The origins of Rome: The Kings, 753-508 BC
Context: Geography of Rome and the indigenous peoples of Latium
1.1 Geography of Rome
Map of ancient Italy
The site of Rome was on the river Tiber and the Mediterranean Sea, which was excellent for foreign trade, was only a few miles down the river. The hills of Rome overlooked a shallow bit of the river which was the easiest place to cross the Tiber as it came to the sea. The location was half way between the north and south of Italy so it could develop good communication links as Italy itself is in the centre of the Mediterranean and has easy access to the rest of Europe, to Africa, and to the east.
The location was easily defended as there were the high mountains called the Alps to the north and the sea to the south. The settlement was easy to defend as it was on top of the hills with the marshy land in between and later the people could drain the marshy areas and use them to grow crops. Due to past volcanic activity, the land in the area was fertile with rich soil for growing olives, figs and vines. The Alps provided some mountain water and the river valleys provided summer pasture for animals. The climate was good for crops with the wet winters and hot sunny summers so as long as you irrigated the land in summer and this was done with water from the river Tiber.
Map showing the seven hills of Rome:
Map showing the peoples of Italy in about 500BC:
Draw or print out some maps of Italy and then annotate them to show why Rome was such a good place to settle. Make a key and colour code it or make up symbols.
1.2 The Peoples of Latium
The Latins were farmers and lived in huts in villages in the area that became Rome and in the hills of Alba. They kept herds of animals and grew crops. They lived in tribal groups on the hills defended by wooden palisades. They worshipped gods such as a sort of Jupiter, Diana and Venus. The Latins were very much influenced by the Etruscans and the Greeks when they arrived, but kept their own language. Rome grew up on the border between Latium and Etruria.
The Etruscans lived in Northern/Central Italy about 800-300 BC. They excavated metals from their land to trade with the Greeks and were heavily influenced by the Greeks and in turn they influenced the Romans. The Bronze She wolf was made by the Etruscans. The Etruscans ruled Rome at some time. The Etruscan alphabet is derived from Greek but is very different. The Etruscans built the Cloaca Maxima (main sewer) to drain the Forum (town square) in the centre of Rome. Etruscans made use of the arch in making buildings, something which the Romans got really good at e.g. the Colosseum:
The Lictors (king’s attendants) with fasces (bunches of rods with axes in, carried by lictors) were Etruscan as was the purple-bordered toga.
Greek City States
The Greeks set up city states in southern Italy and Sicily around 700BCE. The Greeks traded with the Etruscans. At about the same time as the first settlement on the Palatine Hill, the Greeks were establishing sea-ports round the south and west coasts, and in Sicily. The port farthest north, and one of the first to be built, was Cumae on the bay of Naples, which is not far from Rome. Through these ports Rome had access to the Greek world; from the Greeks at Cumae, the Latins learned the Greek alphabet, which they adapted for their own use and language. The interaction went both ways and the early Romans were known to the Greeks.
Research the peoples of Latium and make a fact-file of evidence on each group of people. Later this can be compared to the literary evidence.
Theme: Identity of the Romans; conflicting versions of the origins of Rome
2.1 The story of Aeneas according to Virgil and Livy
Aeneid Book 2: the connection with Troy
Aeneas lived in Troy with his wife Creusa and their son Ascanius. When the Greeks were destroying Troy, Hector (one of the Princes of Troy, who had been killed earlier in the war) appeared to Aeneas in a dream and told him to escape from Troy and take the holy headbands and fire of Vesta and start a new city. Aeneas was a hero and did not want to run away from the fighting like a coward so he continued to fight. Eventually his mother the goddess Venus came and told him to leave. She showed him that even the Gods were fighting against Troy so defending it was no use. Aeneas then had to persuade his old father Anchises to leave with him. At first the old man refused but was convinced when a magical flame appeared on the head of Aeneas’ baby son Ascanius. A roll of thunder and a shooting star were the final signs from heaven and Aeneas set off out of Troy with his father on his back carrying the holy symbols of Troy; he held Ascanius’ hand and his wife Creusa followed behind. Just when Aeneas thought he had escaped, he realised he had lost his wife on the way. He went back and looked everywhere for her but he could not find her. Eventually her ghost appeared to him and told him to go and start a new kingdom and get a new wife.
I sing of arms and the man who, made an exile by fate, first came from the borders of Troy to the shores of Lavinium. He who was thrown about greatly on both land and sea by the power of the gods, on account of the relentless anger of savage Juno. He also suffered much from war, before he founded his city and brought his gods to Latium; from whence came the Latin people, the Alban fathers, and the lofty walls of Rome.
Muse, call to my mind the causes of this: for what insult to her divine power, or angered by what action, did the Queen of the Gods drive a man famous for his piety to face such a great cycle of suffering and labour? How can there be such anger in heavenly hearts?
Aeneid Book 1
This is the opening of the Aeneid and the man Virgil is talking about is of course Aeneas. An exile is someone who has been sent away from their homeland. It is explained in Aeneid Book 2 how Aeneas escaped from Troy. Notice that here, Virgil points out that it was fate that made Aeneas into an exile so that Aeneas does not look bad – it wasn’t his fault because the gods were against Troy. Aeneas’ heroic image is kept intact.
Virgil mentions the ‘relentless anger of savage Juno’, but why was she so angry at Aeneas?
Well, it wasn’t just Aeneas but the whole Trojan race and all their descendants she was angry with – relentless and savage. There were three main reasons for this. These are mythological so the details may vary.
Reason 1: The Beauty Contest
On the day of the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, they forgot to invite one goddess: Eris the goddess of arguments. Obviously she was not going to put up with this so she decided to cause some trouble. Taking a beautiful golden apple with the words ‘for the fairest’ written on it, she threw it into the wedding reception right in between the three goddesses who thought they were the best looking: Juno the queen of the gods, Venus the goddess of love and Minerva the goddess of wisdom. All three goddesses squabbled over the apple until Jupiter confiscated it. It would not have been fair for Jupiter to decide who to give the apple to as Juno was his wife and Minerva his daughter, so he decided to let a very handsome man decide. He gave the job to Paris who was a Trojan prince. Each goddess offered Paris a bribe to help him choose who was the best looking. Juno offered great power; Minerva offered wisdom and skill in war, and Venus offered the love of the world's most beautiful woman. Paris accepted Venus's bribe and gave the apple to her. The most beautiful woman in the world turned out to be Helen the wife of Menelaus and when Paris received the bribe it caused the Trojan War. Giving the apple to Venus also caused her to love him and the Trojans very much and Juno to hate him and anything to do with Troy.
Reason 2: Ganymede
This was another young Trojan man who made Juno angry. One day Jupiter noticed Ganymede and found him very handsome and charming. He turned himself into an eagle so that he could swoop down and kidnap Ganymede. Once he had Ganymede in Mount Olympus he was delighted with him and gave him the job as his personal wine waiter. All the gods and goddesses loved Ganymede except Juno who was very jealous of him and hated him and his entire race.
Reason 3: Carthage
This was Juno’s favourite city on earth and she loved Dido the queen of Carthage. There was a prophecy which foretold that the city founded by the descendants of the Trojans – the Romans, would eventually destroy Carthage. This was supposed to have come true when the Romans eventually defeated the Carthaginians in the Punic wars. So Juno hated the Trojans for what their descendants would do in the future.
He also suffered much from war, before he founded his city and brought his gods to Latium; from whence came the Latin people, the Alban fathers, and the lofty walls of Rome.
Here Virgil points out Rome’s warlike origins and describes the link from Aeneas (son of the Goddess Venus) through Alba to Rome’s foundation so that the Romans can claim to be descended from the Trojan race from the heroic past and also from the goddess. This gives the Romans a much more impressive ancestry than being descended from country folk from Italy who lived in villages.
According to Livy, because Aeneas had worked for peace and to have Helen returned, he was allowed to leave Troy unharmed. The fates were planning a greater destiny for Aeneas and he went to Macedonia, then Sicily, then Laurentum. On their travels, Aeneas and his men lost everything except their ships and their swords. While exploring the countryside in Laurentum, they were met by King Latinus and his army.
Livy tells us that there are two versions of what happened next:
1. There was a fight and Latinus lost and then agreed to give his daughter to Aeneas to marry.
2. The battle was about to start when Latinus asked to have a talk. He asked the Trojans about themselves and when he heard their story was so impressed that he made friends with Aeneas and gave him his daughter to marry so they had a family tie and a public agreement.
The Trojans had found a new home and began to build a town which Aeneas named Lavinium after his new wife Lavinia. Soon Aeneas and Lavinia had a baby boy who was called Ascanius.
Before Aeneas came along, Lavinia was engaged to Turnus the king of the Rutulians, when he found that he had been replaced, he started a war against the Trojans and the Latins. The Rutulians lost but Latinus was killed.
Turnus and the Rutulians then joined forces with the Etruscans whose king was called Mezentius. The Etruscans lived nearby and had felt threatened by the new town which Aeneas was building. The Etruscans were very powerful. To keep his army strong, Aeneas decided to call them all Latins which meant the Latins were just as loyal to him as those he had brought with him.
Even though the Rutulians with the Etruscans were a powerful enemy, Aeneas trusted the loyalty of the Latins and led his army onto the battlefield, instead of waiting for the Etruscans behind his walls. The Latins won the battle, but Aeneas was killed. His tomb is on the bank of the river Numicius. The people call him "The Local Jupiter."
His son, Ascanius, was not old enough to take over as king; but his throne was kept safe by Lavinia while he was a child. Livy acknowledges the fact that there are two different stories about Ascanius/Iulus, he says there is no point in discussing which is true as it was so long ago you could never decide. Some say that Ascanius was the son of Creusa and came from Troy others say that this was a baby born to Lavinia and he has the two names Ascanius and Iulus. The Julian Clan (family of Julius Caesar, the Emperor Augustus and their descendants) claimed to be descended from this Iulus. It would not be a good idea for Livy to prove either story wrong: the son of Creusa as a founder meant that the Romans could also claim descent from the Trajan royal family. If he says the Iulus story is wrong, he is disrespecting the emperor’s family. Whoever he is this son leaves his mother/stepmother in Lavinum and goes off to found his own city: Alba Longa. Nobody dared to attack the Latin cities as they were very prosperous and powerful. The river Albula, later named the Tiber, was fixed as the boundary between the Etruscans and the Latins.
2.2 The story of Romulus and Remus according to Virgil and Livy
He had placed there too the motherly wolf, lying stretched out in the green cave of Mars. The twin boys hung around her teats playing, and suckled from their ‘mother’ without fear. With her noble neck bending backwards, she caressed each of them and touched them with her tongue.
Virgil Aeneid Book 8
This picture appears on the shield of Aeneas. On the shield are represented lots of things the Romans are proud of. It is a very patriotic image. The fact that the wolf story is mentioned shows that the Romans were proud of their wild countryside image. Mars is mentioned recalling the Romans’ divine and very warlike ancestry. The Mars/wolf story fits perfectly with the image the Romans like to have as godlike dominators of the world with not too much softness.
Ascanius King of Alba Longa eventually died and his son Silvius took over; Silvius means ‘from the forest’ and he was supposed to have been born in the forest. The forest aspect once again brings in the wild countryside image of the Romans. His son was called Aeneas Silvius and his son was called Latinus Silvius. Latinus Silvius created some other settlements. All the following kings of Alba kept the name Silvius. Their names were Alba, Atys, Capys, Capetus and Tiberinus, who was drowned crossing the river Albula so the name of the river was changed to Tiber. Next came his son Agrippa and then Romulus Silvius. He was struck by lightning and his son Aventinus took over. There was a hill in Rome called the Aventine where the shrine of Aventinus was. Proca took over from him and had two sons, Numitor and Amulius.
Numitor was supposed to take over as king but Amulius forced his brother out and seized the crown. To make matters worse, he murdered his brother's sons and made his daughter, Rea Silvia, a Vestal virgin which was supposed to be an honour but meant she couldn’t have any children. Livy believes that the fates then intervened because Rome ‘the mightiest empire under heaven’ was destined to be founded.
Rhea Silvia the Vestal Virgin was raped and gave birth to twin boys. She said that Mars was their father, either because she really believed it, or because she would not look so bad if she blamed a god. She was thrown into prison, the boys were ordered to be thrown into the river. As luck would have it, the river Tiber was flooded so it was not possible to get near the main river. So the men with the job of drowning the children just left them near the side of the flood water. This was where the Ruminal fig-tree was, which was said to have been previously called the fig-tree of Romulus. This was a wild place then and the story goes that a she-wolf heard the children crying and treated them like cubs and let them drink her milk. Faustulus one of the king’s shepherds found the wolf licking the babies gently and he took the children to his hut and gave them to his wife Larentia to bring up. Some writers think that Larentia was a prostitute and had got the nickname of "She-wolf" from the shepherds, and that this was the real origin of the amazing story.
The boys were named Romulus and Remus. They grew up and were good shepherds but their favourite hobby was hunting in the woods. They were strong and brave and they didn’t just hunt animals, but they even attacked robbers carrying stolen goods. They shared what they took among their gang of shepherds. While the Lupercalia, a traditional festival was being celebrated on the Palatine Hill, the robbers attacked Romulus and Remus. Romulus defended himself violently, but Remus was captured and dragged before King Amulius to be charged with crimes. The robbers said that Remus and his gang had attacked in the lands of Numitor, and had stolen things so Remus was given to Numitor for punishment. Faustulus the shepherd had always hoped the twins were royal as he knew all along that two babies had been exposed by royal command at the time when he had found Romulus and Remus. He was afraid now so he told the story to Romulus. Numitor also suspected it and after questioning Remus he was pretty sure.
Romulus and his gang of shepherds made an attack on King Amulius and Remus helped out with another gang from the home of Numitor. So, King Amulius died and Numitor called an assembly, he told everyone his brother’s crimes against him, the story of his grandsons and everyone said he was the real king. Now that Numitor was King of Alba, Romulus and Remus decided to set up a city in the place where they had been left as babies and grown up. Unfortunately both brothers thought they should be in charge. Since they were twins and both the same age, they said the gods should decide. Romulus went up the Palatine Hill and Remus the Aventine Hill, where they both built temples from where they would look for omens.
The story goes that the first omen came to Remus in the form of six vultures. After this omen had been announced, twelve vultures came to Romulus. So the supporters of each man claimed their leader as King. Remus’ supporters claimed the kingdom because he got the omen first, while Romulus claimed the kingdom as a result of the larger number of birds. The argument turned into a fight in which Remus was killed. Livy says that there is another more common story which is that Remus was mocking Romulus and jumped over the walls that Romulus had been building. Romulus was furious and killed his brother shouting: “The same will happen to anyone else who jumps over my walls”. And so Romulus was the king, and when the city was built it was named after him.
Bronze she-wolf with (later addition of) twins from the Capitoline museum
2.3 The story of Evander and Hercules according to Livy
As one of his twelve tasks, Hercules had to take the cattle belonging to a monster called Geryon. After he had done this and killed Geryon, he drove the beautiful cattle to a place which was near the river Tiber. He stopped in a green field so that the cattle could eat the grass and he could rest. When he fell asleep, a giant shepherd called Cacus saw the beautiful cattle and wanted them for himself. But if he led the cattle into his cave, their hoof-prints would give away where they were. So he turned the best bulls round and dragged them by their tails to his cave. When Hercules woke up and realised that some of his cattle had gone. He looked in the nearest cave, but when he saw that all the prints lead away from there but went nowhere, he started to drive the rest of the herd away. As they were leaving, some of the cows lowed because they missed the others. The bulls in the cave lowed in reply and Hercules turned around. Cacus, tried to fight Hercules but he hit him with his club and Cacus died.
At that time a Greek called Evander ruled the place. People admired him because he could write, and because his mother Carmenta, was believed to be divine and could tell the future. Evander found out what Hercules had done and why. He saw that Hercules stood out and asked who he was. When he found out it was Hercules, Evander said that his mother had told him Hercules would come and the locals would make him one of their gods and set up an altar, which one day the most important people in the world (i.e. the Romans) would call “the Greatest”, and worship Hercules . So Hercules built the altar. One of the cows was offered as a sacrifice for Hercules. The Potitii and the Pinarii, who were the most important local families were put in charge and had to provide a feast. By chance, the Potitii were there at the start of the sacrifice so they got the entrails, (animals’ innards) and the Pinarii came after the entrails had been eaten and were given the rest. From then on the custom continued, as long as the Pinarii family did, that the entrails from the sacrifice were not given to them. The Potitii, who had been taught the ceremony by Evander, were the priests of the cult for a long time, until the entire Potitii family had died out and the sacred rites were handed over to public slaves to perform. This was the one foreign cult that Romulus adopted.
2.4 The story of the Sabines and their connection to Rome
Rome was powerful and had fought well against the neighbouring communities, but they did not have enough women so they wouldn’t be able to keep the population going.
The Romans couldn’t marry the women from the neighbouring communities because they had been fighting them. With advice from the senators who sent messages asking people from the towns a bit further away if they would like to make links by marrying their daughters to the Romans. None of them agreed because they saw the Romans as a big gang of outlaws.
Romulus hatched a cunning plan and invited the neighbours to celebrate a new festival for Neptune the god of horses (and the sea) and he called it the Consualia. All the neighbours came: the Caeinenses, the Crustimini, the Antemnates and all the Sabines with their wives and children.
After the signal was given, all the Roman men scattered and grabbed the unmarried girls who had come with the visitors. The families went away very sad. Romulus made the men marry the stolen women properly and treat them well to make up for the fact that they kidnapped them.
As a result of this the Caeninenses attacked the Roman lands. After defeating the Caeninenses tribe Romulus founded the first temple in Rome to offer the armour he had taken from the enemy leader to Jupiter who he called Jupiter Feretrius. Next the Antemnates attacked. The Roman army beat them and then took their town. According to Livy, at this point Romulus’ wife, who felt sorry for the women, persuaded Romulus to forgive their parents and let them become citizens of Rome. The Crustimini were also defeated by Rome.
This led to the expansion of Roman power, as Roman settlers went to Crustumeria and the territory that had been the Antemnates. Some of the people from these places also came to live in Rome.
Finally, the Sabines attacked the Roman citadel. According to Livy, they gained control of the citadel using a trick.
They made a cunning plan. Spurius Tarpeius was in charge of the Roman citadel. By chance Tarpeius’ virgin daughter went outside the walls to get water for the religious rituals and Tatius bribed her with gold so that she would let armed soldiers into the citadel. After they got in they killed her by crushing her with their weapons, either so that it looked like they forced their way into the citadel, or to set an example for the future so that no one would keep a promise to a traitor. There is another story, that the Sabine people wore heavy gold bracelets on their left arms, and lovely rings with jewels, so she asked them for the things they had on their left arms: but they heaped upon her their shields instead of the gold gifts she meant. Some people say that they had the weapons in their left hands to hand them over to make peace but they thought she was tricking them so they killed her with the payment she had chosen.
The Romans and the Sabines fought, but when one of the Roman leaders, Hostius Hostilius, was killed, the Romans started to run away. Romulus prayed for help to Jupiter and then told the men that Jupiter commanded them to stop running and fight. After this the battle continued, and according to Livy the Roman force was stronger and the Romans started to defeat the Sabines. However, at this point the battle was interrupted.
Then the abducted Sabine women, who the war was about, threw themselves between the flying spears with their hair flying and their clothes ripped. They were brave because their upset took away female fear. They ran across the battlefield and separated the clashing armies, stopping their conflict. Begging their fathers on one side and their husbands on the other, they said that fathers and sons-in-law should not have one another’s blood on them, that the curse of killing your father should not be passed down to their children, grandfathers onto grandsons and fathers onto children. “If you don’t like the ties between you, if you don’t like our marriages, then take your anger out on us! We are the cause of this war; we are the cause of fathers and husbands lying wounded and dead. It is better for us to die, since by losing one of you we’ll be widows or orphans”. This moved both the leaders and the crowd. Suddenly there was silence and stillness. Then the commanders came forward to make a treaty, not only to make peace but also to make one community out of two. They shared the power, and made Rome the capital. The joint populations were named the Quirites after the Sabine city of Cures to please the Sabines.
The abducted women ended the war with the Sabines which meant that neither side had to look weak by losing. Romulus made peace with Titus Tatius the king of the Sabines. They shared the power, and made Rome the capital. The joint populations were named the Quirites after the Sabine city of Cures to please the Sabines.
Romulus divided the population into thirty groups and he named them Curiae after the women because they had made peace. Also three groups of one hundred Knights were recruited: the Ramnenses, named after Romulus, the Titienses, named after Titus Tatius, and the Luceres (the origin of their name is not certain). From then on there was joint rule and peace between the two Kings.
Remember, foundation myths are not necessarily true. This does not make them any less important as they still say a lot about the people who accept them as their heritage.
Read through the myths in this section and for each one say what impression it gives of the people whose foundation it describes.
• What do the myths have in common and where do they differ?
• What messages about the Romans were Livy and Virgil trying to send by telling these stories about them?
• Why did the Romans want to link themselves to Troy?
Theme: The character and reigns of the kings
3.1 The nature of kingship in early Rome
Who were the Kings of Rome?
According to legend there were seven kings of Rome and there are traditional dates for when they ruled.
Romulus 753 BCE–716 BC
Numa Pompilius 715 BCE–674 BC
Tullus Hostilius 673 BCE–642 BC
Ancus Marcius 642 BCE–617 BC
Lucius Tarquinius Priscus 616 BCE–579 BC
Servius Tullius 578 BCE–535 BC
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus 535 BC–510 BCE/509 BC
According to the legend, Romulus and his twin brother Remus were sons of Mars the god of war from when he raped a Vestal Virgin called Rhea Silvia. Whether this is true or not, it creates a violent, warlike image. The twins were left to die by the river but saved when a female wolf let them suck her milk. Again this sounds rather suspicious, but it reinforces the wild, dangerous image. The twins were brought up by a shepherd and his wife which implies a simple, down to earth upbringing with no pampering or pretentiousness and this fits in with the Roman ideas of being manly and sensible and not weak or soft.
When Romulus was young he and Remus worked hard as shepherds. They also led a gang of shepherds who attacked robbers and took away their stolen goods. This shows leadership qualities, violence and perhaps a sense of justice, but they kept the loot so maybe it makes them as ruthless as the robbers. They led groups of men in an uprising and killed Amulius the evil king of Alba and made their grandfather Numitor king again.
Romulus argued with his brother over who should be in charge of the city they were building which shows he liked to be the boss and had a temper. When Remus jumped over the walls Romulus was building, Romulus killed him and said “That’s what will happen to anyone who jumps over my walls”. This reinforces the ‘don’t mess with the Romans’ image and shows a ruthless, violent nature.
Romulus set up worshiping customs in the Alban style except for the worship of Hercules which he carried on in the Greek way as Evander had started it. Notice the story involves violence and defeating an enemy. Hercules was made a god after he died just as Romulus was. They don’t let anyone get the better of them.
Romulus gave the people laws and so that they would obey them, he made himself look more impressive by having twelve attendants or body guards called lictors. Livy says he got the idea from the Etruscans. Romulus is again shown as knowing how to manipulate people and as resourceful by learning from another culture.
Romulus made the city of Rome bigger when there weren’t many people there which shows his ambition. He pretended that his original gang of settlers was his tribe who were born from the earth which shows him manipulating people again. Then he opened up the city to asylum seekers so that he had plenty of men. So Rome’s original inhabitants were a very mixed bunch and Livy portrays a humble, rough and ready start to the city of Rome. Romulus created one hundred senators to help govern the people and this shows his organisational skills and leadership.
Romulus tried to get more women for the Roman men to marry by sending ambassadors to ask the neighbours whether they could marry their daughters but they refused so Romulus made a plan and they took the women by force after inviting them to a festival. This shows him always getting what he wants by asking or by force if necessary and also reflects a lack of respect for women.
After defeating the Caeninenses tribe in a battle Romulus was just as good at showing off what he had done as he was at doing it in the first place so he climbed up the Capitol carrying the armour he had taken from the dead enemy leader and he hung it up on a specially made frame. This shows his character as a person proud of his achievements but also dutiful to the gods as he dedicated the armour to Jupiter and built a temple for him there.
When Romulus came back from the wars with the parents of the abducted women, he was very pleased with his victories. His wife Hersilia had been touched by the begging of the abducted women and she asked him to forgive their parents and let them be citizens. So that Rome could grow in peace Romulus agreed happily. Here we can see Livy shifting the sensitive side onto the woman so it doesn’t make Romulus look soft. This happens again when the abducted women stop the battle between their fathers and husbands and ask them to make peace.
During the battle against the Sabines, when the Roman citadel has been taken, Romulus prays to Jupiter offering to build him a temple there if he helps them and then tells the men: “Here, Romans, Jupiter the Best and Greatest orders us to stop running and start fighting” Romulus inspires his men using his ‘piety’ and their faith in the gods. After the war with the Sabines, Romulus makes a deal to share power with the Sabine King Tatius which is rather out of character for Romulus.
After a few years, some relatives of King Tatius attacked some Laurentine ambassadors, but when the Laurentines, asked the relatives to make up for it which was the law, Tatius was biased and believed what his relatives said. So he got their punishment himself because when he went Lavinium to an important religious festival, he was killed in the riot he caused by being there. People say that Romulus was less upset by this than he should have been, either because he did not like sharing being king, or because he believed that the killing was fair, so he did not cause a fight about it. To make up for the ambassadors being attacked and the king being killed, he renewed the treaty between the cities of Rome and Lavinium.
In the battle against the Fidenates Romulus’ skill as a general is shown as he hides men in the undergrowth and then lets the enemy think his army is disorganized and retreating so the Fidenates come out of the city thinking they can beat the Romans and fall straight in the trap. Romulus is shown as cunning and ruthless. The last thing we are told he did was defeated the Veii in battle then destroyed their farms but gave them a peace treaty when they asked for it in exchange for some of their land.
The death and deification of Romulus according to Livy
Romulus’ deeds were so great that he was practically immortal. Once he was reviewing the army, when suddenly a storm with great thunder-claps and thick cloud covered him, so that he was hidden from view and never seen again. The senators, who had been standing nearest, said that Romulus had been carried away to heaven. The soldiers accepted this but they were still afraid and sad. Then a rumour started that Romulus was a god and all the soldiers saluted Romulus as King and Father of the city of Rome. They prayed for peace, and that Romulus would protect them. Some people suggested that the King was torn apart by the senators. But admiration for Romulus and the panic felt at that time made the people believe he was a god. A man called Julius Proculus who was supposed to be very wise told everyone in the assembly that Romulus appeared to him and told him that the gods wanted Rome to be the capital of the world so they should build up an unbeatable army then Romulus rose into the sky. The people were much happier once they believed that Romulus was now a god.
Romulus’ death matches his birth – mysterious and unusual. The things he is supposed to have done all reflect aspects of Rome’s identity as a strong, ruthless, warlike nation which did go on to be ‘the capital of the world’.
Livy says that Romulus ruled for 37 years.
Numa Pompilius lived in a Sabine town called Cures and was famous because he was fair and religious and he knew a lot about humans’ and gods’ laws. According to Livy, there was a myth that said Pythagoras of Samos (the man who proved that A2+B2=C2) was his teacher but Livy says this is not possible because Pythagoras lived one hundred years later than Numa. Livy believed that Numa was great because of his own character, because the ancient Sabines had a serious and harsh nature and you could not bribe them.
When Numa was nominated to be king, nobody could think of anyone better so the Senators offered him the job. He said they had to ask the gods like Romulus did, which shows he was very religious from the start. The priest saw the good omens and Numa became king.
Numa decided that Rome was very warlike so gave the city a new start with laws and religion. First he founded the temple of Janus which showed that the Romans were at war when the doors were open and at peace when they were shut. He made peace with the neighbours and shut it. Livy takes this opportunity to mention the two other times when the doors have been shut. These are: after the war with Carthage which was one of Rome’s greatest wars (they really hated the Carthaginians), and after Octavian/Emperor Augustus won the battle of Actium and made peace. This gives Livy an opportunity to praise Augustus and make him out to be very special and link him to the heroes of the past.
Livy then says that Numa decided to use fear of the gods to control the people and he pretended to meet the goddess Egeria and pretended that she told him how to set up the rituals and the priesthoods. This shows clever leadership on the part of Numa and cunning manipulation of the people but is also quite cynical as it does not reflect much real religious feeling and shows Roman religion as a tool for control. Numa went on to set up all the important religious ceremonies the Romans had which seems to show that he was supposed to be a genuinely religious character as well as a shrewd leader.
Numa led by example and all the Romans became very religious people, so that the neighbours did not want to attack because the Romans were all very peaceful. Numa continued to pretend to meet Egeria the goddess and made a holy place for her. In complete contrast to Romulus, there were no wars while he was in charge. This meant that by the end of his reign the Romans had skills in both peace and war. Here we see the different sides of the Roman identity being developed.
According to Livy, Numa ruled for 43 years.
He became the next king by a vote of the people and was very warlike. He led Rome to victory in a war against the Albans and then made war on the Sabines which was also successful. Tullus was not a very religious king but when strange things started to happen and he caught a plague which was affecting the Romans, everyone decided they should revive Numa’s religious ways. Tullus is said to have made Jupiter angry by getting a ceremony wrong and Tullus died when the palace was struck by lightning. He was king for 32 years.
Ancus Marcius was the grandson of Numa and was chosen by the people to be king. He made sure religion was properly looked after but was also successful in war against the Latins and extended Rome’s lands. He had two sons and in his will said that Lucius Tarquinius Priscus should look after them when he died. He ruled for 24 years.
Lucius Tarquinius Priscus was an ambitious Etruscan with an ambitious wife called Tanaquil. They travelled to Rome with the intention of becoming powerful. (His name was Lucumo then but he changed it.) On the way an eagle took off Priscus’ hat and then put it back on again which was seen as an omen that he would be king.
Tarquinius Priscus got the throne after Ancus Marcius by sending his sons out on a hunting trip and then getting the people to vote him in while they were away. He was quite a good man but a bit of a trickster as can be seen from how he made himself king.
Tarquinius Priscus increased the size of the senate, made war successfully on the Latins, planned out the Circus Maximus, established games and improved the forum.
Then there was a war with the Sabines and Priscus tried to rearrange the cavalry but was told he could not do this without consulting the bird omens. He was very rude about this but in the end was proved wrong by the priest called Navius. In order to defeat the Sabines, the Romans scared them by making a big fire which floated down the river and burnt the bridge they were going to escape across so a lot of them had to jump in the river. Tarquinius Priscus made an offering to Vulcan the god of fire and invaded Sabine territory causing the Sabines to surrender in the end. Tarquinius then made peace with the surrounding people and set about improving Rome’s walls and sewers and he laid the foundations for the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline hill.
In the end, Tarquinius Priscus was killed by shepherds hired by the sons of Ancus Marcius who were still upset because they said he cheated them out of the throne. The shepherds pretended to argue with each other and when the king was concentrating on listening to one of them, the other one hit him with an axe.
Servius got the throne when his father-in-law was killed by the shepherds and Tanaquil, his mother in law, made it look as though Tarquinius Priscus had named him as his successor.
Some said Servius was the son of a slave, but the other story is that his mother was the wife of the chief of Corniculum which was conquered by the Romans. She was pregnant and after her husband was killed Tanaquil the Queen of Rome took her to the palace so she had her baby there.
There was something magical about the child from the start.
At that time, there was an event in the palace which was amazing in its outcome and appearance. There was a boy called Servius Tullius and, as he slept, his head burst into flames – an event that many people saw. Of course, this caused uproar, and the royal family came excitedly to see the miracle. When one of the slaves had brought water to put out the flames, he was held back by the Queen Tanaquil. She wouldn’t let the boy be disturbed and asked them all to be quiet until he woke up on his own. Soon the flames died away and he woke up. Then she took her husband Tarquinius away in secret and said, “Do you see this boy we are bringing up in our house in such a poor position? It is obvious that he will be the shining light and protector of the royal house when it is in trouble in worrying times. So let’s look after this boy as best we can so that he will be useful to us and to the people.” From then on they started to treat the boy as if he was their own son, and brought him up in a way that would give him a good character for a great role in life. It happened easily because the gods wanted it to. He had a very royal nature and none of the other young men in Rome looked like they would be as good as Servius as a son-in-law, so the king let his daughter get engaged to him
This was why Tanaquil was so convinced that he should be the next king of Rome.
Servius led the Romans in a successful war against the Veii and proved he was a good leader.
Servius then set about organizing the Roman society. He called a census so that he could tax people according to what they could afford. The details are given in Livy book 1 chapter 43. Servius extended Rome as there were more people so he added the Quirinal, Viminal and Esquiline Hills to the city and made the defences better. Servius made peace with the Latins by getting them to help build a temple to Diana in Rome and accept Rome as their capital. The Romans made sure that they made the first sacrifice to Diana in the temple by tricking the Sabine who tried to do it first so as to get their power back.
Lucius Tarquinius the son (or possibly grandson) of Tarquinius Priscus was starting to complain that he should have been the king so Servius first gave lots of land away to the people and then asked them to vote him in which they did. Eventually Lucius Tarquinius (Superbus) succeeded in taking the throne from Servius by force.
Servius Tullius ruled for 44 years and had a very successful reign.
This king’s name was Lucius Tarquinius but he got the name Superbus (arrogant or proud) because of all the things he did.
Lucius Tarquinius and his brother Arruns were the sons of Tarquinius Priscus and they were married to Servius’ daughters who were both called Tullia. Lucius Tarquinius and the younger Tullia (who was married to Arruns) were both very ambitious so they got their partners killed so they could marry one another. Servius was now an old man and Tullia went on and on at her husband telling him to get on with it and take the throne. Eventually he started to gather supporters and one day he went to the forum with a group of armed men. He sat down on the king’s chair and called the senate to come to King Lucius Tarquinius. They came and he started to say terrible things about Servius and how he should not really be the king. Servius soon arrived and there were supporters on both sides. Tarquinius threw Servius out of the senate house and then his assassins killed him. People say that it was Tullia who told the assassins to kill him. She drove into the forum in her carriage and greeted her husband by calling him the king. He told her to go home and the story goes that she ran over Servius’ body on purpose on the way.
Tarquinius refused to let his father-in-law be buried and pretended this made him more like Romulus who never got buried. He killed any senators that he thought preferred Servius. He surrounded himself with armed men. He conducted trials with no jury and killed or punished people he did not like or just took their money because he wanted it. He did not consult the senate and made war and peace with other without asking anyone. He made good friends with the Latins and married his daughter to Octavius Mamilius who was the most important Latin chief and had lots of friends.
Tarquinius and Turnus
When he had got himself a lot of respect with the Latins, Tarquinius called them all to a meeting. Lots of people arrived at dawn but Tarquinius did not arrive until sunset. He gave the excuse that he had been trying to solve an argument between a father and a son. Turnus, who was one of the Latins who had been saying that Tarquinius wanted power over the Latins and was disrespecting them by calling a meeting then not coming, said that the argument should have ended fast as a son should obey his father. Tarquinius was really angry with Turnus so he decided to get him convicted. He bribed someone to hide a lot of swords where Turnus was staying and then he told the Latin chiefs that Turnus had been plotting to kill him and them. He took the chiefs to look for the evidence and when the swords were found, they believed his story. Turnus did not get to defend himself and he was thrown in the river in a basket full of rocks.
Tarquinius praised the Latin chiefs for punishing the trouble maker then took control of all their land by saying there was an ancient treaty that said it was his and if they did not give it to him he would destroy them. Then he mixed up the soldiers into one army with his centurions in charge.
Tarquinius made war on the Volsci and decided to build a magnificent temple for Jupiter with the money he made out of the war. Then he started a war with the Gabii but they were difficult to conquer so he pretended to be concentrating on building the temple and sent his son Sextus to the Gabii as a refugee pretending that Tarquinius was really cruel to him. The Gabii took him in hoping that he would help them fight back against the Romans. Sextus made the Gabii trust him so much that he was running the city then his father sent him a coded message by knocking the heads of his tallest poppies with a stick. Sextus understood and killed the important men in Gabii then shared out the wealth with the others and finally handed the city over to his father without a fight.
Tarquinius then decided to build the temple of Jupiter on the Tarpeian Mountain which his father had promised to build. The omen from the gods allowed him to remove all the other shrines from the area except the one of Terminus which had to stay where it was and then Rome would be safe. While the temple was being built, a human head was found which was said to mean that Rome would be the head or capital of the world because caput means head in Latin. The temple cost a lot of money. Tarquinius hired people to finish the temple and he also made the Roman men help to build it to keep them busy. He also got the Roman men to build seats in the circus and a great big sewer which they didn’t enjoy as much as building the temple. He sent some men to set up towns in places the Romans had conquered.
One day a snake crawled out of a column in the palace. This was seen as an omen so Tarquinius sent two of his sons, Titus and Arruns, to Delphi to find out what it meant. They took Lucius Junius Brutus with them. Everyone thought he was stupid but he was just pretending so he could stay safe. While they were at Delphi the boys asked who would have the most power in Rome. The oracle told them it would be the first one to kiss their mother. The boys decided to keep it secret from their brother Sextus and decided by lot (like picking out of a hat) who would kiss their mother first when they got back. Brutus realised what the oracle really meant and he pretended to fall over and kissed the earth which is where we all come from. When they got back, Rome was preparing for war with the Rutuli.
The Rape of Lucretia
The war with the Rutuli became a siege so sometimes the officers had nothing to do. During a drinking party they began to say what good wives they had. Tarquinius Collatinus was convinced he had the best wife and to test their wives he suggested they all ride to Rome to see what they were up to. All the wives were found partying except Lucretia the wife of Tarquinius Collatinus who was spinning wool. Lucretia being so good and well behaved made Sextus Tarquinius want to rape her because he was evil. A few days later Sextus Tarquinius went back to see Lucretia, he threatened her with a sword and said that if she did not sleep with him, he would kill her and put a dead slave in the bed with her so it looked like she slept with the slave, so she had to give in to his force. Then she called her husband and father to come, each with one friend (one of these was Brutus). She told them what had happened and made them promise to punish Sextus Tarquinius. Then she killed herself. Brutus then led an uprising against the king and his family because they had treated everyone so badly. The people went along with him and the Tarquins were thrown out.
Tarquinius Superbus reigned for 25 years.
What qualities did a king of Rome need to succeed?
How realistic do you think the kings are as historical figures? Give reasons for your answer.
What do the stories about the kings show about the later Romans?
What do you think Livy’s opinion was of each king?
Read the following article about the kings of Rome.
Article about kings of Rome:
Theme: The constitutional, religious and economic development of the Roman state under the kings
4.1 The establishment of Rome under Romulus
What did Romulus do for Rome?
Romulus started Rome and it was named after him. He set up defences on the Palatine hill, where he grew up. He started ceremonies for the gods in the same way as the Albans did them, but for Hercules he made everyone worship in the Greek way which had been started by Evander. Romulus gave the people laws.
He made himself seem grander in his general appearance and so that the country folk would follow his laws he got himself twelve lictors. (Body guards who had the power to beat people with their sticks or kill them with their axes.) Some people said it was twelve because twelve vultures appeared to Romulus but Livy thinks it was because the idea of lictors came from the Etruscans who had twelve – one for each of their tribes.
Romulus made his city bigger with big walls round it but not many people lived there so he invited lots of people to come and start new lives there.
Once he had lots of men, Romulus started to organise the place. He created one hundred senators (wise old men to help rule the place), either because this number was enough, or because there were only one hundred who were fit for the job. They were called ‘Fathers’ as a result of their good reputation, and their descendents were called ‘Patricians’ (pater means father in Latin).
Romulus increased Roman territories and power by defeating the Caeinenses, the Crustimini, and the Antemnates, (according to Livy these peoples had all attacked Rome after the Romans tricked them and abduted their daughters). Romulus made a treaty with Tatus Tatius, the king of the Sabines, (whose daughters the Romans had also abducted). They agreed to share power with Rome as capital of their joint populations. Romulus then divided the population into thirty groups and recruited three groups each of one hundred Knights were recruited: the Ramnenses, the Titienses, and the Luceres.
Romulus became the only king again a few years later, when Tatius was killed in a riot in Lavinium, caused by his taking the side of his relatives after they attacked some Laurentine ambassadors. Romulus renewed the treaty between Rome and Lavinium at this point, in order to make up for the ambassadors being attacked and the king being killed.
The Fidenates thought the Romans were getting too powerful so they attacked them but Romulus defeated them easily by tricking them into an ambush. The last thing we are told he did was defeated the Veii in battle then destroyed their farms but gave them a peace treaty when they asked for it in exchange for some of their land.
Livy concludes that, ‘this was what Romulus achieved while he was king at home and at war and all of it shows that he was descended from a god and deserved to be a god after he died. He had the courage to get his grandfather’s kingdom back for him, he planned and built a city and he took care of it in peace and war. He made Rome so strong that it was safe and peaceful for the next forty years. But the ordinary people were more grateful than the senators, and the soldiers liked him more than everyone else. He had 300 of them as bodyguards, both in peace and in war, who he called ‘The Swift Ones’.’ – Livy 1.15
In typical Romulus fashion, he was looking at his army when he was whisked off in a cloud to become a god. Julius Proculus claimed that Romulus appeared to him to give his final message to the people of Rome: He said, “Citizens, at dawn today Romulus, the father of this city, suddenly came down from the sky and stood in front of me as clear as day. I stood still because of respect and fear, and prayed to him to ask if I could look up at him. He said to me, ‘Go and tell the Romans that the gods in the sky want my city, Rome to be the capital of the world: so they should become good soldiers, and tell them, and they should tell their children, that no one can stand up to the Roman army’. When he had said this, he went up into the sky”. Amazingly everyone believed him and they were all much happier then.
And that was the end of Romulus but he had set Rome on a course to be ‘the capital of the world’ and laid the foundations for a no-nonsense city with a very warlike attitude.
How realistic is Romulus as a historical figure?
Why is Romulus a good hero?
What makes Romulus a good founder for Rome?
Why was Romulus’ death and what happened after fitting and useful?
4.2 The development of religion under Numa
How did Numa develop religion?
Numa Pompilius was famous because he was fair and religious and he knew a lot about humans’ and gods’ laws. When Numa was nominated to be king, nobody could think of anyone better so the Senators offered him the job. He said they had to ask the gods like Romulus did, which shows he was very religious from the start. The priest saw the good omens and Numa became king.
Numa’s first act was to found the temple of Janus which showed that the Romans were at war when the doors were open and at peace when they were shut. He made peace with the neighbours and shut it. This was so that he could tame the warlike city and give it new laws and religious rituals.
Then Numa decided to use fear of the gods to control the people so he pretended to meet the goddess Egeria and said that she told him how to set up the rituals and the priesthoods. Here Numa is developing religion but perhaps mainly to keep people under control, although even though Livy says that Numa invented the meetings with the goddess, he is portrayed as very religious. Numa is supposed to have created the twelve lunar months and a method to remedy the fact that they do not quite fit. He also decided which days were right for doing public business and which were not.
Livy tells us:
He sorted out putting priests in charge of things, but he did the most holy ceremonies himself, especially the ones the priest of Jupiter does now. But he thought that in a warlike community there would be more kings like Romulus than like himself, and that they would want to go to war themselves. So that the holy ceremonies of the kingdom didn’t get neglected, he made the priest of Jupiter a permanent job and then made it more important with a special toga and the royal curule chair. He added two other priesthoods to this: one for Mars and one for Quirinus. He also chose the Vestal Virgins, a priesthood that came from Alba which the founder of Rome would have recognised. He gave them money from the public funds so that they would be really careful priestesses of the temple, he showed that they should be respected and were holy by making them stay virgins and other ceremonies. He also chose twelve ‘Dancers’, the Salian priests of Mars Gradivus, and gave them embroidered tunics, and on top of them they wore bronze breastplates. He ordered them to carry the heavenly shields, which are called the ancilia, and to go through the city singing songs and performing their special dance with three steps. Then he chose Numa Marcius, son of Marcus, from the senators as the priest of state religion, and he put him in charge of all the holy documents which said what animals should be used, which days, and which temples the sacrifices should be at, and where to get the money to pay. He also put that priest in charge of all other private and public ceremonies, so that the people would come to him in case they upset any of the gods’ laws by forgetting traditional ceremonies and joining foreign cults. That same priest was not only in charge of the ceremonies for the heavenly gods but also funerals and pleasing the spirits of the dead. He also said what omens should be recognised from lightning flashes and other events and what people should do about them. To find out about these things from the gods, he set up an altar for Jove the Revealer on the Aventine hill, and he looked for signs from the god, for which omens should be accepted.
Numa was very peaceful and religious and he got the Romans to copy him. According to Livy, the neighbours were so impressed by how religious the Romans all were that they did not want to attack and no longer saw Rome as just a great big army camp. Numa gives Rome a new side to its character.
Numa was supposed to go to meet Egeria his spiritual ‘wife’ in a forest and he made this a holy place. He also created many other ceremonies including one to celebrate keeping promises. His main achievement was that he kept his power while keeping peace the whole time. When Augustus became Emperor of Rome, he started a religious revival which may be linked to Numa’s creation of all the religious aspects of the Roman culture.
How realistic do you think Numa is as a historical figure? Give reasons for your answer.
What is the significance for the later Romans of describing Numa in creating all the religious practices?
Do you think the Romans would have thought Numa was right to deceive the people? Give reasons for your answer.
4.3 The nature of the Tarquins and their effect on the development of Rome
There are three Tarquins who are most important for the purposes of this section: Tarquinius Priscus, his son Tarquinius Superbus and his son Sextus Tarquinius. The first two were kings of Rome but the behaviour of the last one was the final straw for the monarchy in Rome.
Lucius Tarquinius Priscus was originally called Lucumo and was Etruscan. He went to Rome with his wife Tanaquil intending to do something to make himself powerful. On the way an eagle took off Priscus’ hat and then put it back on again which was seen as an omen that he would be king.
Tarquinius Priscus managed to get the king Ancus Marcius to trust him to be in charge of his sons but he betrayed this trust after Ancus died by sending his sons out hunting and then getting the people to vote him in as king. Livy says that he was quite a good man but a bit of a trickster as can be seen from how he made himself king.
Tarquinius Priscus did some good things for Rome: he increased the size of the senate, made war successfully on the Latins, planned out the Circus Maximus, established games and improved the forum. We start to see the Tarquin arrogance when in a war with the Sabines and Priscus he tried to rearrange the cavalry units set up by Romulus and name some after himself. The omen interpreter Attius Navius pointed out that before Romulus did this he checked the omens so Tarquinius should do the same. Tarquinius replied very rudely that the priest should say, with his gift of prophecy, whether what Tarquinius was thinking just then could be done. When the priest said it could be done, Tarquinius replied that he was wondering whether you could cut a knife-sharpening stone in half with a razor. Amazingly the priest did it. This shows the haughty attitude of Tarquinius, the importance of the omens and also that the gods did not let him get away with this. On the whole, however, Tarquinius Priscus was not that bad.
Lucius Tarquinius who was given the name Superbus because he was so arrogant was trouble from the start. First he had his wife killed so he could marry his sister-in-law Tullia who had got her husband killed. Then he seized the throne by force and threw out the old king who was run over in a chariot by Tullia and Tarquinius Superbus did not even let him be buried.
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus surrounded himself with armed men and did exactly what he wanted to in Rome without consulting anyone. He made particular friends with the Latins and then manipulated them into handing their power over to him by faking a plot by a man called Turnus who he had thrown in a river in a basket of stones even though he was innocent. He told the Latins they could either give him their power according to some treaty that he had probably just made up, or he would destroy their fields and cities.
Next is Sextus Tarquinius. When Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was unable to conquer the Gabii in the normal way, he sent his son Sextus to trick them. Sextus told tha Gabii that he was sick of his father and was now his enemy. Slowly Sextus built up the trust of the Gabii until they put him in charge. His father sent him a silent message by knocking the heads off the tallest poppies in front of the messenger who did not understand. Sextus knew just what to do and so he killed all the important Gabii, shared their wealth out among the others and handed the whole city over to his father.
Sextus Tarquinius also raped Lucretia, the wife of Tarquinius Collatinus. She killed herself and her father, her husband and his friend Lucius Junius Brutus vowed to avenge her.
4.4 Reasons for the removal of the kings
Although the Tarquins did some good things for Rome such as building things and had military victories, eventually the Roman people got sick of their behaviour.
Make a table showing all the good and bad things the Tarquins did.
Down with the monarchy!
Brutus swore on the bloody knife that Lucretia had stabbed herself with that he would punish the Tarquins and get rid of the kings of Rome forever. He made a great speech to the Romans and persuaded them to stand up to the king’s power and send all his family away then he got the army on his side and established the Roman republic in which two consuls were in charge and the people voted for them.
The story of the horrible rape of Lucretia and the men swearing on the bloody knife to remove the kings is very dramatic and makes a good story. It is thought that there is an influence from the overthrowing of the kings of Athens and the conspiracy of Cataline so a lot of this story is just that, an exciting story. However some people are quite certain that the people began to hate the Tarquinius Superbus because he was being tyrannical and that the noble men made a conspiracy and got rid of him.
How do the Tarquins’ actions help to explain the later Romans’ views on kings?
How accurate do you think the stories are? Give reasons for your answer.
Sources: Livy and Virgil as sources
5.1 Livy’s own statements on his work in his preface
I do not know for sure (and if I did, I wouldn’t dare to say) whether the job I have taken on – writing the story of Rome and the Roman people from the very beginning – will be worth the effort. Since I see that it is an old and common practice that the new writers always think they will either write more truthfully or write more skillfully than the older writers. Anyway, I shall be pleased to set out, as best I can, the record of the things the greatest people on earth have done and if I am not noticed in the crowd of writers, I shall comfort myself because they are such great and talented writers who put me in the shade. Besides, this is a really big job. It goes back more than seven hundred years and having started from humble beginnings it has grown so much that the job may be too big.I have no doubt that most readers will find the earliest times, and those just after, less enjoyable and they will hurry on to the modern times when for a long time by being so powerful the state has worn itself down. But I shall enjoy this work since as long as I am looking back at the old days in my mind, it will take away from my sight the bad things which our generation has seen for so many years. I shall be free from the concern which can cause anxiety in the mind of a writer, even if it does not push him away from the truth. What happened before the foundation of the city or while it was being built has been passed down in a way more suitable for the stories of poets than an authentic historical record of what happened and I don’t intend to prove it right or wrong.The stories of old days can be allowed to mix human events with supernatural ones since it makes the origins of the city more impressive and if any people should be allowed to say they are descended from supernatural beings and trace their founders to the gods, Rome’s glory in war is so great that when they say that Mars is their first ancestor and the father of their founder, the countries of the world accept it in the same spirit as they accept their power. But no matter how these things and ones like them are considered and judged, I don’t think they are very important. Instead I would like people to think carefully about what sort of lives and morals the people had, and the men and their skills which they used at home and in wars to win power and extend it. Then I would like people to notice the discipline slipping gradually, first the sinking morals then them slipping more and more, then beginning to fall steeply, until we arrive at these days when we can’t put up with either our faults or the ways to fix them. There is something especially beneficial and useful in studying what happened long ago, because you can look at examples of everything that can happen clearly set out in a record. From this you can take for yourself and your country, things to copy, and things which are rotten from start to finish which you can avoid. On the other hand, unless my love for this job which I have started has tricked me, there has never been a country either more powerful or with better morals or with so many good examples to follow. There has never been a place where people have moved so slowly towards greed and extravagance or where there has been respect for such a long time for living without luxury and being for economical. Really, the fewer possessions people had the fewer they wanted. Recently, riches have brought greed and the huge quantity of pleasure has brought a desire for ruining and destroying everything because of self-indulgence and lust. But unwanted complaints, even when perhaps they are necessary, really must not appear at the start of such a grand piece of work. I would much rather begin by using the poets’ way of doing things, with good omens and wishes and prayers to the gods and goddesses to ask them to give a favourable and successful outcome to the great task before me.
At the start Livy makes the point that what he is doing has been done before.
He calls the Romans the greatest people on earth so we can see that he is openly biased. He does not care if the stories are not very believable as long as they show the Romans in a good way.
He also says that he does not intend to prove the old stories true or false. When we ask ourselves how reliable Livy is and come to the conclusion that he is not always very factually reliable we have to remember that in this section of his history he was not that bothered. Livy was more interested in putting his message across. He wanted to show the Romans in a certain way and he wanted to stop the moral decline by showing examples of good (and bad) behaviour from the past.
At the end of the preface Livy makes a sort of prayer to the gods and goddesses which is very much like Virgil’s invocation at the start of the Aeneid (which in turn is modeled on Homer’s beginnings). Perhaps Livy is praying not only that he will write a good book, but that his message about the moral decline of his beloved city will be listened to.
Go through the preface and pick out phrases that show:
• Livy’s opinion of the Romans
• Livy’s motive for writing
• Livy’s morals
• Livy pretending to be modest
5.2 Foundation myths as presented by Livy and Virgil
Livy is a historian but this part of his history is largely legendary but he does not try to pretend it is true or say that it is false. It is part of the Roman culture.
Virgil is a poet. What he writes doesn’t have to be true. The importance is in what these legends say about the Romans and their culture. It might not be their real heritage but it is the one that a patriotic Roman wishes to claim for the Romans.
Think about the motives Livy and Virgil had for writing and use these to explain why they chose their versions of the foundation myths.
5.3 Livy’s sources and how he used them
The first Roman to write about Rome’s history was Fabius Pictor who was alive in 200 BC, which was 300 years after the end of the monarchy. Not exactly an eye witness account. Other historians came after Pictor and covered the same information but added their own ideas. For example Calpurnius Piso (Livy refers to him), who was a consul in 133 BC and C. Licinius Macer, who was Tribune of the Plebs in 73 BC. Valerias Antias and Q. Aelius Tubero (who was possibly the son of a friend of Cicero) are two more examples.
All these historians had certain things in common. They were all men with jobs in the government who were writing history as a hobby. They had no interest in historical research. They used history as a way to draw attention to the issues and debates of their time. For example ‘it is no wonder the Romans are so brave and warlike because they are descended from brave warlike ancestors.’ These historians did not try to find out whether the standard version of Roman history was true, they just accepted it and added their own spin.
Livy does tell the traditional version of events and it is pretty obvious that it is not a true story. A lot of the stories from early Roman history come from old Greek myths. The Romulus and Remus story and some of the events in the lives of the kings come from Greek myths. The kings of Athens were overthrown and replaced with a democracy in 510 BC; a tale which miraculously appeared in the history of Rome. The Romans do not seem to have had a developed mythology of their own so they borrowed it from the Greeks. This is not that surprising when we remember that there were Greek city- states in Italy.
Roman historians also used events in their recent history and put them into the distant past on the assumption that human nature stays the same. For example the conspiracy of Cataline is very similar to the plot against Rome by Tarquinius Superbus.
Just because Livy’s account is embroidered with Greek myth and later Roman history, it does not mean that the basic facts are made up. Greek colonies were neighbours to Rome in the early days. Even though the Romans did not write things down in those days, the Greeks did and they included stories of early Rome in their local history. Rome was even mentioned in history books from mainland Greece. Etruscans may also have written about Rome in their history books although they did not survive.
The other source of information for early Roman history is archaeology, which can sometimes be used to check if Livy was right although this is a very tricky business.
5.4 Attitudes towards kingship in Livy and Virgil’s writing
Livy or Titus Livius was born in Patavium, which is now called Padua, in the north of Italy in either 59 BC or 64 BC (nobody knows for sure which one). Nobody knows that much about his family but we do know that Padua was supposed to be a place where people had good moral standards but the Roman Civil Wars caused great problems there. Some people say that Livy meant his history to be an example to the Romans. They had suffered, but that had been due to their own immoral behaviour and a moral recovery was still possible, and Livy offered some inspiring and cautionary tales. It was a serious and important project, and Augustus, the Roman emperor, was interested in it. Livy did not belong to the inner circle of the emperor but the historian and the emperor respected each other and it is said that Augustus once (perhaps after the publication of Books 91-105) made a good-natured joke that Livy still was a supporter of Pompey, the enemy of Caesar. If this was a criticism at all, it was not serious. Livy is not said to have been friends with the Emperor Augustus, but he was close enough to the emperor’s circle to encourage the young Claudius (who later became emperor) to write history. Livy died in 17 CE in Padua.
Virgil or Publius Vergilius Maro, was born in 70 BC in a small village near Mantua in Northern Italy where his parents had a farm. Virgil’s family farm was confiscated during the Civil War. It was the Emperor Augustus who asked Virgil to write the Aeneid, which was written in about 29 BC. As far as Virgil was concerned, it was not finished when he died and he did not want it published. The emperor Augustus however, said that it had to be published. Virgil died in 19 BC.
Neither author lived in the time when Rome had kings so their views on them are historical, but the ways that they wroteabout them will have been influenced by recent Roman history. At the start of the first century BC (the century both writers were born in and wrote towards the end of) Rome was still a Republic, where the Senatorial elite had most of the power, but the class of equites and the common people also had a limited say in some things and a degree of protection under the laws. This had been a relatively stable political sytem and had lasted as Rome expanded her influence first within Italy and then overseas. However, during the first century BC a small number of politicians became increasingly powerful, which upset the balance of the system and led to the Civil wars. At the end of this period Octavian (who became the emperor Augustus) restored peace. Both authors lived through the Civil War and were affected by it. Both authors benefitted from the peace brought to the empire by Augustus.
Augustus was an emperor, and effectively sole ruler of the Roman Empire, however he liked to emphasise that he had restored a lot of control to the senate. When Livy criticises the later actions of the Tarquins, this should not be seen as a criticism of Augustus, because if anything Augustus would be associated with brave Brutus, who overthrew the tyrant and restored power to the senate. Comparisons could also be made with earlier kings like Numa, who brought peace and gave the Romans laws and religion, and who asked for the Senator’s approval at the start of his reign.
Remember, all writers are biased, no matter how hard they try to avoid it.
What is the difference between an Emperor and a King?
Think about Livy and Virgil’s possible reasons for being biased and list them.
Write down what effect you think this has on their writing.
Try to find out some more information about the Civil War and how it would have affected people.
Research the life of Augustus and what he did for Rome.
Remember, all dates are approximate or ‘traditional’ and c. stands for circa which means about. All dates are BC (before Christ), which is sometimes also refered to as BCE (before Common Era) -they both mean the same time.
1184 Fall of Troy; beginning of Aeneas' wanderings
c. 1176 Aeneas founds Lavinium
c. 1152 Aeneas' son Ascanius founds Alba Longa
c. 1152-753 Period of kings at Alba Longa
753 Traditional date of founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus
753-509 Period of Kings at Rome
c. 753-716/15 Romulus
c. 715-674/3 Numa Pompilius
c. 673-642 Tullus Hostilius
c. 642-617 Ancus Marcius
c. 616-579 Tarquinius Priscus
c. 578-535 Servius Tullius
c. 534-510 L. Tarquinius Superbus
c. 509 Overthrow of the monarchy and foundation of the Republic by L. Junius Brutus
1200 Beginning of the iron age. The Latins arrive in Italy from near the river Danube.
1000 Latins settle in the area of Latium and Etruscans move to Italy.
c. 800-750 Iron-Age settlement on Palatine Hill a simple village of thatched huts.
750 Greeks set up cities in Italy.
700 Etruscan civilisation dominates the area.
c. 600 The Roman forum is built and Etruscans build tombs
578 Cloaca Maxima, the first sewer, is built.
550 Roman city walls are built.
c. 510 Overthrow of the Etruscan Kings
Option 2: Hannibal’s invasion and defeat, 218–146 BC
Context: Relations between Rome and Carthage under Hasdrubal: Sicily and Spain
1.1 Background: Carthage: its foundation and growth
Carthage was a city founded by the Phoenicians on the northern tip of what is now Tunisia. The traditional date for the foundation of Carthage is either 814 BC or 813 BC as recorded by Timaeus of Tauromenion. It was founded by settlers from Tyre in Phoenicia, on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. The story tells of a queen, Elissa, forced to escape from Tyre because of her brother Pygmalion. In Roman legend she becomes Queen Dido who commits suicide after being abandoned by Aeneas. He goes onto settle in Italy and become the ultimate ancestor of the Romans.
More likely the founders of Carthage were merchants or traders who established a trading post in a situation where they could access both the east and west of the Mediterranean with good agricultural land to support them. The Carthaginians soon gained control over the native tribes who became known as the Libyans and Numidians. Once settled and eventually becoming independent of Tyre, the colony of Carthage established its own organization. During the 6th century BC it also began to set up colonies of its own, first along the Western Mediterranean and down the western coast of Africa. Archaeological evidence shows that its traders reached as far as Britain. Pliny the Elder [Natural History 2.169a] tells us that Himilco explored ‘the outer coasts of Europe’. He was probably looking for tin and other metals which could be found in those areas, including Britain.
Carthage was not the only Phoenician settlement: there were ones at Gades in Spain, and on the Mediterranean coast at Malaca. Once these colonies could no longer rely upon Tyre to help defend them, Carthage took on this role and began to unite these cities into an empire of her own. From these cities, along the African coast, Carthage gained tribute either in the form of money or in produce, but also in the form of service in her army and navy.
Carthage also helped the Phoenician cities in Sicily against the Greek colonists until, in 480 BC, she was defeated at the battle of Himera, so dividing the island between Phoenicians in the West and Greeks in the East. War started again at the end of the 5th century BC but was ended with a treaty in 405 BC. For the next 150 years there were wars between the Greeks and Carthaginians in Sicily. In one of these wars the Greeks had the help of Pyrrhus of Epirus who after leaving Sicily remarked that Sicily would be the focus of a struggle between Rome and Carthage.
Carthage also came into conflict with the Greeks in Spain at the battle of Alalia where she defeated them and took control of Sardinia and parts of Southern Spain. This gave her access to immense natural wealth and manpower, as well as control of the Atlantic trade routes. Carthage kept these closed to other traders, thus exploiting her Empire to her own advantage, and treating many of her ‘allies’ as subjects from whom she demanded money and men.
Rome and Carthage first came into contact after the removal of the Etruscan kings from Rome. The Etruscans had been allies of the Carthaginians and now they wanted a treaty with the Roman republic. The dates of the treaties are uncertain and perhaps there was one in 508 BC (as Polybius states). There was certainly one in 348 BC, which restricted where Romans could sail and what they could do. Roman traders were excluded from Sardinia and Libya, and the Western Mediterranean. This left Carthage to continue to expand her control of trade in these areas.
Task 1A: Research
Internet search for a map of the Mediterranean and locate Phoenicia, Tyre, Carthage and trade routes.
• Search for the story of Elissa/Dido by the author Justin.
• Research the settlement at Carthage: its position; its military and commercial advantages.
814 BCE: The traditional date for the foundation of Carthage by Phoenician traders.
6th Century BCE: Carthage extends control over nomadic African tribes (Libyan and Numidian) establishing a dominat role in North Africa, stretching from today's Morocco to the borders of today's Egypt; Carthage establishes her control also over Sardinia, Corsica, and Spain.
580 BCE: first conflicts with the Greeks in Sicily
509 BCE: first treaty with Rome (according to Polybius)
480 BCE: Battle of Himera: the Greeks defeat the Carthaginians in Sicily.
450- 20 BCE: Himilco reaches the British Isles; Hanno sails down the West African coast.
405 BCE: treaty with the Greeks in Sicily
396 BCE: A new defeat for Carthage by the Greeks of Sicily.
348 BCE: treaty with Rome renewed; Carthage establishes control of the Western Mediterranean.
306 BCE: Agreement between Rome and Carthage: Rome agrees to keep out of the affairs of Sicily and Carthage keeps out of Italy.
264 BCE: Rome’s treaty with the Mamertines of Messana: Rome in conflict with Carthage over Sicily.
1.2 Carthage: Military and Political structures
The Cathaginian Constitution:
2 ‘Judges’ or Suffetes: magistrates or officials/ generals; elected by the Assembly.
Council (30) : elected by the Assembly
Senate (300) : elected by the Assembly
Council of 104 Judges : supervised the conduct of the officials, chosen by a group of magistrates, not by the People
Assembly of the People: decisions of matters which the Senate or Council could not agree.
The government of Carthage was controlled by a small group of noble families. These families gained their wealth and position from both commerce and large estates in Africa, worked by cheap slave-labour.
The Military Organisation: The Army
The original army of the Carthaginians consisted of citizens, in the same way as Rome and Mainland Greek city states. However, once Carthage began to dominate first in Africa, then the Western Mediterranean, she used the armed forces of those peoples she conquered and she began to pay mercenaries to fight in her army and navy. It is likely that, at least in wars outside Africa, the citizens of Carthage did not fight in the wars, except as generals and officers. In the Punic wars, the army included:
Libyphoenicians (perhaps the core of the infantry and cavalry); they fought in a phalanx and armed with round shield, a spear between 5 and 7 metres long like the Macedonians according to Polybius), and a short sword in typically Greek style
Spaniards: 8000 of Hannibal’s 20,000 infantry were Spanish; there were two types – swordsmen and slingers; they used a large shield, a short javelin, and a short sword (which was eventually taken up by the Romans – the gladius with a 45 cm blade;they also used a barbed javelin called a saunion. They wore a sort of hood rather than a helmet. Spain also supplied a cavalry unit who were armed in much the same way as the infantry.
Gauls and Celts: They were armed like the Spaniards with a long oval shield and short sword but tended not to wear body armour.
Balearic islanders: they were used a slingers.
Italians and Greeks: they fought in their native armour and weapons.
Numidians: light armed cavalry, armed with javelins, small round shield.
Libyans: they provided both heavy infantry and troops lightly-armed with javelins and a small shield.
Elephants: were of the smaller north-African type.
Because we have accounts of the Carthaginian army from Greek and Roman writers, it is difficult to be certain about the military organisation.
Read Livy 21.21-22 about Hannibal’s forces.
A description of the forces at Cannae:
At dawn Hannibal sent his Balearic slingers and light-armed troops out ahead, and then crossed the river with the main body of his army. He deployed them in position as they crossed, with Gallic and Spanish cavalry on the left wing, near the river bank, facing the Roman cavalry, and the Numidian cavalry on the right wing. In the centre he stationed his infantry, strengthening the whole formation by putting his African troops on both flanks, with Gauls and Spanish soldiers placed between. You would have thought that the Africans were an almost totally Roman battle line. Their weaponry consisted mainly of the spoils of Trasimene, but also of Trebia. The Gauls and Spanish troops had shields that were broadly similar, but the swords differed in size and design, the former having long swords which had no points, the Spanish short and pointed ones, since their fighting technique was to stab rather than slash their enemy. The effect of these tribesmen was uniquely terrifying, both for their giant physique and ferocious looks. The Gauls were naked from the waist up; the Spanish, with their linen tunics edged with purple, presented an extraordinary line of dazzling white. When fully deployed, their overall numbers came to 40,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry.
The Carthaginain fleet included ships with two or three banks of rowers (triremes), and warships with four and five banks of rowers on no more than 3 levels (quadriremes and quinquiremes). The rowers in the fleet came from the poorer parts of the citizens of Carthage and her subjects. The author Appian says that the docks at Carthage could hold 200 ships. Polybius tells us that in 256 BC Carthage had a fleet of 350 ships. Parts of two Carthaginian ships were discovered near the harbour of Lilybaeum which allows us to gain a picture of what they were like.
• Research the organization of the Carthaginian army and navy.
• Look up the finds at Lilybaeum and the remains of the ships.
• Find out about the different armour and weapons and tactics of the Carthaginian army.
1.3 The Carthaginian Empire and the First Punic War
By 264 BC Carthage was the dominant power in the Western Mediterranean; she had a strong commercial hold on the trade routes, with a large income from her subjects; her navy was the largest and her rowers the most experienced. Her leaders were highly professional and her generals had been largely successful. The city itself had been constructed to be impossible for an enemy to capture. However, she relied on mercenaries to some extent and her ‘allies’ were really her subjects and expected to obey her wishes. The state was controlled by a small number of rival families competing for power.
Rome, on the other hand, had built up control of most of Italy; her allies provided manpower for the army but her relationship with them was not like Carthage and her subjects. Rome had made her allies loyal by fair treatment to some extent. She had a citizen army which had fought a number of wars in Italy. Her government had developed from the time of the removal of the kings into a relatively stable system. However, she had no navy to speak of. Her generals were appointed only for one year as magistrates of Rome, usually the consuls.
The conflict over Sicily began when Rome decided to help the Mamertines, mercenaries who had taken over the city of Messana against the Carthaginians. The Roman people in the Assembly may have thought that Carthage was planning to extend its influence into Southern Italy, since Messana was on the tip of Sicily right opposite the toe of Italy.
Timeline of the First Punic War
262 BC Capture of Agrigentum by the Romans
260 BC Roman naval victory at Mylae
258 BC Roman naval victory at Sulci
257 BC Roman naval victory at Tyndaris
256 BC Roman naval victory at Ecnomus
255 BC Regulus and the Romans defeated in Africa. Naval victory at Cape Hermaeum.
250 BC Roman naval victory at Panormus
249 BC Carthaginian naval victory at Drepana
241 BC Roman naval victory at Aegates Islands; Peace with Carthage; Romans occupy Sicily.
The Romans started with the limited intention of restricting Carthage from Italy, but by 262 BC they realised they could not do this without challenging Carthage at sea; the capture of Agrigentum encouraged them to think of taking Sicily from Carthage and to do that they needed a fleet. This would also mean they could attack Africa and Carthage itself as well as the cities of Sicily.
Polybius describes this in his Histories Book 1.20. In sections 21 and 22 he describes how the Romans built the ships and trained the rowers, but also how they invented the ‘corvus’ or ‘raven’. This was a plank designed to be dropped onto the deck of the enemy ship and allow the Romans to board it, making the sea battle into a land battle.
The effect of Rome’s success was that Rome had her first overseas ‘province’. She was now committed to administering this possession and collecting the tax from the provincials. Sicily became an important source of grain for Rome. It meant, among other things, that more officials had to be created to do the job of governing Sicily. In 238 BCE Sardinia was added to Rome’s possessions, creating more work for the magistrates.
Rome was now a small, but significant, Mediterranean power. She was gaining in wealth but also commitments. Her leading citizens could also see the benefits from expanding Rome’s ‘empire’.
This conflict showed too the extent of the loyalty of Rome’s allies which was to prove vital in the struggle with Hannibal.
• What were the reasons for Rome’s success against Carthage?
• Polybius describes Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal, as the greatest general during this war (1.64) – research what Hamilcar did and consider why Polybius praises him so much.
1.4 Importance of Spain to Carthage
With the loss of Sicily and Sardinia, Carthage needed to recover some income and revenues. It affected the wealth of the traders and also the opportunities of the craftsmen and seamen. In addition there was a war indemnity to pay to the Romans. The Carthaginians and Hamilcar Barca in particular therefore looked to Spain as an alternative source of manpower and money. Spain had supplies of timber, minerals and soldiers. Hamilcar was sent there in 237 BC, perhaps also because the ruling families of Carthage were becoming worried at his growing popularity and power.
It is questionable whether Hamilcar, and afterwards Hannibal, had really been planning to renew the war with Rome and take revenge for the defeat from the start of the campaign in Spain. In Spain Hamilcar could train and develop support for an army without intervention from the Romans. He could not have acted without the support of the government in Carthage and the supply of money and goods ensured support. In 231 BC a Roman embassy came to check on what he was doing and he replied that he was simply getting money to pay of the war indemnity to the Romans. In 226 BC Hasdrubal agreed a treaty with the Romans that he would not cross north of the River Ebro with an armed force.
Saguntum was south of the Ebro, but also an ally of Rome. When Hannibal demanded its surrender, Rome ordered him to respect their ally. The Romans went onto Carthage itself but did not get an agreement there either. One group in Saguntum had appealed to Rome to help over a dispute with a local tribe (the Torboletae) who were allies of Carthage. Rome had therefore interfered with a Carthaginian ally and Hannibal came to help them in the spring of 219 BC. After an 8 month siege, the city was captured by Hannibal. At this time Rome was occupied with a threat from the Illyrians. The Romans waited until March 218 BC before sending an ultimatum to Carthage demanding the surrender of Hannibal and his staff – this was rejected and war declared.
Hannibal’s attack on Saguntum was not justified for military reasons; while Saguntum was a Roman ally south of the Ebro, it was not a military threat. Hannibal used Saguntum to push Rome into making the declaration of war, so that the government of Carthage would see Rome as the aggressors and so support him. Both Hannibal and his father, Hamilcar, probably saw that Carthage’s extension of power in Spain might renew the rivalry with Rome. They wanted to be prepared for such a war and to fight the war on land. Hasdrubal had maintained good relations with Rome through his treaty. However, they had seen Rome take Sardinia when Carthage was in no position to defend her rights to it. Over Saguntum, Hannibal was not willing to give in again.
However, Livy (21.5) and Polybius (2.36) have no doubt that from the moment Hannibal took command he intended to make war on Rome.
1.6 The Barcids in Carthage
The Barcids were one of the leading noble families in Carthage. They opposed the expansion of Rome as a threat to Carthage. The following were members of this family:
Hamilcar Barca (275-228 BC): the most successful of the Carthaginian generals in Sicily where he led a guerilla war against the Romans in the latter part of the war and negotiated the peace with the Romans; Livy tells us that the loss of Sicily and Sardinia angered him greatly (Book 21.1). He felt Rome had deceived Carthage. He had been successful also in defeating the mercenaries in Africa who had threatened Carthage. Livy is certain that his nine years in Spain building Carthage’s resources were just a preparation for the invasion of Italy. Polybius (3.10) describes his anger at the peace and his preparation for war in Spain. Both tell the story of how Hamilcar got his 9 year old son, Hannibal, to swear always to be an enemy of the Romans (Livy 21.1, Polybius 3.11).
Hasdrubal the Fair (?-221 BC), Hamilcar's son-in-law, after Hamilcar's death (228 BC), took over command of the forces in Spain; he continued to expand Carthage’s control, and founded Carthago Nova as the capital of the new province.
Hamilacar’s three sons were: Hannibal (247-182 BC); Hasdrubal, (245-207 BC) and Mago.
Hasdrubal defended the Carthaginian cities in Spain while Hannibal fought in Italy. He took reinforcements to Hannibal in 207 BC, and was killed in the Battle of the Metaurus.
Mago (243 - 203 BC) was involved in most of the battles with Hannibal, and was often a very important factor in the victories.
Draw a family tree of the Barcids; include information about the career of Hamilcar and Hasdrubal the Fair in Spain.
Theme: Hannibal’s invasion of Italy
Theme: Character, role and achievements of key individuals
Because these two themes (the invasion of Italy and the battles, and the character, role and achievements of key individuals) are so bound up together, with one providing evidence of the other, they have been treated together for this section of the textbook.
2.1 The Crossing of the Alps
Hannibal’s intention in invading Italy was to cut off the source of Rome’s strength – her Italian allies and this meant fighting in Italy not Spain. He hoped they would rise up against Rome and welcome him as their liberator. He expected to gain support from the Gauls in North Italy. He would use this as a base instead of Spain. Because Rome commanded the seas, he would lose communications with Carthage and Spain. The Romans expected to meet him in either Northern Spain or Southern Gaul and so sent P. Cornelius Scipio with a force of 24,000 men and 60 ships. Scipio was delayed by trouble caused by two tribes in North Italy, the Boii and Insubres, which could well have been due to Hannibal. By the time he arrived in mid-August Hannibal was already crossing the Alps.
Hannibal began his invasion of Italy in April 218 BC. He had 50,000 infantry, 9,000 cavalry and 37 elephants when he marched north of the River Ebro. He left Hanno in Spain with 11,000 infantry and himself set off with 38,000 infantry, 8000 cavalry and 37 elephants (Polybius 3.42.11). He reached the River Rhone in mid-August, he found Gauls opposing his crossing (Livy 21.28). He sent Hanno (son of Bomilcar) upstream to distract them while he crossed unopposed.
Livy tells us:
Most of his army regarded the Romans as formidable opponents, since the memory of their previous war (First Punic War: 264 -241) was still fresh in many of their minds. But they were much more apprehensive of the long march and the crossing of the Alps, which camp gossip made all the more terrifying to those who had no experience of such things.
Once he had decided to stick to his original plan to march on Italy, Hannibal called his troops together and harangued them with a mixture of withering scorn and general encouragement, declaring that he could not believe that such sudden cowardice should have overwhelmed a body of men, whose brave hearts had never quailed before.
The passage occurs just before Hannibal’s speech to his men: read the speech: what does Hannibal say to encourage his men? How does Livy portray Hannibal as a leader?
Meanwhile Scipio had landed in Spain only to find Hannibal gone!
Meanwhile Publius Cornelius Scipio recruited a fresh legion to replace the one which had been sent off with the praetor, Gaius Atilius. He left Rome with 60 warships and followed the coast past Etruria, Liguria, and the Salluvian mountains. When he reached the nearest of the estuaries of the Rhone (the river has a number of similar outlets to the sea) he encamped there. He still could not really believe that Hannibal had crossed the Pyrenees, but when he learned that in fact he was already planning a crossing of the Rhone, he was faced with a dilemma. He could not be sure where he would actually find him and his soldiers had endured a rough sea crossing, from which they had not yet fully recovered. As an interim measure, therefore, he picked 300 cavalry and sent them on ahead to reconnoitre the whole area and keep an eye on the enemy from a safe distance, with Massiliot guides and a support group of Gallic auxiliaries.
What does this passage from Livy tell us about Scipio’s abilities and qualities?
What does Scipio do when he learns Hannibal is already crossing the Alps? (Livy 21.32.1-32.5)
Read the following account of an incident early in the march: what abilities as general and leader does Hannibal show?
He reacted accordingly and devised the following plan. He struck camp and with the whole of his army advanced openly until he was close to the key positions, which threatened his advance. There he set up a new encampment within easy reach of the enemy. When night fell, he ordered the usual camp fires to be lit and left the majority of his troops in position. But he ordered his most highly trained troops to take off most of their heavy equipment and then slipped through the narrowest section of the pass by night. They then seized the positions previously held by the enemy tribesmen, who had as usual retired to the nearby town.
Hannibal took in the situation and decided that there would be no hope of safety, even for those who survived the immediate danger, if the baggage train was destroyed. So he collected the special forces with which he had seized the high points during the previous night and rushed to the support of those at the front of the column. 51.7. As a result the enemy suffered severe losses, because Hannibal had the advantage of charging down on them from higher ground. But their losses were matched by those of his own troops.
Read the rest of Polybius’ account (3.51-53): what more do you learn about Hannibal’s character?
Compare Polybius’ account with that of Livy (21.32-33): whose do you prefer and why?
The elders of these fortified hill villages came in an embassy to him, claiming that the misfortunes of others had taught them a useful lesson and that they would prefer to gain the friendship of the Carthaginians, rather than test their strength. 34.3. They were happy, therefore, to follow orders and hoped he would accept supplies, guides for the next stage of his journey, and hostages as proof of their goodwill. 34.4. Hannibal was reluctant to trust them, but felt that it would be unwise to reject their overtures in case it would make them openly hostile. So he made a friendly response, accepted the offered hostages, and made excellent use of the food supplies which they had brought with them. He followed their guides, but took good care to keep the column tightly closed up, rather than in open order appropriate to travel through peaceful territory.
Read the rest of 21.34: was Hannibal right to mistrust the Gauls? What ability does he show in this episode?
Hannibal and his army overcame the hardship and losses by determination and discipline: it was a magnificent achievement and an indication of Hannibal’s confidence in himself and his men. He had wrong-footed Scipio who had now to hurry back to defend Italy. Roman strategy had been to keep Hannibal in Spain and attack Africa itself: with this in mind the Romans had sent one consul , Scipio, to Marseille, and the other, Tiberius Sempronius, to Sicily. Hannibal had overcome this strategy in one decisive blow by attacking Rome’s resources in Italy. However, in one way, he failed: Polybius (3.74.11) says that only one of his elephants survived the cold and difficulties.
Scipio left his army with his brother Gnaeus in Spain but within a month was back in Italy facing Hannibal with the legions left there to fight the Gauls. His decision to leave the army in Spain meant that Carthage would be occupied with keeping a hold on Spain, and reinforcements would not reach Hannibal from Spain.
Review the various routes Hannibal could have taken: why is Mt. Genevre the most likely?
Polybius 3.56 and Livy 21.36-37 tell the story of the descent and its difficulties for Hannibal and his army: how do they overcome the problems they faced?
2.2 The Roman Army in 3rd Century BC
Livy describes the formation of the Roman army as it was c340 BCE and to some extent it was much the same when Hannibal invaded.
The heavy infantry was drawn up in three lines : hastati (the front line), principes, and triarii (veterans). The legion was divided into 30 maniples, 60 from the hastate and 60 from the principes, with 20 leves attached to each maniple of hastati. At the back the triarii the rorarii and accensi were organized into a group of three maniples, about 180 men, called an ordo.
So a legion might number about 4,800 soldiers.
hastati younger soldiers 1200 a rectangular shield (scutum) a sword, javelins*; helmet, breast-plate
leves/ velites light-armed troops; skirmishers 600 a spear and several javelins
principes more experienced soldiers 1200 heavy infantry; a rectangular shield (scutum) a sword, javelins; helmet, breast-plate
triarii veterans 600 heavy infantry; a rectangular shield (scutum) a sword, javelins; helmet, breast-plate
rorarii/ accensi inexperienced young men/ poorer citizens; skirmishers; reserves 1200 less equipment than the heavy infantry; light-armed; no shield, slings. [Probably not used by the time of the war with Hannibal]
equites (cavalry) wealthier young men 300 a round shield, helmet, body armour, sword and one or more spears
*the pilum: a heavy javelin, part metal, part wood which could be effective in a range of about 30 yards
Tactics in general:
1. The hastati would charge the enemy. They could retreat through the lines of the heavy infantry principes and be used again as reserves or counter-attacks.
2. Behind the principes were the triarii who could charge forward with their spears, if the principes were under-pressure in order to surprise the enemy with a sudden supply of fresh soldiers and allowing the principes to form up again. The triarii were the last line of defence, behind which the hastati and principes could retire, if the battle was lost
3. 'It has come to the triarii.' is a saying by the Romans meaning that the battle was going very badly!
Research Polybius 18.31 for his assessment of the flexibility of the Roman military organization/legion; for more details of the army and its tactics, review these sources of information:
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/home.html (translation of Polybius’ Hstories on line)
http://www.unc.edu/awmc/awmcmap4.html (Maps of Italy)
2.3 The Early Battles
A cavalry battle near the River Ticinis (at Lomello) in Northern Italy between 6000 Carthaginian cavalry and 2000 Roman cavalry (November 218).
The Roman cavalry was defeated by Hannibal’s tactics in which the enemy’s centre was held while the flanks and rear were attacked. In the retreat, Publius Scipio was injured, and saved by his son Scipio (later to Africanus). It meant that Scipio was unable to take command in the next battle. it also revealed the superiority of the Numidian cavalry. Another result was that the Celtic tribes deserted to Hannibal, and a grain store at Clastidium was handed over to Hannibal.
Scipio was joined by Sempronius in late November at the River Trebia near Placentia. With Scipio injured, Sempronius was eager to fight a battle and win the victory before his year as consul ran out on January 1st 217 BC.
Hannibal used the eagerness of Sempronius to force a battle in a place of his choosing. He understood the psychology of his enemy. He sent his cavalry across the river to lure the Romans into an attack before they had breakfasted; they then crossed the river, waist-high, which was freezing in early December. Hannibal’s forces lined up only when the Romans had crossed. He had 20,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry, but he had also placed 1000 cavalry and 1000 infantry in a concealed water-course under the command of Mago, ready for an ambush at the right time. The Roman infantry consisted of 16,000 Romans and 20,000 allies with 4000 cavalry. Hannibal’s centre held the Romans while the wings were attacked by the cavalry and the elephants. At the right time the ambush was released breaking the Romans; however, about 10,000 Romans broke through and made it to Placentia. The rest were either killed or taken prisoner. Hannibal used the terrain to his own advantage using the river to weaken the enemy at the start and prevent a retreat at the end. Polybius tells how he used the skirmisher and spearmen to harass the Roman line effectively. He had made the weather and the flooded river work in his favour, with the help of Sempronius’ desire to fight so late in the season. Nothing was left to chance.
Read Polybius’ account of the battle (3.73-74) at http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/3*.html
What aspects of Hannibal as general and leader are shown in this account?
The Romans remained very confident despite the defeat: how far was this justified?
As a result of this battle, 15,000 Roman soldiers were either killed or captured. The Celts in Cis-alpine Gaul deserted to Hannibal. Hannibal now had control of the entry into Italy through the Apennines. The Romans now raised 11 new legions. Scipio was sent to Spain. The two new consuls, C. Flaminius and Servilius Geminus were to confront Hannibal when he crossed the Apennines.
2.4 Battle of Lake Trasimene
Hannibal’s route into Etruria:
He appears to have taken the road over the Collina Pass into the marshy area of the River Arno which was flooded at this time of the year. Most of the baggage animals were lost in the marshes and the horses developed scurvy. Hannibal had ophthalmia and lost the sight in one eye.
The exact site of the battle is uncertain. Flaminius certainly did not fall into every trap that Hannibal set; despite the devastation he remained in camp at Arretium. Even when Hannibal marched round the left flank of Flaminius, the consul did not move. Only when he moved off towards Cortone and Apulia did Flaminius follow. He may have been waiting for his fellow consul to arrive; he knew he could not let Rome’s allies lose crops and possession in Hannibal’s destruction of the land. Flaminius had a history of success, particularly against the Insubres and would have been seen as a sound choice. However, in the sources, he seems to behave without much sense and understanding.
Read the following passages:
Hannibal decided that for many reasons Flaminius was bound to give him ample opportunity to attack. In this his calculations were both sound and thoroughly realistic. No-one in his right mind could reasonably argue that there is anything more important to the art of military command than an understanding of the character and temperament of the enemy general.
Polybius 3. 81.1
On this occasion Hannibal had certainly anticipated the plans of Flaminius, the Roman commander, and got the measure of his opponent. As a result his plan proved totally successful. As soon as he had struck camp and moved off from the area of Faesulae, he advanced a short distance beyond the Roman camp and launched a raid upon the surrounding countryside. Flaminius was immediately beside himself with rage, convinced that this was a deliberate insult by his opponents.
Polybius 3. 81.12 -82.2
As he marched he continued to devastate the countryside with fire and sword, with the deliberate intention of provoking his opponents to battle. He now saw that Flaminius was already getting close. As he had identified a position ideally suited to his plans, he made ready for battle.
Polybius 3. 82.10-11
What do we learn of about Polybius’ opinion of Hannibal and Flaminius from these passages? Is Polybius being fair to Flaminius in 3.81-82?
Read Polybius 3.81-82: list the differences between Hannibal and Flaminius as leaders.
Hannibal moved along the north shore of Lake Trasimene setting an ambush: read the following passage and draw a plan of the placing of the troops.
Hannibal marched along the side of the lake and through pass, and then personally led the occupation of the hill in front, on which he set up camp with his Spanish and Libyan soldiers. He then sent his Balearic slingers and spearmen round to front and stationed them to his right on the lower slopes of the hills that lay along the line of pass. Meanwhile in a similar manoeuvre he led his cavalry and the Celts round the hills to his left, and stationed them in extended line so that their extreme left flank lay at the entrance to the pass itself (as already described) between the lake and the hillsides.
The following websites have plans and photographs of the battle field so you can check how accurate your plan is:
Flaminius followed Hannibal into the pass very early the next day. In the mist, unable to see the enemy forces, Flaminius and his army were completely surprised when attack on all sides. 6000 men in the front fought their way through but were rounded up later. Two legions were destroyed. A second success followed when Maharbal and the cavalry destroyed 4000 Roman cavalry sent by Servilius near Assisi. (Polybius 3.86.3) However, no towns in Eturia and Umbria opened their doors to Hannibal despite his actions after the battle:
When he had finished, he handed over the Roman prisoners to his various regiments to be kept under guard, but released the allied troops without ransom and sent them all home. 85.4. declaring, as he had on previous occasions, that he had not come to make war on the Italians but to fight for their freedom against the Romans.
Polybius 3. 83-4 gives a detailed account of the battle: what does he say about
(a) Flaminius’ role in the battle?
(b) the behaviour of the Roman soldiers?
(c) the tactics used by both sides?
The importance of the battle of Lake Trasimene:
• Hannibal had control of central Italy and its resources but had not secured the support of the cities of the Confederacy.
• His losses amounted to 1500 - mostly Celts [Livy says 2500].
• There was no army between Hannibal and Rome.
• Rome had one consul instead of two and no effective army in the field.
• Roman strategy changed from the offensive to defensive: Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus was appointed Dictator. with the policy of avoiding battles, keeping to the hills, depleting Hannibal’s forces by frequent attacks and giving his own soldiers renewed confidence
• Two new legions were raised which joined Servilius force
Polybius tells us what happened after the battle:
At the same time he sent messengers to report back to Carthage on the turn of events, despatching them by sea, because this was the first time he had reached a coastline since invading Italy. The Carthaginians were delighted by the news, and with great enthusiasm set about organising support for their armies in Italy and in the Iberian peninsula. The Romans meanwhile appointed Quintus Fabius as Dictator. He was a man of admirable character and supreme intelligence, and his descendants to this day bear the surname Maximus, “the Greatest,” in recognition of his victorious achievements. … At the same time Marcus Minucius was appointed Master of Horse. This officer is subordinate to the dictator, but acts as his deputy, taking command when he is elsewhere.
2.5 Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus
The Romans meanwhile appointed Quintus Fabius as Dictator. He was a man of admirable character and supreme intelligence, and his descendants to this day bear the surname Maximus, “the Greatest,” in recognition of his victorious achievements.
http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/romansag/g/FabiusMaximus.htm on the background to Quintus Fabius [with a link to Plutarch’s Life of Fabius].
Fabius took over Servilius’ army and marched to Apulia and camped at Aecae near the enemy. Hannibal moved in Campania while Fabius followed. His strategy allowed Hannibal to destroy allied land, causing economic loss and a lowering of morale. Fabius at one point thought he had Hannibal trapped as he tried to move back north. But Hannibal tricked Fabius when he drove 2000 oxen with burning sticks attached to their horns towards Fabius’ camp at night. In the confusion Hannibal’s army slipped past Fabius. (Livy 22.15-17)
Read Polybius’s assessment of the situation and his contrast between the Romans and the Carthaginians at this point in the war (3.89).
What difficulties did Fabius face both against Hannibal and with his own people?
Plutarch gives us the following account:
He concentrated all his own thoughts on Hannibal. He had no plans for a single fight to the finish, since his enemy was at the peak of his strength. So his strategy was to wear him down over time, to use Rome’s financial strength to counter his limited resources, and Italy’s manpower to decrease his relatively small army.
Plutarch, Life of Fabius Maximus, 5.1
The civilian population viewed such time-wasting tactics with contempt. He certainly had a poor reputation in his own army, but the Carthaginians went further, despising him as an insignificant coward. Only one man saw it differently – and that was Hannibal himself.
He alone understood his opponent’s strategy and realised how intelligently he applied it. He realised that he must use every possible tactical device to bring him to battle. Otherwise the Carthaginians would be done for, unable to use the weaponry in which they were superior, while steadily losing their already inferior manpower and wasting their inadequate resources with nothing to show for it.
Plutarch, Life of Fabius Maximus, 5.2-3
His Master of the Horse, Minucius, wanted a much more aggressive strategy and tried to undermine his command among the soldiers. When urged by his friends to counter the insults of Minucius he replied (according to Plutarch 5.6).
“If I did that, I would be an even greater coward than I now appear, since I would be abandoning my calculated strategy for fear of a few jokes and insults. There is no disgrace in being afraid for the future of one’s country; but if a man is frightened of the insults and criticisms of popular opinion, he betrays his high office and becomes a slave to the fools over whom it is his duty as ruler to exercise control.”
How is Fabius characterised by Plutarch?
Livy tells us how Fabius was partly undermined by a cavalry action by Minucius which had some success but which was exaggerated by Minucius when reporting to Rome. He had forced Hannibal to move his camp. When Fabius returned to the camp from Rome after power was to be shred between him and Minucius, they decided to divide the army rather than sharing the command. Minucius fell into a trap set by Hannibal on hilly, broken ground suited to his ambushes and Minucius’ forces were saved only by the arrival of Fabius’ army (Polybius 3. 104-105). However, Fabius’ term of office ended in 217 BC and new consuls were elected for 216 BC: Terrentius Varro and Aemilius Paulus.
Livy’s account of the treatment of Fabius
This describes the treatment of Fabius by the Roman people and the Senate and displays a sympathy for Fabius and portrays him as an honourable patriot who refuses to be diverted from what he knows is right. Minucius is the popular leader, not a member of the traditional aristocracy.
Everyone in Rome and in the army, whether friend or foe to Fabius, regarded this decision as a calculated insult – except the Dictator himself. With the same calmness and mental resolution as he had endured the denunciations of his enemies in the popular assemblies, he now bore this cruel injustice inflicted on him by an angry nation. En route for the army, he received the despatches reporting the Senate’s decree (senatus consultum) about the division of powers. But undaunted and undefeated by citizen or enemy alike, he rejoined the army, entirely confident that no legislation could enforce equality of military genius along with equality of military command.
Compare this with Livy’s portrayal of Varro at 22.26:
As a young man, Varro had inherited the fruits of his father’s “business” activities, and immediately conceived somewhat loftier ambitions. Smart suits and political activity (literally: the toga and the forum) became his stock in trade and he began to make speeches on behalf of the dregs of society. By taking up such populist causes and denouncing the wealth and reputation of the better class of citizens, he soon won himself a national reputation amongst the common people, and thus gained political office. He became a treasury official (Quaestor), and was then twice elected a city magistrate (Aedile), first as a deputy to the Tribunes (Plebeian Aedile), and then as a part of the city administration (Curule Aedile). Finally, having won the praetorship and completed his term of office, he had now set his eyes on the consulship. He had sufficient low cunning to make political capital out of the Dictator’s unpopularity, and when the proposal (to divide the powers of the dictatorship) was carried in the popular assembly (became a plebiscite), he alone got the credit.
Varro was a ‘novus homo’ – a new man whose family had never held the consulship: but he must have had support in the Senate to succeed in politics and cannot have been the enemy of the Senate as the sources suggest. Aemilius was the patrician aristocrat who is presented as cautious and sensible, who had already held a consulship in 219 BC. He was the experienced statesman, Varro the young and inexperienced hothead. The ancient accounts always present events as the result of the characters of those involved, and the accounts of 216 BC are no different.
2.6 The Battle of Cannae
The Romans increased their army to eight legions (according to Polybius), although it is thought that 80,000 Roman soldiers and allies is far too large an army. Hannibal’s force amounted to 40,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry (Livy 22.46.6). The Roman army was probably slightly larger in infantry but less in cavalry. Hannibal had taken the supply-depot at Cannae on the right bank of the River Aufidus. He had chosen a site suitable for his cavalry. Livy explains how the commanders differed on their approach, just as Fabius and Minucius had.
Once again disorder broke out in the Roman camp, with the troops proving mutinous and the consuls incapable of agreement. Lucius Aemilius Paulus (Varro’s colleague in the consulship) kept reminding Varro of what had been the results of the rash leadership of Sempronius and Flaminius; Varro sarcastically threw back at him Fabius’ “wonderful” example, as a cowardly and un-enterprising general.
Once the forces were massed at Cannae, the commanders shared the command on alternate days. Livy (22.44.5) gives the impression that Varro crossed the river and drew up the battle line without Aemilius’ agreement on a day when he had command. The Infantry was massed in the centre, with cavalry on the wings, each consul taking command of a wing (22.45.6-8).
Livy (22. 46) describes the Carthaginian formations, although he does not mention that the infantry were drawn up in a crescent shape at this point. However, at 47.7 he makes it clear that this was the tactic.
Hannibal had aimed to contain the attack of Roman infantry and then use it against them in a trap. Polybius describes the formation as a ‘moon shape’. It was meant to take the shock of the attack from the Romans. The Celts and Spaniards in the centre did not break- if they had done so and the Romans had broken through their superiority in infantry the Romans would have won the battle. The Africans on the wings turned inwards and attacked the sides of the Romans. Then the heavy cavalry of Hasdrubal attacked the rear of the Roman lines.
Aemilius Paulus, Servilius, Minucius, 80 senators, 29 military tribunes, 45,500 infantry and 2,700 cavalry (Livy 22. 49). Polybius (3.117) says 70,000 Romans died and about 10,000 were captured. Varro escaped to Venusia with about 50 cavalry. Scipio Africanus with some infantry reached Canusium.
Carthaginian losses were 4000 to 5,700 Celts, 1,500 Spaniards and Africans and 200 cavalry (Polybius 3.117).
Research the full account of the battle:
Did Hannibal win because of his own military skill or because of Roman incompetence?
Maps of Cannae
After the battle
Why did Hannibal not immediately march on Rome? Do you think it was the right decision? Read the following extracts and information and make points for and against his decision.
In his moment of victory Hannibal was surrounded by his staff, crowding round to congratulate him and urge him after such a massive success to spend the remainder of the day and the following night resting himself, and giving his exhausted soldiers time to recover. But Maharbal, his cavalry commander would have none of it, urging him not to waste a moment. “I’ll tell you what this battle has really achieved,” he declared, “when in five days time you are feasting on the Capitol. Follow up quickly. I’ll go ahead with the cavalry, and before they even realise we are coming, the Romans will discover we’ve arrived.” For Hannibal it all seemed far too optimistic, an almost inconceivable possibility. He commended Maharbal for his imaginative idea, but said he needed time to think it through. Maharbal’s reply was short and to the point. “The gods do not give all their gifts to any one man. You can win a battle, Hannibal. But you have no idea how to exploit it.”
That single day’s delay, by common consent, proved the salvation of Rome and her empire.
So, why didn’t he march on Rome immediately?
• Many towns in Apulia, Samnium, Lucanai and Bruttium revolted to Hannibal; Capua followed in the autumn giving him a good base for the winter. it looked as though the confederacy was breaking up. However Etruria, Umbria and Latium remained loyal to Rome, as did most of the coastal cities of Campania.
• Rome’s army in Italy was destroyed and her finances were seriously lessened with demands from Sicily and Sardinia for pay for army and fleet.
• However, Hannibal did not have the equipment to undertake a siege, nor the numbers to starve Rome to surrender.
• His veterans were reduced in numbers since 219 BC and he needed fresh reserves which were not immediately sent. He received 4000 cavalry and 40 elephants.
Instead Hannibal consolidated his support in the south and used his forces to garrison towns, thus dividing and weakening his army. Supplies would be a constant worry. Protecting his new allies became his concern and as such he lost the initiative.
• The Senate maintained the army in Spain to prevent resources reaching Hannibal. Hasdrubal was defeated there at Ibera in 215 BC. This meant that resources went to Spain not Hannibal in Italy.
• The Romans recruited two urban legions from 17 year olds, 8000 slaves who volunteered, and 6000 criminals released from jail. By 212 BC she had 25 legions
• Allies in Sicily and Sardinia provided money for the fleet and army.
• Roman naval superiority was maintained.
• Taxes were doubled, men served in the army without pay, voluntary contributions were made by senators; public business was conducted by private money according to Livy (23. 48).
• The senate was now in charge of the war: they turned again to Fabius’ approach, realizing that he had been right.
Carthage - The government sought to extend the war:
• They sent Hasdrubal to Sardinia but he achieved little. He was defeated by Manlius Torquatus.
• They sought to gain the alliance of Philip of Macedon (215 BC); the Romans disrupted this alliance through Valerius Laevinus who took control of the Illyrian coast and then stirred up trouble for Philip in Greece.
• They tried to cause a revolt against Rome in Sicily; Marcellus was sent to the island; in 212 BC he captured Syracuse and defeated a Carthaginian fleet. Sicily, the bridge between Africa and Italy was safely in Rome’s hands and Hannibal was cut off from his government in Carthage.
The war continued in Italy as a war of attrition, both sides destroying the crops and possessions of their enemies supporters. Hannibal had some notable success – taking Capua, Tarentum and other Greek cities in the south. There was also the moment in 211 BC when his army camped 4 miles from Rome and he himself rode up to the Colline Gate. This was really an attempt to divert Rome from the siege of Capua which failed (Polybius 9.5-6).
In 207 BC Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s brother, crossed the Alps from Gaul and had an army of 30,000 in Northern Italy. The armies of the consuls met him at the River Metaurus and defeated him, Hasdrubal dying in the battle. The attempt to reinforce Hannibal had failed and Rome had won a set battle in Italy for the first time. The battle is described by Livy in Book 27. 47- 49.
Hannibal was forced to retreat to South Italy and wait for developments. He was on the defensive now waiting to see what Rome and Carthage would do. The course of the war was now in the hands of others such as Scipio in Spain.
In 205 BC Mago had been sent by the Carthaginians with 12,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry to the gulf of Genoa. He received a further 6,000 infantry, 800 cavalry, 7 elephants and 25 warships from Carthage plus money to hire soldiers. The intention was to keep Scipio in Sicily or Italy. In 203 BC Mago and the Romans fought a battle in the land of the Insubres, near Milan. Mago was wounded and retreated; then he was ordered by Carthage to return to Africa; he died on the journey. So the final attempt to bring reinforcements to Hannibal failed.
2.7 The younger Scipio (Africanus) and the battle of Zama
The younger Scipio had defeated Hasdrubal at the battle of Baecula in 208 BC, and at Ilipa in 207 BC, he defeated a second Carthaginian army decisively. He captured Gades in 206 BC and effectively ended Carthage’s control of Spain. He then left for Rome to become consul for 205 BC.
• he was a natural leader;
• he understood the need to know the terrain and have knowledge of the enemy’s troops and movements;
• he recognized how important it was to understand the thinking of the enemy;
• he knew how to use the terrain to advantage;
• he learnt from the past battles and used Hannibal’s tactics but adapted them for his own use;
• he was determined but cautious, and like Hannibal, knew when to take risks and when not to;
• he was, like Hannibal, a professional soldier.
He had already begun negotiations with both Masinissa and Syphax, Numidians, so that they might be his allies once the war moved to Africa and provide him with essential cavalry.
Scipio’s view was that a purely Italian policy was out of date and Rome needed not just to get Hannibal to leave Italy but to deal with Carthage once and for all. Fabius was more conservative – his aim had only ever been to force Hannibal out of Italy and he opposed the aggressive line of Scipio. But, with the Assembly’s support, Scipio won the province of Sicily with the option of invading Africa. However he was given only the two legions in Sicily, although he raised 7000 volunteers and had 30 warships. It was not until the spring of 204 BC that he crossed to Africa with 30,000 troops.
Read Livy 30.28 for the opposing views in Rome: how much support does Scipio have in Rome?
At Carthage feelings were very much the same. There were many who regretted that they had sought to make peace, when they thought of Hannibal and his great achievements; but the next moment they would remember that they had twice been defeated by Scipio, that Syphax was a captive, and that they had been driven out of Spain and Italy – all this thanks to the courage and military genius of one man, Scipio. He became their bogeyman, a figure of dread, the agent of Fate, a general born to bring them to destruction.
This is Livy’s description of the Carthaginians just before Hannibal’s return and the battle of Zama.
What does he mean by ‘two defeats’ and what was the importance of Syphax?
Research the following sites for the information:
http://www.historynet.com/second-punic-war-battle-of-zama.htm [detailed account of Scipio’s campaign in Africa]
http://www.fenrir.dk/history/index.php?title=Publius_Cornelius_Scipio_Africanus for links to events in Africa.
Scipio proves his tactical ability (and his willingness to use deceit and trickery) in winning a number of engagements in Africa before the arrival of Hannibal. His second-in-command, Laelius, had captured Syphax. The Carthaginians now asked for peace terms. Scipio agreed and offered terms which the Carthaginians accepted. It gave them time during the armistice to recall Mago and Hannibal. The armistice was broken by a Carthaginian fleet attacking Roman supply ships. Meanwhile Hannibal had returned and moved to Zama.
When they returned to camp, both generals ordered their soldiers to prepare for battle and stiffen their sinews for the final struggle. For if they won and the luck was with them, they would be victors not just for a day, but forever after. Next day, before night fell, they would know whether Rome or Carthage would make laws for all the nations; the reward for victory was not just Italy or Africa, but all the world. But for those that lost the battle, the risk equalled the reward. For the Romans, there would be no quick escape route home, here in an unfamiliar foreign land; for Carthage, with their last hope gone, immediate destruction loomed close at hand.
And so, next day, they reached the moment of decision. The two most famous generals, the two most powerful armies of the two richest nations upon earth, came to do battle, destined either to double or destroy the countless battle honours they had previously won.
This is Livy’s assessment of the importance of the battle.
Livy (30.30-31) gives an account of the two generals meeting before the battle
They were the two greatest generals of their age, the equals of any king or commander of any nation, in the whole of human history. 30.2. At first neither said a word, as if each was awe-struck at the sight of the other, each lost in admiration of his opponent. Hannibal was the first to speak.
This is part of Hannibal’s speech:
As for myself, time sees me now an old man returning home to the native land he left while still a boy. Success and failure have long since taught me that philosophy is a better guide to action than any reliance upon blind Fortune. You are young and luck has always been on your side. This, I fear, will make you too aggressive when what we need is quiet diplomacy. … You stand today where I once stood at Trasimene and Cannae. …Whatever risks you took, however bold, good fortune never let you down. … You avenged your father’s and your uncle’s deaths. …Spain was lost; you won it back by driving out four Carthaginian armies. They made you consul, when others lacked the guts to fight for Italy; but you went further, and sailed out to Africa. There you slaughtered two armies, captured and fired two camps, took prisoner Syphax, our most powerful ruler…. And now, finally, you have dragged me out of Italy after sixteen years of stubborn occupation of that land. To men of action, victory can often seem a greater prize than peace. … But if, when all goes well, the gods would only give us the blessing of good sense, we would bear in mind not only what has already happened, but also what may happen in the future. …I am proof enough of how luck changes. …The more Fortune smiles upon you, the less she should be trusted.
• How accurate is his assessment?
• What is the point he is making?
• Does the rest of his speech support his argument?
This is part of Scipio’s reply:
You are actually asking to profit from your treachery, even though you do not deserve to retain even the original conditions. Our ancestors did not start the war in Sicily; we did not start the war in Spain. In Sicily it was our allies, the Mamertines, who were under threat; in Spain it was the sack of Saguntum, which drove us to take up arms in two just and holy wars. You have acknowledged, and the gods are witnesses to the truth of what you say, that you are the aggressors. Justice and the laws of heaven gave us victory in Sicily; they have given us victory in the recent war; and they will do so again if we fight here. As for myself, I am all too aware of human weakness, and there is no need to lecture me on the power of Fortune; I know very well that all our deeds are subject to a thousand strokes of luck. 31.7. I would be all too willing to admit that my conduct was arrogant and brutal, if of your own free will you had come to me to ask for peace before you abandoned Italy …. But now I have no such inhibitions, when we are here in Africa, on the eve of battle, and I have dragged you ducking and weaving and against your will to these negotiations. So now, therefore, if you have anything you wish to add to the peace conditions previously proposed, … then I will have something to take back to our authorities. But if that is too much for you, prepare for war, since peace you clearly find intolerable.
• How accurate is his assessment?
• What is the point he is making?
• Does the rest of his speech support his argument?
Both sides were fairly evenly matched with between 35,000 and 40,000 troops; Hannibal had slightly more infantry but was weaker in cavalry, unlike at Cannae. Hannibal placed his veterans in the third line – the intention was to weaken the Romans having to fight through two lines before the veterans were brought into the battle; the first two lines were made up of foreign mercenaries and the native Carthaginian soldiers. The cavalry was on the wings. The 80 elephants were placed at the front to charge the Romans and disrupt their lines. The Romans were also drawn up in three lines with the maniples directly behind each other in order to allow the elephants to run through herded by the light-armed troops.
Livy describes the battle in three phases:
As soon as Scipio became aware of it, he ordered the recall to be sounded for the front rankers (hastati) to re-group, pulled out the wounded and sent them to the rear, and led the second and third rankers (principes and triarii) out to the wings, so that the front rank (hastati) could consolidate and secure the line. That was the beginning of a completely new battle.
It was the final demonstration of Hannibal’s brilliance as a military commander.
For Polybius’ account of the battle Polybius 15.11-16
According to Livy:
20,000 Carthaginians and their allies died that day; a similar number were taken prisoner, along with 132 military standards, and 11 elephants. The victorious Romans lost some 1500 men.
Factors which enabled Rome to succeed:
• superiority at sea;
• roads and fortresses;
• the loyalty of her allies;
• the stability and determination of the Senate;
• the co-operation of the people and their desire to win;
• the strategy of attrition against Hannibal despite the destruction of the countryside;
• the blocking of reinforcements for Hannibal;
• the success in undermining Carthaginian power in Spain;
• the superior discipline, numbers and organization of the army of Rome;
• the arrival of a military commander in Scipio who reformed the way the army fought in response to Hannibal.
• What evidence for these factors can you find in the sources you have read?
• Which of these factors do Livy and Polybius think are most important?
• Which of these factors do you think were most important and why?
Make a list of the strengths and weaknesses of Hannibal as a general and leader. Use the sources as evidence for your views.
Polybius provides an assessment of his character in Book 9.22-26
Theme: Significance of the conflict against Carthage in the development of Rome
3.1 The results for Carthage
Hannibal first fled to Hadrumentum, then returned to Carthage. The Carthaginians sent a delegation to Scipio to ask for peace terms (Livy 30.37):
• they could live as free men under their own laws;
• they could keep their pre-war territorial possessions and trading centres along the coast;
• deserters, runaway slaves, and all prisoners of war must be returned;
• except for ten warships, their whole fleet were to be handed over along with all elephants;
• without the permission of the Roman people, they were to make war on no nation within Africa; they were not to make war under any circumstances outside Africa;
• They had to restore all lands and property to Masiniss and sign a solemn treaty with him;
• a war indemnity of 10,000 talents, spread over 50 years in equal instalments, must be paid;
• 100 hostages to be chosen by Scipio, aged between fourteen and thirty, must be handed over;
Carthage became a dependent ally of Rome and vulnerable to any aggressor in Africa, such as Masinissa.
3.2 The results for Rome
Rome, on the other hand, now controlled the Western Mediterranean; the Senate and the ruling men of Rome now had considerable power and opportunities. There was now no power in the Mediterranean which could challenge Rome. Even the Eastern kingdoms collapsed before Rome.
Rome’s people were war weary in 201 BC and the treasury was empty. Large parts of Italy were devastated, and provinces now needed to be organized and governed.
During the next 50 years Rome is occupied with the Kingdoms of Greece and Asia:
214-205 The First Macedonian war (Philip allies with Carthage: this brings him into conflict with Rome)
200-196 The Second Macedonian War
192-188 War with Antiochus of Syria
172-168 The Third Macedonian War
149 The Fourth Macedonian war
147 Macedon becomes a Roman province
146 The Achaean League War: Corinth destroyed. Carthage destroyed.
Rome’s initial policy was to avoid interference in Greek politics and she actually removed her forces from Greece in 194 BC. Reluctantly she became involved again in 189 BC but became increasingly dissatisfied with the behaviour of the Greeks. Finally in 149 to 146 BC she embarked on a conquest of Greece and an annexation of Macedon.
By 146 BC Rome’s provinces were Africa, Spain, Macedon, Greece, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica.
This expansion brought wealth, and this itself brought problems. Sallust (Catiline Conspiracy 10) sees the fall of Carthage in 146 BC as the point from which the corruption of Rome’s leaders began. This wealth and luxury undermined the traditional values in his view. Changes took place in the agricultural organization of Italy. Slaves became more plentiful. There was a movement away from the countryside and traditional peasant farming towards the cities and towns. This had effect upon recruitment for the army which had depended upon the owners of small farms. The opening up of trade routes and trading and banking opportunities led to the growth of a wealthy business class (equites). They provided the organization for the collection of taxes from the provinces. The allies had born the brunt of the devastation of land and grew discontented. All this time, the power and wealth became concentrated in the hands of a ruling group of nobles, about 20 families. Therefore, the political, economic, social and cultural effects of Rome’s victory spread far and wide over the next century.
3.3 The destruction of Carthage
In Carthage in 196 BC Hannibal succeeded in breaking the power of the ruling class and re-organising agriculture and commerce so that Carthage could offer to pay off her indemnity in a lump sum in 191 BC. The ruling class appealed to Rome accusing Hannibal of plotting with Antiochus of Syria. Supported by some Romans, they succeeded in chasing Hannibal out of Carthage to Antiochus.
Over the next 50 years Masinissa consistently tried to expand his kingdom into Carthaginian territory (in 193, 182, 174, 172 BC) and Carthage responded only by appealing to Rome for arbitration. This occurred again in 153 BC, when Cato the Elder was sent to arbitrate. In 150 BC Masinissa tried to insist on the reinstatement of his supporters in Carthage who had been exiled. In response Carthage, against the treaty of Zama, declared war. In 149 BC Rome declared war on Carthage despite efforts to make peace. 80,000 men crossed over to Africa. Carthage made every effort to accept any terms Rome would offer, but in series of negotiations eventually Rome demanded that the Carthaginian left their city to be destroyed and settle where they liked at least ten miles from the sea.
Carthage was besieged for three years from 149 to 146 BC. In the spring of 146 BC Scipio Aemilianus finally succeeded and Carthage was destroyed and the land ploughed over. Its remaining citizens were sold into slavery.
Sources: Livy and Polybius as historians and the relationship between their works
Who was Polybius?
(c.200-118BC): various dates are given for his birth e.g. 203 BC and 208 BC
Polybius was a Greek, from the city of Megalopolis. He was among 1000 Achaean nobles taken to Rome for possible trial in a purge of political opponents to Rome in 168 BC during a period when Rome was in conflict with Greece. He became a close associate of Scipio Aemilianus. He traveled widely, to many of the places he writes about including Spain, Africa and the Alps. He also saw the destruction of Carthage.
His aims as a historian
He wrote a history of the period 264-146 BC, effectively of Rome’s rise to power in the Mediterranean. This was to be a political and military history – what he called pragmatike historia. But it was also meant to provide a lesson (Book 1.35). He writes his History with the intention to explain to his Greek readers why it is they should accept Roman rule. He intends to instruct them by showing them the inevitability of Roman success.
This is how he expressed his aim:
No-one could be so unimaginative, so intellectually idle that he would not be fascinated to know how and under what sort of constitution in less than fifty-three years and all alone Rome came to conquer and rule almost the whole of the inhabited world. As an achievement it is totally unprecedented.
Read Book 1. section 2 and section 4:
What further aims does he have?
To what does he compare the Roman achievement?
In Book 1.14 he states:
"For as a living creature is rendered wholly useless if deprived of its eyes, so if you take truth from history, what is left but an idle unprofitable tale?"
Because of contacts in Rome and elsewhere, he was able to interview persons who were present at events. He was himself an eyewitness to some events, so much of his information is first hand and the result of his own personal investigation. He says (Book 4.2) that he expects to gain information from those who witnessed events themselves, if he himself was not an eye-witness of the events he records. Two whom he mentions were Laelius (Scipio’s second in command) (Book 9.25) and Masinissa (Book 10.23).
He also used documents and inscriptions such as treaties, as well as personal memoirs and letters which we no longer have. In Book 3.26 he refers to the treaties existing in the Treasury of the Aediles.
At 3.56.4 he says:
His surviving forces numbered 12,000 African and 8,000 Spanish foot soldiers, together with a maximum of about 6,000 cavalry. He himself has confirmed this on the column at Lacinium, which is inscribed with the statistics of his armed forces.
In Book 12.25 he says it is important for the historian to check available documents.
Writers he used were: Philinus of Agrigentum who was a supporter of Carthage and Quintus Fabius Pictor, the first Roman Historian, who was alive during the Hannibalic war. He also used the Memoirs of Aratus and the Histories of Phylarchus. He complains (Book 1.14) that Phuilinus and Fabius have failed to report the true version of events. This he claims was due to their bias towards either the Carthagnians or the Romans. He mentions Fabius in Book 3.8 when discussing the causes of the Hannibalic war. he warns against trusting him and asks his readers to test what he says against the fact (3.9.4). He criticizes Philinus in Book 3.26 for effectively falsifying a treaty that did not exist. In Book 3.47-8 he is very critical of writers who have exaggerated or mis-interpreted Hannibal’s action and motives in crossing the Alps or worse still, have introduced gods and religion to explain rational events.
In Book 1.14 he says:
An equally powerful motive with me for paying particular attention to this war is that, to my mind, the truth has not been adequately stated by those historians who are reputed to be the best authorities on it, Philinus and Fabius. I do not indeed accuse them of intentional falsehood, in view of their character and principles, but they seem to me to have been much in the case of lovers; for owing to his convictions and constant partiality Philinus will have it that the Carthaginians in every case acted wisely, well, and bravely, and the Romans otherwise, whilst Fabius takes the precisely opposite view.
He says that it is the task of the historian to record the truth of what happened and not to sensationalise events with vivid recreations and speeches that did not occur. The Historians task was to provide information which may instruct and guide future generations. (Book 2. 56)
However, he is not free from bias himself, towards Scipio for example. He also includes speeches in his work. This was the usual practice for historians in the ancient world. There are thirty seven speeches in his work as it survives, for some of which he used existing records; for others he had to rely on versions in other writers which may not be accurate.
He lived (c. 59 BC-AD 17). He wrote his History under the patronage of Augustus; he was not, as Polybius was, experienced in war or politics; he never visited the places he wrote about.
His work begins at the foundation of Rome and he wrote a year by year account (annalistic). It starts in 753 BC and ended in 9 BC. There were 142 books, and only 35 still exist. What remains covers 753-293 BC and 219-167 BC. In his Preface he makes it quite clear that he aimed to record the story of the greatest nation on earth. He also wanted to offer models of behaviour in the lives and achievements of the heroes of the Republic.
In writing his History he had to use earlier writers as his sources since he did not, as Polybius had done, search out eye-witnesses or documents. He used Polybius a great deal, and Fabius Pictor, Valerias Antias and Claudius Quadrigatus, as well as many others which have since been lost.
Sometimes he is vague about the sources:
Some authorities suggest that Hannibal in fact fled straight from the battlefield to the court of King Antiochus, and that when Scipio demanded his surrender as an absolute priority, he was told that Hannibal was no longer in Africa.
Sometimes he more precise:
The author Celsus tells us that as he (Scipio) spoke his whole stance and demeanour were so uplifted, so transported with happiness that you might have thought that he had already won the day.
And he admits that he cannot always find out the truth:
So he sent an envoy to Scipio to ask for a chance to hold discussions. Whether he did this on his own initiative or on the instructions of his government, I have no way of telling.. Valerius Antias records that he was defeated by Scipio in a preliminary encounter, in which he lost 12,000 men and a further 1700 taken prisoner. It was after this that he went to Scipio’s camp as an official envoy with ten other colleagues.
Livy is capable of vividly creating an atmosphere and psychology for his readers?:
As they explored such terrors in their minds, people simply increased their own general level of anxiety. For many years they had grown used to seeing war waged before their very eyes in different parts of Italy, without much hope of any near likelihood of a finish to the fighting; but now, it added to their anxieties and raised the whole level of public expectation that the two generals, Scipio and Hannibal, were getting ready for their final showdown. Those who had the greatest confidence and hope that Scipio would win were the ones who were the most on tenterhooks, the closer they imagined victory to be.
He has no problem with presenting speeches which he has invented or updated ones from his sources.
Find examples of his speeches from the sources you have read – how likely is it that he had copies of these?
• Why does Livy include speeches in his work?
• Does this make him a good or bad historian?
He does include mistakes which he fails to correct from his sources and fails to check the truth of what they say. He does expand upon his material imaginatively, especially where it gives him the chance to praise Romans or condemn their enemies, such as the Carthaginians. In describing the places and topography of events he is inclined to be inconsistent or vague. He has limited understanding of military and political matters and this leads him to biased accounts. However, he provides considerable detail, facts and figures of senatorial meetings, assemblies, administrative organization and individual contributions to events.
For more information and an assessment, read:
• Read this comparison of accounts of Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps from both Livy and Polybius: what are the strengths and weaknesses of each author?
218-201 2nd Punic War
218 Hannibal marches on Italy
Hannibal victories at Rivers Ticinus and Trebia
217 Hannibal victory at Battle of Lake Trasimene; Quintus Fabius named dictator
216 Hannibal victory at Cannae. Capua joins Hannibal
215- Philip V allies with Hannibal
215 Spain: the Scipios defeat Hasdrubal at Ibera;
214 Rome prevents Philip V of Macedonia gaining support in Greece.
213 Rome besieges Syracuse
212 Tarentum, Herakleia, Metapontum, Thurii join Hannibal. Roman siege of Capua
211 Hannibal fails to save Capua; he pretends to march on Rome to divert Rome from Capua but fails.
The two Scipios are killed in Spain
210 P. Cornelius Scipio (Africanus) given procunsular imperium of Spain. Winters in Tarracco
209 Rome takes back Tarentum. Scipio captures New Carthage in Spain
208 Scipio defeats Hasdrubal at Baecula
207 Battle of Metaurus River, Death of Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s brother, while trying to reinforce Hannibal.
Spain: Battle of Baecula; Hasdrubal loses half his cavalry
206 Scipio victorious at Battle of Ilipa
205 as consul Scipio moves to Sicily
End of Macedonian war; Rome withdraws from Greece
204 Scipio lands in Africa. Carthage allies with Syphax of Numidia; Scipio with Masinissa. Hanno ambushed by Scipio and Masinissa at the Tower of Agathocles.
203 Siege of Utica. Scipio tricks Syphax and Hasdrubal with negotiations and then destroys their camps in a night attack. Battle of the Great Plains: Hasdrubal and Syphax (20,000 men) defeated by Scipio (12,000). Defeat of Mago inItaly. Hannibal recalled.
Syphax defeated and captured; Masinissa given the Numidian kingdom
202 Battle of Zama;
201 Peace: end of the 2nd Punic War. Carthage becomes a client state of Rome.
195 Hannibal exiled from Carthage and goes to Antiochus III of Syria; Masinissa starts to raid Carthaginian lands.
183 Deaths of Scipio Africanus and Hannibal
173 Rome arbitrates between Masinissa and Carthage
152 Rome sides with Numidians;
151 Carthage declares war on Masinissa
150 Numidians massacre Hasdrubal’s army at Oroscopa
149 Rome declares war against Carthage: 3rd Punic War
Carthage surrounded by Africans, Romans, and private army of Hasdrubal.
148-46 Achaean War
146 Destruction of Carthage and Corinth; Africa becomes a Roman province
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