Diodorus Siculus, Books 38 & 39

  ( fragments covering the period 87 - 72 B.C. )

In the traditional arrangement of the fragments of Diodorus, the fragments of books 38 and 39 are shown together, because it is not certain where the split between the two books occurred.

Click on the G symbols to go to the Greek text of the fragments.
Click on the # symbols to go to lists of other ancient sources which refer to the same events.

Book 37

[1] G   The Romans sent envoys to Cinna to treat for peace. Cinna replied, "I left Rome as consul, and I will not return there as a private man."

[2] G   Metellus, with the army that he had, approached the camp of Cinna. They agreed, after talking together, that Cinna should remain as (?) general, and Metellus was the first to acknowledge this title, but they were both blamed later for what they had done. When Marius met Cinna, he declared that, with victory almost won, they should not give up the power that had been divinely granted to them. Metellus, when he returned to Rome, had a violent quarrel with Octavius, who accused him of betraying the consuls and his country. 2 Octavius said that he would not in any way allow Cinna to become absolute master of Rome, and that even if he was abandoned by everyone, he would still act in a manner worthy of his command, together with like-minded men. Finally, he added that if he was left with no hope, he would set fire to his house, and by consigning himself and his wealth to the flames, die bravely as a free man.

[3] G   When Cinna agreed to peace, upon condition that be might be restored to the consulship, Merula, who had been appointed consul in place of Cinna, proved himself to be a good citizen, and demonstrated his great love for his country. Addressing himself to the senate and people, and, stating what might most tend to the public good, he promised that he would promote concord. Since he had been chosen consul much against his will, he declared that he would now freely, of his own accord, give up his authority into the hands of Cinna; upon which he promptly surrendered his consulship, and became a private citizen. The senate then sent ambassadors to Cinna, and, having agreed with him upon the terms of peace, brought him back into the city as consul.

[4] G   Cinna and Marius called together a council of the principal leaders, and consulted what measures and methods should be taken to settle and confirm the peace. At length they resolved to put to death the most eminent persons amongst their opponents, who were most capable of challenging them; so that after their own group and party had been purged of enemies, they and their friends could govern for the future with more security, according to their own will and pleasure. 2 Then they completely disregarded all the former pacts and agreements; men were proscribed and butchered in every place, without any recourse to justice. At that time Quintus Lutatius Catulus, who had celebrated a glorious triumph for his victory over the Cimbri, and was greatly esteemed by the Roman people, was accused by a tribune of the plebs on a capital offence. 3 Fearing imminent danger from the accusation, he approached Marius, to entreat him to intercede for his deliverance. Marius, who he had been his friend formerly, but through some suspicion he now entertained of him, had become his enemy, merely replied, "You must die." Upon this, Catulus perceived that he had no hope of preservation and sought to die without disgrace. He killed himself in a strange and unusual way; for he shut himself up in a newly plastered house, and caused a fire to be kindled, by the smoke of which, and the moist vapours from the lime, he was there stifled to death.

[5] G   The civil war that broke out in Rome in the consulship of Sulla was (according to Livy and Diodorus) heralded by many omens. When the sky was cloudless and perfectly clear, a trumpet was heard making a sharp and plaintive sound, and all who heard it were struck with fear. The Etruscan soothsayers declared that this portent heralded a revolution in human affairs; they added that there are eight different races of men, each differing in their character and manner of life. The deity has assigned to each of them a certain period of time, which is the length of a great year. At the end of this period and the beginning of the following one, there appears some miraculous sign, either on earth or in heaven, from which the sages immediately know that a race of men has arisen with a different character and manner of life, and that the gods have less care for them than for previous men. Whether this is true or not, is something that I will not discuss here.

[6] G   Cinna and Marius were soon punished by divine vengeance, after their massacre of citizens and their outrages against other men. Sulla, who was the only one remaining out of their enemies, destroyed the army of Mithridates in Boeotia, took Athens by storm, and made a treaty with Mithridates; then he took over the fleet of Mithridates and returned to Italy. In a very short time, he destroyed the armies of Cinna and Marius, and made himself master of Rome and all Italy. He slew all the bloodthirsty supporters of Cinna, and exterminated the family of Marius. Many reasonable men considered that the punishment of the perpetrators of so many murders was imposed by divine providence. Such a punishment ought to be a valuable lesson for those who follow the path of impiety, prompting them to turn away from their wickedness.

[7] G   Sulla, being in great need of money, ransacked three temples that were full of consecrated gold and silver; that is, the temple of Apollo at Delphi, the temple of Asclepius at Epidaurus, and the famous temple of Zeus at Olympia; from the last of these he carried away a vast treasure, for it had never before been violated. But as to the temple at Delphi, the Phocians, in the time of the Sacred War, had drained it of its wealth. When Sulla, therefore, had in this way amassed a great amount of gold and silver, and other treasure, he was sufficiently furnished with money to carry on the war in Italy. But having, without any fear or religious scruples, thus robbed the temples, he consecrated an area of land to the gods, to provide an annual income instead of the money; and he would often, in a joking manner, say that he was sure to be victorious in all encounters, because he had the support of the gods, who had contributed so much to his funds.

[8] G   Fimbria, having out-paced Flaccus, and got a long way before him in his march, thought he had now gained a most convenient opportunity to undertake a bold venture; and therefore, to gain the support of the soldiers, he permitted them to ravage the land of their allies, as if it was enemy territory, and to seize anyone that they met. The soldiers very readily took advantage of this liberty, so that within a few days they had collected an abundance of wealth by their plundering. But those that had been spoiled of their goods went to meet the consul, and made bitter complaints to him concerning the injuries that they had received. The consul, who was much troubled at what had happened, commanded them to follow him, and he himself would see that restitution was made to everyone who had suffered. Accordingly with threats he ordered Fimbria to hand back to the owners immediately whatsoever had been taken away from them. Fimbria laid all the blame upon the soldiers, as if they had done this without his permission; but covertly he advised the soldiers not to obey the consul's command or allow what they had gained by force of arms, and the right of war, to be taken away from them. Therefore, when Flaccus commanded restitution to be made of their loot, adding threats to his commands, the soldiers refused to obey, so that a great tumult and mutiny arose in the army.

2 Fimbria, having again crossed the Hellespont, encouraged his soldiers to commit looting and all kinds of outrages. He exacted money from the cities, and divided it amongst the soldiers, who, without any control on their actions, had the power to do whatever they pleased. Lured on by the hope of a large profit, they held Fimbria in great affection, as one who had deserved extremely well of the whole army. Moreover, when he captured any cities that resisted him, he gave them over to the plunder of his soldiers, and in this way he handed out Nicomedeia to be plundered by the soldiers.

3 The same Fimbria pretended that he had come as a friend to Cyzicus. But as soon as he entered there, he began to impeach the wealthiest of the citizens, and charge them with capital offences. To terrify the others, after he had passed sentence on two of them, he caused them to be whipped with rods, and executed them. He then seized their property, and so by the deaths of these two he instilled great fear into the others, who were forced to give him everything they had, as a ransom for their lives.

4 Within a short time Fimbria embroiled the province in the sort of misfortunes that might be expected from a man who had in such an impious way grasped the power to do whatever he wished. He ravaged Phrygia like a hurricane, and dashed around the cities, overwhelming everyone he met. When he killed himself, by his single death he paid the debt for the many deaths that he had caused.

[9] G   Gnaeus Pompeius devoted himself to a military life, and inured himself to the hardships and fatigues of war, so that in a short time he was acknowledged as an expert in military matters. Casting off all sloth and idleness, he was always, night and day, doing something or other that was useful for the conduct of the war. He was very sparing in his diet, ate his food sitting, and altogether refrained from baths and other such luxurious activities. He allotted fewer hours for sleep than nature demanded, and spent the rest of the night in the concerns of a general, relating to the problems that he faced during the day; so that, by his habitual planning for the uncertain events of war, he became most accomplished in military activities. And therefore, in far less time than another could have prepared himself to take charge of an army that was already raised, in that time he raised an army, trained them, and disciplined them. And when the news of his remarkable exploits was brought to Rome, everybody at first, reflecting upon his youth rather than on his valour, supposed that the messengers were merely exaggerating in their accounts. But when these reports were confirmed by the clear evidence of events, the senate sent out Junius against him, whom he routed and put to flight.

[10] G   Gnaeus Pompeius got a fine reward for his virtue, and gained distinction for his valour. He continued to act in accordance with his previous achievements, and informed Sulla by letter of the increase in his power. Sulla admired the youth for many other reasons, and berated the senators who were with him, both reproaching them and urging them to be equally zealous. Sulla said that he was amazed that Pompeius, who was still extremely young, had snatched such a large army away from the enemy, but those who were far superior to him in age and reputation could hardly keep even their own servants in a dependable alliance.

[11] G   Adrianus, the governor of Utica, was burnt alive by the people of Utica, Although this was a dreadful crime, it did not result in any punishment, because the victim had acted so wickedly.

[12] G   Even many of those who had already completed their period of military service, as defined by the law, willingly volunteered to join the consul Marius, the son of Marius, when the young man set off to war. Because they were more advanced in years, they were eager to show their juniors what they could achieve through their military training and their experience of battle and the other dangers of war.

[13] G   Throughout the cities and nations of Italy, there were numerous harsh investigations and attempts to discover their attitudes towards Marius and Sulla. They were therefore obliged to shift their pretended allegiance from one side to the other, and to appease whoever was present; but those who were responsible for raising troops for each of the factions were regularly competing with each other, and by their severe investigations they forced the cities to reveal their true opinions.

[14] G   Marius, because he lacked any necessary provisions, was abandoned by his soldiers. Marcus Perpenna, the governor of Sicily, alone remained faithful to him. Sulla sent envoys to him and urged him to join his party; but Perpenna, far from accepting this invitation, retained his strong attachment to Marius. He affirmed with threats that he would cross with all his forces from Sicily to Italy, and would rescue Marius from Praeneste.

[15] G   And now that the Marsic war was coming to an end, another great civil war arose in Rome, stirred up by Sulla and the young Gaius Marius, son of that Marius who had been seven times consul. In this strife many tens of thousands of men perished, until at length Sulla prevailed; and being created dictator, he called himself Epaphroditus {Felix}. This boastful title was not wholly inappropriate, because he prospered in all his wars, and died a natural death after his victories. But Marius, although he behaved with great gallantry in the war against Sulla, was at length routed, and fled with fifteen thousand men to Praeneste, where he was besieged for a long time. At length, being totally deserted, and seeing no way of escape, he earnestly entreated one of his faithful slaves to help him put an end to the misfortunes that surrounded him. After much persuasion, the slave at one stroke put an end to his master's life, and then immediately killed himself. And so at length ended this civil war. However, some remnants of Marius' party continued to give Sulla trouble for a while longer, until they too were suppressed, like the others.

[16] G   Scipio's army, which had been corrupted, went over to Sulla. Scipio thought that he was doomed, but Sulla sent to him a squadron of horsemen, to conduct him wherever he pleased. Thus after he had been forced in a moment to lay aside the symbols of his authority, he was subsequently, by the kindness of Sulla, brought as private citizen to the place he chose. But soon afterwards Scipio resumed the symbols of his authority, and again marched out with a considerable army.

[17] G   In the meantime, the most eminent persons in Rome were put to death on false accusations. Even Scaevola, the pontifex maximus, who had the highest reputation amongst the citizens, came to an unworthy end. The Romans were fortunate only in one thing, that this venerable priest did not withdraw into the most sacred precinct {the temple of Vesta}. For the cruelty of the murderers was such, that they would have laid him upon the very altar, and cut his throat there, so that by his own blood he would have extinguished that fire, which religious devotion has ceaselessly kept burning ever since ancient times.

[18] G   To praise good men, and rebuke disreputable men, is the most effective way of encouraging others to act nobly.

2 G   Men who were able to devise good plans, and to put their decisions into action . . .

[19] G   When the proscription lists were fixed up in the forum, a multitude of people promptly came flocking in to read them. Most of them pitied those that were thus condemned to die. But one amongst them, a most malicious and insolent character, gloried over the miserable fate of the afflicted, and yelled out most spiteful remarks against them. Some incensed deity soon repaid him with a just revenge; for he happened to read his own name as one proscribed at the bottom of the list. He covered his head, and tried to run away through the thickest of the crowd; for he hoped in this way to escape detection and reach safety. But someone who stood nearby recognised him, and exposed him as one of the condemned; he was instantly surrounded and seized, and then put to death, to the great joy of all that heard it.

[20] G   Pompeius, seeing that Sicily had been deprived of justice for a long time, applied himself to the business of the law courts. He decided both public and private controversies, and discharged his duties with so much diligence and integrity, that no-one ever merited more commendation. Although he was only twenty-two years of age, at a time of life when he might have distracted by foolish youthful pleasures, yet he conducted himself with so much gravity and sobriety throughout his sojourn in Sicily, that the virtue of the young man was greatly admired by all the Sicilians.

[21] G   The barbarian Spartacus showed himself to be grateful to someone who had helped him; for nature itself leads even barbarians, without any education, to reward their benefactors with proper gratitude.

[22] G   A victory won through fighting brings honour both to the soldiers and to their leaders; but successes that are achieved through the skill of the general, bring renown solely to the general.

2 G   An unstoppable impulse spread amongst the barbarians, prompting them to defect to the Romans.

[22a] G   Sertorius, seeing that he could do nothing to stop the natives from taking this course, took harsh measures against his allies. Some he killed after bringing accusations against them; others he put under guard; and he confiscated the property of the wealthiest of them. Although he gathered much silver and gold in this way, he did not put it into the common war-fund, but kept it for himself. He did not use it to supply the pay for his soldiers, or share it with his officers. He did not allow his council or advisers to share in judging capital offences, but he heard the cases by himself, and as the sole judge he pronounced the verdict. He did not deign to invite his officers to share his meals, and showed no kindness to his friends. In general, because his power had been brought low, he became savage and behaved like a tyrant towards everybody. As a result he was hated by the common people, and plotted against by his friends.

His assassination was accomplished in the following way. The most influential of his officers, Perpenna and Tarquitius, conferred together and decided to kill Sertorius, because he had become a tyrant. Perpenna was chosen to be the leader of the plot, and he invited Sertorius to dinner, at the same time making sure that his fellow conspirators would be present at the meal. After Sertorius had arrived, the conspirators attacked him, and he was killed by Tarquitius and Antonius, who were sitting on either side of his couch.

[22b] G   As the result of a plot laid against him, Mithridates was almost captured by the Cyzicenes. This attempt was made by a Roman centurion, who had joined in the tunnelling work. Because both sides were digging tunnels in the area, they frequently encountered and even talked to each other; and from these encounters he became known to the king's men. Once, when he was caught on his own in the tunnels, one of the enemy pressed him to betray his allies, and he pretended to agree to the suggestion. When the king was informed of this, in his desire to capture the city he promised a reward and arranged a time to discuss the betrayal. Because the Roman demanded a surety for the agreement, the king sent men to settle it on his behalf. But the Roman said that he would not trust the agreement, unless the king gave him an oath in person. Mithridates considered that it was beneath his royal dignity to descend into the mines. But since the traitor said that he would not co-operate otherwise, and he was very eager to capture the city, Mithridates was forced to agree to the request. As a result the king would have been captured, if he had not been protected by one of his friends who, rightly suspecting a plot, produced a device that fitted in the tunnel and could quickly be opened and closed. When this had been placed in the tunnel, and Mithridates and his friends went in, the centurion . . . the men who intended to help him seize the king, drew his sword and rushed at the king. But just in time the king closed the gate, and so escaped the danger.

Book 40

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