Episode 17 – The Conflict of the Orders

—”We can compare the social classes of Rome to a human body”

Seems like a whole new topic, but that’s nothing new to the Romans: internal struggles between their social classes appear every time, and as soon as there was no threat from the outside. But this time, they went overboard.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 17 – The Conflict of the Orders.

Last week we kicked the Latin League’s behind, in a battle that lasted far too long into the afternoon, and we all got hungry and ended up missing lunch.

Partly by superstition, Roman legionaries carried two types of food with them, at all times. Bread and olives. They also carried water, but during a battle, water would be both a waste and a discomfort, so olives just had to do, to make a soldier’s bread feel not too dry.

Did I mention that Romans were super superstitious? Well, in case I didn’t say it, here’s another one of their ideas:

Romans considered even numbers to be bad luck, and odd numbers to bring good luck.

Oh yeah. Just about half of the days in a month were no good to get married, offer sacrifices to the gods, provoke a battle, start a major business, a long journey, or even an affair, outside of one’s own home.

But, well, let’s get back to our reality, and the fact that Rome beat the Latins, together with that old Tarquin the Proud.

A year later, Tarquin will move from Clusium, where — after the death of gold ole’ King Lars Porsenna, people in Clusium kinda’ didn’t like him anymore.

Tarquin found lodging in another Etruscan town, where he lived for another year, before dying in exile. Without a throne, without a lot of money, and without that last son-in-law of his, who was killed during the battle at lake Regillus.

The name of the locality were Tarquin the Proud finally died was Cumae, and Cumae was ruled by another despot of the time, named Aristodemus.

[…]

The Roman Senate, thankful for the help of Latins, returned some 6000 prisoners of war to the Latins, and in exchange for that attitude, Latins sent a golden crown to be placed inside the temple of Jupiter in Rome.

The day the Crown was set in the temple, a large crowd joined the event, and that included those liberated Latin prisoners, who were—obviously grateful to Rome for their freedom.

[…]

Episode 16 – The Battle of Lake Regillus

— “I have five daughters,” said the giant.

Cloelia’s heroism. King Lars Porsenna’s farewell. A threat on the shores of Lake Regillus. A threat so big, that Rome installs a dictator for the first time, in order to survive its institutional infancy.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 16 – The Battle of Lake Regillus.

Last week we left off with the siege of Rome, and how Mucius gave King Porsenna the scare of his life, by telling him that the romans were going to kill him sooner or later.

Instead of burning him alive, Porsenna set Mucius free.

Two hours later, as soon as the sun came out, a delegation of Etruscans marched towards Rome, bearing their standard flag aloft, meaning peace.

They were on foot, and kept a continuous step. The signing of a peace treaty took place an hour later.

[…]

We know that in the year 503 BC, Publicola died.

Publius Valerius Publicola died in Rome at an unestablished age, in relative poverty, but loved by his people.

The burial of Publicola was paid for by the city of Rome, as his family did not possess the means, financially speaking.

His body was put on that same promontory next to the place where once people suspected him of trying to become a king of Rome.

[…]

Episode 14 – Life and Death of Junius Brutus

– Those guys must have had nerves of steel, the conscience of a vampire, the memory of a fly, and the stomach of a Nile crocodile.

The end of the battle at the Arsian Forest, and the end of the life of Consul Lucius Junius Brutus. We will see that Rome offers him a year-long mourning.

Partial Transcript

Two weeks ago we found ourselves in the middle of the battle of the Arsian forest.

On one side, we had the forces of former King Tarquin, together with forces of the Etruscan city of Veii, and on the side there were the forces of Rome, directed by Junius Brutus and Publius Valerius.

When Arruns saw that the army of Rome being commanded by Brutus, he exclaimed

“That’s the man who kicked us out of Rome!”

Watch how he proudly advances, adorned with our flag!

O Gods, Avengers of Kings, help me!

As was custom and honor at that time, both Arruns and Junius Brutus threw their horses at full gallop, one towards the other, knowing that if they could just hurt the other, the entire battle would shift to a side, just like crooked salt vendor’s scale in a Roman forum.

But, they both managed to sink the spears and penetrate the other’s shield, and both fell off their horses in the very same instant.

They died the next instant, spears deeply nailed in their torsos.

Historically speaking, although these types of duels probably contain a strong mythical element, scholars of ancient Rome say that this kind of personal combat represented a very common aspect of war within the Roman military system, and should not be discounted as a far-fetched tale.

The long tradition of the so-called spolia opina, which involves a Roman commander defeating an enemy commander in a hand-to-hand combat, insinuates that this type of events did indeed happen, every so often.

[…]

But if you take a closer look, and if we take the interpretation of the priestess at Delphi seriously, it was neither Arruns nor Titus who ruled Rome after the old Tarquin was done ruling Rome.

It was Junius Brutus.

[…]

Episode 12 – The First Two Consuls

That’s what I love about Rome. They kick each other, regardless of family lines, or family ties. So much for family love!

Rome gets to choose two Consuls, then they change their mind about one of their fresh Consuls-elect, and replace him with one of the most famous public servants ever – even today: Publius Valerius Publicola.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 12 — The First Two Consuls.

Last week, we saw—finally, the final moments of the monarchy in Rome.

We saw how Tarquin the Proud got locked out of his own city, after the rebellion started by Lucius Brutus and Lucius Collatinus.

Without any soldiers left, and knowing that the gates of Rome would be blocked, he and the idiot of his son went into exile.

Today we will see how that exile of his went on, and what exactly happened after Romans got to taste their very first hours without kings.

The very first order of the Roman Senate was to publicly declare Tarquin as an Enemy of the State, and that Rome would never again be ruled by a king.

Neither the king nor his wife Tullia would ever be allowed to put their feet within the city of Rome, and here I want to add that Romans sent a very strong message for Tullia, as a persona non-grata in their city. Do not come back to Rome, as you have killed your own father, back in the time when nobody could do anything about it.

Even though that was decades ago, Romans did not forget.

[…]

I don’t know if you guys realized, but both these guys were relatives of the king Rome had just kicked out.

Excuse me? They kick a king out of their city, and they put two of his relatives as the first two Consuls of Rome?

Yep. Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus was the ex-king’s cousin, and Lucius Junius Brutus was the ex-king’s nephew.

That’s what I love about Rome. They kick each other, regardless of family lines, or family ties.

So much for family love!

[…]

Episode 11 – Rome 1 – Athens 0

Romans didn’t like being second, especially when it came to a little word like democracy.

King Tarquin the Proud is kicked out of Rome, and his son Sextus was the main cause. We learn of a rape that shaped the world of Rome, and perhaps the entire western world.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 11 — Rome 1 – Athens 0.

This episode has a rather soccer-type title name, because the Romans—let me repeat that, the Romans claim that their republic started in the year 509 BC.

Personally, I don’t buy it, not even for a minute, but—since all we have are the records written by the Romans themselves, and since we do not have a time machine, we have to stick to their version.

Romans didn’t like being second, especially when it came to a little word like DEMOCRACY.

Turns out that, in the year 508 BC, and according to some historians—507 BC, something happened in Greece.

A man named Kleisthenes, a noble Athenian made significant reforms to the constitution of ancient Athens, and so he set his city on a democratic footing in either 508 or 507 BC.

So, then—the reaction of the Romans, actually, the reaction of those who rewrote the hsitory of Rome some centuries later, was to make a fine-tuning to their own history.

Let us have Rome get their democarcy a year earlier.

So, Rome’s demacracy arrived to the the Romans in the year 509 BC. A clever move, and a good goal.

Partial score: Rome 1 – Athens 0.

And please notice that I said “PARTIAL SCORE” because this game is far from over, and we are centuries away from the end-game whistle.

Last week we saw that Tarquin the Proud was mistreating his people. The rich, the poor, and everyone in between, plus—the people around Rome, too.

And we got to the point where Tarqin was busy setting up a siege to a city called Ardea, near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

But before we get to our Latin word of the day, I would like you to imagine this:

Sping in Rome, really early in the morning, way before the Sun rises.

As snow in the mountains melted, thawing rivers and streams to the east and north of Rome were feeding the plains around Rome, and many small, wooden bridges were carried away by the quiet, yet unrestrainable force of nature.

Through this landscape, a horseman was riding on his black horse, at full speed. He was heading south, and he was avoiding village crossroads and bridges, trying not to be seen. Romans rose early, and this added to his haste. Rome was fading behind him, and a lapis lazuli sliver on the sky was announcing the first break of dawn.

[…]

Lucretia died less than a few minutes later, but while she was dying she asked the three men to avenge her life, and to make sure that Rome was free of men like Tarquin the Proud, and that son of his.

Needless to say, the three men decided to make sure, her dying wish was to be fulfilled, otherwise our story wouldn’t match now, would it?

[…]

Episode 10 – The Tyrant and the Sibyl

The Tale of Rome – King Tarquin the Proud is the ruler of Rome, and it’s not a good thing for its citizen and neighbors. But an old hag with magic powers, also known as a Sybil, makes the king’s life miserable with a strange proposal…

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 10 — The Tyrant and the Sibyl.

Last week we saw the end of Servius Tullius’ life, and how his son-in-law usurped the throne of Rome. And luckily, I already gave you guys a brief description of this kings’ character, so let’s go ahead and see the first part of his reign.

[…]

The king was the law. His power over life and death, war and peace, rich and poor, were all undisputed.

The Roman Senate, utterly ignored and completely laughed at by the king himself, became a bunch of old men who just went to work, and looked forward to going back home, having survived another day.

They walked around the forum and their city in total fear when the king was around, and in total shame when the king was elsewhere, busy tormenting people outside of Rome.

To put it in one sentence, Tarquin rendered the Senate totally anemic, and too weak to fight his power.

Well, while the king’s reign progressed this way, and old woman arrived in Rome, and she immediately asked for an audience with the king.

But according to historians we know that this old hag was no ordinary old lady, and that in fact, she was really one of the legendary ten Sibyls, and she came all the way from what is today’s Turkey. Sibyls were known to possess tremendous powers, and Romans—as well as Etruscans, knew better than crossing a Sibyl and her magic.

[…]