Home Introduction Persons Geogr. Sources Events Mijn blog(Nederlands)
Religion Subjects Images Queries Links Contact Do not fly Iberia
This is a non-commercial site. Any revenues from Google ads are used to improve the site.

Custom Search
Quote of the day: The Britons themselves bear cheerfully t
Notes
Parallel Lives by Plutarchus

Marcellus Chapter 20: Nicias[214 BC]
Next chapter
Return to index
Previous chapter
Indeed, foreign nations had held the Romans to be excellent soldiers and formidable in battle; but they had hitherto given no memorable example of gentleness, or humanity, or civil virtue; and Marcellus seems first to have shown to the Greeks, that his countrymen were most illustrious for their justice. For such was his moderation to all with whom he had anything to do, and such his benignity also to many cities and private men, that, if anything hard or severe was decreed concerning the people of Enna, Megara, or Syracuse, the blame was thought to belong rather to those upon whom the storm fell, than to those who brought it upon them. One example of many I will commemorate. In Sicily there is a town called Engyium, not indeed great, but very ancient and ennobled by the presence of the goddesses, called the Mothers. The temple, they say, was built by the Cretans; and they show some spears and brazen helmets, inscribed with the names of Meriones, and (with the same spelling as in Latin) of Ulysses, who consecrated them to the goddesses. This city highly favoring the party of the Carthaginians, Nicias, the most eminent of the citizens, counseled them to go over to the Romans; to that end acting freely and openly in harangues to their assemblies, arguing the imprudence and madness of the opposite course. They, fearing his power and authority, resolved to deliver him in bonds to the Carthaginians. Nicias, detecting the design, and seeing that his person was secretly kept in watch, proceeded to speak irreligiously to the vulgar of the Mothers, and showed many signs of disrespect, as if he denied and contemned the received opinion of the presence of those goddesses; his enemies the while rejoicing, that he, of his own accord, sought the destruction hanging over his head. When they were just now about to lay hands upon him, an assembly was held, and here Nicias, making a speech to the people concerning some affair then under deliberation, in the midst of his address, cast himself upon the ground; and soon after, while amazement (as usually happens on such surprising occasions) held the assembly immovable, raising and turning his head round, he began in a trembling and deep tone, but by degrees raised and sharpened his voice. When he saw the whole theatre struck with horror and silence, throwing off his mantle and rending his tunic, he leaps up half naked, and runs towards the door, crying out aloud that he was driven by the wrath of the Mothers. When no man durst, out of religious fear, lay hands upon him or stop him, but all gave way before him, he ran out of the gate, not omitting any shriek or gesture of men possessed and mad. His wife, conscious of his counterfeiting, and privy to his design, taking her children with her, first cast herself as a suppliant before the temple of the goddesses; then, pretending to seek her wandering husband, no man hindering her, went out of the town in safety; and by this means they all escaped to Marcellus at Syracuse. After many other such affronts offered him by the men of Engyium, Marcellus, having taken them all prisoners and cast them into bonds, was preparing to inflict upon them the last punishment; when Nicias, with tears in his eyes, addressed himself to him. In fine, casting himself at Marcellus's feet, and deprecating for his citizens, he begged most earnestly their lives, chiefly those of his enemies. Marcellus, relenting, set them all at liberty, and rewarded Nicias with ample lands and rich presents. This history is recorded by Posidonius the philosopher.