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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 15: War of the Ausonians and Sidicines.[337 BC]
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Gaius Sulpicius Longus and Publius Aelius Paetus were the new consuls. The blessings of peace were now enjoyed everywhere, a peace maintained not more by the power of Rome than by the influence she had acquired through her considerate treatment of her vanquished enemies, when a war broke out between the Sidicines and the Auruncans. After their surrender had been accepted by the consul Manlius, the Auruncans had kept quiet, which gave them a stronger claim to the help of Rome. The senate decided that assistance should be afforded them, but before the consuls started, a report was brought that the Auruncans had been afraid to remain in their town and had fled with their wives and children to Suessa -- now called Aurunca -- which they had fortified, and that their city with its ancient walls had been destroyed by the Sidicines. The senate were angry with the consuls, through whose delay their allies had been betrayed, and ordered a dictator to be nominated. Gaius Claudius Regillensis was nominated accordingly, and he named as his Master of the Horse Gaius Claudius Portator. There was some difficulty about the religious sanction of the dictator's appointment, and as the augurs pronounced that there was an irregularity in his election, both the dictator and the Master of the Horse resigned.
This year Minucia, a Vestal, incurred suspicion through an improper love of dress, (1) and subsequently was accused of unchastity on the evidence of a slave. She had received orders from the pontiffs to take no part in the sacred rites and not to manumit any of her slaves (2). She was tried and found guilty, and was buried alive near the Colline Gate to the right of the high road in the Campus Sceleratus ("the accursed field"), which, I believe, derives its name from this incident (3)
In this year also Quintus Publilius Philo was elected as the first plebeian praetor against the opposition of the consul Sulpicius; the senate, after failing to keep the highest posts in their own hands, showed less interest in retaining the praetorship.
(1): The Vestals had to dress in white, and were forbidden to use perfumes or to wear flowers. Whenever they offered sacrifice they wore a large white veil.
(2): This would have prevented them from being examined under torture, to which no free person could be submitted, and consequently might have made it difficult to secure evidence against her.
(3): The following passage from Lanciani's Ancient Rome (pp. 143-4) helps us to realise what the punishment of being buried alive means: "The unfortunate girl, as soon as the trial was over and the condemnation pronounced, was divested of the distinctive garments of the order and flogged by the judges themselves. Then the funeral procession was organised. The culprit, covered by a pall and lying in the hearse, was brought through the Forum, the Vicus Longus, and the Alta Semita to the Porta Collina amidst the mourning and dejected crowd of her friends and relatives. let us quote the thrilling account of an execution given by Plutarch: "The Vestal convicted of incest is buried alive in the neighbourhood of the Porta Collina under the Agger of Servius Tullius. Here is a crypt, small in size, with an opening in the vault through which the ladder is lowered; it is furnished with a bed, and oil lamp, and a few scanty provisions, such as bread, water, milk and oil. These provisions (in fact a refinement of cruelty) are prepared because it would appear a sacrilege to condemn to starvation women formerly consecrated to the gods. The unfortunate culprit is brought here in a covered hearse, to which she is tied with leather straps, so that it is impossible that her sighs and lamentations should be heard by the attendant mourners. The crowd opens silently for the passage of the hearse; not a word is pronounced, not a murmur is heard. Tears stream from the eyes of every spectator. It is impossible to imagine a more horrible sight; the whole city is shaken with terror and sorrow. The hearse being brought to the edge of the opening, the executor cuts the bands and the High Priest mutters an inaudible prayer, and lifts up his hands towards the gods, before bidding the culprit good-bye. He follows and assists her to the top of the ladder, and turns back at the fatal instant of her disappearance. As soon as she reaches the bottom, the ladder is removed, the opening is sealed, and a large mass of earth is heaped upon the stone that seals it until the top of the embankment is reached and every trace of the execution made to disappear."
Event: War with the Ausonians.