Eutropius, Short History 7

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.

[1] After the assassination of Caesar, in about the seven hundred and ninth year of the city,note the civil wars were renewed; for the Senate favored the assassins of Caesar; and Antony, the consul, being of Caesar's party, endeavored to crush them in a civil war. The state therefore being thrown into confusion, Antony, perpetrating many acts of violence, was declared an enemy by the Senate.

The two consuls, Pansa and Hirtius, were sent in pursuit of him, together with Octavian, a youth of eighteen years of age, the nephew of Caesar, whom by his will he had appointed his heir, directing him to bear his name; this is the same who was afterwards called Augustus, and obtained the imperial dignity. These three generals therefore marching against Antony, defeated him. It happened, however, that the two victorious consuls lost their lives; and the three armies in consequence became subject to Caesar only.

[2] Antony, being routed, and having lost his army, fled to Lepidus, who had been master of the horse to Caesar, and was at that time in possession of a strong body of forces, by whom he was well received. By the mediation of Lepidus, Caesar shortly after made peace with Antony, and, as if with intent to avenge the death of his father, by whom he had been adopted in his will, marched to Rome at the head of an army, and forcibly procured his appointment to the consulship in his twentieth year. In conjunction with Antony and Lepidus he proscribed the Senate, and proceeded to make himself master of the state by arms. By their acts, Cicero the orator, and many others of the nobility, were put to death.

[3] In the meantime Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Caesar, raised a great war; for there were several armies in Macedonia and the East, of which they took the command. Caesar Octavian Augustus, therefore, and Mark Antony, proceeding against them (for Lepidus remained for the defence of Italy), came to an engagement at Philippi, a city of Macedonia. In the first battle Antony and Caesar were defeated, but Cassius, the leader of the nobility, fell; in the second they defeated and killed Brutus, and very many of the nobility who had joined them in the war; and the republic was divided among the conquerors, so that Augustus had Spain, the Gauls, and Italy; Antony, Asia, Pontus, and the East. But the consul Lucius Antonius, the brother of him who had fought with Caesar against Brutus and Cassius, kindled a civil war in Italy; and being defeated near Perusia, a city of Tuscany, was taken prisoner, but not put to death.

[4] In the meantime a war of a serious nature was excited in Sicily by Sextus Pompey, the son of Gnaeus Pompey the Great, those that survived of the party of Brutus and Cassius flocking to join him from all parts. The war against Sextus Pompey was carried on by Caesar Augustus Octavian and Mark Antony. A peace was at length concluded.

[5] About that time Marcus Agrippa met with great success in Aquitania; also Lucius Ventidius Bassus defeated the Persians, who were making incursions into Syria, in three engagements. He killed Pacorus, the son of king Orodes, on that very day on which Orodes, the king of the Persians, had before put Crassus to death by the hands of his general Surena. He was the first who celebrated a most legitimate triumph at Rome over the Parthians.

[6] In the meantime Sextus Pompey violated the peace, and, being defeated in a sea-fight, fled to Asia, and was there put to death.

Antony, who was master of Asia and the East, having divorced the sister of Caesar Augustus Octavian, married Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. He also fought in person against the Persians, and defeated them in the first encounters; but on his return suffered greatly from famine and pestilence; and as the Parthians pressed on him in his retreat, he retired from before them just as if he had been defeated.

[7] He also excited a great civil war, at the instigation of his wife Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, who aspired with a womanish ambition to reign at Rome. He was defeated by Augustus in the remarkable and celebrated sea-fight at Actium, a place in Epirus; whence he fled into Egypt, and there, as his circumstances grew desperate, since all went over to Augustus, committed suicide. Cleopatra applied to herself an asp, and perished by its venom. Egypt was added to, the Roman Empire by Octavian Augustus, and Gnaeus Cornelius Gallus appointed governor of it; he was the first Roman judge that Egypt had.

[8] Having thus brought wars to an end throughout the world, Octavian Augustus returned to Rome in the twelfth yearnote after he had been elected consul. From that period he held the government as sole ruler for forty-four years, for during the twelve previous years he had held it in conjunction with Antony and Lepidus. Thus from the beginning of his reign to the end were fifty-six years. He died a natural death in his eighty-sixth year, at the town of Atella in Campania, and his remains are interred at Rome in the Campus Martius. 

He was a man who was considered in most respects, and not without reason, to resemble a divinity, for scarcely ever was there any one more successful than he in war, or more prudent in peace. During the forty-four years that he held the government alone, he conducted himself with the greatest courtesy, being most liberal to all, and most faithful to his friends, whom he raised to such honors, that he placed them almost on a level with his own dignity.

[9] At no period was the Roman state more flourishing; for, to say nothing of the civil wars, in which he was unconquered, he added to the Roman Empire Egypt, Cantabria, Dalmatia, often before conquered but only then entirely subdued, Pannonia, Aquitania, Illyricum, Rhaetia, the Vindelici and Salassi on the Alps, and all the maritime cities of Pontus, among which the two most noble were Bosphorusnote and Panticapaeon. He also conquered the Dacians in battle; put to the sword numerous forces of the Germans; and drove them beyond the river Elbe, which is in the country of the barbarians far beyond the Rhine.

This war however he carried on by the agency of his step-son Drusus, as he had conducted the Pannonian War by that of his other step-son Tiberius, in which he transplanted forty thousand prisoners from Germany, and settled them in Gaul on the bank of the Rhine. Henote recovered Armenia from the Parthians; the Persians gave him hostages, which they had given to no one before; and also restored the Roman standards, which they had taken from Crassus when he was defeated.

[10] The Scythians and Indians, to whom the Roman name was before unknown, sent him presents and ambassadors. Galatia also was made a province under his reign, having before been an independent kingdom, and Marcus Lollius was the first that governed it, in quality of praetor. So much was he beloved even by the barbarians, that kings, allies of the Roman people, founded cities in his honor, to which they gave the name of Caesarea, as one in Mauritania, built by King Juba, and another in Palestine, which is now a very celebrated city.

Many kings, moreover, left their own dominions, and, assuming the Roman dress, that is, the toga, ran by the side of his carriage or his horse. At his death he was styled a divinity. He left the state in a most prosperous condition to his successor Tiberius, who had been his step-son, afterwards his son-in-law, and lastly his son by adoption.

[11] Tiberius distinguished his reign by great indolence, excessive cruelty, unprincipled avarice, and abandoned licentiousness. He fought on no occasion in person; the wars were carried on by his generals. Some kings, whom he induced to visit him by seducing allurements, he never sent back; among them was Archelaus of Cappadocia, whose kingdom also he reduced to the form of a province, and directed that its principal city should be called after his own name; and, having been before called Mazaca, it is now termed Caesarea. He died in Campania, in the three and twentieth year of his reign,note and the eighty-third of his age, to the great joy of all men.

[12] To him succeeded Caius Caesar, surnamed Caligula, the grandson of Drusus, the step-son of Augustus, and grand-nephew of Tiberius himself, a most wicked and cruel prince, who effaced even the memory of Tiberius's enormities. He undertook a war against the Germans; but, after entering Suebia, made no effort to do anything. He committed incest with his sisters, and acknowledged a daughter that he had by one of them. While tyrannizing over all with the utmost avarice, licentiousness, and cruelty, he was assassinated in the palace, in the twenty-ninth year of his age, in the third year, tenth month, and eighth day of his reign.note

[13] After him reigned Claudius, the uncle of Caligula, and son of that Drusus who has a monument at Mogontiacum, whose grandson Caligula also was. His reign was of no striking character; he acted, in many respects, with gentleness and moderation, in some with cruelty and folly.

He made war upon Britain, which no Roman since Julius Caesar had visited; and, having reduced it through the agency of Gnaeus Sentius and Aulus Plautius, illustrious and noble men, he celebrated a magnificent triumph. Certain islands also, called the Orcades, situated in the ocean, beyond Britain, he added to the Roman Empire, and gave his son the name of Britannicus.

So condescending, too, was he towards some of his friends, that he even attended Plautius, a man of noble birth, who had obtained many signal successes in the expedition to Britain, in his triumph, and walked at his left hand when |502 he went up to the Capitol. He lived to the age of sixty-four, and reigned fourteen years; and after his death was consecrated and deified.note

[14] To him succeeded Nero, who greatly resembled his uncle Caligula, and both disgraced and weakened the Roman Empire; he indulged in such extraordinary luxury and extravagance, that, after the example of Caius Caligula, he even bathed in hot and cold perfumes, and fished with golden nets, which he drew up with cords of purple silk. He put to death a very great number of the Senate. To all good men he was an enemy.

At last he exposed himself in so disgraceful a manner, that he danced and sung upon the stage in the dress of a harp-player and tragedian. He was guilty of many murders, his brother, wife, and mother, being put to death by him. He set on fire the city of Rome, that he might enjoy the sight of a spectacle such as Troy formerly presented when taken and burned.

In military affairs he attempted nothing. Britain he almost lost; for two of its most noble towns were taken and levelled to the ground under his reign. The Parthians took from him Armenia, and compelled the Roman legions to pass under the yoke. Two provinces however were formed under him; Pontus Polemoniacus, by the concession of King Polemon; and the Cottian Alps, on the death of King Cottius.

[15] When, having become detestable by such conduct to the city of Rome, and being deserted at the same time by every one, and declared an enemy by the Senate, he was sought for to be led to punishment (the punishment being, that he should be dragged naked through the streets, with a fork placed under his head, be beaten to death with rods, and then hurled from the Tarpeian rock), he fled from the palace, and killed himself in a suburban villa of one of his freed-men, between the Salarian and Nomentane roads, at the fourth milestone from the city.

He built those hot baths at Rome, which were formerly called the Neronian, but now the Alexandrian. He died in the thirty-second year of his age, and the fourteenth year of his reign;note and in him all the family of Augustus became extinct.

[16] To Nero succeeded Servius Galba, a senator of a very ancient and noble family, elected emperor when in his seventy-third year by the Spaniards and Gauls, and soon after readily acknowledged by the whole army; for his life, though but that of a private person, had been distinguished by many military and civil exploits, having been often consul, often proconsul, and frequently general in most important wars. His reign was short,note but had a promising commencement, except that he seemed to incline too much to severity. He was killed however by the treachery of Otho, in the seventh month of his reign, in the forum at Rome, and buried in his gardens, which are situated in the Aurelian way, not far from the city.

[17] Otho, after Galba was killed, took possession of the government, a man of a nobler descent on the mother's than the father's side, but obscure on neither. In private life he was effeminate, and an intimate of Nero; in his government he could give no evidence of his disposition; for Vitellius, about the same time that Otho had slain Galba, having been also chosen emperor by the German armies, Otho, having commenced a war against him, and having sustained a defeat in a slight skirmish near Bedriacum in Italy, voluntarily, though he had still powerful forces remaining, put an end to his life, in spite of the entreaties of his soldiers that he would not so soon despair of the issue of the war; saying, "that he was not of sufficient importance that a civil war should be raised on his account." He perished thus voluntarily in the thirty-eighth year of his age, and on the ninety-fifth day of his reign.note

[18] Vitellius next obtained the imperial dignity, of a family rather honorable than noble, for his father was not of very high birth, though he had filled three regular consulships. He reigned most disgracefully, being distinguished by the greatest cruelty, but especially by gluttony and voraciousness, since he is reported to have often feasted four or five times a day. A most remarkable supper at least has been recorded, which his brother Vitellius set before him, and in which, besides other expensive dainties, two thousand fishes and seven thousand birds are said to have been placed on the table.

Being anxious to resemble Nero, and aiming so openly at this that he even paid respect to his remains, which had been meanly buried, he was slain by the generals of the emperor Vespasian, Vitellius having previously put to death Sabinus, Vespasian's brother, and burned his corpse at the same time with the Capitol.

When killed, he was dragged naked, with great ignominy, through the public streets of the city, with his hair erect, and his head raised by means of a sword placed under his chin, and pelted with dung on the face and breast by all that came in the way; at last his throat was cut, and he was thrown into the Tiber, and had not even the common rites of burial. He perished in the fifty-seventh year of his age, in the eighth month and first day of his reign.note

[19] To him succeeded Vespasian, who had been chosen emperor in Palestine, a prince indeed of obscure birth, but worthy to be compared with the best emperors, and in private life greatly distinguished, as he had been sent by Claudius into Germany, and afterwards into Britain, and had contended two and thirty times with the enemy; he had also added to the Roman Empire two very powerful nations, twenty towns, and the Isle of Wight on the coast of Britain.

At Rome he acted with the greatest forbearance during his government; though he was rather too eager after money; not however that he deprived any one of it unjustly, and even when he had collected it with the greatest diligence and anxiety, he was in the habit of distributing it most readily, especially to the indigent; nor was the liberality of any prince before him greater or more judicious: he was also of a most mild and amiable disposition, insomuch that he never willingly inflicted a severer penalty than banishment, even on persons convicted of treason against himself.

Under this prince Judaea was added to the Roman Empire, and Jerusalem, the most celebrated city of Palestine. He also reduced to the form of provinces Achaea, Lycia, Rhodes, Byzantium, Samos, which had been free till this period; together with Thrace, Cilicia, and Commagene, which had been governed by their respective kings in alliance with the Romans.

[20] Offences and animosities he never bore in mind; reproaches uttered against himself by lawyers and philosophers he bore with indulgence, but was a strenuous enforcer of military discipline. He triumphed, together with his son Titus, on account of the taking of Jerusalem.

After having thus become an object of love and favor with the Senate and the people, and indeed with all men, he died of a diarrhoea, in his own villa in the Sabine country, in the sixty-ninth year of his age, the ninth year and seventh day of his reign; and was enrolled among the gods.note

[21] To him succeeded his son Titus, who was also called Vespasian, a man remarkable for every species of virtue, so that he was styled the favorite and delight of mankind. He was extremely eloquent, warlike, and temperate; he pleaded causes in Latin, and composed poems and tragedies in Greek. At the siege of Jerusalem, while serving under his father, he killed twelve of the besieged with wounds from as many arrows.

During his government at Rome, such was his lenity towards the citizens, that he did not punish a single person; and even some that were convicted of a conspiracy against himself he released, and treated them on the same terms of intimacy as before. Such was his good-nature and generosity, that he never refused any thing to any one, and being blamed by his friends on this account, replied, that no one ought to leave an emperor in discontent. Hence, having recollected once at supper, that he had conferred no obligation on any one that day, he exclaimed: "O, my friends! I have lost this day!"

He built an amphitheatre at Rome, and slaughtered five thousand wild beasts at the dedication of it.

[22] While beloved for such conduct, with extraordinary affection, he fell ill and died in the same villa as his father, two years, eight months, and twenty days after he became emperor, and in the forty-second year of his age.note So great was the public lamentation on his death, that all mourned as for a loss in their own families. The Senate, having received intelligence of his death about the evening, hurried into the Senate House in the night, and heaped upon him after his death even more expressions of good will and commendation, than they had uttered when he was alive and present among them. He was enrolled among the gods.

[23] Domitian next received the imperial dignity, the younger brother of Titus, but more like Nero, or Caligula, or Tiberius, than his father or brother. In the commencement however of his reign he used his power with moderation; but, soon proceeding to the greatest excesses of licentiousness, rage, cruelty, and avarice, he provoked such universal detestation, that he effaced the remembrance of his father's and his brother's merits. He put to death the most distinguished of the Senate. He was the first that required to be addressed as Lord and God; and he suffered no statue to be erected to him in the Capitol except of gold or silver. He put his own cousins to death. His pride also was execrable.

He made four expeditions, one against the Sarmatians, another against the Chatti, and two against the Dacians. On account of the Dacians and the Chatti he celebrated a double triumph; for the Sarmatians, he assumed only the laurel. He suffered many disasters however in these wars, for in Sarmatia one of his legions was cut off together with its captain, and by the Dacians Oppius Sabinus, a person of consular dignity, and Cornelius Fuscus, the prefect of the praetorian cohort, were slain, with numerous armies. At Rome he also erected several public buildings, among which were the Capitol, the Forum Transitorium, the Odeum, the Porticus Divorum, the temples of Isis and Serapis, and the Stadium.

But, becoming universally odious on account of his crimes, he was put to death by a conspiracy of his own servants within the palace, in the forty-fifth year of his age, and the fifteenth of his reign. His corpse was carried out with extreme insult by common bearers, and buried ignominiously.note