Appian, Samnite Wars 3

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.


[22] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, having gained a victory over the Romans and desiring to recuperate his forces after the severe engagement, and expecting that the Romans would be particularly desirous of coming to terms, sent to the city Cineas, a Thessalian, who was so renowned for eloquence that he had been compared with Demosthenes.note When he was admitted to the senate chamber, he extolled the king for a variety of reasons, and among others for his moderation after the victory, in that he had neither marched directly against the city nor attacked the camp of the vanquished. He offered them peace, friendship, and an alliance with Pyrrhus, provided the Tarentines should be included in the same treaty, and provided the other Greeks dwelling in Italy should remain free under their own laws, and provided the Romans would restore to the Lucanians, Samnites, Daunii, and Bruttians whatever they had taken from them in war. If they would do this, he said that Pyrrhus would restore all his prisoners without ransom.

[23] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] The Romans hesitated a long time, being much intimidated by the prestige of Pyrrhus and by the calamity that had befallen them. Finally Appius Claudius, surnamed the Blind (because he had lost his eyesight from old age), commanded his sons to lead him into the senate chamber, where he said: "I was grieved at the loss of my sight; now I regret that I did not lose my hearing also, for never did I expect to see or hear deliberations of this kind from you. Have you become so forgetful of yourselves all of a sudden, by reason of one misfortune, as to take the man who brought it upon you, and those who called him hither, for friends instead of enemies, and to give back to the Lucanians and Bruttians the property that your ancestors took from them? What is this but making the Romans servants of the Macedonians? And some of you dare to call this peace instead of servitude!" Many other things in the like sense did Appius urge to arouse their spirit. If Pyrrhus wanted peace and the friendship of the Romans, let him withdraw from Italy and then send his embassy. As long as he remained let him be considered neither friend nor ally, neither judge nor arbitrator in Roman affairs.

[24] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] The Senate made answer to Cineas as Appius advised. They decreed the levying of two new legions for Laevinus,note and made proclamation that whoever would volunteer in place of those who had been lost should put their names on the army roll. Cineas, who was still present and saw the multitude hastening to be enrolled, is reported to have said to Pyrrhus on his return: "We are waging war against a hydra."note Others say that not Cineas, but even Pyrrhus himself said this when he saw the new Roman army larger than the former one; for the other consul, Coruncanius, came from Etruria and joined his forces with those of Laevinus. It is said also that when Pyrrhus made some further inquiries about Rome, Cineas replied that it was a city of generals; and when Pyrrhus wondered at this, he corrected himself, and said that it seemed more like a city of kings. When Pyrrhus saw that there was no expectation of peace from the Senate, he marched toward Rome, laying everything waste on his way. When he had come as far as the town of Anagnia, finding his army encumbered with booty and a host of prisoners, he decided to postpone the battle. Accordingly he turned back to Campania, sending his elephants in advance, and distributed his army in winter quarters among the towns.

[25] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] Hither came Roman ambassadors proposing either to ransom the prisoners or to exchange them for Tarentines and his other allies whom they held. He replied that if they were ready for peace on the terms proposed by Cineas, he would release the prisoners gratuitously, but if the war was to continue, he would not give up such a large number of valiant men to fight against him. Otherwise he treated them in a kingly way. Perceiving that Fabricius,note the chief of the embassy, had great influence in the city, and also that he was a very poor man, he approached him and said that if he would bring about a treaty of peace, henote would take him to Epirus, and make him his chief officer and the sharer of all his possessions; and he asked him to accept a present of money then and there, on the pretext that he was to give it to those who perfected the treaty. Fabricius burst out laughing. He made no answer as to public matters, but said: "Neither you nor your friends, o king, can take away my independence. I consider my poverty more blessed than all the riches of kings if conjoined with fear." Others report the conversation differently, saying that Fabricius replied: "Beware lest the Epirotes share my nature and prefer me to you."

[26] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] Whichever answer he made, Pyrrhus admired his high spirit. He then tried another plan for procuring peace. He allowed the prisoners to go home without guards to attend the festival of Saturn, on the condition that if the city accepted the terms offered by him they should be free, but if not that they should return to him at the end of the festival. Although the prisoners earnestly besought and urged the Senate to accept the terms, the latter ordered them, at the conclusion of the festival, to deliver themselves up to Pyrrhus on a day specified, and decreed the death penalty to those who should linger beyond that time. This order was observed by all. In this way Pyrrhus learned again that everything depended on the arbitrament of arms.

[27] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] While Pyrrhus was perplexed by the Roman complication he was disturbed by an uprising of the Molossians.note At this time also Agathocles, the king of Sicily, had just died. As Pyrrhus had married his daughter Laneia, he began to look upon Sicily as more of his concern than Italy. Still he was loath to abandon those who had summoned him to their aid, without some kind of arrangement for peace. Seizing eagerly the occasion of the sending back of a traitor who had deserted from him, he testified his gratitude to the consuls for this act and sent Cineas again to Rome to repeat his thanks for the man's safe-keeping, and to surrender the prisoners by way of recompense, instructing him to procure peace in whatever way he could. Cineas brought a large number of presents both for men and women, knowing that the people were fond of money and gifts, and that the women had had large influence among the Romans from the earliest times.

[28] [From Constantine Porphyrogenitus, The Embassies] But they warned each other against the gifts, and replied that no man or woman would accept anything. They gave Cineas the same answer as before. If Pyrrhus would withdraw from Italy and send an embassy to them without gifts, they would agree to fair terms in all respects. They treated the embassy, however, in a sumptuous manner and sent back to Pyrrhus in exchange all the Tarentines and others of his allies whom they held as prisoners. Thereupon Pyrrhus sailed for Sicily with his elephants and 8,000 horse, promising his allies that he would return to Italy. Three years later he returned, for the Carthaginians had driven him out of Sicily.

[29] After the battle and the armistice with the Romans, Pyrrhus sailed for Sicily promising he would return to Italy. Three years later he returned, having been driven out of Sicily by the Carthaginians, and having been a grievous burden to the Sicilians themselves by reason of the lodging and supplying of his troops, the garrisons and the tribute he had imposed on them. Enriched by these exactions he set sail for Rhegium with hundred and ten decked ships,note besides a much larger number of merchant vessels and ships of burden. But the Carthaginians made a naval attack upon him, sunk seventy of his ships, and disabled all the rest except twelve. Fleeing with these he took vengeance on the Italian Locrians who had put to death his garrison and their commanding officer, because of outrages committed upon the inhabitants. Such savage vengeance did he take on them in the way of killing and plundering that he did not spare even the temple gifts of Proserpina, saying by way of joke that unseasonable piety was no better than superstition, and that it was good policy to obtain wealth without labor.

[30] [From the Peiresc manuscript] Loaded down with spoils, a tempest overtook him, sunk some of his ships with the men in them, and cast the others ashore. The waves cast all the sacred things safe upon the Locrian beach. Wherefore Pyrrhus, perceiving too late the consequences of his impiety, restored them to the temple of Proserpina and sought to propitiate the goddess with numerous sacrifices. As the victims were unpropitious he became still more furious, and he put to death all those who had advised the temple-robbing, or had assented to it, or had taken part in it. Thus had Pyrrhus come to grief.

This page was created in 2005; last modified on 4 May 2019.