Livy, Periochae 51-55

Titus Livius or Livy (59 BCE - 17 CE): Roman historian, author of the authorized version of the history of the Roman republic.

A large part of Livy's History of Rome since the Foundation is now lost, but fortunately we have an excerpt, called the Periochae, which helps us reconstruct the general scope. This translation was made by Jona Lendering.


From Book 51

[51.1] Carthage, which had a circumference of thirty-four kilometers, was besieged with much labor, and captured part by part; first by deputy Mancinus, then by consul Scipio [Aemilianus], to whom the African command had been assigned without casting lots.

[51.2] Because the old harbor had been blocked by Scipio, the Carthaginians dug a new one, and quickly and secretly built a large fleet, with which they fought an unsuccessful naval battle.

[51.3] The castle of Hasdrubal, their leader, on difficult terrain near the town of Nepheris was also destroyed by Scipio, who [146 BCE] finally captured the city in the seven-hundredth year since it was founded.

[51.4] A major part of the spoils were given back to the Sicilians, from whom they had been seized.

[51.5] When Hasdrubal surrendered to Scipio during the final stage of the siege, his wife, who had - only a few days before - been unable to convince her husband to escape to the victor, threw herself from the citadel into the flames of the burning city with her two children.

[51.6] Scipio, following the example of his father, the Aemilius Paullus who had conquered Macedonia, organized games and cast deserters and runaways for the wild animals.

[51.7] The origins of the Achaean War are described as follows: at Corinth, Roman envoys were attacked by Achaeans. These envoys had been sent to separate those towns that had been under control of Philip [V of Macedonia] from the Achaean league.

From Book 52

[52.1] At Thermopylae, Quintus Caecilius Metellus fought a battle against the Achaeans, who received support from the Boeotians and Chalcidians.

[52.2] After their defeat, their commander Critolaus poisoned himself.

[52.3] In his place Diaeus, the instigator of the Achaean revolt, was elected as leader by the Achaeans, and he was defeated at the Isthmus by consul Lucius Mummius.

[52.4] Having received the surrender of all Achaea and being ordered to do so by the Senate, he sacked Corinth, where the Roman envoys had been maltreated.

[52.5] Thebes and Chalcis, which had supported the Achaeans, were also destroyed.

[52.6] This Lucius Mummius was a selfless man: none of the works of art and decorations that had been in "rich Corinth", entered his house.

[52.7] Quintus Caecilius Metellus celebrated a triumph over Andriscus, and Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus over Carthage and Hasdrubal.

[52.8] In Hispania, Viriathus (who first changed from a shepherd into a hunter, then into a bandit, and soon into the leader of an army) occupied all of Lusitania, routed the army of praetor Marcus Vetilius and captured him, after which praetor Gaius Plautius fought without any luck. This enemy inspired so much fear that a consul and his army were needed.

[52.9] There is also an account of the situation in Syria and the war waged between its kings.

[52.10] As already indicated, Alexander [I Balas], an unknown man of uncertain descent, ruled Syria after king Demetrius [Soter] had been killed.

[52.11] [145] Demetrius [II Nicator], son of Demetrius, who had been sent to Cnidus by his father because of the uncertainties of war, despised Alexander's slowness and indolence, and killed him in a battle in which he received the support of king Ptolemy [VI Philometor] of Egypt, whose daughter Cleopatra [Thea] he had married.

[52.12] Ptolemy received a severe head wound and died when physicians tried to trepan the skull in order to heal the wound; he was succeeded by his younger brother Ptolemy [VIII Euergetes] (who had reigned in Cyrene).

[52.13] Because of the cruelty with which Demetrius tortured his own people, he was defeated in war and forced to flee to Seleucia by one Diodotus, one of his subjects and a man who supported the claim to the throne of Alexander's two year old son.

[52.14] Lucius Mummius celebrated a triumph over the Achaeans, and carried in the procession statues of bronze and marble and paintings.

From Book 53

[53.1] [143] Consul Appius Claudius subdued the Salassians, a nation from the Alps.

[53.2] In Macedonia, another false Philip was killed, together with his army, by quaestor Lucius Temellius.

[53.3] Proconsul Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated the Celtiberians and proconsul Quintius Fabius recovered a large part of Lusitania after he had stormed several towns.

[53.4] Senator Acilius wrote a Roman History, in Greek.

From Book 54

[54.1] [141] In Hispania, consul Quintus Pompeius defeated the Termestinians.

[54.2] With them and the Numantines he concluded a peace treaty that was not ratified by the Roman people.

[54.3] [139] The censors performed the lustrum ceremony.

[54.4] 328,442 citizens were registered.

[54.5] When Macedonian envoys arrived to complain about praetor Decimus Junius Silanus, who had accepted bribes and had looted the province, the Senate wanted to investigate the complaints, but Titus Manlius Torquatus (the [adoptive] father of Silanus) successfully asked that he would hear the case; at home, he condemned and sent away his son.

[54.6] And he did not attend the funeral of his son who hanged himself, but sat at home, offering legal advice to those wanted it, as was his custom.

[54.7] In Hispania, proconsul Quintus Fabius met with success but spoilt it because he concluded a peace treaty  with Viriathus on equal terms.

[54.8] Viriathus was killed by traitors, instigated by Servilius Caepio, and he was deeply mourned by his soldiers, who gave him a splendid funeral. For fourteen years, this great man and commander had waged war against the Romans, often successfully.

From Book 55

[55.1] [138] When the consuls Publius Cornelius Nasica (whose surname Serapio was invented by the irreverent tribune of the plebs Curiatius) and Decimus Junius Brutus were holding the levy, something happened in front of the recruits that served as an example:

[55.2] Gaius Matienus was accused before the tribunes because he had deserted the Spanish army, and was, after he had been condemned, sent under the yoke, chastised with rods, and sold for one sesterce.

[55.3] Because it was not permitted to the tribunes to select ten men that would be free from military service, they ordered that the consuls were imprisoned.

[55.4] In Hispania, consul Junius Brutus gave land and a town, called Valentia, to those who had fought under Virtiathus. 

[55.5] After the Senate had refused to sign a peace treaty, Marcus Popilius and his army were defeated and routed by the Numantines.

[55.6] [137] When consul Gaius Hostilius Manicius wanted to sacrifice, the chickens flew out of the coop, and when he boarded his ship to sail to Hispania, a voice was heard that said "Stay, Manicius!"

[55.7] This was a bad omen, as was shown by the events,

[55.8] for he was not only defeated but also expelled from his camp, and when he despaired of saving his army, he concluded an ignominious peace treaty, which the Senate refused to ratify. 

[55.9] Forty thousand Romans had been defeated by four thousand Numantines.

[55.10] By storming all its cities until he had reached the Ocean, Decimus Junius subdued Lusitania completely, and when his soldiers refused to cross the river Oblivion, he took the standard from its bearer, carried it across the water, and persuaded them to follow him.

[55.11] [Antiochus] the son of Alexander, the king of Syria, who was a mere ten years old, was killed by the treachery of his tutor Diodotus, surnamed "the magnificent". He had bribed the physicians, who said that the boy suffered severely from a stone, and killed him on the operation table.