Key to Umbria

Prior Events (328-7 BC)

Black asterisks = centres incorporated sine suffragio after the Latin War

Red squares = Roman citizen colonies

Black squares = Latin colonies

Foundation of a Latin Colony at Fregellae  (328 BC)

Livy noted (somewhat laconically) that the following year (328 BC):

  1. “... was not marked by any significant military or domestic event, except that a colony was sent out to Fregellae, a territory that had belonged [originally] to the people of Signia [sic ?], and afterwards to the Volsci”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 22: 1-2).

Fregellae was among the 30 coloniae populi Romani (colonies of the people of Rome, or Latin colonies) that, according to Livy (‘History of Rome, 27: 10: 7), existed in 209 BC.

Fregellae occupied a strategically-important site at the confluence of the Liris and the Sacco/Tolerus rivers.  Although Livy claimed here that the new colony had been built on Volscian territory, this was disingenuous: as we shall see, when the Romans sent envoys to the Samnites to demand redress for their alleged transgressions before declaring war, they countered by saying (inter alia) that:

  1. “... they could not disguise the chagrin of the Samnite nation that Fregellae, which they had captured from the Volsci and destroyed, should have been restored by the Roman people, and that a colony [had been] planted in the territory of the Samnites that the Roman settlers called by that name””, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 6).

Fregellae fell to the Samnites at least once during the war that followed, as the Romans and Samnites fought for control of the Liris valley.

Start of the Neapolitan War (327 BC)

According to Livy, this war began when a Greek city called Palaepolis, which was:

  1. “... not far from where Neapolis [modern Naples] now stands ... committed numerous hostile acts against the Romans who inhabited  the ager Campanus and the ager Falernus”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 22: 7).

Livy also explained that Palaepolis and Neapolis were:

  1. “... inhabited by one people, [and the originally Greek colony of Cumae  had been] their mother city”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 22: 5).

In response, when the new consuls, Quintus Publilius Philo and Lucius Cornelius Lentulus took office in 327 BC:

  1. “... fetials were dispatched to Palaepolis to demand redress.  When they reported a spirited answer from the Greeks (a race more valiant in words than in deeds), the people acted upon a resolution of the Senate and commanded that war be made upon Palaepolis:

  2. the war with the Greeks fell to Publilius; and

  3. Cornelius, ... was ordered to be ready for the Samnites, in case they should take the field.  Since it was rumoured that they were only waiting to bring up their army the moment the Campani began a revolt, that seemed to be the best place for Cornelius’ camp”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 22: 5-10).

Palaepolis and Neapolis 

Dionysius of Halicarnassus gave a parallel account of these events, albeit that only a fragment survives:

  1. “When the Campanians made repeated charges and complaints against the Neapolitans, the Roman Senate voted to send ambassadors to the [Neapolitans] to demand that they should do no wrong to the subjects of the Roman empire.  ... in particular, the envoys, if they could do so by courting the favour of the influential [Neapolitans], were to [persuade Neapolis] to revolt from the Samnites and become friendly to the Romans”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 15: 5: 1).


  1. “It chanced that, at the same time, [Neapolis received] ambassadors from other places:

  2. men of distinction who had inherited ties of hospitality with [the Neapolitans] came from [Greek Tarentum, in the heel of Italy, which had formed an alliance with the Samtites in 334 BC]; and

  3. others [were] sent by the [Oscans of Nola], who were neighbours [of Neapolis] and greatly admired the Greeks.

  4. [These ambassadors urged the] Neapolitans, on the contrary, neither to make an agreement with the Romans or their subjects, nor to give up their friendship with the Samnites”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 15: 5: 2).

He then gave a lucid account of the debate between the Neapolitan factions:

  1. “The element among the Neapolitans that was reasonable and able to foresee long in advance the disasters that would come upon the city from the war, wished to remain at peace [with Rome]; but, the element that was fond of innovations and sought the personal advantages to be gained from turmoil joined forces for the war.  There were mutual recriminations and skirmishes, and the strife was carried to the point of hurling stones; in the end the worse element overpowered the better, so the ambassadors of the Romans returned home without having accomplished anything.  For these reasons the Roman senate resolved to send an army against the Neapolitans”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 15: 6: 7).

Interestingly, Dionysius never mentioned Palaepolis.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 643) argued that:

  1. “It is absurd to believe that, in 327 BC, there was a sovereign state called Palaepolis ...”

He suggested (at p. 644) that:

  1. “The best way of accounting for the surviving [linguistic, literary and archeological] evidence is to hold that the Neapolitan populus did indeed occupy two sites: one was the site of the city of Neapolis itself, while the other was on the height known today as Pizzofalcone, ... which would have offered] a good defensive position. ... Livy’s account may be accepted if we adopt this interpretation of the name Palaepolis and argue that [Livy’s sources only] recorded fighting [there] ... ”

Conduct of the War in 327 BC

According to Livy:

  1. “ ... by taking up a favourable position between Palaepolis and Neapolis, Publilius  ... [prevented the Samnites at Neapolis from sending reinforcements].  However, as the time for the [consular] elections drew near, since it would have been disadvantageous for Publilius ... to be called away from the prospective capture of the city, the Senate [arranged that he should continue in office as proconsul] until the Greeks had been conquered”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 10-12).

Negotiations with the Samnites (327 BC)

In due course:

  1. “Both consuls informed the Senate that there was very little hope of peace with the Samnites:

  2. Publilius reported that 2,000 soldiers from Nola and 4,000 Samnites had been received into Palaepolis, under compulsion from the people of Nola, rather than by the request of the Greeks themselves.

  3. Cornelius reported that:

  4. the Samnite magistrates had proclaimed a military levy, and that the whole of Samnium was up in arms; and

  5. the Samnites were openly urging the neighbouring cities of Privernum, Fundi, and Formiae to join them.

  6. In view of these facts, the Senate ... voted to send ambassadors to the Samnites before [finally deciding whether it was time to declare] war ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 1-3).

Livy then described the Samnites’ indignant response to the ambassadors’ ultimatum, in which:

  1. “...  they went so far as to accuse the Romans of improper conduct: 

  2. They vigorously denied the Roman allegations, asserting that:

  3. the Greeks [of Palaepolis] ... were receiving no public counsel or support from them; and

  4. they had asked the people of neither Fundi nor Formiae to revolt; indeed, if they [the Samnites] chose to fight [the Romans], they were quite strong enough to fight alone.

  5. [On the question of the Romans’ recent conduct], they could not hide the outrage of their nation that the Romans:

  6. had restored Fregellae, [a city that they] they had captured from the Volsci and destroyed; and

  7. founded a colony in [what they now regarded as] Samnite territory, which the Roman colonists actually called by [the name of the city that they had destroyed].  This was an insult and an injury and, if the Romans did not redress it [presumably by abandoning the colony], then they would do their utmost to remove it”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 4-10).

The Roman ambassadors suggested independent arbitration:

  1. “... to which the Samnite spokesman replied: ‘Why do we beat about the bush? Our differences, Romans, will be decided by [neither negotiation nor] arbitration, but: by the Campanian plain, where we must meet in battle; by the sword; and by the fortunes of war.  Let us therefore camp, face to face, between Suessula and Capua, and settle the question of whether the Samnites or Romans are to govern Italy’”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 8-9).

The text that follows is corrupt but, as we shall see, the Romans declared war against the Samnites in 326 BC.

Thus, while the foundation of the Latin colony at Fregellae might have triggered the onset of hostilities between Rome and the Samnites, it seems that the underlying cause (at least initially) was the Samnites’ displeasure at the recent Roman expansion into Volscian, Auruncan and Campanian territory.  Although Livy had the benefit of hindsight, he might well have been correct when he suggested (above) that, in the longer term, the Romans and the Samnites regarded it as the war that would decide which of them would “govern Italy”.  

End of the Neapolitan War (326 BC)

As noted above, Quintus Publilius Philo now continued the war as proconsul.  Livy had a number of varying sources for the events that followed (History of Rome’, 8: 25: 5-26: 6), but the outcome is clear: Publillius managed  to keep the Samnites at bay while besieging Palaepolis, which (according to Livy’s preferred sources, he finally took with the help of a pro-Roman faction.  Livy recorded that the Romans then agreed a treaty with:

  1. “... Neapolis, to which place the Greeks now transferred the seat of government ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 26: 6).

It is likely that he or  his sources were mistaken here, and that the seat of government had always been in the city in the plain.  Livy acknowledged that some sources attributed the fall of Palaepolis to its betrayal by the Samnites, but he noted that:

  1. “[The presumably favourable] terms of this treaty make it more likely that the Greeks [had not been forced to surrender, but had rather] renewed the friendship [with Rome] voluntarily”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 26: 6). 

Finally, Livy noted that

  1. “Publilius was decreed a triumph, since it was generally believed that the enemy had surrendered only because they had been broken by the siege [of Palaepolis].  Publilius had thus received two unprecedented distinctions:

  2. an extension of his command, something that had never before been granted to any [serving consul]; and

  3. a triumph after the expiration of his [extended] term”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 26: 6).

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ recorded that Quintus Publilius Philo was the first proconsul to be awarded a triumph, in this case over the Samnites and the Palaepolitani.

First Phase of the Samnite War (326 - 321 BC)

Election of the Consuls of 326 BC

As noted above, at the end of the consular year of 327 BC, the command of Quintus Publilius Philo was extended into 326 BC, and he served as proconsul at Neapolis.  According to Livy, since the other consul, Lucius Cornelius Lentulus

  1. “... had already entered Samnium, [the Senate directed] him to name a dictator for conducting the elections [for 326 BC].  [Lentulus] named Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who named Spurius Postumius master of the horse.  However, the comitia were not held by the dictator, inasmuch as the regularity of his appointment was called in question.  The augurs were consulted, and announced that the procedure appeared faulty”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 11-13). 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 662) suggested that the strong opposition to Marcellus’ appointment was caused by the fact that he would have been only the third plebeian dictator.  Livy then recorded that:

  1. “... the state at length reverted to an interregnum, and after the comitia had been again and again postponed, on one pretext or another, at last the 14th interrex, Lucius Aemilius [Mamercinus Privernas], procured the election of consuls”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 17). 

Stephen Oakley (as above) observed that:

  1. “All this amounted to another grave crisis in the [so-called] ‘Struggle of the Orders’, a crisis doubtless exacerbated by the threat of was with the Samnites.”

The identity of this 14th interrex, Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus, is possibly significant: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 212) pointed out, Q. Publius Philo (whose imperium had been extended into 326 BC) had:

  1. served as Lucius’ master of horse in 335 BC and

  2. shared the consulship with Tiberius Aemilius Mamercinus (probably Lucus’ brother) in 339 BC.

This might suggest a political alliance between Philo and the Aemilii Mamercini, in which case, Philo might well have disrupted the electoral process to ensure that his favoured candidates were elected.

Livy identified the new consuls as:

  1. “... Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus and Lucius Papirius Mugillanus: in other annals, I find the name of Cursor”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 17).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 664) reasonably argued that the cognomina Mugillanus and Cursor belonged to the same Lucius Papirius.  (Livy faced this problem again in 319 BC, when, as we shall see, both the fasti Capitolini and the fasti Triumphales recorded this year as the third consulship of L. Papirius Cursor.)  As discussed below, it seems likely that Papirius’ election as consul in 326 BC marked the start of his close relationship with Q. Publilius Philo.

Declaration of War

The new consuls immediately:

  1. “... sent fetials ... to declare war on the Samnites ... [They soon] received new and ... quite unexpected help: the Lucanii and Apulii that had had no previous dealings with the Romans, put themselves under their protection and promised arms and men for the war.  They were accordingly received into a treaty of friendship”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 25: 2-3).

If Livy is correct here, then the Samnites, having lost their alliance with Neapolis to the Romans, now found that there were also other allies of Rome on their southern and eastern borders.  However, as we shall see, the putative alliances with the Lucanii and the Apulini seem to have been short-lived (if they existed at all).

Both consuls:

  1. “... conducted a successful campaign in Samnium: three towns (Allifae, [the now-unknown] Callifae and Rufrium) fell into their hands, and the rest of the country was devastated far and wide ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 25: 4).

Thus, as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 649) pointed out:

  1. “... it seems that the Romans were raiding the middle Volturnus valley ..., an area that they could have reached quite easily ... from their bases at Capua or Cales.  [As we shall see], Allifae was back in Samnite hands by 310/9 BC at the latest, but this is hardly problematic: the Romans did no more than raid in 326 BC and may not have tried to install  a garrison.”

Events of the Dictator Year 325/4 BC

This was the second of the four so-called dictator years, which are discussed collectively in my page on Dictator Years (334/3; 325/4; 310/9; and 302/1 BC).  They are so-called because some relatively late sources record:

  1. a normal consular year (in this case, 325 BC Varronian), followed by;

  2. a fictitious year (in this case, 324 BC Varronian), in which a dictator and his master of horse ruled without consuls.

Livy, who never recognised the existence of the fictitious consul-free dictator years, recorded the events of periods such as these in a single consular year: in this case, the year under discussion here is therefore designated as  325/4 BC.  We might reasonably follow Livy in assuming that:

  1. the consuls for this year were Lucius Furius Camillus (for the second time) and D. Junius Brutus Scaeva (as also recorded in the fasti Capitolini); and

  2. as we shall see, when Camillus was incapacitated, his command passed to a dictator, Lucius Papirius Cursor, who appointed Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus as his master of horse.

War with the Vestini

According to Livy, the Vestini rebelled in 325 BC.  The consuls  brought the matter before the Senate, who had been reluctant to address it since:

  1. “... the race as a whole was fully equal to the Samnites in military power, since it included the Marsi, and the Paeligni and Marrucini, all of whom [would take the part of the Vestini, should they] be attacked.  [However, despite these fears], the people voted a war against the Vestini, and this command was assigned by lot to Brutus”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 29: 4-7).

He devastated the territory and drove the Vestini back into their strongholds, two of which (the now-unknown Cutina and Cingilia) he destroyed.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 701) noted that this is the first time that the tribes of the Abruzzo had appeared in Livy’s work since 340 BC, when they had allowed the Romans passage into Samnium for their planned joint attack with the Samnites on Capua.  Oakley argued that:

  1. “... two interpretations of [the situation in 325 BC, as Livy described it] are possible: either

  2. the Vestini, alone of these tribes, were not prepared to guarantee Roman armies passage and [therefore] had to be brought to heel; or

  3. their defeat made it clear, to themselves and to the other tribes, that they should not try to resist the passage of Roman arms.”

War in Samnium

While Brutus was fighting the Vestini, Camillus marched into Samnium in order to prevent them from aiding the Vestini.  However, according to Livy, soon after he arrived in Samnium, he: 

  1. “... became dangerously ill and was forced to relinquish his command; Lucius Papirius Cursor, who was by far the most distinguished soldier of the time, [took over his command] as dictator, ... with Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus as his master of the horse”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 29: 8-9).

At this time, the young Fabius had featured only once before in Livy’s narrative (as curule aedile in 331 BC), but he was reach the consulship for the first of five times in 322 BC. 

Papirius’ Feud with Fabius

Livy now introduced the main theme of his account of 325/4: Papirius and Fabius:

  1. “... were a pair famous for the victories won while they were magistrates; but their quarrelling, which almost went the length of a mortal feud, made them more famous still”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 29: 10).

Fabius’ Offence

The scene was set when it became apparent that:

  1. “The expedition into Samnium [had been] attended by ambiguous auspices ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 1).

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 707) explained:

  1. “... the army had [apparently] set out without its being clear whether or not the auspices were favourable.”

Papirius had presumably taken over Camillus’ camp in or on the border of Samnium by the time that the problem was discovered, and was forced to return to Rome, leaving Fabius in command. 

Livy recorded that:

  1. “As Papirius was setting out for Rome ... to take the auspices afresh, he warned Fabius not to engage in battle with the enemy in his absence.  However, when Fabius [subsequently] ascertained from his scouts ... that the enemy were  ... [behaving] as if there had been not a single Roman in Samnium, ... he put the army in fighting trim and, advancing upon a [now-unknown] place they call Imbrinium, engaged in a pitched battle with the Samnites.  This engagement was so successful that no greater success could have been gained, had [Papirius] been present; ... It is said that [20,000 Samnites] were killed that day”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 2-7). 

Livy now addressed the inconsistency that he had found in his sources for this incident:

  1. “I find it stated by certain writers that Fabius fought the enemy twice while Papirius was absent, and twice gained a brilliant victory.  {however],:

  2. he oldest historians give only this single battle; and

  3. in certain annals the story is omitted altogether”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 7).

He then returned to the main narrative: he concluded that, whether after one or two engagements, Fabius:

  1. “... found himself, after so great a slaughter, in possession of extensive spoils.  He piled the enemy's arms in a great heap ... and burnt them:

  2. this may have been done in fulfilment of a vow to one of the gods; or

  3. if one chooses to accept the account of [the historian] Fabius (see below), it was done] in order to prevent Papirius from reaping the harvest of his [i.e. Fabius’] glory and inscribing his name on the arms or having them carried in his triumph. 

  4. Fabius sent the dispatch reporting the success to the Senate rather to [Papirius], which certainly suggests that he had no mind to share the credit with Papirius.  At all events, [Papirius] so received the news that, while everyone else was rejoicing at the victory, he showed only signs of anger and discontent”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 8-10).

And so, a feud was born. 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 696) observed that:

  1. “Many (and perhaps most or all) of these details are likely to be the product of a process of elaboration that ... reached its peak with Livy, and it would be unwise to have confidence in any of them.  Yet, it would be unwise entirely to reject the historicity of the quarrel.”

Livy’s reference to the historian Fabius almost certainly indicates Fabius Pictor, an ancestor of the offended in this narrative, whose history of Rome covered the period down to 217 BC: thus, as Oakley pointed out:

  1. “... it cannot be the work of later annalists.” 

Edward Bispham and Timothy Cornell (in T. C. Cornell, referenced below, 2013, Volume III, at  p. 34, Fragent 17) concluded that details of this feud (including Fabius’ letter to the Senate) had probably been preserved in the family archive, and:

  1. “ ... written up by Fabius Pictor, but [left] no record in the [state archives, which] would account for Livy’s comment that, in some annals, the whole incident was left out.”

Papirius’ Retribution

Fabius had committed at least two grievous offences: he had engaged the enemy while the auspices were uncertain; and (more importantly for what was to follow) he had ignored the explicit command of a dictator.  Papirius wanted the death penalty and Rome was in crisis.  Matters came to a head when:

  1. “... the Roman people ... entreated and adjured [Papirius] to remit the punishment of Fabius for their sake.  The tribunes, too, fell in with the prevailing mood and earnestly besought Papirius to allow for human frailty and for the youth of  Fabius, who had suffered punishment enough.  First [Fabius] himself and then his father, Marcus Fabius Ambustus, forgetting their previous animosity, threw themselves at Papirius’ feet and attempted to avert his anger”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 35: 1-3).

No one denied that Fabius was guilty as charged.  However, Papirius probably had no choice but to agree to his reprieve.  Thus, he pronounced:

  1. “Live, Quintus Fabius, more blest in this desire of your fellow citizens to save you than in the victory over which you were exulting a little while ago !  Live, though you dared a deed which not even your own father would have pardoned, had he been in the place of Lucius Papirius !  You shall be reconciled with me when you will”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 35: 6-7).


  1. “When  [Papirius] had:

  2. placed Lucius Papirius Crassus in charge of the City;  and

  3. forbidden Quintus Fabius, the master of the horse, to exercise his magistracy in any way;

  4. he returned to the camp [in Samnium]”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 36: 1). 

Digression: Crassus as Praefectus Urbi

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 745) argued that Livy’s description of Crassus’ appointment:

  1. “... can only mean that [he] was appointed praefectus urbi [Urban Prefect/Prefect of Rome].  This office was not elective: prefects [of this kind] were appointed by the consuls (or a dictator) when all the senior magistrates were absent from Rome.”

Like Stephen Oakley (as above), Corey Brennan (referenced below, at p. 73) pointed out that the office of praefectus urbi is not attested in the Republic after the mid-5th century BC.  He also noted (at p. 72) that:

  1. “The primary role of the early praetors was probable the defence of the City.”

Thus, one would have expected Papirius Cursor to rely on the serving praetor for the defence of Rome.  However, Brennan observed (at p. 73) that:

  1. “Crassus was a relative of the dictator ... [His appointment] as praefectus urbi might be explicable if:

  2. the consul [Camillus, whom had Papirius replaced in Samnium] was too ill to act [as defender of Rome]; and

  3. Papirius had taken the praetor into the field as a substitute for the disgraced Fabius, who was debarred ... from further action.

  4. [In these circumstances, Papirius might well have] put a man he could trust in charge of the City, and ordered all the regular magistrates [there] not to interfere.”

He acknowledged (at p. 72)  that this record of Crassus’ appointment as praefectus urbi might not be genuine, but pointed out that:

  1. “... at the very least, [it shows that] such an appointment was conceivable in the later historical period.”

We hear no more about the appointment of a praefectus urbi until 47 BC, when Marcus Antonius (whom Caesar, as dictator,  had appointed as master of horse with responsibility for Rome and Italy while he himself continued the civil war in Spain) appointed his  uncle, Lucius Caesar, to take charge in Rome while he (i.e. Mark Antony) dealt with a mutiny of Caesar’s veterans in Campania.

Digression: Marcus Valerius as Legate ?

Livy provides a name for the legate who replaced Fabius:

  1. “It happened in that year that, every time that Papirius left the army, there was a rising of the enemy in Samnium.  But, with the example of Fabius before his eyes, Marcus Valerius, the lieutenant who commanded in the camp, feared the dread displeasure of Papirius more than any violence of the enemy.  And so, when a party of foragers had fallen into an ambush and ... had been slain, it was commonly believed that [Valerius] might have rescued them, had he not quailed at the thought of those harsh orders”, (History of Rome’, 8: 35: 10-11).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 744) observed that:

  1. “Presumably Livy and his sources imagined that this legate to have been either:

  2. Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus (consul for the first time in 348 BC); or

  3. his son, Marcus Valerius Maximus (consul for the first time in 312 BC).

  4. But, it is most unlikely that there was authentic evidence for the role of [either] Marcus Valerius in the events of this year ... .”

Papirius’ Victory 

Livy then embarked on an elaborate account of how the dispirited Roman army was defeated by the Samnites, and how Papirius personally directed the treatment of his wounded men and took other measures to restore their morale.  With his army re-motivated, Papirus then:

  1. “... engaged [again] with the Samnites, ... and  routed and dispersed them to such an extent that this was the last time they joined battle with him.  His victorious army then  ... traversed their territory without encountering any resistance ... Discouraged by these reverses, the Samnites sought peace of Papirius and agreed to give every [man in his army] a garment and a year's pay.  Papirius told them to go before the Senate, but they replied that they would wait for him there, committing their cause wholly to his honour and integrity.  So the army was withdrawn from Samnium”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 36: 8-12).

Livy then recorded that Papirius returned to Rome in triumph (‘History of Rome’, 8: 37:1).  The fasti Capitolini record that he triumphed over the Samnites as dictator for the first time in the fictitious dictator year of 324 BC.  Livy then noted that Papirius:

  1. “... would have laid down his office, but was commanded by the Senate first to hold a consular election [see below]”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 37:1)

In his final remarks on the events of this year were, Livy noted that:

  1. “The treaty [with the Samnites] was not completed, owing to a disagreement over terms, and the Samnites left the City with a truce for a year; nor did they scrupulously hold even to that; so encouraged were they to make war, on learning that Papirius had resigned”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 37: 2).

Papirius’ Fictitious Dictator Year

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 695) observed:

  1. “There is no good reason to doubt that Papirius Cursor was dictator in this year.  ... [This is, for example], presupposed by the legend of his quarrel with Fabius ...”

This is an important point: Papirius dictatorship was documented at least a century before the invention of his fictitious dictator year.

Having said that, the inventor of the dictator year would have had to assemble an account of an entire additional year in which Papirius campaigned in Samnium and emerged triumphant, and it is likely that Livy incorporated at least some of this information into his account of the events of 325/4 BC.   Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998,at p. 696) pointed out that, since the only specific location mentioned in this account is the now-unknown Imbrinium:

  1. “... we do not even know whether Papirius and Fabius were fighting in the Liris Valley or in Campania.”

Oakley suggested (at p. 697) that:

  1. “Livy’s account [at 8: 36: 1-12] of Papirius’ ultimate victory over the Samnites is told as a pendant to his story of the quarrel [with Fabius], and its details seem to be largely his own or his sources’ invention.  It is just possible, that the Samnites did sue for peace and were granted indutae at the end of the year, but the continued fighting [in the following consular year, to which Livy alluded - see below] ... scarcely enhances the credibility of the report.”

However, he argued that:

  1. “The basic facts that Papirius ... won a victory and celebrated a triumph need not doubted: they are supported by the fasti Triumphales [above] and also by the fact that [he] must have won a military reputation in order to have been elected as consul in the year after the disaster at the Caudine Forks [see below].”

I am not sure that this is certain proof of Papirius’ triumph:

  1. the triumph could have been invented by the inventor of the dictator year, whose account pre-dated the fasti Triumphales; and

  2. as we shall see, it is possible that Papirius secured his election in 320 BC on the basis of his political relationship with Q. Publilius Philo. 

In other words, while it seems certain that Papirius campaigned in Samnium as dictator , with Fabius as his master of horse, it is entirely possible that neither of them achieved very much, except for the enduring fame that they achieved by their ‘mortal feud’.

Livy did not explain why the Senate asked Papirius to hold the consular elections before resigning his dictatorship, a task that would normally have fallen to one of the serving consuls:

  1. It is possible that Camillus had died during his consular year: the only later reference in our surviving sources that might refer to him is in 318 BC, when Livy (‘History of Rome’, 9: 20: 5) recorded that the praetor Lucius Furius gave laws to the Campani (see below).  However, even if he was not killed in 325/4 BC, he might have remained severely incapacitated at the time of the elections.

  2. There is no particular reason to think that Brutus was detained by the military situation in the Vestini, but we cannot exclude the possibility that he had pressed on into northern Samnium.

In other words:

  1. it is possible that Livy had a reliable source for the information that Papirius presided over the election of the consuls of 323 BC before resigning his dictatorship; but

  2. it is also possible that his source here was the inventor of the consul-free dictator year.

Events of 323 and 322 BC

Events of 323 BC

According to Livy (above), the dictator L. Papirius Cursor presided over the election of the consuls for 323 BC: Caius Sulpicius (for the second time) and Quintus [Aulius] Cerretanus: see Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 753) for the correct name of this second consul.  Livy recorded that:

  1. “ ... the defection of the Samnites [in this year] was followed by a new war with Apulia, [and] armies were sent out in both directions”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 37: 3).

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 752) observed, Livy’s sources were at variance with each other, and the detail of these campaigns in now unrecoverable.  He concluded that:

  1. “Whatever the truth in this matter, Livy’s testimony for this year supports the view that the Romans were involved in Apulia before [their disastrous engagement with the Samnites at the] Caudine Forks [see below].”

Events of 322 BC

According to Livy, in 322 BC:

  1. “... when Q. Fabius [Maximus Rullianus] and L. Fulvius [Curvus] were consuls, the dread of a serious war with the Samnites (who were said to have gathered an army of mercenaries from neighbouring tribes) occasioned the appointment of Aulus Cornelius Arvina as dictator and Marcus Fabius Ambustus as master of the horse”, (‘History of Rome, 8: 38: 1).

Livy had sources for two variant versions of the campaigning of this year in Apulia and Samnium.  According to Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 757-8), Livy’s preferred version (which he presented in chapters 38-39) involved a campaign fought at an unknown location in Samnium  that led to a triumph for the dictator Arvina.  However,  Livy noted that: 

  1. “Some writers hold that this war was waged by the consuls, and that it was they who triumphed over the Samnites; they say that Fabius even advanced into Apulia, where he took a great deal of booty.  There is no dispute that Aulus Cornelius was dictator in that year: the doubt is whether he was appointed to administer the war, or in order that there might be somebody to give the signal to the chariots at the  ludi Romani (since the praetor, Lucius Plautius, happened to be very sick) and whether, having discharged this office, ... he resigned the dictatorship”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 40: 1).

He noted (in a famously exasperated passage) that:

  1. “ ... it is not easy to choose between these accounts ... I think that the records have been vitiated by funeral eulogies and by lying inscriptions under portraits, every family endeavouring mendaciously to appropriate victories and magistracies to itself, a practice that has certainly wrought confusion in the achievements of individuals and in the public memorials of events.  Nor is there extant any writer contemporary with that period on whose authority we may safely take our stand”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 40: 3-5).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 757-8) preferred Livy’s second version, not least because the ‘fasti Triumphales’ recorded triumphs in this year for:

  1. Fabius, over the Samnites and the Apulini; and

  2. Fulvius, over the Samnites.

He suggested (at p. 759) that:

  1. “... a dictatorship for the holding of games is far more likely to have been changed by a sensationalising annalist into one for [military purposes] that vice versa.”

He also noted (at p. 150) that Fabius Ambustus was the father of the consul, Fabius Maximus,, and that the fighting attributed to him by Livys preferred sources:

  1. “... nearly 40 years after his first consulship looks most implausible.”

He observed (at p. 760) that the choice of this variant allows us to discount Livy’s:

  1. “... glamorous battle ... as nothing more than annalistic invention and its account of Samnite overtures for peace as nothing more than moralising in preparation for [his account of the Romans’ defeat] at the Caudine Forks [see below].

It might be added that, if this battle did take place, no significant strategic advantage seems to have been gained from the victory.  Oakley also observed that the more likely variant:

  1. “... provides further evidence for the Romans’ involvement in Apulia in the years before the Caudine Forks ”.

Disaster at the Caudine Forks (321 BC)

Livy began Book 9 by describing 321 BC as the year of:

  1. “... the Caudine Peace, the notorious sequel to a disaster to the Roman arms:

  2. the [unfortunate] consuls were T. Veturius Calvinus and Sp. Postumius [Albinus]; and

  3. the Samnite’s general for that year was Caius Pontius:

  4. his father Herennius far excelled [all the Samnites] in wisdom; while

  5. [Caius Pontius himself] was their foremost warrior...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 1: 1).

Thus Livy set the scene for his account of a Roman humiliation that is still remembered as such to this day.

Fresco (4th century BC) from Tomb 114 of the Andriulo Necropolis near Paestum

Now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Paestum

From the website I Sanniti

This fresco is often taken to portray the Samnite victory at the Caudine Forks (321 BC)

Livy’s account of the encounter under discussion here began with Pontius’ army:

  1. “... camped in the vicinity of Caudium.   [From this secret location], he dispatched ten soldiers disguised as shepherd in the direction of Calatia, where he had heard that the Roman consuls were already camped.  [The ‘shepherds’] were ordered to graze their flocks at different places near to the Romans and, on encountering [Roman] raiding parties, they were all to say the same thing; that the Samnite levies were in Apulia, where they were laying siege ... to Luceria [in Apulia], which they were on point of taking it by assault.  ... The Romans [took the bait and] did not hesitate in deciding to help their good and faithful allies of Luceria, [not least because they wanted] to avoid a general defection Apulia”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 2: 1-5).

This suggests that the Apulani, including those of Luceria, had honoured the agreement that they had reached with the Romans in 226 BC (see above).  Thus:

  1. “The only question was the route that they should take.  There were two roads [from Calatia] to Luceria:

  2. one skirted the Adriatic and, though open and unobstructed, was as long as it was safe; while

  3. the other, which led through the Caudine Forks, was shorter, but [much more dangerous, since it passed through] two narrow, deep and wooded defiles ... Having entered the first of these, [the army would have only two options: to retrace its steps [through the first ravine] or to continue through the second, which was even narrower and more difficult than the first”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 2: 5-8).

The Romans decided on the second route and marched into the inevitable ambush: with the Samnites blocking both ravines, all they could do was build a fortified camp in the plain between them.  The consuls had no alternative other than to sue for peace.  In Livy’s account:

  1. “Pontius made answer that,  ... since they would not acknowledge their defeat, ... he intended to send them, unarmed and with a single garment each. under the yoke [an arch of spears]”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 4: 3).

The details of Livy’s account of the preceding events have been shown to have been largely invented.  In particular, as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 26) observed:

  1. “... it seems rather unlikely that, in 321 BC, the Romans would have contemplated marching through the middle of Samnium.  It is therefore more likely that [the consuls] were trying to deliver a decisive blow against Samnite communities in the area of Caudium and Beneventum.”

He also pointed to other sources that suggest that the Romans were almost certainly defeated in battle before they sued for peace:

  1. According to Cicero:

  2. “Veturius and Spurius Postumius ... lost the battle at the Caudine Forks, and our legions were sent under the yoke”, (‘De Officiis’, 3:109).

  3. According to Appian:

  4. “... the Romans were defeated by the Samnites and compelled to pass under the yoke”, (‘Samnite Wars’, fragment 6).

Thus, it seems that the army did indeed submit to the humiliation of marching, almost naked, under the yoke. 

Livy then recorded a surprisingly generous offer from Pontius: once the Romans accepted this humiliation:

  1. “The other peace conditions would be on equal terms: if the Romans would evacuate the Samnite territory and withdraw their colonies, then Romans and Samnites would live thereafter by their own laws on the basis of an equal foedus.  He was ready to strike a foedus with the consuls on these terms but, if any of them unacceptable to them, he forbade their envoys to return to him”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 4: 3-5).

However, Livy claimed that these terms were not accepted:

  1. “The consuls  ... declared that no foedus (treaty) could be made without the authorisation of the Roman people, the presence of fetials and the customary ritual.  Consequently, the Caudine Peace was entered into:

  2. not by means of a foedus, as people in general believe and as [Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius] actually states; but

  3. by a sponsio (solemn pledge) [made by the consuls]”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 5: 1-2).

However, Stephen Oakley (referenced below 2005, at p. 31 et seq.) presented arguments in favour of the testimony of Quadrigarius, observing (at p. 31) that:

  1. “... the whole notion of sponsio [a pledge given by a defeated Roman commander, which required ratification] is a late fiction.” 

Livy seems to have adopted it because:

  1. his sources invented a subsequent Roman victory in 320 BC that expunged the humiliation of the Caudine Peace (see below); and

  2. this would have violated a formal treaty.

Oakley argued (at pp. 34-6) that, in fact, a foedus was struck and peace prevailed between the Romans and Samnites, at least in 320 BC, and (at p, 36) that:

  1. “There is ... no reason to believe that the Romans either repudiated or broke their foedus with the Samnites in either 321 or 320 BC.”

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 76) observed:

  1. “The Romans almost certainly lost control of Fregellae [under the terms of this treaty]; it is assumed by many historians that they also lost control of Cales, and the [fact that Livy referred to colonies in the plural] perhaps supports this.”

Election of the New Consuls

After their disgrace following the disastrous defeat of their armies at the Caudine Forks and their subsequent return to Rome:

  1. “The consuls, [Postumius and Veturius], shut themselves up in their houses and refused to transact any public business, except that the Senate forced them to name a dictator to preside at the election [of their successors].  They designated Quintus Fabius Ambustus [as dictator], with Publius Aelius Paetus as the master of the horse”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 7: 12-13).

This suggests that the retiring consuls retained their imperium at this point were thus in a position to obey the Senate by appointing a dictator.  However, Livy’s description of the process is deficient: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 112) observed:

  1. “Livy writes somewhat slackly: it was impossible for both consuls to nominate a dictator and, [furthermore], a dictator appointed his own [master of horse].”

According to Livy:

  1. “A flaw in [the appointment of the dictator and the master of horse] occasioned [their] replacement by Marcus Aemilius Papus, as dictator and Lucius Valerius Flaccus, as master of the horse”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 7: 14). 

Livy indicated neither:

  1. the nature of the flaw that led to the vitiation of Ambustus’ appointment; nor

  2. who designated his replacement.

It is possible that he simply could not find this information in the sources available to him.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 113) suggested that the vitiation:

  1. “... came about because of [Ambustus’] nomination by consuls whose imperium was regarded as imminutum [diminished] after their military defeat.”

An instructive example this effect of diminished imperium arose in 341 BC, when the Senate forced the sitting consuls to resign before the end of the consular year so that new consuls could prepare for the imminent war with the Latins and their allies: Dexter Hoyos (in Yardley and Hoyos, referenced below, at p. 323) explained that:

  1. “Once the [sitting consuls had been instructed] to abdicate office early, concern arose that the gods would not favour them [because] their imperium [was] thus diminished.”

On this earlier occasion, an interregnum was therefore declared for the purpose of electing the new consuls.  It is certainly possible that, in 321 BC, many senators felt that, by their disgraceful defeat and subsequent withdrawal from public affairs, Postumius and Veturius had effectively resigned.  Thus, it is at least possible that they successfully demanded an interregnum, and that an interrex duly appointed M. Aemilius Papus as dictator.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 113) observed that, although the double dictatorship of this year is sometimes doubted:

  1. “... in the aftermath of a major defeat such as that at the Caudine Forks, it is hardly surprising that there was something of a political crisis at Rome.”

Caudine Peace (320 - 316 BC)

Events of 320 BC

Election of Consuls

We saw above that, after one failed attempt, a dictator, M. Aemilius Papus, was finally appointed to hold the election of new consuls.  However, according to Livy, he was unable to do so:

  1. “... because the people were dissatisfied with all the magistrates of that year, the state reverted to an interregnum.  The interreges were Quintus Fabius Maximus and then Marcus Valerius Corvus, who announced the election to the consulship of:

  2. Quintus Publilius Philo (for the third time);  and

  3. Lucius Papirius Cursor (for the second);

  4. with the unmistakable approval of the citizens, for there were at that time no leaders more distinguished”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 7: 14-5).

As noted above, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 697)  suggested that Papirius probably owed his election in this year to the military reputation that he had earned as dictator in the ‘dictator year’ 325/4 BC.  However, I think that most of Livy’s account of Papirius’ campaign in Samnium in that year had been invented by the inventor of the dictator year.  I argued above that Publilius Philo had orchestrated Paprius’ election to his first consulship in 326 BC, and suggest that he did so again in 320 BC.  I discuss this further below in the context of the unprecedented three dictatorships of this year.

Revolt at Satricum

Livy noted that, in the first hostilities since the agreement of the Caudine Peace:

  1. “... the Satricani defected to the Samnites and the colony of Fregellae [see below] was seized during the night in a surprise attack by the Samnites, who were apparently accompanied by people from Satricum”, (‘History of Rome’, (9: 12: 5).

As will become clear below, Livy thought that this revolt was at Satricum in Latium, which had been incorporated optimo iure in 338 BC.  However, we know from Cicero that there was a centre called Satricum near his native Arpinum: writing to his brother Quintus in 54 BC (when Cicero was in Arpinum and Quintus was in Britain), he reported that:

  1. “On the 13th of September, I was at Laterium.  I examined the road, which appeared to me to be so good as to seem almost like a high road, except for [a stretch that is] 150 paces ... from the little bridge at the temple of Furina, in the direction of Satricum”, (‘Letter to Quintus’, fragment 3).


  1. there is no other evidence that the Samnites penetrated Latium at this time, and

  2. a centre near Arpinum was also have been near Fregellae;

then the now-unknown Satricum referred to in Cicero’s letter is an attractive candidate for the rebel city.  However, Livy was not alone is assuming that the it was the city in Latium that revolted at this point. Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 146) concluded that:

  1. “A certain solution to these difficulties is not to be found.  But, perhaps it is best to argue that, although Livy’s ultimate source referred to the capture of the site in the Liris valley, Livy himself and his more immediate sources were unaware of its existence and imagined that the notice referred to the site [in Latium].”

Samnite Capture of Fregellae

The foundation of the colony at Fregellae in 328 BC had been one of the causes of the Second Samnite War.  According to Livy, after the Samnites’ night attack on it mentioned above:

  1. “... both sides to remain quiet until the morning, when the light ushered in a battle that remained in the balance  for a long time: the [colonists] were fighting for their hearths and altars, and a throng of those unfit for arms gave them assistance from the housetops ... [However], a ruse decided the victory; for they permitted a [Samnite] herald to be heard, who promised safety to any who laid down his arms.  The hope of this [reprieve] relaxed the tension of their courage and many of they began throwing down their arms.  The more determined among them retained their weapons and burst out by the opposite gate, and their boldness stood them in better stead: the Samnites ... burned alive [those who remained behind]”, (‘History of Rome’, (9: 12: 6-8).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 36) pointed out that:

  1. “Scholars have usually argued that [the accounts above constitute] a chauvinistic fiction, designed to hide the fact that these towns (and, perhaps, Cales) were handed over the the Samnites [under the terms of the Caudine Peace].  Yet, [the evidence for this does] not seem to be decisive: in the turmoil of 321 BC, the Samnites could easily have seized these towns, and this capture could have been ratified in a treaty that Rome may or may not have kept.”

Consuls’ Military Activity

Livy recorded the defection of the Satricani and the Samnite capture of Fregellae immediatey after his account of the election of the consuls Q. Publilius Philo and L. Papirius Cursor.  It seems that the Roman losses described above were sustained during the tortuous election process, since Livy next records that:

  1. “The consuls, having divided the provinces between them:

  2. Papirius made his way into Apulia towards Luceria, where the Roman knights given up at Caudium for hostages were being guarded; while

  3. Publilius stopped behind in Samnium to oppose the [so-called] Caudine legions”, (‘History of Rome’, (9: 12: 9).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 5-6) gave an excellent summary of Livy’s account (at 9: 13: 1 - 9: 15: 8) of the consuls’ success: Publilius drove a Samnite army from Caudium to Luceria, which was then besieged by both consular armies:

  1. “The [Romans] win a great victory [outside Luceria, and the troops] are are restrained from destroying the whole Samnite camp only because the consuls call a retreat, fearing for the safety of the 600 Roman hostages [that are imprisoned there. ... Publilius then] brings to submission various peoples of Apulia while Papirius maintains the siege of Luceria.  Soon the Samnite garrison of the town submits and is sent under the yoke.”

Livy’s account of the climax is worth reproducing just for the great pride that he obviously took in the telling:

  1. “Huge spoils were captured in Luceria, and all the standards and arms which had been lost at Caudium were retaken.  Furthermore, to cap the climax of their joy, the horsemen were recovered whom the Samnites had assigned, as pledges of peace, to be guarded at Luceria.  There is scarce any other Roman victory more glorious for its sudden reversal of fortune, especially if it is true (as I find in certain annals) that Pontius the son of Herennius, the Samnite general-in-chief, was sent with the rest under the yoke, to expiate the humiliation of the [Roman] consuls. at the [Caudine Forks]”, (‘History of Rome’, (9: 15: 7-8).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p.34)  referred to:

  1. “... the absurdity of [this] account of Rome’s glorious victories [in Apulia] in 320 BC, much of which verges on fantasy.”

He continued (at p. 36):

  1. “If [it is discounted], then we have no reliable evidence for fighting between Rome and the Samnites in that year.  There is therefore no reason to believe that the Romans either repudiated or broke their treaty with the Samnites, either in 321 or 320 BC.  The campaigns of 320 that adorn the pages of Livy appear to be [no more than] an annalistic fiction ... that gave the Romans great victories to compensate for [an all too real and] crushing defeat.”

Dictators of 320 BC

Livy then changed the pace of the narrative by musing as follows:

  1. “... I am not greatly surprised that there should be some doubt as to [the identity of the Samnite general] who was surrendered and disgraced [at Luceria]; the amazing thing is the uncertainty as to whether victories at Caudium and subsequently at Luceria  ... belonged:

  2. to Lucius Cornelius [Lentulus], as dictator, with Lucius Papirius Cursor, as master of the horse; or

  3. to the consuls, and particularly to Papirius”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 15: 9-10).

In fact, the fasti Capitolini, list an unprecedented three dictators who served in 320 BC as:

  1. C. Maenius, [- (?) in order to hold investigations]with M. Foslius Flaccinator as master of horse

  2. L. Cornelius Lentulus, [- in order to manage public affairs] with L. Papirius Cursor (II) as master of horse; and

  3. T. Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus, [- (?) in order to hold elections] for the third time, with L. Papirius Cursor (III) as master of horse.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p 167, note 1) observed that the fasti would have stated the nature of each of these dictatorships, and that Attilio Degrassi, in his transcription, had supplied guesses: these are reproduced in square brackets in the link above, and I have included them here.  However, as Oakley observed, this could be misleading.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p 169) cautioned against the rejection of this unprecedented plethora of dictators in a single consular year.  However, if he is correct in rejecting any Roman campaigns in Apulia in 320 BC, then there is no surviving evidence for Roman military activity in this year.  Thus, it is difficult to imagine the reason for the unprecedented appointment of three dictators in a single consular year, particularly since the consuls were presumably in Rome for most of the year. 

Dictatorship of Lucius Cornelius Lentulus

This is the only dictatorship that Livy recorded in 320 BC: as noted above, he was aware of accounts in which:

  1. the Roman commander who finally defeated the Samnites at Caudium and Luceria was Lucius Cornelius Lentulus, as dictator, with Papirius as his master of horse; and/or

  2. the Samnite general who went under the yoke at Luceria was none other than Pontius, the son of Herennius.

We know from a passage of Aulus Gellius that Q. Claudius Quadrigarius, who was writing in the early 1st century BC, had recorded a version of this sort: in a section in which Gellius investigated the precise meaning of the word indutiae (a truce), he asked rhetorically:

  1. “ ... if a truce is to be defined as only lasting for a few days, what are we to say about the fact, recorded by Quadrigarius in the 1st book of his ‘Annals’, that Caius Pontius, the Samnite, asked the Roman dictator for a truce of six hours ?” (‘Attic Nights’, 1: 25: 6).

We also know that Livy was aware of Quadrigarius’ account because (as noted above) he referred to it in his account to the agreement reached with the Samnites at Caudium after the defeat of 321 BC. John Briscoe (in T. Cornell, referenced below, 2013, Volume III, p. 308, Fragent 16) observed that:

  1. “The fragment [under discussion here] will belong to [Quadrigarius’] account of the alleged Roman victory revenging Caudium in 320 BC ... [His apparent reference to ‘the Roman ‘dictator’] demonstrates that, in his account, the campaign was conducted by the dictator L. Cornelius Lentulus, with L. Papirius Cursor as [his master of horse, as in the alternative sources described by Livy] ...”

Obviously if (as both Stephen Oakley and John Briscoe suggest), the battle of 320 BC is fictitious, then the accounts of it by both Livy and Quadrigarius must be discounted.  Furthermore, as Oakley pointed out (above), if this is accepted, then we have no reliable evidence for any fighting between Rome and the Samnites in 320 BC.  Even if there were unrecorded Roman military engagements in this year (perhaps, for example, in the Liris valley):

  1. the consuls Publilius and Papirius would presumably have been experienced enough to deal with them without the need for a dictator; and

  2. even if the Senate had pressed for the appointment of a dictator for military purposes, it is hard to imagine the circumstances in which Papirius would have agreed to serve as his second-in-command.

For these reasons, I think that we can discount the possibility that Cornelius’ dictatorship was for military purposes.  Indeed, if Oakley (as above) is correct that the three dictatorships of 320 BC recorded in the fasti Capitolini should probably be accepted, then all three of them must surely have been for non-military purposes.  I return to the possible nature of Lentulus’ dictatorship below.

Dictatorship of Caius Maenius

The fasti Capitolini record two dictatorships held by Maenius in this period, with M. Folius Flaccinator as his master of horse on both occasions:

  1. 320 BC: dictator [record of caussa lost]: C. Maenius, with M. Folius Flaccinator as master of horse; and

  2. 314 BC: dictator rei gerundae caussa (for the purpose of conducting affairs): C. Maenius II, with M. Folius Flaccinator II as master of horse.

The link to the fasti above follows Attilio Degrassi in completing the record for 320 BC by describing the caussa as [(?) quaest(ionum) exerc(endarum) (in order to hold investigations)].  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p 167, note 1) pointed out that Degrassi acknowledged that this was a guess: nevertheless, as I argue below, it seems to me to have been a very good guess.

Livy was apparently unaware of Maenius’ first dictatorship: however, he did record his second one in 314 BC, and he described it on three occasions (at 9: 26: 6, 9: 26: 15 and 9: 34: 14).  For reasons set out in my page Second Samnite War II (315 - 312 BC), it is almost certain that this second dictatorship was, in fact, rei gerundae caussa, and that the investigations undertaken at Rome that were described as taking place at this time were actually undertaken in 320 BC, during Maenius’ first dictatorship.  If this is correct, then Maenius’ dictatorship of 320 BC related to powerful men:

  1. “... who had formed cabals and conspiracies against the state; and the secret leagues entered into by candidates for office were against the state”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 26: 9).

An investigation into possible electoral malpractice would not have been out of place in 320 BC:

  1. as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 39) pointed out, the previous year had been the first since the passage of the lex Genucia (342 BC) in which two consuls who had previously served together were elected: both T. Veturius Calvinus and Sp. Postumius Albinus had been cos I in 334 BC a,d cos II in 321 BC;

  2. as we have seen, the process for electing the consuls of 320 BC had been chaotic;

  3. each of the consuls elected fro 320 BC had already served in this capacity in the previous decade (Q. Publilius Philo was cos II in 327 BC and cos III in 320 BC and L. Papirius Cursor was was cos I in 326 BC and cos II in 320 BC); and  

  4. Papirius, as serving consul, also:

  5. served as master of horse on two occasions; and

  6. stood (successfully as it turned out) in the elections for the consuls of the following year

Papirius’ decision to stand for immediate re-election must have raised eyebrows:

  1. as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 622) observed, although some late sources identify the ‘Plautius’ who held the consulship in 328 BC as C. Plautius Decianus (cos I in 329 BC), Livy names him as P. Plautius Proculus and:

  2. “... given that the rule of not iterating the consulate within ten years was observed fairly strictly in this period, Livy’s choice of the otherwise P. Proculus is likely to be correct”; and

  3. if it is correct to assume that C. Plautius Decianus was not re-elected for 328 BC, then Papirius’ immediate re-election for 319 BC would have been unprecedented.

Furthermore, Papirius’ appointments as master of horse would have been similarly unprecedented: Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 168) observed that it is most unusual to find a serving consul as master of horse: of the four possible known examples, only two are prior to 320 BC and neither of these is certain.  Yet Papirius apparently did so on two occasions in 320 BC. 

Interestingly, Oakley suggested (at p 169) found four later examples of a master of horse was elected as consul in the following year:

  1. Q. Fulvius Flaccus: cos II in 224 BC; master of horse in 213 BC; cos III in 212 BC;

  2. Q. Caecilius Metellus: master of horse in 205 BC; cos I in 206 BC;

  3. M. Servilius Pulex Geminus: master of horse in 203 BC; cos I in 202 BC;

  4. P. Aelius Paetus: master of horse in 202 BC; cos I in 201 BC.

In all of these cases, the master of horse in question had been nominated by a dictator who had been appointed to hold elections.  Oakley suggested that, in all four of these cases, the magistrate in question had possibly been nominated as master of horse to ensure his own election.  Unfortunately, as noted above, we do not know whether either of  Cornelius or Manlius, the dictators who nominated Papirius as master of horse, had been appointed to hold elections.  In fact, we know very little about the elections themselves: all Livy recorded was that there was doubt as to:

  1. “... whether ... :

  2. Papirius Cursor was retained in office in recognition of his victory at Luceria, being returned for a third time to the consulship, together with Quintus Aulius Cerretanus, then chosen for the second time; or

  3. it was Lucius Papirius Mugillanus [who was elected as Aulius’ colleague], and the mistake was a matter of the surname”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 15: 11).

(In fact, there is no doubt that Cursor was re-elected: indeed, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 664) reasonably argued that the cognomina Mugillanus and Cursor belonged to the same Lucius Papirius.  It is also significantly in the present context that Aulius had held his first consulship as recently as 323 BC.)

In short, it is entirely possible that, as Attilio Degrassi suggested, Maenius was appointed as dictator quaestionibus exercendis in 320 BC: his task would have been to investigate whether the apparent collusion between powerful individuals amounted to corruption.  There is no indication that these putative investigations achieved any slowing of what was a growing phenomenon the re-election of pair of consuls: for example, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 39) listed:

  1. three pairs of consuls who were elected together twice in the period 320-296 BC:

  2. L. Papirius Cursor and Q. Publius Philo (in 320 and 315 BC);

  3. Q. Aemilius Barbula and L. Junius Brutus Bubulcus (in 317 and 311 BC);

  4. Ap. Claudius Caecius and L. Volumnius Flamma (in 307 and 296) and

  5. a fifth pair, Q. Fabius Maximus Rullianus and P. Decius Mus, who were elected together on three occasions (in 308, 297 and 295 BC).

However, it might be because of Maenius’ efforts that (at least as far as we know):

  1. no serving consul ever again served as master of horse; and

  2. until 213/2 BC, no master of horse became consul in the elections over which he was presiding.

Dictatorship of Titus Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p 168) pointed out that Manlius had served as consul for the third time in 340 BC, some 18 years (allowing for two dictator years) prior to his third dictatorship in 320 BC,  However, he reasonably pointed out that:

  1. “It is conceivable ... that he was recalled to office during a major crisis, when it was felt that the state needed the experience of an old man.”

However, it would be surprising if Livy had been unaware of a major military crisis.  It therefore seems to me that he was recalled during a major political crisis, almost certainly  (as Degrassi ‘guessed’) in order to preside over the election of the consuls for 319 BC.

Dictators of 320 BC: Conclusions

For the reasons given above, I doubt that any of Maenius, Lentulus and Manlius was appointed as dictator for military purpose.  It seems to me that Maenius very probably served as dictator quaestionibus exercendis in this year, and that this is reflected in Livy’s ‘bizarre’ account of his dictatorship of 314 BC (when he was almost certainly dictator rei gerundae caussa).  The cases of Lentulus and Manlius are more problematic, although, if the record in the fasti Capitolini that each nominated Papirius as his master of horse is correct, this suggests that they did not overlap: even Papirius could surely not have served as consul and as master of horse two dictators at the same time.

It is tempting to link both of these dictatorships to Maenius’ putative investigations: indeed I cannot resist suggesting that:

  1. Lentulus was appointed to hold the elections for 319 BC because:

  2. Philo was compromised in some way (see below); and

  3. Papirius proposed to stand for immediate re-election (which must have been hugely controversial);

  4. Lentulus compounded matters when he nominated Papirius as his master of horse;

  5. this led to the Maenius’ appointment to the (probably unprecedented) office of dictator quaestionibus exercendis;

  6. Lentulus resigned in order to defend himself, and Maenius’ investigations failed (probably spectacularly); and

  7. Manlius, who was unlikely to have been involved in the cabals of the younger generation, was appointed to pick up the pieces by holding the disputed elections (although I doubt that he really did nominate Papirius as his master of horse).

To test this suggestion, we might now look at Livy’s account of how Maenius’ putative dictatorship quaestionibus exercendis of 314 BC had ended:  Maenius himself faced charges and resignedin order to defend himself.  He and Folius became:

  1. “... the first to be tried before the consuls, as the Senate ordered, and, since the evidence... against them completely broke down, they were triumphantly acquitted.  Even Publilius Philo, a man who had repeatedly filled the highest offices as a reward for his services at home and in the field ... was put on his trial and acquitted. ... [The investigation into electoral malpractice] was, at length stifled by the very cabals and factions that it had been instituted to suppress”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 26: 20-2).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 304) pointed out that, among other oddities:

“Philo appears in the narrative suddenly and quite without warning ...”

I suggest that:

  1. Livy found an account of Philo’s trial in his sources and (for whatever reason) assumed that this had taken place before the consuls in 314 BC; but

  2. in fact, Philo had been tried, not by the consuls in 314 BC, but by Maenius in 320 BC. 

Although Livy gave no indication of the charge that had been made against Philo, his general remarks indicate that it involved electoral collusion and malpractice. I suggested that he was accused of having:

  1. engineered Papirius’ election as consul in both 326 (above) and 320 BC;

  2. supported his candidacy for the consulship of 319 BC, which led the Senate’s decision to demand the appointment of a dictator to hold these elections; and

  3. appointed Lentulus (with whom he had shared the consulship in 327 BC) as said dictator; and

  4. allowed him to choose Papirius as his master of horse.

Note: Papirius was Philo’s  protegé from at least 320 BC, the year in which  as discussed above, Philo, who proposed to stand again for the consulship of 319 BC had probably engineered his election to his first consulship.

Events of 319 BC

Thus, after what had probably been a difficult election, L. Papirius Cursor was re-elected as consul for 319 BC, with Quintus Aulius Cerretanus as his colleague.


According to Livy, the consul Aulius :

  1. “...finished the campaign against the Frentani in one successful battle, after which, he received the surrender of the [unnamed] town and took hostages”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 16: 1).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 171) observed that this is the first time that Livy referred to the Frentani tribe, whose shared the culture of their Samnite neighbours.  He suggested that:

  1. “It is quite likely that [they] were  often politically dependent [these] powerful neighbours.”


Meanwhile, according to Livy, Papirius:

  1. “... overcame the Satricani, who, though Roman citizens, had defected to the Samnites after the Caudine misfortune and admitted a Samnite garrison into their city”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 16: 2).

As noted above, Livy is probably mistaken in thinking that his sources were referring to Satricum in Latium, which had been incorporated optimo iure in 338 BC: this was almost certainly the Satricum in the Liris valley which Cicero referred to in his correspondence with his brother.  Livy continued:

  1. “When the Roman army drew near the walls of Satricum, the townspeople sent ambassadors to sue for peace; but [Papirius] replied that [he would negotiate only if] they killed the Samnite garrison or delivered it up. ... [The Satricani betrayed the Samnite garrison, following which], in one crowded hour, the Samnites were slain, the Satricani were captured, and [Papirius was in complete control. ... He had the leaders of the revolt] beheaded, after which he imposed a strong garrison on the Satricani and deprived them of their arms”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 16: 3-10).

Livy’s account ended with a long paean of praise for Papirius:

  1. “Papirius ... then departed for Rome to celebrate his triumph, [at least] according to those writers who name him as the commander who recovered Luceria and sent the Samnites under the yoke. [These writers were recording an event in 319 BC that almost certainly never happened.].  He was certainly a man deserving of all praise as a soldier ... : there can be no doubt that, in his generation, ... there was no-one who did more to uphold the Roman State.  Indeed, people regard him as one who might have been a match ... for Alexander the Great, if the latter, having subjugating Asia, had turned his arms against Europe”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 16: 11-19).

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ recorded that Lucius Papirius Cursor was awarded his second triumph over the Samnites in his third term as consul (319 BC).

Renewal of Peace with Samnium (318 BC)

It is possible that the Roman engagements described above, which were both on the borders of Samnium, interrupted the Caudine Peace.  This would make sense of Livy’s claim that, in the year of the consuls Marcus Folius Flaccinator and Lucius Plautius Venox (318 BC):

  1. “... ambassadors from many Samnite states [came to Rome] to seek a renewal of the treaty. ... they were refused the treaty, but ... succeeded in obtaining a two years' truce”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 20: 1-3).

Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 1989, at p 371) observed that:

  1. “It seems likely enough ... that, by 318 BC, open hostilities between Rome and the Samnites had ceased, as a result of

  2. either the original foedus [of 321 BC];

  3. or a subsequent truce at the beginning of 318 BC. 

  4. This left the Romans free to strengthen their position [in the territories that they had acquired over the last two decades and also in Apulia and Lucania].”  

Apulia and Lucania (318-7 BC)

It is likely that the Romans had lost their alliances with the Apulani after their defeat at the Caudine Forks in 321 BC.  However, their success over the Frentani in 319 BC would have opened up the way for them to begin to restore the situation in Apulia.

Surrender of Teanum Apulum and Canusium (318 BC)

According to Livy, soon after the Samnite’s request for peace:

  1. “In Apulia, likewise, the Teanenses and Canusini [people of Teanum Apulum and Canusium], exhausted by the devastation of their lands, gave hostages to Plautius  ... and made submission”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 20: 4).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 264) observed that Teanum Apulum and Canusium joined Arpi, which had been a Roman ally since  since at least 321 BC.

Diodorus Siculus began his account of the war in  318 BC, noting that it had been going on for nine years (see below):

  1. “Although, in the previous period, [the Romans] had fought with large forces, at this time they accomplished nothing great or worthy of mention by the incursions that they were making upon the hostile territory; yet they did not cease attacking the strongholds and plundering the country.  In Apulia, they also plundered all Daunia and won back the Canusians, from whom they took hostages”, (‘Library of History’, 19: 10: 1-2).

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 263) pointed out, Diodorus’ mention of the events at Canusium and the creation of the Falerna and Oufentina tribes [see below] shows that his sources were similar to those used by Livy.  However, he suggested that Diodorus. grasp of Roman affairs of the period was tenuous and that, for example, he might have thought, probably incorrectly, that the fighting in Apulia was against the Samnites.

Chronology of Diodorus Siculus

Diodorus’ assertion that this was the 9th year of the war is very interesting: in Livy’s account:

  1. Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus and Lucius Papirius Cursor had declared war at the start of their consular year; and

  2. the surrender of Teanum Apulum and Canusium took place in the consulate of Marcus Folius Flaccinator and Lucius Plautius Venox, the 7th pair of consuls after Poetelius and Papirius.

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 263) pointed out, Diodorus must have dated these events by using a chronology that included the fictitious dictator year of 325/4 BC (although he did not record the events of the earlier phase of the war in his narrative).

Further Gains in Apulia (317 BC)

In 317 BC, after the surrender of Teanum Apulum and Canusium:

  1. “... the Apulian Teates [see below] came to the new consuls, Caius Junius Bubulcus and Quintus Aemilius Barbula, to sue for a treaty, [promising to deliver to Rome] peace throughout Apulia.  By this bold pledge, they succeeding in obtaining  a treaty,... [albeit that it] made them subject to the Romans.  After Apulia had been thoroughly subdued (for Forentum, a strong town [in Apulia, whose precise location is now unknown], had also fallen into the hands of Junius) the campaign was extended to the Lucanii, from whom, on the sudden arrival of Aemilius, [the now-unknown] Nerulum was taken by assault”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 20: 7-10).

Some of these place names are problematic: according to Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 268- 270):

  1. The advance on Teanum Apulum and then Canusium would have been the natural continuation of Rome’s conquest of the Frentani (above).

  2. The ‘Apulian Teates’ were none other than the people of Teanum Apulum, which suggests that Livy mistakenly reported their surrender in both 318 and in 317 BC.

  3. The capture of Forentum is likely enough, albeit that its precise location is unknown.

  4. The obscurity of Nerulum is an argument in favour of the putative Roman incursion into Lucania, although its location (and hence, its strategic significance) is unclear.

The implication of Livy’s record of these hostilities of 318/7 BC is that the Romans were taking advantage of the Caudine Peace to build up their presence in the territory between Samnium and the Adriatic.  However, as we shall see, Luceria still remained in Samnite hands.

Read more:

T. J. Cornell (ed.), “The Fragments of the Roman Historians”, (2013) Oxford

J. C. Yardley (translation) and D. Hoyos (introduction and notes), “Livy: Rome's Italian Wars: Books 6-10”, (2013), Oxford World's Classics

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

T. C. Brennan, “The Praetorship in the Roman Republic”, (2000) Oxford

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

T. Cornell, “The Conquest of Italy”, in:

  1. F. Walbank et al. (eds), The Rise of Rome to 220 BC: The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 7:2)”, (1989) Cambridge, at pp. 351-419

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Roman Conquest:

Second Samnite War I: 326 - 316 BC 

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