Tuesday, January 21, 2003

One of the members of my ancient Rome discussion group commented today: "Caesar is a "grand" figure because he is so multi-faceted. It's hard not to admire a man his age swimmimg across the harbour of Alexandria, and his generosity in many occasions. He is also the commander who ordered the entire Gaulish garrison of Uxellodunum to have their hands cut off, something that he did not inflict on those who surrendered at Alesia!"

I read that even Caesar's officers wept at this command but viewing the decision in the historical context, Caesar had to order something fairly drastic since, if I remember right, this event occurred after the third such uprising, and Caesar had other matters he wished to pursue and didn't have the time or manpower to continue putting down such rebellions and accomplish his other objectives.

In my course on ancient Roman History, I was touched by another expression of remorse. Dr. Fagan mentioned that Polybius reported Scipio Aemelianus, the commander ordered to raze Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War, wept saying the same could very well happen to Rome in the future.

"At the sight of the city utterly perishing amidst the flames Scipio burst into tears, and stood long reflecting on the inevitable change which awaits cities, nations, and dynasties, one and all, as it does every one of us men. This, he thought, had befallen Ilium, once a powerful city, and the once mighty empires of the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, and that of Macedonia lately so splendid. And unintentionally or purposely he quoted---the words perhaps escaping him unconsciously---

"The day shall be when holy Troy shall fall
And Priam, lord of spears, and Priam's folk."

And on my asking him boldly (for I had been his tutor) what he meant by these words, he did not name Rome distinctly, but was evidently fearing for her, from this sight of the mutability of human affairs. . . . Another still more remarkable saying of his I may record. . . [When he had given the order for firing the town] he immediately turned round and grasped me by the hand and said: "O Polybius, it is a grand thing, but, I know not how, I feel a terror and dread, lest some one should one day give the same order about my own native city." . . . - Polybius, Book 39

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/polybius-punic3.html


Also, I came across an exciting article on the battle of the Metaurus River (Hasdrubal vs. Nero/Salinator - Second Punic War): http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/prm/bldaytheworldtrembleda.htm