Episode 45 – Fabius Rullianus and Papirius Cursor

— “Fortified camps are to be defended by arms, rather than arms being defended by fortified camps,” Rullianus said.

A flashback of an encounter between two heroes of the Samnite Wars. Papirius Cursor and Fabius Rullianus.

Partial Transcript


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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 45 — Fabius Rullianus and Papirius Cursor.

The Ciminian forest was one of those primitive places — created in the times before gods and humans, and its purpose was to keep Romans and Etruscans apart.

There were no roads through it, and even the edges of the forest — the way they looked — they caused utter angst in Rome’s population.

Nobody ever dared to get tino the Ciminian forest, up until the fourth century before Christ.

What’s more, when the Roman Senate, explicitly gave orders to Consul Fabius Maximus Rullianus to NOT to enter the confines of the forest, and when he did so — chasing Etruscans, and when he emerged unscathed from the the forest, the Romans — at first — had thoughts about letting him back into the city, for they feared that evil spirits had taken possession of the souls of the Consul, and all his soldiers.

At least — this is how our dear Livy told the story.

Yup.

This forest — partly fossilized, and partly so densely overgrown that sunshine couldn’t make it through — was one of the few regions in Italy that still held soft ground between the roots of its trees.

It’s called permafrost. It’s soft ground had low temperatures — so low, that they never get to solidify.

And so, the forest kept swallowing beasts, trapped in the soft ground. From wild boars to deers, they got stuck in there, as if it were quicksand, and this area of permafrost sometimes went all the way to the region where the Tiber river met the Apennine hills.

To put it briefly, this woodland was the perfect natural border, between Rome and Etruria, for the better part of four centuries.

But….

We are not here to talk about how Fabius Rullianus crossed that forest, even if it was in direct disobedience of the Roman Senate.

Because — after all — this happened in the year 310 BC, and we didn’t make it to that year, yet.

Which means, we still have the Third Samnite War ahead of us.

And — had it NOT been, that the Samnites got such a BAD beating from the Romans — at the Battle of Sutrium, perhaps, Rullianus never had the need to get into that forest, in the first place.

This was partly — because the town of Sutrium was literally at the edge of the Ciminian Forest, and when the Etruscans went running into the woodland, the Romans had to — either, loose them, or follow them.

So, then…

We are here to talk about, the other time, Rullianus disobeyed an order.

Just — that time, it wasn’t with the Senate of Rome.

That time, he ignored orders of a Dictator of Rome.

And that Dictator was none less than a man, named Lucius Papirius Cursor.

[…]

On one hand — they could not counter Papirius, for two reasons.

ONE — He was not a Consul — he was a Dictator. He just had the power. Period.

AND TWO — Denying him something of this magnitude, or defending someone who had openly disobeyed him, did not look good.

Yep, it was a bad precedent to future generations, and the Senate was not willing to publicly weaken the position of a Dictator.

But on the other hand, they didn’t want to have Rullianus punished. After all, he just managed to beat the Samnites, and thanks to his preemptive actions, Rome could focus on other things, for this whole year.

And being able to focus on other things, instead of warfare, meant that Rome could make money.

Suddenly, this year looked like a surplus-year, and all thanks to the quick wit of a man, who directly disobeyed his superior, and brought back some 20 thousand slaves to Rome.

[…]

Episode 44 – Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus

— In order to really appreciate the beauty of a beach, one should not be swimming in the sea, neck-deep in the water.

Second installment of our Biography episodes. This time, we tackle Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus.

Partial Transcript


Plutarch and Dionysius of Halicarnassus — two names we heard along this podcast, again and again.

This — undoubtedly means, that — as faithful learners of Ancient Rome, we often depend on these two characters, in the same way we depend on what Virgil and Titus Livius wrote, which we’ve seen in our episode 40.

We depend on Plutarch for how he described those early beginnings of Rome. We also depend on him for his masterpiece, called “Parallel Lives” and the way he portrayed Romans and Greeks who lived in his times and the times before him.

We’ll talk about Parallel Lives a lot more, in this episode.

We also depend on Dionysius of Halicarnassus for the way he wrote, and his unique point of view, just to name two of his powers. But — perhaps, his biggest power was his world famous sobriety when writing about Rome. His refreshing view of men and their faults.

Well — that’s also something we’ll see today, further down the line.

But first, I want to list a few of the biggest differences that come to mind, between these two giants and the other two guys we had in Episode 40 — Livy and Virgil.

Here we go.

ONE — By reading their works, it is easy to infer that both Livy and Virgil were more — should I say — lost, when it came to writing.

Even though this is my opinion, I believe that Livy and Virgil sailed the oceans of their imaginations, without guidelines on where they would find themselves after dark, almost as if it didn’t really matter if they were even able to drop anchors, at the end of each chapter.

Plutarch and Dionysius — on the other hand, seemed to know the direction of their vessels very well. It almost feels like they knew the winds, the currents, and even the depth of the waters they were sailing through.

At the end of each paragraph, they already knew the next port of call, and they knew the weather patterns that would allow them to get there.

In writer’s terms — to me, Livy and Virgil were much more like “pantsers” — writing by the seat of their pants, while Plutarch and Dionysius were much more like “plotters.”

For those not familiar with these two terms — pantsers versus plotters, here is a side-note.

Pantsers start writing a novel — usually without much of a plan, and let their imaginations fly, and take them were they may take them. They develop story plots on the fly, and add sub-plots to their main story as they go.

Plotters do the opposite. They lay out the plot, the sub-plots, and even the changes that story characters go through, before starting chapter one. After that, they write it all down.

In general, we consider that most writers fall into one of these two categories, but the truth is, that we all have parts of both sides.

[…]

And now, without any further ado, here are TEN pairs of Greek and Roman lives, in no particular order.

ONE — Theseus and Romulus — mythical founders of Athens and Rome, respectively.

TWO — Lycurgus and Numa Pompilius

THREE — Themistocles and Camillus. Yep — that Marcus Furius Camillus!

FOUR — Pericles and Fabius Maximus

FIVE — Alcibiades and Gaius Marcius Coriolanus

SIX — Aristides and Cato the Elder

SEVEN — Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius — How fitting is that!

EIGHT — Lysander and Sulla

NINE — Demosthenes and Cicero

And finally — TEN — Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar

My personal opinion? What an honor for Julius Caesar!

[…]

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.

[…]