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Queen Teuta and Rome

To return to the Illyrians. From time immemorial
Illyrian piracies.
they had oppressed and pillaged vessels sailing from Italy; and now while their fleet was engaged at Phoenice a considerable number of them, separating from the main body, committed acts of piracy on a number of Italian merchants: some they merely plundered, others they murdered, and a great many they carried off alive into captivity.
The Romans interfere, B. C. 230.
Now, though complaints against the Illyrians had reached the Roman government in times past, they had always been neglected; but now when more and more persons approached the Senate on this subject, they appointed two ambassadors, Gaius and Lucius Coruncanius, to go to Illyricum and investigate the matter. But on the arrival of her galleys from Epirus, the enormous quantity and beauty of the spoils which they brought home (for Phoenice was by far the wealthiest city in Epirus at that time), so fired the imagination of Queen Teuta, that she was doubly eager to carry on the predatory warfare on the coasts of Greece. At the moment, however, she was stopped by the rebellion at home; but it had not taken her long to put down the revolt in Illyria, and she was engaged in besieging Issa, the last town which held out, when just at that very time the Roman ambassadors arrived. A time was fixed for their audience, and they proceeded to discuss the injuries which their citizens had sustained.
Queen Teuta's reception of the Roman legates.
Throughout the interview, however, Teuta listened with an insolent and disdainful air; and when they had finished their speech, she replied that she would endeavour to take care that no injury should be inflicted on Roman citizens by Illyrian officials; but that it was not the custom for the sovereigns of Illyria to binder private persons from taking booty at sea. Angered by these words, the younger of the two ambassadors used a plainness of speech which, though thoroughly to the point, was rather ill-timed. "The Romans," he said, "O Teuta, have a most excellent custom of using the State for the punishment of private wrongs and the redress of private grievances: and we will endeavour, God willing, before long to compel you to improve the relations between the sovereign and the subject in Illyria." The queen received this plain speaking with womanish passion and unreasoning anger.
A Roman legate assassinated.
So enraged was she at the speech that, in despite of the conventions universally observed among mankind, she despatched some men after the ambassadors, as they were sailing home, to kill the one who had used this plainness. Upon this being reported at Rome the people were highly incensed at the queen's violation of the law of nations, and at once set about preparations for war, enrolling legions and collecting a fleet.

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230 BC (1)
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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 31-32, commentary, 31.45
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 33-34, commentary, 33.46
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