Episode 46 – The Third Samnite War

— That’s right, when the Etruscans heard that Corvus was leading the roman troops, they got into their fort and did not want to come out, not even to check on the weather.

For the third time, the Samnites. And some say, third time is a charm. And in this case, it was exactly like that. It’s the last years of Marcus Valerius Corvus’ life.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 46 — The Third Samnite War.

Peace reigned supreme in Rome.

We are in the year 302 BC, or — as the Roman liked to refer to their years — we are in the year of the consulship of Denter and Paulus.

Less than six months ago, peace treaties were ratified by the Senate of Rome, and now — Romans were the masters, of all of Central Italy.

And just as we’ve seen in our last episode, there was no shortage of heroes, either.

Take two examples?

Fabius Rullianus and Papirius Cursor.

Yep. It does happen at times. All of the sudden, it happens that a generation springs up in some places, and — suddenly, a nation finds itself blessed, by a generation of people who simply do stuff better.

Better than their parents, and better than their grandparents, at times.

It’s like a wave — like the waves of the ocean, coming ashore.  Every so often, you get a bigger one, a prettier one, and sometimes you can tell by counting the waves in between, but sometimes you can’t.

Yep. Sometimes, it’s almost like magic.

It happened in the States, with the baby boomers, and it happened in Argentina, with the incredible soccer generation, that saw people like Maradona, rise and fall.

True.

Sometimes, a generation like this, changes the destiny of a sport, a view on things, or even a nation, — even for a whole century, only to disappear after that, and never to return.

These waves usually leave nostalgia behind, and a strong taste that thing used to be better, before.

A legacy, if you will.

Alright, before I go all the way off the topic, here is an overview of the stuff we’ll be seeing today.

For that — I made a short list, of five topics.

Have a listen.

ONE — The years 302, 301, and 300 BC, from a legislative point of view. Two important laws are coming out in these years, and we wanna be there, and see what they are all about.

Their names are — the Lex Valeria, and the Lex Ogulnia.

TWO — We are also getting to see Marcus Valerius Corvus again, who — by now — is being addressed as Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus.

[…]

In the year 300 BC, Corvus was elected again, to lead the destiny of Rome — but this time as a Consul, and not as a Dictator.

His mission this time was to finish the thing with the Aequi, and this was the fifth time, he was elected Consul of Rome.

But — that year — Corvus was doing something more than just leading troops, and winning things for Rome.

Yep. In the year 300 BC, Corvus decided to give his support to the two laws that we talked about, earlier on.

Let me explain.

First — Since Corvus was totally in favor of the Lex Ogulnia, he made sure that, the day the law passed, he was present in Rome, standing — right in front of the building that was housing the College of Pontiffs.

He also made sure he was there, when the first Plebeian priests joined the ranks of those Pontifex.

And second — He himself helped push the Lex Valeria through the red tape, by means of a legal move, known as the provocatio, or the right to stand up for the people of Rome.

[…]

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 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 39 – State of the Union – 320 BC

— From this point of view, I can hardly wait until we get to the Emperors!

A view of the world, three years after the death of Alexander the Great, and right after Rome’s most humiliating defeat, up to this point.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 39 — State of the Union – 320 BC.

This is our third episode of the State of the Union, and as I said in our episode 13, at this time we already have many of the styles, and other standards set, for this type of episodes.

Slowly, but surely, these episodes — every 13th episode, will become tradition in this podcast.

Alright. We find ourselves in the year 320 BC. just after the shameful defeat at the already famous Caudine Forks.

So during this episode, we’re going to divide our time into three sections, as follows:

ONE — let’s see what happened to those troops on their way to Rome, and what were the next events before closing that year.

TWO — we’re going to give our typical eagle flight around the world of Rome, just as we did in our episodes 13 and 26.

AND THREE — let’s do a quick review of the people who ruled Rome’s fates, between the years 390 and 320 BC. just like we did last time.

And as always, during this episode we won’t have our segment of the Latin Word of the Week, so that’s going to be left for our next REGULAR episode.

Let’s start now!

[…]

He says that Alexander gave his ring to Perdicas, a bodyguard of his, nominating him as a successor, by doing so.

Anyway, Perdicas did never try to get the throne, and instead, he said that the heir should be Roxanne’s son, if he was born male. He also said, that the baby would have Crateros, Leonnatus, Antipater, and himself, as guardians, until the boy would grow up, and then govern by himself.

Obviously, that plan was rejected. Perdicas was killed two years later.

The unity of Macedonia collapsed, and 40 years of war erupted among the successors. These successors were now known, as the Diadochi. And at the end of that period, four clear blocks emerged. And for a time being, these blocks maintained some stability:

Egypt belonged to the Ptolemy’s.

Mesopotamia became part of the upcoming Seleucid Empire.

Anatolia went to Lysimachus.

And finally, Macedonia went to Antigonus.

[…]

Episode 38 – The First Gladiators

— The Romans are a people who do NOT know how to remain quiet after a defeat.

Part two of the Roman defeat, at the Caudine Forks. Also, a tribute to those very first gladiators of Rome.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 38 — The First Gladiators.

If last episode’s thing was closure — or loss, then today’s episode thing is SHAME.

Yep — SHAME.

Last episode we had closures.

The Latin War. Decius Mus. Villages and peoples of Italy.

Marcus, the Gladiator. And his mother, Aeliana, who died less than a month after Marcia.

In this episode, the topics are shame and humiliation, and we’ll see why.

In Rome, news arrived that the troops got caught at the Caudine Forks.

No-one knew exactly, how many were caught, and all the details of the event, but this was more than enough for an emergency session at the Senate of Rome.

And even before that EMERGENCY SESSION went into gear, the Senators dispatched orders. A new army would be raised, because they didn’t know what exactly happened.

For all intents and purposes, the army could be dead by now. All of them.

Less than a week later, however, fresher — and more reliable news broke.

And that’s when the entire city felt the humiliation of the event.

Unbearable shame.

50,000 Roman soldiers surrendered — without ever drawing a single sword, to a guy called Gaius Pontius.

[…]

Well, to make a long story short, our old Marcus, knew that his next fight might as well be his last one.

And because of that, he invited his nephew, to watch him die.

—”Spurius,” Marcus said,  as they walked past markets and shops, “Rome will soon be the master of this whole region. Not just Capua, but the whole south of Italy. And I don’t want to be alive, by the time that happens.”

—”What are you trying to tell me,” Spurius asked.

—”In seven days I get to face Croccus,” Marcus said.

— “Croccus — The lion killer?”

— “That’s right.”

[…]

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.

[…]