Cassius Dio
Roman History


Fragments of Book I


Dio says: "It is my desire to write a history of all the memorable achievements of the Romans, as well in time of peace as in war, so that no one, whether Roman or non-Roman, shall look in vain for any of the essential facts."

Although I have read pretty nearly everything about them that has been written by anybody, I have not included it all in my history, but only what I have seen fit to select. I trust, moreover, that if I have used a fine style, so far as the subject matter permitted, no one will on this account question the truthfulness of the narrative, as has happened in the case of some writers; for I have endeavored to be equally exact in both these respects, so far as possible. I will begin at the point where I have obtained the clearest accounts of what is reported to have taken place in this land which we inhabit.

This land in which the city of Rome has been built.

Tzetzes in Lycophr. Alex. v.1232

Aeneas after the Trojan war came to the Aborigines, who were the former inhabitants of the land wherein Rome has been built and who were at that time ruled by Latinus, the son of Faunus. He came ashore at Laurentum, by the mouth of the river Numicius, where in obedience to some oracle he is said to have made preparations to dwell. The ruler of the land, Latinus, tried to prevent his settling in the land, and joined in a battle with him, but was defeated. Then, as the result of dreams that appeared to both leaders, they effected a reconciliation, and Latinus both granted the other a settlement there and gave him his daughter Lavinia in marriage. Thereupon Aeneas founded a city, which he named Lavinium; and the country was called Latium, and the people there were termed Latins.

But the Rutuli, who occupied adjoining territory, had been previously hostile to the Latins, and now, setting out from the city of Ardea, they made war upon them. They had the support of Turnus, a distinguished man and a relative of Latinus, who had become angry with the latter because of Lavinia's marriage, for it was to him that the maiden had originally been promised. A battle took place, Turnus and Latinus both fell, and Aeneas gained the victory and his father-in-law's kingdom as well. After a time, however, the Rutuli secured the Etruscans as allies and marched against Aeneas; and in this war they won. But Aeneas vanished from sight, being seen no more alive or dead, and he was honored as a god among the Latins. Hence he was regarded by the Romans also as the founder of their race and they take pride in being called "Sons of Aeneas." The sovereignty over the Latins descended to his son Ascanius, who had accompanied his father from home; Aeneas had not yet had a child by Lavinia, though he left her pregnant. Ascanius was surrounded and besieged by the enemy, but by night the Latins attacked them and ended both the siege and the war.

As time went on the Latins multiplied and the majority of them abandoned Lavinium and built another town in a better location. To it they gave the name of Alba from its whiteness and from its length they called it Longa. Upon the death of Ascanius they chose as king the son born to Aeneas by Lavinia rather than the son of Ascanius, the reason for their preference being that Latinus was the former's grandfather. The new king's name was Silvius. And Silvius begat Aeneas, from Aeneas sprang Latinus, and Latinus was succeeded by Pastis. Tiberinus, who next became ruler, lost his life by falling into a river called the Albula. It was this river that was renamed the Tiber after him. Flowing through Rome, it serves many purposes of the city and is in the highest degree useful to the Romans. Amulius, a descendant of Tiberinus, displayed an overweening pride and dared to make himself a god; he went so far as to match the thunder with artificial thunder, to answer lightning with lightning, and to hurl thunderbolts. He met his end by the sudden overflow of the lake beside which his palace was built; it submerged both him and his palace. But Aventinus his son perished in warfare.

So much for Lavinium and the Albans. But the history of the Romans begins with Numitor and Amulius, who were grandsons of Aventinus and descendants of Aeneas.

This Aeneas, after the capture of Troy, came, as we have remarked, to Italy and the Latins. He landed near Laurentum, called also Troy, near the River Numicius, along with his son by Creusa — Ascanius or Ilus. There his followers ate their tables, which were of parsley or of the harder portions of bread loaves; for they had no real tables. Furthermore, a white sow leaped from his boat and running to the Alban mount, named after her, gave birth to a litter of thirty, which indicated that in the thirtieth year his children should get fuller possession of both land and sovereignty. Since he had heard of these portents beforehand from an oracle he ceased his wanderings, sacrificed the sow, and prepared to found a city. Latinus would not allow him to do this; but after being defeated in war, he gave Aeneas his daughter Lavinia in marriage. Aeneas then founded a city and called it Lavinium.

Now Latins and Turnus, king of the Rutuli, perished in war at each other's hands, whereupon Aeneas became king. And when Aeneas also had been killed in war at Laurentum by the same Rutuli and Mezentius the Etruscan, while Lavinia his wife was pregnant of Silvius, Ascanius the son of Creusa became king. He completely conquered Mezentius, who, after steadily refusing to receive his embassies and seeking to subject all of Latinus' dependencies to an annual tribute, had finally engaged him in battle. When the Latins had waxed strong and moreover the thirtieth year was now at hand, they scorned Lavinium and founded a second city, named from the sow Alba Longa (i.e. "long white"), and likewise called the mountain the Alban mount. But the images brought along from Troy twice returned to Lavinium all by themselves. After the death of Ascanius it was not his son Iulus who became king, but Silvius, the son of Aeneas by Lavinia — or, according to some, Ascanius' son Silvius. Silvius begat another Aeneas, whose son was Latinus, whose son was Capys; Capys had a son Tiberinus, whose son was Amulius, whose son was Aventinus.

So much regarding Alba and the Albans; the story of Rome now begins. Aventinus begat Numitor and Amulius,— or Procas, according to some; and this man's sons, they say, were the aforesaid Numitor and Amulius.

Concerning the Etruscans Dio says: "These facts about them have properly been recorded at this point in the story; elsewhere still other facts will be mentioned from time to time, in their proper places, whenever the course of the history, in setting forth the successive incidents, shall involve them. And this same principle must suffice also in the case of other essential facts. For, while I shall recount the history of the Romans in full, to the best of my ability, outside of that only what has a bearing on their affairs will be recorded.
Tzetzes, cont.

It is impossible for mortal man either to foresee all that is to happen or to find a way of turning aside the inevitable: of this very maiden Rhea Silvia were to be born the avengers of his crime.

Numitor while king was driven out by Amulius, who killed Numitor's son Aegestes on a hunting party and made Silvia, or Rhea Ilia, the sister of Aegestes, and daughter of the aforesaid Numitor, a priestess of Vesta, so that she might remain a virgin. For he stood in dread of an oracle which declared that he should be slain by the children of Numitor. It was for this reason that he killed Aegestes and made his sister priestess of Vesta, that she might continue a virgin and childless. But she while drawing water in Mars' grove conceived, and bore Romulus and Remus. The daughter of Amulius by her entreaties saved her from being put to death, but the babes were given to Faustulus, a shepherd, husband of Laurentia, to be exposed beside the river Tiber. These the shepherd's wife took and reared; for it happened that she had at that time borne a dead child.

Among these i.e., children suckled by animals, according to Dio, were also the founders of Rome (that is to say, Remus and Romulus), who were suckled by a she-wolf, called by the Italians lupa; this name has been aptly applied as a term for courtesans.

Tzetzes in Lycophr. Alex. v.1232

Romulus has been described as eighteen years old when he joined in settling Rome. He founded it around the dwelling of Faustulus; the place had been named Palatium.

When Romulus and Remus were grown they kept flocks in the fields of Amulius, but as they killed some of the shepherds of their grandfather Numitor a watch was set for them. When Remus was arrested, Romulus ran and told Faustulus, and he ran and related the whole story to Numitor. Finally Numitor recognized them as his own daughter's children. They with the assistance of many others killed Amulius, and after bestowing the kingdom of Alba on their grandfather Numitor made a beginning themselves of founding Rome in the eighteenth year of Romulus' life. But prior to this great Rome, which Romulus founded on the Palatine mount near the dwelling of Faustulus, another Rome in the form of a square had been founded by a Romulus and Remus more ancient than these.


Romulus and Remus by their mutual strife made it plain that some go through dangers together with far less risk than through prosperity.

Romulus and Remus disputed about the sovereignty and the city, and they got into a conflict in which Remus was killed ..... From this incident arose the custom of putting to death one who dared to cross the trench of a camp by any other than the regular passage-ways.


Zonaras, cont.

When she Tarpeia went down for water she was seized and brought to Tatius, and was induced to betray the citadel.


Tzetzes, Chil. 5, 21, v.109 f.

Dio and Dionysius record the story of Cacus, and so do many other historians of Rome.


They themselves learned well and taught others the less that those who seek to avenge their wrongs are not invariably successful merely because they have first suffered injury, and that those who make demands on stronger men do not necessarily get what they demand, but often lose even what they had before.

Hersilia and the rest of the women of her kin, on discovering them one day drawn up in opposing ranks, ran down from the Palatine with their children,— for some children had already been born,— and rushing suddenly into the space between the armies said and did many things to arouse pity. Looking now at the one side and now at the other they cried: "Why do you do this, fathers? Why do you do it, husbands? When will you cease fighting? When will you cease hating each other? Make peace with our sons-in-law! Make peace with our fathers-in-law! For Pan's sake spare our children! For Quirinus' sake spare our grandchildren! Pity your daughters, pity your wives! But if you are indeed irreconcilable and some bolt of madness has fallen upon your heads and drives you to frenzy, then first kill us on account of whom you are fighting, and first slay these children whom you hate, that with no longer any name or bond of kinship between you may avoid the greatest of evils — the slaying of the grandsires of your children and the fathers of your grandchildren." With these words they tore open their garments and bared their breasts and bellies, while some pressed this against the men's swords and others threw their children against them. Moved by what they heard and saw the men began to weep, and they desisted from battle and came together for a conference there, just as they were, in the comitium, which received its name from this very event.

There is a great difference between establishing new ones and renaming those already in existence.

Romulus assumed a rather harsh attitude toward the senate and behaved toward it much like a tyrant; he returned the hostages of the Veientes on his own responsibility and not by common consent, as was usually done. When he perceived that they were vexed at this he made a number of unpleasant remarks, and finally said: "I have chosen you, Fathers, not that you may rule me, but that I might have you to command."

Dio, Book I. "So, no doubt, it is ordered by Nature that whatever is human shall not submit to be ruled by that which is like it and familiar to it, partly through jealousy, partly through contempt of it."


Labbaeus, Veteres glossae verborum iuris, p.123

The heavy-armed troops of Romulus, three thousand in number, as Dio tells us in the first portion of his history, were divided into three bodies called tribus, i.e.trittyes thirds, which the Greeks also termed phylai. Each trittys was divided into ten curiae, or "thinking bodies" (for cura means thought); and the men severally met by curiae, according as they had been assigned, and thought out the business in hand.

Ioann. Laur. Lyd., De magistr. rei publ. Rom. 1, 7

Romulus had a crown and a sceptre with an eagle on the top and a white cloak reaching to the feet and striped with purple breadths from the shoulders to the feet ... and a scarlet shoe ... according to Cocceius.

And he wore red shoes.

Romulus, after assuming the royal power over the Romans, distinguished himself uniformly in warfare, but was ever haughty toward the citizens and particularly toward the leaders of the senate. Toward the soldiers who shared in his expeditions he was kindly disposed, assigning them lands and also giving them a part of the spoils; but toward the senate his attitude was very different. As a result the latter hated him, and surrounding him as he was delivering a speech in the senate-house they rent him limb from limb and so slew him. They were favored in their desire for concealment by a violent wind storm and an eclipse of the sun,— the same sort of phenomenon that had attended his birth. Such was the end of Romulus, after he had held absolute sway for thirty-seven years. Now when he had thus disappeared, the multitude and the soldiery made diligent search for him; but his slayers were in a dilemma, unable either to declare their deed or to appoint another king. While the people were thus excited and were planning to take some action, a certain Julius Proclus, a knight, having arrayed himself as if he were just returning from somewhere, rushed into their midst and cried: "Grieve not, Quirites! I have myself beheld Romulus ascending to the sky. He bade me tell you that he has become a god and is called Quirinus and also bade me admonish you by all means to choose someone as king without delay, and to continue to live under this form of government." At this announcement all believed and were relieved of their disquietude. They straightway built a temple to Quirinus, and unanimously decided to continue to be ruled by a king; but here their accord ended. The original Roman element and the Sabines who had settled among them each demanded that the king be chosen from their own ranks, with the result that the state was left without a ruler. For a whole year, accordingly, the senate exercised the supreme power, assigning the command for five days at a time to the most distinguished senators in rotation; these were called interreges.

Dio, Book I. "When, at the risk not only of his safety but even of his life, he encountered danger in your behalf."

Numa dwelt on the hill called Quirinal, because he wasa Sabine, but he had his official residence on the Sacred Way; he used to spend his time near the temple of Vesta, although occasionally he would remain in the country.

For since he understood well that the majority of mankind hold in contempt what is of like nature with themselves and in daily association with them, through a feeling that it is no better than themselves, but, as a result of their belief in the divine, worship that which is unseen and different, as being superior, he dedicated a certain piece of ground to the Muses ...

The Suda, s.v. Nouma'V.
Cedrenus I, p259f.

Dio, Book I. "These, then, are the rites which Numa established."

And he placed over the priests the pontifices and flamines as they were called; and he appointed the Salii who should practise the dance. The Vestal virgins he likewise appointed to have charge of the fire and water. They enjoyed the highest honor among the Romans, and kept their chastity for lie; if one of them was known by a man she was buried. Accordingly they were not permitted to use perfumes, flowers, or any robe other than a white one.

And he appointed the Vestal virgins to have charge of the fire and water; these kept their chastity for life, or in case they failed to do so, were buried beneath a shower of stones.

Cedrenus I, p259f.

They settled down at that time to an orderly life through their own efforts, when once they had gained faith in the divine; after which they continued at peace both with one another and with the outside tribes throughout the entire reign of Numa. He, no less than Romulus, seemed to have been provided for them by divine guidance; indeed, men who know Sabine history best declare that he was born on the same day that Rome was founded. In this way because of both of them the city quickly became strong and well ordered; for the one gave it practice in the arts of warfare,— of necessity, since it was but newly founded,— and the other taught it, in addition, the arts of peace, so that it became equally distinguished in each.

Thus, then, through both of them the city quickly became strong and well ordered; for Numa shaped its political and peaceable institutions, even as Romulus determined its military career.

Cedrenus I, p295

Dio the Roman says that Janus, an ancient hero, because of his entertainment of Saturn, received the knowledge of the future and of the past, and that on this account he was represented with two faces by the Romans. From him the month of January was named, and the year takes its beginning from this same month.

Numa placed January at the beginning of the year.


Zonaras, cont.

He died after reigning forty-three years.

Dio, Book I. "For in the beginning of some undertakings, when we are eagerly seeking certain ends, we gladly submit even to the expense involved."


Thayer's Notes:


paragraph : The Loeb editor places this small paragraph between 6.2 and 6.3, but I don't see any merit in this, and I've restored it to its traditional place, where it appears to make much better sense.


eclipses of the sun: Accustomed as we are to the self-serving notion of our own superiority, modern readers, being told here that there was an eclipse of the sun at the birth of Romulus and one at his death, may well dismiss them as fables.
    Not so fast. Dio tells us Romulus was in his eighteenth year (i.e., 17) when he founded Rome, and that he ruled for 37 years. Those two eclipses, therefore, would have been 54 years apart. Now wouldn't you know it, there were in fact two total eclipses of the sun visible in or near Rome in the 8c B.C. — you guessed it, 54 years apart.
    According to Oppolzer's Canon der Finsternisse, the standard authority on eclipses thru most of the 20c and until very recently, these two eclipses were 10 Feb 765 and 14 Mar 711. Recent refinements in tracking eclipses, due to supercomputers, affect the times of the eclipses by the barest few seconds; the improvements mostly affect the positions of eclipse paths. Oppolzer's path of totality for each of these eclipses runs across southern Italy rather than Rome: if any of you out there are experts and have more recent information, please drop me a line, of course.
    At any rate, it is quite tempting to believe Dio and set the foundation of Rome in the spring of 748 B.C. when eclipse-born Romulus had turned 17. This is only five years off the usual date; and here too, something to remember: even among the ancients, there were competing chronologies differing by a few years.
    A word of caution still remains. Dio wrote in the 2c A.D., many centuries after the events, at a time by which Greek scientists were able to compute eclipse dates, possibly even predict them. Certainly, Varro (1c B.C.) is reported by Censorinus (21.5) as doing historical research with tables of eclipses. At any rate, writing after the fact, and armed, in one way or another, with the knowledge of two eclipse dates, it would have been an easy thing for Dio to fit the reign of a semi-mythical king's reign neatly between them.