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Fragments of Book X

Cassius Dio

The parts in blue are exerpts by John Sonaras.
This book mainly discusses the war against king Pyrrhus of Epirus.

5 During the winter both sides were making their preparations. And when spring was now at hand, Pyrrhus invaded Apulia and gained many places by force, many also by capitulation. Finally the Romans came upon him near a city called Asculum, and pitched camp opposite. For several days they delayed, rather avoiding each other. The Romans were not feeling confident against men who had once beaten them, and the others feared the Romans as men animated by desperation. Meanwhile some were talking to the effect that Decius was getting ready to devote himself after the fashion of his father and grandfather, and by so doing they terribly alarmed the followers of Pyrrhus, who believed that through his death they should certainly be ruined. Pyrrhus then assembled his soldiers and discussed this matter, advising them not to be disheartened or terrified by such talk. One human being, he said, could not by dying prevail over many, nor could any incantation or magic prove superior to arms and men. By talking to this effect and confirming his words by arguments Pyrrhus encouraged his army. He also inquired into the details of the costume which the Decii had used in devoting themselves, and gave orders to his men, if they should see anybody so arrayed, not to kill him, but to seize him alive.

43 Pyrrhus sent to Decius, telling him that he would not meet with any success in case he had made up his mind to do this deed, and threatening besides that if he were taken alive he should perish miserably. To this the consuls answered that they were in no need of resorting to such a deed, since they were sure to conquer him in other ways.

And he sent to Decius and told him that he should not meet with success in case he had made up his mind to do this deed, and threatened that if he were taken alive, he should perish miserably. To this the consuls answered that they were in no need of resorting to such a deed, since they were sure to conquer him in other ways. There was a river not easy to ford flowing between the two camps; and they inquired whether he chose to cross unmolested himself, while they retired, or whether he would allow them to cross, in order that the forces might encounter each other intact and so from a battle with conditions equal the test of valour might be made an accurate one. The Romans delivered this speech to overawe him, but Pyrrhus granted them permission to cross the river, since he placed great reliance upon his elephants. The Romans, among other preparations, made ready, as a measure against the elephants, iron-pointed beams, mounted on waggons, and bristling in all directions. From these they intended to shoot fire and various missiles, in order to check the beasts. When the conflict began, the Romans forced the Greeks back, slowly but surely, until Pyrrhus, bringing his elephants to bear, not opposite their waggons, but at the other end of the line, routed their cavalry through fear of the beasts even before they had come close. Upon their infantry, however, he inflicted no great damage. Meanwhile some of the Apulians had set out against the camp of the Epirots, and by so doing brought about victory for the Romans. For when Pyrrhus sent some of his warriors against them, all the rest became disquieted, and, suspecting that their tents had been captured and that their companions were in flight, they gave way. Numbers of them fell, Pyrrhus and many officers besides were wounded, and later, because of the lack of food and of medical supplies, they incurred great loss. Hence he retreated to Tarentum before the Romans were aware of what he was doing. The consuls crossed the river for battle, but when they ascertained that all had scattered, they withdrew to their own cities, being unable to pursue after the foe on account of their wounded. Then the Romans went into winter quarters in Apulia, while Pyrrhus sent for soldiers and money from home and went on with his other preparations. But when he learned that Fabricius and Papus had been chosen consuls and had arrived in camp, he no longer adhered to the same purpose.

The aforesaid consuls were now in the midst of their army, when a certain Nicias, one of those believed to be loyal to Pyrrhus, came to Fabricius and offered to assassinate the king. Fabricius, indignant at this, since he wished to overcome the enemy by valour and by main force, as Camillus had done, informed Pyrrhus of the plot. This action of his so amazed the king that he again released the Roman captives without price and sent envoys once more in regard to peace. But when the Romans made no reply about peace, but as before bade him depart from Italy, and only in that event make propositions to them, and when they kept overrunning and capturing the cities in alliance with him, he fell into perplexity; until at length some Syracusans called on him for aid ? they had been quarrelling, as it chanced, ever since the death of Agathocles ? and offered to surrender to him both themselves and their city. Hereupon he again breathed freely, hoping to subjugate all Sicily. Leaving Milo behind in Italy to keep guard over Tarentum and the other positions, he himself sailed away, after letting it be understood that he would soon return. The Syracusans welcomed him and laid everything at his feet, so that in a brief time he again became great, and the Carthaginians in fright secured additional mercenaries from Italy.

45 He did not know how he was to repel either one of them [the consuls] first, nor how to repel them both, and was in perplexity. For he feared to divide his army, which was smaller than that of his opponents, and yet to allow one of them to ravage the country with impunity seemed to him a great calamity.

46 However, he behaved in general toward them with great circumspection, attaching greater credit for his safety to the fact that no one, even if he wished,could harm him than to the probability that no one would desire to do so. For this reason he banished and put to death many who held office and many who had called him in to help in their disputes, partly because he was displeased with them, on account of remarks to the effect that he had become master of the state through their influence, and partly because he was suspicious of them and believed that just as they had come over to his side so they might go over to some one else.

But presently his fortunes met with a complete reversal by reason of the fact that he either expelled or slew many who held office and had incurred his suspicions. Then the Carthaginians, seeing that he was not strong in private forces and had not the goodwill of the natives, took up the war vigorously. They harboured the Syracusans who were exiled and harassed him so severely that he abandoned not only Syracuse but Sicily as well.

6 The Romans on learning of his absence recovered courage and turned their attention to punishing those who had summoned him. Postponing till another time the case of the Tarentines, they invaded Samnium with their consuls, Rufinus and Junius, devastated the country as they went along, and took several deserted forts. The Samnites had conveyed their dearest and most valuable treasures into the hills called Cranita, since they bear a large growth of cornel-wood krania. The Romans, feeling contempt for them, undertook to ascend these same hills; but since the region was overgrown with shrubbery and difficult of access many were killed and many, too, were taken prisoners.

The consuls now no longer carried on the war together, since each blamed the other for the disaster; but Junius went on ravaging a portion of Samnium, while Rufinus inflicted injuries upon the Lucanians and Bruttians. He then set out against Croton, which had revolted from Rome. His friends had sent for him, but the other party forestalled them by bringing in a garrison from Milo, of which Nicomachus was commander. Ignorant of this fact, he approached the walls carelessly, supposing that he was coming among friends, and suffered defeat when a sudden sortie was made against him. Then, bethinking himself of a ruse, he captured the city. He sent two captives as pretended deserters into Croton ? one immediately, who declared that Rufinus had despaired of capturing the place and was about to depart for Locris, which was being betrayed to him, and the other later, corroborating this statement with the report that the consul was already on his way. For, in order that the story might gain credence, he actually packed up the baggage, and affected to be in haste. Nicomachus, accordingly, believed the story, inasmuch as scouts made the same report, and leaving Croton, he set out hastily for Locri by a shorter road. And when he had now arrived in Locris, Rufinus turned back to Croton, and escaping observation because he was not expected and because of a mist that then prevailed, he captured the city. Nicomachus, when he learned of this, went back to Tarentum, and encountering Eufinus on the way, lost many men. And the Locrians came over to the Roman side.

The next year the Romans made expeditions into Samnium and into Lucania, and fought with the Bruttians. Pyrrhus, who had been driven out of Sicily and had now returned, was troubling them grievously. He got back the Locrians, after they had killed the Roman garrison and changed their allegiance; but in a campaign against Rhegium he was repulsed, was himself wounded, and lost great numbers. He then retired into Locris, and after putting to death a few who had opposed his cause, secured food and money from the rest and made his way back to Tarentum. But the Samnites, being hard pressed by the Romans, caused him to set forth again; and on coming to their assistance he was put to flight. For a young elephant had been wounded, and shaking off its riders, wandered about in search of its mother, whereupon the latter became excited and the other elephants grew turbulent, so that everything was thrown into dire confusion. Finally the Romans won the day, killing many men and capturing eight elephants, and they occupied the enemy's entrenchments. Pyrrhus, accompanied by a few horsemen, made his escape to Tarentum, and from there sailed back to Epirus, leaving Milo behind with a garrison to take charge of Tarentum, inasmuch as he expected to come back again. He also gave them a chair fastened with straps made from the skin of Nicias, whom he had put to death for treachery. This, then, was the punishment that he meted out to Nicias.

47 All admired the following act of Pyrrhus. Some youths at a banquet had ridiculed him, and at first he wished to convict and punish them, but, afterward, when they declared, "We should have said many other things a good deal worse, if the wine hadn't failed us," he laughed and let them go.

Zonaras But in the case of some youths whom he was intending to punish for having ridiculed him at a banquet, he first asked them why they were ridiculing him, and when they answered, "We should have said many other things a good deal worse, if the wine hadn't failed us," he laughed and let them go.

Now Pyrrhus, who had made a most distinguished record among generals, who had inspired the Romans with great fear, and had left Italy in the fifth year to make a campaign against Greece, not long afterward met his death in Argos. A woman, as the story runs, being eager to catch a glimpse of him from the roof as he passed by, made a misstep, and falling upon him, killed him. The same year Fabricius and Papus became censors; and among others whose names they erased from the lists of the knights and the senators was Rufinus, though he had served as dictator and had twice been consul. The reason was that he had in his possession silver plate of ten pounds' weight. Thus the Romans regarded poverty as consisting not in not having many things, but in wanting many things. Accordingly, their officials who went abroad and others who set out on any business of importance for the state received from the treasury a seal-ring in addition to their other necessary expenses.

Some of the Tarentines who had been injured by Milo attacked him, with Nico at their head. But, failing to accomplish anything, they occupied a fortress in their own land, and with that as headquarters kept making assaults upon Milo. 33 The Argyllaeans [Caertes] when they learned that the Romans were disposed to make war on them, despatched envoys to Rome before any vote was taken, and obtained peace upon surrendering half of their territory.

41 Ptolemy, nicknamed Philadelphus, king of Egypt, when he learned that Pyrrhus had fared badly and that the Romans were growing powerful, sent gifts to them and made a compact. The Romans, accordingly, pleased that a monarch living so very far away should have come to regard them highly, despatched ambassadors to him in turn. From him the envoys received magnificent gifts; but when they offered these to the treasury, they were not accepted.

When they learned that the Romans were disposed to make war upon them, they despatched envoys to Rome and obtained peace.

And Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, when he learned that Pyrrhus had fared badly and that the Romans were growing powerful, sent gifts to them and made a compact. And the Romans, pleased with this, despatched ambassadors to him in turn. The latter received magnificent gifts from him, which they desired to place in the treasury; the senate, however, would not accept them, but allowed the envoys to keep them.

After this, they subdued the Samnites through the activity of Carvilius and overcame the Lucanians and Bruttians at the hands of Papirius. This same Papirius subjugated the Tarentines also. The latter, angry at Mio and harassed by their own countrymen, who, as has been related, had made the attack on Milo, called in the Carthaginians to their aid when they learned that Pyrrhus was dead. Milo, finding himself in a tight place, since the Romans were besetting him on the land side and the Carthaginians on the water front, surrendered the citadel to Papirius on condition of being permitted to depart unharmed with his followers and his money. Then the Carthaginians, inasmuch as they were at peace with the Romans, sailed away, and the city surrendered to Papirius. They delivered to him their arms and their ships, demolished their walls, and agreed to pay tribute.

When the Romans had thus secured control of Tarentum, they turned their attention to Rhegium, whose inhabitants, after taking Croton by treachery, had razed the city to the ground and had slain the Romans who were there. They averted the danger that threatened them from the side of the Mamertines in possession of Messana, whom the people of Rhegium were expecting to secure as allies, by coming to an agreement with them; but in the siege of Rhegium they suffered hardships because of the scarcity of food, among other reasons, until Hiero by sending them grain and soldiers from Sicily strengthened their hands and aided them in capturing the city. The place was restored to the survivors among the original inhabitants, while those who had plotted against it were punished.

Now Hiero, who was not of distinguished family even on his father's side, and on his mother's side actually belonged to the slave class, ruled almost the whole of Sicily, and was considered a friend and ally of the Romans. After the flight of Pyrrhus he had become master of Syracuse, and being on his guard against the Carthaginians, who were encroaching upon Sicily, he was inclined to favour the Romans; and the first mark of favour that he showed them was the alliance and the sending of grain already related.

After this came a winter so severe that the Tiber was frozen to a great depth and trees were killed. The people of Rome suffered hardships, and the cattle perished for want of grass.

7 The next year a Samnite named Lollius, living in Rome as a hostage, made his escape, gathered a band and seized a strong position in his native country, from which he carried on brigandage. Quintus Gallus and Gaius Fabius made a campaign against him, and captured him all with his rabble, most of whom were unarmed; on proceeding, however, against the Caraceni, in whose keeping the robbers had deposited their booty, they encountered difficulties. Finally one night, led by deserters, they scaled the wall at a certain point and came dangerously near perishing on account of the darkness ? not that it was a moonless night but because it was snowing fiercely. But the moon shone out, and they at once captured the position.

A great deal of money fell to the share of Rome in those days, so that they even used silver denarii.

Next they made an expedition into the district now called Calabria. Their excuse was that the people had received Pyrrhus and were overrunning their allied territory, but in reality they wished to get possession of Brundisium; for the place had a fine harbour, and for the traffic with Illyricum and Greece there was an approach and landing-place of such a character that vessels would sometimes come to land and put out to sea wafted by the same wind. They captured it, and sent colonists both to this point and to others as well.

42 Though the Romans were achieving such results as these and were ever rising to greater power, they showed no haughtiness as yet; on the contrary, they surrendered to the people of Apollonia (Corinthian colonists on the Ionian Gulf) Quintus Fabius, a senator, because he had insulted some of their envoys. The people there, however, did him no injury, but actually sent him home.

Yet while accomplishing these exploits and rising to greater power, they showed no haughtiness; on the contrary, they surrendered to the people of Apollonia, on the Ionian Gulf, Quintus Fabius a senator, because he had insulted their envoys. But they, on receiving him, sent him back home unharmed

In the consulship of Quintus Fabius and Aemilius they made an expedition to Volsinii to secure the freedom of its citizens; for they were under treaty obligations to them. These people were the most ancient of the Etruscans; they had acquired power and had erected an extremely strong citadel, and they had a well-governed state. Hence, on a certain occasion, when they were involved in war with the Romans, they resisted for a very long time. Upon being subdued, however, they drifted into indolent ease, left the management of the city to their servants, and used those servants also, as a rule, to carry on their campaigns. Finally they encouraged them to such an extent that the servants gained both power and spirit, and felt that they had a right to freedom; and, indeed, in the course of time they actually obtained this through their own efforts. After that they were accustomed to wed their mistresses, to succeed their masters, to be enrolled in the senate, to secure the offices, and to the entire authority themselves. Furthermore, they were not at all slow to requite their masters for any insults and the like that were offered them. Hence the old-time citizens, not being able to endure them, and yet possessing no power of their own to punish them, despatched envoys by stealth to Rome. The envoys urged the senate to convene secretly by night in a private house, so that no report might get abroad, and they obtained their request. The senators, accordingly, deliberated under the impression that no one was listening; but a certain Samnite, who was being entertained by the master of the house and was sick, kept his bed unnoticed, and learning what was voted, gave information to those against whom charges were preferred. These seized and tortured the envoys on their return; and when they found out what was afoot, they put to death the envoys and the other more prominent men as well. This, then, was the occasion which led the Romans to send Fabius against them. He routed those who came to meet him, destroyed many in their flight, shut up the remainder within the wall, and made an assault upon the city. In that action he was wounded and killed, whereupon the enemy gained confidence and made a sortie. Upon being again defeated, they retired and underwent a siege; and when they were reduced to famine, they surrendered. The consul scourged to death the men who had seized upon the honours of the ruling class, and he razed the city to the ground; the native-born citizens, however, and any servants who had been loyal to their masters were settled by him on another site.

40 46a Dio, Book X. "These even suspect you besides."