Episode 36 – Death by the Volcano

— For thinking that the enemy sent his Triarii too early, the Latins ended up sending their own ones too early, and that cost them the battle.

Latins against Romans, on the slopes of Italy’s most famous volcano. And in this battle, we see the death of Publius Decius Mus — the same guy who earned the renowned Grass Crown, years earlier.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 36 — Death by the Volcano.

— “You snake!”

— “You are the snake!”

— “Coward!”

— “I’ll show you who’s the coward!”

— “I dare you!”

When Decius he wanted to step forward, his heart beating like a drum, he hit the dry, hard floor next to the bed. With an insult, the Consul was now really awake from his sleep.

The dream was gone.

And in that dream, the volcano was talking to Decius.

The volcano was taunting him, all the while spewing fire serpents, and eating up the entire Roman army.

— “One of the two will die before sundown,” he heard the volcano say.

A bit later, he told Manlius Torquatus about the dream.

[…]

ONE — Just as the trumpets sounded, and as was customary in the Roman legion, the oracles of the army threw food at the sacred hens, and they confirmed what everyone feared.

A whole Roman flank, and one of the consuls of Rome, would end up dying.

TWO — Decius Mus rode out on the left side of the Roman army, and Torquatus on the right side.

In other words, Decius was on the slope of the volcano, and Torquatus on the side to the sea, being that they were facing in a south-southeast direction.

THREE — Latins began to tighten the ranks on both sides, but during the first clash neither of the two side gave up a single yard.

One of the flanks of Torquatus was deployed about a hundred meters behind, due to some irregularities of the terrain, while the troops of Decius were face to face with the Latins.

FOUR — the Sidicines, who, fearing a night attack, did not get a lot of sleep, were the first to fall.

This allowed Torquatus to create a wider row, while maintaining the depth of his Phalanx.

But to Decius, this was neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, and his troops began to break for two reasons. The end of the row was in difficulty with the slope of the volcano, and the cavalry of the Latins threatened to break the row of the Hastati, a lot sooner than they both anticipated.

[…]

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 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.