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 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 26 – State of the Union – 390 BC

— Not for nothing there’s a saying that goes something like “your best friend is sometimes the enemy of your enemy.”

The Gauls entered Rome. But where’s Lucius? Also, we list the lands that lay around Rome, and see how they’re doing. Finally, a sprint through the men who ruled Rome since the kings are gone. Consuls and Tribunes.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 26 — State of the Union – 390 BC.

Last week we saw how the Gauls of Brennus arrived at the gates of Rome — gates that no one bothered to even close…

This week we’re on our episode 26, which means two things:

ONE – We are going through our second STATE OF THE UNION episode, which this time finds us in the year 390 BC,

AND TWO – We’re at 26 episodes, which is roughly half a year of accrued value. One year – 52 weeks; Half a year – 26. Right?

Alright.

This episode, since it’s going to be a little longer, is going to be split in three main parts.

First, we’ll see what was going on in Rome itself.

From there we’ll go to see the world around Rome, taking out usual eagle’s flight, just like last time.

And just like last time, we’ll do that in a clockwise fashion.

Northern Italy first, then Dalmatia, Macedonia, Greece, Asia minor, Syria and the future Palestine, Egypt, Carthage and North Africa. From there to the Iberian Peninsula, the Gauls, and then back to Rome, seeing if there is anything worth mentioning in the Mediterranean islands: Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia.

If any region did not go through any real major changes, then that region will not be mentioned in our eagle’s flight, and a good example of this would be Germania and the Netherlands, where there hasn’t been any big changes, this time around.

Last, we’ll see a brief list of the rulers of Rome — from our last State of the Union, to this State of the Union.

That means, we’ll see a list of Consuls, Decemvirs, and Military Tribunes who managed the destinies of Rome during these last 119 years.

Not all of them, but the ones that really mattered.

Alright. Shall we?

[…]

495 BC.

Appius Claudius Sabinus, along with Publius Servilius Priscus. That was when Plebeians withdrew from Rome, and walked to the Mount Sacro, protesting for the differences between Patrician and Plebes.

494 BC.

Valerius Maximus was erected Dictator. Reason: The conflict of the Orders.

488 BC.

Gaius Julius Julus. All right — let me say that again… Gaius Julius Julus — not Julius!

He was consul when the Volsci attacked Rome under the command of Coriolanus, the guy whose mom convinced him to stop the attack.

[…]

 

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.

[…]