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Orosius, Book 4

      Chapters 1-13 :   288 to 219 B.C.  

Adapted from the translation by I.W. Raymond (1936). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.   


Book 3

[Preface] L   Vergil relates that when Aeneas was having a hard time consoling the few companions he had left after their common dangers and the shipwreck of their fellows, he spoke these words:

Perchance some day it will be a joy to recollect even this.   { Vergil, Aeneid, i. 203 }

2 This sentiment, so aptly expressed, always carries a meaning that may be interpreted in three different ways. The more trying past events were in actual experience, the more pleasing, it is held, they are to relate. Future events, which become desirable because of our feeling of disgust for the present, we always believe will be better. 3 But so far as present events are concerned, we can make no just comparison of miseries; for no matter how insignificant present evils may be, they cause much more trouble than either those which have taken place in the past or those which will come in the future. Furthermore, even if we speak of past and future evils as great, they do not exist for us at the present moment.

4 A man who is annoyed by fleas at night and unable to sleep may happen to recall other wakeful hours that he once endured from burning fevers. Without doubt he will bear far less patiently the restlessness of these hours than the recollection of his earlier experience. 5 Everyone on the basis of his own experience can testify that the time element does introduce a new consideration here. But will anyone come forth and assert, whatever his pain, that fleas cause greater suffering than do fevers? Or will anyone maintain that it is more unpleasant to be kept awake while in sound health than to be unable to sleep when at the point of death? 6 Since this is so, I am quite willing to allow those whingers and my other critics to consider severe the evils confronting them (evils which occasionally reprove us for our benefit), yet I do not approve their making them more severe, by comparison, than they actually are.

7 It is as if a man should have left his soft bed and comfortable chamber early in the morning and should see in the distance that the surfaces of the ponds had become frozen from the chill of the night and that the plants had become white with hoarfrost. Prompted by the unexpected sight, he might say, "We have winter weather today." I should not consider that this man should in any way be censured, for in his description he employed the terms in their common usage and in their proper sense. 8 But let us suppose that in a state of alarm he should rush back into his bedchamber and pull the covers over himself, completely hiding himself from view, and then should shout that there never had been such cold in the Apennines, no, not even at the time when Hannibal, overcome and buried by a heavy snowstorm, lost his elephants, horses, and most of his army. 9 Then not only could I not bear a man talking in this way and uttering such childish nonsense, but I would also drag him out from under those covers, the witnesses of his idle life, and expose him before the people in a public place. Once I had led him out of doors, I should show him the children who were playing there, taking delight in the cold and yet perspiring in spite of it. 10 Thus I would teach this man, so full of verbose nonsense and corrupted by his luxurious upbringing, that his discomfort was due not to the severity of the weather but to sluggishness in himself. By comparison and careful examination of the actual conditions, I would also prove to him that his ancestors bore really great burdens but that he himself is not even strong enough to bear little ones.

11 I shall prove this more clearly by turning over in my memory the disasters of the past in due order. Among the first, I shall discuss the Pyrrhic War. Its causes and origin were as follows.

[1] L   Four hundred and sixty-four years after the founding of the City, some Tarentines, who were seated in a theatre, saw in the distance a Roman fleet that happened to be sailing by. They proceeded to attack this fleet, and only five boats managed to escape. The rest they dragged into the harbour and destroyed. They killed the captains of the ships and slew all men of any use in war; the remainder they sold into slavery. 2 The Romans at once sent envoys to Tarentum to complain about the outrage that they had suffered. The Tarentines, however, beat these ambassadors, who then brought back the story of this still greater outrage. From these causes a great war arose.

3 After the Romans had made a careful survey to discover the identity and the number of the enemies who on all sides were raising a clamour, they were forced as a final measure to arm the proletariat and enrol them in the army. This proletariat was composed of those in the city who had always been free to devote themselves to raising children. As a matter of fact, any careful provision with regard to children was useless unless measures were taken to deal with present emergency. 4 Therefore a Roman army under the consul Aemilius {282 B.C.} invaded all the territories of the Tarentines, laid waste everything with fire and sword, captured many towns, and exacted a cruel vengeance to expiate those outrages inflicted contrary to all custom.

5 The numbers of the Tarentines, who were supported by large contingents of their neighbours, were greatly increased by Pyrrhus, who, because of the magnitude of the forces and plans involved, took over the command and gave his name to the war. 6 In order to free Tarentum, a city founded by the Lacedaemonians and thus related by blood to Greece, Pyrrhus brought the entire forces of Epirus, Thessaly, and Macedonia to Italy. Here he introduced for the first time 20 elephants, which the Romans had never before seen. Pyrrhus would have inspired terror on land and sea on account of his men, horses, arms, and beasts, and especially on account of his own energy and skill in trickery, 7 but he was deceived by the ambiguous response of the Delphian God, that most boastful and lying scoundrel whom they called a great prophet. Consequently he met the same end as one would have met who had not consulted the oracle.

8 The first battle between King Pyrrhus and the consul Laevinus {280 B.C.} was fought near the Liris River and Heraclea, a city of Campania. The terrible struggle lasted the whole day. On both sides every man expected death and did not know the meaning of retreat. 9 When the Romans saw elephants, savage in appearance, strong in odour, and terrifying in their huge bulk, entering between the clashing lines of battle, they fled in all directions. In meeting this new kind of warfare they became terror-stricken, while the horses trembled greatly from fear. 10 But Minucius, the first hastatus of the fourth legion, used his sword to cut off an elephant's trunk and forced the beast, now distracted by the pain of his wound, to leave the battle and to vent his rage upon the army to which he belonged. Pyrrhus's army began to be thrown into disorder and confusion by the wild charge of the beast. Darkness finally put an end to the battle.

11 The disgraceful flight showed that the Romans had been defeated. Their losses at that time were as follows: 14,880 of the infantry dead and 1,310 captured; 246 of the cavalry slain and 802 taken prisoner. Twenty-two standards were lost. 12 Tradition does not tell us if as great a number of Pyrrhus's allies were destroyed on the opposite side. For it is certainly not the custom of writers of olden times to preserve for posterity the number of the victor's dead, lest his losses tarnish the glory of his victory, 13 unless by chance so few fall that the number lost enhances the admiration for and the fear of the victor's courage. This was the case with Alexander the Great in the first battle of the Persian War. It is reported that his army lost only nine infantrymen, whereas the enemy's losses numbered almost four hundred thousand. 14 Pyrrhus, however, bore witness before gods and men to the frightfulness of the disaster that he had suffered in that battle, when he wrote these words, adding them to the inscription in the temple of Jupiter at Tarentum:
  Those men who were earlier unconquered, blessed father Olympus, 
  I myself have defeated in battle and have been defeated by them.

15 When rebuked by his allies for saying that though a conqueror he had been defeated, Pyrrhus is said to have replied: "If I win another victory of the same kind, I shall return to Epirus without one soldier."

16 In the meantime the Roman army, which had been defeated and had fled secretly from its camp, saw plainly that the miserable disaster suffered in battle had been greatly increased and aggravated by still more troublesome portents. 17 As if aiding the enemy, a terrific thunderstorm arose and by the fire of its dreadful lightning bolts destroyed some foragers who had gone out from camp and had been overtaken by the storm.

18 In fact that hurricane laid low thirty-four of the party, twenty-two were left half alive, and many of the baggage animals were driven mad and died: so that it is rightly said that this happened not as foreshadowing a disaster but was a disaster in itself.

19 A second battle was fought between Pyrrhus and the Roman consuls on the borders of Apulia. Both generals suffered severe losses, especially Pyrrhus. The victory, however, fell to the Romans. 20 For a long time and with all their strength both armies hurled themselves against each other to their common destruction. While the outcome of the battle still hung in the balance, Pyrrhus was wounded by a thrust in his arm and was the first to withdraw from the battle. The legate Fabricius was also wounded at that time. 21 In the first battle it had been discovered that elephants, if wounded, could be forced to flee; that they could then be enraged by imbedding fiery brands in their hind-quarters and tender parts; and that the beasts, maddened by rage as they carried burning scaffolding on their backs, would bring destruction to their own army. 22 In that battle five thousand Romans lost their lives, whereas Pyrrhus's army lost twenty thousand. The latter army lost also fifty-three royal standards, while the Romans lost only eleven.

23 Shattered by this battle, Pyrrhus betook himself to Syracuse, whither he had been summoned to the rule of Sicily on the death of Agathocles, the Syracusan king.

[2] L   The misery of the Romans, however, did not end with the truce. Terrible diseases completely filled the time between wars and, when there was no war abroad, wrath from Heaven raged at home. 2 In the consulship of Fabius Gurges (his second) and of C. Genucius Clepsina {276 B.C.}, a severe pestilence swept over the city and its environs. It seized all, but attacked with special severity the women and the flocks. By killing the unborn in their mothers' wombs, it left no chance for future offspring; miscarriages were of common occurrence and mothers were endangered by premature births. The terror assumed proportions so great that they thought that human and animal life would soon be extinct, because birth in the normal manner was no longer possible.

3 In the meantime the consul Curius {275 B.C.} intercepted Pyrrhus as he was returning from Sicily, and a third battle was fought against the Epirots at Lucania in the Arusinian Plains. 4 In their first encounter the soldiers of Pyrrhus became panic-stricken under the attack of the Romans. Contemplating flight, they were attempting to withdraw from the battle when Pyrrhus ordered the elephants to be led up from the reserve. 5 The Romans, who were now accustomed to fight with the beasts, prepared fire-darts, which they wound with tow, smeared with pitch, and capped with barbed spurs. They hurled these flaming missiles at the backs of the elephants and at the towers on their backs, and thus without difficulty turned back the raging and burning beasts to bring destruction upon the army of which they were part of the reserve. 6 They say that the king had eighty thousand infantry and six thousand cavalry in that battle. Of these, thirty-three thousand are reported to have been slain; thirty thousand, however, were captured. 7 As a result of this defeat, Pyrrhus finally left Italy in the fifth year after his arrival. After waging many severe wars, he was carried away by his desire to win the Spartan kingdom. While he was in Greece at Argos, a flourishing city of Achaia, he was struck by a rock and died.

8 At this same time among the Romans, Sextilia, a Vestal Virgin, upon being found guilty of unchastity, was condemned and buried alive at the Colline Gate.

[3] L   In the four hundred and seventy-fifth year of the City, the Tarentines, upon learning of the death of Pyrrhus, again stirred up war against the Romans. Through ambassadors they requested and obtained the aid of the Carthaginians. 2 A battle took place in which the Romans were victorious. Then the Carthaginians fully realised for the first time that although they were not yet adjudged enemies, they could be defeated by the Romans.

3 In the following year Roman severity destroyed a large part of her own vitals. 4 Shortly before the arrival of Pyrrhus, the eighth legion, despairing of the Roman cause, ventured to commit an unusual crime. The soldiers of this legion killed all the people of Rhegium who had been entrusted to their protection and claimed the town for themselves as well as the right to all the plunder taken from it. 5 The consul Genucius {271 B.C.} was ordered to punish these criminals and rebels. After besieging the city of Rhegium and capturing all its defenders, he wrought a fit punishment upon the surviving deserters and freebooters, but sent the Roman soldiers of that legion unharmed to Rome. There, by order of the people, they were beaten to death and beheaded in the middle of the forum.

6 At that time Rome thought that she was a conqueror when she slaughtered a legion of her own with its full complement, although she would clearly have suffered a defeat if she had lost that legion in battle with the enemy.

[4] L   In the four hundred and seventy-eighth year of the City, inauspicious and dreadful omens were seen or reported at Rome. Lightning destroyed the Temple of Salus, and part of the wall in the same locality, it is said, was struck. 2 Before dawn three wolves came into the city, bringing in a half-eaten corpse. When they were frightened by the shouts of the people, they left the remains strewn in the forum. 3 At Formiae the walls everywhere were burned and destroyed by many bolts of lightning, 4 while in the fields of Cales, a flame suddenly burst forth from an opening in the ground and blazed frightfully for three days and three nights. Five iugera of land were burnt to ashes. The moisture which brought fertility was so completely exhausted that not only the plants of the fields but even the trees, so they say, were consumed to their very roots.

5 In the following year the consul Sempronius {268 B.C.} led an army against the Picentes. Just as the battle lines had taken their position within spear range, the earth suddenly shook with so horrible a rumbling that both lines, amazed by the miracle, grew faint and were stricken with terror. 6 For a long time each people was dumbfounded by the realisation that their undertaking had been prejudged and stood motionless. At length they began the battle with a sharp attack. 7 So disastrous was this engagement that people rightly say that the earth, destined to receive so much human blood, at that time trembled and groaned fearfully. The few Romans who escaped death in this battle won the victory.

[5] L   Four hundred and eighty years after the founding of the City, among many other prodigies, blood was seen to come from the ground and milk from the sky. In many places indeed blood gushed forth and flowed from springs; and from clouds, drop by drop, milk fell like a kind of rain. Ill-omened storms, as it seemed to the people, flooded the land. 2 At that time the Carthaginians, who had given assistance to the Tarentines against the Romans, were rebuked by the Senate through ambassadors. They added to the shame and disgrace incurred in breaking the treaty by committing a premeditated perjury.

3 At that time, too, the Volsinians, the most flourishing of the Etruscan peoples, almost perished as a result of their wantonness. After making license a habit, they indiscriminately freed their slaves, invited them to banquets, and honoured them with marriage. 4 The liberated slaves, admitted to a share of power, criminally plotted to usurp complete rule of the state, and, relieved of the yoke of slavery, were consumed with the desire for power. Once free, they cursed those masters whom they as slaves had devotedly loved, because they remembered that these men had once been their masters. 5 The liberated slaves then conspired to commit a crime and claimed the captured city for their class alone. So great were their numbers that they accomplished their rash purpose without real resistance. They criminally appropriated the property and wives of their masters, and forced the latter to go into distant exile. These wretched and destitute exiles betook themselves to Rome. Here they displayed their misery and tearfully pleaded their cause. They were avenged and restored to their former positions through the stern rule of the Romans.

6 In the four hundred and eighty-first year after the founding of the City, a great plague raged at Rome. Its frightfulness I am satisfied merely to indicate because I am unable to describe it adequately. 7 If anyone should inquire how long it lasted, I should say that its ravages lasted more than two years. As to the deaths it caused, the census gives the figures, not in terms of how many perished, but of how many survived. If anyone should inquire about the violence with which it raged, let him consult the Sibylline Books as witnesses. These testify that the plague was sent by the wrath of Heaven. 8 But lest our temptation to scoff somewhat be offensive to anyone, because we appear to have said that it was the anger of Heaven whereas the Sibyl has said that the gods were angry, let him hear and recognise that, though these things do take place for the most part through the agency of heavenly powers, nevertheless they do not take place at all without the will of Omnipotent God.

9 At that time Caparronia, a Vestal Virgin, upon being convicted of unchastity, was hanged. Her seducer and the slaves, who were her accomplices, were also put to death.

10 Behold, how many and how great are the events of which we give a continuous record. These events followed one another in separate years in which certainly it was seldom, if ever, that something tragic did not take place. And this is true even despite the fact that those who recorded these events, in their determination to please, omitted great numbers of miseries. 11 For they were afraid that they might hurt the feelings of those for whom and about whom they were writing and also that they might appear to frighten their audience rather than instruct them by examples from the past. 12 Moreover, we ourselves, placed at the end of these ages, are able to learn the misfortunes of the Romans only through those who have praised them. Hence you can understand how much there must have been which was purposely suppressed on account of its horror, when we find so much which, amid the praises of historians, can only partially be known.

[6] L   Since the Punic wars follow at this point, it is necessary to say something of Carthage, which we find was founded by Elissa seventy-two years before the founding of Rome. We must also say something about her disasters and domestic misfortunes, just as Pompeius Trogus and Justin relate them. 2 The Carthaginians have always had domestic and internal misfortunes. Because of this source of discord and its unhappy faculty of causing disturbance they have never yet enjoyed prosperity abroad, or peace at home. 3 When they were suffering from plagues in addition to their other misfortunes, they resorted to homicides instead of to medicines; indeed they sacrificed human beings as victims and offered young children at their altars. In this way they aroused even the pity of the enemy.

4 Concerning this form of sacred rite - nay, rather of sacrilege - I am perplexed as to what I should discuss in preference to all else. For if some demons have dared to order rites of this character, requiring as they did that the death of men should be propitiated by human slaughter, it must be understood that these demons acted as partners and promoters of the plague and that they themselves killed those whom the plague had not seized; 5 for it was customary to offer healthy and undefiled sacrificial victims. In doing this they not only failed to allay, but rather anticipated, the pestilences.

6 When the Carthaginians - the gods being alienated, as Pompeius Trogus and Justin admit, because of sacrifices of this kind, and, as we assert, because of their presumption and impiety toward an angered God -  7 had long fought unsuccessfully in Sicily, they transferred the theatre of war to Sardinia, and there they were still more disastrously defeated. On account of this, they sentenced their general Mazeus and the few surviving soldiers to exile. When their petition for clemency was denied, these exiles, led by Mazeus, made war upon and besieged their native city. 8 Mazeus was met by his own son Carthalo, a priest of Hercules, who came clad in purple as if to insult him. Mazeus had him crucified in the sight of his countrymen, still arrayed in his purple garments and wearing his sacred fillets. 9 A few days later Mazeus captured the city itself. He killed many of the senators and ruled with cruelty. Afterward he was himself slain. These events took place in the days of Cyrus, king of the Persians.

10 Later the Carthaginian king Himelcho, while waging war in Sicily, unexpectedly lost his army by a horrible pestilence.

11 The plague spread rapidly and the people perished in droves. As soon as anyone was smitten he fell lifeless; there was no time to bury the dead. When the news of this catastrophe was heard in Carthage, the city, stunned by this sudden blow, became as greatly agitated as if she had been captured. 12 The whole city resounded with wailing, the gates were closed everywhere, and all public and private business was forbidden. Everybody rushed to the harbour and plied the few who were disembarking and who had survived the disaster with questions about their friends and relatives. 13 When told their fate, some of the unhappy men were silent while others groaned. At one time the voices of those weeping and at another the cries and the sorrowful lamentations of the unhappy mothers were heard along the entire shore. 14 In the midst of this mourning, the commander himself, ungirt and wearing the soiled tunic of a slave, disembarked from his ship. At his appearance the weeping hands gathered in one body. He himself, lifting up his hands to Heaven, bemoaned and lamented now his own misfortune, now the misfortune of the state; 15 and crying aloud as he was making his way through the city, he finally entered his own house. He then dismissed with a final word of encouragement all the mourners, who wept as they followed him. After barring the doors and excluding even his own sons, he ended his sorrow and his life with a sword. These events took place in the time of Darius.

16 Subsequently, Hanno, a Carthaginian whose private fortune exceeded that of the state, was consumed with a covetous desire to usurp control of the government. As a useful means to this end, Hanno thought of killing all the senators, whose rank he considered would block his designs. His plan was to poison their cups at a sham marriage of his only daughter. 17 His accomplices, however, betrayed this plot to the senators, who frustrated it without recourse to vengeance. For they feared that in the case of so powerful a man the recognition of his conspiracy might cause more trouble than what he originally intended. Defeated in this plot, Hanno tried to advance his villainy by another scheme. He roused slaves to a surprise attack upon the city when she was off her guard. 18 But before the day set for the massacre, he learned that he had been betrayed and that his attack had been anticipated. With the help of twenty thousand of his slaves he then took possession of a certain fort. 19 There he was captured while engaged in inciting the Africans and the king of the Moors to rebellion. First he was beaten with rods, next his eyes were torn out and his hands and legs broken - just as if punishments were exacted on every limb - and finally he was publicly executed. 20 His body, mangled with stripes, was nailed to a cross. All his children and relatives were put to death, lest any of his family should ever think of following his example or of avenging him. These events took place in the time of Philip.

21 Afterwards the Carthaginians learned that Tyre, their mother city, had been captured and destroyed by Alexander the Great. Fearing that he would come later to Africa, they sent one Hamilcar, who was called the Rhodian, and who was a man of extraordinary eloquence and shrewdness, to investigate thoroughly what Alexander was doing. 22 He was received by Parmenion as a deserter and was later admitted to the royal army; he then informed his fellow countrymen about everything that was taking place by writing on tablets and covering the writing with wax. After the death of Alexander, Hamilcar returned to Carthage, where he was put to death just as if he had really betrayed his city to the king. An envy that knew no mercy rather than an ungrateful spirit brought him to his end.

23 Some time after these events, the Carthaginians were waging constant but never quite successful wars against the Sicilians. When they had besieged the city of Syracuse, at that time the most flourishing city of Sicily, they were tricked by the remarkable ingenuity of the Sicilian king Agathocles, and reduced to a state of utter desperation. 24 For when the Carthaginians were besieging Agathocles at Syracuse, he saw that his forces were not large enough to fight on even terms nor his supplies sufficient to withstand a siege. He therefore crossed to Africa with his army, concealing his manoeuvre even better than he had anticipated. There for the first time he disclosed to his own people what he was attempting and then indicated what further must be done. 25 All acting in agreement, they first set fire to the ships in the place where they had landed, so that there would be no possible hope of retreat. Then, while he was devastating the country wherever he went and reducing towns and fortresses to ashes, Agathocles encountered a certain Hanno accompanied by thirty thousand Carthaginians. Hanno and two thousand of his men were slain in the battle, but Agathocles himself lost only two men. 26 This battle broke the spirit of the Africans almost beyond belief and immeasurably raised the spirit of his own men. Agathocles then stormed cities and fortresses, took an enormous amount of booty, and killed many thousands of the enemy. 27 Next he pitched camp five miles from Carthage, in order that the destruction of their most valuable possessions, the devastation of their fields, and the burning of their country houses might be seen from the very walls of the city.

28 To these evils a still gloomier report was added. It was announced that an African army with its leader had been destroyed in Sicily. Andron, the brother of Agathocles, had overwhelmed the army when it was completely off its guard and almost at ease. 29 When this rumour had spread through all Africa, not only tributary cities but even royal allies revolted. Among the latter was Afellas, the king of Cyrene, who at that time was eagerly endeavouring to obtain the rule of Africa. He entered into an alliance of war with Agathocles, 30 but after the two kings had joined armies and made a common camp, he was deceived by the flattery and wiles of Agathocles and slain. 31 In the meantime Carthaginian troops came together from all sides, eager for battle. Agathocles, who now had with him the troops of Afellas, encountered them and won the victory after a severe battle. Much blood was shed on both sides. 32 At the critical moment in the struggle the Carthaginians were driven to such a state of despair that, had not a mutiny arisen in the army of Agathocles, the Carthaginian general Hamilcar and his army would have deserted to the side of the enemy. For this intended offence the Carthaginians fastened Hamilcar to the gibbet in the middle of the forum, where he furnished a cruel spectacle to his countrymen. 33 After the death of Agathocles, the Carthaginians then fitted out a fleet and ravaged Sicily. But after being defeated frequently on land and sea by Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus, who had been summoned from Italy, they finally turned their attention to the wars against the Romans.

34 Oh, what tribulation! Do those who complain about recent events read about what happened in the past? They read, certainly, and then draw conclusions, yet not in a spirit of fairness but in one of bias. 35 This is especially so because they themselves do not discern the great and ineffable spur which goads them on. It is not that the times are evil but that they are Christian. And this brings into existence that invidious ulcer which makes everything done in circumstances that are detestable seem much more horrible than it really is. 36 We, too, are accustomed to look with just as unfriendly eyes upon those whom we detest. We, too, see in their words and deeds nothing that is not vicious, nothing that is not in excess, and nothing that is not to their own detriment. People deceive themselves in this way quite easily, for envy enslaves the heart and leads it astray to such a degree that things do not appear as they really are. 37 These objectors belong to this number, but they are far more wretched because as enemies of God they are therefore enemies of truth. We say these things about them with tears in our eyes. If they suffer, we mercifully reprove them in order that we may restore them to health. 38 For these people see these things with defective vision and thus what they see appears double; and being confused as it were by a fog of wickedness, they fall into a condition where by seeing less they see more, since they cannot see things as they are. 39 Indeed, they consider the scourges inflicted by a father more painful than the fires started by an enemy; they call a God who caresses, admonishes, and redeems harsher than the devil who persecutes, bullies, and destroys them. 40 Yet if they knew anything of the Father, they would delight in His chastisement and, if they had the knowledge to foresee the ends for which He sent it, the discipline would be bearable. Indeed, with the hope that has now been given to the nations - this did not exist earlier - they would consider the chastisement lighter even though they suffered more. 41 Nevertheless, they can also learn to despise miseries from the example of their own people who regarded evils as of the highest benefit, whenever they lead to both a glorious and illustrious renown. 42 We can infer how much we, to whom a blessed immortality is promised, must suffer for life, when they have been able to bear so much merely for fame.

[7] L   In the four hundred and eighty-third year of the City, that is, during the consulship of Appius Claudius and Q. Fabius {264 B.C.}, the Romans sent Appius Claudius with an army and auxiliaries to help the Mamertines in their struggle against Hieron, the king of the Syracusans, and the Punic troops allied with him. At this time the Mamertines controlled Messana, a celebrated city in Sicily. 2 So quickly did Appius Claudius overcome the Syracusans and the Carthaginians, that Hieron, terrified by the extent of the conflict, admitted that he had been beaten before battle had even begun. 3 His power broken and his confidence lost, Hieron humbly begged for peace. This was granted after he had paid the fine of two hundred silver talents demanded by the consuls.

4 The consuls besieged Agrigentum, a city of Sicily, and the Punic garrison stationed there. They surrounded the city by earthworks and a wall. 5 The elder Hannibal, commander of the Carthaginians, was shut in by this siege and reduced to the direst want. Then Hanno, the new leader of the Carthaginians, unexpectedly intervened with one thousand five hundred cavalry, thirty thousand infantry, and thirty elephants, and raised the siege of the city within a short time. 6 Nevertheless, the Romans captured the city without much delay. They defeated the Carthaginians in a great battle, put them to flight, captured eleven elephants, and sold all the inhabitants of Agrigentum into slavery. But the elder Hannibal with a few men sallied forth and escaped.

7 In the consulship of Cn. Cornelius Asina and C. Duilius {260 B.C.}, when the elder Hannibal was laying waste the seacoast of Italy with a fleet of seventy vessels, the Romans and their consuls ordered a fleet to be built and equipped. 8 Duilius completed this order with great speed, for within sixty days from the time the trees had been cut, a fleet of one hundred and thirty ships was launched and lay at anchor. 9 Cornelius Asina, one of the consuls, accompanied by eleven ships made for the island of Lipara. Here Hannibal, by a typical Punic trick, induced him to go to a peace conference where he captured him. Hannibal later had him put to death while in prison. 10 When Duilius, the other consul, learned of this outrage, he set out against Hannibal with thirty ships. In the course of the naval engagement, Hannibal lost the ship on which he was sailing and escaped by stealing away in a rowboat. Thirty-one of his ships were captured, and thirteen sunk, three thousand men were killed, and seven thousand, according to the report, captured.

11 Later, in the consulship of C. Aquillius Florus and L. Cornelius Scipio {259 B.C.}, the Carthaginians put Hanno in charge of naval operations, substituting him for Hannibal in the defence of the Sardinians and Corsicans. When Hanno was defeated by the consul Scipio and when he had lost his army, he threw himself into the midst of the dense ranks of the enemy and there lost his life. 12 In the same year three thousand slaves and four thousand naval allies conspired to destroy the city of Rome. Had not their plan been betrayed at an opportune time and measures taken to thwart it, the city, which was without a garrison, would have perished at the hands of slaves.

[8] L   The following year the consul Calatinus {258 B.C.} attacked the Sicilian city of Camarina. He heedlessly led his army down into a pass which the Punic troops had fortified a short time before. 2 With no chance whatever to resist or to escape, he was rescued by the courage and the action of Calpurnius Flamma, who, with a picked band of three hundred men, seized the mound held by the enemy and diverted the entire Punic attack toward himself. In the meantime the Roman army crossed the blockaded entrances without being pressed by the enemy. 3 In that battle all the three hundred lost their lives with the exception of Calpurnius. He, though weakened by many wounds, hid among the corpses and thus escaped.

4 For a second time the Carthaginians put the elder Hannibal in charge of the fleet. He had the misfortune to meet the Romans in a naval battle, was defeated, and finally during a mutiny was stoned to death by his own army. 5 The consul Atilius {257 B.C.} marched through Lipara and Melita, famous islands of Sicily, and left them in ruin. 6 Both consuls were then ordered to transfer the war to Africa. With three hundred and thirty vessels they made for Sicily, where they were opposed by Hamilcar, the general of the Carthaginians, and by Hanno, who was in charge of the fleet. A naval engagement took place and the Carthaginians were put to flight, losing sixty-four ships. 7 The victorious consuls crossed over to Africa and received in surrender first of all, the city of Clipea; 8 then, setting out for Carthage, they destroyed three hundred or more forts and surrounded Carthage with hostile standards. 9 The consul Manlius {256 B.C.} and his victorious fleet left Africa and brought back to Rome twenty-seven thousand captives and a huge quantity of booty.

10 Regulus, chosen by lot for the Carthaginian War, marched with his army to a point not far from the Bagrada River and there pitched his camp. In that place a reptile of astonishing size devoured many of the soldiers as they went down to the river to get water. Regulus set out with his army to attack the reptile. 11 Neither the javelins they hurled nor the darts they rained upon its back had any effect. These glided off its horrible scaly fins as if from a slanting testudo of shields and were in some miraculous fashion turned away from its body so that the creature suffered no injury. Finally, when Regulus saw that it was killing a great number of his soldiers with its bites, was trampling them down by its charge, and driving them mad by its poisonous breath, he ordered ballistae brought up. A stone taken from a wall was hurled by a ballista; this struck the spine of the serpent and caused its entire body to become numb. 12 The formation of the reptile was such that, though it seemed to lack feet, yet it had ribs and scales graded evenly, extending from the top of its throat to the lowest part of its belly and so arranged that the creature rested upon its scales as if on claws and upon its ribs as if on legs. 13 But it did not move like the worm which has a flexible spine and moves by first stretching its contracted parts in the direction of its tiny body and then drawing together the stretched parts. This reptile made its way by a sinuous movement, extending its sides first right and then left, so that it might keep the line of ribs rigid along the exterior arch of the spine; nature fastened the claws of its scales to its ribs, which extend straight to their highest point; making these moves alternately and quickly, it not only glided over levels, but also mounted inclines, taking as many footsteps, so to speak, as it had ribs. This is why the stone rendered the creature powerless. 14 If struck by a blow in any part of the body from its bowels to its head, it is crippled and unable to move, because wherever the blow falls, it numbs the spine, which stimulates the feet of the ribs and the motion of the body. Hence this serpent, which had for a long time withstood so many javelins unharmed, moved about disabled from the blow of a single stone and, quickly overcome by spears, was easily destroyed. 15 Its skin was brought to Rome - it is said to have been one hundred and twenty feet in length -  and for some time was an object of wonder to all.

16 Regulus waged an exceptionally severe campaign against three generals, that is, against the two Hasdrubals and Hamilcar, who had been summoned from Sicily. In this war seventeen thousand Carthaginians were slain, five thousand captured, eighteen elephants were led away, and eighty-two towns surrendered to the Romans.

[9] L   The Carthaginians, crushed in battle and exhausted by disasters, sought peace from Regulus. But when they heard of the hard and intolerable conditions of peace, believing that it was better to die in arms than to live in misery, they decided to hire Greek auxiliaries in addition to the Spanish and Gallic troops. 2 They therefore summoned the Lacedaemonian king Xanthippus and his auxiliaries, and appointed him chief in command. After inspecting the Punic forces, Xanthippus led them down into the plain where, with a vastly strengthened army, he engaged the Romans in battle. 3 In this encounter the Romans suffered huge losses. Thirty thousand of their soldiers were slain and the renowned general Regulus, together with fifty of his men, was taken prisoner. He was cast into chains and finally in the tenth year of the Punic War shared in giving the Carthaginians a glorious triumphal procession. 4 Xanthippus, aware of the consequences of his bold action and fearing a change in conditions already sufficiently unstable, left Africa and returned to Greece.

5 When the consuls Aemilius Paulus and Fulvius Nobilior {255 B.C.} heard of Regulus's imprisonment and of the destruction of the Roman army, they crossed under orders to Africa with a fleet of three hundred vessels and attacked Clipea. The Carthaginians arrived immediately with a fleet of equal size. The naval battle could not be long delayed. 6 One hundred and four Carthaginian ships were sunk, thirty with their complement of soldiers were captured, and in addition thirty-five thousand soldiers were slain. The Romans lost nine ships and one thousand and one hundred soldiers perished. 7 The consuls then pitched camp near Clipea. The two Hannos, the Punic commanders, again assembled a mighty army and, after engaging in battle with the Romans, lost nine thousand soldiers. 8 But in those days the Romans never enjoyed long periods of good fortune, and whatever successes they won were forthwith eclipsed by a series of misfortunes. So it was that when the Roman fleet, loaded with booty, was returning to Italy, it was shattered by a storm of indescribable violence. Of three hundred ships two hundred and twenty were lost; the Romans saved the remaining eighty by throwing the cargo overboard. 9 The Punic general Hamilcar who had been sent with an army into Numidia and Mauretania, treated all the people as enemies and acted with cruelty toward them, because they were said to have received Regulus in a friendly spirit. He had the leaders of all the districts fastened to the gibbet and fined the rest of the people a thousand silver talents and twenty thousand cattle.

10 In the third year - so quickly does uncontrolled fury forget danger - the consuls Servilius Caepio and Sempronius Blaesus {253 B.C.} crossed to Africa with two hundred and sixty ships and laid waste the whole maritime coast that lies near the Syrtes. Advancing inland they captured and overthrew many cities and brought a huge amount of booty back to the fleet. 11 When they were returning to Italy, their ships were dashed to pieces on the rocks near the Promontory of Palinurus, which extends from the Lucanian Mountains out into the deep. They lost one hundred and fifty transports and the splendid booty which they had acquired by great cruelty. 12 The magnitude of the misfortunes which afflicted the Romans at times prevailed over their base greed. The fathers, now disgusted with the conduct of naval affairs, decreed that the fleet should not have more than sixty vessels with which to protect Italy; but under the compulsion of their ungovernable greed, they at once broke the terms of this decree. 13 Moreover, the consul Cotta {252 B.C.} crossed to Sicily and fought many battles on land and sea against the Carthaginians and Sicilians, leaving throughout the whole of Sicily unburied heaps of the dead, not only of the enemy, but also of his own allies.

14 In the consulship of L. Caecilius Metellus and C. Furius Pacilus {251 B.C.}, Hasdrubal, the new general of the Carthaginians, came from Africa to Lilybaeum with one hundred and thirty elephants and more than thirty thousand infantry and cavalry. He immediately engaged in battle at Panormus with the consul Metellus. 15 The latter had earlier feared the great strength of the elephants, but he now managed to put the beasts to flight or to death by a brilliant manoeuvre. Thus he easily won the victory despite the great numbers of the enemy. Twenty thousand Carthaginians were slain in that battle; twenty-six elephants were killed and one hundred and four captured. The Italians enjoyed a great spectacle when these elephants were led through Italy. Hasdrubal took refuge in Lilybaeum with a few men and while absent from Carthage was condemned to death by the Carthaginians.

[10] L   Later the Carthaginians, who were now worn out by many misfortunes, decided that they must seek peace from the Romans. For this purpose they thought that they should send, among others, M. Atilius Regulus, the former Roman general, whom they had held a prisoner for five years. Their request for peace was rejected. They therefore killed Regulus on his return from Italy by cutting off his eyelids and binding him in a machine that prevented him from sleeping. 2 Then the other Atilius Regulus and Manlius Vulso, both consuls for the second time {250 B.C.}, proceeded to Lilybaeum with a fleet of two hundred vessels and four legions. They attempted to besiege the town, which was situated on a promontory, but were defeated after the arrival of Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar. They lost the greater part of their army and they themselves escaped only with difficulty. 3 After this, the consul Claudius {249 B.C.}, accompanied by a fleet of one hundred and twenty ships, made for the harbour of Drepanum to engage the enemy. There he was soon overtaken by a Punic fleet and defeated. Claudius himself with thirty ships fled to the camp at Lilybaeum. All the rest of the ships, ninety in number, are said to have been captured or sunk. Eight thousand soldiers were slain and twenty thousand, according to report, were taken prisoner. Gaius Junius, a colleague of Claudius, also lost his entire fleet through shipwreck.

4 The following year, a Punic fleet crossed to Italy and brought devastation to many regions throughout the length and breadth of the land. 5 In the meantime Lutatius with a fleet of three hundred ships sailed over to Sicily, where he began a battle at the city of Drepana. While fighting in the front rank, he was grievously wounded in the thigh, but he was rescued when about to be overwhelmed by the enemy. 6 Next the Carthaginians assembled at Sicily a fleet of four hundred vessels and a large body of troops, both of which were under the command of Hanno. Nor was Lutatius slow to move; on the contrary he was extraordinarily quick to anticipate the plans of the Carthaginians. The opposing fleets lay over against each other with anchors almost intermeshed all night long at the Aegates Islands. At daybreak Lutatius was the first to give the signal for battle. 7 After a violent struggle Hanno was defeated; he abandoned his ship and was the first commander to flee. With him a considerable part of his army made for Africa; the rest fled to Lilybaeum. The Romans captured sixty-three Punic ships and sank one hundred and twenty-five; they took thirty-two thousand men prisoners and slew fourteen thousand. Of the Roman ships twelve were sunk. 8 Lutatius then went to the city of Erycina, which the Carthaginians were holding, and there, after engaging in battle, killed two thousand Carthaginians.

[11] L   At this juncture the Carthaginians with all possible speed communicated with the consul Lutatius {242 B.C.} and then with Rome. They sued for peace and immediately obtained it on the terms formerly proposed. 2 These conditions were: that they should withdraw from Sicily and Sardinia, and that they should defray the expenses of the war by paying three thousand Euboean talents of pure silver in equal instalments over a period of twenty years. 3 The terms of this peace were established more than twenty-three years after the opening of the Punic War.

4 Who, I ask, can know the extent of the wars which the two cities waged for twenty-three years? Who can state how many Carthaginian kings, how many Roman consuls, how many armies, how many ships, they brought together, overthrew, and crushed? Not until we have fully considered all of these things are we in a position to pass judgment.

5 In the five hundred and seventh year of the City, a sudden catastrophe which befell Rome herself prevented the Romans from celebrating a triumph. Nor do I speak rashly when I say that this affliction, not so severe as sudden, crushed Rome's immoderate joy; 6 for in the consulship of Q. Lutatius Catulus and A. Manlius {241 B.C.} various disastrous fires and floods almost destroyed the city. The Tiber, swollen by unusual rains, continued to overflow its banks to such an extent and for so long a time that no one would have believed it possible. It destroyed all the buildings of Rome that were situated in the plain, 7 but all places, regardless of their location, suffered like destruction. For wherever the lingering flood waters spread, the structures were soaked through and crumbled, and wherever the raging torrent struck, buildings were overthrown and levelled. 8 A fire causing even greater desolation followed in the wake of this most disastrous flood. This fire (it is impossible to state definitely where it began) swept through many parts of the city and took a pitiable toll of homes and human life. Indeed more than all the wealth gained by a great number of foreign victories was at that time consumed by one fire. 9 After destroying everything around the forum, this ephemeral fire swept the Temple of Vesta and overwhelmed that fire which was thought to be eternal. Even the gods themselves were unable to come to its assistance. While Metellus was rescuing the burning gods, his arm was half-burnt, and he barely managed to escape with his life.

10 In the consulship of T. Sempronius Gracchus and P. Valerius Falto {238 B.C.}, the Romans went to war with the Faliscans. Fifteen thousand of the latter lost their lives in this war. 

[12] L   In the same year war was waged, with varying success, against new enemies - the Cisalpine Gauls. In the first conflict, when Valerius was consul, three thousand Romans fell; in the second, fourteen thousand Gauls were slain and two thousand captured. The consul was denied a triumph, however, on account of the previous disaster.

2 In the consulship of T. Manlius Torquatus and C. Atilius Bulbus {235 B.C.}, the island of Sardinia rebelled against the Carthaginian rule. The Sardinians, however, were soon crushed and reduced to subjection. The Romans then voted to declare war on the Carthaginians as violators of the peace that they themselves had requested. 3 The Carthaginians for their part humbly sued for peace. After they had accomplished nothing by twice sending ambassadors and even after ten of their leading men, twice acting as suppliants had failed in their mission, they finally obtained peace through the eloquence of Hanno, the most unimportant man among their ambassadors. 4 At this time the gates of Janus Geminus were shut because there was no war anywhere. This had happened previously only in the reign of Numa Pompilius.

5 At this point I had better hold my peace and pass over in silence those days to which our own can in no way be compared, lest my loud voice arouse the disparagers of our own times to censure the age rather than themselves. 6 Behold, the gates of Janus were closed. The Romans waged no war abroad, while Rome held all her children quiet in her bosom and did not breathe a sigh. 7 And when was this? After the First Punic War. After how long a time? After four hundred and forty years. How long did this last? One year. And what followed? The Gallic War and the Second Punic War with Hannibal, not to mention other events.

8 How ashamed am I to have investigated and exposed these matters! Was that one year's peace, or rather shadow of peace, an alleviation of miseries or an incentive to evils? Did that dripping oil as it fell into the midst of a great flame extinguish or kindle this fire? Did a small drink of cold water swallowed during a burning fever restore the patient to health or did it rather cause his fever to mount? 9 During a period of almost seven hundred years, that is, from Hostilius Tullus to Caesar Augustus, there was only one year in which the Roman viscera did not sweat blood; amid the countless years of long centuries, the unhappy city, truly our unhappy mother, has scarcely once been wholly at rest from the fear of sorrows, not to mention from sorrows themselves. 10 Can one say of any man who has enjoyed so little peace in his life, that he has really lived? Suppose that a man be assailed by grief and misfortune throughout a whole year and in the middle of that year passes only one day in peace without a struggle. Will that single day give him consolation for his misfortunes or will he not consider the whole year one of continuous misery? 11 But these critics, he replies, have set up this year as a glorious example of indefatigable courage. Would that they might have passed over it and left in oblivion its uninterrupted succession of disasters. 12 Now, we know that in the body of a man leprosy is finally diagnosed when a different colour appears in various places on the healthy parts of the skin. But if the disease spreads everywhere so that the whole body assumes one colour, however altered, then this method of distinguishing loses all value. Similarly, if people labour on uninterruptedly with cheerfulness and without a desire for a breathing spell, they apparently are governed both by a strong will power and the choices they have been accustomed to make. 13 But once, during a very brief interval of peace, leisure releases their energies either for the enjoyment of the higher things or preoccupation with trifling matters, they can immediately see how much pleasure this brief interval afforded them and how much they suffered during that long period; that is, they now appreciate how much they would have enjoyed that interval of peace had it lasted a long time, and also how they would have avoided this unending succession of miseries, if they had been able in any possible way to do so.

[13] L   In the five hundred and seventeenth year of the City, when Hamilcar, the Carthaginian general, was secretly preparing for another war against the Romans, he was killed by the Spaniards in battle.

2 The following year, the Illyrians put to death some Roman ambassadors. For this reason the Romans waged a very savage war against them. They destroyed many of their towns, and inflicted heavy losses in battle upon them. The surviving Illyrians then surrendered to the consuls Fulvius and Postumius {229 B.C.}.

3 Two years later, the pontiffs, who were mighty in their power to do evil, polluted the wretched city by sacrilegious rites. The decemviri, following the custom born of an ancient superstition, buried alive a Gallic man and woman and with them also a Greek woman at the Cattle Market in Rome. 4 But this resort to magic, which was obligatory, produced an opposite effect from that desired. For a horrible massacre of their own men expiated the dreadful deaths of these strangers.

5 In the consulship of L. Aemilius Catulus and C. Atilius Regulus {225 B.C.} the Senate became panic stricken by a rebellion of Cisalpine Gaul. At the same time they also heard of the approach of a huge army from Further Gaul. This army was composed largely of the Gaesati, which was the name not of a tribe but of Gallic mercenaries. 6 The consuls, terror stricken, assembled the military forces of all Italy for the defence of the state. When the troops had assembled, there were, according to the historian Fabius who took part in that war, eight hundred thousand soldiers in the army of each consul. 7 Of that number the Roman and Campanian infantry numbered 299,200 and the cavalry 26,600. There was also a vast number of allies. 8 When battle was joined near Arretium, the consul Atilius was killed. After a part of the Roman army had been slain, the rest of the eight hundred thousand took flight. But their losses were by no means sufficient to cause them any apprehension, for the historians relate that only three thousand of them were killed on that occasion.

9 That so many columns fled when so few were lost is all the more ignominious and shameful, because it betrayed the fact that they had prevailed in other victories not by the strength of their spirit but by the fortunate issue of battle. Who, I ask, in the Roman army would believe that this was really the number? And I do not mean the number of those who fled. 10 Later a second battle was fought with the Gauls in which at least forty thousand of their number were slaughtered.

11 The following year Manlius Torquatus and Fulvius Flaccus were the first consuls {224 B.C.} to lead Roman legions across the Po. There the Romans engaged the Insubrian Gauls in battle. They killed twenty-three thousand and captured five thousand of them.

12 During the next year dreadful portents terrified the unhappy City. Wretched indeed was this City which was greatly alarmed by the clamour raised by the enemy on one side and by the wickedness of the demons on the other! For in Picenum a river flowed blood, and in the land of the Tuscans the sky seemed to be aflame. At Ariminum, late at night, a bright light shone and three moons that had arisen in the distant parts of the heaven were visible. 13 In addition so severe earthquakes shook the islands of Caria and Rhodes that even the huge Colossus fell, while buildings collapsed everywhere. 14 The same year the consul Flaminius {223 B.C.}, disregarding the auspices which forbade fighting, fought the Gauls and defeated them. In that battle nine thousand Gauls were slain and seventeen thousand captured.

15 Later the consul Claudius {222 B.C.} destroyed thirty thousand of the Gaesati. He advanced into the first line of battle and killed with his own hand their king Virdomarus. In addition to the many towns of the Insubres that he forced to surrender, Claudius also captured Mediolanum, a very flourishing city.

16 Then new enemies, the Histri, became aroused. The consuls Cornelius and Minucius {221 B.C.} subdued them only after shedding much Roman blood. 17 Now happened an unimportant incident that illustrates the old passion of the Romans for fame, so debased as to lead to parricide. 18 For Fabius Censorius killed his own son Fabius Buteo because he had been charged with theft: this crime the laws usually punished only by a fine or at the most by exile, whoever the guilty man might be, but the father thought it fitting and necessary to punish him by death.

following chapters (14-23)


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