Roman Republic

Roman Conquest of Italy (509 - 241 BC)

Wars with Latins, Volsci and Aequi (509 - 390 BC)

First Latin War (499 - 493 BC)

[Defeat of Lars Porsenna at Aricia in 504 BC)]

Romans’ Treaty with the Carthaginians (ca. 509 BC)

We can most easily assess the nature of Rome’s relations with its Latin neighbours in 509 BC by considering what is known about the terms of Rome’s earliest known treaty with the Carthaginians: as James Richardson (referenced below, at p. 25) observed, this treaty is:

  1. “One of the few documents from early Rome the authenticity of which no-one now seriously doubts ...  Polybius says that this treaty, and two others that were struck subsequently with the Carthaginians, were recorded on bronze tablets and were preserved in the treasury of the aediles.”

Polybius (ca. 150 BC BC) dated this first treaty to:

  1. “The first treaty between Rome and Carthage dates from the consulship of L. Junius Brutus and M. Horatius, the first consuls after the expulsion of the kings and the founders of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus: this is 28 years before Xerxes’ invasion of Greece [in 489 BC].  I give below as accurate a rendering as I can of this treaty, but the ancient Roman language differs so much from the modern that it can only be partially made out, and that after much application, by the most intelligent men”, (‘Histories’, 3: 22: 1-3).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 256) observed that, although the historicity of Brutus is doubtful, the terms of the treaty, as Polybius transmitted them (see below), accord well with our understanding of the political situation in the late 6th century BC.  The terms of the treaty that concern us here are those that acknowledge Roman hegemony over much of Latium: 

  1. “The Carthaginians shall do no wrong to the peoples of Ardea, Antium, Laurentium, Circeii, Terracina, or any other city of the Latins who are subject to Rome.  Touching the Latins who are not subjects [to Rome]:

  2. [the Carthaginians] shall keep their hands off [the cities that are subject to Rome]; and

  3. if they take any [of them, they] shall deliver it up to the Romans undamaged.

  4. They shall build no fort in the Latin territory; and if they enter the land in arms, they shall not pass a night therein”, (‘Histories’, 3: 22: 11-13).

Battle at Lake Regillus (499 or 496 BC)

According to Livy, in the consulship of T. Aebutius Helva and C. Veturius Geminus Cicurinus (499 BC):

  1. “... it was no longer possible to postpone the Latin war, which had now been smouldering for several years. Aulus Postumius, as dictator, and T. Aebutius as master of the horse, set out with large forces of infantry and cavalry.  They met the enemy's advancing column at Lake Regillus, in the territory of Tusculum”, (‘History of Rome’, 2: 19: 1-3).

At a critical moment in the battle, Postumius:

  1. “... is said to have vowed a temple to Castor [link needed], and to have promised rewards to the soldiers who should be first and second to enter the camp of the enemy; and so great was the Romans’ ardour that ... they routed their opponents and took their camp. Such was the battle at Lake Regillus. The dictator and his master of the horse returned to the City and [presumably only the dictator] triumphed”, (‘History of Rome’, 2: 20: 12-13).

In a rather exasperated passage, Livy then recorded that:

  1. According to some authorities ... , the battle at Lake Regillus was not fought until [496 BC]: [these sources] say that Aulus Postumius resigned the consulship because his colleague was of doubtful loyalty and that he was then made dictator [in 496 BC].   One is involved in so many uncertainties regarding dates [resulting from] the varying order of the magistrates in different lists that it is impossible to make out which consuls followed which, or what was done in each particular year, when not only events but even authorities are so shrouded in antiquity”, (‘History of Rome’, 2: 21: 3-4).

The now-fragmentary entry in the Augustan fasti Triumphales recorded that a triumph was awarded to A. Postumius [...] Regillensis at an illegible date between 502 and 494 BC.

Foedus Cassianum (493 BC)

The victory at t at Lake Regillus seems to have ended the war.  However, according to Livy, it was not until the consulship of Spurius Cassius Vecellinus and Postumus Cominius Auruncus (493 BC) that:

  1. “In this year, a treaty was made with the Latin peoples.  In order to make this treaty one of the consuls [Cassius] remained in Rome, while the other [Comiuius] was dispatched to the Volscian war, [see below]”, (‘History of Rome’, 2: 33: 4).

He then described how Cominius subsequently took Corioli.  with the help of the heroic C. Marcius Coriolanus (see below).  In the final passage on this year, Livy observed that:

  1. The glory of [Corialanus] overshadowed [that of Cominius’’] to the extent that, if the record on a bronze column of the treaty with the Latins [had not indicated that] it was struck by Spurius Cassius alone, in the absence of his colleague, men would have forgotten that ... Cominius had [held command in the] war on the Volsci”, (‘History of Rome’, 2: 33: 9).

Dionysius of Halicarnassus,, who gave a very similar account of these events, recorded the most important provisions of this treaty as follows:

  1. "Let there be peace between the Romans and all the Latin cities as long as the heavens and the earth shall remain where they are.  Let them: neither make war upon another; nor bring in foreign enemies; nor grant a safe passage to those who shall make war upon either [party].  Let them assist one another, when warred upon, with all their forces; and let each have an equal share of the spoils and booty taken in their common wars.  ... ”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 6: 95: 2).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at p. 337) argued that, while this:

  1. “... cannot be a literal translation of an archaic Latin document, ... what matters is whether [or not] the content [set out by Dionysius] ... was largely invented: and there is, [in fact], no reason to believe that it was.”

He argued (at pp. 335-6) that it can be:

  1. “... [established] beyond reasonable doubt that, in the Republican period before 338 BC, the Latins had a political league that met at [a place called] Ferentina, ... [which] was probably near Nemi and Aricia.”

It seems likely that the foedus Cassianum had been agreed between Rome and this Latin League.   Oakley observed (at p. 336) that this treaty:

  1. “... stopped the fighting between Rome and the other Latin states for over a century, and thus proved to be a turning point in her history.”

He also noted (at p. 337) that:

  1. “A factor that may have induced both parties [to it]  to have come to terms was the predatory raiding of the Aequi and the Volsci [since the battle at Lake Regillus].” 

Evidence for the success of the alliance included the facts that:

  1. the Hernici joined it in 486 BC (see below); and

  2. the allies founded a number of colonies before the Gallic sack, including at least one (Circeii) in Volscian territory.

Read more:

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

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

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