Key to Umbria

Roman Conquest of Italy (509 - 241 BC)

Final Conquests in Italy (268 - 241 BC)

Conquest of Picenum (268 BC) 

According to Livy, when the Romans had become concerned about unrest in Etruria and Cisalpine Gaul in 299 BC, they had:

  1. “... with the less hesitation on that account, ... concluded an alliance with the people of Picenum”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 10: 12).

While the ‘people of Picenum’ might have been reassured by their alliance of 299 BC, they would surely have been disconcerted by later Roman activity:

  1. According to Florus, in 290 BC:

  2. “... the Romans laid waste with fire and sword all the tract of country which is enclosed by the Nar, the Anio and the sources of the Velinus, and bounded by the Adriatic Sea”, (‘Epitome of Roman History’, 1: 10: 15). This meant that the land beyond their southern border was Roman territory.

  3. In 283 BC, the Romans defeated the Gallic Senones and and confiscated their lands, at which point the lands beyond their northern border became the Roman ager Gallicus. 

Any such fears were vindicated in 268 BC, when, according to Florus:

  1. “... all Italy enjoyed peace, except that the Romans thought fit themselves to punish those who had been the allies of their enemies, for who could venture upon resistance after the defeat of Tarentum?  The people of Picenum were therefore subdued and their capital Asculum was taken under the leadership of [P.  Sempronius Sophus, the consul of 268 BC]: when an earthquake occurred in the midst of the battle, appeased the goddess Tellus by the promise of a temple”, (‘Epitome of Roman History’, 1: 14: 19).

Eutropius placed the start of this Roman campaign in the previous year, and blamed it on the Picentes:

  1. “In the consulate of Q. Ogulnius and C. Fabius Pictor [269 BC], the people of Picenum started a war [with Rome].  They were conquered by the succeeding consuls P. Sempronius [Sophus] and Ap. Claudius [Russus], and a triumph was celebrated over them”, (‘Summary of Roman History’, 3: 7)

The fasti Triumphales record triumphs over the people of Picenum for both consuls of 268 BC: [P.] Sempronius [Sophus]; and Ap. Claudius [Russus].

According to Velleius Paterculus:

  1. “At the outbreak of the First Punic War [in 264 BC], Firmum [Picenum] and Castrum [Novum, probably in Etruria] were occupied by colonies”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 14: 8).

Firmum was among the 18 Latin colonies that had honoured their obligations to Rome in 209 BC, as recorded by Livy (27: 10: 7). 

Viritane Settlement

Gino Bandelli (referenced below, at column 19) suggested that, with the exception of:

  1. the Greek colony of Ancona; and

  2. the capital Asculum, which was still nominally independent at the start of the Social War;

the whole of Picenum became ager Romanus.  Saskia Roselaar (referenced below, at p. 318, note 98) commented observed that:

  1. “In 241 BC, the tribus Velina was established in Picenum, which makes it likely that land [there] was distributed to Roman citizens [and possibly also to] Picentes who had received Roman citizenship.”

Simona Antolini and Silvia Marengo (referenced below, at p. 213) list no fewer that 15 centres in Picenum that were assigned to the Velina.  The only other tribal assignation listed for centres of this region were at:

  1. Asculum, which was assigned to the Fabia on municipalisation after the Social War;

  2. the Latin colony of Hadria, which was assigned to the Maecia, presumably also on municipalisation after the Social War; and

  3. Ancona, which, according to Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2006, at p. 317) was assigned to the Lemonia on municipalisation after the Social War.

This predominance of the Velina suggests that this was the tribe to which the citizens settled here were mostly assigned in 241 BC.  Of the 15 settlements assigned to this tribe:

  1. the Latin colony of Firmum (264 BC) was probably so-assigned on municipalisation after the Social War; and

  2. three citizen colonies were probably so-assigned at their respective dates of foundation:

  3. Potentia (184 BC);

  4. Auximum (157 BC); and

  5. Urbs Salvia (Giovanna Maria Fabrini  and Roberto Perna, referenced below, at p7 suggested that the foundation was probably a result of the lex Sempronia of 133 BC).

According to Simona Antolini and Silvia Marengo, the other 11 (Castrum Truentinum; Cingulum; Cupra Maritima; Cupra Montana; Falerio; Pausulae; Planinia; Ricina; Septempeda; Tolentinum; and Trea) were (or, in some cases,  were probably) municipalised after 49 BC, presumably as a result of legislation enacted by Julius Caesar. Actually, as notd below, Cingulum might have been municipalised slightly earlier than this:

  1. Some or all of these 11 centres might have been constituted as conciliabula and assigned to the Velina in or after 241 BC (like the conciliabulum of Interamnia Praetuttorum and possibly the citizen colony of Castrum Novum, both in the erstwhile territory of the Praetutti, to the south).  However, we have no evidence for any centres in Picenum that were so-constituted. 

  2. Any of the 11 centres that were not so-constituted would have been assigned to the ‘local’ tribe at municipalisation.

Caesar gave the impression that many, if not most, of the settlements in Picenum were constituted as prefectures by 49 BC.  Some at least must have been so-designated when the level of citizen settlement led to the requirement of the services of a Roman prefect.  Nevertheless, Cingulum is the only Picene settlement for which we have evidence of its constitution as a prefecture. 

Foundation of the Colony at Ariminum (268 BC)

Sites of the Latin colonies of Sena Gallica (founded in 283 BC) and Ariminum (founded in 268 BC)

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

In the surviving summary of Livy’s now-lost Book 15:

  1. “When the Picentes had been subdued [in 268 BC], they were given peace.  Colonies were founded at Ariminum in Picenum and at Beneventum in Samnium”, (‘Perioche’, 15: 4-5).

Two later sources also place the foundation of the colony in 268 BC;

  1. Eutropius:

  2. “In the consulate of P. Sempronius [Sophus] and Ap. Claudius [Russus], .... [the Romans founed two colonies]: Ariminum in Gaul; and Beneventum in Samnium”, (‘Summary of Roman History’, 3: 7)

  3. Velleius Paterculus:

  4. “... in the consulship of [P.] Sempronius Sophus and Appius [Cllaudius Russus], the son of Appius the Blind, colonists were sent to Ariminum and Beneventum, and the right of suffrage was granted to the Sabines”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 14: 7).

The new colony [near modern Rimini]was located on the northern border of the ager Gallicus, which comprised the land that had been taken from the Gallic Senones in 283 BC.  A remark by Strabo indicates the strategic importance of this location:

  1. “The Apennines, after joining the regions round about Ariminum and Ancona, that is, after having traversed the breadth of Italy there from [the Tyrhenian Sea to the Adriatic], again take a turn, and cut the whole country lengthwise”, (‘Geograohy’, 5: 1: 3).

In other words, the new colony blocked the access of the neighbouring Boii and the other Gallic tribes to the coastal plain that extended along the length of the Adriatic.  It also would have supported the the earlier colony at Sena Gallica in the event of any further trouble from the Picentes.

Stephen Dyson (referenced below, at p. 27) characterised the foundation of this colony as:

  1. “... a turning point in Romano-Gallic relations: previously, the Romans and the largest Gallic tribes had had only indirect frontier contacts, but now the Romans had moved several thousand [colonists] into territory that the Gauls had considered as their own for [at least] a century.”

Nevertheless, it was to be another 30 years before the Gauls made any attempt to attack the colony.

Final Defeat of the Umbrians (267 BC)

According to the ‘Periochae’, Rome defeated the “Umbrians and Sallentines” in 267 BC.  This account can be augmented by the fasti Triumphales, which record that the consuls Decius Iunius Pera and Numerius Fabius Pictor were awarded triumphs in 266 BC for two different victories:

  1. first over the Sassinates (Umbrians from Sarsina, in the Apennines); and then

  2. over the Sallentini and Messapii (from two towns in Calabria).

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 53) suggests that the revolt of the Sassinates had probably been in reaction to the formation of a Latin colony at nearby Ariminum (Rimini) in 268 BC.

Fall of Falerii (241 BC)

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

The Faliscan town of Falerii, some 60 km north of Rome, had had sought, and probably received, a foedus with Rome in 343 BC, impressed (it was said) by the Romans’ success in the First Samnite War.  It had briefly joined the revolt of the neighbouring Etruscans in 293-2 BC, towards the end of the Third Samnite War:

  1. Sp. Carvilius Maximus, after his campaign in Samnium in 293 BC, marched into Etruria and:

  2. “... [made] preparations to attack [the now-unknown town of] Troilum in Etruria. He allowed 470 of its wealthiest citizens to leave the place after they had paid an enormous sum by way of ransom; and he took by storm the town with the rest of its population.  Thereafter, he took  five forts that occupied positions of great natural strength, in actions in which the enemy lost 2,400 killed and 2,000 prisoners.  The Faliscans sued for peace, and he granted them a truce for one year on condition of their supplying a year's pay to his troops, and an indemnity of 100,000 asses f=of bronze coinage”, (‘‘History of Rome’’, 10: 46: 10-12).

  3. Zonarus recorded that, in the following year:

  4. “The Romans ... sent out Carvilius [as legate] with [the new consul, Junius Brutus [Scaevola, to continue the campaign against the Faliscans].  Brutus worsted the Faliscans and plundered their possessions, as well as those of the other Etruscans”, (‘Epitome of Roman History’, 8: 1: 10, search in this link on ‘Carvilius’).

Nothing in our surviving sources suggests that the Faliscans subsequently caused problems.  However, somewhat surprisingly, the ‘fasti Triumphales’ record that, within a few months of the end of the First Punic War in 241 BC, both consuls, A. Manlius Torquatus Atticus and Q. Lutatius Cerco, celebrated triumphs “over the Faliscans”.  A number of our surviving sources support this

  1. Cassius Dio:

  2. “... the Romans made war upon the Faliscans and [the consul] Manlius ravaged their country.  ... he was victorious and took possession of ... half of their territory.  Later on, the original city, which was set upon a steep mountain, was torn down and another one was built, easy of access”, (‘Roman History’, 8: 18).

  3. Eutropius:

  4. “[The consuls] Lutatius and Manlius ... made war upon the Falisci ... and [were victorious] within 6 days: 15,000 of the enemy were slain and peace was granted to the rest, but half their land was taken from them”, (‘Breviarium’’, 2: 28).. 

  5. Polybius:

  6. “[Immediately after] the confirmation of the peace [with Carthage, the Romans engaged in] war against the Faliscans.  They [captured] Falerii after only a few days' siege”, (‘Histories’, 1:65).

  7. Livy:

  8. “When the Faliscans revolted, they were subdued on the 6th day, and their surrender was accepted”, (‘Periochae’, 20: 1).

Further evidence of this victory comes in the form of a bronze cuirass of unknown provenance that is now in the Getty Museum, Malibu, which carries an inscription (AE 1998, 0199) that reads:

Q(uinto) Lutatio C(ai) f(ilio) A(ulo) Manlio C(ai) f(ilio)/ consolibus Faleries capto(m?)

Jean-Louis Zimmerman (referenced below, at p. 40) dated the cuirass to the second half of the 4th century BC.  He suggested (at p. 41) that it had been an heirloom that had been worn by a Faliscan cavalryman who had been killed in the battle of 241 BC, and concluded (at p. 42) that:

  1. “The inscription might have been engraved for a Roman who was entitled to the remains of an opponent whom he had killed in single combat” (my translation).

Thus, there can be no doubt that both consuls successfully attacked Falerii in 241 BC and killed a number of its defenders.  However, the cause of this one-sided war are completely obscure.  It seems unlikely that the Faliscans would have chosen to revolt at precisely the time that the Romans  established their supremacy over the mighty Carthaginians.   A more likely scenario is thus that the Romans mounted a surprise attack on Falerii, which would account for their rapid success in taking the almost impregnable settlement.  Eutropius and Cassius Dio agreed that the Romans had then confiscated half the territory of Falerii.  However:

  1. Eutropius related that the survivors at Falerii were granted peace in 241 BC; while

  2. according to Cassius Dio:

  3. “Later on [i.e., at an unknown date after the battle], the original city, which was set upon a steep mountain, was torn down and another one was built, easy of access.”

It is often assumed that the situation at Falerii was analogous to that at the original Etruscan city of Volsinii, where the inhabitants were forcibly removed to a less defensible site in 264 BC.  It is certainly true that the old city (located at modern Civita Castellana) was largely abandoned at about this time, although a number of its sanctuaries remained in use until ca. 100 BC (see , for example, the recent paper by Nicoletta Cignini, referenced below).  However, this model of forced removal is not supported by the archeological evidence from the so-called Falerri Novi, some 6 km to the west.  Simon Keay and Martin Millett (referenced below, at p. 364) described its location:

  1. “... on the line of the Via Amerina ... The position of the town is such that both Falerii Veteres and Monte Soracte, sacred to Apollo, were visible to the east ... [It was] conceived as an artificially landscaped plateau that was enclosed within high walls ... in order to present a monumental facade to visitors approaching along Via Amerina to the south.”

They also note (at p. 365) the existence of a processional way from Falerii Novi to the:

  1. “... still-functioning sanctuary of Juno Curitis at the foot of the abandoned site of Falerii Veteres.”

Keay and Millet expressed the view (at p. 364) that:

  1. “Falerii Novi is best understood as a re-foundation, expressed in terms of the architectural language of Roman colonies while consciously incorporating key points of reference to the earlier Faliscan settlement.”

Foundation of the Colony of Spoletium (241 BC)

According to Velleius Paterculus (ca. 19 BC - 31 AD):

  1. “Spoletium [was formed] three years [after the consulship of Torquatus and Sempronius [i.e. in 241 BC], in the year in which the Floralia were instituted” (‘Roman History’, 1:14:8) .

The colony, which was assigned to the Horatia tribe after the Social War, received a substantial ring of walls soon after colonisation that incorporated part of the original walls of the much smaller Umbrian settlement.   

According to Paolo Camerieri and Dorica Manconi (referenced below, at p. 19):

  1. “The founding of the Latin colony of Spoletium probably constituted the completion of the programme of Romanisation of the northern Sabina that had been undertaken by M’ Curius Dentatus.  [This process] had begun with the founding of the Latin colony of Narnia, and continued with the establishment of the prefectures of Roman citizens at Amiternum, Reate and Nursia ... Having regard to the location  of the colony [of Spoletium] ..., it undoubtedly provided a secure base for the final Romanisation of Umbria and central Italy, complimented 20 years later by the construction of Via Flaminia ...” (my translation). 

  1. Read more:

Fabrini G. and Perna R., “Pollentia - Urbs Salvia (Urbisaglia, MC): Indagini di Scavo nell’Area Forense (Campagne 2011-14)”, Journal of Fasti Online (2015)

Antolini S. and Marengo S., “Regio V (Picenum) e Versante Adriatico della Regio VI (Umbria)”, in:

  1. Silvestrini M. (editor), “Le Tribù Romane: Atti della XVIe Rencontre sur l’Epigraphie du Monde Romaine (Bari, 8-10 Ottobre 2009)”, (2010) Bari, at pp. 209-15 

Roselaar S., “Public Land in the Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History of Ager Publicus in Italy, 396 - 89 BC”, (2010) Oxford

Sisani S.,  “Fenomenologia della Conquista: La Romanizzazione dell' Umbria tra il IV sec. a. C. e la Guerra Sociale”, (2007) Rome

Sisani S.,  “Umbria Marche (Guide Archeologiche Laterza)”, (2006) Rome and Bari

Bandelli G., “La Conquista dell’ Ager Gallicus e il Problema della ‘Colonia’ Aesis”, Aquileia Nostra, 76 (2005), columns 13-54

Dyson S., “The Creation of the Roman Frontier”, (1985), Princeton, New Jersey

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