Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Aemilius Paulus
Text by Thomas North
Study Guide by Anne White
Aemilius Paulus (229-160 B.C.)
"When I first began to write these lines, my intent was to profit other[s]: but since, continuing and going on, I have much profited myself by looking into these histories, as if I looked into a glass, to frame and fashion my life to the mould and pattern of these virtuous noblemen." --Plutarch
Who was Aemilius?
Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus was usually called Aemilius or Aemilius Paulus. He was a Roman statesman, consul, and general during the Third Macedonian War, which lasted from 171 to 168 B.C., and which makes up a large part of the story. However, Aemilius had a long career in Roman government before his election as consul and his accompanying duties as military general. The first few lessons follow him through his positions as aedile, praetor (with special honours), and consul (twice). He had a second, separate position as an augur, an omen-reading priest. Plutarch says that Aemilius took the job of being an augur so seriously that he raised it to an art form.
He also took his role as military commander very seriously. Plutarch finds it noteworthy that he personally taught (instructed, coached) the soldiers under his command. We get a picture already of an extra-ordinary man; perhaps one who made an art form of "being a Roman."
The spelling of Aemilius Paulus
In many printed or typed texts where it's difficult to reproduce the Greek character, you will see it spelled just AE-- or Ae--, so I have used that form. In online searches, you might also try reversing the names, i.e. Paulus Aemilius. Paulus is occasionally spelled Paullus.
What is the commonwealth?
The phrase translated "commonwealth" comes from the Latin "Res publica," that which is held in common (and the root of the word "republic"). More generally, it refers to the state itself, the Roman Republic. "Matters of commonwealth," for Aemilius and his colleagues, would be state duties.
The rankings of civil leaders in Rome
From top to bottom, the governing officials were dictator (a position filled only during times of crisis), consul, praetor, aedile, and quaestor. There were more than one of each at a time--two consuls, eight praetors, and so on. The rank of censor could be given to ex-consuls. There were also tribunes, but they were drawn from a different social class than the others.
People in this Story
Family and Friends of Aemilius
Scipio and Fabius Maximus (1): sons of Aemilius. The first was properly named Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Aemilianus; he became the hero of the Third Punic War. The second was Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus, who was later a consul. Following Aemilius' divorce from their mother, his remarriage to a second wife, and the birth of two more sons (and at least one daughter), the boys were adopted into other noble families (see below).
Fabius Maximus (2): Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, the adoptive father of Aemilius' eldest son. He was the grandson or great-grandson of Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (280-203 B.C.), who was the subject of Plutarch's Life of Fabius.
Scipio Africanus: The first Roman by this name was Scipio Africanus the Elder, or Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236-183 B.C.); he was a hero of the Second Punic War, which earned him the name "Africanus." He married the sister of Aemilius Paulus, Aemilia. It was his son Scipio Africanus the Younger who, not having an heir of his own, adopted his nephew, the second son of Aemilius, who also became known as Scipio.
Aelius Tubero: a son-in-law of Aemilius
Rulers of Macedon
Philip V, who officially became king in 229 B.C. at the age of nine, and who reigned independently from 221-179 B.C.; he was the son of Demetrius II Aetolicus, and the father of Perseus.
Top Ten Terms in Aemilius Paulus
If you recognize these words, you're well on your way to mastering North's vocabulary. (They will not be noted in the lessons.)
1. Acquaint: To acquaint is used several times, meaning either "to become used to, familiar with" or "to share information."
2. Divers: several
3. Footmen: foot soldiers
4. Spoil or spoils: items seized from an enemy; loot
5. Stay: delay, detain, stop
6. Strait: tight, narrow. To be strait with people means to be restrictive or stingy. A strait is a narrow channel of water.
7. Strange: usually means "foreign," but sometimes just means "strange." Soldiers that are strangers are often foreign mercenaries (working for any army that will pay them).
8. Sundry: various
9. Target: shield
10. Voward: front. Soldiers in the voward are those leading the troops. The voward of his battle means the front of his troops.
Bonus phrase: "The barbarous people" or barbarians usually refers to the Persians, who are sometimes called the Medes. In one place it means the Lusitanians.
Plutarch begins this Life with some family background. The first Aemilius was given his name because of "the sweetness and pleasant grace of his tongue." The word "aemulus" is the root of our word "emulation," which means striving to do well, often with a sense of trying both to imitate or match and then to outperform others. (The names Amelia and Emily are English derivatives.) Name books also use the word "industrious" or "eager," and you will see that Plutarch's subject Aemilius Paulus was both.
"If we are learning to skate, we have no peace till we skate as well as a boy we know who learned last winter; then we want to outdo him; then, to skate as well as another better skater; then, to outdo him; and so on, and when we go to bed at night we dream of the day when we shall skate better than anyone in the neighbourhood; nay, we think how glorious it would be to be the very best skater in the whole world." (Charlotte Mason, Ourselves)
ancient and patrician houses: oldest and noblest families
the first of the house . . . : the first ancestor named Aemilius
surnamed: given the additional honourary name
consul, aedile, augur: see introductory notes
fawning: trying to win favour by insincere flattery
sued for: ran for
contending: arguing, getting into conflict
negligence: neglect of duty. To give a precedent for remissness is to open the door to negligence.
commonwealth: see introductory note
notorious breach of its laws: great criminal act
trifles: small things
ingratiate himself: make himself popular
contemned: treated with contempt; scorned
Lucius Paulus: the father of Aemilius Paulus, twice elected consul
Scipio the Great: Scipio Africanus the Elder; see introductory notes
229 B.C.: birth of Aemilius Paulus
218 B.C.: Second Punic War
216 B.C.: The Battle of Cannae against the Carthaginians, where the Romans were badly defeated and Aemilius' father was killed
212 B.C.: birth of Perseus of Macedon
200 B.C.: Second Macedonian War
193 B.C.: Aemilius became aedile
On the Map
A map showing the Roman Republic during this period (the time just before the conquest of Greece) would be helpful.
[Almost all historians agree that the Aemilii were one of the ancient and patrician houses in Rome.] Some writers affirm also that the first of the house that gave name to all the posterity after, was Marcus [Dryden: Mamercus], the son of Pythagoras the Wise, surnamed Aemilius for the sweetness and pleasant grace of his tongue. [Most of this race that have risen through their merit to reputation also enjoyed good fortune; and even the misfortune to Lucius Paulus at the Battle of Cannae gave testimony to his wisdom and valour.] For he [Lucius Paulus] was forced to fight against his will, when he saw he could not bridle the rashness of his fellow consul that [insisted on engaging in] battle, and to do as [the other consul] did; [on the contrary, when he that was so resolute to engage deserted him in the midst of danger, he kept the field] and fought it valiantly unto the last gasp.
This Aemilius left a daughter behind him called Aemilia, which was married unto Scipio the Great; and a son, Aemilius Paulus, being the same man whose life we presently treat of.
His youth fortunately fell out in a flourishing time of glory and honour, through the sundry virtues of many great and noble persons living in those days, among whom he made his name famous also: and it was not by that ordinary art and course which the best esteemed young men of that age did take and follow. For he did not use to plead private men's causes in law, neither would creep into men's favour by fawning upon any of them: though he saw it a common practice, and policy of men, to seek the people's favour and good wills by such means. [Not that he was incapable of either, but he chose to purchase a much more lasting glory by his valour, justice, and integrity, and in these virtues he soon outstripped all his equals.]
The first office of honour he sued for was the office of aedile, in which suit he was preferred before twelve other[s] that sued for the selfsame office: who were men of no small quality, for they all came afterwards to be consuls. After this, he was chosen to be one of the number of the priests whom the Romans call augurs: who have the charge of all the divinations and soothsayings, in telling of things to come by flying of birds, and signs in the air. He was so careful, and took such pains to understand how the Romans did use the same, and with such diligence sought the observation of the ancient religion of Romans in all holy matters: that where that priesthood was before esteemed but a title of honour, and desired for the name only: he brought it to pass that it was the most honourable science, and best reputed of in Rome. Wherein he confirmed the philosophers' opinion that religion is [the science of worshipping the gods]. For when he did anything belonging to his office of priesthood, he did it with great experience, judgment, and diligence, leaving all other thoughts, and without omitting any ancient ceremony, or adding to any new, contending oftentimes with his companions, in things which seemed light, and of small moment: declaring unto them, that though we do presume the gods are easy to be pacified, and that they readily pardon all faults and scapes committed by negligence; [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 endeavouring, when he had the command, to ingratiate himself with his soldiers by popular flattery, though this custom prevailed at that time.]
But [he] himself did, [in an orderly way], show them the very rules and precepts of the discipline of wars, even as a priest that should express the names and ceremonies of some holy sacrifice wherein were danger to omit any part or parcel. [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.]
Narration and Discussion
How was Aemilius different from other young men of his time?
Aemilius said that "to overcome the enemy by force was but an accessory, as a man may term it, in respect of well training and ordering his citizens by good discipline" (North's translation). How was this an unusual belief for a Roman commander?
For older students: Aemilius raised the position of augur to a high art or science. Christians are commanded to have nothing to do with such divination. Can you explain (nevertheless) what positive aspects this story shows of his character?
Plutarch continues the introduction to Aemilius, including his marriages, children, and the events leading up to the war against Perseus.
against Antiochus the Great: see Historic Occasions note for Lesson Three
up in arms in Spain: there was ongoing revolt by the Lusitanians, a tribe living in what is now western Spain and Portugal
praetor, consul: see introductory notes
axes: symbols of Roman power and authority
drachma: a silver coin
but remiss in: not very good at
answer his wife's dowry: on the death of a husband, the widow's dowry was paid back to her
had triumphed: had been publicly recognized for a military victory
trafficked: bought or sold goods
rampart or bulwark: protection
razed only the fortifications: destroyed only their military posts or barricades, not the towns themselves
a little more curiously: a little more notably
Scipio and Fabius Maximus (1), Fabius Maximus (2), Scipio Africanus, Aelius Tubero: see introductory notes
son of Cato: see Lesson Seven
Ligurians: explained in the text
191 B.C.: Aemilius became praetor
191-189 B.C.: Aemilius sent against the Lusitanians (in Part One)
182 B.C.: Aemilius elected consul (first term)
181 B.C.: Aemilius sent against the Ligurians (in Part Two)
On the Map
A map of the Roman Republic will again be useful.
While the Romans were in wars against Antiochus the Great, in the south parts, all the chiefest captains of Rome being employed [in that way]; [there arose another war in the west, and they were all up in arms in Spain.] Thither they sent Aemilius [as] praetor, not with six axes as the other praetors had borne before them, but with twelve: so that under the name of praetor, he had the authority and dignity of a consul. He twice overcame the barbarous people in battle, and slew thirty thousand of them, and got this victory through his great skill and wisdom in choosing the advantage of place and time to fight with his enemies, even as they passed over a river: which easily gave his soldiers the victory.
Moreover, he took there two hundred and fifty cities, all which did open and gladly receive him in. So, leaving that country quiet and in good peace, and having received their fealty by oath made between his hands, he returned again to Rome, not enriched [by] the value of a drachma more than before. [And, indeed, 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 barely enough to answer his wife's dowry.]
His first wife was Papiria, [the daughter of Maso, who had formerly been consul]. After they had lived a long time together, he was divorced from her, notwithstanding he had goodly children by her. For by her he had that famous Scipio and Fabius Maximus (1).
[omission about common marital woes, and the causes of Aemilius' divorce]
So Aemilius, having put away Papiria his first wife, he married another that brought him two sons, which he brought up with himself in his house; and [he] gave his two first sons in adoption to two of the noblest and richest families of the city of Rome. [The elder was adopted into the house of Fabius Maximus (2) who was five times consul; the younger by the son of Scipio Africanus, his cousin, and was by him named Scipio.]
Concerning his daughters, the son of Cato married the one, and Aelius Tubero the other, who was a marvellous honest man, and did more nobly maintain himself in his poverty than any other Roman: for they were sixteen persons all of one name, and of the house of the Aelians, very near kin one to the other, who had all but one little house in the city, and a small farm in the country, wherewith they entertained themselves, and lived all together in one house, with their wives and many little children. Amongst their wives, one of them was the daughter of Aemilius Paulus (after he had been twice consul, and had triumphed twice), not being ashamed of her husband's poverty, but wondering at his virtue that made him poor.
[omission about family life]
Now Aemilius, being chosen consul, went to make war with the Ligurians. These are very valiant and warlike men, and were very good soldiers at that time, by reason of their continual wars against the Romans, whose near neighbours they were. For they dwelt in the furthest part of Italy, that bordereth upon the great Alps, and the row of Alps, whereof the foot joineth to the Tuscan Sea, and pointeth towards Africa, and are mingled with the Gauls, and Spaniards, neighbours unto that seacoast: who, scouring all the Mediterranean Sea at that time unto Hercules' Pillars, [in light vessels fitted for that purpose, robbed and destroyed all that trafficked in those parts].
Aemilius being gone to seek them in their country, they tarried his coming with an army of forty thousand men; nevertheless, though he had but eight thousand men in all, and that they were five to one of his, yet he gave the onset upon them, and overthrew them, and drove them into their cities. Then he sent to offer them peace, for the Romans would not altogether destroy the Ligurians, because their country was a rampart or bulwark against the invasion of the Gauls, who lay lurking for opportunity and occasion to invade Italy: whereupon these Ligurians yielded themselves unto him and put all their forts and ships 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 oftentimes showed himself very desirous to be consul again, and did put forth himself to sue for it: but when he was denied it, he never after made suit for it again, but gave himself only to study divine things, and to see his children virtuously brought up, not only in the Roman tongue which himself was taught, but also, a little more curiously, in the Greek tongue. [To this purpose he not only procured masters to teach them grammar, logic, and rhetoric, but had for them also preceptors in modelling and drawing, managers of horses and dogs, and instructors in field sports, all from Greece.] And he himself also (if no matters of commonwealth troubled him) was ever with them in the school when they were at their books; and also when they otherwise did exercise themselves. For he loved his children as much, or more, than any other Roman.
Narration and Discussion
What were the most noteworthy acts in Aemilius' first consulship? How did he react when he was passed over for a second consulship?
Describe the educational curriculum of the children of Aemilius. Was it anything like yours?
Creative narration: You are a reporter sent to the house of Aemilius to interview him about wars and political matters. However, the interview is sidetracked by family activities. Write or act out the scene.
In this lesson, we meet Perseus of Macedon, who was called "mean" and "sordid." It is said that he lacked courage, and that he was noted for his covetous character. It was even rumored that he might have been the son of a seamstress and not a true prince at all. However, he was a good military commander, and he used what his father Philip had stored up to gain an early advantage over the Romans.
husband: manager, steward
near unto the city of Scotusa: this refers to the Battle of Cynoscephalae (see note below)
escaped good cheap: got off lightly
coming to understand himself: thinking it over again
to the end: with the purpose
entertain ten thousand strangers in pay: pay ten thousand mercenary (foreign) soldiers
202 B.C.: Roman defeat of Hannibal at the Battle of Zama
197 B.C.: Roman defeat of Philip V of Macedon at the Battle of Cynoscephalae (referred to here as Scotusa)
192 B.C.: Roman defeat of Antiochus III "the Great," ruler of the Seleucid Empire, at the Battle of Magnesia
179 B.C.: Perseus became king of Macedon after the death of his father
On the Map
To the regions already mentioned (the Roman Republic; the Greek states including Macedon), you might add Carthage.
Now concerning the state of the commonwealth, the Romans were at wars with King Perseus, and they much blamed the captains they had sent thither before; for that for lack of skill and courage, they had so cowardly behaved themselves, as their enemies laughed them to scorn; [and they did less hurt to the enemy than they received from him].
For not long before, they had driven King Antiochus beyond Mount Taurus, and had made him forsake the rest of Asia, and had shut him up within the borders of Syria: who was glad that he had bought that country with fifteen thousand talents, which he paid for a fine. A little before also, they had overcome Philip, King of Macedon, in Thessaly, and had delivered the Greeks from the bondage of the Macedonians. And moreover, having overcome Hannibal (unto whom no prince nor king that ever was in the world was comparable, either for his power or valiantness) they thought this too great a dishonour to them, that this war they had against King Perseus should hold so long of even hand with them, as if he had been an enemy equal with the people of Rome: considering also that they fought not against them, but with the refuse and scattered people of the overthrown army his father had lost before; and [they understood] not that Philip had left his army stronger, and more expert by reason of his overthrow, than it was before.
[omission for length: details of the Macedonian rulers just before Perseus, ending with Philip, his father]
Philip in his green youth gave more hope of himself, than any other of the kings before: insomuch they thought that one day he would restore Macedon her ancient fame and glory, and that he alone would pluck down the pride and power of the Romans, who rose against all the world. But after that [he] had lost a great battle and was overthrown by Titus Quinctius Flaminius near unto the city of Scotusa: then he began to quake for fear, and to leave all to the mercy of the Romans, thinking he escaped good cheap for any light ransom or tribute the Romans should impose upon him. Yet afterwards coming to understand himself, he grew to disdain it much, thinking that to reign through the favour of the Romans was but to make himself a slave, to seek to live in pleasure at his ease, and not for a valiant and noble prince born. Whereupon he set all his mind to study the discipline of wars; and [he] made his preparations as wisely and closely as possibly he could.
For he left all his towns alongst the seacoast, and standing upon any highways, without any fortification at all, and in manner desolate without people, to the end [that] there might appear no occasion of doubt or mistrust in him: and in the meantime, in the high countries of his realm, far from great beaten ways, he levied a great number of men of war, and replenished his towns and strongholds that lay scatteringly abroad, with armour and weapon[s], money, and men, providing for war, which he kept as secretly as he could. For he had provision of armour in his armoury to arm thirty thousand men; [he had] eight million bushels of corn safely locked up in his forts and strong places; and [he had] ready money, as much as would serve to entertain ten thousand strangers in pay, to defend his country for the space of ten years. But before he could bring that to pass he had purposed, he died for grief and sorrow; after he knew he had unjustly put Demetrius, the best of his sons, to death, upon the false accusation of the worst, that was Perseus.
As [Perseus] did inherit the kingdom of his father by succession, so did he also inherit his father's malice against the Romans. But he had no shoulders to bear so heavy a burden, and especially being as he was, a man of so vile and wicked nature: for among many [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, Gnathaenion (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 [his brother] Demetrius; as he might well fear that, so long as there was a lawful successor in the family, there was not security that his spurious birth might not be revealed.]
Notwithstanding, simple though [Perseus] was, and of [so] vile and base [a] nature, he found the strength of his kingdom so great that he was contented to take [it] upon him to make war against the Romans, which he maintained a long time; and fought against their consuls that were their generals, and repulsed great armies of theirs both by sea and land; and overcame some [of them].
[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 Orens, 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 Elimiae, 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.]
Narration and Discussion
What was Philip's strategy against the Romans? Might he have been successful if he had lived longer?
Why was Perseus so successful in his first attempts to defend his kingdom?
For older students: how does Plutarch distinguish "covetousness" from the more honourable "emulation?"
Imagine two cameras focused on our main characters. Aemilius Paulus, at the age of almost sixty, was unanimously chosen as consul for a second term, because Rome was in desperate need of a general who would act like a general. When he told the Romans that he required absolute power and total command, they quickly agreed: they had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Perseus, on the other hand, doubted his own authority, and began to lose control.
Bastarnae: a tribe living between the Carpathian Mountains and the Dnieper River. Plutarch also calls them "the Gauls."
by favour or solicitation: Leaders had previously been those who more or less chose themselves; but it was now time to be more deliberate and strategic.
the marketplace: the Forum in Rome
which province should fall to his share: High officials each had the additional responsibility of a territory outside of Rome.
that sued for the charge: that had run for the consulship
happy issue: positive outcome
grazing: farming livestock
this barbarous supply: these mercenary soldiers
steward: A steward is a manager, often quite important; but the point here is that Perseus was acting as if he were accountable to the Romans rather than to his own people.
husbanded and preserved: taken care of, saved
171 B.C.: Beginning of the Third Macedonian War; Gentius of Illyria allied his kingdom with the Romans
169 B.C.: Gentius changed sides to support the Macedonians
168 B.C.: Aemilius elected consul (second term)
Furthermore, as though the war troubled [Perseus] nothing at all, and that he had cared little for the Romans: he went and fought a battle in the meantime with the Dardanians, where he slew ten thousand of those barbarous people, and brought a marvellous great spoil away with him. Moreover, he procured the nation of the Gauls (also called Bastarnae), dwelling upon the River Danube: men very warlike, and excellent good horsemen. He did practise with the Illyrians also by mean[s] of their King Gentius, to make them join with him in these wars.
[short omission for length]
[The Romans, being advertised of these things, thought it necessary no longer to choose their commanders by favour or solicitation; but of their own motion to select a general of wisdom and capacity for the management of great affairs. And such was Aemilius Paulus, advanced in years, being nearly [sixty], yet vigorous in his own person, and rich in valiant sons and sons-in-law, besides [having] 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.]
At the beginning, indeed he delayed the people much that came to importune him, and utterly denied them: saying he was no meet man neither to desire, nor yet to take upon him any charge. Howbeit in the end, seeing the people did urge it upon him, by knocking continually at his gates, and calling him aloud in the streets, willing him to come into the marketplace; and perceiving they were angry with him because he refused it, he was content to be persuaded.
And when he stood among them that sued for the consulship, the people thought straight that he stood not there so much for desire of the office, as for that he put them in hope of assured victory, and happy success of this begun war: so great was their love towards him, and the good hope they had of him, that they chose him consul again the second time. [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.]
The Romans had a custom at that time, that such as were elected consuls (after that they were openly proclaimed) should make an oration of thanks unto the people, for the honour and favour they had showed him. The people then (according to the custom) being gathered together to hear Aemilius speak, he made this oration unto them:
That the first time he sued to be consul, was in respect of himself, standing at that time in need of such honour: [but] now he offered himself the second time unto it, for the good love he bare unto them who stood in need of a general, [upon which account he thought there was no thanks due]. And if they did think also this war might be better followed by any other than by himself, he would presently with all his heart resign the place. Furthermore, if they had any trust or confidence in him, that they thought him a man sufficient to discharge it: then that they would not speak nor meddle in any matter that concerned his duty, and the office of a general; saving only, that they would be diligent (without any words) to do whatsoever he commanded, and should be necessary for the war and service they took in hand. [For if they proposed to command their own commander, they would render this expedition more ridiculous than the former.]
These words made the Romans very obedient to him, and [they] conceived good hope to come, being all of them very glad that they had refused those ambitious flatterers that sued for the charge, and [that they] had given it unto a man that [dared] boldly and frankly 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 Aemilius, 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, peradventure, that Perseus' covetousness and misery was Aemilius' good fortune: for his miserable fear of spending money was the only cause and destruction of the whole realm of Macedon, which was in good state and hope of continuing in prosperity.
[The following events took place before Aemilius' arrival]
For there came down into the country of Macedon, at King Perseus' request, ten thousand Bastarnae a-horseback, and as many footmen to them, who always joined with them in battle, all mercenary soldiers, depending upon pay and entertainment of wars. [These were men] that could not plow nor sow, nor traffic merchandise by sea, nor [had] skill of grazing to gain their living with; and to be short, that had no other occupation or merchandise but to serve in the wars, and to overcome those with whom they fought. Furthermore, when they came to encamp and lodge in the Medica, near to the Macedonians, who saw them so goodly great men, and so well trained and exercised in handling all kind[s] of weapons, so brave and lusty in words and threats against their enemies: they began to pluck up their hearts, and to look big, imagining that the Romans would never abide them, but would be afraid to look them in the face; and only to see their march, it was so terrible and fearful.
But Perseus, after he had encouraged his men in this sort, and had put them in such a hope and jollity, when this barbarous supply came to ask him a thousand crowns in hand for every captain, he was so damped and troubled withal in his mind, casting up the sum it came to, that [out of mere stinginess he drew back and let himself lose their assistance, as if he had been some steward [and] 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.]
[omission for length]
But Perseus contrarily would not spend any part of his goods to save himself, his children and realm, but rather yielded to be led prisoner in triumph with a great ransom, to shew the Romans [what great riches he had husbanded and preserved for them.]
For he did not only send away the Gauls [that is, the Bastarnae] without giving them pay as he had promised; but, moreover, having persuaded Gentius [the] king of Illyria to take his part in these wars, for the sum of three hundred talents which he had promised to furnish him with: [he caused the money to be counted out in the presence of his messengers, and to be sealed up]. Whereupon Gentius thinking himself sure of the money promised, committed [a wicked and shameful act]: he seized and imprisoned the ambassadors sent to him from the Romans. Whence Perseus conclud[ed] that there was no need of money to make Gentius an enemy to the Romans, but that he [Gentius] had given] a manifest sign of his ill will towards them, and that it was to late to look back and repent him, now that his [flagrant injustice had sufficiently involved himself in the war]. So did he abuse the unfortunate king; and defrauded him of the three hundred talents he had promised him. And worse than this, shortly after[wards] he suffered Lucius Anicius, the Roman praetor, whom they sent against him with an army, to pluck King Gentius, his wife, and children, out of his realm and kingdom, and to carry them prisoners with him.
Narration and Discussion
Why was Aemilius so adamant that he must be fully in charge of the operation? How did the people react to this?
How did the stinginess or miserliness of Perseus end up being the one piece of good luck (vs. skill) that worked in Aemilius' favour?
For older students: Consider this idea: "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." Do you agree with Plutarch's suggestion that willing submission to strong leaders was the key to Rome's long-term success?
Creative narration: Students might enjoy acting out the scene between Perseus and the mercenary soldiers, as he happily accepted their skill and muscle, but then backed off at the expense.
Lesson Five is the first of several lessons on the Battle of Pydna, which signified the takeover of Macedon by Rome.
Perseus and his troops had been encamped for some time in a strong position. Prior to Aemilius' arrival, he had beaten off other Roman attacks (see the end of Lesson Three), with troops that were strong and well-disciplined. However, things were about to change.
With such a long description of the battle, it is easy to become distracted by details of geography and military strategy. However, for the purposes of this study, try to focus on questions of character and leadership. How did Perseus and Aemilius each approach their tasks? How did they treat their own soldiers and their allies?
in a place unpossible to be approached: that is, on the River Elpeus
dally: be in no hurry, waste time
by delay and expense: Perseus thought that Aemilius would eventually run short on supplies and/or money to pay the soldiers
it was not kept: it was unguarded
environ, encompass: surround
privy to his enterprise: informed of his plan
to get the top of the hill before them: to block their approach
repulsed their enemies: sent them back towards their camp
Nasica: A Roman politician (206-141 B.C.) who had married into the Scipio Africanus family. His full name was Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum. Occasionally referred to as Scipio or Corculum, but usually called Nasica, meaning "pointy nose."
Scipio, Fabius Maximus: see introductory notes
168 B.C.: Battle of Pydna
On the Map
Perrhaebia was the northernmost region of Thessaly.
[Aemilius, coming against such an adversary, made light indeed of him, but admired his preparation and power.] For in one camp [Perseus] had four thousand horsemen, and no less than forty thousand footmen, with the which army he had planted himself alongst the seaside, by the foot of Mount Olympus, in a place unpossible to be approached: and there he had so well fortified all the straits and passages unto him with fortifications of wood, that he thought himself to lie safe out of all danger, and imagined [himself] to dally with Aemilius, [thinking by delay and expense to weary him out]. But [Aemilius], 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, [he] rebuked them, and bade them not meddle with what was not their concern], but to see their armour and weapon ready to serve valiantly, and to use their swords after the Roman fashion when their general should appoint and command them. Wherefore, to make them more careful to look to themselves, he commanded those that watched should have no spears nor pikes, because they should be more wakeful, having no long weapon to resist the enemy if they were assaulted.
[omission for length]
[Aemilius lay still for some days]; and it is said there were never seen two so great armies one so near to the other, and to be so quiet. [When he had tried and considered all things], he was informed of another way to enter into Macedon, through the country of Perrhaebia [short omission] where there lay no garrison; which gave him better hope to pass that way, for that it was not kept, than that he feared the narrowness and hardness of the way unto it.
So, [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]. The second was Fabius Maximus, the eldest son of Aemilius, who being but a very young man, rose notwithstanding, and offered himself very willingly.
Aemilius was very glad of their offers; and gave them not so many men as Polybius writeth, but so many as Nasica himself declareth, in a letter of his he wrote to a king, where he reporteth all the story of this [expedition]. There were 3000 Italians levied in Italy, by the confederates of the Romans, who were not of the Roman legions; and in the left wing about 5000. Besides those, Nasica took also 120 men at arms, and about 200 Cretans and Thracians mingled together [short omission]. With this number Nasica departed from the camp, and took his way toward the seaside, and lodged by the Temple of Hercules, as if he had determined to do this feat by sea, to environ the camp of the enemies behind. But when the soldiers had supped, and that it was dark night, he made the captains of every band privy to his enterprise, and so marched all night [southwards], a contrary way from the sea, until at the length they came [to Pythion], where he lodged to rest the soldiers that were sore travelled.
[omission: verses about the height of Mount Olympus]
A Cretan deserted, who fled to the enemy during the march, [and revealed] to Perseus the design which the Romans had to encompass him; for he [Perseus], seeing that Aemilius lay still, had not suspected any such attempt.] He wondered much at these news; howbeit [he] removed not his camp from the place he lay in, but dispatched one of his captains called Milon, with ten thousand strangers, and two thousand Macedonians; and commanded him, with all the possible speed he could, to get the top of the hill before them.
Polybius sayeth that the Romans came and [attacked them] when they were sleeping. But Nasica writeth, that there was a marvellous sharp and terrible battle on the top of the mountain. [He] said plainly that a Thracian soldier coming towards him [Nasica], he threw his dart at him, and hitting him right in the breast, slew him stark dead; and, having repulsed their enemies, [and] Milon their captain shamefully running away in his coat without armour or weapon, he followed him without any danger; and so went down to the valley with the safety of all his company.
Narration and Discussion
What does it mean that the Roman soldiers were too ready "to teach their general his duty?" How did Aemilius rebuke them?
Explain the Roman strategy for surrounding the Macedonian army. Did it work?
Creative narration: Draw one of the scenes from this early part of the Battle of Pydna.
The skirmish at the top of the hill was only the beginning of the full Battle of Pydna. This lesson describes the preparation that went on after both sides had encamped near the plain chosen for battle.
phalanx: the classic Macedonian battle formation using shields and spears.
joined with Nasica: Nasica's troops rejoined the main army
shewing a countenance: appearing
lodge, fortify the camp: set up camp and start building defenses
the hindmost: those at the rear
insensibly: little by little, without being noticed
the element: the sky, the heavens
novice: beginner, newcomer
hecatomb: the sacrifice of a hundred oxen
solemn sports: athletic games performed as a religious ritual
procuring the skirmish: provoking a fight
foragers: those bringing in food and other supplies
greaves: leg armour
halberds: weapons resembling battleaxes
[omission for length: Perseus, a little worried by the Roman attack, nevertheless moved his army to a plain south of Pydna, and prepared for battle there]
[The place was a field fit for the action of a phalanx, which requires smooth standing and even ground; and [it] also had divers little hills, one joining another, [and] fit for the motions, whether in retreat or advance, of light troops and skirmishers.] There were two small rivers also, Aeson and Leucus, that ran through the same, the which, though they were not very deep, [it] being about the later end of the summer, yet they would annoy the Romans notwithstanding.
Now when Aemilius was joined with Nasica, he marched on straight in battle [ar]ray towards his enemies. But perceiving afar off their battle marched in very good order, and the great multitude of men placed in the same: he wondered to behold it; and suddenly stayed his army, considering with himself what he had to do. Then the young captains having charge under him, [eager to fight], went unto him to pray him to give the onset: but Nasica specially above the rest, having good hope in the former good luck he had at his first encounter.
Aemilius, smiling, answered him:
"So would I do, if I were as young as thou. But the sundry victories I have won heretofore [have] taught me by experience the faults the vanquished do commit, [and forbid me to engage soldiers weary with a long march against an army drawn up and prepared for battle]."
When he had answered him thus, he commanded the first bands, that were now in view of the enemies, should embattle themselves, shewing a countenance to the enemy as though they would fight; and that those in the rearward should lodge in the meantime, 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.]
But when night came, and every man had supped, as they were going to sleep and take their rest: the moon which was at the full, and of a great height, began to darken, and to change into many sorts of colours, the moon losing her light, until such time as she vanished away, and was eclipsed altogether. Then the Romans began to make a noise with basins and pans, as their fashion is to do in such a chance, thinking by this sound to call her again, and to make her come to her light, lifting up many torches lighted, and firebrands into the air. The Macedonians on the other side did no such matter within their camp, but [they] were all together stricken with a horrible fear; and there ran straight a whispering rumour through the people, that this sign in the element signified the eclipse of the king.
[Aemilius was no novice in these things, nor was [he] 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 luster, he offered up to her eleven heifers.] And the next morning also by the break of day, making sacrifice to Hercules, he could never have any signs or tokens that promised him good luck, in sacrificing twenty oxen one after another: but at the one and twentieth, he had signs that promised him victory. [He then vowed a hecatomb and solemn sports to Hercules], and commanded his captains to put their men in readiness to fight.
So [Aemilius] sought to win time, tarrying till the sun came about in the afternoon towards the west, to the end that the Romans, which were turned towards the east, should not have it in their faces when they were fighting. In the meantime, he reposed himself in his tent, which was all open behind towards the side that looked into the valley, where the camp of his enemies lay. When it grew towards night, to make the enemies set upon his men, some say he used this policy: he made a horse be driven towards them without a bridle, and certain Romans followed him, as [if] they would have taken him again: and this was the cause of procuring the skirmish. Other[s] say, that [some Thracians in Perseus' army] did set upon certain foragers of the Romans, that brought forage into the camp: out of the which, seven hundred of the Ligurians ran suddenly to the rescue, and relief coming still from both armies, at the last the main battle followed after.
Wherefore Aemilius, like a wise general, foreseeing by the danger of this skirmish, and the stirring of both camps, what the fury of the battle would come to: [he] came out of his tent, and passing by the bands, did encourage them, and prayed them to stick to it like men.
In the meantime, Nasica thrusting himself into the place where the skirmish was hottest, perceived the army of the enemies marching in battle, ready to join. The first [of the Macedonian army] that marched in the voward were the Thracians, who seemed terrible to look upon, as he writeth himself: for they were mighty made men, and carried marvellous bright targets of steel before them; their legs were armed with greaves, their coats were black, and [they] marched shaking heavy halberds upon their shoulders.
Next unto these Thracians, there followed them all the other strangers and soldiers whom the king had hired, diversely armed and set forth: for they were people of sundry nations gathered together, among whom the Paeonians were mingled.
The third squadron was of Macedonians, and all of them chosen men, as well for the flower of their youth, as for the valiantness of their persons: and they were all in goodly gilt armours, and [had] brave purple cassocks upon them, spick and span new. [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.]
Narration and Discussion
In what ways did Aemilius show himself a wise general, even before the fighting began?
Compare the Roman and Macedonian reactions to the eclipse of the moon. Explain why Aemilius was "no novice in these things."
Creative narration: Draw your impressions of the approach of the Macedonian troops.
The battle continued, and the Romans had a real challenge: breaking through the porcupine of spears and shields called a phalanx. At first it seemed that it couldn't be done; but then events began to turn.
dissemble: conceal one's true feelings
bideth not: does not take one's part in
could make no breach into them: could not break past their defenses
ensign: flag or standard
corselet: piece of body armour
The charge being given, and the battle begun, Aemilius, galloping to the voward of his battle, perceived that the captains of the Macedonians which were in the first ranks had already thrust their pikes into the Romans' targets, so as they could not come near them with their swords; and that the other Macedonians, carrying their targets behind them, had now plucked them before them, and did base their pikes all at one time, and made a violent thrust into the targets of the Romans. [When Aemilius 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 aftertimes 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 breastplate or helmet, with a serene and cheerful countenance.]
But on the contrary side, Perseus the king of Macedon, as Polybius writeth, so soon as the battle was begun, withdrew himself, and got into the city of Pydna, under pretense to go to do sacrifice unto Hercules: who doth not accept the faint sacrifice of cowards, neither doth receive their prayers, because they be unreasonable. For it is no reason that he that shooteth not should hit the white; nor that he should win the victory that bideth not the battle; neither that he should have any good that doeth nothing toward it; nor that a naughty man should be fortunate and prosper. The gods did favour Aemilius' prayers, because he prayed for victory with his sword in his hand, and, fighting, did call to them for aid.
Howbeit there is one Posidonius, a writer, who sayeth he [himself] was in that time, and, moreover, that he was at the battle; and he hath written a history containing many books of the acts of King Perseus, where he sayeth that it was not for faint heart, nor under colour to sacrifice unto Hercules, that Perseus went from the battle; but because he had a [kick from] a horse on the thigh the day before. Who though he could not very well help himself, and that all his friends sought to persuade him not to go to the battle: yet he caused one of his horse[s] to be brought to him notwithstanding (which he commonly used to ride up and down on), and taking his back, rode into the battle 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 having their hands full, and being [so] stayed by the battle [array] of the Macedonians that they could make no breach into them: there was a captain of the Pelignians called Salius, who took the ensign of his [company], and cast it among the press of his enemies. Then all the Pelignians broke in upon them, with a marvellous force and fury into that place: for all Italians think it too great a shame and dishonour for soldiers to lose or forsake their ensign. Thus was there [a] marvellous force of both sides used in that place: for the Pelignians proved to cut the Macedonians' pikes with their swords, or else to make them give back with their great targets, or to make a breach into them, and to take the pikes with their hands.
But the Macedonians to the contrary, holding their pikes fast with both hands, ran them through that came near unto them: so that neither target nor corselet could hold out the force and violence of the push of their pikes, insomuch as they turned up the heels of the Pelignians and Marrucinians, who, like desperate beasts without reason, shutting in themselves among their enemies, ran willfully upon their own deaths, and their first rank were slain every man of them.
Thereupon, those that were behind gave back a little, but fled, not turning their backs; and only [retreated] towards Mount Olocrus. Aemilius, seeing that (as Posidonius writeth), rent his arming coat from his back for anger, because that some of his men gave back. Other[s] durst not front the battle of the Macedonians, which was so strongly embattled of every side, and so mured in with a wall of pikes, presenting their armed heads on every side a man could come, that it was impossible to break into them, no not so much as to come near them only.
Yet notwithstanding, because the field was not altogether plain and even, the [Macedonian battle array] that was large in the front could not always keep that wall, continuing their targets close one to another; but they were driven of necessity to break and open in many places, as it happeneth oft in great battles, according to the great force of the soldiers: that in one place they thrust forward, and in another they give back, and leave a hole. Wherefore Aemilius suddenly taking the [ad]vantage of this occasion, [he] divided his men into small companies, and commanded them they should quickly thrust in between their enemies, and occupy the places they saw void in the front of their enemies, and that they should set on them in that sort, and not with one whole continual charge, but occupying them here and there with divers companies, in sundry places. Aemilius gave this charge unto the private captains of every band and their lieutenants; and the captains also gave the like charge unto their soldiers that could skillfully execute their commandment.
For they went presently into those parts where they saw the places open, and being once entered in among them, some gave charge upon the flanks of the Macedonians: [some on their sides where they were naked and exposed]; other[s] set upon them behind: so that the strength [of the phalanx] (which consisteth in keeping close together) being opened in this sort, was straight overthrown. Furthermore, when they came to fight man for man, or a few against a few: the Macedonians with their little short swords, came to strike upon the great shields of the Romans, which were very strong, and covered all their bodies down to the foot. And they, to the contrary, were driven of necessity to receive the blows of the strong heavy swords of the Romans upon their little weak targets: so that what with their heaviness, and the vehement force wherewith the blows lighted upon them, there was no target nor corselet but they passed it through, and ran them in. By reason whereof [the Macedonians] could make no long resistance, whereupon they turned their backs, and ran away.
[omission for length: the bravery of Marcus the son of Cato]
Then, singing a song of victory, the Romans went again more fiercely than before to give a charge upon their enemies, who were not yet broken asunder; until such time as, at the length, the three thousand chosen Macedonians fighting valiantly even to the last man, and never forsaking their ranks, were all slain in the place. After whose overthrow, there was a great slaughter of other[s] also that fled: so that all the valley and foot of the mountains thereabouts was covered with dead bodies.
Narration and Discussion
The force of the Macedonian phalanx "consists in common action and close union." How did the Romans break through?
An interesting statement: "The gods did favour Aemilius' prayers, because he prayed for victory with his sword in his hand . . ." Is there something here that could apply to Christian faith?
For older students: Should the Romans' victory be credited to their flexibility in fighting (such as their ability to move independently and to take advantage of gaps that opened between the phalanx and those fighting on either side); or was it due to poor Macedonian command?
Historical art: You may wish to look at the painting "Perseus Surrenders to Paulus," also called "King Perseus of Macedon in front of Aemilius Paulus," by Jean-François Pierre Peyron.
The battle ended, but Aemilius feared that he had lost his favourite son, Scipio, in the battle. Scipio did show up eventually, which allowed the Romans to enjoy their victory over Macedon.
new crept out of the shell: fresh-hatched, inexperienced
with his horsemen: Perseus' cavalry does not seem to have fought in the battle
to be spoiled: as their reward
avarice and misery: greed and stinginess
sanctuary and privilege: those who flee to a sacred place are considered untouchable
lists or showplace: stadium
Scipio Africanus: see introductory note
147 B.C.: Destruction of Carthage by Scipio Africanus
134 B.C.: Defeat of Numantia under the command of Scipio Africanus
The next day after the battle, when the Romans did pass over the river of Leucus, they found it running all a-blood. For it is said there were slain at this field, of Perseus' men, above five and twenty thousand; and of the Romans' side, as Posidonius sayeth, not above six score; or as Nasica writeth, but fourscore only. And for so great an overthrow, it is reported it was wonderfully quickly done, and executed. For they began to fight about three of the clock in the afternoon, and had won the victory before four, and all the rest of the day they followed their enemies in chase, a hundred and twenty furlongs from the place where the battle was fought: so that it was very late, and far forth night, before they returned again into the camp.
So such as returned, were received with marvellous great joy [by] their pages that went out with links and torches lighted, to bring their masters into their tents, where their men had made great bonfires, and decked them up with crowns and garlands of laurel, saving the general's tent only: who was very heavy, for that of his two sons he brought with him to the wars, the younger could not be found, which he loved best of the [two], because he saw he was of a better nature than the rest of his brethren. For even then, being new crept out of the shell as it were, he was marvellous valiant and brave, and desired honour wonderfully.
Now Aemilius thought he had been cast away, fearing lest for lack of experience in the wars, and through the rashness of his youth, he had put himself too far in fight amongst the press of the enemies. Hereupon the camp heard straight what sorrow Aemilius was in, and how grievously he took it. The Romans, being set at supper, rose from their meat, and with torchlight some ran to Aemilius' tent, other[s] went out of the camp to seek [his son] among the dead bodies, if they might know him: so all the camp was full of sorrow and mourning, the valleys and hills all about did ring again with the cries of those that called "Scipio" aloud. For even from his childhood he had a natural gift in him, of all the rare and singular parts required in a captain and wise governor of the commonwealth above all the young men of his time.
At the last, when they were out of all hope of his coming again, he happily returned from the chase of the enemies, with two or three of his familiars only, all bloodied with new blood (like a swift running greyhound fleshed with the blood of the hare), having pursued very far for joy of the victory. It is that Scipio which afterwards destroyed both the cities of Carthage and Numantium; who was the greatest man of war, and [the] valiantest captain of the Romans in his time, and of the greatest authority and reputation among them. [Thus Fortune, deferring her displeasure and jealousy of such great success to some other time, let Aemilius at present enjoy this victory, without any detraction or diminution.]
And as for Perseus, he fled first from the city of Pydna unto the city of Pella, with his horsemen, which were in manner all saved. Whereupon the [Macedonian] footmen that saved themselves by fleeing, meeting [the cavalry] by the way, called them traitors, cowards, and villains: and worse than that, they turned them off their horsebacks, and fought it out lustily with them. Perseus, [fearing the tumult], turned his horse out of the highway, and pulled off his purple coat, and carried it before him, and took [off] his diadem, fearing lest they should know him by these tokens; and because he might more easily speak with his friends by the way, he lighted a-foot, and led his horse [by] his hand.
But such as were about him, one made as though he would mend the latchet of his shoe, and other seemed to water his horse, another as though he would drink: so that one dragging after another in this sort, they all left him at the last, and ran their way, not fearing the enemies' fury so much as their king's cruelty: who, being grieved with his misfortune, sought to lay the fault of the overthrow upon all other[s] but himself. [Perseus arrived at Pella in the night, where Euctus and Eudaeus, two of his treasurers], came unto him, and speaking boldly (but out of time) presumed to tell him the great fault he had committed, and did counsel him also what he should do. The king was so moved with their presumption that with his own hands he stabbed his dagger in them both and slew them outright.
[short omission for length]
But when he was come into the city of Amphipolis, and afterwards into the city of Galepsus, and that the fear was well blown over: he returned again to his old humour, which was born and bred with him, and that was avarice and misery. For he made his complaint unto those that were about him, that he had un[a]wares given to the soldiers of Crete his plate and vessels of gold to be spoiled, being those which in old time belonged unto Alexander the Great: and [he] prayed them (with tears in his eyes) that had the plate, they would be contented to change it for ready money. Now such as knew his nature found straight this was but a [lie]; but those that trusted him, and did restore again the plate they had, did lose it every jot, for he never paid them [a] penny of it. So he got of his friends the value of thirty talents (which his enemies soon after did take from him). And with that sum he went into the isle of Samothracia, where he took the sanctuary and privilege of the temple of Castor and Pollux.
They say that the Macedonians, of long continuance, did naturally love their kings; but then seeing all their hope and expectation broken, their hearts failed them, and broke withal. For they all came, and submitted themselves unto Aemilius, and made him lord of the whole realm of Macedon in two days; and this doth seem to confirm their words who impute all Aemilius' doings unto his good fortune.
And surely, the marvellous fortune he happened on in the city of Amphipolis, doth confirm it much, which a man cannot ascribe otherwise but to the special grace of the gods. For one day, beginning to do sacrifice, lightning fell from heaven, and set all the wood afire upon the altar, and sanctified the sacrifice. But yet the miracle of his fame is more to be wondered at. For four days after Perseus had lost the battle, and that the city of Pella was taken, as the people of Rome were at the lists or showplace, seeing horses run for games: suddenly there rose a rumour at the entering into the lists where the games were, how Aemilius had won a great battle of King Perseus, and had conquered all Macedon.
This news was rife straight in every man's mouth, and there followed upon it a marvellous joy and great cheer in every corner, with shouts and clapping of hands that continued all the day through the city of Rome. Afterwards they made diligent inquiry, how this rumour first came up; but no certain author could be known, and every man said they heard it spoken; so as in the end it came to nothing and passed away in that sort for a time.
[omission for length]
Narration and Discussion
Discuss this sentence: "Thus Fortune, deferring her displeasure and jealousy of such great success to some other time, let Aemilius at present enjoy this victory, without any detraction or diminution." Does this hint at trouble ahead for Aemilius?
Discuss how Perseus blamed others for his defeat. What did this show about his character?
Creative narration: Act out or write the part of a Roman scribe trying to track down the source of the news of the victory at Pydna.
Instead of being pleased at having King Perseus throwing himself at his feet, Aemilius was angered and embarrassed, and had him taken away. Aemilius then headed to Greece, where he generously hosted games and banquets for the Macedonians . . . out of Perseus' treasury.
vice: weakness, failure of character
exonerate: make free from guilt
your deserts: what you deserved
deprecate: despise, make less of
redoubted: dreaded, powerful
defrayed the whole charge thereof: paid for it
coffers of store: public treasury
concord: peace, harmony
Gnaeus Octavius: or Cnaeus Octavius; he became consul in 165 B.C.
Aelius Tubero: see introductory note
Nasica: see previous lessons
On the Map
Samothrace: an island in the North Aegean Sea
[Gnaeus Octavius, who was joined in command with Aemilius, came to an anchor with his fleet] under the isle of Samothrace, where he would not take Perseus by force out of the sanctuary where he was, for the reverence he did bear unto the gods Castor and Pollux; but he did besiege him in such sort, as he could not [e]scape him, nor flee by sea out of the island. [Notwithstanding, Perseus secretly persuaded Oroandes of Crete, master of a small vessel, to convey him and his treasure away. [Oroandes] [brief omission] took in the treasure, and] sent him word that he should not fail the next night following to come unto the pier by the temple of Ceres, with his wife, his children and servants; but the next night following [Oroandes] hoisted sail, and got him[self] away.
It was a pitiful thing that Perseus was driven to do and suffer at that time. For he came down in the night by ropes, out of a little strait window upon the walls; and not only himself, but his wife and little babes, who never knew before what fleeing and hardness meant. And yet he fetched a more grievous bitter sigh, when [some]one told him, on the pier, that he saw Oroandes the Cretan under sail in the main seas. Then day beginning to break, and seeing himself void of all hope, he ran with his wife for life to the wall, to recover the sanctuary again before the Romans that saw him could overtake him.
And as for his children, he had given them himself into the hands of one Ion [brief omission], who then did traitorously betray him: for [Ion] delivered [Perseus'] children unto the Romans. Which part was one of the chiefest causes that drove him (as a beast that will follow her little ones being taken from her) to yield himself into their hands that had his children. [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.]
For he made request they would bring him unto the general Aemilius; who rose from his chair when he saw him come, and went to meet him with his friends, the water standing in his eyes, to meet a great king, by fortune of war, and by the will of the gods, fallen into that most lamentable fact.
But [Perseus], to the contrary, unmanly and shamefully behaved himself. For he fell down at his feet, and embraced his knees, and uttered such uncomely speech and vile requests as Aemilius [him]self could not abide to hear them: but knitting his brows against him, being heartily offended, he spoke thus unto him:
["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 deprecate also my victory, and make my conquests insignificant, by proving yourself a coward, and a foe beneath a Roman? Distressed valour challenges great respect, even from enemies; but cowardice, though never so successful, from the Romans has always met with scorn."]
Notwithstanding, he took him up, and taking him by the hand, gave him into the custody of Tubero.
Then Aemilius went into his tent, and carried his sons, and sons-in-law with him, and other men of quality, and [e]specially the younger sort. And being sat down, he continued a great space very pensive with himself, not speaking a word: in so much as all the standers-by wondered much at the matter. In the end, he began to enter into discourse and talk of Fortune, and the unconstancy of these worldly things; and said unto them:
"[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 greatest joy.] You see that in an hour's space we have trodden under our feet the house of Alexander the Great, who hath been the mightiest and most redoubted prince of the world. You see a king that not long since was followed and accompanied with many thousand soldiers of horsemen and footmen, brought at this present into such miserable extremity that he is enforced to receive his meat and drink daily at the hands of his enemies. Should we have any better hope, then, that Fortune will always favour our doings more than she doth his now, at this present? [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.]"
Such were Aemilius' words to these young men, as it is reported, bridling, by these and such like persuasions, the lusty bravery of this youth, even as with the bit and bridle of reason.
[omission for length: Aemilius' journey through Greece, during which he re-established city governments and gave gifts to the people]
Afterwards when the ten ambassadors were arrived that were sent from Rome to establish with him the realm of Macedon, he redelivered the Macedonians their country and towns again, to live at liberty, according to their laws, paying yearly to the Romans, for tribute, a hundred talents: where before they were wont to pay unto their kings ten times as much. And he made plays and games of all sorts; and did celebrate sumptuous sacrifices unto the gods. He kept open court to all comers, and made noble feasts, and defrayed the whole charge thereof with the treasure Perseus had gathered together, sparing for no cost. But through his care and foresight there was such a special good order taken, every man so courteously received and welcomed, and so orderly marshalled at the table according to their estate and calling, that the Greeks wondered to see him so careful in matters of sport and pleasure; and that he took as great pains in his own person to see that small matters should be ordered as they ought, as he took great regard for discharge of more weighty causes. But this was a marvellous pleasure to him, to see that among such sumptuous sights prepared to shew pleasure to the persons invited, no sight or stately shew did so delight them as to enjoy the sight and company of his person. So he told them that seemed to wonder at his diligence and care in these matters that to order a feast well required as great judgement and discretion, as to set a battle: to make the one fearful to the enemies, and the other acceptable to his friends.
But men esteemed his bounty and magnanimity for his best virtue and quality. For he did not only refuse to see the king's wonderful treasure of gold and silver; but caused it to be delivered to the custody of the treasurers, to carry to the coffers of store in Rome; and only suffered his sons, that were learned, to take the books of the king's library. When he did reward the soldiers for their valiant service in this battle, he gave his son-in-law Aelius Tubero a cup weighing five talents. It is the same Tubero we told you of before, who lived with sixteen other[s] of his kin all in one house, and the only revenue they had [that of] a little farm in the country. Some say that cup was the first piece of plate that ever came into the house of the Aelians, and yet it came for honour and reward of virtue; but before that time, neither themselves, nor their wives, would ever have, or wear, any gold or silver.
After he had very well ordered and disposed all things, at the last he took leave of the Greeks, and counselled the Macedonians to remember the liberty the Romans had given them, and that they should be careful to keep it by their good government and concord together.
Narration and Discussion
Discuss Aemilius' response to Perseus' groveling, especially this saying: "Distressed valour challenges great respect, even from enemies; but cowardice, though never so successful, from the Romans has always met with scorn." Creative narration: This might be an interesting scene to act out or write in dramatic form.
What point did Aemilius make about gloating over a victory?
For older students: Did the Romans truly give the Macedonians liberty?
When the army returned to Rome, the soldiers immediately began to grumble about the tiny reward they were given for their part in those attacks. This escalated into a vote as to whether Aemilius should be allowed his triumph at all; but a speech by Marcus Servilius decided the question.
spoil: raid, ransack, loot
policy: strategy, trick
the honour of triumph: the right to have a public victory celebration
sought no redress: did nothing about it
betimes: quickly, in short order
stay to take the voices of the people: not accept the vote
Servius Galba: Servius Sulpicius Galba, who was later elected consul
Marcus Servilius: Marcus Servilius Pulex Geminus, a Roman statesman
167 B.C.: Roman attack on Epirus
On the Map
Epirus: a region of southeastern Europe, between the Pindus Mountains and the Ionian Sea
Then he departed from them, and took his journey towards the country of Epirus, having received commission from the senate of Rome to suffer his soldiers, who had done service in the battle and overthrow of King Perseus, to spoil all the cities of that country. Wherefore that he might surprise them on a sudden, and that they should mistrust nothing, he sent to all the cities that they should send him, by a certain day, ten of the chiefest men of every city. Who, when they were come, he commanded them to go and bring him, by such a day, all the gold and silver they had within their cities, as well in their private houses as in their temples; and [he] gave unto every one of them a captain and garrison with them, as if it had been only to have received and searched for the gold and silver he demanded.
But when the day appointed was come, the soldiers in divers places (and all at one time) set upon their enemies; and did rifle and spoil them of that [which] they had; and made them also pay ransom [for] every man. So as by this policy, there were taken and made slaves, in one day, a hundred and fifty thousand persons, and three score and ten cities spoiled and sacked every one. [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] fear the terror of the wars, to see the wealth and riches of so great a realm to amount to so little for every man's share.
When Aemilius had done this [deed] against his own nature (which was very gentle and courteous), he went unto the seaside to the city of Oricus, and there embarked with his army bound for Italy.
Where when he was arrived, he went up the Tiber River against the [current], in King Perseus' chief galley, which had sixteen oars on a side, richly set out with the armour of the prisoners, rich clothes of purple colour, and other such spoils of the enemies: so that the Romans [were] running out of Rome in multitudes to see this galley, and going side by side by her as they rowed softly, Aemilius took as great pleasure in it as in any open games, or feasts, or triumph that had been showed indeed.
But when the soldiers saw that the gold and silver of King Perseus' treasure was not divided amongst them, according unto promise; and that they had a great deal less than they looked for, they were marvellously offended, and inwardly grudged Aemilius in their hearts.
Nevertheless they [dared] not speak it openly; but did accuse him that he had been too strait unto them in this war, and therefore they did shew no great desire, nor forwardness, to procure him the honour of triumph.
[When Servius Galba, who was Aemilius' 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 [he] 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.] The tribunes made him answer that he should speak then what he had to say against him [Aemilius], or otherwise they would not grant him audience. Hereupon [Galba] began to make a long oration in his dispraise, full of railing words; and spent all the rest of the day in that railing oration. Afterwards, when night came on, the tribunes broke up the assembly; and the next morning, the soldiers being encouraged by Galba's oration, and having confedered together, did flock about Galba, in the mount of the Capitol, where the tribunes had given warning [that] they would keep their assembly.
Now [it] being broad day, Aemilius' triumph was referred to the most number of voices of the people; and the first tribe flatly did deny his triumph. The senate, and the residue of the people, hearing that, were very sorry to see they did Aemilius so open wrong and injury. The common people said nothing to it; but seemed to be very sorry; howbeit they sought no redress.
The lords of the senate cried out upon them, and said it was too much shame, and exhorted one another to bridle the insolency and boldness of these soldiers, who would grow in the end to such tumult and disorder that they would commit all mischief and wickedness, if betimes they were not looked to and prevented, seeing they did so openly stand against their general, seeking to deprive him of the honour of his triumph and victory. So they assembled a good company of them together, and went up to the Capitol, and prayed the tribunes they would stay to take the voices of the people until they had acquainted them with such needful matter as they had to open unto them. The tribunes granted to it, and silence was made.
Then Marcus Servilius, who had been consul, and had fought three and twenty combats of life and death in his own person, and had always slain as many of his enemies as challenged him man for man, rose up and spoke in favour of Aemilius in this manner:
"I know now," (said he) "better than before, how noble and worthy a captain Aemilius Paulus is; who hath achieved such glory and honourable victory, with so dishonourable and disobedient soldiers. And I can but wonder that the people, [who] not long since rejoiced and made great account of the victories and triumphs won upon the Illyrians and other nations of Africa; and that now they should for spite envy his glory (doing what lieth in them to hinder) to bring a Macedonian king alive in a triumph; and to shew the glory and greatness of King Philip and Alexander the Great subdued by the Romans' force and power. What reason have ye, that not long since, upon a flying rumour that Aemilius had won the battle against Perseus, you straight made sacrifices to the gods with great joy, praying them that you might be witnesses of the truth thereof; and now that the person himself whom you made general is returned home, and doth deliver you most assured victory, you do frustrate the gods' most solemn thanks and honour due to them, and do deprive yourselves also of your wonted glory in such a case? as if you were afraid to see the greatness of your prosperity, or that you meant to pardon a king, your slave and prisoner. [And of the two, much better were it to put a stop to the triumph out of pity to [Perseus], 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 valour or the cowardice of commanders.]"
And speaking these words, he cast open his gown, and showed before them all the infinite scars and cuts he had received upon his breast: and then turning him behind, showed all such places as were not fit to be seen openly, and so [he] turned him again to Galba, and said unto him:
"Thou mockest me for that I shew thee: but I rejoice before my country men and citizens: that for serving my country night and day a-horseback, I have these wounds upon me which thou seest. Now get thee about thy business, and receive their voices; and I will come after, noting them that are naughty and unthankful citizens, who like to be soothed with flattery, and not stoutly commanded, as behoveth a general in the war."
These words so reined the hard-headed soldiers with the curb of reason that all the other tribes agreed [as] one; and granted Aemilius [his] triumph.
Narration and Discussion
Does Plutarch feel that the sacking of the cities was worth it for a reward of only eleven drachmas apiece? What do you think? (Would he have approved of it more if the reward had been greater?)
Creative narration: What a great scene Part Two would be for acting out! There is of course the difficulty of needing great numbers of Romans! Could you find a way around it?
The Romans staged a three-day parade (a triumph) in honour of Aristides and the victory over Perseus.
scaffolds: raised seating
sarissas: long spears
frocks: uniforms, costumes
basins for libation: vessels for drink offerings to the gods
to make one among . . . : to be one more piece of the "loot"
passing sumptuously: quite lavishly
merry pleasant toys: good-natured jesting, teasing
167 B.C.: Aemilius' return to Rome
The order and solemnity [of Aemilius' triumph] was performed in this sort. [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.]
Furthermore, the sight of this triumph was to continue three days, whereof the first was scant sufficient to see the passing by of the images, tables, and pictures, and statues of wonderful bigness, all won and gotten of their enemies, and drawn upon two hundred and fifty chariots.
The second day, there were carried, upon a number of carts, all the fairest and richest armour of the Macedonians, [both of brass and steel], all glistering bright, being newly furbished and [arranged purposely with the greatest art, so as to seem to be tumbled in heaps carelessly and by chance]. [There were helmets thrown upon shields; coats of mail,] greaves, Cretan targets, 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 this armour and carriage [was] bound one to another so trimly (neither being too loose, nor too strait) that one hitting against another, as they drew them upon the carts through the city, they made such a sound and noise, as it was fearful to hear it: [so that, even as spoils of a conquered enemy, they could not be beheld without dread].
After these carts laden with armour, there followed three thousand men, which carried the ready money in seven hundred and fifty vessels, which weighed about three talents apiece, and every one of them [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.]
The third day, early in the morning, the trumpets began to sound and set forwards, sounding no march nor sweet note, to beautify triumph withal: but they blew out the brave alarm they sound at an assault, to give the soldiers courage for 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 Aemilius had caused to be made, that weighed ten talents, and was set with precious stones.] And next unto them went other that carried plate, made and wrought after [the] antique fashion, and notable cups of the ancient kings of Macedon: [such] as the cup [of] Antigonus, and another [of] Seleucus; and, to be short, all the whole cupboard of plate of gold and silver of King Perseus.
And next them came the chariot of his armour, in the which was all King Perseus' harness, and his royal [diadem] upon his armour.
And a little space between them, followed next the king's children, whom they led prisoners, with the train of their schoolmasters and other officers, and their servants, weeping and lamenting: who held up their hands unto the people that looked upon them, and taught the king's young children to do the like, to ask mercy and grace at the people's hands. There were three pretty little children, two sons and a daughter amongst them, whose tender years and lack of understanding, made them (poor souls) they could not feel their present misery, which made the people so much more to pity them, when they saw the poor little infants, that they knew not the change of their hard fortune: so that for the compassion they had of them, they almost let the father pass without looking upon him. Many people's hearts did melt for very pity, that the tears ran down their cheeks, so as this sight brought both pleasure and sorrow together to the lookers-on, until they were past and gone a good way out of sight.
King Perseus, the father, followed after his children and their train; and he was clothed in a black gown, wearing a pair of slippers on his feet after his country manner. He showed by his countenance his troubled mind, oppressed with sorrow of his most miserable state and fortune. He was followed with his kinfolks, his familiar friends, his officers and household servants, their faces disfigured by blubbering, shewing to the world by their lamenting tears and sorrowful eyes cast upon their unfortunate master, how much they sorrowed and bewailed his most hard and cursed fortune, little accounting of their own misery.
The voice goeth that Perseus sent unto Aemilius, to entreat him that he should not be led through the city in the show and sight of the triumph. But Aemilius mocking (as he deserved) his cowardly faint heart, answered: "As for that, it was before, and is now in him, to do if he will." Meaning to let him understand thereby, that he might rather choose to die, than, living, to receive such open shame. Howbeit his heart would not serve him; he was so cowardly [brief omission] that he was contented to make one among his own spoils.
After all this, there followed four hundred princely crowns of gold, which the cities and towns of Greece had purposely sent by their ambassadors unto Aemilius, to honour his victory: and next unto them, he came himself in his chariot triumphing, which was passing sumptuously set forth and adorned. It was a noble sight to behold: and yet the person of himself only was worth the looking on, without all that great pomp and magnificence. For he was appareled in a purple gown [interwoven] with gold, and [he] carried in his right hand a laurel bough, as all his army did besides: the which being divided by bands and companies, followed the triumphing chariot of their captain, [with] some of the soldiers singing songs of victory, which the Romans use to sing in like triumphs, mingling them with merry pleasant toys, rejoicing at their captain. Other[s] of them also did sing songs of triumph, in the honour and praise of Aemilius' noble conquest and victory. He was openly praised, blessed, and honoured of everybody, and neither hated nor envied of honest men. [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.].
Narration and Discussion
Did Perseus have a choice about being part of the spectacle? What do you think of the choice he made?
Creative narration: Describe the triumph in any way you want: verbally, in a drawing, with a song of celebration, or in some other way.
For older students: Some people believe that after a run of "good luck," any person (or economy, or sports team) may be due for a change in fortune. Does this differ from a Christian perspective?
Lesson Twelve and Examination Questions
The hint that nothing could remain perfect was fulfilled, as two of Aemilius' sons died at the time of his triumph. But he accepted his loss philosophically. ("I knew something bad would probably happen, so I'm just glad it happened to me personally and not to Rome.") The rest of the passage describes Aemilius' time as censor, his retirement years, and his final return to Rome.
favourable gale: helpful wind
unlucky or sinister: negative
censor: see introductory notes
bier: the framework for carrying a corpse
166 B.C.: death of Perseus
164 B.C.: Aemilius elected censor
160 B.C.: death of Aemilius Paulus
[Aemilius 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. Aemilius, however, reasoning justly that courage and resolution was not merely to resist armour and spears, but all the shocks of ill-fortune, so met and so adapted himself to these mingled and contrasting circumstances, so 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 when he had buried the eldest of his two last sons, he [waited] not to make his triumphant entry, as you have heard before. And his second son also being deceased after his triumph, he caused the people to assemble, and in face of the whole made an oration, [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 favourable 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 honourable period to the war.] But yet, mistrusting Fortune always, being the prosperous course of my affairs, and considering that there were no other enemies, nor dangers I needed to fear: I feared sorely she would change at my return, when I should be upon the sea, bringing home so goodly and victorious an army, with so many spoils and so many princes and kings taken prisoners. And yet when I was safely arrived in the haven, and seeing all the city at my return full of joy, and of feasts and sacrifices: I still suspected Fortune, knowing her manner well enough, that she useth not to gratify men so frankly, nor to grant them so great things clearly, without some certain spark of envy waiting on them. [Nor could my mind, that was still as it were, in labour, 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.] Wherefore, methinks now I may say, I am out of all danger, at the least touching my chiefest and greatest misfortune: and do begin to [e]stablish myself with this assured hope, that this good Fortune henceforth shall remain with us evermore, without fear of other unlucky or sinister chance. For she hath sufficiently countervailed the favourable victory she gave you, with the envious mishap wherewith she hath plagued both me and mine: shewing the conqueror and triumpher as noble an example of man's misery and weakness, as the party conquered that had been led in triumph. Saving that Perseus yet, conquered as he is, hath this comfort left him: to see his children living, and that the conqueror, Aemilius, hath lost his."
[omission for length: the imprisonment and death of Perseus]
But Aemilius also, although he took ever the noblemen's part, was not therefore less beloved of the common people than those that always flattered them, doing all things as the people would, to please them: which the common people did witness, as well by other honours and offices they offered him, as in the dignity of the censor which they gave him. For it was the holiest office of all other at that time, and of greatest power and authority, specially for inquiry and reformation of every man's life and manners.
[omission for length]
And after he had ordered and disposed the greatest matters of his charge and office, he fell sick of a disease that, at the beginning, seemed very dangerous; but in the end there was no other danger, saving that it was a lingering disease, and hard to cure. So, following the counsel of physicians, who willed him to go to a city in Italy called Velia, he took sea, and went thither, and continued there a long time, dwelling in pleasant houses upon the seaside, quietly and out of all noise. But during this time of his absence, the Romans wished for him many a time and oft. And when they were gathered together in the theaters, to see the plays and sports, they cried out divers times for him: whereby they showed that they had a great desire to see him again.
Time being come about when they used to make a solemn yearly sacrifice, and Aemilius finding himself also in good perfect health: he returned again to Rome, where he made the sacrifice with the other priests, all the people of Rome gathering about him, rejoicing much to see him. The next day after, he made another particular sacrifice, to give thanks unto the gods for recovery of his health. After the sacrifice was ended, he went home to his house, and sat him down to dinner: he suddenly fell into a raving (without any perseverance of sickness spied in him before, or any change or alteration in him) and his wits went from him in such sort that he died within three days after, lacking no necessary thing that an earthly man could have to make him happy in this world. [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, honour, and love, not only of his fellow-citizens, but of his enemies themselves.]
For all those that met in Rome by chance at that time, that were either come out of Spain, from Liguria, or out of Macedon, all those that were young and strong [took up the bier and carried it]; and the old men followed his body to accompany the same, calling Aemilius the benefactor, saviour, and father of their country. For he did not only entreat them gently and graciously, whom he had subdued: but all his lifetime he was ever ready to [do them good], and to set forward their causes, even as [if] they had been his confederates, very friends, and near kinsmen. [They report that the whole of his estate scarce amounted to three hundred and seventy thousand drachmas; to which he left his two sons [as] co-heirs; 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 Aemilius.]
Narration and Discussion
Discuss Aemilius' speeches about courage and resolution. How did his actions show that he believed in what he said? Is it true "that Fortune never conferred any great benefits that were unmixed and unattended with probabilities of reverse?" (Consider Romans 8:28.)
What do you think are the most significant points Plutarch brings out about the death and funeral of Aemilius? How do they reflect his life?
1. How did Aemilius conduct the war against the Ligurians at the time of an eclipse of the moon?
2. (Alternate) Describe (a), how Perseus was betrayed by Oroandes, yielded himself to the Romans, and was brought before Aemilius; or, (b), the triumph which the Romans gave.
1. a) Describe the speech of Aemilius on the death of his two sons.
b) Describe the triumph of Aemilius after his victory over Perseus.
2. (For high school students) Contrast, in the manner of Plutarch, the characters of Aemilius and Perseus. Give incidents as illustration.
AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus