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Historical library 34

Diodorus Siculus


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Historical library 34.1
When Sicily, after the Carthaginian collapse, had enjoyed sixty years of good fortune in all respects, the Servile War broke out for the following reason. The Sicilians, having shot up in prosperity and acquired great wealth, began to purchase a vast number of slaves, to whose bodies, as they were brought in droves from the slave markets, they at once applied marks and brand.

Historical library 34.2
The young men they used as cowherds, the others in such ways as they happened to be useful. But they treated them with a heavy hand in their service, and granted them the most meagre care, the bare minimum for food and clothing. As a result most of them made their livelihood by brigandage, and there was bloodshed everywhere, since the brigands were like scattered bands of soldiers.

Historical library 34.3
The governors (praetores) attempted to repress them, but since they did not dare to punish them because of the power and prestige of the gentry who owned the brigands, they were forced to connive at the pillaging of the province. For most of the landowners were Roman knights (equites), and since it was the knights who acted as judges when charges arising from provincial affairs were brought against the governors, the magistrates stood in awe of them.

Historical library 34.4
The slaves, distressed by their hardships, and frequently outraged and beaten beyond all reason, could not endure their treatment. Getting together as opportunity offered, they discussed the possibility of revolt, until at last they put their plans into action.

Historical library 34.5
There was a certain Syrian slave, belonging to Antigenes of Enna; he was an Apamean by birth and had an aptitude for magic and the working of wonders. He claimed to foretell the future, by divine command, through dreams, and because of his talent along these lines deceived many. Going on from there he not only gave oracles by means of dreams, but even made a pretence of having waking visions of the gods and of hearing the future from their own lips.

Historical library 34.6
Of his many improvisations some by chance turned out true, and since those which failed to do so were left unchallenged, while those that were fulfilled attracted attention, his reputation advanced apace. Finally, through some device, while in a state of divine possession, he would produce fire and flame from his mouth, and thus rave oracularly about things to come.

Historical library 34.7.
For he would place fire, and fuel to maintain it, in a nut -- or something similar -- that was pierced on both sides; then, placing it in his mouth and blowing on it, he kindled now sparks, and now a flame. Prior to the revolt he used to say that the Syrian goddess appeared to him, saying that he should be king, and he repeated this, not only to others, but even to his own master.

Historical library 34.8.
Since his claims were treated as a joke, Antigenes, taken by his hocus-pocus, would introduce Eunus (for that was the wonder-worker's name) at his dinner parties, and cross-question him about his kingship and how he would treat each of the men present. And since he gave a full account of everything without hesitation, explaining with what moderation he would treat the masters and in sum making a colourful tale of his quackery, the guests were always stirred to laughter, and some of them, picking up a nice tidbit from the table, would present it to him, adding, as they did so, that when he became king, he should remember the favour.

Historical library 34.9.
But, as it happened, his charlatanism did in fact result in kingship, and for the favours received in jest at the banquets he made a return of thanks in good earnest. The beginning of the whole revolt took place as follows.

Historical library 34.10.
There was a certain Damophilus of Enna, a man of great wealth but insolent of manner; he had abused his slaves to excess, and his wife Megallis vied even with her husband in punishing the slaves and in her general inhumanity towards them. The slaves, reduced by this degrading treatment to the level of brutes, conspired to revolt and to murder their masters. Going to Eunus they asked him whether their resolve had the favour of the gods. He, resorting to his usual mummery, promised them the favour of the gods, and soon persuaded them to act at once.

Historical library 34.11.
Immediately, therefore, they brought together four hundred of their fellow slaves and, having armed themselves in such ways as opportunity permitted, they fell upon the city of Enna, with Eunus at their head and working his miracle of the flames of fire for their benefit. When they found their way into the houses they shed much blood, sparing not even suckling babes.

Historical library 34.12.
They tore them from the breast and dashed them to the ground, while as for the women -- and under their husbands' very eyes -- but words cannot tell the extent of their outrages and acts of lewdness! By now a great multitude of slaves from the city had joined them, who, after first demonstrating against their own masters their utter ruthlessness, then turned to the slaughter of others.

Historical library 34.13.
When Eunus and his men learned that Damophilus and his wife were in the garden that lay near the city, they sent some of their band and dragged them off, both the man and his wife, fettered and with hands bound behind their backs, subjecting them to many outrages along the way. Only in the case of the couple's daughter were the slaves seen to show consideration throughout, and this was because of her kindly nature, in that to the extent of her power she was always compassionate and ready to succour the slaves. Thereby it was demonstrated that the others were treated as they were, not because of some "natural savagery of slaves," but rather in revenge for wrongs previously received.

Historical library 34.14
The men appointed to the task, having dragged Damophilus and Megallis into the city, as we said, brought them to the theatre, where the crowd of rebels had assembled. But when Damophilus attempted to devise a plea to get them off safe and was winning over many of the crowd with his words, Hermeias and Zeuxis, men bitterly disposed towards him, denounced him as a cheat, and without waiting for a formal trial by the assembly the one ran him through the chest with a sword, the other chopped off his head with an axe. Thereupon Eunus was chosen king, not for his manly courage or his ability as a military leader, but solely for his marvels and his setting of the revolt in motion, and because his name seemed to contain a favourable omen that suggested good will towards his subjects.

Historical library 34.15.
Established as the rebels' supreme commander, he called an assembly and put to death all the citizenry of Enna except for those who were skilled in the manufacture of arms: these he put in chains and assigned them to this task. He gave Megallis to the maidservants to deal with as they might wish; they subjected her to torture and threw her over a precipice. He himself murdered his own masters, Antigenes and Pytho.

Historical library 34.16.
Having set a diadem upon his head, and arrayed himself in full royal style, he proclaimed his wife queen (she was a fellow Syrian and of the same city), and appointed to the royal council such men as seemed to be gifted with superior intelligence, among them one Achaeus (Achaeus by name and an Achaean by birth), a man who excelled both at planning and in action. In three days Eunus had armed, as best he could, more than six thousand men, besides others in his train who had only axes and hatchets, or slings, or sickles, or fire-hardened stakes, or even kitchen spits; and he went about ravaging the countryside. Then, since he kept recruiting untold numbers of slaves, he ventured even to do battle with Roman generals, and on joining combat repeatedly overcame them with his superior numbers, for he now had more than ten thousand soldiers.

Historical library 34.17.
Meanwhile a man named Cleon, a Cilician, began a revolt of still other slaves. And though there were high hopes everywhere that the revolutionary groups would come into conflict one with the other, and that the rebels, by destroying themselves, would free Sicily of strife, contrary to expectations the two groups joined forces, Cleon having subordinated himself to Eunus at his mere command, and discharging, as it were, the function of a general serving a king; his particular band numbered five thousand men. It was now about thirty days since the outbreak.

Historical library 34.18.
Soon after, engaging in battle with a general arrived from Rome, Lucius Hypsaeus, who had eight thousand Sicilian troops, the rebels were victorious, since they now numbered twenty thousand. Before long their band reached a total of two hundred thousand, and in numerous battles with the Romans they acquitted themselves well, and failed but seldom.

Historical library 34.19.
As word of this was bruited about, a revolt of one hundred and fifty slaves, banded together, flared up in Rome, of more than a thousand in Attica, and of yet others in Delos and many other places. But thanks to the speed with which forces were brought up and to the severity of their punitive measures, the magistrates of these communities at once disposed of the rebels and brought to their senses any who were wavering on the verge of revolt. In Sicily, however, the trouble grew.

Historical library 34.20.
Cities were captured with all their inhabitants, and many armies were cut to pieces by the rebels, until Rupilius, the Roman commander, recovered Tauromenium for the Romans by placing it under strict siege and confining the rebels under conditions of unspeakable duress and famine: conditions such that, beginning by eating the children, they progressed to the women, and did not altogether abstain even from eating one another. It was on this occasion that Rupilius captured Comanus, the brother of Cleon, as he was attempting to escape from the beleaguered city.

Historical library 34.21.
Finally, after Sarapion, a Syrian, had betrayed the citadel, the general laid hands on all the runaway slaves in the city, whom, after torture, he threw over a cliff. From there he advanced to Enna, which he put under siege in much the same manner, bringing the rebels into extreme straits and frustrating their hopes. Cleon came forth from the city with a few men, but after an heroic struggle, covered with wounds, he was displayed dead, and Rupilius captured this city also by betrayal, since its strength was impregnable to force of arms.

Historical library 34.22.
Eunus, taking with him his bodyguards, a thousand strong, fled in unmanly fashion to a certain precipitous region. The men with him, however, aware that their dreaded fate was inevitable, inasmuch as the general, Rupilius, was already marching against them, killed one another with the sword, by beheading. Eunus, the wonder-worker and king, who through cowardice had sought refuge in certain caves, was dragged out with four others, a cook, a baker, the man who massaged him at his bath, and a fourth, whose duty it had been to amuse him at drinking parties.

Historical library 34.23.
Remanded to prison, where his flesh disintegrated into a mass of lice, he met such an end as befitted his knavery, and died at Morgantina. Thereupon Rupilius, traversing the whole of Sicily with a few picked troops, sooner than had been expected rid it of every nest of robbers.

Historical library 34.24.
Eunus, king of the rebels, called himself Antiochus, and his horde of rebels Syrians. Approaching Eunus, who lived not far away, they asked whether their project had the approval of the gods. He put on a display of divine transports, and when he learned why they had come, stated clearly that the gods favoured their revolt, provided they made no delay but applied themselves to the enterprise at once; for it was decreed by Fate that Enna, the citadel of the whole island, should be their land. Having heard this, and believing that Providence was assisting them in their project, they were so keenly wrought up for revolt that there was no delay in executing their resolve. At once, therefore, they set free those in bonds, and collecting such as lived near by they assembled some 400 men in a certain field not far from Enna. After making a compact and exchanging pledges sworn by night over sacrificial victims, they armed themselves in such fashion as the occasion allowed; but all were equipped with the best of weapons, fury, which was bent on the destruction of their arrogant masters. Their leader was Eunus. With cries of encouragement to one another they broke into the city about midnight and put many to the sword.

Historical library 34.25.
There was never a sedition of slaves so great as that which occurred in Sicily, whereby many cities met with grave calamities, innumerable men and women, together with their children, experienced the greatest misfortunes, and all the island was in danger of falling into the power of fugitive slaves, who measured their authority only by the excessive suffering of the freeborn. To most people these events came as an unexpected and sudden surprise, but to those who were capable of judging affairs realistically they did not seem to happen without reason.

Historical library 34.26.
Because of the superabundant prosperity of those who exploited the products of this mighty island, nearly all who had risen in wealth affected first a luxurious mode of living, then arrogance and insolence. As a result of all this, since both the maltreatment of the slaves and their estrangement from their masters increased at an equal rate, there was at last, when occasion offered, a violent outburst of hatred. So without a word of summons tens of thousands of slaves joined forces to destroy their masters. Similar events took place throughout Asia at the same period, after Aristonicus laid claim to a kingdom that was not rightfully his, and the slaves, because of their owners' maltreatment of them, joined him in his mad venture and involved many cities in great misfortunes.

Historical library 34.27.
In like fashion a each of the large landowners bought up whole slave marts to work their lands; . . . to bind some in fetters, to wear out others by the severity of their tasks; and they marked all with their arrogant brands. In consequence, so great a multitude of slaves inundated all Sicily that those who heard tell of the immense number were incredulous. For in fact the Sicilians who had acquired much wealth were now rivalling the Italians in arrogance, greed, and villainy. And the Italians who owned large numbers of slaves had made crime so familiar to their herdsmen that they provided them no food, but permitted them to plunder.

Historical library 34.28.
With such licence given to men who had the physical strength to accomplish their every resolve, who had scope and leisure to seize the opportunity, and who for want of food were constrained to embark on perilous enterprises, there was soon an increase in lawlessness. They began by murdering men who were travelling singly or in pairs, in the most conspicuous areas. Then they took to assaulting in a body, by night, the homesteads of the less well protected, which they destroyed, seizing the property and killing all who resisted.

Historical library 34.29.
As their boldness grew steadily greater, Sicily became impassable to travellers by night; those who normally lived in the country found it no longer safe to stay there; and there was violence, robbery, and all manner of bloodshed on every side. The herdsmen, however, because of their experience of life in the open and their military accoutrements, were naturally all brimming with high spirits and audacity; and since they carried clubs or spears or stout staves, while their bodies were protected by the skins of wolves or wild boars, they presented a terrifying appearance that was little short of actual belligerence.

Historical library 34.30.
Moreover, each had at his heels a pack of valiant dogs, while the plentiful diet of milk and meat available to the men rendered them savage in temper and in physique. So every region was filled with what were practically scattered bands of soldiers, since with the permission of their masters the reckless daring of the slaves had been furnished with arms.

Historical library 34.31.
The praetors attempted to hold the raging slaves in check, but not daring to punish them because of the power and influence of the masters were forced to wink at the plundering of their province. For most of the landowners were Roman knights in full standing, and since it was the knights who acted as judges when charges arising from provincial affairs were brought against the governors, the magistrates stood in awe of them.

Historical library 34.32.
The Italians who were engaged in agriculture purchased great numbers of slaves, all of whom they marked with brands, but failed to provide them sufficient food, and by oppressive toil wore them out .. . their distress.

Historical library 34.33.
Not only in the exercise of political power should men of prominence be considerate towards those of low estate, but so also in private life they should -- if they are sensible -- treat their slaves gently. For heavy-handed arrogance leads states into civil strife and factionalism between citizens, and in individual households it paves the way for plots of slaves against masters and for terrible uprisings in concert against the whole state. The more power is perverted to cruelty and lawlessness, the more the character of those subject to that power is brutalized to the point of desperation. Anyone whom fortune has set in low estate willingly yields place to his superiors in point of gentility and esteem, but if he is deprived of due consideration, he comes to regard those who harshly lord it over him with bitter enmity.

Historical library 34.34.
There was a certain Damophilus, a native of Enna, a man of great wealth but arrogant in manner, who, since he had under cultivation a great circuit of land and owned many herds of cattle, emulated not only the luxury affected by the Italian landowners in Sicily, but also their troops of slaves and their inhumanity and severity towards them. He drove about the countryside with expensive horses, four-wheeled carriages, and a bodyguard of slaves, and prided himself, in addition, on his great train of handsome serving-boys and ill-mannered parasites.

Historical library 34.35.
Both in town and at his villas he took pains to provide a veritable exhibition of embossed silver and costly crimson spreads, and had himself served sumptuous and regally lavish dinners, in which he surpassed even the luxury of the Persians in outlay and extravagance, as indeed he outdid them also in arrogance. His uncouth and boorish nature, in fact, being set in possession of irresponsible power and in control of a vast fortune, first of all engendered satiety, then overweening pride, and, at last, destruction for him and great calamities for his country.

Historical library 34.36.
Purchasing a large number of slaves, he treated them outrageously, marking with branding irons the bodies of men who in their own countries had been free, but who through capture in war had come to know the fate of a slave. Some of these he put in fetters and thrust into slave pens; others he designated to act as his herdsmen, but neglected to provide them with suitable clothing or food.

Historical library 34.37.
Because of his arbitrary and savage humour not a day passed that this same Damophilus did not torment some of his slaves without just cause. His wife Metallis, who delighted no less in these arrogant punishments, treated her maidservants cruelly, as well as any other slaves who fell into her clutches. And because of the despiteful punishments received from them both, the slaves were filled with rage against their masters, and conceiving that they could encounter nothing worse than their present misfortunes began to form conspiracies to revolt and to murder their masters.

Historical library 34.38.
On one occasion when approached by a group of naked domestics with a request for clothing, Damophilus of Enna impatiently refused to listen. "What!" he said, "do those who travel through the country go naked? Do they not offer a ready source of supply for anyone who needs garments?" Having said this, he ordered them bound to pillars, piled blows on them, and arrogantly dismissed them.

Historical library 34.39.
There was in Sicily a daughter of Damophilus, a girl of marriageable age, remarkable for her simplicity of manner and her kindness of heart. It was always her practice to do all she could to comfort the slaves who were beaten by her parents, and since she also took the part of any who had been put in bonds, she was wondrously loved by one and all for her kindness. So now at this time, since her past favours enlisted in her service the mercy of those to whom she had shown kindness, no one was so bold as to lay violent hands upon the girl, but all maintained her fresh young beauty inviolate. And selecting suitable men from their number, among them Hermeias, her warmest champion, they escorted her to the home of certain kinsmen in Catana.

Historical library 34.40.
Although the rebellious slaves were enraged against the whole household of their masters, and resorted to unrelenting abuse and vengeance, there were yet some indications that it was not from innate savagery but rather because of the arrogant treatment they had themselves received that they now ran amuck when they turned to avenge themselves on their persecutors. Even among slaves human nature needs no instructor in regard to a just repayment, whether of gratitude or of revenge.

Historical library 34.41.
Eunus, after being proclaimed king, put them all to death, except for the men who in times past had, when his master indulged him, admitted him to their banquets, and had shown him courtesy both in respect of his prophecies and in their gifts of good things from the table; these men he spirited away and set free. Here indeed was cause for astonishment: that their fortunes should be so dramatically reversed, and that a kindness in such trivial matters should be requited so opportunely and with so great a boon.

Historical library 34.42.
Achaeus, the counsellor of King Antiochus [Eunus], being far from pleased at the conduct of the runaway slaves, censured them for their recklessness and boldly warned them that they would meet with speedy punishment. So far from putting him to death for his outspokenness, Eunus not only presented him with the house of his former masters but made him a royal counsellor.

Historical library 34.43.
There was, in addition, another revolt of fugitive slaves who banded together in considerable numbers. A certain Cleon, a Cilician from the region about Taurus, who was accustomed from childhood to a life of brigandage and had become in Sicily a herder of horses, constantly waylaid travellers and perpetrated murders of all kinds. On hearing the news of Eunus' success and of the victories of the fugitives serving with him, he rose in revolt, and persuading some of the slaves near by to join him in his mad venture overran the city of Acragas and all the surrounding country.

Historical library 34.44.
Their pressing needs and their poverty forced the rebel slaves to regard everyone as acceptable, giving them no opportunity to pick and choose.

Historical library 34.45.
It needed no portent from the heavens to realize how easily the city could be captured. For it was evident even to the most simple-minded that because of the long period of peace the walls had crumbled, and that now, when many of its soldiers had been killed, the siege of the city would bring an easy success.

Historical library 34.46.
Eunus, having stationed his army out of range of their missiles, taunted the Romans by declaring that it was they, and not his men, who were runaways from battle. For the inhabitants of the city, at a safe distance (?), he staged a production of mimes, in which the slaves acted out scenes of revolt from their individual masters, heaping abuse on their arrogance and the inordinate insolence that had led to their destruction.

Historical library 34.47.
As for unusual strokes of ill fortune, even though some persons may be convinced that Providence has no concern with anything of the sort, yet surely it is to the interest of society that the fear of the gods should be deeply embedded in the hearts of the people. For those who act honestly because they are themselves virtuous are but few, and the great mass of humanity abstain from evil-doing only because of the penalties of the law and the retribution that comes from the gods.

Historical library 34.48.
When these many great troubles fell upon the Sicilians, the common people were not only unsympathetic, but actually gloated over their plight, being envious because of the inequality in their respective lots, and the disparity in their modes of life. Their envy, from being a gnawing canker, now turned to joy, as it beheld the once resplendent lot of the rich changed and fallen into a condition such as was formerly beneath their very notice. Worst of all, though the rebels, making prudent provision for the future, did not set fire to the country estates nor damage the stock or the stored harvests, and abstained from harming anyone whose pursuit was agriculture, the populace, making the runaway slaves a pretext, made sallies into the country and with the malice of envy not only plundered the estates but set fire to the buildings as well.