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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 27: Defeat of the Volscians and Destruction of Satricum.[347-6 BC]
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After the armies were disbanded there was an interval of peace abroad and harmony between the two orders at home. To prevent things, however, from becoming too pleasant, a pestilence attacked the citizens, and the senate found themselves under the necessity of issuing an order to the decemvirs requiring them to consult the Sibylline Books. On their advice a lectisternium was held. |
In this year colonists from Antium rebuilt Satricum, which had been destroyed by the Latins, and settled there. A treaty was concluded between Rome and Carthage; the latter city had sent envoys to ask for a friendly alliance.
As long as the succeeding consuls -- Titus Manlius Torquatus and Gaius Plautius - held office the same peaceful conditions prevailed. The rate of interest was reduced by one half and payment of the principal was to be made in four equal installments, the first at once, the remainder in three successive years. Though many plebeians were still in distress, the senate looked upon the maintenance of public credit as more important than the removal of individual hardships. What afforded the greatest relief was the suspension of military service and the war-tax.
Three years after Satricum had been rebuilt by the Volscians, whilst Marcus Valerius Corvus was consul for the second time with Gaius Poetilius, a report was sent on from Latium that emissaries from Antium were going round the Latin cantons the view of stirring war. Valerius was instructed to attack the Volscians before the enemy became more numerous, and he proceeded with his army to Satricum.
Defeat of the Volscians and Destruction of Satricum.
Here he was met by the Antiates and other Volscian troops who had been previously mobilised in case of any movement on the side of Rome. The old standing hatred between the two nations made each side eager for battle; there was consequently no delay in trying conclusions. The Volscians, bolder to begin war than to sustain it, were completely defeated and fled precipitately to Satricum. The city was surrounded, and as it was on the point of being stormed -- the scaling ladders were against the walls -- they lost all hope and surrendered to the number of 4000 fighting men in addition to a multitude of noncombatants. The town was sacked and burnt; the temple of Mother Matuta was alone spared by the flames; all the plunder was given to the soldiers. In addition to the booty, there were the 4000 who had surrendered; these were marched in chains before the consul's chariot in his triumphal procession, then they were sold and a large sum was realised for the treasury. Some authors assert that these prisoners were slaves who had been captured in Satricum, and this is more likely to have been the case than that men who had surrendered should have been sold.
Lectisternium:It was essentially a banquet of the gods; richly covered couches were placed round tables which were loaded with offerings from the sacrifices which were going on in the temples and in private houses throughout the City. On these couches were laid either the emblems of the particular deity of draped wax effigies. Whether it was an importation from Greece or an old Italian rite seems doubtful.
Triumph:The highest honour to a general: clad like Jupiter he drove in a chariot drawn by four white horses. Before him walked the prisoners taken in the war, and the spoils of the captured cities, and in later times pictures of the conquered territories were carried before the general's chariot. He was followed by his troops, who sung songs, often extempore effusions, in honour of their commander.