Cassius Dio
Roman History


Fragments of Book VIII

Dio VIII. "For he was quite self-sufficient in all such matters."

Be well assured that monstrous penalties in such cases not only destroy the culprits under sentence, who might have been made better, but at the same time fail to make others any more prudent. Human nature refuses to leave its regular course for any threats. Some compelling fear or insolent audacity together with courage born of inexperience and rashness sprung from power, or some other combination of circumstances such as often occurs quite unexpectedly in the lives of many, leads men to do wrong. As for the punishments, some of these offenders do not even think of them, while others esteem them of no moment in comparison with the attainment of the ends for which they are striving. Wise forbearance, however, produces an effect quite the opposite of that just mentioned. For through the influence of a seasonable pardon the offenders themselves, in the first place, frequently change their ways, especially when they have acted from brave and not from evil motives, from ambition and not from baseness; for reasonable forbearance is a mighty force for subduing and correcting a noble spirit. Then, too, the rest are brought without resistance into a proper frame of mind by the sight of the rescue. Every one would rather obey than be forced, and prefers voluntary to compulsory observance of the law. That which a man chooses of his own accord he works for as if it were his own affair, but what is imposed upon him he rejects as unbecoming to a freeman.

It is the part of the highest virtue and power alike not to kill a man (this is often done by the wickedest and weakest men), but to spare him and to preserve him; yet no one of us is at liberty to do that without your consent.

It is my wish at length to cease from speaking. My poor spirit is weary, my voice is giving way, tears check my utterance, and fear closes my lips. But I am at a loss how to close. For my sorrow, which appears to me in no doubtful light, does not allow me to be silent,— unless you decide otherwise,— but compels me, as if the safety of my boy would depend upon whatever I say last, to speak even further, as it were in prayers.

He shrank from changing the name and form of the office with which he was invested, and although he was intending to spare Rullus,— for he observed the zeal of the populace,— he wished, by resisting for some time, not only to make the favor the greater to him, but also to correct the young men more effectively as a result of the unexpectedness of the pardon. Therefore he knit his brows, and darting a frowning look at the populace, he raised his voice and spoke. The talking had ceased, but still they were not quiet; instead, as generally happens in such a case, what with groaning over the fate of the master of horse and muttering to one another, although they did not utter a single word, they gave the impression that they desired his preservation. Papirius, seeing this and fearing they might even become mutinous, relaxed the very domineering manner which he had assumed, for the purpose of their correction, to an excessive degree, and by showing moderation in his conduct generally brought them once more to friendship and enthusiasm for him, so that they acquitted themselves like men when they met their opponents.


The Samnites, after their defeat at the hands of the Romans, made proposals for peace to the Romans in the city. They sent them all the Roman captives that they had; and they furthermore ravaged the property of a certain Papius, who was esteemed among the foremost of their race and bore the entire responsibility for the war, and likewise scattered abroad his bones, since he had anticipated their vengeance by committing suicide. Yet they did not obtain the desired peace; for they were regarded as untrustworthy and had the name of making truces in the face of disasters merely for the purpose of cheating any power that conquered them. Hence they not only failed to obtain any terms, but even brought a relentless war upon themselves; for the Romans, though they had received the prisoners, voted to wage implacable war upon them.

Among the many events of human history that might give one cause for wonder must certainly be reckoned what occurred at this time. The Romans, who were so extremely arrogant as to vote that they would not again receive a herald from the Samnites in the matter of peace and moreover expected to capture them all at the first blow, succumbed to a terrible disaster and incurred disgrace as never before; while the enemy, who we badly frightened to begin with, and thought their failure to gain terms a great calamity, captured alive the entire Roman army, and sent them all under the yoke. So great a reversal of fortune did they experience.

One of these leaders was Lucius Papirius, also called Cursor from his physical prowess (he was a very fleet runner) and on account of his practising running. After this Papirius, as dictator, with Fabius Rullus, as master of the horse, was sent out against the Samnites and by defeating them compelled them to agree to such terms as he wished. But when he had resigned his command they again rose in arms.

They were attacked anew by the dictator Aulus Cornelius, and being defeated, made proposals for peace of the time men at Rome. They sent them all the captives that they had, and ascribed the responsibility for the war to Rutulus Papius Brutulus, a man of great influence among them; and since he had anticipated their vengeance by destroying himself, they scattered abroad his bones. Yet they did not obtain the desired peace, being accounted untrustworthy; instead, the victors, though they had received the prisoners, voted for relentless war against them. Thus the Romans, expecting in their extreme arrogance to capture them all at the first blow, succumbed to a terrible disaster. For the Samnites, who were badly frightened and thought their failure to gain terms a calamity, fought with desperation; and by planting an ambuscade in a rather narrow valley they both captured the camp and seized alive the whole force of the Romans, all of whom they sent under the yoke. The nature of the yoke has already been described by me above. They killed none of them, however, but took away their arms and horses and everything else they had save one garment, and released them, thus stripped of their possessions, under an agreement that they should leave Samnite territory and be their allies on an equal footing. And in order to make sure that the articles of the agreement were ratified also by the senate, they retained six hundred of the knights as hostages.

Benefits lie rather within the actual choice of men and are not brought about by necessity, or by ignorance, or anger, or deceit, or anything of the sort, but are performed voluntarily by a willing and eager mind. For this reason it is proper to pity, admonish, and instruct those who commit any offence, but to admire, love, and reward those who do right. And whenever both kinds of treatment are received from the same individuals, it is decidedly more befitting our characters to remember their good rather than their disagreeable actions.

Quarrels are ended by kindness. The greater the pitch of enmity to which a man has come when he unexpectedly meets with safety instead of vengeance, the more eagerly does he abandon quarrel and the more gladly does he yield to the influence of kindness. And just as among persons at variance for one reason or another those who have passed from friendship to enmity hate anyone with the more intense hatred, so among recipients of kindness those who have experienced this considerate treatment after a state of strife love their benefactors with the stronger affection. Now the Romans are very anxious to surpass in war, and at the same time they honor virtue; and so, impelled by their nobility of spirit, they gain success in both, since they take pains to return like treatment for like, with interest.

Now it is quite right to take pride in requiting those who have done us some injury, but we ought to give greater honor from rewarding those who have conferred some benefit.

All men are by nature so constituted as to grieve more over insults offered them than they rejoice over benefits conferred upon them; therefore they attack those who have injured them more readily than they requite those who have shown them kindness. They take no account, when their own advantage is concerned, of the evil reputation they will get by not adopting a friendly attitude toward their preserver, but indulge their wrath even when such behavior runs counter to their own interest.

Such was the advice he gave them out of his own inherent good sense and experience acquired in a long life; for he had regard, not to what might gratify them at the moment, but to what might cause them sorrow in the future.


The people of Capua, when the Romans after their defeat arrived in that city, were guilty of no bitter speech or outrageous act, but on the contrary gave them both food and horses and received them like victors. They pitied in their misfortune the men whom they would not have wished to see conquer on account of the treatment these same persons had formerly accorded them. When the Romans heard of the affair, they were thoroughly embarrassed, finding themselves unable either to feel pleased at the survival of their soldiers or yet to feel displeased. When they thought of the calamitous disgrace, their grief was extreme, for they regarded it as particularly shameful to have met with this defeat at the hands of the Samnites, and they could wish that all their men had perished; when they stopped to reflect, however, that if such a disaster had befallen them they would have been in danger of losing all the rest as well, they were not sorry to hear that the men had been saved.

The consuls Spurius Postumius and Tiberius Calvinus with their army immediately withdrew, and at night they and the other more prominent officers entered Rome, while the surviving soldiers scattered through the country districts. The men in the city on learning of the affair were unable either to feel pleased at the survival of their soldiers or yet to feel displeased. When they thought of the calamity, their grief was extreme, and the fact that they had suffered such a defeat at the hands of the Samnites increased their grief; when they stopped to consider, however, that if it had come to pass that all had perished, they would have been in danger of losing everything, they were really pleased at the survival of their men.

But concealing for a time their satisfaction, they went into mourning and carried on no business in the usual manner either then or later until they in their turn were victorious. The consuls they deposed forthwith, chose others in their stead, and took counsel about the situation. And they determined not to accept the arrangement; but since it was impossible to take this action without placing the responsibility upon the men who had conducted the negotiations, they hesitated, on the one hand, to condemn the consuls and the others associated with them, who, in their capacity as holders of certain offices, had made the truce, and they hesitated, on the other hand, to acquit them, since by so doing they would bring the breach of faith home to themselves. Accordingly they made these consuls themselves participate in their deliberations; and they asked Postumius first of all for his opinion, in order that he might pronounce judgment against himself, through shame at the thought of bringing reproach upon them all.


It is requisite and blameless for all men to plan for their own safety, and if they get into any danger, to do anything whatsoever in order to be saved.

Pardon is granted both by gods and men to those who have committed any act involuntarily.

Dio, Book VIII. "I both take upon myself the crime and admit the perjury."

The Samnites, seeing that neither the terms we observed by the Romans nor gratitude manifested in any other way, and that few men instead of many were surrendered, in violation of the oaths, became terribly angry and conjured the Romans in the name of the gods; and reminding them of their pledges, they demanded back the captives and ordered them to pass naked under the same yoke from which through pity they had been released, in order that by experience they might learn to abide by terms which had once been agreed upon. They sent back those who had been surrendered, either because they did not think it right to destroy those guiltless men or because they wished to fasten the perjury upon the populace and not through the punishment of a few men to absolve the rest. This they did, hoping as a result to secure decent treatment.

The Romans, so far from being grateful to the Samnites for the preservation of the surrendered soldiers, actually behaved as if they had in this affair suffered some outrage. In their anger they continued the war, and upon vanquishing the Samnites accorded them the same treatment in their turn. For the justice of the battle-field does not, as a rule, fit the ordinary definition of the word, and it is not inevitable that those wronged should conquer; instead, war, in its absolute sway, adjusts everything to the advantage of the victor, often causing something that is the reverse of justice to go under that name.

The Romans after vanquishing the Samnites sent the captives in their turn under the yoke, regarding as satisfactory to their honor a repayment of similar disgrace. Thus did Fortune in the case of both peoples in the briefest time reverse her position, and, by treating the Samnites to the same humiliation at the hands of these same outraged foes, show clearly that here, too, she was all-supreme.

So he came forward and said that their acts ought not to be ratified by the senate and the people, since they themselves had not acted of their own free will, but under the compulsion of a necessity which the enemy had brought upon them, not through valor, but through treachery and ambuscade. Now men who had practised deception could not, if they had been deceived in turn, have any just complaint against those who turned the tables on them. When he had expressed these sentiments and many more of the same nature, the senate found itself at a loss how to act; but inasmuch as Postumius and Calvinus took the responsibility upon themselves, it was voted that the agreement should not be ratified and that these men should be delivered up.

Both the consuls, therefore, and the other officials who had been present when the oaths were taken were conducted back to Samnium. But the Samnites did not accept them; instead, they demanded back all the captives, and conjured the Romans in the name of all the gods, and finally they sent back the men who had been surrendered. The Romans were glad enough to get them back, but were angry at the Samnites, and attacked them in battle; and vanquishing them, they meted out to them treatment similar to that which they had received: they sent them under the yoke in their turn and released them without inflicting year other injury. They also received back unharmed their own knights, who had been held by the Samnites as hostages.

1. After a number of years the Romans, under the leadership of Gaius Junius, were again warring with the Samnites, when they met with disaster. While Junius was pillaging their territory the Samnites conveyed their possessions into the Avernian woods, so called because on account of their denseness not even the birds fly into them. And having taken refuge there, they stationed some flocks in front of their position without shepherds or guards, and then secretly sent some pretended deserters who guided the Romans to the booty apparently lying at their disposal. But when the latter had entered the wood, the Samnites surrounded them and slaughtered them until completely exhausted.

And though the Samnites fought on many other occasions against the Romans and were defeated, they did not remain quiet; instead, they secured the Gauls and others as allies, and made preparations to march upon Rome itself.

Papirius made a campaign against the Samnites, and after reducing them to a state of siege, was entrenched before them. At this time some one reproached him with excessive use of wine, whereupon he replied: "That I am not a drunkard is clear to every one from the fact that I am up at the peep of dawn and lie down to rest latest of all. But on account of having public affairs on my mind day and night alike, and not being able to obtain sleep easily, I take the wine to lull me to rest."

The same man one day while making the rounds of the garrison became angry on not finding the general from Praeneste at his post. He summoned him and bade the lictor make ready his axe. When the general thereupon became alarmed and terrified, his fear sufficed for Papirius; he harmed him no further, but merely commanded the lictor to cut off some roots growing beside the tents, so that they should not injure passes-by.

Success is not at all constant in the case of most men, but leads many aside into carelessness and ruins them.

The men of the city put forward Papirius as dictator, and fearing that Rullus might be unwilling to name him on account of his own experiences while master of the horse, they sent to him and begged him to place the common weal before his private grudge. Now he gave the envoys no response, but when night had come (according to ancient custom it was absolutely necessary that the dictator be appointed at night), he named Papirius, and by this act gained the greatest renown.

Appius the Blind and Volumnius became at variance with each other; and it was owing to this that Volumnius once, when Appius charged him in the assembly with showing no gratitude for the progress he had made in wisdom through his Appius' instruction, replied that he had indeed grown wiser, as stated, and that he furthermore admitted the fact, but that Appius had not advanced at all in the science of war.


In regard to the prophecy the multitude was not capable for the time being of either believing or disbelieving him Manius. It neither wished to hope for everything, inasmuch as it did not desire to see everything fulfilled, nor did it dare to refuse belief in all points inasmuch as it wished to be victorious, but was placed in an extremely painful position, distracted as it was between hope and fear. As each single event occurred the people applied the interpretation to it according to the actual result, and the man himself undertook to assume some reputation for skill with regard to foreknowledge of the unseen.

The Samnites, enraged at what had occurred and feeling it disgraceful to be continually defeated, resorted to extreme daring and recklessness, with the intention of either conquering or being utterly destroyed. They assembled all their men that were of military age, threatening with death any one of their number who should remain at home, and they bound themselves with frightful oaths, each man swearing not to flee from the contest himself and to slay any one who should undertake to do so.

The Romans, on hearing that their consul Fabius had been worsted in the war, became terribly angry, summoned him home, and proceeded to try him. He was vehemently denounced before the people,— though he was distressed by the injury to his father's reputation even more than by the charges,— and no opportunity was afforded him for reply. But the elder Fabius, although he did not make a set defence of his son, did enumerate his own services and those of his ancestors, and by promising furthermore that his son should do nothing unworthy of them, he abated the people's wrath, especially since he urged his son's youth as an excuse for his error. And joining him at once in the campaign, he overthrew the Samnites in battle, elated as they were by their victory, and captured their camp and great booty. The Romans therefore both extolled him ordered that his son should command also for the future, as pro-consul, and still employ his father as lieut. The latter managed and arranged everything for him, sparing his old age not a whit, and the allied forces readily assisted the father in remembrance of his old-time deeds. Yet he did not let it appear that he was doing things on his own responsibility, but he associated with his son as if actually in the capacity of counsellor and under-officer, while he acted with moderation and assigned to him the glory of the exploits.

The Romans, when they learned of this, were in a state of alarm, particularly since many portents were causing them anxiety. On the Capitol blood is reported to have issued for three days from the altar of Jupiter, also honey on one day and milk on another — if anybody can believe it; and in the Forum a bronze statue of Victory set upon a stone pedestal was found standing on the ground below, without any one's having moved it; and, as it happened, it was facing in that direction from which the Gauls were already approaching. This of itself was enough to terrify the populace, who were even more dismayed by ill-omened interpretations of the seers. However, a certain Manius, by birth an Etruscan, encouraged them by declaring that Victory, even if she had descended, had at any rate gone forward, and being now established more firmly on the ground, indicated to them mastery in the war. Accordingly, many sacrifices, too, would be offered to the gods; for their altars, and particularly those on the Capitol, where they sacrifice thank-offerings for victory, were regularly stained with blood on the occasion of Roman successes and not in times of disaster. From these circumstances, then, he persuaded them to expect some fortunate outcome, but from the honey to expect disease, since invalids crave it, and from the milk, famine; for they should encounter so great a scarcity of provisions that they would seek for food of natural and spontaneous origin.

Manius, then, interpreted the omens in this way, and as his prophecy turned out to be in accordance with subsequent events, he gained a reputation for skill and foreknowledge. Now Volumnius was ordered to make war upon the Samnites, while Fabius Maximus Rullus and Publius Decius were chosen consuls and were sent withstand the Gauls and their fellow-warriors. And when the consuls had come with speed to Etruria, and had seen the camp of Appius, which was fortified by a double palisade, they pulled up the stakes and carried them off, instructing the soldiers to place their hope of safety in their weapons. So they joined battle with the enemy. Meanwhile a wolf in pursuit of a hind entered the space between the two armies, and darting toward the Romans, passed through their ranks. This encouraged them, for they looked upon him as belonging to themselves, since, according to tradition, a she-wolf had reared Romulus. But the hind ran to the other side and was struck down, thus leaving to the enemy fear and the issue of disaster. When the armies clashed, Maximus quite easily conquered the foes opposed to him, but Decius was defeated. And recalling the self-devotion of his father, undertaken on account of the dream, he likewise devoted himself, though without sharing his intention with anybody. Scarcely had he been slain when the man ranged at his side, partly out of respect for him (since they felt he had perished voluntarily for them) and partly in the hope of certain victory as a result of his act, checked their flight and nobly withstood their pursuers. At this juncture Maximus, too, assailed the latter in the rear and slaughtered vast numbers. The survivors took to flight and were annihilated. Fabius Maximus then burned the corpse of Decius together with the spoils and made a truce with the enemy, who sued for peace.

The following year Atilius Regulus again waged war upon the Samnites. And for a time they carried on an evenly-balanced struggle, but eventually, after the Samnites had won a victory, the Romans conquered them in turn, took them captive, led them beneath the yoke, and then released them. The Samnites, enraged at what had occurred, resorted to recklessness with the intention of either conquering or being utterly destroyed, threatening with death the man who should remain at home. So these invaded Campania; but the consuls ravaged Samnium, which was now destitute of soldiers, and captured a few cities. Therefore the Samnites, abandoning Campania, made haste to reach their own land; and joining battle with one of the consuls, they were defeated by a ruse and in their flight met with terrible reverses, even losing their camp and in addition the fortress to the assistance of which they were advancing. The consul called a triumph and turned over to the treasury the moneys realized from the spoils. The other consul made a campaign against the Etruscans and reduced them in a short time; he then levied upon them contributions of grain and money, of which he distributed a part to the soldiers and deposited the rest in the treasury.

However, there befell a mighty pestilence, and the Samnites and Faliscans started an uprising; they felt contempt for the Romans both on account of the disease and because, since no war menaced, they had not chosen the consuls on grounds of excellence. The Romans, ascertaining the situation, sent out Carvilius along with Junius Brutus, and with Quintus Fabius his father Maximus Rullus, as lieutenants or envoys. Brutus, accordingly, worsted the Faliscans and plundered their possessions as well as those of the other Etruscans; and Fabius marched out of Rome before his father and pushed rapidly forward when he learned that the Samnites were plundering Campania. Falling in with some scouts of theirs and seeing them quickly retire, he got the impression that all the enemy were at that point and believed they were in flight. Accordingly, in his hurry to come to blow with them before his father should arrived, in order that the success might appear to be his own and not his elder's, he went ahead with a careless formation. But he encountered the enemy in a compact body, and would have lost his entire army, had not night come on. Many of his men, moreover, died afterwards, with no physician or medical appliances at hand, because they had hastened on far ahead of the baggage-carriers in the expectation of immediate victory. And they would certainly have perished on the following day but for the fact that the Samnites, believing Fabius' father was near at hand, felt afraid and withdrew.

Those in the city on hearing this became terribly angry, summoned the consul, and wished to put him on trial. But the elder Fabius, his father, by enumerating his own and his ancestors' brave deeds, by promising that his son should do nothing unworthy of them, and by urging the latter's youth to account for the misfortune, immediately abated their wrath. And joining him in the campaign, he conquered the Samnites in battle, captured their camp, ravaged their country, and drove off great booty; a part of this he turned over to the treasury and a part he granted to the soldiers. For these reasons the Romans both extolled him and ordered that the son should command also for the future, as pro-consul, and still employ his father as lieut. The latter managed and arranged everything himself, sparing his old age not a whit, yet he did not let it appear that he was doing things on his own responsibility, but made the glory of his exploit attach to his son.

The soldiers ... after setting out with Postumius, fell sick on the way, and it was thought their trouble was due to the felling of the grove. Postumius was recalled for these reasons, but showed contempt for them the senators? even at this juncture, declaring that the senate was not his master but that he was master of the senate.

Gaius Fabricius in most respects was like Rufinus, but in incorruptibility far superior. He was very firm against bribes, and on that account not only was obnoxious to Rufus, but was always at variance with him Yet he appointed the latter, thinking that he was a most proper person to meet the requirements of the war, and making his personal enmity of little account in comparison with the advantage of the commonwealth. From this action also he gained renown, in that he had shown himself superior even to jealousy, which springs up in the hearts of many of the best men by reason of emulation. Since he was a true patriot and discovered not practise virtue for a show, he thought it a matter of indifference whether the state were benefited by him or by some other man, even if that man were an opponent.

Gaius Fabricius, when asked why he had entrusted the business to his foe, praised the general excellence of Rufinus, and added that to be spoiled by the citizen is preferable to being sold by the enemy.

Curius, in defending his conduct before the people, declared that he had acquired so much land that any smaller number of men could not have tilled it, and had captured so many men that any smaller territory would have been insufficient for them.


When the tribunes moved an annulment of debts, the law prohibiting imprisonment for debt was often proposed without avail, since the lenders were desirous of recovering everything and the tribunes offered the rich the choice of either putting this law to the vote and recovering their principal only or ... of receiving ... in three annual payments. And for the time being the poorer class, fearing they might lose all, accepted both alternatives, and the wealthier class, encouraged to believe they would not be compelled to accept either alternative, displayed anger. But when ..., the situation became reversed for both sides. The debtors were no longer satisfied with either plan, and the rich thought they should be lucky if they were not deprived of their principal also. Hence the dispute was not decided immediately, but for a long time after this they continued to clash in a spirit of contentiousness; and, in general, they did not act in their usual character. Finally the people would not make peace even when the nobles were willing to concede much more than had originally been hoped for. On the contrary, the more they beheld their creditors yielding, the more they became emboldened, as if they were successful by a kind of right; and consequently they would minimize the concessions made to them from time to time, feeling that these had been won by force; and they strove for yet more, using as a stepping-stone thereto the fact that they had already obtained something.

After this, when some of the tribunes moved an annulment of debts, the people, since this was not granted by the lenders as well, began a sedition; and this was not quieted until foes came against the city.

When the enemy saw that another general also had come, they ceased to heed the common interests of their expedition, and each cast about to secure his individual safety, as is the common practice of those who form a union uncemented by kindred blood, or who make a campaign without common grievances, or who have not a single commander; while good fortune attends them their views are harmonious, but in disaster each one looks after his own interests only. And they betook themselves to flight as soon as it had grown dark, without having communicated to one another their intention. In a body they thought it would be impossible for them to force their way out, or for their flight to pass unnoticed, but if they should leave each on his own account and, as they believed, alone, they ought more easily to escape. And so, arranging their flight each in the way that seemed safest in his own judgment ...