n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - A plague of madness : the contagion of mutiny in Livy 28.24-32

Supplement 3
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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The bare bones of the mutiny at Sucro are set forth in Polybius 11.25-30. Troops stationed at Sucro serve as a garrison to protect tribes north of the Ebro. When Scipio falls ill and the soldiers are not promptly paid, sedition breaks out in the Roman camp. While Scipio returns to health, he orders his officers to publicly collect money from prior contributions for the soldiers' pay. On the day of payment, the thirty-five leaders of the mutiny are led to believe that they will be attending a dinner party and Scipio's legion are told that they will be marching against Indibilis. After supper, the thirty-five are arrested and brought by the tribunes to the marketplace. Scipio appears before his men, who are astounded by his healthful appearance. In his speech, he scolds the soldiers and attributes the spread of the mutiny to the vicissitudes of a multitude. The thirty-five mutineers are then brought before the rest of the army, bound and naked, to be scourged and beheaded. Those watching are dumbfounded and after the bodies are dragged through the crowd, the rest of the Roman army take oaths of allegiance. Polybius credits Scipio with having nipped danger in the bud.

The narrative of Livy 28 corresponds largely with Polybius's account. In particular, Livy also treats the mutiny at Sucro as a result of a plague of mental disorder. The language he uses, however, reminds more of that used by Sallust and Cicero in their depictions of Catiline and his fellow conspirators, even though Livy would probably not have been directly influenced by these authors. The link between mutiny and madness appears to have become a , as in Tacitus's recollections of the Pannonian and German mutinies of AD 14.1 The object of this paper is to demonstrate that Livy deliberately treats the events at Sucro as a manifestation of contagious madness, employing imagery of causes, contagion and cure, in order to provide motivation for both the behaviour of the soldiers and their mild treatment by Scipio when compared to similar situations in Roman military history.

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