Blood-curdling Tales from Livy: The Grim Death of Mettius Fufetius (Livy, 1.28)

“Then Tullus said, ‘Mettius Fufetius, if you were able to learn to maintain your faith and uphold agreements, you would receive discipline as a living man. But, because your soul is beyond remedy, you will with your punishment teach the human race to believe that those things, which you violated, are indeed sacred. Therefore, since your mind was ambivalent about the choice between Fidenae and Rome, so too will your body be torn asunder.’ Thereupon, two chariots were brought up, and Mettius was stretched out between them. Then, the horses were goaded on in opposite directions, and they brought with them the torn body in each chariot, where the limbs had held fast to the chains. Everyone turned away from the grim terror of the spectacle. That was the first and last time that the Romans used a punishment which was so unmindful of human laws: in other situations, they could glory that no other race was satisfied with more lenient punishments.”

Tum Tullus “Metti Fufeti” inquit, “si ipse discere posses fidem ac foedera servare, vivo tibi ea disciplina a me adhibita esset; nunc quoniam tuum insanabile ingenium est, at tu tuo supplicio doce humanum genus ea sancta credere quae a te violata sunt. Ut igitur paulo ante animum inter Fidenatem Romanamque rem ancipitem gessisti, ita iam corpus passim distrahendum dabis.” Exinde duabus admotis quadrigis, in currus earum distentum inligat Mettium; deinde in diversum iter equi concitati, lacerum in utroque curru corpus, qua inhaeserant vinculis membra, portantes. avertere omnes ab tanta foeditate spectaculi oculos. Primum ultimumque illud supplicium apud Romanos exempli parum memoris legum humanarum fuit: in aliis gloriari licet nulli gentium mitiores placuisse poenas.

NOTE: Mettius Fufetius was the dictator of Alba Longa who – although he was technically an ally of Rome – carefully watched the course of a battle between the Romans and the Fidenates, in order to more surely back the winning side. This is the “ambivalence” to which Tullus refers.

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