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.