Diodorus Siculus, Book 36

    ( fragments covering the period 104 - 98 B.C. )

See table of contents for some information about how this translation has been produced, and key to translations for an explanation of the format.

[1] G   About the time that Marius in a great battle defeated Bocchus and Jugurtha, the African kings, and slew many thousands of the Africans, and afterwards captured Jugurtha himself - who was delivered up to him by Bocchus, in order to gain the favour of the Romans and pardon for having made war upon them - the Romans themselves were in difficulty, by reason of the great losses they had suffered in the fighting against the Cimbrians in Gaul. And moreover, at the very same time men arrived from Sicily, reporting that many thousands of slaves there had risen in revolt. Therefore the whole Roman state was in such straits, that they knew not which way to turn; after losing sixty thousand allied troops in Gaul, in the war against the Cimbrians, they did not enough soldiers to send out another army.

[2] G   And besides, before the rebellion of the slaves in Sicily, there had been numerous revolts in Italy; but these were short and inconsiderable, as if the divinity had appointed them to be omens and presages of the great rebellion in Sicily. The first rising was at Nuceria, where thirty servants entered into a conspiracy, but they were soon punished. The second was at Capua where two hundred rose up in arms, but they were soon suppressed. 2 The third happened in a strange manner, which was as follows. Titus Minutius, a Roman knight who had a very rich man for his father, chanced to fall in love with another man's maidservant, who was a very beautiful girl. Having enjoyed her, he was seized by an extraording passion, almost to the point of madness. He desired to buy her from her master, who was with much difficulty persuaded to part with her. The lover at length bought her for seven Attic talents, and agreed a certain time for the payment of the money; until this time, his father's great wealth procured him credit. But when the day of payment was come, he did not have the money available, and he requested a postponement of thirty days. 3 That time also having passed, the creditor then demanded his money, but the lover was still not able to pay, and yet his love continued still as hot as ever. At length an extraordinary concept came into his head, which induced him to lay a trap for those that demanded the money; and to that end he decided to take on the state and dignity of a monarch. Therefore he bought five hundred panoplies; and after setting a new day for payment, in which he was trusted, he withdrew secretly to a certain field, where he stirred up his own slaves, about four hundred in number, to rise in revolt. 4 Then he put on a diadem and purple cloak, and assuming all the other badges and emblems of royalty, he declared himself king, the deliverer of the slaves. In the first place he caused all those who demanded the money, which he had given for the young woman, to be scourged, and then executed. Then he entered the next towns with his armed slaves; those that came readily to join with him, he furnished with arms, and he killed all that opposed him. Having in a short time got together above seven hundred men, he divided them into centuries; and then fortifying and entrenching himself, he received all the slaves that ran away from their masters.

5 G   When the rebellion was reported at Rome, the senate took prudent measures to put a stop to the mischief, and successfully suppressed it. The care and management of the business for the reducing and punishing of the fugitive slaves was committed to Lucius Lucullus, one of the praetors in the city, who raised six hundred men in Rome, and with them the same day marched to Capua, where he mustered four thousand foot-soldiers, and four hundred cavalrymen. 6 When Vettius heard with what speed Lucullus was advancing towards him, he took possession of a strong hill, along with three thousand five hundred of his men. In the first engagement the fugitives by the advantage of the higher ground, got the better. Afterwards Lucullus bribed Apollonius, Vettius' general, to betray his confederates, by promising him, on behalf of the state, that he should receive a pardon. Apollonius duly co-operated with the Romans, and attacked Vettius, who slew himself, in order to avoid the punishment he feared for his rebellion. The rest of the rebels soon perished, except for Apollonius. And these were like prologues to that great revolt in Sicily, which began as follows.

[2a] G   There were many uprisings of slaves. The first was around Nuceria, when thirty slaves formed a conspiracy, and were quickly punished. The second was around Capua, when two hundred slaves joined in an uprising and were quickly punished. The third was extraordinary, and very different from the usual pattern of events. A certain Titus Vettius, a Roman knight with an extremely rich father, while he was still a mere youth formed a strong desire for another man's serving-maid, who was a girl of great beauty. After having intercourse with her, and living with her for some considerable time, he was seized by an extraordinary passion and a sort of madness. Because of his love for her, he tried to buy the girl's freedom,. At first, her owner refused; but later, won over by the large price that was offered, he agreed to sell her for seven Attic talents, and a time was arranged for the money to be handed over. The boy, who was trusted to pay because of his father's great wealth, took the maid away and went to one of his father's estates, where he satisfied his lusts with her. When the agreed time came for the payment, some men came to demand the money. After postponing the payment for thirty days, but still not being able to produce the money, the boy, who had become a slave to his passion, resorted to the most bizarre action. The strengh of his feelings, and the shame ensuing from the postponement, drove him to childish and very silly thoughts. As he contemplated the likely departure of his mistress, he formed a desperate plot against those who were demanding the payment . . .

[3] G   As part of the command of Marius against the Cimbrians, the senate had given him a commission to raise men from the countries beyond the seas; to which end, Marius sent envoys to Nicomedes king of Bithynia, requesting him to send some men as auxiliaries; but Nicomedes replied that most of the Bithynians had been taken away as slaves by the tax-collectors, and were dispersed throughout the provinces. 2 Upon hearing this, the senate decreed that no freeman belonging to any of the Roman allies should in any province be forced to be a slave, and that the praetors should take care to see that they were all set free. In pursuance of this order Licinius Nerva, then praetor in Sicily, appointed hearings and set free so many slaves that in a few days above eight hundred gained their liberty; so that all the slaves in Sicily were hereby encouraged and grew confident in their hope of liberty. 3 The most eminent Sicilians therefore approached the the praetor, and asked him to desist from making any more free. Hereupon he (whether bribed, or to gain favour) withdrew his support for the hearings, and if any others came to him in the hope of being made free, he dismissed them with harsh words and sent them back to their masters. Upon this the slaves entered into a conspiracy; they left Syracuse, and gathered together at the grove of the Palici, where they discussed their intended rebellion. 4 The bold mood of the slaves became evident in many places throughout the island. Amongst others, thirty slaves of two rich brothers in the country of the Halicyae were the first to assert their liberty; their leader was one Varius. These in the first place killed their masters, when they were asleep in their beds: then they went away to the neighbouring dwellings, and urged all the slaves there to follow them to freedom; and more than one hundred and twenty came to join them in that one night. 5 Upon this they took possession of a place naturally strong of itself, which they endeavoured to make stronger with fortifications, where eighty more well-armed men came in to them. Licinius Nerva, the governor of the province, hastened out against them with the intention of stopping their ravages, but all his efforts were in vain. Seeing therefore that the place was not to be taken by force, he sought to gain it by treachery; for he secretly communicated with one Gaius Titinius, surnamed Gadaeus, whom he persuaded to assist in achieving his purpose, by promising him safety and protection. This man had been condemned to die two years before, but had escaped, and had robbed and murdered many freemen in that province, but never in the least injured any slave. 6 Titinius, with a great body of slaves, came to this fort, where the rebels had posted themselves, as if he intended to join with them in making war upon the Romans. When they willingly and cordially received him, and in recognition of his valour made him their general, he subsequently betrayed the fort. Then some of the rebels were killed while resisting, and the rest, out of fear of what they should suffer if they were taken prisoners, threw themselves down headlong from the top of the rock. And in this manner was the first rising of the slaves suppressed.

[4] G   But the soldiers had no sooner got back to their quarters, than news was brought that about eighty slaves had started an uprising, and had cut the throat of Publius Clonius, a Roman knight, and that now their number was much increased. And to aggravate the matter the praetor, being ill advised, had disbanded most of his army, and the resulting delay gave time for the rebels to strengthen themselves. 2 However, he marched out against them with those he then had. As soon as he passed the river Alba, he turned aside from the rebel slaves, who were gathered on Mount Caprianus, and arrived at Heracleia. Upon this, a report was spread around that the praetor was a coward who was afraid to attack them, and very many slaves were encouraged to join in the revolt. When many therefore flocked in, furnishing themselves as well as they could for a battle, within seven days there were above eight hundred that took up arms; and soon afterwards they amounted to two thousand. 3 The praetor at Heracleia, being informed that their number was increasing, sent Marcus Titinius as commander against them, and provided him with six hundred men out of the garrison at Enna. This Titinius fought the rebels, who (having the advantage both of place and number) routed him, and killed many of his men, and the rest threw away their arms, and with much difficulty saved themselves by flight. By this means the rebels suddenly got such a great number of weapons, that they were more firmly resolved to persist in their rebellion, and now all the slaves were ready to revolt. 4 As more slaves joined the revolt every day, the number amounted in a short time to such a height as none ever suspected it could, insomuch that within a few days they were above six thousand. They now called an assembly, and held a debate; in the first place they chose a king called Salvius, who was reputed to be a fortune-teller, and one who played the flute wildly in the women's entertainments. But having now been raised to be king, he disdaineded living in cities, as being the nurseries of sloth and effeminacy. Afterwards, he divided the army into three bodies, over each of which he appointed a general, and ordered them to make inroads up and down in the country, and at a certain time and place all to join again in one body. 5 By these depredations they provided themselves so well with horses and other animals, that in a short time they had above two thousand horse, and no less than twenty thousand foot-soldiers, although the men were very raw and inexperienced in warfare. Among other raids, they attacked Morgantina, a strong and well-fortified city, with great fury and made fierce and continual assaults upon it

6 G   The Roman general marched out in the night, with about ten thousand men from Italy and Sicily, with the intention of relieving the city. He surprised the rebels, who were busily employed in the siege, by the suddenness of his assault; and, breaking into their camp, found very few guards, but a great number of prisoners, and abundance of plunder of all sorts. With great ease he captured all this; and, when he had plundered the camp, he marched away towards Morgantina; 7 but the rebels turned back upon him with great fury, and having the advantage of the higher ground, soon routed him, and put all his army to flight. The rebel king ordered a proclamation to be made that no-one who threw away his weapons should be killed; and therefore most of the soldiers cast away their weapons, and fled. By this means Salvius both recovered what he had lost in his camp, and gained a glorious victory, and much spoil. 8 No more than six hundred of the Italians and Sicilians were killed, owing to the moderation of the king; but four thousand were taken prisoner. After this victory, many came flocking in to join Salvius, and his army became double in size to what it was previously. Having in this way made himself absolute master of the open country, he again besieged Morgantina, and promised liberty to all the slaves who were in the city. But their masters promised the same to them, if they would be faithful, and join with them in the defence of the place; and they chose rather to accept what was offered by their masters. They fought so resolutely, that they forced the enemy to raise their siege. But the praetor afterwards revoked the promise of liberty for the slaves; and this caused many of them to run away to join the rebels.

[5] G   After this, all the slaves in the territories of Segesta and Lilybaeum were likewise infected with this desire of rebellion. Their leader was one Athenion, a valiant man, and a Cilician. This man, who was the steward of two rich brothers, and an excellent astrologer, first persuaded the slaves, over whom he had some sort of command, to join with him, to the number of two hundred; and afterwards he added those who lived in the neighbouring districts, so that in five days time there were gathered above one thousand. 2 They made him king, and placed a diadem upon his head. Athenion resolved to order matters and affairs in a manner very different from the other rebels. For he did not indiscriminately receive everyone who came to him, but only those with strong and healthy bodies, who would make the best soldiers; the rest he forced to continue in their previous occupations, and everyone in his own place diligently to apply himself to the duty incumbent upon him. By this means he was able to bring in plenty of provisions for his soldiers. 3 He pretended that by the stars the gods foretold that he should become the king of the whole of Sicily, and therefore he was to refrain from spoiling the country, or destroying the cattle and crops, as they all belonged to him. At length, having now got together above ten thousand men, he was so daring as to besiege Lilybaeum, a city considered to be impregnable. But since he failed to make any headway, he abandoned the enterprise, pretending he was commanded to do so by the gods, who warned him that, if they continued the siege, they would certainly fall into some sudden misfortune. 4 Accordingly, while he was preparing to withdraw from the city, a fleet of Mauretanians entered the harbour, who had been sent to the assistance of the citizens of Lilybaeum. Their commander, called Gomon, surprised Athenion's army by night, as they were leaving the siege and marching off; he killed a great number of them and wounded as many others, before returning with his men to the city. The rebels were astonished, that Athenion's prophecy from reading the stars had been fulfilled in this way.

[6] G   At the same time great disorders, and an Iliad of calamities, spread over the whole of Sicily. Not only slaves, but also impoverished freemen committed all sorts of robbery and acts of wickedness; for they shamelessly killed all they met, whether slaves or free, so that none might be left to inform on them. As a result, the inhabitants of the cities felt that they scarcely owned what was with them within the walls; but as for that which was outside, it was all lost, falling as prey to the lawless rule of violence. Many other outrageous deeds were impudently committed throughout Sicily, by many different persons.

[7] G   Salvius likewise, who had besieged Morgantina, after harassing all the country, as far as the territories of Leontini, mustered his army there, consisting of above thirty thousand fighting men. Then he made a sacrifice to the Palici, the local heroes, and dedicated one of his royai robes, in gratitude for his victories. He caused himself to he proclaimed king, and was given the name Tryphon by the rebels. 2 Since he wished to take possession of Triocala, and there to build a palace, he sent to Athenion, summoning him as a king would summon a general. Every man then thought that Athenion would endeavour to gain the sovereignty for himself, and by that means the rebels woald be divided, and so a speedy end would be put to the war. But fortune so ordered the matter, as if to strengthen the armies of the runaway slaves, that the two leaders fully co-operated with each other. For Tryphon marched speedily with his army to Triocala, and Athenion met him there with three thousand men, in everything observing the commands of Tryphon as king. Athenion had sent the rest of his army away to devastate the countryside, and to bring over as many slaves as they could to join in the revolt. But not long afterwards, Tryphon suspected that Athenion was planning to supplant him in time, and therefore he caused him to be put in custody. The fortress, which was in itself very secure, he made still more strong, and adorned it likewise with many stately buildings. 3 They say that it was called Triocala, because it was remarkable for three fine things {tria kala}. First, for springs of excellent sweet water; secondly, for vineyards, and olive plantations, and rich lands for tillage; and thirdly, that it was an impregnable position, built upon a high and inaccessible rock. After he had built a city wall of eight stades round about it, and had surrounded it with a deep trench, he made it the his royal capital, filled with an abundance of all things necessary for the life of man. He likewise built there a stately palace and an agora, capable of receiving a vast number of men. 4 He chose a suitable number of the most prudent men to be his councillors, and used them as his advisers. Moreover, whenever he was conducting business, he put on a toga, edged with purple, and a wide-bordered chiton. Lastly, he appointed lictors with rods and axes to go before him, and took great care that all the other emblems and trappings of royalty should be observed.

[8] G   At length, Lucius Licinius Lucullus was chosen general by the senate of Rome, to go against the rebels. He took with him fourteen thousand Romans and Italians; eight hundred Bithynians, Thessalians and Acarnanians; six hundred Lucanians, under the command of Cleptius, an expert general, renowened for his valour; and also six hundred from other places; in the whole amounting to (?) seventeen thousand. When he entered Sicily with this army , 2 Tryphon released Athenion, and consulted with him how to manage the war against the Romans. Tryphon was of the opinion, that it was the safest way to continue at Triocala, and there await the enemy: but Athenion advised that they should fight in the open countryside, rather than allow themselves to be trapped in a siege. As this opinion prevailed, they marched out and encamped near Scirthaea, with no fewer than forty thousand men, twelve stades distant from the Roman camp. 3 At first the armies employed themselves every day in light skirmishes; but at length they engaged in battle. While victory was still undecided, and many were slain on both sides, Athenion fought alongside two hundred of his cavalry, and covered the ground round about him with the bodies of his enemies. But being wounded in both knees, and then receiving a third wound, he was totally unable to continue fighting. This so discouraged the rebels, that they turned to flight. 4 Athenion lay concealed, as if he were dead, and so feigned himself till night came on, and then stole away. But the Romans, having now gained a glorious victory, forced Tryphon himself to take to his heels, and in the pursuit slew at least twenty thousand men. The rest, taking advantage of the night, got away to Triocala, although the general might easily have killed them too, if he had pressed the pursuit.

5 G   Upon this rout the slaves were so much discouraged, that it was proposed amongst them that they should return to their masters, and submit themselves wholly into their power. But those who advised to stand it out to the last, and not to surrender themselves to the vengeance of their enemies, prevailed over the other. Nine days later, the Roman praetor began to besiege Triocala; but after much slaughter on both sides, he was obliged to withdraw and leave the place. Upon this the rebels recovered their spirits; the praetor on the other hand, either through sloth and negligence, or corrupted by bribes, neglected entirely the proper conduct of his duty, for which he was afterwards brought to trial by the Romans.

[9] G   Neither did Gaius Servilius, who succeeded Lucullus, do anything worth remembering; and therefore he was brought to trial, as Lucullus had been before, and banished. In the meantime Tryphon died, and Athenion succeeded him as king of the rebels. He besieged cities and devastated the countryside, without any opposition from Servilius, so that he gained control of large areas.

2 G   When he heard that the praetor Gaius Servilius had crossed the straits to Sicily in order to take over the command of the war, the praetor Lucullus disbanded his soldiers, and burned his palisades and fortification works, so as not to leave to his successor any useful resources for the conduct of war. Because he was being accused of dragging out the war, he believed that he could exonerate himself, by ensuring the humiliation and failure of his successor.

[10] G   In the following year, Gaius Marius was elected as consul at Rome for the fifth time, and with him Gaius Aquilius. Aquilius was sent as general against the rebels; and through his personal valour he defeated them in a great battle; like a hero, he fought hand to hand with Athenion the king of the rebels, and killed him, but himself suffered a wound on the head, from which he recovered. Then he marched against the remainder of them, who were about ten thousand; and though they did not wait for his attack, but fled to their defences, yet Aquilius did not slacken his resolution in the least, until he had overcome them by siege. 2 There remained now only a thousand, led by Satyrus; at first Aquilius determined to reduce them by force; but later they sent envoys and made their submission. For the time being he put off their punishment ; but when they were brought as prisoners to Rome, he consigned them to fight with wild beasts, 3 where it is reported they ended their lives with great gallantry and nobleness of mind; for they scorned to fight with beasts, but slew each other at the public altars; and after all the others were dead, Satyrus being the last, with a heroic spirit killed himself. This was the tragic end of the slave war, after it had continued for the space of almost four years.

[11] G   It was not only the multitude of slaves that not devastated Sicily; but also the free men, who had no property in the countryside, turned to robbery and lawlessness. Swarms of them were impelled by poverty and lawlessness to ravage the countryside; they drove away whole herds of cattle, robbed the barns in the towns and villages, and carried away the corn and crops. They killed everyone they met, whether slave or free, so that no-one might be left to report their recklessness and cruelty. 2 For since there was at this time complete anarchy in Sicily, and no Roman magistrate exercised any jurisdiction, all ran wild and committed many great enormities with impunity, so that all places were full of violence and robbery, which pillaged the possessions of the rich. They who a little before were pre-eminent amongst their fellow citizens for their wealth and distinction, by a sudden change of fortune were not only treated with the greatest contempt and scorn imaginable, and robbed of all they had by their slaves; but they were forced to bear insufferable abuse from their fellow freemen. 3 And therefore no-one could properly call anything his own even within the city gates; but what was outside, they considered to be quite lost, as an irrecoverable prey to the robbers. To conclude, confusion and utter subversion of law and justice, raged throughout all the cities in the island. For the rebels, after they gained control of the open countryside, made the roads impassable; they were driven by hatred of their masters, and they were not content with their unexpected success. Even the slaves that were still within the cities, who were sick at heart and longing for an opportunity to rebel, were a dread and terror to their masters.

[12] G   Saturninus the tribune was a man of licentious habits. When he was quaestor, he had been put in charge of the transport of all the corn from Ostia to Rome; but owing to his laziness and his debased character, he was removed from this office by the senate, who committed the task to the care of others. But afterwards, when he had desisted from his former licentiousnes, and adopted a sober mode of life, he was chosen by the people to be tribune.

[13] G   One Battaces, a priest of the goddess Rhea, came to Rome from Pessinus, a city of Phrygia. He declared that he had come by command of the goddess, and he told the magistrates and senate that their temple was profaned, and that a public expiation ought to be made in the name of the Romans. His clothing and the other ornaments of his body were very strange, and altogether unusual at Rome; for he bore a golden crown of great size, and a flowered gown embroidered with gold, giving the appearance of royal rank. 2 After he had spoken to the people from the rostra, and filled the people with religious awe, he was honoured with public lodgings and hospitality: but he was forbidden to wear the crown by Aulus Pompeius, a tribune of the people. When another tribune brought him back to the rostra, and asked how the expiatory sacrifices should be made, his answers were full of religious fervour. At length he was driven out by Pompeius' faction, with many scorns and insults. He went back to his lodgings, and never ventured out after that, saying that they had dishonoured not only himself, but also the goddess. 3 Before long Pompeius fell into a high fever, and then had a quinsy, which took away his speech, and he died on the third day. The common people believed that his death was caused by divine providence, as a result of his profane and impious abuse of the goddess and her priest; for the Romans are extremely god-fearing. Therefore Battaces was honoured with many presents, and allowed to continue wearing his sacred vestments with all their ornaments; and when he left Rome to return home, he was escorted out of the city by a multitude of men and women.

[14] G   It was a custom among the Roman soldiers, that if any of their generals fought a battle and killed more than six thousand of tbe enemy, they called him imperator, which means the same as 'king' in Greek.

[15] G   Envoys came from king Mithridates to Rome, bringing a great sum of money, with the intention of bribing the senate. Saturninus, thinking that now he had a cause to attack the senate, reproached and abused the embassy. Encouraged by the senators, who promised to assist them, the envoys brought a prosecution against Saturninus, concerning this abuse. 2 He was brought to trial in public, with great severity, by reason of the violation of the envoys, and of the constant abhorrence that the Romans have of any assault on embassies. Saturninus, who was now at risk of being condemned to death by the senate, his proper judges in such cases, fell into extreme fear and danger. Because of the seriousness of his predicament, in consternation he took refuge in the pity that is commonly given to those who are unfortunate. Throwing off his rich apparel, putting on poor and sordid clothes, and allowing his beard to grow, he ran up and down to the tumultuous throngs of people throughout the city, falling down upon his knees to some, catching others fast by the hands, begging with tears that they would assist him in his present calamities. 3 He declared that he was the victim of political oppression by the senate, contrary to all right and justice, and he suffered all this because of the good will he bore the people; the senate were his enemies, accusers, and judges. The mob were swayed by his entreaties, and in an great uproar many thousands of them ran to the tribunal, so that he was unexpectedly released from the charges; and with the support of the people, he was again appointed tribune.

[16] G   For two years the subject of Metellus' banishment was debated in assemblies. His son traversed the forum with his beard and hair overgrown, and in a tattered garment, while with tears in his eyes he prostrated himself at the feet of every citizen, entreating them to recall his father. Although the people were very reluctant to make a precedent for exiles to return home in defiance of the laws, yet, in compassion to the young man, and being moved by the earnestness of his entreaties, they recalled Metellus from banishment, and surnamed the son Pius, on account of the singular affection and care that he had for his father.

Book 37

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