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.

[…]

Episode 31 – The Grass Crown

— Dessert – Sliced Campanian honeydew melon, served with sweet cabbages from the Suessula region, and accompanied by assorted goat cheese from the Apennines.

Mount Gaurus. Saticula. Suessula. And the awesome story of Publius Decius Mus, who singlehandedly saved a bunch of soldiers from certain death.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 31 — The Grass Crown.

We are in the year 343 BC.

Or — if you prefer, the year 411 since the creation of Rome.

It was also known as the year 166, if you would rather count from the founding of the Republic.

But if we want to count years the way Romans did, then we are in the year of the Consulships of Aulus Cornelius Cossus and Marcus Valerius Corvus — that is, the year 343 BC.

And here, we just made a roundabout with years, and numbers, and dates, and we’re still in the year 343 BC.

Saticula, Campania.

High summer – an hour before dawn.

When young Lucius finally saw the troops running towards the camp, and when he saw that – in fact, the Tribune was at their head, his heart went into overdrive.

He ran up the staircase of the tower, trying to see if his brother was among them, but it was still too dark.

Only silhouettes in the dark.

At that moment Marcus joined in.

— “Did you see Publius?”

— “Not yet! But they are running. Maybe the Samnites are behind them. Sound the alarm,” Lucius replied.

— “Open the gates!”

When Decius and the boys ran through the gate, and when the gates safely closed behind them, the entire legion burst into screams of joy.

After they did a recount, everyone realized that Publius Decius Mus, the Military Tribune of Aulus Cornelius Cossus, had not lost one single man, and even the Centurion of the legion came down to meet Decius, still trying to understand how everyone made it alive, from there.

[…]

When Corvus ordered his soldiers to march to Suessula, Cornelius Cossus was still two days away, so Valerius Corvus had only one option left.

The Romans were going to march so lightly that everything – and I mean, everything that was not absolutely essential, was to be left behind.

And, it turns out, that this decision of his, had consequences that not even Corvus himself imagined, because, when the Romans arrived in the vicinity of Suessula, and once they set up their military camp, the building materials were so scarce that the camp ended up being physically much smaller, than a typical Roman camp.

Samnites spies, seeing the size of the Roman camp, informed their chiefs that the Roman unit was not a whole legion — perhaps a third of a Legion, and all decisions the Samnites made from that point on, were based on that mistaken idea.

[…]

Episode 30 – The Samnite Mountains

— While Rome did everything using their own fists and nails, Carthage outsourced the work to others, as to not to get their fists and nails dirty.

Rome will face the Samnites when these decide to attack the southern city of Capua. We also introduce Marcus Valerius Corvus, and Publius Decius Mus.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 30 — The Samnite Mountains.

The famous Roman poet Virgil would sometimes write three sentences in a whole day, and then he would delete them, not happy with his work.

This is what one day, he wrote in his famous work, known as “The Aeneid.”

Remember, Roman,

it is for you to govern the nations.

This will be your task,

impose the ways of peace,

forgive the vanquished,

and tame the proud.

I’m pretty sure the day he wrote this, he didn’t feel bad about himself.

During the next one hundred years we are going to see how Rome will go from a small — let’s call it, regional power — to becoming the undisputed powerhouse of Italy.

Less than 40 years ago, everyone within striking distance joined in on the fun of kicking Rome, thinking Brennus left the city dying.

But soon, no tribe in Italy will be causing headaches for Rome, and when they will do it again — some 150 years down the road, it will not be to defy the power of Rome, but to beg to be included — as citizens of Rome.

But, of course, we’re not there yet, so let’s take is easy.

[…]

The envoys from Capua, smart old men, already knowing that that’s exactly what they were going to get for an answer, then said something like this:

— “Well, given that Rome cannot help us, since Rome is obliged to respect her peace treaty with the tribes that are threatening us with death and with slavery, a Treaty we totally understand and respect, we are left with no other choice but to submit Campania, Capua and all our surrounding cities and fields, entirely under the command of Rome. “

— “What?”

The Roman senators must have wondered, if what they were hearing was possible.

— “That’s right. Sadly — for the people of Capua, and all of Campania, we have come to the conclusion that it is better to die under the protective wings of the power of Rome, than to live under the yoke and abuse of the Samnites. “

— “Hold on, hold on!“ Another senator interrupted. “Let me get that straight. Are you guys saying that everything that Campania has, and produces, would be under the command, and at the full — I mean, full disposal of Rome?”

— “These were my words, o Senator!”

Immediately, Roman senators asked for a brief recess, to discuss this issue, this totally new offer, totally out of the blue — opportunity of a lifetime.

Episode 29 – The First Plebeian Consul

— When Lucius Sextus Lateranus walked up those stairs, he was conscious that all Rome was staring at him.

Finally, Plebeians have a Consul of their own. And just about in the right moment, because the Samnites are knocking on Rome’s doors. We also see the passing of Marcus Furius Camillus.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 29 — The First Plebeian Consul.

We are in the year 368 BC.

A young man of high stature, named Lucius Sextus Lateranus, dismounted from his horse in front of the Senate building. Three big parchments of paper were rolled under his shoulder.

Lucius Sextus Lateranus was a Tribune of the Plebes.

In other words, he was automatically an enemy of 100% of Rome’s Patricians, and nothing that was in his possession was welcome in the Senate.

Much less, three parchments, containing laws that would change Rome.

When Lucius Sextus Lateranus walked up those stairs, he was conscious that all Rome was staring at him.

Three of his projects were about to become laws, and this time, not even Camillus himself would get in the way.

The first law ruled all that all moneys paid in the form of interest, became the capital of a debt, and thus the payment of debts would no longer be like a treadmill, or a mule tied to a post, endlessly turning and grinding grain.

The second law forbade any person, Patrician or Plebeian, to possess more than 300 acres of unused land, within the confines of Rome.

It also forbade having more than 100 cows, or goats, using public lands surrounding Rome.

The third law — the most important one, said that one of the Consuls elected every year in Rome, was to be of Plebeian origin.

Patricians knew they were going to lose, and they sent for Marcus Furius Camillus to save them, once more.

So, while the deliberations of all that began, secret messengers went at full speed toward Camillus’ residence.

[…]

If you look at any chronological map of the history of Rome from the 4th Century BC, the first two things you will notice is — ONE — the year 390 — the year of the looting, and — TWO — a gap that goes from 375 to 370 BC.

Yep. A gap of five years.

There were no Consuls, or Tribunes in Rome during those years, according to Livy.

It’s like Rome skipped those years. A total vacuum.

And to explain this — as always, there are two versions.

On one hand, Livy used those years to reconcile his own dates, that is, the stuff that he has been writing in his first five books, with the reality of what was happening, because now the chronicles were true, and impossible to hide, deny, or invent. So, he found that his tale was some five years — off record.

So, a gap.

The other version is that, here there was a space where certain Plebeian Tribunes blocked votes in the Roman Senate, to the point where they gave a veto to each and every one of the decisions taken by Senators.

[…]

Episode 28 – The Tarpeian Rock

— No one wanted a king — not even Plebes, full of debts.

The second start of Rome, after the ashes. Marcus Furius Camillus and Marcus Manlius Capitolinus are the two undisputed heroes of Rome, but one of them will end up a villain. We will also see a miracle at Aeliana’s home.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 28 — The Tarpeian Rock.

Last week we saw the end of our trilogy of Rome’s darkest hour, so far.

The attack, the siege, and the plunder of Rome.

We saw how the Gauls finally left Rome, and how Camillus became the person who truly led the city’s destiny.

And here, I think it’s a good time to tell you guys, what Livy wrote on the front page of his sixth book, that gigantic work he did, called Ab Urbe Condita, or “From the Founding of the City” in English.

I am reading this from the first page, Book 6:

The transactions of the Romans, from the creation of the city of Rome to the capture of it, first under Kings, then under Consuls and Dictators, Decenvirs and Tribunes with consular powers, their wars abroad, their dissensions at home, all of this, I have exposed in five books.

Themes and events were obscured, both because of their great antiquity, as if they were objects that from their great distance I can hardly perceive, as well as because in those times the use of the letters, the only faithful guardian of the memory of events, was inconsiderate and rare.

Moreover, what was contained in the remarks of the Pontifex, and other public and private records, was all lost during the fires that our city had to endure.

Henceforth, from this second origin of the city, which was born from its own ashes, this time healthier and more vigorous, the achievements of Rome — within Rome and abroad, will be narrated with more clarity and authenticity.

OMG.

I believe that even Livy himself must have smiled the day he wrote that.

[…]

And this is where Manlius saw an opportunity.

Although Manlius came from a family of Patricians himself, he began to help Plebeians.

He first began by telling them that the treatment that Plebeians were getting for not being able to repay their loans on time, was not fair, and then he began to create agitations along the streets of Rome.

On one occasion, in the year 387 BC, a Centurion was being arrested for this same cause, and as people started to gather protesting, Manlius showed up at the scene, and paid the debt of the Centurion, out of his own pocket.

The government of Rome decided that Manlius was creating too much mess in the city, and they arrested him the day after that.

But then the people of Rome made an even bigger protest, and the Senators of Rome had no other choice, than to let Manlius go free.

Manlius even sold some of his properties, with the purpose of helping people in situations like that.

But the Patricians saw this whole thing with twisted eyes, because during the agitations that Manlius created among the Plebes, he began to mention that Rome didn’t really need a Senate.

Well — that was a crime!

[…]