Livy's book 25 opens with a most remarkable sequence of non-events. Almost the entirety of 25,1 seems to deal with 'unimportant' details, right from the start. For example, at the beginning we learn that Hannibal was campaigning in the Sallentine region as part of his goal to capture the city of Tarentum, and:
Ipsorum interum Sallentinorum ignobiles urbes ad eum defecerunt (Livy 25.1.1)
In the interim, obscure (i.e. unimportant, undistinguished) cities of the Sallentines themselves defected to him.
These unworthy towns are left unnamed.
But then, a certain Titus Pomponius Veientanus accidentally managed to gather the appearance of a general on account of some random actions and had apparently dashed together a disordered army (which probably should be considered a rabble, but Livy uses the proper term for 'army' i.e. exercitus, but qualified with 'irregular': tumultuarius). He promptly lost a battle with Hanno, somewhere in Bruttium, probably:
et plures redissent, ni T. Pomponius Veientanus, praefectus socium, prosperis aliquot populationibus in agro Bruttio iusti ducis speciem nactus tumultuario exercitu coacto cum Hannone conflixisset (Livy 25.1.3)
and more (cities) would have returned (to the Roman side), if T. Pomponius Veientanus, a prefect of the allies, accidentally gathering the appearance of a legitimate general by favorably plundering Bruttian territory several times, had not fought Hanno with an irregularly assembled army.
Of course this army, a disordered lumpen mass of agricultural labourers and slaves (inconditae turbae agrestium servorumque), was defeated by Hanno with great loss of life, but the least notable thing about this military disaster was the capture of its leader (i.e. Pomponius), who was an unimportant waste of space:
minimum iacturae fuit quod praefectus inter ceteros est captus, et tum temerariae pugnae auctor et ante publicanus omnibus malis artibus et rei publicae et societatibus infidus damnosusque (Livy 25.1.4)
The least of the damage was that, along with the others, the prefect was captured, who at that time was the author of a imprudent battle, and who before that was a tax-collector skilled in every wrong-doing, and was treacherous and pernicious to both the republic and to societies.
This obscurity, unimportant and unmemorable history extends even to Sempronius the consul, who fights many puny battles (multa proelia parva, 25.1.5) and forcibly subdued a range of 'unimportant' Lucanian towns (ignobilia oppida Lucanorum aliquot expugnavit, 25.1.5).
All of these obscure and unworthy people, towns and events, aren't worth mentioning, really. Except of course, they are! Livy even names one of the unimportant people and expends a sentence telling us about his terrible life and what thoroughgoing rotter he really was. He's even mentioned again, by name, later in connection with another tax-collector at 25.3.9, relating to a species of ancient insurance fraud involving 'pretend shipwrecks' (falsa naufragia). This last event leads to a state crisis all through 25.4.
Then, immediately following these repeatedly obscure and un-note-worthy, yet briefly noted, events, at 25.1.6, we're now told that at Rome, due to the uncertain nature of events with wins and losses on both sides, men are now grasped by superstition, and proper Roman rites are abandoned, not just in the home, but in public too. In the forum and on the Capitoline, a crowd of women gathered and obeyed the customs of the fathers in neither sacrifices nor in prayers to the gods. 'Sacrificers and soothsayers' captured the minds of men (sacrificuli et vates ceperant hominum mentes), and rustics crowded the city abandoning their farms and profiting from ignorance. All this badness naturally led to civil disorder, and so the Senate ordered the city praetor to take the task in hand.
A contione was held and the praetor read the senate's decree, and order that books of prophesies and prayers or sacrificial guidelines written down must be surendered to him by April, and that no foreign or novel ritual was allowed to be performed in any public or consecrated place.
And straight after this we are given a list of state priests that died that year, at 25.2.1-2. Surely an ill omen.
Are these matters like the lists of prodigies which often open important sections of Livy? What to make of them? Why do these obscure events lead to an outbreak of public superstition? (Proximity in Livy is often a good indicator of 'causation'). Bear in mind the large, early losses of the Romans against the Carthaginians, such as at Trasimene and Cannae, three years before, are starting to fade into the background of Hannibal's campaign in the south of Italy, and an increasing focus on Spain and Sicily. It's not really until 25.6 that the focus starts to move off internal politics and the dangerous instability engendered by the clash of the tax-famers and the plebs at 25.4. But even 25.6 is about the disgraced veterans of Cannae and their pleading to Marcellus to be allowed to recover their honour. At 25.7.7-8 there is the list of the usual types of prodigies which must be then expiated at 25.9. It's a very confused and muddled beginning, for Livy's third decade at least, like we are leading up to a major military disaster.
But in this book, one of the greatest military triumphs ever accomplished by a Roman – the capture of Syracuse ('the most beautiful of the Greek cities') by Marcellus – is about to be recorded from 25.24 onwards.
I wonder if the connection between these 'facts of obscurity', corrupt tax-farmers, political instability, and the capture of Syracuse is the fact that the booty that Marcellus stripped from Syracuse (which is no longer visible in the city of Rome, in Livy's day, i.e. obscure), is also connected, via Livy's preface,to the blame he places on luxuria for 'modern' Rome's moral downfall? More research required.