Plutarch: “Aemilius Paulus”, Plutarch’s Lives, 75 A.C.E.
Almost all historians agree that the Æmilii were one of the ancient and patrician houses in Rome; and those authors who affirm that king Numa was pupil to Pythagoras, tell us that the first who gave the name to his posterity was Mamercus, the son of Pythagoras, who, for his grace and address in speaking, was called Æmilius. Most of this race that have risen through their merit to reputation, also enjoyed good fortune; and even the misfortune of Lucius Paulus at the battle of Cannæ, gave testimony to his wisdom and valor. For, not being able to persuade his colleague not to hazard the battle, he, though against his judgment, joined with him in the contest, but was no companion in his flight: on the contrary, when he that was so resolute to engage deserted him in the midst of danger, he kept the field, and died fighting. This Æmilius had a daughter named Æmilia, who was married to Scipio the Great, and a son Paulus, who is the subject of my present history.
In his early manhood, which fell at a time when Rome was flourishing with illustrious characters, he was distinguished for not attaching himself to the studies usual with the young men of mark of that age, nor treading the same paths to fame. For he did not practice oratory with a view to pleading causes, nor would he stoop to salute, embrace, and entertain the vulgar, which were the usual insinuating arts by which many grew popular. Not that he was incapable of either, but he chose to purchase a much more lasting glory by his valor, justice, and integrity, and in these virtues he soon outstripped all his equals.
The first honorable office he aspired to was that of ædile, which he carried against twelve competitors of such merit, that all of them in process of time were consuls. Being afterwards chosen into the number of priests called augurs, appointed amongst the Romans to observe and register divinations made by the flight of birds or prodigies in the air, he so carefully studied the ancient customs of his country, and so thoroughly understood the religion of his ancestors, that this office, which was before only esteemed a title of honor and merely upon that account sought after, by his means rose to the rank of one of the highest arts, and gave a confirmation to the correctness of the definition which some philosophers have given of religion, that it is the science of worshiping the gods. When he performed any part of his duty, he did it with great skill and utmost care, making it, when he was engaged in it, his only business, not omitting any one ceremony, or adding the least circumstance, but always insisting, with his companions of the same order, even on points that might seem inconsiderable, and urging upon them, that though they might think the deity was easily pacified, and ready to forgive faults of inadvertency, yet any such laxity was a very dangerous thing for a commonwealth to allow; because no man ever began the disturbance of his country’s peace by a notorious breach of its laws; and those who are careless in trifles, give a precedent for remissness in important duties. Nor was he less severe, in requiring and observing the ancient Roman discipline in military affairs; not endeavoring, when he had the command, to ingratiate himself with his soldiers by popular flattery, though this custom prevailed at that time amongst many, who, by favor and gentleness to those that were under them in their first employment, sought to be promoted to a second; but, by instructing them in the laws of military discipline with the same care and exactness a priest would use in teaching ceremonies and dreadful mysteries, and by severity to such as transgressed and contemned those laws, he maintained his country in its former greatness, esteeming victory over enemies itself but as an accessory to the proper training and disciplining of the citizens.
Whilst the Romans were engaged in war with Antiochus the Great, against whom their most experienced commanders were employed, there arose another war in the west, and they were all up in arms in Spain. Thither they sent Æmilius, in the quality of prætor, not with six axes, which number other prætors were accustomed to have carried before them, but with twelve; so that in his prætorship he was honored with the dignity of a consul. He twice overcame the barbarians in battle, thirty thousand of whom were slain: successes chiefly to be ascribed to the wisdom and conduct of the commander, who by his great skill in choosing the advantage of the ground, and making the onset at the passage of a river, gave his soldiers an easy victory. Having made himself master of two hundred and fifty cities, whose inhabitants voluntarily yielded, and bound themselves by oath to fidelity, he left the province in peace, and returned to Rome, not enriching himself a drachma by the war. And, indeed, in general, he was but remiss in making money; though he always lived freely and generously on what he had, which was so far from being excessive, that after his death there was but barely enough left to answer his wife’s dowry.
His first wife was Papiria, the daughter of Maso, who had formerly been consul. With her he lived a considerable time in wedlock, and then divorced her, though she had made him the father of noble children; being mother of the renowned Scipio, and Fabius Maximus. The reason of this separation has not come to our knowledge; but there seems to be a truth conveyed in the account of another Roman’s being divorced from his wife, which may be applicable here. This person being highly blamed by his friends, who demanded, Was she not chaste? was she not fair? was she not fruitful? holding out his shoe, asked them, Whether it was not new? and well made? Yet, added he, none of you can tell where it pinches me. Certain it is, that great and open faults have often led to no separation; while mere petty repeated annoyances, arising from unpleasantness or incongruity of character, have been the occasion of such estrangement as to make it impossible for man and wife to live together with any content.
Æmilius, having thus put away Papiria, married a second wife, by whom he had two sons, whom he brought up in his own house, transferring the two former into the greatest and most noble families of Rome. The elder was adopted into the house of Fabius Maximus, who was five times consul; the younger, by the son of Scipio Africanus, his cousin-german, and was by him named Scipio.
Of the daughters of Æmilius, one was married to the son of Cato, the other to Ælius Tubero, a most worthy man, and the one Roman who best succeeded in combining liberal habits with poverty. For there were sixteen near relations, all of them of the family of the Ælii, possessed of but one farm, which sufficed them all, whilst one small house, or rather cottage, contained them, their numerous offspring, and their wives; amongst whom was the daughter of our Æmilius, who, although her father had been twice consul, and had twice triumphed, was not ashamed of her husband’s poverty, but proud of his virtue that kept him poor. Far otherwise it is with the brothers and relations of this age, who, unless whole tracts of land, or at least walls and rivers, part their inheritances, and keep them at a distance, never cease from mutual quarrels. History suggests a variety of good counsel of this sort, by the way, to those who desire to learn and improve.
To proceed: Æmilius, being chosen consul, waged war with the Ligurians, or Ligustines, a people near the Alps. They were a bold and warlike nation, and their neighborhood to the Romans had begun to give them skill in the arts of war. They occupy the further parts of Italy ending under the Alps, and those parts of the Alps themselves which are washed by the Tuscan sea and face towards Africa, mingled there with Gauls and Iberians of the coast. Besides, at that time they had turned their thoughts to the sea, and sailing as far as the Pillars of Hercules in light vessels fitted for that purpose, robbed and destroyed all that trafficked in those parts. They, with an army of forty thousand, waited the coming of Æmilius, who brought with him not above eight thousand, so that the enemy was five to one when they engaged; yet he vanquished and put them to flight, forcing them to retire into their walled towns, and in this condition offered them fair conditions of accommodation; it being the policy of the Romans not utterly to destroy the Ligurians, because they were a sort of guard and bulwark against the frequent attempts of the Gauls to overrun Italy. Trusting wholly therefore to Æmilius, they delivered up their towns and shipping into his hands. He, at the utmost, razed only the fortifications, and delivered their towns to them again, but took away all their shipping with him, leaving them no vessels bigger than those of three oars, and set at liberty great numbers of prisoners they had taken both by sea and land, strangers as well as Romans. These were the acts most worthy of remark in his first consulship.
Afterwards he frequently intimated his desire of being a second time consul, and was once candidate; but, meeting with a repulse and being passed by, he gave up all thought of it, and devoted himself to his duties as augur, and to the education of his children, whom he not only brought up, as he himself had been, in the Roman and ancient discipline, but also with unusual zeal in that of Greece. To this purpose he not only procured masters to teach them grammar, logic, and rhetoric, but had for them also preceptors in modeling and drawing, managers of horses and dogs, and instructors in field sports, all from Greece. And, if he was not hindered by public affairs, he himself would be with them at their studies, and see them perform their exercises, being the most affectionate father in Rome.
This was the time, in public matters, when the Romans were engaged in war with Perseus, king of the Macedonians, and great complaints were made of their commanders, who, either through their want of skill or courage, were conducting matters so shamefully, that they did less hurt to the enemy than they received from him. They that not long before had forced Antiochus the Great to quit the rest of Asia, to retire beyond Mount Taurus, and confine himself to Syria, glad to buy his peace with fifteen thousand talents; they that not long since had vanquished king Philip in Thessaly, and freed the Greeks from the Macedonian yoke; nay, had overcome Hannibal himself, who far surpassed all kings in daring and power, thought it scorn that Perseus should think himself an enemy fit to match the Romans, and to be able to wage war with them so long on equal terms, with the remainder only of his father’s routed forces; not being aware that Philip after his defeat had greatly improved both the strength and discipline of the Macedonian army. To make which appear, I shall briefly recount the story from the beginning.
Antigonus, the most powerful amongst the captains and successors of Alexander, having obtained for himself and his posterity the title of king, had a son named Demetrius, father to Antigonus, called Gonatas, and he had a son Demetrius, who, reigning some short time, died and left a young son called Philip. The chief men of Macedon, fearing great confusion might arise in his minority, called in Antigonus, cousin-german to the late king, and married him to the widow, the mother of Philip. At first they only styled him regent and general, but, when they found by experience that he governed the kingdom with moderation and to general advantage, gave him the title of king. This was he that was surnamed Doson, as if he was a great promiser, and a bad performer. To him succeeded Philip, who in his youth gave great hopes of equaling the best of kings, and that he one day would restore Macedon to its former state and dignity, and prove himself the one man able to check the power of the Romans, now rising and extending over the whole world. But, being vanquished in a pitched battle by Titus Flamininus near Scotussa, his resolution failed, and he yielded himself and all that he had to the mercy of the Romans, well contented that he could escape with paying a small tribute. Yet afterwards, recollecting himself, he bore it with great impatience, and thought he lived rather like a slave that was pleased with ease, than a man of sense and courage, whilst he held his kingdom at the pleasure of his conquerors; which made him turn his whole mind to war, and prepare himself with as much cunning and privacy as possible. To this end, he left his cities on the high roads and sea-coast ungarrisoned, and almost desolate, that they might seem inconsiderable; in the mean time, collecting large forces up the country, and furnishing his inland posts, strongholds, and towns, with arms, money, and men fit for service, he thus provided himself for war, and yet kept his preparations close. He had in his armory arms for thirty thousand men; in granaries in places of strength, eight millions of bushels of corn, and as much ready money as would defray the charge of maintaining ten thousand mercenary soldiers for ten years in defense of the country. But before he could put these things into motion, and carry his designs into effect, he died for grief and anguish of mind, being sensible he had put his innocent son Demetrius to death, upon the calumnies of one that was far more guilty. Perseus, his son that survived, inherited his hatred to the Romans as well as his kingdom, but was incompetent to carry out his designs, through want of courage, and the viciousness of a character in which, among faults and diseases of various sorts, covetousness bore the chief place. There is a statement also of his not being true born; that the wife of king Philip took him from his mother Gnathænion (a woman of Argos, that earned her living as a seamstress), as soon as he was born, and passed him upon her husband as her own. And this might be the chief cause of his contriving the death of Demetrius; as he might well fear, that so long as there was a lawful successor in the family, there was no security that his spurious birth might not be revealed.
Notwithstanding all this, and though his spirit was so mean, and temper so sordid, yet, trusting to the strength of his resources, he engaged in a war with the Romans, and for a long time maintained it; repulsing and even vanquishing some generals of consular dignity, and some great armies and fleets. He routed Publius Licinius, who was the first that invaded Macedonia, in a cavalry battle, slew twenty-five hundred practiced soldiers, and took six hundred prisoners; and, surprising their fleet as they rode at anchor before Oreus, he took twenty ships of burden with all their lading, sunk the rest that were freighted with corn, and, besides this, made himself master of four galleys with five banks of oars. He fought a second battle with Hostilius, a consular officer, as he was making his way into the country at Elimiæ, and forced him to retreat; and, when he afterwards by stealth designed an invasion through Thessaly, challenged him to fight, which the other feared to accept. Nay more, to show his contempt of the Romans, and that he wanted employment, as a war by the by, he made an expedition against the Dardanians, in which he slew ten thousand of those barbarian people, and brought a great spoil away. He privately, moreover, solicited the Gauls (also called Basternæ), a warlike nation, and famous for horsemen, dwelling near the Danube; and incited the Illyrians, by the means of Genthius their king, to join with him in the war. It was also reported, that the barbarians, allured by promise of rewards, were to make an irruption into Italy, through the lower Gaul by the shore of the Adriatic Sea.
The Romans, being advertised of these things, thought it necessary no longer to choose their commanders by favor or solicitation, but of their own motion to select a general of wisdom and capacity for the management of great affairs. And such was Paulus Æmilius, advanced in years, being nearly threescore, yet vigorous in his own person, and rich in valiant sons and sons-in-law, besides a great number of influential relations and friends, all of whom joined in urging him to yield to the desires of the people, who called him to the consulship. He at first manifested some shyness of the people, and withdrew himself from their importunity, professing reluctance to hold office; but, when they daily came to his doors, urging him to come forth to the place of election, and pressing him with noise and clamor, he acceded to their request. When he appeared amongst the candidates, it did not look as if it were to sue for the consulship, but to bring victory and success, that he came down into the Campus; they all received him there with such hopes and such gladness, unanimously choosing him a second time consul; nor would they suffer the lots to be cast, as was usual, to determine which province should fall to his share, but immediately decreed him the command of the Macedonian war. It is told, that when he had been proclaimed general against Perseus, and was honorably accompanied home by great numbers of people, he found his daughter Tertia, a very little girl, weeping, and taking her to him asked her why she was crying. She, catching him about the neck and kissing him, said, “O father, do you not know that Perseus is dead?” meaning a little dog of that name that was brought up in the house with her; to which Æmilius replied, “Good fortune, my daughter; I embrace the omen.” This Cicero, the orator, relates in his book on divination.
It was the custom for such as were chosen consuls, from a stage designed for such purposes, to address the people, and return them thanks for their favor. Æmilius, therefore, having gathered an assembly, spoke and said, that he sued for the first consulship, because he himself stood in need of such honor; but for the second, because they wanted a general; upon which account he thought there was no thanks due: if they judged they could manage the war by any other to more advantage, he would willingly yield up his charge; but, if they confided in him, they were not to make themselves his colleagues in his office, or raise reports, and criticize his actions, but, without talking, supply him with means and assistance necessary to the carrying on of the war; for, if they proposed to command their own commander, they would render this expedition more ridiculous than the former. By this speech he inspired great reverence for him amongst the citizens, and great expectations of future success; all were well pleased, that they had passed by such as sought to be preferred by flattery, and fixed upon a commander endued with wisdom and courage to tell them the truth. So entirely did the people of Rome, that they might rule, and become masters of the world, yield obedience and service to reason and superior virtue.
That Æmilius, setting forward to the war, by a prosperous voyage and successful journey, arrived with speed and safety at his camp, I attribute to good fortune; but, when I see how the war under his command was brought to a happy issue, partly by his own daring boldness, partly by his good counsel, partly by the ready administration of his friends, partly by his presence of mind and skill to embrace the most proper advice in the extremity of danger, I cannot ascribe any of his remarkable and famous actions (as I can those of other commanders) to his so much celebrated good fortune; unless you will say that the covetousness of Perseus was the good fortune of Æmilius. The truth is, Perseus’ fear of spending his money was the destruction and utter ruin of all those splendid and great preparations with which the Macedonians were in high hopes to carry on the war with success. For there came at his request ten thousand horsemen of the Basternæ, and as many foot, who were to keep pace with them, and supply their places in case of failure; all of them professed soldiers, men skilled neither in tilling of land, nor in navigation of ships, nor able to get their livings by grazing, but whose only business and single art and trade it was to fight and conquer all that resisted them. When these came into the district of Mædica, and encamped and mixed with the king’s soldiers, being men of great stature, admirable at their exercises, great boasters, and loud in their threats against their enemies, they gave new courage to the Macedonians, who were ready to think the Romans would not be able to confront them, but would be struck with terror at their looks and motions, they were so strange and so formidable to behold. When Perseus had thus encouraged his men, and elevated them with these great hopes, as soon as a thousand gold pieces were demanded for each captain, he was so amazed and beside himself at the vastness of the amount, that out of mere stinginess he drew back and let himself lose their assistance, as if he had been some steward, not the enemy of the Romans, and would have to give an exact account of the expenses of the war, to those with whom he waged it. Nay, when he had his foes as tutors, to instruct him what he had to do, who, besides their other preparations, had a hundred thousand men drawn together and in readiness for their service; yet he that was to engage against so considerable a force, and in a war that was maintaining such numbers as this, nevertheless doled out his money, and put seals on his bags, and was as fearful of touching it, as if it had belonged to some one else. And all this was done by one, not descended from Lydians or Phœnicians, but who could pretend to some share of the virtues of Alexander and Philip, whom he was allied to by birth; men who conquered the world by judging that empire was to be purchased by money, not money by empire. Certainly it became a proverb, that not Philip, but his gold took the cities of Greece. And Alexander, when he undertook his expedition against the Indians, and found his Macedonians encumbered, and appear to march heavily with their Persian spoils, first set fire to his own carriages, and thence persuaded the rest to imitate his example, that thus freed they might proceed to the war without hindrance. Whereas Perseus, abounding in wealth, would not preserve himself; his children, and his kingdom, at the expense of a small part of his treasure; but chose rather to be carried away with numbers of his subjects with the name of the wealthy captive, and show the Romans what great riches he had husbanded and preserved for them. For he not only played false with the Gauls, and sent them away, but also, after alluring Genthius, king of the Illyrians, by the hopes of three hundred talents, to assist him in the war, he caused the money to be counted out in the presence of his messengers, and to be sealed up. Upon which Genthius, thinking himself possessed of what he desired, committed a wicked and shameful act: he seized and imprisoned the ambassadors sent to him from the Romans. Whence Perseus, concluding that there was now no need of money to make Genthius an enemy to the Romans, but that he had given a lasting earnest of his enmity, and by his flagrant injustice sufficiently involved himself in the war, defrauded the unfortunate king of his three hundred talents, and without any concern beheld him, his wife, and children, in a short time after, carried out of their kingdom, as from their nest, by Lucius Anicius, who was sent against him with an army.
Æmilius, coming against such an adversary, made light indeed of him, but admired his preparation and power. For he had four thousand horse, and not much fewer than forty thousand full-armed foot of the phalanx; and planting himself along the seaside, at the foot of Mount Olympus, in ground with no access on any side, and on all sides fortified with fences and bulwarks of wood, remained in great security, thinking by delay and expense to weary out Æmilius. But he, in the meantime, busy in thought, weighed all counsels and all means of attack, and perceiving his soldiers, from their former want of discipline, to be impatient of delay, and ready on all occasions to teach their general his duty, rebuked them, and bade them not meddle with what was not their concern, but only take care that they and their arms were in readiness, and to use their swords like Romans when their commander should think fit to employ them. Further he ordered, that the sentinels by night should watch without javelins, that thus they might be more careful and surer to resist sleep, having no arms to defend themselves against any attacks of an enemy.
What most annoyed the army was the want of water; for only a little, and that foul, flowed out, or rather came by drops from a spring adjoining the sea; but Æmilius, considering that he was at the foot of the high and woody mountain Olympus, and conjecturing by the flourishing growth of the trees that there were springs that had their course under ground, dug a great many holes and wells along the foot of the mountain, which were presently filled with pure water escaping from its confinement into the vacuum they afforded. Although there are some, indeed, who deny that there are reservoirs of water lying ready provided out of sight, in the places from whence springs flow, and that when they appear, they merely issue and run out; on the contrary, they say, they are then formed and come into existence for the first time, by the liquefaction of the surrounding matter; and that this change is caused by density and cold, when the moist vapor, by being closely pressed together, becomes fluid. As women’s breasts are not like vessels full of milk always prepared and ready to flow from them; but their nourishment being changed in their breasts, is there made milk, and from thence is pressed out. In like manner, places of the earth that are cold and full of springs, do not contain any hidden waters or receptacles which are capable, as from a source always ready and furnished, of supplying all the brooks and deep rivers; but, by compressing and condensing the vapors and air, they turn them into that substance. And thus places that are dug open flow by that pressure, and afford the more water (as the breasts of women do milk by their being sucked), the vapor thus moistening and becoming fluid; whereas ground that remains idle and undug is not capable of producing any water, whilst it wants that motion which is the cause of liquefaction. But those that assert this opinion, give occasion to the doubtful to argue, that on the same ground there should be no blood in living creatures, but that it must be formed by the wound, some sort of spirit or flesh being changed into a liquid and flowing matter. Moreover, they are refuted by the fact that men who dig mines, either in sieges or for metals, meet with rivers, which are not collected by little and little (as must necessarily be, if they had their being at the very instant the earth was opened), but break out at once with violence; and upon the cutting through a rock, there often gush out great quantities of water, which then as suddenly cease. But of this enough.
Æmilius lay still for some days, and it is said, that there were never two great armies so nigh, that enjoyed so much quiet. When he had tried and considered all things, he was informed that there was yet one passage left unguarded, through Perrhæbia by the temple of Apollo and the Rock. Gathering, therefore, more hope from the place being left defenseless than fear from the roughness and difficulty of the passage, he proposed it for consultation. Amongst those that were present at the council, Scipio, surnamed Nasica, son-in-law to Scipio Africanus, who afterwards was so powerful in the senate-house, was the first that offered himself to command those that should be sent to encompass the enemy. Next to him, Fabius Maximus, eldest son of Æmilius, although yet very young, offered himself with great zeal. Æmilius, rejoicing, gave them, not so many as Polybius states, but, as Nasica himself tells us in a brief letter which he wrote to one of the kings with an account of the expedition, three thousand Italians that were not Romans, and his left wing consisting of five thousand. Taking with him, besides these, one hundred and twenty horsemen, and two hundred Thracians and Cretans intermixed that Harpalus had sent, he began his journey towards the sea, and encamped near the temple of Hercules, as if he designed to embark, and so to sail round and environ the enemy. But when the soldiers had supped and it was dark, he made the captains acquainted with his real intentions, and marching all night in the opposite direction, away from the sea, till he came under the temple of Apollo, there rested his army. At this place Mount Olympus rises in height more than ten furlongs, as appears by the epigram made by the man that measured it:—
“The summit of Olympus, at the site
Where stands Apollo’s temple, has a height
Of full ten furlongs by the line, and more,
Ten furlongs, and one hundred feet, less four.
Eumelus’ son Xenagoras, reached the place.
Adieu, O king, and do thy pilgrim grace.”
It is allowed, say the geometricians, that no mountain in height or sea in depth exceeds ten furlongs, and yet it seems probable that Xenagoras did not take his admeasurement carelessly, but according to the rules of art, and with instruments for the purpose. Here it was that Nasica passed the night.
A Cretan deserter, who fled to the enemy during the march, discovered to Perseus the design which the Romans had to encompass him: for he, seeing that Æmilius lay still, had not suspected any such attempt. He was startled at the news, yet did not put his army in motion, but sent ten thousand mercenary soldiers and two thousand Macedonians, under command of Milo, with order to hasten and possess themselves of the passes. Polybius relates that the Romans found these men asleep when they attacked them; but Nasica says there was a sharp and severe conflict on the top of the mountain, that he himself encountered a mercenary Thracian, pierced him through with his javelin, and slew him; and that the enemy being forced to retreat, Milo stripped to his coat and fled shamefully without his armor, while he followed without danger, and conveyed the whole army down into the country.
After this event, Perseus, now grown fearful, and fallen from his hopes, removed his camp in all haste; he was under the necessity either to stop before Pydna, and there run the hazard of a battle, or disperse his army into cities, and there expect the event of the war, which, having once made its way into his country, could not be driven out without great slaughter and bloodshed. But Perseus, being told by his friends that he was much superior in number, and that men fighting in the defense of their wives and children must needs feel all the more courage, especially when all was done in the sight of their king, who himself was engaged in equal danger, was thus again encouraged; and, pitching his camp, prepared himself to fight, viewed the country, and gave out the commands, as if he designed to set upon the Romans as soon as they approached. The place was a field fit for the action of a phalanx, which requires smooth standing and even ground, and also had divers little hills, one joining another, fit for the motions whether in retreat or advance of light troops and skirmishers. Through the middle ran the rivers Æson and Leucus, which, though not very deep, it being the latter end of summer, yet were likely enough to give the Romans some trouble.
As soon as Æmilius had rejoined Nasica, he advanced in battle array against the enemy; but when he found how they were drawn up, and the number of their forces, he regarded them with admiration and surprise, and halted, considering within himself. The young commanders, eager to fight, riding along, by his side, pressed him not to delay, and most of all Nasica, flushed with his late success on Olympus. To whom Æmilius answered with a smile: “So would I do, were I of your age; but many victories have taught me the ways in which men are defeated, and forbid me to engage soldiers weary with a long march, against an army drawn up and prepared for battle.”
Then he gave command that the front of his army, and such as were in sight of the enemy, should form as if ready to engage, and those in the rear should cast up the trenches and fortify the camp; so that the hindmost in succession wheeling off by degrees and withdrawing, their whole order was insensibly broken up, and the army encamped without noise or trouble.
When it was night, and, supper being over, all were turning to sleep and rest, on a sudden the moon, which was then at full and high in the heavens, grew dark, and by degrees losing her light, passed through various colors, and at length was totally eclipsed. The Romans, according to their custom, clattering brass pans and lifting up firebrands and torches into the air, invoked the return of her light; the Macedonians behaved far otherwise: terror and amazement seized their whole army, and a rumor crept by degrees into their camp that this eclipse portended even that of their king. Æmilius was no novice in these things, nor was ignorant of the nature of the seeming irregularities of eclipses, that in a certain revolution of time, the moon in her course enters the shadow of the earth and is there obscured, till, passing the region of darkness, she is again enlightened by the Sun. Yet being a devout man, a religious observer of sacrifices and the art of divination, as soon as he perceived the moon beginning to regain her former lustre, he offered up to her eleven heifers. At the break of day he sacrificed as many as twenty in succession to Hercules, without any token that his offering was accepted; but at the one and twentieth, the signs promised victory to defenders. He then vowed a hecatomb and solemn sports to Hercules, and commanded his captains to make ready for battle, staying only till the sun should decline and come round to the west, lest, being in their faces in the morning, it should dazzle the eyes of his soldiers. Thus he whiled away the time in his tent, which was open towards the plain where his enemies were encamped.
When it grew towards evening, some tell us, Æmilius himself used a stratagem to induce the enemy to begin the fight; that he turned loose a horse without a bridle, and sent some of the Romans to catch him, upon whose following the beast, the battle began. Others relate that the Thracians, under the command of one Alexander, set upon the Roman beasts of burden that were bringing forage to the camp; that to oppose these, a party of seven hundred Ligurians were immediately detached; and that, relief coming still from both armies, the main bodies at last engaged. Æmilius, like a wise pilot, foreseeing by the present waves and motion of the armies, the greatness of the following storm, came out of his tent, went through the legions, and encouraged his soldiers. Nasica, in the mean time, who had ridden out to the skirmishers, saw the whole force of the enemy on the point of engaging. First marched the Thracians, who, he himself tells us, inspired him with most terror; they were of great stature, with bright and glittering shields and black frocks under them, their legs armed with greaves, and they brandished, as they moved, straight and heavily-ironed spears over their right shoulders. Next the Thracians marched the mercenary soldiers, armed after different fashions; with these the Pæonians were mingled. These were succeeded by a third division, of picked men, native Macedonians, the choicest for courage and strength, in the prime of life, gleaming with gilt armor and scarlet coats. As these were taking their places they were followed from the camp by the troops in phalanx called the Brazen Shields, so that the whole plain seemed alive with the flashing of steel and the glistening of brass; and the hills also with their shouts, as they cheered each other on. In this order they marched, and with such boldness and speed, that those that were first slain died at but two furlongs distance from the Roman camp.
The battle being begun, Æmilius came in and found that the foremost of the Macedonians had already fixed the ends of their spears into the shields of his Romans, so that it was impossible to come near them with their swords. When he saw this, and observed that the rest of the Macedonians took the targets that hung on their left shoulders, and brought them round before them, and all at once stooped their pikes against their enemies’ shields, and considered the great strength of this wall of shields, and the formidable appearance of a front thus bristling with arms, he was seized with amazement and alarm; nothing he had ever seen before had been equal to it; and in after times he frequently used to speak both of the sight and of his own sensations. These, however, he dissembled, and rode through his army without either breast-plate or helmet, with a serene and cheerful countenance.
On the contrary, as Polybius relates, no sooner was the battle begun, but the Macedonian king basely withdrew to the city Pydna, under a pretence of sacrificing to Hercules: a God that is not wont to regard the faint offerings of cowards, or to fulfill unsanctioned vows. For truly it can hardly be a thing that heaven would sanction, that he that never shoots should carry away the prize; he triumph that slinks from the battle; he that takes no pains meet with success, or the wicked man prosper. But to Æmilius’s petitions the god listened; he prayed for victory with his sword in his hand, and fought while entreating divine assistance.
A certain Posidonius, who has at some length written a history of Perseus, and professes to have lived at the time, and to have been himself engaged in these events, denies that Perseus left the field either through fear or pretence of sacrificing, but that, the very day before the fight, he received a kick from a horse on his thigh; that though very much disabled, and dissuaded by all his friends, he commanded one of his riding-horses to be brought, and entered the field unarmed; that amongst an infinite number of darts that flew about on all sides, one of iron lighted on him, and though not with the point, yet by a glance struck him with such force on his left side, that it tore his clothes and so bruised his flesh that the mark remained a long time after. This is what Posidonius says in defense of Perseus.
The Romans not being able to make a breach in the phalanx, one Salius, a commander of the Pelignians, snatched the ensign of his company and threw it amongst the enemies; on seeing which, the Pelignians (as amongst the Italians it is always thought the greatest breach of honor to abandon a standard) rushed with great violence towards the place, where the conflict grew very fierce, and the slaughter terrible on both sides. For these endeavored to cut the spears asunder with their swords, or to beat them back with their shields, or put them by with their hands; and, on the other side, the Macedonians held their long sarissas in both hands, and pierced those that came in their way quite through their armor, no shield or corslet being able to resist the force of that weapon. The Pelignians and Marrucinians were thrown headlong to the ground, having without consideration, with mere animal fury, rushed upon a certain death. Their first ranks being slain, those that were behind were forced to give back; it cannot be said they fled, but they retreated towards Mount Olocrus. When Æmilius saw this, Posidonius relates, he rent his clothes, some of his men being ready to fly, and the rest not willing to engage with a phalanx into which they could not hope to make any entrance, a sort of palisade, as it were, impregnable and unapproachable, with its close array of long spears everywhere meeting the assailant. Nevertheless, the unequalness of the ground would not permit a widely extended front to be so exactly drawn up as to have their shields everywhere joined; and Æmilius perceived that there were a great many interstices and breaches in the Macedonian phalanx; as it usually happens in all great armies, according to the different efforts of the combatants, who in one part press forward with eagerness, and in another are forced to fall back. Taking, therefore, this occasion, with all speed he broke up his men into their cohorts, and gave them order to fall into the intervals and openings of the enemy’s body, and not to make one general attack upon them all, but to engage, as they were divided, in several partial battles. These commands Æmilius gave to his captains, and they to their soldiers; and no sooner had they entered the spaces and separated their enemies, but they charged them, some on their side where they were naked and exposed, and others, making a circuit, behind; and thus destroyed the force of the phalanx, which consisted in common action and close union. And now, come to fight man to man, or in small parties, the Macedonians smote in vain upon firm and long shields with their little swords, whilst their slight bucklers were not able to sustain the weight and force of the Roman swords, which pierced through all their armor to their bodies; they turned, in fine, and fled.
The conflict was obstinate. And here Marcus, the son of Cato, and son-in-law of Æmilius, whilst he showed all possible courage, let fall his sword. Being a young man, carefully brought up and disciplined, and, as son of so renowned a father, bound to give proof of more than ordinary virtue, he thought his life but a burden, should he live and permit his enemies to enjoy this spoil. He hurried hither and thither, and wherever he espied a friend or companion, declared his misfortune, and begged their assistance; a considerable number of brave men being thus collected, with one accord they made their way through their fellows after their leader, and fell upon the enemy; whom, after a sharp conflict, many wounds, and much slaughter, they repulsed, possessed the place that was now deserted and free, and set themselves to search for the sword, which at last they found covered with a great heap of arms and dead bodies. Overjoyed with this success, they raised the song of triumph, and with more eagerness than ever, charged the foes that yet remained firm and unbroken. In the end, three thousand of the chosen men, who kept their ground and fought valiantly to the last, were all cut in pieces, while the slaughter of such as fled was also very great. The plain and the lower part of the hills were filled with dead bodies, and the water of the river Leucus, which the Romans did not pass till the next day after the battle, was then mingled with blood. For it is said there fell more than twenty-five thousand of the enemy; of the Romans, as Posidonius relates, a hundred; as Nasica, only fourscore. This battle, though so great, was very quickly decided, it being three in the afternoon when they first engaged, and not four when the enemy was vanquished; the rest of the day was spent in the pursuit of the fugitives, whom they followed about thirteen or fourteen miles, so that it was far in the night when they returned.
All the others were met by their servants with torches, and brought back with joy and great triumph to their tents, which were set out with lights, and decked with wreaths of ivy and laurel. But the general himself was in great grief. Of the two sons that served under him in the war, the youngest was missing, whom he held most dear, and whose courage and good qualities he perceived much to excel those of his brothers. Bold and eager for distinction, and still a mere child in age, he concluded that he had perished, whilst for want of experience he had engaged himself too far amongst his enemies. His sorrow and fears became known to the army; the soldiers, quitting their suppers, ran about with lights, some to Æmilius’s tent, some out of the trenches, to seek him amongst such as were slain in the first onset. There was nothing but grief in the camp, and the plain was filled with the cries of men calling out for Scipio; for, from his very youth, he was an object of admiration; endowed above any of his equals with the good qualities requisite either for command or counsel. At length, when it was late, and they almost despaired, he returned from the pursuit with only two or three of his companions, all covered with the fresh blood of his enemies, having been, like some dog of noble breed, carried away by the pleasure, greater than he could control, of his first victory. This was that Scipio that afterwards destroyed Carthage and Numantia, and was, without dispute, the first of the Romans in merit, and had the greatest authority amongst them. Thus Fortune, deferring her displeasure and jealousy of such great success to some other time, let Æmilius at present enjoy this victory, without any detraction or diminution.
As for Perseus, from Pydna he fled to Pella with his cavalry, which was as yet almost entire. But when the foot came up with them, and, upbraiding them as cowards and traitors, tried to pull them off their horses, and fell to blows, Perseus, fearing the tumult, forsook the common road, and, lest he should be known, pulled off his purple, and carried it before him, and took his crown in his hand, and, that he might the better converse with his friends, alighted from his horse and led him. Of those that were about him, one stopped, pretending to tie his shoe that was loose, another to water his horse, a third to drink himself; and thus lagging behind, by degrees left him, they having not so much reason to fear their enemies, as his cruelty; for he, disordered by his misfortune, sought to clear himself by laying the cause of the overthrow upon everybody else. He arrived at Pella in the night, where Euctus and Eudæus, two of his treasurers, came to him, and, what with their reflecting on his former faults, and their free and ill-timed admonitions and counsels, so exasperated him, that he killed them both, stabbing them with his own dagger. After this, nobody stuck to him but Evander the Cretan, Archedemus the Ætolian, and Neon the Bœotian. Of the common soldiers there followed him only those from Crete, not out of any good-will, but because they were as constant to his riches as the bees to their hive. For he carried a great treasure with him, out of which he had suffered them to take cups, bowls, and other vessels of silver and gold, to the value of fifty talents. But when he was come to Amphipolis, and afterwards to Galepsus, and his fears were a little abated, he relapsed into his old and constitutional disease of covetousness, and lamented to his friends that he had, through inadvertency, allowed some gold plate which had belonged to Alexander the Great to go into the hands of the Cretans, and besought those that had it, with tears in his eyes, to exchange with him again for money. Those that understood him thoroughly knew very well he only played the Cretan with the Cretans, but those that believed him, and restored what they had, were cheated; as he not only did not pay the money, but by craft got thirty talents more of his friends into his hands (which in a short time after fell to the enemy), and with them sailed to Samothrace, and there fled to the temple of Castor and Pollux for refuge.
The Macedonians were always accounted great lovers of their kings, but now, as if their chief prop was broken, they all gave way together, and submitted to Æmilius, and in two days made him master of their whole country. This seems to confirm the opinion which ascribes whatever he did to good fortune. The omen, also, that happened at Amphipolis, has a supernatural character. When he was sacrificing there, and the holy rites were just begun, on a sudden, lightning fell upon the altar, set the wood on fire, and completed the immolation of the sacrifice. The most signal manifestation, however, of preternatural agency appears in the story of the rumor of his success. For on the fourth day after Perseus was vanquished at Pydna, whilst the people at Rome were seeing the horse-races, a report suddenly arose at the entrance of the theater that Æmilius had defeated Perseus in a great battle, and was reducing all Macedonia under his power; and from thence it spread amongst the people, and created general joy, with shoutings and acclamations for that whole day through the city. But when no certain author was found of the news, and every one alike had taken it at random, it was abandoned for the present and thought no more of, until, a few days after, certain intelligence came, and then the first was looked upon as no less than a miracle, having, under an appearance of fiction, contained what was real and true. It is reported, also, that the news of the battle fought in Italy, near the river Sagra, was conveyed into Peloponnesus the same day, and of that at Mycale against the Medes, to Platæa. When the Romans had defeated the Tarquins, who were combined with the Latins, a little after, there were seen at Rome two tall and comely men, who professed to bring the news from the camp. They were conjectured to be Castor and Pollux. The first man that spoke to them in the forum, near the fountain where they were cooling their horses, which were all of a foam, expressed surprise at the report of the victory, when, it is said, they smiled, and gently touched his beard with their hands, the hair of which from being black was, on the spot, changed to yellow. This gave credit to what they said, and fixed the name of Ahenobarbus, or Brazen-beard, on the man. And a thing which happened in our own time will make all these credible. For when Antonius rebelled against Domitian, and Rome was in consternation, expecting great wars from the quarter of Germany, all on a sudden, and nobody knows upon what account, the people spontaneously gave out a rumor of victory, and the news ran current through the city, that Antonius himself was slain, his whole army destroyed, and not so much as a part of it escaped; nay, this belief was so strong and positive, that many of the magistrates offered up sacrifice. But when, at length, the author was sought for, and none was to be found, it vanished by degrees, every one shifting it off from himself to another, and, at last, was lost in the numberless crowd, as in a vast ocean, and, having no solid ground to support its credit, was, in a short time, not so much as named in the city. Nevertheless, when Domitian marched out with his forces to the war, he met with messengers and letters that gave him a relation of the victory; and the rumor, it was found, had come the very day it was gained, though the distance between the places was more than twenty-five hundred miles. The truth of this no man of our time is ignorant of.
But to proceed. Cnæus Octavius, who was joined in command with Æmilius, came to an anchor with his fleet under Samothrace, where, out of respect to the gods, he permitted Perseus to enjoy the benefit of refuge, but took care that he should not escape by sea. Notwithstanding, Perseus secretly persuaded Oroandes of Crete, master of a small vessel, to convey him and his treasure away. He, however, playing the true Cretan, took in the treasure, and bade him come, in the night, with his children and most necessary attendants, to the port by the temple of Ceres; but, as soon as it was evening, set sail without him. It had been sad enough for Perseus to be forced to let down himself, his wife and children, through a narrow window by a wall—people altogether unaccustomed to hardship and flying; but that which drew a far sadder sigh from his heart was, when he was told by a man, as he wandered on the shore, that he had seen Oroandes under sail in the main sea; it being now about daybreak. So, there being no hopes left of escaping, he fled back again to the wall, which he and his wife recovered, though they were seen by the Romans, before they could reach them. His children he himself had delivered into the hands of Ion, one that had been his favorite, but now proved his betrayer, and was the chief cause that forced him (beasts themselves will do so when their young ones are taken) to come and yield himself up to those that had them in their power. His greatest confidence was in Nasica, and it was for him he called, but he not being there, he bewailed his misfortune, and, seeing there was no possible remedy, surrendered himself to Octavius. And here, in particular, he made it manifest that he was possessed with a vice more sordid than covetousness itself, namely, the fondness of life; by which he deprived himself even of pity, the only thing that fortune never takes away from the most wretched. He desired to be brought to Æmilius, who arose from his seat, and accompanied with his friends went to receive him, with tears in his eyes, as a great man fallen by the anger of the gods and his own ill fortune; when Perseus—the most shameful of sights—threw himself at his feet, embraced his knees, and uttered unmanly cries and petitions, such as Æmilius was not able to bear, nor would vouchsafe to hear: but looking on him with a sad and angry countenance he said, “Why, unhappy man, do you thus take pains to exonerate fortune of your heaviest charge against her, by conduct that will make it seem that you are not unjustly in calamity, and that it is not your present condition, but your former happiness, that was more than your deserts? And why depreciate also my victory, and make my conquests insignificant, by proving yourself a coward, and a foe beneath a Roman? Distressed valor challenges great respect, even from enemies; but cowardice, though never so successful, from the Romans has always met with scorn.” Yet for all this he took him up, gave him his hand, and delivered him into the custody of Tubero. Meantime, he himself carried his sons, his son-in-law, and others of chief rank, especially of the younger sort, back with him into his tent, where for a long time he sat down without speaking one word, insomuch that they all wondered at him. At last, he began to discourse of fortune and human affairs. “Is it meet,” said he, “for him that knows he is but man, in his greatest prosperity to pride himself, and be exalted at the conquest of a city, nation, or kingdom, and not rather well to weigh this change of fortune, in which all warriors may see an example of their common frailty, and learn a lesson that there is nothing durable or constant? For what time can men select to think themselves secure, when that of victory itself forces us more than any to dread our own fortune? and a very little consideration on the law of things, and how all are hurried round, and each man’s station changed, will introduce sadness in the midst of the greatest joy. Or can you, when you see before your eyes the succession of Alexander himself, who arrived at the height of power and ruled the greatest empire, in the short space of an hour trodden under foot,—when you behold a king, that was but even now surrounded with so numerous an army, receiving nourishment to support his life from the hands of his conquerors,—can you, I say, believe there is any certainty in what we now possess, whilst there is such a thing as chance? No, young men, cast off that vain pride and empty boast of victory; sit down with humility, looking always for what is yet to come, and the possible future reverses which the divine displeasure may eventually make the end of our present happiness.” It is said that Æmilius, having spoken much more to the same purpose, dismissed the young men properly humbled, and with their vainglory and insolence thoroughly chastened and curbed by his address.
When this was done, he put his army into garrisons, to refresh themselves, and went himself to visit Greece, and to spend a short time in relaxations equally honorable and humane. For, as he passed, he eased the people’s grievances, reformed their governments, and bestowed gifts upon them; to some, corn, to others, oil out of the king’s storehouses, in which, they report, there were such vast quantities laid up, that receivers and petitioners were lacking before they could be exhausted. In Delphi he found a great square pillar of white marble, designed for the pedestal of king Perseus’ golden statue, on which he commanded his own to be placed, alleging that it was but just that the conquered should give place to the conquerors. In Olympia he is said to have uttered the saying everybody has heard, that Phidias had carved Homer’s Jupiter. When the ten commissioners arrived from Rome, he delivered up again to the Macedonians their cities and country, granting them to live at liberty, and according to their own laws, only paying the Romans the tribute of a hundred talents, double which sum they had been wont to pay to their kings. Then he celebrated all manner of shows and games, and sacrifices to the gods, and made great entertainments and feasts; the charge of all which he liberally defrayed out of the king’s treasury; and showed that he understood the ordering and placing of his guests, and how every man should be received, answerably to their rank and quality, with such nice exactness, that the Greeks were full of wonder, finding the care of these matters of pleasure did not escape him, and that though involved in such important business, he could observe correctness in these bides. Nor was it least gratifying to him, that, amidst all the magnificent and splendid preparations, he himself was always the most grateful sight, and greatest pleasure to those he entertained. And he told those that seemed to wonder at his diligence, that there was the same spirit shown in marshaling a banquet as an army; in rendering the one formidable to the enemy, the other acceptable to the guests. Nor did men less praise his liberality, and the greatness of his soul, than his other virtues; for he would not so much as see those great quantities of silver and gold, which were heaped together out of the king’s palaces, but delivered them to the quæstors, to be put into the public treasury. He only permitted his own sons, who were great lovers of learning, to take the king’s books; and when he distributed rewards due to extraordinary valor, he gave his son-in-law, Ælius Tubero, a bowl that weighed five pounds. This is that Tubero we have already mentioned, who was one of sixteen relations that lived together, and were all maintained out of one little farm; and it is said, that this was the first plate that ever entered the house of the Ælii, brought thither as an honor and reward of virtue; before this time, neither they nor their wives ever made use either of silver or gold.
Having thus settled everything well, taking his leave of the Greeks, and exhorting the Macedonians, that, mindful of the liberty they had received from the Romans, they should endeavor to maintain it by their obedience to the laws, and concord amongst themselves, he departed for Epirus, having orders from the senate, to give the soldiers that followed him in the war against Perseus the pillage of the cities of that country. That he might set upon them all at once by surprise and unawares, he summoned ten of the principal men out of each, whom he commanded, on such an appointed day, to bring all the gold and silver they had either in their private houses or temples; and, with every one of these, as if it were for this very purpose, and under a presence of searching for and receiving the gold, he sent a centurion and a guard of soldiers; who, the set day being come, rose all at once, and at the very self-same time fell upon them, and proceeded to ransack the cities; so that in one hour a hundred and fifty thousand persons were made slaves, and threescore and ten cities sacked. Yet what was given to each soldier, out of so vast a destruction and utter ruin, amounted to no more than eleven drachmas; so that men could only shudder at the issue of a war, where the wealth of a whole nation, thus divided, turned to so little advantage and profit to each particular man.
When Æmilius had done this,—an action perfectly contrary to his gentle and mild nature,—he went down to Oricus, where he embarked his army for Italy. He sailed up the river Tiber in the king’s galley, that had sixteen banks of oars, and was richly adorned with captured arms and with cloths of purple and scarlet; so that, the vessel rowing slowly against the stream, the Romans that crowded on the shore to meet him had a foretaste of his following triumph. But the soldiers, who had cast a covetous eye on the treasures of Perseus, when they did not obtain as much as they thought they deserved, were secretly enraged and angry with Æmilius for this, but openly complained that he had been a severe and tyrannical commander over them; nor were they ready to show their desire of his triumph. When Servius Galba, who was Æmilius’s enemy, though he commanded as tribune under him, understood this, he had the boldness plainly to affirm that a triumph was not to be allowed him; and sowed various calumnies amongst the soldiers, which yet further increased their ill-will. Nay more, he desired the tribunes of the people, because the four hours that were remaining of the day could not suffice for the accusation, to let him put it off till another. But when the tribunes commanded him to speak then, if he had anything to say, he began a long oration, filled with all manner of reproaches, in which he spent the remaining part of the time, and the tribunes, when it was dark, dismissed the assembly. The soldiers, growing more vehement on this, thronged all to Galba, and entering into a conspiracy, early in the morning beset the capitol, where the tribunes had appointed the following assembly to be held.
As soon as it was day, it was put to the vote, and the first tribe was proceeding to refuse the triumph; and the news spread amongst the people and to the senate. The people were indeed much grieved that Æmilius should meet with such ignominy; but this was only in words, which had no effect. The chief of the senate exclaimed against it as a base action, and excited one another to repress the boldness and insolence of the soldiers, which would erelong become altogether ungovernable and violent, were they now permitted to deprive Æmilius of his triumph. Forcing a passage through the crowd, they came up in great numbers, and desired the tribunes to defer polling, till they had spoken what they had to say to the people. All things thus suspended, and silence being made, Marcus Servilius stood up, a man of consular dignity, and who had killed twenty-three of his enemies that had challenged him in single combat. “It is now more than ever,” said he, “clear to my mind how great a commander our Æmilius Paulus is, when I see he was able to perform such famous and great exploits with an army so full of sedition and baseness; nor can I sufficiently wonder, that a people that seemed to glory in the triumphs over Illyrians and Ligurians, should now through envy refuse to see the Macedonian king led alive, and all the glory of Philip and Alexander in captivity to the Roman power. For is it not a strange thing for you who, upon a slight rumor of victory that came by chance into the city, did offer sacrifices and put up your requests unto the gods that you might see the report verified, now, when the general is returned with an undoubted conquest, to defraud the gods of honor, and yourselves of joy, as if you feared to behold the greatness of his warlike deed, or were resolved to spare your enemy? And of the two, much better were it to put a stop to the triumph, out of pity to him, than out of envy to your general; yet to such a height of power is malice arrived amongst you, that a man without one scar to show on his skin, that is smooth and sleek with ease and home-keeping habits, will undertake to define the office and duties of a general before us, who with our own wounds have been taught how to judge of the valor or the cowardice of commanders.” And, at the same time, putting aside his garment, he showed an infinite number of scars upon his breast, and, turning about, he exposed some parts of his person which it is usual to conceal; and, addressing Galba, said: “You deride me for these, in which I glory before my fellow-citizens, for it is in their service, in which I have ridden night and day, that I received them; but go collect the votes, whilst I follow after, and note the base and ungrateful, and such as choose rather to be flattered and courted than commanded by their general.” It is said, this speech so stopped the soldiers’ mouths, and altered their minds, that all the tribes decreed a triumph for Æmilius; which was performed after this manner.
The people erected scaffolds in the Forum, in the circuses, as they call their buildings for horse-races, and in all other parts of the city where they could best behold the show. The spectators were clad in white garments; all the temples were open, and full of garlands and perfumes; the ways were cleared and kept open by numerous officers, who drove back all who crowded into or ran across the main avenue. This triumph lasted three days. On the first, which was scarcely long enough for the sight, were to be seen the statues, pictures, and colossal images, which were taken from the enemy, drawn upon two hundred and fifty chariots. On the second, was carried in a great many wagons the finest and richest armor of the Macedonians, both of brass and steel, all newly polished and glittering; the pieces of which were piled up and arranged purposely with the greatest art, so as to seem to be tumbled in heaps carelessly and by chance; helmets were thrown upon shields, coats of mail upon greaves; Cretan targets, and Thracian bucklers and quivers of arrows, lay huddled amongst horses’ bits, and through these there appeared the points of naked swords, intermixed with long Macedonian sarissas. All these arms were fastened together with just so much looseness that they struck against one another as they were drawn along, and made a harsh and alarming noise, so that, even as spoils of a conquered enemy, they could not be beheld without dread. After these wagons loaded with armor, there followed three thousand men who carried the silver that was coined, in seven hundred and fifty vessels, each of which weighed three talents, and was carried by four men. Others brought silver bowls and goblets and cups, all disposed in such order as to make the best show, and all curious as well for their size as the solidity of their embossed work.
On the third day, early in the morning, first came the trumpeters, who did not sound as they were wont in a procession or solemn entry, but such a charge as the Romans use when they encourage the soldiers to fight. Next followed young men wearing frocks with ornamented borders, who led to the sacrifice a hundred and twenty stalled oxen, with their horns gilded, and their heads adorned with ribbons and garlands; and with these were boys that carried basins for libation, of silver and gold. After this was brought the gold coin, which was divided into vessels that weighed three talents, like those that contained the silver; they were in number seventy-seven. These were followed by those that brought the consecrated bowl which Æmilius had caused to be made, that weighed ten talents, and was set with precious stones. Then were exposed to view the cups of Antigonus and Seleucus, and those of the Thericlean make, and all the gold plate that was used at Perseus’ table. Next to these came Perseus’ chariot, in which his armor was placed, and on that his diadem. And, after a little intermission, the king’s children were led captives, and with them a train of their attendants, masters, and teachers, all shedding tears, and stretching out hands to the spectators, and making the children themselves also beg and entreat their compassion. There were two sons and a daughter, whose tender age made them but little sensible of the greatness of their misery, which very insensibility of their condition rendered it the more deplorable; insomuch that Perseus himself was scarcely regarded as he went along, whilst pity fixed the eyes of the Romans upon the infants; and many of them could not forbear tears, and all beheld the sight with a mixture of sorrow and pleasure, until the children were passed.
After his children and their attendants came Perseus himself, clad all in black, and wearing the boots of his country; and looking like one altogether stunned and deprived of reason, through the greatness of his misfortunes. Next followed a great company of his friends and familiars, whose countenances were disfigured with grief, and who let the spectators see, by their tears and their continual looking upon Perseus, that it was his fortune they so much lamented, and that they were regardless of their own. Perseus sent to Æmilius to entreat that he might not be led in pomp, but be left out of the triumph; who, deriding, as was but just, his cowardice and fondness of life, sent him this answer, that as for that, it had been before, and was now, in his own power; giving him to understand that the disgrace could be avoided by death; which the fainthearted man not having the spirit for, and made effeminate by I know not what hopes, allowed himself to appear as a part of his own spoils. After these were carried four hundred crowns, all made of gold, sent from the cities by their respective deputations to Æmilius, in honor of his victory. Then he himself came, seated on a chariot magnificently adorned (a man well worthy to be looked at, even without these ensigns of power), dressed in a robe of purple, interwoven with gold, and holding a laurel branch in his right hand. All the army, in like manner, with boughs of laurel in their hands, divided into their bands and companies, followed the chariot of their commander; some singing verses, according to the usual custom, mingled with raillery; others, songs of triumph, and the praise of Æmilius’s deeds; who, indeed, was admired and accounted happy by all men, and unenvied by every one that was good; except so far as it seems the province of some god to lessen that happiness which is too great and inordinate, and so to mingle the affairs of human life that no one should be entirely free and exempt from calamities; but, as we read in Homer, that those should think themselves truly blessed to whom fortune has given an equal share of good and evil.
Æmilius had four sons, of whom Scipio and Fabius, as is already related, were adopted into other families; the other two, whom he had by a second wife, and who were yet but young, he brought up in his own house. One of these died at fourteen years of age, five days before his father’s triumph; the other at twelve, three days after; so that there was no Roman without a deep sense of his suffering, and who did not shudder at the cruelty of fortune, that had not scrupled to bring so much sorrow into a house replenished with happiness, rejoicing, and sacrifices, and to intermingle tears and laments with songs of victory and triumph.
Æmilius, however, reasoning justly that courage and resolution was not merely to resist armor and spears, but all the shocks of ill fortune, so met and so adapted himself to these mingled and contrasting circumstances, as to outbalance the evil with the good, and his private concerns with those of the public; and thus did not allow anything either to take away from the grandeur, or sully the dignity of his victory. For as soon as he had buried the first of his sons, (as we have already said,) he triumphed; and the second dying almost as soon as his triumph was over, he gathered together an assembly of the people, and made an oration to them, not like a man that stood in need of comfort from others, but one that undertook to support his fellow-citizens in their grief for the sufferings he himself underwent.
“I,” he said, “who never yet feared anything that was human, have, amongst such as were divine, always had a dread of fortune as faithless and inconstant; and, for the very reason that in this war she had been as a favorable gale in all my affairs, I still expected some change and reflux of things. In one day I passed the Ionian sea, and reached Corcyra from Brundisium; thence in five more I sacrificed at Delphi, and in other five days came to my forces in Macedonia, where, after I had finished the usual sacrifices for the purifying of the army, I entered on my duties, and, in the space of fifteen days, put an honorable period to the war. Still retaining a jealousy of fortune, even from the smooth current of my affairs, and seeing myself secure and free from the danger of any enemy, I chiefly dreaded the change of the goddess at sea, whilst conveying home my victorious army, vast spoils, and a captive king. Nay, indeed, after I was returned to you safe, and saw the city full of joy, congratulating, and sacrifices, yet still I distrusted, well knowing that fortune never conferred any great benefits that were unmixed and unattended with probabilities of reverse. Nor could my mind, that was still as it were in labor, and always foreseeing something to befall this city, free itself from this fear, until this great misfortune befell me in my own family, and till, in the midst of those days set apart for triumph, I carried two of the best of sons, my only destined successors, one after another to their funerals. Now, therefore, I am myself safe from danger, at least as to what was my greatest care; and I trust and am verily persuaded, that for the time to come Fortune will prove constant and harmless unto you; since she has sufficiently wreaked her jealousy at our great successes on me and mine, and has made the conqueror as marked an example of human instability as the captive whom he led in triumph, with this only difference, that Perseus, though conquered, does yet enjoy his children, while the conqueror, Æmilius, is deprived of his.” This was the generous and magnanimous oration Æmilius is said to have spoken to the people, from a heart truly sincere and free from all artifice.
Although he very much pitied the condition of Perseus, and studied to befriend him in what he was able, yet he could procure no other favor, than his removal from the common prison, the Carcer, into a more cleanly and humane place of security, where, whilst he was guarded, it is said, he starved himself to death. Others state his death to have been of the strangest and most unusual character: that the soldiers who were his guard, having conceived a spite and hatred against him for some reason, and finding no other way to grieve and afflict him, kept him from sleep, took pains to disturb him when he was disposed to rest, and found out contrivances to keep him continually awake, by which means at length he was utterly worn out, and expired. Two of his children, also, died soon after him; the third, who was named Alexander, they say proved an exquisite artist in turning and graving small figures, and learned so perfectly to speak and write the Roman language, that he became clerk to the magistrates, and behaved himself in his office with great skill and conduct.
They ascribe to Æmilius’s conquest of Macedonia, this most acceptable benefit to the people, that he brought so vast a quantity of money into the public treasury, that they never paid any taxes, until Hirtius and Pansa were consuls, which was in the first war between Antony and Cæsar. This also was peculiar and remarkable in Æmilius, that though he was extremely beloved and honored by the people, yet he always sided with the nobles; nor would he either say or do anything to ingratiate himself with the multitude, but constantly adhered to the nobility, in all political matters, which in after-times was cast in Scipio Africanus’s teeth by Appius; these two being in their time the most considerable men in the city, and standing in competition for the office of censor. The one had on his side the nobles and the senate, to which party the Appii were always attached; the other, although his own interest was great, yet made use of the favor and love of the people. When, therefore, Appius saw Scipio come to the market-place, surrounded with men of mean rank, and such as were but newly made free, yet were very fit to manage a debate, to gather together the rabble, and to carry whatsoever they designed by importunity and noise, crying out with a loud voice: “Groan now,” said he, “O Æmilius Paulus, if you have knowledge in your grave of what is done above, that your son aspires to be censor, by the help of Æmilius, the common crier, and Licinius Philonicus.” Scipio always had the good-will of the people, because he was constantly heaping favors on them; but Æmilius, although he still took part with the nobles, yet was as much the people’s favorite as those who most sought popularity and used every art to obtain it. This they made manifest, when, amongst other dignities, they thought him worthy of the office of censor, a trust accounted most sacred and of great authority, as well in other things, as in the strict examination into men’s lives. For the censors had power to expel a senator, and enroll whom they judged most fit in his room, and to disgrace such young men as lived licentiously, by taking away their horses. Besides this, they were to value and assess each man’s estate, and register the number of the people. There were numbered by Æmilius, 337,452 men. He declared Marcus Æmilius Lepidus first senator, who had already four times held that honor, and he removed from their office three of the senators of the least note. The same moderation he and his fellow censor, Marcius Philippus, used at the muster of the knights.
Whilst he was thus busy about many and weighty affairs, he fell sick of a disease, which at first seemed hazardous; and although after awhile it proved without danger, yet was troublesome and difficult to be cured: so that by the advice of his physicians he sailed to Velia, in South Italy, and there dwelt a long time near the sea, where he enjoyed all possible quietness. The Romans, in the meanwhile, longed for his return, and oftentimes by their expressions in the theaters, gave public testimony of their great desire and impatience to see him. When, therefore, the time drew nigh that a solemn sacrifice was of necessity to be offered, and he found, as he thought, his body strong enough, he came back again to Rome, and there performed the holy rites with the rest of the priests, the people in the mean time crowding about him, and congratulating his return. The next day he sacrificed again to the gods for his recovery; and, having finished the sacrifice, returned to his house and sat down to dinner, when, all on a sudden and when no change was expected, he fell into a fit of delirium, and, being quite deprived of his senses, the third day after ended a life, in which he had wanted no manner of thing which is thought to conduce to happiness. Nay, his very funeral pomp had something in it remarkable and to be admired, and his virtue was graced with the most solemn and happy rites at his burial; consisting, not in gold and ivory, or in the usual sumptuousness and splendor of such preparations, but in the good-will, honor, and love, not only of his fellow-citizens, but of his enemies themselves. For as many Spaniards, Ligurians, and Macedonians, as happened to be present at the solemnity, that were young and of vigorous bodies, took up the bier and carried it whilst the more aged followed, calling Æmilius the benefactor and preserver of their countries. For not only at the time of his conquest had he acted to all with kindness and clemency, but, through the whole course of his life, he continued to do them good and look after their concerns, as if they had been his familiars and relations. They report, that the whole of his estate scarce amounted to three hundred and seventy thousand drachmas; to which he left his two sons coheirs; but Scipio, who was the youngest, being adopted into the more wealthy family of Africanus, gave it all to his brother. Such are said to have been the life and manners of Æmilius.
Translated by John Dryden. The copyright for the original of this document is held in the Public Domain. Font, formatting, spelling modernizations, typo/transcription corrections, and explanatory footnotes for this version of Plato’s “The Republic” Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal.