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When Quintus Claudius, in the nineteenth book of his Annals, was describing an attack upon a town by the proconsul Metellus, and its defence against him by the townspeople from the top of the walls, he wrote these words: 1 “The archers and slingers on both sides showered their weapons with the utmost vigour and courage. But there is this difference between shooting an arrow or a stone downward or upward; for neither missile can be discharged accurately downward, but both upwards with excellent effect. Therefore the soldiers of Metellus suffered far fewer wounds, and, what was of the greatest importance, they very easily drove the enemy back from the battlements by means of their slingers.” I asked Antonius Julianus, the rhetorician, why what Quadrigarius had said was so; namely, that the shots of missiles are closer and more accurate if you discharge a stone or an arrow upwards rather than downwards, in spite of the fact that a throw from above downward is swifter and easier than one in the opposite direction. Then [p. 155] Julianus, after commending the character of the question, said: “His statement about an arrow and a stone may be made about almost any missile weapon. But, as you have said, throwing is easier if you throw downwards, provided you wish only to throw, and not to hit a mark. But when the direction and force of the throw must be regulated and guided, then, if you are throwing downwards, tile control and command of the marksman are impaired by the downward impulse itself, such as it is, and by the weight of the falling missile. But if you throw your weapon upwards, and direct hand and eye to hitting something above you, the missile which you have hurled will go to the spot to which the impulse which you have given bears it.” It was to this general effect that Julianus chatted with us about those words of Quintus Claudius. With regard to the remark of the same Claudius, “they very easily drove the enemy from the battlements,” it must be observed that he used the word defendebant, not in the sense which it commonly has, but yet quite properly and in accordance with good Latin usage. For defendere and offendere are opposed to each other, the latter meaning ἐμποδὼν ἔχειν, that is, “to run against something and fall upon it,” the former, ἐκποδὼν ποιεῖν, that is, “to avert and drive away”; and the latter is Claudius' meaning in this passage.
1 Fr. 85, Peter2.
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