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!

[…]

Episode 27 – Iron and Gold

— When they finished with that, the Gauls walked out the same door they had come in, some seven months earlier.

The end of our trilogy of the sack of Rome. Brennus is history, and Rome is saved. We also get the best of news from Aeliana and Lucius.

Partial Transcript

Last week we saw Brennus and Quintus Sulpicius holding meetings to decide the fate of Rome.

Both sides were exhausted, both sides had dead piling up on a daily basis, and both sides had an ego larger than the Seven Hills of Rome, combined…

But here, one of the two sides had a slight advantage, and that advantage was the hope that Camillus would arrive with his troops, any time now.

In the meantime, I want you to imagine the city of Rome.

The Circus Maximus, which still only possessed some disposable wooden grades, had become a temporary morgue, and the stench coming from the place, let everyone know where the Gauls decided to pile up and and burn their dead warriors.

To make matters worse, that year had an extremely temperate winter — as if goddess Cloacina, goddess of Rome’s sewers, had decided to clog the drains of the city.

And it was as if Poena, goddess of punishment, and Tempesta, goddess of the storms, had decided to work hand in hand, and between the two of them, they decided to not to unleash a single winter storm during that year.

A storm would at least help get rid of some of the deadly particles, flying in the air.

Yes, the Gauls got the shorter end of the straw, that year.

From the cattle market, just south of the city bridge, all the way to the Porta Capena, in the southeastern corner of Rome, everything was burning, melting, and otherwise getting spoiled.

This was the Rome, that Marcus Furius Camillus was about to save, according to the version the Romans described.

[…]

But Rome…

Rome had no cure.

That’s right, after the citizen grabbed and seized bricks and rocks, and after they built their new homes, Rome was beyond any fixing.

Streets went in zig-zag, they crossed each other in angles that defied any logic, and even sidewalks were of different width as you would walk along one same street, depending on the whim of the homeowner that just built that sidewalk.

[…]

Episode 25 – Here come the Gauls

— And the worst of all, not a single one of Rome’s eight gates was manned, locked, or otherwise taken care of.

The Senons attack and sack the city, all the while Marcus Furius Camillus is banned from Rome.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 25 — Here come the Gauls.

Last week we saw how Marcus Furius Camillus was exiled from Rome, after having conquered Veii, and after having doubled Rome’s landmass.

As for Veii, the city became a ghost town.

The peasants around Veii — who were initially not disturbed by Rome, were quickly absorbed by a few patrician senators, who took their farms, livelihood, and anything else they had left.

In fact, most of Rome’s new lands fell into the hands of a really small group of Patricians, and Rome felt like the king of the heap.

But — as the saying goes, the higher you fly, the harder you fall, and this was no exception to the rule.

[…]

And then, something that wasn’t supposed to happen, happened.

One of the Roman ambassadors, to be more exact, Quintus Ambustus put a sword in the guts of a Gaul. The Gaul turned out to be one of Brennus’ own counselors.

I can imagine blood swelling out of his guys’ chest like a Roman fountain, until the tall, thick guy finally collapsed on the floor.

Dead.

Everyone stopped for an instant, and Brennus himself jumped back.

After a pause that must have felt like a whole century, Brennus withdrew from the Hall, and all his Gauls followed suit.

People still did not understand what exactly happened, but the only thing everyone understood, was that the chief of the Gauls was more furious than a caged lion, in a city that had its lion games banned, by imperial decree.

Immediately, the three brothers left the Senate, and embarked on their way back to Rome, at full speed.

The diplomatic mission failed, and the brothers — as ambassadors, they were supposed to be totally neutral, failed as well.

A day later, envoys of Brennus arrived at the gates of Rome, and they were immediately escorted to the Senate of Rome.

[…]

 

Episode 24 – Marcus Furius Camillus

— “Don’t do anything halfway through, son.”

Five times appointed Dictator of Rome. Four times Military Tribune. Three triumphs along the streets of Rome. So then, why was he kicked out of the city?

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 24 — Marcus Furius Camillus.

“Father.”

Even though Lucius’ voice was firm and audible, old Marcus did not move a single muscle, in his bed.

Lucius tried again, placing a hand on the old man’s shoulder. Very gently, for he feared to cause him pain with his touch.

“Father Marcus!”

Slightly, Marcus opened his eyes, and a smile showed on his face.

“Did you beat them, boy?”

“Yes, Father,” said Lucius, proudly. “We destroyed them, Father. And I got you this.”

Lucius raised a few scrolls at the height of his father’s eyes, so that he could see them.

Without waiting for the old man to ask, Lucius explained that the parchments were blueprints of machines to stretch leather and animal hides, such as they had never seen them before.

The Etruscans, it turned out, were much more technologically advanced than the Romans, and part of the loot was of immense value to Roman scientists and engineers.

From how to build arches with three center points, all the way to how to improve their sewers systems.

From how to deal with leaking water in pipes, to how to hoist ship sails with the strength of a single man, almost everything in Veii was entirely new to the engineers of Rome of those times.

“Father!  This machine can even stretch reindeer leather,” said Lucius, excited. “We’ll have soooo much work,” the young man figured.

“Ah, the reindeer,” said old Marcus. “There won’t be reindeer in a few more years, son. You’ll see… “

And the old man was right.

In less than two generations the climate slowly began to return to temperatures like those that reigned in Rome, before.

Reindeer, alpine lions, and the long winters, they all began to disappear from Rome.

Never again, did the river Tiber freeze over.

It should add here, that alpine lions were the flowers that we know today as the Edelweiss, and I’m not talking about the African felines.

Lions, as such, had been gone from Italy — and from almost all of Europe, for more than a thousand years now, and the flowers, named Leontopodium Alpinum, or Alpine lions, were now also vanishing from the vicinity of Rome.

“Tell me, son. With all that science, how did you guys manage to get into Veii?”

[…]

Disgusted with the teacher’s stupid idea, Camillus ordered him tied up on the spot, and then tortured with wooden sticks under his fingernails, and other parts, that I don’t even want to mention here.

After that, Camillus went to Falerii, and told the citizens what just happened, and Camillus returned all the innocent children unharmed, and he also gave them the sneaky, stupid teacher.

The people of Falerii were so grateful for Camillus for his attitude, that they immediately cancelled all plans of war, and submitted to Rome, without any conditions whatsoever.

Personal comment: I don’t even want to imagine what that teacher went through, after Camillus was gone.

[…]

Episode 23 – Don’t Cry for me, Veii

— And at the end of that day, no one cried for Veii. Not Lucius, and certainly not the slaves.

In this episode we get to see the end of Veii. Forever. We also see the emergence of Marcus Furius Camillus.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 23 — Don’t Cry for me, Veii.

It’s not for nothing that there is a saying like “Home Sweet Home,” in the English language.

I do not believe — not even for a minute that there is any language in the world, that does not have a phrase or expression along those lines, and I think, this also applies to the ancient Rome.

But, as we will see in this episode, this also counts for the enemies of Rome, and today we speak of two of Rome’s enemies: Fidenas and Veii.

The first was the only city south of the river Tiber, and the second was the most well-known Etruscan city, and probably the strongest city, in the entire Etruscan confederation.

Firstly, let’s remember that Veii and Rome were something like an image reflected in a mirror, each having power on one side of the Tiber, and each holding a small piece of land on the other side of the river.

The Etruscan holdout on the southern side of the Tiber, was some 5 miles upstream from Rome.

The Romans, meantime, kept control of the northern side of the Tiber, right in front of their own city gates.

[…]

The main Roman camp was commanded by Verginius, who refused to help unless Sergius actually asked for help.

Sergius — much too proud to do that, was finally forced to retire, and return to Rome.

The other guys, now alone, also had to other choice but to flee back to Rome.

Good job, you two!

Needless to say, both idiots were fired from their posts once the Senate heard the news.

Anyways, let’s go on.

Nothing of importance happened in the years 401 and 400 BC.

But in the year 399 BC the Capenats and the Faliscans made a second attempt to get rid of the Romans.

But, this time around, the Romans worked as a true team, and while the enemies attacked the Roman trenches, they were attacked by the Romans from behind, and they were forced to flee.

They suffered a second defeat, when they stumbled upon a Roman assault team, as they were returning home.

And then again, the next two years nothing of importance happened.

Finally, the year 396 BC was different. Really different!

Marcus Furius Camillus was named dictator, and this is a name we need to keep in our memory, because our next episode bears his name.

[..]

Episode 22 – Decades of Death and Plagues

— And believe me, every citizen of Rome had a personal explanation of why the gods abandoned Rome.

The decades that followed. Thousands died, and thousands more wished they could die.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 22 — Decades of Death and Plagues.

When we talked about the life and death of Lucius Quinctius Cinncinatus, we saw a time when Rome was standing at the gates of one its greatest and most challenging centuries, even though Rome couldn’t know it.

And Rome did not know that for a good reason, because things were not going well in Rome.

And when I say “things” I mean the following five aspects:

ONE – from the south of Italy, commercial caravans were showing up with less and less frequency, and the ones that did, were not bringing good news to Rome.

A new tribe — well, new in our podcast, and relatively new to the ears of common Romans, began to cause troubles in what we today know as the Italian Campania.

I’m talking about the Samnites — the tribes from the hills.

Campania spread all the way to the south of our well known Latium, and went all the way to the Apennine Mountains in the east. To the south it went to the bay of what we know as Naples, next to the famous volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

Among those bad news, as we will see, was the fall of a city called Capua, which fell after a long, long siege, set by the Samnites.

But we’re not there yet, so let’s go to the next point.

TWO – The climate has begun to decline for reasons that the Romans had no way of understanding. Today we know this as a wave of climatic variation throughout Western Europe, which stretched to the center of the Mediterranean Sea.

Although scientists today have a very well-defined name for this brief period of temperature drops, in ancient times this was interpreted as a bad omen from the gods, who had surely put themselves against Rome itself.

And believe me, every citizen of Rome had a personal explanation of why the gods abandoned Rome.

[…]

Popular belief was that if they slept one night inside the temple, they would get a dream, which would give them an interpretation of what they had to do, in order to cure themselves of whatever disease they had.

But, if they had no dream during that first night, patients used to stay up to three consecutive nights in the temple, after which, the priests generally told them to go home, because obviously the gods did not want to communicate with them, and that meant that even the gods wanted them dead.

FIVE – While many bibliographic sources only cite the year 441 BC as a year of famine in Rome, these same sources do admit that many other hunger waves followed.

[…]

Episode 20 – Lucius Quinctius Cinncinatus

— His symbols were the plow and the toga, instead of the sword and the fasces.

The life of the man who, when elected Dictator of Rome, decided to give that power back to the Senate, after just 16 days. Why? Simply because he finished the task he was given to do. And then, he went to plant lettuce in the outskirts of Rome.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 20 – Lucius Quinctius Cinncinatus.

— “Marcia! When father told you what happened to your mom, did he tell you what a certain Appius Claudius did? “

— “You mean, To Mom?”

— “No, not to mom. He didn’t do anything to mom, personally. I mean, what he did in general, in Rome. “

Marcia and Aunt Julia stayed up late that night, something very unusual in ancient Rome, where people — especially Plebeians, went to sleep right after sunset, and rose way before sunrise.

Aunt Julia told her the story of the wicked Decemvirs, those ten men elected by the Senate, and how they schemed together to stay in power, and not to return that power to the Senate of Rome. They didn’t care they swore an oath for one, and only one year.

Actually, truth be told, they DID need two years for the Twelve Tables to be written and polished, because every single bit of these laws was analyzed by the Patricians, especially the old Patricians, who used to gather in forums and discuss piece of law by piece of law.

[…]

Between the two dictatorships combined, he did not rule Rome for a single month.

His example inspired the name of the American city of Cincinnati, in the state of Ohio.

That name was given in honor of the Society of the “Cinncinatus,” which honored George Washington.

Washington was considered to be a true “Cinncinatus” by this society, back in the days of the American Revolution.

His symbols were the plow and the toga, instead of the sword and the fasces.

Even though he was incredibly good at using the sword, and incredibly righteous at the use of the fasces.

[…]

Episode 19 – The Battle of Mons Algidus

— Word of what Cinncinatus did to the Senate spread like wildfire through the streets of Rome.

This time Romans don’t fight the Latins. Instead, they have to face the dangerous Aequi tribe.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 19 – The Battle of Mons Algidus.

Last week we saw the arrival of the Twelve Tables.
Written laws so that all Romans could be tried and treated the same way.
And we also saw how all over Rome people learned those laws by heart. Among them, the oh-so-eager eight-year-old boy in our little family saga.

To give you a few more examples of what these Tables contained, lets check out  a few of these laws:

Killing an intruder in one’s own house, if it was nighttime, was OK. No punishment, not even a case. But if it was daytime, the homeowner had to get the intruder to a magistrate for trial.

If the court called a person to appear in front of a judge, and if that person was incapacitated in any way, the court would out send four soldiers, and four slaves to bring the man to the courthouse.
But if the person’s issue was an infectious disease, the date of the trial was postponed until above mentioned infection had passed, up to a period of six months.
During those six months, the other person, the accuser, had the right to go to the defendant’s house every three days, stand in front of the house of the accused, and yell in a loud voice, reminding the accuser that a trial awaited him. The purpose, of course was to embarrass the entire family by this way.

When a lawsuit began, the judge gave two options to the opposing parties:
ONE – To agree and resolve the problem without any involvement from the judge, and
TWO – To not to agree, and go the nearest forum of the court in question, on the next working day. A debate would start there. That debate usually began around sunrise, and by obligation, a judge had to resolve the case before sunset.

[…]

After a crippling march, the Roman army arrived at the height of the mountain.

They arrived at night.

Cinncinatus sent the people in Tusculum a secret message, so that the Romans who were trapped inside the beleaguered city knew, they would be free soon.

[…]

Episode 12 – The First Two Consuls

— That’s what I love about Rome. They kick each other, regardless of family lines, or family ties. So much for family love!

Rome gets to choose two Consuls, then they change their mind about one of their fresh Consuls-elect, and replace him with one of the most famous public servants ever – even today: Publius Valerius Publicola.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 12 — The First Two Consuls.

Last week, we saw—finally, the final moments of the monarchy in Rome.

We saw how Tarquin the Proud got locked out of his own city, after the rebellion started by Lucius Brutus and Lucius Collatinus.

Without any soldiers left, and knowing that the gates of Rome would be blocked, he and the idiot of his son went into exile.

Today we will see how that exile of his went on, and what exactly happened after Romans got to taste their very first hours without kings.

The very first order of the Roman Senate was to publicly declare Tarquin as an Enemy of the State, and that Rome would never again be ruled by a king.

Neither the king nor his wife Tullia would ever be allowed to put their feet within the city of Rome, and here I want to add that Romans sent a very strong message for Tullia, as a persona non-grata in their city. Do not come back to Rome, as you have killed your own father, back in the time when nobody could do anything about it.

Even though that was decades ago, Romans did not forget.

[…]

I don’t know if you guys realized, but both these guys were relatives of the king Rome had just kicked out.

Excuse me? They kick a king out of their city, and they put two of his relatives as the first two Consuls of Rome?

Yep. Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus was the ex-king’s cousin, and Lucius Junius Brutus was the ex-king’s nephew.

That’s what I love about Rome. They kick each other, regardless of family lines, or family ties.

So much for family love!

[…]

Episode 9 – Killed by his own Daughter

— That’s right, Tullia, wife of Lucius, and daughter of Servius Tullius, carefully maneuvered the chariot so that the wheels sliced the old man’s body in two.

The Tale of Rome – Servius Tullius ends up under the wheels of a chariot, driven by none other than his very own daughter Tullia. We are also approaching the birth of the Republic of Rome.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 9 — Killed by his own Daughter.

Last week we saw the end of Tarquin the Elder, and how Servius Tullius became the sixth king of Rome.

This week, we’ll see how this Tale continues.

The one thing we need to highlight again, is that the last three kings were the father—Tarquin the Elder, followed by his adoptive son—Servius Tullius, and then followed by his true blood son, Tarquin the Proud.

[…]

The tale goes, that—and this is according to Livy himself, the very own daughter of Servius, took a chariot and drove over the dying body of her father, effectively finishing his reign.

That’s right, Tullia, wife of Lucius, and daughter of Servius Tullius, carefully maneuvered the chariot so that the wheels sliced the old man’s body in two.

[…]