Cursed Gold of Delphi
In spite of the Greek accounts about the defeat of the Gauls, the Roman literary tradition liked best a far different version. Strabo reports a story told in his time of a semi-legendary treasure - the aurum Tolosanum, fifteen thousand talents of gold and silver - supposed to have been the cursed gold looted during the sack of Delphi and brought back to Tolosa (modern Toulouse, France) by the Tectosages, who were said to have been part of the invading army.
More than a century and a half past the alleged sack, Romans will rule the Gallia Narbonensis. In 105 BC, while marching to Arausio, the Proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul Quintus Servilius Caepio plundered the sanctuaries of the town of Tolosa, whose inhabitants had joined the Cimbri, finding over 50,000 15 lb. bars of gold and 10,000 15 lb. bars of silver. The riches of Tolosa were shipped back to Rome, but only the silver made it: the gold was stolen by a band of marauders, who were believed to have been hired by Caepio himself and to have killed the legion guarding it. The Gold of Tolosa was never found, and was said to have been passed all the way down to the last heir of the Servilii Caepiones, Marcus Junius Brutus.
In 105 BC, Caepio refused to co-operate with his superior officer, Gnaeus Mallius Maximus, because he thought of him as a novus homo, deciding by himself to engage in battle against the Cimbri, on the Rhone. There the Roman army suffered a crushing defeat and complete destruction, in the so-called Battle of Arausio (modern Orange).
Upon his return to Rome, Caepio was tried for "the loss of his Army" and embezzlement. He was convicted and given the harshest sentence allowable; he was stripped of his Roman citizenship, forbidden fire and water within eight hundred miles of Rome, fined 15,000 talents (about 825,000 lb) of gold, and forbidden from seeing or speaking to his friends or family until he had left for exile.
He spent the rest of his life exiled in Smyrna in Asia Minor. His defeat and the ensuing ruin were looked upon as a punishment for his sacrilege theft.
Strabo distances himself from this account, arguing that the defeated Gauls were in no position to carry off such spoils, and that, in any case, Delphi had already been despoiled of its treasure by the Phocians during the Third Sacred War in the previous century. However, Brennus' legendary pillage of Delphi is presented as fact by some popular modern historians.
Famous quotes containing the words delphi, cursed and/or gold:
“At Delphi I prayed
that he maintain in me
the flame of the poem
and I drank of the brackish
—Denise Levertov (b. 1923)
“What I always hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this carefully preserved optimism of the middle classes, this fat and prosperous brood of mediocrity.”
—Hermann Hesse (18771962)
“An inch of gold can not buy an inch of time.”