Episode 45 – Fabius Rullianus and Papirius Cursor

— “Fortified camps are to be defended by arms, rather than arms being defended by fortified camps,” Rullianus said.

A flashback of an encounter between two heroes of the Samnite Wars. Papirius Cursor and Fabius Rullianus.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 45 — Fabius Rullianus and Papirius Cursor.

The Ciminian forest was one of those primitive places — created in the times before gods and humans, and its purpose was to keep Romans and Etruscans apart.

There were no roads through it, and even the edges of the forest — the way they looked — they caused utter angst in Rome’s population.

Nobody ever dared to get tino the Ciminian forest, up until the fourth century before Christ.

What’s more, when the Roman Senate, explicitly gave orders to Consul Fabius Maximus Rullianus to NOT to enter the confines of the forest, and when he did so — chasing Etruscans, and when he emerged unscathed from the the forest, the Romans — at first — had thoughts about letting him back into the city, for they feared that evil spirits had taken possession of the souls of the Consul, and all his soldiers.

At least — this is how our dear Livy told the story.

Yup.

This forest — partly fossilized, and partly so densely overgrown that sunshine couldn’t make it through — was one of the few regions in Italy that still held soft ground between the roots of its trees.

It’s called permafrost. It’s soft ground had low temperatures — so low, that they never get to solidify.

And so, the forest kept swallowing beasts, trapped in the soft ground. From wild boars to deers, they got stuck in there, as if it were quicksand, and this area of permafrost sometimes went all the way to the region where the Tiber river met the Apennine hills.

To put it briefly, this woodland was the perfect natural border, between Rome and Etruria, for the better part of four centuries.

But….

We are not here to talk about how Fabius Rullianus crossed that forest, even if it was in direct disobedience of the Roman Senate.

Because — after all — this happened in the year 310 BC, and we didn’t make it to that year, yet.

Which means, we still have the Third Samnite War ahead of us.

And — had it NOT been, that the Samnites got such a BAD beating from the Romans — at the Battle of Sutrium, perhaps, Rullianus never had the need to get into that forest, in the first place.

This was partly — because the town of Sutrium was literally at the edge of the Ciminian Forest, and when the Etruscans went running into the woodland, the Romans had to — either, loose them, or follow them.

So, then…

We are here to talk about, the other time, Rullianus disobeyed an order.

Just — that time, it wasn’t with the Senate of Rome.

That time, he ignored orders of a Dictator of Rome.

And that Dictator was none less than a man, named Lucius Papirius Cursor.

[…]

On one hand — they could not counter Papirius, for two reasons.

ONE — He was not a Consul — he was a Dictator. He just had the power. Period.

AND TWO — Denying him something of this magnitude, or defending someone who had openly disobeyed him, did not look good.

Yep, it was a bad precedent to future generations, and the Senate was not willing to publicly weaken the position of a Dictator.

But on the other hand, they didn’t want to have Rullianus punished. After all, he just managed to beat the Samnites, and thanks to his preemptive actions, Rome could focus on other things, for this whole year.

And being able to focus on other things, instead of warfare, meant that Rome could make money.

Suddenly, this year looked like a surplus-year, and all thanks to the quick wit of a man, who directly disobeyed his superior, and brought back some 20 thousand slaves to Rome.

[…]

Episode 44 – Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus

— In order to really appreciate the beauty of a beach, one should not be swimming in the sea, neck-deep in the water.

Second installment of our Biography episodes. This time, we tackle Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus.

Partial Transcript

Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus — two names we heard along this podcast, again and again.

This — undoubtedly means, that — as faithful learners of Ancient Rome, we often depend on these two characters, in the same way we depend on what Virgil and Titus Livius wrote, which we’ve seen in our episode 40.

We depend on Plutarch for how he described those early beginnings of Rome. We also depend on him for his masterpiece, called “Parallel Lives” and the way he portrayed Romans and Greeks who lived in his times and the times before him.

We’ll talk about Parallel Lives a lot more, in this episode.

We also depend on Dionysius of Halicarnassus for the way he wrote, and his unique point of view, just to name two of his powers. But — perhaps, his biggest power was his world famous sobriety when writing about Rome. His refreshing view of men and their faults.

Well — that’s also something we’ll see today, further down the line.

But first, I want to list a few of the biggest differences that come to mind, between these two giants and the other two guys we had in Episode 40 — Livy and Virgil.

Here we go.

ONE — By reading their works, it is easy to infer that both Livy and Virgil were more — should I say — lost, when it came to writing.

Even though this is my opinion, I believe that Livy and Virgil sailed the oceans of their imaginations, without guidelines on where they would find themselves after dark, almost as if it didn’t really matter if they were even able to drop anchors, at the end of each chapter.

Plutarch and Dionysius — on the other hand, seemed to know the direction of their vessels very well. It almost feels like they knew the winds, the currents, and even the depth of the waters they were sailing through.

At the end of each paragraph, they already knew the next port of call, and they knew the weather patterns that would allow them to get there.

In writer’s terms — to me, Livy and Virgil were much more like “pantsers” — writing by the seat of their pants, while Plutarch and Dionysius were much more like “plotters.”

For those not familiar with these two terms — pantsers versus plotters, here is a side-note.

Pantsers start writing a novel — usually without much of a plan, and let their imaginations fly, and take them were they may take them. They develop story plots on the fly, and add sub-plots to their main story as they go.

Plotters do the opposite. They lay out the plot, the sub-plots, and even the changes that story characters go through, before starting chapter one. After that, they write it all down.

In general, we consider that most writers fall into one of these two categories, but the truth is, that we all have parts of both sides.

[…]

And now, without any further ado, here are TEN pairs of Greek and Roman lives, in no particular order.

ONE — Theseus and Romulus — mythical founders of Athens and Rome, respectively.

TWO — Lycurgus and Numa Pompilius

THREE — Themistocles and Camillus. Yep — that Marcus Furius Camillus!

FOUR — Pericles and Fabius Maximus

FIVE — Alcibiades and Gaius Marcius Coriolanus

SIX — Aristides and Cato the Elder

SEVEN — Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius — How fitting is that!

EIGHT — Lysander and Sulla

NINE — Demosthenes and Cicero

And finally — TEN — Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar

My personal opinion? What an honor for Julius Caesar!

[…]

Episode 43 – The Appian Way – Part Two

— The wheelbarrow as we know it, made its appearance in Europe around the tenth century, at the height of the Dark Ages.

Part Two of the Appian Way. Tools, laws, and lists of other Roman roads, used at the time.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast. The Tale of Rome, Episode 43 — The Appian Way – Part Two.

— “One more step, to your left!”

The boy, holding the heavy groma, and some 40 paces away from the surveyor, didn’t hear the order. 

And so — he didn’t move.

— “To the left, I told you,” the surveyor yelled.

The boy, now startled, jumped to his left. The poor apprentice couldn’t get a single word, because of the strong gale blowing east from the sea. 

— “A single step, I told you!” The surveyor was running out of time and patience. “What a stulte, this boy,” he muttered to himself.

Stulte was the word for “slow” in Latin, especially when someone was — sort of, slow to understand things.

In plain English, it would also mean dumb, or dim-witted.

So when the boy tried to get back to where he thought the man wanted him to stay, he tripped on a rock.

As he tried to avoid the fall, he held on to the groma, and its ferrous tip bent into an awkward angle. 

And to make matters worse, one of the handles of the groma broke off, as the apprentice tried to hold on to it.

The main pole hit the ground, and so did the boy.

Like that, the groma was useless.

[…]

Miles and miles of swamps, infested with cattails, frogs, mosquitoes and the ocasional corpses of animals and men, that just couldn’t make it through the land.

Here, I would like to add two things.

One one hand, the Appian Way wasn’t built in all its length in the year 312 BC. That year, it only got to Capua.

And later on — in the year 291 BC, to be more precise, the road would reach the locality of Venusia. We are still some 20 years away from that.

And then — another 10 years later, the Appian Way would finally reach Tarentum.

By that time, we will be dealing with a whole new topic.

The upcoming wars against Pyrrhus of Epirus.

And then — after that, the Appian Way will go all the way to the heel of Italy. That is Brundisium.

And after that, the road will make a giant U-turn, and snake its way to the other end of Italy. The point where the continent is at its nearest with the island of Sicily.

Centuries later, under the reign of Emperor Trajan, the Appian Way will become a true masterpiece for its times.

OK, and on the other hand, I need to make a short list of Roman roads — or ways, rather, that ALREADY existed before the construction of the Appian Way.

[…]

Episode 42 – The Appian Way

— And more than once, it happened that clients would get the wrong door, and walk into the school, before they realized, there were no girls there, but young students instead.

The Roman road that would make Rome the undisputed powerhouse of Italy. And the life of Appius Claudius, the maker of that road.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 42 — The Appian Way.

No other road, path, or route of communication has changed the history of the western world as much as the Appian Way, today also known as the Old Appian Way.

Natural passage points, or itineraries, that people used by land — such as the Silk Road, the Amber Road, and their maritime counterparts — such as the Strait of Gibraltar — they all can claim their own importance, and yes, they did their fair share, to alter history in their own ways.

As another example, we have the pathway between the locality of Marathon and Athens, which was traveled by a Greek soldier in record time, so that he could pass the news, that the Persians had been defeated. Of course, the mere concept of this distance proved of so much importance in our western world, that today we have an Olympic sport, bearing the name and the distance, of that very pathway.

Marathon!

But — all these are not proper routes — properly designed, planned, traced out, and set up.

The Silk Road was never marked along the whole way. Yes, there were milestone points, and there were knots where people just had to pass through, but those were mostly dictated by nature, or by a government. Not by a designer.

And the Silk Road has never been methodically curated, kept up, and renovated, not by any stretch of the imagination. It served its purpose, sure. But the purpose was very different.

So, when we talk about a road, a cobbled road — and, to make it more specific, a Roman road, this road — the one we are talking about today, truly changed the course of the history of Rome.

Not only because it was the first of its kind, but also because until today, it still remains being the most famous one. And that’s just one of the reasons.

So, today we are dedicating our entire episode to the reasons behind this road.

And to why a Roman Censor, named Appius Claudius, a man of Sabine origin, was pushing so hard through the political system, to get this road done.

And — last but not least, we also wanna learn that this man wouldn’t be stopped from building this road, even as total blindness set in, during the last 15-or-so years of his illustrious life.

So much so, that we will know him as Appius Claudius, the Blind.

And since we will be talking of this man, we should not forget the other masterpiece of his, the just as famous Aqua Appia — in other words, the first aqueduct that brought clean water to Rome, from the mountains.

Yes — it was a subterranean waterway, but the merit still stands.

But before we go talk about Appius Claudius, and the Appian Way, or the Aqua Appia, I want to tell you guys about the dilemma I had to face this week.

When it was time to pick a celebrity phrase, to put it as some kind of GRAND SUBTITLE, for the Appian Way, I found out I had way too many choices.

Too many strategists, generals, writers, historians — past and present, had their say about the Appian Way, and so — it really wasn’t easy to make a choice.

So…

In the end, I picked what a certain Publius Papinius Statius said about the Appian Way, around the year 69 after the birth of Christ.

It was the year when this man — Statius, moved from Neapolis to Rome, and this is what he said:

APPIA LONGARUM — TERITUR REGINA VIARUM

[…]

How many times did Romans have to march from Rome to Capua, during the last — say, 10 years?

Yep. I didn’t count, but for sure — many, many times.

It becomes clear — almost immediately, that — rather sooner than later, someone would show up, and say, hey — we can’t keep dragging ourselves through the swamps that lay between Rome and the south.

— Let’s do something about it!

And this man, was Roman Censor Appius Claudius.

And yes — this was not a matter of “if” the road was going to be built some day. It was a matter “when.”

Besides, those swamps along the Italian coast were a breeding ground for disease.

Those swamps, called the Paudine Swamps, also known as the Pontine Marshes, were very characteristic of the region, where rivers were often short, and had not enough drag to make it through the lowlands, west of the Apennines.

That created large areas of marches. Breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

[…]

Episode 41 – The End of the Great War

— In the end, Gaius Pontius saw that his old father — Herennius Pontius, had been right all along. Samnia now had a deadly enemy called Rome, and all Romans could think of, was vengeance.

The end of the Second Samnite War, from the fall of Apulia, to the inspection of Samnia, by Consul Publius Sempronius.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Sanya, in the south of China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome. Episode 41 — The End of the Great War.

We are in the year 435 of the Founding of the City. By our accounts, that is the year 319 BC.

Early morning. It’s the first day of the year.

Not the first day of the Julian Calendar — that would come centuries later — but, the first day of the Calendar, as it was set by Romulus, and Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome.

And the business of this first day of the year, was to elect the two new Consuls for the year.

Serious business.

Senators old and young, were hurrying to the building of the Curia, for — two really important decisions, depended on today’s vote.

On one hand, somebody would have to deal with the consequences of what happened at the Caudine Forks.

And, on the other hand, there was a law that was going to — either pass, or not pass.

And that law, had nothing to do with war, or the humiliating defeat at the Caudine Forks.

That law, if passed, would take away one certain power from Consuls, and would give it to the new guys in town.

The Censors.

That’s right — if today’s law passed, Censors would become the ones, who would have the power to remove someone from the Senate, and there was a myriad of reasons why this could happen.

So, anyways.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what was going on, I would like to read a short list of six items, on how a Senator’s day went on, when it was time to pass new laws, welcome new Senators into the house, and other (smaller) business at hand.

ONE — Before the start of any important session, Senators would go to the Augurs, or Oracles, and see if the day in question, was actually good for passing new laws, or any other business.

At that time, there were four guys with sufficient authority in all of Rome, to decide whether the day was auspicious or not.

We’ll talk more about this further down the line.

TWO — Before any voting, there were speeches. Always. Even if the voting was as trivial as the naming of a street, a speech was to be had.

THREE — Sometimes these speeches went really long. And I mean, long!

[…]

A huge army from Tarentum showed up on the horizon, just as Romans and Samnites were about to get running into each other’s throats.

Their trumpets stopped everyone, and the Tarentines announced that this battle was being ordered, canceled.

That’s right! Canceled! And the Tarentines even said that whoever made a move to attack the other side, the army of Tarentum would immediately join the other side, and make the aggressors lose the whole fight.

Right away, the Romans called up their oracle, and checked on their sacred chicken.

The chicken said — well, they didn’t say a thing — the oracle said, the gods were totally in favor of a frontal, brutal, battle, and that Rome was not to be afraid of the new arrival.

And so — they made their battle formations, and started to walk forward.

[…]

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.”

[…]