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Strong words of Appius Claudius Caecus

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Appius Claudius Caecus in the Roman Curia
Appius Claudius Caecus in the Roman Curia

Appius Claudius Caecus (“the blind” – he received the nickname for having lost his eyesight at the end of his life) was a Roman politician and statesman, living between the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. He belonged to a wealthy and influential family. He has had many functions in his life; he was: a curule edile, quaestor, military tribune, consul, censor, praetor, dictator and interrex (in the absence of consuls). Due to his achievements for the Republic, he was highly respected in his homeland.

In the years 282-272 BCE there was a war between Rome and Pyrrhus going on, which was not going well with the Romans. Pyrrhus with his army landed on the Apennine Peninsula and threatened directly the Roman lands.

In 280 BCE there was a great battle with Pyrrhus (king of Epirus) at Heraclea. Despite large losses, Pyrrhus was the winner and immediately after the battle, he sent his representative – Cineas – to negotiate an agreement. He offered peace on behalf of his ruler, the release of Roman captives, and even support in the conquest of southern Italy, while maintaining the security and independence of Tarentum, Pyrrhus’s ally. The senators were originally in favor of accepting the agreement not only because of good conditions but also probably for fear that Pyrrhus would raise a larger army, relying on enlistment from the Italian towns of the Peninsula.

Appius Claudius Caecus, having learned about the prevailing mood in the Senate, decided to deliver in the curia a speech against Pyrrhus written by Ennius, the father of Roman literature. Appian relates that while the Romans hesitated, Appius, brought by his sons to the senate, stated:

I was grieved at the loss of my sight; now I regret that I did not lose my hearing also, for never did I expect to see or hear deliberations of this kind from you. Have you become so forgetful of yourselves all of a sudden, by reason of one misfortune, as to take the man who brought it upon you, and those who called him hither, for friends instead of enemies, and to give back to the Lucanians and Bruttians the property that your ancestors took from them? What is this but making the Romans servants of the Macedonians? And some of you dare to call this peace instead of servitude!

Appian, Samnite Wars, 10.5, 6.

Caecus demanded the immediate expulsion of Cineas from the city and the rejection of Pyrrhus’s offer.

As a result of this speech, the Senate rejected the peace conditions proposed by Pyrrhus, ordered the withdrawal of his troops from Italy, and suggested that only then should Pyrrhus send emissaries for negotiations.

Eventually, disgusted, Pyrrhus set off for Rome, ravaging the area. However, after ten years of fighting in Italy and Sicily, he had to give up rivalry with Rome and leave the Apennine Peninsula. The Romans showed exceptional determination and confirmed their great-power predispositions.

Sources
  • Cassius Dio, Roman history
  • Plutarch, Pyrrhus

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