Appian, Samnite Wars 2

Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165): one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians, author of a Roman History in twenty-four books.

Although only Appian's books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of the other books, devoted to Rome's foreign wars, have also come down to us. The parts on the Third Punic War, the wars in Iberia, the Illyrian Wars, and the Mithridatic Wars are very important historical sources.

Because these texts have to be reconstructed from several medieval manuscripts, not all editions of Appian's account of Rome's foreign wars are numbered in the same way. On these pages, the separate units of a book are counted strictly chronologically.

The translation was made by Horace White; notes by Jona Lendering.

[12] [From the Suda] On account of admiration for his bravery a multitude of chosen youths numbering eight hundred were in the habit of following [Manius Curius] Dentatus, ready for anything. This was an embarrassment to the Senate at their meetings.note

War against the Senones

[13] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] Once a great number of the Senones, a Celtic tribe, aided the Etruscans in war against the Romans.note The latter sent ambassadors to the towns of the Senones and complained that, while they were under treaty stipulations, they were furnishing mercenaries to fight against the Romans. Although they bore the caduceus,note and wore the garments of their office, Britomaris cut them in pieces and flung the parts away, alleging that his own father had been slain by the Romans while he was waging war in Etruria. The consul Cornelius,note learning of this abominable deed while he was on the march, abandoned his campaign against the Etruscans, dashed with great rapidity by way of the Sabine country and Picenum against the towns of the Senones, and devastated them with fire and sword. He carried their women and children into slavery, and killed all the adult youth except a son of Britomaris, whom he reserved for awful torture, and led in his triumph.

[14] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] When the Senones who were in Etruria heard of this calamity, they joined with the Etruscans and marched against Rome. After various mishaps these Senones, having no homes to return to, and being in a state of frenzy over their misfortunes, fell upon Domitius,note by whom most of them were destroyed. The rest slew themselves in despair. Such was the punishment meted out to the Senones for their crime against the ambassadors.

Events before the War against Pyrrhus

[15] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] Cornelius went sight-seeing along the coast of Magna Graecia with ten ships with decks.note At Tarentum there was a demagogue named Philocharis, a man of obscene life, who was for that reason nicknamed Thais. He reminded the Tarentines of an old treaty by which the Romans had bound themselves not to sail beyond the promontory of Lacinium. By his passion he persuaded them to excitement against Cornelius, and they sunk four of his ships and seized one of them with all on board. They accused the Thurini of preferring the Romans to the Tarentines although they were Greeks, and held them chiefly to blame for the Romans overpassing the limits. Then they expelled the noblest citizens of Thurii, sacked the city, and dismissed the Roman garrison that was stationed there under a treaty.

[16] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] When the Romans learned of these events,note they sent an embassy to Tarentum to demand that the prisoners who had been taken, not in war, but as mere sight-seers, should be surrendered; that the citizens of Thurii who had been expelled should be brought back to their homes; that the property that had been plundered, or the value of what had been lost, should be restored; and finally, that they should surrender the authors of these crimes, if they wished to continue on good terms with the Romans.

The Tarentines made difficulties about admitting the embassy to their council at all, and when they had received them jeered at them because they did not speak Greek perfectly, and made fun of their togas and of the purple stripe on them. But a certain Philonides, a fellow fond of jest and ribaldry, going up to Postumius, the chief of the embassy, turned his back to him, drew up his dress and polluted him with filth.note

This spectacle was received with laughter by the bystanders. Postumius, holding out his soiled garment, said: "You will wash out this defilement with plenty of blood - you who take pleasure in this kind of jokes." As the Tarentines made no sort of answer the embassy departed. Postumius carried the soiled garment just as it was, and showed it to the Romans.

[17] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] The people, deeply incensed, sent orders to Aemilius,note who was waging war against the Samnites, to suspend operations for the present and invade the territory of the Tarentines, and offer them the same terms that the late embassy had proposed, and if they did not agree, to wage war against them with all his might. He made them the offer accordingly. This time they did not laugh for they saw the army. They were about equally divided in opinion until one of their number said to them as they doubted and disputed: "To surrender citizens is the act of a people already enslaved, yet to fight without allies is hazardous. If we wish to defend our liberty stoutly and to fight on equal terms, let us call on Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, and designate him the leader of this war." This was done.

Pyrrhus occupies Tarentum

[18] [From the Peiresc manuscript] After a shipwreck, Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, arrived at the harbor of Tarentum.note The Tarentines were very much put out with the king's officers, who quartered themselves upon the citizens by force, and openly abused their wives and children. Afterwards Pyrrhus put an end to their revels and other social gatherings and amusements as incompatible with a state of war, and ordered the citizens to severe military exercise, under penalty of death if they disobeyed. Then the Tarentines, tired out by these most unusual exercises and orders, fled the city as though it were a foreign government and took refuge in the fields. Then the king closed the gates and placed guards over them. In this way the Tarentines gained a clear perception of their own folly.

Events in Rhegium

[19] [From the Peiresc manuscript] Some Roman soldiers were stationed in Rhegium for the safety and protection of the city against enemies.note They, and their leader Decius, envying the good fortune of the inhabitants and seizing an opportunity when they were observing a public festival, slew them and violated their wives. They offered an excuse for this crime, that the citizens of Rhegium were about to betray the garrison to Pyrrhus. So Decius became supreme ruler instead of a prefect of the guard, and he contracted an alliance with the Mamertines, who dwelt on the other side of the strait of Sicily, and who had perpetrated the same kind of an outrage on their hosts not long before.

[20] [From the Peiresc manuscript] Suffering from an affection of the eyes and distrusting the physicians of Rhegium, Decius sent for a medical man who had migrated from Rhegium to Messana so long before that it was forgotten that he was a Rhegian. The latter persuaded him that, if he wished speedy relief, he should use certain hot drugs. Having applied a burning and corrosive ointment to his eyes, he told him to bear the pain till he should come again. Then he secretly returned to Messana. Decius, after enduring the pain a long time, washed off the ointment and found that he had lost his eyesight.

[21] [From the Peiresc manuscript] Fabriciusnote was sent by the Romans to restore the city to those Rhegians who still remained. He sent the guards who had been guilty of this revolt back to Rome. They were beaten with rods in the Forum,note then beheaded, and their bodies cast away unburied. Decius, being placed under strict guard, in the discouragement of a blind man, committed suicide.