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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXVII Chapter 33: A dictator appointed to lead the elections[208 BC]
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There he was met by still more alarming tidings; the Dardanians were pouring into Macedonia and were already in occupation of the Orestides district, they had even descended into the Argestaean Plain. The report was current that Philip had been killed; the rumour was due to the fact that in the encounter with the plundering parties from the Roman fleet at Sicyon, his horse flung him against a tree and one of the horns of his helmet was broken off by a projecting branch. This was afterwards picked up by an Aetolian and taken to Scerdilaedus, who recognised it. Hence the rumour. After the king had departed from Achaea, Sulpicius, going to Aegina with his fleet, formed a junction with Attalus. The Achaeans in conjunction with the Aetolians and Eleans fought a successful action not far from Messene. Attalus and Sulpicius went into winter quarters in Aegina. At the close of this year the consul Titus Quinctius died of his wounds, having previously nominated Titus Manlius Torquatus Dictator to conduct the elections. Some say he died in Tarentum, others, in Campania. This accident of two consuls being killed in a quite unimportant action had never occurred in any previous war, and it left the republic, so to speak, in a state of orphanhood. The Dictator named Gaius Servilius, who was curule aedile at the time, his Master of the Horse. On the first day of their session the senate instructed the Dictator to celebrate the Great Games. Marcus Aemilius, who was city praetor at the time, had celebrated them in the consulship of Gaius Flaminius and Gnaeus Servilius, and had made a vow that they should be celebrated in five years' time. The Dictator celebrated them accordingly, and made a vow that they should be repeated at the following lustrum. Meanwhile, as the two consular armies had no generals and were in such close proximity to the enemy, both senate and people were anxious that all other business should be postponed, and consuls elected as soon as possible. It was felt that, above all, men ought to be elected whose courage and skill would be proof against the wiles of the Carthaginian, for all through the war the hot and hasty temperament of different commanders had proved disastrous, and in that very year the consuls had been led by their eagerness to come to grips with the enemy into snares of which they did not suspect the existence. The gods, however, out of pity for the name of Rome, spared the unoffending armies and visited the rashness of the consuls on their own heads. |
First Macedonian War. 208 BC.
Great Games:Were celebrated in honour of a God, usually in fulfilment of a vow made by the commander-in-chief at the commencement of a war, or as an act of thanksgiving at deliverance of the City from some great danger.
Lustrum:Lustrum, or expiation. The last act of the censors during their period of office was to offer an expiatory sacrifice for the whole people. On the appointed day the citizens assembled in military formation in the Campus Martius. The victims, a boar, a ram, and a bull -- hence the name of the sacrifice, suovetaurilia" -- were carried thrice round the assembled host, who were then declared "purified," and whilst the animals were being offered on the altar, the censor to whom the lot had fallen of conducting the ceremony recited a traditional form of prayer for the strengthening and extension of the might of the Roman people. As the censor's office was originally fixed for five years, "lustrum" was used to denote that period of time.