Episode 41 – The End of the Great War

— In the end, Gaius Pontius saw that his old father — Herennius Pontius, had been right all along. Samnia now had a deadly enemy called Rome, and all Romans could think of, was vengeance.

The end of the Second Samnite War, from the fall of Apulia, to the inspection of Samnia, by Consul Publius Sempronius.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Sanya, in the south of China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome. Episode 41 — The End of the Great War.

We are in the year 435 of the Founding of the City. By our accounts, that is the year 319 BC.

Early morning. It’s the first day of the year.

Not the first day of the Julian Calendar — that would come centuries later — but, the first day of the Calendar, as it was set by Romulus, and Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome.

And the business of this first day of the year, was to elect the two new Consuls for the year.

Serious business.

Senators old and young, were hurrying to the building of the Curia, for — two really important decisions, depended on today’s vote.

On one hand, somebody would have to deal with the consequences of what happened at the Caudine Forks.

And, on the other hand, there was a law that was going to — either pass, or not pass.

And that law, had nothing to do with war, or the humiliating defeat at the Caudine Forks.

That law, if passed, would take away one certain power from Consuls, and would give it to the new guys in town.

The Censors.

That’s right — if today’s law passed, Censors would become the ones, who would have the power to remove someone from the Senate, and there was a myriad of reasons why this could happen.

So, anyways.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what was going on, I would like to read a short list of six items, on how a Senator’s day went on, when it was time to pass new laws, welcome new Senators into the house, and other (smaller) business at hand.

ONE — Before the start of any important session, Senators would go to the Augurs, or Oracles, and see if the day in question, was actually good for passing new laws, or any other business.

At that time, there were four guys with sufficient authority in all of Rome, to decide whether the day was auspicious or not.

We’ll talk more about this further down the line.

TWO — Before any voting, there were speeches. Always. Even if the voting was as trivial as the naming of a street, a speech was to be had.

THREE — Sometimes these speeches went really long. And I mean, long!

[…]

A huge army from Tarentum showed up on the horizon, just as Romans and Samnites were about to get running into each other’s throats.

Their trumpets stopped everyone, and the Tarentines announced that this battle was being ordered, canceled.

That’s right! Canceled! And the Tarentines even said that whoever made a move to attack the other side, the army of Tarentum would immediately join the other side, and make the aggressors lose the whole fight.

Right away, the Romans called up their oracle, and checked on their sacred chicken.

The chicken said — well, they didn’t say a thing — the oracle said, the gods were totally in favor of a frontal, brutal, battle, and that Rome was not to be afraid of the new arrival.

And so — they made their battle formations, and started to walk forward.

[…]

Episode 40 – Livy and Virgil

— Instead, people die the day nobody ever talks about them, or even thinks about them.

A biography episode in The Tale of Rome. We compare and contrast two giants of their time. Livy and Virgil.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 40 — Livy and Virgil.

Virgil and Livy — Livy and Virgil. At the end of the day, the order of these two names doesn’t really matter. However — I felt like sharing why I chose to name this episode, the way I did.

Our podcast started with a story where a guy named Aeneas was fleeing from a city called Troy. This was obviously brought to us by Virgil.

Still — I decided to put Livy’s name first, on the cover of the episode.

And no — the reason is NOT their looks. I can promise you that. This is not a beauty contest!

But, after I picked the two pictures that would illustrate this episode’s cover, I ended up having Livy — full front, and Virgil, seen from a side.

So…

Had I placed Virgil on the left side of the cover, he would be facing away from Livy. Not nice!

And since we — and when I say “we,” I mean the vast majority of readers in the western world — since we usually write from left to right, the title ended up being “Livy and Virgil,” because — well… Livy was on the left, and Virgil was on the right.

All right, that’s sorted out!

And now, let’s start this story, and let’s start it this way…

We are in the year 18 AD — AD, as in ANNO DOMINI, or “after the birth of Christ.”

A ship was arriving in Rome’s port. And I am not talking about the port of Ostia, the one built by the fourth king of Rome — Ancus Marcius.

I am talking about another port — a few hundred miles south.

Portus Julius.

[…]

SIX — While Livy would sometimes write up to 20 pages a day, Virgil had days where not even a single sentence was created.

Furthermore, if it wasn’t that Virgil’s death wish was deliberately disobeyed, today we would not have his works. Nothing.

That’s right. The whole Aeneid would have been burned. That was the wish of Virgil, on his deathbed. And what’s even more curious, Virgil never considered his Aeneid as a complete work of art.

On a personal note, that’s understandable. Artists are often like that.

[…]

Episode 7 – Ancus Marcius Founds Ostia

— Come on! Don’t make me laugh!

The Tale of Rome – Ancus Marcius, the grandson of Numa Pompilius, shows that he is neither a lame priest nor a cruel bully.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 7 — Ancus Marcius Founds Ostia.

Last week we saw the life and death of Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome, and we also saw how Rome itself became a synonym of war.

In fact, Rome—again, became all the things nobody wanted to have in a neighbor.

This week’s episode deals with the fourth king of Rome, a man named Ancus Marcius.

Ancus Marcius was a man with many different and sometimes contrasting aspects. For one, he was the son of Numa Marcius, who in turn was elected by Numa Pompilius to become Rome’s very first Pontifex Maximus, which we talked about in Episode five.

[…]

We also cannot reliably assess all these events, and their dates. Anecdotes, above all, are to be read as a tale, and rather than taking them as pure facts, they serve the purpose of answering questions of the origins of Rome to the romans that lived centuries later, as well as trying to teach morals.

As a perfect example of these quite incredible mess-ups with dates, we have that Numa Pompilius, the now well-known second king of Rome, was born on April 21st of the year 753 BC, which just so happens to be the day Rome was founded.

Come on! Don’t make me laugh!

The other thing that we can kind of be sure of, is that one of the major jobs Ancus Marcius had to do, was to transcribe all those documents left by Numa Pompilius, about the religious ceremonies of Rome, since the third king of Rome, Tullus Hostilius ignored that job completely.

[…]

Episode 5 – Numa, the God Whisperer

— There could be only one such Pontifex Maximus, and the job was for life.

Life and death of the second king of Rome.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 5 — Numa, the God Whisperer.

Last week we talked about the end of Romulus, the first king of Rome.

[…]

Numa also gets credit for almost all the most important religious institutions in Rome, and here goes a short list of his achievements:

ONE – Numa created the institution of Pontifex Maximus, which was the equivalent of the highest priest of Rome. There could be only one such Pontifex Maximus, and the job was for life.

Think of a Supreme Court Justice, in the US—unless a Justice quits or resigns, he gets to have the job forever.

The number one responsibility of a Pontifex Maximus was to overview the preparation and the delivery of religious services in Rome.

The number one privilege was that he was pretty much the only person in the city who was allowed to dismiss, and in some instances, disobey, both the Senate and the king of Rome, as you will see in future episodes.

Now, check this out:

Numa knew that the future of Rome would be filled with wars, as soon as he would be gone, and he knew that if a king would also be a Pontifex Maximus, religious services all over Rome would suffer, because such king would obviously give priority to war over all other things.

So, Numa solved this by simply setting in stone that kings or any future type of supreme rulers of Rome could not be elected to the office of Pontifex Maximus, while they reigned with the city.

He simply explained that the gods would punish Rome with plagues, floods, earthquakes, and all other kinds of disasters, if ever a king was elected to that office, and if ever the services to the gods were not properly done.

And in fact, the office of the Pontifex Maximus was left in peace by rulers for centuries. It wasn’t until the first emperor of Rome, Augustus dared to take the office of chief priest of Rome in his own hands, that Numa’s rule was being respected.

And that should speak volumes. Furthermore, the office itself still exists today.

That’s right, the institution created by Numa Pompilius is currently being exercised by the Vatican’s Pope, as the head of the Catholic Church, and that’s a tradition that’s been unbroken for some 2,600 years, now.

TWO – Numa Pompilius instituted the first vestal virgins within Rome.

[…]

Episode 4 – Throne of Thunders

— Not because they were better or smarter, or because they were right all along, and certainly not because they were God’s chosen people…

The end of Romulus’ life, the way the Romans describe it.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 4 — Throne of Thunders.

Last week we saw how Romulus dealt with three top topics of the day: the army of Rome, the female population of Rome, and the Senate of Rome.

This week we will see the rest of his life and how his life ends, not an ounce less mythological than his whole life before.

But before we start, I would like to make something clear: Rome, the city on the Seven Hills, had Seven Kings.

Right? Right.

From the year 753 BC until the year 509 BC, Rome had a grand total of Seven Kings. That means, those Seven Kings ruled Rome for 244 years.

Let’s see. Seven Kings – 244 years.

If I divide 244 by 7, I get 34.8, which means that each king must have ruled Rome for an average of 34 years and 9 months.

Even though this is not a physical impossibility, I can tell you something right away. In the course of human history, there has not been any empire, or state, or nation, or even a private company or entity that has been so blessed to rule for so long, and have only seven rulers.

The exceptional case of her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, is by far one of the longest reigns in recent history, but this cannot be seen as the norm.

Yes, she has ruled since 1952 which means she held the crown for 65 years. But that will not be repeated two, three, or—let alone, seven times.

A little more on that in a bit, but first let’s go to the Latin Word of the Week.

[…]

A big thunder cracked down on them, and a great dust cloud rose up, all around the throne and around the people standing by Romulus.

But… When the cloud dissipated, Romulus was no longer seated on his throne.

According to the legend, the senators who were next to Romulus during the military exercise, searched everywhere, but never found the body of their king.

He was gone with a thunder while sitting on his throne!

[…]