Key to Umbria

As discussed on the previous page, Rome renewed the ancient Latin peace in 358 BC.  It seems that this had the desired effect, at least from the Roman point of view: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 7) pointed out:

  1. “Livy makes no mention of any hostilities from any Latin states [(other than Tibur and Praeneste - see below]  for almost two decades] and the Latins presumably supplied their quota of troops [for most of this period].  This  may well have lain behind Rome’s expansion in the 350s and 340s BC...”

He also observed (at pp. 4-5) that:

  1. “... there can be no doubt that, by 358 BC, the Hernici had [also] been subdued: Livy did not mention Hernican wars again until the revolt in 307-6 BC ...”

However, as we shall see below, this period saw Rome at war with many of its other neighbours.

Tibur, Praeneste and the Gauls (358- 354 BC)

Adapted from Linguistic Landscape of Central Italy

As discussed on the previous page, Tibur and its Gallic allies had been at war with Rome since 361 BC.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 6) argued that, despite Livy’s silence, Praeneste had probably supported Tibur throughout this period.  The events of the next four years indicate that neither of them had participated in the renewal of peace in 358 BC. 

For example, Livy noted that, in 358 BC, after:

  1. “... peace had been granted ... to [most of] the Latins, ... they [i.e., the Latins who had made peace with Rome] sent a strong [military] contingent in accordance with the old [foedus Cassianum] ... Since the cause of Rome was strengthened by this reinforcement, there was less excitement created [than there would otherwise have been] by the news that the Gauls had reached Praeneste and, from there, had settled in the country round Pedum”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 12: 7-8).

As we shall see below, both of the consuls of this year were already campaigning (one against the Etruscans and the other against the Hernici”  

  1. “It was [therefore] decided that Caius Sulpicius Peticus should be nominated dictator ... [and given] the finest troops out of the two consular armies, which he led out against the Gauls”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 12: 9-10).

Livy then gave a long and very unlikely account of Sulpicius’ initial reluctance to engage.  However, when persuaded to do so, he scored a great victory.  Indeed, in Livy’s opinion:

  1. “No-one since [the great] Camillus celebrated a more justly deserved triumph over the Gauls than Caius Sulpicius”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 15: 8).

The fasti Triumphales also record the award of triumphs in 358 BC to Caius Sulpicius Peticus, as dictator, over the Gauls, who might well have received assistance from Praeneste (as Stephen Oakley - see below - assumed). 

Livy then described three successive engagements with the Tiburtines:

  1. In 356 BC, the consul Marcus Popilius Laenas and Marcus Fabius Ambustus:

  2. “... waged against the Tiburtines.  [This engagement] presented little difficulty; after driving them into their city he ravaged their fields”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 17: 1-2).

  3. In 355 BC

  4. Empulum was taken... from the Tiburtines without any serious fighting.  It seems uncertain whether both consuls [Caius Sulpicius Peticus and Marcus Valerius Poplicola] held joint command in this campaign, as some writers assert, or whether the fields of the Tarquinians [see below] were ravaged by Sulpicius at the same time that Valerius was leading his legions against the Tiburtines”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 18: 1-2).

  5. In 354 BC:

  6. “The Tiburtines were reduced to submission; the [now unknown] city of Sassula was taken from them and all their other towns would have shared the same fate had they not  laid down their arms and made peace with the consul.  A triumph was celebrated over them,  and the victory was followed by mild treatment of the vanquished”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 19: 1-2).

  7. Livy was unsure of the identity of this consul in question here, but the fasti Triumphales record the award of this triumph to Marcus Fabius Ambustus, as consul for the third time.

Diodorus Siculus recorded that, in 354 BC:

  1. “... the Romans made an armistice with the people of Praeneste ...”, (‘Library of History’, 16: 45: 8).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 6) noted that:

  1. “It is rather surprising that only once [i.e, at 7: 12:8 above] does Livy mention the hostility of Praeneste [against the Romans] in these years and, if we did not possess [the testimony of ] Diodorus Siculus, we would be in almost total ignorance of the fact that she supported Tibur against Rome.”

Tarquinii, Falerii and Caere (358-1 BC)

Red italics (Sabatina, Tromentina, Stellatina, Arnensis) = Roman voting tribes

Red squares (Sutrium, Nepete) = Latin colonies

Black dots = peoples given truces (Caere: 100 years, in 353 BC; Tarqunii:40 years, in 351 BC)

Red dot (Falerii): 40 years, in 351 BC apparently exchanged for a treaty in 343 BC

Adapted from Linguistic Landscape of Central Italy

In 359 BC, while Rome was at war with the Hernici and the Tiburtines and beset by Gallic raiders (as described on the previous page), Livy recorded that she faced:

  1. “... another hostile incursion ...:  the Tarquinians were carrying on their depredations within the Roman frontiers, mainly on the side towards Etruria.  When they refused redress, the new consuls [of 358 BC], Caius Fabius Ambustus and Caius Plautius Proculus, declared war against them by order of the people.  This campaign was allotted to Fabius, the one against the Hernici to Plautius”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 12: 6).

This marked the start of the first war between Rome and her Etruscan neighbours since 385 BC.  Rome suffered an initial setback:

  1. “The campaigns in which the consuls for the year were engaged ended in a very different way: 

  2. while [Plautius] defeated the Hernici and reduced to submission [as described in my page Sack of Rome - Renewal of Latin Peace (390- 358 BC)];

  3. Fabius showed a sad want of caution and skill in his operations against the Tarquinians. 

  4. The humiliation that Rome incurred through his defeat was embittered by the barbarity of the enemy, who sacrificed 307 [Roman] prisoners of war”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 15: 9-10).

The theatre of war widened in 357 BC when:

  1. “... the Faliscans [committed two acts of hostility: their men had fought in the ranks of the Tarquinians; and they had refused the Fetials’ request that they should  give up[the Romans] who had fled after their defeat to Tarquinii.  This campaign fell to [the consul] Cnaeus Manlius Capitolinus Imperiosus ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 16: 2-3).

In Livy’s narrative, the only substantial engagement in this war took place in 356 BC:

  1. “The ... consul [Marcus Fabius Ambustus], who was operating against the Faliscans and Tarquinians, met with a defeat in the first battle.  The main reason was the extraordinary spectacle presented by the Etruscan  priests, who brandished lighted torches and had what looked like snakes entwined in their hair like so many Furies.  This produced a real terror amongst the Romans, ... who rushed in a panic-stricken mass into their entrenchments.  The consul and his staff ... mocked and scolded them for being terrified by conjuring tricks like a lot of boys.  Stung by a feeling of shame, they ... rushed like blind men against [the priests] from whom had just fled.  After scattering the [priests], they engaged with the armed men behind them and routed the entire army.  The same day, they gained possession of the enemy camp and, after securing an immense amount of booty, returned home flushed with victory,  ... deriding [both] the enemy's contrivance and their own [initial] panic”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 17: 2-6).

However, this putative victory did not end hostilities: instead, it:

  1. “... led to a rising of omne nomen Etruscum (the whole of Etruria) and, under the leadership of the Tarquinians and Faliscans, they marched to the salt works [at the mouth of the Tiber].  In this emergency, Caius Marcius Rutilus was nominated dictator (the first dictator nominated from the plebeians) ... On leaving Rome, he marched along ... the Tiber ... and surprised and captured [the Etruscan] camp; 8,000 prisoners were taken, and the rest were either killed or chased out of the Roman territory. ... a triumph was awarded to him”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 17: 2-10).

The fasti Triumphales also record that Marcius, as dictator, was awarded a triumph over the Etruscans.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 11) suggested that, although Fabius’ victory:

  1. “... is rather suspect, ... it is not utterly incredible, ... [and] there is no reason to believe that the dictatorship of Marcius was invented.”

However, Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 2015,  at p. 117) seems to have discounted Fabius’ victory: he argued that Marcius’ appointment as dictator was one of very few in the 4th century that were made:

  1. “... to deal with a genuinely serious situations, ... [in this case] when the consul M. Fabius Ambustus was routed by the Faliscans and Tarquinienses.”

I discuss Marcius’ dictatorship further below. 

Livy then recorded that the Romans concluded two wars  in 354 BC:

  1. The first was against the Tiburtines (above). 

  2. The second was against the Tarquinians, whom they:

  3. “... treated with the utmost severity.  A large number were killed in battle; of the prisoners, all those of noble birth, to the number of 358, were sent to Rome, where they were scourged and beheaded in the middle of the Forum: the rest were put to the sword.  This punishment was an act of retribution for the Romans who had been immolated in the forum of Tarquinii”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 19: 2-3).

In 353 BC, the Romans heard news that:

  1. “... the people of Caere, ... had sided with the Tarquinians.   ... the consul Caius Sulpicius Peticus, ... who was directing the operations against Tarquinii, ... reported that the country around the Roman salt-works had been raided, and that [Caere was implicated in this action].  Titus, the son of Lucius Manlius was nominated [as dictator] and he appointed A. Cornelius Cossus as his master of horse.  ... he was authorised by the Senate and the people to declare war on Caere”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 19: 6-10).

It seems that the mere declaration of war was enough to terrify the Caerites, who immediately sent envoys to Rome.  They reminded the Romans of the help that they had received from Caere at the time of the Gallic sack.   The Romans relented and:

  1. “... chose to forget [a recent] injury [choosing instead to remember  a previous] kindness.  So, peace was granted to the people of Caere, and it was resolved that a truce of 100 years should be made with them and recorded on a tablet of bronze”, (‘History of Rome, 7: 20: 8).

  2. I discuss the significance of the 100 year truce below.

In 352 BC, news reached Rome that:

  1. “... the duodecim populos (twelve peoples) of Etruria had formed a hostile league, [but this rumour] subsequently proved to be groundless”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 21: 9).

However, in 351 BC, both consuls marched into Etruria:

  1. “... Titus Quinctius Pennus Capitolinus Crispinus against Falerii, and Caius Sulpicius Peticus against Tarquinii.  ... [They] wore down the resolution of the two peoples, who asked for [and received] truces ... for 40 years”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 22: 4-5).

William Harris (referenced below, 1971, at pp. 47-8) pointed out that these accounts are probably unreliable and, in particular:

  1. “Not much trust is to be placed in [Livy’s statement] that the whole of the Etruscan name took part in the fighting against Rome ... the only reliable element in [Livy’s account of the Roman engagement with Caere in 353 BC] is the result: a truce of 100 years.  Similarly, the 40 year truces that Rome made with Tarquinii and with Falerii in 351 BC are by far the most solid elements in his account of [the battles] with these two towns.”

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 12) observed that:

  1. “Livy saw [these Etruscan campaigns] as resulting in a Roman victory but, since she made no territorial gains, that is probably going too far.  It was not until the war of 311 - 308 BC ... that her conquest of Etruria really began.” 

In an odd postscript to this event, Livy noted that, during the First Samnite War (see below), the military success of the consul Marcus Valerius Corvus against the Samnites near Suessula in 343 BC (see my page on the First Samnite War (343 - 341 BC)):

  1. “... made the people of Falerii anxious to convert their 40 years' truce into a foedus [bilateral treaty] with Rome”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 38: 1).

Status of Caere in 353 BC

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 12) observed that:

  1. “Although much of [Livy’s] account of the rebellion of Caere in 353 BC is obvious invention, the [truce] for 100 years guarantees that there was some change in Rome’s relationship with her at this time.”

In fact, the history of this relationship in the 4th century is complicated and confusing.  It began in ca. 390 BC, at the time of the Gallic sack of Rome, when the surviving sources agree that Caere gave particular assistance to the Romans.  However, these sources disagree about their reward at that time:

  1. According to Livy, the Senate decreed:

  2. “... that a covenant of hospitality should be entered into  ... with the people of Caere”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 50: 3).

  3. However, the other surviving sources do not mention Livy’s ‘covenant of hospitality’, but instead record the granting of civitas sine suffragio:

  4. According to Strabo (Livy’s contemporary), the Romans:

  5. “... do not seem to have remembered the favour of the Caeretani with sufficient gratitude [after the Gallic sack]: although they gave them the right of citizenship, they did not enrol them among the citizens”, (‘The Geography’, 5: 2: 3).

  6. According to Aulus Gellus, who was writing in the 2nd century AD:

  7. “... the people of Caere were the first municipes without the right of suffrage” (‘Attic Nights’, 16: 13: 7).

Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 1995, at pp. 320-1) noted that some scholars privilege Strabo and Gellus over Livy here,.  However, he argued that:

  1. “... the case [for doing so] rests on antiquarian and legalistic arguments that make sense only in abstract terms. ... The truth is evidently the other way round: Livy’s version is the correct one ...”

I find it hard to see how the Romans could have negotiated a truce with a centre that was incorporated into the Roman state.  If this is correct, then Livy’s account of her reward in 389 BC  (i.e. that Rome simply entered into a reciprocal “covenant of hospitality” with Caere) is probably correct (as Cornell argued on other grounds). 

Privernum (358 - 357 BC)

Likely locations of the Poblilia and Pomptina voting districts (358 BC)

Yellow dots = Rome and the centres of Latium

Red dots = Volscian centres

As noted on the previous page, the Romans established two new voting tribes in 358 BC: the Poblilia and the Pomptina.   Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 175) noted that the Pomptina had probably been established in the Pomptine region:

  1. “... where there had been regular fighting [mostly with the Volscians] in the previous 30 years.”

He argued ( in 1997, at p. 349) that

  1. “... the battle ad Maecium [in which the Romans defeated the Volscians in 389 BC] had been decisive in allowing Rome to continue her penetration of this area.”

However, as Saskia Roselaar (referenced below, 2010, at p. 38) observed, the fact that the Pomptina was established so long after this battle indicates that, between 389 and 358 BC:

  1. “... no attempts at viritane settlement or colonisation [here had] succeeded”.

Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 1995, at p. 324) argued that, in order to secure the renewal of  peace with Rome in 358 BC, the Latins had:

  1. “... had to accept the Roman occupation of the ager Pomptinus.” 

However, it seems that the Volscians were not yet ready to accept the new reality.  Thus, Livy noted that, in 358 BC, Rome witnessed:

  1. “... a sudden predatory incursion of the Privernates”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 16: 2-3).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 7) observed that:

  1. “Privernum now appears in Livy’s narrative for the first time, and this indicates the southeastern extent of Rome’s involvement in [the ager Pomptinus].” 

In 357 BC:

  1. “The consul Caius Marcius Rutilus conducted  operations against Privernum.  This district had remained uninjured during the long years of peace and, when Marcius led his army thither, they loaded themselves with plunder ... The Privernates had formed a strongly entrenched camp in front of their walls ... [The Romans easily defeated them] and pursued them as far as the town ... When the scaling ladders were actually placed against its walls, the town surrendered.  A triumph was celebrated over the Privernates”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 16: 2-3).

The fasti Triumphales also record that Marcius triumphed over the Privernates. 

As we shall see, this defeat was to be the opening shot in a squeeze on Volscian territory executed by Rome to the west and by the Samnite tribes to the east.

Rome’s Alliance with the Samnites (354 BC)

Livy noted, somewhat laconically, that, in 354 BC the Romans’ recent successes against the Tiburtines and the Etruscans:

  1. “... induced the Samnites to ask for amicitia  (formal relations of friendship).  Their envoys received a favourable reply from the Senate, and were accepted as foedere in societatem (allies with a treaty)”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 19: 3-4).

The Samnites were Oscan-speaking peoples of the southern Apennines who belonged to various tribes, of which we know the names of four (whose respective territories are marked on the map above): the Pentri; the Caudini; the Hirpini; and the Carracini.  Livy’s account of their treaty with Rome is only the third occasion on which Livy mentioned “the Samnites”.  His earlier records, both of which relate to their expansion into Campania (see below), are as follows:

  1. “... [in 423 BC], an affair in a foreign country, but one [that is nevertheless] deserving of record [in a history of Rome], is said to have happened: Vulturnum, a city of the Etruscans, which is now Capua, was taken by the Samnites”, (‘History of Rome’, 4: 37: 1).

  2. “[When they faced famine in 412 BC, the Romans sent] envoys to purchase corn from the states that border on the Etruscan Sea and the Tiber.  [While many of these states were helpful], the Samnites, who were in possession of Capua and Cumae, treated the envoys in an insolent manner and prevented them from trading”, (‘History of Rome’, 4: 52: 5-6).

Thus, it seems that, while Rome had been increasing its grip on southern Etruria and Latium, the Samnites (or, at least some of them) had been doing likewise in Campania.  As they expanded westwards and the Romans expanded southwards, it was only a  matter of time before they would collide.  Rafael Scopacasa (referenced below, 2015, at p. 129) commented on the fact that, according to Livy, the Samnites asked for the treaty of 354 BC because they were impressed by Rome’s recent victories:

  1. “It is clearly being suggested here that the Samnites became aware of Rome’s military supremacy and decided to secure a good relationship with this rising power.  [However], if we move away from Livy’s Rome-centred viewpoint, we may infer that a very similar set of anxieties probably motivated Rome to agree a treaty with the Samnites.”

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at p. 197) noted that the amicitia requested by the Samnites at this point implied:

  1. “... an undertaking not to engage in aggression in the sphere of interest of a friendly state and not to help her enemies.  Strictly speaking, it was to be distinguished from societas [the status that the Romans gave the Samnites in the treaty ... [but] the two terms were often interchangeable.  It is hard to see any distinction between them in [the passage above].”

He observed (at p. 198) that:

  1. “It is almost invariably held that this treaty established the river Liris (modern Garigliano) as the line demarcating Roman and Samnite spheres of influence.  This is entirely plausible, but rests only on [the] indirect testimony [of later events].”

In other words, later events suggest that the Samnites recognised Rome’s actual or prospective hegemony north and west of the Liris and that, in return, Rome recognised that the territory to the east and south of the river (including Campania) lay within the Samnites’ sphere of influence. 

Gallic Raiders (350 - 349 BC)

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at p. 360-5) explained, the Gauls with whom the Romans engaged in Latium in 350-49 BC were probably bands of warriors who were generally based in southern Italy, and who sometimes ventured further afield, acting as mercenaries or carrying out opportunistic raids in search of booty.

Popilius’ Victory over the Gauls (350 BC)

The consuls elected for 350 BC were Marcus Popilius Laenas (for the third time) and Lucius Scipio Cornelius.  According to Livy, Scipio was in poor health, and Popilius was therefore:

  1. “...  entrusted by special arrangement ... [with a war against] an immense army of Gauls had encamped in the territory of Latium”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 23: 2).  

Apparently fearing another Gallic sack of Rome, Popilius:

  1. “... promptly raised an army, and ordered all who were liable for active service to meet under arms at the temple of Mars, outside the porta Capena ... After bringing up four legions to full strength, he handed over the rest of the troops to the praetor, Publius Valerius Publicola, and advised the Senate to raise a second army to protect the Republic against any emergency”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 23: 3-4).  

The Gauls attacked the Romans while they were establishing their camp on high ground.  The Romans took advantage of their better position and drove the Gauls back down to the plain, where the larger part of the Gallic army was massed.  Popilius was injured and had to retire for treatment.  However, on his return, he rallied his men and they drove the Gauls back to the Alban Hills, leaving their camp in Roman hands. 

  1. “As both consuls were on the sick list, the Senate found it necessary to appoint a dictator to conduct the elections.  Lucius Furius Camillus was nominated: ... he was elected consul, and he procured the election of Appius Claudius Crassus as his colleague”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 24: 10-11).  


  1. “Before the new consuls entered upon their office, Popilius [who had presumably, by this time, recovered sufficiently] celebrated his triumph over the Gauls”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 25: 1).  

The fasti Triumphales also record that Popilius triumphed over the Gauls.

Gauls and Greeks (349 BC)

Camillus soon found himself in a difficult situation: Gauls soon returned to the plains of Latium; Greek pirates appeared off the coast between Antium and the mouth of the Tiber; and the Latin allies proved reluctant to meet their military obligations.  The Romans were therefore forced to raise a huge army from their own resources and, while the levy was underway, Camillius’ consular colleague, Appius Claudius Crassus,  died:

  1. “The government passed into the hands of Camillus, as sole consul, and the Senate decided against appointing a dictator, either because of the auspicious omen of his name in view of trouble with the Gauls, or because they would not place a man of his distinction under a dictator”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 25: 10).  

Having raised ten legions, Camillus left two in Rome and split the rest between himself and the praetor, Lucius Pinarius.  He:

  1. “... kept the conduct of the war against the Gauls in his own hands instead of deciding upon the field of operations by the usual drawing of lots, inspired as he was by the memory of his father's brilliant successes.  The praetor was to protect the coast-line and prevent the Greeks from effecting a landing, while he himself marched down into the ager Pomptinus”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 25: 11-12).  

Single combat of  Marcus Valerius

Livy (at 7: 10) had already described the victory of the young Titus Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus in single combat with a Gaul in 361 BC.  He now set the scene for another of the famous accounts of single combat in Roman history: with the Roman and Gallic armies camped opposite each other the ager Pomptinus:

  1. “... a gigantic Gaul in splendid armour advanced towards them, and delivered a challenge through an interpreter to meet any Roman in single combat.  There was a young military tribune, Marcus Valerius, considered himself no less worthy of that honour than [Torquatus] had been.  After obtaining the consul's permission, he marched ... into the open ground between the two armies”, (‘History of Rome, 7: 26: 1 - 2).  

At this point, the gods intervened: just as Valerius was about the engage with the Gaul:

  1. “... a crow suddenly settled on his helmet with its head towards his opponent.  ... Wonderful to relate, not only did the bird keep its place on the helmet, but every time the two men clashed it rose on its wings and attacked the Gaul's face and eyes with beak and talon until, terrified [and blinded ...] the Gaul was slain by Valerius.  Then, soaring away eastwards, the crow passed out of sight”, (‘History of Rome, 7: 26: 3-5).  

Camillius ‘ Victory over the Gauls

Valerius began to dismember the body of his opponent, provoking a furious battle.  The Romans:

  1. “... were exultant at Valerius’ victory and at the manifest presence and help of the gods and, as Camillus ordered them into action, he pointed to Valerius, conspicuous with his spoils, and said:

  2. ‘Follow his example, soldiers, and lay the Gauls in heaps round their fallen champion!’ 

  3. Gods and man alike took part in the battle, and it was fought out to a finish, unmistakably disastrous to the Gauls, who ... dispersed amongst the Volscians and over the Falernian district [of Capua]; from thence they made their way to Apulia and the western sea.  Camillus mustered his troops on parade and, after praising Valerius’ conduct, presented him with ten oxen and a golden chaplet”, (‘History of Rome, 7: 26: 7-9).  

Camillus’ Campaign against the Greek Raiders

According to Livy, the Senate now ordered Camillus to assume command of the:

  1. “... the maritime war and to join his forces with those of the praetor”, (‘History of Rome, 7: 26: 10).  

After describing the election of the consuls for the following year (see below), Livy ended his account of 349 BC by noting that:

  1. “Nothing worth recording took place between Camillus and the Greeks; they were no match for the Romans on land, and the Romans could not defeat them at sea.  Ultimately, ... they abandoned Italy”, (‘History of Rome, 7: 26: 13-15).

War with the Volsci and Aurunci (348 - 345 BC)

Likely locations of the Poblilia and Pomptina voting districts (358 BC)

Yellow dots = Rome and the centres of Latium

Red dots = Volscian centres , including Satricum, which was rebuilt and colonised by Antium in 348 BC (see below)

Green dot (Minturnae) = Auruncan centre

After Rome’s treaty with the Samnites in 354 BC, the Volsci and the Aurunci, whose territories extended along both sides of the lower reaches of the Liris, were obviously in a precarious situation.  In 353 BC, envoys from Latium:

  1. “... reported that a Volscian army  ... was now threatening the  frontiers of Latium  and intended to enter and ravage Roman territory ..., (‘History of Rome’, 7: 19: 6-10).


  1. “The arrival of despatches from [Etruria made the war there] appear to be the more serious of the two.  ...  The consul Marcus Valerius Publicola, who was acting against the Volscians and had his camp on the frontiers of Tusculum, was [therefore] recalled [to Rome for consultation]...”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 19: 6-10).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 7) suggested that this indicates:

  1. “... that the Volsci did not pose much of a threat to Roman expansion in the Pomptine region at this time ...” 

First Consulship of Marcus Valerius Corvus (348 BC)

According to Livy, since Camillus was engaged with the Greeks at the end of 349 BC and his colleague was dead:

  1. “... he was authorised by the Senate to nominate Titus Manlius Torquatus as dictator for the purpose of conducting the elections.  After appointing Aulus Cornelius Cossus as master of the horse, Torquatus proceeded to hold the consular elections.  Marcus Valerius Corvus (for that was henceforth his cognomen, a young man of 23, was declared to be duly elected amidst the enthusiastic cheers of the people. His colleague was the plebeian Marcus Popilius Laenas, now elected for the fourth time”, (‘History of Rome, 7: 26: 12-13).

Thus Marcus Valerius was named for the crow that had brought him victory over a Gaul in single combat: fittingly (at least according to Livy) a man who had already matched his achievement presided over his election to what proved to be the first of his six consulships.  This proves to be something of an anti-climax: apart from an outbreak of pestilence at Rome in 348 BC Livy recorded only that:

  1. “... colonists from [Volscian] Antium rebuilt and settled at Satricum, [which had been destroyed by the Latins in 377 BC, as described in my page on the First Samnite War (343 - 341 BC)]”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 27: 2).

Second Consulship of Marcus Valerius Corvus (346 BC)

It seems that little happened on the external front in the following year: according to Livy:

  1. “As long as the succeeding consuls Titus Manlius Torquatus and Caius Plautius Venox held office, the same peaceful conditions prevailed”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 27: 3).

The, in 346 BC, when Marcus Valerius Corvus was consul for the second time with Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus:

  1. “A report was sent on from Latium that emissaries from Antium were going round the Latin cantons with the view of stirring war.  Valerius was instructed to attack the Volscians before the enemy became more numerous, and he proceeded with his army to Satricum.  Here, he was met by the Antiates and other Volscian troops ... The Volscians, bolder to begin war than to sustain it, were completely defeated and fled precipitately to Satricum.  The city was surrounded and, just as it was on the point of being stormed, [it surrendered]. ... The town was sacked and burnt; only the temple of Mater Matuta was spared ... [Prisoners-of-war] were marched in chains before Valerius’ chariot in his triumphal procession ... ”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 27: 5-9).

The fasti Triumphales record that Valerius triumphed over ‘the Volsci of Antium and the Satricani’.

Roman Expansion into the Liris Valley (345 BC)

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 15) observed that, while :

  1. “... the campaign of 346 BC was only a continuation of the old [Roman policy] of subduing the Volsci of the Pomptine plain, the two campaigns of 345 BC show Roman armies moving further afield.”

Both of these campaigns:

  1. first against the Aurunci; and

  2. then against the Volsci of the Liris Valley;

exploited the putative terms of the recent treaty with the Samnites, which probably gave Rome free reign on the right bank of the Liris:

War with the Aurunci

According to Livy:

  1. “A sudden raid by the Aurunci led to a war with that people.  Fears were entertained that this action, [although] taken by only one people, might have been the joint plan of the consilium omnis nominis Latini (the Latin League).  To meet all Latium in arms, Lucius Furius Camillus [probably the son of the great Marcus] was nominated dictator ... The legions were [then] marched as rapidly as possible against the Aurunci ... and the war was finished in the very first battle”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 28: 1-3).

The site of this Roman victory is unrecorded.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 15-6) observed that:

  1. “The strongest argument in favour of [its] authenticity ... is the [Romans’ advance into Campania, just south of the Liris] two years later [see below]: Rome  can hardly have embroiled herself into the troublesome affairs of Campania without some entente with the Aurunci. ... We hear nothing of  Formiae and Fundi [until 338 BC], but these were the Volscian settlements lying at the foot of the Monti Aurunci ... and Auruncan Minturnae is very close to Volscian Formiae ... It is [likely that] relations between these Volsci and Aurunci were close. ... Perhaps, then, Formiae, Fundi and Minturnae lie behind this ... campaign: certainly Rome cannot have attacked the Aurunci without getting involved with Formiae and Fundi. ... [If so, then] the Roman involvement in Campania in 343 BC [see below] seems much less remarkable [than it would otherwise be].”

War with the Volsci of the Liris Valley

Immediately after Camillus’ victory over the Aurunci:

  1. “The consuls [Marcus Fabius Dorsuo and Servius Sulpicius Camerinus] ... made use of [his] army in war with the Volscians and took the city of Sora from them in a surprise attack”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 28:6).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 15) observed that:

  1. “The capture of Sora [from the Volsci] represents the first recorded Roman campaign in the Liris valley [itself].  ... If, as as seems likely, the Romans had determined utterly to destroy Volscian power, it was natural that [they should extend hostilities in this direction] ... But, whether [they] held Sora [continuously] until 315 BC, when it fell to the Samnites, cannot be known.”

According to Livy, Sora was a Latin colony at that time:

  1. “The seat of war was now shifted ... to Sora, which had gone over to the Samnites, after putting to death the Roman colonists”, (History of Rome’, 9: 23:1).

However, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 292) argued that Livy was mistaken here, albeit that:

  1. “... it is entirely credible  ... that Rome had placed a garrison in this strategic site.”

Dictators of 358 t0 343 BC

Dictators of 358 and 356 BC

Dictators were appointed on two occasions in the first five years of the period discussed in this page.

Dictatorship of C. Sulpicius Peticus (358 BC)

In 358 BC, when the consuls C. Fabius Ambustus and C. Plautius Proculus, were campaigning against the Etruscans and the Hernici respectively, C. Sulpicius Peticus was appointed as dictator to oppose a Gallic raiding party in northern Latium and was awarded a triumph.

Dictatorship of C. Marcius Rutilus (356 BC)

In 356 BC, when the consuls C. Fabius Ambustus and M. Popillius Laenas, were campaigning against the Etruscans and the Tiburtines respectively, C. Marcius Rutilus was appointed as dictator to engage with an  army of ‘all the Etruscans’ that attacked the saltworks north of Rome and was awarded a triumph. Although Sulpicius’ dictatorship two years earlier apparently uncontroversial, Marcius’ was anything but. 

Marcius’ Appointment and his Choice of his Master of Horse

Livy recorded that, in the military emergency of 356 BC, Marcius became:

  1. “... the first dictator nominated from among the plebeians and, furthermore, he appointed as his master of the horse C. Plautius, who was also a plebeian.  The patricians were indignant even at the fact of the dictatorship becoming [open to plebeians], and they offered all the resistance in their power to any decree being passed or any preparations being made to help the dictator in prosecuting that war.  [However], this only made the people more ready to adopt every proposal that the dictator made”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 17: 7-8).

Mark Wilson (referenced below, at p. 357) observed that:

  1. “Minimum requirements [for the dictatorship] seem never to have been formally set out ... Mommsen assumed ... that the requirements for the dictatorship were similar to those of the consulship ... The best evidence of [this] ... , as noted by Mommsen, is the appearance of a first plebeian dictator, C. Marcius Rutilus, directly in the wake of the [Licinain-Sextian Laws] of 367 BC, without any sign [in our surviving sources] of a provision specifically opening up the dictatorship [as opposed to the consulship] to plebeians.”

In other words, once the consulship had been opened up to plebeians, it is likely that no further legislation was needed in order to allow plebeians to be appointed as dictators.

Marcius’ master of horse, C. Plautius, was not the first plebeian to be chosen as master of horse: as set out in my page Sack of Rome - Renewal of Latin Peace (390- 358 BC), the patrician dictator P. Manlius Capitolinus had appointed a plebeian, C. Licinius as his master of the horse in 368 BC, even before the Licinian-Sextian Laws had been enacted.  However, according to Livy, in the eyes of the Senate, Marcius had compounded the insult if his own appointment as dictator by appointing a fellow-plebeian as his master of horse.

Marcius’ Triumph

The Senate apparently remained indignant even when Marcius dealt successfully with this emergency (whatever it was):

  1. “By an order of the people, which was not confirmed by the Senate, a triumph was awarded to him”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 17: 10).

Miriam Pelikan Pittenger pointed out that, in the early Republic:

  1. “... a handful of generals triumphed by order of the people alone: two together as early as 449 BC, then one, [C. Marcius Rutilus]. in 356 BC, and another in 223 BC.”

She commented (at p. 38)on Livy’s matter-of-fact description of what was a very unusual event:

  1. “Livy just states that he triumphed ‘without the authority of Senate, by order of the people’.”

Marcius and the Election of the Consuls of 355 BC

According to Livy:

  1. “Since the Senate would not allow the [forthcoming consular] elections to be conducted by a plebeian dictator [Marcius] or by a plebeian consul, they fell back on an interregnum”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 17: 10). 

Mark Wilson (referenced below, at p. 376) observed that:

  1. “The implication here is that, had it not been ... [for] the patricians’ opposition, it would have been natural for the dictator to conduct elections after his triumph, simply because he was at hand (and [perhaps because he] had the highest imperium).”

However, on this occasion:

  1. “... with the patrician consul [Fabius, presumably still] at war, the result [of the the patrician opposition] was an interregnum.”

I discuss the connection between the dictatorship and the holding of consular elections below.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 19) observed that:

  1. “The plebeian settlement of 367 BC [had] led to the plebeians gaining eleven consulships in the eleven years 366-56 BC.”

Then, as he observed at p. 19:

  1. “... the eighth interrex [secured] the election of two patrician consuls, which the tribunes had previously vetoed.”.

Dictatorships of 358 and 356 BC: Last of the Significant Military Dictatorships ?

The fasti Triumphales are complete in the period from 367 BC until 291 BC: 47 triumphs were recorded in this period, of which eight were awarded to dictators.  We should probably disregard Camillus’ triumph as dictator for the 5th time in 367 BC, in order to prevent significant distortion in the statistics below.  An analysis of the remaining 46 triumphs from this period reveals that dictators were awarded:

  1. 25 % (2/8) of the triumphs recorded from 366 to 356 BC; and

  2. 10.5  % (4 /38) of those recorded in the period from 356 to 291 BC.


  1. the second of these percentages is likely to be too large, since 3 of the 4 dictator triumphs of this period were in fictitious dictator years (325/4, 310/9 and 302/1 BC), and are therefore at least open to question; and

  2. although gaps in the surviving data preclude a similar analysis for the subsequent period, it is surely significant that no other dictator triumphs are recorded in the surviving sources until that of Sulla (in 81 BC).

In short, it seems that Marcius’ triumph of 356 BC marked the end of an era: as Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 2015, at p. 118) observed, although dictators rei gerundae caussa continued to be appointed throughout the 4th century BC, this was no longer:

  1. “... the preferred form of command in the most challenging military situations.”

Rather (as we shall see), the dictators of this kind appointed after 356 BC:

  1. “... seem to have been more-or -less routine substitutes for the regular magistrates.”

Dictators of 353 t0 348 BC

As is clear from the useful list of dictators assembled by Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at pp. 41-2, a dictator was appointed in each year from 353 to 348 BC (inclusive).  Unfortunately, Livy is our only surviving source for the first three of these dictatorships, since the entries in the fasti Capitolini for 353-1 BC (inclusive) are missing.

T. Manlius Torquatus (353 BC)

According to Livy, since the consuls C. Sulpicius Peticus and  M. Valerius Publicola (both of whom were patricians) were engaged against the Tarquinians and Volscians respectively, a third patrician, T. Manlius Torquatus was appointed as dictator to deal with a rebellion at Caere.   However, the rebellion soon evaporated and Manlius returned to Rome without having done any fighting.  Livy then recorded that:

  1. “At the close of the year, the consular elections were delayed owing to a quarrel between the two orders:

  2. the tribunes declared that they would not permit the elections to be held unless they were conducted in accordance with the Licinian Law; while

  3. the dictator [Manlius] was determined to [ensure the election of two] patricians.

  4. Since the elections had still not been held when [Manlius] resigned his office,  matters reverted to an interregnum.   ... Wearied out with the prolonged agitation, the Senate ordered L. Cornelius Scipio, the [eleventh] interrex, to restore harmony to the State by conducting the consular elections in accordance with the Licinian Law: [the patrician] P. Valerius Publicola was [duly] elected, and C. Marcius Rutilus was his plebeian colleague”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 21: 1-5). 

C. Julius Jullus (352 BC)

According to Livy:

  1. “Owing to a report that the twelve cities of Etruria had formed a hostile league, a good deal of alarm was felt, which subsequently proved to be groundless, and it was thought necessary that a dictator should be nominated.  This took place in camp, for it was there that the consuls received the senatorial decree.  [The otherwise unknown] C. Julius was nominated, and L. Aemilius was assigned to him (sic) as master of the horse”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 21: 9). 

Mark Wilson (referenced below, at p. 346) observed that:

  1. “It is a little mysterious why the consuls were in camp [at this time], since Livy had just noted that the fears that prompted the appointment [of a dictator] were groundless and, immediately after this passage [see below], Livy added that everything was tranquil abroad.  Moreover, the sole notable activity of [the consuls], apart from appointing C. Iulius, was debt reform.  ....  an error in Livy’s sources [might lay behind his record] that C. Iulius was said to have been appointed in camp, although, in that case, it is striking that Livy went out of his way to call attention to the innovation.  [Perhaps] the consuls [had] started preparing for the war with the Etruscans before the call came to appoint a dictator ... ”.

Although it soon became apparent that the Etruscan threat had evaporated, Julius did not immediately resign:

  1. “Everything abroad was tranquil.  [However], at home, owing to the dictator's attempt to secure the election of patricians to both consulships, matters were brought to an interregnum.  There were two interreges, C. Sulpicius and M. Fabius, and they succeeded where the dictator had failed, because the plebs (owing to the pecuniary relief recently granted to them) were in a less aggressive mood.  Both of the consuls elected were patricians: C. Sulpicius Peticus (who had been the first of the two interreges) and T. Quinctius Poenus ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 22: 1-3). 

M. Fabius Ambustus (351 BC)

Livy set the scene for Fabius’ appointment by first describing the elections of censors at the end of 352 BC:

  1. “... C. Marcius Rutilus, who had been the first plebeian dictator announced that he was a candidate for the censorship, which upset the harmony between the two orders.  Marcius took this step at what was potentially an unfavourable moment, since both consuls happened to be patricians and they declared that they would allow no vote for him.  However, he resolutely held to his purpose, and the tribunes ...  assisted him to the utmost of their power.  ... There was no division of opinion evident in the elections: Marcius was unanimously elected censor, together with Cnaeus Manlius”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 22: 7-10). 

Thus, Marcius became the first plebeian censor.  Livy then recorded that:

  1. “This year also saw M. Fabius [Ambustus] as dictator, not from any threat of war but to prevent the Licinian Law from being observed in the consular elections.  However, did not make ... the Senate more influential in the election of consuls than it had been in the election of censors”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 22: 10-11). 

Livy is clear that Fabius was appointed specifically to hold the consular elections, in the hope that this would lead to the election of two patricians.  However, he proved to be ineffective in securing this underlying objective: the plebeian M. Popillius Laenas was elected to his third consulship, with the patrician L. Cornelius Scipio as his colleague. 

L. Furius Camillus (350 BC)

According to Livy, at the end of 351 BC:

  1. “Since both consuls were on the sick list, the Senate found it necessary to appoint a dictator to conduct the elections.  L. Furius Camillus was nominated, and P. Cornelius Scipio was associated with him as master of the horse.  He restored to the patricians their old monopoly of the consulship, and for this service he was himself, through their enthusiastic support, elected consul, and he procured the election of Appius Claudius Crassus as his colleague”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 24: 11). 

T. Manlius Torquatus (349 BC)

Appius Claudius Crassus died during the consular year, leaving Camillus as the sole consul.  According to Livy, because Camillus was needed for what was likely to be a protracted campaign against Greek pirates:

  1. “... the Senate authorised him to nominate T. Manlius Torquatus as dictator for the purpose of conducting the elections.  After appointing A. Cornelius Cossus as master of the horse, Manlius proceeded to hold the consular elections. Marcus Valerius Corvus ... , a young man of 23 years, was declared to be duly elected amidst the enthusiastic cheers of the people.  His colleague was the plebeian, M. Popilius Laenas, now elected for the fourth time”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 26: 12-13). 

Now Unknown Dictator (348 BC)

A fragmentary entry in the fasti Capitolini records a now-unknown dictator comitiorum habendorum caussa (for holding elections) in 348 BC. Livy did not record a dictatorship at this point and nor did he give any reason why the consuls might have been prevented from holding the consular elections.

Dictators of 353 t0 348 BC: Conclusions

The most striking features of the six dictatorships of this period are that:

  1. they were held in six consecutive years; and

  2. if Livy’s accounts can be relied upon, then:

  3. every one of these six dictators presided over consular elections (albeit that the first two did so unsuccessfully); and

  4. while the first two were appointed primarily for other purposes, the last four were appointed specifically to hold elections: indeed, M. Fabius Ambustus is the first dictator for whom Livy ever made this claim.

Read more:

M. Wilson, "The Needed Man: Evolution, Abandonment, and Resurrection of the Roman Dictatorship" (2017) thesis of City University of New York

T. Cornell, “Crisis and Deformation in the Roman Republic: The Example of the Dictatorship”, in:

  1. V. Gouschinand P. Rhodes(eds),  “Deformations and Crises of Ancient Civil Communities”, (2015)  Stuttgart, at pp. 101-26

R. Scopacasa , “Ancient Samnium: Settlement, Culture, and Identity between History and Archaeology”, (2015) Oxford

M. Pelikan Pittenger, “Contested Triumphs: Politics, Pageantry and Performance in Livy's Republican Rome”, (2008) Berkeley, Los Angeles and London

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume III: Books IX”, (2005) Oxford

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume II: Books VII and VIII”, (1998) Oxford

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

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume I: Introduction and Book VI”, (1997) Oxford

T. Cornell, “The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (ca. 1000-264 BC)”, (1995) London and New York

W. Harris, “Rome in Etruria and Umbria”, (1971) Oxford

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the Start of the First Samnite War (343 BC)

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