Thursday, 24 November 2011



The following three extracts on the subject of "riot and rebellion" are translations of texts taken from  the "Cambridge Latin Anthology", Cambridge School Classics Project, Cambridge University Press, 1996. The first two come from the historian Tacitus, and the third from the "Acts of the Apostles" in the "Vulgate" edition of the New Testament.   

The riot at Pompeii (from Tacitus: "Annales", Book XIV, Chapter 17).

In 59 A.D. a gladiatorial show in the amphitheatre at Pompeii was being watched by citizens of both Pompeii and neighbouring Nuceria. The two groups became rivals in their support of the gladiators, and started hurling first abuse and then missiles at each other; by the end many Nucerians were wounded or killed. 

About the same time from a trifling beginning there arose a frightful slaughter between the inhabitants of Nuceria and those of Pompeii at a gladiatorial show which Livineius Regulus was presenting. For the townspeople with their customary hooliganism attacked (each other) in turn; they resorted to insults, then stones, and finally weapons, the people of Pompeii, among whom the show was being staged, (being) the stronger. So, many people from (amongst) the inhabitants of Nuceria were taken to the City, with their bodies mutilated by wounds, and many were mourning the deaths of children or parents. The Emperor referred the judgement of this matter to the Senate, (and) the Senate to the consuls. And the matter having been referred back again to the senators, the people of Pompeii were banned from (holding) a meeting of that kind for ten years; and associations which had been established contrary to the laws were dissolved; Livineius, and others who had provoked the disorder, were punished with exile.

Boudica's rebellion (from Tacitus: "Annales", Book XIV, Chapters 31, 34, 37).

In 60 A.D. Suetonius Paulinus, the Roman governor of Britain, was engaged in the conquest of Anglesey. Boudica, queen of the the Iceni tribe in East Anglia, took advantage of the absence of Suetonius to stage an uprising agaisnt the harshness of Roman rule.

Prasutagus, the king of the Iceni, famed for a long time for his wealth, had written in his will that Caesar (i.e. Nero) (was) his heir alongside his two daughters, thinking that by such submissiveness his kingdom and his household would be safe (lit. far) from harm. It turned out just the opposite, such that his kingdom was  plundered by centurions, and his household by slaves just as if (it had been) seized. To begin with, his wife (was) scourged, and his daughters were violated by rape: all the chief men of the Iceni, as if the Romans had received the whole region as a gift, were deprived of their ancestral estates, and the king's relatives were treated like slaves. Aroused by this humiliation and by the fear of worse (injuries), because they had been reduced to the status of a province, they take up arms; the Trinobantes were aroused, as well as others who, not yet cowed by servitude, had pledged themselves, in a secret conspiracy, to reclaim their freedom. Their hatred towards the veterans (was) very bitter; having settled recently into the colony of Camuloduum (i.e. Colchester), they were driving the Trinobantes out of their homes, forcibly expelling (them) from their fields, (and) calling (them) captives or slaves; and the soldiers encouraged the insolence and savagery of these veterans by a similarity of life and with the hope of the same licence. In addition to this, the temple to the divine Claudius was regarded as a citadel of perpetual tyranny, and those chosen (as) priests were having to pour out all their fortunes in the guise of religious observance. Nor did it seem difficult to destroy the colony, (as it was) enclosed by no fortifications, because this had been too little considered by our generals, since they had paid attention to the agreeable before the expedient.

The rebel forces fell upon Camulodunum, and after a two-day siege captured and destroyed the town. The available units of the Ninth Legion, some 2,000 men, marched south from Lincoln but were ambushed and massacred on the way. Boudica then moved on to hand out the same treatment to Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St. Albans). Suetonius gathered what troops he could quickly muster, and set off by forced marches to give battle. 

 Now with Suetonius were the fourteenth legion with a detachment of the twentieth and auxiliaries from the neighbouring areas, almost ten thousand armed men: he prepares to come to grips with the enemy and to join battle. And he chooses a position with narrow defiles and shut off from the back by woods; for he knew that there was no enemy except in front (of him) and that the plain was open without the fear of an ambush. Therefore, the legionaries were drawn up in close array, with light troops stationed around (them); the cavalry were standing by, massed together on the wings. But everywhere the troops of the Britons were rushing about wildly in groups of infantry and cavalry, as great as at no other time, and so fierce in spirit that they had dragged their wives with them also (as) witnesses to their victory, and they were put into wagons which they had placed at the very edge of the plain.

The battle begins.

At first the legion (was) motionless in its position and defended by the narrowness of its location, (but) when it had used up the javelins in sure aim against the advancing enemy, it burst forth as though in wedge-shaped formation. The auxiliaries also make an attack, and the cavalry with extended lances break through anything strong which was in the way. The rest of the Britons turned (lit. showed) their backs, escape (being) difficult, because the surrounding wagons had blocked the way-out. And our soldiers did not even spare the women, and the beasts of burden, transfixed by missiles, also swelled the pile of bodies. On that day our soldiers won a splendid reputation and (one) equal to our ancient victories: indeed, there are those who report that a little less than eighty thousand Britons fell, with almost four hundred of our soldiers having been killed and not much more than that having been wounded.  Boudica ended her life by poison.

Unrest at Ephesus (Vulgate: "Acts of the Apostles", Chapter 19).

The Apostle Paul was the first Christian missionary to preach in the countries of Asia Minor. He spent more than two years at Ephesus, from about 52 to 54 A.D., preaching the Christian Gospel. His success in winning converts to Christianity was mainly at the expense of the pagan cult of Diana, whose temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. In this extract from the Acts of the Apostles, in the New Testament of the Bible, we are told of the angry reaction of those whose livelihood depended on the popularity of the cult of Diana. 

A certain silversmith, Demetrius by name, making silver shrines of Diana, brought no small business to the craftsmen. Gathering together these (craftsmen) and those who were workers of this kind, he said: "Men, you know that we have prosperity (lit. that there is prosperity to us) from this industry; and you see and hear that not only at Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia, this Paul, (by) persuading (them), has led astray a great crowd, saying: 'They are not gods who are made with hands'. Moreover there will be a danger not only that we shall come into disrepute but also that the temple of great Diana will be neglected and that her majesty will begin to be destroyed, (she) whom the whole of Asia and the world worships."

These things having been heard, they were filled with rage, and cried out, saying: "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" And the city was filled with confusion, and with one accord they made a rush into the theatre, the Macedonians Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's companions, having been seized. But with Paul, wishing to enter the crowd, his disciples did not allow (him to do so). Also some of the chief men of Asia, who were his friends, sent (a message) to him, begging him not to go into the theatre.

Now in the theatre some cried (one thing, some) other things. For the assembly was confused: and most of them did not know for what reason they had come together. They dragged Alexander out of the crowd, the Jews pushing him to the front. And Alexander, silence having been demanded with his hand, wanted to make a defence to the people. When they recognised that he was a Jew, one voice was heard out of all of them, crying out for almost two hours: "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

And when the town clerk (lit. scribe) had quietened the crowds, he said: "Men of Ephesus, who is there amongst you who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple-keeper of great Diana? Therefore, since no one can contradict these things, you ought (it behoves you) to be appeased, and to do nothing rashly. For you have brought these men here, (who are) neither sacrilegious nor blaspheming your goddess. So, if Demetrius, and the craftsmen who are with him, have any complaint against (anyone), the courts (lit. the legal assemblies) are open, and there are the proconsuls: let them bring charges against one another (lit. in turn). But if you seek anything concerning other matters, it can be settled in a proper assembly. For there is even a danger that we shall be accused of disorder, although no one is guilty of anything for which we could give a reason for this commotion." And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.


  1. Amo te Sabidi, et possum dicere quare: so useful to have these good translations to save me time when preparing. I do customise them quite a bit, but they provide me with an excellent starting point. Thank you so much!