[21arg] The times after the foundling of Rome and before the second war with Carthage at which distinguished Greeks and Romans flourished. 1
I WISHED to have a kind of survey of ancient times, and also of the famous men who were born in those days, lest I might in conversation chance to make some careless remark about the date and life of celebrated men, as that ignorant sophist did who lately, in a public lecture, said that Carneades the philosopher 2 was presented with a sum of money by king Alexander, son of Philip, and that Panaetius the Stoic was intimate with the elder Africanus. 3 In order, I say, to guard against such errors in dates and periods of time, I made notes from the books known as Chroicles 4 of the times when those Greeks and Romans flourished who were famous and conspicuous either for talent or for political power, between the founding of Rome and the second Punic war. 5 And these excerpts of mine, made in various and sundry places, I have now put hastily together. For it was not my endeavour with keen and subtle care to compile a catalogue of the eminent men of both nations who lived at the same time, but merely to strew these Nights of mine [p. 275] lightly here and there with a few of these flowers of history. 6 Moreover, it seemed sufficient in this survey to speak of the dates of a few men, from which it would not be difficult to infer the periods also of many more whom I did not name. I shall begin, then, with the illustrious Solon; for, as regards Homer and Hesiod, it is agreed by almost all writers, either that they lived at approximately the same period, or that Homer was somewhat the earlier; yet that both lived before the founding of Rome, when the Silvii were ruling in Alba, more than a hundred and sixty years after the Trojan war, as Cassius has written 7 about Homer and Hesiod in the first book of his Annals, but about a hundred and sixty years before the founding of Rome, as Cornelius Nepos says of Homer in the first book of his Chronicles. 8 Well then, we are told that Solon, one of the famous sages, 9 drew up laws for the Athenians when Tarquinius Priscus was king at Rome, 10 in the thirtythird year of his reign. 11 Afterwards, when Servius Tullius was king, 12 Pisistratus was tyrant at Athens, Solon having previously gone into voluntary exile, since he had not been believed when he predicted that tyranny. Still later, Pythagoras of Samos came to Italy, when the son of Tarquinius was king, he who was surnamed the Proud, 13 and at that same time [p. 277] Hipparchus, son of Pisistratus and brother of the tyrant Hippias, was slain at Athens by Harmodius and Aristog, iton. 14 And Cornelius Nepos adds 15 that when Tullus Hostilius was king at Rome 16 Archilochus was already illustrious and famous for his poems. 17 Then, in the two hundred and sixtieth year after the founding (of Rome, or not much later, it is recorded that the Persians were vanquished by the Athenians in the famous battle of Marathon under the lead of Militiades, 18 who after that victory was condemned by the Athenians and died in the public prison. At that time Aesthylus. the tragic poet, flourished at Athens. 19 In Rome, at about the same time, the commons, as the result of a secession, for the first time elected their own tribunes and aediles; 20 and not much later Gnaeus Marcius Coriolanus, harassed and exasperated by the tribunes of the commons, turned traitor to the republic and joined the Volscians, who were then our enemies, 21 and lade war upon the Roman people. Then a few years later, King Xerxes was beaten and put to flight by the Athenians and a good part of Greece, under the lead of Themistocles, in the sea-fight at Salamis. 22 About three 23 years afterwards, in the consulship of Menenius Agrippa and Marcus Horatius Pulvillus, during the war with Veii, the patrician Fabii, three hundred and six in number, along with their dependents, 24 were all ambushed at the river Cremera and slain. [p. 279] At about that time Empedocles of Agrigentum was eminent in the domain of natural philosophy. 25 But at Rome at that epoch it is stated that a board of ten was appointed 26 to codify laws, and that at first they compiled ten tables, to which afterwards two more were added. Then the great Peloponnesian war began in Greece, which Thucydides has handed down to memory, about three hundred and twenty-three years after the founding of Rome. 27 At that time Olus Postumius Tubertus was dictator at Rome, and executed his own son, because he had fought against the enemy contrary to his father's order. The people of Fidenae and the Aequians were then at war with the Roman people. 28 During that period Sophocles, and later Euripides, were famous and renowned as tragic poets, Hippocrates as a physician, and as a philosopher, Democritus; Socrates the Athenian was younger than these, 29 but was in part their contemporary. Somewhat later, when the military tribunes with consular authority were in power 30 at Rome, about the three hundred and forty-seventh year after the founding of the city, the notorious thirty tyrants were imposed upon the Athenians by the Lacedaemonians, and in Sicily the elder Dionysius was tyrant. 31 A few years later, at Athens, Socrates was condemned to death and executed in prison by means of poison. At about the same time, at Rome, [p. 281] Marcus Furius Camillus was dictator and took Veii. Not long afterwards came the war with the Senones, when the Gauls captured Rome with the exception of the Capitol. 32 Not long after these events the astronomer Eudoxus was famed in the land of Greece, the Lacedaemonians were defeated by the Athenians at Corinth under the lead of Phormio, 33 and at Rome Marcus Manlius, who during the siege of the Capitol had repulsed the Gauls as they were climbing up its steep cliffs, was convicted of having formed the design of making himself king. Marcus Varro says 34 that he was condemned to death and hurled from the Tarpeian rock; but Cornelius Nepos has written 35 that he was scourged to death. In the very same year, which was the seventh after the recovery of the city, it is recorded that the philosopher Aristotle was born. 36 Next, some years after the war with the Senones, the Thebans defeated the Lacedaemonians at Leuctra 37 under the lead of Epaminondas, and a little later in the city of Rome the law of Licinius Stolo provided for the elections of consuls also from the plebeians, 38 whereas before that time it was not lawful for a consul to be chosen except from the patrician familiis. Then, about the four hundredth year after the founding of the city, Philip, son of Amyntas and father of Alexander, became king of Macedonia. At that time Alexander was born, 39 and a few years later the philosopher Plato went to the court of the younger Dionysius, tyrant of Sicily; then some little time afterwards Philip defeated the Athenians in the great battle at Chaeronea. 40 At that time the [p. 283] orator Demosthenes sought safety in flight from the battlefield, and when he was bitterly taunted with his flight he jestingly replied in the well-known verse: 41
The man who runs away will fight again.Later Philip fell victim to a conspiracy; but Alexander, who succeeded him, 42 crossed over into Asia and the Orient, to subdue the Persians. But another Alexander, surnamed Molossus, came into Italy intending to make war on the Roman people —for already the fame of Roman valour and success was beginning to be conspicuous among foreign nations—but he died before beginning the war. We have learned that on his way to Italy that Molossus said that he was going against the Romans as a nation of men, but the Macedonian was going against the Persians as one of women. Later, the Macedonian Alexander, having subdued the greater part of the east, died 43 after a reign of eleven years. Not long after this the philosopher Aristotle ended his life, 44 and a little later, Demosthenes; 45 at about that same time the Roman people engaged in a dangerous and protracted war with the Samites and the consuls Tiberius Veturius and Spurius Postumius were surrounded by the Samites in a perilous position near Caudium and being sent under the yoke were allowed to depart only when they had made a shameful treaty; 46 and when for that reason the consuls by vote of the people were surrendered to the Samites through the fetial priests, they were not accepted. Then, about four hundred and seventy years after the founding of the city, war was begun with king [p. 285] Pyrrhus. 47 At that time Epicurus the Athenian and Zeno of Citium were famed as philosophers, and at the same time the censors at Rome, Gains Fabricius Luscinus and Quintus Aemilius Papus, expelled from the senate Publius Cornelius Rufinus, who had twice been consul and dictator; and they recorded as the reason for that censure the fact that they had learned of his using ten pounds' weight of silverware at a dinner. Then, in about the four hundred and ninetieth year after the founding of Rome, when the consuls were Appius Claudius, surnamed Caudex, brother of the celebrated Appius the Blind, and Marcus Fluvius Flaccus, the first war with the Carthaginians broke out, 48 and not long afterwards Callimachus, the poet of Cyrene, was famous at the court of king Ptolemy at Alexandria. A little more than twenty years later, when peace had been made with the Carthaginians and the consuls were C. Claudius Centho, son of Appius the Blind, and Marcus Sempronius Tuditanus, the poet Lucius Livius was the very first to put plays upon the stage at Rome, 49 more than a hundred and sixty years after the death of Sophocles and Euripides and about fifty-two years after the death of Menander. The consuls Claudius and Tuditanus were followed by Quintus Valerius and Gaius Mamilius, in whose year the poet Quintus Ennius was born, 50 as Marcus Varro has written in the first book of his work On Poets; 51 and he adds that at the age of sixty-seven Ennius had written the twelfth Book of the Annals, and that Ennius himself says so in that same book. Five hundred and nineteen years after the [p. 287] founding of Rome, Spurius Carvilius Ruga, at the advice of his friends, was the first Roman to divorce his wife, on the ground that she was barren and that he had taken oath before the censors that he married for the purpose of having children. 52 In that same year the poet Naevius exhibited plays to the people, 53 and Marcus Varro says 54 in the first book of his work On Poets that Naevius served in the first Punic war and that the poet himself makes that statement in the poem which he wrote on that same war. But Porcius Licinius says 55 in the following verses that Rome was later in taking up the poetic art:
In the second Punic war with winged flightThen, about fifteen years later, war was begun with the Carthaginians, 56 and not very long after that Marcus Cato was famous as a political orator and Plautus as a dramatic poet; and at that same time Diogenes the Stoic, Carneades the Academic, and Critolaus the Peripatetic were sent by the Athenians as envoys to the senate of the Roman people on public business. Not very long after this came Quintus Ennius, and then Caecilius and Terence, 57 and afterwards Pacuvius 58 and when [p. 289] Pacuvius was already an old man, Accius and then Lucilius, who was still more famous through his criticisms of the poems of his predecessors. But I have gone too far, since the limit that I set for these little notes was the second Punic war.
The Muse to Romulus' warrior nation came.