Eutropius, Short History 1

Eutropius (c.320-c.390?): Roman historian, author of a very popular Short History of the Roman Empire.

The translation of Eutropius' Short History offered here is by John Selby Watson and was published in 1886. The text was found at The notes were added by Jona Lendering.

[0] To the emperor Valens, Maximus, Perpetuus, Augustus.

According to the pleasure of your Clemency, I have arranged in a brief narrative, in the order of time, such particulars in the history of Rome as seemed most worthy of notice, in transactions either of war or peace, from the foundation of the city to our own days; adding concisely, also, such matters as were remarkable in the lives of the emperors; that your Serenity's divine mind may rejoice to learn that it has followed the actions of illustrious men in governing the Empire, before it became acquainted with them by reading.

[1] The Roman Empire (than which the memory of man can recall scarcely any one smaller in its commencement, or greater in its progress throughout the world) had its origin from Romulus; who, being the son of a Vestal Virgin, and, as was supposed, of Mars, was brought forth at one birth with his brother Remus. While leading a predatory life among the shepherds, he founded, when he was eighteen years of age, a small city on the Palatine Hill, on the 21st day of April, in the third year of the sixth Olympiad,note and the three hundred and ninety-fourth after the destruction of Troy.

[2] After founding the city, which he called Rome, from his own name, he proceeded principally as follows. He took a great number of the neighboring inhabitants into the city; he chose a hundred of the older men, by whose advice he might manage all his affairs, and whom, from their age, he named senators. Next, as both himself and his people were in want of wives, he invited the tribes contiguous to the city to an exhibition of games, and seized upon their young women.note 

Wars having arisen in consequence of this outrage in capturing the females, he conquered the Caeninenses, the Antemnates, the Crustumini, the Sabines, the Fidenates, and the Veientes; all whose towns lay around the city. And since, after a tempest that suddenly arose, in the thirty-seventh year of his reign, he was no longer to be seen, he was believed to have been translated to the gods, and was accordingly deified. The senators then ruled at Rome by periods of five days; and under their government a year was passed.

[3] Afterwards Numa Pompilius was elected king, who engaged indeed in no wars, but was of no less service to the state than Romulus; for he established both laws and customs among the Romans, who, by the frequency of their wars, were now regarded as robbers and semi-barbarians. He divided the year, before unregulated by any computation, into ten months, and founded numerous sacred rites and temples at Rome. He died a natural death in the forty-third year of his reign.

[4] To him succeeded Tullus Hostilius, who re-commenced war. He conquered the Albans, who lay twelve miles distant from Rome. He overcame also in battle the Veientes and Fidenates, the one six, the other eighteen miles from Rome: and increased the dimensions of the city by the addition of the Coelian hill. After reigning thirty-two years, he was struck by lightning, and consumed together with his house.

[5] After him, Ancus Martius, the grandson of Numa by a daughter, succeeded to the government. He fought against the Latins, added the Aventine and Janiculan hills to the city, and founded Ostia, a city on the sea-coast, sixteen miles from Rome. He died a natural death in the twenty-fourth year of his reign.

[6] Tarquinius Priscus was next invested with the government. He doubled the number of the senators, built a circus at Rome, and instituted the Roman Games which continue even to our time. He also conquered the Sabines, and added a considerable extent of territory, which he took from that people, to the lands of Rome; he was also the first that entered the city in triumph. He built the walls and sewers, and commenced the Capitol. He was killed in the thirty-eighth year of his reign, by the sons of Ancus, the king whom he had succeeded.

[7] After him Servius Tullius was placed on the throne, the son of a woman of noble origin, but who was, nevertheless, a captive and a slave. He also defeated the Sabines; annexed three hills, the Quirinal, Viminal, and Esquiline, to the city; and formed trenches round the city walls. He was the first to institute the census, which till that time was unknown throughout the world. The people being all subjected to a census during his reign, Rome was found to contain eighty-four thousand citizens, including those in the country. He was cut off in the forty-fifth year of his reign, by the criminal machinations of his son-in-law Tarquin the Proud, the son of the king to whom he had succeeded, and of his own daughter, whom Tarquin had married.

[8] Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the seventh and last of the kings, overcame the Volsci, a nation not far from Rome, on the road to Campania; reduced the towns of Gabii and Suessa Pometia; made peace with the Tuscans; and built a temple to Jupiter in the Capitol.

Afterwards, while he was besieging Ardea, a town that lay about eighteen miles from the city, he was deprived of his throne; for, as his younger son, who was also named Tarquin,note offered violence to Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, a most noble and chaste woman; and as she, after complaining to her husband, her father, and her friends, of the injury that she had suffered, slew herself in the sight of them all; Brutus, in consequence, who was a kinsman of Tarquinius, excited an insurrection among the people, and deprived Tarquin of his regal authority. The army, also, which was engaged with the king in besieging Ardea, soon after deserted him; and the king himself, on going to the city, found the gates closed against him; and, after having reigned five-and-twenty years, was forced to take flight with his wife and children.

Thus a regal form of government continued at Rome, under seven kings, for the space of two hundred and forty-three years, while as yet the dominion of the city, where its extent was greatest, hardly reached fifteen miles.

[9] Henceforth, instead of one king, two consuls were chosen, with this view, that, if one should be disposed to act unjustly, the other, having equal authority, might exercise a control over him. It was determined also that they should not hold their office longer than a year; in order that they might not, by continued possession of power, grow too overbearing; but, knowing that in a year they would return to the level of private persons, might constantly conduct themselves with moderation.

In the first year, then, after the expulsion of the king and his family, the consuls were Lucius Junius Brutus, who had been the chief agent in the banishment of Tarquin, and Tarquinius Collatinus, the husband of Lucretia. But that dignity was soon taken from Tarquinius Collatinus, for it was enacted that no one who bore the name of Tarquin should remain in the city. Having collected, therefore, all his private property, he removed from the city, and Valerius Publicola was made consul in his stead. King Tarquin, however, after his expulsion, stirred up war against Rome, and, having collected a large force from all quarters, in order that he might be reinstated on the throne, took the field.

[10] In the first encounter, Brutus and Arruns, Tarquin's son, killed each other; but the Romans left the field conquerors. The Roman matrons mourned for Brutus, the guardian of their honor, as if he had been their common father, for the space of a year. Valerius Publicola fixed upon Spurius Lucretius Tricipitinus, the father of Lucretia, for his colleague; and he dying of some disease, he next chose Horatius Pulvillus for his fellow consul.

Thus the first year had five consuls; Tarquinius Collatinus having left the city on account of his name, Brutus having fallen in battle, and Spurius Lucretius having died a natural death.

[11] In the second year also,note Tarquin, with a view to being re-established on the throne, again made war on the Romans, and, as Porsenna, king of Tuscany, afforded him aid, almost took Rome. But he was also defeated on that occasion.

In the third yearnote after the expulsion of the royal family, Tarquin, as he could not get himself re-admitted into the kingdom, and as Porsenna, who had made peace with the Romans, gave him no support, retired to Tusculum, a town which is not far from Rome; where he and his wife lived for fourteen years in a private station, and reached an advanced age.

In the fourth yearnote after the abolition of the kingly power, the Sabines, having made war on the Romans, were conquered; and a triumph was celebrated over them.

In the fifth year,note Lucius Valerius, the colleague of Brutus, and consul for the fourth time, died a natural death, and in such extreme poverty, that the expenses of his funeral were defrayed by a public subscription. The matrons mourned for him, as for Brutus, during a year.

[12] In the ninth year after the overthrow of the kingly power, the son-in-law of Tarquin, having assembled a vast army, in order to avenge the wrongs of his father-in-law, a new office was introduced at Rome, which was called the dictatorship, and which was more absolute than the consulate. In the same year also a master of the horse was appointed to be an officer under the dictator. Nor can anything be named more like to the imperial authority, which your Serenity now enjoys, than the ancient dictatorship, especially since Caesar Octavianus, also, of whom we shall speak hereafter, and Gaius Caesar before him, ruled with the title and rank of dictator. The first dictator at Rome was Lartius; the first master of the horse, Spurius Cassius.

[13] In the sixteenth year after the termination of the regal power, the people at Rome, thinking themselves oppressed by the Senate and consuls, broke out into a sedition. On this occasion they created for themselves tribunes of the people, as their own peculiar judges and defenders, by whom they might be protected against the Senate and the consuls.

[14] In the following year the Volsci recommenced hostilities against the Romans; and being overcome in the field, lost also Corioli, the best city that they had.

[15] In the eighteenth year after the banishment of the royal family, Quintius Marcius, the Roman general who had taken Corioli, the city of the Volsci, being compelled to flee from Rome, directed his course, in resentment, to the Volsci themselves, and received from them support against the Romans. He obtained several victories over the Romans; he made his way even to the fifth mile-stone from the city; and, refusing to hear a deputation that came to sue for peace, would have laid siege even to the place of his birth, had not his mother Veturia and his wife Volumnia gone out from the city to meet him, by whose tears and supplications he was prevailed on to withdraw his army. He was the next after Tarquin that acted as general against his country.

[16] In the consulate of Caeso Fabius and Titus Virginius,note three hundred noblemen, members of the Fabian family, undertook alone a war against the Veientes, assuring the Senate and the people that the whole contest should be brought to an end by themselves. These illustrious men, therefore, each of whom was capable of commanding a large army, setting out on their expedition, all fell in battle One only remained out of so numerous a family, who, from his extreme youth, could not be taken with them to the field.

After these events a census was held in the city, in which the number of the citizens was found to be a hundred and nineteen thousand three hundred and nineteen.

[17] In the following year,note in consequence of the blockade of a Roman army on Mount Algidus, about twelve miles from the city, Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus was appointed dictator; a man who, possessing only four acres of land, cultivated it with his own hands. He, being found at his work, and engaged in ploughing, assumed, after wiping the sweat from his brow, the toga praetexta; and set free the army with great slaughter among the enemy.

[18] In the three hundred and second year from the founding of the city,note the consular government ceased; and, instead of two consuls, ten magistrates were appointed to hold the supreme authority, under the title of decemviri. These during the first year conducted themselves with honor; but in the second, one of them, Appius Claudius, proceeded to offer violence to the maiden daughter of a certain Virginius, who was at that time filling an honorable post on military service against the Latins on Mount Algidus; but the father slew her with his own hand, that she might not suffer violation from the decemvir, and, returning to the army, raised an insurrection among the soldiers. Their power was in consequence taken from the decemviri, and they themselves received sentences of condemnation.

[19] In the three hundred and fifteenth year from the founding of the city,note the Fidenates rebelled against the Romans. The Veientes and their king Tolumnius gave them assistance. These two states are so near to Rome, that Fidenae is only seven, Veii only eighteen miles distant. The Volsci also joined them; but they were defeated by Marcus Aemilius the dictator, and Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus the master of the horse, and lost also their king. Fidenae was taken, and utterly destroyed.

[20] Twenty years afterwards, the people of Veii resumed hostilities. Furius Camillus was sent as dictator against them, who first defeated them in battle, and then, after a long siege, took their city, the oldest and richest in Italy.note He next took Falerii, a city of no less note. But popular odium was excited against him, on the ground that he had made an unfair division of the booty, and he was condemned on that charge and banished.

Soon after the Gallic Senones marched towards Rome; and, pursuing the Romans, whom they defeated at the river Allia,note eleven miles from the city, possessed themselves of the city itself, no part of which could be defended against them, except the Capitol. After they had besieged it a long time, and the Romans were suffering from famine, Camillus, who was in exile in a neighboring city, attacked the Gauls unexpectedly, and gave them a severe defeat.

Afterwards, on receiving a sum in gold, to desist from the siege of the Capitol, they retreated; Camillus, however, pursued them, and routed them with such a slaughter, that he recovered both the gold which had been given to them, and all the military standards which they had taken. Thus he entered the city for the third time in triumph, and received the appellation of a second Romulus, as if he also had been a founder of the city.