threatened very great mischief. The mass of the people, having little or nothing of their own, or having lost all in the late destruction, were obliged to borrow money in order to complete their dwellings: and as tillage had for the last season been nearly suspended, the want and misery that prevailed were great. Now again, as after the wars against the Tarquins, many of the poorer sort were reduced to bondage in the houses of the wealthy.

Then it was that M. Manlius, the defender of the Capitol, stood forth as the patron of the poor. He saw a debtor being taken to prison, whom he recognised as a brave centurion that had formerly served with him in the wars. He instantly paid the man’s debt, and set him free. Then, selling the best part of his landed property, he declared that, while he could prevent it, he would never see a fellow-citizen imprisoned for debt. His popularity rose high, and with the poorer sort the name of M. Manlius was more in esteem than that of the great Camillus. Nor did he content himself with relieving want; he also stepped forward as an accuser of the patricians and senators: they had divided among themselves, he said, part of the gold which had been raised to pay the Gauls. On the other hand, the patricians asserted that Manlius was endeavouring to make himself tyrant of Rome, and that this was the real purpose of all his generosity. The senate ordered a dictator to be named, and A. Cornelius Cossus was chosen. He summoned Manlius before him, and required him to prove the charge which he had maliciously brought against the ruling body. He failed to do so and was cast into prison, but claimed to be regularly tried before the whole people assembled in their centuries; and his claim was allowed. On the appointed day he appeared in the Campus Martius, surrounded by a crowd of debtors, every one of whom he had redeemed from bondage. Then he exhibited spoils taken from thirty enemies slain by himself in single combat; eight civic crowns, bestowed each of them for the life of a citizen saved in battle, with many other badges given him in token of bravery. He laid bare his breast and showed it all scarred with wounds, and then, turning to the Capitol, he called those gods to aid whom he had saved from the sacrilegious hands of the barbarians. The appeal was felt, and if the centuries had then[169] given their votes, he would certainly have been acquitted of high treason. So his enemies contrived to break up that assembly; and shortly after he was put on his trial in another place, the Peteline grove, whence (it is said) the Capitol could not be seen. Here he was at once found guilty, and condemned to be thrown down the Tarpeian rock. A bill was then brought in and passed, enacting that his house on the Capitol should be destroyed, and that no one of his gens should hereafter bear the forename of Marcus.[35]

[384-376 B.C.]

But something was done to relieve the poor. The lands which had been taken from the Veientines on the right bank of the Tiber were now incorporated into the Roman territory and divided into four tribes, so that all free men settled in these districts became burgesses of Rome, and had votes in the comitia both of the centuries and tribes. This politic measure, however, served no less to conciliate the affections of their new Etrurian subjects than to benefit their own poor citizens. Moreover an attempt was made to plant a number of poor citizens in the Pontine district. Yet these measures were insufficient to heal the breach which still subsisted between the patricians and plebeians. Nothing could be effectual to this end but the admission of the plebeians to the chief magistracy; and a struggle now commenced for that purpose.

A Roman Artisan

It has been said that all difference between the patrician and plebeian orders was rapidly disappearing, or rather that the patrician families were gradually becoming fewer, while many plebeian families were rising to wealth and power. Already we have seen the plebeians obtain a footing in the senate; they were allowed to fill the offices of quæstor and ædile, and, as military tribunes, could command the armies of the state; but to the highest curule offices, as the censorship and consulship, they were not admissible, the reason given being, that for these offices the auguries must be taken and no religious rites could be performed save by persons of pure patrician blood. This now began to be felt to be a mockery. Men saw with their own eyes and judged with their own understanding that patricians and plebeians were men of like natures, were called on alike to share burdens and danger in the service of the state, and therefore ought to share alike the honours and dignities which she conferred.[170] So Canuleius argued many years before, so the plebeians thought now; and two resolute tribunes arose, who at length carried the celebrated laws by which plebeians were admitted to the highest honours. These were C. Licinius Stolo and L. Sextius, his kinsman.

There is a well-known story of the manner in which they were first roused to the undertaking. It runs thus: M. Fabius Ambustus, a patrician, had two daughters, the elder married to Ser. Sulpicius, a patrician, the younger to C. Licinius, a plebeian. It happened that Sulpicius was consular tribune in the same year that Licinius was tribune of the plebs; and as the younger Fabia was on a visit to her sister, Sulpicius, returning home from the Forum with his lictors, alarmed the plebeian’s wife by the noise he made in entering the house. The elder sister laughed at this ignorance; and the younger Fabia, stung to the quick, besought her husband to place her on a level with her proud sister. But the story must be an invention—because Licinius’ wife could not have been ignorant of the dignities of the office; and because there was nothing to prevent Licinius himself from being consular tribune, and thus equal to his brother-in-law.[36]


[376 B.C.]

However this might be, Licinius and Sextius, being tribunes of the plebs together in the year 376 B.C., promulgated the three bills which have ever since borne the name of the Licinian Rogations. These were:

I. That of all debts on which interest had been paid, the sum of the interest paid should be deducted from the principal, and the remainder paid off in three successive years.

II. That no citizen should hold more than five hundred jugera (nearly 320 acres) of the public land, nor should feed on the public pastures more than one hundred head of larger cattle and five hundred of smaller, under penalty of a heavy fine.

III. That henceforth consuls, not consular tribunes, should always be elected, and that one of the two consuls must be a plebeian.

Of these laws, the first is of a kind not very uncommon in rude states of society. If persons lend and borrow money they enter into a legal contract, and the state is bound to maintain this contract. Cases will occur when the borrower is unable to pay his debts, and that from no fault or neglect of his own; and the laws provide for cases of insolvency in which the insolvent is not guilty of fraud. But if the state were to cancel all legal debts, persons would be very slow to lend money at all, and thus credit and commerce would be destroyed. At Rome, after the Gallic War, as at Athens in the time of Solon (when a similar ordinance was passed), all things were in such confusion that it might be necessary to resort to arbitrary measures; and we may well believe that Licinius, himself a wealthy man, would not have interfered but for necessity. But the precedent was bad; and in later times one of the worst means used by demagogues was a promise of novæ tabulæ, or an abolition of all debts.

The second law was a general agrarian law. Former agrarian laws had merely divided certain portions of public land among the needy citizens; but this laid down a general rule, by which the holding (possessio) of all[171] such lands was to be limited. The purpose of Licinius was good. He wished to maintain that hardy race of yeomen who were the best soldiers in the state-militia; whereas if all these lands were absorbed by the rich, they would be cultivated by hired labourers or slaves. The subsequent history will show how unfortunate it was for Rome that this law was not more fully executed.

[376-368 B.C.]

At first the patricians were equally opposed to all these laws; they were the chief creditors, and therefore would lose by the first law; they held the bulk of the public lands on easy terms, and therefore would lose by the second; they alone could be consuls, and therefore they could not brook the third. We need not therefore wonder at a violent resistance; nor is it wonderful that they should enlist many rich plebeians on their side, for these persons would suffer as much as themselves from the first two laws. Accordingly we find that some tribunes were found to put a veto on the bills. But Licinius and Sextius would not be thus thwarted, and themselves turned the powerful engine of the veto against their opponents. When the time of the elections arrived they interdicted all proceedings in the comitia of the centuries; consequently no consuls, consular tribunes, censors, or quæstors could be elected. The tribunes and ædiles, who were chosen at the comitia of tribes, were the only officers of state for the ensuing year.

This state of things (as the Roman annalists say) lasted for five years,[37] Licinius and Sextius being re-elected to the tribunate every year. But in the fifth year, when the people of Tusculum, old allies of Rome, applied for aid against the Latins, the tribunes permitted consular tribunes to be elected to lead the army, and among them was M. Fabius Ambustus, the father-in-law and friend of Licinius. The latter, far from relaxing his claims, now proposed a fourth bill, providing that, instead of two keepers of the Sibylline books (duumviri), both patricians, there should be ten (decemviri), to be chosen alike from both orders—so scornfully did he treat the pretensions of the patricians to be sole ministers of religion.

The latter felt that the ground was slipping from under them, and that the popular cause was daily gaining strength. In vain did the senate order a dictator to be named for the purpose of settling the matter in their favour. The great Camillus assumed the office for the fourth time, but resigned; and P. Manlius Capitolinus, who was named presently after, effected nothing.

Once more, as when the patricians were in opposition to the tribunes, Terentilius and Canuleius, so now did the more moderate party propose a compromise. The law respecting the keepers of the Sibylline books was allowed to pass, and it was suggested that the two former of the Licinian rogations, the two social laws, might be conceded, if the plebeians would not press the political law, and claim admission to the highest curule rank. But this the tribunes refused. They could not, they said, effectually remedy the social evils of their poor brethren unless they had access to the highest political power; and they declared they would not allow the first two bills to become law unless the third was passed together with them. “If the people will not eat,” said Licinius, “neither shall they drink.” In vain the patricians endeavoured to turn this declaration against them; in vain they represented the tribunes as ambitious men who cared not really for the wants of the poor in comparison of their own honour and dignity; in vain the mass of the plebeians avowed themselves ready to accept the compromise. The tribunes set their faces like iron against the threats of the higher sort and the[172] supplications of the lower. For another five years the grim conflict lasted, till at length their resolution prevailed, and in the year 367 B.C. all the three Licinian rogations became law.

This great triumph was achieved with little tumult (so far as we hear) and no bloodshed. Who can refuse his admiration to a people which could carry through their most violent changes with such calmness and moderation?

But the patricians, worsted as they were, had not yet shot away all their arrows. At the first election after these laws were passed, L. Sextius was chosen the first plebeian consul. Now the consuls, though elected at the comitia of the centuries, were invested with the imperium or sovereign power by a law of the curies. This law the patricians, who alone composed the curies, refused to grant; and to support this refusal the senate had ordered Camillus, who was now some eighty years old, to be named dictator for the fifth time. The old soldier, always ready to fight at an advantage, perceived that nothing now was practicable but an honourable capitulation. The tribunes advised the people to submit to the dictator, but declared that they would indict him at the close of his office; and he, taking a calm view of the state of things, resolved to act as mediator.


[368-367 B.C.]

The matter was finally adjusted by a further compromise. The plebeian consul was invested with the imperium; but the judicial power was now taken from the consuls and put into the hands of a supreme patrician judge, called the Prætor of the City (Prætor Urbanus), and Sp. Camillus, son of the dictator, was the first prætor. A hundred men (centumviri) were named, to whom he might delegate all difficult cases not of a criminal nature. At the same time also another magistracy, the curule ædileship, was created, to be filled by patricians and plebeians in alternate years. These curule ædiles shared the duties of the plebeian ædiles, and besides this, had to superintend the great games, for which they were allowed a certain sum from the treasury. At the same time a fourth day was added to these games in honour of the plebeians.

Thus the patricians lost one of the consulships, but retained part of the consular functions under other titles. And when Camillus had thus effected peace between the orders, he vowed a temple to Concord; but before he could dedicate it, the old hero died. The temple, however, was built according to his design; its site, now one of the best known among those of ancient Rome, can still be traced with great certainty at the northwestern angle of the Forum, immediately under the Capitoline. The building was restored with great magnificence by the emperor Tiberius; and it deserved to be so, for it commemorated one of the greatest events of Roman history,—the final union of the two orders, from which point we must date that splendid period on which we now enter. By this event was a single city enabled to conquer, first of all Italy, and then all the civilised countries of the known world, that is, all the peoples bordering on the Mediterranean Sea.

Various causes were for some time interposed to prevent the due execution of the Licinian laws. Indeed the first two of these measures, which aimed at social improvements, may be said to have failed. Social abuses are always difficult to correct. The evils are, in these cases, of slow growth; their roots strike deep; they can only be abated by altering the habits and[173] feelings of the people, which cannot be effected in the existing generation; they will not give way at once to the will of a law-giver, however good his judgment, however pure his motives, however just his objects. But the common difficulty of removing social evils was increased in Rome at this time by circumstances.

[367-343 B.C.]

For two years a pestilence raged in the city, which swept away great numbers of citizens and paralysed the industry of all. The most illustrious of its victims was Camillus, who died even more gloriously than he had lived, while discharging the office of peacemaker. About the same time the region of the city was shaken by earthquakes; the Tiber overflowed its bed and flooded the Great Circus, so that the games then going on were broken off. Not long after a vast gulf opened in the Forum, as if to say that the meeting-place of the Roman people was to be used no more. The seers said that the gods forbade this gulf to close till that which Rome held most valuable were thrown into it. Then, when men were asking what this might be, a noble youth, named M. Curtius, said aloud that Rome’s true riches were brave men, that nothing else so worthy could be devoted to the gods. Thus saying, he put on his armour, and mounting his horse, leaped into the gulf; and straightway, says the legend, the earth closed and became solid as before; and the place was called the Lacus Curtius forever after.

To these direct visitations of God, the pestilence and the earthquake, was added a still more terrible scourge in the continued inroads of the Gauls. It has been noticed above that in the years 361 and 350 B.C. hordes of these barbarians again burst into Latium and again ravaged the Roman territory.

These combined causes increased the distress of the poor, and we read without surprise that in the year 357 B.C., ten years after the passing of the Licinian laws, a bill was brought forward by Duilius and Mænius, tribunes of the plebs, to restore the rate of interest fixed by the Twelve Tables, which in the late troubles had fallen into neglect; and five years later (in 352) the consuls brought forward a measure to assist the operation of the Licinian law of debt. They appointed five commissioners (quinqueviri), with power to make estimates of all debts and of the property of the debtors. This done, the commissioners advanced money to discharge the debt, as far as it was covered by the property of the debtor. The measure was wise and useful, but could only be partial in its effects. It could not help those debtors who had no property, or not enough property to pay their debts withal. Hence we find that in another five years (347 B.C.) the rate of interest was reduced to 5 per cent.; and some years afterwards it was tried to abolish interest altogether. But, laws to limit interest proved then, as they have proved ever since, ineffectual to restrain the practices of grasping and dishonest usurers.

There were, then, great difficulties in the way of a law for relieving debtors. These were increased, as has been seen, by circumstances, and we must now add the selfishness and dishonesty of the rich patricians and plebeians, who held the bulk of the public land in their own hands, and contrived to evade the Licinian law in the following way. If a man held more than five hundred jugera, he emancipated his son and made over a portion of the land nominally to him, or, if he had no son, to some other trusty person. With sorrow we hear of these practices, and with still greater sorrow we learn that in the year 354 B.C. C. Licinius himself was indicted by the curule ædile, M. Popilius Lænas, for fraudulently making over five hundred jugera to his son, while he held another five hundred in his own name. Thus this remedy for pauperism was set aside and[174] neglected, till the Gracchi arose, and vainly endeavoured, after more than two centuries of abuse, to correct that which at first might have been prevented.

The law for equalising political power was more effective. For eleven years after the Licinian law one consul was always a plebeian. Then the patricians made one last struggle to recover their exclusive privilege; and in the year 355 B.C. we have a Sulpicius and a Valerius as consuls, both of them patricians; and in the course of the next dozen years we find the law violated in like manner no less than seven times. After that it is regularly observed, one consul being patrician and the other plebeian, till at length in the year 172 B.C., when the patrician families had greatly decreased, both consulships were opened to the plebeians, and from that time forth the offices were held by men of either order without distinction.

These violations of the law above mentioned were effected by the power by which the senate ordered the patrician consul to name a dictator. At least in the space twenty-five years after the Licinian laws we have no fewer than fifteen dictators. Now several of these were appointed for sudden emergencies of war, such as the Gallic invasions of 361 and 350. But often we find dictators when there is no mention of foreign war. In the year 360 we find that both the consuls enjoyed a triumph, and not the dictator. These and other reasons have led to the belief that these dictators were appointed to hold the consular comitia, and brought the overbearing weight of their political power to secure the election of two patrician consuls.

Etruscan Woman of Quality

But if this were the plan of the patricians, it availed not. After the year 343 B.C. the law was regularly observed, by which one consul was necessarily a plebeian. The plebeians also forced their way to other offices. C. Marcius Rutilus, the most distinguished plebeian of his time, who was four times elected consul, was named dictator in the year 356 B.C., no doubt, by the plebeian consul Popilius Lænas; and five years later (351) we find the same Marcius elected to the censorship.

Practically, therefore, the political reform of Licinius and Sextius had been effectual so far as the admission of plebeians to the highest offices of state was concerned. It must be remarked, however, that these privileges, though no longer engrossed by patricians, seem to have been open[175] only to a few wealthy plebeian families. C. Marcius Rutilus, as we have just remarked, held the consulship four times in sixteen years (357-342). M. Popilius Lænas and C. Pœtelius Libo enjoyed a similar monopoly of honours.

As the exclusive privileges of the patricians thus gradually and quietly gave way, instead of being maintained (as in modern France) till swept away by the violent tide of revolution, so did the power of the senate rise. It was by the wisdom or policy of this famous assembly that the city of Rome became mistress of Italy and of the world. Hitherto the contest has been internal, of citizen against citizen, in order to gain an equality of rights. Henceforth, for two hundred years, we shall have to relate contests with foreign peoples, and to give an account of the conquest of Italy, for which the Roman senate and people, now at length politically united, were prepared.


[390-342 B.C.]

Abroad, after the burning of the city, Rome had once more to struggle for very existence. Before the city was so far restored as to be habitable, it was announced that the Æquians and Volscians were in arms. The Æquians seem to have shared in the general disaster caused by the Gallic inroad; henceforth at least the part they play is insignificant. But the Volscians boldly advanced to Lanuvium, and once more encamped at the foot of the Alban hills. The city was in great alarm; and Camillus was named dictator for the exigency. He defeated them with great loss, and pursued them into their own territory. He then marched rapidly to Bola, to which place the Æquians had advanced and gained another victory.

But in the moment of triumph news came that Etruria was in arms. The Etruscans hoped by a brave effort to recover the territory which the Romans had for the second time appropriated. A force was sent against them; but so completely was it routed on the nones of July, that this day was noted in the Calendar as the Poplifugia. Siege was then laid to Sutrium by the victors, and it fell. But the prompt dictator, on the first alarm, marched his troops straight from Bola to the point of danger; and on the very day on which Sutrium had yielded to the foe, it was again taken by the Roman general. Thus Camillus again appears as the saviour of Rome. He enjoyed a threefold triumph over the Volscians, the Æquians, and the Etrurians.

It was two years after, that the Etruscan territory, now effectually conquered, was formed into four tribes. By the addition of these new tribes, the first that had been added since this very territory had been wrested from Rome by Porsenna, the whole number was raised to twenty-five. The late assault of the Etruscans, perhaps, suggested the wisdom of making the free inhabitants of this district citizens of Rome. Men who had lately been subject to the oppressive government of a civic oligarchy, being now mingled with Roman plebeians who had received allotments in the district, and seeing the comparative freedom of all Roman burgesses, were sure to fight for Rome rather than join in an insurrection against her. Here was the beginning of that sagacious policy, which for a time led political enfranchisement hand in hand with conquest. Thirty years later (358 B.C.) the senate pursued the same course with respect to the Pontine district and other lowlands which had been recovered from the grasp of the Volscians. A settlement of poor plebeians, which was attempted in 387 B.C., failed; the emigrants were cut[176] off by the Volscian hills-men. But the territory being now formed into two tribes, so as to make the whole number twenty-seven, the inhabitants had an interest in repressing predatory inroads.

[387-354 B.C.]

Soon after followed the struggle for the Licinian laws; and during this period the annals are altogether silent on the subject of wars.

But before the promulgation of the Licinian laws, there were threatenings of greater danger than was to be feared either from Etruscans or Volscians. The Latins and Hernicans, who since the time of Sp. Cassius had fought by the side of Rome in all her border wars, no longer appeared in this position. The inroad of the Gauls had broken up the league. Rome had been reduced to ashes, and was left in miserable weakness. Many of the thirty Latin towns, the names of which occur in the league of Cassius, were so utterly destroyed, that the antiquary in vain seeks for their site in the desolation of the Campagna. But the two important cities of Tibur and Præneste (Tivoli and Palestrina), perched on steep-scarped rocks, defying the rude arts of the invader, had gained strength by the ruin of their neighbours, and appear as independent communities, standing apart from the rest of Latium and from Rome. It was believed that the Prænestines encouraged the Volscians in their inroads, and in 382 B.C. war was declared against them. Some of the Latin cities joined Præneste; others sought protection against her from Rome. In this war even the Tusculans deserted Rome. But after a struggle of five years, the dictator, T. Quinctius, took nine insurgent cities, and blockaded Præneste itself, which capitulated on terms of which we are not informed. Soon after Tusculum also was recovered; and for the present all fear of the Latins subsided.

But a few years after the temple of Concord had been erected by old Camillus, fresh alarms arose. The Hernicans gave signs of disquietude. War was declared against them in 362 B.C. Next year came the second inroad of the Gauls, and it was observed with consternation, that this terrible foe occupied the valley of the Anio, and was not molested either by the Latins of Tibur or by the Hernicans. In the year 360 B.C. the Fasti record a triumph of the consul Fabius over this last-named people, and another of his colleague Pœtelius over the men of Tibur and the Gauls—an ominous conjunction.

But this new inroad of the barbarians, which threatened Rome with a second ruin, really proved a blessing; for the remaining Latin cities, which in the late conflicts had stood aloof, terrified by the presence of the Gauls, and seeing safety only in union, now renewed their league with Rome, and the Hernicans soon after followed their example. The glory of concluding this second league belongs to C. Plautius, the plebeian consul of the year 358 B.C. The Gauls now quitted Latium; and Privernum and Tibur, the only Latin cities which rejected the alliance, were both compelled to yield (357, 354 B.C.).

While these dangers were successfully averted on the northeastern frontier, war had been declared against Rome by the powerful Etruscan city of Tarquinii, which lies beyond the Ciminian hills. This was in the very year in which the new league was formed with the Latins and Hernicans. But for this, it is hard to imagine that Rome, exhausted as she was, could have resisted the united assaults of Gauls, Volscians, Latins, Hernicans, and Etruscans. As it was, she found it hard to repel the Tarquinians. This people made a sudden descent from the hills, defeated the consul C. Fabius, and sacrificed 307 Roman prisoners to their gods (358 B.C.). Two years later they were joined by the Faliscans. Bearing torches in their hands, and[177] having their hair wreathed into snake-like tresses, they attacked the Romans with savage cries, and drove them before them. They overran the four new tribes, and threatened Rome itself. Then M. Popilius Lænas, the plebeian consul, being ordered by the senate to name a dictator, named another plebeian, C. Marcius Rutilus, the first of his order who was advanced to this high office; and his conduct justified the appointment. The enemy was defeated. The senate refused a triumph to the plebeian, but the people in their tribes voted that he should enjoy the well-earned honour.

[356-351 B.C.]

For a moment the people of Cære, the old allies of the Roman people, who had given shelter to their sacred things, their women, and children, in the panic of the Gallic invasion, joined the war; but almost immediately after sued for peace. The Romans, however, remembered this defection. The Tarquinians were again defeated in a great battle. Three hundred and fifty-eight prisoners were scourged and beheaded in the Forum to retaliate for former barbarity. In the year 351 B.C. a peace of forty years was concluded, after a struggle of eight years’ duration.

It was in the very next year after the conclusion of this war that the third inroad of the Gauls took place, of which we have above spoken, when M. Valerius gained his name of Corvus. Thus remarkably was Rome carried through the dangers of intestine strife and surrounding wars. When she was at strife within, her enemies were quiet. Before each new assault commenced, a former foe had retired from the field, and Rome rose stronger from every fall. She had now recovered all the Latin coast land from the Tibur to Circeii; and her increasing importance is shown by a renewed treaty with the great commercial city of Carthage. But a more formidable enemy was now to be encountered than had as yet challenged Rome to conflict, and a larger area opened to her ambition. In the course of a very few years after the last event of which we have spoken the First Samnite War began.b

The destruction of Rome by the Gauls is the dividing point between historical and ante-historical Rome, as Ihneg justly notes; for the conflagration wiped out not only the records but most of the monuments as well. He complains, however, that it is long after the conflagration before the chronicles become really trustworthy. He doubts equally the story of how Valerius won the name of Corvus and the achievements of L. Furius Camillus. He says in conclusion:

“The result of our investigations is that the whole of the six wars with the Gauls, as Livyc relates them, are not much more than stop-gaps, marking points of time at which the annals of the old time have been filled up with edifying and patriotic matter. We can, therefore, infer that a considerable part of the other wars is equally apocryphal, and we may perhaps have the satisfaction of thinking that there were no wars to relate and that the Romans had now and then a little breathing-place.” So extreme an erasure of tradition with all its details will not, however, win the approval of many students of these times.a


[33] The aged were doomed to perish under any circumstances (utique), from scarcity of provisions, whether they retired into the Capitol with the military youth, or were left behind in the city.

[34] [As a forewarning here of the comparatively recent Gallic re-invasions of Italy, one may quote what J. J. Ampèred says in his L’histoire romaine à Rome: “To terminate cheerfully the story of the geese of Manlius, I will recall a caricature representing a French soldier plucking a goose on the Capitoline Hill; beneath were the words, ‘Vengeance of a Gaul.’”]

[35] It may be observed that each gens et familia clung to the same forenames. Thus Publius, Lucius, Cneius, were favourite forenames of the Cornelii; Caius of the Julii; Appius of the Claudii; and so on.

[36] [And yet, though constitutionally eligible, Licinius could hardly have won the consular tribuneship, for the patricians had practically monopolised the office, as the fasti prove.]

[37] [The annalists were probably wrong in supposing that Rome was without magistrates for this period. Doubtless their error is due to chronological confusion.]






The fifth century is the most beautiful century of Rome. The plebeians had conquered the consulship and are succeeding in conquering their admission to other magistracies which the patricians wished to reserve; they free themselves from the servitude which, under the name of Nexus, weighed on the debtors. They arrive at political equality and individual independence; at the same time the old aristocracy still dominates in the senate and maintains there the inflexibility of its resolves and the persistence of its designs. It was thanks to this interior condition that the Roman people was able to survive the strongest tests from without over which it had triumphed, and to make that progress which cost it most dear. We see the peoples fight, one by one, and often all together; the Latin people, the Etruscans, the Goths, the Samnites, the other Sabellic peoples of the Apennines; and the end is always victory. The beginnings of this history were sombre. Rome was afflicted by one of those pestilences which one finds in all the epochs of the history of this unsanitary city. Thence was the origin of those scenic pieces imported by the Etruscans and giving origin to comedy—a means devised to appease the gods; so that Roman comedy had an origin religious and dismal. The fifth century is for Rome the age of great devotions and of grand sacrifices.d

We must now carry our eyes beyond the plain of Latium, and penetrate into Campania and the valleys of the Apennines.

The Sabines are a people connected with the earliest legends of Rome. But the Sabines of Cures and the country between the Anio and the Tiber are those who have hitherto engaged our attention. It is in the highlands of Reate and Amiternum that we must search for the cradle of the race. The valleys of this high district afford but scanty subsistence; and the hardy mountaineers ever and anon cast off swarms of emigrants, who sought other homes, and made good their claim by arms. It was a custom of the Sabellian tribes, when famine threatened and population became dense, to devote the whole produce of one spring-time to the gods. Among other produce, the youth born in that year were dedicated to the god Mamers (Mars),[179] and went forth to seek their fortunes abroad. On one such occasion the emigrants, pressing southward from the Sabine highlands, occupied the broad mountainous district which lies northward of Campania, and took the name of Samnites. The Picenians and Frentanians, on the north coast, with the four allied cantons of the Vestinians, Marrucinians, Pelignians, and Marsians, who were interposed between the Samnites and their ancestral Sabines, claimed kin with both nations. The Samnites themselves also formed four cantons—the Caracenians, Pentrians, Caudinians, and Hirpinians. Of these the Pentrians were far the most considerable; they occupied the rugged mountain district between the upper valleys of the Vulturnus and the Calor. Here a great mass of mountains, now known by the name of Mount Matese, rises boldly from the central chain to the height of more than six thousand feet; and its steep defiles offer defences of great natural strength. But the remains of massive polygonal masonry, which are still seen on the rocky heights occupied by their towns of Æsernia and Bovianum (Isernia and Bojano), showed that the Samnites used art to strengthen their natural defences. Below Mount Matese, in the valley of the Calor, lay the canton of the Caudinians, whose town of Beneventum (anciently called Maleventum or Maliessa) was also made strong by art. It is within these limits, from Æsernia to Beneventum, that the scenes of the chief campaigns of the Samnite wars were laid.

[423-354 B.C.]

From the nature of their country the Samnites were a pastoral people. Their mountains break into numberless valleys, sloping both north and south, well watered, and fresh even in the summer heats. Into these valleys, as is still the practice of the country, the flocks were driven from the lower lands, ascending higher as the heats increased, and descending towards the plain as autumn inclined towards winter.

But the Samnites were not contented with these mountain homes. As they had themselves been sent forth from a central hive, so in time they cast forth new swarms of emigrants. In early times a Samnite tribe, under the name of Frentanians, had taken possession of the coast lands north of Apulia. Other bands of adventurous settlers pushed down the Vulturnus and Calor into the rich plain that lay beneath their mountains, to which they gave the name of Campania, or the champagne land. In earlier times this fair plain had attracted Etruscan conquerors; and its chief city, anciently called Vulturnum, is said from them to have received the lasting name of Capua. But about the year 423 B.C., nearly a century before the time of which we are presently to speak, a band of Samnites seized the famous city, and reduced the ancient Oscan inhabitants to the condition of clients. Soon after, the great Greek city of Cumæ, which then gave name to the Bay of Naples, was conquered by the new lords of Capua, who from this time forth, under the name of Campanians, became the dominant power of the country. In course of time, however, the Samnites of Capua, or the Campanians, adopted the language and customs of their Oscan subjects. Hence the Campanian Samnites broke off their connection with the old Samnites of the mountains, just as the Roman Sabines lost all sympathy with the old Sabines of Cures, and as in England the Anglo-Normans became the national enemies of the French.

It may be added that the Lucanians and Apulians, who stretched across the breadth of Italy below Campania, were formed by a mixture of Samnite invaders with the ancient population, themselves a compound of Oscan and Pelasgian races; while the Bruttians, who occupied the mountainous district south of the Gulf of Tarentum, were a similar offcast from the Lucanians.[180] But these half-Sabellian tribes, like the old races from whom the Samnites came, lent uncertain aid to their kinsmen in the struggle with Rome.

[354-343 B.C.]

These remarks will prepare us for the great conflict which in fact determined the sovereignty of Italy to be the right of the Roman, and not of the Samnite people.[38] The first war arose out of a quarrel such as we have just alluded to between the Campanians and the old Samnites of the Matese. In the year 354 B.C. a league had been concluded with the Romans and the Samnites. Since that time, Samnite adventurers had been pressing down the valley of the Liris, and had taken the Volscian cities of Sora and Fregellæ, while the Romans, combined with the Latins again since the year 358 B.C., were forcing back the Volscians from the west. In 343 B.C., the Samnites pursued their encroachments so far as to assail Teanum, the chief city of the Sidicines, an Oscan tribe, who occupied the lower hills in the north of Campania. The Sidicines demanded the aid of Capua against their assailants; and the Campanians, venturing to give this aid, drew upon their own heads the wrath of the mountaineers. The Samnites took possession of Mount Tifata, a bare hill which overhangs Capua on the north, and plundered at will the rich plain below. Unable to meet the enemy in the field, the degenerate Campanians entreated the assistance of the Roman and Latin league. There was some difficulty in listening to this application; for a treaty of peace had been concluded eleven years before, and no aggression against Rome was chargeable upon the Samnites. But it is probable that their progress in the valleys of the Liris and Vulturnus had alarmed the senate; and all scruples were removed when the Campanians offered to surrender their city absolutely, so that in defending them Rome would be defending her own subjects. This quibbling bargain was struck, and war was declared against the Samnites.b


[343-342 B.C.]

The consuls were ordered to take the field. The consul M. Valerius Corvus led his legions into Campania, where, probably in consequence of some reverses of which we are not informed, he encamped on the side of Mount Gaurus over Cumæ. The Samnite army came full of confidence; the consul led out his troops, and a battle commenced, highly important in the history of the world, as the prelude of those which were to decide whether the empire of Italy and of the world was reserved for Rome or for Samnium.

The two armies were equal in courage, and similarly armed and arrayed; that of the Samnites consisted entirely of infantry, and the cavalry, which the consul sent first into action, could make no impression on its firm ranks. He then ordered the cavalry to fall aside to the wings, and led on the legions in person. The fight was most obstinate: each seemed resolved to die rather than yield: at length, a desperate effort of despair on the part of the Romans drove the Samnites back; they wavered, broke, and fled to their entrenched camp, which they abandoned in the night, and fell back to Suessula. They declared to those who asked why they had fled, that the eyes of the Romans seemed to be on fire and their gestures those of madmen, so that they could not stand before them.


The other consul, A. Cornelius Cossus, having been directed to invade Samnium, led his army to Saticula, the nearest Samnite town to Capua. The Apennines in this part run from north to south, in parallel ranges, enclosing fertile valleys, and the road to Beneventum passes over them. The consul, advancing carelessly, had crossed the first range, and his line of march had reached the valley, when on looking back the Romans saw the wooded heights behind them occupied by a Samnite army. To advance was dangerous, retreat seemed impossible. In this perplexity a tribune named P. Decius proposed to occupy with the hastats and principes of one legion (that is, sixteen hundred men,) an eminence over the way along which the Samnites were coming. The consul gave permission; Decius seized the height, which he maintained against all the efforts of the enemy till the favourable moment was lost, and the consul had led back his army and gained the ridge. When night came, the Samnites remained about the hill and went to sleep; in the second watch Decius led down his men in silence, and they took their way through the midst of the slumbering foes. They had got halfway through, when one of the Romans in stepping over the Samnites struck against a shield; the noise awoke those at hand; the alarm spread; the Romans then raised a shout, fell on all they met, and got off without loss. They reached their own camp while it was yet night, but they halted outside of it till the day was come. At dawn, when their presence was announced, all poured forth to greet them, and Decius was led in triumph through the camp to the consul, who began to extol his deeds; but Decius interrupted him, saying that now was the time to take the enemy by surprise. The army was then led out, and the scattered Samnites were fallen on and routed with great slaughter. After the victory the consul gave Decius a golden crown and a hundred oxen, one of which was white with gilded horns; this Decius offered in sacrifice to Father Mars, the rest he gave to his comrades in peril, and each soldier presented them with a pound of corn and a pint (sextarius) of wine, while the consul, giving them each an ox and two garments, assured them of a double allowance of corn in future. The army further wove the obsidional crown of grass and placed it on the brows of Decius, and a similar crown was bestowed on him by his own men. Such were the generous arts by which Rome fostered the heroic spirit in her sons!

Meantime the Samnites at Suessula had been largely reinforced, and they spread their ravages over Campania. The two consular armies being united under Valerius, came and encamped hard by them, and as Valerius had left all the baggage and camp-followers behind, the Roman army occupied a much smaller camp than was usual to their numbers. Deceived by the size of their camp the Samnites clamoured to storm it, but the caution of their leaders withheld them. Necessity soon compelled them to scour the country in quest of provisions, and emboldened by the consul’s inactivity they went to greater and greater distances. This was what Valerius waited for; he suddenly assailed and took their camp, which was but slightly guarded; then leaving two legions to keep it, he divided the rest of the army, and falling on the scattered Samnites cut them everywhere to pieces. The shields of the slain and fugitives amounted, we are told, to forty thousand, the captured standards to one hundred and seventy. Both consuls triumphed.

While the Roman arms were thus engaged in Campania, the Latins invaded the territory of the Pelignians, the kinsmen and allies of the Samnites.

No military events are recorded of the year 342, but a strange tale of an insurrection of the Roman army has been handed down. The tale runs thus: The Roman soldiers, who at the end of the last campaign, had been left to[182] winter in Capua, corrupted by the luxury which they there witnessed and enjoyed, formed the nefarious plan of massacring the inhabitants and seizing the town. Their projects had not ripened, when C. Marcius Rutilus, the consul for 342, came to take the command. He first, to keep them quiet, gave out that the troops were to be quartered in Capua the following winter also; then noting the ringleaders, he sent them home under various pretexts and gave furloughs to any that asked for them; his colleague, Q. Servilius Ahala, meantime taking care to detain all who came to Rome. The stratagem succeeded for some time; but at length the soldiers perceived that none of their comrades came back; and a cohort that was going home on furlough halted at Lautulæ, a narrow pass between the sea and the mountains east of Tarracina; it was there joined by all who were going home singly on leave, and the whole number soon equalled that of an army. They soon after broke up, and marching for Rome encamped under Alba Longa. Feeling their want of a leader, and learning that T. Quinctius, a distinguished patrician, who being lame of one leg from a wound had retired from the city, was living on his farm in the Tusculan district, they sent a party by night, who seized him in his bed, and gave him the option of death or becoming their commander. He therefore came to the camp, where he was saluted as general, and desired to lead them to Rome. Eight miles from the city they were met by an army led by the dictator M. Valerius Corvus. Each side shuddered at the thought of civil war, and readily agreed to a conference. The mutineers consented to entrust their cause to the dictator, whose name was a sufficient security. He rode back to the city, and at his desire the senate and curies decreed that none should be punished for, or even reproached with, their share in the mutiny, that no soldier’s name should be struck out of the roll without his own consent, that no one who had been a tribune should be made a centurion, and that the pay of the knights (as they had refused to join in the mutiny) should be reduced. And thus this formidable mutiny commenced in crime and ended in—nothing!

Another and a far more probable account says that the insurrection broke out in the city, where the plebeians took arms, and having seized C. Manlius in the night, and forced him to be their leader, went out and encamped four miles from the city, where, as it would seem, they were joined by the army from Campania. The consuls raised an army and advanced against them; but when the two armies met, that of the consuls saluted the insurgents, and the soldiers embraced one another. The consuls then advised the senate to comply with the desires of the people, and peace was effected.

The still existing weight of debt seems to have been the cause of this secession also, and a cancel of debts to have been a condition of the peace. Lending on interest at all is said to have been prohibited at this time by a plebiscitum, or decree of the tribes; and others were passed forbidding any one to hold the same office till after an interval of ten years, or to hold two offices at the same time. It was also decreed that both the consuls might be plebeians. The name of the tribune L. Genucius being mentioned, it is probable that he was the author of the new laws.

[341-340 B.C.]

The following year (341) peace was made with the Samnites on the light condition of their giving a year’s pay and three months’ provisions to the Roman army; and they were allowed to make war on the Sidicinians. This moderation on the side of the Romans might cause surprise, were it not that we know they now apprehended a conflict with their ancient allies the Latins; for the original terms of their federation could not remain in force, and one or other must become the dominant state.


The Sidicinians and Campanians, on being thus abandoned, put themselves under the protection of the Latins, with whom the Volscians also formed an alliance. The Hernicans adhered to the Romans, and the Samnites also became their allies. As war between Rome and Latium seemed inevitable, T. Manlius Torquatus, and P. Decius Mus were made consuls for the ensuing year with a view to it. But the Latins would first try the path of peace and accommodation; and at the call, it is said, of the Roman senate, their two prætors and ten principal senators repaired to Rome. Audience was given to them on the Capitol, and nothing could be more reasonable than their demands. Though the Latins were now the more numerous people of the two, they only required a union of perfect equality,—one of the consuls and one-half of the senate to be Latins, while Rome should be the seat of government, and Romans the name of the united nation.[39] But the senate exclaimed against the unheard-of extravagance of these demands, the gods were invoked as witnesses of this scandalous breach of faith, and the consul Manlius vowed that if they consented to be thus dictated to, he would come girt with his sword into the senate-house and slay the first Latin he saw there. Tradition said, that when the gods were appealed to, and the Latin prætor L. Annius spoke with contempt of the Roman Jupiter, loud claps of thunder and a sudden storm of wind and rain told the anger of the deity, and that as Annius went off full of rage, he tumbled down the flight of steps and lay lifeless at the bottom. It was with difficulty that the magistrates saved the other envoys from the fury of the people. War was forthwith declared, and the consular armies were levied.


[340 B.C.]

As the Latin legions were now in Campania (340), the Romans, instead of taking the direct route through Latium, made a circuit through the country of the Sabines, Marsians, and Pelignians, and being joined by the Samnites, and probably the Hernicans, came and encamped before the Latins near Capua. Here a dream presented itself to the consuls: the form of a man, of size more than human, appeared to each, and announced that the general on one side, the army on the other, was due to the Manes and Mother Earth; of whichever people the general should devote himself and the adverse legions, theirs would be the victory. The victims when slain portending the same, the consuls announced, in presence of their officers, that he of them whose forces first began to yield would devote himself for Rome.

To restore strict discipline and to prevent any treachery, the consuls forbade, under pain of death, any single combats with the enemy. One day the son of the consul Manlius chanced with his troop of horse to come near to where the Tusculan horse was stationed, whose commander, Geminus Metius, knowing young Manlius, challenged him to a single combat. Shame and indignation overpowered the sense of duty in the mind of the Roman; they ran against each other, and the Tusculan fell; the victor, bearing the bloody spoils, returned to the camp and came with them to his father. The consul said nothing, but forthwith called an assembly of the[184] army; then reproaching his son with his breach of discipline, he ordered the lictor to lay hold of him and bind him to the stake. The assembly stood mute with horror; but when the axe fell, and the blood of the gallant youth gushed forth, bitter lamentation, mingled with curses on the ruthless sire, arose. They took up the body of the slain, and buried it without the camp, covered with the spoils he had won; and when after the war Manlius entered Rome in triumph, the young men would not go forth to receive him, and throughout life he was to them an object of hatred and aversion.

Manlius condemning his Son to Death

The war between Rome and Latium was little less than civil; the soldiers and officers had for years served together in the same companies and they were all acquainted. They now stood in battle-array opposite each other at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, the Samnites and Hernicans being opposed to the Oscan allies of the Latins. Both the consuls sacrificed before the battle; the entrails of the victim offered by Decius portended misfortune, but hearing that the signs boded well to Manlius, “’Tis well,” said he, “if my colleague has good signs.” In the battle, the left wing, led by Decius, was giving way; the consul saw that his hour was come; he called aloud for M. Valerius, the pontifex maximus, and standing on a naked weapon, clad in his consular robe, his head veiled, and his hand on his chin, he repeated after the pontiff the form of devotion. He then sent the lictors to announce to Manlius what he had done, and girding his robe tightly round him, and mounting his horse, he rushed into the midst of the enemies. He seemed a destructive spirit sent from heaven; wherever he came he carried dismay and death; at length he fell covered with wounds. The ardour of the Roman soldiers revived, and the skill of Manlius secured the victory. When the front ranks (antesignani) of both armies were wearied, he ordered the accensi to advance; the Latins then sent forward their triarians; and[185] when these were wearied, the consul ordered the Roman triarians to rise and advance. The Latins having no fresh troops to oppose to them were speedily defeated, and so great was the slaughter that but one-fourth of their army escaped. Next day the body of the consul Decius was found amidst heaps of slain, and magnificently interred.

[340-338 B.C.]

The Latins fled to the town of Vescia, and by the advice of their prætor Numisius a general levy was made in Latium, with which, in reliance on the reduced state of the Roman army, he ventured to give the consul battle at a place named Trifanum, between Sinuessa and Minturnæ, on the other side of the Liris. The rout of the Latins, however, was so complete, that few of the towns even thought of resistance when the consul entered Latium. The Latin public land, two-thirds of that of Privernum, and the Falernian district of Campania, were seized for the Roman people, and assignments of 2¾ jugera on this side, 3¼ on the other side of the Liris, were made to the poor plebeians, who murmured greatly at the large quantity that was reserved as domain. As the Campanian knights (sixteen hundred in number) had remained faithful to Rome, they were given the Roman municipium, and each assigned a rent charge of 350 denarii a year on the state of Capua.

The Latin and Volscian towns continued singly to resist, and the conquest was not completed till the year 338. Prudence and some moderation were requisite on the part of Rome, in order not to have rebellious subjects in the Latins. Citizenship therefore, in different degrees, was conferred on them; but they were forbidden to hold national diets, and commerce and intermarriage between the people of their different towns were prohibited. The principal families of Velitræ were forced to go and live beyond the Tiber, and their lands were given to Roman colonists. Their ships of war were taken from the Antiates, who were forbidden to possess any in future. Some of them were brought to Rome; the beaks (rostra) of others were cut off, and the pulpit (suggestum) in the Forum was adorned with them, whence it was named the “rostra.” The municipium, such as the Latins had formerly had, was given to the people of Capua, Cumæ, Suessula, Fundi, and Formiæ. The Latin contingents in war were henceforth to serve under their own officers apart from the legions.

While the Roman dominion was thus extended without, wise and patriotic men of both orders saw the necessity of internal concord, and of abolishing antiquated and now mischievous claims and pretensions. In 339, therefore, the patrician consul Tib. Æmilius named his plebeian colleague Q. Publilius Philo dictator, who then brought forward the following laws to complete the constitution. (1) The patricians should give a previous consent to any law that was to be brought before the centuries; for as such a law must previously have passed the senate, and the centuries could make no alteration in it, their opposition, it would seem, could hardly have any ground but prejudice and spite. (2) The Plebiscita should be binding on all Quirites. (3) One of the censors should of necessity be a plebeian. The curies were induced, we know not how, to give their assent to these laws.[40] Internal discord was now at an end, and the golden age of Roman heroism and virtue began.



[338-325 B.C.]

The affairs for the ten succeeding years are of comparative unimportance. The Romans and Samnites both knew that another war was inevitable, and they made the necessary preparations for it. In the year 327 the people of the Greek town of Palæopolis (Old Town) being in alliance with the Samnites, began to exercise hostilities against the Roman colonists in Campania. As they refused to give satisfaction, the consul Q. Publilius Philo was sent against them, while his colleague, L. Cornelius Lentulus, watched the motions of the Samnites. Publilius encamped between Palæopolis and its kindred town of Neapolis (New Town), and on his sending word home that there was a large body of Samnite and Nolan troops in them, envoys were sent to Samnium to complain of this breach of treaty. The Samnites replied that those were volunteers, over whom the state had no control; that moreover they had not, as the Romans had alleged, excited the people of Fundi and Formiæ to revolt, while the Romans had sent a colony to Fregellæ, in a district which of right was theirs; that, in fine, there was no use in arguing or complaining when the plain between Capua and Suessula offered a space on which they might decide whose should be the empire of Italy. The Roman fetial then veiled his head, and with hands raised to heaven prayed the gods to prosper the arms and counsels of Rome if right was on her side; if not, to blast and confound them. Right certainly was not on the side of Rome, for she had first violated the treaty; but war was not to be averted, and it was now to begin.

A Roman army entered Samnium on the Volscian side, ravaged the country, and took some towns. Publilius’ year having expired, his command was continued to him (326) under the new title of proconsul; and soon a party in Neapolis, weary of the insolence of the foreign soldiers, began to plot a surrender. While Nymphius, one of the leading men, induced the Samnites to go out of the town, to embark in the ships in the port, and make a descent on the coast of Latium, Charilaus, another of the party, closed the gate after them, and admitted the Romans at another. The Samnites instantly dispersed and fled home; the Nolans retired from the town unmolested.

A chief ally of the Samnites were the people of the Greek city of Tarentum; on the other hand, their kinsmen, the Apulians and Lucanians, were in alliance with Rome. But in this year, a revolution took place in Lucania, in consequence of which the country became subject to Samnium. A similar fate menaced the Apulians, if not aided; but to reach Apulia it was necessary to pass through the Vestinian country, the people of which (one of the Marsian confederacy) refused a passage. It was apprehended at Rome, that if the Vestinians were attacked, the other three states, who were now neutral, would take arms, and throw their weight into the Samnite scale, and their valour was well known; but, on the other hand, the importance of Apulia, in a military point of view, was too great to allow it to be lost. The consul D. Junius Brutus accordingly led his army (325) into the Vestinian country: a hard-fought victory, and the capture of two of their towns, reduced the Vestinians to submission, and the other members of the league remained at peace.

The other consul, L. Camillus, fell sick as he was about to invade Samnium and L. Papirius Cursor was made dictator;[41] but as there was said to have[187] been some error in the auspices, he was obliged to return to Rome to renew them. As he was departing, he strictly charged Q. Fabius Rullianus, the master of the horse, whom he left in command, not to risk an action on any account during his absence. But, heedless of his orders, Fabius seized the first occasion of engaging the enemy, over whom he gained a complete victory. As soon as the dictator learned what had occurred, he hastened to the camp, breathing fury. Fabius, warned of his approach, besought the soldiers to protect him. Papirius came, ascended his tribunal, summoned the master of the horse before him, and demanded why he had disobeyed orders, and thus weakened the military discipline. His defence but irritated his judge the more; the lictors approached and began to strip him for death; he broke from them, and sought refuge among the triarians: confusion arose; those nearest the tribunal prayed, the more remote menaced, the dictator: the legates came round him, entreating him to defer his judgment till the next day; but he would not hear them. Night at length ended the contest.

[325-322 B.C.]

During the night Fabius fled to Rome, and by his father’s advice made his complaint of the dictator to the assembled senate; but while he was speaking, Papirius, who had followed him from the camp with the utmost rapidity, entered, and ordered his lictors to seize him. The senate implored; but he was inexorable: the elder Fabius then appealed to the people, before whom he enlarged on the cruelty of the dictator. Every heart beat in unison with that of the time-honoured father; but when Papirius showed the rigorous necessity of upholding military discipline, by which the state was maintained, all were silent, from conviction. At length the people and their tribunes united with Fabius and the senate in supplication, and the dictator, deeming his authority sufficiently vindicated, granted life to his master of the horse.

Papirius, when he returned to his army, gave the Samnites a decisive defeat; and having divided the spoil among his soldiers to regain their favour, and granted a truce for a year to the enemy, on condition of their giving each soldier a garment and a year’s pay, he returned to Rome and triumphed.

The events of the next year (323) are dubious; but in 322 the camp of the dictator, A. Cornelius Arvina, who had entered Samnium without sufficient caution, was surprised by a superior force of the enemy. The day closed before an attack could be made, and in the night the dictator, leaving a number of fires burning in the camp, led away his legions in silence. But the enemy were on the alert, and their cavalry hung on the retiring army, to slacken its pace. With daybreak the Samnite infantry came up, and the dictator, finding further retreat impossible, drew his forces up in order of battle. A desperate conflict commenced; during five hours neither side gave way an inch; the Samnite horse, seeing the baggage of the Romans but slightly guarded, made for it, and began to plunder: while thus engaged, they were fallen on and cut to pieces by the Roman horse, who then turned and assailed the now unprotected rear of the Samnite infantry. The dictator urged his legions to new exertions; the Samnites wavered, broke, and fled; their general and thousands fell, and thousands were made captives.

[322-321 B.C.]

Meantime, on the side of Apulia an equally glorious victory was gained by the consul Q. Fabius; and the spirit of the Samnites being now quite broken, they were anxious for peace on almost any terms. As it is usual with a people, when measures to which they have given their full and eager consent have failed, to throw the entire blame on their leaders, so now the Samnites cast all their misfortunes on Papius Brutulus, one of their[188] principal men, and resolved to deliver him up to the Romans as the cause of the war. The noble Samnite saved himself from disgrace by a voluntary death; his lifeless corpse was carried to Rome; the Roman prisoners, of whom there was a large number, were released, and gold was sent to ransom the Samnites. The utmost readiness to yield to all reasonable terms was evinced; but nothing would content the haughty senate but the supremacy, and sooner than thus resign their national independence the Samnites resolved to dare and endure the uttermost.

In the spring (321) the Roman legions, led by the consuls T. Veturius and Sp. Postumius, encamped at Calatia in Campania, with the intention of directing their entire force against central Samnium. But the Samnite general, C. Pontius, having spread a false report that Luceria, in Apulia, was hard pressed by a Samnite army, and on the point of surrender, the consuls resolved to attempt its relief without delay. They entered the Samnite country, and advanced heedlessly and incautiously. In the vicinity of the town of Caudium they reached the Caudine Forks, as a pass was named consisting of a deep valley between two wooded mountains; a hollow way led into it at one end, and a narrow path over a mountain, which closed it up, led out of it at the other end. Into these toils the consuls conducted their army; they saw nothing to alarm them till the head of the column came to the further end, and found the passage stopped with rocks and trunks of trees, and on looking round they beheld the hills occupied by soldiery. To advance or to retreat was now equally impossible; they therefore threw up entrenchments in the valley, and remained there, the Samnites not attacking them, in reliance on the aid of famine. At length, when their food was spent and hunger began to be felt, they sent deputies to learn the will of the Samnite leaders. It is said that Pontius, on this occasion, sent for his father to advise him: this venerable old man, who, in high repute for wisdom, dwelt at Caudium, was conveyed to the camp in a wain, and his advice was either to let the Romans go free and uninjured, or totally to destroy the army. Pontius preferred a middle course, and the old man retired, shedding tears at the misery he saw thence to come on his country. The terms accorded by Pontius were the restoration of the ancient alliance between Rome and Samnium, the withdrawal of Roman colonies from places belonging to the Samnites, and the giving back of all places to which they had a right. The arms and baggage of the vanquished army, were, as a matter of course, to be given up to the conquerors. How rarely has Rome ever granted a vanquished enemy terms so mild as these! Yet the Roman historians had the audacity to talk of the insolence of the victorious Samnites, and the Roman senate and people the baseness and barbarity to put to an ignominous death the noble Pontius twenty-seven years after!

These terms were sworn to by the consuls and their principal officers, and six hundred knights were given as hostages till they should have been ratified by the senate and people. A passage wide enough for one person to pass was made in the paling with which the Samnites had enclosed them, and one of the pales laid across it, and through this door the consuls, followed by their officers and men, each in a single garment, came forth. Pontius gave beasts of burden to convey the sick and wounded, and provisions enough to take the army to Rome. They then departed and reached Capua before nightfall; but shame, or doubt of the reception they might meet with, kept them from entering. Next morning, however, all the people came out to meet and console them. Refreshments and aid of every kind were given them, and they thence pursued their way to Rome.


When the news of their calamity had first reached Rome, a total cessation of business (justitium) had taken place, and a general levy, either to attempt their relief or to defend the city, had been made, and all orders of people went into mourning. In this state of things the disgraced army reached the gates. It there dispersed; those who lived in the country went away; those who dwelt in the city slank with night to their houses. The consuls, having named a dictator for the consular elections, laid down their office; and Q. Publilius Philo and L. Papirius Cursor were appointed to be their successors.c

Triumph of Papirius

“If other nations delight in remembering the days of national triumphs,” says Wilhelm Ihne, “and in celebrating the memory of victories by which they feel their strength was increased and their pride gratified, the greatness of the Roman people is shown much more by their keeping continually before their eyes the evil days when the god of battles was unfavourable to them, and by celebrating the anniversaries of their defeats, in a certain degree, as days of national humiliation. The day of the Allia and the day of Cannæ stood before the eye of the Roman in more burning colours than the day of the victory of Zama. But by the side of those names there was yet a third in the list of evil days—a name which was more painful than any other to the proud Roman, because the feeling of national disgrace and humiliation could not be separated from it; it was the name of the Caudine Pass. At the Allia and at Cannæ thousands fell in open battle; at Caudium four legions agreed to purchase life and freedom by the sacrifice of military honour, and the Roman people, when they refused to ratify the agreement, covered themselves with a load of infamy, from which no sophistry could free them, even in their own conscience.”f


[321-315 B.C.]

The senate having met to consider of the peace, the consul Publilius called on Sp. Postumius to give his opinion. He rose with downcast looks, and advised that himself and all who had sworn to the treaty should be delivered up to the Samnites, as having deceived them, by making a treaty without the consent of the Roman people, and a fresh army be levied, and the war renewed; and though there was hardly a senator who had not a son or some other relative among the hostages, it was resolved to do as he advised. Postumius and his companions were taken bound to Caudium; the fetial led them before the tribunal of Pontius, and made the surrender of them in the solemn form. Postumius, as he concluded, struck his knee against the fetial’s thigh, and drove him off, crying, “I am now a Samnite, thou an ambassador: I thus violate the law of nations; ye may justly now resume the war.”

Pontius replied with dignity: he treated this act of religious hypocrisy as a childish manœuvre; he told the Romans that if they wished to renounce the treaty with any show of justice, they should place their legions as they were when it was made; but their present conduct he said was base and unworthy, and he would not accept such a surrender as this, or let them thus hope to avert the anger of the gods. He then ordered Postumius and the other Romans to be unbound and dismissed.

The war therefore was renewed, and the Romans returning to their original plan of carrying it on simultaneously in Apulia and on the western frontier of Samnium, sent (319) the consul Papirius to lay siege to Luceria, which was now in the hands of the Samnites, while his colleague Publilius led his army into Samnium. Papirius sat down before Luceria; but a Samnite army came and encamped at hand, and rendered his communication with Arpi, whence he drew his supplies, so difficult, that it was only by the knights’ going and fetching corn in little bags on their horses that any food could be had in the camp. They were at length relieved by the arrival of Publilius, who having defeated a Samnite army marched to their aid; and after a fruitless attempt of the Tarentines to mediate a peace, the Romans attacked and stormed the Samnite camp with great slaughter, which, though they were unable to retain it, had the effect of making the Samnite army retire, and leave Luceria to its fate. Its garrison of seven thousand men then capitulated, on condition of a free passage, without arms or baggage.

The two following years were years of truce, in consequence of exhaustion on both sides; and during the truce the Romans so extended and consolidated their dominion in Apulia that no attempt was ever after made to shake it off. The war was resumed in 316, and the Romans laid siege to Saticula, an Oscan town not far from Capua and in alliance with the Samnites. Meantime the Samnites reduced the colonial town of Plistia; and the Volscians of Sora, having slain their Roman garrison, revolted to them. They then made an attack on the Roman army before Saticula, but were defeated with great loss, and the town immediately surrendered. The Roman armies forthwith entered and ravaged Samnium, and the seat of war was transferred to Apulia. While the consular armies were thus distant, the Samnites made a general levy, and came and took a position at Lautulæ, in order to cut off the communication between Rome and Campania. The dictator, Q. Fabius, instantly levied an army, and hastened to give them battle. The Romans were utterly defeated, and fled from the field; the master of the horse, Q. Aulius, unable to outlive the disgrace of flight, maintained his ground, and fell fighting bravely. Revolt spread far and wide among the Roman subjects in the vicinity; the danger was great and imminent, but the fortune of Rome prevailed, and the menacing storm dispersed.


[314-311 B.C.]

In 314 the Samnites sustained a great defeat near a town named Cinna, whose site is unknown. The Campanians, who were in the act of revolting at this time, submitted on the appearance of the dictator, C. Mænius, and the most guilty withdrew themselves from punishment by a voluntary death. The Ausonian towns, Ausona, Minturnæ, and Vescia, were taken by treachery and stratagem, and their population massacred or enslaved, as a fearful lesson to the subjects of Rome against wavering in their allegiance.

The united armies of the consuls, M. Pœtelius and C. Sulpicius, entered Samnium on the side of Caudium; but while they were advancing timidly and cautiously through that formidable region, they learned that the Samnite army was wasting the plain of Campania. They immediately led back their forces, and ere long the two armies encountered. The tactics of the Romans were new on this occasion; the left wing, under Pœtelius, was made dense and deep, while the right was expanded more than usual. Pœtelius, adding the reserve to his wing, made a steady charge with the whole mass: the Samnites gave way; their horse hastened to their aid, but Sulpicius coming up with his body of horse, and charging them with the whole Roman cavalry, put them to the rout. He then hastened to his own wing, which now was yielding; the timely reinforcement turned the scale, and the Samnites were routed on all sides with great slaughter.

The following year (313) was marked by the capture of Nola and some other towns, and by the founding of colonies, to secure the dominion which had been acquired. In 312 Sora was taken in the following manner: A deserter came to the consuls, and offered to lead some Roman soldiers by a secret path up to the Arx, or citadel, which was a precipitous eminence over the town. His offer was accepted; the legions were withdrawn to a distance of six miles from the town; some cohorts were concealed in a wood at hand, and ten men accompanied the Soran traitor. They clambered in the night up through the stones and bushes, and at length reached the area of the citadel. Their guide, showing them the narrow, steep path that led thence to the town, desired them to guard it while he went down and gave the alarm. He then ran through the town crying that the enemy was on the citadel; and when the truth of his report was ascertained, the people prepared to fly from the town; but in the confusion, the Roman cohorts broke in and commenced a massacre. At daybreak the consuls came; they granted their lives to the surviving inhabitants, with the exception of 225, who, as the authors of the revolt, were brought bound to Rome, and scourged and beheaded in the Forum.

[311-310 B.C.]

The tide of war had turned so decidedly against the Samnites, that one or two campaigns more of the whole force of Rome would have sufficed for their subjugation. But just now a new enemy was about to appear, who was likely to give ample employment to the Roman arms for some time. The Etruscans, who, probably owing to their contests with and fears of the Gauls, had for many years abstained from war with the Romans, either moved by the instances of the Samnites or aware of the danger of suffering Rome to grow too powerful, began to make such hostile manifestations that great alarm prevailed at Rome. Various circumstances, however, kept off the war for nearly two years longer; at length in 311 all the peoples of Etruria, except the Arretines, having sent their troops, a Tuscan army prepared to lay siege to the frontier town of Sutrium. The consul Q. Æmilius came to cover it, and the two armies met before it. At daybreak of the second day, the Tuscans drew out in order of battle; the consul, having made his men take their breakfast, led them out also. The armies stood opposite each[192] other, each hesitating to begin, till after noon; the Tuscans then fell on: night terminated a bloody and indecisive action, each retired to their camp, and neither felt themselves strong enough to renew the conflict next day.

The next year (310) a Tuscan army having laid siege to Sutrium, the consul Q. Fabius hastened from Rome to its relief. As his troops were far inferior to the Etruscans in number, he led them cautiously along the hills. The enemy drew out his forces in the plain to give him battle; but the consul, fearing to descend, formed his array on the hillside in a part covered with loose stones. Relying on their numbers the Tuscans charged up hill; the Romans hurled stones and missile weapons on them, and then charging, with the advantage of the ground, drove them back, and the horse getting between them and their camp forced them to take refuge in the adjacent Ciminian wood. Their camp became the prize of the victors.

Like so many others in the early Roman history, this battle has probably been given a magnitude and an importance which does not belong to it, and the truth would seem to be, that the consul only repulsed the advanced guard of the enemy, and not feeling himself strong enough to engage their main army, resolved to create a diversion by invading their country.

To the north of Sutrium, between it and the modern city of Viterbo, extends a range of high ground, which at that time formed the boundary between Roman and independent Etruria. It was covered with natural wood, and was thence named the Ciminian wood. Over this barrier Fabius resolved to lead his troops. He sent to inform the senate of his plan, in order that measures might be taken for the defence of the country during his absence. Meantime he directed one of his brothers, who spoke the Tuscan language, to penetrate in disguise to the Umbrians, and to form alliances with any of them that were hostile to the Etruscans. The only people however whom the envoy found so disposed were the Camertes, who agreed to join the Romans if they penetrated to their country.

The senate, daunted at the boldness of Fabius’ plan, sent five deputies accompanied by two tribunes of the people to forbid him to enter the wood, perhaps to arrest him if he should hesitate to obey. But they came too late: in the first watch of the night Fabius sent forward his baggage, the infantry followed; he himself a little before sunrise led the horse up to the enemy’s camp, as it were to reconnoitre. In the evening he returned to his own camp, and then set out and came up with his infantry before night. At daybreak they reached the summit of the mountain, and beheld the cultured vales and plains of Etruria stretched out before them. They hastened to seize the offered prey: the Etruscan nobles assembled their vassals to oppose them, but they could offer no effectual resistance to the disciplined troops of Rome. The Roman army spread their ravages as far as Perusia, where they encountered and totally defeated a combined army of Etruscans and Umbrians; and Perusia, Cortona, and Arretium, three of the leading cities of Etruria, sent forthwith to sue for peace, which was granted for a term of thirty years. As the Romans were returning to the relief of Sutrium they encountered at the lake of Vadimo another Etruscan army, of select troops bound by a solemn oath (lege sacrata) to fight to their uttermost. The two armies engaged hand to hand at once; the first ranks fought till they were exhausted; the reserve then advanced, and the victory was only decided by the Roman knights dismounting and taking their place in the front of the line.

While Fabius was conducting the war in Etruria, his colleague C. Marcius had entered Samnium and taken Allifæ and some other strongholds.[193] The Samnites collected their forces and gave him battle, and the Romans were defeated; several of their officers slain, the consul himself wounded, and their communication with Rome cut off. When the news reached Rome, the senate at once resolved to create a dictator, and to send him off to the relief of Marcius with the reserve which had been levied on account of the Etruscan War. Their hopes lay in L. Papirius Cursor; but the dictator could only be named by the consul; there was no way of reaching Marcius, and Fabius had not yet forgiven the man who had thirsted after his blood. The resolve of the senate was borne to Fabius by consulars; they urged him to sacrifice his private feelings to the good of his country: he heard them in silence, his eyes fixed on the ground, and they retired in uncertainty. In the stillness of the night he arose, and, as was the usage, named L. Papirius dictator, and in the morning he again listened in silence to the thanks and praises of the deputies. The dictator immediately set forth and relieved the army of Marcius, but, impetuous as he was, he contented himself for some time with merely observing the enemy.

[310-304 B.C.]

At length the time arrived for a decisive action. The Samnite army was divided into two corps, the one clad in purple, the other in white linen tunics, the former having their brazen shields adorned with gold, the latter with silver: the shields were broad above, narrow below. Each soldier wore a crested helmet, a large sponge to protect his breast, and a greave on his left leg. In the battle the Roman dictator led the right wing against the gold-shielded, the master of the horse, C. Junius, the left against the silver-shielded Samnites. Junius made the first impression on the enemy; the dictator urged his men to emulation, and the Roman horse by a charge on both flanks completed the victory. The Samnites fled to their camp, but were unable to retain it, and ere night it was sacked and burned. The golden shields adorned the dictator’s triumph, and they were then given to the money dealers to ornament their shops in the Forum.

Q. Fabius was continued in the consulate for 309 and P. Decius given to him as his colleague; the former had the Samnite, the latter the Etruscan War. Fabius routed the Marsians and Pelignians, who had now joined against Rome, and he then led his legions into Umbria, whose people had taken arms, and with little difficulty reduced them to submission. Decius meantime had forced the Etruscans to sue for peace, and a year’s truce was granted them on their giving each soldier two tunics, and a year’s pay for the army.

In the remaining years of the war, the exhausted powers of the Samnites could offer but a feeble resistance to the legions of Rome. On the occasion of a defeat which they sustained in 308, the proconsul, Q. Fabius, adopted the novel course of dismissing the Samnite prisoners, and selling for slaves those of their allies. Among these there were several Hernicans, whom he sent to Rome; the senate having instituted an inquiry into the conduct of the Hernican people in this affair, those who had urged them to give aid to the Samnites now engaged them to take arms openly. All the Hernican peoples but three shared in the war; but they made a stand little worthy of their old renown; one short campaign sufficed for their reduction, and they were placed (307) on nearly the same footing as the Latins had been thirty years before.

The Samnites at length (304) sued for peace, and obtained it on the condition they had so often spurned, that of acknowledging Rome’s supremacy, in other words, of yielding up their independence; but peace on any[194] terms was now necessary, that they might recruit their strength for future efforts. The Romans then turned their arms against the Æquians who had joined the Hernicans in aiding the Samnites, and in fifty days the consuls reduced and destroyed forty-one of their Cyclopean-walled towns. The Marsian league sought and obtained peace from Rome.


[304-297 B.C.]

A few years passed away in tolerable tranquillity; in 298 Lucanian envoys appeared at Rome, praying for aid against the Samnites who had entered their country in arms, given them various defeats, and taken several of their towns. The Romans, in right of their supremacy, sent orders to the Samnites to withdraw their troops from Lucania: the pride of the Samnites was roused at being thus reminded of their subjection; they ordered the fetials off their territory, and war was once more declared against them by the Romans. As the Etruscans were now also in arms, the consul L. Cornelius Scipio went against them, while his colleague Cn. Fulvius invaded Samnium.

Scipio engaged a numerous Etruscan army near Volaterræ. Night ended a hard-fought battle, leaving it undecided. The morn however revealed that the advantage was on the side of the Romans, as the enemy had abandoned their camp during the night. Having placed his baggage and stores at Falerii, Scipio spread his ravages over the country, burning the villages and hamlets; and no army appeared to oppose him. Fulvius meantime carried on the war with credit in Samnium. Near Bovianum he defeated a Samnite army, and took that town and another named Aufidena.

Etruscan Warrior

(From a statuette)

[297-295 B.C.]

The rumour of the great preparations which the Samnites and the Etruscans were said to be making caused the people to elect Q. Fabius to the consulate, against his will; and at his own request they joined with him P. Decius. As the Etruscans remained quiet, both the consuls invaded Samnium (297), Fabius entering from Sora, Decius from Sidicinum. The Samnites gave Fabius battle near Tifernum, their infantry stood firm against that of the Romans, and the charge of the Roman cavalry had as little effect. At length, when the reserve had come to the front, and the contest was most obstinate, the legate Scipio, whom the consul had sent away during the action with the hastats of the first legion, appeared on the neighbouring[195] hills. Both armies took them for the legions of Decius; the Samnites’ courage fell, that of the Romans rose, and evening closed on their victory. Decius had meantime defeated the Apulians at Maleventum. During five months both armies ravaged Samnium with impunity; the traces of five-and-forty camps of Decius, of eighty-six of Fabius, bore witness to the sufferings of the ill-fated country.

The next year (296) the Samnites put into execution a daring plan which they had formed in the preceding war, namely, sending an army, to be paid and supported out of their own funds, into Etruria, leaving Samnium meantime at the mercy of the enemy. The Samnite army, under Gellius Egnatius, on arriving there, was joined by the troops of most of the Tuscan states; the Umbrians also shared in the war, and it was proposed to take Gallic mercenaries into pay. The consul App. Claudius entered Etruria with his two legions and twelve thousand of the allies, but he did not feel himself strong enough to give the confederates battle. His colleague L. Volumnius, probably by command of the senate, led his army to join him; but Appius gave him so ungracious a reception that he was preparing to retire, when the officers of the other army implored him not to abandon them for their general’s fault. Volumnius then agreed to remain and fight: a victory was speedily gained over the Etruscans and Samnites, whose general Egnatius was unfortunately absent; 7300 were slain, 2120 taken, and their camp was stormed and plundered.

As Volumnius was returning by rapid marches to Samnium, he learned that the Samnites had taken advantage of his absence to make a descent on Campania, where they had collected an immense booty. He forthwith directed his course thither: at Cales he heard that they were encamped on the Vulturnus, with the intention of carrying their prey into Samnium to secure it. He came and encamped near them, but out of view; and when the Samnites had before day sent forward their captives and booty under an escort, and were getting out of their camp to follow them, they were suddenly fallen on by the Romans: the camp was stormed with great slaughter; the captives, hearing the tumult, unbound themselves, and fell on their escort; the Samnites were routed on all sides—six thousand were slain, twenty-five hundred were taken, seventy-four hundred captives, with all their property, were recovered.

The union of the Samnites, Etruscans, Umbrians, and Gauls, which had now been formed, caused the greatest apprehension at Rome, and the people insisted on again electing Q. Fabius consul, to which he would only consent on condition of his approved mate in arms P. Decius being given him for colleague. His wish was complied with. The four legions of the former year were kept on foot and completed, two new ones were raised, and two armies of reserve formed. The number of troops furnished by the allies was considerable: among them were one thousand Campanian horse; for as the Gauls were strong in this arm, it was necessary to augment its force.

[295-293 B.C.]

During the winter, Fabius set out, with four thousand foot and six hundred horse, to take the command in Etruria. As he drew nigh to the camp of App. Claudius he met a party sent out for firewood; he ordered them to go back and use the palisades of their camp for the purpose. This gave confidence to the soldiers; and to keep up their spirits, he never let them remain stationary, but moved about from place to place. In the spring (295) he returned to Rome to arrange the campaign, leaving the command in Etruria with L. Scipio.


The consuls led their main force to join the troops left with Scipio; one army of reserve, under the proprætor Cn. Fulvius, was stationed in the Faliscan; another, under the proprætor L. Postumius, in the Vatican district. But the Gauls, pouring in by the pass of Camerinum, had annihilated a Roman legion left to defend it; their numerous cavalry spread over Umbria and got between Scipio and Rome; and as they rode up to the consular army, the heads of the slain Romans which they carried on spears and hung at their horses’ breasts, made the Romans believe that Scipio’s whole army had been destroyed. A junction however was formed with him, and the proconsul L. Volumnius, who commanded in Samnium, was directed to lead his legions to reinforce those of the consuls. The three united armies then crossed the Apennines, and took a position in the Sentine country to menace the possessions of the Senonian Gauls; and the two armies of reserve advanced in proportion, the one to Clusium, the other to the Faliscan country. The confederates came and encamped before the Romans; but they avoided an action, probably waiting for reinforcements. The consuls, learning by deserters that the plan of the enemy was for the Gauls and Samnites to give them battle, and the Etruscans and Umbrians to fall on their camp during the action, sent orders to Fulvius to ravage Etruria: this called a large part of the Etruscans home, and the consuls endeavoured to bring on an engagement during their absence. For two entire days they sought in vain to draw the confederates to the field; on the third their challenge was accepted.

Fabius commanded on the right, opposed to the Samnites and the remaining Etruscans and Umbrians; Decius led the left wing against the Gauls. Ere the fight began, a wolf chased a hind from the mountains down between the two armies; the hind sought refuge among the Gauls, by whom she was killed; the wolf ran among the Romans, who made way for him to pass; and this appearance of the favourite of Mars was regarded as an omen of victory.

In the hope of tiring the Samnites, Fabius made his men act rather on the defensive, and he refrained from bringing his reserve into action. Decius, on the other hand, knowing how impetuous the first attack of the Gauls always was, resolved not to await it; he therefore charged with both foot and horse, and twice drove back the numerous Gallic cavalry; but when his horse charged a third time, the Gauls sent forward their war-chariots, which spread confusion and dismay among them; they fled back among their infantry; the victorious Gauls followed hard upon them. The battle, and with it possibly the hopes of Rome, was on the point of being lost, when Decius, who had resolved, if defeat impended, to devote himself like his father at Vesuvius, desired the pontiff M. Livius, whom he had kept near him for the purpose, to repeat the form of devotion; then adding to it these words, “I drive before me dismay and flight, slaughter and blood, the anger of the powers above and below; with funereal terrors I touch the arms, weapons, and ensigns of the foe; the same place shall be that of my end and of the Gauls and Samnites,” he spurred his horse, rushed into the thick of the enemies, and fell covered with wounds.

The pontiff to whom Decius had given his lictors, encouraged the Romans; a part of Fabius’ reserve came to their support: the Gauls stood in a dense mass covered with their shields; the Romans, collecting the pila that lay on the ground, hurled them on them; but the Gauls stood unmoved, till Fabius, who by bringing forward his reserve, and causing his cavalry to fall on their flank, had driven the Samnites to their camp, sent five hundred of the Campanian horse, followed by the principes of the third legion, to attack[197] them in the rear; they then at length broke and fled. Fabius again assailed the Samnites under their rampart; their general, Gellius Egnatius, fell, and the camp was taken. The confederates lost twenty-five thousand men slain and eight thousand taken; seven thousand was the loss in the wing led by Decius, twelve hundred in that of Fabius. Such was the victory at Sentinum, one of the most important ever achieved by the arms of Rome.

The following year (294) the war was continued in Etruria and Samnium, and a bloody but indecisive battle was fought at Nuceria. The next year (293) the consuls, L. Papirius Cursor and Sp. Carvilius, took the field against a Samnite army, which all the aids of superstition had been employed to render formidable.

All the fighting men of Samnium were ordered to appear at the town of Aquilonia. A tabernacle, two hundred feet square, and covered with linen, was erected in the midst of the camp. Within it a venerable man named Ovius Pacctius offered sacrifice after an ancient ritual contained in an old linen book. The imperator or general then ordered the nobles to be called in separately: each as he entered beheld through the gloom of the tabernacle the altar in the centre, about which lay the bodies of the victims, and around which stood centurions with drawn swords. He was required to swear, imprecating curses on himself, his family, and his race, if he did not in the battle go whithersoever the imperator ordered him; if he fled himself, or did not slay any one whom he saw flying. Some of the first summoned, refusing to swear, were slain, and their bodies lying among those of the victims served as a warning to others. The general selected ten of those who had thus sworn, each of whom was directed to choose a man till the number of sixteen thousand was completed, which was named from the tabernacle the Linen legion. Crested helmets and superior arms were given them for distinction. The rest of the army, upwards of twenty thousand men, was little inferior in any respect to the Linen legion.

The Roman armies entered Samnium; and while Papirius advanced to Aquilonia, Carvilius sat down before a fortress named Cominium, about twenty miles from that place. The ardour for battle is said to have been shared to such an extent by all the Roman army, that the pullarius, or keeper of the sacred fowl, made a false report of favourable signs. The truth was told to the consul as he was going into battle; but he said the signs reported to him were good, and only ordered the pullarii to be placed in the front rank; and when the guilty one fell by the chance blow of a pilum, he cried that the gods were present, the guilty was punished. A crow was heard to give a loud cry as he spoke; the gods, he then declared, had never shown themselves more propitious, and he ordered the trumpets to sound and the war-cry to be raised.

The Samnites had sent off twenty cohorts to the relief of Cominium; their spirits were depressed, but they kept their ground, till a great cloud of dust, as if raised by an army, was seen on one side. For the consul had sent off before the action Sp. Nautius, with the mules and their drivers, and some cohorts of the allies, with directions to advance during the engagement, raising all the dust they could. Nautius now came in view, the horseboys having boughs in their hands, which they dragged along the ground; and the arms and banners appearing through the dust, made both Romans and Samnites think that an army was approaching. The consul then gave the sign for the horse to charge; the Samnites broke and fled, some to Aquilonia, some to Bovianum. The number of their slain is said to have been 30,340, and 3870 men and 97 banners were captured. Aquilonia and Cominium[198] were both taken on the same day. Carvilius then led his army into Etruria; his colleague remained in Samnium, ravaging the country, till the falling of the snow obliged him to leave it for the winter.

[293-290 B.C.]

In the next campaign (292), the Samnite general C. Pontius gave the Roman consul Q. Fabius Gurges, son of the great Fabius, a complete defeat. A strong party in the senate, the enemies of the Fabian house, were for depriving the consul of his command; but the people yielded to the prayers of his father, who implored them to spare him this disgrace in his old age; and he himself went into Samnium as legate to his son. At a place whose name is unknown the battle was fought, which decided the fate of Samnium. Fabius gained the victory by his usual tactics, of keeping his reserve for the proper time. The Samnites had twenty thousand slain and four thousand taken, among whom was their great general C. Pontius. In the triumph of Fabius Gurges, his renowned father humbly followed his car on horseback; and C. Pontius was led in bonds, and then, to Rome’s disgrace, beheaded. Q. Fabius Maximus, one of the greatest men that Rome ever produced, died, it is probable, shortly afterwards.

The Samnite War, which had lasted with little intermission for nine-and-forty years, was now terminated by a peace, of the exact terms of which we are not informed (290). The Sabines, who, after a cessation of 150 years, foolishly took up arms against Rome, were easily reduced by the consul M. Curius Dentatus, and a large quantity of their land was taken from them. Much larger assignments than the usual seven jugera might now be made, but Curius deemed it unwise to pass that limit; and when the people murmured, he replied that he was a pernicious citizen whom the land which sufficed to support him did not satisfy. He refused for himself five hundred jugera and a house at Tifata which the senate offered him, and contented himself with a farm of seven jugera in the Sabine country.

The Samnite War caused considerable distress at Rome, and it even came to a secession. The people posted themselves on the Janiculum; but the dictator, Q. Hortensius, induced them to submit, either by an abolition or a considerable reduction of the amount of their debts. This is the last secession we read of in Roman history.

On this occasion the Hortensian law, which made the plebiscits binding on the whole nation, was passed;[42] a measure probably caused by the obstinacy and caprice of the patricians, but pregnant with evil, from which however the good fortune of Rome long preserved her. It was as if in England a measure which had passed the Commons were to become at once the law of the land.

Among the events of this period, the introduction of the worship of the Grecian god Æsculapius deserves to be noticed. In the year 293 an epidemic prevailed at Rome, and the Sibylline books being consulted, it was directed to fetch Æsculapius to Rome. A trireme with ten deputies was sent to Epidaurus for that purpose. The legend relates, that the senate of that place agreed that the Romans should take whatever the god should give them; and that as they were praying at the temple, a huge snake came out of the sanctuary, went on to the town five miles off, through the streets, to the harbour, thence on board the Roman trireme, and into the cabin of Q. Ogulnius. The envoys having been instructed in the worship of the god, departed, and a prosperous wind brought them to Antium. Here they took[199] shelter from a storm; the snake swam ashore, and remained twined round a palm-tree at the temple of Apollo while they stayed. When they reached Rome he left the ship again, and swimming to the island, disappeared in the spot where the temple of the god was afterwards built.


[290-282 B.C.]

Rome now rested from war for some years. At length (284) the Tarentines, who had been the chief agents in exciting the last Samnite War, succeeded in inducing the Etruscans, Umbrians, and Gauls in the north, and the Lucanians, Bruttians, and Samnites in the south, to take arms simultaneously against her. The commencement was the hostility exercised by the Lucanians against the people of the Greek town of Thurii, who, despairing of aid from any other quarter, applied to the Romans.

[282-280 B.C.]

In 282, a Roman army under C. Fabricius Luscinus came to the relief of Thurii. The spirits of the Romans sank as they viewed their own inferiority of force; when, lo! a youth of gigantic stature, wearing a double-crested helm, like those on the statues of Mars, was seen to seize a scaling-ladder, and mount the rampart of the enemies’ camp. The courage of the Romans rose, that of the foes declined, and a signal victory crowned the arms of Rome. When next day the consul sought that valiant youth, to bestow on him the suitable meed, he was nowhere to be found. Fabricius then directed a thanksgiving to Father Mars (as it must have been he) to be held throughout the army. Many other victories succeeded; and no Roman general had as yet acquired so much booty as Fabricius did in this campaign.

When the Roman army retired, a garrison was left for the defence of Thurii. As it was only by sea that a communication could be conveniently kept up with it, a squadron of ten triremes, under the duumvir L. Valerius, was now in these waters. Some years before, it had been an article in a treaty with the Tarentines, that no Roman ship of war should sail to the north of the Lacinian Cape; but as they had taken no notice of it now, and there was as yet no open hostility between them and the Romans, Valerius appeared off the port of Tarentum. The people unluckily happened at that moment to be assembled in the theatre, which commanded a view of the sea; a demagogue named Philocharis, a man of the vilest character,[43] pointing to the Roman ships, reminded them of the treaty; the infuriated populace rushed on shipboard, attacked and sank four, and took one of the Roman vessels. The Tarentines then sent a force against Thurii, where they plundered the town and banished the principal citizens: the Roman garrison was dismissed unmolested.

The Romans, as they had an Etruscan war on their hands, were anxious to accommodate matters amicably in the south. Their demands were therefore very moderate: they only required the release of those taken in the trireme; the restoration of the Thurians, and restitution of their property; and the surrender of the authors of the outrage. Audience was given to the envoys in the theatre. When they entered, the people laughed at the sight of their purple-bordered prætextæ, and the faults of language committed by L. Postumius, the chief of the embassy, redoubled their merriment. As the envoys were leaving the theatre, a drunken buffoon came and befouled[200] the robe of Postumius in the most abominable manner: the peals of laughter were redoubled; but Postumius, holding up his robe, cried out, “Ay, laugh, laugh while ye may; ye will weep long enough when ye have to wash this out in blood.” He displayed at Rome his unwashed garment; and the senate, after anxious deliberation, declared war against Tarentum (281). The consul L. Æmilius Barbula was ordered to lead his army thither, to offer anew the former terms, and if they were refused, to carry on the war with vigour. The Tarentines, however, would listen to no terms; they resorted to their usual system of seeking aid from the mother country, and sent an embassy to invite over Pyrrhus, the renowned king of Epirus. Meantime Æmilius laid waste their country, took several strong places, and defeated them in the field.

We will now turn our view northwards. In 283 a combined army of Etruscans and Senonian Gauls having laid siege to Arretium, the prætor L. Metellus hastened to its relief; but his army was totally defeated, thirteen thousand men being slain, and nearly all the remainder made prisoners. When an embassy was sent to the Gauls to complain of breach of treaty, and to redeem the prisoners, the Gallic prince Britomaris, to avenge his father, who had fallen at Arretium, caused the fetiales to be murdered. The consul P. Cornelius Dolabella instantly marched through the Sabine and Picentian country into that of the Senonians, whom he defeated when they met him in the field: he then wasted the lands, burned the open villages, put all the men to death, and reduced the women and children to slavery. Britomaris, who was taken alive, was reserved to grace the consul’s triumph.

The Boians, who dwelt between the Senonians and the Po, were filled with rage and apprehension at the fate of their brethren, and assembling all their forces they entered Etruria, where being joined by the Etruscans and the remnant of the Senonians, they pressed on for Rome; but at the Lake Vadimo the consular armies met and nearly annihilated their whole army; the Senonians, it is said, in frenzy of despair put an end to themselves when they saw the battle lost. The Gauls appeared again the next year (284) in Etruria; but a signal defeat near Populonia (282) forced them to sue for peace, which on account of the war in the south, the Romans readily granted.

The war with the Etruscans continued till the year 280, when, in consequence of that with Pyrrhus, the Romans concluded a peace with them on most favourable terms. This peace terminated the conflict, which had now lasted for thirty years, and converted Etruria into Rome’s steadiest and most faithful ally.c


[38] [Edward A. Freemane calls the Samnites “the worthiest foes whom Rome ever met within her own peninsula.” He adds, “There can be little doubt that they possessed a Federal Constitution. Their resistance ended only with the extermination of their race.”]

[39] [Freemane notes that Rome had never appeared to be “the mere capital of the Latin League. As far as the faintest glimmerings of history go back, Rome holds a position towards Latium far more lordly than that of Thebes towards Bœotia. It is no wonder that a League of small towns could not permanently bear up against a single great city of their own race whose strength equalled their united strength, and which was more liberal of its franchise than any other city-commonwealth ever was.”]

[40] [In the interpretations of clauses 1 and 2 of the Publilian Law scholars are divided. The comitia curiata had now lost all real power, and in fact had never enjoyed the right to pass upon resolutions adopted by other assemblies. It was probably either the senate or the patrician part of the senate which was required to give its previous consent to bills brought before the centuries. Clause 2 probably gave validity to resolutions of the tribal assembly, even when no patricians were present; cf. Botsford.h]

[41] [This is the Papirius Cursor of whom Livy g writes the glowing eulogy we have quoted in the preceding Volume, Chapter LVII, where Livy claims that Papirius Cursor—as the contemporary of Alexander and the general whom he would have met had he attacked Rome instead of Persia—would have equalled the Macedonian and driven him out of Italy.]

[42] [This law probably made unnecessary the consent of the senate to resolutions passed by the tribal assembly under the presidency of the plebeian tribunes.]

[43] [The Tarentines were not of course so bad as the Roman historians represent. Though imprudent, they had good ground for indignation.]

Roman Trophies




Through a long series of struggles, Rome had now become mistress of central Italy, with growing power in the north, and almost complete subjugation of the Greek cities of the south. There were a few of the latter, however, that still held out against the Roman influence. Pre-eminent among these was Tarentum, and it was through a conflict with this city that the Romans were threatened by the first important invasion of an armed force from the east. This force came under the guidance of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, a relative of Alexander the Great, who sought to emulate the deeds of that great hero.

Pyrrhus was not precisely another Alexander, but he was quite the foremost warrior of his time. Doubtless he had the aspiration to make Epirus the centre, and himself the master, of the world. His ambition was not to be realised; but he was able, for a time, to challenge the power of Rome, and more cogently to threaten its overthrow than any one before him had done, since the invasion of the Gauls, or than any one after him was able to do, with the single exception of Hannibal, until a late period of imperial history. The invasion of Pyrrhus, quite aside from the personal ambitions of the invader, had the widest and most world-historic importance, for it was a struggle of the old East against the new West—a repetition in some sense of that earlier struggle in which the Persians had sought to overthrow the growing power of Greece. Pyrrhus brought with him the famed Macedonian phalanx. He was met by the Roman legion, which, in its time, was to become even more famous, and with even better reason. Whether for the moment phalanx or legion would have proved the more formidable it is difficult to say, but in addition Pyrrhus brought with him a troop of war elephants, and it was this factor, largely, which turned the scale at first in his favour. Up to this time no elephant, probably, had ever been landed on the peninsula of Italy, and the sight of these beasts advancing in line of battle was enough to bring terror to the heart of the most hardened veterans.

It is true that fifty years earlier the Macedonians had met an oriental enemy aided by this, to them, new arm of warfare, and had easily found a means of overcoming their adversary, and nullifying the advantage which these great beasts were supposed to give them. Whether it was the lack of an Alexander, or that the Romans were of less staunch fibre than the Macedonians, or that the soldiers of Pyrrhus were more competent to[202] meet the Romans hand to hand than were the Persians to oppose the hosts of Alexander—whatever the explanation, the fact remains that the elephants of Pyrrhus turned the scale clearly in his favour in the first two great battles in which he met the Romans on their soil. But the Romans, if defeated, were by no means dishonoured. The classical saying of Pyrrhus that another such victory would mean his ruin, shows that the battles of Heraclea and Asculum were very different affairs from most of the battles of an earlier day, in which Greek had met Persian, or even those in which Greek met Greek. In those Grecian battles, as we have seen, the courageous front of the one side, and the timidity of the other, often decided the day with scarcely more than the clashing of arms, or the chance wounding of here and there a fugitive. But here, the arbitrament of arms in its sternest phase was necessary to decide the victory. The Macedonians, with the fame of Alexander fresh in their minds, might scorn at first, but soon learned to respect these new foemen of the West, finding them, indeed, foemen worthy of their steel, and the conqueror who remained on the field after the battle had almost as much cause for regret over his losses as for rejoicing over his victory.

But the strangest thing of all was the way in which the vanquished Romans met their fate and rallied from defeat, refusing to recognise their disasters as more than momentary checks. Herein it was that the Roman proved himself a very different person from the typical Greek, of, for example, the best day of Athens. Instead of acknowledging defeat and accepting or offering terms of surrender, the Romans indignantly rejected all overtures from Pyrrhus, and set desperately to work to rehabilitate an army and win back their laurels, declaring that they would never rest content while the enemy remained on Italian soil; and in due time they made their word good. Pyrrhus, indeed, for a period of two years left Italian soil, not to return to Greece, but to go to Sicily, there to aid the Syracusans who were beset by the Carthaginians. Recognising in Pyrrhus a common enemy, the Carthaginians and the Romans for the first and last time in their history formed an alliance, and the Carthaginians did good service for the cause in defeating the fleet of Pyrrhus when on its way back from Sicily. Beyond this, however, the land-forces of Rome—and up to this time it was solely as a land power that Rome could lay claim to great importance—were left to their own resources in dealing with the Epirot enemy. This resource, however, proved in the end quite sufficient, for in the great battle of Beneventum, in the year 275 B.C., the tables were turned on Pyrrhus and his forces were unequivocally routed. Nothing remained for him but to return to Epirus, where local wars also claimed his attention.

It is more than likely that in thus retreating from Italy, Pyrrhus intended some day to return and revenge himself for his losses, but if so the intention never became a reality, for three years later the greatest warrior of his time was killed at Argos after a victorious siege of that city. Meantime Rome had proved herself able to cope with the Epirot invasion, and she was never again to be seriously threatened from that direction.

It would probably be difficult to overestimate the value to the Roman commonwealth of this test of skill with Pyrrhus and his famed Macedonian phalanx in giving them confidence in themselves and in their own prowess which should stand them in good stead in meeting those other enemies who must needs be put down before Rome could become what she was now aspiring to be, Mistress of the World.a



Pyrrhus was now in his thirty-eighth year. His whole life had been a course of adventure and peril. His father, Æacides, had been king of Epirus; and the young prince, being left an orphan at the age of five amid the troubles which followed the death of Alexander the Great, led a wandering and uncertain life, till, at about seventeen years of age, he sought refuge at the court of Antigonus, the Macedonian king of Syria. Here he formed a friendship with the king’s son, the celebrated Demetrius Poliorcetes, and was present on the bloody field of Ipsus (301 B.C.), which deprived Antigonus of his life, and Demetrius of his succession. After this defeat, he was received at the magnificent court of Ptolemy Soter, the first Macedonian king of Egypt, as a hostage for his friend Demetrius. Here Pyrrhus found favour with Queen Berenice, who gave him in marriage Antigone, her daughter by a former marriage, and persuaded Ptolemy to assist him in recovering his Epirot sovereignty, where he established himself so firmly that on the death of Cassander, he disputed with his former friend Demetrius the succession to the throne of Macedon. For a time he was master of the eastern provinces; but, after a seven months’ reign, Pyrrhus was again driven across the mountains into Epirus (287 B.C.). For the next few years he lived at peace; built Ambracia as a new capital of his dominions, and reigned there in security and magnificence. He was in the prime of life, handsome in person, happy in temper, popular from his frankness and generosity, and reputed to be a skilful soldier. But neither his nature nor his restless youth had fitted him for the enjoyment of happy tranquillity. He had married as his second wife the daughter of Agathocles of Syracuse; the exploits of that remarkable man fired his soul; he remembered that Alcibiades, that Alexander, that every Greek conqueror had looked to the West as a new scene for enterprise and triumph; and he lent a ready ear to the solicitations of the Italian envoys. After defeating the Romans and Carthaginians, he might return as king of southern Italy and Sicily, and dictate terms to the exhausted monarchs of Macedon and Asia. These had been the dreams of less romantic persons than himself.[44]

[281-280 B.C.]

It was at the end of the year 281 B.C. that he left Epirus with a force of about twenty thousand foot, and four thousand or five thousand horse, together with a squadron of twenty elephants, held by the Greeks at that time to be a necessary part of a complete armament. On the passage his ships were scattered by a storm, but eventually they all reached Tarentum in safety. His infantry was in part supplied by Ptolemy Ceraunus, now king of Macedon. His cavalry were Thessalian, the best in Greece. It was a small army for the execution of designs so vast. But he trusted to the promises of the Lucanians and Samnites; and he also intended to make the Tarentines into soldiers. No sooner had he landed, than this people found how true were the words of their fellow-citizen. They had meant Pyrrhus to fight their battles, like his kinsman, Alexander of Molossus;[204] but he resolved that they also should fight his battles. He shut up the theatres and other places of public amusement; closed the democratic clubs; put some demagogues to death, and banished others; and ordered all citizens of military age to be drilled for the phalanx. The indolent populace murmured, but in vain. The horse had taken a rider on his back to avenge him on the stag, and it was no longer possible to shake him off.

With the early spring the Romans took the field. Ti. Coruncanius, plebeian consul for the year 280, commanded against the Etrurians, with orders to make a peace if possible. P. Valerius Lævinus, his patrician colleague, was to march through Lucania, so as to prevent the Lucanians from joining the king; while Æmilius, consul of the former year, was stationed at Venusia, to hold the Samnites and Apulians in check. A Campanian legion, composed of Mamertines, commanded by one Decius Jubellius, an officer of their own choosing, occupied Rhegium, in order (we may suppose) to intercept communications from Sicily.

As the king moved along the coast from Heraclea he came in view of the Roman army, encamped on the right bank of the little river Siris. His practised eye was at once struck by the military order of the enemy’s camp. And when he saw them cross the broad but shallow stream in the face of his own army, and form their line before he could close with them, he remarked, “In war, at least, these barbarians are no way barbarous.”

And now for the first time the Roman legions had to stand the shock of the Greek phalanx. The tactics of the two armies were wholly different. The free order of the legions, which now fought with pila and swords, has been described above. On the other hand, the Epirots formed two great columns, called the phalanxes, in which each man stood close to his fellow, so that half his body was covered by his right-hand man’s shield. They were drawn up sixteen deep, and their long pikes, called sarissæ, bristled so thickly in front, that the line was impenetrable unless a gap could be made in the front ranks. They acted mechanically, by weight. If they were once broken they were almost defenceless. Level ground, therefore, was necessary to their effective action.

Pyrrhus had secured this last-named advantage: the plain of Heraclea was well adapted for the regular movement of the phalanxes, as well as for that of his cavalry and elephants. The action began by the Roman cavalry crossing the Siris, and driving back a squadron of the Thessalian horse, the remainder of which, with the elephants, were yet in the rear. The main body of the Romans, inspirited by this success, followed across the bed of the river to assail the phalanxes. But they could make no impression on these solid masses; the principes took the place of the hastati, and the triarii succeeded to the principes, in vain. Lævinus then ordered up his cavalry to attack the phalanxes in flank. But they were met by the whole body of Thessalian horse, supported by the elephants. The Romans had never before seen these monstrous animals, which in their ignorance they called “Lucanian oxen”: their horses would not face them, and galloped back affrighted among the infantry. Pyrrhus now led his whole line forward, and the rout was general. The Romans were driven back across the Siris, and did not attempt to defend their camp. Yet they soon rallied, and retired in good order into Apulia, where Venusia was ready to receive them. It was now seen with what judgment the senate had occupied that place with a large colony.

The victory of Heraclea was gained at a very heavy loss. Pyrrhus now rightly estimated the task he had undertaken. He had a soldier’s eye. When he visited the field of battle next day, and saw every Roman corpse[205] with its wounds in front, he exclaimed: “If these were my soldiers, or if I were their general, we should conquer the world.” When he offered in the temple of Jove at Tarentum a portion of the spoils taken after the battle, he placed on them the following inscription:

“Those who had ne’er been vanquished yet, great Father of Olympus,
Those have I vanquished in the fight, and they have vanquished me.”

And when he was asked why he spoke thus, he answered: “Another victory like this will send me without a man back to Epirus.”

Arrival of Pyrrhus at Tarentum

The battle of Heraclea, however, encouraged the Greek cities of Locri and Rhegium to throw off the Roman yoke. Locri joined Pyrrhus; but Decius Jubellius, with his Campanian soldiers, declared themselves independent, and seized Rhegium for themselves. But, above all, the battle of Heraclea left the ground open for the Lucanians and Samnites to join the king; and he advanced into Samnium to claim the fulfilment of their promises. But as he advanced he was struck by the desolate condition of the country; and he reproached the Italians with deceiving him. The battle which had just been fought taught him how formidable was the foe he had to deal with, and what he now saw, that he must trust to his own resources. He resolved therefore to end the war at once by negotiating an advantageous peace.

The person employed in this negotiation was Cineas, a name only less remarkable than that of Pyrrhus himself. He was a Thessalian Greek, famous for his eloquence, but still more famous for his diplomatic skill. He served Pyrrhus as minister at home and ambassador abroad. “The tongue of Cineas,” Pyrrhus used to say, “had won him more battles than his own[206] sword.” So quick was his perception, and so excellent his memory, that he had hardly arrived in Rome when he could call every senator by his name, and address every one according to his character. The terms he had to offer were stringent; for Pyrrhus required that all Greek cities should be left free, and that all the places that had been taken from the Samnites, Apulians, and his other allies, should be restored. Yet the skill of Cineas would have persuaded the senate to submit to these terms if it had not been for one man. This was Appius Claudius the censor. He was now in extreme old age; he had been blind for many years, and had long ceased to take part in public affairs. But now, when he heard of the proposed surrender, he caused himself to be conducted to the senate-house by his four sons and his five sons-in-law, and there, with the authoritative eloquence of an oracle, he confirmed the wavering spirits of the fathers, and dictated the only answer worthy of Rome—that she would not treat of peace with Pyrrhus till he had quitted the shores of Italy. The dying patriotism of Appius covers the multitude of arbitrary acts of which he was guilty in his censorship.

Cineas returned to Pyrrhus, baffled and without hope. He told his master, that “to fight with the Roman people was like fighting with the hydra”; he declared that “the city was as a temple of the gods, and the senate an assembly of kings.” But the king resolved to try what effect might be produced by the presence of his army in Latium. He passed rapidly through Campania, leaving it to be plundered by the Samnites, and advanced upon Rome by the upper or Latin road. He took the colony of Fregellæ by storm; he received the willing submission of Anagnia, the capital of the Hernicans, and was admitted into the impregnable citadel of Præneste, for both the Hernicans and the Prænestines were only half Roman citizens; they bore the burdens without enjoying the privileges, and were therefore glad to welcome a chance of liberty. He then advanced six miles beyond Præneste, within eighteen miles of Rome. But here his course was stayed. There were no signs of defection among the bulk of the Latins, or Volscians, or Campanians, who had been admitted into the tribes and enjoyed the full honours of Roman citizenship. Ti. Coruncanius, afterwards chief pontiff, and now consul, was himself a Latin of Tusculum. What he had gained all might hope for.


This winter is famous for the embassy of C. Fabricius, who was sent by the senate with two other consulars to propose to Pyrrhus an interchange of prisoners. The character and habits of Fabricius resembled those of Curius. He lived in frugal simplicity upon his own farm, and was honoured by his countrymen for his inflexible uprightness. He was somewhat younger than Curius, and seems to have been less rough in manners and more gentle in disposition. The stories are well known which tell how Pyrrhus practised[207] upon his cupidity by offering him gold, and upon his fears by concealing an elephant behind the curtains of the royal tent, which, upon a given signal, waved its trunk over his head; and how Fabricius calmly refused the bribe, and looked with unmoved eye upon the threatening monster. Pyrrhus, it is said, so admired the bearing of the Roman that he wished him to enter into his service like Cineas, an offer which, to a Roman ear, could convey nothing but insult. The king refused to give up any Roman citizens whom he had taken, unless the senate would make peace upon the terms proposed through Cineas: but he gave his prisoners leave to return home in the month of December to partake in the joviality of the Saturnalia, if they would pledge their word of honour to return. His confidence was not misplaced. The prisoners used every effort to procure peace; but the senate remained firm, and ordered every man, under penalty of death, to return to Tarentum by the appointed day.

[280-278 B.C.]

Hostilities were renewed next year. The new consuls were P. Sulpicius for the Patricians, and P. Decius Mus, son and grandson of those illustrious plebeians who had devoted themselves to death beneath Vesuvius and at Sentinum. We are ignorant of the details of the campaign till we find the consuls strongly encamped on the hills which command the plain of Apulian Asculum. Here Pyrrhus encountered them. After some skilful manœuvring he drew the Romans down into the plain, where his phalanx and cavalry could act freely. He placed the Tarentines in the centre, the Italian allies on his left wing, and his Epirots and Macedonians in phalanx on the right; his cavalry and elephants he kept in reserve. A second time the Roman legions wasted their strength upon the phalanxes. Again and again they charged that iron wall with unavailing bravery, till Pyrrhus brought up his cavalry and elephants, as at Heraclea, and the Romans were broken. But this time they made good their retreat to their entrenched camp, and Pyrrhus did not think it prudent to pursue them. He had little confidence in his Italian allies, who hated the Greeks even more than they hated the Romans, and gave signal proof of their perfidy by plundering the king’s camp while he was in action. The loss on both sides was heavy. The second victory was now won; but the king’s saying was fast being fulfilled. In these two battles he had lost many of his chief officers and a great number of the Epirots, the only troops on whom he could rely. He dared not advance; and when he returned to Tarentum news awaited him which dispirited him still more. The Romans, he heard, had concluded a defensive alliance with Carthage, so that the superiority of Tarentum at sea would be lost; Ptolemy Ceraunus, who had promised him fresh troops from Macedon, had been slain by the Gauls, and these barbarians were threatening to overrun Greece.

Under these circumstances he seized the first occasion of making peace with Rome. This was afforded early in the next year by a communication he received from the new consuls Q. Æmilius and C. Fabricius. They sent to give him notice that his physician or cup-bearer (the accounts vary) had offered to take him off by poison. Pyrrhus returned his warmest thanks, sent back all his prisoners fresh-clothed and without ransom, and told his allies he should accept an invitation he had just received to take the command of a Sicilian-Greek army against the Carthaginians and Mamertines. Accordingly he sailed from Locri to Sicily, evading the Carthaginian fleet which had been lying in wait for him. He left the Italians to the mercy of the Romans, but Milo still kept hold of the citadel of Tarentum, and Alexander, the king’s son, remained in garrison at Locri.

He had been a little more than two years in Italy, for he came at the[208] end of the year 281 B.C. and departed early in 278: he returned towards the close of 276, so that his stay in Sicily was about two years and a half. The events of this period may be very briefly summed up.

[278-275 B.C.]

The Samnites and Lucanians continued a sort of partisan warfare against Rome, in which, though the consuls were honoured with triumphs, no very signal advantages seem to have been gained. The Romans no doubt took back the places on the Latin road which had submitted to the king; they also made themselves masters of Locri, and utterly destroyed the ancient city of Croton, but they failed to take Rhegium, which was stoutly maintained by Decius Jubellius and his Campanians against Pyrrhus and Romans alike. Meanwhile Pyrrhus was pursuing a career of brilliant success in Sicily. He confined the Mamertines within the walls of Messana, and in a brilliant campaign drove the Carthaginians to the extreme west of the island. But in an evil hour he undertook the siege of Lilybæum, a place which the Carthaginians had made almost impregnable. He was obliged to raise the siege and lost the confidence of his fickle Greek allies. Before this also death had deprived him of the services of Cineas. Left to himself, he was guilty of many harsh and arbitrary acts, which proceeded rather from impatience and disappointment than from a cruel or tyrannical temper. It now became clear that he could hold Sicily no longer, and he gladly accepted a new invitation to return to Italy.

Accordingly, late in the year 276 B.C., he set sail for Tarentum. On the passage he was intercepted by a Carthaginian fleet, and lost the larger number of his ships; and, on landing between Rhegium and Locri, he suffered further loss by an assault from the Campanians, who still held the former city. Yet, once in Italy, he found himself at the head of a large army, composed partly of his veteran Epirots, and partly of soldiers of fortune who had followed him from Sicily. His first act was to recover possession of Locri; and here, in extreme want of money, he listened to evil counsellors, and plundered the rich temple of Proserpine. The ships that were conveying the plunder were wrecked, and Pyrrhus, conscience-stricken, restored all that was saved. But the memory of the deed haunted him: he has recorded his belief that this sacrilegious act was the cause of all his future misfortunes.

The consuls of the next year were L. Cornelius Lentulus and M. Curius Dentatus. On Curius depended the fortunes of Rome. The people were much disheartened, for pestilence was raging. The statue of Capitoline Jupiter had been struck by lightning, and men’s hearts were filled with ominous forebodings. When the consuls held their levy, the citizens summoned for service did not answer to their names. Then Curius ordered the goods of the first recusant to be sold, a sentence which was followed by the loss of all political rights. This severe measure had its effect, and the required legions were made up.

Lentulus marched into Lucania, Curius into Samnium. Pyrrhus chose the latter country for the seat of war. He found Curius encamped above Beneventum, and he resolved on a night attack, so as to surprise him before he could be joined by his colleague. But night attacks seldom succeed: part of the army missed its way, and it was broad daylight before the Epirot army appeared before the camp of the consul. Curius immediately drew out his legions, and assaulted the enemy while they were entangled in the mountains. He had instructed his archers to shoot arrows wrapped in burning tow at the elephants, and to this device is attributed the victory he won. One of the females, hearing the cries of her young one, which had been[209] wounded in this way, rushed furiously into the ranks of her own men. Curius now brought up the main body of his foot and attacked the disordered phalanxes; they were broken and became helpless. The defeat was complete: Pyrrhus fell back at once upon Tarentum, and resolved to quit the shores of Italy, leaving Milo to hold the citadel.

But the glory of his life was ended; the two or three years that remained of it were passed in hopeless enterprises. In storming Argos he was killed by a tile thrown by a woman from the roof of a house. Such was the end of this remarkable man. Like Richard I of England or Charles XII of Sweden, he passed his life in winning battles without securing any fruits of victory; and, like them, a life passed in the thick of danger was ended in a petty war and by an unknown hand. His chivalric disposition won him the admiration even of his enemies; his impetuous temper and impatience of misfortune prevented him from securing the confidence of his friends. Yet he left a name worthy of his great ancestry; and we part with regret from the history of his Italian wars, for it is the most frank and generous conflict in which Rome was ever engaged.


[273-272 B.C.]

The departure of Pyrrhus left Italy at the mercy of Rome. Yet Milo, the king’s lieutenant, still held the citadel of Tarentum, and none of the nations who had lately joined the Epirot standard submitted without a final struggle. The Samnites, Lucanians, Bruttians, and other tribes continued a kind of guerrilla warfare, for which their mountains afforded great facilities. To put an end to this, in the year 272 B.C., L. Papirius Cursor the younger, and Sp. Carvilius, who had crushed the Samnites at the close of the third war, were again elected consuls. Papirius invested Tarentum; and while the lines were being formed, he received the submission of the Lucanians and Bruttians.

Meanwhile Carvilius attacked the Samnites, and the scattered remnants of that brave people saw themselves compelled to submit finally to Rome, after a struggle of about seventy years. Thus ended what is sometimes called the Fourth Samnite War.

The same summer witnessed the reduction of Tarentum. Papirius entered into a secret treaty with Milo, by which the latter was to evacuate the city and leave it to the will of the Romans. He sailed for Epirus with all his men and stores, and Tarentum was left to itself. The aristocratical party instantly seized the government, and made submission to Rome. They were allowed to continue independent, on condition of paying an annual tribute to the conqueror; but their fortifications were razed, their arsenal dismantled, the fleet surrendered to Rome, and a Roman garrison placed in their citadel.

The attention excited by the failure of Pyrrhus is attested by the fact that in the year 273 B.C. Ptolemy Philadelphus, sovereign of Egypt, sent ambassadors to Rome, and entered into alliance with Rome. Thus began a connection with Egypt which continued unbroken to the time of Cæsar.

[271-265 B.C.]

In 271 B.C. the plebeian consul C. Genucius was sent to reduce Decius Jubellius and the Campanian soldiers, who had made themselves lords of Rhegium, and formed a military oligarchy in that city. The senate formed a treaty with the Mamertine soldiery, who had occupied Messana in the same manner, and thus detached them from alliance with their compatriots; they[210] also secured supplies of corn from Hiero, the new sovereign of Syracuse. The Campanians of Rhegium being thus forsaken, the city was taken by assault and all the soldiery put to the sword, except the original legionaries of Jubellius, who as burgesses of Capua possessed some of the rights of Roman citizens, and were therefore reserved for trial before the people of Rome. Not more than three hundred still survived out of several thousands; but they met with no mercy. Every tribe voted that they should be first scourged and then beheaded as traitors to the republic. Rhegium was restored to the condition of a Greek community.

A few years later, the Salentines and Messapians in the heel of Italy submitted to the joint forces of both consuls. Brundusium and its lands were ceded to Rome; and about twenty years afterwards (244 B.C.) a colony was planted there. Brundusium became the Dover of Italy, as Dyrrhachium, on the opposite Epirot coast, became the Calais of Greece.

In the year 268 B.C. both consuls undertook the reduction of the Picenians, who occupied the coast land between Umbria and the Marrucinians. Their chief city, Asculum, was taken by storm. A portion of the people was transferred to that beautiful coast between Naples and the Silarus, where they took the name of Picentines. Soon after (266 B.C.) Sarsina, the chief city of the Umbrians, was taken, and all Umbria submitted to Rome.

It remains to speak of Etruria. No community here was strong enough, so far as we hear, to maintain active war against Rome; even Volsinii was now compelled to sue for succour. The ruling aristocracy had ventured to arm their serfs, probably for the purpose of a Roman war; but these men had turned upon their late masters, and were now exercising a still direr oppression than they had suffered. The senate readily gave ear to a call for assistance from the Volsinian lords; and (in the year 265 B.C.) Q. Fabius Gurges, son of old Fabius Maximus, invested the city. He was slain in a sally made by the Etruscan serfs, who were, however, obliged to surrender soon after. The Romans treated the city as lawfully gotten booty. The old Etruscan town on the hill-top, with its polygonal walls, was destroyed; its two thousand statues and other works of art were transferred to Rome; a new town was founded on the low ground, which in the modernised name of Bolsena still preserves the memory of its ancient fame. After the fall of Volsinii, all the Etruscan communities made formal submission; and all Italy awaited the will of the conquering city of the Tiber.


[265 B.C.]

To conceive of ancient Rome as the capital of Italy in the same sense that London is the capital of England, or Paris of France, would be a great mistake. London and Paris are the chief cities of their respective countries only because they are the seat of government. But the city of ancient Rome was a great corporate body or community, holding sovereignty over the whole of Italy, from the Macra and Rubicon southwards. The Roman territory itself, in the first days of the Republic, consisted (as we have seen) of twenty-one tribes or wards. Before the point at which we have arrived, these tribes had been successively increased to three-and-thirty. These tribes included a district beyond the Tiber stretching somewhat farther than Veii; a portion of the Sabine and Æquian territory beyond the Anio; with part of Latium, part of the Volscian country, and the coast land as far as the Liris, southwards. None but persons enrolled on the lists of these tribes had a vote in the popular[211] assemblies or any share in the government and legislation of the city. The Latin cities not included in the tribes, and all the Italian communities, were subject to Rome, but had no share in her political franchise.

The principles on which the Italian nations were so settled as to remain the peaceable subjects of Rome were these: first, they were broken up and divided as much as possible; secondly, they were allowed, with little exception, to manage their own affairs. The isolation enforced by Rome prevented them from combining against her. The self-government granted by Rome made them bear her supremacy with contentment.

Prefectures; Municipalities

The arts by which isolation was produced were put in practice at the settlement of Latium fifty years before. The same plan was pursued with the different Italian nations. Those which submitted with a good grace were treated leniently. Those which resisted stubbornly were weakened by the confiscation of their lands and by the settlement of colonies in their principal towns. The Frentanians are the best examples of the milder treatment; the Samnites afford the most notable instance of the more harsh.

The work of isolation was promoted partly by the long and narrow shape of Italy and the mountain range by which it is traversed, which make a central government difficult, and still break it up into many states, but partly also by a sentiment common to most of the Italian nations, as well as to those of Greece. They regarded a man, not as one of a nation, but as the member of a civic community. Every one regarded his first duties as owed to his own city, and not to his nation. Their city was their country. They addressed one another not as fellow-countrymen, but as fellow-citizens. Rome herself was the noblest specimen of this form of society. And the settlement which she adopted throughout Italy took advantage of this prevailing rule, and perpetuated it.

Not only were the Italians split up into civic communities, but these communities were themselves placed in very different conditions. The division of the Italian communities, as established by the Roman government, was threefold—prefectures, municipal towns, and colonies.

The prefectures did not enjoy the right of self-government, but were under the rule of prefects or Roman governors, annually appointed; and the inhabitants of the prefecture were registered by the Roman censor, so as to be liable to all the burdens of Roman citizens, without enjoying any of their privileges. This condition was called the Cærite franchise, because the town of Cære was the first community placed in this dependent position. Amid the terror of the Gallic invasion, Cære had afforded a place of refuge to the sacred things, to the women and children of the Romans, and had been rewarded by a treaty of equal alliance. But at a later period she joined other Etruscan communities in war against Rome, and for this reason she was reduced to the condition of a prefecture. Capua afterwards became a notable instance of a similar change. After the Samnite Wars she enjoyed a state of perfect equality in respect to Rome. The troops which she supplied in virtue of the alliance between her and Rome formed a separate legion, and were commanded by her own officers, as in the case of Decius Jubellius. But in the Hannibalic War she joined Hannibal; and to punish her she was degraded to the condition of a prefecture.

At the period of which we write, the municipal towns were communities bound to Rome by treaties of alliance, framed on a general principle[212] with respect to burdens and privileges. Their burdens consisted in furnishing certain contingents of troops, which they were obliged to provide with pay and equipments while on service. Their privileges consisted in freedom from all other taxes, and in possessing the right of self-government. This condition was secured by a treaty of alliance, which, nominally at least, placed the municipal community on a footing of equality with Rome; though sometimes this treaty was imposed by Rome without consulting the will of the other community.[45] Thus there was, no doubt, a considerable diversity of condition among the municipia. Some regarded their alliance as a boon, others looked upon it as a mark of subjection. In the former condition were Cære and Capua before they were made prefectures; in the latter condition was Volsinii and the Etruscan cities. The municipal towns enjoyed the civil or private rights of Roman citizens; but none, without special grant, had any power of obtaining the political or public rights. In some cases even the private rights were withheld, as from the greater part of the Latin communities after the war of 338 B.C., when the citizens of each community were for a time forbidden to form contracts of marriage or commerce with Roman citizens or with their neighbours. They stood to Rome and to the rest of Italy much in the same condition as the plebeians to the patricians before the Canuleian law. But these prohibitions were gradually and silently removed. Municipal towns were often rewarded by a gift of the Roman franchise, more or less completely, while those which offended were depressed to the condition of prefectures. At length, by the Julian and other laws (B.C. 90), all the municipal towns of Italy, as well as the colonies, received the full Roman franchise; and hence arose the common conception of a municipal town—that is, a community of which the citizens are members of the whole nation, all possessing the same rights, and subject to the same burdens, but retaining the administration of law and government in all local matters which concern not the nation at large.

Colonies; Free and Confederate States

It is in the colonial towns that we must look for the chief instruments of Roman supremacy in Italy. Directly dependent upon Rome for existence, they served more than anything to promote that division of interests which rendered it so difficult for any part of Italy to combine against Rome.

When we speak or think of Roman colonies, we must dismiss all those conceptions of colonisation which are familiar to our minds from the practice pursued in the familiar cases of the maritime states of modern Europe.[46] Roman colonies were not planted in new countries by adventurers who found their old homes too narrow for their wants or their ambition. When the Romans planted a colony (at the time we speak of and for more than a century later), it was always within the limits of the Italian peninsula, and within the walls of ancient cities whose obstinate resistance made it imprudent to restore them to independence, and whose reduced condition rendered it possible to place them in the condition of subjects. But these colonies were not all of the same character. They must be distinguished into two classes: the colonies of Roman citizens, and the Latin colonies.

The colonies of Roman citizens consisted usually of three hundred men of approved military experience, who went forth with their families to[213] occupy conquered cities of no great magnitude, but which were important as military positions, being usually on the seacoast. These three hundred families formed a sort of patrician caste, while the old inhabitants sank into the condition formerly occupied by the plebeians at Rome. The heads of these families retained all their rights as Roman citizens, and might repair to Rome to vote in the popular assemblies. When in early Roman history we hear of the revolt of a colony, the meaning seems to be that the natives rose against the colonists and expelled them. Hence it is that we hear of colonists being sent more than once to the same place, as to Antium.

Prow of a Roman War Galley

(After De Montfaucon)

But more numerous and more important than these were the Latin colonies, of which there were thirty in existence when Hannibal crossed the Alps. Of these thirty no fewer than twenty-six had been founded before the close of the year 263 B.C. The reason for the name they bore was this: We have seen that a close connection had subsisted between Rome and the Latin communities from the earliest times. Under the later kings Rome was the head of Latium; and by Spurius Cassius a league was formed between Rome and Latium, which continued with a slight interruption till the great Latin war of 338 B.C. So long as this league lasted, Latins enjoyed all the private rights of Roman citizens in Rome; and Romans enjoyed all the private rights of the Latin citizens in any of the cities of Latium. During the period of the league many colonies were sent forth, in which the settlers consisted jointly of Romans and Latins, and were not confined to the small number of three hundred, but usually amounted to some thousands. But the citizens of these Latin colonies seem to have had no rights at Rome, except such as were possessed by the allied municipal towns. They were therefore regarded politically as communities in alliance with Rome. After the Latin war, similar colonies still continued to be sent forth. Indeed, these were the colonies which chiefly relieved the poor of the Roman territory.

The rights and privileges of these Latin colonies are only known to us as they are found at a later period of the republic under the name Latinitas,[214] or the Right of Latium (Jus Latii). This right, at the later time we speak of, we know to have consisted in the power of obtaining the full rights of a Roman burgess, but in a limited and peculiar manner. Any citizen of a Latin community, whether one of the free cities of Latium or a Latin colony, was allowed to emigrate to Rome and be enrolled in one of the Roman tribes, on two conditions: first, that he had held a magistracy in his native town: secondly, that he left a representative of his family in that native town. Thus was formed that large body of half-Roman citizens throughout Italy, who are so well known to readers of Livy under the appellation of “the Latin name.” Socii et nomen Latinum—the allies and the Latin name—was the technical expression for all those Italian communities who were bound to supply soldiers for her armies.

Besides the mass of the Italian communities which were in a condition of greater or less dependence upon Rome,—the prefectures in a state of absolute subjection, the colonies bound by ties of national feeling and interest, the municipal towns by articles of alliance,—there remain to be noticed, fourthly, the cities which remained wholly independent of Rome, but bound to her by treaties of equal alliance. Of the Latin cities, Tibur and Præneste alone were in this condition; in Campania, most of the cities, till, after the Hannibalic War, Capua and others were reduced to the condition of prefectures; of the Hellenic cities in the south, Neapolis, Rhegium, and others; in Umbria, Camerium; in Etruria, Iguvium; with all the cities of the Frentanians. But as Roman power increased, most of these communities were reduced to the condition of simple municipal towns.

Whatever is known of the internal constitution of these various communities belongs to later times, when by the Julian law they all obtained the Roman franchise, and became part and parcel of the Roman state. There can, however, be little doubt that in the colonies a constitution was adopted similar to that of Rome herself. The colonists formed a kind of patriciate or aristocracy, and the heads of their leading families constituted a senate. There were two chief magistrates, called duumviri, representing the consuls, to whom (in the more important towns) were added one or two men to fulfil the duties of censor and quæstor. In course of time similar constitutions were introduced into the municipal towns also.

Thus, by placing the Italian cities in every possible relation to herself, from real independence to complete subjection, and by planting colonies, some with full Roman rights, some with a limited power of obtaining these rights, Rome wove her net of sovereignty over the peninsula, and covered every part with its entangling meshes. The policy of Rome, as has been said, may be summed up in the two words—isolation and self-government.c


[44] [Mommsenb thinks of Pyrrhus as “simply a military adventurer.” He finds his dream of western empire, “analogous in greatness and boldness to the idea which led Alexander over the Hellespont.” But he finds a vast difference between the chances of success, seeing in the disorganised and independent Italian states “poor material for a united realm.” In all points the plan of the Macedonian appears as a feasible, that of the Epirot as an impracticable, enterprise; the former as the completion of a great historical task, the latter as a remarkable blunder. And yet we must not forget that we look at these attempts from the viewpoint of result not of purpose, and to his contemporaries the conquest of Italy would have seemed easier, if less worth while, than the then apparently impossible dream of Alexander.]

[45] Hence the distinction between Civitates Federatæ and Liberæ. All federate communities were free, but not all free communities were federate.]

[46] [Roman colonies were essentially similar to the cleruchies of Athens.]





Carthage clears the Alps, Rome traverses the seas, the two peoples, personified in two men Hannibal and Scipio, wrestle and are desperate to terminate the struggle. ’Tis a duel à outrance, a fight to the death. Rome totters, she utters a cry of anguish: Hannibal ad portas! But she rises again, uses the limits of her strength in a last blow, throws herself on Carthage and effaces her from the world.—Victor Hugo.

A taste of blood whets the appetite of a nation no less than of an animal. It is notorious that the love of power grows with its acquisition. It was inevitable then that the Romans, after beating off their eastern enemy, should turn their eyes more and more jealously towards their one remaining rival in the west—namely, Carthage. A certain amount of antagonism there had doubtless been all along between Rome and Carthage, but there was a long time during which the Italian city had hardly achieved strength enough to excite a real jealousy on the part of a community of such recognised power as Carthage. And even now there was no possibility that Rome could claim to compete with her rival on the sea. Inheriting the traditions of her mother city, Tyre, Carthage was pre-eminently a commercial city. She occupied that pre-eminence of the western Mediterranean that Tyre so long held in the East, and she was little disposed to accept without a struggle the rivalry of a people of another land and race. It was inevitable then that a war to the death must sooner or later determine the question of mastery so soon as Rome had achieved a degree of power which enforced her recognition as an actual rival of Carthage. The contest was precipitated—as might have been expected—by the condition of things in Sicily, an island which lay intermediate between the territories of the two powers, and thus almost of necessity became a bone of contention between them. In the early days, indeed, it was the Greeks and Carthaginians who disputed over Sicily, and perpetually quarrelled there, but now after the death of Agathocles, the powerful tyrant of Syracuse, and the defeat of Pyrrhus, it became clear that Syracuse and the other Greek cities of Sicily must look for aid in future to Rome rather than to Greece. But the acceptance of such an alliance on the part of Rome virtually implied war with Carthage, and such a war broke out actively only a few years after the expulsion of Pyrrhus from Italy. It required indeed a series of three most memorable wars, extending over a period of more than a century, finally to decide the fate of Carthage.

The first of these wars—in some sense perhaps the most important, yet as regards its results by far the least striking in itself—lasted some twenty-three[216] years. It was fought out largely in Sicily itself by the Romans who were, for the most part, successful and in the end entirely victorious; and on the sea, where the fleets of the Romans were for a long time quite unable to compete with their rivals; the same dogged pertinacity, however, that had made Rome mistress of Italy and that had brought about the final triumph over Pyrrhus, stood them in good stead in the new effort to create a powerful navy—an effort which was at last crowned with such complete success that in the final decisive battle at the Ægatian Islands, the fleet of Carthage was entirely destroyed and dispersed. At last Carthage sued for peace, acknowledging the supremacy of Rome in Sicily and giving up all claim to that island.

The events that followed illustrate not merely the inertia of long-established institutions in the way in which Carthage rallied from her defeat and returned again and again to the contest, but they illustrate even more strikingly the influence which individual great men have in history. There have been philosophers who have contended that great statesmen and great warriors are rather the result of the opportunity of their times than a directing influence; but it is hard for any one who attentively considers the course of history to overlook the fact that the great man, even though in some sense called forth by the necessities of the time, yet may put his stamp in a most definitive way upon the trend of future events. So it was, for example, with Alexander; so it was with Pyrrhus; and so it was now with a group of great Carthaginians including Hamilcar Barca, his son-in-law Hasdrubal, and most notably of all, the son of Hamilcar, the famous but ill-fated warrior Hannibal.

These men, fired with loyalty to their native city, were imbued with a bitter hatred of Rome, and swore to devote their lives to the work of gaining back prestige for Carthage and to the destruction of her enemy. In the end their effort was not successful; yet the struggle in which they participated was one of the most wonderful and picturesque episodes in all history, and it has bequeathed us the name of Hannibal as that of one of the three or four greatest generals of all time. The story of how he precipitated the Second Punic War through the destruction of Saguntum; how he crossed the Alps with his army, invading the territory of Italy itself, and there defeating the Romans again and again until their very national existence seemed threatened; and of how, finally, recalled from Italy to protect Carthage herself against the invasion of the Roman Scipio Africanus, Hannibal was defeated before Carthage, all his labour of years coming to nought—must be told in detail. Suffice it here to say that this story, fascinating in itself, is of double interest, because it relates not merely to the prowess of individual warriors, of individual hosts, but to the evolution of that world-power through which Rome was to stamp her influence for all time on European history.

Yet a Third Punic War was necessary before Carthage was finally removed for all time from the stage of important history. Another Scipio, called Africanus Minor, the adopted son of his great predecessor, was the leader of the Roman arms in that final assault upon Carthage, and the somewhat unwilling officer who carried out the mandate of the Roman senate, which declared that Carthage should be absolutely destroyed. That mandate was put into effect. No rival remained to Rome in the West, and, as we shall see, steps had been taken which resulted almost simultaneously in the final subjugation of those powers that hitherto had disputed the influence of Rome in the East.a



[326-289 B.C.]

Nothing is more remarkable in the history of Rome than the manner in which she was brought into contact with only one enemy at a time. During the heat of her contest with the Samnites, Alexander of Macedon was terminating his career. The Second Samnite War broke out in 326 B.C.; and in the following year the great king died at the untimely age of thirty-two. The possibility that he might have turned his course westward occurred to Roman minds. Livyc broaches the question, whether Rome would have risen superior to the contest or not, and decides it in the affirmative. But his judgment is that of a patriot, rather than of a historian. Scarcely did Rome prevail over the unassisted prowess of the Samnites. Scarcely did she drive the adventurous Pyrrhus from her shores. If a stronger than Pyrrhus—a man of rarest ability both for war and peace—had joined his power to that of C. Pontius the Samnite, it can hardly be doubted that the history of the world would have been changed.

The same good fortune attended Rome in her collision with Carthage. The adventurous temper of Pyrrhus led him from Italy to Sicily, and threw the Carthaginians into alliance with the Romans. What might have been the result of the Tarentine War, if the diplomacy of Cineas had been employed to engage the great African city against Rome? Now that Italy was prostrate, it was plain that a collision between the two governments was inevitable. As Pyrrhus left the soil of Italy forever, he said regretfully: “How fair a battle-field we are leaving for the Romans and Carthaginians!”

It was by means of her fleets that Carthage was brought into connection and collision with other countries. In early days she had established commercial settlements in the south of Spain and in Sicily. It was in the latter country that she came in contact first with the Greeks, and afterwards with the Romans. In early times the Carthaginians contented themselves with obtaining possession of three factories or trading marts on the coast of Sicily—Panormus, Motya, and Lilybæum, which they fortified very strongly. But after the great overthrow of the Athenian power by the Syracusans (413 B.C.), the Carthaginian government formed the design of becoming masters of this fertile and coveted island. But their successes were checked by Dionysius the tyrant of Syracuse, whose long reign of thirty-eight years (405-367 B.C.) comprises the time of Rome’s great depression by the Gallic invasion, while the year of his death is coincident with that of the Licinian laws, the era from which dates the constant advance of the great Italian city. After many vicissitudes he was obliged to conclude a peace by which the river Halycus was settled as the boundary between Grecian and Carthaginian Sicily, and the territory of Agrigentum was added to Syracusan rule (383 B.C.).

In 317 B.C. Agathocles made himself king of Syracuse, and in 310 B.C. the Carthaginians declared war against him. Reduced to great straits, he took the bold step of transporting the troops which remained for the defence of the capital into Africa, so as to avail himself of the known disaffection of the Libyan subjects of Carthage. His successes were marvellous. One of the suffets fell in battle, the other acted as a traitor. All the Libyan subjects of Carthage supported the Sicilian monarch, but he was obliged to return to Sicily by an insurrection there. The remainder of his life was spent in vain attempts in Sicily, in Corcyra, and in southern Italy. He died in 289 B.C., less than ten years before the appearance of that other fearless adventurer Pyrrhus in Italy.


[289-264 B.C.]

After the death of Agathocles, the Carthaginians and Greeks of Sicily rested quiet till Pyrrhus undertook to expel the former from the island. The appearance of Carthaginian fleets off Ostia, and in the Gulf of Tarentum, roused the jealousy of the Italian republic, and an opportunity only was wanting to give rise to open war between the two states.

The occupation of Messana by the Campanian mercenaries of Agathocles, calling themselves Mamertines, has been noticed. From this place they became dangerous neighbours of Syracuse. A young man named Hiero, who had won distinction in the Sicilian campaigns of Pyrrhus, defeated these marauders at Centuripæ, and was by his grateful compatriots proclaimed king about the year 270 B.C. In 265 B.C. the new king resolved to destroy this nest of robbers, and advanced against Messana with a force superior to any they could bring into the field against him. The Mamertines, in this peril, were divided; one party wished to call in the Carthaginians, another preferred alliance with Rome. The latter prevailed, and envoys were despatched to demand immediate aid. The senate were well inclined to grant what was asked; for that Messana, a town with a good harbour, and separated from Italy by a narrow strait, should pass into the hands of Carthage, might have given alarm to a less watchful government. Yet shame restrained them. It was barely six years since Hiero had assisted them in punishing the Campanian legion which had seized Italian Rhegium, as the Mamertines had seized Sicilian Messana, and the senate declined to entertain the question. But the consuls, eager for military glory, brought the matter before the centuriate assembly, which straightway voted that support should be given to the Mamertines, or in other words, that the Carthaginians should not be allowed to gain possession of Messana. The consul Appius Claudius, son of the old censor, was to command the army.

During this delay, however, the Carthaginian party among the Mamertines had prevailed, and Hanno, with a party of Carthaginian soldiers, had been admitted into the town. But Appius succeeded in landing his troops to the south of the town,[47] and defeated Hiero with such loss that the prudent king retired to Syracuse. Next day the Romans fell upon Hanno, and also defeated him. The consul pursued his successes by plundering the Syracusan dominions up to the very gates of the city.

The Romans, having now set foot in Sicily, determined to declare war against Carthage. It is probable that the senate, recollecting the rapid success of Pyrrhus, who in two years almost swept the Carthaginians out of the island, reckoned on a speedy conquest; else, after their late exhausting wars, they would hardly have engaged in this new and terrible conflict. But they were much deceived. The First Punic War, which began in 264 B.C., did not end till 241, having dragged out its tedious length for three-and-twenty years. The general history of it is most uninteresting. All the great men of Rome, who had waged her Italian wars with so much vigour and ability, were in their graves; we hear no more of Decius, or Curius, or Fabricius, and no worthy successors had arisen. The only men of note who appear on the Roman side are Duilius and Regulus. But the generals of Carthage are no less obscure, except the great Hamilcar.[48]



[264-262 B.C.]

To make the dreary length of this war more intelligible, it may conveniently be divided into three periods. The first comprises its first seven years (264-257), during which the Romans were uniformly successful, and at the close of which they had driven the Carthaginians to the south and west coasts of Sicily. The second is an anxious period of mingled success and failure, also lasting for seven years (256-250): it begins with the invasion of Africa by Regulus, and ends with his embassy and death. The third is a long and listless period of nine years (249-241), in which the Romans slowly retrieve their losses, and at length conclude the war by a great victory at sea.

FIRST PERIOD (264-257 B.C.)

The ill success of Hanno at Messana so displeased the Carthaginian government that they ordered the unfortunate general to be crucified. The Romans pursued their first success with vigour. In the year 264 B.C. both the consuls crossed over into Sicily with an army of nearly fifty thousand men. A number of the Sicilian towns declared in favour of the new power, which might (they hoped) secure their independence against both Syracuse and Carthage; for at present no one dreamed of a permanent occupation of the island by the Romans. Hiero, a prudent man, was struck by the energy of the new invaders. “They had conquered him,” he said, “before he had had time to see them.” He shrewdly calculated that the Carthaginians would prove inferior in the struggle, and forthwith concluded a treaty of alliance with Rome, by which he was left in undisturbed possession of a small but fertile region lying round Syracuse; some more remote towns, as Tauromenium, being also subject to his sceptre.

A Roman Consul

From this time forth to the time of his death, a period of forty-seven years, he remained a useful ally of the Roman people. In 262 B.C. both[220] consuls laid siege to the city of Agrigentum, which, though fallen from her ancient splendour, was still the second of the Hellenic communities in Sicily. Another Hanno was sent from Carthage to raise the siege, and for some time fortune favoured him. He drew a second circle of entrenchments round the Roman lines, so as to intercept all supplies; and thus the besiegers, being themselves besieged, were reduced to the greatest straits. But the consul at length forced Hanno to give him battle, and gained a complete victory. Upon this the commandant of the garrison, finding further defence useless, slipped out of Agrigentum by night, and deserted the hapless city after a siege of seven months. The Romans repaid themselves for the miseries they had undergone by indulging in all those excesses which soldiers are wont to commit when they take a town by storm after a long and obstinate defence. It is said that twenty-five thousand men were slain.

[262-260 B.C.]

This great success raised the spirits of the Romans. And now the senate conceived the hope and formed the plan of expelling the Carthaginians entirely from Sicily: but after a short experience, that sagacious council became aware that a fleet was indispensable for success. Nothing shows the courage and resolution of the Romans more than their manner of acting in this matter. It is no light matter for landsmen to become seamen; but for unpractised landsmen to think of encountering the most skilful seamen then known might have been deemed a piece of romantic absurdity, if the men of Rome had not undertaken and accomplished it.

What they wanted first was a set of ships, which, in size at least and weight, should be a match for those of the enemy. It is a mistake to suppose that the Romans had no fleet before this time. The treaties with Carthage sufficiently prove the contrary; and on several occasions we hear of ships being employed by them. But these ships were of the trireme kind, formerly employed by the Greeks. The Carthaginians, like the Greeks after Alexander, used quinqueremes; and it would have been as absurd for the small Roman ships to have encountered those heavier vessels, as for a frigate to cope with a three-decker. The Romans therefore determined to build quinqueremes. A Carthaginian ship cast ashore on the coast of Bruttium served as a model; the forest of Sila, in that district, supplied timber. In sixty days from the time the trees were felled they had completed, probably by the help of Greek artisans, a fleet of one hundred quinqueremes, and twenty triremes; and while it was building, they trained men to row in a manner which to us seems laughable, by placing them on scaffolds ranged on land in the same way as the benches in the ships (262 B.C.).

[260-256 B.C.]

The consul Cn. Cornelius put to sea first with seventeen ships, leaving the rest of the fleet to follow; but he was surprised near Lipara and captured, with the whole of his little squadron, by the Carthaginian admiral. His plebeian colleague, C. Duilius, was in command of the army in Sicily; but as soon as he heard of this disaster, he hastened to take charge of the main body of the fleet, and sailed slowly along the north coast of Sicily (260 B.C.).

Meantime, the Roman shipwrights had contrived certain engines, by means of which their seamen might grapple with the enemy’s ships, so as to bring them to close quarters and deprive them of the superiority derived from their better construction and the greater skill of their crews. These engines were called crows (corvi). They consisted of a gangway thirty-six feet long and four broad, pierced with an oblong hole towards[221] one end, so as to play freely round a strong pole twenty-four feet high, which was fixed near the ship’s prow. At the other end was attached a strong rope, which passed over a sheaf at the head of the pole. By this rope the gangway was kept hauled up till within reach of the enemy’s ship; it was then suddenly let go, and as it fell with all its weight, a strong spike on its under side (shaped like a crow’s beak) was driven into the enemy’s deck. Then the Roman men-at-arms poured along the gangway, and a stand-up fight followed, in which the best soldiers must prevail.

Thus prepared, Duilius encountered the enemy’s fleet. He found them ravaging the coast at Mylæ, a little to the west of Palermo. The admiral was the same person who had commanded the garrison of Agrigentum, and was carried in an enormous septireme, which had formerly belonged to Pyrrhus. Nothing daunted, Duilius attacked without delay. By his rude assault the skilful tactics of the Carthaginian seamen were confounded. The Roman fighting-men were very numerous, and when they had once boarded an enemy’s ship, easily made themselves masters of her. Duilius took thirty-one Carthaginian ships and sunk fourteen. For a season, no Roman name stood so high as that of Duilius. Public honours were awarded him; he was to be escorted home at night from banquets and festivals by the light of torches and the music of the flute; a pillar was set up in the Forum, ornamented with the beaks of the captured ships, and therefore called the Columna Rostrata, to commemorate the great event; fragments of the inscription still remain in the Capitoline Museum at Rome. And no doubt the triumph was signal. The honours conferred upon the conqueror cannot but give a pleasing impression of the simple manners then prevailing at Rome, especially when we contrast them with the cruelty of the Carthaginian government, who crucified their unfortunate admiral. To have defeated the Mistress of the Sea upon her own element in the first trial of strength was indeed remarkable.

The sea fight of Duilius was fought in the year 260 B.C. In the following years the Carthaginians were only able to act upon the defensive. Not only Agrigentum, but Camarina, Gela, Enna, Segesta, and many other cities had surrendered to the Romans. The Carthaginians were confined to their great trading marts, Drepana, Lilybæum, Eryx, and Panormus. They did not dare to meet the Romans in the field; yet these places were very strong, especially Lilybæum. Against its iron fortifications all the strength of Pyrrhus had been broken. It was not time yet for Carthage to despair.

But in the eighth year of the war the senate determined on more decisive measures. They knew the weakness of the Carthaginians at home; they had a victorious fleet, and they determined not to let their fortune slumber.

SECOND PERIOD (256-250 B.C.)

[256-255 B.C.]

Duilius appears for a brief time as the hero of the first part of the war; but its second period is marked by the name of a man who has become famous as a patriot—M. Atilius Regulus. It was in the year 256, the eighth of the war, that the consuls, M. Regulus and L. Manlius, sailed from Italy and doubled Cape Pachynus with a fleet of 330 quinqueremes. The Carthaginian fleet, even larger in number, had been stationed at Lilybæum to meet the enemy, whether they should approach from the north or from the[222] east. They now put to sea, and sailed westwards along the southern coast of Sicily. They met the Roman fleet at a place called Ecnomus, a little more than halfway along that coast. The battle that ensued was the greatest that, up to that time, had ever been fought at sea; it is calculated that not fewer than 300,000 men were engaged. It was desperately contested on both sides; but at Ecnomus, again, we are astonished to find the Roman fleet victorious (256 B.C.).

Roman Embassy at Carthage

(After Mirys)

The way was now open to Africa. The consuls, after refitting and provisioning their fleet, sailed straight across to the Hermæan promontory, which is distant from the nearest point of Sicily not more than eighty miles. But the omens were not auspicious; the Roman soldiery went on board with gloomy forebodings of their fate; one of the tribunes refused to lead his legionaries into the ships, till Regulus ordered the lictors to seize him. The passage, however, was favoured by the wind. The consuls landed their men, drew up the fleet on shore, and fortified it in a naval camp; and then, marching southwards, they took the city of Aspis or Clupea by assault. No Carthaginian army met them; every place they came near, except Utica, surrendered at discretion, for they were unfortified and defenceless. Carthage, being of old mistress of the sea, feared no invaders, and, like England, trusted for defence to her wooden walls. Yet she had not been unwarned. Sixty years before the adventurous Agathocles had landed like Regulus. Then, as now, the whole country lay like a garden before him, covered with wealthy towns and the luxurious villas of the Carthaginian merchants. Then two hundred towns or more had surrendered almost without stroke of sword. It appeared as if the same easy success now awaited Regulus and the Romans.


The consuls were advancing along the coast of the gulf towards Carthage, when Manlius was recalled with the greater part of the army, and Regulus was left in Africa with only fifteen thousand foot and five hundred horse. Yet even with this small force he remained master of the country. He had gone round the whole Gulf of Tunis as far as Utica, and now he turned upon his steps with the intention of marching upon the capital itself. On his way he was obliged to cross the river Bagradas, and here (so ran the legend) the army was stopped by a huge serpent, so strong and tough of skin that they were unable to destroy it, till they brought up their artillery of catapults and balists; he then continued his route southwards to the Bay of Carthage. He was allowed to take Tunis, which stood within twenty miles of Carthage. The great city was now reduced to the utmost straits. A Roman army was encamped within sight; famine stared the townsmen in the face; the government trembled. In this abject condition the council sent an embassy to ask what terms of peace Regulus would grant.

The consul was so elated by success, that he demanded the most extravagant concessions. The Carthaginians were to give up their fleet, pay all the expenses of the war, and cede all Sicily, with Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Isles, to Rome. When these terms were reported, the government took care to publish them, and public indignation rose against the arrogant invaders. The civic force was not untrained to arms, and they had now to fight for their hearths and altars. A good general was sought for. At that time there happened to be at Carthage a soldier of fortune, by name Xanthippus, a Lacedæmonian.[49] This man had been heard to censure the native generals, and to declare that the victories of the Romans were due, not to their own superior skill, but to the faults of their opponents. He was summoned before the council and desired to give reasons for his remarks. He did so; and, for a moment, the government, dismissing all jealousy, appointed this obscure foreigner general-in-chief. Xanthippus immediately drew together all the mercenaries he could find, and united them with the armed citizens; then, supported by a large body of elephants, he boldly took the field. The Romans were astonished; but they were too much accustomed to victory to hesitate about accepting battle. But they were both outnumbered and outgeneralled. Xanthippus gained a victory as easy as it was complete. Regulus himself was taken prisoner; only two thousand of his men succeeded in making good their retreat to Clupea.

Thus was Carthage delivered by the ability of one man, and that man a foreigner. The government did not improve in wisdom or generosity; their incapable generals resumed the command, and Xanthippus, loaded with honours and presents, prudently withdrew from the jealous city.

The Roman senate did their best to repair this great calamity. The new consuls were ordered to put to sea, and bring off the garrison and fugitives from Clupea. Near the Hermæan promontory they encountered the enemy’s fleet, and again defeated it; and then, having taken up the ships and men at Clupea, they sailed for Syracuse. But a still greater disaster was in store for Rome than the destruction of her African army. This was the loss of that fleet of which she was justly proud. The time of year was about the beginning of the dog-days, when the Mediterranean is apt to be visited by sudden storms. The consuls, upon their passage, were warned that such a storm was at hand; but they were ignorant and rash, and continued their course. Before they could double Cape Pachynus they were caught by the[224] tempest; almost the whole fleet was wrecked or foundered; the coast of Sicily from Camarina to Pachynus was strewed with fragments of ships and bodies of men. Such was the end of the first Roman fleet (255 B.C.).

[255-250 B.C.]

These successive disasters might well raise the hopes of Carthage, and they sent a considerable force into Sicily, with 140 elephants. Agrigentum is said to have been recovered, and no doubt it was expected that the whole island would once more become their own. But the Romans showed a spirit equal to the need. In three months’ time (so wonderful was their energy) a new fleet of 220 sail was ready for sea. The consuls of the year 254 B.C., having touched at Messana to take up the remnants of the old fleet, passed onwards to Drepana. They could not take this strong place, but they were more successful at Panormus, the modern Palermo, which yielded after a short siege to the Roman arms. This was an important conquest.

Next year the fleet touched at several places on the African coast, but without making any impression on the country. Among the shoals and currents of the Lesser Syrtis it ran great danger of being lost; but having escaped this peril, the consuls returned to Panormus and thence stood straight across for the mouth of the Tiber. On the passage they were overtaken by another of those terrible storms, and again nearly the whole fleet was lost. Thus, within three years, the Romans lost two great fleets. This was enough to damp even their courage; and the senate determined to try whether it were not possible to keep their ground in Sicily without a navy. For the present they gave up all claim to the command of the sea, and limited themselves to a small fleet of sixty ships.

Matters continued in this state for two years. Neither party seemed willing to hazard a battle by land; but in 250 B.C. Hasdrubal, the Carthaginian general, was induced to march secretly from Lilybæum to Panormus, in the hope of surprising and recovering that important town. The Roman commandant was the proconsul L. Cæcilius Metellus. He allowed the enemy to approach the walls, and then suddenly sallied forth, covering his attack by a cloud of light troops, slingers, and javelin-men. Some of the elephants being wounded, carried confusion into their own ranks, and Metellus, seizing the occasion, charged the enemy and defeated them utterly. Besides thirteen Carthaginian generals, 120 elephants were taken and carried across the sea on strong rafts to adorn the triumph of the proconsul. The battle of Panormus was the greatest battle that was fought on land in the course of the war, and it was the last. In memory of this victory we find the elephant as a frequent device on the coins of the great family of the Metelli.b We may well quote here Polybius’ account both of the loss of the fleet in 255 and of this victory at Panormus or Palermo.


[255-251 B.C.]

The Romans had made ready, early in the Spring, a Fleet of Three Hundred and Fifty Sail; and Embarking their Army under the Command of their new Consuls, M. Æmilius, and Servius Fulvius, and standing along the Coast of Sicily towards Africa, they met, and fought off of Cape Mercury with the Carthaginian Fleet, which was not able to sustain the first shock, but being entirely beaten, lost in the Ingagement, an Hundred and Fourteen[225] of their Vessels, and all that was in them, to the Romans; who afterwards prosecuting their course, arriv’d at Aspis; where taking their Men on Board that remain’d in Africa, they shap’d their Course back to Sicily. And being well advanc’d on their way, they were surpriz’d off of Camarina with so dreadful a Tempest, that the losses and hardships they sustain’d were without Example, and beyond Expression: So terrible it was, that of Three Hundred and Seventy odd Vessels that compos’d their Fleet, Fourscore only escap’d Shipwreck, the rest being either founder’d in the Sea, or were lost and broken against the Rocks, that whole Coast being cover’d with dead bodies, and strew’d with the Ruines and Fragments of their Ships, insomuch as History affords no Example of the like dreadful disaster. And yet it may be said, that this Calamity was not owing so much to Fortune, as to the obstinacy of the Consuls: For the Pilots endeavour’d to obviate the hazard they should be expos’d to by Navigating on that Coast of Sicily, which borders on the African Sea, there being there not only no Harbours to succour vessels in distress; but the Season too of the Year was now improper; for by observation of the rising and setting of Orion and the Dog Star, they compute and know the safe Seasons for Navigation. But the Consuls, contemning their Counsel, stood boldly out to Sea, in hopes that after this signal Victory, their appearing suddenly on the Coast, might terrify many Towns, and awe them to submission: But their folly was chastis’d by this memorable loss, which they sustain’d upon a motive much too little for the hazard. The Romans have indeed this inflexibility of Mind peculiar to them, believing that whatsoever they have resolv’d and determin’d to undertake, ought to be indispensably perform’d; and they have establish’d it into a Principle, that what they once have decreed to execute, cannot be impossible to bring to pass: The effect, indeed, of a generous obstinacy, but the cause oftentimes of their falling into pernicious Errors and Misfortunes, and their sustaining unspeakable losses, especially in their Naval Expeditions. As to their Exploits by Land, where the Encounter is only Man to Man, their Courage frequently conducts them to the Success they propose, by reason their adventures are with Men like themselves; and yet there want not Examples wherein their Measures and Forces have fail’d, and they have sunk and miscarry’d under the weight of their Enterprises. But whenever, by a temerarious Audacity, they act against these raging Elements, and attempt to vanquish the Sea and Wind, they are sure to reap no other fruit of their Obstinacy, than Loss and Calamity. This we have now mentioned, is an instance, and they have heretofore smarted by the like Errors; and they shall always stand liable to the same disasters, till they appear better advis’d and instructed in the weakness of that overweening Presumption, which they are apt to entertain in all their Designs, vainly imagining, that both Sea and Land should on all occasions consent and open their way to Success in all their Enterprises.

The Carthaginians, upon advice of this Misfortune of the Romans at Sea, were of Opinion, that they should now be a match for them by Land, whereunto they were perswaded through the late Victory they had gain’d. That they should be equal to them likewise by Sea, they had no doubt, by reason of their late great loss by Tempest; howbeit they omitted not to reinforce their Strength both by Sea and Land. They dispatch’d Hasdrubal into Sicily, to whom, besides the Forces already there, they order’d a farther supply of Troops out of those that were lately drawn out of Heraclea, together with an Hundred and Forty Elephants: He was no sooner departed, but they sent after him Two Hundred Vessels laden with all things necessary for the Service[226] of the War. Hasdrubal, being safely arriv’d at Lilybæum, apply’d himself with diligence to Exercise and Discipline his Troops and his Elephants, intending to spread his Army all over the Country, and to make himself entire Master of the Field. As for the Romans, they were not without a very sensible sorrow, when by those who had escap’d Shipwreck, they receiv’d an account of the mighty loss they had sustain’d at Sea; nevertheless, being determin’d not to yield the Advantage to the Enemy, they order’d a new Fleet to be speedily built, to consist of Two Hundred and Twenty Sail; which Fleet (a wonderful and incredible thing to relate) was compleatly built and finish’d in the space of three Months; on which the new Consuls, Aulus Atilius, and C. Cornelius speedily Embark’d; who, after having pass’d the Streight, and touch’d at Messina, to take with them the Vessels that had been sav’d in the late Storm, shap’d their Course for Palermo with a Naval Army consisting of Three Hundred Sail, and forthwith sat down and besieg’d that place, which then was the Capital City of the Carthaginians in Sicily. They made their Attacks in two several places, and when their Works were advanc’d to their Minds, they approach’d with their Engines of Battery, by which, a Tower or Work standing near the Sea, was quickly, and without much trouble, demolish’d; at which breach the Souldiers enter’d, and took by Assault, and kept Possession of that quarter of the City call’d the New Town, whereby the place it self was put into manifest danger; but the Inhabitants coming seasonably in to the Relief, they advanc’d no farther; so the Consuls, after they had put a good Garrison into the place they had taken, return’d back to Rome. Early the next Summer the new Consuls, C. Servilius, and C. Sempronius, sail’d over to Sicily with all their Naval Power, and from thence, soon after, stood for the Coast of Africk, where they made several Descents, but perform’d nothing of moment; at length arriving at the Island of the Lotophagy, which is likewise call’d Meninx, not far distant from the lesser Syrtis, or Flatts; here being unacquainted with the Coast, their Fleet fell among the Sands, where their Vessels grounded, and stuck fast, as if they had been a-shoar, and there remain’d till the Flood fetch’d them off; when with great difficulty and hazard, throwing their Lumber over-board, they made a shift to escape. From thence, like People flying from an Enemy, they stood away for the Coast of Sicily; and after they had doubl’d the Cape of Lilybæum they got into the Port of Palermo. But from thence steering their Course homeward, a Storm took them in the Phare of Messina, where, by a blind Obstinacy they were imbay’d, which Storm attack’d them with such violence, that above an Hundred and Fifty of their Ships miscarry’d. Things happening thus adverse to them by Sea, tho’ the Senate and People could not subdue their Thirst of Glory and Empire, nevertheless their Losses and Calamities, and the straits to which they were now reduc’d, prevail’d with them to quit all farther attempts of trying their Fortune by Sea; so they now totally abandon’d all thoughts of Naval Preparations. And determining to rely solely on their Land Armies, they dispatch’d the Consuls, L. Cæcilius, and Cn. Furius to Sicily with the Legions, alotting them only about Threescore Vessels whereon securely to Embark and waft over the Army, their Baggage and Amunition. These Misfortunes of the Romans much augmented the Carthaginian Glory and Fame in the World, and gave a new Face to their Affairs. In a word, as the Romans had now yielded them up the Dominion of the Sea, it was no difficulty for them to be entirely Masters there; nor were they without hopes of succeeding in their Affairs by Land; nor did they reckon very wide of the matter, for from the time of the defeat of the Roman Army, by the assistance of the[227] Elephants, which discompos’d and broke their Ranks in the Battel fought in Africk, where those Animals made such destruction of their People, the Souldiers became so terribly aw’d, that tho’ they had been on several occasions drawn up in Battalia to ingage within five or six Furlongs of the Carthaginian Army; sometimes in the Territory of Selinunce, sometimes about Lilybæum, yet for the space of two Years together they wanted Resolution to ingage them, or to adventure to abide in the Champain Country, so great a dread they had conceiv’d of the Fury and Shock of those stupendious beasts: So that little or no Progress was made in their Affairs during all that space, saving the taking of Lipary and Thermes, the Army continuing Coopt up in the Mountains, and Inaccessible Places. Wherefore the Romans, observing this Terrour among their Legions, took a Resolution once more, to tempt their Fortune by Sea: Accordingly upon the Creation of C. Atilius and L. Manlius Consuls, they Order’d the Building of Fifty Vessels, and Levies of men for that Service; and now they had a Navy once again establish’d.


[251-250 B.C.]

Hasdrubal having observ’d this dread that possess’d the Roman Army, when ever he presented them Battel, and having Intelligence that one of the Consuls was now return’d back to Rome, and one half of the Army with him; and that Cæcilius with the rest of the Troops was at Palermo, Assisting their Allies in gathering in their Harvest, their Corn being now Ripe; he March’d out of Lilybæum with his Troops, and came and Incamp’d on the Borders of the Territory of Palermo. Cæcilius observing this weak Proceeding of the Carthaginian, kept his People within the Walls of the Town, thereby to ingage him to Advance nearer, which Hasdrubal accordingly did, perswaded thereto by the shew of fear the Romans were under, and imagining that Cæcilius had not the Resolution to appear in the Field, he rashly adventur’d his Army into a narrow Straight: and albeit he wasted the Country to the very Walls of Palermo, Cæcilius nevertheless held his first determination, not to move till the Enemy had pass’d the River that runs close by the Town. When, in short, after the Elephants and the whole Army had got over, he Order’d some of his light Arm’d Souldiers, to advance out against them to Pickeer, and draw them the more boldly on. And observing all things to Succeed as he had projected, he Posted a Body of select and skilful Souldiers upon the Counterscarp of the Town, with Orders that if the Elephants advanc’d upon them, to Attack them with Darts and Missive Weapons, and in case they should be press’d by those Animals, that they should then retire into the Ditch; and from thence gall and molest them all they could. He Order’d the Towns People at the same time to furnish themselves with great quantities of Darts, and Post themselves without the Town at the Foot of the Walls, and there abide in a Posture of Defence. Cæcilius himself with all his troops remain’d in readiness at a certain Gate of the Town, that was oppos’d to the Right Wing of the Enemy, from whence he sustain’d the Troops with fresh Supplies of men, who were already Ingaged. In a Word, the Battel began now to grow warm, and the Leaders of the Elephants being resolv’d to be sharers with Hasdrubal in the Honour of the day, proceeding as if they design’d the Victory should be wholly owing to them, advanc’d all in Order upon the Romans, whom they soon forc’d to give Ground and retire into the Ditch. But now the Elephants, smarting with the Wounds they had receiv’d, and vex’d with the Darts wherewith they were gall’d both from the Ditch and the Walls of the Town, began to grow unruly, fell upon their own People, and destroy’d many, and put their Troops in disorder. This being observ’d by Cæcilius he forthwith Salli’d out with his Troops fresh and in good Order, and attacking the Enemy in Flank, who were already[228] in Confusion, slew many, and put the rest of the Army to Flight. Ten Elephants were then taken with the Indians their Guides, and others who had lost their Leaders fell likewise into their Hands after the Battel. The happy Issue of this Action got Cæcilius the Reputation every where of having Restor’d the Roman Courage by Land, to Attempt Incamping in the open and plain Country, and to know how to behave themselves well again out of their Retrenchments. There was great joy at Rome upon the Arrival of the News of this Defeat, not so much on account of the Elephants which had been taken, tho’ it was a very sensible blow to the Enemy, but because the taking of those Animals, and the Victory obtain’d against them, had restor’d the Souldiers Resolution. Wherefore they determin’d once again, as had been propos’d (to the end they might at any rate put a Period to this War) to Dispatch the Consuls away with a new Navy. And when all things were in readiness for the Expedition, they departed for Sicily with a Fleet of Two Hundred Sail, it being now the Fourteenth Year of the First Punic War.d

[250-249 B.C.]

After the battle of Panormus, the hopes of the Romans rose again, and the senate gave orders to build a third fleet of two hundred sail. But the Carthaginians, weary of the expenses of the war, and suffering greatly in their commerce, thought that a fair opportunity for making peace was now offered. The Romans had not so entirely recovered from their late disasters, but that they might be glad to listen to fair terms. Accordingly an embassy was despatched to offer an exchange of prisoners and to propose terms on which a peace might be concluded. Regulus (according to the well-known story) accompanied this embassy, under promise to return to Carthage if the purposes of the embassy should fail. When he arrived at Rome he refused to enter the walls and take his place in the senate, as being no longer a citizen or a senator. Then the senate sent certain of their own number to confer with him in presence of the ambassadors, and the counsel which he gave confirmed the wavering minds of the fathers. “Useless it was,” he said, “to ransom prisoners who had ignobly yielded with arms in their hands: let them be left to perish unheeded; let war go on till Carthage be subdued.” His counsel prevailed, and the embassy returned without effect. Regulus also returned to suffer the vengeance of the Carthaginians. Every one knows the horrid tortures by which it is said that life was taken from him; how his eyelids were cut off; how he was placed in a barrel stuck full of nails, with one end knocked out; and how he was exposed to the unmitigated glare of an African sun, to die by the slow agonies of pain, and thirst, and fever.

Regulus was a man of the old Roman kind, like Curius and Fabricius, devoted to his country, eager for glory, frugal, bold, resolute or (call it) stubborn. He has been censured for excessive presumptuousness in his African campaign, and for the extravagance by which he lost all the advantages which he might have secured. But it must be allowed that he had some grounds even for overweening confidence. Ever since the two nations had met in arms, the star of Carthage had grown dim before that of Rome. Even on the sea, where her navies had long ridden triumphant, the Queen of the Mediterranean had twice been beaten by her unskilled rival. There was enough to make more sagacious men than Regulus believe that Carthage was well-nigh powerless against Rome. The Romans had yet to learn that when the jealous government of Carthage allowed great generals to command their armies, such as Xanthippus, and Hamilcar, and Hannibal, then the well-trained mercenaries might gain easy victories over their own brave but less practised citizens.


The whole story of the embassy and death of Regulus has been doubted, chiefly because of the silence of Polybius, the most authentic historian of the time; and from the certainty that at least one mythical marvel has been introduced into the narrative. But if allowance be made for some patriotic exaggeration, there is nothing improbable in the story. Those who crucified their own unlucky generals would not be slow to wreak any measure of vengeance on a recusant prisoner. We read also that the Romans retaliated by torturing some Carthaginian prisoners, and this fact can hardly be an invention. At all events, the personal qualities of Regulus rest too firmly on old tradition to be questioned. While we read the beautiful passage in which Cicero describes his disinterested patriotism; while we repeat the noble ode, in which Horace paints him as putting aside all who would have persuaded him to stay—people, friends, and family—and going forth to torture and death with the same serene indifference as if he were leaving the busy life of Rome for the calm retirement of his country house, so long will the blood flow more quickly and the heart beat higher at mention of the name of Regulus.b

Regulus Returns To Carthage

(After Mirys)

Of Regulus, Niebuhr writes rather sharply: Few events in Roman history are more celebrated than this embassy and the martyrdom of Regulus, which have been sung by Roman poets and extolled by orators. Who does not know that Regulus, as a slave of the Carthaginians, refused to enter the city; that he attended the deliberations of the senate with their sanction, and rejected the exchange no less vehemently than the peace; that he confirmed the wavering fathers in their resolution; that he preferred his honour and his oath to all the enticements to remain behind; and that, in order to remove the temptation, he pretended that a slow poison had been administered[230] him by Punic faithlessness, which would soon end his days, even if the senate, less mindful of the country than of the individual, should wish to retain him by exchange or protection; how he withdrew from the embraces of his friends as a dishonoured man, and after his return to Carthage was put to death by diabolical tortures?

Palmeriusg was the first who attacked this account after the Valesian extracts from Diodorush had become known, and his reasons have been strengthened by Beauforti with very appropriate arguments besides. But Beaufort has perhaps carried his scepticism too far in doubting, and in reality rejecting, the truth of the embassy on account of the silence of Polybius.

Neither of these writers has mentioned, which is of great importance, that Dion Cassiusj declared the martyrdom of Regulus to be a mere fable, although he repeated it. He also related that after Regulus had fallen into captivity, his sleep was at first disturbed, as he was kept shut up with an elephant, but that this cruelty did not last long. It may be accounted for, and even pardoned, as Regulus forgot all human feelings towards Carthage when it had fallen and implored his compassion; and it is not unlikely that this account may have given rise to the more widely extended one respecting the mode of his death.

It is most probable that the death of Regulus happened in the course of nature; and it is very possible that the cruel maltreatment of the Punic prisoners, respecting whom it is certain, even according to Roman testimonies, that they were surrendered to the family as hostages or for revenge, has become the occasion of the prevailing narrative through that unpardonable calumny which the Romans constantly indulged in against Carthage. It seems most credible that Hasdrubal and Bostar were given as hostages, because Regulus actually believed, and the Romans shared his opinion, that he was secretly poisoned. But with an unbiassed judgment we must regard the narrative of Diodorus respecting the perfectly inhuman fury of the family of Regulus against these innocent prisoners to be no less doubtful than the Roman one; since it is quite certain that no Roman recorded this disgrace to his nation, and here, as well as elsewhere, Philinus must be regarded as the source of Diodorus, whose hatred against Rome is very pardonable, but always renders his testimony highly suspicious.

For the rest, if this deed of Regulus had not been praised to us in early years as heroic, we should without prejudice find it less brilliant. That he went back because he had sworn, was an act which, if he had not done it, would have been branded with infamy. If he had reason to fear, it was a consequence of the shameful abuse which he himself had made of his victory, inasmuch as he only knew how to use it as a mere child of fortune, and in a way inferior to most of the generals who were his contemporaries.e

THIRD PERIOD (249-241 B.C.)

[249-244 B.C.]

It has been said that the senate, encouraged by the victory of Panormus, resolved once more to attempt the sea. In the year 249 B.C. the third fleet was ready, and its purpose soon became evident. The consuls were ordered to invest Lilybæum, the queen of Carthaginian fortresses, both by sea and land. If this strong place fell, the Carthaginians would have no firm hold on Sicily: but it could not be taken unless it were blockaded by sea, for by sea supplies could be poured into it from Carthage. The Romans began[231] the siege with activity; they constructed enormous works, they endeavoured to throw a dam across the harbour, but in vain. The skilful seamen of Carthage contrived to carry provision ships into the harbour through the midst of the Roman fleet. Their navy lay at hand in the Bay of Drepana, ready to take advantage of any remissness on the part of the Romans.

Yet the invincible perseverance of the Romans would have prevailed but for the headstrong folly of the patrician consul for the year 249 B.C. This was P. Claudius, a younger son of the old censor, brother of him who had relieved Messana. As he lay before Lilybæum, he formed a plan for surprising the enemy’s fleet at Drepana, and left his station for this purpose. In vain he was warned by the pullarii, that the sacred chickens would not feed. “Then let them drink,” said the irreverent commander, and threw them into the sea. But the men were much dispirited by the omen and the contempt of the omen. And the consul had managed matters with so little secrecy and skill that the enemy were informed of his intended attack. As the Romans sailed in column into the harbour, the Carthaginian fleet was seen sailing outward. But on a sudden they tacked and bore down upon the side of the Roman column. Of Claudius’ 220 ships, only thirty escaped.

The reckless consul was recalled to Rome by the senate, and ordered to supersede himself by naming a dictator. With the old insolence of his family, he named the son of one of his own freedmen, by name Claudius Glycias. But the senate set aside the nomination, and themselves appointed A. Atilius Calatinus, also called Serranus. What became of Claudius we know not. But he was dead three years after; for a story is preserved, that at that time his sister insolently expressed a wish that he were still alive, that he might lose more men, and make the streets less crowded. She was heavily fined for this speech; and if words deserve punishment, none deserved it more than hers.

The loss of the fleet of Claudius was not the only disaster of the year. L. Junius, his plebeian colleague, was less guilty, but even more unfortunate. He was convoying a large fleet of ships, freighted with supplies for the forces at Lilybæum, when, near Camarina, he was overtaken by a tremendous hurricane, and both the convoy and the convoying squadron perished. The destruction was so complete, that every single ship was broken up, and not a plank (says Polybius) was fit to be used again.

Thus by the folly of one consul and the misfortune of the other, the Romans lost their entire fleet for the third time. It seemed to them as if the god of the sea was jealous of these new pretenders to his favour.

These disasters left the Carthaginians once more masters of the sea. And at the same time a really great man was appointed to a command in Sicily. This was Hamilcar, the father of Hannibal. He seems not to have had many ships or troops at his command; but the skill with which he used his means abundantly shows what might have been done if the government had trusted him more completely. He made continual descents on the coast of Italy, plundering and alarming. Before long he landed suddenly near Panormus, and in the face of the Roman commandant seized a hill called Hercta, which overhung the town (the same with the modern Monte Pelegrino). Here he fortified himself; and hence he carried on a continual predatory warfare against the Romans for the space of three years. After this, by an equally sudden movement, he made a descent on Eryx, which had been taken by the Romans not long before, and surprised it. To this place he now shifted his quarters, and continued the same harassing attacks.


[243-241 B.C.]

Except for this, matters were at a standstill. The whole strength of the Romans was concentrated in the lines of Lilybæum; but they had no fleet now, and therefore the place was fully supplied from the sea. On the other hand the activity of Hamilcar kept the enemy always in alarm. Slight actions constantly took place; and an anecdote is told by Diodorus, which sets the character of Hamilcar in a pleasing light. In a skirmish with the Roman consul, C. Fundanius, he had suffered some loss, and sent (according to custom) to demand a truce, that he might bury his dead. But the consul insolently replied that he ought to concern himself about the living rather than the dead, and save further bloodshed by surrendering at once. Soon after it was Hamilcar’s turn to defeat the Romans, and when their commander sent for leave to bury their dead, the Carthaginian general at once granted it, saying that he “warred not with the dead, but with the living.”

These interminable hostilities convinced the senate that they must once more build a fleet, or give up all hopes of driving the Carthaginians out of Sicily. Lilybæum would foil all their efforts, as it had foiled the efforts of Pyrrhus. The siege had now lasted eight years, from 250 to 241 B.C., and it appeared no nearer its conclusion than at first. All sacrifices must be made. A fleet must be built. And it was built. At the beginning of the year 241 B.C., the patrician consul, C. Lutatius Catulus, put to sea with more than two hundred sail. This was the fourth navy which the Romans had created. It is impossible not to admire this iron determination; impossible not to feel satisfaction at seeing it rewarded.

The consul, with his new fleet, sailed early in the year, and blockaded Drepana by sea and land, hoping to deprive the Carthaginians of the harbour in which their fleet lay to watch the Romans at Lilybæum. He also took great pains to train his seamen in naval tactics. In an action which took place at Drepana he was severely wounded.

On the other hand the Carthaginians had of late neglected their navy; and it was not till early in the following year (241) that a fleet was despatched to the relief of Drepana. It was heavily freighted with provisions and stores. Hanno, its commander, touched at Hiera, a small island, about twenty or twenty-five miles from the port of Drepana. Of this (it appears) Catulus was informed, and, though still suffering from his wound, he at once put to sea, hoping to intercept the enemy before they unloaded their ships. On the evening of the 9th of March he lay to at Ægusa, another small island, not above ten miles distant from Hiera. Next morning the Carthaginians put to sea and endeavoured to run into Drepana. But they were intercepted by the Roman fleet, and obliged to give battle. They fought under great disadvantages, and the Romans gained an easy victory. Fifty of the enemy’s ships were sunk, seventy taken; the rest escaped to Hiera.

This battle, called the battle of the Ægatian Islands (for that was the general name of the group), decided the war. It was plain that Lilybæum must now surrender; and that though Hamilcar might yet stand at bay, he could not recover Sicily for the present. The merchants of Carthage were eager for the conclusion of the war; and the government sent orders to Hamilcar to make a peace on the best terms he could obtain. Catulus at first required, as a preliminary to all negotiations, that Hamilcar should lay down his arms, and give up all Roman deserters in his service. But when the Carthaginians disdainfully refused this condition, the consul prudently waived it, and a treaty was finally agreed on by the two commanders to the following effect—that the Carthaginians should evacuate Sicily; should[233] give up all Roman prisoners without ransom; and should pay twenty-two hundred talents in twenty years towards the expenses of the war. But the Roman tribes refused to ratify the treaty without inquiry. Accordingly the senate sent over ten envoys, who confirmed the treaty of Catulus, except that they raised the sum to thirty-two hundred talents, and required this larger sum to be paid in ten years, instead of twenty. They also insisted on the cession of all the small islands between Italy and Sicily.

Thus ended the First Punic War. The issue of this long struggle was altogether in favour of Rome. She had performed few brilliant exploits; she had sent few eminent men to conduct the war; but she had done great things. She had beaten the Mistress of the Sea upon her own element. She had gained possession of an island nearly twice as large as Yorkshire, and fertile beyond the example of other lands. Her losses, indeed, had been enormous; for she had lost seven hundred ships, a vast number of men, and large sums of money. But Carthage had suffered still more. For though she had lost not more than five hundred ships, yet the interruption to her trade, and the loss of her great commercial emporiums of Lilybæum and Drepana, not only crippled the resources of the state, but largely diminished the fortunes of every individual citizen. The Romans and Italians, who fought in this war, were mostly agricultural; and the losses of such a people are small, and soon repaired, while those suffered by a great commercial state are often irreparable.

This war was only the prelude to a more fierce and deadly contest. Carthage had withdrawn discomfited from Sicily, and her empty treasury and ruined trade forbade her to continue the conflict at that time. But it was not yet decided whether Rome or Carthage was to rule the coasts of the Mediterranean. The great Hamilcar left Eryx without despair. He foresaw that by patience and prudence he might shake off the control of his jealous government, and train up an army in his own interest, with which he might defy the Roman legions.


[241-218 B.C.]

The First Punic War lasted three-and-twenty years; and the interval between the end of this war and the beginning of the next was of nearly the same duration. In the course of this period (from 240 to 218 B.C.) both Rome and Carthage, notwithstanding their exhausted condition, were involved in perilous wars. In the next three years Carthage was brought to the very brink of destruction by a general mutiny of her mercenary troops, which had been employed in Sicily, and were now to be disbanded. Their leaders were Spendius, a runaway Campanian slave, who feared to be given up to the Romans, and Matho, a Libyan, who had been too forward in urging the demands of the army for their pay, to hope for forgiveness from the Carthaginian government. Led on by these desperadoes, the soldiers gave full vent to their ferocity; they seized Gisco, who had been sent to treat with them, as a hostage; plundered the country round about; raised the subject Africans in rebellion; besieged the fortified towns of Utica and Hippo; and cut off all communication by land with the promontory upon which Carthage stands. At the end of the second year, however, Hamilcar, being invested with the command of the civic forces, reduced Spendius to such extremities that he surrendered at discretion, and compelled Matho to shut himself up in Tunis.


[240-235 B.C.]

The spirit of the insurgents was now quite broken, and they would fain have given in. But Matho and his officers were fighting with halters round their necks, and whenever any one attempted to persuade peaceful measures, a knot of the more violent cried him down; and thus, as usually happens in popular commotions, the real wishes of the greater part were drowned in the loud vociferations of a few bold and resolute desperadoes. What made the task of these men easier was that the army was composed of a great many different nations; and the soldiers, not being able to understand one another, could not so readily combine against their leaders. Almost the only word which was understood by all, was the terrible cry of “Stone him, stone him!” which was raised by the leading insurgents, whenever any one rose to advocate peace, and was re-echoed by the mass in ignorance or fear. But Hamilcar maintained a strict blockade, and the insurgents in Tunis were reduced to such extremities of famine that Matho was obliged to risk a battle. He was utterly defeated, taken prisoner, and put to death. Thus terminated this terrible war, which had lasted more than three years and four months, and at one time threatened the very existence of Carthage. It was known by the name of the War without Truce, or the Inexpiable War.

The forbearance shown by the Romans to Carthage during this fearful war makes their conduct at its close the more surprising. The mercenary troops in Sardinia had mutinied after the example of their brethren, and had taken possession of the island. After the close of the war in Africa these insurgents, fearing that their turn was come, put themselves under Roman protection; and their prayer for aid, like that of the Mamertines, was granted. The senate had the effrontery not only to demand the cession of Sardinia and Corsica, but also the payment of a further sum of twelve hundred talents. The Carthaginians were too weak to refuse; not even Hamilcar could have counselled them to do so. But this ungenerous conduct strengthened Hamilcar’s grim resolve, to take full vengeance on the grasping Italian republic.

To execute this resolve it was necessary for him to obtain an independent authority, so as to form armies and carry on campaigns, without being fettered by the orders of the narrow-minded government. And now seemed the time to obtain this authority. Hanno and the leading members of the council had long been jealous of the family of Barca, of which Hamilcar was the chief. Hamilcar’s fame and popularity were now so high that it was possible he might overthrow the power of the council of One Hundred. It was, therefore, with pleasure that they received his proposal to reduce Spain under the Carthaginian power. Carthage already had settlements in the south of Spain, and the old trading city of Gades was in alliance with her. But the rest of the country was peopled by wild and savage tribes, who could not be conquered in a day. But, before we trace the consequences of this extension of Carthaginian power in Spain, the affairs of Rome and Italy claim our attention.

During the Mercenary War in Africa, the Romans had remained at peace; and so profound was the general tranquillity in the year 235 B.C., that the temple of Janus was closed by the consul Manlius Torquatus, for the first time (say the annals) since the reign of Numa. In the last year of the First Punic War, the lower Sabine country had been formed into two tribes—the Veline and the Quirine. Thus the number of thirty-five was completed, and no addition was hereafter made to the Roman territory.


This tranquillity was of no long duration. The success of their arms in Sicily, and their newly acquired maritime power, encouraged the Romans[235] to cross the Adriatic, not so much for the purpose of advancing their own dominion as to render a service to all who frequented these seas for the purposes of traffic. The far side of the Adriatic, then called Illyricum, consists of a narrow ledge of coast land flanked by parallel mountain chains. Many islands appear off the shore, and several large creeks afford safe anchorage for ships. These natural advantages made the Illyrians of the coast skilful seamen. Their light barks (lembi) issued from behind the islands or out of the creeks, and practised piracy on their neighbours. Their main stronghold was Scodra (Scutari). In 231 B.C., Teuta, a woman of bold and masculine spirit, became chief of this piratical race during the infancy of her son Pinnes, and in 230 B.C. had made herself supreme over all the islands except Issa, which she blockaded in person in that year. The senate had not hitherto found leisure to check the progress of these pirates. But in the year just named, they sent C. and L. Coruncanius as envoys to remonstrate with Teuta. But Teuta was little disposed to listen to remonstrance. It was not, she said, customary for the chiefs of Illyricum to prevent their subjects from making use of the sea. The younger Coruncanius, indignant at this avowal of national piracy, replied that if such were the institutions of the Illyrians, the Romans would lose no time in helping her to mend them. Exasperated by this sarcasm, Teuta ordered the envoys to be pursued and the younger one to be put to death. The Romans at once declared war against the Illyrians.

[235-229 B.C.]

After the surrender of Issa, the Illyrian queen pursued her success by the capture not only of Dyrrhachium, but also of Corcyra; and Demetrius, a clever and unscrupulous Greek of Pharos (a place on the coast of upper Illyricum), the chief counsellor of Teuta, was made governor of this famous island. The Epirots now sent ambassadors to crave protection from Rome; and the senate gladly took advantage of this opening. Early in the next spring both consuls appeared at Corcyra with a powerful fleet and army. Demetrius quickly discerned to which side fortune would incline, and surrendered Corcyra to the Romans without a blow. This treachery paralysed Teuta’s spirit; and Demetrius enabled the Roman commanders to overpower her forces with little trouble. She was obliged to surrender the greater part of her dominions to the traitor, who now became chief of Corcyra and southern Illyricum, under the protection of Rome. The Illyrians were not to appear south of Lissus with more than two barks at a time.

Standard Bearer

The suppression of Illyrian piracy was even more advantageous to the commerce of Greece than that of Rome. The leading men of the senate began, even at this time, to show a strong disposition to win the good opinion of the Greeks, who, degenerate as they were, were still held to be the centre of civilisation and the dispensers of fame. Postumius the consul, therefore, sent envoys to various Greek states to explain the appearance of a Roman force in those quarters. They were received with high[236] distinction. The Athenians and Corinthians, especially, paid honour to Rome; and the latter people recognised her Greek descent by voting that her citizens should be admitted to the Isthmian games (228 B.C.). This short war was scarcely ended, when Rome saw a conflict impending, which filled her with alarm.

It will be remembered that just before the war with Pyrrhus, the Senonian Gauls had been extirpated, and the Boians defeated with great slaughter in two battles near Lake Vadimo in Etruria (283 B.C.). From that time the Gauls had remained quiet within their own boundaries. But in 232 B.C., the tribune C. Flaminius, a man who will hereafter claim more special notice, proposed to distribute all the public land held by Rome on the Picenian and Umbrian coasts to a number of poor citizens; a law which was put into effect four years afterwards. When the colonies of Sena Gallica and Ariminum had been planted on that same coast, the Boians were too much weakened by their late defeats to offer any opposition. But in two generations their strength was recruited, and they were encouraged to rise against Rome by the promised support of the Insubrians, a powerful tribe who occupied the trans-Padane district about Milan. The arrival of large bodies of Gauls from beyond the Alps completed their determination, and increased the terror which the recollections of the Allia still wrought upon the Roman mind. Report exaggerated the truth, and the Romans made larger preparations for this Gallic war than they had made against Pyrrhus or the Carthaginians. Active preparations were seconded by superstitious rites. The Sibylline books were consulted, and in them it was found written that the soil of Rome must be twice occupied by a foreign foe. To fulfil this prediction, the government barbarously ordered a Gaulish man and woman, together with a Greek woman, to be buried alive in the Forum.

[229-223 B.C.]

The campaign opened in northern Etruria. The Gauls crossed the Apennines into the vale of the Arno and fell suddenly upon the prætor stationed with an army at Fæsulæ. Him they overpowered, and defeated with great slaughter. The consul Æmilius now, with great promptitude, crossed the Umbrian hills into Etruria; and on his approach the Gauls retired northwards along the coast, wishing to secure their booty; while Æmilius hung upon their rear, without venturing to engage in a general action. But near Pisa they found that the other consul, Atilius, had landed from Sardinia; and thus hemmed in by two consular armies, they were obliged to give battle at a place called Telamon. The conflict was desperate; but the Romans were better armed and better disciplined than of old, while the Gauls had remained stationary. Their large heavy broadswords, forged of ill-tempered iron, bent at the first blow, and while they stooped to straighten them with the foot, they were full exposed to the thrust of the short Roman sword. The victory of Telamon was as signal as that of Sentinum or of Vadimo (225 B.C.).

The consuls of the next year (224 B.C.) again invaded the Boian country, and received the complete submission of all the tribes on the left bank of the Po. In the following year C. Flaminius, the reputed cause of the war, was consul, and pushed across the Po, with the resolution of punishing the Insubrians (Milanese) for the part they had taken in the invasion of Etruria. The place at which he crossed the great river was somewhere above Mantua; and here he formed a league with the Cenomani, who were at deadly feud with the Insubrians. Assisted by these auxiliaries, he moved westward across the Adda, the boundary of the Insubrian[237] district. At this moment Flaminius received despatches from the senate, forbidding him to invade the Insubrian country. But he laid them aside unopened, and at once gave battle to the enemy. He gained a signal victory; and then, opening the despatches, he laughed at the caution of the senate.

During the winter the Insubrians sued for peace; but the new consuls, Cn. Cornelius Scipio and M. Claudius Marcellus, afterwards so celebrated, persuaded the senate to undertake a fourth campaign. The consuls both marched north, and entered the Insubrian territory. But Marcellus, hearing that Viridomarus, the Insubrian chief, had crossed the Po to ravage the country lately occupied by the Romans, left his colleague to reduce the principal towns of the Insubrians, while he pursued the chief with his army. He came up with him near Clastidium, and attacked him with his cavalry alone. A smart action ensued, in which Marcellus encountered Viridomarus, and slew him with his own hand; and the Gauls fled in disorder. Thus were won the third and last spolia opima. Meanwhile Scipio had taken Mediolanum (Milan), the chief city of the Insubrian Gauls, and the war was concluded (221 B.C.).

Soon after this it was resolved, probably at the instance of Flaminius, to plant two colonies, Cremona and Placentia, on opposite sides of the Po, so as to secure the territory lately won in the Boian and Insubrian territories. But the execution of this project did not take place till three years later, when Hannibal was on his march. Some years afterwards we hear this district spoken of as the province of Ariminum. Communication was secured between Rome and Ariminum by a road constructed in the censorship of Flaminius, which bore his name (220 B.C.).

During this great disturbance in Italy, Demetrius of Pharos proved as false to his new patrons as he had been to Teuta. Relying on the support of Philip, king of Macedon, he assumed the air of an independent chief, and encouraged his subjects in their old piratical practices. In 219 B.C. L. Æmilius Paulus, the patrician consul, received orders from the senate to put a stop to these proceedings. In one short campaign he reduced Corcyra, took Pharos, and forced Demetrius to take refuge at the court of Philip, where we shall find him at a later time active in promoting hostilities against Rome. Illyricum again fell into the hands of native chiefs; the Romans, however, kept possession of the island of Corcyra, together with the strong towns of Oricum and Apollonia—positions of great service in the Macedonian Wars.

Thus triumphant on all sides and on all sides apparently secure, the Roman government had no presentiment of the storm that had long been gathering in the west. We must now return to Hamilcar.


[235-219 B.C.]

He crossed the straits of Gibraltar in 235 B.C. With him went his son-in-law Hasdrubal, and his son Hannibal, then a boy of nine years old, but even then giving promise of those qualities which afterwards made him the terror of Rome. Hamilcar had not intended to take him to Spain; but the boy pleaded so earnestly, that the father yielded on condition that he should swear eternal enmity to Rome and the Romans. Hannibal himself, in his old age, told the tale to Antiochus, king of Syria, how he was led to the altar of his country’s gods, and took this direful oath. Nothing[238] can more strongly show the feelings with which Hamilcar left his country. He went, not as the servant of Carthage but as the enemy of Rome, with feelings of personal hostility, not to be appeased save by the degradation of his antagonist.

His first object was to conquer Spain, and thus put Carthage in possession of a province which might itself become a great kingdom, and was worth many Sicilies and Sardinias. One of the chief advantages he proposed to himself in this conquest was the supply of hardy soldiers, which would be given by the possession of Spain. But he was well aware that for this purpose conquest was not sufficient; he must enlist the feelings of the Spaniards in his cause, he must teach them to look up to himself and his family as their friends and benefactors. Accordingly he married a Spanish lady of Castulo; he lived among the natives like one of themselves; he taught them to work their rich silver mines; and in all ways opened out the resources of the country. Meanwhile he collected and disciplined an excellent army, with which he reduced many of the ruder tribes to the northward of the modern Andalusia and Murcia. Thus he reigned (this is the best word to express his power) with vigour and wisdom for eight years; and in the ninth he fell in battle, admired and regretted by all southern Spain.

Hannibal was yet only in his eighteenth year, too young to take up the work which his father had left unfinished. But Hasdrubal, the son-in-law of the great commander, proved his worthy successor. He at once assumed supreme authority. By the gentler arts of conciliation he won over a great number of tribes; and in order to give a capital to this new realm, he founded the city of New Carthage, now Carthagena, on the coast of Murcia. The successes of Hamilcar had already attracted the notice of the senate; and in the year 227 B.C., presently after his death, they concluded a league with Hasdrubal, whereby the river Ebro was fixed as the northern boundary of the Carthaginian empire in Spain. Hasdrubal fell by the knife of an assassin in the year 221 B.C., the seventh of his command.

Hannibal was now in his twenty-fourth year. He was at once elected by the acclamations of the army to stand in his great father’s place. Nor did the government venture to brave the anger of a young general at the head of an army devoted to his cause. Hannibal remained as ruler of Carthaginian Spain. The office was becoming hereditary in his family.

Hamilcar had enlarged the Carthaginian rule in Spain from a few trading settlements to a great province. Hasdrubal had carried the limits of this province as far as the sierra of Toledo. Hannibal immediately crossed this range into the valley of the Tagus, and reduced the Celtiberian tribes which then occupied Castille. He even passed the Castilian Mountains which form the upper edge of the basin of the Tagus, and made the name of Carthage feared among the Vaccæans of the Douro, by taking their chief town, Helmantica (Salamanca). At the close of the year 220 B.C., all Spain south of the Ebro was in subjection to Carthage, or in alliance with her. The great qualities of the three men through whom they knew her made them not unwilling vassals.

[219-218 B.C.]

But there was one city south of the Ebro which still maintained independence. This was Saguntum, an ancient colony from the Greek island of Zacynthus. Its site on the coast of modern Valencia is marked by the present town of Murviedro (Muri Veteres), rather more than halfway between New Carthage and the mouth of the Ebro. Saguntum had been for some time in alliance with Rome; and therefore, though it was on the Carthaginian side of the Ebro, was by Roman custom entitled to support. In the[239] year 219 B.C. this city was at war with a neighbouring tribe, and Hannibal eagerly accepted an invitation to destroy the ally of his enemy. He surrounded Saguntum with a large army; but the people held out for eight months with that heroic obstinacy which seems to distinguish all dwellers on Spanish ground, when engaged in defensive warfare. In many respects the siege of Saguntum brings that of Saragossa to mind.

While the siege yet lasted, the Roman senate had sent envoys to Hannibal, requiring him to desist from attacking their ally. He replied coldly, that “he could not answer for their safety in his camp; they had better seek redress at Carthage.” They went on their way; but meantime the news of the fall of Saguntum reached Rome, and an embassy was sent to Carthage to demand that Hannibal, the author of the mischief, should be given up. There was a large party, that of Hanno and the government, which would probably have complied with this demand. But Rome was hated at Carthage, and the government did not dare to oppose the general feeling. They replied that Saguntum was not mentioned in the treaty of Hasdrubal; even if it were, that treaty had never been ratified by the government, and therefore was of no authority. Then Q. Fabius Buteo, chief of the Roman envoys, doubling his toga in his hand, held it up and said: “In this fold I carry peace and war: choose ye which ye will have.” “Give us which you will,” replied the suffet. “Then take war,” said the Roman, letting his toga fall loose. “We accept the gift,” cried the senators of Carthage, “and welcome.”

Thus war was formally declared against Rome. But before we pass on to the narrative of this war, it will be well to form some idea of the extraordinary man who, by his sole genius, undertook and supported it with success for so many years.

Hannibal was now in his twenty-eighth year, nearly of the same age at which Napoleon Bonaparte led the army of the French republic into Italy. And when we have named Napoleon, we have named, perhaps, the only man, ancient or modern, who can claim to be superior, or even equal, to Hannibal as a general. Bred in the camp, he possessed every quality necessary to gain the confidence of his men. His personal strength and activity were such that he could handle their arms and perform their exercises, on foot or on horseback, more skilfully than themselves. His endurance of heat and cold, of fatigue and hunger, excelled that of the hardiest soldier in the camp. He never required others to do what he could not and would not do himself. To these bodily powers he added an address as winning as that of Hasdrubal his brother-in-law, talents for command fully as great as those of his father Hamilcar. His frank manners and genial temper endeared him to the soldiery; his strong will swayed them like one man. The different nations who made up his motley arms—Africans and Spaniards, Gauls and Italians—looked upon him each as their own chief.

Amid the hardships which his mixed army underwent for sixteen years in a foreign land, there never was a mutiny in his camp. This admirable versatility of the man was seconded by qualities required to make the general. His quick perception and great sagacity led him to marvellously correct judgment of future events and distant countries—which in those days, when travellers were few and countries unknown, must have been a task of extraordinary difficulty. He formed his plans after patient inquiry, and kept them profoundly secret till it was necessary to make them known. But with this caution in designing was united marvellous promptness in executing. “He was never deceived himself,” says Polybius, “but never failed[240] to take advantage of the errors of his opponent.” Nor was he a mere soldier. In leisure hours he delighted to converse with Greeks on topics of intellectual cultivation. As a statesman, he displayed ability hardly inferior to that which he displayed as a general.

Against these great qualities, he is said to have been cruel even to ferocity, and treacherous beyond the common measure of his country. As to perfidy, we hear of no single occasion on which Hannibal broke faith with Rome. As to cruelty, there can be no doubt that he was indifferent to human life; and on several occasions we shall find him, under the influence of passion, treating his prisoners with great barbarity. But though he had been trained to consider the Romans as his natural enemies, to be hunted down like wolves, we shall find him treating worthy foemen, such as Marcellus, with the magnanimity of a noble nature.

But whatever might be the ability, whatever the hardihood of the young general, he required it all. To penetrate from the Ebro to the Po—with chains of giant mountains to bar his progress, through barbarous and hostile countries, without roads or maps or accurate knowledge of his route, without certain provision for the food and clothing of his army, without the hearty concurrence of his own government—was an undertaking from which the boldest might shrink, and to have accomplished this march with triumphant success would alone justify the homage which is still paid to the genius of Hannibal.b


[47] [In the words of Polybius,d “App. Claudius with unspeakable bravery passing the strait by night, got at length into Messana.”]

[48] [Hamilcar took command of an army in Sicily six years before the close of the war. The story of his brilliant achievements reads like a romance; but all his energy, skill, and daring did not save his city from defeat.]

[49] [Appianf says that Lacedæmon, being asked for a general, sent Xanthippus.]

[50] [H. Shear’s version of 1693 is here adopted. We retain the chief features of the original typographical setting, in keeping with the quaint phraseology.]

Roman Beacon Fires




War was resolved upon and declared on both sides—a war which stands forth in the annals of the ancient world without a parallel. It was not a war about a disputed boundary, about the possession of a province, or some partial advantage; it was a struggle for existence, for supremacy or destruction. It was to decide whether the Greco-Roman civilisation of the West or the Semitic civilisation of the East was to be established in Europe, and to determine its history for all future time. The war was one of those in which Asia struggled with Europe, like the war of the Greeks and Persians, the conquests of Alexander the Great, the wars of the Arabs, the Huns and the Tatars. Whatever may be our admiration of Hannibal, and our sympathy with heroic and yet defeated Carthage, we shall nevertheless be obliged to acknowledge that the victory of Rome—the issue of this trial by battle—was the most essential condition for the healthy development of the human race.—Ihne.b

FIRST PERIOD (218-216 B.C.)

The war which began with the invasion of Italy by Hannibal lasted for seventeen years. The periods of the war are four. The first comprehends the victorious career of Hannibal, from the passage of the Alps to Capua. Each year is marked by a great battle—Trebia, Trasimene, Cannæ (218-215 B.C.). The second is of five years, in which the Romans succeed in recovering Capua, while they lose Tarentum (215-211 B.C.). The third, of four years, in which Hannibal, left without support from home, is obliged more and more to confine himself to the mountain regions of Calabria. It ends with the disastrous battle of the Metaurus (211-207 B.C.). The fourth, of four years, in which Hannibal stands at bay in the extremity of Italy, while the main scene of the war shifts to Spain, Sicily, and Africa. It terminates with the great battle of Zama, and peace (206-202 B.C.).

But during the former periods of the great war, the Roman arms were also engaged in Spain, in Sicily, and in Epirus. From the very beginning of the war they maintained the conflict in Spain. After 215 B.C. they were obliged to besiege Syracuse and reconquer Sicily, as well as Sardinia. In 212 B.C. they declared war against Philip of Macedon, in order to prevent him from sending aid to Hannibal in Italy.

The winter of 219 was passed by Hannibal in active preparation. His soldiers received leave of absence, with orders to be present at New Carthage at the very beginning of the next spring. He sent envoys into the south of Gaul and north of Italy, to inform the Celts on both sides of the Alps of his expedition to win the Transalpine Gauls with hopes of the plunder of Italy, to rouse the Cisalpine by promises of delivery from the Roman yoke.


Thus assured, Hannibal reviewed his troops at New Carthage. The army of invasion amounted to ninety thousand foot and twelve thousand horse, with some fifty elephants. The infantry were mostly Spanish, the veteran soldiers of Hamilcar and Hasdrubal, recruited by new levies of his own. The Spaniards, however, were kept in balance by a large body of Libyan mercenaries. The light infantry, slingers and archers, were from the Balearic Isles. Of the cavalry, the heavy troopers were Spanish, while the light horse were furnished by Numidia; and the whole of this arm was placed under the command of the fiery Maharbal.

Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, was left at New Carthage, to rule the lately conquered province of Spain, and to raise an army of reserve for the Italian war. Mago, his youngest brother, accompanied the general.

Having left New Carthage about the end of May, Hannibal marched with no interruption to the Ebro; but as soon as he had crossed that river, the whole country up to the Pyrenees was hostile. By great rapidity of movement, though with the loss of many men, he reduced all the tribes to submission in a few weeks, and, leaving an officer, with eleven thousand men, in charge of this district, he pushed forwards to the Pyrenees. Here his Spanish soldiers first discovered that they were to be led into strange and unknown lands; discontent appeared in the camp; three thousand Carpetanians, a tribe which had not been long conquered, seized their arms and set off homewards. Upon this, Hannibal, with prudent frankness, called the troops together, told them his whole design, and gave all who were unwilling to go on, free leave to return. Nearly eight thousand more availed themselves of this permission.

He passed round the eastern end of the Pyrenees, where the mountains sink gently towards the sea, and halted his army for a few days at Ruscino (Roussillon). On a review, it appeared that the losses he had sustained, together with the twenty-two thousand men whom he had left in Catalonia or who had gone home, had reduced his foot to fifty thousand, and his horse to nine thousand. With this force he advanced almost unopposed to the banks of the Rhone.

It is now time to inquire what the Romans were doing to meet the coming danger. The senate had not been idle. But they had acted on the supposition that the Second Punic War, like the First, would be fought on foreign soil. It is almost amusing to contrast their expectations with the result. The plebeian consul, Ti. Sempronius Longus, was sent to Lilybæum with a large fleet, with orders to invade Africa: the other consul, P. Cornelius Scipio, was to land in Spain and take the field against Hannibal. And it is plain that the senate thought this service the least important of the two, because they detained Scipio’s army rather than that of Sempronius, to quell a rebellion which broke out in Cisalpine Gaul, in consequence of the proceedings of the triumviri, who had been sent to distribute the confiscated lands of the Boians and Insubrians among the colonists of Placentia and Cremona. Just at this time the envoys of Hannibal arrived, and the Gauls rushed to arms. To repress this outbreak, one of Scipio’s legions was sent off in all haste, and the consul could not set sail for Spain till he had raised a new legion. His troops met at Pisa, and he was just weighing anchor for Spain when he heard that Hannibal had already crossed the Pyrenees.

On receiving this news, he put in at the allied city of Massilia (Marseilles), and disembarked there, intending to arrest Hannibal’s march upon the Rhone. He did not expect him there for some time yet, and therefore he gave his army some days’ rest, while he despatched a reconnoitring party of[243] three hundred picked horse up the left bank of the river, under the trusty guidance of the Massaliots.

But Hannibal had crossed the Rhone while these horsemen were on their way up the river. The point at which he reached it was not far above Avignon, about fifty miles from the coast. The river itself is large, and the rapidity of its stream proverbial. But, besides these natural difficulties, he found the left bank occupied by a large host of Gauls. Upon this, he immediately made preparations for forcing the passage. After two days spent in seizing boats and constructing rafts, he sent Hanno, son of Bomilcar, with a strong detachment of cavalry, to cross the river about twenty miles higher up, so as to come round upon the rear of the Gauls. On the morning of the third day after his departure, Hanno signalled his arrival to Hannibal by a column of smoke; and the Carthaginians immediately pushed their boats and rafts into the stream. The Gauls flocked down to the water’s edge, brandishing their arms and uttering wild yells of defiance. But while the boats were in midstream, a cry arose from the rear; and, looking round, the barbarians beheld their tents in flames. They hastened back, and were charged by Hanno with his cavalry. Meanwhile, the first divisions of the army, forming under the general’s eye, completed the defeat of the Gauls; and for the remainder of the day the Carthaginians lay encamped in the enemy’s late quarters. All the army, except the elephants, had effected the passage. It was on this very day that Scipio sent off his three hundred horse from Marseilles.

On the next morning (the sixth after his arrival on the Rhone) news reached Hannibal that the Romans had landed. Upon this he instantly despatched a body of five hundred Numidian horse to reconnoitre, while he himself spent the day in preparations for bringing over the elephants. At this moment, some Boian and Insubrian chieftains arrived from Italy to inform him of what their people were doing and had done against the Romans, and to describe in glowing colours the richness and beauty of the land which would welcome him after the toils of the Alpine pass. This news had a great effect upon the army, which was somewhat dispirited by the opposition offered by the Gauls upon the Rhone.


In the evening the Numidian horse galloped into camp in great disorder, having lost half their number. At some distance a body of cavalry appeared in pursuit, who reined in their horses on coming in view of the Carthaginian camp, and then turned about and rode off down the river. This was Scipio’s reconnoitring party, which had encountered the Numidians and defeated them.

Hannibal, finding the enemy so near at hand, sent off the whole of his infantry next morning to march up the left bank of the Rhone. He himself only stayed till he saw his elephants, now about thirty in number, safely[244] across the stream; and then, with the elephants and cavalry, he followed the army.

Scipio, on his part, so soon as he heard that the Carthaginians had already crossed the Rhone, proceeded by forced marches up the river. But it was three or four days after Hannibal’s departure that he arrived at the point where the Carthaginians had crossed. It was in vain to pursue the enemy into unknown regions, peopled by barbarous tribes; and Scipio had the mortification to reflect that, if he had marched at once from Marseilles, he might have come in time to assist the Gauls in barring Hannibal’s passage. Not able to undo the past, he provided wisely for the future. He despatched his brother Cneius to Spain with the fleet and the consular army, deeming it of high importance to cut off communication between Hannibal and that country; and himself returned to Pisa, to take command of the army which had been left to suppress the Gallic insurrection. He expected to meet Hannibal’s army shattered by the passage of the Alps, and to gain an easy victory.

Meanwhile, Hannibal continued his march up the Rhone, and crossing the Isère found himself in the plains of Dauphiné, then inhabited by the Allobrogian Gauls. He marched thus far north, about one hundred miles beyond the place where he had crossed the Rhone, at the invitation of a chieftain who was contending for the dominion of the tribe with his younger brother. Hannibal’s veterans put the elder brother in possession; and the grateful chief furnished the army with arms and clothing, entertained them hospitably for some days, and guided them to the verge of his own dominions. This must have brought them to the point at which the Isère issues from the lower range of the Alps into the plain, near the present fortress of Grenoble. To this point there is little doubt as to the route taken by Hannibal; but after this all is doubtful.c

Besides the fact that no modern historian can offer any better authority than Polybius for this portion of history, no more brilliant and dramatic account of the crossing of the Alps exists than his. We may then quote it at length.a


Some Authors, who have writ of Hannibal’s passage over the Alpes, entertain us with astonishing and incredible Tales of that Voyage, without heeding that they have thereby committed two Errors, which History of all things will not permit, for they are constrain’d thereby to coin Falsehoods of their own, and often become liable to contradict themselves. For as they give to Hannibal all the Encomiums of a great and valiant Leader; so at the same time they make him act with the greatest Imprudence imaginable. Then when they are taken in their own fabulous Snares, they are forc’d to bring down the Gods and Demi-Gods to their Aid, who should not be nam’d but in matters of Truth. Furthermore, they feign that the Alpes are so desart and inaccessible, that far from being passable by Armies, Horses, and Elephants, Men cannot without unspeakable travel pass them on foot. They tell us farther, that some parts thereof are so waste and destitute of all Succour, that without the Aid of some Divinity, who led Hannibal, as it were by the Hand, through those wild labyrinths, he and his Army had inevitably perish’d; these, I say, are two Faults in an Historian, which Men of common Sense easily discover and dislike. For these Authors make Hannibal in the spring of his Hopes at the head of a flourishing victorious Army, perform[245] such things as are not likely would be acted by a People already vanquish’d and undone, and reduc’d to the last extremity; namely, to ingage their Troops in Countries and Places totally unknown. For while they tell us all was waste and desart, and the Country no where passable, do they not plainly accuse their own Forgeries? But they knew not that the Gauls, who inhabit about the Rhosne, had often pass’d the Alpes with numerous Armies, long before Hannibal’s time; and not only heretofore, but of late days, they had march’d to the relief of those Gauls who dwell about the Po, during their Wars with the Romans. Furthermore, they were to learn that even the Alpes themselves are inhabited by numerous Nations; but it was their Ignorance indeed that brought the Demi-God down to show Hannibal his way. Wherein they follow the Poets, who in their Tragedies, having for the most part nothing but Fiction and extravagant Adventures for the subject of their Plays, are able to bring nothing handsomely to pass without a God or a Machine.

Most certain it is that Hannibal did not conduct his Affairs at the rate these Authors would persuade, but like a wise and able Captain. And there is no doubt, but he well knew that the Country, into which he was leading his Army, was fertile and abounding in all things, and the Inhabitants alien’d in their Inclinations to the Romans; that he had with him for Guides the very People of the Country, who had engag’d to partake with him in all his Fortunes. For my own particular, I speak of these things with so much the more assurance, by how much I have not only been instructed therein by those who liv’d in those Days, but that I might be less liable to errour, I made my self a Journey into the Alpes for my better information.

Hannibal having march’d near an hundred Miles in ten days along the River Rhosne, met with mighty difficulties after his Army had enter’d on the Mountains; and in truth the Allobroges had no purpose to attack them, while they held their March in the Plains, fearing both their Horse, and the Gauls that accompany’d the Army. But these were no sooner gone, and that Hannibal began to ascend the Mountains, when they drew together in great numbers, and possess’d themselves of the Posts where Hannibal must unavoidably March; and most assuredly, had they but kept themselves longer conceal’d, the Carthaginian Army had run a mighty hazard; but being discover’d by Hannibal, tho’ they did him some Mischief, they were requited with equal loss. For Hannibal was no sooner inform’d, that the Barbarians were Masters of the Passes, when he made his Army halt, and take their Quarters that night among the Rocks and Fastnesses. In the mean while, he dispatch’d a Party of Gauls, who serv’d him for Guides, to discover the Posture of the Enemy, and learn what they could of their purpose. And having understood that they kept Guard in those Places only by day, but that in the night they retir’d to a Town not far off; he found this Expedient to obviate the present Inconvenience: He decamp’d in broad day, and by slow motions advanc’d with his Army; till arriving not far from the Streights, he then encamp’d not far from the Enemy; and causing Fires to be made in the Camp about the first Watch of the Night, where he left the greatest part of his Troops, himself, in the mean while, with a Detachment of his best Men, pass’d the Streights in the Night; and while the Enemy was retir’d to the Town according to their Custom, took possession of those Posts, where they were wont before to keep their Guard.

When day discover’d to the Enemy what had pass’d, they did not presently determine what to do; but when they observ’d the great quantity of Baggage that appear’d, and perceiv’d that the Horse could afford them no[246] succour, which by reason of the narrow, stony, and broken ways, could not march but in defiles, they then resolv’d on the Attack. And now as the Barbarians thus fell on them from all Quarters at once, the Way it self being almost as terrible as the Enemy, the Carthaginians receiv’d great loss, especially in their Horses and Beasts of Carriage; for the Way being streight, stony, and broken, the Beasts of Burden were easily thrown down, and disorder’d, falling into Precipices. But the Horses that were wounded gave them the greatest trouble; for falling by their Wounds among the other Beasts, and labouring to rise and recover their feet in so narrow a way, so crowded, they cast down others by their striving to save themselves; which was the occasion of great labour and tumult.

This being observ’d and consider’d by Hannibal, who well knew the Army could not subsist without their Beasts of Burthen which carry’d their Necessaries, he immediately left the Posts he had taken, and came to the relief of those who were thus hard press’d in their passage; when falling on the Enemy from higher ground, he did not fail of doing them great damage: But the evil was, that his own People were thereby equal Sufferers; for the fear encreasing everywhere by this new Tumult, many miscarry’d and were lost in the Crowd; but, in the end, most of the Allobroges were slain on the place, and the rest sav’d themselves by flight. And now their Horses and other Beasts, after some time of rest, were led with great trouble and difficulty through the Streight; but Hannibal, after he had escap’d this Danger, march’d himself with a good Detachment against the Town, that had harbour’d the Enemy, which he took without resistance, finding it almost quite deserted, the Inhabitants being all gone out in hopes of Booty. This adventure prov’d very useful to his Affairs, both with respect to the present and the future: For he here recover’d many, both Men and Horses and other Beasts, which had fallen into the Enemy’s hands, and Cattel and Corn sufficient to sustain the Army for three Days.

But, above all, the terrour he had given by this success to the circumjacent places was such, that none of the Gauls inhabiting the Towns near which he was to pass, gave him the least molestation in his passage. In this Town Hannibal took up his Quarters, where he remain’d a Day to rest and refresh his Army, and then prosecuted his Journey. For three days together he march’d without trouble or alarm; but the fourth he fell into much danger. The People inhabiting in the Towns on the way he was to pass having secretly conspir’d against him, met him however, with Olive-branches and Garlands of Flowers, Signs among the Barbarians of Peace and Friendship, as the Caduceus is among the Greeks. Hannibal, who had now learn’d how far he was to trust these People, endeavour’d by Questions to inform himself of their Purposes.

They told him, That they had receiv’d notice of his success against the Town, and of the loss and defeat of those who had attack’d him in his march; but as to themselves, they came to give him assurance, That they were resolv’d to do him no injury, nor suffer any to be done to him by others: And that they were ready to give him Hostages for their Fidelity. Hannibal remain’d long undetermin’d what to do, having no great Opinion of their Sincerity; but, in the end, weighing that to make a show of believing them, might work on their Good-nature, and by degrees win them to his Friendship, if he seem’d to accept their Tenders, and that in case of refusal, they might presently become his Enemies, he feign’d to consent to their proposal, and seem’d, as they did, dispos’d to enter into terms of Friendship with them. In short, after these Barbarians had given him security for their peaceable[247] Behaviour, supply’d his Army with Provisions, and that they convers’d among the Carthaginians with all manner of freedom and Confidence, Hannibal began to have a better Opinion of their Sincerity, and accepted their Service for his Guides through the many remaining difficult ways by which they were to pass. Howbeit, after they had thus conducted the Army for two Days together, they assembled at length all into one Body, and attack’d the Rear at a Defile, or streight Passage, as they were marching in a Valley full of Rocks and broken Ground.

Great likelihood there was that the Carthaginian Army had here run the hazard of being entirely destroy’d, had not their General, who reserv’d a secret doubt of the well-meaning of this People, obviated the mischief of this treasonable Purpose of theirs, by ordering his Horse and Baggage to march in the Van of the Army, and his choicest Foot to sustain the Reer. But having dispos’d matters after this manner, his loss became less grievous; for his Foot in the Arreer-guard prov’d sufficient to put a stop to the violence of the Attempt. Nevertheless, they were not without great loss both of Men and Horses; and the Enemy, who was possess’d of the Ground above them, brought such terrour into the Army, by rowling down mighty Stones and Rocks from the Precipices upon them, and showring Vollies of Stones on their heads, that Hannibal was compell’d to take up his Quarters for that Night on the top of an Eminence, expos’d to the open Sky, with that part of the Army that was with him, remote from the Horse, and the rest of the Troops, and the Baggage, the better to cover and defend them from danger; who were hardly able, in all that Night, with great labour to compass their passage through the Valley.

In the morning, the Enemy being now retir’d, Hannibal join’d his Army and Baggage, and advanc’d towards the top of the Alpes. After this the Gauls attempted no more to attack them in Bodies, but in smaller Parties, and with less ardour than before; nevertheless, falling sometimes on the Van, sometimes on the Reer of the Army, they seldom fail’d of making some spoil of the Baggage. The Elephants happen’d to be of great use to the Carthaginians in these Conflicts; for wheresoever they chanc’d to appear, they so terrify’d the Enemy, that the Army march’d by that means with much less molestation. In nine Days after this, Hannibal gain’d the top of the Mountains, where he halted two Days, being willing to give some repose to such of his Army as were come thus far without wound or sickness, and to attend the coming of the rest of his Troops that were yet behind. During this stay, many Horses and Beasts of Carriage, which had fallen and stray’d out of the way, came in of their own accord, following the Track of the Army to the great wonder of the Beholders.

But whereas the Snows were yet great in the Mountains (Winter not being there quite over), Hannibal perceiving his Souldiers to be somewhat discourag’d by reason of the Sufferings they had already felt, and out of apprehension of what yet threatned them, caus’d the Army to be assembled, to the end he might speak to them, and inspire them with new Resolution; which he could no way better effect, than by giving them a view and prospect of Italy; which, in a word, lies so fairly to the eye, spreading and extending it self at the foot of those Mountains, that Nature seems to have design’d them as a Rampart to cover and defend it. So he gave them a survey of the Champaign Country that spreads it self all about the River Po; and gave them to understand how welcome they should be to the People that inhabited it. He pointed out likewise to them whereabout the City of Rome stood; and by this Artifice animated his harass’d Army.


The Day following he decamp’d, and began to descend the Mountains; and now saw no more of the Enemy to molest them in their march, saving some small scatter’d Parties, who rather awaited occasions how to steal than to fight. Howbeit, Hannibal’s Losses were not lessen’d, by reason of the great Snows and the exceeding bad march they had had, which much weaken’d the Army. Nor was their passage much better in the descent; for what with the streight, steep, and slippery ways, and the depth of the Snow, the Soldier knew not where to set his foot with safety; for whenever they slipp’d, they were in danger of being lost and swallow’d up in the depths and precipices which lay hid and cover’d by the Snow. Nevertheless, the long practice in those Hardships and Dangers, taught them to suffer all with constancy: But at length coming to a place where neither their Elephants nor Horses could pass, the Way, which was very steep before, being now, by the falling away of some of the Earth, become more difficult, renew’d their Fears; which was manifest over the whole Army. Upon this accident, Hannibal took a resolution to attempt another way, by taking a compass about those Mountains, tho’ there was no appearance of any passage; but forasmuch as the great Snows render’d that Resolution too hazardous, all places being cover’d and hid from the view, he therefore chang’d his purpose.

In the interim, there having fallen much new Snow on that which remain’d of the Winter before; this last being loose, and not yet deep, yielded firm footing enough to the Soldiers; but this was no sooner trampled on, but it dissolv’d into dirt and mire; whereby the Snow of last Year being frozen under it, it became impossible to march thereon any more than on Ice it self, none being able to keep their Feet; and when they endeavour’d to sustain themselves on their Hands and Knees, they often slid and were lost in Pits and Precipices. When their Horses at any time slip’d, they by their weight and labouring broke the Ice under them, and so became buried and frozen to death.

Whereupon Hannibal now desperate of obtaining his passage that way, encamp’d his Army at the entrance of this Pass, after he had first order’d the Snow to be remov’d which cover’d all the ground; and then by the labour of his Soldiers he wrought into the Hill it self, and by unspeakable pains made his passage at length through it: So in one Day he made way for his Horses and other Beasts to pass, which immediately march’d on. And now decamping the Army, he sent his Horse and other Beasts to forrage and recruit themselves, as they could come at Pasture, where the Ground was not cover’d with Snow. In the mean time he order’d the Numidians to make a passage for the Elephants, which cost them three Days labour with great difficulty to effect; but at length they made way for those Animals, which had suffer’d much, and were almost dead with hunger. For there was neither Forrage nor Tree to be found on that part of the Alpes, nor in the neighbourhood; the Ground lying ever cover’d with Snow Winter and Summer, but the lower Grounds on all sides produce Woods and Covert, and there is no place thereabout that is not habitable.

After Hannibal had united his Troops, he prosecuted his march, and in the space of three Days got past these difficult and incommodius Places, whereof we have given an account, and recover’d the Plains, howbeit with the loss of great numbers of his People; for many fell by the Enemy, many were drown’d in passing the Rivers, and many of Sickness and the Hardships of their march to and over the Alpes. And as he lost many Men, so his loss of Horses and other Beasts of burthen, was yet much greater.


In a word, after a march of five Months from his departure from New-Carthage, and fifteen Days passage over the Alpes, he boldly advanc’d into the Champaign Country, lying about the River Po, and the Frontiers of the Insubrians. Of the Troops that march’d out with him, there now remain’d; of Africans about twelve thousand; eight thousand Spaniards, and six thousand Horse, according to his own Register, left by him, engrav’d on the Column at Lacinium, which specify’d that number. About this time Publius Cornelius, who had left his Troops with Cneius his Brother, to prosecute the War against Asdrubal in Spain, embark’d for Pisa.d


[218-217 B.C.]

Hannibal descended among the mountains of the Salassians, and pushed on into the friendly country of the Insubrians (Milanese), where he rested his troops for some time, and procured fresh horses for many of his cavalry. He rewarded the services of the Insubrians by marching against the hostile tribe of the Taurini, whose capital city (Turin) he took by assault.

It was now December. He was moving down the left bank of the Po, above its junction with the Ticinus, on the Piedmontese side of the latter river, when his cavalry came in conflict with the Roman horse, commanded by the consul Scipio himself.

Scipio had returned to Pisa, whence he moved northward to encounter Hannibal on his descent from the Alps. He crossed the Po near Pavia, made a bridge over the Ticinus to secure his retreat, and, crossing the latter river, he began to march up the left bank of the Po, just as Hannibal was coming down it. Both generals were in advance with their cavalry, and came unexpectedly in sight of each other. A smart action followed, in which the Romans had the worst. The consul was severely wounded, his life being saved by the devotion of a Ligurian slave, or, as others said, by his son Publius, afterwards the great Africanus, then a youth only seventeen years old. He fell back upon his main body and recrossed the Ticinus so rapidly that, in breaking up the bridge, he left six hundred men behind, who fell into the hands of Hannibal. This was the skirmish of the Ticinus, which proved Hannibal’s superiority in cavalry. It had the effect of making the Boian Gauls on the south of the Po declare in his favour.

Hannibal, continuing his march down the Po, crossed somewhere below Placentia; and Scipio, not finding his position near that town secure, fell back westward so as to place the Trebia between himself and Hannibal. On the left bank of this river he fortified a strong camp, with the purpose of awaiting the arrival of his colleague Sempronius, whom the senate had ordered to hasten from Sicily into the north of Italy. Hannibal followed the Romans, and encamped in view of them on the right bank of the Trebia. Here he received offers from a Brundusian, who was in charge of the Roman magazine at Clastidium, a town in Scipio’s rear, to betray the place; and it must have been while he was absent in this quarter that Sempronius joined Scipio. Sempronius, not daring to sail direct from Sicily to Pisa at that time of year, had sent his army over the Straits of Messana, with orders to rendezvous at Ariminum; and so expeditious were they that they performed the whole march from Lilybæum to Scipio’s camp in forty days. Scipio endeavoured to dissuade Sempronius from venturing a general action, but in vain; and being still confined by the consequences of his wound, he was obliged to leave the whole army under the direction of his colleague.[250] Hannibal, for his part, was anxious for a battle. The Gauls began to complain of the burden of two armies in their country, and victory was necessary to secure them in his interest.

The Trebia is a mountain stream, which in summer runs babbling over a broad gravelly bed, so shallow that the foot-traveller walks over it unheeding; but in winter, or after heavy rains, it rises to a deep and rapid torrent. It was now nearly the end of December, and Hannibal resolved that he would not cross the water to attack the Romans, but would make them cross it to attack him. He executed his purpose with great skill. On his left there was a sort of gully, thickly grown with reeds and brushwood, in which he concealed his brother Mago with one thousand foot and as many horse. Then, early in the morning, he sent his Numidian riders across the river, and ordered the whole army to prepare for the cold of the day by rubbing themselves with oil and making a hearty meal.

As soon as Sempronius saw the Numidians cross the water, he sent his cavalry, about four thousand strong, to meet them, and then drew out his whole army, amounting to about thirty-six thousand men, to support the attack. The Numidians feigned to be beaten and fled across the river. The Romans pursued, but the water was running breast high and was deadly cold; sleet was falling, which was driven in their faces by the east wind; and when they reached the other side, they were half dead with cold and wet and hunger. Their treacherous foes now opened on both sides and displayed Hannibal’s infantry in battle order with the rest of the cavalry and the elephants on either wing. The Roman cavalry, which was also on the wings, was greatly outnumbered and soon put to flight; but the legions and allies kept their ground bravely under all disadvantages till Mago rose from ambush and attacked them in rear. Then the rout became general. A body of ten thousand men, however, cut their way through the Carthaginian lines to Placentia; the rest were driven back with great slaughter to the Trebia, in which many were drowned, but a large number, with the consul Sempronius himself, recrossed in safety.

The battle of the Trebia ended Hannibal’s first campaign. The two consuls, with the relics of their armies, contrived to throw themselves into Placentia and Cremona, and afterwards made good their retreat to Ariminum. Sempronius had sent home a varnished account of the battle, but the fatal truth soon betrayed itself. Two consular armies had been defeated; Cisalpine Gaul was abandoned to the Carthaginians.

The senate, 217 B.C., made great preparations for the next campaign. Sicily, Sardinia, and Tarentum were garrisoned against the Carthaginian fleets; the new consuls were to keep Hannibal out of Roman Italy. The patrician consul for the year was Cn. Servilius; C. Flaminius was the plebeian. Flaminius, it will be remembered, had held this high office in 223 B.C., and had won a great battle over the Insubrian Gauls, in contempt of the orders of the senate. As censor, he still dwells in memory for having made the Flaminian way, the great high road from Rome through the Sabine country to Ariminum. He had won extraordinary popularity by a sweeping agrarian law to divide the coast lands of Umbria and Picenum among a number of poor citizens. This was the man elected by popular favour to oppose Hannibal—brave and generous, but adventurous and reckless. Fearing that the senate might even yet bar his consulship by an appeal to the omens, he left the city before the ides of March,[51] which was at that time the day for[251] the consuls to enter upon office. But no such attempt was made. Servilius was sent to Ariminum to guard the Flaminian road; Flaminius himself took post at Arretium to watch the passes of the Apennines.

As the spring approached, Hannibal was anxious to leave Cisalpine Gaul. His friends the Insubrians and Boians, however much they wished to be relieved from the Roman yoke, did not relish entertaining a large army. They were proverbially fickle; and so much did Hannibal mistrust them, that, to prevent attempts upon his life, he continually wore disguises, and assumed false hair. Leaving the Roman colonies of Placentia and Cremona unassailed, he passed the Apennines early in the year by an unfrequented route, which brought him down into the neighbourhood of Pistoria and Lucca. From this point eastward he had to march through the Val d’Arno, which was at that time an unwholesome swamp. Here his men and horses suffered much; he himself, being attacked by ophthalmia, lost the sight of one eye, and was obliged to have recourse to the single elephant which survived the cold of the Alps and a winter in the north of Italy. In the neighbourhood of Fæsulæ he rested his army, now much increased by Gallic recruits, and rewarded his men with the plunder of Etruria. Flaminius now found that his dexterous enemy had stolen a march upon him, and Hannibal, on his part, heard with delight the rash and adventurous character of the new consul. Trusting to this, he led his army past Arretium, where Flaminius lay encamped, and leaving Cortona on the left, passed on towards Perusia along the northern side of Lake Trasimene. As soon as Flaminius found that the Carthaginian had passed him in this disdainful way, he immediately marched in pursuit.

As the traveller comes upon the northwestern corner of Lake Trasimene, the road ascends a low ridge, now called Monte Gualandro. The broad lake lies to his right and the road descends into a crescent-shaped plain, skirted on the left by hills of some height, while between the road and the lake the ground undulates considerably. After traversing this open space the road passes the modern village of Passignano, and ascends a hill. This was the ground Hannibal chose for awaiting Flaminius. He placed his Balearians and light troops in ambush along the hills on the left; he himself, with his infantry, lay in front somewhere near Passignano, while his cavalry were ensconced in the uneven ground next the lake, ready to close upon the rear of the Romans so soon as they were fairly in the plain. While the Carthaginians were thus disposed, Flaminius was encamping for the night on the Tuscan side of Monte Gualandro. In the morning a thick mist hung over the lake and low lands, so that, as the consul advanced, he could see nothing. Hannibal suffered the Roman vanguard, consisting of six thousand men, to pass Passignano before he gave the signal for attack. Hearing the cries of battle behind, the vanguard halted anxiously on the hill which they were then ascending, but could see nothing for the mist.

Meantime the consul, with the main army, was assailed on all sides. Charged in front by the Spanish and African infantry, on his right and rear by the Gauls and cavalry, exposed on his left flank to the ceaseless fires of the slingers and javelin-men, Flaminius and his men did all that brave men could. They fought valiantly and died fighting. Not less than fifteen thousand Italians fell on that fatal field. Such was the scene disclosed to the soldiers of the vanguard when the mist cleared off. Hannibal now sent Maharbal to pursue this division, which surrendered at discretion. Such of them as were Romans or Latins were all thrown into chains; the Italian allies were dismissed without ransom. Thus did Hannibal’s plan for the[252] conquest of Rome begin to show itself; he had no hope of subduing Rome and Italy with a handful of Spanish and African veterans. These were to be the core of a great army, to be made up of Italians, who (as he hoped) would join his victorious standard, as the Gauls had already done. He had come, he said, “into Italy, not to fight against the Italians, but to fight for the liberty of the Italians against Rome.”

Such was the battle of Lake Trasimene. So hot was the conflict that the combatants did not feel the shock of an earthquake, which overthrew many cities of Italy.

Stragglers escaping from the slaughter carried the evil tidings to Rome, and the prætor, unable to extenuate the loss, came into the Forum, where the people were assembled, and ascending the rostra uttered the brief but significant words: “We have been defeated in a great battle.” Dreadful was the terror. The gates were thronged with mothers and children, eagerly questioning the fugitives about the fate of their sons, and fathers, and kinsfolk. Every hour Hannibal was expected. Three days passed and he came not; but the news of a fresh disaster came. Cn. Servilius, the other consul, as soon as he heard of Hannibal’s presence in Etruria, resolved to join his colleague immediately, and sent on his horse, four thousand strong, as an earnest of his own arrival. Hannibal, informed of their approach, detached Maharbal with a division of cavalry and some light-armed troops to intercept them, and half of the Romans were cut in pieces.

Amid the terror which prevailed the senate alone maintained their calmness. They sat, without adjournment, to receive intelligence and deliberate on measures of safety. It was resolved (an extraordinary measure) to call upon the people to elect a dictator, the person recommended being Q. Fabius Maximus, a man of known discretion; M. Minucius Rufus was also elected as his master of the horse. Fabius consulted the Sibylline books, and advised the senate to decree a “sacred spring,” according to the ancient custom of the Sabines. Then, collecting the troops that had escaped, and filling up their ranks by a new levy, he sent for the army of Servilius, and thus with four legions and their auxiliary troops he prepared to take the field.

Meanwhile the movements of Hannibal had relieved the Romans of all immediate fear. It seems that he had little hopes of the Etruscans, for he straightway passed northwards by the Flaminian road into Picenum, collecting plunder from all the Roman settlements as he went. Here he lay quiet during the heat of summer. As the weather became cooler, he advanced along the coast of the Adriatic into Apulia, still plundering as he went. The soldiers revelled in the abundance of Italy: it is said they bathed their horses in wine. But the colonies of Luceria and Venusia, as of old, refused entrance to the invader, and Hannibal passed the Apennines again into lower Samnium, where Beneventum, also a colony, defied him like the rest.

By this time Fabius had taken the field. He had made up his mind not to risk a battle. His plan of campaign was to move along the heights, so as to keep Hannibal in view, cutting off his supplies, intercepting his communications, and harassing him in all ways without a general action. This was not for Hannibal’s interest. He wished to fight another great battle and win another great victory (the things were synonymous with him), in order that the Samnites and Italians lately conquered might rise and join him. It was no doubt with the purpose of provoking Fabius to a battle, or of showing the Italians that the Romans dared not fight him, that Hannibal[253] descended from Beneventum down the Vulturnus into the rich Falernian plain.[52]

Here dwelt Roman citizens; this was the garden of Italy: would not the dictator fight to defend them and their country from the spoiler? No: Fabius persisted in his cautious policy. He closed all the passes leading from the plain, where Hannibal’s soldiers were now luxuriating, and waited patiently, thinking he had caught the invader in a trap. But the wily Carthaginian eluded him by a simple stratagem. Collecting the oxen of this favoured region, he ordered fagots to be tied to their horns and lighted as soon as it was night; and thus the animals were driven, tossing their heads with fright and waving the flames, up the pass which leads from Teanum to Allifæ. The troops who guarded this pass fled panic-stricken to the heights of Mount Callicula, and left free passage for the Carthaginian army. When morning broke Hannibal was lying safely encamped near Allifæ. Thence he pursued his devastating course through the Pelignian and Frentanian lands, till he again reached Apulia, and there fixed on a strong position near Geronium for his winter quarters. The place was warm and sunny; corn and provisions were abundant.

A Roman General

Fabius, however discomfited by Hannibal’s escape from Campania, persisted in earning his name of “The lingerer”; and following Hannibal as before, took post at Larinum, within five or six miles of the enemy’s camp.

He was now recalled to Rome, ostensibly to preside over certain sacred offices, but really to give an account of his conduct. He found the people much discontented. He had been in command of two consular armies for several months, and had done worse than nothing; he had allowed the lands of the Roman colonists in Apulia and Samnium, the lands of Roman citizens in Campania, to be wasted and spoiled before his eyes.

These discontents were fomented by Minucius, the master of the horse, who had been left in command at Larinum. Though charged by the dictator not to risk an action, he pushed his camp forward within two miles of Hannibal, gained some advantages in skirmishing with the Carthaginian foraging parties, and sent home highly coloured despatches describing his successes. Popular feeling rose to its height, and Terentius Varro became[254] its mouthpiece. This man was a petty merchant by trade, the son of a butcher; but he had been prætor the year before, and was now candidate for the consulship. His eloquence was great; and he forced the senate to consent to a law which gave Minucius an equal command with the dictator. Fabius quietly gave up half the army to his late subordinate, and was soon repaid for his moderation. Hannibal discovered the rash character of the new commander, and drew him out to battle. Minucius would have been defeated as utterly as Flaminius at Lake Trasimene, had not the watchful Fabius come up; upon which Hannibal drew off his men and Minucius, acknowledging Fabius as his deliverer, craved his pardon and resumed his post of master of the horse. The whole army returned to its old quarters at Larinum.

[217-216 B.C.]

Thus ended the second campaign, not greatly to the satisfaction of either party. Hannibal had hoped that ere this all southern Italy would have risen like one man against Rome. He had shown himself her master in the field; wherever her soldiers had dared to meet his, they had been grievously defeated. He had shown all indulgence for Italian prisoners, though he had put to the sword all Roman citizens. But not one city had yet opened its gates to receive him. The Gauls of the north were the only people who had joined him since he crossed the Alps. The Romans, indeed, continued to suffer cruelly, and their ordinary revenues were grievously curtailed. It was agreed that a great effort must be made in the ensuing campaign; an overpowering force was to be brought against Hannibal; he was to be crushed, if not by skill, by numbers.

When the day of electing the consuls came, out of six candidates C. Terentius Varro alone obtained a sufficient number of votes in any tribe to be returned. It is difficult to ascertain the true character of this man. His vigorous eloquence had won the confidence of the people; but so much is plain, that he was no general, and his election was esteemed a public misfortune by the senate. Varro himself presided at the election of his colleague, and the senate, anxious to provide an able general, put forward L. Æmilius Paulus as a candidate. Paulus had shown his ability in his former consulship, when he concluded the Illyrian War in a single campaign. His manners were unpopular; but so earnestly did the senate represent the necessity of the case, that he was returned without opposition.

These were the consuls elected to fight Hannibal. Their four legions were to be added to the four which Fabius commanded just before; and these eight legions were raised to more than their usual complement, so that the whole army to be commanded by the consuls must, with the allied force, have amounted to at least eighty thousand foot and more than six thousand horse.

In 216, the late consuls (Atilius had succeeded Flaminius), now serving as proconsuls, moving from Larinum southwards towards Venusia, had busied themselves with forming magazines at Canusium and Cannæ; and on the plain near the latter place their camp was formed. Hannibal, as the spring advanced, exhausted his supplies; and having by this time received recruits from Cisalpine Gaul, he made a rapid movement and seized the Roman magazine at Cannæ, encamping not far from that place, on the left bank of the Aufidus. The proconsuls sent home word of this disaster, but received strict orders to continue on the defensive till the consuls arrived to take the command. Yet it was some time before this took place, certainly not till near the end of July, for the great battle, which is now to be described, was fought on the second of August,[53] and it was fought soon after the arrival of the consuls.


The consuls immediately moved the army to the neighbourhood of Hannibal, with the intention of offering battle. But when Paulus observed the open plain, he was desirous to put off an engagement, and manœuvre so as to draw the enemy into ground less favourable for the action of cavalry. Varro, however, thought otherwise; and now appeared the evil of both consuls being joined in command of the same army. It was a repetition of the arrangement which had answered so ill in the last years with Fabius and Minucius; with this additional evil, that the consuls, instead of dividing the army between them, took the command of the whole on alternate days. The consuls were, by the constitution, equal, and Varro was far too confident of success to give way to his more experienced colleague. Æmilius felt bitterly the truth of Fabius’ parting injunction: “Remember that you will have to oppose not only Hannibal, but also Varro.”

On the first day of his sole command, Varro moved the whole army to the right bank of the Aufidus, between Cannæ and the sea, so that only the river separated the Roman camp from that of the Carthaginians. Next day Æmilius fortified a smaller camp on the left side of the river, fronting Hannibal, so as to secure the passage of the river, but resolutely declined battle. On the third day, however, when morning broke, the red standard, which was the Roman signal for battle, was seen flying from Varro’s tent. The men rejoiced at this; they were weary of their long inactivity; they were confident in their numbers, and the resolution of their favourite Varro was highly applauded.

When Æmilius found that a battle must be fought on the plain of Cannæ, he did his best to support his colleague. The whole army was drawn up facing nearly south, with the right resting on the river Aufidus. The Roman cavalry, only twenty-four hundred strong, were on this right flank; the left was covered in like manner by the cavalry of the allies. Æmilius commanded on the right, Varro on the left; the centre was under the orders of Servilius and Atilius, the proconsuls. It must be especially observed that the legionaries and allied infantry were not drawn up, as usual, in an open line, but with the ranks made deep and closed up almost like the phalanx. It has been above observed how serviceable the phalanx was on plain ground; and probably the consuls imagined that by these compact masses of infantry they might offer a more complete resistance to the formidable cavalry of Hannibal.

But Hannibal skilfully availed himself of this close array, and formed his line accordingly. He had crossed the river early, as soon as he saw the Romans in motion. The Spanish and Gallic infantry, much inferior in number to the Romans, he drew out in an extended line, equal in length to that of the enemy, but much less deep and massive. This line advanced in a convex form, and at each end he placed his Africans, so as to form two flanking columns of narrow front but great depth. He himself, with his brother Mago, commanded the infantry. On his left flank, next the river, were the heavy cavalry of Spain and Gaul, commanded by an officer named Hasdrubal, not the brother of the general. On the right were the Numidian light horse, under the orders of Maharbal.

After some indecisive skirmishing between the light troops, the real battle began with a conflict on the river side between the Roman cavalry and the horse of Hasdrubal. The latter were greatly superior in force, and charged with such effect as to drive the Roman horse across the river.

Meantime the Roman legions, and their allied infantry, advanced steadily against Hannibal’s centre. The long crescent-shaped line above described[256] was unable to withstand the shock. Nor had the general expected it. On the contrary, he had instructed the centre so to fall back as to form a concave figure, and then the whole line retired slowly, so as to draw on the Roman masses between the African flanking columns. The Romans pressed eagerly on the retiring foe; but as they advanced, the Africans attacked the Romans on both flanks. The latter, jammed together, and assailed on both sides, fell into great disorder, very few of their vast army being able to use their weapons. But the consul, Æmilius, who had been wounded by a sling in an early part of the action, contrived to restore some sort of order, and it seemed as if the battle was not lost; when Hasdrubal fell upon the rear of the legions and the rout became complete.

This able officer, after destroying the Roman cavalry, had led his heavy horse round to the other wing, where he found the Numidians engaged with the allied cavalry. The latter fled in confusion; and Hasdrubal, leaving Maharbal to pursue them, made that decisive charge upon the rear of the legions which completed the defeat of the Roman army.

Then the battle became a mere massacre. The Romans and allies, mingled in a disorderly mass, were cut down on all sides. The consul, Æmilius, fell. Varro, with but seventy horsemen, escaped to Venusia. Other parties of fugitives made good their retreat to Canusium; some thousands took refuge in the camps. But on the bloody field that evening, there lay dead, at the lowest computation, more than forty thousand Roman foot and three thousand horse. The loss in the cavalry involved the death of some of the wealthiest and most distinguished men at Rome. With them had fallen one consul, two proconsuls, two quæstors, one-and-twenty out of eight-and-forty tribunes, and not less than eighty senators. All who had taken refuge in the camp surrendered at discretion next day. Hannibal’s loss is variously stated at from six to eight thousand.

This, then, was the battle of Cannæ. History does not record any defeat more complete, and very few more murderous. The great army levied to conquer Hannibal had been annihilated. The feverish anxiety with which all men at Rome followed the consuls in thought may be imagined; those who stayed behind in horrible suspense, flocked to the temples, offered vows, consulted the auguries, raked up omens and prophecies, left no means untried to divine the issue of the coming battle. What must have been the dismay, what the amazement, with which they received the first uncertain tidings of defeat! What the despair, what the stupor, which the dreadful reality produced!

Among the fugitives who came in with the tidings, was a tribune of the legions, Cn. Lentulus by name. As he rode off the field he had seen Æmilius the consul sitting on a stone, mortally wounded. He had dismounted and offered him his horse. But the consul replied, “No, my hours are numbered: go thou to Rome, seek out Q. Fabius, and bid him prepare to defend the city; tell him that Æmilius dies, as he lived, mindful of his precepts and example.” To Fabius, indeed, all eyes were now turned. The senate instantly met; and at his motion each senator was invested with the power of a magistrate; they were to prevent all public lamentations; to hinder the people from meeting in the Forum, lest they should pass resolutions in favour of peace; to keep the gates well guarded, suffering no one to pass in or out without a special order. Every one feared to see the army of Hannibal defiling through the Apennines upon the plain of Latium.

What the Romans feared the Carthaginians desired. “Only send me on,” said Maharbal to the general, “with the cavalry, and within five days[257] thou shalt sup in the Capitol.” But Hannibal thought otherwise. His army was small; he was totally unprovided with materials for a siege; Rome was strongly fortified. He felt that the mere appearance of his army before the walls would rather rouse to action than terrify into submission; and meanwhile the golden time for raising the Samnites and other nations of Italy might be lost. Already he was in negotiation with the leading men at Capua, a city second only to Rome in point of size, superior in wealth. To this place he resolved to march as soon as his men were rested. When their allies had deserted, Rome must agree to his terms, without giving him the trouble of a siege.

He resolved, however, to try the temper of the Romans, and accordingly sent ten of the chief men among his prisoners, with offers to hold all whom he had taken to ransom. The senate, on the motion of T. Manlius Torquatus, a man who had inherited the stern decision of his ancestor, refused to admit the messengers to an audience, and ordered all to return, as they had bound themselves, to Hannibal’s camp. Hannibal, greatly provoked at this almost contemptuous reply to his advances, sold the greater part of his prisoners into slavery. This was but the common custom of the times. But besides this, he reserved the bravest and noblest youths to fight as gladiators for the amusement of his army; and on their refusal he put them to death by torture. The fact shows that in moments of passion Hannibal was too justly liable to the accusation of barbarous cruelty.

The senate were now busily occupied in taking all steps possible for the safety of Rome. The public horror was increased by a discovery that two vestal virgins had been guilty of unchastity. One was, as the law directed, buried alive; the other put herself to death. To avert the wrath of the gods, Fabius Pictor was sent to consult the Greek oracle at Delphi; and by the orders of the Sibylline books, a Greek man and woman and a Gallic man and woman were buried alive in the Forum, according to the same horrid practice used in the last Gallic War. But to these superstitious rites were added wiser precautions. Fabius, with the coolness of age and experience, continued to direct their measures. M. Claudius Marcellus, now prætor, was sent to take the command of the fugitives in Apulia; for despatches had arrived from Varro, stating that he had been joined by about four thousand men at Venusia, and that about the same number had assembled at Canusium under Appius Claudius, young P. Scipio (now about nineteen years of age), and other tribunes. It was added that some of the young nobles at Canusium, headed by a Metellus, had formed a plan to fly from Italy and offer their services to some foreign prince, despairing of the republic; that young Scipio had gone instantly to the lodgings of Metellus, and standing over him with a drawn sword, had made him swear that neither would he desert the republic, nor allow others to do so; that, to support the noble conduct of Scipio, Varro had himself transferred his headquarters to Canusium, and was using all his efforts to collect the remains of the defeated army.

Having given up his command to Marcellus, Varro set out for Rome. With what feelings he approached the city may be imagined. But as he drew near, the senate and people went out to meet him, and publicly thanked him, “for that he had not despaired of the republic.” History presents no nobler spectacle than this. Had he been a Carthaginian general, he would have been crucified.

The dictator ordered levies in Rome and Latium. But the immense losses sustained in the three past years had thinned the ranks of those who[258] were on the military list. From the action on the Ticinus to Cannæ, the loss of the Romans and their allies, in battle alone, could not have been less than eighty thousand men. The dictator, therefore, proposed to buy eight thousand slaves to serve as light troops; and also to enrol debtors, prisoners, and other persons by law incapable of serving in the Roman legions. Marcellus, with the remains of the army of Cannæ, took his post at Casilinum. All commanders were instructed to keep to the defensive system of Fabius, and on no account to risk another battle.

Meanwhile Hannibal had advanced through Samnium to Capua, where he found all prepared to receive him. The senate, being in the interest of Rome, was dismissed, and the chief power committed to a popular leader, named Pacuvius Calavius. His first act was to seize on Roman residents and put them to death; he then made an agreement with Hannibal that no Carthaginian officer should exercise authority in Capua; and demanded that three hundred Roman prisoners should be put into his hands as hostages for the safety of three hundred Capuan knights who were serving in the Roman army in Sicily. Hannibal agreed to these demands, and entered Capua in triumph. One man only, by name Decius Magius, ventured to oppose these measures. Hannibal treated him with magnanimous clemency, and contented himself with sending him off to Africa.

All southern Italy had by this time declared in Hannibal’s favour. Most of the Apulians, the Hirpinian and Caudinian Samnites, the Surrentines, most of the Lucanians, the Bruttians, and all the Greek cities of the south which were not held by Roman garrisons, welcomed him as their deliverer. It seemed as if he were now about to realise his great project of raising Italy in insurrection against Rome.

He was obliged to send detachments of his army into these several districts; and he employed what small force he still retained in attempting to gain possession of the cities in the plains of Campania. Nuceria, Acerræ, and others submitted, as Capua had done. But Neapolis and Cumæ closed their gates; and the senate of Nola, fearing that the people might rise against them, as at Capua, sent for Marcellus to Casilinum. This bold officer threw himself into the city, and by a successful sally repulsed Hannibal from the gates. He then seized and executed seventy persons who were suspected of treason, and entrenched himself strongly in a fixed camp near the city. Hannibal, thus repulsed from Nola, determined to invest Casilinum, which from its proximity to Capua was likely to prove a troublesome neighbour.[54] The garrison held out obstinately, but were at length obliged to yield. This was almost the only town in Italy which Hannibal took by a regular siege.

Hannibal now went into winter quarters at Capua, in expectation of receiving succours from home. Soon after the battle he had sent off his brother Mago to carry home the tidings of his great success. For three years he had pursued a career of victory unassisted by the government; Rome was at his feet; he only wanted force enough to crush her. In proof of the greatness of the victory of Cannæ, Mago poured out on the floor of the senate-house a bushel of gold rings, which had been worn by Roman knights who had fallen on that fatal field. But the jealous government, headed by a Hanno, the mortal enemy of the Barcine family, listened coldly to Mago’s words; they asked “whether one Roman or Latin citizen had joined Hannibal? He wanted men and money; what more could he want,[259] had he lost the battle instead of winning it?” At length, however, it was agreed that Mago should carry reinforcements to Hannibal. But the war in Spain assumed so threatening an aspect, that these succours were diverted to this nearer danger, and Mago was ordered to the support of his brother Hasdrubal in that country. All that reached Hannibal was a paltry force of four thousand Numidian horse, with about forty elephants, and a stinted supply of money.

[216-215 B.C.]

Perhaps the general had not expected much from this quarter. No doubt the person to whom he looked for chief support was his brother Hasdrubal in Spain. But here he was doomed to disappointment. It will be remembered that P. Scipio, the consul of the year 218, when he returned from Marseilles to Pisa, had sent on his brother Cneius into Spain, according to the original orders of the senate. The wisdom of this step was proved by the event. Cn. Scipio landed at Emporiæ (Ampurias), an old Greek colony. Within the year he had driven Hanno across the Ebro. In the next year, the year of Trasimene, he defeated Hasdrubal by sea, ravaged the coast up to the suburbs of New Carthage, and made large booty in one of the Balearic Isles. P. Scipio joined his brother towards the close of the same year; and when the battle of Cannæ made Hannibal master of southern Italy, the two brothers had subdued all northern Spain.

Hannibal’s hopes, therefore, of reinforcements for the next campaign rested with his new Italian allies. The additional cavalry and elephants from Carthage would still give him the command of the open country. But the Romans had learned wisdom by sore experience, and Hannibal could not expect to win great victories, such as had marked his first three campaigns. What he wanted was a good engineer corps and siege apparatus, to take the Latin colonies and other free towns, which even in the districts that had joined him still maintained the cause of Rome. Why he did not employ his winter at Capua in organising a force of this nature we know not. But, whatever was the cause, he was never able to take towns by force; and the Romans never gave him an opportunity of winning another great battle. Consequently all the Latin colonies and free towns remained faithful to Rome, and Hannibal was only half master even of southern Italy.

The Romans, for their part, passed the winter[55] in the most active preparations. The first step necessary was to fill up the numerous vacancies caused in the senate by the late disastrous battles. It appeared, on calling over the list, that not fewer than 177 members were missing. Sp. Carvilius proposed to recruit the ranks of the senate by admitting the chief citizens of the Latin towns. But this liberal proposal was not listened to, and it was resolved to commit the whole business to the care of a dictator, specially appointed for the purpose. The person chosen was M. Fabius Buteo, the same who had been sent as chief ambassador to Carthage in the year 219 B.C. He[260] was an old man, universally respected, and the way he discharged the duty laid upon him gave great satisfaction. The bravest and the worthiest men were named as the new members. The consuls elected for the ensuing year were Ti. Sempronius Gracchus, and L. Postumius, now prætor commanding in Cisalpine Gaul. But before the ides of March came the sad intelligence that Postumius, with all his army, had been cut off by the Gauls. Fabius Maximus himself was elected consul for the third time, to supply his place. Marcellus and Varro were to remain in command as proconsuls.

To add to the difficulties of the Romans, means were scanty to support the vast expenses of the war; for the revenues of the whole of southern Italy were cut off.

It must have been a further discouragement to find that Hannibal had entered into negotiations with Philip, king of Macedon. The messengers of the king were taken on their way to Capua. For the present, therefore, the danger to be expected from this quarter was averted; but for the future the prospect was made more gloomy.

Few things, probably, could mark the public feeling more than a law which was passed in the next year at the instance of the tribune, Oppius, by which it was forbidden that any woman should wear a gay-coloured dress, or have more than half an ounce of gold to ornament her person, and that none should approach within a mile of any city or town in a car drawn by horses. Public need must be very urgent before it is possible to restrain private expense by enactments so rigid as those of the Oppian law.


[215 B.C.]

The first period of this great war closed with the revolt of Capua. That which now claims our attention ends with the recovery of that important city by the Romans.

After the battle of Cannæ, Q. Fabius Maximus, great-grandson of that Q. Fabius who won so high a name in the Second Samnite War, became for some years the virtual chief of senate and people. He was already an old man; more than seventy summers had passed over his head. His disposition was so mild or so apathetic that he was known by the popular name of Ovicula, or the lamb. His abilities seem not to have been great. His merit was that he had the hardihood to avow that the Roman militia were no match for Hannibal’s veterans, and the courage to act on his belief. The cautious system which he had practised after the battle of Lake Trasimene had excited discontent; but the great defeat of Cannæ had most unhappily vindicated it. For some years it was rigorously carried out by commanders more skilful in war than Fabius himself.

Of these coadjutors the ablest was unquestionably M. Claudius Marcellus, who was called the Sword of Rome, as Fabius was called the Shield. He also was past the middle age, being at this time more than fifty. In his first consulship he had distinguished himself by a brilliant victory over the Insubrian Gauls; and his name now stood very high, for having given the first check to Hannibal in his career of victory. Marcellus was a true Roman soldier—prompt and bold in action, resolute in adversity, stern and unyielding in disposition, blunt and illiterate, yet not without touches of finer feeling, as was proved at the siege of Syracuse. With him must be mentioned Ti. Sempronius Gracchus, a man of humane and kindly temper,[261] and possessing high talents for command. Had he not been cut off so early, he might have rivalled the fame of Marcellus.

Q. Fulvius Flaccus, who, like Marcellus, had already been twice consul, disdained not for the two following years to act as prætor of the city. He enjoyed the confidence of Fabius and the senate, and this office gave him, in the continued absence of the consuls, the whole management of the home government. He was not less than sixty years of age, discreet and cautious as Fabius himself, but more active, energetic, and relentless.

To carry out the defensive system of war now adopted, the two consuls and a proconsul were stationed in Campania, each with two legions and their auxiliary cohorts. In the present year Fabius took post on the Latin road, between Cales and Casilinum; Gracchus occupied the entrenched camp, which had been formed by Marcellus near Sinuessa; and Marcellus himself occupied a similar camp near Nola. Thus these commanders were always ready to harass Capua, and were also able to make forays into Samnium, Apulia, and Lucania whenever Hannibal was absent. Their connection with the sea was maintained by the great seaports of Naples and Cumæ.

Hannibal, on the other hand, formed a strong camp on the ridge of Mount Tifata above Capua. But he was often obliged to move his forces into the south, leaving the Capuans to defend themselves. We have no means of estimating the amount of Hannibal’s army, but it may be inferred that it was small; we never find him able to act in force both in Campania and in the south.

A Roman General

(Based on De Montfaucon)

He soon came in collision with the consul Gracchus. This general was in his camp at Sinuessa, busily employed in training two legions of slaves, who, by the name of volones or volunteers, served under his command. Here he received information from the people of Cumæ that the Capuans were coming to hold a festival near their city, and he was enabled to fall upon the Capuans by night, and slaughter a great number. The news soon reached Hannibal, who descended from his camp, only to find Gracchus safe behind the walls of Cumæ.

While Gracchus was thus engaged at Cumæ, Fabius had occupied his camp at Sinuessa, and Marcellus was making forays in the Samnite country. The sufferers sent earnest appeals for defence to Hannibal, who now appeared a second time before the walls of Nola, being induced by some of the popular party, which in all the cities was hostile to Rome, to hope that the place might be betrayed. But Marcellus made a well-timed sally, in which he cut off a large body of the Carthaginian army; and Hannibal, again retiring in disappointment, went into winter quarters at Arpi in Apulia.


[214-212 B.C.]

Returning spring (214 B.C.) found Hannibal again in his camp on Tifata, and the same Roman commanders opposed to him. Fabius was still consul, with Marcellus for his colleague; while Gracchus had taken the place of the latter as proconsul. The circumstance of the election of these consuls deserves noting, because it shows that the people had completely surrendered their right of free choice into the hands of Fabius. The old consul purposely halted in the Campus Martius, and held the election without having entered the city, by which means he retained his imperium. The prerogative century, which happened to be the juniors of the Aniene tribe, gave their vote for M. Æmilius Regillus and T. Otacilius Crassus. Otacilius was a nephew of Fabius, and had served as prætor in command of the fleet during the current year, but without much credit. Upon this vote being given, the old consul stopped the proceedings. “The republic,” he said, “was struggling for existence; she was maintaining nearly twenty legions; and that with revenues diminished and citizens thinned: what was the use of all her exertions if she committed her armies to untried men? Therefore,” he concluded, “go, lictor, call back the juniors of the Aniene tribe to give their vote anew.” All men felt that the old man had not only power, but reason on his side. The same century, which had voted for other men, now gave their voices for Fabius himself and Marcellus.

At the same time the senate gave an earnest of their stern determination by passing a decree that the soldiers of Cannæ should be sent to serve in Sicily, without hope of honour and glory, till the end of the war. And the censors, in the course of this year, summoned before them Metellus and the others who had wished to desert the republic after the defeat of Cannæ, and deprived them of their civic rights.

Early in this campaign, Hannibal was enticed from Campania by a message sent from certain friends whom he had made within the walls of Tarentum, and left Hanno to cover Samnium and Campania. Hanno seems to have had hopes of surprising the Roman colony of Beneventum. But the proconsul Gracchus threw himself into the town; “And now,” he told his slave-soldiers, “now the time was come when they might win their liberty. Every one who brought in an enemy’s head should be made free.” In the battle which followed, victory was long undetermined; till Gracchus proclaimed that without victory none should be enfranchised, but if they conquered, none should remain a slave. Thus the desperate conflict was determined in favour of the Romans, and Hanno, after great loss, made good his retreat back into the Bruttian territory. Then Gracchus fulfilled the promise made to his volones, and celebrated their enfranchisement by a public festival, in which they all appeared wearing white caps in token of liberty. So pleased was their commander with the scene, that he had a picture painted to commemorate it on the walls of the temple of Liberty on the Aventine Hill.

Hannibal, therefore, had the mortification to hear of this reverse, without the satisfaction of succeeding in his own expedition. For M. Valerius Lævinus, the Roman prætor stationed at Brundusium, being informed of the plot to betray Tarentum, threw a strong garrison into the place under the command of M. Livius, and the conspirators could not fulfil their promises.

The next year (213 B.C.) was still less fruitful in decisive events than the two foregoing. That is, it was favourable to the Romans; for to Hannibal’s cause inaction was fatal. And there are not wanting indications to show that the Italians who had joined him began even now to falter in their resolution, and to look with fearful eyes on the little progress he had made[263] since the battle of Cannæ, and on the tenacity with which the Romans kept hold of every city. Arpi in Apulia, Hannibal’s late winter quarters, was betrayed to Fabius the Younger, who was now consul, assisted by his father as legate. The three hundred Capuan knights, who were in the service of Rome at the time when their city threw itself into Hannibal’s arms, had shown their disapprobation of this step by enrolling themselves as citizens of Rome; and about this time one hundred and twelve more of the same order came in to the Roman camp at Suessula. But out of Italy, Hannibal’s skilful negotiations had raised up enemies to Rome wherever his envoys could find an opening—in Macedonia, in Sardinia, in Sicily.

It has been mentioned that the first letters of Philip of Macedon to Hannibal had been intercepted by the Romans; and through fear of an attack from this quarter they had stationed Lævinus with a fleet at Brundusium. A second embassy was more successful, and an alliance was concluded by Hannibal with the king, by which the latter bound himself to send an auxiliary force to support the Carthaginians in Italy. But Lævinus and his successors carried the war into Epirus, and Philip was unable to send the promised succours.

In Sardinia an insurrection broke out in the year after Cannæ. Q. Fulvius, the city prætor, was ordered to provide for its suppression, with leave to appoint any commander whom he thought fit. He straightway made choice of T. Manlius Torquatus, a man as stern and uncompromising as himself, who in his consulship twenty years before had first conquered the island. The old general landed with little delay, and in one decisive battle completely restored Sardinia to subjection.

Affairs in Sicily gave much more trouble. Indeed in the years 211 and 212 this island became the chief seat of the war. Hiero, the old king of Syracuse, who for fifty years had never faltered in his alliance with Rome, died soon after the fatal day of Cannæ. He was succeeded by his grandson Hieronymus, a youth of fifteen years of age, whose imagination was captivated by the brilliant career of Hannibal. The able Carthaginian soon availed himself of the opportunity which thus presented itself to send over agents, into whose hands the young prince completely surrendered himself. These were two brothers named Hippocrates and Epicydes, Syracusan Greeks by descent, but natives of Carthage. The young king, however, after little more than a year’s reign, was assassinated by a gang of obscure conspirators; a republic was proclaimed at Syracuse; and shortly after, all the remaining members of the royal family were massacred with circumstances of singular atrocity. The question now was whether the new government should side with Rome or Carthage. The brothers, Hippocrates and Epicydes, at first resolved to return to Hannibal; but they changed their plan, and pretending to fall in with the views of the conspirators, were elected generals-in-chief with several others. Yet the popular feeling seems to have inclined towards Rome, and Hippocrates, unable to control it, contrived to leave Syracuse with a body of troops, and repaired to Leontini, where he was joined by his brother Epicydes. They then threw off the mask, and the Leontines declared themselves independent of Syracuse.

This was probably late in the year 214 B.C. And about that time the consul Marcellus arrived to take the command of the army in Sicily.

Marcellus, without delay, laid siege to Leontini, and took the town by assault. He did what he could to spare the inhabitants; but he was guilty of a piece of most imprudent severity in scourging and putting to death as deserters two thousand of the garrison, who had once been in the service of[264] Rome. It appears that there were many soldiers of like condition now in the Syracusan army. When they heard of the cruel death of their comrades at Leontini, they lent a ready ear to the persuasion of Hippocrates and Epicydes, who had escaped from Leontini, and turned the severity of Marcellus to good account. These two adventurers were elected sole generals, and Syracuse closed her gates against Rome. Marcellus made some fruitless attempts at negotiation and finally commenced the siege of Syracuse.

The city of Syracuse had been greatly enlarged since the Athenian expedition. The island of Ortygia had become the citadel, and the suburb along the seacoast, called Achradina, was now part of the town. The rugged triangular surface called Epipolæ was well fortified, and its northern approaches, especially, were strongly defended by a fort called Hexapylum.

Marcellus at first attempted to take the city by assault. He himself attacked the sea wall of Achradina, while his officers attempted to force Hexapylum. The Romans were always famous for their skill in the attack and defence of fortifications, and Marcellus was well provided with engines of all kinds. But within the walls was an engineer more skilful than any the Romans possessed. Archimedes, the most celebrated mathematician of ancient times, was now seventy-five years old, but age had not quenched the inventive vigour of his mind. He was so devoted to abstruse calculations that sometimes he forgot even to take his meals; yet speculation had not unfitted him for practical pursuits. Marvellous are the stories told of the engines which he invented to thwart the assaults of the Romans, both by sea and land. The whole wall was armed with ballists and catapults of immense power, so that the ships dared not come within shot. If they ventured to get close under the walls, favoured by the darkness of night, they were galled by a fire from myriads of loopholes, and nearly crushed by enormous stones let drop from the battlements; or one end of the ship was grasped by an “iron hand” let down from a projecting crane, which suddenly lifted it up, and as suddenly let it go, so that first one end and then the other was plunged in the water. It is said also that burning-glasses of great power were so placed as to set on fire ships which approached within their reach. This is probably a fiction. But this much is certain, that Marcellus was compelled to desist from his assault, and began to blockade it by regular lines of circumvallation. After many months the Romans were as far from taking Syracuse as ever.

Meantime, the Roman cause was daily losing ground in Sicily. Even Morgantium, the headquarters of the fleet, surrendered to Carthage; and Enna, a strong fortress, was only saved by the prompt cruelty of the commandant, who massacred the whole of its inhabitants. But this barbarous act, though efficacious on the spot, served still more to alienate the Sicilians from Rome. Agrigentum surrendered, and numerous other towns threw off the yoke.

[212 B.C.]

But there was treason within the walls of Syracuse. Marcellus at length succeeded in scaling the walls of Hexapylum by night, when by reason of a festival they were left unguarded. He soon gained possession of the whole upper city; and as he gazed from the heights of Epipolæ on the fair view beneath him, even his rude nature was so affected by the beauty of the scene and the greatness of his success, that he burst into a flood of tears. The southern quarters of the town surrendered; but Epicydes, within Achradina, prepared for a desperate defence; and Hippocrates, who had gone to obtain succours from Carthage, soon returned with a considerable force. But Marcellus lay safe within the upper city,[265] and the army of Hippocrates, encamped on the marshy ground at the mouth of the Anapus, was thinned by disease as the hot weather came on: among the dead was Hippocrates himself. Still the sea was open, and a fleet was daily expected from Carthage. At length it came in view; but the Roman squadron put out to meet it, and great was the disappointment of Epicydes, when he saw the Carthaginians bear away towards Italy. He left the city secretly and fled to Agrigentum.

Many of the garrison were deserters from the Romans, who could expect little mercy from the severe Marcellus. But the rest, when they found themselves deserted by their general, slew their officers, and admitted Marcellus by night within the walls of Achradina. Next morning, the city was given up to plunder; and in the massacre which followed, Archimedes was slain by a soldier, whose question he did not answer, being absorbed in a geometrical problem. For the honour of Marcellus, it should be recorded that he was deeply grieved by this mischance, that he gave honourable burial to the corpse of the philosopher, and showed great kindness to his relations. The royal treasure was reserved for the state; and the exquisite works of the Grecian chisel which adorned the splendid city were sent to Rome—a beginning of that system of plunder which enriched Rome at the expense of Greece.

Death of Archimedes

(After Mirys)

Thus fell Syracuse, in the summer of 212 B.C., after a siege of nearly two years. But though Syracuse was taken, Sicily was not conquered. It will be well to anticipate events a little, so as to finish our narrative of this war in this place.

[212-210 B.C.]

Epicydes, who had escaped to Agrigentum, continued his ceaseless activity, and persuaded the Carthaginian government to send out another large force to his aid. Hannibal also sent over an officer named Mutin or Mutton, who henceforth became the soul of the war in Sicily. This man was a[266] half-bred Carthaginian; and the African blood in his veins degraded him as much in the eyes of pure Carthaginians, as the taint of black blood degrades a man in the United States. But his abilities as a soldier made Hannibal overlook vain distinctions, and Mutin took the command of the Numidian horse in the army of Hanno and Epicydes. With such skill did he use this formidable cavalry, that Marcellus rather lost ground than gained it. But the Carthaginian officers, jealous of the upstart commander, took occasion to give battle to the Romans during his absence. Marcellus accepted the challenge, and gained a signal victory (211 B.C.).

In the next year (210 B.C.) Valerius Lævinus took the command in Sicily, where Mutin still continued to defy the Romans. But the jealousy of the Carthaginians so provoked the hot-blooded African, that he put himself at the head of his faithful Numidians, and threw open the gates of Agrigentum to the Roman consul. Epicydes escaped to Carthage, leaving the army an easy prey to the Roman legions. The town was sacked and plundered, and the inhabitants reduced to slavery. And in a short time Lævinus was able to send despatches to the senate, reporting the entire submission of all Sicily. Mutin was made a Roman citizen, and received five hundred jugera of state land. His Numidian horse took service with Rome.

It is now time to return to Italy, where also the war had resumed a more active form. Early in 212 B.C. Hannibal once more marched southward to Tarentum, and this time with better success than before. He encamped at a distance of about three miles, and was constantly visited by two young Greeks, who left the city under pretence of hunting. It was by the landward side that the conspirators proposed to admit Hannibal; and the time they chose was a night on which it was well known that M. Livius, the commandant, would be engaged in a drinking bout. The Romans went to bed in drunken security, and at daybreak found the city in the hands of the Carthaginians. A great part of the garrison were put to the sword, but Livius made good his escape to the citadel. Hannibal immediately took measures for besieging it; and the Tarentines, having dragged their ships overland from the harbour into the open sea, blockaded it both by sea and land.

Meanwhile the consuls—Appius Claudius and old Q. Fulvius Flaccus—were preparing to besiege Capua. Gracchus, with his volones, was stationed in Lucania; one prætor, Claudius Nero, occupied the old camp at Suessula; another, Cn. Fulvius, brother of the consul, lay in Apulia. The Capuans, fearing they should be cut off from all supplies, sent a hasty message to Hannibal at Tarentum: and he straightway sent orders to provision the town, in case it should be besieged. Hanno executed his difficult task with success; but near Beneventum, the consuls fell upon him, and captured the supplies. He was obliged to retire into Bruttium, and leave Capua to its fate.

The Roman armies now began to close round that devoted city. But they were destined to suffer heavy losses before they were able to invest it. First, Gracchus, who was coming northwards from Lucania, to reinforce the consuls, was slain in an ambuscade, and his volones, so long faithful to their favourite leader, dispersed and fled, each man to his own home. Next, Hannibal himself once more appeared in Campania. He had already sent Mago with a division of cavalry to encourage the Capuans; and now he entered the city in person without the knowledge of the consuls. He was in high spirits at his successes in the south. Not only Tarentum, but also Metapontum and Thurii, had joined him; and though Syracuse had fallen, the war was raging fiercely in Sicily. But the Roman commanders were cautious; and Hannibal, finding he could not bring on a battle, was anxious to return[267] to press the siege of the citadel of Tarentum. He went by way of Lucania, and on his route met a Roman army, commanded by M. Centenius, an old centurion, who had collected an army, and with equal courage and folly attempted to bar Hannibal’s march. He fell as a valiant soldier should fall; and many thousand brave men paid the penalty of trusting to his promises. Hannibal now passed the mountains into Apulia; and here, near Herdonea, he surprised the prætor, Cn. Fulvius. He was like Centenius in rashness, but unlike him in being a profligate and a coward. In this action also many thousand Romans were cut to pieces.

But notwithstanding these thick-coming losses, the consuls held to their resolution of blockading Capua. No sooner was Hannibal’s back turned than they again appeared before the city; and before the expiration of the year the lines of circumvallation were completed. The armies of Rome always contained good workmen; their common agricultural habits accustomed them to the use of the spade; the great works that had for some time been going on, roads and aqueducts, had trained a number of men for military work. Yet the rapidity with which the vast extent of lines necessary to enclose a great city like Capua was completed, cannot but surprise us. These lines were secured by a double wall, and care was taken to supply the besiegers with provisions.

The consuls for the next year (211 B.C.) were not allowed to supersede Appius and Fulvius: to them was left the glory of completing well what they had well begun.

When the Capuans found themselves blockaded, their spirits fell, and they again sent an urgent message to Hannibal. In an assault upon the Roman lines, he was beaten off with loss. And now only one hope remained. It was possible that, if he threatened Rome itself, the besieging army might be recalled to defend the capital. Accordingly, he sent the Capuans notice of his purpose by means of a pretended deserter, and the next morning the proconsuls saw his camp on Mount Tifata empty. They thought, probably, that he had returned to the south. But they soon discovered the truth from country people, who came in full of horror to tell that Hannibal’s wild Numidians and monstrous elephants were in full route for Rome. Fulvius sent word to the senate of this fearful visitation; and the opinion of Fabius was unanimously adopted, that one of the proconsuls should be recalled to defend the city with part of his army and the city legions, while the other was left to maintain the blockade of Capua. Accordingly, Fulvius marched straight to Rome by the Appian road, while Hannibal took a circuitous route by the north, to avoid the thick-studded cities which might have barred his passage. Fulvius, therefore, arrived at Rome before Hannibal, and encamped within a mile or two of the city. The consternation at Rome was in some measure quelled by the arrival of Fulvius; and still more, when Hannibal himself, after riding up to the Colline gate, and then skirting the walls, was attacked by the old proconsul, and obliged to fall back upon his camp. It is said that, while he lay there, the land occupied by his camp was put up to sale and bought at a price not at all below its value. Hannibal laughed, and bade an auctioneer put up the silversmiths’ shops in the Forum for sale. But though he put a bold face upon the matter, he felt in his heart that he had failed. Rome was able to defend herself, and yet had left a sufficient force at Capua to continue the blockade.

The line of his retreat is as uncertain as that of his advance. It is known, however, that he conducted his army through Apulia into Bruttium, which became thenceforth his headquarters in Italy.


Meanwhile, Fulvius had returned to the lines round Capua, full of exultation. Time wore on, and famine began to oppress the wretched inhabitants. How long the desperate resistance was prolonged we know not. But at length it appeared manifest that surrender must ensue within a few hours; upon which Vibius Virrius, one of the insurgent chiefs, gave a splendid banquet to all senators who would partake of it. Twenty-seven came, and when the feast was over, a poisoned cup went round, in which the guests pledged their host. They went home to die; and next morning the city was surrendered. The savage old Fulvius determined to wreak a bloody vengeance upon the leaders of the insurgents. Five-and-twenty were sent to Cales, to Teanum eight-and-twenty, there to await their doom. In vain Appius pleaded for milder measures. Fulvius heeded no intercession. On the morning after the capture, he rode in person to Teanum, and saw all the prisoners beheaded. He then galloped off to Cales; but when the prisoners there were being bound, a messenger from Rome brought him letters from the senate. He put them into his bosom, and ordered the executions to proceed; nor till all the heads had fallen, did he open the letters, which contained orders to reserve the prisoners for the judgment of the senate. Others of the chief men were imprisoned, and all the commoner sort were sold into slavery. The city itself was confiscated to Rome.

The fall of Syracuse and Capua had given a decided superiority to the Roman arms. Yet, though Hannibal was at present so weak that he could not leave the south, nor give effectual succour to his Campanian allies, there were many causes to give him hopes of retrieving his fortunes. The diversions made by Mutin in Sicily had proved most successful, and it was not till a year later that the cause of Carthage in that island was betrayed. Though the citadel of Tarentum still held out, that great city itself, with all Magna Græcia, except Rhegium, had joined Hannibal: and he lived in hope that at length Philip of Macedon would come over to oppose the common enemy.

Now also he looked with confidence to Spain. For a long time the successes of the Scipios had cut off all hope of succour from his brother Hasdrubal. The successes continued, notwithstanding the arrival of Mago with reinforcements from Carthage; many of the Celtiberian tribes enlisted under their banners, eager to try a change of masters; Syphax, a prince of the Numidians, formed an alliance with them, and they seemed thus early to have formed the design of carrying the war into Africa. In the year 212 B.C., the same which witnessed the fall of Syracuse and the investment of Capua, the two brothers entertained high hopes of a successful campaign. Cn. Scipio marched against Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal; Publius directed his course against a second Carthaginian army, under Mago. But the Celtiberians in the army of Cneius deserted: and the Roman proconsul was in full retreat, when he heard that his brother Publius had been surprised and slain with a great portion of his army. The united Carthaginian armies now threw themselves on the retreating army of Cn. Scipio. He fell fighting bravely, with most of his officers. The remains of the Roman armies were collected by a brave knight, by name L. Marcius. But for the time the defeat and death of the two Scipios gave back to the Carthaginians all that they had lost in Spain since the departure of Hannibal.

The road now lay open for Hasdrubal to lead a large force to the assistance of his brother in Italy. Notwithstanding his losses, no Roman general had dared to meet him in a fair field of battle since Cannæ. What might he not hope when largely reinforced? It belongs to the history of the next period to show how irremediably these hopes were blighted.c


[51] From the year 223 to 153 B.C., the consuls entered office on the ides of March; after the latter date, on the calends of January.

[52] This is the statement of Polybius.d The story in Livy,c that Hannibal told the guides to lead him to Casinum, and that they by a mistake took him to Casilinum in Campania, is not noticed by the graver historian.

[53] It is probable, however, that the Roman Calendar was in error, and that the battle was really fought earlier in the year.

[54] Casilinum is the modern Capua. It lies on the river. The site of the ancient Capua is about two miles eastward, on an eminence.

[55] [“During this winter, at Rome, and in its vicinity, many prodigies either happened, or, as is not unusual when people’s minds have once taken a turn towards superstition, many were reported and credulously admitted. Among others, it was said, that an infant of a reputable family, and only six months old, had, in the herb-market, called out, ‘Io Triumphe’; that, in the cattle-market, an ox had, of his own accord, mounted up to the third story of an house, whence, being affrighted by the noise and bustle of the inhabitants, he threw himself down; that a light had appeared in the sky in the form of ships; that the temple of Hope, in the herb-market, was struck by lightning; that, at Lanuvium the spear of Juno had shaken of itself; and that a crow had flown into the temple of Juno and pitched on the very couch; that, in the district of Amiternum, in many places, apparitions of men in white garments had been seen at a distance, but had not come close to anybody; that in Picenum, a shower of stones had fallen; at Cære, the divining tickets were diminished in size; in Gaul, a wolf snatched the sword of a soldier on guard out of the scabbard, and ran away with it.”—Livy.e]




THIRD PERIOD (210-207 B.C.)

[210-209 B.C.]

The last year’s campaign was full of heavy discouragement to the Romans. Syracuse had been taken; but Sicily remained in full revolt. Capua had fallen; but Tarentum, all except the citadel, was lost. The unmolested march of Hannibal to the walls of Rome showed that no part of Italy save the fortified towns and entrenched camps could be called their own, so long as the Carthaginian general could lead his wild and lawless mercenaries whithersoever he pleased. The loss of Spain had placed before them the dreadful possibility that their great enemy might soon be reinforced by numbers so large as to make him stronger than he had been since he crossed the Alps.

It is evident that mutterings of discontent were beginning to arise against Fabius and his friends. The bitter lesson of Cannæ had taught the Romans the necessity of caution, and proved that, to act with success against Hannibal, they must act on the defensive. But was this system to last forever? Were they never to meet Hannibal in the field? Thoughts like these, no doubt, suggested the experiment of electing a popular consul for the year 210 B.C. When the votes of the prerogative century were taken, it appeared that the men of their choice were old T. Manlius Torquatus, the conqueror of Sardinia, and that same T. Otacilius who had been ousted from his consulship five years before by his uncle Fabius. But Manlius immediately rose and declined the consulship; he was, he said, “old and nearly blind: a general should be able to use his own eyes. They must choose other and better men.” The century, after some hesitation, obeyed, and gave one of their votes for Marcellus, as no doubt Fabius and the senate wished, while they bestowed the other upon M. Valerius Lævinus, who had served the state well in Epirus.

Valerius probably owed his choice to the fact that he was not disposed to submit to Fabius and Fulvius. An opportunity soon arose for showing this. As he passed through Capua on his way to Rome, the Campanians, smarting under the rule of Fulvius, besought him to let them follow in his[270] train, that they might lay their grievances before the senate; and when he arrived at Rome, he was greeted by a deputation of Sicilians, who had heard with alarm that the imperious Marcellus was about to return to their island with consular authority. The affairs of both peoples were brought before the senate. As to the Campanians, the fathers confirmed in all respects the stern edicts of Fulvius; and not unjustly, for of all cities Capua had been most generously treated by Rome: her rebellion had been prompted, not by love of liberty (for she was already free) but by lust for power. Capua, therefore, now became a prefecture. On the other hand, Marcellus at once gave up his Sicilian province to his colleague Lævinus, and agreed to take the command in Italy against Hannibal; and the senate, though they ratified the previous measures of Marcellus, now recommended the Sicilians to the special care of Lævinus. Upon this, the Sicilian envoys, fearing the future anger of Marcellus, fell at his feet and entreated him to take them as his clients. For many years the Marcelli, his descendants, are found as patrons and protectors of the island.

Before the consuls took the field, they were called upon to meet the financial difficulties under which the state was labouring. The force which had been maintained by Rome now for many years was very large, and the cost enormous. The number of legions kept on foot since the battle of Cannæ had averaged about twenty; so that the number of soldiers, legionaries and allies, amounted to nearly two hundred thousand men. While the expenditure was thus prodigiously increased, the revenues were greatly diminished; and it is a recorded fact that about this time corn had risen to many times its ordinary price. Although the imposts had been doubled early in the war, the state was obliged to contract loans in various ways. An extraordinary measure was now taken for manning the fleets. All citizens, except the poor, were required to furnish one or more seamen, with six months’ pay and their full accoutrements. Senators were called upon to equip eight, and the rest in proportion to their rated property. Such was the Roman “ship-money.”

The necessities of the present year (210 B.C.) were greater than ever. Every resource seemed to be exhausted. Among other means, the coinage had been gradually lowered in value. The as, which had originally been a pound weight of copper, had now been diminished to one-sixth of that weight; and all payments for the treasury were no doubt made in this depreciated coinage. The usual results of such measures had followed. A temporary relief was gained. But the prices of all articles were raised to meet the change, and public credit was shaken.

In these difficulties, the senate proposed again to levy ship-money. But the people were in no mood to bear it. They had been much impoverished in the last four years—continued increase of taxation had drained their resources; continued service in the army had prevented the proper cultivation of their lands; the marauding march of Hannibal in the year before had ruined many. The ferment caused by this new impost assumed a formidable appearance. The senate met to deliberate, and the consul Lævinus proposed that the great council should set an example of patriotic devotion. “Let us,” said he, “contribute all our treasure for the service of the state. Let us reserve—of gold, only our rings, the bullæ worn by our sons, and for the ornaments of our wives and daughters one ounce apiece: of silver, the trappings of our horses, the family salt-cellar, and a small vessel, for the service of the gods, of copper, five thousand pounds for the necessities of each family.” The proposal was carried by acclamation, and[271] the noble example followed emulously by all the people. So eager was the throng which pressed to the treasury that the clerks were unable to make a full register of the names. This patriotic loan (for it was intended that it should be rep