Life of Aemilius Paulus, 25

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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25It is said also that a report of the battle fought by the Italian Greeks at the river Sagra[18] reached Peloponnesus on the same day, and so did that of the battle with the Medes at Mycale come on the same day to Plataea.[19] And when the Romans conquered the Tarquins, who had taken the field against them with the Latins, two tall and beautiful men were seen at Rome a little while after, who brought direct tidings from the army. These were conjectured to be the Dioscuri. 2The first man who met them in front of the spring in the forum, where they were cooling their horses, which were reeking with sweat, was amazed at their report of the victory.[20] Then, we are told, they touched his beard with their hands, quietly smiling the while, and the hair of it was changed at once from black to red, a circumstance which gave credence to their story, and fixed upon the man the surname of Ahenobarbus, that is to say, Bronze-beard. And all this is made credible by that which has happened in our time. 3When, namely, Antonius was in revolt from Domitian,[21] and a great war was expected from Germany, and Rome was in commotion, suddenly and spontaneously the people of their own accord spread abroad a report of a victory, and a story coursed through Rome that Antonius himself had been slain, and that of his defeated army not a portion was left alive. Belief in the story became so strong and distinct that many of the magistrates actually offered sacrifices. 4When, however, the author of the story was sought, none could be found, but it eluded all pursuit from one man to another, and finally disappeared in the limitless throng, as in a yawning sea, and was seen to have no sure source. This rumour, then, quickly melted away in the city; but when Domitian was setting out with an army for the war and was already on the march, messages and letters announcing the victory came to meet him.[22] And the success itself was gained on the day when the rumour of it came to Rome, although the distance between the places was more than twenty thousand furlongs. These facts are known to every one of our time.

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  • [18] A battle between the Locrians and Crotoniats, at some time in the sixth century B.C.

  • [19] It was when the Greeks at Mycale were about to attack the Persians that a rumour came to them of the victory of the Greeks at Plataea over Mardonius (Herodotus, ix. 100).

  • [20] See the Coriolanus, iii. 4.

  • [21] In 91 A.D.

  • [22] Antonius did not get the help he expected from German auxiliaries, and was defeated by Appius Norbanus.

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