Life of Marcellus, 1–30

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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1Marcus Claudius, who was five times consul of the Romans, was a son of Marcus, as we are told, and, according to Poseidonius, was the first of his family to be called Marcellus, which means Martial. For he was by experience a man of war, of a sturdy body and a vigorous arm. He was naturally fond of war, and in its conflicts displayed great impetuosity and high temper; 2but otherwise he was modest, humane, and so far a lover of Greek learning and discipline as to honour and admire those who excelled therein, although he himself was prevented by his occupations from achieving a knowledge and proficiency here which corresponded to his desires. For if ever there were men to whom Heaven, as Homer says,[1]

“From youth and to old age appointed the accomplishment of laborious wars,”

3they were the chief Romans of that time, who, in their youth, waged war with the Carthaginians for Sicily; in their prime, with the Gauls to save Italy itself; and when they were now grown old, contended again with Hannibal and the Carthaginians, and did not have, like most men, that respite from service in the field which old age brings, but were called by their high birth and valour to undertake leaderships and commands in war.

2Marcellus was efficient and practised in every kind of fighting, but in single combat he surpassed himself, never declining a challenge, and always killing his challengers. In Sicily he saved his brother Otacilius from peril of his life, covering him with his shield and killing those who were setting upon him. 2Wherefore, although he was still a youth, he received garlands and prizes from his commanders, and since he grew in repute, the people appointed him curule aedile,[2] and the priests, augur. This is a species of priesthood, to which the law particularly assigns the observation and study of prophetic signs from the flight of birds.

3During his aedileship, he was compelled to bring a disagreeable impeachment into the senate. He had a son, named Marcus like himself, who was in the flower of his boyish beauty, and not less admired by his countrymen for his modesty and good training. To this boy Capitolinus, the colleague of Marcellus, a bold and licentious man, made overtures of love. The boy at first repelled the attempt by himself, but when it was made again, told his father. Marcellus, highly indignant, denounced the man in the senate. 4The culprit devised many exceptions and ways of escape, appealing to the tribunes of the people, and when these rejected his appeal, he sought to escape the charge by denying it. There had been no witness of his proposals, and therefore the senate decided to summon the boy before them. When he appeared, and they beheld his blushes, tears, and shame mingled with quenchless indignation, they wanted no further proof, but condemned Capitolinus, and set a fine upon him. With this money Marcellus had silver libation-bowls made, and dedicated them to the gods.

3After the first Punic war had come to an end in its twenty-second year, Rome was called upon to renew her struggles with the Gauls.[3] The Insubrians, a people of Celtic stock inhabiting that part of Italy which lies at the foot of the Alps, and strong even by themselves, called out their forces, and summoned to their aid the mercenary Gauls called Gaesatae. 2It seemed a marvellous piece of good fortune that the Gallic war did not break out while the Punic war was raging, but that the Gauls, like a third champion sitting by and awaiting his turn with the victor, remained strictly quiet while the other two nations were fighting, and then only stripped for combat when the victors were at liberty to receive their challenge. Nevertheless, the Romans were greatly alarmed by the proximity of their country to the enemy, with whom they would wage war so near their own boundaries and homes, as well as by the ancient renown of the Gauls, whom the Romans seem to have feared more than any other people. 3For Rome had once been taken by them,[4] and from that time on a Roman priest was legally exempt from military service only in case no Gallic war occurred again. Their alarm was also shown by their preparations for the war (neither before nor since that time, we are told, were there so many thousands of Romans in arms at once), and by the extraordinary sacrifices which they made to the gods. 4For though they have no barbarous or unnatural practices, but cherish towards their deities those mild and reverent sentiments which especially characterize Greek thought, at the time when this war burst upon them they were constrained to obey certain oracular commands from the Sibylline books, and to bury alive two Greeks, a man and a woman, and likewise two Gauls, in the place called the”forum boarium”, or cattle-market; and in memory of these victims, they still to this day, in the month of November, perform mysterious and secret ceremonies.

4The first conflicts of this war brought great victories and also great disasters to the Romans, and led to no sure and final conclusion; but at last Flaminius and Furius, the consuls, led forth large forces against the Insubrians. At the time of their departure, however, the river that flows through Picenum was seen to be running with blood, and it was reported that at Ariminum three moons had appeared in the heavens, 2and the priests who watched the flight of birds at the time of the consular elections insisted that when the consuls were proclaimed the omens were inauspicious and baleful for them. At once, therefore, the senate sent letters to the camp, summoning the consuls to return to the city with all speed and lay down their office, and forbidding them, while they were still consuls, to take any steps against the enemy. 3On receiving these letters, Flaminius would not open them before he had joined battle with the Barbarians, routed them, and overrun their country. Therefore, when he returned with much spoil, the people would not go out to meet him, but because he had not at once listened to his summons, and had disobeyed the letters, treating them with insolent contempt, they came near refusing him his triumph, and after his triumph, they compelled him to renounce the consulship with his colleague, and made him a private citizen. 4To such a degree did the Romans make everything depend upon the will of the gods, and so intolerant were they of any neglect of omens and ancestral rites, even when attended by the greatest successes, considering it of more importance for the safety of the city that their magistrates should reverence religion than that they should overcome their enemies.

5For example, Tiberius Sempronius, a man most highly esteemed by the Romans for his valour and probity, proclaimed Scipio Nasica and Caius Marcius his successors in the consulship, but when they had already taken command in their provinces, he came upon a book of religious observances wherein he found a certain ancient prescript of which he had been ignorant. 2It was this. Whenever a magistrate, sitting in a hired house or tent outside the city to take auspices from the flight of birds, is compelled for any reason to return to the city before sure signs have appeared, he must give up the house first hired and take another, and from this he must take his observations anew. Of this, it would seem, Tiberius was not aware, and had twice used the same house before proclaiming the men I have mentioned as consuls. But afterwards, discovering his error, he referred the matter to the senate. 3This body did not make light of so trifling an omission, but wrote to the consuls about it; and they, leaving their provinces, came back to Rome with speed, and laid down their offices. This, however, took place at a later time.[5] But at about the time of which I am speaking, two most illustrious priests were deposed from their priesthoods, Cornelius Cethegus, because he presented the entrails of his victim improperly, 4and Quintus Sulpicius, because, while he was sacrificing, the peaked cap which the priests called flamens’[6] wear had fallen from his head. Moreover, because the squeak of a shrew-mouse (they call it “sorex”) was heard just as Minucius the dictator appointed Caius Flaminius his master of horse, the people deposed these officials and put others in their places. And although they were punctilious in such trifling matters, they did not fall into any superstition, because they made no change or deviation in their ancient rites.

6But to resume the story, after Flaminius and his colleague had renounced their offices, Marcellus was appointed consul[7] by the so-called “interreges”. He took the office, and appointed Gnaeus Cornelius his colleague. Now it has been said that, although the Gauls made many conciliatory proposals, and although the senate was peaceably inclined, Marcellus tried to provoke the people to continue the war. 2However, it would seem that even after peace was made the Gaesatae renewed the war; they crossed the Alps and stirred up the Insubrians. They numbered thirty thousand themselves, and the Insubrians, whom they joined, were much more numerous. With high confidence, therefore, they marched at once to Acerrae, a city situated to the north of the river Po.[8] From thence Britomartus the king, taking with him ten thousand of the Gaesatae, ravaged the country about the Po. 3When Marcellus learned of this, he left his colleague at Acerrae with all the heavy-armed infantry and a third part of the cavalry, while he himself, taking with him the rest of the cavalry and the most lightly equipped men-at-arms to the number of six hundred, marched, without halting in his course day or night, until he came upon the ten thousand Gaesatae near the place called Clastidium, a Gallic village which not long before had become subject to the Romans. 4There was no time for him to give his army rest and refreshment, for the Barbarians quickly learned of his arrival, and held in contempt the infantry with him, which were few in number all told, and, being Gauls, made no account of his cavalry. For they were most excellent fighters on horseback, and were thought to be specially superior as such, and, besides, at this time they far outnumbered Marcellus. Immediately, therefore, they charged upon him with great violence and dreadful threats, thinking to overwhelm him, their king riding in front of them. 5But Marcellus, that they might not succeed in enclosing and surrounding him and his few followers, led his troops of cavalry forward and tried to outflank them, extending his wing into a thin line, until he was not far from the enemy. And now, just as he was turning to make a charge, his horse, frightened by the ferocious aspect of the enemy, wheeled about and bore Marcellus forcibly back. 6But he, fearing lest this should be taken as a bad omen by the Romans and lead to confusion among them, quickly reined his horse round to the left and made him face the enemy, while he himself made adoration to the sun, implying that it was not by chance, but for this purpose, that he had wheeled about; for it is the custom with the Romans to turn round in this way when they make adoration to the gods. And in the moment of closing with the enemy he is said to have vowed that he would consecrate to Jupiter Feretrius the most beautiful suit of armour among them.

7Meanwhile the king of the Gauls espied him, and judging from his insignia that he was the commander, rode far out in front of the rest and confronted him, shouting challenges and brandishing his spear. His stature exceeded that of the other Gauls, and he was conspicuous for a suit of armour which was set off with gold and silver and bright colours and all sorts of broideries; it gleamed like lightning. 2Accordingly, as Marcellus surveyed the ranks of the enemy, this seemed to him to be the most beautiful armour, and he concluded that it was this which he had vowed to the god. He therefore rushed upon the man, and by a thrust of his spear which pierced his adversary’s breastplate, and by the impact of his horse in full career, threw him, still living, upon the ground, where, with a second and third blow, he promptly killed him. 3Then leaping from his horse and laying his hands upon the armour of the dead, he looked towards heaven and said: “O Jupiter Feretrius, who beholdest the great deeds and exploits of generals and commanders in wars and fightings, I call thee to witness that I have overpowered and slain this man with my own hand, being the third Roman ruler and general so to slay a ruler and king, and that I dedicate to thee the first and most beautiful of the spoils. Do thou therefore grant us a like fortune as we prosecute the rest of the war.”

4His prayer ended, the cavalry joined battle, fighting, not with the enemy’s horsemen alone, but also with their footmen who attacked them at the same time, and won a victory which, in its sort and kind, was remarkable and strange. For never before or since, as we are told, have so few horsemen conquered so many horsemen and footmen together. After slaying the greater part of the enemy and getting possession of their arms and baggage, Marcellus returned to his colleague, who was hard put to it in his war with the Gauls near their largest and most populous city.[9] 5Mediolanum was the city’s name, and the Gauls considered it their metropolis; wherefore they fought eagerly in its defence, so that Cornelius was less besieger than besieged. But when Marcellus came up, and when the Gaesatae, on learning of the defeat and death of their king, withdrew, Mediolanum was taken, the Gauls themselves surrendered the rest of their cities, and put themselves entirely at the disposition of the Romans. They obtained peace on equitable terms.

8The senate decreed a triumph to Marcellus alone, and his triumphal procession was seldom equalled in its splendour and wealth and spoils and captives of gigantic size; but besides this, the most agreeable and the rarest spectacle of all was afforded when Marcellus himself carried to the god the armour of the barbarian king. 2He had cut the trunk of a slender oak, straight and tall, and fashioned it into the shape of a trophy; on this he bound and fastened the spoils, arranging and adjusting each piece in due order. When the procession began to move, he took the trophy himself and mounted the chariot, and thus a trophy-bearing figure more conspicuous and beautiful than any in his day passed in triumph through the city. The army followed, arrayed in most beautiful armour, singing odes composed for the occasion, together with paeans of victory in praise of the god and their general. 3Thus advancing and entering the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, he set up and consecrated his offering, being the third and last to do so, down to our time. The first was Romulus, who despoiled Acron the Caeninensian;[10] the second was Cornelius Cossus, who despoiled Tolumnius the Tuscan; and after them Marcellus, who despoiled Britomartus, king of the Gauls; but after Marcellus, no man. 4The god to whom the spoils were dedicated was called Jupiter Feretrius, as some say, because the trophy was carried on a “pheretron,” or car; this is a Greek word, and many such were still mingled at that time with the Latin;[11] according to others, the epithet is given to Jupiter as wielder of the thunder-bolt, the Latin “ferire” meaning to smite. But others say the name is derived from the blow one gives an enemy, since even now in battles, when they are pursuing their enemies, they exhort one another with the word “feri,” which means smite! Spoils in general they call “spolia,” and these in particular, “opima.” 5And yet they say that Numa Pompilius, in his commentaries, makes mention of three kinds of “opima,” prescribing that when the first kind are taken, they should be consecrated to Jupiter Feretrius, the second to Mars, and the third to Quirinus; also that the reward for the first should be three hundred asses,[12] for the second two hundred, and for the third one hundred. However, the general and prevailing account is that only those spoils are “opima” which are taken first, in a pitched battle, where general slays general. So much, then, on this subject.

6The Romans were so overjoyed at this victory and the ending of the war that they sent to the Pythian Apollo at Delphi a golden bowl[13] . . . as a thank-offering, gave a splendid share of the spoils to their allied cities, and sent many to Hiero, the king of Syracuse, who was their friend and ally.

9After Hannibal had invaded Italy,[14] Marcellus was sent to Sicily with a fleet. And when the disaster at Cannae came,[15] and many thousands of Romans had been slain in the battle, and only a few had saved themselves by flying to Canusium, and it was expected that Hannibal would march at once against Rome, now that he had destroyed the flower of her forces, 2in the first place, Marcellus sent fifteen hundred men from his ships to protect the city; then, under orders from the senate, he went to Canusium, and taking the troops that had gathered there, led them out of the fortifications to show that he would not abandon the country. Most of the leaders and influential men among the Romans had fallen in battle; and as for Fabius Maximus, who was held in the greatest esteem for his sagacity and trustworthiness, his excessive care in planning to avoid losses was censured as cowardly inactivity. 3The people thought they had in him a general who sufficed for the defensive, but was inadequate for the offensive, and therefore turned their eyes upon Marcellus; and mingling and uniting his boldness and activity with the caution and forethought of Fabius, they sometimes elected both to be consuls together, and sometimes made them, by turns, consul and proconsul, and sent them into the field. 4Poseidonius says that Fabius was called a shield, and Marcellus a sword.[16] And Hannibal himself used to say that he feared Fabius as a tutor, but Marcellus as an adversary; for by the one he was prevented from doing any harm, while by the other he was actually harmed.

10To begin with, then, since Hannibal’s victory had made his soldiers very bold and careless, Marcellus set upon them as they straggled from their camp and overran the country, cut them down, and thus slowly diminished their forces; secondly, he brought aid to Neapolis and Nola. In Neapolis he merely confirmed the minds of the citizens, who were of their own choice steadfast friends of Rome; but on entering Nola, he found a state of discord, the senate being unable to regulate and manage the people, which favoured Hannibal. 2For there was a man in the city of the highest birth and of illustrious valour, whose name was Bantius. This man had fought with conspicuous bravery at Cannae, and had slain many of the Carthaginians, and when he was at last found among the dead with his body full of missiles, Hannibal was struck with admiration of him, and not only let him go without a ransom, but actually added gifts, and made him his friend and guest. 3In return for this favour, then, Bantius was one of those who eagerly favoured the cause of Hannibal, and was using his great influence to bring the people to a revolt. Marcellus thought it wrong to put to death a man so illustrious in his good fortune who had taken part with the Romans in their greatest conflicts, and, besides his natural kindliness, he had an address that was likely to win over a character whose ambition was for honour. One day, therefore, when Bantius saluted him, he asked him who he was, not that he had not known him for some time, but seeking occasion and excuse for conversation with him. 4For when he said, “I am Lucius Bantius,” Marcellus, as if astonished and delighted, said: “What! are you that Bantius who is more talked of in Rome than any of those who fought at Cannae, as the only man who did not abandon Paulus Aemilius the consul, but encountered and received in his own body most of the missiles aimed at him?” 5And when Bantius assented and showed him some of his scars, “Why, then,” said Marcellus, “when you bear such marks of your friendship towards us, did you not come to us at once? Can it be that you think us loath to requite valour in friends who are honoured even among our enemies?” These kindly greetings he followed up by making him presents of a war horse and five hundred drachmas in silver.

11After this Bantius was a most steadfast partisan and ally of Marcellus, and a most formidable denouncer and accuser of those who belonged to the opposite party.[17] These were many, and they purposed, when the Romans went out against the enemy, to plunder their baggage. 2Marcellus therefore drew up his forces inside the city, stationed his baggage-trains near the gates, and issued an edict forbidding the men of Nola to come near the city walls. Consequently there were no armed men to be seen, and Hannibal was thus induced to lead up his forces in some disorder, supposing the city to be in a tumult. But at this juncture Marcellus ordered the gate where he stood to be thrown open, and marched out, having with him the flower of his horsemen, and charging directly down upon the enemy joined battle with them. 3After a little his footmen also, by another gate, advanced to the attack on the run and with shouts. And still again, while Hannibal was dividing his forces to meet these, the third gate was thrown open, and through it the rest rushed forth and fell upon their enemies on every side. These were dismayed by the unexpected onset, and made a poor defence against those with whom they were already engaged because of those who charged upon them later. Here for the first time the soldiers of Hannibal gave way before the Romans, being beaten back to their camp with much slaughter and many wounds. 4For it is said that more than five thousand of them were slain, while they killed not more than five hundred of the Romans. Livy, however, will not affirm[18] that the victory was so great nor that so many of the enemy were slain, but says that this battle brought great renown to Marcellus, and to the Romans a wonderful courage after their disasters. They felt that they were contending, not against a resistless and unconquerable foe, but against one who was liable, like themselves, to defeat.

12For this reason, on the death of one of the consuls,[19] the people called Marcellus home to succeed him, and, in spite of the magistrates, postponed the election until his return from the army. He was made consul by a unanimous vote, but there was a peal of thunder at the time, and since the augurs considered the omen unpropitious, but hesitated to make open opposition for fear of the people, he renounced the office of himself. 2He did not, however, lay aside his military command, but having been declared proconsul, he returned to his army at Nola and proceeded to punish those who had espoused the cause of the Carthaginian. And when Hannibal came swiftly to their aid against him, and challenged him to a pitched battle, Marcellus declined an engagement; but as soon as his adversary had set the greater part of his army to plundering and was no longer expecting a battle, he led his forces out against him. He had distributed long spears used in naval combats among his infantry, and taught them to watch their opportunity and smite the Carthaginians at long range; these were not javelineers, but used short spears in hand-to-hand fighting. 3This seems to have been the reason why at that time all the Carthaginians who were engaged turned their backs upon the Romans and took to unhesitating flight, losing five thousand of their number slain, and six hundred prisoners; four of their elephants also were killed, and two taken alive. But what was most important, on the third day after the battle, more than three hundred horsemen, composed of Spaniards and Numidians, deserted from them. Such a disaster had not happened before this to Hannibal, but a barbarian army made up of varied and dissimilar peoples had for a very long time been kept by him in perfect harmony. These deserters, then, remained entirely faithful both to Marcellus himself, and to the generals who succeeded him.[20]

13And now Marcellus, having been appointed consul for the third time,[21] sailed to Sicily. For Hannibal’s successes in the war had encouraged the Carthaginians to attempt anew the conquest of the island, especially now that Syracuse was in confusion after the death of the tyrant Hieronymus. For this reason the Romans also had previously sent a force thither under the command of Appius. 2As Marcellus took over this force, he was beset by many Romans who were involved in a calamity now to be described. Of those who had been drawn up against Hannibal at Cannae, some had fled, and others had been taken alive, and in such numbers that it was thought the Romans had not even men enough left to defend the walls of their city. 3And yet so much of their high spirit and haughtiness remained that, although Hannibal offered to restore his prisoners of war for a slight ransom, they voted not to receive them, but suffered some of them to be put to death and others to be sold out of Italy; and as for the multitude who had saved themselves by flight, they sent them to Sicily, ordering them not to set foot in Italy as long as the war against Hannibal lasted.[22] 4These were the men who, now that Marcellus was come, beset him in throngs, and throwing themselves on the ground before him, begged with many cries and tears for an assignment to honourable military service, promising to show by their actions that their former defeat had been due to some great misfortune rather than to cowardice. Marcellus, therefore, taking pity on them, wrote to the senate asking permission to fill up the deficiencies in his army from time to time with these men. 5But after much discussion the senate declared its opinion that the Roman commonwealth had no need of men who were cowards; if, however, as it appeared, Marcellus wished to use them, they were to receive from their commander none of the customary crowns or prizes for valour. This decree vexed Marcellus, and when he came back to Rome after the war in Sicily, he upbraided the senate for not permitting him, in return for his many great services, to redeem so many citizens from misfortune.

14But in Sicily, at the time of which I speak, his first proceeding, after wrong had been done him by Hippocrates, the commander of the Syracusans (who, to gratify the Carthaginians and acquire the tyranny for himself, had killed many Romans at Leontini), was to take the city of Leontini by storm. He did no harm, however, to its citizens, but all the deserters whom he took he ordered to be beaten with rods and put to death. 2Hippocrates first sent a report to Syracuse that Marcellus was putting all of the men of Leontini to the sword, and then, when the city was in a tumult at the news, fell suddenly upon it and made himself master of it. Upon this, Marcellus set out with his whole army and came to Syracuse. He encamped near by, and sent ambassadors into the city to tell the people what had really happened at Leontini; but when this was of no avail and the Syracusans would not listen to him, the power being now in the hands of Hippocrates, 3he proceeded to attack the city by land and sea, Appius leading up the land forces, and he himself having a fleet of sixty quinqueremes filled with all sorts of arms and missiles. Moreover, he had erected an engine of artillery on a huge platform supported by eight galleys fastened together,[23] and with this sailed up to the city wall, confidently relying on the extent and splendour of his equipment and his own great fame. But all this proved to be of no account in the eyes of Archimedes and in comparison with the engines of Archimedes. 4To these he had by no means devoted himself as work worthy of his serious effort, but most of them were mere accessories of a geometry practised for amusement, since in bygone days Hiero the king had eagerly desired and at last persuaded him to turn his art somewhat from abstract notions to material things, and by applying his philosophy somehow to the needs which make themselves felt, to render it more evident to the common mind.

5For the art of mechanics, now so celebrated and admired, was first originated by Eudoxus and Archytas, who embellished geometry with its subtleties, and gave to problems incapable of proof by word and diagram, a support derived from mechanical illustrations that were patent to the senses. For instance, in solving the problem of finding two mean proportional lines, a necessary requisite for many geometrical figures, both mathematicians had recourse to mechanical arrangements, adapting to their purposes certain intermediate portions of curved lines and sections. 6But Plato was incensed at this, and inveighed against them as corrupters and destroyers of the pure excellence of geometry, which thus turned her back upon the incorporeal things of abstract thought and descended to the things of sense, making use, moreover, of objects which required much mean and manual labour. For this reason mechanics was made entirely distinct from geometry, and being for a long time ignored by philosophers, came to be regarded as one of the military arts.

7And yet even Archimedes, who was a kinsman and friend of King Hiero, wrote to him that with any given force it was possible to move any given weight; and emboldened, as we are told, by the strength of his demonstration, he declared that, if there were another world, and he could go to it, he could move this. 8Hiero was astonished, and begged him to put his proposition into execution, and show him some great weight moved by a slight force. Archimedes therefore fixed upon a three-masted merchantman of the royal fleet, which had been dragged ashore by the great labours of many men, and after putting on board many passengers and the customary freight, he seated himself at a distance from her, and without any great effort, but quietly setting in motion with his hand a system of compound pulleys, drew her towards him smoothly and evenly, as though she were gliding through the water. 9Amazed at this, then, and comprehending the power of his art, the king persuaded Archimedes to prepare for him offensive and defensive engines to be used in every kind of siege warfare. These he had never used himself, because he spent the greater part of his life in freedom from war and amid the festal rites of peace; but at the present time his apparatus stood the Syracusans in good stead, and, with the apparatus, its fabricator.[24]

15When, therefore, the Romans assaulted them by sea and land, the Syracusans were stricken dumb with terror; they thought that nothing could withstand so furious an onset by such forces. But Archimedes began to ply his engines, and shot against the land forces of the assailants all sorts of missiles and immense masses of stones, which came down with incredible din and speed; nothing whatever could ward off their weight, but they knocked down in heaps those who stood in their way, and threw their ranks into confusion. 2At the same time huge beams were suddenly projected over the ships from the walls, which sank some of them with great weights plunging down from on high; others were seized at the prow by iron claws, or beaks like the beaks of cranes, drawn straight up into the air, and then plunged stern foremost into the depths, or were turned round and round by means of enginery within the city, and dashed upon the steep cliffs that jutted out beneath the wall of the city, with great destruction of the fighting men on board, who perished in the wrecks. 3Frequently, too, a ship would be lifted out of the water into mid-air, whirled hither and thither as it hung there, a dreadful spectacle, until its crew had been thrown out and hurled in all directions, when it would fall empty upon the walls, or slip away from the clutch that had held it. As for the engine which Marcellus was bringing up on the bridge of ships, and which was called “sambuca” from some resemblance it had to the musical instrument of that name,[25] 4while it was still some distance off in its approach to the wall, a stone of ten talents’ weight[26] was discharged at it, then a second and a third; some of these, falling upon it with great din and surge of wave, crushed the foundation of the engine, shattered its frame-work, and dislodged it from the platform, so that Marcellus, in perplexity, ordered his ships to sail back as fast as they could, and his land forces to retire.

5Then, in a council of war, it was decided to come up under the walls while it was still night, if they could; for the ropes which Archimedes used in his engines, since they imparted great impetus to the missiles cast, would, they thought, send them flying over their heads, but would be ineffective at close quarters, where there was no space for the cast. Archimedes, however, as it seemed, had long before prepared for such an emergency engines with a range adapted to any interval and missiles of short flight, and through many small and contiguous openings in the wall short-range engines called scorpions could be brought to bear on objects close at hand without being seen by the enemy.

16When, therefore, the Romans came up under the walls, thinking themselves unnoticed, once more they encountered a great storm of missiles; huge stones came tumbling down upon them almost perpendicularly, and the wall shot out arrows at them from every point; they therefore retired. 2And here again, when they were some distance off, missiles darted forth and fell upon them as they were going away, and there was a great slaughter among them; many of their ships, too, were dashed together, and they could not retaliate in any way upon their foes. For Archimedes had built most of his engines close behind the wall, and the Romans seemed to be fighting against the gods, now that countless mischiefs were poured out upon them from an invisible source.

17However, Marcellus made his escape, and jesting with his own artificers and engineers, “Let us stop,” said he, “fighting against this geometrical Briareus, who uses our ships like cups to ladle water from the sea, and has whipped and driven off in disgrace our sambuca, and with the many missiles which he shoots against us all at once, outdoes the hundred-handed monsters of mythology.” 2For in reality all the rest of the Syracusans were but a body for the designs of Archimedes, and his the one soul moving and managing everything; for all other weapons lay idle, and his alone were then employed by the city both in offence and defence. 3At last the Romans became so fearful that, whenever they saw a bit of rope or a stick of timber projecting a little over the wall, “There it is,” they cried, “Archimedes is training some engine upon us,” and turned their backs and fled. Seeing this, Marcellus desisted from all fighting and assault, and thenceforth depended on a long siege.

And yet Archimedes possessed such a lofty spirit, so profound a soul, and such a wealth of scientific theory, that although his inventions had won for him a name and fame for superhuman sagacity, 4he would not consent to leave behind him any treatise on this subject, but regarding the work of an engineer and every art that ministers to the needs of life as ignoble and vulgar, he devoted his earnest efforts only to those studies the subtlety and charm of which are not affected by the claims of necessity. These studies, he thought, are not to be compared with any others; in them the subject matter vies with the demonstration, the former supplying grandeur and beauty, the latter precision and surpassing power. 5For it is not possible to find in geometry more profound and difficult questions treated in simpler and purer terms. Some attribute this success to his natural endowments; others think it due to excessive labour that everything he did seemed to have been performed without labour and with ease. For no one could by his own efforts discover the proof, and yet as soon as he learns it from him, he thinks he might have discovered it himself; so smooth and rapid is the path by which he leads one to the desired conclusion. 6And therefore we may not disbelieve the stories told about him, how, under the lasting charm of some familiar and domestic Siren, he forgot even his food and neglected the care of his person; and how, when he was dragged by main force, as he often was, to the place for bathing and anointing his body, he would trace geometrical figures in the ashes, and draw lines with his finger in the oil with which his body was anointed, being possessed by a great delight, and in very truth a captive of the Muses. 7And although he made many excellent discoveries, he is said to have asked his kinsmen and friends to place over the grave where he should be buried a cylinder enclosing a sphere, with an inscription giving the proportion by which the containing solid exceeds the contained.[27]

18Such, then, was Archimedes, and, so far as he himself was concerned, he maintained himself and his city unconquered. But during the progress of the siege Marcellus captured Megara, one of the most ancient cities of Sicily; he also captured the camp of Hippocrates at Acrillae and killed more than eight thousand men, having attacked them as they were throwing up entrenchments; furthermore, he overran a great part of Sicily, brought cities over from the Carthaginians, and was everywhere victorious over those who ventured to oppose him. 2Some time afterwards he made a prisoner of a certain Damippus, a Spartan who tried to sail away from Syracuse. The Syracusans sought to ransom this man back, and during the frequent meetings and conferences which he held with them about the matter, Marcellus noticed a certain tower that was carelessly guarded, into which men could be secretly introduced, since the wall near it was easy to surmount. 3When, therefore, in his frequent approaches to it for holding these conferences, the height of the tower had been carefully estimated, and ladders had been prepared, he seized his opportunity when the Syracusans were celebrating a festival in honour of Artemis and were given over to wine and sport, and before they knew of his attempt not only got possession of the tower, but also filled the wall round about with armed men, before the break of day, and cut his way through the Hexapyla. 4When the Syracusans perceived this and began to run about confusedly, he ordered the trumpets to sound on all sides at once and thus put them to flight in great terror, believing as they did that no part of the city remained uncaptured.[28] There remained, however, the strongest, most beautiful, and largest part (called Achradina), because it had been fortified on the side towards the outer city, one part of which they call Neapolis, and another Tyche.

19When these parts also were in his possession, at break of day Marcellus went down into the city through the Hexapyla, congratulated by the officers under him. He himself, however, as he looked down from the heights and surveyed the great and beautiful city, is said to have wept much in commiseration of its impending fate, bearing in mind how greatly its form and appearance would change in a little while, after his army had sacked it. 2For among his officers there was not a man who had the courage to oppose the soldiers’ demand for a harvest of plunder, nay, many of them actually urged that the city should be burned and razed to the ground. This proposal, however, Marcellus would not tolerate at all, but much against his will, and under compulsion, he permitted booty to be made of property and slaves, although he forbade his men to lay hands on the free citizens, and strictly ordered them neither to kill nor outrage nor enslave any Syracusan.

3However, although he seems to have acted with such moderation, he thought that the city suffered a lamentable fate, and amidst the great rejoicing of his followers his spirit nevertheless evinced its sympathy and commiseration when he saw a great and glorious prosperity vanishing in a brief time. For it is said that no less wealth was carried away from Syracuse now than at a later time from Carthage; for not long afterwards[29] the rest of the city was betrayed and taken and subjected to pillage, excepting the royal treasure; this was converted into the public treasury.

4But what most of all afflicted Marcellus was the death of Archimedes. For it chanced that he was by himself, working out some problem with the aid of a diagram, and having fixed his thoughts and his eyes as well upon the matter of his study, he was not aware of the incursion of the Romans or of the capture of the city. Suddenly a soldier came upon him and ordered him to go with him to Marcellus. This Archimedes refused to do until he had worked out his problem and established his demonstration, 5whereupon the soldier flew into a passion, drew his sword, and dispatched him. Others, however, say that the Roman came upon him with drawn sword threatening to kill him at once, and that Archimedes, when he saw him, earnestly besought him to wait a little while, that he might not leave the result that he was seeking incomplete and without demonstration; but the soldier paid no heed to him and made an end of him. 6There is also a third story, that as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus some of his mathematical instruments, such as sun-dials and spheres and quadrants, by means of which he made the magnitude of the sun appreciable to the eye, some soldiers fell in with him, and thinking that he was carrying gold in the box, slew him. However, it is generally agreed that Marcellus was afflicted at his death, and turned away from his slayer as from a polluted person, and sought out the kindred of Archimedes and paid them honour.

20The Romans were considered by foreign peoples to be skilful in carrying on war and formidable fighters; but of gentleness and humanity and, in a word, of civil virtues, they had given no proofs, and at this time Marcellus seems to have been the first to show the Greeks that the Romans were the more observant of justice. 2For such was his treatment of those who had to do with him, and so many were the benefits which he conferred both upon cities and private persons, that, if the people of Enna or Megara or Syracuse met with any indignities, the blame for these was thought to belong to the sufferers rather than to the perpetrators. And I will mention one instance out of many. There is a city of Sicily called Engyium, not large, but very ancient, and famous for the appearance there of goddesses, who are called Mothers.[30] 3The temple is said to have been built by Cretans, and certain spears were shown there, and bronze helmets; some of these bore the name of Meriones, and others that of Ulysses (that is, Odysseus), who had consecrated them to the goddesses. This city, which most ardently favoured the Carthaginian cause, Nicias, its leading citizen, tried to induce to go over to the Romans, speaking openly and boldly in the assemblies and arguing the unwisdom of his opponents. 4But they, fearing his influence and authority, planned to arrest him and deliver him up to the Carthaginians. Nicias, accordingly, becoming aware at once of their design and of their secret watch upon him, gave utterance in public to unbecoming speeches about the Mothers, and did much to show that he rejected and despised the prevalent belief in their manifestations, his enemies meanwhile rejoicing that he was making himself most to blame for his coming fate. 5But just as they were ready to arrest him, an assembly of the citizens was held, and here Nicias, right in the midst of some advice that he was giving to the people, suddenly threw himself upon the ground, and after a little while, amid the silence and consternation which naturally prevailed, lifted his head, turned it about, and spoke in a low and trembling voice, little by little raising and sharpening its tones. And when he saw the whole audience struck dumb with horror, he tore off his mantle, rent his tunic, and leaping up half naked, ran towards the exit from the theatre, crying out that he was pursued by the Mothers. 6No man venturing to lay hands upon him or even to come in his way, out of superstitious fear, but all avoiding him, he ran out to the gate of the city, freely using all the cries and gestures that would become a man possessed and crazed. His wife also, who was privy to his scheme, taking her children with her, first prostrated herself in supplication before the temples of the gods, and then, pretending to seek her wandering husband, no man hindering her, went safely forth out of the city. 7Thus they all escaped to Marcellus at Syracuse. But when Marcellus, after many transgressions and insults on the part of the men of Engyium, came and put them all in chains in order to punish them, then Nicias, standing by, burst into tears, and finally, clasping the hands and knees of Marcellus, begged the lives of his fellow citizens, beginning with his enemies. Marcellus relented, set them all free, and did their city no harm; he also bestowed upon Nicias ample lands and many gifts. At any rate, this story is told by Poseidonius the philosopher.

21When Marcellus was recalled by the Romans to the war in their home territories, he carried back with him the greater part and the most beautiful of the dedicatory offerings in Syracuse, that they might grace his triumph and adorn his city. For before this time Rome neither had nor knew about such elegant and exquisite productions, nor was there any love there for such graceful and subtle art; 2but filled full of barbaric arms and bloody spoils, and crowned round about with memorials and trophies of triumphs, she was not a gladdening or a reassuring sight, nor one for unwarlike and luxurious spectators. Indeed, as Epaminondas called the Boeotian plain a “dancing floor of Ares,” and as Xenophon[31] speaks of Ephesus as a “work-shop of war,” so, it seems to me, one might at that time have called Rome, in the language of Pindar, “a precinct of much-warring Ares.”[32] 3Therefore with the common people Marcellus won more favour because he adorned the city with objects that had Hellenic grace and charm and fidelity; but with the elder citizens Fabius Maximus was more popular. For he neither disturbed nor brought away anything of this sort from Tarentum, when that city was taken, but while he carried off the money and the other valuables, he suffered the statues to remain in their places, adding the well-known saying: 4“Let us leave these gods in their anger for the Tarentines.”[33] And they blamed Marcellus, first, because he made the city odious, in that not only men, but even gods were led about in her triumphal processions like captives; 5and again, because, when the people was accustomed only to war or agriculture, and was inexperienced in luxury and ease, but, like the Heracles of Euripides, was

“Plain, unadorned, in a great crisis brave and true,”[34]

he made them idle and full of glib talk about arts and artists, so that they spent a great part of the day in such clever disputation. Notwithstanding such censure, Marcellus spoke of this with pride even to the Greeks, declaring that he had taught the ignorant Romans to admire and honour the wonderful and beautiful productions of Greece.

22But when the enemies of Marcellus opposed his triumph, because something still remained to be done in Sicily and a third triumph would awaken jealousy, he consented of his own accord to conduct the complete and major triumph to the Alban mount, but to enter the city in the minor triumph; this is called “eua” by the Greeks, and “ova” by the Romans.[35] 2In conducting it the general does not mount upon a four-horse chariot, nor wear a wreath of laurel, nor have trumpets sounding about him; but he goes afoot with shoes on, accompanied by the sound of exceeding many flutes, and wearing a wreath of myrtle, so that his appearance is unwarlike and friendly rather than terrifying. And this is the strongest proof to my mind that in ancient times the two triumphs were distinguished, not by the magnitude, but by the manner, of the achievements which they celebrated. 3For those who won the mastery by fighting and slaying their enemies celebrated, as it would seem, that martial and terrible triumph, after wreathing their arms and their men with abundant laurel, just as they were wont to do when they purified their armies with lustral rites; while to those generals who had had no need of war, but had brought everything to a good issue by means of conference, persuasion, and argument, the law awarded the privilege of conducting, like a paean of thanksgiving, this unwarlike and festal procession. 4For the flute is an instrument of peace, and the myrtle is a plant of Aphrodite, who more than all the other gods abhors violence and wars. And this minor triumph is called “ova,” not from the Greek “euasmos,” as most think (since they conduct the major triumph also with songs and cries of “eua!”), but the name has been wrested by the Greeks into conformity with their speech, since they are persuaded that something of the honour has to do with Dionysus also, whom they call Euius and Thriambus. This, however, is not the true explanation; but it was the custom for commanders, in celebrating the major triumph, to sacrifice an ox, whereas in the minor triumph they sacrificed a sheep. Now, the Roman name for sheep is “ova,” and from this circumstance the lesser triumph is called ova.[36] 5And it is worth our while to notice that the Spartan lawgiver appointed his sacrifices in a manner opposite to that of the Romans. For in Sparta a returning general who had accomplished his plans by cunning deception or persuasion, sacrificed an ox; he who had won by fighting, a cock. For although they were most warlike, they thought an exploit accomplished by means of argument and sagacity greater and more becoming to a man than one achieved by violence and valour. How the case really stands, I leave an open question.

23While Marcellus was serving as consul for the fourth time,[37] his enemies induced the Syracusans to come to Rome and accuse and denounce him before the senate for terrible wrongs which they had suffered contrary to the terms of surrender. It chanced, then, that Marcellus was performing a sacrifice on the Capitol, but, the senate being still in session, the Syracusans hurried before it and begged that they might have a hearing and justice. The colleague of Marcellus tried to have them expelled, 2angrily explaining that Marcellus was not present; but Marcellus, when he heard of it, came at once. And first, sitting as consul in his curule chair, he transacted the routine business; then, when this was all ended, coming down from his curule chair and taking his stand as a private citizen in the place where men under accusation usually plead their cause, he gave the Syracusans opportunity to press their charge. 3But they were terribly confounded by his dignity and confidence, and thought him yet more formidable and hard to confront in his robe of purple than he had been irresistible in arms. However, being encouraged by the rivals of Marcellus, they began their denunciation and rehearsed their demands for justice, which were mingled with much lamentation. 4The gist of their plea was that, although they were allies and friends of the Romans, they had suffered at the hands of Marcellus what other generals allowed many of their enemies to escape. To this Marcellus made answer that in return for many injuries which they had done to the Romans, they had suffered nothing except what men whose city has been taken by storm in war cannot possibly be prevented from suffering; and that their city had been so taken was their own fault, because they had refused to listen to his many exhortations and persuasions. 5For it was not by their tyrants that they had been forced into war, nay, they had elected those very tyrants for the purpose of going to war.

When the speeches were ended, and the Syracusans, as the custom was, withdrew from the senate, Marcellus went forth with them, after giving to his colleague the presidency of the senate, and lingered before the doors of the senate-house, allowing no change in his accustomed demeanour either because he feared the sentence, or was angry with the Syracusans, but with complete gentleness and decorum awaiting the issue of the case. 6And when the votes had been cast, and he was proclaimed not guilty, the Syracusans fell at his feet, begging him with tears to remit his wrath against the embassy there present, and to take pity on the rest of the city, which always was mindful of favours conferred upon it and grateful for them. Marcellus, accordingly, relented, and was reconciled with the embassy, and to the rest of the Syracusans was ever afterwards constant in doing good. 7The freedom, also, which he had restored to them, as well as their laws and what was left of their possessions, the senate confirmed to them. Wherefore Marcellus received many surpassing honours from them, and particularly they made a law that whenever he or any one of his descendants should set foot in Sicily, the Syracusans should wear garlands and sacrifice to the gods.

24After this he moved at once against Hannibal. And although almost all the other consuls and commanders, after the disaster at Cannae, made the avoidance of all fighting their sole plan of campaign against this antagonist, and no one had the courage to engage in a pitched battle with him, Marcellus himself took the opposite course, 2thinking that before the time thought necessary for destroying Hannibal had elapsed, Italy would insensibly be worn out by him. He thought, too, that Fabius, by making safety his constant aim, was not taking the right course to heal the malady of the country, since the extinction of the war for which he waited would be coincident with the exhaustion of Rome, just as physicians who are timid and afraid to apply remedies, consider the consumption of the patient’s powers to be the abatement of the disease. 3First, then, he took the large cities of the Samnites which had revolted, and got possession of great quantities of grain which had been stored in them, besides money, and the three thousand soldiers of Hannibal who were guarding them. Next, after Hannibal had slain the proconsul Gnaeus Fulvius himself in Apulia, together with eleven military tribunes, and had cut to pieces the greater part of his army, Marcellus sent letters to Rome bidding the citizens be of good courage, for that he himself was already on the march to rob Hannibal of his joy. 4Livy says[38] that when these letters were read, they did not take away the grief of the Romans, but added to their fear; for they thought their present danger as much greater than the past as Marcellus was superior to Fulvius. But Marcellus, as he had written, at once pursued Hannibal into Lucania, and came up with him, and as he found him occupying a secure position on heights about the city of Numistro, he himself encamped in the plain. 5On the following day he was first to array his forces when Hannibal came down into the plain, and fought a battle with him which, though indecisive, was desperate and long; for their engagement began at the third hour, and was with difficulty ended when it was already dark. But at daybreak Marcellus led his army forth again, put them in array among the dead bodies of the slain, and challenged Hannibal to fight it out with him for the victory. 6And when Hannibal withdrew his forces, Marcellus stripped the dead bodies of the enemy, buried those of his own men, and pursued him again. And though his adversary laid many ambushes for him, he escaped them all, and by getting the advantage of him in all the skirmishes, won admiration for himself. For this reason, too, when the consular elections drew near, the senate decided that it was better to recall the other consul from Sicily than to disturb Marcellus in his grappling with Hannibal, and when he was come, it bade him declare Quintus Fulvius dictator.

7For a dictator cannot be chosen either by the people or by the senate, but one of the consuls or praetors comes before the assembled people and names as dictator the one whom he himself decides upon. And for this reason the one so named is called “dictator,” from the Latin “dicere,” to name or declare. Some, however, say that the dictator is so named because he puts no question to vote or show of hands, but ordains and declares of his own authority that which seems good to him; for the orders of magistrates, which the Greeks call “diatagmata,” the Romans call “edicta.”

25But the colleague of Marcellus, who had come back from Sicily, wished to appoint another man as dictator, and being unwilling to have his opinion overborne by force, sailed off by night to Sicily. Under these circumstances the people named Quintus Fulvius as dictator, and the senate wrote to Marcellus bidding him confirm the nomination. He consented, proclaimed Quintus Fulvius dictator, and so confirmed the will of the people; he himself was appointed proconsul for the ensuing year.[39] 2He then made an agreement with Fabius Maximus that, while Fabius should make an attempt upon Tarentum, he himself, by diverting Hannibal and engaging with him, should prevent him from coming to the relief of that place. He came up with Hannibal at Canusium, and as his adversary often shifted his camp and declined battle, he threatened him continually, and at last, by harassing him with his skirmishers, drew him out of his entrenchments. 3But though battle was offered and accepted, night parted the combatants, and next day Marcellus appeared again with his army drawn up in battle array; so that Hannibal, in distress, called his Carthaginians together and besought them to make their fighting that day surpass all their previous struggles. “For you see,” he said, “that we cannot even take breath after all our victories, nor have respite though we are in the mastery, unless we drive this man away.”

4After this they joined battle and fought. And it would seem that Marcellus made an unseasonable movement during the action, and so met with disaster. For when his right wing was hard pressed, he ordered one of his legions to move up to the front. This change of position threw his army into confusion and gave the victory to the enemy, who slew twenty-seven hundred of the Romans. 5Marcellus then withdrew to his camp, called his army together, and told them that he saw before him many Roman arms and Roman bodies, but not a single Roman. And when they asked for his pardon, he refused to give it while they were vanquished, but promised to do so if they should win a victory, assuring them that on the morrow they should fight again, in order that their countrymen might hear of their victory sooner than of their flight. 6At the close of his speech, moreover, he gave orders that rations of barley instead of wheat should be given to the cohorts that had been worsted. Therefore, though many were in a wretched and dangerous plight after the battle, there was not a man of them, they say, to whom the words of Marcellus did not give more pain than his wounds.[40]

26At daybreak the scarlet tunic, the usual signal of impending battle, was displayed, the cohorts under disgrace begged and obtained for themselves the foremost position in the line, and the tribunes led forth the rest of the army and put them in array. On hearing of this Hannibal said: “O Hercules! what can be done with a man who knows not how to bear either his worse or his better fortune? For he is the only man who neither gives a respite when he is victorious, nor takes it when he is vanquished, 2but we shall always be fighting with him, as it seems, since both his courage in success and his shame in defeat are made reasons for bold undertaking”. Then the forces engaged; and since the men fought with equal success, Hannibal ordered his elephants to be stationed in the van, and to be driven against the ranks of the Romans. A great press and much confusion at once arose among their foremost lines, but one of the tribunes, Flavius by name, snatched up a standard, confronted the elephants, smote the leader with the iron spike of the standard, and made him wheel about. 3The beast dashed into the one behind him and threw the whole onset into confusion. Observing this, Marcellus ordered his cavalry to charge at full speed upon the disordered mass and throw the enemy still more into confusion. The horsemen made a brilliant charge and cut the Carthaginians down as far as to their camp, and the greatest slaughter among them was caused by their killed and wounded elephants.[41] 4For more than eight thousand are said to have been slain; and on the Roman side three thousand were killed, and almost all were wounded. This gave Hannibal opportunity to break camp quietly in the night and move to a great distance from Marcellus. For Marcellus was unable to pursue him, owing to the multitude of his wounded, but withdrew by easy marches into Campania, and spent the summer at Sinuessa recuperating his soldiers.

27But Hannibal, now that he had torn himself away from Marcellus, made free use of his army, and going fearlessly round about, wasted all Italy with fire. Meantime, at Rome, Marcellus was in ill repute, and his enemies incited Publicius Bibulus, one of the tribunes of the people, a powerful speaker and a man of violence, to bring a denunciation against him. 2This man held frequent assemblies of the people and tried to persuade them to put the forces of Marcellus in charge of another general, “since Marcellus,” as he said, “after giving himself a little exercise in the war, has withdrawn from it as from a palaestra, and betaken himself to warm baths for refreshment.” On learning of this, Marcellus left his legates in charge of his army, while he himself went up to Rome to make answer to the accusations against him. 3There he found an impeachment prepared against him which was drawn from these accusations. Accordingly, on a day set for the trial, when the people had come together in the Flaminian circus, Bibulus rose up and denounced him. Then Marcellus spoke briefly and simply in his own defence, and the leading and most reputable citizens, with great boldness of speech and in glowing terms, exhorted the people not to show themselves worse judges than the enemy by convicting Marcellus of cowardice, whom alone of their leaders Hannibal avoided, and continually contrived not to fight with him, that he might fight with the rest. 4When these speeches were ended, the accuser was so far disappointed in his hope of obtaining the verdict that Marcellus was not only acquitted of the charges against him, but actually appointed consul for the fifth time.[42]

28After assuming his office, he first quelled a great agitation for revolt in Etruria, and visited and pacified the cities there; next, he desired to dedicate to Honour and Virtue a temple that he had built out of his Sicilian spoils, but was prevented by the priests, who would not consent that two deities should occupy one temple; he therefore began to build another temple adjoining the first, although he resented the priests’ opposition and regarded it as ominous. 2And indeed many other portents disturbed him: sundry temples were struck by lightning, and in that of Jupiter, mice had gnawed the gold; it was reported also that an ox had uttered human speech, and that a boy had been born with an elephant’s head; moreover, in their expiatory rites and sacrifices, the seers received bad omens, and therefore detained him at Rome, though he was all on fire and impatient to be gone.[43] For no man ever had such a passion for any thing as he had for fighting a decisive battle with Hannibal. 3This was his dream at night, his one subject for deliberation with friends and colleagues, his one appeal to the gods, namely, that he might find Hannibal drawn up to meet him. And I think he would have been most pleased to have the struggle decided with both armies enclosed by a single wall or rampart; and if he had not been full already of abundant honour, and if he had not given abundant proof that he could be compared with any general whomsoever in solidity of judgement, I should have said that he had fallen a victim to a youthful ambition that ill became such a great age as his. For he had passed his sixtieth year when he entered upon his fifth consulship.[44]

29However, after the ceremonies of sacrifice and purification which the seers prescribed had been performed, he set out with his colleague for the war, and gave much annoyance to Hannibal in his encampment between Bantia and Venusia. Hannibal would not give battle, but having been made aware that the Romans had sent some troops against Locri Epizephyrii, he set an ambush for them at the hill of Petelia, and slew twenty-five hundred of them. 2This filled Marcellus with mad desire for the battle, and breaking camp, he brought his forces nearer to the enemy.

Between the camps was a hill which could be made tolerably secure, and was full of all sorts of woody growth; it had also lookout-places that sloped in either direction, and streams of water showed themselves running down its sides. The Romans therefore wondered that Hannibal, who had come first to a place of natural advantages, had not occupied it, but left it in this way for his enemies. 3Now, to Hannibal the place did seem good for an encampment, but far better for an ambuscade, and to this use he preferred to put it. He therefore filled its woods and hollows with a large force of javelineers and spearmen, convinced that the place of itself would attract the Romans by reason of its natural advantages. 4Nor was he deceived in his expectations; for straightway there was much talk in the Roman camp about the necessity of occupying the place, and they enumerated all the strategic advantages which they would gain over their enemies, particularly by encamping there, but if not that, by fortifying the hill. Marcellus accordingly decided to ride up to it with a few horsemen and inspect it. So he summoned his diviner and offered sacrifice, and when the first victim had been slain, the diviner showed him that the liver had no head. 5But on his sacrificing for the second time, the head of the liver was of extraordinary size and the other tokens appeared to be wonderfully propitious, and the fear which the first had inspired seemed to be dissipated. But the diviners declared that they were all the more afraid of these and troubled by them; for when very propitious omens succeeded those which were most inauspicious and threatening, the strangeness of the change was ground for suspicion. But since, as Pindar says,[45]

“Allotted fate not fire, not wall of iron, will check,”

Marcellus set out, taking with him his colleague Crispinus, his son, who was a military tribune, and two hundred and twenty horsemen all told. 6Of these, not one was a Roman, but they were all Etruscans, except forty men of Fregellae, who had given Marcellus constant proof of their valour and fidelity. Now, the crest of the hill was covered with woods, and on its summit a man had been stationed by the enemy to keep a lookout; he could not be seen himself, but kept the Roman camp in full view. 7This man, then, told those who lay in ambush what was going on, and they, after permitting Marcellus to ride close up to them, rose up on a sudden, and encompassing him on all sides, hurled their javelins, smote with their spears, pursued the fugitives, and grappled with those who made resistance. These were the forty men of Fregellae, 8who, though the Etruscans at the very outset took to flight, banded themselves together and fought in defence of the consuls, until Crispinus, smitten with two javelins, turned his horse and fled, and Marcellus was run through the side with a broad spear (the Latin name for which is “lancea”). Then the surviving men of Fregellae, few all told, left him where he lay dead, snatched up his son who was wounded, and fled to their camp. 9Hardly more than forty were slain, but five lictors were taken prisoners, and eighteen horsemen.[46]Crispinus also died of his wounds not many days after. Such a disaster as this had never happened to the Romans before: both their consuls were killed in a single action.

30Hannibal made very little account of the rest, but when he learned that Marcellus had fallen, he ran out to the place himself, and after standing by the dead body and surveying for a long time its strength and mien, he uttered no boastful speech, nor did he manifest his joy at the sight, as one might have done who had slain a bitter and troublesome foe; 2but after wondering at the unexpectedness of his end, he took off his signet-ring, indeed,[47] but ordered the body to be honourably robed, suitably adorned, and burned. Then he collected the remains in a silver urn, placed a golden wreath upon it, and sent it back to his son. But some of the Numidians fell in with those who were carrying the urn and attempted to take it away from them, and when they resisted, fought with them, and in the fierce struggle scattered the bones far and wide. 3When Hannibal learned of this, he said to the bystanders: “You see that nothing can be done against the will of God.” Then he punished the Numidians, but took no further care to collect and send back the remains, feeling that it was at some divine behest that Marcellus had died and been deprived of burial in this strange manner. 4Such, then, is the account given by Cornelius Nepos and Valerius Maximus; but Livy[48] and Augustus Caesar state that the urn was brought to his son and buried with splendid rites.

Besides the dedications which Marcellus made in Rome, there was a gymnasium at Catana in Sicily, and statues and paintings from the treasures of Syracuse both at Samothrace, in the temple of the gods called Cabeiri, and at Lindus in the temple of Athena. 5There, too, there was a statue of him, according to Poseidonius, bearing this inscription:

“This, O stranger, was the great star of his country, Rome,—Claudius Marcellus of illustrious line, who seven times held the consular power in time of war, and poured much slaughter on his foes.”
For the author of the inscription has added his two proconsulates to his five consulates. 6And his line maintained its splendour down to Marcellus the nephew of Augustus Caesar, who was a son of Caesar’s sister Octavia by Caius Marcellus, and who died during his aedileship at Rome, having recently married a daughter of Caesar. In his honour and to his memory Octavia his mother dedicated the library, and Caesar the theatre, which bear his name.

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  • [1] Iliad, xiv. 86 f.

  • [2] Literally, aedile of the more illustrious class, i.e. patrician, in distinction from plebeian, aedile.

  • [3] The First Punic War lasted from 265 B.C. till 241 B.C., and the Insubrians invaded Italy in 225 B.C.

  • [4] In 390 B.C. See the Camillus, xix.-xxiii.

  • [5] Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, father of the two famous tribunes, was consul for the second time in 163 B.C.

  • [6] Cf. the Numa, vii. 5.

  • [7] In 222 B.C. In republican times, an interrex was elected when there was a vacancy in the supreme power, held office for five days, and, if necessary, nominated his successor. Any number of interreges might be successively appointed, until the highest office was filled. Cf. the Numa, ii. 6 f.

  • [8] According to Polybius (ii. 34), no peace was made, although the Gauls offered to submit, and the consuls marched into the territory of the Insubrians and laid siege to Acerrae.

  • [9] Acerrae had, in the meantime, been taken by the Romans, who had then advanced and laid siege to Mediolanum (Milan). Cf. Polybius, ii. 34.

  • [10] Cf. the Romulus, xvi. 4-7.

  • [11] Cf. the Romulus, xv. 3; Numa, vii. 5.

  • [12] The Roman as corresponded nearly to the English penny.

  • [13] The indication of its source or value which follows in the Greek, is uncertain.

  • [14] 218 B.C.

  • [15] 216 B.C. Cf. the Fabius Maximus, xv. f.

  • [16] Cf. the Fabius Maximus, xix. 3.

  • [17] The story of Lucius Bantius is told by Livy also (xxiii. 15, 7-16, 1).

  • [18] Vix equidem ausim adfirmare, xxiii. 16, 15.

  • [19] Lucius Postumius, who was utterly defeated and slain by the Gauls in 215 B.C. Cf. Livy, xxiii. 24.

  • [20] Cf. Livy, xxiii. 46, 1-7.

  • [21] In 214 B.C. Fabius Maximus was his colleague.

  • [22] Cf. Livy, xxiii. 25, 7.

  • [23] See chapter xv. 3. According to Polybius (viii. 6). Marcellus had eight quinqueremes in pairs, and on each pair, lashed together, a "sambuca" (or harp) had been constructed. This was a pent-house for raising armed men on to the battlements of the besieged city.

  • [24] Cf. Polybius, viii. 5, 3-5; 9, 2; Livy, xxiv. 34.

  • [25] See chapter xiv. 3.

  • [26] A talent's weight was something over fifty pounds.

  • [27] When Cicero was quaestor in Sicily (75 B.C.), he found this tomb, which had been neglected and forgotten by the Syracusans (Tusc. Disp. v. 64 ff.).

  • [28] Cf. Polybius, viii. 37; Livy, xxv. 23 f.

  • [29] In 212 B.C., the siege having lasted nearly three years. Cf. Livy, xxv. 24-31.

  • [30] Magna Mater, the Cretan Rhaea, often confounded with the Phrygian Cybele. Cf. Diodorus, iv. 79, 5-7.

  • [31] Hell. iii. 4, 17.

  • [32] Pyth. ii. 1 f.

  • [33] Cf. the Fabius Maximus, xxii. 5.

  • [34] A fragment of the lost Licymnius of Euripides (Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag.2 p. 507).

  • [35] Cf. the Crassus, xi. 8. The later Latin name was "ovatio."

  • [36] It is hardly necessary to say that Plutarch's etymology, as often, is worthless.

  • [37] In 210 B.C.

  • [38] xxvii. 2.

  • [39] 209 B.C.

  • [40] Cf. Livy, xxvii. 12 and 13.

  • [41] Five were killed, according to Livy, xxvii. 14.

  • [42] For 208 B.C. Cf. Livy, xxvii. 20.

  • [43] Cf. Livy, xxvii. 11; 25.

  • [44] In 208 B.C.

  • [45] Fragment 232 (Bergk).

  • [46] Cf. Livy, xxvii. 26 and 27.

  • [47] Of which he afterwards made fraudulent use (Livy, xxvii. 28).

  • [48] According to Livy, xxvii. 28, Hannibal buried Marcellus on the hill where he was killed. Livy found many discordant accounts of the death of Marcellus (xxvii. 27 fin.).

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