“After he heard these things, Dêmarêtos was saying the following: “King, since you order me to tell the truth completely and to say things that someone might not be caught in a lie by you later, poverty has always been Greece’s companion, but virtue is acquired, nurtured by wisdom and strong custom. By cultivating this excellence, Greece has warded off both poverty and tyranny.”
“To the Spartan representatives, the Athenians answered as follows: “It was a very human response that the Spartans feared we might make an agreement with the Barbarian. But because we believe it shameful that the Athenian spirit should shudder so, know that there is no amount of gold anywhere or land so exceeding in beauty and location which we would ever wish to take to align with the Persians and enslave Greece.
“There are many, serious reasons which would prevent us from doing these things, even if we were willing: first and greatest are the temples and dedications to the gods which were burned and destroyed. This compels us to seek extreme vengeance rather than making agreements with the man who contrived it. Second, is our common Hellenic blood, our shared language, the shrines of the gods and the sacrifices, customs and ways of living we keep in common—never would it be right for the Athenians to betray these things.
Know this too if you did not happen to know it before, as long as a single Athenian survives there will never be a treaty with Xerxes. Still, we give you thanks for your concern about us, that you have worried for out destroyed home enough that you are willing to supply and feed our people.”
“The Khelônophagoi live underneath turtle shells that are big enough to sail in too. Some of them, because a lot of seaweed is cast onto the shore and makes piles as high as hills, dig into them and live inside. They dispose of corpses as food for fish by allowing them to be drawn away in the high tides.
Three islands are situated in a row: they are named Turtle Island, Seal Island, and Hawk Island. The whole shoreline has palm-trees, olive trees, and laurels and this is not just in the straits but on the outside too. There is a certain Philip’s island, facing which, above the coastline, is a hunting preserve for elephants which is called Pythangelos’ Hunting Ground.
Next to this is Arsinoê which has a city and harbor and beyond these, to Deirê above which is another hunting preserve for elephants. The land right above Deirê is rich in aromatics: the first part part produces myrrh—and it is the land of the Fish-Eaters and Meat-Eaters—and it also produces persea and the Egyptian sykamin. Beyond this land is Likha, another hunting ground for elephants. Frequently there are pools of rain water in the region and when these dry, the elephants dig with their tusks and teeth and uncover water.
On that coast, there are two enormous lakes extending up as far as the Pytholaian headland. One of them has salt water and they call it a sea; the other is fresh and contains both hippopotamuses and crocodiles. It also has papyrus on its shores. People also find the Ibis around this lake. Starting near the Pytholaus, the people who live there have unblemished bodies….”
“This plague didn’t exist among our ancestors. It first invaded Italy during the principate of Tiberius Claudius when some Roman knight from Perusia, secretary to a quaestor, brought the infection with him after he had been serving in Asia Minor. Women, enslaved people, and those of the low or humble classes tend not to get this disease, but it spreads quickly through nobles thanks to a brief kiss. Many of those who endured the medicine for the sickness handled the scar more foully than the disease. It was cured by burning treatments and the symptom would return unless the flesh was burned up almost to the bone in that spot.
Many physicians came from Egypt—that parent of these kinds of blights—in order to dedicate themselves to this work only, gaining a considerable profit, since it is true that Manilius Cornutus, a man of praetorian rank and legate in Aquitania, paid two hundred thousand for the treatment of his disease.
It does often happen, however, that new kinds of diseases are experienced en masse. What discovery would be more surprising? Some afflictions appear in a certain part of the world and attack certain body parts or people of specific ages or stations—as if a sickness were selective—one harming children, another adults, this one for the nobles, and that one for the poor.”
III. Non fuerat haec lues apud maiores patresque nostros, et primum Ti. Claudi Caesaris principatu medio inrepsit in Italiam quodam Perusino equite Romano quaestorio scriba, cum in Asia adparuisset, inde contagionem eius inportante. nec sensere id malum feminae aut servitia plebesque humilis aut media, sed proceres veloci transitu osculi maxime, foediore multorum qui perpeti medicinam toleraverant cicatrice quam morbo. causticis namque curabatur, ni usque in ossa corpus exustum esset, rebellante taedio. adveneruntque ex Aegypto genetrice talium vitiorum medici hanc solam operam adferentes magna sua praeda, siquidem certum est Manilium Cornutum e praetoriis legatum Aquitanicae provinciae HS CC elocasse in eo morbo curandum sese. acciditque contra saepius ut nova genera morborum gregatim sentirentur. quo mirabilius quid potest reperiri? aliqua gigni repente vitia terrarum in parte certa membrisque hominum certis vel aetatibus aut etiam fortunis, tamquam malo eligente, haec in pueris grassari, illa in adultis, haec proceres sentire, illa pauperes?
“A fear overcame the senators that if the army were dismissed, then secret assemblies and conspiracies would arise. And thus, even though the draft was made by a dictator—because they had sworn a consular oath they were still believed to beheld by this sacrament—they ordered the legions to depart the city on the grounds that the war had been renewed by the Aequi. This deed accelerated the rebellion.
At first, there was some interest in the murder of the consuls (to absolve them of their obligation); but when they then learned that no crime would release them from their oath, they seceded on to the Sacred Mount across the Anio river, which is three miles from the city, on the advice of a man named Sicinus. This story is more common than the one which Piso offers—that the secession was made upon the Aventine hill.
There, the camp was fortified without any leader with a trench and wall quietly, as they took nothing unless it was necessary for their food for several days and neither offended anyone nor took offense. But there was a major panic in the city and because of mutual fear all activities were suspended. Those left behind feared violence from the senators because they were abandoned by their own class; and the senators were fearing the plebians who remained in the city because they were uncertain whether they stayed there or preferred to leave. How long could a mass of people who had seceded remain peaceful? What would happen after this if there were an external threat first? There was certainly no home left unless they could bring the people into harmony; and it was decided they must reconcile the state by just means or unjust.”
timor inde patres incessit ne, si dimissus exercitus foret, rursus coetus occulti coniurationesque fierent. itaque quamquam per dictatorem dilectus habitus esset, tamen quoniam in consulum uerba iurassent sacramento teneri militem rati, per causam renouati ab Aequis belli educi ex urbe legiones iussere.  quo facto maturata est seditio. et primo agitatum dicitur de consulum caede, ut soluerentur sacramento; doctos deinde nullam scelere religionem exsolui, Sicinio quodam auctore iniussu consulum in Sacrum montem secessisse. trans Anienem amnem est, tria ab urbe milia passuum.  ea frequentior fama est quam cuius Piso auctor est, in Auentinum secessionem factam esse.  ibi sine ullo duce uallo fossaque communitis castris quieti, rem nullam nisi necessariam ad uictum sumendo, per aliquot dies neque lacessiti neque lacessentes sese tenuere.  pauor ingens in urbe, metuque mutuo suspensa erant omnia. timere relicta ab suis plebis uiolentiam patrum; timere patres residem in urbe plebem, incerti manere eam an abire mallent:  quamdiu autem tranquillam quae secesserit multitudinem fore? quid futurum deinde si quod externum interim bellum exsistat?  nullam profecto nisi in concordia ciuium spem reliquam ducere; eam per aequa, per iniqua reconciliandam ciuitati esse.
The secessio plebis was repeated at key times in Roman history and became a fundamental instrument to force the ruling (and moneyed/landed) class to make political compromises with the larger number of citizen soldiers upon whom the city (and the Republic) depended for its safety (and, really, existence). Modern labor strikes are not directly related to this Roman action–they developed with the rise of the Industrial state. In a short analogy, labor is to capital as the army was to the Roman state.
Labor unions are, in my ever so humble opinion, probably the last possible bulwark against not just the corporatization of higher education but also against the completion of our anglo-american metamorphoses in to technology-driven plutocracies. (And it may be too late.) But I take the limited coverage in our presses as a sign that such subjects are threatening to the very media corporations that deny collective bargaining to their ‘workers’ in the gig economy.
Caesar, Civil War 1.7.5-7
“Whenever in the past the senate has made a decree asking officers to make sure that the republic meet no harm—and in this wording the senatus consultum is also a call to arms for the Roman people—it has been made under the condition of evil laws, a violent tribune, or during a secession of the plebs when they had occupied the temples and mounts. [Caesar] explained that these examples from an earlier age were paid for with the fates of Saturninus and the Gracchi. (At that time none of these things were done or even considered. No law was suggested; no assembly was called; no secession was made.)
quotienscumque sit decretum darent operam magistratus ne quid res publica detrimenti caperet, qua voce et quo senatus consulto populus Romanus ad arma sit vocatus, factum in perniciosis legibus, in vi tribunicia, in secessione populi, templis locisque editioribus occupatis. 6Atque haec superioris aetatis exempla expiata Saturnini atque Gracchorum casibus docet. (Quarum rerum illo tempore nihil factum, ne cogitatum quidem. Nulla lex promulgata, non cum populo agi coeptum, nulla secessio facta.)
Cicero, Republic II.58
“For that very principle which I introduced at the beginning is this: unless there is equal access in a state to laws, offices, and duties so that the magistrates have sufficient power, the plans of the highest citizens have enough authority, and the people have enough freedom, the state cannot be guarded against revolution. For when our state was troubled by debt, the plebeians first occupied the Sacred Mount and then the Aventine.”
Id enim tenetote, quod initio dixi, nisi aequabilis haec in civitate conpensatio sit et iuris et officii et muneris, ut et potestatis satis in magistratibus et auctoritatis in principum consilio et libertatis in populo sit, non posse hunc incommutabilem rei publicae conservari statum. nam cum esset ex aere alieno commota civitas, plebs montem sacrum prius, deinde Aventinum occupavit.
Cicero, Republic II.63
“Therefore, because of the injustice of these men [the decemviri], there was the largest rebellion and the whole state was transformed. For those rulers had created two tables of laws which included most inhumanely, a law against plebeians wedding patricians, even though marriage between different nationalities is permitted! This law was later voided by the plebeian Canuleian Decree. The [decemviri also pursued their own pleasure harshly and greedily in every exercise of power over the people.”
ergo horum ex iniustitia subito exorta est maxima perturbatio et totius commutatio rei publicae; qui duabus tabulis iniquarum legum additis, quibus, etiam quae diiunctis populis tribui solent conubia, haec illi ut ne plebei cum patribus1 essent, inhumanissima lege sanxerunt, quae postea plebei scito Canuleio abrogata est, libidinoseque omni imperio et acerbe et avare populo praefuerunt.
Here is the opening summary from Brill’s New Pauly on the secessio plebis (2006: von Ungern-Sternberg, Jürgen)
“Roman tradition terms as secessio (from Latin secedere, ‘to go away, to withdraw’) the remonstrative exodus of the Roman plebeians from the urban area delimited by the pomerium on to a neighbouring hill. This action was on a number of occasions the culmination of confrontation between the patricians ( patricii ) and the plebs . The first secessio in particular may have been instrumental in the formation of a self-conscious plebeian community under the leadership of at first two, later apparently five people’s tribunes ( tribunus plebis ), to whose protection all plebeians committed themselves by a lex sacrata (‘law subject to the sanction of execration’)”
The Romans fought a war in Africa against the Numidians led by their King, Jugurtha (112-104 BCE). The Romans won. Sallust tells the tale of the war, but he ends it with the ominous anticipation of future dangers:
Sallust, Bellum Jugurthinum 114
“At that time, a battle was fought and lost against the Gauls by the generals Quintus Caepio and Gnaeus Mallius. Because of this, all of Italy quaked in fear. The Romans from that time down to our own have believed that while all other matters give way to our virtue, with the Gauls it is an issue of safety, not glory.
After it was made known that the war in Numidia was concluded and that Jugurtha was being returned as a prisoner, Marius was made consul even though absent, and Gaul was set as his province. On the first day of January, he celebrated his triumph as consul in great glory. And at that moment, the hope and health of the state resided with him.”
Per idem tempus adversum Gallos ab ducibus nostris Q. Caepione et Cn. Manlio male pugnatum. Quo metu Italia omnis contremuerat. Illincque [et inde] usque ad nostram memoriam Romani sic habuere, alia omnia virtuti suae prona esse, cum Gallis pro salute, non pro gloria certare. Sed postquam bellum in Numidia confectum et Iugurtham Romam vinctum adduci nuntiatum est, Marius consul absens factus est, et ei decreta provincia Gallia, isque Kalendis Ianuariis magna gloria consul triumphavit. Et ea tempestate spes atque opes civitatis in illo sitae.
“Such a great man [Marcus Aurelius], joined to the gods in life as well as death, left behind his son Commodus—if he had been truly blessed, he would have not left a son. So it was not enough that people of all ages, gender, social position, and condition gave him honors, but a man would be declared sacrilegious if he did not have his image in his own home, should he be able to do so thanks to fortune.
Indeed, even today status of Marcus Antoninus [Aurelius] remain in many homes among the household gods. There was no lack of men who claimed that he predicted many things in dreams that they foretold future events in truth. Hence, , a temple was constructed in his honor, and there were priests dedicated to the service of the Antonines, along with Flaminess and Sodales, all those things which tradition has established for sacred rites.
“Some men report a thing which seems likely, that Commodus Antoninus, his son and successor, was born not from him but from adultery and they support such a tale with a common rumor. There was a time when Faustina, Pius’ daughter and Marcus’ wife, saw some gladiators pass and was set afire with love for one of them. Later, when she was suffering from a long sickness, she told her husband about this. When Marcus relayed this to the Chaldaeans, their advice was that he should have Faustina bathe herself in the blood of the killed gladiator and then lie with her husband.
When this act was complete, the passion was quenched, though their son Commodus was as a result born to be a gladiator not a princeps. This tale is treated as likely since there was never a son of a prince so virtuous with ways worse than a gladiator master, a street-actor or some arena-fighter, a man who could summon up a trophy of crimes from a surfeit of blessings.
Many others, however, claim that Commodus was really conceived through adultery because it is known that when Faustina was at Caieta she would choose lovers from the sailors and the gladiators. When this was mentioned to Marcus Aurelius so that he would reject her or kill her, he is reported to have replied, “If I divorce my wife, I must return her dowry.” And what did he consider her dowry but the empire which he had received when he was adopted by his father-in-law at Hadrian’s urging.”
Hic sane vir tantus et talis ac diis vita et morte coniunctus filium Commodum dereliquit: qui si felix fuisset, filium non reliquisset. 5 Et parum sane fuit, quod illi honores divinos omnis aetas, omnis sexus, omnis conditio ac dignitas dedit, nisi quod etiam sacrilegus iudicatus est, qui eius imaginem in sua domo non habuit, qui per fortunam vel potuit habere vel debuit. 6 Denique hodieque in multis domibus Marci Antonini statuae consistunt inter deos penates. 7 Nec defuerunt homines qui somniis eum multa praedixisse augurantes futura et vera concinuerunt. 8 Unde etiam templum ei constitutum, dati sacerdotes Antoniniani et sodales et flamines et omnia, quae de sacratis decrevit antiquitas.
Aiunt quidam, quod et verisimile videtur, Commodum Antoninum, successorem illius ac filium, non esse de eo natum sed de adulterio, ac talem fabellam vulgari sermone contexunt. 2 Faustinam quondam, Pii filiam, Marci uxorem, cum gladiatores transire vidisset, unius ex his amore succensam, cum longa aegritudine laboraret, viro de amore confessam. 3 Quod cum ad Chaldaeos Marcus rettulisset, illorum fuisse consilium, ut occiso gladiatore sanguine illius sese Faustina sublavaret atque ita cum viro concumberet. 4 Quod cum esset factum, solutum quidem amorem, natum vero Commodum gladiatorem esse, non principem, 5 qui mille prope pugnas publice populo inspectante gladiatorias imperator exhibuit, ut in vita eius docebitur. 6 Quod quidem verisimile ex eo habetur, quod tam sancti principis filius his moribus fuit, quibus nullus lanista, nullus scaenicus, nullus arenarius, nullus postremo ex omnium decorum ac scelerum conluvione concretus. 7 Multi autem ferunt Commodum omnino ex adultero natum, si quidem Faustinam satis constet apud Caietam condiciones sibi et nauticas et gladiatorias elegisse. 8 De qua cum diceretur Antonino Marco, ut eam repudiaret, si non occideret, dixisse fertur : “Si uxorem dimittimus, reddamus et dotem.” 9 Dos autem quid habebatur [nisi] imperium, quod ille ab socero volente Hadriano adoptatus acceperat?
“I am also compelled to understand this war by something no less important than anything else I have already said—the fact that those who seem most qualified to write about it…have not sufficiently reported the truth.
I do not suspect that these men lie willingly (based on their manner of life and their choices), but they do seem to me to have suffered in the way that lovers do….It is certainly right for a good man to be loyal to his friends, to be patriotic, and to commiserate in his friend’s hatreds and take pleasure in his friends; but whenever someone takes up the historian’s post, he must banish all of these biases to the point of often gracing his enemies with the finest praise when their actions deserve it and also often rebuking and blaming those closest to him, whenever they reveal to him errors worthy of it. For, just as closed eyes make the rest of an animal useless, what is left from a history blind to the truth is just a pointless tale.”
“Humanity waited, thunderstruck by the new light in the sky,
First grieving as it disappeared, then overjoyed at its return.
The human race was incapable of understanding the reasons
Why the sun rose so frequently once it sent the stars
In flight, why the length of days and nights was uncertain
And why the shadows changed too as the sun moved farther away.
Stubborn obsession had not yet taught humankind knowledge and skill
And the land was resting open at the hands of untrained farmers.
At that time gold was resting in untouched mountains
And the untroubled sea hid strange worlds—
For the human race did not dare to risk life
In the waves or wind—people believed that they did not know enough.
But the passage of long days sharpened mortal thought
And hard work produced invention for the miserable
Just as each person’s luck compelled him to turn to himself to make life better.
Then, they competed with each other once their interests were divided
And whatever wisdom practice found through testing,
They happily shared for the common good.”
et stupefacta novo pendebat lumine mundi,
tum velut amisso maerens, tum laeta renato,
surgentem neque enim totiens Titana fugatis
sideribus, variosque dies incertaque noctis
tempora nec similis umbras, iam sole regresso
iam propiore, suis poterat discernere causis.
necdum etiam doctas sollertia fecerat artes,
terraque sub rudibus cessabat vasta colonis;
tumque in desertis habitabat montibus aurum,
immotusque novos pontus subduxerat orbes,
nec vitam pelago nec ventis credere vota
audebant; se quisque satis novisse putabant.
sed cum longa dies acuit mortalia corda
et labor ingenium miseris dedit et sua quemque
advigilare sibi iussit fortuna premendo,
seducta in varias certarunt pectora curas
et, quodcumque sagax temptando repperit usus,
in commune bonum commentum laeta dederunt.
“The evils of the civil war seemed to have ended when they were rekindled by Sulla’s cruelty. Once he was made dictator—and this honor had been avoided for a hundred and twenty years since the last time it had been used was one year after Hannibal quit Italy—and it is obvious that the fear which prompted the Roman people to want a dictator was less than how much they feared his power. As dictator, Sulla applied the power which earlier dictators had used only to save the country from the greatest dangers with unmeasured degrees of savagery.
He was the first—and I wish he had been the last—to discover the model of proscription with the result that in the same state in which legal recourse is available to an actor booed from the stage, in that state a price was set for the murder of a Roman citizen: he would have the most who killed the most! The reward for the killing of an enemy would be no greater than for the murder of a citizen.
In essence, each man was valued for the price of his own death. Such savagery was applied not only to those who had carried arms against them, but against many innocents too. In addition to this, the goods of the proscribed were offered for sale: children already deprived of their father’s goods were also prohibited from the right of seeking public office and, the most unjust thing of all, they had to maintain the standards of their social rank without recourse to the rights.”
Videbantur finita belli civilis mala, cum Sullae crudelitate aucta sunt. Quippe dictator creatus (cuius honoris usurpatio per annos centum et viginti intermissa; nam proximus post annum quam Hannibal Italia excesserat, uti adpareat populum Romanum usum dictatoris haud metu desiderasse tali quo timuisset potestatem) imperio, quo priores ad vindicandam maximis periculis rem publicam olim usi erant, eo in inmodicae crudelitatis licentiam usus est.3 Primus ille, et utinam ultimus, exemplum proscriptionis invenit, ut in qua civitate petularitis convicii iudicium histrioni ex albo redditur, in ea iugulati civis Romani publice constitueretur auctoramentum, plurimumque haberet, qui plurimos interemisset, neque occisi hostis quam civis uberius foret praemium Geretque quisque merces mortis suae.4 Nec tantum in eos, qui contra arma tulerant, sed in multos insontis saevitum. Adiectum etiam, ut bona proscriptorum venirent exclusique paternis opibus liberi etiam petendorum honorum iure prohiberentur simulque, quod indignissimum est, senatorum filii et onera ordinis sustinerent et iura perderent.
“But these tales and those like them—whether to ponder them or how to weigh them—I don’t emphasize greatly. Let anyone who reads these instead pay attention to what life was like, what the customs were, through which men and by which skills the empire was born and increased. And, when discipline bit by bit deteriorated, how at first customs degraded with desire, then they collapsed more and more, then they began to fall headlong until we came to our own time when we can endure neither our sins nor their remedies.”
ad haec tempora quibus nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus. Sed haec et his similia utcumque animaduersa aut existimata erunt haud in magno equidem ponam discrimine: ad illa mihi pro se quisque acriter intendat animum, quae vita, qui mores fuerint, per quos viros quibusque artibus domi militiaeque et partum et auctum imperium sit; labente deinde paulatim disciplina velut desidentes primo mores sequatur animo, deinde ut magis magisque lapsi sint, tum ire coeperint praecipites, donec ad haec tempora quibus nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus perventum est.