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Marcus Junianus Justinus
Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.
translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson.
London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden (1853).


Table of contents



Disturbances in Greece; war between Sparta and the Aetolians; end of disputes between the pretenders to the throne of Macedonia, I.—Marriage of Ptolemy and Arsinoe, and its consequences II. III.—Irruption of the Gauls into Macedonia; incaution of Ptolemy, IV.—Defeat and death of Ptolemy; rise of Sosthenes, V.—The Gauls march to Delphi; description of Delphi, VI.—The Gauls halt in sight of Delphi, and are cut off by the Greeks, VII. VIII.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

1 DURING the course of these proceedings in Sicily, the kings, Ptolemy Ceraunus1 and Antigonus, quarrelling and going to war with one another in Greece, almost all the cities of that country, under the Spartans as leaders, encouraged as it were by the opportunity thus offered to entertain hopes of recovering their liberty, and sending to each other ambassadors by whom leagues might be formed to unite them, broke out into hostilities; and, that they might not seem to commence war with Antigonus, under whose dominion they were, they attacked his allies the Aetolians, making it a pretext for war with them, that they had taken possession of the Cirrhaean plain, which by the unanimous consent of Greece had been dedicated to Apollo. For their general in this war they selected Areus, who, drawing together an army, laid waste the towns and corn-fields lying in the plain, and burnt whatever he was unable to carry off. When the shepherds of the Aetolians beheld this destruction from their mountains, about five hundred of them assembling together, attacked the enemy as they were dispersed, and knew not what was the number of their assailants (for the sudden alarm, and the smoke of the fires, prevented them from ascertaining), and having killed about nine thousand2 of the depredators, put the rest to flight. And when the Spartans afterwards renewed the war, many of the states refused them their support, thinking that they sought dominion for themselves, and not liberty for Greece.

In the meantime the war between the princes that contended for the throne of Macedonia was concluded, for Ptolemy, having routed Antigonus and made himself master of the whole country, arranged a peace with Antiochus, and contracted an affinity with Pyrrhus by giving him his daughter in marriage.

2 Having thus freed himself from the fear of foreign enemies, he turned his impious and unprincipled mind to the perpetration of wickedness at home, and contrived a plot against his sister Arsinoe,3 to deprive her sons of life, and herself of the possession of the city of Cassandrea. His first stratagem was to pretend love to his sister, and to seek her hand in marriage, for he was unable to come at his sister’s sons, whose throne he had usurped, otherwise than by counterfeiting affection for their mother. But the criminal intentions of Ptolemy were understood by his sister. As she expressed distrust of him, therefore, he assured her that “he wished to share the kingdom with her children, against whom he had not taken arms because he wished to wrest the kingdom from them, but that he might have it in his power to present them with a portion of it. She might therefore send a person to receive an oath from him, in whose presence he would bind himself, before the gods of their country, by whatever execrations she pleased.” Arsinoe, not knowing what to do, was afraid that if she sent any one, she would be deceived by a false oath, and that, if she did not send, she would provoke her brother’s fury and cruelty. Fearing, therefore, less for herself than her children, whom she thought she might protect by the marriage, she sent Dion, one of her friends, to him. Ptolemy, after conducting him into the most sacred temple of Jupiter, held in high veneration from of old among the Macedonians, took hold of the altar, and, touching the images and couches of the gods, vowed, with unheard-of and most solemn imprecations, that “he sought a marriage with his sister in true sincerity, and that he would give her the title of Queen, nor would, to her dishonour, have any other wife, or any other children than her sons.” Arsinoe, being thus filled with hope, and relieved from apprehensions, held a conference with her brother in person, and as his looks and flattering glances promised no less sincerity than his oath, she agreed to marry him, though her son Lysimachus4 exclaimed that “there was treachery at the bottom.”

3 The nuptials were celebrated with great magnificence and general rejoicings. Ptolemy, before the assembled army, placed a diadem on his sister’s head, and saluted her with the title of Queen. Arsinoe, overjoyed at the name, as having regained what she had lost by the death of Lysimachus her former husband, invited Ptolemy to her city Cassandrea; to get possession of which city the plot was laid. Going thither before her husband, she appointed a festival in the city against his arrival, ordering the houses, temples, and all other places, to be magnificently decorated, altars and victims to be everywhere kept in readiness, and her sons, Lysimachus who was sixteen years old, and Philip three years younger, both remarkable for their comeliness, to go to meet him with crowns on their heads. Ptolemy, to conceal his treachery, caressing them with eagerness, and beyond the warmth of real affection, persisted for a long time in kissing them. But as soon as he arrived at the gate, he ordered the citadel to be seized, and the boys to be slain. They, fleeing to their mother, were slain upon her lap, as she was embracing them; while Arsinoe exclaimed, “What monstrous crime had she committed,5 either in marrying or since her marriage?” She several times offered herself to the assassins in the room of her children, and, embracing them, covered their bodies with her own, endeavouring to receive the wounds intended for them. At last, deprived even of the dead bodies of her sons, she was dragged out of the city, with her garments torn and her hair dishevelled, and with only two attendants, and went to live in exile in Samothracia; sorrowing the more, that she was not allowed to die with her children. But the crimes of Ptolemy were not unpunished; for soon after (the immortal gods inflicting vengeance on him for so many perjuries, and such cruel murders), he was driven from his throne and taken prisoner by the Gauls, and lost his life, as he had merited, by the sword.

4 The Gauls, when the land that had produced them was unable, from their excessive increase of population, to contain them, sent out three hundred thousand men, as a sacred spring,6 to seek new settlements. Of these adventurers part settled in Italy, and took and burnt the city of Rome; and part penetrated into the remotest parts of Illyricum under the direction of a flight of birds (for the Gauls are skilled in augury beyond other nations) making their way amidst great slaughter of the barbarous tribes, and fixed their abode in Pannonia. They were a savage, bold, and warlike nation, and were the first after Hercules (to whom that undertaking procured great admiration for his valour, and a belief in his immortality), to pass the unconquered heights of the Alps, and places uninhabitable from excess of cold. After having subdued the Pannonians, they carried on various wars with their neighbours for many years. Success encouraging them, they betook themselves, in separate bands, some to Greece, and some to Macedonia, laying waste all before them with the sword. Such indeed was the terror of the Gallic name, that even kings, before they were attacked, purchased peace from them with large sums of money. Ptolemy alone, the king of Macedonia, heard of the approach of the Gauls without alarm, and, hurried on by the madness that distracted him for his unnatural crimes, went out to meet them with a few undisciplined troops, as if wars could be dispatched with as little difficulty as murders. An embassy from the Dardanians, offering him twenty thousand armed men, for his assistance, he spurned, adding insulting language, and saying that “the Macedonians were in a sad condition if, after having subdued the whole east without assistance, they now required aid from the Dardanians to defend their country; and that he had for soldiers the sons of those who had served under Alexander the Great, and had been victorious throughout the world.” This answer being repeated to the Dardanian prince, he observed that “the famous kingdom of Macedonia would soon fall a sacrifice to the rashness of a raw youth.”7

5 The Gauls, under the command of Belgius, sent deputies to Ptolemy to sound the disposition of the Macedonians, offering him peace if he liked to purchase it; but Ptolemy boasted to his courtiers that the Gauls sued for peace from fear of war. Nor was his manner less vaunting before the ambassadors than before his own adherents, saying that “he would grant peace only on condition that they would give their chiefs as hostages, and deliver up their arms; for he would put no trust in them until they were disarmed.” The deputies bringing back this answer, the Gauls laughed, and exclaimed throughout their camp, that “he would soon see whether they had offered peace from regard for themselves or for him.” Some days after a battle was fought, and the Macedonians were defeated and cut to pieces. Ptolemy, after receiving several wounds, was taken, and his head, cut off and stuck on a lance, was carried round the whole army to strike terror into the enemy. Flight saved a few of the Macedonians; the rest were either taken or slain.

When the news of this event was spread through all Macedonia, the gates of the city were shut, and all places filled with mourning. Sometimes they lamented their bereavement, from the loss of their children; sometimes they were seized with dread, lest their cities should be destroyed; and at other times they called on the names of their kings, Alexander and Philippus, as deities, to protect them; saying that “under them they were not only secure, but conquerors of the world;” and begging that “they would guard their country, whose fame they had raised to heaven by the glory of their exploits, and give assistance to the afflicted, whom the insanity and rashness of Ptolemy had ruined.” While all were thus in despair, Sosthenes, one of the Macedonian chiefs, thinking that nothing would be effected by prayers, assembled such as were of age for war, repulsed the Gauls in the midst of their exultation at their victory, and saved Macedonia from devastation. For these great services, he, though of humble extraction, was chosen before many nobles that aspired to the throne of Macedonia. But though he was saluted as king by the army, he made the soldiers take an oath to him, not as king, but as general.

6 In the meantime Brennus, under whose command a part of the Gauls had made an irruption into Greece, having heard of the success of their countrymen, who, under the leadership of Belgius, had defeated the Macedonians, and being indignant that so rich a booty, consisting of the spoils of the east, had been so lightly abandoned, assembled an army of a hundred and fifty thousand foot and fifteen thousand horse, and suddenly invaded Macedonia. As he was laying waste the fields and villages, Sosthenes met him with his army of Macedonians in full array, but being few in number, and in some consternation, they were easily overcome by the more numerous and powerful Gauls; and the defeated Macedonians retiring within the walls of their cities, the victorious Brennus, meeting with no opposition, ravaged the lands throughout the whole of Macedonia. Soon after, as if the spoils of mortals were too mean for him, he turned his thoughts to the temples of the immortal gods, saying, with a profane jest, that “the gods, being rich, ought to be liberal to men.” He suddenly, therefore, directed his march towards Delphi, regarding plunder more than religion, and caring for gold more than for the wrath of the deities, “who,” he said, “stood in no need of riches, as being accustomed rather to bestow them on mortals.”

The temple of Apollo at Delphi is situate8 on Mount Parnassus, on a rock steep on all sides. A concourse of people, who, collecting from the parts around, through veneration9 for the majesty of the god, settled on the rock, formed a city there. Thus, not walls, but precipices, not defences formed by the hand, but by nature, protect the temple and the city; so that it is utterly uncertain whether the strength of the place, or the influence of the deity residing in it, attracts more admiration. The central part of the rock falls back in the shape of an amphitheatre; and, in consequence, if ever shouts are raised, or if the noise of trumpets is mingled with them, the sound, from the rocks echoing and re-echoing to one another, is heard many times repeated, and louder than it was made at first. This effect, on those who are ignorant of its cause, and are struck with wonder at it, produces a greater awe of the power of the god. In the winding of the rock, about half way up the hill, there is a small plain, and in it a deep fissure in the ground, which is open for giving oracles; for a cold exhalation, driven upwards by some force, as it were by a wind, produces in the minds of the priestesses a certain madness, and compels them, filled with the influence of the god, to give answers to such as consult them. Hence many rich presents of kings and nations are to be seen there, which, by their magnificence, testify the grateful feelings of those that have paid their vows, and their belief in the oracles given by the deity.

7 Brennus, when he came within sight of the temple, deliberated for some time, whether he should at once make an attempt upon it, or should allow his soldiers, wearied with their march, a night to refresh themselves. The captains of the Emanus and Thessalorus, who had joined him for a share in the booty, advised that “no delay should be made,” while the enemy were unprovided for defence, and the alarm at their coming still fresh; that in the interval of a night, the courage of the enemy would perhaps revive, and assistance come to them; and that the approaches, which were now open, might be blocked up. But the common soldiers, when, after a long endurance of scarcity, they found a country abounding with wine and other provisions, had dispersed themselves over the fields, rejoicing as much at the plenty as if they had gained a victory, and leaving their standards deserted, wandered about to seize on everything like conquerors. This conduct gave some respite to the Delphians. At the first report that the Gauls were approaching, the countrypeople are said to have been prohibited by the oracle from carrying away their corn and wine from their houses. The salutariness of this prohibition was not understood, until, through this abundance of wine and other provisions being thrown in the way of the Gauls, as a stop to their progress, reinforcements from their neighbours had time to collect. The Delphians, accordingly, supported by the strength of their allies, secured their city before the Gauls, who clung to the wine-skins, on which they had seized, could be recalled to their standards. Brennus had sixty-five thousand infantry, selected from his whole army; of the Delphians there were not more than four thousand; in utter contempt of whom, Brennus, to rouse the courage of his men, pointed to the vast quantity of spoil before them, declaring that the statues, and four-horse chariots, of which a great number were visible at a distance, were made of solid gold, and would prove greater prices when they came to be weighed than they were in appearance.

8 The Gauls, animated by these assertions, and disordered, at the same time, with the wine which they had drunk the day before, rushed to battle without any fear of danger. The Delphians, on the other hand, placing more confidence in the god than in their own strength, resisted the enemy with contempt, and, from the top of the hill, repelled the Gauls as they climbed up, partly with pieces of rock, and partly with their weapons. Amidst this contest between the two, the priests of all the temples,10 as well as the priestesses themselves, with their hair loose, and with their decorations and fillets, rushed, trembling and frantic, into the front ranks of the combatants, exclaiming that “the god was come; that they had seen him leap down into his temple through the opening roof; that, while they were all humbly imploring aid of the deity, a youth of extraordinary beauty, far above that of mortals, and two armed virgins, coming from the neighbouring temples of Diana and Minerva, met them; that they had not only perceived them with their eyes, but had heard also the sound of a bow and the rattling of arms;” and they therefore conjured them with the strongest entreaties, “not to delay, when the gods were leading them on, to spread slaughter among the enemy, and to share the victory with the powers of heaven.” Incited by these exhortations, they all rushed eagerly to the field of battle, where they themselves also soon perceived the presence of the divinity; for a part of the mountain, broken off by an earthquake, overwhelmed a host of the Gauls and some of the densest bodies of the enemy were scattered abroad, not without wounds, and fell to the earth. A tempest then followed, which destroyed, with hail and cold, those that were suffering from bodily injuries. The general Brennus himself, unable to endure the pain of his wounds, ended his life with hi, dagger. The other general,11 after punishing the advisers of the war,12 made off from Greece with all expedition, accompanied with ten thousand wounded men. But neither was fortune more favourable to those who fled; for in their terror, they passed no night under shelter, and no day without hardship and danger; and continual rains, snow congealed by the frost, famine, fatigue, and, what was the greatest evil, the constant want of sleep, consumed the wretched remains of the unfortunate army. The nations and people too, through whom they marched, pursued their stragglers, if to spoil them. Hence it happened that, of so great an army which, little before, presuming on its strength, contended even against the gods, not a man was left to be a memorial of its destruction.


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1 He had made himself king of Macedonia after the death of Lysimachus,
xvii. 2; and hence Antiochus and Antigonus Gonnatas became his enemies, ib.

2 A large number to be killed by five hundred. But the editions do not vary.

3 The widow of Lysimachus; see
xvii. 2, and c. 3 of this book.

4 Most other editions have Ptolemaeus.

5 Sc. To deserve such punishment.

6 Velut ver sacrum.] To vow a sacred spring was customary among the Italians; for when in great peril they used to vow that they would sacrifice whatever animals should be born in their country in the following spring. But as it seemed cruel to sacrifice children, they allowed them to grow up, and then threw a veil over them, and conducted them beyond the boundaries of the country. Festus, sub “ver sacrum;” see also sub “Mamertius.” This custom was not confined to the Italians, but prevailed, says Dionys. Halicar. i. 5, “among many people, Greek and barbarian.” It seems to have been not uncommon among the Romans; Liv. xxii. 9; xxxiv. 44. See also Plin. H. N. iii. 13. Ver sacrum, it should be observed, is an emendation of Pithoeus (Adversar. i. 6) for peregrinatum, concerning the justice of which no editor has doubted, though Wetzel has thought proper to retain peregrinatum in his text.

7 Immaturi juvenis.] Although Ptolemy was rash, he could not be called immaturus, for he was the eldest son of Ptolemy Lagides, who died at a great age, B.C. 283. Diod. Siculus, however, xii. fragm. 8, agrees in opinion with Justin respecting this king.—Wetzel.

8 Concerning the temple of Apollo at Delphi, see Pausan. x. 6; Diod. Sic. xvi. 26, the former of whom places this expedition of the Gauls into Greece in Olymp. 125, 2, or B.C. 278. See also the “Travels of Anacharsis,” vol. iii.—Wetzel.

9 Ad affirmationem majestatis is in the text of Wetzel, but he observes that admiratione, the reading of Aldus, and ad admirationem, that of the Juntae, are “not less good.” I have adopted the latter, which is sanctioned by Vorstius and Scheffer.

10 Universorum templorum.] Those of Apollo, Diana, and Minerva, as appears from what follows.

11 Alter ex ducibus.] That is, the other of the two generals; we are not told his name.

12 Punitis belli auctoribus.] Those who had persuaded and impelled the Gauls to this attack on Delphi.—Wetzel.


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The English translation of Justin's Epitome was entered by David Camden (2003) from Watson's 1853 edition. This text is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed for private and educational use, provided this original notice is kept intact. Any commercial use of this text, including print-publication and inclusion in subscription-based archives, is prohibited.

The Latin text and French translation, along with the secondary material written in French, are copyright © Marie-Pierre Arnaud-Lindet 2003, and are NOT in the public domain.

This material may only be used for private and educational use and provided that its copyright status is properly cited. Any modification, remote loading, publication, reproduction on another site, diffusion on the internet, or commercial use of these texts is strictly prohibited without the prior agreement of the author.