Eiusdem generis monstra alio tumultu credita sunt: puerum infantem semenstrem in foro Boario triumphum <clamasse>,66 alium cum elephantino capite natum, in Piceno lapidibus pluisse, in Gallia lupum vigili e vagina gladium abstulisse, in Sicilia67 scuta duo sanguinem sudasse, Antii68 metentibus cruentas spicas in corbem decidisse, Caerites aquas sanguine mixtas fluxisse. bello etiam Punico secundo constitit Cn. Domitii bovem dixisse ‘cave tibi, Roma.’6
C. autem Flaminius inauspicato consul creatus cum apud lacum Trasumennum cum Hannibale conflicturus convelli signa iussisset, lapso equo super caput eius humi prostratus est, nihilque eo prodigio inhibitus, signiferis negantibus signa moveri sua sede posse, malum, ni ea continuo effodissent, minatus est. verum huius temeritatis utinam sua tantum, non etiam populi Romani, maxima clade poenas pependisset! in ea namque acie quindecim milia Romanorum caesa, sex milia capta, decem69 milia fugata sunt. consulis obtruncati corpus ad funerandum ab Hannibale quaesitum, qui, quantum in ipso fuerat, Romanum sepelierat imperium.7
Flaminii autem praecipitem audaciam C. Hostilius Mancinus vesana perseverantia subsequitur. cui consuli
Portents of the same sort were believed during another crisis,6 namely that a six-months old infant had shouted triumph in the Forum Boarium,7 that another was born with the head of an elephant, that it rained stones in Picenum, that in Gaul a wolf took a sentry’s sword from its sheath, that two shields sweated blood in Sicily,8 that at Antium bleeding ears of corn fell into reapers’ baskets, that at Caere water flowed mingled with blood. Also in the Second PunicWar it was accepted that an ox belonging to Cn. Domitius said, “Rome, beware!”
C. Flaminius was made Consul without auspices. When he was about to join battle with Hannibal at Lake Trasimene and gave orders for standards to be pulled up, his horse slipped and he was thrown over its head to the ground. Nothing daunted by the prodigy, he threatened the standard-bearers who told him that the standards could not be moved from their positions with a flogging unless they dug them up immediately.9 But would that he had paid the penalty for his rashness only with his own mishap and not with a great calamity of the Roman people! For in that battle fifteen thousand Romans were killed, six thousand taken prisoner, twenty thousand put to flight. The body of the butchered Consul was sought by Hannibal for burial; he, so far as in him lay, had buried Roman empire.
To Flaminius’ headlong audacity succeeds C. Hostilius Mancinus with his insane obstinacy. These prodigies came
- 6Before the Roman defeats at Trasimene in 217 and Cannae in 216. Cf. Livy 21.62.2–5, 22.1.8–10 etc. Domitius’ talking ox, however, is dated to 192 in the Consulship of Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus by Livy 35.21.4.
- 7Mistake for Holitorium (Livy).
- 8Sardinia according to Livy and Nepotianus, Sicily in Valerius’ manuscripts.
- 9Livy 22.3.11–14 etc.