The Terrors of Revolution

Appian, Civil War 1.83 

(Describing Sulla’s invasion of Italy upon returning from war with Mithradates)

“During that war, it seemed to them that a divine power had portended these things; fearful and perplexing things fell upon many people both in private and in public throughout the whole of Italy, and they had cause to remember terrifying ancient prophecies, as monstrous portents occurred: a mule gave birth, and a pregnant woman bore a snake instead of a child. A god greatly shook the earth and tossed down some of the shrines in Rome, and the Romans were inclined to take these types of things seriously. The Capitol, built by the kings four hundred years earlier, was burnt down, and no one knew the cause. All of these things appeared to portend an abundance of slaughter, the capture of Italy and the Romans along with their city, as well as a revolution in the government.”

Καὶ τάδε αὐτοῖς ἐδόκει καὶ τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐν τῷδε τῷ πολέμῳ προσημῆναι. δείματά τε γὰρ ἄλογα πολλοῖς καὶ ἰδίᾳ καὶ κατὰ πλῆθος ἐνέπιπτε περὶ ὅλην τὴν ᾿Ιταλίαν, καὶ μαντευμάτων παλαιῶν ἐπιφοβωτέρων ἐμνημόνευον, τέρατά τε πολλὰ ἐγίνοντο, καὶ ἡμίονος ἔτεκε, καὶ γυνὴ κύουσα ἔχιν ἀντὶ βρέφους ἐξέδωκε, τήν τε γῆν ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ μέγα ἔσεισε καὶ νεώς τινας ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ κατήνεγκε, καὶ πάνυ ῾Ρωμαίων ὄντων ἐς τὰ τοιαῦτα βαρυεργῶν. τό τε Καπιτώλιον ὑπὸ τῶν βασιλέων τετρακοσίοις που πρόσθεν ἔτεσι γενόμενον ἐνεπρήσθη, καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν οὐδεὶς ἐπενόει. πάντα δ’ ἔδοξεν ἐς τὸ πλῆθος τῶν ἀπολουμένων καὶ τὴν ἅλωσιν τῆς ᾿Ιταλίας καὶ ῾Ρωμαίων αὐτῶν τῆς τε πόλεως κατάληψιν καὶ πολιτείας μεταβολὴν προσημῆναι.

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