A History of Europe
Chapter 1: THE RISE OF ROME, PART I
753 to 27 B.C.
This chapter is divided into two parts, which cover the following topics:
The Romans first appeared on the scene in the eighth century B.C. At that time, Italy was still the kind of place we saw in Chapter 1: a frontier on the edge of the civilized world, divided into a dozen tribes and about a hundred villages. The northernmost tribes, in the vicinity of modern Genoa, were a Celtic group, the Ligurians. Across the Arno River from them was Etruria, the land of the Etruscans, and below Etruria, along the lower part of the Tiber River, was Latium, the land of the Latins. A dozen Greek settlements occupied the southern coast of the peninsula; later the Romans thought this was the original Greek homeland and call it Magna Graecia ("Greater Greece"). The interior and part of the east coast went to a patchwork of Italic tribes like the Lucanians, Oscans, Umbrians, and Samnites, who spoke languages similar to Latin. Also on the east coast were Illyrian tribes like the Veneti (from which Venice later got its name) and the Messapii, recent immigrants from the Balkans.
Among all of these groups, the Greeks and the Etruscans were the most advanced. We last looked at the Etruscans when they were in their formative stage, the Villanovan culture. Now that they had a fully developed civilization, the Etruscans followed the same political path as the Greeks; each city-state kept its independence, but all of them recognized that they were one people. Because of similarities in their art to that of the Greeks, archaeologists and historians give the following phases of Etruscan history the same names that they gave to the Greeks:
The leader of each city was called a Lauchum, and he appears to have been more like a priest than a king, while an oligarchy of nobles held political power. Indeed, the Lauchums didn't even reserve many luxuries for themselves, because their assistants dressed as elegantly as they did. The Roman historian Livy tells us how when Lars Porsenna, the Lauchum of Clusium, attacked Rome (more about that later), an assassin tried to kill him. The attacker found the leader and his secretary seated in the middle of the Etruscan camp, paying the soldiers; because the two men were dressed alike, he stabbed the secretary by mistake.
To defend against outsiders like the Celts and Greeks, the twelve city-states formed a league, which we sometimes call the Dodecapolis. It appears that Campania eventually became the location of a second Etruscan league, though we can't be sure who was in it besides Capua and Volturnum. At any rate, these leagues were loosely organized, with each Lauchum only having power over his own city. Every year at Volsinii, they held a festival to honor the god Voltumna, and elected a Lauchum to serve as head of the league for the next year. This appears to have been largely a ceremonial post; you could call that ruler the Etruscan pope.
The sixth century B.C. was the best of times for the Etruscans. Rome was under their control from 616 to 509, and they expanded north to the Po River valley, building new cities like Marzabotto, Felsina (modern Bologna), Fiesole (next to Florence), and Melpum (Milan). At the mouth of the Po they founded Spina, which became an important seaport, and the nearby settlement of Adria gave its name to the Adriatic Sea. Overseas they colonized Corsica, and an alliance with the Carthaginian Empire allowed them to have outposts in Spain, the Balearic Islands, and even the Canary Islands. In 535 the Carthaginians and Etruscans teamed up to attack Alalia, a Greek settlement on Corsica, and though the Greeks did better in the resulting naval battle, they lost so many ships and men that they had to abandon Corsica.
Italy, about 600 B.C.
Etruscan expansion slowed to a halt when they approached the Alps in the north, and Greek Massilia in the west, but their trade goods traveled all over western Europe. Etruscan-made objects have been found as far south as Carthage, as far north as Hassle, Sweden(1), and as far west as Huerva, Spain. Unfortunately we don't know how much of this merchandise was carried by Etruscans, and how much by other merchants. To promote commerce and manufacturing, they allowed a few skilled Carthaginians and Greeks to come to Etruria, but went to some effort to keep them segregated from the Etruscans; the Carthaginians were given a port named Pyrgi, near Caere, while the Greeks stayed in one of Tarquinia's ports.
There are two reasons why the Etruscans are so mysterious to us. The first reason is the continual habitation of Italy since their time, which has made their artifacts scarcer than those of the civilizations which followed. When the Romans took over they assimilated the Etruscans, and obliterated everything the Etruscans built above ground, leaving only their graves for us to study. The other reason is that the Etruscan language still has not been completely translated. Their alphabet was nearly the same as ours, so we can read Etruscan inscriptions, but we have never found an Etruscan "Rosetta Stone," matching one of their inscriptions with one from a known language. By working on it since the mid-eighteenth century, using the techniques of modern cryptography, scholars have managed to learn the meanings of approximately 300 Etruscan words. It also does not help that the existing inscriptions are so short; a typical tomb inscription was limited to the deceased's name, whatever titles he/she may have had, and a brief prayer.(2) Apparently they did most of their writing on sheets of linen, a material not likely to last until our time. The longest Etruscan text ever found (1,200 words) survived because somebody sent it to Egypt, where it was cut into strips and used for mummy wrappings!
The Etruscans were great technicians whose architectural skill is evident in their roads, bridges, canals, and temples. In art they specialized in luxury items, and in painted and sculpted works intended for religious and funerary purposes. Tombs carved out of rock were made to look like the interiors of houses; like the Egyptians, the Etruscans formed a necropolis, or "city of the dead," on the outskirts of each city. Wealthy families or clans had many-chambered tombs to hold several generations.
The interiors of Etruscan tombs provide rare examples of large-scale ancient painting. Among the best preserved is the series from Tarquinia, dating from the late 7th to the 1st centuries BC. Human forms figure prominently in the lively and naturalistic scenes, which depict daily activities and funeral celebrations. Pictures of recreation--such as banquets, the playing of music, and sports like chariot races--are common, and dancing is the most common of all, suggesting a happy, carefree people.(3) At funerals they might stage a fight to the death between two of the deceased's slaves, presumably to teach other slaves to take good care of their master while he's alive! From this the Romans later developed the sport of gladiatorial combat.
Where the Etruscans differed most from the other civilizations of their day was in their treatment of women. Greek and Roman women had few rights, lived at the will of their fathers or husbands, and were expected to stay out of sight, doing housework; by contrast, Etruscan society displayed a remarkable equality between the sexes. Women were just as likely to recieve fine tombs as men, and at parties, men and women mingled freely. The Greeks accused the Etruscans of having loose morals for this, because at Greek parties, prostitutes were the only women likely to attend.
Etruscan vase-painting imitated Greek models, while funerary portrait sculptures of men and women were produced not only in stone, but also in ceramics. They sculpted some funerary urns as a bust representing the deceased whose ashes they contained, while others were still shaped like miniature huts. Bronze sculpture was also an Etruscan speciality. Between 700 and 500 B.C., the potters of Caere used a ceramic style named bucchero, made from black clay and given a metallic sheen to imitate bronze.
The Romans inherited this interest in omens and divination after they replaced the Etruscans. They thought the Sybil of Cumae was the most accurate female oracle in Italy, and there is a well-known story of an encounter between the Sybil and Tarquinius Superbus (see below), the last Etruscan king of Rome. One day a very old woman came to Tarquinius with nine scrolls to sell. She said the scrolls came from the Sybil of Cumae; they told what would happen in the future, and what the king must do to protect Rome from disaster. The price for the scrolls was three hundred pieces of gold; because Rome was not yet a rich city, this seemed like an awfully high amount. The king and his advisors refused to buy, so without hesitation the woman went to a brazier and threw three of the scrolls into the fire. Once done, she turned back to the king and offered to sell the six remaining scrolls, still for three hundred gold pieces. Again the king and his advisors said no, so she burned three more scrolls, and then offered the last three scrolls for the same price. At this point the king realized she must actually be the Sybil, and his nerve broke. Dare he refuse her, if these scrolls actually contained prophecy? This time he bought the scrolls, and they went into the temple of Jupiter, where they were henceforth known as the Sybilline Books, the most valuable books in Rome. The priests who guarded and studied them never told us exactly what they contained, or if they were worth their cost. What we do know is that when a prediction made by the priests did not come true, they explained it by saying they did not have the missing books to guide them correctly.
Etruscan power went into a definite decline after they lost Rome. In 524 B.C. the Greeks defeated an Etruscan attack on Cumae; this gave the Greeks control of the Straits of Messina. In 474 B.C. the Sicilian Greeks won an even bigger victory, by defeating the Etruscan navy off the coast of Cumae. After that the strongest tribe in central Italy, the Samnites, took over the plain of Campania. The flourishing trade between Greece and north Italy dropped off, and in late Etruscan tombs we can see the resulting poverty because the dead received fewer grave goods. The tomb murals also show a grimmer mood; after 400 B.C., scenes from the afterlife became more common than joyous party scenes. Frightening demons like Charun (the Greek Charon), Vanth and Tuchulcha often appear, colored blue to symbolize decaying flesh. This reflects both the Etruscan attitude that their time was nearly up, and that life was getting tougher. The fourth century saw them withdraw to Etruria, where they came under attack, from the Gauls to the north and from the Romans to the south.
The late fourth and early third centuries B.C. saw the Etruscans become part of the Roman world. Their last bid for independence was a revolt at the town of Falerii, in 241 B.C. Rome received contributions from the still wealthy Etruscan cities during the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.), and in 89 B.C. the remaining Etruscans became Roman citizens, along with most other Italians. Afterwards Etruscan culture virtually disappeared, although the language remained in use for certain religious and magic formulas until the fall of the Roman Empire. Romans also preferred Etruscan soothsayers to the homegrown kind, and sometimes sent their sons to Etruria so they could learn divination from the experts. It was an Etruscan soothsayer, Spurinna, who warned Julius Caesar to beware the ides of March, on a fateful day in 44 B.C. Besides a preoccupation with superstition, Rome derived several features of its culture from the Etruscans: the toga; the fasces (an axe in a bundle of rods, carried by ceremonial guards, from which we get the word fascism); the lituus (a curved staff that was a soothsayer's symbol of authority, which eventually became the crook carried by Christian bishops); words such as triumph, atrium, taberna (tavern), histrio (actor), and possibly even the name of Rome itself.
There weren't any women among the first followers of Romulus, which is not good when you're trying to build a community that will last. To solve this problem Romulus staged a big picnic-like festival, in honor of the god Neptune, and invited the nearest community of the Sabine tribe, telling them to come with their families. In the middle of the celebration, Romulus gave a signal; every Roman grabbed a woman and took her home. The Sabine men tried to negotiate the return of their women; the Romans refused and the Sabines armed themselves. Their first attack on Rome failed, so they called in help from other Sabine villages. In the meantime the women learned to accept their new husbands, and had babies. With the second attack the Sabines broke into the city, but before they could finish off the Romans the women intervened. They ran between the two forces with their babies, and called for a halt to the bloodshed because it was a no-win situation for them; if the Sabines won they would become widows, while if the Romans won they would be orphans. The result was peace, and the Sabines went home, now aware that they were the grandfathers of Rome's second generation.
For a few years after that, Romulus shared rule with Titus Tatius, the king of the Sabines, until Titus Tatius was killed in a street riot. Because Romulus favored Mars, the god of war, he devoted the rest of his reign to a series of raids and battles with neighboring tribes. One day in 716 B.C., while reviewing the troops, a thunderstorm broke, and he disappeared in the middle of it; afterwards nobody could find him. The soldiers concluded that his god had come in the lightning to take him away.
Turning from fable to fact, modern scholars believe that at some point between 900 and 700 B.C., the inhabitants of several small Latin settlements in the Tiber valley united and established a common meeting place, the Forum, around which the city of Rome grew. Conveniently close to the river and protected from invaders by marshes and the famous seven hills, Rome was well-placed. By 600 B.C. the villages on the site had grown into a single city-state, full of traders and other workers as well as farmers, centered on the Forum and surrounded by an earthen wall. Even so, it took centuries to grow; as the popular saying goes, Rome was not built in a day.
From a start Roman society was sharply divided into two classes: the patricians, who came from the oldest noble families, and the plebeians ("plebs"), who were everybody else. Only free men received citizenship; women and slaves were ignored completely. Sometimes a plebeian could become rich by pursuing trade or some other lucrative profession, but he was excluded from any job with power; the king, senators and leading priests were always patricians.
Anyway, the Senate elected Numa Pompilius, a Sabine immigrant, to replace Romulus. Temperamentally the opposite of Romulus, Numa devoted himself to peaceful pursuits. To keep the people, now accustomed to fighting and pillage, from making war on others, he invented all kinds of laws, ceremonies and festivals. By the time he was done, Rome was the most pious city in Italy, and the citizens were too busy with their rituals to even think about bothering their neighbors.
The next two kings, Tullus Hostilius and Ancus Martius, were also elected. As one might expect from his name, Tullus brought back the warlike ways of Romulus, while Ancus, the grandson of Numa, brought another generation of peace. Then the Etruscans took over the city. According to Livy, this was a peaceful coup. It happened because an Etruscan couple, Lucumo and his wife Tanaquil, moved in; they were rich and ambitious, but the people of their home city (Tarquinii) would not let Lucumo rise to a position worthy of his skills because his father, Demaratus of Corinth, was a Greek merchant. Rome, however, was friendly to immigrants, and growing by leaps and bounds, so at Tanaquil's urging, they loaded their belongings in a wagon and went to seek their fortunes in Rome. On the way an eagle snatched the hat of Lucumo, flew away with it, then returned and dropped the hat back on his head. Tanaquil was a prophetess, and to her there could be no better omen than this: her husband had been crowned by an eagle! They continued to Rome, prospered there, and when the throne became vacant in 616 B.C., Lucumo campaigned for it, on the assumption that the Romans would choose anyone suitable for the job, native-born or not (remember Numa). Sure enough, he won, and changed his name to Lucius Tarquinius Priscus.(7)
Tarquinius ruled wisely, but in the middle of his long reign many people, including the king and queen, saw something very unusual. A servant boy in the palace named Servius Tullius was asleep, and his head glowed like it was on fire; then when he woke up, the glow disappeared. Tanaquil took her husband aside, and said this must be a sign from the gods that he was to be the next king. They were so convinced by this "halo" that instead of promising the throne to one of their biological sons, they gave their daughter to Servius, and made him the royal heir.
The sons of Tarquinius and Tanaquil probably didn't like being passed over in favor of an in-law like Servius, but they allowed him to enjoy a reign that lasted more than forty years. Servius, however, had a restless and headstrong daughter named Tullia, who became as much a kingmaker as her grandmother Tanaquil had been. She was married to a princely youth with a gentle disposition, but her sister married the prince's violent brother, a young man who was also named Lucius Tarquinius. Tullia saw that her husband didn't want to be king, whereas Tarquinius did, so she arranged for the murder of both her husband and her sister. Once those obstacles were out of the way, she married Tarquinius, declaring that "If you are he whom I thought I was marrying, I call you both man and king. If not, then I have so far changed for the worse, in that crime is added, in your case, to cowardice. Come, rouse yourself!"
Tarquinius acted by slandering the king, looking to find political support from those who also wanted a different ruler. Then he convened a session of the Senate to declare that he would make a more suitable king than the ex-slave who wore the crown. The aged Servius tried to interrupt the meeting, and Tarquinius killed him by throwing him down the steps outside the Senate building. According to Livy, Tullia rushed to the Senate to proclaim her husband king, and when she left, her carriage came to the body of her murdered father. Her terrified driver pulled up on the reins to stop, but Tullia, "crazed by the avenging spirits of her sister and former husband," ordered him to gallop right over the corpse, showering blood on them. Because of that gory scene, the Romans renamed that street the Street of Crime. Thus, Lucius Tarquinius became Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud), Rome's worst and final king.
Tarquin constructed the Cloaca Maxima, Rome's great sewer system, and built a great temple to the gods Jupiter, Juno and Minerva on the Capitoline Hill. But he was also paranoid; he surrounded himself with yes-men, and exiled, killed, or confiscated the property of anyone he thought might give him trouble. Soon the Romans decided they didn't want anything more to do with Etruscan kings.
If the legends can be trusted, the end of Etruscan rule came because of a friendly contest between some Roman and Etruscan army officers. One night they decided to test the virtue of their wives by making some unannounced visits. Going to the Etruscan ladies first, they found them "at a luxurious banquet, whiling away the time with their young friends." By contrast, when they called on the home of a Roman wife named Lucretia, she and her industrious maidens were staying up late to get their spinning work done. After the contest, one of the Etruscan officers, a son of Tarquin, vowed to rape Lucretia. He went back to her house with a sword; Lucretia would have preferred death to dishonor, but he overcame her defenses by threatening to kill her and her slave, and placing their naked bodies together as evidence of her unfaithfulness. Afterwards Lucretia denounced the violation to her male relatives, and stabbed herself in shame. A nephew of the king, Lucius Junius Brutus, was a friend of Lucretia's family, and he took both the knife and Lucretia's body to the Forum, where he used them to enrage the people into rebellion. Tarquin was out of town when this happened; he tried to return, only to find himself locked out, and the whole army turned against him. The only thing he could do was go into exile, so he departed for the Etruscan city of Clusium. On that note the Roman monarchy ended in 509 B.C., and in its place came the Roman Republic, with Brutus as one of its first consuls.
The new government's most powerful body was the Senate, which remained a good old boy's club for patricians only. The chief executive was not a king but two consuls, who were elected from the Senate. Each consul served for a single year, and then had to wait at least a year before he could run again. The two consuls provided an effective check to keep one man from becoming too strong; both had to agree for any law to pass, for example.
In times of emergency, like in a war, quick decision making was needed, rather than careful deliberation. For this the Republic installed a temporary dictator, who was given unlimited powers for six months or until the crisis ended, whichever came first. The best example of a dictator was Cincinnatus, who was called to stop an invasion from the Aequi, a neighboring people, in 458 B.C. According to the story, Cincinnatus was plowing his field when he heard the Senate had chosen him to be dictator; he put down his plow and went off to do his duty without hesitation. He won a quick victory, and came home to finish his spring plowing only sixteen days after they called him away.(8)
The Republic retained the Comitia Curiata from earlier days, and added a new body, the Comitia Centuriata, to organize and maintain the army. Every male citizen between the ages of seventeen and sixty was registered with this body, so they could call him to duty at a moment's notice. Membership in the Comitia Centuriata was determined not by family background, but by wealth, and it was divided into seven classes. Patricians and those plebeians who could afford weapons, armor and horses were placed in the class on the top; poor plebeians who could only bring slings and stones occupied the second class from the bottom; the class on the very bottom contained those who had no weapons at all, and served in noncombatant roles. Each class had to supply a certain number of centuries (100-man units) in wartime, and received votes according to how many centuries it could muster. The top two classes, which included all patricians and provided for 98 centuries, thus had a majority vote over the other five, which only had 95 centuries between them.
Plebeians quickly came to resent the limitations put on them. As noted previously, wealthy plebs could not have the most important jobs, no matter how big their fortunes grew; even marriage between patricians and plebeians was forbidden. For poor plebeians, especially farmers, it was much worse. Falling into debt after a season or two of bad crops was commonplace, and while the plebeians were off at war (which was often), their families borrowed money to make ends meet. Since these loans came from patricians, the patricians saw it as state business to make sure that those loans were repaid. There were laws against plebeians selling their land to pay debts, so they had to offer their own persons as collateral; if they defaulted on payments, the creditor could sell them into slavery or even put them to death. This meant that if the typical soldier did not loot adequately, he risked losing his land, freedom, and maybe his life.
In 494 B.C., only fifteen years after the Republic's founding, the plebeians figured out that maybe the patricians could run Rome by themselves, but they could not defend it alone. In that year, when they were called out to fight a campaign, the plebeian soldiers staged a strike; they marched to a camp outside Rome, announced a list of demands, and set up a government of their own, run by a plebeian officer named Sicinius.(9) To protect Sicinius and his associates, the plebs swore an oath to kill anyone who even touched their officers with violent intentions.
The government respected this challenge, and allowed the plebeian assembly to join it, alongside the Senate, the obsolete Curiata and the powerful Centuriata. The new body, called the Comitia Tributa (Assembly of the People by Tribes) viewed the protection of plebeians' rights as its foremost concern. Two tribunes led it originally; later they increased them to ten. Like the consuls, the tribunes were elected annually, and they gained extraordinary powers. Not only was it illegal to lay hands on them, they could stop any action by a consul, senator, or the Centuriata, simply by calling out "Veto!," meaning "I forbid!"
Next the plebeians reformed Roman law. The laws up to this point were not written down but committed to memory by the patricians, who of course only enforced those laws which suited their interests. plebeians wanted laws they could see, so they would know when they were treated fairly. After some more strikes, they succeeded. Around 450 B.C. the government agreed to write down the laws on twelve bronze tablets, and put them on display in the Forum. Law codes were hardly a new idea, but this one started the great tradition of Roman law. It inspired the recording of legal cases, so that lawyers and judges could follow precedent instead of plucking vague customs from memory. The Twelve Tables proved so enduring that Roman schoolboys still memorized them four centuries later.(10)
The struggle between patricians and plebeians, sometimes called the Struggle of the Orders, continued for a long time to come. Only five years after the creation of the Twelve Tables, for example, the government agreed to do away with the law banning patrician-plebeian marriages. Fortunately, neither side let their disputes imperil the common good of the state. Together they promoted a patriotism that increased civic pride and encouraged expansion by conquest. At the time of the Republic's founding, Rome controlled no more than 350 square miles of land, and from the start it found itself in a fight to keep from losing what it had to larger neighbors.
Their first dangerous enemies were the Etruscans. According to tradition, in 506 B.C. Tarquinius Superbus came with Lars Porsenna, the ruler of Clusium, in an unsuccessful attempt to regain Rome. The Etruscan army advanced to the Tiber River, where it was halted by the bravery of a single Roman, Horatius Cocles. Horatius fought alone on the west bank of the river, singlehandedly holding off the invaders while his comrades destroyed the bridge leading over the river to Rome. Once he knew he had saved the city, Horatius jumped into the river, becoming a martyr and the greatest Roman hero.(11)
Once the Etruscans were gone, Rome faced trouble with the rest of Latium. The Latins had a common language and religion, and similar political institutions; now eight of the twelve Latin communities formed a new alliance, called the Latin League, because they thought Rome was becoming too overbearing. Rome fought a small war with the League and defeated it in the battle at Lake Regillus (493 B.C.), about fifteen miles southeast of Rome. Afterwards both sides signed a treaty and a defense pact, which called for perpetual peace between the Latins and Romans, mutual assistance in time of war, and an equal share of whatever booty might be gained; Rome also relinquished its claim to dominance over Latium. The alliance came in handy when two non-Latin tribes from the Apennines, the Aequi and the Volsci, invaded Latium a few years later. The final victory against these two, however, did not come from either the alliance or the aforementioned campaign of Cincinnatus. It came when Latium formed another alliance, this one bringing the Hernici, a people living between the Aequi and the Volsci, into the Roman-Latin League. This was an early application of what would become a favorite Roman policy--divide and conquer.
Late in the fifth century, the Romans felt ready to finish off the Etruscan city of Veii, which had long been an annoyance to them. Only a dozen miles north of Rome and on the opposite bank of the Tiber, Rome and Veii had quarreled since earliest times over who could mine the salt pans at the mouth of the river. The two cities had fought twice (483-474 and 438-426), with inconclusive results. This time the Roman army, now vastly improved after fighting other enemies, laid siege to Veii. According to the account the siege lasted for a full decade, and in it Rome's first professional army came into existence; soldiers recruited for a single summer campaign were paid to stay on the front lines all year round. When Veii finally surrendered in 396 B.C., the Roman commander, Marcus Furius Camillus, annexed both the city and the land it ruled, doubling the size of Rome's territory in one stroke. Most of this land promptly went to the poor to keep the plebeians happy. Veii had help from three other Etruscan city-states, so these were marked for punishment next. Two of them, the small towns of Sutrium and Nepi, fell in 387; Caere was taken in 384. Rome gave these lands to its allies, so they could have something to show for their efforts. Though it acted generous in victory, Rome had regained its status as the leading city of Latium.
Next came one of those military events which changed the course of history. Several tribes of Celtic warriors, called Gauls by the Romans, migrated over the Alps from Switzerland and southern Germany; their women, children, servants and livestock followed behind, with their belongings piled high on wagons. In the same year as the Roman conquest of Veii, the Gauls captured the northernmost Etruscan settlement, Melpum, and destroyed it completely; now the Po River valley became theirs. Then a horde of 30,000 screaming warriors, led by a chieftain named Brennus, surged down the peninsula. They attacked Clusium in 391, and some Roman ambassadors on the scene tried, without success, to persuade the Gauls to turn back. The following year a hastily enrolled Roman army met the Gauls on the Allia River (a tributary of the Tiber), and was utterly defeated. With nothing left between them and Rome, the Gauls poured into the city and sacked it, capturing everything except the citadel and the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill.(12) They remained for seven months, looting, burning and terrifying the inhabitants of the city. Finally the Celts ran low on food and an epidemic of dysentery set in, so they decided to return home. Before they left, they heaped another humiliation on the Romans, forcing them to pay 1,000 pounds of gold for their freedom. When Camillus protested that the weights used by the Celts to measure the gold were too heavy, and thus dishonest, Brennus threw his iron sword on the scale and said "Vae victis!" ("Woe to the vanquished!"), a phrase that has haunted the discussions of ransoms ever since.The Romans neither forgave nor forgot this incident. A proposal was made to move the capital to Veii, instead of rebuilding Rome, but obviously it was not accepted; if the Romans had done that, we could probably end this chapter right here. When Rome arose from its first set of ruins, its residents built the walls stronger than before, and worked constantly to improve their fighting capabilities. The next time Roman soldiers met Gauls, they would fare better.
Then two tribunes, Licinius and Sextus, passed a sweeping set of reforms that softened the pitiless old laws on debtors(13), and opened all state offices to plebeians, even the consulship; they now required that one of the two consuls be a plebeian. In practice, though, what really happened was that the patricians made a deal with the well-to-do plebeians. Once a pleb joined the elite, he became as conservative as a blue-blooded old patrician.
The ancients never wondered why Rome became the capital of the known world; according to legend Romulus predicted it would be a great city. Whenever Rome needed it, the Senate and people acted with a courage and discipline that both deserved and ensured the favor of the gods. But history is crowded with brave people who failed (the Celts, for instance), so now historians look for a less glorious answer in social and economic statistics.
The strength of united Italy is obvious from the number of legions fielded in the Punic Wars and the course after 300 B.C. makes sense. The part with the question mark is the fourth century B.C., when Rome became mistress over the whole Italian peninsula. The city had no natural resources, no manufacturing industry, no trade; in a nutshell, its population never should have grown beyond 10,000. Yet it grew anyway and this growth seems to have started before the conquests that allowed it to keep its size. Within a generation of its sacking by the Gauls, Rome was the largest city in both Latium and Etruria. Perhaps the Gauls, by displaying the vulnerability of small towns, taught the Romans that joining together would give them strength.
It may be that we won't fully understand why this happened until we understand the facet of human nature that prefers urban to rural poverty, why big cities attract people beyond their ability to employ them all, and why sponsored programs of emigration always fail to solve the problems of overcrowding and unemployment. In other words, the key to the mystery of Rome's rise to greatness may lie in the slums of South-Central Los Angeles.
The constant need for cheap grain was an important factor in Rome's overseas policy, just as today the need for cheap petroleum drives U.S. policy in the Middle East. In the fourth century B.C. the Romans got their grain by conquering the plain of Campania. This was followed by the conquest of Sicily & Sardinia, then the Carthaginian part of Africa, and finally Egypt; a bigger granary was needed in each century.(14) One reason why expansion nearly stopped in the reign of Caesar Augustus (see the next chapter) may have been because there were no unconquered lands left in the known world, that produced as much grain as those places.
Another motivator for conquest was the desire for security. The Romans never put forth a plan for world conquest, but were always suspicious of whoever lived outside their growing domain. They seemed to have had the feeling that if they could just conquer the land beyond the next hill, Rome would be safe at last. Instead, each time they conquered a hostile neighbor, they found themselves with a new neighbor just a little bit farther away who also needed taming. As the territories filled with Roman citizens, they needed protection too, so Rome became occupied with defending its buffer zones as well. Ultimately this cycle went on until Rome no longer had the resources to expand any more.(15)
The growth of Rome made sure that the various Italian tribes would accept their new masters. Instead of continuing to revolt, the citizens of other towns migrated to the new capital and cultural center, thus confirming her status; whether they were Latins, Etruscans or something else, their ethnic identity disappeared as they became Romans. To paraphrase another famous saying, when in Rome they learned to do as the Romans do. Although the patricians opposed this influx and tried to reverse it by encouraging Romans to move out, they could not halt the growth--only slow it a bit. Again, there was an economic reason for this: the importation of cheap grain deprived the Italian farmer of his market and profit, so he abandoned his farm and moved to the city, where he completed the vicious circle by adding his voice to the demand for more cheap grain.
While Rome experienced her own rocketing expansion as a city, she did less than nothing for the urbanization of her provinces. True, we can scarcely call the settlements in Spain and Gaul cities, but in the already civilized areas the legions brought disaster. They wasted Carthage and Corinth, and the treatment Syracuse got insured that she would never be a first-rate city again. With Athens the Romans were sentimental--they made her a gift of Delos--but before 100 B.C. the most successful cities within the Roman sphere were the Campanian towns of Naples(16), Puteoli and Capua. Their wine, oil, pottery and metalwork supplied the Italian market, the colonists in the provinces and, as they gradually acquired Roman tastes, the Republic's non-Roman subjects.
In theory the Etruscans still should have been the strongest people in Italy. In practice their fleet could no longer compete when the Carthaginians and the Greeks ganged up against it (this happened after they supported the disastrous campaign of Athens against Sicily in 413 B.C.). Their twelve-city league never worked very well, either; we saw how it had failed to stop the Romans from taking Veii, and how it couldn't keep the Gauls from wasting the whole country. In fact, between wars with outside enemies, the Etruscan city-states fought each other frequently. In 358 the city of Tarquinii started a war to recover the lands lost to the Latins, but it got nowhere and agreed to a truce seven years later.
This caused great resentment among Rome's allies. Since the threat which brought them together (the Etruscans & Celts) no longer worried them, and their combined effort against the Samnites had resulted in a draw, the Latin cities decided it was time to let their league die a natural death. However, Rome had other ideas. Their arguing led to a two-year war (the Latin War, 340-338), which Rome won. Once the war was over, Rome dissolved the Latin League anyway, because it had conquered all of the league's members. Then in 329 the Romans annexed the Volsci, adding another line of defense in case they had to fight the Samnites again.
Sure enough, a second confrontation between Rome and Samnium came in 327, when the Samnites put the squeeze on Naples. A pro-Samnite faction gained control of that city, and the Romans laid siege to it until the Samnite garrison inside agreed to leave. Now that Naples passed to the Romans, activity shifted to the hills of the Samnite country. Here everything favored the locals; the Roman army was still primitive at this stage, meaning that other Italians could beat it, and Samnium controlled most of the land between Latium and Campania. The Romans, on the other hand, had great difficulty fighting their way into the Appenines, and precious little to show for it after that.(17) In 321 B.C. the entire Roman army (which at this time consisted of 8,000 men, divided into two legions) was trapped in a valley, forced to surrender, and made to pass under a yoke mounted on poles--a great dishonor. The Samnites let the legions go in return for a favorable peace treaty and the Romans were so discouraged that they kept the treaty for four years.
A compromise in their favor was all the Samnites wanted and expected; this was the usual way to end a tribal war. However, the Romans wanted to conquer the Samnites, so they trained themselves in the tactics needed for mountain warfare. When they returned for a rematch in 316, they showed a determination that was new in Italian warfare. By this time the Romans had learned that their willingness to wage long conflicts was a characteristic they had and their opponents lacked; although they frequently lost their battles, they usually won their wars.
It was part of Rome's policy to protect spots of the frontier that looked vulnerable, by planting fortified colonies on them. On average they founded one colony every ten years for most of the fourth century B.C. Now (between 315 and 290) they averaged a new colony every two years. Not all new settlements were established with defense in mind; some were put in locations that made them advance bases for attacks into Samnite territory, but indefensible should the tide turn against the Romans. The most remarkable of these was Luceria, built to the east of Samnium in 314. To get to it the Romans formed an alliance with a local tribe, the Oscans.
The second half of the Second Samnite War lasted 12 years. The Roman army, now increased to four legions, slowly gained the upper hand. In 311 the Samnites persuaded the Etruscans to attack Rome from the north, but the Romans beat them at Lake Vadimo and imposed a separate peace treaty (308). Ringed in by the Roman colonies, the Samnites never managed an effective counterattack; gradually their resistance crumbled. In 305 Bovianum (modern Benevento, Beneventum in Latin), the Samnite capital, was taken by storm. The next Roman-Samnite truce was all in Rome's favor.
The third and last Samnite war began in 298, when the Samnites formed an alliance with the Gauls, Etruscans, Sabines, Umbrians, and Lucanians to stop Roman expansion. Only once did these allies get together, and when they did, at the battle of Sentinum (295, near modern Ancona) the Romans broke the northern half of the coalition and added Umbria to their territory. Then the Romans annexed Rusellae, Perusia and Volsinii, and forced the remaining Etruscan cities to sign a 40-year truce and pay a heavy indemnity. One by one the other members of the coalition dropped out, until only the Samnites were left. When the Samnites sued for peace in 290, they were treated mercifully, since the Romans considered them valiant opponents, but now they were absorbed into the Roman state.
So, to their surprise, were the Oscans and the Etruscans. The treaties of alliance which the Oscans had signed, and the peace treaty that the Etruscans accepted, were now declared to bind them to Roman service; what they thought was a friendly handshake turned into a permanent grip. There were revolts, but these were uncoordinated and put down easily. To discourage further resistance Rome imposed harsher treaties. Land was confiscated, and more Roman colonists and road-builders went forth, cementing Roman rule over all of central Italy.
The man who came to champion the cause of Hellenism against the Romans was Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus (see Chapter 2). He arrived at Tarentum in 281 with a large army (20,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, and twenty elephants) and even larger ambitions. In the first battle with the Romans, at Heraclea, the infantry of both sides clashed several times before Pyrrhus turned loose his elephants. The Romans had never seen elephants before, and fled in panic, but not before inflicting heavy casualties: Rome lost 7,000 men, while Pyrrhus lost 4,000. Pyrrhus won the next battle, at Ausculum, which was nearly as bloody: Rome lost 6,000, Pyrrhus lost 3,505. "Another such victory and I am lost," Pyrrhus reportedly said, leading to the term "Pyrrhic victory" to describe a struggle won at too great a cost. Then he marched on Rome, stopping only thirty miles from the city, but the Romans refused to talk peace.
At this point (278 B.C.) the Greeks of Sicily also called for help, since the Carthaginians were besieging Syracuse, so Pyrrhus withdrew from Italy; he preferred dramatic victories to the task of grinding down Rome's legions. His success on Sicily was rapid; by 277 he had captured all the Carthaginian bases except Lilybaeum, on the island's western tip, and imagined Sicily as his second kingdom. The Sicilian Greeks, however, were no more willing to submit to him than to Carthage; they revolted and Pyrrhus returned to Italy. At Maleventum in Campania, the Romans defeated his large and unruly army, so he abandoned his Italian allies to fight with Macedonia's King Antigonus II (275). Three years later he was killed in a street brawl in Argos, so the Romans didn't have to face him in any more rematches.
Rome and Carthage were allies at this stage, for Carthage could not afford to have a strong power established as close to her as Sicily. Rome seemed a lesser threat than a second Alexander the Great, so the Carthaginians sent a fleet, captained by an admiral named Mago, to defend the mouth of the Tiber. With the war's end, Rome and Carthage split the reward: Carthage got all of Sicily but Syracuse, and Rome annexed Magna Graecia, making herself master of southern as well as central Italy. Now Rome looked across the Straits of Messina, and imagined Carthage as a new, more dangerous rival. When Pyrrhus left Italy he predicted war between the two allies, by declaring, "What a battlefield I am leaving for Carthage and Rome!" That prophecy came true only eleven years later, in the first of three Punic Wars.
Carthage's early constitution provided for a king, aristocratic senate, and popular assembly. Perhaps originally hereditary, the kingship was generally elective but was held for life. In the 3rd century BC the king was replaced by two chief magistrates, called shophets(19), elected annually from the aristocracy, and by elected generals who held long-term commands and were often highly professional and successful. They needed to be successful, because Carthage had a nasty habit of executing generals and admirals who lost more than one battle! Membership in the senate, which was several hundred strong and discussed all important business, was for life. The assembly voted only on great issues such as war and peace or on issues that the other branches of government failed to resolve. In the mid-5th or early 4th century BC, a body of 104 senatorial judges was created to oversee the king. They later oversaw the magistrates and generals, but a reform of Hannibal, as shophet (c.196 BC), mandated their annual election and forbade consecutive terms.
The Carthaginian government was less stable than that of the Romans. In fact, it was a plutocracy (government or rule by the richest), whose main policy always seems to have been "let those in charge get more money." Around 520 B.C., Carthage abandoned a citizen army and began to rely heavily on mercenaries. Modern historians often criticize this shift, but Carthage's small population base forced it. By contrast, the Romans had been brought up on the virtues of pietas, simplicitas, gravitas (dignity), and civic responsibility, so they saw the Carthaginian way of life as disgusting. It also didn't help that the Carthaginians worshiped Phoenician deities like Baal, Tanit, and Melkart, and often sacrificed their children to them. In 153 B.C., the Roman statesman Marcus Porcius Cato visited Carthage, and was so horrified by their lack of morals that from then on he finished every speech with the words "Delenda est Carthago!" (Carthage must be destroyed).(20)
On Sicily the two forces clashed, beginning the First Punic War in 264 B.C..(21) The Romans managed to get across the strait of Messina, despite a Carthaginian blockade, and they spared no expense; both consuls and four legions--the whole levy of troops for that year--took part in the crossing. Hiero, the tyrant of Syracuse, decided to ally himself with Carthage, but he was defeated in the first battle. Very lenient terms persuaded him to switch sides; all he had to do was pay a hundred talents to Rome, and provide supplies for the Roman army. Hiero supported the Romans for the rest of the war, and they used Syracuse as their port when shipping reinforcements.
The Romans were better fighters on land, no question about that, and they overran the interior of Sicily within a year. The only Sicilian city which put up significant resistance was Acragas, which fell after a five-month siege. Carthage, however, had ruled the sea for centuries, meaning their fleet could go anywhere at will and supply their coastal forts indefinitely. Although they were landlubbers, the Romans overcame this disadvantage with luck and a clever invention. One of the mainline Carthaginian fighting ships, a quinquereme, ran aground on an Italian beach. The Romans captured it, hired some Greek naval architects to show them how to build ships, and used the wreck as their model to build a hundred quinqueremes in two months. Then for good measure, they also built twenty of the smaller Greek-style warships (triremes). To offset their lack of sailing skills, the Romans made the hulls thicker to increase protection, and fitted a boarding apparatus on the mast of each quinquereme. This device, called a corvus ("crow"), was a drawbridge which they dropped on the enemy's deck when the ship got close enough (it had a beak-shaped spike on its underside to keep the two ships together). Once the bridge went down, Roman legionaries rushed across and did the rest; because there were few armed men on the Carthaginian ships, the battle was as good as over when that happened. This simple way of turning a sea battle into a land battle made it possible for the Romans to destroy the Carthaginian navy.
The corvus had its biggest success the first time it was used, at the battle of Mylae (260); Rome sank fourteen ships and captured thirty-one. Four years later (256) came the battle of Ecnomus, which may have been the greatest naval battle of all time; more than seven hundred ships and 200,000 men participated, far more than those who took part in the famous battle of the Spanish Armada (see Chapter 10). At Ecnomus the Carthaginians out maneuvered the Romans, but showed they learned nothing from the first disaster; the Romans sank thirty ships and captured sixty-four.
Even with command of the sea the Romans found the struggle hard and long. The fleet that won the battle of Ecnomus was commanded by Marcus Atilius Regulus, a former consul and veteran of the Pyrrhic War. Next, Regulus sailed the fleet to Africa, and succeeded in capturing Tunis, only five miles from Carthage itself, but the Carthaginians had a Spartan named Xanthippus working for them, and his mercenaries threw the invaders back into the sea. Five hundred Romans were captured, including Regulus. On the way home the fleet was caught in a terrible storm, which wrecked 284 ships and drowned 100,000 men; this was the worst sea disaster in history. Galleys are easy to capsize because they have holes on their sides for the oars; the weight of the corvus on the Roman ships may have made them difficult to handle in stormy weather, too. Rome replaced them by building 140 ships in three months, but in 253 a second gale sank the Roman fleet; this time 150 ships were lost, and since each quinquereme typically had three hundred oarsmen and a hundred soldiers on board, this set the Romans back considerably, leaving them in as bad shape as the Carthaginians were in.
Though the war was costing them dearly, the Romans weren't going to quit while they were ahead, so they sent reinforcements to Sicily and renewed the offensive, taking the cities of Thermae (252), Kephaladon (251), and finally Panormus (modern Palermo, 251), which has the finest harbor on the island.(22) The Carthaginians thought this would be a good time to end the war, before they lost everything on Sicily, and they sent Regulus to Rome as their negotiator. They told Regulus that if he did not present the Carthaginian terms of peace, he would have to return to Carthage to be put to death. Instead, Regulus felt that upholding Roman virtues, especially patriotism, was more important, so he exorted the Romans to continue the war until they had smashed Carthage; after all, if Carthage wants peace, it will probably give up if pressed just a little more. Then Regulus went back to Carthage. The people of Rome wept and pleaded for him not to go, but Regulus said he made a promise, and had to keep it. The Carthaginians kept their promise too, executing him by slow torture. For that reason, we don't remember Regulus for being a war hero (though he was), but for being the most loyal diplomat who ever lived.
Activity now shifted to the last Carthaginian fort, Lilybaeum. Carthage won a great naval battle in the vicinity (the battle of Drepanum, 249); Rome lost 93 ships and 28,000 men (8,000 killed, the rest captured). The Carthaginians followed this up by attacking Agrigentum, a city on Sicily's south coast that the Romans had captured early in the war. They did not believe they could hold Agrigentum, though, so they burned it and withdrew. Before the year was up the Romans also lost another fleet of 120 warships and eight hundred transports, partly in battle and partly in yet another storm.
For seven more years the nearly exhausted combatants fought a war of raids and sieges. Rome did not replace the ships and men lost previously, so Carthage had a better time of it at sea. When Rome realized it was caught in a stalemate, it exerted enough effort to build one more fleet, of two hundred vessels. You can tell the Roman state must have been under serious strain because the last fleet was financed by wealthy private individuals, not by the government. This fleet was sent to Lilybaeum, and at the battle of the Aegates Islands, they won the victory they needed, sinking 50 Carthaginian ships and capturing 70 (242). Carthage couldn't take any more, and sued for peace. Rome's first overseas venture had been a success, won by her usual method of grinding down the enemy. In the treaty ending the war (241), Carthage agreed to evacuate Sicily, and pay an indemnity of 3,200 talents (about $20 million in 1990s dollars); Syracuse became a Roman client while the rest of Sicily became a conquered province.
The next twenty-two years were a time without prosperity. Both sides suffered from the usual hardship and disorganization that comes after a big war. Carthage in particular suffered from violent disorder; the returning soldiers could not get their pay, mutinied and looted; much of the land went uncultivated. This was a greater threat to Carthage than Rome had been in the recent war, so Hamilcar Barca, the Carthaginian general, used horrible cruelties to suppress the uprisings, crucifying more than a thousand troublemakers by 237. Corsica and Sardinia revolted, and Rome used that as an excuse to annex them in 241 and 238 B.C., respectively. There was a bloody six-year war with the Gauls, in which Rome killed 40,000 Gauls and conquered the Po River valley, pushing the Roman state's northern frontier to the Alps (226-220).(23) The Adriatic swarmed with Illyrian pirates, which caused so much trouble for Greece and Italy that Rome would be forced to annex Illyria before long (219).
Carthage no longer had control of the sea, but it saw new opportunities on land. By strengthening control over Algeria and Morocco, it established a base to conquer the interior of Spain. Spain's treasure hoard of metals allowed Carthage to pay off its debt to Rome on time (which is why Rome permitted the Carthaginians to invade Spain in the first place), and hardy men of Celtic and Iberian stock filled the ranks of the depleted army. To lead the troops and govern the new territory, Carthage sent Hamilcar in 237 B.C., and he brought his nine-year-old son, Hannibal. In 228 Hamilcar fell in battle, and his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, took his place. Hasdrubal built up the expeditionary force until it numbered 50,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and 200 elephants, and founded a second city named Carthage--modern Cartagena--to serve as the capital of Spain (the Romans called it Carthago Nova, meaning New Carthage). Then Hasdrubal was murdered in 220, and command passed to young Hannibal.(24)
Left to themselves, the Carthaginians probably would not have challenged Rome again. But the Romans were not prepared to leave any potential rival or enemy alone. When Rome seized Corsica and Sardinia, it fined Carthage an additional 1,200 talents to cover the cost of pacification. In 225 the Romans got concerned about the safety of Massilia and northwest Italy, and made Hasdrubal promise not to cross the Ebro River. In 221 Rome decided to extend protection to Saguntum (modern Valencia), a Spanish town that lay south of the Ebro and was pro-Roman in its sympathies.
The Carthaginians realized that it was now or never. Hannibal was given the go-ahead and he took Saguntum by siege (219). The Romans did not assist the defenders, perhaps because both of their consuls were busy in Illyria at the time, but still Carthage expected war in a mood of grim determination. According to one account, an embassy went to the Carthaginian senate to demand that Hannibal be turned over to Rome for punishment. When Carthage refused, an elderly Roman named Fabius Buteo grasped the part of his toga over his breast, and said that from its folds, he could shake out either peace or war. The Carthaginians left the choice to him, and Fabius let go of the folds, shouting, "We give you war!"
1. It now appears that the oldest runic script, Futhark, was invented by some Teutons who copied the Etruscan alphabet for their own use. The main feature of ancient northern European alphabets is that all the runes (letters) use only straight lines, to make carving them on wood or stone easy.
2. Thanks to what we have translated, several Etruscan names are now available in the original language (as opposed to Latinized versions). Common male names were Larth, Vel, Arnza, and Aule; common females names were Thanchvil (Tanaquil?), Ramtha, Canatnei, and Larthi. They also were apparently the first culture to use family names after personal names, except that the women did not change their last names when they got married.
3. The June 1988 National Geographic suggested that the chaotic, "devil-may-care" attitude of today's Italians comes from the Etruscans, not the Romans.
4. Recently it was suggested that the she-wolf was really a prostitute, since the word for both is the same in Latin (lupa).
5. In the fourth century B.C., when trustworthy written records first appear, Italy had about four million inhabitants. Four million may not seem like a lot to us, but this was the densest population in Europe at the time. The Greeks, for example, probably numbered just three million people in the fourth century, and still they managed to make a lot of history.
6. Whenever the Romans did anything important, they consulted an augur, or fortuneteller. Like the Etruscans, they thought they could read the future from the behavior of birds. However, this didn't stop Roman chefs from inventing recipes for really exotic poultry, like peacock and flamingo. One could say that the birds were for the Romans, and vice-versa.
7. Lucumo is the Latin form of Lauchum, one of the few Etruscan words we understand; we saw earlier that it means "priest-king." Therefore Lucumo was not the birth-name of Tarquinius, but rather his title. This suggests to me that Tarquinius didn't come to Rome as an entrepreneur, but as the leader of a conquering army. Livy should have known better.
8. Cincinnatus inspired several officers under George Washington to call themselves the Society of the Cincinnati, because they were equally willing to put down the plow when America needed them, and then return to the ways of peace afterwards; Cincinnati, Ohio is named after this group.
9. Barely remembered today, Sicinius is one of the few rebels in Roman history who mutinied and lived to tell about it.
10. By that time, though, many new laws had been tacked on to the originals. Gibbon tells us that in the beginning the authorities were so opposed to making laws that when a new one was proposed, they put a rope around the lawmaker's neck, and if the law was not passed they strung him up! Needless to say this custom went out of fashion, because in imperial days the law code got so big that it had to be overhauled several times. One might wish it was still practiced today, though, to put a limit on the "frivolous legislation" of our government.
11. As with our stories from the Roman monarchy, the truth may have been different. We're not even sure if Horatius died in the Tiber; one version of the story has him survive long enough to swim to the other side. A far less glorious version has the Etruscans take Rome anyway, as well as the surrounding countryside, until the Greeks sent soldiers from the south in 501 to throw them out again.
12. Legend claims that when the Gauls tried to sneak up the slopes of the Capitoline Hill, they startled some sacred geese, who raised such a squawk that it alerted the Roman guards on the hill in time to defend it. The garrison was starving at this point, but the geese were kept alive because they belonged to the goddess Juno. Today some Italians who remember that story keep geese to guard their property, instead of watchdogs. One wonders how history might be different if the Romans gave in to their hunger and ate the geese!
13. In 326 B.C. the government abolished the practice of putting debtors into slavery. Now that Romans could not enslave other Romans, their slaves always came from elsewhere, usually from defeated enemies.
14. It is estimated that Sicily was able to export three million bushels a year, while North Africa exported ten million and Egypt twenty million.
15. H. G. Wells thought that Rome should have conquered Germany and Poland, to protect itself from the Germans that eventually brought it down. In response, I say that such a campaign would only delay the inevitable; had Imperial Rome pushed its frontier from the Rhine to the Baltic and Dnieper, some other enemy, like the Vikings, would have taken the place of the Germans.
16. A ship that sank near Massilia in the mid-second century B.C. illustrates the importance of Campania in Roman commerce. It carried six hundred Neapolitan pots and ten thousand gallons of wine; four fifths of the wine was Neapolitan, while the rest came from Rhodes and Sicily.
17. The Second Samnite War showed the Romans that they needed to improve communications, so in 312 they began construction on the first of their famous roads, the Appian Way. Originally it ran south from Rome to Capua; later it was extended east to Brindisi, on the heel of the Italian "boot." The builder, Appius Claudius Caecus, generally followed a straight line from point A to point B, while later engineers did some surveying and earth moving, and followed the path of least resistance, making those roads easier on the feet of pedestrians.
19. From the Hebrew shaphat, meaning judge; the Romans called them suffetes.
20. At the end of one speech, Cato also showed a fat, ripe fig; he told the audience it had been sent from Carthage three days earlier. Because the fig was still fresh, this appealed to the Roman desire for security, reminding the Romans that Carthage wasn't very far away.
21. "Punic" is a shortened form of Punicus, the Latin word for Phoenician.
22. 104 elephants were captured in that siege and sent home to amuse the Romans.
23. At one point, the Gauls got as close as ninety miles from Rome, and the Romans resorted to human sacrifice to get the gods on their side.
24. Hamilcar hated the Romans badly, because in the First Punic War they marooned him on a mountain for several years, making him look silly. Legend has it that just before they went to Spain, Hamilcar took Hannibal to the temple of Baal in Carthage and made him swear never-ending hatred to Rome. Thus began the career of the most dreaded enemy the Roman Republic ever faced.
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