Silius Italicus, Punica

The birthplace of Tiberius Catius Asconius Silius Italicus (c.28 CE – c.103) is not certain, although Iberia and Padua (northern Italy) are strong candidates. He was a Roman consul in Asia. His only surviving work is the enormous epic poem Punica, about the Second Punic War (218–201 BCE). Since this event happened some two centuries before his own lifetime, this text must be looked at as a work of the imagination, although he would have based his history on written sources and may have elaborated some details based on oral traditions and peoples alive during his own time (including many Celtic nations still active in Europe and Asia).

The following is an adaptation of Silius Italicus: Punica, trans. J. D. Duff. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927.

§ 3.340. The Celts who have added “-iberian” to their name came as well [to the battle]. To these men death in battle is glorious; they consider it a crime to burn the body of such a warrior, for they believe that if the body is devoured on the battlefield by the hungry vulture that the soul will ascend to the gods in heaven.

§3.344. Rich Gaul sent her people, men who have knowledge about the entrails of beasts, the flight of birds, and the lightning strikes from heaven. While one minute they are celebrating by chanting the primitive songs of the native language, the next minute they are stamping the ground dancing and clashing their shields noisily in time to the music. That is what men do for their past-times and in solemn gatherings. All other labour is done by the women; the men think it unmanly to throw seed into the furrows and to turn the soil by working the plough; but the wife of the Gaul is never idle, for she does every task but those of war.