The seventh and eighth chapters of Dany’el / Daniel contain a profoundly revealing presentation of history, much of it now past but most of it poised to play out in our immediate future. The prophetic proclamation was written twenty-five-hundred years ago, around 555 BCE. Evidence that it was inspired by Yahowah abounds. Its proof statements are irrefutable as a result of the Qumran library, because we possess sixteen separate manuscripts of Dany’el, which predate the book’s most profound predictions.
While a captive in Babylon, in the most corrupt place on earth, in the birthplace of religion and politics and of military and economic schemes, in the place Yahowah asked Abraham to leave before engaging in the Covenant, Yahowah revealed a vision which unlocks the mystery of time, ultimately pinpointing the very date the Ma’aseyah Yahowsha’ would arrive in Yaruwshalaim: March 28, 33 CE, four days before Passover, to honor His Towrah promises. He even predicted when and by whom the Temple would be destroyed, remarkable in that the Temple didn’t even exist at the time of the vision. Dany’el revealed that Yisra’el would be deforested, something the Romans achieved in 135 CE when they salted the earth, sixty-five years after razing the Temple. But more than this, the prophetic visions witnessed by Dany’el chronicle the rise and fall of mighty empires, including Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome. And it is from this book that Yahowsha’ recited much of what is now found in Revelation.
But these are merely examples of what is foretold, among countless others. This is an amazing book, presenting 2,500 years of world history from Yisra’el’s perspective. It is the human story, one delivered by a godly man who withstood religious and political persecution, a man who refused to compromise, a man who ultimately triumphed over the corrupting influence of human institutions to encourage the rest of us. It is the story of the fall of man.
The oldest extant scroll of Dany’el / Daniel was copied around 125 BCE, four-hundred thirty years after the book of prophecy was initially penned. It remains the only bilingual text demonstrating Divine inspiration found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. It opens in Hebrew, switches to Aramaic in the second half of the fourth verse of the second chapter, and then it reverts back to Hebrew at the beginning of the eighth chapter. Since our investigation will commence with the seventh chapter, we will be relying on Aramaic initially rather than Hebrew – our constant friend and companion throughout this study. And while this will limit our direct investigation of each word’s meaning, and that is because ancient Hebrew is more thoroughly researched than Aramaic, the languages are so similar we will not be shortchanged, especially since Yahowah sent Gabry’el / Gabriel to explain the symbols used in the text and to elaborate on them.
But beyond this, there is an unexpected advantage to the juxtaposition of the two languages. Yahowsha’ is known to have spoken both Hebrew and Aramaic, leaving us to wonder if there were some in His audience that would have understood one language but not the other. The question has also been posed as to whether Yahowsha’ cited the Torah and Prophets in Hebrew or Aramaic. But with this review of Dany’el 7, those questions will become moot. The languages are so similar that if you understand one, you will relate to the other.
Before we begin, realize that much of what you are going to experience initially speaks of civilizations long past. Looking back at the rise and fall of ancient empires may initially seem incongruous with a chapter devoted to the fall of man during the tribulation, but yet every word paints a picture, exposing the contrast between God and his creation, between the Covenant and human institutions, between the Towrah and the Adversary.
The Beast who emerges out of the Greek and Roman Empires isn’t simply a product of Macedonia and Rome, of Alexander and his generals or the Caesars, but of the entire edifice, beginning with Babylon. There are characteristics of every country from Babylonia to Persia, from Greece to Rome, in the Transgressor known to Christians as the “Antichrist.” His government will be an expression of his religion, as was the case throughout each empire, a tactic born and first honed in Babylon. It was in Babylonia that the military was deployed as an economic resource. Nations were conquered for tribute, not integration. Compelling vassal peoples to pay for Babylonian indulgences became more expedient than working. Further, as it relates to the first of these fallen nations, never lose sight of the fact that while the Transgressor of the Tribulation will emerge out of Rome, he will ultimately represent Babylon, the very thing Yahowah has asked His children to walk away from if they want to engage in the Covenant.
Turning to Persia, it was the antithesis of Babylon in substantive ways. It grew through integration. For the Persians, the known world was one world – their world. They developed and deployed the means to effectively communicate, and thus influence people over large distances by way of a common language, a postal system, taxation, a state religion, and roadways – all designed to integrate the different cultures into a common empire. Their control mechanism was a centralized, bureaucratic administration under the dictatorial control of an emperor. His designs were conveyed by civil servants and imposed by a large professional military. But with so many cultures and ethnicities covering such a vast area, the king’s authority was often challenged, causing the constant deployment of troops to quell rebellions, a burden that became economically unsustainable.
Greece by contrast was a loose collection of independent city-states – wholly decentralized. They were as likely to war against one another as they were to band together to ward off a common foe. While there were kings, Greece was the birthplace of democracy, and with it philosophy. Rhetoric was revered, as were knowledge and the pretense of understanding. The Greeks were the merchants of the ancient world. Having sapped their own resources, they purchased wood and wheat by trading wine and olives – commodities that would grow in dry, impoverished soils. This seafaring nation was no less religious or militaristic than its predecessors, but it was the Greeks who discovered the benefit of turning warriors into heroes. All means of propaganda were deployed to fan the flames of patriotism and militarism, from theater to oratory, from novel to actual worship as if their warriors were gods. This collection of independent communities with a common spirit became a unified empire briefly as a result of Alexander’s conquests. But then as quickly as his weapons and strategy had built it, without any organizational control, it disintegrated, first into four kingdoms and then into many more.
Rome is unlike the others because it is still with us. The Imperial Empire is long gone, but not its legacy: the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. As for the Empire, no civilization prior or since has been as perverted or cruel. The Romans and their Legions were vicious and duplicitous. They made carnality and killing an art form. The Caesars were vile, ruthless men, who acted like their pagan gods. Having flirted with representative government, the most covetous men and the most effective warriors became supreme dictators, with a litany of their spoiled children inheriting the throne thereafter. Their names are now infamous and include in chronological order the likes of: Tiberius (14-37), Caligula (37-41), Nero (54-68), Domitian (81-96), Commodus (177-192), Caracalla (198-217), Elagabalus (218-222), Carinus (283-285), and Constantine, whose life we will examine in some detail.
They were known for their massive civil projects, from roadways to aqueducts, from amphitheaters to public forums, from lavish temples to decadent palaces. But it was their flawed character that brought them down. Dependent upon slaves to perform every task, from cleaning the streets to protecting the empire, wonton abuse of everyone who wasn’t Roman ultimately caused the world to rebel against them, and they collapsed from within before they were routed by those they had abused.
If Moseh’s request of us in Dabarym 6:4-5 epitomizes the most desirable attitude, the Romans were exemplars of the worst extreme. The Towrah says: “Listen Yisra’el, Yahowah is our God, Yahowah is one, certain and unique. So you should genuinely choose to love Yahowah, your God, with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your capacity.” To which Yahowsha’ added, also citing the Torah: “You should choose to actually love your neighbor as yourself, for I am Yahowah.” (Qara’ 19:18)
The epitome of Roman animosity to these instructions was manifest when in 70 CE Rome razed Yahowah’s Temple in Yisra’el, hauling its precious metals and people off to Rome to finance and build their Coliseum. Ponder the contrast between what was said and done in these places if you want to understand why God loves one and hates the other.
But it would only get worse. Prior to the Imperial Empire’s decline, one of the worst of a bad lot of Generals turned Emperor claimed to have seen a vision before the sun, and out of it promoted a religion as perverted and cruel as the Empire and its Legions. It became known as Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. It could be argued that no institution in all of human history has been as menacing and debilitating.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches which grew out of Constantine’s Roman legacy in Constantinople include: the Greek, Macedonian, Russian, Ukrainian, Cypriot, Georgian, Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Moldovan, Albanian, Montenegrin, Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Armenian, Syriac (Syrian), Ethiopian, and Copt (Egyptian) Orthodox Churches – all places Romans fought, killed, and died. They are as much a part of the Roman legacy as is the Roman Catholic Church. And as we shall soon learn, since the Beast that will terrorize the world throughout the Tribulation emerges out of both Rome and Greece, the Eastern Orthodox Church will be as culpable as is the Roman Catholic Church.
Bringing this all together, the Beast who will oppose all things Yah, His Word, His Name, His Torah, His Covenant, His Invitations, His Conditions, and His Way, will embody the religious, political, military, and economic influences manifest in Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, Roman Catholicism, and Orthodox Christianity. So as we progress through history past, stay focused, because everything we witness will become manifest again in our immediate future. We will learn precisely and irrefutably from which county the Transgressor will emerge. His entre to power will be disclosed as will his retort to those who sponsored him. But especially shocking to many, we will discover that the man thought to be the “Antichrist” by Christians will be indistinguishable from the Roman who wrote half of their New Testament.
And speaking of interesting connections, the historical presentation we are about to witness begins in Babylon and never manages to leave. The first nation to die is Babylonia, but the victor, Cyrus of Persia, uses Babylon as his seat of power. Then when Alexander defeats Darius, Babylon retains its deadly reputation, claiming the life of the Macedonian general within days of him entering Satan’s most nefarious lair. Even Rome was infected, having battled the Persians and their derivatives, the Parthian and Sassanid Empires, for seven centuries, its Church became the reincarnation of Babylon, its every rite, doctrine, and celebration. This plague of death was infused into every aspect of the Church and Beast it spawned, both of which will become the most adroit exemplars of the worldwide influence of Whore of Babylon.
And while Yahowah has taken both Judaism and Islam to task in other prophetic books, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Rabbinic Judaism was codified in the Babylonian Talmud. And it is this collection of religious arguments against Yahowah’s Towrah that were twisted by Muhammad to create the only credible portions of his Qur’an, giving birth to today’s most vicious religion. Simply stated, every soul Babylon infects becomes diseased, is destroyed, and dies.
In Bare’syth / Genesis, Babylon is the first place Yahowah asks us to walk away from if we want to engage in a relationship with Him. In the Revelation to Yahowchanan / John, Babylon is the last place Yahowsha’ calls His people out of prior to His return. And throughout God’s testimony there is a trinity of evil – Satan, the Beast, and Babylon – all shown to be united in their opposition to everything God desires. Therefore, we should not be surprised that throughout this prophecy, these associations is firmly established.
Aware of these factors, let’s commence our review...
“In the first year of (ba chad shanah la) Belsha’tsar (Belsha’tsar – May Bel (the Lord) Protect the King, commonly transliterated Belshazzar, along with his father, the last of the Chaldean kings), the king of (melek – highest royal ruler of the government of) Babel - Confusion (Babel – Confusion, commonly transliterated Babylon), Dany’el (Dany’el – God Judges and Vindicates) saw (chazah – was able to look at and watch the totality of, facilitating comprehensive observation, perception, and understanding of (peal perfect)) a revealing vision (chelem – a prophetic revelation) and (wa) supernatural revelations (chazuw – sensory perceptions deployed to convey the truth visually) in his mind (re’sh – in his head) while upon his bed (‘al mishkab – on the place where he lies down to relax).
Thereupon (‘adayn – making a transition, therefore), in (ba) the prophetic revelation (chelem – revealing vision), he was prompted to write a complete copy of (katab – he was facilitated in the writing of the totality of (peal perfect)) the things (milah – the matters, events, and dialogue) being communicated (‘amar – being told and spoken).” (Dany’el / God Judges and Vindicates / Daniel 7:1)
The awkward phrase “he related the sum of the words” found in most English bible translations does not exist in Qumran’s 4QDan, the only scroll that preserves this verse. Should you be reading along in a translation influenced by the Masoretic Text, you’ll understand why it was omitted.
Belshazzar was the son of Nabonydus (Nabu is Praised). As father and son they ruled over Babylon from 556 to 539 BCE – but not in accord with normal succession. Much of what is known about them historically is gleaned from a terracotta cylinder housed in the British Museum. Upon it, Nabonydus claims to have orchestrated repairs to the Temple of Sin in Haran – the same shrine and deity that would influence Islam and explain its fixation with the moon. In a bit of irony, it was in Harran where the Assyrian Empire would ultimately succumb to superior forces.
As a devotee of Sin, King Nabonydus would have been at odds with the Babylonian priesthood. They favored Lord Bel and Marduk. In fact, this religious conflict is what caused Nabonydus to flee to the desert oasis of Tayma in Arabia early in his reign, an event which brought his son, Belshazzar, to the thrown in Babylon during his father’s long absence.
Dany’el 4 contains the prophet’s forecast regarding Nabonydus, Belshazzar’s father, predicting his seven years of self imposed exile in the desert surrounding Tayma. Dany’el even surmised that the king’s hubris would cost him his sanity. He foretold that the man who had countless slaves at his beacon call to have his every whim assuaged would live like an animal, fending for himself for seven years. The prophecy even states that He was smitten, which is why Belsha’tsar ruled in his absence.
“I, Dany’el (Dany’el – God Judges and Vindicates), responded (‘anah – answered, reacted, and replied) and then said (wa ‘amar – responded), ‘I am able to see (hawah chazah – I can envision and observe (peal perfect)), with my sensory perceptions, the vision (ba chazuw – in my supernatural revelation) during night (‘im lyly ‘a – in the darkness).’ And then (wa), behold, right there (‘aruw), four (‘arba’) spirits (ruwach – winds) out of the heavens (shamaym ‘a – of the sky, atmosphere, universe, or spiritual realm) churning up (guwah – stirring up) the approach to the Great Sea (la yam ‘a rab ‘a).” (Dany’el / God Judges and Vindicates / Daniel 7:2)
Aramaic and Hebrew share many words in common. Among them is ruwach, which can mean “spirit” or “wind.” And either translation is acceptable because different spirits were conceived in heaven. While most continue to serve Yahowah, others are now in league with the Adversary. In this regard, while Satan is a spiritual being, wind is often associated with him, particularly when it agitates or is depicted as a storm. Wind is also an indication of war. But in this case, especially knowing what follows, it’s reasonable to assume that the four beasts were influenced by four demonic spirits, which is why spirits was selected over winds in the translation.
Shamaym is also plural in the text, and can depict everything from the heavens to the atmosphere, from the universe and its stars to the spiritual realm. But since demons were conceived in heaven and cast out of the abode of God, “out of the heavens” was emboldened.
The Great Sea is often a reference to the Mediterranean, which forms the western border of Yisra’el. But it also symbolizes multitudes of Gentiles, especially when they combatively crash into the Promised Land. In this regard, the sea generally designates “gowym – people from different races and places” while “‘erets – land” consistently speaks of Yisra’elites throughout the Torah, Prophets, and Psalms. This distinction is important as we journey through Yahowah’s prophetic testimony.
As we continue, “chyuwah – beast” is deployed to describe to an undesirable and destructive empire, but it can also depict a hostile institution or a rebellious individual. It is typically used of a state, organization, or person engaged in advancing Satan’s agenda.
“Then four (wa ‘arba’) great beasts (rab chyuwah – large, terrifying, wild, animalistic, and powerful monsters) were coming up out of the Sea (calaq min yam ‘a – growing and ascending out of the ocean or nether regions of the underworld), being transformed and different (shanah – being changed, becoming dissimilar) one from the other (da’ min da’ – this one from that one).” (Dany’el / God Judges and Vindicates / Daniel 7:3)
In this context, the “great beasts” depict empires, civilizations which were influenced religiously by the ultimate predator, ha Satan – the Adversary. Since they have emerged from the “sea,” they are all Gentile nations with a history of being in opposition to the Chosen People and the Promised Land.
Shanah can speak of transformation or differentiation, which is why both options were provided. These were different beasts, and therefore represent different civilizations, but also some of them appeared to change before Dany’el’s eyes. That was especially true with Rome. The Empire became a Church.
“The first (qadmay ‘a) was similar to (ka – like and corresponding to) a lion (‘aryeh – fierce and powerful) but with (wa) wings (gaph) of (dy) an eagle (nashar) upon her (la). I kept watching (hawah chazah – I was totally focused and observant) while (‘ad) her wings were plucked off (marat gap – her wings were torn off). But then (wa) she was lifted up (natal – she was raised up (peil perfect)) from the earth (min ‘ara’ ‘a – out of the world of humankind) and (wa) upon (‘al) feet (ragal – a pair of paws) like a human (k ‘anash – similar to a person), she was established and made to stand upright (quwm – she was set upright (hophal perfect)). Then (wa) a human (‘anash) heart and thought processes (labab – mindset, attitude, capacity for reasoning, and persona) were given to her (yahab la – were placed in her (peil perfect)).” (Dany’el / God Judges and Vindicates / Daniel 7:4)
The winged lion was the predominant symbol for the nation of Babylonia. This characterization represented their most important deity: Bel, which translates as “the Lord.” The depiction was hard to miss because it was carved unto the gates of the capital, and it was engraved on the kingdom’s coinage. Beyond the obvious, Yahowah refers to Babel as a lion in part because the king of the beasts is among the most able and vicious predators. Lions hunt in prides, are especially swift, and look regal as the kill with jaws and claws.
The eagle’s soaring flight became symbolic of solar deities in pagan mythology, and particularly the father of the gods within the Babylonian, Greek, and Roman Trinity. As a powerful carnivore, an eagle is able to kill live prey, but like a vulture, typically prefers to consume dead and rotting flesh. Eagles are revered because of their enormous wingspan and because they appear almost majestic in flight. As a result of its ability to soar above other animals, many nations, from Babylonia to Rome, even America and the Russian Federation, identify themselves with this vaulted pagan symbol.
Babylonia was the world’s leading super power, albeit for a short period of time, from 605 to 539 BCE. “Babel – Babylonia” means “Confusion.” The Empire menaced Yisra’el, and in particular, Yahuwdah, enslaving countless Yahuwdym. Dany’el, himself, was a captive in Babylon when he witnessed this revelation.
You may have noticed that Babylonia existed a mere 66 years, an important figure because it represents the number of man and the beast. It is this relationship, the amalgamation of the beastly nature of a national institution and the worst of human behavior, that is so destructive and deadly. This deplorable state is brought about through the integration of religion and politics, thereby magnifying the influence of arrogant, covetous, and misguided men. The only thing worse than Babylon’s twin sixes would be three sixes, 666, which adds Satan, himself, to this poisonous brew.
Speaking of the Adversary, an entire chapter of the prophet Yasha’yah / Isaiah, the 14th, is devoted to explaining the connection between Satan, whose name is Heylel ben Shachar, and “Babel – Babylon – Confusion.” In its pages, we learn that conceit, an unrealistic and undeserved impression of himself, is what brought Satan down. He wanted to be worshipped as if he was God. His goal was to be seen above the Most High.
Few things this clearly stated are as universally misunderstood. Satan does not want to be known as the Adversary, as ugly and menacing beast. And that means that he does not want to be seen as ha satan. Instead, the Adversary seeks to fool the unsuspecting so that they bow down to him as if he were God. Therefore, you will never find Satan in an occult ritual, but instead in popular religious worship. His mission is to be called “the Lord,” which is why Yahowah has given him the name, “Ba’al – Lord.” As the Lord, he solicits obedience and worship. He becomes the fearsome beast behind the most imposing and intimidating institutions. He is all too often the hidden inspiration for nations and churches that seek to control and possesses human souls.
Satan’s primary tool is “babel – confusion,” which is one of several reasons he is associated with Babylonia and referred to as “the Whore of Babylon.” Through religion, he confuses the masses by corrupting God’s testimony – just as he did in the Garden of Eden where he confused Chawah to the point that she misquoted, misinterpreted, and misapplied Yahowah’s testimony. She added to and took away from God’s Guidance, a strategy that would be deployed again to conceive Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The replacement of Yahowah’s name for the title “the Lord” 7000 times in the Torah, Prophets, and Psalms by religious publishers was paramount in positioning Satan as God. Changing the Shabat to Sunday accomplished the same thing, as did substituting Sukah for Christmas and Pesach for Easter. Replacing the Towrah with a New Testament also served Satan, as did discarding Yahowsha’ for Jesus. The blame for much of this can be placed upon Sha’uwl, a Roman Jew whom Christians know as “Paul.” He admitted to being demon-possessed in his second letter to the Corinthians, and yet billions of souls believe this man’s audacious claim that God authorized a man to contradict Him. By pretending to be inspired by God when it had actually been Satan, by being a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Paul has “babel – confused” more souls on behalf of the Adversary than anyone who has ever lived.
He was not alone, however. Muhammad, another man who claimed to speak for God while also admitting to being demon-possessed, named his wannabe god, “Allah,” creating a persona that was equal parts satanic and self-portrait. And while the Islamic god’s Qur’an is the antithesis of Yahowah’s Towrah, Allah claims to author both. He covets the title Lord, demands prostrations, terrorizes believers into fearing him, requires obedience, and spends all of his time in hell torturing those who do not submit. It should not be surprising, therefore, that Allah orders Muslims to kill Yahowah’s chosen people.
Most of Yirmayah / Jeremiah, the prophetic book committed to enlightening Gentiles regarding the consequence of aligning themselves with human institutions, is focused upon explaining the connection between Babylon and religion, between Babylon and political power, between Babylon and military conquests, between Babylon and economic malfeasance, and thus between Babylon and the things which are opposed by God. Babylon is the place where the things God despises were syncretized, institutionalized, nationalized, and systemized. And sadly, most everything Babylon represents endures in Christianity, borne out through the babel of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church.
We know that Babylonia’s wings were plucked over 2,550 years ago, and yet the text of this prophecy revealed: “she was lifted up from the earth upon feet like a human and was established upright, given a human heart and thought processes.” There are but two viable literal and two credible symbolic explanations for the reincarnation of Babylon. There has been only one man, one beating heart, one stream of human consciousness that was lifted up and established who represented Babylon in opposition to Yahowah to such an extent that he and his letters would warrant this kind of notoriety, especially in the context of a global summation of human history – Paul. He authored half of the Christian New Testament in opposition to God. He is the founder of the Christian religion. And in exactly 600 years, he would be preaching his Towrahless mantra to Rome.
We will meet other unsavory characters along the way, in particular Hadrian who outlawed the Torah and Constantine who established the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. But their influence was much less pervasive than Paul’s.
The only other literal candidate for the human manifestation of Babylon is the Beast, the Transgressor of the Tribulation. This man whose personality, ambition, and message will be indistinguishable from Paul’s, will rule the world during the last three and a half years before Yahowah’s return.
While there would be no reason for God to use phrases such as “feet like a human” or “given a human heart and thought process” if His intent were purely symbolic. But since He often conveys more than one relevant insight at a time, the only human institutions “lifted up from the earth” that are overwhelmingly Babylonian are Christianity generally, and particularly the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church, both of which claim to be heavenly institutions. The religion embodies a resurrection of Babylonian ideals. Its character was shaped and established by men. But more to the point, Christianity was conceived by claiming that a man was the totality of god, by imbuing this man with Babylonian religious lore, and then by claiming that after their god was killed by men, he was resurrected. Therefore, with these words, Yahowah is adroitly connecting Christianity with its source.
There is another connection we should not forget. While Egypt under Pharaoh Sheshonk in 930 BCE and Assyria under King Sennacherib in 700 BCE looted Yahowah’s temple, stripping it of some of its implements, the Babylonians destroyed the Temple in 586 BCE. In the process, they pummeled Yaruwshalaim and much of Yahuwdah, forcing Yahuwdym into slavery. In this way, Babylonia foreshadows Christianity’s assault upon the Towrah and its Temple, upon everything Yahowah cherishes and has sought to achieve.
The most important king of Babylon from Yisra’el’s perspective is Nebuchadnezzar II, known in Akkadian as “Nabu-kudurri-usur – God Nabu Defend My Firstborn Son.” Nabu, the son of Marduk, was the god of wisdom in the Babylonian pantheon. By choosing this name, Nebuchadnezzar was claiming to be the preferred firstborn son of god as well as wise. He ruled from 605 through 562 BCE.
His father, Nabopolassar, is credited with achieving Babylon’s independence from Assyria. In alliance with the Medes and Scythians, he razed Nineveh in 612 BCE. And while this battle didn’t destroy Assyria, it ended Babylon’s servitude as a vassal state. Thereafter, with visions of grandeur dancing in his head, Nabopolassar sent his son west at the head of a large army. In the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BCE near Haran, Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Assyrians again, this time because their allies, the Egyptians, were waylaid in Yahuwdah. This brought western Assyria and Phoenicia under Babylonian control. But during his son’s absence, Nabopolassar died, making Nebuchadnezzar king upon his return to Babylon.
Enchanted by war and unimpressed by alliances, Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Scythians. He would bypass the Medes temporarily, however, because his arranged marriage to Amytis, the daughter of the Median king, was perceived to be a vow of peace. Turning west again, he fought against Syria en route to Egypt, where his army was rebuffed. Frustrated by alliances forged against him between Yahuwdah and Egypt, after concluding a peace accord with Damascus, Nebuchadnezzar turned his attention toward Yaruwshalaim in 597 BCE. Initially, Yahuwdah capitulated. So as was the Babylonian custom, Nebuchadnezzar took prominent hostages with him to encourage the vassal state to honor their agreement. But by the time his departing troops had reached the Sea of Galilee, he got word that those who had lost family and friends revolted against King Yo’shyah / Josiah of Yahuwdah for having surrendered their loved ones. It was not a good idea. Nebuchadnezzar immediately decapitated every hostage and turned his army toward Yaruwshalaim. The city was sacked and the people were ravaged. Those who were not killed were enslaved by the Babylonian monarch.
Throughout the book of Yirmayah / Jeremiah, Yahowah speaks vociferously of Babylon, calling the empire a “destroyer of nations.” This is often considered to be a reference to Nebuchadnezzar, because within the kingdom’s sixty-six year existence, he conquered Assyria, Egypt, and Yisra’el. His siege of Yaruwshalaim and obliteration of the Temple is then depicted in the fifty-second chapter. Even though Yah clearly despises Babylon, he nonetheless exposes His rebellious children to the wayward nation in hopes of awakening them from their religious stupor.
While not the focus of the book, Yahowah has a great deal more to say about Babylon through Yasha’yah / Isaiah, this time focusing on its religious significance and spiritual leader. We are introduced to Satan in association with Babylon in the fourteenth chapter. There we discover that the Devil has no interest in being known as the Adversary, but instead wants to be worshipped as if he were above the Most High. He wants to lord over both God and man.
In this regard, we should not be surprised that the first thing Yahowah asks Abram prior to engaging in the Covenant is to walk away from Babylon. Then affirming that very few people take this step, at the end of Revelation Yahowsha’ cites Yahowah’s request in Yasha’yah, were in the last days, speaking of Babylon God says: “Come out of her My people.” There is, therefore, so much to learn and understand about mankind’s four-thousand year association with this demonic plague, an entire chapter will be devoted to exposing Babylon’s beastly appeal.
The second of four beasts is now in view...
“And then behold (wa ‘aruw – so next look right there) another (‘achoran) beast (chyuwah – terrifying monster), a second one (tinyan), actually resembling (damah la – appearing like) a bear (dob). And on one side (wa la satar chad – then approaching from the side at first), she was established (quwm – she was raised up (hophal perfect)).
And (wa) three (telat) ribs (‘ala’) were in her mouth (ba pum) between her teeth (ben shen shen – in the grip of her upper and lower jaws). And (wa) thusly (ken – therefore) they said to her (‘amar la – they spoke approaching her), ‘Rise up (quwm – take a stand (peal imperative)) and devour (‘akal – consume (peal imperative)) an abundance (sagyi’ – a large or massive amount) of human flesh (basar – of meat).’” (Dany’el / God Judges and Vindicates / Daniel 7:5)
The symbolism of the bear was deployed to depict the fierceness, and yet lumbering nature of the Medo-Persian Empire. After conquering Babylon, Persia overthrew Lydia and Egypt, which is why three ribs were found in its mouth. And while the Medes didn’t survive long, the Persians reigned from 539 to 331 BCE – and much longer than that through their various derivatives.
As for being murderous, Islam would emerge from this Beast, and nothing man has ever conceived has been as deadly. Its assassins bear religious names, jihadist and mujahedeen, and the kill screaming that their wannabe god is greater than Yah: “Allahu Akbar – Allah is Greater!” Over two-hundred million men, women, and children would die in the first one hundred years of the Islamic era.
But imagine being Dany’el at this moment. He and his people were enslaved by the most powerful nation on earth, and yet he was witnessing the demise of his captors. There would, therefore, be a beast more dominant than the one which had destroyed Yahuwdah.
Since Persia’s participation in this drama chronicling the fall of man will be reprised in the next chapter, and since Persia’s role is considerably less significant than Babylon’s, let’s develop Persia’s character later as the vision progresses. For now, the focus remains on the Middle East, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, with Yisra’el in between.
The third beast would strike quickly and appear regal in the process...
“At this same site (ba danah ‘atar – in this same place), I kept focused and observant (hawah chazah – I kept watching (peal perfect)) and then, behold (wa ‘aruw – right there), another (‘achoran), this one resembling (ka – similar and corresponding to) a leopard (namar – panther, based upon nimrod – rebel, the name of founder of Babylon). And upon her (wa la) were four wings (‘arba’ gaph) such as (dy) a bird (owp). They were on her back side (‘al gab gab). There were also four heads (wa ‘arba’ re’sh – with four top leaders), all associated with this awesome beast (la chywah ‘a – the terrifying animal). And governmental dominion (wa shalatan – the power and mastery to rule, sovereignty) was imparted (yahab – was allowed, given, and entrusted) to her (la).” (Dany’el / God Judges and Vindicates / Daniel 7:6)
The leopard with eagle’s wings with the power and mastery to rule describes the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great. He conquered the Persians, and most everyone else his troops encountered, rapidly, with the agility of a leopard and the speed of an eagle. He never lost a battle, so by age thirty-three, he had conquered much of the known world.
The reason this empire is depicted with four heads is because when Alexander died suddenly and unexpectedly in Babylon, his four generals – Cassander (who claimed Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia), Lysimachus (who reigned over Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Northern Turkey), Seleucus (establishing himself over Southern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan) and Ptolemy (who became Emperor over Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and part of Libya) – divided the territory they had conquered among themselves. As a result, the Greeks were the world’s most influential civilization from 331 to 168 BCE, when their dominion was sequestered by the Romans.
As we did with Persia, we will do with Alexander and Greece. Since these characters will make a second appearance in this historic play, it’s best to retain continuity and deal with them after Gabry’el identifies and personifies them on our behalf in the next chapter.
But thus far, the three ribs ascribed to the bear and the four heads depicted upon the leopard are intriguing in that they provide a perfect match for what actually occurred. We should keep this in mind as we progress through the prophecy. In that God has provided a precisely accurate picture thus far, we should logically expect that every nuance of what He says will occur in our future will take place exactly as predicted.
The next empire, which is also the last, was arguably the most evil in human history. We are now witnessing the rise of Rome.
“In this same place (ba danah ‘atar – at this same site) I remained observant (hawah chazah – I kept watching (peal perfect)) during the night vision (ba lyly chazuw ‘a – in the supernatural revelation of the darkness), and right there, behold (wa ‘aruw – then behold): the fourth and final (raby’ay raby’ay) awesome and monstrous beast (chywah – terrifying and animalistic creature), the most fearsome and frightening, yet also revered and respected by some (dachal – dazzlingly beautiful yet terrible and terrorizing, often longing for revenge), horrifying and appalling, awful and evil (wa ‘eymatan – dreadful and horrific, sickening and gruesome), yet (wa) exceedingly and preeminently (yatyr – exceptionally and extraordinarily) powerful with the capacity to destroy (taqyph – physically strong, mighty, and prodigious).
With (wa) her teeth comprised of iron (shen dy parzel la – rows of teeth which appear and are perceived invincible in association with her), multitudes, including the largest, most numerous and powerful (rab – a great number), she devoured and devastated (‘akal – she destroyed and consumed), crushing the remainder (daqaq sha’ar ‘a – smashing and pulverizing piece by piece the rest, including whatever is left) with her feet (ba ragal) by trampling them down violently (raphats – completely destroying and ruining them) under foot (ba ragal).
But (wa) this one was different (hyi’ shanah) from all the other (min kol) beasts (chywah ‘a – terrifying monsters) which preceded her (dy qodam – that came before). And (wa) ten (‘asar) horns (qeren – indicative of leaders and nations) were upon her (la).” (Dany’el / God Judges and Vindicates / Daniel 7:7)
Rome was born as she died, fighting – trampling foes near and far underfoot. At least three hundred major battles were fought over twelve centuries. No nation has been as appalling, awful, or evil. Rome devoured people far and wide, including consuming her own.
Since historians are typically amoral, and present the grandeur that was Rome, I think that it’s important that we look behind the shimmering shields to the slashing swords and examine the blood that stained the Empire’s soul. So in light of Yahowah’s revelation besmirching the pervasiveness and viciousness of Roman conquests, I have prepared an accounting of Roman characters and wars for your consideration.
Rome’s first battle pitted Italians against Italians, with rival Romans vying for power. This would become a trend, occurring so often, civil wars were as common as fights with external foes. Called the Battle of Silva Arsia, in 509 BCE, the emerging Republic’s Senate fought the Etruscan forces of deposed Roman King Superbus in a wooded area just outside Rome. When the Etruscans, whose territory was forty miles north of Rome, determined that the battle was not worth the cost, they gave up the fight and the Senate declared victory. Rome’s priests tell us that the Spirit of Silvanus (“the Forest” god) was heard the night after the battle saying “one more Etruscan had fallen than Romans so Rome was triumphant.”
As legend would have it, seven years later in 502 BCE, Latins would defeat the Romans, but then Rome avenged the loss when Postumius captured the Latin League’s encampment near Lake Regillus around 499 BCE. This was noteworthy only because the victorious Roman general, Postumius, returned to Rome as a dictator and arranged to have a temple built in his honor in the Forum. Since all of this occurred many centuries before Julius Caesar would become renown for changing Rome from a Republic to an Empire, it appears that this beast had a checkered past.
In skirmishes like this over territory and bragging rights, by the close of the 6th century BCE, Roman military lore would claim a dozen wars against neighboring cities, with five victories, four losses, and three draws. The foes were never far afield and were usually Etruscans never living more than fifty miles from Rome.
In one of these battles, Cincinnatus, a Roman aristocrat who became a recluse, a general, a dictator, and then farmer, in 458 BCE fought the city of Aequi and their allies from the communities of Sabine and Volscians, all of which were within short riding distance of Rome. Upon his victory, and after “cutting his foes to pieces,” the Aequi begged Cincinnatus not to slaughter them all, so he told them that he would allow them to live so long as they brought their leader and all of his officers to him in chains so that they could be humiliated.
His story is interesting because he was considered one of the heroes of early Rome, a model of Roman virtue, largely because he opposed and oppressed the Plebeians – the citizens at the lowest rung of Rome’s rigid caste system. He was also a horrible father, influencing his son to harass Plebeians. He was so aggressive tormenting those beneath him socially and economically, he was convicted and condemned to death.
The first Roman conflict against a formidable foe occurred in 387 BCE. It was against the Gauls, who were residing in Northern Italy, Germany, and France. Prior to the battle, the Senones, one of several Gallic tribes, traversed the Apennines searching for fertile land. Having reached a lightly-populated area not far from modern-day Tuscany in northwestern Italy, they asked the local Clasians if they could pay them to graze and farm their land. But rather than barter directly, the Clusians solicited Roman ambassadors for help. They proved fickle, briefly engaging on behalf of both parties, but then quickly terminating negotiations. According to the Roman historian, Livy, the Roman ambassadors “broke the law of nations,” which is to say they failed to honor their oath of neutrality as negotiators, and “took up arms against the Senones, killing one of the Gallic chieftains. This breach of diplomatic ethics compelled the Gauls to dispatch one of their own ambassadors to Rome, demanding that the assassin be handed over to them for justice. The Roman priesthood was sympathetic, acknowledging the breach of ethics, but the populous mocked the clerics in mass demonstrations, prompting Rome to appease them by promoting the killer, an act which further enraged the Senones. As a result, the Gaul declared war and marched on Rome.
Livy paints the scene: “Contrary to all expectation the Gauls (or Celts as the Romans called them) did the people of the countryside no harm, nor took anything from their fields, but even as they passed close by their cities, shouted out that they were marching on Rome and had declared war only on the Romans, but the rest of the people they regarded as friends.”
Once they were eleven miles outside Rome, along the Allia River at tributary of the Tiber, they found that twenty-four thousand Romans had taken up positions akin to the Greek Phalanx. The force, which outnumbered the Gauls two to one, was comprised of six Roman Legions. At the time they were a militia of Roman citizens, each individual supplying his own equipment, with the poor and poorly armed on the flanks and the rich and powerful protected in the middle. The Gauls, therefore, attacked the Roman flanks, routing them, leaving the center surrounded. In so doing, they were able to slaughter Rome’s elite.
The few who survived the initial engagement, fled to Rome in panic, so frightened, the last soldier in forgot to close the gates. But then retreating all the way to Capitoline Hill, they deployed barricades to slow the Gallic advance. Holding the high ground, and hiding behind overturned carts and furniture, Roman women and children were initially successful in rebuffing the Gauls, killing some. But since a woman wielding a kitchen utensil is no match for a soldier with a sword and shield, Rome fell and was plundered. The city was destroyed. But not yet satisfied, the Gauls refused to end their siege until the Romans paid them one thousand pounds of gold, leaving their chief to say, “Woe to the vanquished.”
And yet as is the case in war, it was also “victor bewares.” Since the Gauls expected to bring the bodies of their dead comrades home as fallen heroes, they left their soldier’s caucuses unburied and in their midst, causing an epidemic that claimed many additional lives. And while that was probably the end of the fighting, to quell the sting of defeat, Roman propaganda promoted the myth that Roman reinforcements arrived just at that moment, with the valiant leader Marcus Camillus professing: “not gold, but steel redeems the native land,” a reference to the sword he was allegedly wielding. Then to glorify war, Roman folklore would say that after fighting door to door, street to street, the Gallic army was routed, with the Romans haling Camillus, dubbing their victorious general, the “Second Romulus” – a nod to the mythical founding wolf of Rome.
I shared the details of this battle because it would ultimately define and reshape the Empire. Romans were seldom trustworthy, and routinely reneged on their promises. And they remained immoral and arrogant, the traits which led to their defeat on this day and again eight centuries later. But in the intervening time, war became theater, a place where heroes were born.
As a result of this embarrassing defeat, Rome rebuilt its defenses and restructured its military. It developed new industries to manufacture weapons and started deploying more advanced tactics. Aristocrats would no longer bleed for the nation, but they would provide the lower classes with superior arms. The Legions would be comprised of professional soldiers, men paid for their service. And they would brutalize and plunder everyone within their reach, ultimately building an army of slaves. But this would mark the last time Rome would be captured until the Visigoths came calling in 410 CE.
Since it would take a volume of books rather than a portion of a chapter to chronicle every Roman battle, suffice it to say for now that the fourth century BCE would see Romans involved in ten major conflicts. They would fight and defeat the Etruscans in 396 and 310 BCE. The Samnites, living southeast of Rome, constantly found themselves at the business end of a Legionnaire’s sword. They would battle their neighbors in 342, 341, 321, 316, and 305 BCE, losing the first two encounters, prevailing in the next two battles, but failing in the last. The Latins lost to the Romans in 339 and 338 BCE.
As we approach the third century BCE, Rome fought their neighbors to the south four times in quick succession. The Samnites defeated Rome in 298 but lost in 297, 295, and 293 BCE. Turning north, Rome’s Legions began fighting the Gauls again beginning in 285 BCE, losing the Battle of Arretium. But they would get revenge during rematches at Lake Vadimo in 283 and Populonia in 282 BCE, crushing them.
The first Roman battle against Greek forces occurred in 280 BCE in the Battle of Heraclea – a seaside Hellenistic colony on Italy’s boot. The Greeks were celebrating their annual Easter-time festival of Dionysus, the Greek analog for the Christian “Jesus,” in their theater when they saw ten Roman ships filled with soldiers and supplies enter the Gulf of Taranto – a violation of existing treaties. And even though Rome had provoked the Greeks, after toying with diplomacy, it was Rome that declared war and plundered several local cities. But the Greeks, Romans, and their associated allies, would spar on land and sea for some time, with the tide of war ebbing and flowing for both sides. But the battle was ultimately joined when thirty-thousand Romans faced off against the same number of Greeks, making it the first time the Roman Legion would encounter the Macedonian Phalanx. But it was the Greek deployment of elephants that carried the day, panicking the Romans and making them vulnerable. And so while the Greeks prevailed, twenty-six thousand men on both sides lost their lives in a matter of hours, suggesting that there were no winners. Then inexplicably, these same belligerents would face off in 279 BCE, again with the same result, but this time with even greater casualties.
Few conflicts are as well known as Rome v. Carthage. These heavyweights of the ancient world would meet for the first time in the Battle of Agrigentum in Sicily in 261 BCE inaugurating the Punic Wars. The Romans were the aggressors, attacking the Carthaginian city to gain control of shipping routes in the Mediterranean. The prelude to the conflict began twenty-seven years earlier, when in 288 BCE, the Italian mercenaries known as the Mamertines (Sons of Mars), were hired by the Tyrant of Syracuse, the self-proclaimed King of Sicily, to do his bidding. But after Syracuse lost the Third Sicilian War to Carthage, he was forced to cede Messana to the victors, which left the mercenaries without an employer. So they went into business for themselves, plundering the town they once protected. The Mamertines killed the men and divided the women as spoils. These Sons of Mars held the town for twenty years, turning it into a base for pirates, looting nearby ships and settlements. They also engaged in kidnap for ransom and conquest for tribute. Their exploits made them so rich and famous, they minted their own currency featuring their favorite collection of gods and goddesses.
Their run of good luck ran out when the Tyrant of Syracuse compiled a militia of willing to help him take his city back. But the Sons of Mars after winning the first battle and losing the second, convinced the Carthaginian fleet at Sardinia to come to their rescue. They had no affinity for the mercenaries, but they had long sought to control Sicily due to its proximity to Sardinia, Spain, and their homeland in North Africa.
We are told that the mere presence of Carthaginian fleet in the harbor caused Syracuse to flee. And because they were opposed to piracy, the Mamertines quickly grew weary of the Carthaginians. So they solicited Rome for protection. Not wanting Carthage to claim the strategic maritime island from the Greek colonies surrounding it, the Romans came to the aid of the Sons of Mars, initiating the first Punic War by signing a mutual defense pact with them.
At the time, the Romans had yet to fight a foe outside of the Italian Peninsula. But nonetheless, feeling sure of themselves, in 264 BCE, the Senate voted to declare war and sent an expedition to Sicily. Meanwhile, the Carthaginians increased their troop presence and also hired Gothic and Spanish mercenaries to induce and equip the indigenous population to attack invading Romans.
Consuls Megellus and Vitulus, as the highest-ranking elected Roman Patricians, brought forty-thousand men to lay siege upon Agrigentum, a strategic town along Sicily’s southwest coast. The population of Agrigentum swelled to fifty-thousand as the Romans approached because the local population sought refuge behind its walls. The garrison assigned to protect the town was small, but its leader bore a name Romans would come to hate – Hannibal – although this was Hannibal Gisco – and thus not the famous general who crossed the Alps to invade Rome during the Second Punic War.
Upon arrival, the Romans set up camp a mile from the town that had grown to a city and began gleaning the land for food. It was then, while soldiers were foraging, that Hannibal Gisco attacked, routing the unarmed troops and driving them back into their camp. Outnumbered ten to one, Hannibal skirmished with the garrison for a while, killing a substantial number of soldiers, before retreating back into the safety of the city.
The Romans then began digging siege works in an attempt to corral and then starve Agrigentum into submission, creating a stalemate for some five months. Concerned, Hannibal set word to his son Hanno, who arrived with elephants, Numidian cavalry, and an assortment of mercenaries. The numbers associated with each range from thirty to fifty elephants, fifteen hundred to six thousand cavalry, and thirty-thousand to fifty-thousand unaffiliated infantry. Hanno established his base twenty-five miles from Agrigentum and quickly set about the task of capturing Roman supply and communication lines. Then after frustrating and weakening the Legions for a while, Hanno ordered his Numidian cavalry to attack and then feign retreat. The pursuing Romans were thereby lured directly into the teeth of the Carthaginian line, where thousands died. Toying with his new-found foe, Hanno who thought turnabout would be fair play, took the high ground above the Roman camp on Torus Hill, where he deprived his adversary of food for six months. All the while, and inexplicitly, his father, Hannibal, was still trapped and starving inside Agrigentum. So they began communicating through smoke signals.
And speaking of smoke, what happened next is hazy. The various accounts vary markedly and the inconsistencies are difficult to resolve. But it appears that the Romans prevailed, killing most of the Carthaginians, their Numidian allies, and mercenaries. The Greek historian, Polybius, claims that the Romans slaughtered and starved thirty-five thousand men and took some four thousand captive during the siege and battles. While Hannibal would escape with some of his mercenaries, the Romans would also plunder the city, selling all twenty-five thousand civilians who survived their siege into slavery.
Such obsessive cruelty and wonton disregard for life and freedom backfired on the Romans, however. Their reputation for brutality became legend, and the world quickly grew adverse to them. So for those who believe that Rome was a beacon of light during the Republic era, the birthplace of political freedom and a bastion of moral debate, think again. Rome was born and remained as Yahowah had described them: “an awesome and monstrous beast, the most fearsome and frightening, yet also revered, horrifying and appalling, awful and evil, yet exceedingly and preeminently powerful with the capacity to destroy. With her teeth comprised of iron, multitudes, including the largest, most numerous and powerful, she devoured and devastated, crushing the remainder with her feet by trampling them down violently under foot.” (Dany’el 7:7)
Four years later, in 260 BCE, Carthage and the Roman Republic would meet again, this time fighting for control of the islands north of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Romans, now possessing Sicily, built a fleet to control the Mediterranean Sea. The first seventeen warships sailed to Messana to herald the new era of Roman domination. While training his new navy in the strait, Consul Scipio received information that the garrison on the island of Lipara was willing to defect to Rome. Not able to resist the temptation of conquest without conflict, he said into a trap. As the Roman navy entered the harbor with their recently commissioned fleet, they found Hannibal waiting to ambush them. For his blunder, Rome would change Consul Scipio’s title, giving him the cognomen Asina, a pejorative meaning “female donkey.”
Later that same year, Rome would win the first major naval battle against Carthage which was fought off the coast of Northern Sicily. Back to the drawing board, or shipwrecks in this case, the Romans built a fleet of one hundred Quinqueremes (Fives) and twenty Triremes (Threes) by reverse engineering the Carthaginian designs which were themselves copies of warships invented by Dionysius of Syracuse a century earlier. The smaller ships were called “Threes” because there were three levels of oarsmen, typically slaves, confined and shackled inside the ship. And while it was long assumed that a Quinqueremes would have five levels of oarsmen, three stories was the practical limit, suggesting that the Fives were wider, allowing for more men on each level and oar. But the Romans added an interesting winkle. Recognizing that their infantry was better trained than their navy, they added a ramp to their vessels which enabled their troops to board enemy ships. This corvi was designed to pivot so that Romans could board from the bow, port, or starboard. This enabled them to throw a grappling hook to real in a passing ship. And once it was close and the ramp was lowered, it locked into position with an iron stake, preventing escape.
The Senate asked Rome’s Consuls, Scipio Asina and Gaius Duilius, to divide responsibility, giving the “Ass” control of the fleet. But before the battle began, Duilius switched positions with him, and he wielded the new navy wisely. He deployed the corvi drawbridge to board the first twenty Carthaginian ships as they attempted to ram the Romans. Before the battle was over, Rome had captured thirty-one vessels, sinking another thirteen, including the Carthaginian flagship. The remaining eighty enemy ships sailed off in retreat without the Romans giving chase. In addition, Rome took booty in gold and silver worth over two-million sesterces (a 2½ inch silver coin). Duilius received Rome’s first naval Triumph.
Success at Mylae enabled the Romans to pursue Hannibal on Sardinia two years later. Their emerging navy prevailed again, destroying a third of the Carthaginian fleet. After another defeat, Hannibal was arrested by his own troops and taken back to Carthage where he was crucified for his failures.
These foes would meet again in the Battle of Tyndaris off the coast of Sicily in 257 BCE. This spontaneous engagement was scored eighteen to nine in favor of the Romans. But that led to a much bigger fight with a great deal at stake. The Battle of Cape Ecnomus was one of the largest naval engagements of the ancient world, and is considered by some to be the largest naval battle ever fought.
The Romans now had delusions of grandeur. They were intoxicated with the idea of being able to project a force, transporting their Legions upon the seas. And their first target would be Northern Africa, the Carthaginian homeland. So realizing that Triremes and Quinqueremes had little space for cargo, Rome built a large fleet of two hundred massive transport vessels. The only equivalent in world history would be America with its six-hundred warships.
But for Rome to accomplish its goal of capturing Northern Africa, the enemy’s fleet patrolling the waters off Sicily would have to be neutralized. So as they had with their Legions, Rome divided its navy into numbered Squadrons, each commanded by a Consul. Their battle formation became a wedge with transports tucked behind attack vessels, all of which were protected by a line of Threes and Fives in the rear.
The opposing forces met off of southwestern Sicily, with the Carthaginian fleet arrayed in a long line. Rome advanced on its center and Carthage feigned a retreat, hoping to swing their flanks around quickly to attack the Roman transports. They were initially successful, pushing the larger ships into the Sicilian coast. But the Romans quickly regrouped, avoiding disaster. At the end of the day they had sunk or captured half of the Carthaginian fleet, opening the door to seize Africa.
A year later, in 256 BCE, Rome would invade Carthage with Consul Marcus Regulus leading the charge. Because the Carthaginians were not yet ready to engage in a land battle, the Roman Legions quickly forced Clupea, a town forty miles east of Carthage, to surrender. After capturing twenty-thousand slaves and vast herds of cattle from the countryside, they then set their sights on Aspis. Messages were dashed off to Rome to notify the Senate of their success, seeking orders on the next move, which was punitive, plundering and destroying the countryside. Loaded with booty, both human and animal, the transports set sail for Rome, leaving Regulus with fifteen thousand infantry and five hundred cavalry.
By this time, Carthage had recalled five thousand infantry and cavalry from Sicily. The remaining army was comprised mostly mercenaries, light infantry, militia, cavalry, and riders upon elephants. But their military was unlike Rome’s Legions, where its caste system and strict command and control structure turned Plebes and slaves into unthinking killing machines.
Rather than defend the city of Aspis, the Carthaginian army was deployed on a hill overlooking a nearby plain. It was an unwise decision because it reduced the effectiveness of their superior cavalry and elephants. Worse, unknown to them, and under the cover of darkness, the Romans deployed their Legions around the hill, attacking the Carthaginians from every side at dawn. Fighting bravely, Carthage opened a hole in the Roman line sufficient to allow their cavalry and elephants to escape. But eventually they were beaten back and crushed, with the survivors fleeing the hill in a rout. After looting the camp, the Romans marched to Carthage, stopping at Tunis en route.
That created a stalemate. Consul Regulus knew that despite enslaving fifty-thousand people, and slaughtering almost that many more, there would be no Triumph for him unless he took Carthage. But two Legions of fifteen-thousand troops were woefully inadequate for the mission. On the other side, the weakened Carthaginians found the Numidians who they had oppressed and subjugated rising up against them. And since the Romans had stolen everything edible, they were starving. Confined to the city, they were also ravaged by disease.
So Regulus sought to earn the accolades he could not achieve militarily by humiliating his foe. His terms for ending the unimaginable human suffering he was imposing on the city were unconscionable. In a massive land grab, he demanded that Carthage cede Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica to Rome. In addition, to end the siege, Carthage would have to give their entire navy to the Romans and would have to pay an onerous annual tribute tax to maintain it. What’s more, they would have to surrender their freedom, giving Rome absolute control over the Carthage and its people. It was a death sentence which the Carthaginians refused. Rome was anything but merciful.
And sometimes, when people are pushed into a corner they fight back in unexpected way as if they have nothing to lose. Within a year, during the Battle of Tunis, Carthage would defeat Rome. Rather than surrender everything to Rome, Carthage hired a mercenary general named Xanthippus. He didn’t make the same mistake, deploying the Carthaginian cavalry and elephants on open ground to maximize their effectiveness. Xanthippus also created a phalanx of civilians.
General Xanthippus sent his elephants into the heart of the Roman infantry, tying them down, while sending his cavalry against the Regulus’s horsemen. Outnumbered eight to one, the Roman cavalry was quickly defeated. While the Romans defeated many of the mercenaries, they fared poorly against the people’s phalanx. The Carthaginian cavalry, having wiped out their Roman counterpart, split their forces and assaulted the already disarrayed infantry from both sides. Only two thousand Roman troops were able to escape, fleeing back to their ships. We do not know if Consul Regulus was captured or killed, but he was never heard from again. And during the ensuing period of global warming, vicious seaborne storms kept Rome from pursuing the war.
Carthage would successfully prosecute a Libyan revolt in 252. Following it, they dispatched troops to secure Sicily. When they sought to take Panormus from Rome, the Romans deployed a strategy to torment and kill the elephants that had been so effective against them. With javelins thrust into them, the elephants panicked and trampled the Carthaginian infantry. Then when the battle was over, the Roman capture the surviving elephants which the transported to Rome so that they could be slaughtered in the Circus to the cheers of ghoulish fans.
Rome would, however, lose its next engagement. An attempt to siege Lilybaeum on the western tip of Sicily failed in 250 BCE. The Carthaginians would defeat the Romans again, this time offshore in a fight between the fleets. In the prelude to the battle, and during the Roman siege of Lilybaeum, another Carthaginian commander name Hannibal broke through the Roman blockade in broad daylight, supplying food while removing useless and hungry horses without the napping Romans even noticing. Successful the first time, Hannibal did it again and again, frustrating the Romans and defeating the purpose of the siege – which was to starve the inhabitants to death. Embarrassed, the Roman Consul decided to launch a surprise raid on Drepana, the homeport of the blockade runners. But during a moonless night, the Romans squandered the element of surprise by arriving in disorderly fashion.
Meanwhile, on the Roman flagship, the Consul consulted religious chickens, as was Roman custom, before the battle. If the sacred chickens which were on board for this purpose ate the grain that was scattered before them, the Romans believed that their gods would support them during the battle. However, on this morning in 249 BCE, the righteous chickens chickened out – which was a foreboding omen. With his superstitious crews fearing foul play, the Consul threw the sacred chickens overboard, saying, “Let them drink, since they don’t wish to eat.”
Out positioned, having lost the element of surprise, and with the gods against them, the blockade runners validated the faith the Romans had placed in their religious omen. And while Consul Publius Pulcher escaped, the highest elected official in Rome was convicted of treason and he was banished, not for losing the battle, not for the loss of his fleet, not even for squandering his men’s lives, but instead for the sacrilege of sacrificing the chickens. You just can’t make this kind of stuff up.
Even enriched by countless slaves and shiploads of stolen property, a constant state of war was bankrupting Rome. The Republic had spent way too much money on its navy and legions. And funny thing about ships: some sink and other rust and rot over time. Soldiers age and their weapons grow dull. The military had become a monster that was devouring the Republic. And yet since the Senate’s Consul was Commander in Chief of the Roman war machine, and since victories over foes real or imagined tuned consuls into gods, the sensible thing never occurred to the Romans.
So with the economy in a calamitous state and the treasury bankrupt, the Patricians were called to be patriotic. Aristocratic Romans weren’t asked to pay off the Republic’s national debt, they weren’t asked to start new businesses that would create jobs and invigorate the stalled economy. The privileged elite would show the way by building their own warship and donating it to the Senate. And so with two-hundred bristling new Quinqueremes duly equipped and crewed, Rome scanned the horizon for a worthy foe. The Fives, with Consul Gaius Catulus at the helm, sailed off in quest of booty and slaves on a brisk spring morning in 241 BCE.
They immediately laid siege to Lilybaeum again, adding Drepana to their blockade, which was the place they had lost their fleet during the fiasco of the faithful foul. And there they bobbed without incident or battle for the rest of the year. Then finally, a year to the day that they had set sail, the Carthaginian fleet arrived, providing the first opportunity for the Patrician Fives to prove their worth. The winds, however, were favoring Carthage, so Consul Catulus removed his ship’s masts and sails and sent his second in command, Faulto, off to play war in the stormy seas. And the Romans prevailed, but only because the Carthaginian ships were overloaded with food and supplies. Theirs had been a mission of mercy to feed the starving townsfolk. In the rough seas, they were out maneuvered by the Roman warships. Half were sunk. The others sailed away.
Consul Catulus, of course, renewed the siege and eventually starved the Sicilians into submission. And to celebrate his achievement, he built a marvelous temple to Juturna – a Roman goddess turned water nymph who is said to have had a secret adulterous affair with Jupiter. I suspect that she was chosen because early in her life of make believe, she supported her brother Turnus in battle, giving him a new sword after he had dropped his own. The replacement warships were Rome’s new sword.
And yet sadly for Rome, the Carthaginians wouldn’t play with them again for a quarter of a century, so the Aristocratic navy would rust and rot once more. But that did not mean that the Romans were out of neighbors to antagonize. There would always be plenty of Gauls.
To set the stage, the Gauls had lived in peace with Rome in northern Italy until Rome partitioned their territory in 234 BCE. This intrusion into their lives and the subsequent loss of freedom caused the Gauls to create a federation of tribes and employ a mercenary force to protect them. This was so unacceptable to Rome, they signed a treaty giving Carthage unimpeded control over Hispania so that they could concentrate their animosity against the Gallic quest for independence.
So in 225 BCE, the Republic issued a call to arms against the Gauls living in northern Italy. Fifty-four thousand Samnite and Etruscan boys were forcibly dragged from their homes, joining forty-thousand Umbrian, Sarsinate, Veneti, and Cenomai and twenty-two thousand Roman Plebeians – all to create a massive army orchestrated by the Patrician elite. A quarter of the one-hundred sixteen thousand marched off to war with the Roman eagle and flags leading the charge. The remainder were given garrison duty to suppress local rebellions and make sure that everyone behaved back home.
The Gauls, however, wishing to avoid conflict, scampered away through Apennine Mountains. But the Romans, itching for a fight, pursued them as the Gauls continued to retreat. Unable to escape, the Gauls left their cavalry behind, hidden in the woods, and they lured the Romans into a narrow pass where they ambushed them, inflicting a near fatal blow on the hastily comprised legions.
Regulus, who had been busy fighting for control of Sardinia, arrived just as the Romans were assessing the damage. He moved his troops ahead, overlooking a pass that he thought the Gauls might use. The result was devastating. No match for Roman weaponry or tactics, forty-thousand Gauls were killed in a matter of hours and another ten thousand were taken prisoner. The few who escaped committed suicide rather than endure the torment that would have been inflicted upon them.
With the Gallic population defenseless, the Romans began a punitive expedition, plundering everyone and everything. A great celebration was held in Rome as the generals were celebrated as gods and the spoils were distributed among the Patricians.
Even though the Romans had signed peace treaties with Carthage in 509, 348, 306, 279, and 225 BCE, establishing each empire’s sphere of influence, the Senate wasn’t trustworthy and preferred war to peace. As an example of that, even when their favorite sparring partner was attacked by its Libyan mercenaries for failing to pay them what they were due for having successfully defending Carthage against Rome, the Senate aided and abetted Carthage. And while Carthaginian conflicts apart from those against Rome lay beyond the scope of this investigation, it should be noted that the Carthaginian war against its own mercenaries was among the most savage ever recorded. During the Battle of the Saw, Carthage cunningly lured the protesting mercenaries into a steep box canyon, then blockaded the open end so that they could starve their former allies to death. The mercenary leader was tortured and crucified for trying to negotiate a truce. And then because starvation wasn’t sufficiently painful, Carthage began breaking the arms and legs of their captives, and then cutting off their hands and castrating them, before throwing them into large pits to die a much more miserable death.
So it was against this backdrop that in 218 BCE, Rome initiated the Second Punic War, declaring war on Carthage after Hannibal besieged the city of Saguntum on the eastern shore of Iberia. This was remarkable in a way because just sixteen years earlier the Senate had ceded Spain to Carthage so that Rome could focus on fighting Gauls. Somehow Rome justified their duplicity by claiming that they had subsequently entered into a defense pact with the Iberian city. But that was obviously a ruse because Rome never lifted a finger to help their new ally during the eight-month siege, and only responded after the city had been taken.
Anticipating what was to come, Hannibal gave his army the winter off to rest, only to reassemble them in the summer of 218 after learning of the declaration of war against him. Having been elected to his position, and not the least bit timid, Hannibal led ninety-thousand infantry, twelve-thousand cavalry, and thirty-seven elephants from the southeastern Spanish coast toward Italy. Along the way his troops got to practice plundering by subduing the Iberian tribes of Ilergetes, Bergusii, and Austani, conquering much of Catalonia in extreme northeastern Spain. Along the way, they left the Greek colonies in place and unmolested. And just offshore, Carthage shadowed Hannibal with thirty Fives and mobilized another fifty Quinqueremes in preparation for the battle that was sure to come.
While it had been Rome that had negated its own treaty to declare war, the Carthaginians struck first. Twenty of their Fives loaded with one-thousand soldiers raided the Lipari Islands in the waters off northeastern Sicily. But then on the island of Vulcano, the Syracuse captured three of their ships along with their crews when they were blown off course. And after learning that the Carthaginian navy was being mobilized for a strike on Lilybaeum, Sicily, they informed Rome of the impending raid.
We have to assume that the religious chickens were no longer running afoul of the fleet because Rome prevailed, capturing seventeen hundred Carthaginian sailors. Another two-thousand Carthaginians were captured in Malta.
Within two months, but on a different battlefield, this one in northeastern Iberia, Gnaeus Calvus substantially outmanned and thereby defeated the small garrison force Hannibal had left behind to protect the Iberian villages he had recently conquered. The Romans killed six thousand and captured two thousand Carthaginian solders, also stealing the supplies Hannibal had left behind.
The following month, in November of 218 BCE, the stage was set for a pair of epic battles. The first was waged in Gallic territory in northwestern Italy on the Pavia plains near the confluence of the Ticino and Po Rivers. It would be a fight between titans with massive forces assembled on both sides. Hannibal, who was just twenty-six years old, was in a foul mood, knowing that the Romans had wiped out his garrison forces and stolen his supplies.
The Senate knew that they were in serious trouble. Livy writes: “They knew they had never had to face a fiercer or more warlike foe. War was coming, and it would have to be fought in Italy in defense of Rome.” They issued a decree to fill out the ranks of six new Legions with twenty-four thousand infantry and eighteen hundred cavalry, enlisting another forty-two thousand allied soldiers from client territories. And while the Senate had already declared war, and had already built its army and navy to prosecute that war, after doing so, in democratic fashion they asked free Romans to vote on whether or not to go to war. I can only imagine the propaganda and military posturing that accompanied this vote, one that was carried by the patriots.
Consul Tiberius in command one-hundred sixty Fives and two Legions, comprised mostly of men who had been forced into service, set sail for Sicily to stage an assault on Carthage. Their plan, one Hannibal interrupted, was to invade Africa. Concurrently, Consul Publius was sent north with two Legions to spar with Hannibal in the north. Manlius, an elderly aristocrat, was named Praetor, and then assigned two Legions which were to be deployed against the Gauls to keep them from using the occasion to rebel.
With their armies marching off to war with orders to invade Carthage, to subdue Gauls, and confront Hannibal, for the purpose of theater, Rome sent a delegation of old Patricians to the Carthage Senate with plenipotentiary powers to re-re-declare war should their dishonest presentation of revisionist history fail to impress the audience. Having brought copies of past treaties, they asked the Carthaginian Senate to determine if Hannibal had acted as an individual or with the approval of the Senate. But the Carthaginians denied that Rome had a treaty with Carthage, pointing out that they had repudiated the Ebro Treaty, claiming that it was not ratified in order to promote a conflicting defense agreement with Saguntum. Having lost the argument on its merits, the Roman Fabius postured, saying, “We bring you peace and war. Take which you will.” Unimpressed, and knowing that the Romans had already chosen war, the Carthaginians replied, “Whichever you want, we do not care.” Fabius then proclaimed “We give you war,” knowing full well that he wouldn’t be fighting in it. (Livy, History of Rome, Book XXI) Then with similar result, Fabius who returned through Spain, failed when pleading with the Iberian tribes to join the Romans. The fact that Rome hadn’t come to Saguntum’s aid after promising to do so, spoke louder than Fabius. The Gauls received Fabius even more critically.
None the less delusional, Hannibal dreamt that a god-like man claiming to be the messenger of the gods told him to invade Italy and not look back. During the vision, he saw a serpent helping him destroy the Romans. So he left Spain with ninety-thousand infantry and twelve-thousand cavalry. But at the end of his five-month one-thousand mile ordeal, he had devastated his own army. Hannibal arrived in Italy having lost two-thirds of his men en route. His progress was slowed because he was forced to negotiate with or fight a never-ending array of tribes along the way, so his army averaged just six miles a day.
Meanwhile, Atilius was sent to relieve the elderly Manlius. The Senate also transferred five thousand allied troops from Publius and gave them to Atilius. Publius was instructed to raise another legion from tribes en route, promising them mutual defense. The Boii took the bait and offered guides and appropriate clothing for crossing the Alps.
Upon learning that Hannibal was still in the Pyrenees, the Romans dispatched Consul Scipio via naval transport to Liguria at the mouth of the Rhone, a narrow strip of land bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps, and the Apennines. There they would wait for the Carthaginians among friendly Greeks and Gauls.
At the same time, Hannibal reached the Rhone further upstream, where he was confronted by the Volcae, Gauls in alliance with Rome. The Carthaginians made a successful crossing by sending a third of their force to deflect the Gauls. Hannibal’s elephants floated across the Rhone on rafts. But shortly thereafter, a small number of Scipio’s cavalry encountered a Carthaginian scouting party and routed them.
Having lost track of Hannibal’s army, however, as they vanished to the north, Scipio dispatched most of his troops to New Carthage, the very place Hannibal had left five months earlier. He, himself, returned by ship to Pisa and then marched through Etruria to join Manlius and Atilius and wait for Hannibal along the Po River.
Hannibal, however, was fighting for his life. Hostile mountain tribes, avalanches, collapsed roadways, and deep snow made crossing the Alps miserable. At one point, the Carthaginians had to cut a path across a thousand-foot cliff by heating and cooling the rock face to crack it sufficiently that they could pick and pry their way forward. The two-week crossing took a heavy toll and Hannibal arrived with only twenty-thousand African and Iberian infantry and six-thousand cavalry. Surprisingly, most of his elephants survived. But the men were emaciated, having exhausted their food supplies.
Hannibal’s next battle was against the Taurini, with whom he tried to negotiate a peace treaty and alliance. They refused, so Hannibal surrounded their village and leveled it, killing everyone as a message to other local tribes. Rather than fight him, many Gallic tribes allied with the Carthaginians in opposition to the Romans. The historian, Livy, states that they bolstered Hannibal’s force by sixty-thousand foot soldiers and four-thousand riders.
Publius and Scipio were bewildered, finding it incredulous that Hannibal could have crossed the Alps, arrived in Italy, massacred a tribe, and forged new alliances in a matter of weeks. Hannibal was also surprised by the presence of the Roman army, because he thought that they were in Spain.
Unaware of the size of his opponent’s army, Scipio, who as Consul outranked Publius, decided to hold his infantry in arrears and test his foe’s metal with his cavalry and light javelin infantry. Hannibal responded similarly, but only deployed his cavalry, although they were highly motivated. The twenty-six year old general promised his men that if they were victorious that they would all slaves would be freed, that all allies would be afforded Carthaginian citizenship, and that every man would win tax-free land in Italy, Spain, or Africa. Incentives duly offered, Hannibal placed his heavily armored riders in the center and his light and swift Numidian cavalry on his wings so that they could break off and attack the Romans from behind. Scipio arranged his cavalry in a straight line as if they were infantry. He then tucked his javelin throwers behind his Gallic cavalry in the center of his line. Hannibal seeing the Roman tactic, charged, hitting his foe so quickly that not a single javelin was launched. The Roman light infantry fled, running for their lives. Then Hannibal deployed his pincer maneuver, wounding Scipio and scattering his men.
Hannibal, however, did not pursue them, knowing that his cavalry was substantially outnumbered by the Roman infantry held in reserve. During the night, Scipio left his camp, crossed the Po River on the bridge they had built, and then demolished it. They were in Piacenza before Hannibal even knew that they had left camp.
But all was not well on the Roman side. As Hannibal arrived at Piacenza at dawn two days later, he was greeted by twenty-two hundred Gauls, men who just the night before had been Roman allies. But the previous night, each of them had cut off the head of the Roman sleeping nearest them in their tents. Festooned with their ghoulish artifacts, they crossed over to the Carthaginian side where they were well received. And knowing he was in trouble once again, Scipio retreated, positioning his troops on the far side of the Trebia River, a tributary of the Po. Moving slowly, Hannibal allowed the Romans to position themselves in the hills, fortify the slopes, and wait.
Enthusiastically resupplied by the Gallic population, the Carthaginians were itching for a fight. And they would get their opportunity in the Battle of the Trebia. It was a cold and snowy day, the 18th day of December, 228 BCE, a few days before the winter solstice. Scipio was recovering from his wounds, but Consul Sempronius was eager to exchange blows with Hannibal.
At the same time, Hannibal was laying a trap, sending eleven-hundred of his best men under the cover of darkness into the underbrush to lie in wait on the near side of the river he knew that the Romans would have to cross. Then at first light, he dispatched his Numidian cavalry beyond the Trebbia to harass the Roman camp and retreat, luring them into an ambush. In response, and not even giving them time to eat their morning meal or properly prepare, in impetuous Sempronius deployed his cavalry, six thousand javelin throwers, and twelve thousand heavy infantry along with twenty-thousand allied troops, ordering them to forge the ice-cold Trebbia in pursuit. On the other side, they were so chilled, they could scarcely hold their weapons. Hannibal, however, with his trap perfectly set, didn’t obliterate his foe at this time. He thought that he could achieve a greater spectacle, and thereby further impress his Gallic allies, by engaging the whole Roman army. So he ordered his light infantry forward, which was comprised of javelin throwers and slingers. Behind these eight-thousand men, he positioned twenty-thousand African, Iberian, and Gallic infantry with ten-thousand cavalry and his elephants split between his flanks.
The Numidian cavalry feasted on their Roman counterparts who were strung out in pursuit. They then harassed the opposition’s light infantry, causing the hypothermic hurlers to fling all of their missiles in vain. With his men frozen and providing no resistance, Sempronius ordered them to fall back. This left the heavily-armed infantry on both sides to close ranks. Simultaneously, Hannibal assaulted the Roman wings, forcing them back into the river. With many Roman troops exposed and unable to retreat, the moment they passed the position of the Carthaginians who had been lying in wait to ambush them, the trap was sprung. Panicked, the Roman infantry broke ranks and headed back into the river, where Hannibal slaughtered them.
The Romans who had not fled then formed a hollow square, with everyone facing out to oppose the enemy on all sides. Tiberius, who had joined the battle, commanded them from within. With the Carthaginians focused on massacring the defenseless soldiers in the river, Rome antagonized the elephants, causing them to go on the rampage. Meanwhile, the Roman square, ignoring their allies dying in the river, marched toward Piacenza, killing an untold number of Carthaginians in the process. Tiberius has a laundry list of excuses for not attempting to rescue his defenseless allies, but in the end, all that matters is that Rome abandoned them. Scipio also retreated, keeping the river between himself and his foe. Hannibal did not pursue them, because the weather turned frigid, killing his horses, elephants, and many of his men.
The Romans were defeated, but most of their army escaped. Seven Legions were still intact. They would quickly regroup, elect new Consuls, recruit an additional four Legions, build more ships, and replenish their supplies.
In the days which followed, Hannibal attempted a small-scale assault on Placentia which failed. He then marched on a supply depot filled with anti-Carthaginian refugees from the Gallic tribes. A mob of thirty-five thousand tried without success to impede Hannibal and were driving back into the fort. After surrendering, the garrison relinquished their weapons and Hannibal’s men committed “every kind of outrage that lust, cruelty, and brutal insolence could suggest.” (Livy, History of Rome, Book XXI)
Having lost all but twelve-thousand infantry and five-thousand cavalry to winter storms, it was either courageous or arrogant, but Hannibal marched his faltering army towards Tiberius’s camp. His aggressiveness was rebuffed, but he later regrouped and struck again, this time succeeding. But darkness prevented Hannibal from eliminating his enemy. Casualties were significant on both sides.
In the Spring of 217 BCE the Carthaginian navy lost a battle near the Ebro River, sacrificing thirty ships and control of the Spanish coast. It was then that newly elected Consul, Gaius Flaminius, bearing a name that has to be spoken cautiously in politically correct circles, turned his army south to prepare for the defense of Rome. Hannibal followed, but now having mastered the craft, marched faster and passed him. The young general then did his level best to Flaminius into battle, devastating the region the Roman Consul had been nominated to protect. Next, he taunted him, marching his army around the Roman camp, cutting off Flaminius’s supply and communication lines with Rome. But it was only after Hannibal marched on Apulia, the southeastern Italian peninsula situated between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, that Gaius Flaminius finally reacted, foolishly sending his entire force into a battlefield of his enemy’s choosing.
And it was well chosen. As Hannibal came upon Lake Trasimene, he noticed a valley along the lakeshore that was perfectly suited for an ambush. He had his scouts light campfires miles many miles away to create the impression that his army was a long distance from his chosen battlefield. Then during the night Hannibal positioned his heavy infantry behind a rise that would give them unimpeded access to charge down upon the enemy’s left flank as they marched forward, strung out in a along line. He concealed his cavalry and Gallic infantry at the opposite end, in the wooded hills near the valley’s opening overlooking the lake, which would allow them to close the only escape route and menace the Roman rear. His light troops were stationed in groups, hidden in the foothills opposite of the lakeshore.
The next morning, June 21, 217 BCE, eager for battle, the Romans broke camp early and marched at an exhausting pace along the northern shore of the lake, just as Hannibal had planned. So then to spilt the Roman force, Carthage initiated a small skirmish to draw the troops leading the march away from those following in the rear. Once the Romans were perfectly situated, trumpets were blown, signaling the attack. The cavalry swept down, blocked the road, and engaged the unsuspecting Romans, sending them into disarray. The heavy infantry rumbled down from the heights to slaughtering the trapped men. Simultaneously, the Gallic light infantry pounced from the side and from the rear, splitting the Legions into three uncoordinated groups. The Roman vanguard was pushed into the lake. The center, including Gaius Flaminius, was shredded by the Gauls in a matter of hours. By lunchtime, the entire Roman army was annihilated. Only six-thousand of Flaminus’s army managed to escape in the low fog, meaning that twenty-four thousand were killed that morning. Hannibal’s losses were less than two-thousand. And of the escapees, most were captured by the Maharbal the following day. They were all sold into slavery. Moreover, two days hence, four-thousand Romans sent to reinforce Flaminius were intercepted and slaughtered.
Hannibal, in the Battle of Lake Trasimene, planned and executed the largest and most successful ambush in military history. In response, the Fabii Patrician Quintus Fabius Maximus was appointed dictator of Rome to coordinate the war effort. He would deploy what has become known as the Fabian Strategy of avoiding direct conflict and engaging only in the most favorable circumstances. Rome would try to harass the invader and wear him down.
As for Hannibal, even though he was within a few day’s march to Rome, he elected to pillage Apulia over the next year to replenish his army. It is a matter of speculation as to why he didn’t sack Rome. He was given unimpeded access. There were no Legions in his way or even within the central Italian Peninsula. But we know that his men were worn out. They had contracted scurvy. They were now equipped with confiscated Roman weapons, and they would have to be trained to wield them effectively. Also, his horses were in bad shape, so he would use a low-grade local wine as an ointment to being his cavalry mounts back to heath.
To restore Roman confidence and instill a renewed sense of patriotism, Fabius, the political dictator and supreme military commander, positioned himself above the national hierarchy of pagan priests. He meticulously led all religious functions, fully integrating temple and state. He would go so far as to blame the defeat at Trasimene on a national deficiency regarding proper religious observations. The Roman Senate would consult the Sibylline Books at the direction of Dictator Fabius, assigning a Praetor to appease the Roman gods through generous and regular sacrifices. In so doing, Rome became the reincarnation of Babylon. There was no longer any distinction between the Roman military, government, or religion.
All the while, Rome’s allies were abandoned and sacrificed. Hannibal plundered them at will. But after a while, Hannibal grew complacent, and letting his guard down, nearly got ambushed. He entered a rich valley with limited ways out, all of which the Romans controlled, including the valley Hannibal had used to enter the vast plain. But the young Carthaginian general had another novel trick up his sleeve. Rather than confront the entrenched Romans, Hannibal paralyzed them. He tied torches to the horns to two-thousand oxen, stampeding them in front of Fabius in the middle of the night. The Romans, thinking that they were being lured into another trap, let the Carthaginians scamper out of the valley right before their noses in the middle of the night. Worse, more than one-thousand Romans fled before the stampede and they were systematically picked off. Hannibal had turned the tables on his tormentor by evading a battle he did not want to fight. It was pure Sun Tzu. Hannibal “Knew his enemy and knew himself, and thus knew that victory would be his” because “a battle avoided cannot be lost.”
Now free, Hannibal ransacked Roman estates as Fabius shadowed him. And what the Carthaginians didn’t take, Fabius ordered burned, scorching his own land. And by doing so, his approach was beginning to wear thin. He had nurtured false hope in the Roman religion, in the Roman military, and in the Roman government, but when he timidly failed to deliver, knowing that it had all been propaganda, the people turned against him. The Senate replaced their dictator with Consuls Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus. And they were given command of a newly-conscripted army of unprecedented size – eight Legions, each consisting of five-thousand Plebeians besides five-thousand allied troops. Eighty-thousand infantry and six thousand cavalry would be brought to bear against the African that had out maneuvered them on every occasion.
Hannibal had now traversed and ransacked every inch of Rome, from north to south and from east to west. There was nothing left for him to do other than confront Rome’s new army. Knowing that with two Consuls commanding one army, that they would switch off, alternating on a daily basis, Hannibal planned his strategy accordingly. Varro would be in charge on the day the armies met, making him a scapegoat, especially since he as a career soldier who had risen up the ranks, unlike Paullus, was not a member of the aristocracy.
Continuing to toy with his enemy, Hannibal seized a large military supply depot outside of Rome. Incensed by this, Consul Varro, is depicted as an exemplar of Rome, conceited and callous, so to capitalize upon their hubris, Hannibal sent a small raiding party against the whole of Rome’s massive army. When they were repulsed, Roman overconfidence became their Achilles’ heal.
On the morning of the battle, Varro aligned his ninety-five thousand troops in typical fashion, with three straight lines, one behind the other. His plan was to have his infantry march into and through the center of the Carthaginian line. Only one problem: there was no opposing line.
Hannibal was outnumbered two to one, but he knew that his cavalry was substantially better than his opponent’s hastily assembled horsemen. So he positioned his forty-seven thousand troops in a wedge formation, with their backs to the wind and sun. Deploying an international force of Libyans, Iberians, Gauls, Numidians, Phoenicians, and Balearans, with slingers and hurlers, swordsmen and riders among them, each was stationed according to their ethnicity and competency. Then, to the surprise of the Romans, he positioned two-thirds of his cavalry along his left flank which was already protected by the Aufidus River. The remaining third he used to offset the Roman cavalry on his right flank, their left, away from the river.
With the low morning sun glaring into his enemy’s eyes, Hannibal radically changed his formation, with the point of his wedge falling back and the wings pulling forward. This created a crescent, with the appearance of an open mouth filled with menacing teeth ready to devour the Romans. Unaware that they were being lured to their death, the center of the Roman line rushed forward to fill the void. All that was needed then was to deflect the Roman cavalry so that the Carthaginian riders could push the Roman flanks back on both flanks, creating another crescent, this one convex, with the Romans now engulfed inside Hannibal’s mouth. Once the inferior Roman cavalry was neutered, the remainder of the Carthaginian riders menaced the Legions from the rear.
During the mêlée, with a easterly wind, all of the dust and sand thrown up into the air by nearly one-hundred and fifty thousand soldiers and horses blew directly into the eyes of Hannibal’s foe. Then, knowing that the Romans put their best men in the center of their lines, Hannibal, who was serving in the center of his line with his least capable infantrymen, pulled the center of his line back in what the Romans would have seen as a retreat. When the Legions rushed forward, Hannibal’s most capable troops encircled them in a pincer movement. Six-thousand Roman legionaries were slaughtered a minute until darkness finally brought an end to the carnage. Less than fifteen percent of the largest army ever assembled by Rome lived to see the next morning, and two-thirds of them were captured. Hannibal, who had been outmanned two to one, lost just six-thousand soldiers.
Livy, in the History of Rome, wrote: “Two consular armies were lost. There was no longer any Roman camp, and general, any single soldier in existence.” The Romans became so desperate, the resorted to human sacrifice to appease their gods, burying men, women, and children alive at the Forum.
Over the course of twenty months, Hannibal had defeated the equivalent of eight consular armies, sixteen Legions, and an equal number of allies. Rome had lost one-hundred and fifty thousand Plebeians – one fifth of the entire population of citizens over the age of seventeen. Most Roman allies abandoned them, and revolts sprung up throughout the empire.
Hannibal, however, wasn’t interested in sacking Rome. He recognized that it would be a fight to the death, and it wasn’t worth sacrificing the lives of those who had fought so valiantly with him. So he offered the Roman Senate a peace treaty on very favorable terms. But Rome refused. The Senate forced the entire male population of Rome into the military, every citizen, every peasant, every slave. They actually outlawed saying the word “peace.” Public displays of emotion over the loss of loved ones, including the tears of mothers and widows, was strictly forbidden.
The military historian, Theodore Ayrault Dodge, assessed Hannibal as follows: “Few battles of ancient times are more marked by ability...than the battle of Cannae. The position was such as to place every advantage on Hannibal's side. The manner in which the far from perfect Hispanic and Gallic foot was advanced in a wedge in échelon...was first held there and then withdrawn step by step, until it had reached the converse position...is a simple masterpiece of battle tactics. The advance at the proper moment of the African infantry, and its wheel right and left upon the flanks of the disordered and crowded Roman legionaries, is far beyond praise. The whole battle, from the Carthaginian standpoint, is a consummate piece of art, having no superior, few equal, examples in the history of war.” (T.A. Dodge, Hannibal, Perseus Publishing, 2004, pages 378-9)
Will Durant, in The Story of Civilization, wrote, “It was a supreme example of generalship, never bettered in history...and it set the lines of military tactics for 2,000 years.” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Volume III, Simon and Schuster, 1944, page 51)
Rome and Carthage would fight again. A year later, in 216 BCE, Marcus Marcellus deflected an attack by Hannibal at Nola, doing so a second time in 215. A year later, in the same place, these men fought to a draw. But with a change of scenery, Hannibal defeated Consuls Fulvius Flaccus and Appius Claudius at Capua in 212 BCE. The same year at Silarus and then at Herdonia, Hannibal devastated the Roman army. The Carthaginians would prevail in the Battle of Baetis in 211 BCE. But later that year, Hannibal had a brief setback, failing to break the Roman siege of Capua. And yet within months, the Carthaginians would ravage the Roman army during the Second Battle of Herdonia. Also in 210 BCE, Hannibal defeated Marcellus a second time during the Battle of Numistro.
Against this savage backdrop, Philip V of Macedon defeated Rome’s Greek allies in 209 BCE in two battles fought at Asculum. Then in 208, Romans in Hispania, led by Scipio’s son, defeated Hannibal’s brother, Hasdrubal Barca. In retribution, Hasdrubal invaded Italy, a bad move, since he was defeated and killed in the Battle of the Metaurus by General Gaius Nero in 207 BCE. Hannibal’s favorite general, Hasdrubal Gisco, lost the city of Carmona to Rome later that year.
By 206 BCE, Publius Scipio decisively defeated the remaining Carthaginian forces in Hispania. The Roman fleet then won a naval engagement against the Carthaginian fleet in the waters off Carteia. All the while in southern Italy, in the Battle of Crotona, Hannibal is fought to a draw. But then as the Romans under Scipio defeated the Carthaginian army of Hasdrubal Gisco in the Battle of Bagbrades, annihilating them, the stage was set to bring the battlefield to Africa, recognizing that the only way to get Hannibal out of Italy was for Rome to invade Carthage.
And so it would be. In 203 BCE, Consul Scipio Africanus invaded Africa and fought successfully, thereby luring Hannibal home. Then on October 19, 202 BCE, the general who had fought so effectively on foreign soil would lose a battle on his home turf, ending the Second Punic War. Scipio, who was now Consul Publius Conelius Scipio Africanus Maximus, engaged Hannibal at Zama Regia, eighty miles southwest of Tunis.
Hannibal’s hastily assembled mostly mercenary force was comprised of thirty-six thousand infantry, four-thousand cavalry, and some eighty elephants. Scipio marched into battle with twenty-nine thousand infantry and sixty-one hundred cavalry. And while those numbers may look comparable, Hannibal’s cavalry was comprised of novices, and his infantry was equal parts inexperienced civilians and the fickle mercenaries. Hannibal’s only experienced troops were put at the rear of his formation, thinking perhaps that if his less able and less reliable forces were able to wear down the Roman attack, his strongest soldiers would finish the job.
But knowing that his prospects were poor, Hannibal summoned Scipio to a meeting before the battle began. He offered to cede all overseas territories to Rome, keeping only Carthage sovereign. Scipio refused, giving Hannibal two equally horrible options: unconditional surrender or a battle he could not win.
As usual, the elephants proved useless. They were stampeded into the Carthaginian cavalry, disorienting those new to battle. They were initially dispersed which is the best Hannibal could have hoped for because his goal was to keep the Roman cavalry from controlling the engagement. They would go on fighting in the distance. Then as the lines engaged, the Roman first line prevailed over time, with losses being relatively even. The same was true of the second lines. When the third lines met, the fighting became especially bloody, with neither side making any headway. But it was then after defeating the inexperienced cavalry that the Roman cavalry returned and struck the Carthaginian rear. Hannibal would lose twenty-thousand men in the battle and have another twenty-thousand taken prisoner.
The Carthaginian Senate tried once again to negotiate a peace treaty with Rome, but the terms, as they had been before, were devastating. Carthage was bankrupted by Rome, a condition that proved to be short-lived, because without the cost of supporting an army and navy, the Carthaginian economy flourished. Rome, however, within fifty years would renege on the terms of their own treaty and invade Carthage a third and final time. And the next time, they would leave nothing but death and destruction in their wake.
In all, fifty-seven wars were fought in the third century BCE, with the expanding and contracting Roman Republic battling the Samnites, Gauls, Etruscans, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Iberians multiple times.
At the dawn of the third century, in 198 BCE, the Romans engaged and defeated the Macedonians under Philip V, pummeling him again in Thessaly the following year. Turning north, they defeated the Gauls, and then turning south they attacked the Spartans, defeating them with the help of the Achaeean League. In 191 BCE, the Romans under Manius Glabrio devastated Antiochus III the Great at Thermopylae, forcing him to evacuate Greece. The following year, Roman forces sank most of the Seleucid fleet commanded by their old nemesis, Hannibal. At year’s end, near Smyrna, Lucius Scipio decisively defeated the Greeks.
Then in the Battle of Mount Olympus, Roman general Gnaeus Manlius Vulso crushed an army of Galatian Gauls in 189 BCE. But the Romans would meet their match, losing to Perseus of Macedon during the Battle of Callicinus in 171 BCE – interesting in that Perseus incited Rome into war. And yet his miscalculation would be the last hurrah for the Macedonians and Greece, with the Romans under Lucius Paullus defeating and capturing the Macedonian King in the Battle of Pydna on June 22, 168 BCE even though the Romans were outnumbered forty-four thousand to twenty-nine thousand. The victory earned Lucius Paullus the title Macedonicus – Master of the Macedonians. But evidently he didn’t win the battle on his own. The previous evening there had been a lunar eclipse, which was perceived by the Macedonians as a terrorizing omen, as their goddess Selene (also known as Artemis), the sister of Helios (also called Apollo), went dark. In reality, the Macedonian phalanx had just become obsolete, and it crumbled on uneven ground when facing a better trained, better equipped, foe. The Romans would fight and win thirteen additional battles during the second century BCE, but none would be as transforming as their triumph over the last vestiges of Alexander’s Hellenic Empire.
But there was a foreboding fight. Rome had imposed a humiliating restriction on Carthage, requiring their Senate to ask permission of the Roman Senate prior to engaging in any battle. And since Carthage was also prohibited from fielding an army or navy, they didn’t give the policing action in 149 BCE against rebellious Namibians in their midst a second thought. But itching for a fight, Rome decided that by suppressing a riot, Carthage had violated the terms of their onerous accord. They immediately launched their fleet, blockading Carthage.
Rome would then invade Africa, whereby Carthage immediately surrendered, handing the Romans the weapons they had used to suppress the internal riot along with the protestors who had been captured. The Romans, however, demanded the complete capitulation and submission of the capital. Then somehow, Carthaginians manned the walls of their city and kept the Romans outside. All the while, the half million civilians inside Carthage transformed everyday items into three hundred swords, five hundred spears, two hundred shields, and one-thousand projectiles for catapults each day during the height of their production.
Outside of the city, the smallish Roman army somehow lost a skirmish against Carthaginian civilians at Nepheris. But given another go at it, Scipio defeated them, killing most everyone. With the entire country now theirs to plunder, the Romans stepped up their siege of Carthage, breaking through the walls in 146 CE. But even inside, without a single soldier to oppose them, the women, children, and elderly wielding improvised weapons, held the Romans off for a while. But eventually the Roman killing machine was too efficient. Seventeen thousand Romans died murdering four-hundred fifty-thousand civilians. Fifty-thousand Carthaginians were sold into slavery. The city was leveled.
In the final throes of death, as Cartharge was burning to the ground, nine hundred survivors had found refuge in the Temple of Eshmun, the Phoenician god of healing, even as the shrine was burning around them. They pleaded with Scipio for mercy, but none was shown. They would burn alive. It all served as a foreshadow of what Rome would do not once, but twice to Jerusalem.
The waning years of the second century, migratory Germanic tribes of the Cimbri and Teutoni were forced into fighting a pair of Roman armies. From the Roman perspective, they had disturbed the balance of power – which is to say they spoke critically of Roman oppression. So the Romans assembled their Legions and went on the warpath. But the adventure quickly soured. An advance party of Romans encountered a small contingent of Cimbri, who routed them, capturing the Legate Scaurus. Arrogant even in the custody of those he had been sent out to eradicate, Scaurus belittled the Cimbri king and got himself killed.
All the while, the Roman Consuls were vying for control. Each wanted credit for the victory they were sure would come. Caepio, the “novus homo – new guy,” launched a unilateral attack on the Cimbri camp on October 6, 105 BCE to circumvent Maximus, the senior statesman, from claiming all the credit for the successful outcome. But instead of victory, Caepio’s army was annihilated, with the Cimbri moving into the Roman camp. The next day, the Cimbri attacked Maximus’s army, pushing the poorly positioned troops into a river behind their camp. At the end of the day, conflicting Roman egos had sacrificed the lives of eighty-thousand soldiers and forty-thousand support personnel.
After a string of Roman failures, Gaius Marius succeeded in killing ninety-thousand Germanic Teutones and Scandinavian Ambrones, enslaving another twenty-thousand – mostly women and children. It would have been even more, but most of the captured women committed mass suicide rather than endure life among the savages that comprised Rome. The Romans even refused a last minute offer to have married women serve as ministers in the temples of Ceres and Venus. “By the conditions of the surrender three hundred of their married women were to be handed over to the Romans. When the Teuton matrons heard of this stipulation they first begged the consul that they might be set apart to minister in the temples of Ceres and Venus; and then when they failed to obtain their request and were removed by the victors, they slew their little children and next morning were all found dead in each other's arms having strangled themselves in the night.” (Strauss, Bary, The Spartacus War, Simon And Schuster, pages 21-2)
Adding to this ocean of blood, and thereby becoming the living embodiment of Yahowah’s depiction of the savage brutality of Rome, in 101 BCE Gaius Marius struck again. On this day in northern Italy Romans slaughtered one-hundred forty-thousand Cimbri, harvesting sixty-thousand women and children as slaves. Neither life nor liberty mattered. The world’s greatest superpower, the ultimate integration of religion, politics, and the military, became to Yahowah as darkness is to light.
The carnage of the past fifty years had become almost unfathomable. A million souls had been devoured by the Beast.
The larger they become, the longer they exist, the more they blend religion and politics, patriotism and militarism, human institutions typically embody everything God despises. Lives are truncated and freedom is negated. Deceit is celebrated to such an extent, God becomes unknowable. It is the triumph of tragedy.
Rome’s first battle of the first century BCE was waged against Italians, and thus bears the name the “Social War.” Cities that had been allies of the Roman Republic, became foes. The reason was clear cut: once Rome demonstrated its dominance militarily, the Senate began to impose its will upon the nation’s neighbors and demanded tribute. But more concerning, Rome demanded soldiers – impoverishing the surrounding communities of their sons. So onerous were the Roman demands, that two thirds of the soldiers in the Roman armies were now forced into service, having come from other Italian territories. This served to strengthen Rome militarily and weaken the client states, giving the Romans absolute control over the peninsula. The Republic’s subsequent policies of inequitable land and wealth distribution, enriched Romans further, while turning their neighbors into serfs. The masses were rendered paupers without sons or hope.
In 91 BCE, in order to quell the simmering rebellion, Marcus Livius Drusus proposed reforms to the Roman Senate that would grant sub-citizenship to the Italians. But his plan to allow them to vote on local matters, without having any say in alliances, wars, or the distribution of plunder, was soundly defeated by the aristocracy. The client cities declared their independence as a result, sparking the civil war.
The Italia Federation created their own coinage to pay for troops, most of whom were older men who had served in and now had been released from the Roman armies. But nonetheless, a battle-tested force of one-hundred-thousand men was fielded and then divided among fourteen consuls, most of whom would be killed or commit suicide within the coming year. Rome successfully pitted Italian cities against one another, persuading some to ally with Rome under the promise of full citizenship should they prevail. Rome became proficient at offering bribes, but was never very good at honoring them. In typical Roman fashion, Lex Lucius Julius Caesar came with conditions that people in the allied cities could not meet. And in a matter of years, it would not matter anyway, because Rome would soon cease to be a republic.
There would be more than fifty additional battles fought during the first century BCE as Rome made the transition from the rule of law to the dictates of the Caesars. This transformation began in 83 BCE, when following the first Mithridatic War against rebellious Greeks, the initial battle of what’s been called “the First Roman Civil War” was fought upon Mount Tifata. Aristocratic forces, or Optimates as they were known, were led by Lucius Cornelius Sulla. They opposed the Populares, shepherded by Gaius Norbnaus. And while the Populares were neither popular with the people, nor comprised or ordinary people, they would initially go down in defeat for their political ideals. Also in 82 BCE, the Popular army was defeated at Asio River and again at Sacriporto.
Later that same year, the Popular Political Party would regroup and defeat the Aristocratic Optimate Political Party forces at Clusium. But they lost at Faventia, Clusium, and Colline Gate, which was the decisive battle in the First Roman Civil War. The Samnites, comprising the preponderance of the Popular army at the time, surrendered and were summarily executed by the Romans within earshot of the Senate. Having slaughtered the rank and file of the opposing political party in the Villa Publica where the census was conducted, the Imperialists tossed their mutilated caucuses into the Tiber River. The Aristocratic Optimates, after making Populares generals watch the mass murder of their people, were decapitated. Their heads sent off to intimidate those who would dare consider rebellion against the aristocracy. It was Imperial, but it was not civilized.
Perusing those who valued their freedom to the ends of the earth, Roman Legions under Lucius Fulfidias chased rebel forces under the command of Quintus Sertorius all the way to Hispania, only to lose to them in 80 BCE. But half way around the world, Fulfidias would avenge his loss seven years later, decisively defeating Mithridates (Gift of Mithra) the Great in northern Anatolia, today’s Turkey, during the Siege of Cyzicus. In reality, Mithridates’s army was starving to death and they became easy prey as they scavenged for food.
Rome’s next battle is legendary. Roman slaves led by Spartacus were attacked by Gaius Claudius Glaber at the base of Mount Vesuvius. The Romans, to satiate their bloodlust, promoted gladiatorial games, whereby slaves and prisoners were taught to kill for sport. But in 73 BCE, some two-hundred gladiators in Capua plotted an escape, with seventy succeeding. Three Gallic slaves, Crixus and Oenomaus, and Spartacus, a Thracian, were elected to lead the band of freed men. Initially, they defeated a small force from Capua that had been sent to arrest them, capturing their weapons in the process. Now well armed, they freed other slaves in the area by menacing the wealthiest Roman estates, recognizing that this region was home to many elaborate vacation villas.
Glaber’s forces, a militia of some three-thousand men, besieged the former slaves on the slopes of the ancient volcano, blocking their only means down the mountain. With them contained, the Roman aristocrat was content to let them starve. But Spartacus and his men were ingenious. They made ropes and constructed ladders our of indigenous flora to rappel down the cliffs, enabling them to surprise and take Glaber’s militia.
In retaliation, the Romans dispatched four-thousand men under Praetor Publius Varinius to deal with the slave rebellion. But he too was defeated in a battle that only served to better equip the former slaves. Then with each successive victory, more and more slaves were willing to risk their lives for a chance at freedom, ultimately swelling their ranks to some seventy-thousand.
After investing a year training his new recruits, Spartacus defeated the Roman army at Picenum, again at Mutina, and then at Capania, only to lose to Marcus Crassus at the Battle of Siler River. So intent were the Romans at suppressing any hope of freedom, Crassus trapped Spartacus in Bruttium by building a forty-mile long system of ditches and walls.
Following a failed truce, Spartacus and fifty-thousand of his men were able to break through the Roman siege and escape, gathering in the open fields along the banks of the Siler River. Crassus pursued them, and although Spartacus and his men fought valiantly, one by one they were killed by the superior force, Spartacus himself, dying as he tried to reach Crassus. The total casualties were too numerous to count, but an estimated thirty-six thousand gladiators and slaves were murdered for the crime of wanting to be free. Another six thousand survivors were captured and then inhumanly crucified on Crassus’ orders. Romans had little respect for those who actually built Rome, and for those who entertained them. The fact is, they had no respect for liberty or life.
Following this savage display of sadism, the Romans defeated the Armenians in 69 BCE and the Tigranes in 68 BCE. Then in the Battle of Lycus, Pompey the Great annihilated the army of Mithridates VI, ending the Third Mithridatic War. At the same time, while basking in the ghoulish glory, he claimed credit for defeating Spartacus, irritating Crassus. And while books have been written about Catiline and his role trying to preserve the Republic against the likes of Caesar and Crassus, he was labeled a traitor and conspirator. So in 62 BCE, he and those loyal to him were killed in the Battle of Pistoria.
This brings us face to face with Gaius Julius Caesar, who was at the time known as a clever politician rather than a crafty general. As Governor of Gaul, he fought and won his first battle against the migrating tribes of the Helvetii, who had come from today’s Switzerland, initiating the most brutal part of the Gallic Wars. Near present-day Geneva, the Romans destroyed a bridge across the Rhone, impeding the people’s migration, and constructed nineteen miles of fortifications to stop the Helvetii passage. Rome was always opposed to the homeless who roamed the land. And I suspect that was because their continual movement made them difficult to suppress and tax.
Having no interest in fighting, the Helvetii tried a different route, crossing the Arar River using improvised rafts. But Caesar, coveting easy prey, attacked the migrant community with three Roman Legions, killing and enslaving all of those who had yet to cross the river. Julius’s motivation was simple if not grotesque. The Roman Legions were funded by stolen booty, and they were manned by captured slaves. Those unfit to fight were sold into slavery with the generals retaining the proceeds. The conquered lands were not only taxed, massive land grants were awarded to the most valiant soldiers.
A month later, and now with six Legions under his command, Julius Caesar moved his army ahead of the Helvetii migration route, confiscating the available food supplies. Then Caesar deployed his cavalry to delay the Halvetii while he positioned his Seventh (Bull), Eighth (Augusta), Ninth (Hispania), and Tenth (Equestris / Mounted) Legions in battle order at the foot of nearby hill along the Helvetii migration route. Caesar took the Eleventh (Claudia) and Twelfth (Fulminata / Thunderbolt) to the top of the hill. The battle began at noon according to Caesar, with his men piercing the Helvetii with their javelins.
Trying to flee the onslaught, the Helvetii retreat was supported by two nearby tribes who arrived just at the right time to assist them, the Boii and the Tulingi, both of whom engaged to flank the Romans. But with an overwhelming advantage, Julius was able to rebuff the Celtic tribes, while simultaneously perusing his primary prey, the Helvetii and their baggage train. By the time the blood had stopped running, Julius Caesar had killed or captured two-hundred thirty-eight thousand people, slaughtering nearly a quarter of a million civilians.
Two months later, Caesar attacked and defeated the Germanic chieftain Ariovistus, although he never disclosed the reason for actions. The following year, in 57 BCE, Julius fought the Belgae, apparently for sport and booty. A month later, he took on the Nervians on rumors that they were forming a federation of allied tribes to thwart the Roman onslaught.
But it wasn’t all a parade of victorious mass annihilations and enriching enslavements of vulnerable communities. In 53 BCE, in the last days of the Roman Republic, the Parthian Empire stopped a Roman invasion force under the command of the great crucifier, Marcus Licinius Crassus. At the time, Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome and member of the First Triumvirate (a fragile yet powerful political, economic, and military alliance between three egomaniacs: Caesar (the politician), Pompey (the military muscle), and Crassus (the banker)), was enticed by the prospect of military glory, because of the added riches and power it would provide. So he invaded Parthia, marching his armies directly through the deserts of southern Turkey in search of territory and treasure. But once he arrived in Harran, the Persian Spahbod Surena outmaneuvered Crassus’ superior force. Most of the Roman soldiers under the financier’s command were either killed or captured. Crassus suffered the same fate during truce negotiations.
This battle was the first fought between the Romans and the Persians, starting a prolonged war that would last five-hundred years. It also provides a window into the mindset of the Roman elite, revealing that they fought not to defend Rome, but to promote their personal ambitions. These motivations, in fact, precipitated the Great Civil War which doomed the Republic and brought Julius Caesar to power.
On the other side of the known world, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony busied themselves pummeling Gauls into submission, this time in France. The Siege of Alesia is considered one of Caesar’s greatest military achievements. It brought the Celtic influence in France, Belgium, and Switzerland to an end, making France another Roman Province to pillage.
It is odd to note, however, that the primary account we have of the battle was written by Caesar, and his depiction does not correspond to the location where he claimed it occurred. But as they say, history is often little more than the bragging of victors. Moreover, Caesar’s revisionist claims and self-serving testimony reveal a tendency that would play a major role in the birth of Christianity with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church.
In this regard, the Senate’s refusal to allow Caesar the honor of a Triumph, a civil ceremony and religious rite designed to celebrate and sanctify a military achievement and army commander, is what caused him to rebel. In such a celebration, the general is given a laurel crown and wears a purple toga, regalia that identifies him as divine. And as a god, he would ride through the streets in a four-horse chariot, his army marching behind him, parading along with their captives and spoils of war. The precession would typically conclude at the Temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill.
Returning to France, circa 52 BCE, Julius Caesar, who had appointed himself Pro-Consular Imperium for a decade, became the absolute dictator over the territories north of Rome, from the Adriatic to the Apennines. Having defeated and robbed the Gallic (Celtic) tribes one by one, including the Helvetii, Boii, Tuling, Belgae, and Nervii, he brought enormous wealth to the Republic. He also provided new lands to tax. In the process, Caesar, himself, became fabulously rich. As a Roman general, he personally pocketed the proceeds from the sale of those enslaved by his Legions.
But all was not well in Caesar’s world. He had given his daughter Julia in marriage to Pompey to garner political favor, but she had just died in childbirth. And having lost the support of his allies in Rome, men dedicated to preserving the Republic like Cato, started political campaigns against Caesar, accusing him of wanting to overthrow the Senate so that he could become King of Rome. Cato and his ilk were, of course, correct.
That is not to say that Julius Caesar wasn’t also vulnerable in his own right. Around this time his Fourteenth Legion was wiped out in a cleverly planned ambush by the Eburones, causing him to lose a quarter of his soldiers. The Celtic victory inspired a revolution throughout the region as those who had been ravaged and oppressed by Rome sought their freedom. To quell the uprising, Caesar hastily rallied his army and crossed the Alps, which were still covered in snow. Catching the Gauls by surprise, he split his forces, sending four Legions with Titus Labienus to fight the Senones and Parisii in the north of France while he set out with six Legions and enslaved Germanic cavalry in pursuit of the Arverni and their commander, Vercingetorix. The two armies met in Gergovia, where Vercingetorix, holding the high ground, forced Caesar to retreat after suffering heavy losses.
But these same foes would meet again, which brings us to the Alesia, and their hilltop fortification. Recognizing that a frontal assault would be suicidal, Julius Caesar, who outnumbered the Gauls four to one, decided upon a siege, hoping to starve the eighty-thousand Alesia troops garrisoned there into surrender along with the local population they were protecting. Caesar, therefore, had his men construct twelve-foot high encircling fortifications with corresponding ditches, each fifteen feet wide and twelve feet deep, the inner one of which he filled with water. Then he built series of traps to bury the men and woman who tried to escape, along with towers his artillery would use to shoot those who avoided the pits.
Starving to death, the Alesians decided to let tens of thousands of local women and children go, thinking that Caesar would let them pass through his lines since they were noncombatants. But Julius was too cruel for such niceties. He trapped them between his earthworks and trenches, seeing to it that over thirty thousand mothers and their babies wasted away in full view of the men trapped inside of the fort. It’s hard to fathom such cruelty.
Then after a series of desperate probing attacks by the Gauls, some of which found weaknesses in the Roman earthworks, both sides were near physical exhaustion. With nothing to lose, the Alesians launched a major offensive with sixty-thousand men, which proved successful until Caesar deployed his favorite tactic, which was to menace his enemy’s rear with his cavalry, effectively pushing armies trying to escape the mounted foe behind them into the teeth of his infantry. On this day it surprised the Gauls, who were slaughtered no matter which way they ran. And as usual, the few not killed were taken prisoner and sold into slavery.
Thereafter, Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BCE, the border between Rome and the Province of Gaul, which was considered an act of insurrection. This provocation precipitated the Second Civil War which was fought over four years, with Romans killing Romans through 45 BCE for no other reason than to advance the clash of personal egos.
It began in June of 49 BCE. The Populares (Popular Political Party), of which Caesar was head, encountered the Optimates (Best Men or Aristocratic Political Party) of Pompey the Great. Julius, who was commanding six Legions, opposed the Spanish army of his rival, comprised of seven Legions and twice as many men. They met at Ilerda in modern-day Spain. Caesar, writing in third person, as was his custom, described his pursuit of the army of the Roman Republic – a force loyal to his former political ally and his late daughter’s husband, Pompey. As you consider the sacrifices these men made, most of whom were slaves, on Julius Caesar’s behalf, keep in mind that the only reason this battle was being waged was because the man who had made a career of murdering and enslaving noncombatants wanted to be god and king. The “enemy,” therefore, is the Roman Republic.
“Caesar, contrary to his expectation, finding the consternation likely to spread through the whole army, encouraged his men, and led the ninth legion to their assistance. He soon put a stop to the vigorous and insulting pursuit of the enemy, obliged them to turn their backs, and pushed them to the very walls of Lerida. But the soldiers of the ninth legion, elated with success, and eager to repair the loss we had sustained, followed the runaways with so much heat that they were drawn into a place of disadvantage. They found themselves directly under the hill where the town stood. The enemy, again facing about, charged vigorously from the higher ground.... Here they bravely maintained the fight, although with great disadvantage to themselves, on account of the narrowness of the place and because of being posted at the foot of the hill. None of the enemy’s darts fell in vain. Still however they supported themselves by their courage and patience, and were not disheartened by the many wounds they received.”
Having led his men into this unfavorable position, Julius Caesar went on to profess: “The enemy’s forces increased every moment, fresh cohorts being sent from the camp through the town. They succeeded in the place of those that were fatigued. Caesar was likewise obliged to detach small parties to maintain the battle, and bring off such as were wounded. The fight had now lasted five hours without intermission, when our men, oppressed by the multitude of the enemy, and having spent all their darts, attacked the mountain sword in hand. Overthrowing such as opposed them, obliged the rest to betake themselves to flight. The pursuit was continued to the very walls of Lerida. Some out of fear took shelter in the town, which gave our men an opportunity of making good their retreat. At the same time the cavalry, though posted disadvantageously in a bottom, found means by their valor to gain the summit of the mountain. Riding between both armies, they hindered the enemy from harassing our rear. Thus the engagement was attended with various turns of fortune.”
The battle wasn’t actually heroic, as Caesar was painting it, but instead miserable. Spring storms had flooded the Roman and rebel camps, bringing with it famine and disease. Nonetheless, Julius Caesar ordered half of his army to overtake the retreating army of the Optimates while the other half blocked their route of escape. In this way Caesar completely surrounded Pompey, forcing the Consul general and his five Legions to surrender. Immediately thereafter, two additional Legions defected to the Populares, allowing Caesar to retain control of Spain while he pursued his ultimate ambition.
Julius’s next move proved disastrous. He dispatched a force to North Africa under the command of Curio to counter the Optimates forces garrisoned there. But every strategy his rebels deployed backfired, prompting the panicked retreat of the Populares into troop transports anchored offshore. Swamping their only means of escape, and with their backs against the sea, Curio surrendered based upon assurances from the Optimates that the Julian troops would not be harmed. But they were summarily executed by the Republic, depriving Caesar of ten thousand soldiers.
The next move of the man who sought to be god was hardly divine. After crossing the Rubicon, Caesar confronted the Senate. He did so because he realized that his prior behavior had left him susceptible to lawsuits, many of which were being filed. But in Rome he knew that he could not be served while he was proconsul, because public officials were immune from litigation. Therefore, with his term nearing its end, he went to the Senate to request an extension. They, however, were not only unwilling to renew it, with him having crossed the Rubicon with his Legions, the Senate demanded that he surrender his army.
As a result of Caesar’s own Triumvirate agreement, Rome was Pompey’s territory, not Julius’s. But he, ever the politician, proposed an interesting option, saying that he would resign his military command if Rome’s authorized commander, Consul Pompey, followed suit. Finding that unacceptable, the Roman Senate declared Julius ineligible for public office. They demanded that he disband his Populares army immediately or be declared an enemy of the people. Realizing that he would be prosecuted, losing his fortune, and be politically marginalized, losing his power, Caesar positioned his Legions against the Republic of the Optimates, forcing Pompey and most of the Senate to flee to Greece.
While he was eager to do so, Caesar couldn’t readily chase after Pompey because the Optimates had left him no ships with which to cross the Adriatic and enter Greece. Moreover, the Optimates’ Legions in Spain had begun to reconstitute and mobilize against the Populares forces he had left in place to protect the territory in the Iberian Peninsula he had just won. So Julius turned his army toward Spain to protect his rear while others built a navy for his army. But upon his return, he found that only a portion of the necessary ships had been built. Growing impatient, Julius divided his force, sending half to Greece under the proviso that the ships would then return to transport the remainder of his troops.
The winter crossing was treacherous, and unbeknownst to Caesar, the Republic’s massive six-hundred-ship fleet laid waiting just off the coast of Greece. And while Caesar’s initial wave of men was able to reach their destination unhindered, most all of the Populares ships were destroyed as they attempted the return voyage. This blunder left Caesar vulnerable, with too small a force to attack and no way to retreat. Further, there was no means to supply his army due to the lack of vessels and the naval blockade. He couldn’t even use local resources because the Greeks preferred the Optimates to the Populares.
Julius’s situation was so grim; he tried to negotiate a peace with his rival. But even that failed, because as a former ally, as the husband of Caesar’s deceased daughter, Pompey knew that Julius could not be trusted. And yet, rather than attack and finish off the army of the Popular Political Party, Pompey adopted Caesar’s preferred tactic, hoping he could starve the opposing force so that he wouldn’t have to fight them.
But then yet just when it appeared that the final curtain would be drawn down over Julius Caesar, his Master of the Horse, Marc Antony, hastily built the requisite ships and successfully broke through the naval blockade, arriving north of his position. That meant the race was on. Would Caesar or Pompey reach Marc Antony first, with nothing less than the fate of the Roman Republic hanging in the balance? And while Pompey prevailed, Caesar was rapidly closing the gap, putting the army of the Optimates between the two belligerent forces, prompting Pompey to retreat to Dyrrachium.
There, the Optimates’ rear was guarded by the sea, and in front, they held the high ground, making an assault suicidal. So Caesar dusted off the strategy that he had used against the Gauls, building earthworks to pin Pompey against the sea. But not to be outdone, the aristocratic party had their minions carve their own ditches and mounds. This created a no-man’s land between the spoiled brats, a foreboding landscape hauntingly similar to the inhuman trench tactics deployed by bankers, politicians, and generals during the First World War.
This time, however, while Caesar was in control of the neighboring farmland, every eatable plant and animal had already been harvested by Pompey’s men, who in addition, were also resupplied by the Optimates navy. But after a while, fodder for their horses and water became problematic, so Pompey attacked the weakest point in Caesar’s defenses, overwhelming the Ninth Legion, which retreated during the onslaught. In response, Julius Caesar dispatched Antony with reinforcements to counterattack. But Pompey’s vastly superior army of the Optimates Republic was up to the challenge, quickly flanking the Populares, causing a panicked retreat which neither Caesar nor Antony could arrest.
This should have been the last gasp for Julius. But always timid, rather than pursuing his fleeing foe, Pompey the Great withdrew from the battle. He may have thought that his rival had been defeated. He may have even believed that the retreat had been feigned to lure his troops into a trap. Either way, Caesar would write: “Today the victory had been the enemy’s, had there been any one among them to take it.”
After a month of maneuvering and posturing, on August 9th, 48 BCE, the players’ fortunes changed during the Battle of Pharsalus in central Greece. Caesar, who was short of men and supplies in a hostile country, should have been easy prey, but Pompey hesitated once again, believing that his rival would surrender rather than let his men starve. Impatient, however, the accompanying Optimates Senators finally goaded Pompey into advancing, something they and he would soon regret. Pompey was soundly defeated by a foe half his size, forcing the Optimates to flee toward Egypt to survive.
Julius Caesar would follow him. And the two would meet again on a field near Pharsalus. Caesar was equipped with veterans of the Gallic Wars, his favorite Legions: the Tenth Equestris, the Eighth Augusta, the Ninth Hispana, and the Twelth Fulminata in addition to three new Legions which had been levied expressly for the Great Civil War. These included: One Germanica, Three Gallica, and Four Macedonica. Pompey the Great had reconstituted his army as well. He now had mastery over one hundred Pompeian cohorts and eleven Roman Legions. Even having lost their previous encounter, living at a time when peasants had very little control over their lives, the Optimates could rely upon Rome’s oppressive grip on its provinces to effectively swell any fighting force. So on this day, the Senate’s chosen consul possessed every tactical advantage. He held the high ground, commanded a larger army, and he was far better equipped and supplied fighting in an allied province.
Always predicable, the conservative traditionalist aristocrat deployed the Optimates army in the standard Roman fashion. Pompey would field three lines, each ten deep. He placed his most formidable defenders on his flanks. His new and untested recruits would be in the center, along with his Syrian and Cilician Legions. Since his right was protected by a river, he positioned all of his cavalry on his left flank, where Pompey took command of the First and Third Legions. His auxiliary troops were stationed behind him, protecting his rear.
Pompey’s plan was to wait for Caesar to advance his infantry. He would then deploy his cavalry to push the numerically inferior Julian horses and foot soldiers back. If all worked according to plan, by day’s end his Optimates would be attacking retreating Populares forces from all sides.
At his whit’s end, Caesar had run out of supplies. He had no means of retreat. So there would be no tomorrow if he did not prevail this day. Since defeat meant certain death, Julius rallied his troops, encouraging them to fight for their lives – if not for his. Following the pep rally, he too would arrange his men in three lines, but only six soldiers deep, due to his lack of manpower. The Populares left flank was protected by the same river that was guarding the Optimates’ right, so Julius positioned his entire cavalry on his exposed side. Then as was typical of Caesar, he took a risk most generals of his day would have considered foolhardy, thinning his already sparse and vulnerable line to create a fourth regimen of infantry behind his cavalry. Knowing that Pompey’s riders vastly outnumbered his own, Caesar took command of his cavalry, bolstering them his Tenth and Eighth Legions, both under the command of Marc Antony.
Since the distance between the belligerents was considerable, Pompey, who remained stationary, expected the Julian forces to wear themselves out crossing the abnormally wide gap. But when Caesar’s troops saw that Pompey was not charging, without orders to do so, they stopped halfway to rest before continuing their charge. Then as Julius had expected, once the battle lines were joined, Pompey deployed his cavalry, galloping directly into Caesar’s hidden fourth line. The Populares in the rear immediately deployed seven-foot long pilum javelins, causing the Optimates horses to swerve away and retreat. This enabled Caesar to attack Pompey’s right flank, effectively deciding the outcome of the battle. The Popular Political Party would lose over a thousand men, but Caesar would win the day.
The Patrician Party of the Best Men retreated, as did Pompey. In the ensuing mêlée, every Optimates was left to his own devices. Pompey, himself, threw off his general’s cloak, gathered his family and as much gold as they could carry in a horse-drawn cart, and fled, masquerading as civilians. He was, however, captured by Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII, who ordered that he be assassinated. He even sent his head to Caesar in an effort to garner his favor. The plan backfired, however, because it deprived Caesar of his ultimate public relations moment – pardoning the glorified general to win the hearts of patriotic Romans.
Angered by the gift of his rival’s head, Julius invaded Egypt in 47 BCE under the guise of trying to resolve the Alexandrine Civil War between Ptolemy and Cleopatra. Emotions still raw from his lack of support in Greece, Caesar favored Cleopatra and captured Ptolemy, only to release him. Gathering his army, the Greek potentate besieged Julius in Alexandria. But Mithridates of Pergamum marched overland from Asia Minor to rescue Caesar and defeated the Egyptian force dispatched to stop him. The allies joined forces and routed Ptolemy in the Battle of the Nile. With Egypt in Caesar’s hand, he appointed Cleopatra queen. But more than that, Julius lingered in Egypt, enjoying a liaison with the young and beautiful woman.
Julius Caesar left the embrace of Cleopatra in May 47 BCE to fight Pharnacles II for the Kingdom of Pontus. Pharnaces had acted like a Roman, committing atrocities against prisoners and civilians alike. In pursuit, and during his long march through Israel, Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia, Julius was accompanied by the Sixth and Twelfth Legions in addition to the Balatians and Vexillations from the Thirty-Sixth Legion. But Pharnaces, tearing a page out of his opponent’s playbook, gave up the high ground to launch a surprise attack upon the Julian forces while they were still digging earthworks. The tactic backfired, however, with the more experienced Romans quickly regrouping, driving their overly aggressive foe away. The quick victory prompted Caesar’s oft’-referenced citation: “Veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered.”
During January of 46 BCE, a different fate lay before him. Julius Caesar returned to Africa to battle the Republican forces of the Optimates under the command of Titus Labienus, his former ally. Recognizing that Labienus significantly outmanned him, Caesar fell back, which served only to give Labienus the land of his choosing. And while Caesar claimed victory, the resulting battle was a bloody affair, costing Julius one third of his men.
A month later, the Optimates and Populares fought again, this time in Thapsus in modern Tunisia. The Popular Political Party, of which Caesar was head, encountered the Best Men or Aristocratic Political Party – the traditional elitists who supported the caste system of the old Roman Republic. The Optimates had amassed forty-thousand men in eight Legions along with sixty war elephants to confront the wannabe king and god. But Caesar’s archers menaced the elephants, causing them to panic and trample their riders. The Julian cavalry outmaneuvered the Aristocrats and destroyed their camp, forcing the Best Men to retreat. Some ten thousand Optimates troops tried to surrender to Caesar, but were slaughtered instead.
The final battle of Caesar’s Civil War was fought at Munda in southern Spain on March 17, 45 BCE. After a short siege, Julius Caesar with the backing of eight Legions took the fortified city of Ategua, causing the Optimates allies to desert, leaving the aristocratic old guard vulnerable. Caesar ordered a frontal attack while shouting the name “Venus” as a rallying cry. The Roman goddess of love, beauty, seduction, enticement, magic, and prosperity was chosen to punctuate the moment because it was from Venus that Julius Caesar claimed to be descended. He was announcing to the world that he was more than a man – he was a god.
Preoccupied with the savage fighting inspired by Caesar’s bold announcement on his left flank, Pompey’s son, Pompeius, removed a Legion from his right to combat the Populares, a move that left the Optimates vulnerable to the Julian cavalry which turned the course of the battle. The infantry broke their lines and retreated in a disorderly fashion. By sundown some thirty-thousand men were dead. Then, demonstrating his wanton cruelty and unbridled greed, in the aftermath of the battle, and within the city of Munda, the civilian male population was summarily executed and the surviving women were forced to pay a heavy tribute to Caesar.
After routing the Republican armies of the Optimates Aristocratic Party and killing Pompeius (Pompey’s eldest son), Julius Caesar returned to Rome as a dictator. But it was not the homecoming he had envisioned. According to Plutarch, “the triumph which he celebrated for this victory displeased the Romans beyond anything. For he had not defeated foreign generals, or barbarian kings, but had destroyed the children and family of one of the greatest men of Rome.” Nonetheless, Julius Caesar was declared “Dictator for Life” by the Popular Political Party. But he would not live to have the curly hair beneath his crown grow grey, because the following year one of his most trusted lieutenants, Trebonius, orchestrated his assassination along with Brutus on the Ides of March, 44 BCE. The transition from the Roman Republic to the Imperial Roman Empire occurred shortly thereafter with the reign of his great-nephew and adopted heir, Octavius, who became known as Augustus – the first Roman Emperor.
The killing did not stop with Julius Caesar’s celebrated death. Marc Antony was unhappy with the Senate’s decision to send him to the Province of Macedonia as Governor, principally because it was too far away from Rome. So he exchanged the post for a five-year term in Gaul in northern Italy, even though its governor had already been appointed. So in April 43 BCE, Marc Antony, after transferring his Legions in Macedonia to Italy, lost a battle north of Rome he had all but won.
Facing off again a month later, Antony had Brutus trapped near Mutina, today’s Modena. But before he could capitalize, Octavian came to the aid of the Brutus, not out of respect for his adoptive father’s assassin, but to prove to the Senate that he could be trusted as a leader of men. And while the combined forces routed Antony, the Senate’s interim leader, Hirtius, was killed during the battle, leaving the army and Rome leaderless. Ceasing his opportunity, Octavian took control of the combined forces. But when the Senate asked him to relinquish control to Brutus, Octavian refused, noting that the eight Legions would refuse to fight under the man who murdered his adoptive father. As proof, the Legions under Brutus at Mutina, deserted him and joined Octavian. The assassin fled toward Macedonia, but Brutus was killed in route by a Gallic chief. And as a result, young Octavian was now the most powerful man in the known world. But he wasn’t the only power in Rome.
Marc Antony crossed the Alps with the remains of this army and assembled seventeen Legions plus ten-thousand cavalry. But before they could be positioned for the next battle, a truce was formed between Antony and Octavian at Bologna. A “Commission of Three” for the “Ordering of the State” was established, known as the “Second Triumvirate,” with Marcus Lepidus, Octavian, and Marc Antony as the Triumvirs. This trinity of dictators, howver, turned on the Senate. As was common among Romans, their egos were too large to work well together.
In the years that followed, Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, near Greece. This naval battle was waged in 31 BCE, bringing about the Roman Empire, or Principate, with Octavian becoming Caesar Augustus and reigning as Emperor. During the Principate, the Roman dictators tried to preserve the illusion that Rome was still a Republic, but that ended with the Dominate.
Octavian and Antony would fight two battles as allies and cohorts in October 42 BCE. But by 41, they were at each other’s throats vying for supremacy. Thereafter, on his own initiative, Octavian, now Augustus, would attack the Cantabri people in 25 BCE. His Legions, however, were defeated by West Germanic warriors in Gaul in 16 BCE, a loss Augustus’ stepson, Drusus, would avenge five years later.
As we open the calendar to the First Century CE, nothing much changes with Rome. But since the next battle would shape the Empire’s future, let’s consider what happened to precipitate the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 BCE when an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius ambushed and destroyed three Roman Legions led by Publius Varus – one of Rome’s most vicious generals.
To gain a perspective, a decade or so earlier, the Marcomanni tribe of Suebi warriors who survived the battle with Drusus, fled into the territory of the Boii, and formed an alliance with the Hermunduri, Quadi, Semnones, Lugians, Zumi, Butones, Mugilones, Sibini, and Langobards. So then in 4 CE, when Tiberius (whom we will study in a moment) entered Germania to continue subjugating the native population, and expressly the Cananefates, Chatti, and Bructeri tribes, he met with fierce opposition. Worse, in the process of his assault upon Germania, a massive rebellion arose in the Illyricum Province, prompted in part by broken promises made to the Marcomanni. As a result, Tiberius was forced to stop his campaign against the local Germanic tribes so that he could send eight Legions (VIII Augustan, XV Apollonian, XII Balerian, XXI Predator, VIII Twin, XIV Twin, and XVI Gallic) to the Balkans to crush the more disruptive and threatening of the two rebellions.
The events in Germania and the Balkans are related, however, and they ultimately foretell Rome’s fate, because the Illyricum revolt, like the one about to occur in Germania, arose because the Romans were merciless, callous, and cruel. Each province was required to send their sons to serve long stints in the Roman army. In addition, the Romans grossly overtaxed those they conquered, taking so much of the food produced in the provinces away the locals often starved. Aggravating matters further, the abuse doled out by the Roman officials and tax collectors became legendary. Further motivating some while tranquilizing others, those who rebelled against Roman oppression were persecuted, usually tortured to death in a public spectacle. But through all of this, desperate people with nothing to lose became increasingly difficult to subjugate. The entire edifice of Rome hung in the balance, which is why half of the Empire’s legions were deployed to the Balkans to punish those who had every right to hate the Romans.
As a result of this massive projection of military might, in the autumn of 6 BCE, there were just three Legions left to control the Germanic tribes. Varus, a nobleman related to the imperial family, was assigned the mission of consolidating the new province. He was chosen because he was especially ruthless, routinely crucifying anyone in opposition to Roman authority.
But he did not march into a vacuum. Earlier that same year, Gaius Saturninus and Marcus Lepidus had led a massive army of sixty-five thousand Legionaires, ten-thousand cavalrymen, and five-thousand archers, with a supporting staff of twenty-thousand, organized in thirteen Legions in an offensive operation against King Maroboduus of the Marcomanni, a tribe of the Suebi, whom Drusus had defeated in 11 BCE. So there was lingering animosity. And especially problematic, unknown to Varus at the time, his eventual opponent, Arminius, had previously been sent to Rome as tribute by his father, Seimerus, chief of the Cherusci. In the heart of the Beast, Arminius had spent his youth as a slave in a military training facility, which made him a formidable and angry foe. Also noteworthy, during his absence, his father had been labeled a coward by other Germanic chiefs because he had surrendered to Rome and submitted to their demands – acts punishable by death under Germanic law.
To achieve his revenge, Arminius earned an appointment as one of Varus’ advisors, all while secretly forging alliances with Germanic tribes, some of which had previously been enemies. His stealth federation was comprised of Cherusci, Marsi, Chatti, Bructeri, Chauci, Sicambri, and the remaining Suebi. He succeeded largely because of their collective outrage over Varus’ tyrannical and grotesque cruelty towards those he subjected to his authority. The universal hatred of Roman dominion forged and maintained enduring alliances.
So while Varus was meandering from his summer camp west of the Weser River to his winter headquarters near the Rhine, Arminius fed him false reports of a local rebellion. Considering Arminius his submissive vassal, Varus never suspected that he was being played by the Roman slave.
Varus, true to his nature, decided to suppress the uprising immediately. In a hurry to strike down the insurgents, the general was even willing to follow Arminus along an unfamiliar path that the Germanic slave had claimed was a shortcut. En route to the chosen location for the ambush, Arminus left under the pretext of rousing Germanic forces hostile to the rebellious tribe to assist the Romans in quelling the rebellion. And once free of Varus, Arminus led the federation of Germanic tribes he had secretly forged against their merciless foe.
In a hurry, the Roman forces became strung out over ten miles, making them particularly vulnerable. Their susceptibility to attack worsened because Varus failed to dispatch advance scouting parties. And as they entered the forest, the undulating roadway became muddy and narrowed, which is when the allied Germanic tribes attacked, raining down javelins on the Romans followed by menacing attacks with lances and swords. Arminus, aware of Roman tactics, countered every move Varus made, inflicting heavy casualties on the Roman army. They even fought throughout the night as the Romans attempted to gather into a common camp. The next morning, as Varus tried to break out into open ground, the constant rain proved a menace because the sinew strings of Roman bows became slack when wet. Even the Roman shields became waterlogged and too heavy to carry.
During the second night of the ambush, the Romans undertook a moonlit march in an attempt to escape. But they found themselves engulfed in another of Arminius’ traps – a sandpit between a steep embankment and a wall of trees. The Romans were easy prey, no matter if they attempted to scale the rock wall, move slowly through the sand, or run toward the trees. In the ensuing mayhem, the Varus’ cavalry fled, only to be wiped out in yet another ambush. Varus then took his own life rather than endure the kind of treatment he typically imposed on his victims. In all, the Romans lost up to twenty-thousand soldiers, with many of the officers taking their own lives by falling on their swords. The few who survived were used as human sacrifices during Germanic religious ceremonies. Others were cooked in pots so that their bones could be displayed around the forest to ward off future Roman Legions. The surviving enlisted men were sold off as slaves.
Following their victory, the Germanic federation destroyed every Roman fort, garrison, and outpost in the region. The XVII, XVIII, and XIX Legions were never reconstituted, something that only occurred one other time in Roman history – when the XXII was disbanded after heavy losses during the Bar Kokhba Revolt over a century later in the Province of Judea. The ambush abruptly ended Roman expansion. But having prevailed in the Balkans, Augustus’ stepson, Tiberius, was given control of the army – an act which will soon loom large.
Victorious for the moment, Arminius sent Varus’ severed head to King Maroboduus of the Marcomanni, encouraging him to join the anti-Roman federation, but he declined. And without the benefit of such cohesion, the Romans who were masters at sowing dissention and disuniting their foes, would get their revenge. Once Tiberius became Emperor (as the adopted son of Octavian), he led a succession of monstrous raids into Germania between 14 and 16 CE, killing and enslaving hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children. Upon the conclusion of each raid, the Roman Aquila, or Eagles (the symbol of Rome and the standard of the army), lost in Western Germania by the XVII, XVIII, and XIX Legions during the Teutoburg Forest ambush, were returned to Rome and placed in the Temple of Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger).
The initial return to Germania was led by Germanicus in 15 CE. He fought the Chatti and then the Cherusci. After inflicting considerable injury on both tribes, the Roman Legions returned to the Teutoburg Forest, where the bleached and unburied bones of their fallen soldiers littered the ground and trees.
The following year, in 16 CE, the most telling of the punitive retaliatory assaults perpetrated by the Beast against those they considered barbarians, occurred at the time Yahowsha’ was equidistant from His arrival and departure. It was waged against an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius – the slave who had out smarted his captors. Tiberius, the adopted son of Germanicus, engaged in the family business, seeking revenge for the loss of the Legions, wanting to restore the Roman psyche, hoping to quell a formidable foe, and to make a name for himself. And so he did, inflicting heavy losses on the allied tribes. But his prize eluded him – Arminius’s head. Also, infuriating, Rome lost ten-thousand soldiers in the process of killing ten-thousand Germans. But nonetheless, needing a victory to inspire patriotism, and thus submission, Tiberius arranged for a Triumph to be held for his returning army on May 26, 17 CE. As for Arminius, he was later assassinated by rival Germanic chiefs.
Before we depart this horrible time in Roman history when mass murder was proclaimed divine, let’s consider the character of the man at the helm of the Beast. Tiberius Julius Caesar Divi Augusti filius Augustus was born in November 42 BCE, he became Emperor is 14 CE, and he died twenty-three miserable years later in 37 CE. He was therefore the man in charge of the Empire when Rome savagely crucified Yahowsha’. His father was Tiberius Claudius Nero, a prominent Roman politician. His mother, Livia Drusilla, divorced his father within three years of his birth and married Emperor Augustus, making Tiberius the stepson of Octavian.
And while we are getting ahead of our story, since we are speaking of matrimony, keeping it all in the family, after Octavian told Tiberius to marry his best friend’s daughter, he was ordered to divorce her and then marry his best friend’s wife, who was also Augustus’s daughter, Julia. After which, Tiberius was adopted by Octavian making him a Julian in addition to a Claudian, gaining a weighty pedigree in aristocratic Rome. As the forefather of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Tiberius was the grand uncle of Caligula, the paternal uncle of Claudius, and the great-grand uncle of Emperor Nero.
Tiberius’s first public appearance was his biological father’s eulogy at age nine. Four years later, in 29 BCE, he and his brother were seen riding alongside Octavian during his Triumph celebrating the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra. A handful of years later, Octavian became gravely ill, and while he did not die, he focused upon succession, thereby directing Tiberius to enter politics. His stepfather even waved the age limit so that he could “run” for Praetor and Consul five years earlier than stated in Roman Law. Run was in quotes because these were now appointed positions, not elected as they had been in the Republic.
With an affinity for Greek philosophy and rhetoric, Tiberius was sent to east under Marcus Agrippa to bargain with the Parthians after the Roman defeat. With his words failing to achieve the desired result, Tiberius led an army into Armenia, using the threat of force to negotiate the return of the highly-prized Aquila Eagles lost by Crassus. He was also able to reestablish neutrality for Armenia – returning the region to its previous role as a buffer between the superpowers.
Upon his return to Rome in 19 BCE, Tiberius married the aforementioned, Vipsania Agrippina, the daughter of Marcus Agrippa, Octavian’s closest friend and greatest general. Thereafter, the newlywed was appointed Praetor and sent off to subjugate the Gauls in Northern Italy. Seemingly successful, he was relocated to the Danube to harass Germans. By 13 BCE, he was appointed Consul (previously and elected position) around the same time his son, Drusus, was born.
Weaving a wicked web, upon General Agrippa’s death in 12 BCE, Tiberius became the chosen one. Augustus told him to divorce Vipsania, his best friend’s and dearly departed general’s daughter, and to marry Julia, Augustus’s daughter but also Agrippa’s widow – making her Vipsania’s stepmother and his stepsister. To no one’s surprise, the contrived nuptials didn’t produce harmony. So miserable was Tiberius at the annulment of his first arranged marriage and the imposition of the second, he ran to Vipsania’s home crying, begging her to join he and his promiscuous wife in a twisted arrangement. Seeing to it that this wouldn’t happen, Augustus dispatched Tiberius to Pannonia and then to Germania – both highly volatile regions – to play war.
As a result of these tours, Tiberius was considered a great general. He and Rome’s Legions played their part suppressing Pannonia (located in today’s Hungary, Austria, Herzegovina, and Slovenia), Dalmatia (located along the Adriatic Sea in today’s Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia), and Raetia (in modern Switzerland), while subduing Germania (with ill-defined borders encompassing today’s Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Belarus, Denmark, and Lithuania).
But somewhere along the way the world turned dark for Tiberius. In 6 BCE, on the cusp of being put in command of the entire Eastern Empire, becoming the second most powerful man in Rome, Tiberius announced his withdrawal from politics and the military. He retired on the Island of Rhodes. But he would not find rest for his inner demons. His wife, Julia, became publicly licentious, thereby embarrassing and taunting her husband. He would not only grow to loathe her, Octavian had ordered the Praetorian Guards to assure that he would never again see Vipsania – the only woman he ever loved.
The retreat from power put a crimp in Octavian’s plans, especially when his grandsons died, first Lucius passing in 2 CE and then Gaius death in Armenia in 4 CE. By default, Tiberius, the adopted son, became the exclusive heir, inheriting Augustus’s Imperium Maius – Greatest Power to Command. Eight years later, in 12 CE, Octavian would announce that Tiberius was “co-princep,” and thus Emperor-in-Waiting.
All the while, from 10 to 12 CE, Tiberius was earning his Triumph by hunting Germans. When he returned to great fanfare, he governed jointly with his promoter and tormentor, Augustus. Affirming this, as part of the subsequent census, those subjugated by Rome where required to pledge their allegiance to both men, declaring that they were gods among men. Then upon the conclusion of the “lustral – purification” ceremonies in 12 CE, Tiberius was dispatched to Illyricum, from which he returned two years later to preside over Augustus’s death and deification.
At which time Tiberius was offered, but did not accept the title “Pater Patriae – Father of Fathers,” also known as “Pope.” The term now synonymous with Roman Catholicism was first offered to Furius Camillus in 386 BCE, when myth tells us that he arrived in Rome just after the city had been sacked, making him a Father of Fathers, not unlike the mythical wolf Romulus. Cicero would receive it next for his role in suppressing the Catilinarian conspiracy. The third Roman “Pater – Pope” was the man who as dictator would be god, Julius Caesar. Augustus received the title in 2 BCE, the year of Yahowsha’s birth. Caligula (37) would claim it next, as would Claudius (42), Nero (55), Vespasian (70), Titus (79), Domitian (81), Trajan (98), Hadrian (128), Commodus (177), and Diocletian (284) – the ultimate bad boys of Rome. The last to receive it was Constantine (307) as the founder of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. There is an undeniable connection between the rhetoric of the Empire and that of the Church.
Tiberius was also afforded, but then refused to bear, the Civic Crown of interwoven laurel and oak crown that announced that the Emperor was the Savior of Roman lives. In addition to declining the aforementioned titles, the fact that Tiberius wouldn’t allow anyone to call him Imperator or Augustus, the very titles Octavian is famous for bequeathing upon himself, it becomes obvious that he hated the Pater Patriae Imperator Augustus who had controlled his life, making him so miserable. At his best Tiberius was a derisive obstructionist, and at his worst, he became the Devil incarnate. And while we will never know just how abusive Octavian had been, his victim would make Rome pay for what was done to him.
As the reluctant prince of confusion, he told the Senate that he couldn’t be bothered with the trivial matters of state, but then issued vague orders the inspired wildly variant interpretations. He derided the aristocratic Senate as “men fit to be slaves” while in the same breath ordering them to act independently.
Thereafter, the heart of the military state skipped a beat. The Legions oppressing the Germanic tribes were cheated out of the compensation Augustus had promised and mutinied when it became clear that Tiberius had been the instigator. Worse, rather than providing the bonuses, Tiberius dispatched his son, Drusus Julius Caesar, and Germanicus, with an army to quell the mutiny. And their solution was pure Roman: Germanicus led the mutineers in terrorist raids across the Rhine and into Germania, telling the Legionnaires that whatever plundered treasure they could steal from the people they encountered along the way would count as their bonus. This grotesquely unethical and savage recipe for quelling the Beast’s insatiable war lust and greed was duly celebrated with a Triumph in 17 CE, rekindling Roman pride and patriotism.
Germanicus was given the Eastern Empire as a prize, but died shortly thereafter. He accused Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, the governor of Syria, of poisoning him. And while there was no merit to the charge, since the Pisones had allied themselves with Octavian, with Piso even marrying Livia (Augustus’s widow and Tiberius’s mother), he was indicted. But when brought to Rome and questioned before the Senate, Piso threatened to implicate Tiberius. Immediately thereafter, his death was officially called a suicide.
It was at this time, in 19 CE, when Yahowsha’ would have been twenty-one, that Emperor Tiberius demonstrated overt anti-Semitism. He ordered all Jewish men between the ages of sixteen and forty-six be conscripted into sacrificing a minimum of twenty-five, and as many as forty years of their lives to fight in the army of the Beast that was oppressing them. Beyond this, Satan’s associate banished every Jew who was not in the military from Rome, threatening to enslave them for life if they did not leave his city. (Jossa, Giorgio, 2006, Jews or Christians, pages 123-6)
Perhaps all the killing took its toll. Tiberius became the “gloomiest of men” – a paranoid, demented, and sadistic recluse – especially after the death of his son Drusus in 23 CE. Three to four years later, around 27 CE, he exiled himself from Rome, and moved to the Villa Jovis (Home of Jupiter) on the island of Capri, leaving control of the Empire to his unscrupulous Praetorian Prefects – and most notably, the equestrian Lucius Sejanus.
Before we examine Lucius’s role in Tiberius’s drama, consider the fact that Lucius was derived from the Latin “lux – shining light.” It was thereby a cognate of Lucifer – the name of Satan in the Roman Catholic Church’s Latin Vulgate. And so it would be at this very moment when Lucius was empowered over the Beast of Rome, this being the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, another Lucius (Luke 3:1) announced that Yahowchanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) had commenced his mission, telling the world to prepare themselves for the One who comes in the name of Yahowah. Coincidence?
But on this day in Rome, Lucius transformed the Praetorian Guards, a paramilitary police force whose principle mission had been the defense of the city and Emperor, into his own personal army of 9,000 troops. Shortly thereafter, Sejanus initiated a series of purge trials, thereby removing and robbing the elitists with the power and wealth to oppose him. The confiscated funds were split between Lucius and the Empire’s treasury. It was the ancient world’s version of the one percent paying their fair share. Next, Lucius went after the most popular citizens, especially Germanicus’s wife and sons. They were arrested in 30 CE only to die under suspicious circumstances. Caligula was one of the few survivors.
Immediately thereafter, Lucius tried to marry his way into the Julian line, beginning with a licentious affair with Claudia Livilla Julia (the daughter of Nero Claudius Drusus and the sister of both Emperor Claudius and General Germanicus, also Caligula’s aunt and Emperor Nero’s great aunt). Livilla was later implicated in this plot and killed, one which contemplated murdering Tiberius with the consent of the Julians. So with all of the blood feuds and bloodletting, Tiberius ordered the Senate to rid Rome of Lucius Sejanus, who was executed after being accused of treason, along with all those implicated in the coup d’état. At the same time, Tiberius invited the nineteen-year-old Caligula to play at his Villa Jupiter.
Lucius’s death in 31 CE marks the year that Yahowsha’ met with Satan and then commenced His public mission to rid humankind of the corruption being manifest in Rome. Coincidence?
Tacitus, the famed Roman historian, claims that more treason trials followed and that without compunction the lives of anyone with political ties to the Julians were truncated. Even the imperial magistracy was hit, as any and all who had associated with Lucius Sejanus were eliminated, their properties seized by the state.
Tacitus vividly describes what Tiberius had done to Rome circa 33 CE, at the very moment Yahowsha’ was being crucified by Rome: “Executions were now a stimulus to his fury, and he ordered the death of all who were lying in prison under accusation of complicity with Sejanus. There lay, singly or in heaps, the unnumbered dead, of every age and sex, the illustrious with the obscure. Kinsfolk and friends were not allowed to be near them, to weep over them, or even to gaze on them too long. Spies were set round them, who noted the sorrow of each mourner and followed the rotting corpses, till they were dragged to the Tiber, where, floating or driven on the bank, no one dared to burn or to touch them.” (Tacitus, Annals, VI, page 19)
Tacitus would ascribe Tiberius’s apparent virtues as hypocrisy – as the crafty assumption of virtue. He would display the pretence of good while being the embodiment of evil. He was infamous for his cruelty and veiled debaucheries. He lived in the shadows and hid from the light. He noted that corruption, and the growing tyranny among the governing classes of Rome, was the overriding theme of his reign. And by 33 CE, Tiberius plunged headfirst into every wickedness and disgrace, without concern or shame. He indulged his own inclinations while devaluing the life and liberty of others. (Tacitus, Annals, VI, pages 50-51) Coincidence?
This comparison between earthly contemporaries, Yahowsha’ and Tiberius is one of absolute contrasts: of good and evil, of freedom and enslavement, of mercy and vindictiveness, of life and death, of relationship and estrangement, of a loving family and child abuse, of light and darkness, of Yahowah versus the Beast.
But even more lurid behavior was occurring off the coast in Capri. Rumors abounded as to what the paranoid Tiberius was actually doing there. Suetonius records the tales of sexual perversity, including graphic depictions of child molestation and cruelty. (Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Tiberius, pages 43-45) While I cannot prove either claim, I suspect Caligula was abused as a child by Tiberius, just as Tiberius had been abused by the man who placed him upon the throne.
The news that Tiberius had died in Misenum on March 16, 37 CE was celebrated in Rome. The city rejoiced when it heard that Caligula had smothered him. (Tacitus, Annals, VI, page 50) In his will, which was obviously prior to his murder, Tiberius appointed his grandson, Tiberius Gemellus, and his killer, Caligula, the sole surviving son of Germanicus, joint control over the Empire. But then in his first act of business as co-Emperor, Caligula voided Tiberius’s will. In his second, and now as an accomplished killer, he had Tiberius Gemellus executed. Thereafter, Caligula spent Tiberius’s fortune, which was indistinguishable from the Roman treasury, of nearly three billion sesterces, on himself.
Caligula, was twenty-five when he became Emperor and Pope. But he may have been more twisted than his benefactor was at seventy-eight. Initially hailed by patriotic Romans as “Our Baby” and as “Our Star” by the adoring crowds, most every historical source portrays Caligula’s four-year reign as cruel, extravagant, and sadistic. He was sexually perverted in addition to being a megalomaniac and tyrant.
As was the case with most Germans in the late 1920s who worshipped Adolf Hitler, Caligula was admired by every Roman in “all the world, from the rising to the setting sun.” (Philo of Alexandria, On the Embassy to Gaius, Volume II) Suetonius wrote that over one-hundred sixty-thousand animals were sacrificed during demonstrations of public rejoicing as part of the religious ceremonies ushering in the reign of Rome’s new god. (Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula, page 14) And as will be the case with the Towrahless One during the onset of the Tribulation, Philo described the first seven months of Caligula’s reign as “completely blissful.” (Philo of Alexandria, On the Embassy to Gaius, Volume II)
Again forecasting the tactics that will be deployed by the Beast of the later days, Caligula’s first acts were said to be generous in spirit, though many were political in nature and bankrupted the country. To garner support for his reign, he granted bonuses to those in the military including the Praetorian Guard. To appease the wealthy, he declared that treason trials were a thing of the past, recalling the aristocrats Tiberius had sent into exile. To endear himself to the poor, he offered tax relief to those on the bottom rung of the Imperial revenue system. Then in an act of hypocrisy, to appear moral, he even banished certain sexual deviants. Lastly, recognizing the hypnotic effect of patriotism, Caligula promoted lavish spectacles for the public’s entertainment, sponsoring ever more ghoulish gladiator battles.
But within seven months at the head of this deadly Beast, Caligula became gravely ill – with many thinking that he had been poisoned. While he would recover from his illness, the young Emperor became diabolical monster. Then, as will be the case with those who abet the Towrahless One’s rise to power, Caligula had all of those who were closest to him killed, especially those he saw as a potential threat. Of his family, only his uncle Claudius was spared, and that was because Caligula enjoyed mocking him.
In 38 CE, Caligula promoted political reform. He published an accounting of public funds he was squandering. He reimbursed those who lost property in fires and abolished taxes for everyone except the wealthy. He even enabled upward mobility for the middle class, allowed new members into the Equestrian and Patrician orders. Toying with Roman citizens, he restored democratic elections, knowing full well that their votes didn’t matter. Of them, the noted Christian historian, Cassius Dio, wrote: “though delighting the rabble, it grieved the sensible who stopped to reflect. If offices should once again fall into the hands of the many...many disasters would result.” (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Volume LIX, 9.7) It was spoken like a true Roman Catholic.
Then appearing like Barak Obama’s proclivity to kill civilians with American drones without so much as an indictment much less a trial, we find Caligula executing people throughout the realm without even the pretence of judicial process.
According to Cassius Dio, a financial crisis arose early in Caligula’s short reign, perhaps as soon as the spring of 38 CE. The Emperor’s liberal policies which were designed to garner political support, his increased military spending was contrived for greater control, and his overall extravagance was to keep the people entertained and therefore oblivious. Collectively, they exhausted the Empire’s treasury. In three years, Rome went from a surplus of three billion sesterces to a deficit almost that large.
Ancient historians state that Caligula began falsely accusing the rich, fining the most productive Romans, and even killing the wealthy to seize their estates, to resolve the national debt. But confiscating all of the wealth of the richest citizens wasn’t nearly enough, so before the invention of fiat money and the smoke and mirrors of quantitative easing, in order to resolve the dept and keep from declaring bankruptcy, Caligula asked the public to lend the state money. Next, he levied taxes on lawsuits, marriage, and of course, prostitution. Then Caligula began auctioning the lives of the gladiators at his shows. Wills that left anything of value to anyone other than the Emperor, were reinterpreted, granting all assets to Caligula instead. Even the Legion’s Centurions who had stolen property during plundering raids were compelled to turn over their spoils to the state. (Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula, pages 38-42)
Current and past civil servants, who were accused of incompetence and embezzlement, were forced to reimburse the treasury. According to Suetonius, in the first year of Caligula’s reign he squandered 2,700,000,000 sesterces that Tiberius had amassed. And as a result, Rome was besieged by a famine that that was induced by Caligula’s response to this financial crisis. Once production was penalized and economic success essentially criminalized, there was no longer an incentive to grow or transport food. . (Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula, pages 38-42) In a nation now devoid of businessmen, Caligula seized the means to transport grain imports, distributing food to whom he pleased using his boats, carts, roads, and bridges. (Seneca the Younger, On the Shortness of Life, Volume XVIII, page 5)
Even though the Beast was bankrupt, Caligula completed the Temple of Augustus, promoting patriotic devotion not unlike what the United States did with its Temples, Shrines, and Monuments to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. And in keeping with American presidents and the enormity of the White House, to convey the proper prestige, he had his Imperial Palace expanded. He also funded the construction of a large racetrack known as the Circus. It’s important because it connects the Roman Empire with the Roman Church. Pope and Emperor Caligula had an Egyptian obelisk transported by sea and erected in the middle of his Circus amphitheater. Today, that same Obelisk now sits in the middle of the Vatican. (Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Volume XVI, page 76) It isn’t, however, the largest pagan monument in Rome. Constantine’s son, Constantius II, removed an two-hundred-thirty ton obelisk from the Temple of Amun in Karnak to decorate the Circus Maximus in 357 CE, shortly after Christianity became the official religion of Rome. Today, that same tribute to the sun-god Amun Ra stands proudly outside of the Apostolic Palace of the Lateran, the ancient Roman palace which now serves as the papal residence. It is, of course, covered in hieroglyphics, all paying homage to the Egyptian gods.
Considering his short reign, remained devoted to restoring and erecting temples to the gods, including his masterpiece, the Temple of Apollo at Ephesus. But since there was another god closer to home that Caligula preferred, he constructed two massive landlocked ships for himself on Lake Nemi – the largest vessels in the ancient world. The smaller of the two was designed as a Temple to Diana, the virgin goddess of the moon, to lure young women to the larger ship, which was essentially an decadent and ostentatious floating palace designed to accommodate Caligula’s orgies.
Caligula lived in the whirl of conspiracies, all of which he resolved through execution. So when visiting kings came to Rome to pay their respects to him, if they claimed noble descent, the insecure pontiff would wail: “Let there be only one Lord and one King.” (The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula, page 22) He was speaking, of course, about himself. In fact, by 40 CE, Caligula began implementing policies whereby religion and politics became indistinguishable in Rome – with Caligula, himself, playing the leading role. The Emperor began appearing in public dressed as a variety of gods and demigods such as Hercules, Mercury, Venus and Apollo. (Philo of Alexandria, On the Embassy to Gaius, Volumes XI to XV) Caligula even began referring to himself as a god when meeting with politicians. He adopted the name Jupiter when signing public documents. (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Volume LIX, page 26-28)
A sacred precinct was set apart for his worship four temples were erected to worship him in Asia and Rome. The massive Temple on the Forum was then devoted to Caligula and connected directly to his Imperial residence on Palatine Hill. He would make regular appearances in his temple, presenting himself as god to the public. Caligula had the heads removed from numerous statues of gods throughout Rome and replaced with his own. He favored being worshipped as “Neos Helios – the New Sun.” He even had coins minted presenting himself as the Egyptian sun god Amen Ra.
According to Cassius Dio, prior to Caligula, living emperors could be worshipped as divine in the East and dead Emperors could be worshipped as divine in Rome. The exception was Augustus, who had the public worship his spirit while alive and his body when deceased. Caligula went all the way to having everyone in Rome, including Senators, worship him as a physical living god.
It should not be surprising, then, that Caligula often came to the aid of his good friend, Herod Agrippa, who became governor of vast territories when Caligula became emperor. This then increased his superiority complex and deep-seated hatred of Jews. So he, too, took an active role in suppressing and antagonizing them, making sure that they received heavy doses of Greek culture and Roman Law.
In 38 CE, Caligula sent Agrippa to Alexandria unannounced to check on Flaccus whom he did not trust. According to Philo, the visit was met with jeers from the Greek population who saw Agrippa as the king of the Jews. Flaccus tried to placate both the Greek population and Caligula by having statues of the emperor placed in Jewish synagogues. As a result, riots broke out in the city with Jews blaming Greeks for the blasphemy. Caligula responded by removing Flaccus from his position and executing him.
Then in 39 CE, Agrippa accused Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, of planning a rebellion against Roman rule. Herod Antipas confessed and Caligula exiled him. Agrippa was rewarded with his territories.
Riots again erupted in Alexandria in 40 CE because Jews were accused of not honoring the emperor by anti-Semitic Greeks. Jews were frustrated further by the erection of a new altar to Caligula, which they destroyed. So in response, Caligula ordered a massive statue of himself be placed in Yahowah’s Temple in Yaruwshalaim, which was nothing less than a declaration of war. And it was in this context that Philo wrote that “Caligula regarded the Jews with special suspicion, as if they were the only race which cherished desired opposed to his own.”
Postponing the inevitable conflict nearly three decades, the Governor of Syria, Publius Petronius, fearing civil war if the order were carried out, delayed implementing it for nearly a year. Agrippa then convinced Caligula to reverse his decision.
Historians Philo of Alexandria and Seneca the Younger describe Caligula as an insane and self-absorbed, angry and murderous, as a man who indulged in too much spending and sex. He was accused of sleeping with other men’s wives and bragging about it, of killing for mere amusement, of deliberately squandering Rome’s treasury, of causing the population to starve, and of wanting a statue of himself erected in the Temple of Yahowah in Jerusalem so that he could be worshipped as the most important god in the universe.
When he was presiding at the Circus, he would order his guards to throw an entire section of the crowd into the arena during intermission to be eaten by wild animals because there weren’t enough criminals he grew bored. Suetonius and Cassius Dio provide additional tales of perverted insanity. They accuse Caligula of incest with his sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla, and Livilla, and say he prostituted them to other men. He turned his palace into a brothel, and infamously, he promised to make his horse, Incitatus, Consul, while actually appointing him a priest.
While none of this seemed to bother Romans, as most of their politicians, priests, generals, and aristocrats were similarly perverted, Caligula’s announcement to the Senate that he would be leaving Rome permanently so that he could move to Alexandria, Egypt to be worshiped as a living god was not well received. The prospect of Rome losing its Emperor, and thus its political influence, was unconscionable, as was the realization that people less perverted might find Caligula’s debauchery unbecoming. So the Senate did what it did best – plan the Emperor’s assassination.
The perpetrator would be Chaerea, an effeminate man with a weak voice that the Emperor had called derogatory names. Caligula mocked Chaerea’s compassionate approach to tax collection by referring to him as “Venus.”
On 22 January 41 CE we are told by Suetonius that Caligula’s death was similar to that of Julius Caesar, in that he was stabbed thirty times by multiple conspirators. What’s interesting is that Caligula’s Germanic guard was grief struck and enraged. They not only attacked the assassins and conspirators, they lashed out at innocent senators and bystanders alike.
The Senate tried to capitalize on Caligula’s death by restoring the Republic. But the military remained loyal to the office of the Emperor and kept it from happening. Still in love with their young monster, grieving Romans demanded that Caligula’s murderers be tried for treason. So the assassins decided to go out swinging, stabbing Caligula’s wife, Caesonia, to death and then killing their young daughter, Julia, by smashing her head against a wall.
Claudius then became Emperor after procuring the support of the Praetorian Guard. He immediately ordered the execution of Chaerea and all other known conspirators. And thus ends another sordid affair.
Turning our attention from Roman perversion back to its killing machine, in 43 CE, the Romans initiated their attacks against the Celts living in England, invading Britain for the first time. The initial phase of this conflict raged for seven years, with the deciding battle occurring in Caer Caradoc (perhaps around Herefordshire) in 50 CE.
The Celtic leader, Caratacus, was among the last of his kind, someone with the courage, character, and conviction to openly resist Roman oppression. Therefore, for his moral stand, he and his family were captured and hauled off to Rome as slaves. They were paraded in shackles as part of Claudius’s Triumph. So it would be almost decade before an alliance of indigenous peoples in Roman-occupied Britain would rebel again. But as before, they were annihilated so mercilessly, their demise ended all resistance to Roman rule for centuries thereafter.
Halfway around the world, Rome turned its iron teeth on the Parthian Empire in an effort to control Armenia, which was serving on and off as a territorial buffer between the two superpowers. Augustus had made Armenia a client of Rome, but then when Nero ascended to the throne, the Parthians installed their own vassal. Nero reacted impulsively as was his style, dispatching Legions to reestablish it under the Roman sphere of influence. He picked Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, who from a Roman perspective had distinguished himself subduing the Germanic tribes, to command the assault. Corbulo, who was serving as governor of Asia, was also given control over Cappadocia and Galatia in modern-day Turkey, with Pro-Consular authority Imperium to induce him to accept the associated risk. And although Galatia was considered an ideal recruiting ground for Legionnaires, in that the native population was often rash and impulsive, the bulk of Corbulo’s forces came from Syria, where all four of the Legions garrisoned therein were transferred to his command.
Keenly aware that the Parthians were formidable foes, Corbulo tried the diplomatic approach initially. When it failed, he prepared his forces for war, ruling over them with an iron hand. The young Tiberius had tried this same carrot and stick approach with considerable success.
But even with the uncompromising discipline which made Corbulo infamous, fighting began through an act of insubordination. One of Corbulo’s advance cavalry units launched a failed raid against the Armenians, and during their retreat, panicked Rome’s armies. Now faced with the old use them or lose them adage with regard to his soldiers, Corbulo readied three of the Legions at his disposal (Third Gallica, Fourth Scythica, and Sixth Ferrata) and hurriedly attacked Armenia.
The Romans prevailed, sacking Armenian cities and torching its capital – although partly because the Parthians were otherwise occupied, dealing with a revolt by the Hyrcanians near the Caspian Sea, and couldn’t properly defend their client. Then in typical Roman fashion, the Armenians who stood up against Rome’s unprovoked invasion, and who fought soly to preserve the lives and freedom of their family and neighbors, were captured, tortured, and killed.
But now Armenia, at least what was left of it, was under Roman control. So Corbulo, having murdered most of the Armenian royal family, installed one of the few survivors king, leaving some troops behind just to make sure he behaved.
But Nero’s rash actions proved counterproductive. Armenia had never been the adversary, only a buffer; Parthia was the enemy. Therefore, in response to Nero’s provocation, King Vologases of Parthia quickly negotiated a truce with the Hyrcania so that he could turn his undivided attention toward Rome. To which, Corbulo, on Nero’s behalf, dispatched the Sixth Scythica and Twelth Fulminata Legions to Armenia while he positioned the Third Gallica, Sixth Ferrata, and Fifteenth Apollinaris along the Euphrates, thinking that the Parthians might invade Syria.
Instead, the Parthians marched directly into Armenia. But when they failed in their initial siege attempts against the Romans garrisoned there, a fragile truce was devised because the leaders in the theater recognized that all out war might prove catastrophic. And yet Nero was never moved by reason. He divided Rome’s army, giving Lucius Paetus control of three Legions, including the newly arrived Fifth Macedonica, to reinvade Armenia. Meanwhile, he told Corbulo to remain in Syria.
After a series of minor skirmishes in the Armenian countryside, Paetus withdrew, dispersing some of his forces and granting leave for his officers during the winter. The Parthians capitalized and laid siege to Paetus’ remaining troops. And while he dispatched messengers to Corbulo requesting help, the rescue was too slow in coming. With a divided army, Paetus was forced to surrender to Vologases. Then as Corbulo had feared, the conditions of capitulation became onerous, with the Romans agreeing to leave Armenia and surrender all forts to Parthia. Under the terms of this accord, the VI and XII Legions were to strip naked, giving the Armenians who the Romans had plundered, their weapons and clothes. It was a horrifying embarrassment for the ego of Nero and Rome.
Before we consider the next battle, let’s ponder the conflict brewing within the Beast – of lives being discounted to facilitate an ever-expanding palette of elitist indulgencies. Throughout the Republic and continuing during the Empire, Rome imposed a strict cast system. At the bottom were slaves. They were property, often abused in horrible ways for the sadistic pleasure of the aristocrats. These individuals, most of whom were women and children, had no rights or legal standing. Greek slaves, however, who were better educated than their masters were valued possessions – but only in the sense that they were not worked to death doing menial tasks. Illiterate slaves and those lacking the technical skills of a trade were condemned to manual labor and were often worked as if they were tools or simply beasts of burden. Violent and disobedient slaves were subjected to inhuman conditions in Roman mines.
Freemen without citizenship were either called Peregrini or Liberti depending on whether they were foreign subjects or liberated slaves. A unique set of laws were written to govern their conduct. Foreigners doing business with Romans were known as Clients.
Climbing up the social latter from the bottom rungs, we discover that Roman citizens fell into three casts, with common people on the bottom rung of society known as Plebeians. The only ways for them to rise in status and to assert any control over their lives was to be adopted by a Patrician or to win the highest award for valor fighting foreign foes.
Those in the intermediate class were Equestrians, also called Equites or Knights. There weren’t very many of them, and most were deployed in the Praetorian Guard or as intermediate officers in the military.
The Roman aristocrats were known as Patricians. There were fabulously rich, self indulgent, typically carnal, and often cruel The highest ranking Patricians were in the Senate. Above them were priests and above the priests was the Emperor, who was considered divine.
In the military hierarchy, Generals were almost always Patricians. The officers, called Equites, were Equestrians. The Hoptites were typically Plebeians. The infantry was comprised of Liberti, while the Support and Rabble were almost always forced conscriptions or slaves. The youngest were sixteen, but a man could be conscripted and forced to serve even into his mid forties. The minimum tour of duty was twenty years plus an additional five in the reserves. At Rome’s option, this could be extended to forty years. And there was no opting out. If a man got homesick, if he wanted to see his family, and he went AWOL, he would be hunted down and tortured to death.
Women were objects to be manipulated in Rome. Loving monogamous marriages were rare. Some women were considered citizens but they could not vote or hold political office. And Roman Law required that both the man and the woman be citizens for the title “marriage” to apply. For example, if one or the other was not a citizen, they weren’t considered married and their children wouldn’t be considered citizens.
Also in Rome, just as there was a hierarchy among the gods, there was a religious hierarchy among Romans. Those who worshipped the Roman or Greek pantheon were afforded more opportunities than the devotees of the Egyptian gods. And the subjects of Amun Ra, Osiris, and Isis held sway above those devoted to the Persian variations. Moreover, the civilized deities and devotees were more highly regarded than the gods and goddesses of the barbarians. But within this spectrum, some of the discriminatory effects were diminished through syncretism, whereby religions were amalgamated. A devotee of Dionysus for example, might join the cult of Bacchus.
Within the religious class system, there was a pariah, a people considered indistinguishable from their religion. As a result of having only one God, as a result of their unwillingness to be syncretistic, their God, Torah, Shabat, Feasts, Temple, and Land were despised – considered beneath contempt. Their refusal to pay homage to the Imperial Cult was considered an act of treason which was punishable by death.
To a lesser extent, and right around this time, since the first to accept Yahowsha’ were Torah observant Jews, the initial Followers of the Way were demeaned. And while they were not actually “Christians,” since that title was later projected upon them, they were persecuted. This is largely because once the harassment of God’s Chosen People began in Rome, it never ended, even when the Empire transitioned into a Church. From the time of Tiberius and continuing with Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, Jews were persona non grata.
As a result, in 64 CE when the Great Fire swept through Rome, Emperor Nero blamed Chrestuaneos (meaning “good and useful implements prepared for service,” later corrupted to Christians, meaning “drugged”). Writing about it, the historian Tacitus (one of the classical world’s most authoritative voices) in Annals XV, 44, 2-8, reported: “All human efforts and propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the fire was the result of an order [from Nero]. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Chrestuaneos by the populous. Chrestus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.”
Ever since Tiberius attempted to cleanse his city of Jews, with Caligula, Claudius, and Nero being equally anti-Semitic, the Emperor’s scapegoat was always more racial than religious, and focused upon Jews – the only people unwilling to worship the Roman gods and the Roman Emperors as god. It was an insult their fragile egos could not endure. This reality was borne out by the historian Suetonius (69 to 122 CE), who affirmed that that the Yahuwdym who followed Chrestus were held in low esteem. In his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, he reports: “Claudius expelled from Rome the Iudaeos (Yahuwdym) for constantly making disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus.”
Most modern historians have come to realize that the Roman government did not distinguish between Jews and those would later become known as Chrestuaneos, then Christians, prior to Nerva’s modification of the Fiscus Judaicus in 96 CE. As a result of this edict, practicing Jews paid a punitive religious tax and Christians did not. But that is the first time they were actually distinguished one from the other.