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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book XXIV Chapter 14: Gracchus promises freedom to his 2 legions of slaves.[214 BC]
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During the same time, the consul, Fabius, came to attempt Casilinum, which was occupied by a Carthaginian garrison; and, as if by concert, Hanno approached Beneventum on one side from the Bruttians, with a large body of foot and horse, while on the other side Gracchus approached it from Luceria. The latter entered the town first. Then, hearing that Hanno had pitched his camp three miles from the city, at the river Calor, and from thence was laying waste the country, he himself marched without the walls, and pitching his camp about a mile from the enemy, harangued his soldiers. The legions he had consisted for the most part of volunteer slaves, who chose rather to earn their liberty silently by another year's service, than demand it openly. The general, however, on quitting his winter quarters, had perceived that the troops murmured, asking when the time would arrive that they should serve as free citizens. He had written to the senate, stating not so much what they wanted as what they had deserved; he said they had served him with fidelity and courage up to that day, and that they wanted nothing but liberty, to bring them up to the model of complete soldiers. Permission was given him to act in the business as he thought for the interest of the state, and, accordingly, before he engaged with the enemy, he declared that the time was now arrived for obtaining that liberty which they had so long hoped for; that on the following day he should fight a pitched battle on a level and open plain, in which the contest would be decided by valour only, without any fear of ambuscade. The man who should bring back the head of an enemy, he would instantly order to be set free; but that he would punish, in a manner suited to a slave, the man who should quit his post; that every man's fortune was in his own hands; that not he himself alone would authorize their enfranchisement, but the consul, Marcus Marcellus, and the whole body of the fathers, who, on being consulted by him on the subject, had left the matter to his disposal. He then read the letter of the consul and the decree of the senate, on which they raised a general shout of approbation, demanded to be led to battle, and vehemently urged him to give the signal forthwith. Gracchus broke up the assembly, after proclaiming the battle for the following day. The soldiers, highly delighted, particularly those whose enfranchisement was to be the reward of one day's prowess, employed the remaining time in getting ready their arms. |
Event: Actions in Italy in 214 BC
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Marcus Claudius Marcellus
Foot:a. part of the body (3379). b. infantry (6534).
Horse:a. the animal. b. cavalry.