Queen Teuta and Rome
To return to the Illyrians. From time immemorial
they had oppressed and pillaged vessels sailing
; 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.
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
, 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
." 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