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Foreign Wars (3rd century BC)

Wars in Cisalpine Gaul, Istrya and Illyrium (225 - 218 BC)


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Gallic War (225-2 AD)


Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

Prior Events

The Romans had completed the conquest of Etruria and Umbria in the early 3rd century BC, from which point their territory extended northwards as far as the Apennines:

  1. in 283 BC, they expelled a Gallic tribe known as the Senones from the territory north of Ancona, between the mountains and the Adriatic, after which, their lands became the Roman ager Gallicus, and founded a colony at Sena Gallica here ; and

  2. in 268 BC, they:

  3. took control of Picenum, to the south of Ancona; and

  4. and founded a colony at Ariminum, on the border of the ager Gallicus and the territory of the Boii. 

Stephen Dyson (referenced below, at p. 27) characterised this as:

  1. “... a turning point in Romano-Gallic relations: previously, Rome and the largest Gallic tribes had had only indirect frontier contacts, but now the Romans had moved [some 6,000 colonists into territory that the Gauls had considered as their own for [at least] a century.”

Nevertheless, for whatever reason, the border remained quiescent until 237 BC, when the Roman annexation of Sardinia and Corsica (discussed above) apparently destabilised the region:

  1. According to Ploybius:

  2. “Fortunately, this alliance disintegrated after two years, and the Boii were obliged to sue for peace, at the cost of a large portion of their land.  It seems likely that the land in question provided a buffer zone around Arimunum.

  3. Resistance to the Romans on Sardinia and Corsica and in the territory of the Italic tribe known as the Ligurians (around modern Genoa) continued throughout the 230s.  The Fasti Triumphales record a series of triumphs:

  4. over the Ligurians in 236 and 233;

  5. over the Sardinians in 235, 234 and 233; and

  6. over the Corsicans in 231 (albeit that the Senate had not allowed this triumph to be celebrated in Rome itself, probably because of its cost in Roman lives, so the consul Caius Papirius Maso became the first Roman to celebrate a triumph under his own auspices on the Alban Mount).

  7. This series of campaigns presumably enhanced the security of the Tyrrhenian coast.

  8. In 232 BC, the Romans began a new programme of viritane settlement in the ager Gallicus, pursuant on an agrarian law sponsored by the tribune C. Flaminius.  Thus, the isolation of Ariminum would have been reduced.

  9. In 229-8 BC, the Romans fought the First Illyrian War, after which they established a presence along the eastern coast of the Adriatic (in modern Montenegro). 

Thus, as Polybius observed in the quotation above, following the treaty that they agreed with Hasdrubal in 226 BC, they were free to concentrate of the resurgent threat from the Gauls.

Gallic Invasion (225 BC)


Troop movements leading to the Battle of Telamon (225 BC)

Red= Roman; blue = Gauls

Adapted from the map in this webpage by Karwansaray Publishers 

In or shortly before 225 BC, the Insubres and the Boii (the two Gallic tribes settled closest to Rome) recruited a number of mercenaries from Transalpine Gaul in preparation for another invasion of Roman territory.  When the Romans became aware of this, one of the serving consuls, Lucius Aemilius Papus, was stationed at Ariminum: clearly, the Romans thought that the Gallic army would first attempt to invade the ager Gallicus

However, the Gauls marched into  Etruria across one of the passes west of Ariminum and reached Clusium (Chiusi) before the Roman force that was supposed to have defended against this contingency could catch up with them.  Aemilius managed to reach Clusium in time to avert defeat, and the Gauls fell back on the coastal centre of Telamon, with Aemilius in pursuit.  Meanwhile, Aemilius’ colleague, Caius Atilius Regulus, who had been campaigning in Sardinia, landed at Pisae (Pisa) and marched south along the coast to join the fray.  The Gauls were comprehensively defeated in this pincer movement, albeit that Atilius was killed in the battle.  Thus, the Fasti Triumphales record that Aemilius was awarded a triumph over the Gauls in 225 BC.  As Polybius observed:

  1. “Thus was the most formidable Gallic invasion repelled, which had been regarded by all Italians, and especially by the Romans, as a danger of the utmost gravity.  The victory inspired the Romans with a hope that they might be able to entirely expel the Gauls from the valley of the Padus [Po]”, (‘Histories’, 2: 31: 8).

Aftermath of the Invasion (224 - 222 BC)

In the following three years, the Romans seem to have concentrated on pressing home their advantage in Cisalpine Gaul:

  1. The consuls of 224 BC, Quintus Fulvius Flaccus and Titus Manlius Torquatus, secured the submission of the Boii.  According to Arthur Eckstein (referenced below, at p. 15):

  2. “Apparently, the consuls exacted an ... absolute surrender and demanded hostages as assurances for future good behaviour.  [It was probably at this point that the Boii were] forced to give the Romans certain territory in the northwest corner of their lands for the Latin colony of Placentia.  ... Especially when one considers the leading role of the Boii in the invasion of 225 BC, ... this seems a moderate settlement ... : their freedom of action was somewhat hindered by Roman possession of Boian hostages, but the Boii were still left ... in possession of most of their land.”

  3. The consuls of 223 BC, Caius Flaminius (the author of the agrarian law discussed above) and Publius Furius Philus, then defeated the Insubres in the Po valley: the Fasti Triumphales record that both consuls were awarded triumphs:

  4. Flaminius against the Gauls; and

  5. Furius against both the Gauls and the Ligurians. 

  6. The Romans, however, remained intent on total submission, and the Insubrians’ request for peace was denied. 

  7. The consuls of 222 BC, Marcus Claudius Marcellus and Cnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, pressed on to total victory.  The former secured an important victory at Clastidium (modern Casteggio, some 60 km south of Milan), during which he personally killed the leader of the opposing army.  According to Zonaras, he then rejoined Scipio and:

  8. “... they subdued Mediolanum [Milan] and another [unnamed] town.  After these had been captured, the rest of the Insubres also made terms with [the consuls], giving them money and a portion of their land”, (‘Epitome’, 8: 20).

  9. Arthur Eckstein (referenced below, at p. 15, note 46) suggested that it was at this point that the Romans acquired the land for the Latin colony of Cremona [see below].  He noted (at p. 18) that, more generally, this was a relatively modest settlement that left the Insubres in possession of most of their land.  Marcellus seems to have secured credit for the victory: thus, the Fasti Triumphales record his triumph over the Insubrian Gauls and the ‘Germans’, adding that he brought back the spolia opima after killing the enemy leader, Virdumarus, at Clastidium.

Thus, in 222 BC, it must have seemed to the Romans that the task of pacifying the Boii and Insubres was complete.

Events of 221 - 218 BC

Threat from Hannibal in Hispania (221 - 218 BC)

Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca, had originally arrived in Hispania with his father in 237 BC, and who had continued to serve there under Hasdrubal (above).  When Hasdrubal was assassinated in 221 BC, the young Hannibal replaced him.  He significantly strengthened the Carthaginian position south of the Ebro during the campaigning season of 220 BC.   However, Polybius reported that, towards the end of the season, he:

  1. “... found himself in great peril, [when] the Carpetani, the strongest tribe in the district, gathered to attack him [with the support of a number of other Hispanic tribes.  ...  However, after he defeated this formidable army], none of the peoples [south] of the Ebro ventured lightly to face the Carthaginians, with the exception of the Saguntines.  Hannibal tried to avoid attacking  this city, wishing to give the Romans no pretext for war before he had secured his possession of all the rest of the country [south of the Ebro]”, (‘Histories, 3: 14: 2-9).

This suggests that Saguntum enjoyed the protection of Rome.  Livy (who looked back on these events at the start of his Book 21) believed that one of the clauses of the treaty of 226 BC (above) had included the stipulation that:

  1. “... the Saguntines, situated between the empires of the [Carthaginians and the Romans], should  preserved their in independence”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 2: 7).

However, since Saguntum was some way south of the Ebro and thus clearly in the agreed sphere of influence of Carthage, it seems unlikely that it had been singled out in this way in the treaty of 226 BC.  Nevertheless, it certainly had a close relationship with Rome by 220 BC: Polybius recorded that, as the other Hispanic tribes succumbed to Hannibal’s army, the Saguntines:

  1. “... sent repeated messages to Rome, since: they were alarmed for their own safety and foresaw what was coming; and they wished to keep the Romans informed of the progress of the Carthaginians in Hispania”, (‘Histories, 3: 15: 1).

The Romans responded to the reports from Saguntum by sending legates to Hannibal.  Livy (‘History of Rome’, 21: 6: 7) names them as P. Valerius Flaccus and Q. Baebius Tamphilus (although the chronology in his account of the legation can be safely discounted). Polybius recorded that Hannibal found them waiting for him at Carthago Nova when he retired to his winter quarters there in late 220 BC:

  1. “The Romans [warned him] against attacking Saguntum, which they said was under their protection, or crossing the Ebro, contrary to the treaty engagements entered into in [226 BC].  ... The Roman legates, seeing clearly [from Hammibal’s response] that war was inevitable, took ship for Carthage to convey the same [warnings] to the Government there”, (Histories, 3: 15: 5-12).

These warnings went unheeded, and Polybius reported that, at some time in 219 BC, Hannibal:

  1. “... left Carthago Nova with his army, advanced towards Saguntum ... [and] set himself to besiege it vigorously, foreseeing that many advantages would result from its capture:

  2. First of all, he thought that he would thus deprive the Romans of any prospect of a campaign in [Hispania].

  3. Secondly, he was convinced that, by this blow, he would inspire universal terror, and thus render the Iberian tribes that had already submitted more orderly, while those that were still independent [would become] more cautious.

  4. Above all, he would be enabled to advance safely [across the Ebro], with no enemy left in his rear. 

  5. Furthermore: he would then have abundant funds and supplies for his projected expedition against Rome]; he would raise the spirit of his troops by the booty distributed among them; and he would conciliate the Carthaginians at home by the spoils that he would send them.  ...  At length, after eight months of hardship and anxiety, he took the [Saguntum] by storm”, (‘Histories’, 3: 17: 1-9).

John Lazenby (referenced below, at p. 29) reasonably suggested that:

  1. “Hannibal probably took Saguntum towards the end of 219 BC, and the new year would seen his victorious soldiers dispersed to winter quarters  ... He seems to have assumed that war with Rome was inevitable, and almost immediately to have begun to [prepare for] the daring plan that he had conceived: to lead an army overland to northern Italy, and to attack the Romans in their homeland.”

For reasons that are unclear, the Romans had done nothing to help Saguntum during the siege.  However, they reacted strongly when they heard, probably just before the consuls of 218 BC took office, that it had fallen.  According to Livy:

  1. “So great was the senators’ alarm ... [that] they trembled rather than deliberated.   For they  ... [realised that they] would have to contend in war ... in Italy and under the walls of Rome”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 16: 2-6). 

Problems with Sources for Events in Rome (221-219 BC)

Consuls of this period

The loss of Livy’s Book 20 (which covered the period ca. 240-220 BC), alongside lacunae in both the fasti Capitolini (221-219 BC inclusive) and the fasti Triumphales (221-198 BC inclusive), causes obvious problems.  Fortunately, Zonaras (‘Epitome of Cassius Dio, Book 12’, 8: 20) identified the consuls of each of these years:

  1. “In 221 BC:

  2. “... the consuls], P. Cornelius [Scipio Asina] and M. Minucius [Rufus] made an expedition in [Istria] and subdued many of the nations there, some by war and some by capitulation.” 

  3. In 220 BC:

  4. ”... the consuls] L. Veturius [Philo] and C. Lutatius [Catulus] went as far as the Alps and won over many people without any fighting.” 

  5. In 219 BC:

  6. “... the ruler of the Ardiaeans [in Illyria], Demetrius [of Pharus], was not only proving oppressive to the natives but was also ravaging the territory of the neighbouring tribes; and it appeared that it was by abusing the friendship of the Romans that he was able to wrong them.... as soon as the consuls [of 219 BC], [L.] Aemilius Paulus and M. Livius [Salinator], heard of this, they summoned him before them.  When he paid no heed, but actually proceeded to assail their allies, they made a campaign against him in Issa [see the map below].”

However, there is a complication in relation to the identities of the consuls of 220 BC (534 AUC): the so-called ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ identified them as:

  1. Levino et Scevola’ [M. Valerius Laevinus and Q. Mucius Scaevola]

Furthermore, the fasti Capitolini record Laevinus’ consulship in 210 BC as his second, so his first (which is not recorded in surviving entries in the fasti) must have occurred in the period under discussion here.  Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 235) suggested that he and Scaevola had probably been elected in this year, but that this had been vitiated, leading to new elections in which Veturius and Lutatius were successful.

Dictators of this Period

Another complication arises from the existence of records of the nomination of Flaminius (cos 223 BC) as master of horse by a dictator of uncertain identity: since this dictatorship is not recorded in the surviving entries in the fasti, it probably fell in the period under discussion here.  The relevant (and contradictory) sources are:

  1. Valerius Maximus, according to whom, the dictator in question was Q. Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (cos 233, 228, 215, 214 and 209); and

  2. “... and hearing the singing of a sorex (shrew) furnished cause for the setting aside of the dictatorship for Q. Fabius Maximus and the magistracy of the horse for C. Flaminius”, (‘Memorable Deeds and Sayings’, 1: 5), translated by Mark Wilson, 2017, at p. 436); and

  3. Plutarch, according to whom, the dictator in question was Minucius (cos 221):

  4. “... because the squeak of a shrew-mouse (they call it ‘sorex’) was heard just as Minucius, the dictator, appointed C. Flaminius as his master of horse, the people deposed these officials and put others in their places”, (‘Life of Marcellus’, 5: 4).

It is possible that both Fabius and Munucius held a dictatorships in the period under discussion here:

  1. in the case of Fabius

  2. the elogium that was written under his statue in the Augustan Forum (which is known from the copy of it (CIL XI 1828) that survives among the so-called elogia Arretina and which is broadly contemporary with the fasti Capitolini) recorded that he was twice dictator; and

  3. according to Livy (‘History of Rome’, 22: 9: 7), his dictatorship of 217 BC was his second (although the fasti Capitolini recorded it, probably incorrectly, as his first); and

  4. in the case of Minucius:

  5. an inscription from Rome dating to around this time recorded that he dedicated a statue to Hercules when he was dictator (CIL VI 0284: Hercolei sacrom M(arcus) Minuci(us) C(ai) f(ilius), dictator vovit); and

  6. since no record of this dictatorship is found in the surviving entries in the fasti Capitolini, it must (if genuine) have occurred in the period under discussion here

Since nothing in the surviving sources indicates the need for a dictator for military purposes in the period under discussion here, it seems likely that the dictators Fabius and Minucius were needed comitiorum habendorum caussa (in order to hold [consular] elections), probably because of the absence of the serving consuls in Istria in 221 BC and/or in Illyria in 219 BC.  It seems to me that two factors need to be taken into consideration at this point:

  1. Since Minucius was a serving consul in 221 BC, he was either available in Rome the end of that year in order to hold the elections as consul, or he was absent from the City. 

  2. Since Flaminus began his term as censor in 220 BC, he is unlikely to have been nominated as master of horse in 219 BC.

Thus, it seems to me that, assuming that both dictatorships were genuine, then the most likely scenario is that:

  1. Fabius was appointed as dictator comitiorum habendorum caussa in 221 BC, and he chose Flaminius as his master of horse (albeit that relations between the two men were notoriously bad); and

  2. Minucius was appointed as dictator comitiorum habendorum caussa in 219 BC, and he chose a now-unknown master of horse.

(I return to this complicated subject in the postscript at the end of the following page). 

Demetrius of Pharus (221 - 219 BC)


Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

As we saw above, Zonaras (‘Epitome of Cassius Dio, Book 12’, 8:20) recorded two Roman campaigns on the east coast of the Adriatic in the period under discussion here:

  1. one in 221, when the consuls Scipio and Minucius campaigned in Istria;

  2. another in 219 BC, , when the consuls Aemilius and Livius campaigned against Demetrius of Pharus at Issa

This seems to be reflected in the surviving summary (‘Periochae’ 20: 12-13) of Livy’s now-lost Book 20 (Zonaras’ probabe source):

  1. “The Istrians were subdued [presumably in 221 BC].”

  2. “The Illyrians revolted again [presumably in 219 BC], but were subdued.  Their surrender was accepted.” 

However, according to Appian, the Romans had engaged with Demetrius throughout 221-19 BC:

  1. “While the Romans were engaged in a three years' war with the Gauls on the river Po [in 225-2 BC], Demetrius, thinking that they had their hands full, set forth on a piratical expedition, brought the Istrians ... into the enterprise, and detached the Atintani from Rome.  The Romans, when they had settled their business with the Gauls [presumably in 221 BC], immediately sent a naval force and overpowered the pirates.  The following year [presumably 220 BC] they marched against Demetrius , ... [who] fled to King Philip of Macedonia.  When Demetrius returned [to Illyria, presumably still in 219 BC] and resumed his piratical career in the Adriatic, the Romans killed him and utterly demolished his native town of Pharus, which was associated with him in crime. They spared the Illyrians on account of Pinnes, [the new ruler of the Ardiaei], who again besought them to do so.  And such was the second conflict and treaty between them and the Illyrians”, (“Second Illyrian War’).

Gareth Sampson (referenced below, at pp. 195-7) pointed out that there is no a priori reason to discount this account of a more-or-less continuous Roman campaign in 221-9 BC that was designed to curb Demetrius’ power along the Adriatic coast.

The Romans had effectively installed Demetrius as the leading power in Illyria in 228 BC, largely at the expense of the ruler of Ardiaei.  Zonaras briefly summarised the campaign against him in 219 BC (which is usually named the Second Illyrian War):

  1. “As soon as the consuls ... heard of [Demetrius’ anti-Roman activities], they summoned him before them.  When he paid no heed, but actually proceeded to assail their allies, they made a campaign against him in Issa.  Having learned in advance that he was lying secretly at anchor somewhere in the vicinity of the landing-places [at Issa], they sent a part of their ships to the other side of the island to bring on an engagement.  When the Illyrians, accordingly, turned against these, thinking them to be alone, the main force sailed in at leisure and, after pitching camp in a suitable place, repulsed the natives, who, in their anger at the deception, had promptly attacked them. Demetrius made his escape to Pharos,  ... but [the Romans] sailed to that island, overcame resistance, and captured the city by betrayal, though only after Demetrius had fled.  This time, he reached [King Philip V of] Macedonia.  ... [When] he returned to Illyria, the Romans arrested him and put him to death”, (‘Epitome of Cassius Dio, Book 12’, 8:20).

Polybius attributed this campaign in Illyria entirely to Aemilius, who:

  1. “... took Pharos at once by assault and razed it to the ground and, after subduing the rest of Illyria and organising it as he thought best, returned to Rome in the late summer and entered the city in triumph: he was acclaimed by all, for he seemed to have managed matters with considerable ability and extraordinary courage”, (‘Histories’, 3: 19: 12-3).

However, as Gareth Sampson (referenced below, at p. 195) observed, other sources attribute the campaign to both consuls, and one late source (‘De viris illustribus urbis Romae’, 50:1) recorded that Livius triumphed for his contribution (albeit that he was subsequently condemned for peculation, presumably in respect of the division of spoils, by all of the tribes except the Maecia).  John Rich (referenced below, at p. 249) included triumphs for both consuls over the Illyrians in his reconstruction of the Augustan fasti Triumphales.

In view of the fact that tension between Rome and Carthage had been building up to a considerable extent in this period, we might reasonably wonder why the Romans sent both consuls to subdue Demetrius.  Polybius suggested that, while they recognised by this time that war with Carthage was inevitable:

  1. “They never thought ... that the war would be fought in Italy, but assumed that they would fight in Spain, with Saguntum for a base.  Consequently, the Senate ... decided [first] to secure their position in Illyria, as they foresaw that the war [against Carthage] would be serious and long, and [expected] that it would be fought far away from home”, (‘Histories’, 3: 15: 13 - 16: 1).

It appears that the Romans’ main concern at this point was the consolidation of their new territorial gains in Cisalpine Gaul

Via Flaminia (220 BC)


Via Flaminia in the Antonine Itinerary (reproduced by Richard Talbertt (referenced below):

                                                                   Red = route described at p. 221, 124:8 - 126:4

                                                                   Blue = route described at p. 246, 311:1 - 312:6

                                                                  Green = route described at p. 247, 315:7 - 316:5; dotted section uncertain

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire 

The first four of the final five entries in the surviving summary (‘Periochae’ 20: 14-17) of Livy’s now-lost Book 20, which must belong to the period 221 219 BC, relate to the activities of the censors, one of whom is named as C. Flaminius.  Two entries in of Livy’s Book 23 (paragraphs 22 and 23 ), both of which relate to the event of 216 BC, referred back to the time of the most recent censors, allowing us to identify Flaminius’ colleague as L. Aemilius Papus.  The first three of these entires relate to affairs at Rome, but the fourth is more relevant to the present discussion:

  1. “Censor C. Flaminius built the Via Flaminia and constructed the Circus Flaminia”, (‘Periochae’ 20: 17).

Peter Wiseman (referenced below, at p. 5) observed that:

  1. “Livy ascribes the 'building' of the Circus to C. Flaminius in his censorship in 220BC, Festus to the same man as consul.”

This is a reference to an entry in the Augustan lexicon ofVerrius Flaccus, as summarised by Festus and then by Paul the Deacon:

  1. “The Circus Flaminius and Via Flaminia were named for the consul Flaminius, who was killed by Hannibal [in 217 BC] beside Lake Trasimene” (‘De verborum significatu quae supersunt cum Pauli epitome’, p.79 L, my translation).

However, it is possible that Festus mentioned Flaminius’ consulship and the circumstances in which he died simply to differentiate him for other eponymous members of the gens Flaminia, who included his son, the consul of 187 BC.  Cassiodorus (who was writing in the 6th century AD) was specific:

  1. “In the year of [the consuls L. Veturius Philo and C. Lutatius Catullus, i.e. 220 BC], Via Flaminia was paved and the so-called Circus Flaminius was constructed”, (‘Chronica’, 534). 

It is important to bear in mind that even the earliest of the surviving descriptions of the route of Via Flaminia probably post-dated the Augustan restoration of the road in 27 BC, by which time it ran from Rome to Ariminum.  Two surviving records throw light on its original route:

  1. After Flaminius’ defeat at Lake Trasimene in 217 BC, the surviving consul, Cn. Servilius Geminus, immediately marched his army from his base at Ariminum towards Rome.  Livy recorded that the newly-appointed dictator, Q. Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, left Rome:

  2. “... by the Flaminian way to meet [Servilius] and his army.  When, close to the Tiber near Ocriculum, he first caught sight of the column, ... he dispatched an orderly to bid [Servilius] to appear before [him] without lictors [in order to relinquish overall military command.  Servilius] obeyed ...”,  (‘History of Rome’, 22: 11: 5-6).

  3. Thus, we learn that Via Flaminia extended beyond Ocriculum by 217 BC, and that it offered the most rapid route for an army marching from Ariminum to Rome. 

  4. However, the earliest surviving record that it extended thus far relates to 187 BC: according to Livy, M. Aemilius Lepidus, one of the consuls of that year:

  5. “... ... built a road from Placentia [Piacenza - see the map below] to Ariminum, in order to make a junction with Via Flaminia”,  (‘History of Rome’, 39: 2: 5-10).

We know very little about the original course of Via Flaminia between Ocriculum and Ariminum, albeit that we might reasonably assume that Forum Flaminii (north of modern Foligno) was named for Flaminius and that it was founded on Via Flaminia in or soon after 220 BC.  Ray Laurence (referenced below, at p. 21), argued that its original construction would have: 

  1. “... created a new geography that unified a number of colonial [and viritane] settlements at a distance from Rome: Narnia [founded in 299 BC]; the ager Sabinus [conquered in 290 BC and subject to extensive viritane settlement], Spoletium [founded in 241 BC], the ager Gallicus and Sena Gallica [founded in 283 BC].”

If this is correct, then the original road would have followed the red route in the illustration above from Rome until at least Forum Flaminii, after which it would have crossed the Apennines at some point between Forum Flaminii and Cales to reach Sena Gallica, and then continued along to coast to Fanum Fortunae and Ariminum.

A number of authors have discussed the role that the new road would have played in the events that immediately followed its construction.  For example:

  1. Rachel Feig Vishnia (referenced below, 1996, at p. 24) argued that the Romans decided to concentrate on the elimination of Demetrius of Pharus in 219 BC because they:

  2. “... could not countenance any piratical activity ... in the northern Adriatic at a time when Ariminum, the key to Cisalpine Gaul, was becoming an important military and civil harbour, and when the coastal part of [Via Flaminia], from Fanum Fortunae to Ariminum, was being constructed.” 

  3. As discussed above, it is not absolutely certain that the original Via Flaminia reached Ariminum and, even if it did so, it might have hit the coast at or to the south of Sena Gallica.  However, this basic point still holds: even if the original Via Flaminia ended at Forum Flaminii, there must have been an extension of it that reached the Adriatic by means of one of the four Apennine passes described (for example) by Ronald Syme (referenced below, at pp. 282-3) before turning northwards and following the coast to Ariminum.

  4. Simone Sisani (referenced below, at p. 125), like Ray Laurence (above), argued that:

  5. “... it is hard to believe that [the colony at Spoletium] remained unconnected to Rome for very long, and that Flaminius had not directed his road in such a way as to bring this fortress, which had been built two decades earlier, under his control” (my translation).

  6. To support this hypothesis, he pointed to a passage  in which Livy described Hannibal’s actions after the fateful battle at Lake Trasimene in 217 BC:

  7. “Hannibal, marching directly through Umbria, arrived at Spoletium.  Having completely devastated the adjoining country, he began an assault upon the town, but was repulsed. ... [This  alerted him to the problems that he would face in taking Rome.  He therefore] turned aside into the territory of Picenum” (‘History of Rome’, 22:9).

  8. Sisani argued that Hannibal’s march from Lake Trasimene to Spoletium made sense only if Spoletium had been on Via Flaminia and was thus on the most convenient route for a rapid attack on Rome. 

Foundation of Colonies at Placentia and Cremona (218 BC)

The last entry in the surviving summary of Livy’s now-lost Book 20 records that:

  1. “Colonies were founded in the conquered Gallic territories at Placentia and Cremona”, (‘Periochae’ 20: 18).

We first hear of these colonies in Book 21 in 218/7 BC, when P. Cornelius Scipio and Ti. Sempronius Longus were consuls and all the Romans knew of Hannibal’s movements was that he:

  1. “... had crossed the Ebro, news that envoys from Massilia (modern Marseilles) had brought to Rome”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 25: 1).

John Lazenby (referenced below, at p. 29) suggested that Hannibal had been preparing for his invasion of Italy since the fall of Saguntum towards the end of 219 BC, but that he probably did not set out on his long march until the summer of 218 BC.  According to Livy, when this news reached the Boii, they  revolted:

  1. “... as though Hannibal had already crossed the Alps .... : they were incited to do so,  not so much by their old animosity against the Roman People, as by vexation at the recent establishment of colonies in Gallic territory, near the Po, at Placentia and Cremona”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 25: 1-3).

Michael Fronda (referenced below, at pp. 431-2) reconciled these two records by arguing that:

  1. the decision to found the colonies and the associated passage of legislation were probably recorded at the end of the now-lost Book 20, which would have dealt with the events towards the end of the consular year 219/8 BC; and

  2. Livy then described the actual foundations of the colonies in his surviving Book 21, placing them at the start of 218/7 BC.

Polybius gave a parallel account of the events in 218/7 BC that contains some additional information:

  1. “... the Romans, having heard ... that Hannibal had crossed the Ebro earlier than they expected, ... voted to send P. Cornelius Scipio with his legions into Iberia, and Ti. Sempronius Longus into Libya.  And, while the consuls were [still] engaged in hastening on the enrolment of their legions and other military preparations, the people were active in bringing to completion the colonies that they had already voted to send into Gaul.  They accordingly caused the fortification of these towns to be energetically pushed on, and ordered the colonists to be in residence within 30 days: 6,000 having been assigned to each colony:

  2. one of these colonies was on the south bank of the Padus [Po], and was called Placentia;

  3. the other on the north bank, called Cremona”, (‘Histories’, 3: 40).  

Livy then went on to describe the start of an attack by the dispossessed Boii:

  1. “Flying to arms, they made an incursion into [the district of the colonies], and spread such terror and confusion that, not only the rural population, but even the Roman commissioners themselves, who had come for the purpose of assigning lands, not trusting to the walls of Placentia, fled to Mutina.  Their names were C. Lutatius, C. Servilius and M. Annius”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 25: 1-3).

While the Romans who had fled from the the emerging colonies were:

  1. “... under siege at Mutina, the Gauls (who know nothing of the art of assaulting cities) ... feigned a readiness to treat for peace, and their leaders invited the Romans to send out spokesmen to confer with them.  They [then] seized these envoys, in violation not only of the law of nations, but also of a pledge that they had given for this time, and declared that they would not let them go unless their own hostages [that had possibly been taken in 224 BC - see below] were restored to them”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 25: 5-7).

Polybius again provided a parallel account:

  1. “... no sooner had these colonies been formed than the Boii, ... encouraged by the news that reached them of Hannibal's approach, revolted, thereby abandoning the hostages which they had given at the end of the war [in 224 BC].   The ill-feeling still remaining towards Rome enabled them to induce the Insubres to join in the revolt.  The united tribes swept over the territory that had recently been allotted by the Romans and, following close upon the track of the flying colonists, laid siege to the Roman colony [sic] of Mutina, in which the fugitives had taken refuge.  Among them were the triumviri or three commissioners who had been sent out to allot the lands, of whom:

  2. one, C. Lutatius, was an ex-consul; and

  3. the other two were ex-praetors.

  4. When these men demanded a parley with the enemy, the Boii consented, but treacherously seized them upon their leaving the town, hoping by their means to recover their own hostages”, (‘Histories’, 3: 40).  

These accounts are at variance:

  1. according to Polybius, the land commissioners, Lutatius and two unnamed praetors were seized when they left Mutina in order to negotiate with the Boii; but

  2. according to Livy (at least in his main account, described above), the land commissioners, whom he named as C. Lutatius, C. Servilius and M. Annius, were not explicitly included among the envoys whom the Boii seized at Mutina.

However, in the middle of his account, Livy addressed the difficulties that he had with his sources:

  1. “There is no question that Lutatius was one of [the three land commissioners].  However:

  2. instead of Annius, some annals have M’ Acilius, others P. Cornelius Asina; and

  3. instead of Servilius, some  have C.Herennius, others C. Papirius Maso.

  4. It is also uncertain whether:

  5. envoys who had been sent to negotiate with the Boii [at Mutina] were maltreated; or

  6. an attack was made upon the three commissioners as they were measuring off the land [at Placentia or Cremona]”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 25: 3-5).

To complicate further, another source gave a different list of land commissioners: in his commentary on Cicero’s speech of 55 BC against L. Calpurnius Piso, Q. Asconius Pedianus (died ca. 76 AD) took issue with Cicero’s assertion that Placentia was a municipium:

  1. “... For I see in the annals of those who wrote about the Second Punic War that the colony of Placentia is said to have been founded on [pridie Kal. Ian. (29th December in the pre-Julian calendar - see below] in the first year of this war, during the consulships of P. Cornelius Scipio ... and Ti. Sempronius Longus. ...  6,000 new colonists founded Placentia  ... The triumvirs P. Cornelius Asina, P. Papirius Maso and Cn. Cornelius Scipio founded it”, (translated by Michael Fronda, referenced below, at pp. 432-3).

Since both Livy and Polybius placed the foundations much earlier in the consular year, Michael Fronda (referenced below, at p. 428) suggested that the date in Asconius’ account should be emended to pridie Kal. Iun. (31st May).  He also suggested (at p. 429) that Asconius had probably meant C. Papirius Maso, as in Livy’s third variant (above).  The fact remains that Asconius is the only one of our surviving sources that does not name Lutatius as one of the three land commissioners at Placentia and  Cremona.

Scholars have reconciled this list of names in various ways.  For example:

  1. Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 240 and note 12 at pp. 241-2):

  2. supported Livy’s first suggestion of C. Lutatius, C. Servilius (see further below) and M. Annius, and argued that the last two should be equated with Polybius’ ex-praetors; and

  3. suggested that Asconius’ list was specific to Placentia (with the implication that Livy’s first list was specific to Cremona;

  4. Amanda Coles (referenced below, at p. 312), following Daniel Gargola (referenced below, which I have not been able to consult directly) suggested that both colonies were:

  5. founded in 219/8 BC (as recorded in Livy’s now-lost Book 20) by a commission comprising C. Lutatius Catulus, M. Acilius and C. Herrenius; and

  6. re-founded in 218/7 BC (as recorded in Livy’s Book 21) by a commission comprising P. Cornelius (Scipio) Asina, C. Papirius Maso and Cn. Cornelius Scipio; while

  7. Michael Fronda argued for a single foundation in 218/7 BC by a commission comprising C. Lutatius Catulus, P. Cornelius Asina and C. Papirius Maso.

While the details of these events are probably unrecoverable, we can be sure that C. Lutatius Catulus and C. Servilius Geminus were captured by the Boii at this time, since Livy recorded that, when Servilius’ eponymous son was serving as one of the plebeian aediles in 209 BC:

  1. “It was discovered that [his earlier election as] tribune of the plebs had been illegal, and that he was not now legally aedile, because [it had been discovered that] his father, who had been presumed dead for the last 9 years, was alive [and still held captive by the Boii]”, (Livy, ‘History of Rome’, 27: 21: 9-10); and

when the same man became consul in 203 BC, with Etruria as his province:

  1. “ ... he rescued his father, C. Servilius, and also C. Lutatius, after 16 years of servitude, the result of their capture by the Boii at Tannetum.   When the consul returned to Rome with his father on one side of him and Lutatius on the other, he was honoured more on personal than on public grounds”, (‘History of Rome’, 30: 19: 7-8).

Thus, all we can say with relative certainty is that:

  1. Lutatius was one of the land commissioners who founded one or both of the colonies at Placentia and Cremona in the summer of 218/7 BC;

  2. Servilius was either another of these commissioners or another Roman who fled to Mutina and who was among the envoys who left the town to negotiate with the Boii;

  3. both men were among others who were seized at this time; and

  4. they survived in captivity until they were rescued by Servilius’ homonymous son during his consulship of 203 BC.

It seems that the Romans quickly succeeded in fortifying both of the new colonies: as Edward Salmon (referenced below, at p. 78) observed:

  1. “It was at this juncture ... that Hannibal arrived to undo most of what the Romans had achieved in upper Italy.  She managed to retain Cremona and Placentia, but very little else, and Hannibal was able to invade the peninsular proper.”


  1. Read more:

Macdonald E., “Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life”, (2018) New Haven and London

Coles A., “Founding Colonies and Fostering Careers in the Middle Republic”, Classical Journal 112:3 (2017) 280-317  

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

Bruun C., “Roman Government and Administration”, in:

  1. Bruun C. and Edmondson J. (editors.), “The Oxford Handbook of Roman Epigraphy”, (2015) New York, at pp. 274-98

Cignini N., "Civita Castellana (VT): Indagini Archeologiche di Emergenza nel Suburbio di Falerii Veteres “, Journal of Fasti Online (2016)

Keay S. and  Millet M., “Republican and Early Imperial Towns in the Tiber Valley”, in

  1. A. Cooley (Ed.), “A Companion to Roman Italy”, (2016) Oxford, at 357–77

Sampson G., “Rome Spreads Her Wings: Territorial Expansion Between the Punic Wars”, (2016) Barnsley

Syme R.. (author, who died in 1989) and Santangelo F. (who edited these papers from the Ronald Syme archive), “Approaching the Roman Revolution: Papers on Republican History”, (2016) Oxford

Rich J., “The Triumph in the Roman Republic: Frequency, Fluctuation and Policy”, in:

  1. Lange C. and Vervaet F. (editors), “The Roman Republican Triumph: Beyond the Spectacle”, (2014) Rome, at pp. 197-258

R. Feig Vishnia, “A Case of "Bad Press"? Gaius Flaminius in Ancient Historiography”,

Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 181 (2012) 27-45

M., “Polybius 3.40, the Foundation of Placentia and The Roman Calendar (218–217 BC)”, Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 60:4 (2011) 425-57 

Camerieri P.  and Manconi D., “Le Centuriazioni della Valle Umbra da Spoleto a Perugia”, Bollettino di Archeolgia Online, (2010) 15-39

Talbert R., “Rome's World: The Peutinger Map Reconsidered”, (2010) New York

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

Laurence R., “The Roads of Roman Italy”, (1999) Oxford

Feig Vishnia R., “State, Society and Popular Leaders in Mid-Republican Rome” (241-167 BC”, (1996) London and New York

Gargola D., “The Colonial Commissioners of 218 BC and the Foundation of Cremona and Placentia” Athenaeum 68 (1990) 465–73

Eckstein A., “Senate and General: Individual Decision-making and Roman Foreign Relations (264-194 BC)”, (1987) Berkeley, Los Angeles and London

  1. Zimmermann J., “La Fin de Falerii Veteres: Un Temoignage Archéologique”, J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, 14 (1986), 37-42

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

Salmon E., “The Making of Roman Italy”, (1982) London

Lazenby J., “Hannibal's War: A Military History of the Second Punic War”, (1978) Warminster 

Wiseman  T. P., “The Circus Flaminius”, Papers of the British School at Rome, 42 (1974) 3-26

Broughton T. R. S., “Magistrates of the Roman Republic: Volume 1:  509 BC - 100 BC”, (1951) New York

Foreign Wars (3rd century BC)


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