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 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!

[…]

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.

[…]

 

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.

[..]