Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Life Of Relentless King Hrœrek



King Hrœrek was a powerful chieftain or petty king in Hedmark, Norway, who was at his political height in the early 11th century. He reportedly was considered to be one of the wisest local rulers from his region, and he claimed to be a descendant of King Harald Finehair (ruled approximately c. 860-940), the first king to bring Norway under his banner. Both attributes, wisdom and lineage, made King Hrœrek a popular ruler—one from whom chieftains and petty kings sought advice.

After the fall of King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway in the year 1000, no new monarch was immediately declared, and instead, the jarls, petty kings and chieftains deferred to Swedish and Danish rule, or otherwise enjoyed the autonomy that arose from the fall of the Norwegian monarchy. Hrœrek, with his modest kingdom in Hedmark, Norway, quite liked the arrangement, as it increased his own power.

Hrœrek’s independence and autonomy was threatened, however, when his distant kinsman, Olaf Haraldsson, returned to Norway around 1015. Olaf had been a Viking and a mercenary, and now he was planning to put his wealth and military experience to good use by attempting to seize the vacated throne of Norway for himself. Olaf, like Hrœrek, also claimed descendence from King Harald Finehair, and one of Olaf’s first actions upon launching his campaign was to call for the other members of the Finehair Dynasty to join his campaign. Hrœrek reportedly resisted giving his support to Olaf, as proclaiming a new king would have undercut the autonomy he enjoyed in Norway’s decentralized state. Yet, other members of the family were ultimately able to convince Hrœrek to join the campaign. With the help of his kinsmen, Olaf Haraldsson was successful in his mission, defeating or exiling his foreign-backed rivals in Norway by 1016, and he became King Olaf II of Norway, also known as Saint Olaf.

After Olaf II became king of Norway, it did not take long for the jarls, petty kings and chieftains who had submitted to his rule to realize that the new king fully intended to enforce his authority. The new monarch was most tyrannical when it came to religion. Although he came to be known as Saint Olaf, his ways of spreading Christianity in Norway were in no way saintly. According to the Icelandic historian, Snorri Sturluson, “he laid such stress on it that if he found anyone who did not want to abandon heathendom, he drove them out of the land. Some he had maimed, having their hands or feet lopped off or their eyes gouged out, others he had hanged or beheaded, but left no one unchastised who refused to serve God” (Heimskringla, Saint Olaf’s Saga, chapter 73).

Such heavy-handedness by Olaf II alienated the chieftains who still followed their traditional religion, and it also made moderate and reserved local rulers begin to question their allegiance to the king. Hrœrek, along with several of his fellow chieftains and petty kings in Hedmark, was among the latter group of wary leaders who had half-heartedly pledged their support to the upstart king; yet now that they had a taste of what his reign would be like, they began to debate amongst themselves whether or not to rebel against King Olaf II. Hrœrek met with four other petty kings from the Lake Mjøsa area, of which he and a man named Gudröd were the most influential. At the meeting of the five petty kings, Gudröd argued in favor of rebelling against Olaf. Hrœrek, for his part, reportedly pressed for a more peaceful solution, saying that they could have resisted Olaf before he had become king, but now that he had consolidated his power as monarch of Norway, the rebellion of the petty kings would be unlikely to succeed. The other three petty kings of this 5-man debate sided with Gudröd, however, and Hrœrek was eventually swayed to join their plot.

The five petty kings, heeding Hrœrek’s advice, decided to improve their chances of success by utilizing subtlety and subterfuge. Instead of launching a blatant, easily-crushed rebellion, the five petty kings conspired to ambush King Olaf II while the monarch was unaware of the existence of a threat. Fully committed to their plan, the conspirators started to gather warriors whom they presumed to be loyal to their cause. Each of the five petty kings allegedly pledged to recruit around 300 trustworthy fighters, and therefore, they hoped to obtain a force of at least 1,500 men. Meanwhile, as they slowly mustered their forces, the conspirators sent spies to keep an eye on King Olaf, who, at that time, was reportedly only guarded by a band of between 400 and 500 warriors. Yet, the conspirators were not the only ones with spies skulking about. King Olaf II, too, had a formidable spy network, and, to his fortune, one of his informants was invited to the conspiracy.

With help from his informant, Olaf knew the exact location where all five of the conspiring kings were camped together—a place called Hringiskar, near Gudbrands Dale. King Olaf reached his target well before dawn, and, after assembling his troops around the compound, he attacked at first light. Catching the conspirators unprepared and off guard, King Olaf’s troops made short work of the would-be rebels. In the fight, which occurred around 1017, all five of the petty kings were captured, and Olaf severely punished the main two ringleaders of the group. King Hrœrek was blinded and forbidden to stray from Olaf’s company. Gudröd, similarly, was mutilated, but his tongue was taken instead of his eyes. The other three remaining petty kings were reportedly banished from Norway.

Although defeated, blinded, and under close watch by King Olaf II, Hrœrek did not give up his resistance. In 1018, the blinded rebel reportedly hired an assassin and sent him after Olaf. The assassin was said to have come close to completing his mission, but he was discovered and captured before he could strike. When Hrœrek’s part in the attempt came to light, King Olaf II increased the security around the blind rebel, making sure at least two warriors were guarding Hrœrek day and night.

Persistent Hrœrek did not stay quiet for long. Before the year was over, a posse of Hrœrek’s supporters infiltrated the city in which he was kept and they attempted to break him out of jail. They killed the guards, rushed Hrœrek out of the city and tried to flee in a boat. King Olaf’s troops, however, found the bodies of the slain guards and promptly began a manhunt. The fugitive was tracked down and when escape seemed to no longer be likely, Hrœrek told his supporters to go on without him. After seeing them off, Hrœrek turned himself in to King Olaf’s troops and was brought back into custody. With Hrœrek’s return, King Olaf II decided to keep his troublesome kinsman close at hand, and therefore he had the blind rebel accompany him during his daily tasks.

Opportunistic Hrœrek used his proximity to the king to continue his intrigue. One day in 1018, while being forced to sit beside Saint Olaf in church, Hrœrek suddenly pulled out a dagger and, to the best of his blind ability, tried to jab and slash at Olaf. The king was able to lunge to safety and walked away unscathed, but it was a close call, and Olaf no longer wanted to have Hrœrek at his side. King Olaf II ultimately decided to banish Hrœrek, and tasked an Icelandic merchant named Thórarin Nefjólfsson with the chore of bringing Hrœrek to Iceland or Greenland. The blind exile was dropped off on Iceland by 1019 and eventually obtained his own farm, called Kálfskin. Hrœrek did not live long after his exile and reportedly died between 1020 and 1021.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Image of Finn Arnesson and Tore Hung illustrated by Gerhard Munthe (1849–1929), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

Sources:
  • Heimskringla, by Snorri Sturluson and translated by Lee Hollander. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964, 2018.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Tales Of Fierce Freydis Eiriksdottir



Freydis Eiriksdottir came from a family of adventurers and explorers. Her father was Eirik the Red, the man who spearheaded the Nordic settlement of Greenland around 985 or 986. Besides Freydis, Eirik the Red had three other known children, all sons—Leif, Thorvald and Thorstein. Each of Eirik’s children shared their father’s wanderlust and longing for adventure. Leif Eiriksson was the first known European to step foot on North American soil, doing so around the year 999 or 1000, and he named the land where he disembarked Vinland. Over the next decade, several more expeditions for Vinland would be launched from Greenland, and Eirik the Red’s children were said to have been involved in all of them. Leif’s brothers, Thorvald and Thorstein would attempt to repeat their sibling’s feat in separate expeditions. Thorvald Eiriksson was said to have succeeded in reaching North America, but reportedly died in a clash with natives. Thorstein Eiriksson, when it was his turn, apparently got lost during the journey and never reached North America. He had to turn back to Greenland, where he died of disease before he could try again. Freydis, like her brothers, would also attempt to reach North America. She would prove to be much more successful than her brother Thorstein, reportedly reaching North America in one or two expeditions.

The little that we know about Freydis Eiriksdottir comes from oral history preserved in two 13th-century sagas: the Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red’s Saga. Freydis made an appearance in both of the sagas and comes across as a tough and fearsome woman that no one would want to cross. The independent sagas, which can be conflicting in some places and complimentary in others, focus on different voyages in which Freydis was said to have participated, and feature different feats that she was said to have accomplished.

As told by the Saga of Eirik the Red, Freydis Eirikssdottir and her husband, Thorvald, joined a voyage led by Thorfinn Karlsefni. It was a three-year experience, dated to 1003-1006 or 1007-1009, in which the Norsemen settled and traded with the natives. The peaceful relationship between the locals and the Nordic explorers, however, was said to have eventually deteriorated into hostility, ultimately leading to a battle. In the version presented by the Saga of the Greenlanders, Thorfinn Karlsefni won the battle with psychological warfare and masterful strategy, making no mention of Freydis. According to Eirik the Red’s Saga, however, Thorfinn’s strategies failed and Freydis Eiriksdottir (described as being pregnant at the time) had to step up and rally the troops to save the day. She reportedly turned the tide of battle in a most unorthodox way—heavily pregnant, she supposedly scooped up a sword, waddled to the front line, stared down the natives and, “Freeing one of her breasts from her shift, she smacked the sword with it” (Eirik the Red’s Saga, chapter 11). This act of rattling her sword against her breasts as if they were a shield apparently scared off the native warriors and won the day for Thorfinn Karlsefni’s army. After the battle, the Norsemen decided that North America was too hostile for their liking and they returned to Greenland.

According to the Saga of the Greenlanders, Freydis would venture one last time across the ocean. As the story goes, she partnered with a pair of brothers named Helgi and Finnbogi to lead an expedition of about 65 or more people to North America. The voyage, dated to around 1010-1011, was said to have been a disaster. When the Norsemen arrived in North America, the leaders argued over the choicest spots on the campground. As they were said to have conveniently anchored at Leif Eiriksson’s former landing site, everyone wanted to stay in the preexisting dwelling built by Leif. The brothers Helgi and Finnbogi apparently tried to claim that structure for themselves, but Freydis kicked them out and occupied the building herself, stating that it was her brother’s property and that they would need to build their own house. Helgi and Finnbogi did reportedly build their own shelter, and the members of the expedition divided themselves between Freydis’ followers and those of the brothers. Although the separate households got along for a while, relations between the two factions of Norsemen ultimately became quite heated.  In the end, Freydis Eiriksdottir was said to have tired of both Vinland and her rival expedition leaders. As the story goes, she rallied her own followers around herself, carried out a massacre of Helgi and Finnbogi’s camp, and then set sail back to Greenland after stockpiling her ship (and that of the late brothers) with goods from Vinland. Upon Freydis’ return to Greenland, news of the massacre earned her universal condemnation, but, other than that, she was said to have lived happily ever after.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Depiction of Lagertha by Morris Meredith Williams (1881-1973), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

Sources:
  • The Vinland Sagas (Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red’s Saga) translated by Keneva Kunz. New York: Penguin Classics, 2008.
  • https://www.britannica.com/place/Vinland#ref226396 
  • http://www.historynaked.com/792-2/ 
  • https://www.historyextra.com/period/viking/8-vikings-you-should-know-about/  

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Life Of Twice-Dead Saint Salvius



Salivius was a holy man who operated around Albi, in southern France, during the 6th century, a time when France was controlled by several infighting Frankish kings of the Merovingian Dynasty. He was an interesting figure who claimed to have seen heavenly visions (as well as actual heaven itself), and he also was said by his peers to have possessed a gift for foresight or prophecy, as well as some powers for healing. Our knowledge of this holy man comes from the writings of Salvius’ friend and fellow clergyman, Bishop Gregory of Tours (c. 539-594), whose History of the Franks serves as one of the most valuable contemporaneous sources for the history of 6th-century France.

Salvius, it was said, spent his early life studying law and dabbling in local government. All the while, however, his spiritualism was growing and his religious interests quickly began to outweigh his secular pursuits. Eventually, while he was still a young and unmarried man, Salvius suddenly decided to join a local monastery and live as a monk.

After he joined the monastery and learned its rules, Salvius quickly became a model resident of the cloister. He was reportedly an intelligent man, and given time and resources to pursue his religious studies, Salvius mastered the theology of Roman church tradition. He showed such grasp and insight for religious teachings that Salvius soon became one of the monastery’s most respected monks. When the abbot under which Salvius served eventually died, it was Salvius who was elevated as the next abbot of the monastery.

Salvius responded to his promotion in an interesting way—he used the opportunity to become a hermit. The new abbot reportedly ran the monastery from his religious cell, directing the works and charities of the institution without leaving his room. Salvius, however, was not completely isolated, for his fellow monks had to frequently go to his cell to drop off supplies and receive orders. On one such visit, one of the monks found a shocking sight in the abbot’s cell; Salvius was found seemingly lifeless on his bed. The monks, observing the body, were completely convinced that their new abbot was dead.

Upon concluding that their abbot had died, the monks prepared for a funeral. A message was sent to Salvius’ mother, who lived nearby, informing her that her son was dead and that a service would be held in the near future. Salvius’ body was soon removed from his cell and, after being dressed in the best vestments available, Salvius was placed on a bier in preparation for the funeral service, which would commence the next day.

The funeral, suffice it to say, was a dramatic event that none present would forget. According to Gregory of Tours, “the corpse began to move on the bier. Salvius’ cheeks flushed red again, he stirred himself as if he awakened from a deep sleep, opened his eyes, raised his hands and spoke” (History of the Franks, VII. 1). Seeing the dead come back to life, those in attendance at the funeral cheered that they were witnessing a miracle. Not everyone, however, was happy with the situation. Salvius—the very one who supposedly came back from the dead—was apparently quite distraught over his resurrection. According to Gregory of Tours, Salvius’ first words upon returning to the land of the living were “Merciful Lord…why have You done this to me?” (History of the Franks, VII. 1). The presumably starving Salvius then made the odd decision to immediately stop eating food and drink after his resuscitation. He reportedly kept this up for three days until, realizing God was refusing him death (as hunger and thirst was not affecting him), Salvius finally ended his fast and resumed his life as abbot of the monastery.

Once Salvius recovered from the trauma of being pulled back to the world of the living from the afterlife, he began to talk about his otherworldly experiences to his fellow clergymen. He first told his story to the monks in his monastery, and he later narrated the same tale to Gregory of Tours, who put an account of the conversation in his History of the Franks.

As the story goes, when Salvius was experiencing his first death, it felt as if the walls of his room were shaking, and an inexplicable bright light filled his eyes. He then claimed to have been visited by two angels who carried his spirit to heaven, located far away from the earth, sun, and moon. Gregory of Tours, speaking as Salvius, described the man’s vision of heaven:

“Then I was lead through a gate which shone more brightly than our sunshine and so entered a building where all the floor gleamed with gold and silver. The light was such as I cannot describe to you, and the sense of space was quite beyond our experience. The place was filled with a throng of people who were neither men nor women, a multitude stretching so far, this way and that, that it was not possible to see where it ended” (History of the Franks, VII. 1)

Salvius claimed to have heard the voice of God come from a bright and radiant cloud which floated above the heavenly city. Directly under this cloud was reportedly a large gathering of saints and martyrs. Salvius was just beginning to feel at home among these souls when a voice rang out from the cloud above, demanding that the angels bring the abbot back to earth, for the churches needed Salvius’ guidance. Gregory of Tours, once more speaking in the character of the abbot, described Salvius’ distressed reaction: “I threw myself flat on the ground and wept. ‘Alas! Alas! Lord,’ I said. ‘Why have You shown me these things only to take them away from me again?” (History of the Franks, VII. 1). Despite his pleas, Salvius awakened to find himself still alive, and, as was mentioned earlier, it took him three days of fasting to recover from his subsequent depression.

Although God wanted Salvius to return to the living, God’s wishes apparently did not include the abbot revealing secrets of heaven. After he told the monks his story, Salvius’ mouth allegedly swelled and became covered in sores. This divine punishment apparently did not recur when he retold the story to Gregory of Tours years later.

Upon returning from the dead, Salvius quickly resumed his hermit ways, once again administering the monastery from his room. Despite his like of privacy, the abbot’s monks soon began to feel something was different about their leader. It was rumored that Salvius gained the gift of foresight after his near-death (or full death) experience. Furthermore, Gregory of Tours claimed that Salvius projected some sort of healing aura, and “Time and time again those who arrived with grave afflictions went away cured” (History of the Franks, VII. 1).

Salvius, with his respect and renown growing, inevitably became a bishop. He was elected Bishop of Albi around 574, a role which forced Salvius to end his hermit ways so that he could attend councils and advise kings. Such travels allowed Salvius to meet and befriend Gregory of Tours, who was apparently left awed by some of his interactions with the holy man. In one incident in 580, Gregory claimed to have personally witnessed Salvius prophesize that doom would soon fall on the house of King Chilperic (r. 561-584). At that time, Gregory, Salvius and King Chilperic had all been at the villa of Berny-Rivière. As the story goes, the two bishops were having a friendly stroll by the villa when Salvius began to stare oddly at the king’s residence. According to Gregory of Tours, “He sighed deeply and said: ‘I see the naked sword of the wrath of God hanging over that house.’ He was not wrong in his prophecy. Twenty days later died the two sons of King Chilperic” (History of the Franks, V. 50).

There was another instance when Salvius had a prophecy of someone’s death—unfortunately, it was his own death that he could foretell. In 584, a plague hit Albi, and Salvius refused to leave the city. During the epidemic, the bishop eventually realized that he would not survive the plague, and he preemptively began organizing his second funeral. According to Gregory of Tours, “When the time came for God to reveal to Salvius that his own death was near, he prepared his own coffin, and, so I believe, washed himself carefully and put on his shroud. He died in contemplation with his thoughts turned towards heaven” (History of the Franks, VII. 1).

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Monk Reading by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot  (1796–1875), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

Sources:
  • The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971. 
  • https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100438954  

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Botello—The Sorcerer-Conquistador Of Hernán Cortés



Among the diverse band of mercenaries, sailors, and seekers of adventure in Cuba that signed up for Hernán Cortés’ expedition into Mexico was a peculiar figure by the name of Botello. No one knew much of the man’s background, but he was evidently a well-educated, well-read, and well-traveled individual. Bernal Díaz del Castillo, a fellow follower of Cortés, recalled that Botello was “remarkable for his honesty and great intelligence” and that he “seemed a very decent man, and knew Latin and had been in Rome” (Conquest of New Spain, chapter 128). There was, however, a twist to Botello’s erudition that gave the man an occult vibe. Evidently, everyone on Hernán Cortés’ expedition suspected Botello of wielding otherworldly knowledge. At the least, Botello was considered an astrologer, yet many of the other conquistadors believed that the man was actually a sorcerer.

At the core of the rumors was Botello’s fondness for fortune-telling and prophecy. Through astrology, casting of lots, or sorcery, he prolifically produced fortunes and horoscopes for Hernán Cortés and other members of the expedition. In addition to foresight and prophecy, the conquistadors also apparently thought that the man possessed a demon or familiar spirit and that Botello could even reanimate the bodies of the dead—although he never publicly did the latter feat.

Due to his supposed wisdom and abilities, Botello was reportedly an influential member of the expedition whose predictions could sometimes sway Hernán Cortés. His greatest role in the expedition occurred in the middle of the year 1520, when the hostility against the Spaniards was beginning to boil over in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. One of the climactic events of this period was the violent death of the Aztec ruler, Montezuma II, which caused the anti-Spanish fervor in Tenochtitlan to burn ever higher. Around the time of Montezuma’s death, Botello proclaimed that he had an urgent prophecy to deliver to his comrades. According to Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Botello announced, “by means of his secret art, he had discovered that every one of us would be killed if we did not leave Mexico on a certain night” (Conquest of New Spain, chapter 128).

At the time of Botello’s prophecy, the Spanish quarters in Tenochtitlan were undergoing a multi-day siege by Aztec forces and the Spaniards did not need much encouragement to decide that it was time to leave. On the night of June 30-July 1, the Spaniards heeded Botello’s advice and fled Tenochtitlan during the night. Hostile Aztec forces around the Spanish quarters caught on to the escape attempt and attacked the fleeing Spaniards, reportedly killing over eighty of the conquistadors before Cortés’ forces made it out of the city limits. As for Botello, Bernal Díaz mused, “His astrology did not help him, for he too died there with his horse” (Conquest of New Spain, chapter 128). The Aztecs continued to chase the conquistadors for several days after the night flight from Tenochtitlan. This pursuit came back to bite the Aztecs on July 7, 1520, when Hernán Cortés went back on the offensive and defeated a pursuing Aztec army at Otumba.

Once the Spaniards gained some breathing room and no longer had to run for their lives, the conquistadors apparently amused themselves by rifling through the belongings of the late Botello. As the story goes, what they found among the deceased man’s effects corroborated the rumors that Botello dabbled in the occult. According to Bernal Díaz del Castillo, “after we got to safety some papers, bound together like a book, were found in his box, marked with figures, lines, notes, and symbols” (Conquest of New Spain, chapter 128). In addition to the bizarre book, they also found strange objects which they thought were used for fortune-telling or magic.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (An Alchemist In His Laboratory, by David Teniers the Younger (1610–1690), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

Sources:
  • The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz, translated by J. M. Cohen. New York: Penguin Books, 1963.
  • https://www.gutenberg.org/files/32474/32474-h/32474-h.htm 
  • https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/magazine/2016/05-06/cortes-tenochtitlan/ 
  • https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hernan-Cortes 
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/cortes_hernan.shtml  

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Appius Herdonius And His Failed Slave Revolt In Rome



In the year 460 BCE, a man named Appius Herdonius reportedly led a campaign against Rome and successfully seized the Capitoline Hill.  Although no known history of Rome was written by a Roman until around 200 BCE, the tale of Appius Herdonius had survived in ancient Rome’s consciousness to be documented and preserved by historians such as Cato the Elder (c. 234-148 BCE), Livy (c. 59 BCE-17 CE), and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (flourished c. 20 BCE).

As the story goes, Appius Herdonius was a Sabine of wealth and power who lived in the 5th century BCE. He was something of a migratory warlord, traveling the land with a large following in tow. As a rich and powerful individual, Herdonius apparently was able to come and go from Rome, allowing him to meet its population, and to get an understanding of the city’s layout and defensive features. Unfortunately for the Romans, Herdonius’ familiarity with Rome gave the opportunistic warlord access to a dangerous pool of manpower—exiles, dissidents, and, most frightening for the Romans, slaves.

Appius Herdonius made his move in 460 BCE, leading an army against the city of Rome under the cover of night. In Livy’s account, Herdonius commanded 2,500 Roman “slaves and exiles” (History of Rome, 3.15), whereas the historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus claimed that the warlord’s force was 4,000 strong and that it was solely made up of “his clients and the most daring of his servants” (Roman Antiquities, 10.14). Herdonius, with his thousands of followers, be it Roman dissidents or his horde of loyal servants, successfully infiltrated Rome and sneaked up to the Capitoline Hill. In a surprise attack, the infiltrators stormed the Capitol’s defenses and made short work of the surprised defenders. By morning, Appius Herdonius’ troops had firmly occupied the Capitoline Hill and were using the Hill’s defensive features against the rest of Rome.

After suffering this random attack, it took the Romans some time to recover from their confusion. According to Livy, Rome did not know who had attacked them, or how large the army was, and also feared the possibility of a simultaneous attack from another army outside the city. As the Romans gathered more intel on their opponents, they sent out messengers to request help from allies. The Romans, however, were not the only ones calling for aid—after Appius Herdonius seized the Capitoline Hill, he called for the rest of the city’s slaves to rise up in rebellion, and beckoned for all of the oppressed to join his cause. Although there was indeed friction between the oligarchs of the fledgling Roman Republic and the common people, Herdonius misjudged the power of communal identity. Instead of inspiring the commoners to defect, his attack prompted the common people to make a truce with the oligarchs and fight back against the threat to their city.  

By the time the Roman population had readied itself to fight against the occupiers on the Capitoline Hill, they saw a completely different foreign army quickly approaching their walls. According to Livy, the sight of this force struck fear into Rome, as their first impression was that it had to be an army from one of their various enemies at the time, hoping to take advantage of Rome in its time of weakness. Yet, to Rome’s relief, the force was actually an allied army sent from Tusculum to aid Rome. Together, the Romans and the Tusculans attacked Appius Herdonius’ army on the Capitoline Hill. As the occupiers were firmly entrenched in the Capitol’s defenses, the battle was hard fought and many died in combat. The Roman consul, Valerius, was killed during the assault and the warlord Appius Herdonius, too, was slain in the heat of battle. Rome, with its Tusculan allies, eventually killed or captured all of the occupiers of the Capitoline Hill. In the aftermath of the battle, the Romans made a declaration of thanks for Tusculum’s aid, and then set about the grim task of cleaning and ritually purifying the blood-splattered temples on the Capitol.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Gustave Housez, La mort de Vitellius, c. 1847, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

Sources:
  • The History of Rome by Livy, translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. New York: Penguin Classics, 2002. 
  • http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0026%3Abook%3D3%3Achapter%3D15 
  • http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Dionysius_of_Halicarnassus/10A*.html#ref16 
  • https://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/brill-s-new-pauly/herdonius-e509460