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 37 – The Caudine Forks

— Aeliana’s body was placed on the left side of her husband Lucius’ body.

Everything was going fine for the Romans, until they walked into a canyon, and got trapped. The most humiliating defeat for 50,000 Roman soldiers, at the Caudine Forks.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 37 — The Caudine Forks.

During our last episode, we saw the end of many things. Many, many, things.

The end of Publius Decius Mus, for he sacrificed himself on the battlefield.

The end of Titus Manlius Torcuatus, in the books of Livy, for Livy banned him from his books, after the sacrifice of his own son.

The end of the war against the Latins. The end of many peoples of Italy, such as the Sidicines, the Auruncians, the Volsci, and the Campanians, as free people. Yes, some lived on — under the strict yoke of Rome.

It was also the end of the Latin League.

And, yes — I was also the end of a respected Senator from Tusculum. Latin landowner and aristocrat Annius saw the end of his life, when he rolled down the stairs, at the very Roman Senate.

We also saw the end of the Athenian resistance against King Philip II of Macedon, who just married yet another wife — a girl named Cleopatra of Macedon.

I think, she was like, his sixth or seventh wife.

And finally, I sadly announce that today we have yet another loss — this time from Ostia.

In an event that happened all too often in Rome, and in cities built by Romans, the three-story insulae, where our good old slave lived, burst into flames, on a moonless night.

Our slave had no time of getting down the stairs from his third floor, and while people were trying to get themselves to safety, a woman slipped on the stairs and — grabbing her husband, she dragged them both to their death.

The fire devoured the entire block by the port of Ostia.

[…]

Well, before the Romans entered the valley through the narrow pass, the Consuls sent troops ahead, to go see if something was amiss.

The soldiers returned saying that everything seemed just fine, and that the valley was completely empty.

But when the Roman troops began to march through the gorge, the Triarii, the most veteran soldiers, began to sense that something, was wrong indeed.

It was just too calm, and they didn’t like it at all.

And just when the last regiment of the Romans passed through the canyon, and just when the first part of the forces reached the exit of the canyon, they found it blocked with rocks and logs.

Noticing they were trapped, they quickly began to walk back, but by then, the first entrance was blocked, too.

Samnites were standing there, watching the Romans from above.

[…]

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.

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 22 – Decades of Death and Plagues

— And believe me, every citizen of Rome had a personal explanation of why the gods abandoned Rome.

The decades that followed. Thousands died, and thousands more wished they could die.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 22 — Decades of Death and Plagues.

When we talked about the life and death of Lucius Quinctius Cinncinatus, we saw a time when Rome was standing at the gates of one its greatest and most challenging centuries, even though Rome couldn’t know it.

And Rome did not know that for a good reason, because things were not going well in Rome.

And when I say “things” I mean the following five aspects:

ONE – from the south of Italy, commercial caravans were showing up with less and less frequency, and the ones that did, were not bringing good news to Rome.

A new tribe — well, new in our podcast, and relatively new to the ears of common Romans, began to cause troubles in what we today know as the Italian Campania.

I’m talking about the Samnites — the tribes from the hills.

Campania spread all the way to the south of our well known Latium, and went all the way to the Apennine Mountains in the east. To the south it went to the bay of what we know as Naples, next to the famous volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

Among those bad news, as we will see, was the fall of a city called Capua, which fell after a long, long siege, set by the Samnites.

But we’re not there yet, so let’s go to the next point.

TWO – The climate has begun to decline for reasons that the Romans had no way of understanding. Today we know this as a wave of climatic variation throughout Western Europe, which stretched to the center of the Mediterranean Sea.

Although scientists today have a very well-defined name for this brief period of temperature drops, in ancient times this was interpreted as a bad omen from the gods, who had surely put themselves against Rome itself.

And believe me, every citizen of Rome had a personal explanation of why the gods abandoned Rome.

[…]

Popular belief was that if they slept one night inside the temple, they would get a dream, which would give them an interpretation of what they had to do, in order to cure themselves of whatever disease they had.

But, if they had no dream during that first night, patients used to stay up to three consecutive nights in the temple, after which, the priests generally told them to go home, because obviously the gods did not want to communicate with them, and that meant that even the gods wanted them dead.

FIVE – While many bibliographic sources only cite the year 441 BC as a year of famine in Rome, these same sources do admit that many other hunger waves followed.

[…]