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Episode 40 – Livy and Virgil

— Instead, people die the day nobody ever talks about them, or even thinks about them.

A biography episode in The Tale of Rome. We compare and contrast two giants of their time. Livy and Virgil.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 40 — Livy and Virgil.

Virgil and Livy — Livy and Virgil. At the end of the day, the order of these two names doesn’t really matter. However — I felt like sharing why I chose to name this episode, the way I did.

Our podcast started with a story where a guy named Aeneas was fleeing from a city called Troy. This was obviously brought to us by Virgil.

Still — I decided to put Livy’s name first, on the cover of the episode.

And no — the reason is NOT their looks. I can promise you that. This is not a beauty contest!

But, after I picked the two pictures that would illustrate this episode’s cover, I ended up having Livy — full front, and Virgil, seen from a side.

So…

Had I placed Virgil on the left side of the cover, he would be facing away from Livy. Not nice!

And since we — and when I say “we,” I mean the vast majority of readers in the western world — since we usually write from left to right, the title ended up being “Livy and Virgil,” because — well… Livy was on the left, and Virgil was on the right.

All right, that’s sorted out!

And now, let’s start this story, and let’s start it this way…

We are in the year 18 AD — AD, as in ANNO DOMINI, or “after the birth of Christ.”

A ship was arriving in Rome’s port. And I am not talking about the port of Ostia, the one built by the fourth king of Rome — Ancus Marcius.

I am talking about another port — a few hundred miles south.

Portus Julius.

[…]

SIX — While Livy would sometimes write up to 20 pages a day, Virgil had days where not even a single sentence was created.

Furthermore, if it wasn’t that Virgil’s death wish was deliberately disobeyed, today we would not have his works. Nothing.

That’s right. The whole Aeneid would have been burned. That was the wish of Virgil, on his deathbed. And what’s even more curious, Virgil never considered his Aeneid as a complete work of art.

On a personal note, that’s understandable. Artists are often like that.

[…]

Hiatus

Farewell, for now…

Hello, friends. Sadly, I have to let you guys know that my podcast The Tale of Rome will stop broadcasting for the time being. I might be back in a few weeks, and yes, Episode 40 (Livy and Virgil) will be published in the next few days. But after that I will discontinue the podcast for a bit.

I was already busy with three podcasts and one Patreon site, so something had to give. For a while I thought I would be able to keep it up, but personal issues gave me the coup de grace.

The Spanish and Chinese versions continue unaffected, as well as the Patreon site.

Farewell, and may God Bless You All!

Episode 39 – State of the Union – 320 BC

— From this point of view, I can hardly wait until we get to the Emperors!

A view of the world, three years after the death of Alexander the Great, and right after Rome’s most humiliating defeat, up to this point.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 39 — State of the Union – 320 BC.

This is our third episode of the State of the Union, and as I said in our episode 13, at this time we already have many of the styles, and other standards set, for this type of episodes.

Slowly, but surely, these episodes — every 13th episode, will become tradition in this podcast.

Alright. We find ourselves in the year 320 BC. just after the shameful defeat at the already famous Caudine Forks.

So during this episode, we’re going to divide our time into three sections, as follows:

ONE — let’s see what happened to those troops on their way to Rome, and what were the next events before closing that year.

TWO — we’re going to give our typical eagle flight around the world of Rome, just as we did in our episodes 13 and 26.

AND THREE — let’s do a quick review of the people who ruled Rome’s fates, between the years 390 and 320 BC. just like we did last time.

And as always, during this episode we won’t have our segment of the Latin Word of the Week, so that’s going to be left for our next REGULAR episode.

Let’s start now!

[…]

He says that Alexander gave his ring to Perdicas, a bodyguard of his, nominating him as a successor, by doing so.

Anyway, Perdicas did never try to get the throne, and instead, he said that the heir should be Roxanne’s son, if he was born male. He also said, that the baby would have Crateros, Leonnatus, Antipater, and himself, as guardians, until the boy would grow up, and then govern by himself.

Obviously, that plan was rejected. Perdicas was killed two years later.

The unity of Macedonia collapsed, and 40 years of war erupted among the successors. These successors were now known, as the Diadochi. And at the end of that period, four clear blocks emerged. And for a time being, these blocks maintained some stability:

Egypt belonged to the Ptolemy’s.

Mesopotamia became part of the upcoming Seleucid Empire.

Anatolia went to Lysimachus.

And finally, Macedonia went to Antigonus.

[…]

Episode 38 – The First Gladiators

— The Romans are a people who do NOT know how to remain quiet after a defeat.

Part two of the Roman defeat, at the Caudine Forks. Also, a tribute to those very first gladiators of Rome.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 38 — The First Gladiators.

If last episode’s thing was closure — or loss, then today’s episode thing is SHAME.

Yep — SHAME.

Last episode we had closures.

The Latin War. Decius Mus. Villages and peoples of Italy.

Marcus, the Gladiator. And his mother, Aeliana, who died less than a month after Marcia.

In this episode, the topics are shame and humiliation, and we’ll see why.

In Rome, news arrived that the troops got caught at the Caudine Forks.

No-one knew exactly, how many were caught, and all the details of the event, but this was more than enough for an emergency session at the Senate of Rome.

And even before that EMERGENCY SESSION went into gear, the Senators dispatched orders. A new army would be raised, because they didn’t know what exactly happened.

For all intents and purposes, the army could be dead by now. All of them.

Less than a week later, however, fresher — and more reliable news broke.

And that’s when the entire city felt the humiliation of the event.

Unbearable shame.

50,000 Roman soldiers surrendered — without ever drawing a single sword, to a guy called Gaius Pontius.

[…]

Well, to make a long story short, our old Marcus, knew that his next fight might as well be his last one.

And because of that, he invited his nephew, to watch him die.

—”Spurius,” Marcus said,  as they walked past markets and shops, “Rome will soon be the master of this whole region. Not just Capua, but the whole south of Italy. And I don’t want to be alive, by the time that happens.”

—”What are you trying to tell me,” Spurius asked.

—”In seven days I get to face Croccus,” Marcus said.

— “Croccus — The lion killer?”

— “That’s right.”

[…]

Episode 37 – The Caudine Forks

— Aeliana’s body was placed on the left side of her husband Lucius’ body.

Everything was going fine for the Romans, until they walked into a canyon, and got trapped. The most humiliating defeat for 50,000 Roman soldiers, at the Caudine Forks.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 37 — The Caudine Forks.

During our last episode, we saw the end of many things. Many, many, things.

The end of Publius Decius Mus, for he sacrificed himself on the battlefield.

The end of Titus Manlius Torcuatus, in the books of Livy, for Livy banned him from his books, after the sacrifice of his own son.

The end of the war against the Latins. The end of many peoples of Italy, such as the Sidicines, the Auruncians, the Volsci, and the Campanians, as free people. Yes, some lived on — under the strict yoke of Rome.

It was also the end of the Latin League.

And, yes — I was also the end of a respected Senator from Tusculum. Latin landowner and aristocrat Annius saw the end of his life, when he rolled down the stairs, at the very Roman Senate.

We also saw the end of the Athenian resistance against King Philip II of Macedon, who just married yet another wife — a girl named Cleopatra of Macedon.

I think, she was like, his sixth or seventh wife.

And finally, I sadly announce that today we have yet another loss — this time from Ostia.

In an event that happened all too often in Rome, and in cities built by Romans, the three-story insulae, where our good old slave lived, burst into flames, on a moonless night.

Our slave had no time of getting down the stairs from his third floor, and while people were trying to get themselves to safety, a woman slipped on the stairs and — grabbing her husband, she dragged them both to their death.

The fire devoured the entire block by the port of Ostia.

[…]

Well, before the Romans entered the valley through the narrow pass, the Consuls sent troops ahead, to go see if something was amiss.

The soldiers returned saying that everything seemed just fine, and that the valley was completely empty.

But when the Roman troops began to march through the gorge, the Triarii, the most veteran soldiers, began to sense that something, was wrong indeed.

It was just too calm, and they didn’t like it at all.

And just when the last regiment of the Romans passed through the canyon, and just when the first part of the forces reached the exit of the canyon, they found it blocked with rocks and logs.

Noticing they were trapped, they quickly began to walk back, but by then, the first entrance was blocked, too.

Samnites were standing there, watching the Romans from above.

[…]

Episode 36 – Death by the Volcano

— For thinking that the enemy sent his Triarii too early, the Latins ended up sending their own ones too early, and that cost them the battle.

Latins against Romans, on the slopes of Italy’s most famous volcano. And in this battle, we see the death of Publius Decius Mus — the same guy who earned the renowned Grass Crown, years earlier.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 36 — Death by the Volcano.

— “You snake!”

— “You are the snake!”

— “Coward!”

— “I’ll show you who’s the coward!”

— “I dare you!”

When Decius he wanted to step forward, his heart beating like a drum, he hit the dry, hard floor next to the bed. With an insult, the Consul was now really awake from his sleep.

The dream was gone.

And in that dream, the volcano was talking to Decius.

The volcano was taunting him, all the while spewing fire serpents, and eating up the entire Roman army.

— “One of the two will die before sundown,” he heard the volcano say.

A bit later, he told Manlius Torquatus about the dream.

[…]

ONE — Just as the trumpets sounded, and as was customary in the Roman legion, the oracles of the army threw food at the sacred hens, and they confirmed what everyone feared.

A whole Roman flank, and one of the consuls of Rome, would end up dying.

TWO — Decius Mus rode out on the left side of the Roman army, and Torquatus on the right side.

In other words, Decius was on the slope of the volcano, and Torquatus on the side to the sea, being that they were facing in a south-southeast direction.

THREE — Latins began to tighten the ranks on both sides, but during the first clash neither of the two side gave up a single yard.

One of the flanks of Torquatus was deployed about a hundred meters behind, due to some irregularities of the terrain, while the troops of Decius were face to face with the Latins.

FOUR — the Sidicines, who, fearing a night attack, did not get a lot of sleep, were the first to fall.

This allowed Torquatus to create a wider row, while maintaining the depth of his Phalanx.

But to Decius, this was neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, and his troops began to break for two reasons. The end of the row was in difficulty with the slope of the volcano, and the cavalry of the Latins threatened to break the row of the Hastati, a lot sooner than they both anticipated.

[…]

Episode 35 – Alexander of Epirus

— Alcetas, Arymbas, Aeacides, and Pyrrhus. Great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and son.

Alexander I of Epirus crosses the sea and comes to Italy, to help Greek cities there. He later dies in a battle against the very people people he came to rescue.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 35 — Alexander of Epirus.

Last week we left off with five open topics, which we will cover in this episode. They are — as follows:

ONE — Our weekly report from Ostia, brought by our loyal slave, who spends entire days on the docks and markets of the port of Rome. This way we get to know what is going on in Greece, since we are in the times of Alexander the Great, and events are too important, to just let them “hang in there” until our episode of the State of the Union.

TWO — The tactics of the Phalanx, at the time of the Roman King Servius Tullius.

As a side note — at the time of Romulus, Romans fought using a system of just one strong leader, leading his equally strong warriors into hand-to-hand fights.

No Phalanxes there, whatsoever.

THREE — The continuation of the situation between Rome and the Latins, after the Roman Senate rejected what they asked from Rome.

FOUR — The continuation of our family saga, now that we know the whereabouts of Marcus, Falvius, and Spurion, the son of Spurious.

AND FIVE — The part where Alexander of Epirus, the uncle of two famous nephews, arrives in Italy, does his thing, and ends up dying in Italy.

[…]

But, just in case, I might as well explain it — briefly.

We already know that the people in southern Italy were somewhat peculiar, and we have already seen how the Campanians turned against Rome, after Rome helped them against the Samnites, in the First Samnite War.

Well, these people —  the people of the Greek colonies in Italy, they were made of the same cloth.

After all the help that Alexander of Epirus gave them — they began thinking that the man would suddenly get ideas of making himself some kind of a king in the region.

Without even checking, if these were facts or fake news, the people of the city of Tarentum created a huge alliance with all the other cities in the south — and they all went up, against Alexander.

What a turn of events!

[…]

Episode 34 – From Crete to Campania

— Our great-grandfather killed for his country. He was defending Rome.

Rome and the Latins ready up for war. Romans begins to change battle tactics, gradually abandoning the Phalanx system. And in Greece, Alexander is 16 years old, by now.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 34 — From Crete to Campania.

If the ship is to be saved, every man must do his duty,

While the ship is still unscathed.

The efforts are futile when the ship sinks.

So, as for Athens, my proposals are ready.

We must make complete preparations for the war.

Athens, at least, must do his duty.

This was part of the oratory of the Athenian Demosthenes, during his speech in what we now know, as the third Philippic, in the year 341 BC.

And it wasn’t strange to compare cities to ships, in those days, I think.

Now, in the year 340 BC, Demosthenes continued to incite Athenians, against the father of Alexander the Great, King Philip the Second.

Alright. We are in the year of the consulship of Titus Manlius Torcuatus and Publius Decius Mus.

Yes, I’m talking about the same Publius Mus, who won the Grass Crown, a few years earlier.

And now, first let’s go to our new segment — News from Ostia.

This will soon become a custom in our podcast — at least for a couple of decades, so let’s see what our slave has learned from merchants, and other people who roamed the streets and docks of Ostia.

[…]

Latins, who sought equality, ended up getting even less equality from Rome.

But we will also see that Rome was not that unfair, at the time of distributing punishments and rewards, because when war ended, Rome began to judge the actions of the Latins, town by town.

Those who joined Rome will become Roman citizens with full rights, including the right to vote.

Those who started out against Rome, but then put themselves on the side of Rome, would get basic rights, that is, the right to trade, and the right to inter-marry, but not the right to vote.

Finally, those who fought up to the last drop of blood, were simply wiped off the map, and sold as slaves, or as gladiators.

[…]

Episode 33 – Latins and Romans

— The Gauls never stopped being a nightmare, deep in the subconscious of the Roman psyche.

Latins and Romans speak the same language, and worship the same gods. But after the first Samnite War, the Latins felt they were stronger than Rome. And they started to hatch plans, and gather allies.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 33 — Latins and Romans.

In those days, news did not travel to Rome — or any other city, they way they do today.

News travelled with the travelers of the time, and of these, the three best known were merchants, soldiers, and prisoners of war. And I dare to say — in that exact order.

And as we are now entering a pivotal time in the history of Greece, Persia, and Macedonia, we are going to send one of our slaves, down to Ostia.

That’s right, we’ll get him a place to live, near the port, if possible on the street that goes along the docks.

His place will consist of a simple room, on a third floor — the worst, in one of the newly built so-called “islands.”

Romans called their buildings islands, or in Latin — INSULAE.

They were horrible to live in, and at this time, the tallest ones were three floors high. I should also mention that these buildings were not exactly fireproof.

And, on a side note, this road near the house where our slave will reside, will probably have a milestone somewhere close, too.

Romans used milestones everywhere, letting travelers know what road they were on, who built the road, and even the name of the local curator for any particular piece of the road.

Travelers would sometimes also get to know how far they were from the nearest rest stop, and the total distance from Rome.

Well — anyways. That employee of ours will have to spend some time in Ostia, and his job will be to simply hang around the docks, and get news, for us.

This means, he will wake up at the earliest hour, get down from his third floor — staircases had no railings at that time, and direct himself to the small square that lay between the forum of Ostia, the marketplace, and the street that leads to the docks.

There, he will try to see if anything worth letting us know, happened during the night.

A fire. A murder. Perhaps someone important might have arrived during the night, on his way to Rome. Anything.

Our slave will then have his brief breakfast. A round loaf of bread, and some olive oil. Not bad, actually. In winter it might be stew, with lettuce or cabbage.

He will hang around the docks until the evening hours, and he’ll be on the lookout for news that ships bring. More precisely, of what is going on between Alexander the Great, and the Persian Empire.

And since these next few years, we expect big changes — our slave will be busy.

And this means, that at the beginning of each episode, or somewhere in the middle, we’ll have a short segment about “NEWS FROM OSTIA” just like we have our “Latin Word of the Week.”

I think this way, we can keep track of both Rome, and Alexander the Great, for the while being.

[…]

When peace was signed between the Samnites and the Romans in the year 341 BC, the Samnites immediately went to attack of their favorite victims: the Sidicines.

These, seeing what Campania did a few years earlier, sent a delegation to Rome to do the same as Capua.

Submit to the authority of Rome, and force the Samnites to find someone else to bully.

But, when this delegation arrived in Rome, the senators told them that by seeing that hostilities between the two peoples were already in full march, it was too late to ask for such a favor.

The truth was, that Rome did not see much interest in the lands the Sidicines occupied, and the Romans allowed the Samnites to continue bullying them.

That’s when the Sidicines went to ask the Campanians for help. These, still angry about the Samnites, agreed to help. They even convinced the Latins to join in the fight.

Of course, the Latins did not need much convincing, because they were already pissed at Rome.

[…]

Episode 32 – Marcus Valerius Corvus

— Apparently, the gods of the Romans didn’t feel like going to bed, on that day.

He was a Consul of Rome at the age of 23. He would be Consul five more times, and dictator twice. And he lived to be 100. This is our small tribute.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 32 — Marcus Valerius Corvus.

The year 342 was hotter than others, and the legionaries garrisoned in Campania felt it firsthand.

Unlike the inhabitants of Capua, and other cities, in the soft and fertile plains of Campania, Roman soldiers lived with the hard life of a legion, as their job — given to them by means of their oath, was to protect the people, and to defend Roman territory, and not necessarily in that order.

And that was what the soldiers were doing — day in, day out.

Left there, to garrison the southern fringes of this new Roman land, they all fulfilled their duties, but inside they all wanted to be in Rome.

Yep.

Further north.

Where it’s not so hot, by Mercury!

That’s right.

While some of them left for Rome, where they would get a triumphal march, this group of soldiers from both Valerius and Cossus, were practically left all alone there, right outside of Capua.

Entertainment was nil. Contact with the locals was almost non-existent.

And so, very soon, these soldiers decided it was not fair that the people of Capua, a bunch of weaklings who could not even defend themselves from the Samnites, were having all the fun, while they — hard-working legionaries had to babysit them.

And, worse, they were not getting any of the fun.

In less than a storm needs to gather, and build up some dark clouds, the ringleaders of the two halves — the guys left by Valerius, and the guys left by Cossus, began to hatch a plan.

A plan of rebellion.

[…]

The Gaul almost fell right there, but he soon got back on his feet.

The black crow just wouldn’t go away!

An then, one second later, the animal made another attack, and this time he tried to get his beak into one of the eyes of the Gaul.

Valerius did not waste any time, and he crouched down, pulled his sword, and he placed the short sword between two ribs of the giant.

The huge warrior now had to worry about the crow, watch his eyes, and he had to fend off the boy.

Bleeding from his stomach, the Gaul ran towards the boy, but again, the raven began to flutter both wings in the face of the barbarian.

That’s when Valerius saw the opening for the second hit.

Another move, and Valerius had his sword half inside the giant’s abdomen, while the raven was still trying to gauge one eye out.

There was no need for a third hit.

The giant fell to his knees, and Valerius let his sword stay there, deep in the giant’s body.

And when the giant fell — face down, the tip of Valerius’ sword came out of the giant’s back.

Three long seconds of silence, and then the Romans began to scream.

[…]