Home > Uncategorized > Appian: War fueled by blood and gold, excuse for expenditure of one, expropriation of the other

Appian: War fueled by blood and gold, excuse for expenditure of one, expropriation of the other

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Appian: Drawing the sword for mutual slaughter. The tears of fratricide.

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Appian
From The Civil Wars
Translated by Horace White

As soon as the triumvirs were by themselves they joined in making a list of those who were to be put to death. They put on the list those whom they suspected because of their power, and also their personal enemies, and they exchanged their own relatives and friends with each other for death, both then and later. For they made additions to the catalogue from time to time, in some cases on the ground of enmity, in others for a grudge merely, or because their victims were friends of their enemies or enemies of their friends, or on account of their wealth, for the triumvirs needed a great deal of money to carry on the war, since the revenue from Asia had been paid to Brutus and Cassius, who were still collecting it, and the kings and satraps were contributing. So the triumvirs were short of money because Europe, and especially Italy, was exhausted by wars and exactions; for which reason they levied very heavy contributions from the plebeians and finally even from women, and contemplated taxes on sales and rents. By now, too, some were proscribed because they had handsome villas or city residences. The number of senators who were sentenced to death and confiscation was about 300, and of the knights about 2000. There were brothers and uncles of the triumvirs in the list of the proscribed, and also some of the officers serving under them who had had some difficulty with the leaders, or with their fellow-officers.

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Some died defending themselves against their slayers. Others made no resistance, considering the assailants not to blame. Some starved, or hanged, or drowned themselves, or flung themselves from their roofs into the fire. Some offered themselves to the murderers or sent for them when they delayed. Others concealed themselves and made abject entreaties, or tried to thrust aside the danger, or to buy themselves off. Some were killed by mistake, or by private malice, contrary to the intention of the triumvirs. It was evident that a corpse was not one of the proscribed if the head was still attached to it, for the heads of the proscribed were displayed on the rostra in the forum, where it was necessary to bring them in order to get the rewards. Equally conspicuous were the fidelity and courage of others – of wives, of children, of brothers, of slaves, who rescued the proscribed or planned for them in various ways, and died with them when they did not succeed in their designs. Some even killed themselves on the bodies of the slain.

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While these events were taking place Lepidus enjoyed a triumph for his exploits in Spain, and an edict was displayed in the following terms: “May Fortune favour us. Let it be proclaimed to all men and women that they celebrate this day with sacrifices and feasting. Whoever shall fail to do shall be put on the list of the proscribed.” Lepidus led the triumphal procession to the Capitol, accompanied by all the citizens, who showed the external appearance of joy, but were sad at heart. The houses of the proscribed were looted, but there were not many buyers of their lands, since some were ashamed to add to the burden of the unfortunate. Others thought that such property would bring them bad luck, or that it would not be at all safe for them to be seen with gold and silver in their possession, or that, as they were not free from danger with their present holdings, it would be an additional risk to increase them. Only the boldest spirits came forward and purchased at the lowest prices, because they were the only buyers. Thus it came to pass that the triumvirs, who had hoped to realize a sufficient sum for their preparations for the war, were still short by 200,000,000 drachmas.

The triumvirs addressed the people on this subject and published an edict requiring 1400 of the richest women to make a valuation of their property, and to furnish for the service of the war such portion as triumvirs should require from each. It was provided further that if any should conceal their property or make a false valuation they should be fined, and that rewards should be given to informers, whether free persons or slaves…

“Why should we pay taxes when we have no part in the honours, the commands, the state-craft, for which you contend against each other with such harmful results? ‘Because this is a time of war,” do you say? When have there not been wars, and when have taxes ever been imposed on women, who are exempted by their sex among all mankind?”

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Dio Cassius
From Roman History
Translated by Earnest Cary

And while the people were still in this state of mind, those murders by proscription which Sulla had once indulged in were once more resorted to and the whole city was filled with corpses. Many were killed in their houses, many even in the streets and here and there in the fora and around the temples; the heads of the victims were once more set up on the rostra and their bodies either allowed to lie where they were, to be devoured by dogs and birds, or else cast into the river.

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Lucius Annaeus Florus
From Epitome of Roman History
Translated by E. S. Forster

What countless deaths took place in the forum, the circus and the innermost recesses of the temples! Mucius Scaevola, the priest of Vesta, clinging to the altar of the goddess, was almost buried in the flames which burnt upon it. Lamponius and Telesinus, the leaders of the Samnites, were laying waste Campania and Etruria with even more brutality than Pyrrhus or Hannibal, and were exacting vengeance on their own account under the pretence of helping their cause. But all the enemy’s forces were defeated, those under Marius at Sacriportus, those under Telesinus at the Colline Gate. However, the end of the fighting was not also the end of the killing; for even after peace was made, swords were drawn and punishment was inflicted upon those who had surrendered voluntarily. The slaughter of more than 70,000 men by Sulla at Sacriportus and the Colline Gate was a lesser crime, for it was what one expects in war. But he ordered 4,000 unarmed citizens who had been surrendered to be slain in the Villa Publica. Do not all these 4,000 slain in peace really outnumber those other 70,000? Who can compute the total of those whom anyone, who wished to do so, slew in various parts of the city? At last, when Fufidius advised that some men ought to be allowed to live in order that Sulla might have someone to whom to give orders, that vast proscription-list was put up, and from the flower of the equestrian order and the senate 2,000 men were chosen and condemned to death. It was an edict for which there was no precedent. It would be tedious after this to relate the insulting end of Carbo and Soranus, the deaths of Plaetorii and Venuleii; how Baebius was torn to pieces, not by the sword, but by men’s hands, like a wild beast; and how Marius, the brother of the general, after his eyes had been gouged out at the tomb of Catulus, was kept alive for some time after his hands and legs had been broken off, so that he might die limb by limb. One could endure the punishment of individuals, but the most renowned towns of Italy were put up to auction – Spoletium, Interamnium, Praeneste, Florentia. As for Sulmo, an allied and friendly city of long standing, Sulla, instead of storming or besieging it according to the rules of warfare, committed an act of base injustice in condemning the city and ordering its destruction, even as those who are condemned to death are ordered to be led to execution.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 20, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    This excerpt intrigued me & interested me enough to investigate the evolution of early Rome and the territories of Greek, Samnite, Umbrian, Etruscan and Cisalpine Gaul that were uneasily united into what was to become the Roman Empire.

  2. rosemerry
    September 20, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Rick! Are you implying that the war criminals of today have nothing except more advanced technology to compare with the brutality of those of the past???
    Humanity is a strange word and a strange concept.

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