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Roman Republic:

Citizen Settlement in Cisalpine Gaul and Liguria

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Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire (no longer on-line)

Insubres, Boii and Senones

From about the 6th century BC, Gallic tribes began crossing the Alps in a series of migrations from their heartland in modern France and settling in the plain north of the Apennines.  Gareth Sampson (referenced below, at p. 37) pointed out that, while this was happening:

  1. “... Rome had barely expanded beyond Latium, and was thus insulated from contact with them.”

The Romans came to refer to the newly-settled territory as Gallia Cisalpina (Cisalpine Gaul, or Gaul this side of the Alps), to differentiate it from Gallia Transalpina (Transalpine Gaul, or Gaul on the far side of the Alps).

As Tim Cornell (referenced below, at p. 314) pointed out, the best surviving source for the these migrations is Livy , who came from Patavium (Padua) in Cisalpine Gaul and who addressed the question at some length:

  1. “After crossing the Alps ... [the first arrivals] defeated the [Etruscans who were settled here] in battle not far from the river Ticinus.  When they learnt that the country in which they settled had belonged to the Insubres,  ... they accepted the name of the place and built a city, which they called Mediolanum [modern Milan]. ... [A number of tribes followed, including] ... the Boii and [since] all the country between the Po and the Alps was occupied, they crossed the Po on rafts and expelled not on lythe Etruscans the also the Umbrians [who had settled here].  They remained, however, north of the Apennines.  Then the Senones, the last to come, occupied the country from the river Utis to the river Aesis [i.e., the coastal strip east of the Apennines, between the modern cities of Ravenna and Ancona]”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 34:9 -35: 1-3). 

I have extracted the information on the Insubres, the Boii and the Senones from Livy’s longer list because these were the tribes that settled nearest to Rome. 

Gareth Sampson (referenced below, at p. 37) observed that:

  1. “... given that Rome was slowly pushing northwards and the Gauls southwards, contact between [them] was inevitable.  When it did occur [in ca. 390 BC], it ended disastrously for Rome.”

Tim Cornell (referenced below, at pp. 313-4) summarised these traumatic events:

“... a [Gallic] horde from the Po valley crossed the Apennines into northern Etruria.  Advancing southwards down the Tiber valley, they reached the outskirts of Rome, where they defeated a hastily assembled Roman army at the river Allia.  A few days later, they entered the defenceless city and sacked it ... [departing after the payment of] a large payment of gold. ... From the Roman point of view, the event was ... a humiliating disaster.”

Livy recorded that:

  1. “It was [the Senones], I find, that came to [Etruria] and from there to Rome ; but it is uncertain whether they came alone or were helped by contingents from all the Cisalpine peoples, (‘History of Rome, 5: 35: 3-4). 

As we shall see, it was to be a century or more before they could begin to take their revenge.


A group of Italic tribes that were known collectively as the Ligurians occupied the narrow crescent of land around Genua (Genoa) and the mountains above it: their territory might originally have extended as far as Etruscan Pisae (Pisa) in the east and the Greek colony of Massalla (Marseille) in the west.  They were famously well-adapted to their demanding environment: thus, for example, Diodorus Siculus:

  1. “The Ligurians inhabit a land that is stony and altogether wretched, and the life they live is ... a grievous one  ... For [those] ... whose task it is to prepare the ground ... mostly quarry out rocks by reason of the exceeding stoniness of the land; ... it is only by perseverance that they surmount Nature and that ... they gather scanty harvests ... [Through] spending their lives ... on snow-covered mountains, where they are used to traversing unbelievably rugged places, they become vigorous and muscular of body ... [and] possess the vigour and might of ... of wild beasts.  Indeed, they say that, often in campaigns, a quite slender Ligurian has slain the mightiest warrior among the Gauls ... They are venturesome and of noble spirit, not only in war, but in those circumstances of life that offer terrifying hardships or perils.  As traders, for instance, they sail over the Sardinian and Libyan seas, readily casting themselves into dangers for which they are ill-equipped; for, although ] their vessels are more cheaply fashioned than make-shift boats and their equipment is the minimum of that usual on ships, yet, to one's astonishment and terror, they will face the most fearful conditions that storms create”, (‘Library of History’, 5:39).

Unsurprisingly, they were equally famous for supplementing their incomes by warlike and piratical pursuits.  Thus, they first appear in recorded history in 480 BC, as mercenaries in a Carthaginian army fighting in Sicily in a campaign described by Herodotus:

  1. “... Terillus, son of Crinippus, the tyrant ..., who had been expelled from [the Greek colony of] Himera  ... , at this very time [invaded] with 300,000 Carthaginians, Libyans, Iberians, Ligurians, Elisyci, Sardinians, and Corsicans led by [King Hamilcar I of Carthage]”, (‘Histories’, 7: 165).

The Romans (as we shall see) first attempted to pacify the Ligurians in 238 BC.  However, as Gareth Sampson (referenced below, at p. 53) observed:

  1. “Unlike [that of] the Boii and the other tribes of the Po valley, their terrain was mountainous and favoured guerrilla warfare rather than set piece battles.”

Strabo captured the strategic importance of their territory alongside the difficulties it presented to the Romans, who conquered the Ligurians:

  1. “... only after carrying on war with ... [them] for a long time, because [they] had barred all the passes leading to Iberia that ran through the [Tyrrhenian] seaboard.  And, in fact, they kept making raids, both by land and sea, and were so powerful that the road was scarcely practicable even for great armies.  And it was not until the 80th year of the war that the Romans succeeded, though only with difficulty, in opening up the road for a breadth of only 12 stadia to those travelling on public business”, (‘Geography’, 4: 6: 3).

Conquest of the Senones (283 BC)

Gallic tribes seem to have started crossing the Alps in the 4th century BC: according to Gareth Sampson (referenced below, at p. 36):

  1. “The last [of these to arrive] seems to have been the Senones, who pushed deeper into Italy than [the earlier immigrants] and settled to the east of the Apennines, between the mountains and the coast.”

The Romans’ penetration of these lands started in 283 BC, when they defeated the Senones and confiscated their land, which was thereafter known as the ager Gallicus (as marked on the map above, to the lower right).  The conquest of this territory is discussed in the page ‘Prefectures: Ager Gallicus’ (see the link in the box above).

Boii and Insubres (268- 36 BC)

Apart from the Senones, the most important tribes of Cisalpine Gaul for our purposes were the Boii and the Insubres, who had settled the valley of the Padus (Po). 

Foundation of the Colony of Ariminum (268 BC)

The Romans founded the Latin colony of Ariminum (Rimini) in 268 BC on land, at the northern extreme of the ager Gallicus that (as we shall see) was claimed by the Boii.  It is probably significant that this was the year in which they conquered the people of Picenum.  Stephen Dyson (referenced below, at p. 27) characterised the foundation of this colony as:

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

Nevertheless, it was to be another 30 years before this Roman initiative led to war.

Rome’s War with the Boii (238-236 BC)

According to Zonaras (‘Epitome of Cassius Dio’, 8:18), this war extended over three consular years:

  1. In 238 BC:

  2. “... the Romans again waged war upon the Boii and upon the Gauls who were [their] neighbours ... [The consul Publius Valerius Falto] was at first defeated, but later, learning that troops had come from Rome to his assistance, he renewed the struggle with the enemy, determined either to conquer by his own exertions or to die ...  and, by some good fortune or other, he gained the victory.

  3. In 237 BC:

  4. [The consuls Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Caudinus and Quintus Fulvius Flaccus] made a campaign against the Gauls; and as long as they remained together, they were invincible, but when they began to pillage districts separately, with the purpose of securing greater booty, the army of Flaccus became imperilled, being surrounded by night.   For the time the barbarians were beaten back but, after gaining accessions of allies, they proceeded anew with a huge force against the Romans.

  5. In 236 BC:

  6. When confronted by [the consuls Publius Cornelius Lentulus Caudinus and Caius Licinius Varus, the Boii] hoped to terrify them by their numbers and prevail without a battle.  So they sent [envoys to them, who] demanded back the land surrounding Ariminum and commanded the Romans to vacate the city, since it belonged to them  The consuls, because of the small number [of their soldiers], did not dare to risk a battle: [however,] neither would they undertake to abandon any territory.  Accordingly, they arranged an armistice that enabled the Gauls to send envoys to Rome.  These [envoys] came before the Senate with the same demands, but obtained no satisfaction, and returned to their camp.  There, they found their cause was lost: some of their allies had repented and, regarding the Romans with fear, had turned upon the Boii, so that  many were killed on both sides.  Thereupon the remainder went home, and the Boii obtained peace [from Rome only] at the price of a large portion of their land” (‘Epitome’, 8:18).

It seems that the net result of these engagements was that the Romans acquired further territory from the Boii, at least some of which presumably created a buffer zone around Ariminum.

Rome’s War with the Ligurians (238-233 BC)

According to Zonaras (‘Epitome of Cassius Dio’, 8:18), while Publius Valerius Falto campaigned against the Boii in 238 BC (above), his consular colleague, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus harried the Ligurians.  A portentous remark in the surviving summary of Livy’s ‘History of Rome’, relates to this engagement:

  1. “For the first time, a [Roman] army was sent out against the Ligurians”, (‘Periochae’, 20: 3).  

Stephen Dyson (referenced below, at p. 94) asserted that this war was a direct consequence of Rome’s victory in the First Punic War, when:

  1. “Rome had not only established hegemony in the western Mediterranean but had also seized the islands of Corsica and Sardinia ... [which] brought her face to face with the problem of Ligurian piracy and the funnelling of Ligurian mercenaries into the army of Carthage.”

He noted (at p. 95) that notices in the surviving sources of Roman engagements with the Ligurians at this time are short and scattered.  However, we can clearly see the importance of this theatre of war for the Romans in  the fasti Trimphales:

  1. [236/5]: P. Cornelius L.f. Ti.n. Lentulus, consul, over the Ligurians;.

  2. [235/4]: T. Manlius T.f. T.n. Torquatus, consul, over the Sardinians;

  3. [234/3]: Sp. Carvilius Sp.f. C.n. Maximus, consul, over the Sardinians;

  4. 233/2: Q. Fabius Q.f. Q.n. Maximus Verrucosus, consul, over the Ligurians;

  5. [233/2]: M'. Pomponius M'.f. M'.n. Matho, consul, over the Sardinians; and

  6. 231/0: C. Papirius C.f. L.n. Maso, consul, over the Corsicans, the first triumph on the Alban Mount.

Verrrucosus and the Temple of Honos

Plutarch recorded t that:

  1. “The first of [Fabius’] five consulships ... brought him the honour of a triumph over the Ligurians.  He defeated them in battle, inflicting heavy losses on them in the process, and they retired into the Alps, where they ceased plundering and harrying the adjacent parts of Italy”, (‘Life of Fabius Maximus’, 2: 1).


  1. “... the temple of Virtue, restored as the temple of Honour by Marcus Marcellus, but founded many years before by Quintus Maximus in the time of the Ligurian war”, (‘On the Nature of the Gods’, 2: 61, translated by Harris Rackham, referenced below, at pp. 181-3).

Adam Ziolkowski (referenced below, at pp. 58-9) discussed the tangled history of this temple, which has been the subject of debate.  He established that:

  1. “The original part of the later double temple of Honos et Virtus [at the Porta Capena] was built by Q. Fabius Maximus (cos I, 233 BC) for Honos alone.”

(See below for the later involvement in it of M. Claudius Marcellus.)

Gallic War (225-2 BC)

Movement of the Roman and Gallic armies in 225 BC

Red = Romans; Blue = Gauls

Adapted from the map in this webpage by Karwansaray Publishers 

Battle of Telamon (225 BC)

Tensions seem to have come to a head again in 231 BC, when, according to Polybius:

  1. “... the two most extensive [Gallic tribes in northern Italy], the Insubres and Boii, joined in the despatch of messengers to the [Gallic] tribes living across the Alps and on the Rhone, who ... are called Gaesatae.  To their kings, ... they offered a large sum of gold on the spot; and, for the future, pointed out to them the greatness of the wealth ... that they would possess if they took Rome.  These attempts to ... induce [the Gaesatae] to join the expedition ... succeeded ..., [to the extent] that a larger host had never before [threatened Rome] from that part of Gaul ...  Meanwhile, the Romans, informed of what was coming, ... were in such a state of constant alarm ... that they hurriedly enrolled legions, collected supplies, and sent out their forces to the frontier, as though the enemy were already in their territory, even before the Gauls had stirred from their own lands”, (‘Histories’, 2: 22).

In fact, the dreaded invasion came only in 225 AD: one of the consuls, Caius Atilius Regulus, was campaigning in Sardinia when hostilities began, but his colleague, Lucius Aemilius Papus was stationed at Ariminum. presumably because this was the route that the Gauls were expected to take.  However, they instead crossed the Apennines towards Etruria, and reached Clusium before the small Roman contingent that was supposed to have defended against this possibility 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.  Atilius, who had by then landed at Pisae, marched south along the coast to join the fray.  (These troop movements are marked on the map above).

The Gauls were comprehensively defeated in the ensuinng battle: unfortunately, Atilius was killed in the battle, so the Fasti Triumphales record that only Aemilius was awarded a triumph against the Gauls.  According to Polybius:

  1. “Lucius Aemilius, the surviving consul, collected the spoils of the slain [at Telamon] and sent them to Rome ... Then, taking command of the legions, he marched along the frontier of [the territory of the Italic tribe of the Ligurians], and made a raid upon the territory of the Boii; and having satisfied the desires of the legions with plunder, he returned with his forces to Rome ... There he adorned the Capitol with the captured standards and necklaces, which are gold chains worn by the Gauls round their necks; but the rest of the spoils, and the captives, he converted to the benefit of his own estate and to the adornment of his triumph.  Thus was the most formidable [Gallic] invasion repelled ...”, (‘Histories’, 2: 31: 3-4).

Reprisals against the Boii and Insubres (224-2 BC)

Polybius continued:

  1. “The victory [at Telamon and the successful reprisals against the Boii] inspired the Romans with a hope that they might be able to entirely expel the [Insubres] from the valley of the Padus [Po].  Accordingly the consuls of the next year, Quintus Fulvius Flaccus and Titus Manlius Torquatus, were both sent out with their legions ... against them.  By a rapid attack they terrified the Boii into making submission to Rome; but the campaign had no other practical effect, because ... there was [then] a season of excessive rains and an outbreak of pestilence in the army”, (‘Histories’, 2: 31: 4).

According to Arthur Eckstein (referenced below, at p. 15):

  1. “Few details of the Boian submission to Rome [in 224C] are available to us.  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 [founded in 218 BC, see below].  ... 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 they were still left ... in possession of most of their land.”

The consuls of 223 BC, Caius Flaminius and Publius Furius Philus, inflicted a serious defeat on the Insubres in the Po valley: the Fasti Triumphales record that both consuls were awarded triumphs (Flaminius against the Gauls and Furius against both the Gauls and the Ligurians). 

The Insubrians’ seem to have sought peace, but the Romans refused and the consuls for the following year, Marcus Claudius Marcellus and Cnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, pressed on to total victory.  Thus Zonarus:

  1. “At first the consuls carried on the war together and were mostly victorious; but soon, learning that the allied territory was being plundered, they separated their forces.

  2. Marcellus made a quick march against those plundering the land of the allies, but found them no longer there; he then pursued them as they fled, and when they made a stand, overcame them.

  3. Scipio remained where he was and proceeded to besiege Acerrae; upon taking it, he made it a base for the war, since it was favourably placed and well-walled. 

  4. And setting out from that point, [the consuls] 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).

Plutarch recorded that, after the consuls separated, Marcellus’ victory took place at Clastidium (modern Casteggio, some 55 km south of Milan), where he killed “Britomartus, king of the Gauls”.  He then rejoined Scipio, who was apparently hard pressed outside Mediolanum:

  1. “But when Marcellus came up, and when the [Insubres], on learning of the defeat and death of their king, withdrew and Mediolanum was taken.  The [Insubres then] surrendered the rest of their cities and put themselves entirely at the disposition of the Romans.  They obtained peace on equitable terms”, (‘Life of Marcellus’, 7). 

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, founded (like Placentia) in 218 BC.  He noted (at p. 18) that, more generally, this was a relatively modest settlement, which left the Insubres in possession of most of their land. 

M. Claudius Marcellus and the Spolia Optima

Plutarch finished his account as follows:

  1. “The Senate decreed a triumph to Marcellus alone, his triumphal procession was seldom equalled in its splendour, wealth and spoils, and captives of gigantic size; but besides this, the most agreeable and the rarest spectacle of all was afforded when Marcellus himself carried to the god the armour of the barbarian king [whom he had killed in combat]”, (‘Life of Marcellus’), 8). 

The Fasti Triumphales record Marcellus’ triumph over the Insubrian Gauls and the ‘Germans’, adding that he brought back the spolia opima after killing the enemy leader, Virdumarus, at Clastidium.

As noted above, Cicero recorded that:

  1. “... the temple of Virtue, restored as the temple of Honour by Marcus Marcellus, but founded [not ??] many years before by Quintus Maximus in the time of the Ligurian war”, (‘On the Nature of the Gods’, translated by Harris Rackham, referenced below, at pp. 181-3).

Adam Ziolkowski (referenced below, at pp. 58-9) discussed the tangled history of this temple, which has been the subject of debate.  He established that:

  1. “The original part of the later double temple of Honos et Virtus [at Porta Capena] was built by Q. Fabius Maximus (cos I, 233 BC) for Honos alone.”

Although Livy did not mention Marcellus’ intervention in this temple here, he recorded that, as consul for the 5th time in 208 BC:

  1. “Marcellus was detained [in Rome] by religious scruples, ... [one of which] was that, although he had vowed a temple to Honus et Virtus at Clastidium, the dedication of the temple was being blocked by the pontiffs, who said that one cella was not properly dedicated to more than a single divinity, since, if it should be struck by lightning, or if some portent should occur in it, expiation would be difficult, because it could not be known to which god sacrifice should be offered; for, with the exception of certain deities, sacrifice of a single victim to two gods was not proper.  Accordingly, a temple of Virtus was added and its construction was hastened.  Even so, the temples were not dedicated by Marcellus in person”, (‘History of Rome’, 27: 5: 7-9).

Adam Ziolkowski (referenced below, at p. 58) suggested that:

  1. “... tried to fulfil his vow by dedicating [Fabius’] temple [to Honus] to both the deities [Honus and Virtus].”

  2. Livy recorded that, in 205 BC, Marcellus eponymous son

  3. “... dedicated the temple of Virtus at the Porta Capena, 17 years after it had been vowed by his father during his first consulate at Clastidium in Gaul”, (‘History of Rome’, 29: 11: 13).

Emerging Carthaginian Threat (221 - 218 BC)

Latin colonies: Ariminum (268 BC); Placentia and Cremona (218 BC)

Start of Via Flaminia (22o BC) shown in blue

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

From the time of his arrival in Hispania in 221 BC, the young Hannibal devoted his considerable energies to the task of consolidating the Carthaginian presence there.  However, it seems that the Romans were not particularly perturbed, even when they received pleas for help from their allies at Saguntum in 220 BC. Unfortunately since neither Livy’s book 20 nor the relevant entry in the fasti Capitolini survive, we are not even sure of the identities of the consuls at this time:

  1. The so-called Chronographer of 354 AD names the consuls of 534 AUC (220 BC) as ‘Levino’ and ‘Scevola’: 

  2. since this source named ‘Levino’ as consul for the second time in 210 BC, we can identify him as Marcus Valerius Laevinus; and 

  3. ‘Scevola’ is usually tentatively identified as Q. Mucius Scaevola, a praetor in 215 BC.

  4. However, Zonaras recorded that the consuls of this year, whom he identified as Lucius Veturius Philo and Quintus Lutatius Catullus:

  5. “... went as far as the Alps and, without any fighting, won over many people” (‘Epitome of Cassius Dio, Book 12’, 8:20).

On the basis of this meagre evidence, it is often asserted that the putative election of Laevinus and Scaevola was defective, and they were replaced by Philo and Catulus as suffect consuls.  It seems from Zonaras’ record that, from the Roman perspective, the situation in Cisalpine Gaul seemed secure.  

In late 220 BC, the Romans sent a legation to warn Hannibal against invading Saguntum.  Polybius suggested that they were confident that this would deter Hannibal for a period, albeit that war was inevitable:

  1. “They never thought ... that the war would be in Italy, but assumed that they would fight in Spain, with Saguntum for a base”, (‘Histories, 3: 15: 13). 

Thereafter, only two entries relate to events outside Rome:

  1. “Caius Flaminius , as censor [from 220 BC], built the Via Flaminia [from Rome to Ariminum] ...”, (‘Periochae’, 20: 17); and 

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

Since Livy’s Book 21 begins with the events in Spain that precipitated the Second Punic War, which became a matter of concern in Rome in 218 BC, we can reasonably assume that the decision to found the colonies had been taken in the the period 220-19 BC. 

When we first hear of these colonies in Book 21:

  1. “... nothing more was known than that Hannibal had crossed the Ebro (which envoys from Massilia (modern Marseilles) had brought to Rome)”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 25: 1).

This was a de facto declaration of war.  Livy immediate concern in this section was the reaction of the Gallic tribes:when the news reached the Boii, having aroused the Insubres, 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)

Fortunately, Polybius added some important information that would probably have been contained in Livy’s Book 20:

  1. “... the Romans, having heard ... that Hannibal had crossed the Ebro earlier than they expected, ... voted to send Publius Cornelius Scipio with his legions into Iberia, and Tiberius 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 which 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).  

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

  1. 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 June 218 BC, and

  2. estimated (at p. 49) that he arrived in the plain of northern Italy in about mid-November of 218 BC. 

In other words, the colonies of Placentia and Cremona were described as ‘recently established’ in the late summer of 218 BC but still waiting the assignation of land there to prospective colonists.

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

  1. “Flying to arms, they made an incursion into that very 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 Caius Lutatius, Caius Servilius and Marcus Annius”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 25: 1-3).

While the Romans who had 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 added important information:

  1. “... no sooner had these colonies been formed than the Boii, ... encouraged by the news that reached them of Hannibal's approach, revolted, thus 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; and 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, Caius 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).  

In the middle of his account, Livy addressed a difficulty with his sources:

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

  2. instead of Annius, some some annals have Manius Acilius, others Publius Cornelius Asina; and

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

  4. It is also uncertain whether:

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

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

While the details of these events are probably unrecoverable, we can be sure that Caius Lutatius Catulus and Caius Servilius Geminus were captured by the Boii at this time:

  1. when Servilius’ eponymous son was serving as one of the plebeian aediles in 209 BC:

  2. “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

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

  4. “ ... 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).

Boian Revolt (218 BC)

According to Livy: 

  1. “When word arrived of this affair of the envoys, and Mutina and its garrison were in danger, Lucius Manlius, the praetor, blazing with resentment, set out [probably from Ariminum] for Mutina with his army in loose marching order.  In those days the road led through a forest ...  and Manlius, advancing without reconnaissance, plunged into an ambush.  After sustaining heavy losses, he managed to reach open fields, where he set up his camp.  Since the Gauls lacked heart to assail it, the soldiers recovered their spirits, though it was no secret that as many as 500 men had fallen.  Then, they began their march again.  As long as the column advanced through open country, the enemy was not to be seen.  However. when theyonce more got into the woods, the Gauls attacked their rear and, throwing the whole column into terror and confusion, killed 700 soldiers and carried off six standards.  The alarming Gallic raids and the consequent Roman panic ended when they got clear of the trackless woods and thickets. Thereafter, marching across open ground, the Romans ... hastened to Tannetum, a village lying near the Po, where, by means of temporary fortifications and supplies got in by the river (and with the help also of the Brixian Gauls [i.e., the Cenomani]) they defended themselves against the enemy, whose numbers were increasing daily”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 25: 7-14).

When news of these events reached Rome, the Senate :

  1. “... commanded Caius Atilius, the praetor, to take one Roman legion and 5,000 of the allies (a force that [Scipio] had just levied) and proceed to the relief of Manlius [and the 7th legion].  Atilius reached Tannetum without any fighting, for the enemy had retired in alarm”, (‘History of Rome’, 21: 26: 1-2)

Arthur Eckstein (referenced below, at p. 27) suggested that Atilius was probably able to end the siege of Mutina, allowing the scattered colonists (and any visiting Romans who had not been captured) to return home.  

Polybius described a change in mood at Rome in 218 BC as Hannibal’s intentions became manifest:

  1. “ The praetor Lucius Manlius was on guard in the district with an army; and as soon as he heard what had happened, he advanced with all speed to the relief of Mutina.  But the Boii, having received intelligence of his approach, prepared an ambush and ... killed a large number of his men.  The survivors at first fled ... : but having gained some higher ground, they rallied sufficiently to enable them with much difficulty to effect an honourable retreat.  Even so, the Boii followed close upon their heels, and besieged them in a ... village called [Tannetum].  When the news arrived at Rome that the 4th legion was surrounded and closely besieged by the Boii, the people, in all haste, despatched the legions that had been voted to the consul [Publius Cornelius Scipio should instead be sent to its relief] under the command of a praetor:  they ordered [Scipio] to enrol two more legions for himself from the allies”, (‘Histories’, 3: 40). 

Polybius (above) had designated Mutina as a Roman colony, but Edward Salmon (referenced below, at p, 177, note 94) pointed out that it must have been simply a Roman garrison at early date. 

Thus, on the eve of the Second Punic War, the Romans’ vulnerability in Cisalpine Gaul was laid bare: we find them in tenuous control of only a narrow strip of territory that had once belonged to the Boii, which extended along the northern slopes of the Apennines from Ariminum, via Mutina to Placentia, as well as Cremona on the other side of the Padus, which had recently been confiscated from the Insubres.

Second Punic War (218 - 201 BC) 

Hannibal’s March into Italy (218 -7 BC)

Romans defeated on the Ticinus and on the Trebbia (218 BC)

Adapted from a map in the website ‘Indian Defence

The consuls of 218 BC, Publius Cornelius Scipio (the father of Scipio Africanus) and Tiberius Sempronius Longus were given the provinces of Spain and Africa respectively.  Scipio, who was en route for his province when news of Hannibal’s intentions became clear, hurriedly returned to Pisae and marched towards Placentia to take command of the Roman armies in this theatre.  Hannibal duly crossed the Alps into Italy in the winter of 218 BC and secured the allegiance of the Insubres:

  1. In November, he  confronted the Romans under Scipio on the Ticinus river.  He had the best of the fighting, but the Romans were able to retreat to Placentia, taking the wounded Scipio with them.

  2. Sempronius, who had also been called back to Italy, landed at Ariminum and joined forces with Scipio.  The local Gallic people seem to have been subject to Carthaginian looting, and Sempronius engaged with the raiders in order to win their support, but Hannibal drew this  army into an ambush between the Trebbia and the Po.  Hannibal had the best of things, but Sempronius was able to fall back on Placentia.

Thus the Romans hard-won control of  the Po valley had yielded only disappointing results.

Red line: probable route of Hannibal’s march to Lake Trasimene (217 BC)

Blue line: Via Flaminia

Adapted from a map in the website ‘Indian Defence

This was the position when the consuls of 217 BC, Caius Flaminius (the builder of Via Flaminia) and Cnaeus Servilius Geminus, took office.  The task now was to defend Hannibal’s likely routes towards Rome.  Like the Gallic army of 225 BC, he had essentially two possible routes across the Apennines:

  1. through the pass that led to Etruria (as in 225 BC); or

  2. along the Adriatic coast. 

Thus the Romans planned a two-centred defence:

  1. Flaminius took control of the army at Placentia and established a base at Arretium (modern Arezzo, in Etruria); and

  2. Servilius established his base at Ariminum.

Hannibal, who  chose to march into Etruria rather than to take the Adriatic route south, marched past Arretium and Clusium before Flaminius even realised what was happening.  When Flaminius belatedly marched after him, Hannibal ambushed him on the shores of Lake Trasimene.  Within a matter of a few hours, Flaminius and most of his army were dead.  Worse still, an army that Servilius had sent to his aid was destroyed soon thereafter, following which Servilius himself was recalled to Rome.  The theatre of war was now to the south, but so too was the Roman army, and the non-serving colonists at Placentia and Mutina were now on their own.

Ambush at Mutina (215 BC)

Stephen Dyson (referenced below, at p. 14) observed that, after these stunning victories, Hannibal:

  1. “... marched south, leaving the Romans an uneasy peace in the ager Gallicus [and the Po valley].  This shaky truce was shattered by [Hannibal’s victory] at Cannae [in Apulia in southern Italy, in 216 BC].  In 215 BC, the consul designate, Lucius Postumius Albinus, was ambushed and slain at Mutina and his army was largely destroyed.”

Livy recorded that, soon after the defeat at Cannae:

  1. “... a fresh disaster was announced, for Fortune was heaping one disaster upon another this year.  It was reported that L. Postumius, the consul elect, and his army had been annihilated in Gaul. ... Hardly ten men escaped ...:  ... Postumius fell whilst fighting most desperately to avoid capture.  The Boii stripped the body of its spoils, cut off the head, and bore them in triumph to the most sacred of their temples.  According to their custom, they cleaned out the skull and covered the scalp with beaten gold; it was then used as a vessel for libations and also as a drinking cup for the priest and ministers of the temple.  The plunder, too, which the Gauls secured was as great as their victory ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 23: 24: 6-13).

He also recorded the hysterical reaction in Rome, which was only calmed when the surviving consul:

  1. “... Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus ... convened the Senate and addressed them in a consolatory and encouraging tone, [saying]: ‘We, who were not crushed by the overthrow at Cannae, must not lose heart at smaller calamities [like that at Mutina].  If we are successful  in our operations against Hannibal and the Carthaginians, as I trust we shall be, we can safely leave the war with the Gauls out of account for the present; the gods and the Roman people will have it in their power to avenge that act of treachery [after Hannibal is defeated]’”, (‘History of Rome’, 23: 25: 2-3).

It is unlikely that this sentiment brought reassurance to the Romans to the settlers in the Po valley: as Stephen Dyson observed (at p. 14):

  1. “The Romans, their resources strained by recent disasters, were [manifestly] unable to respond to this defeat.  The level of [their] control in the area during this crucial phase of the Second Punic War must have been minimal.”

Hasdrubal’s Invasion (207 BC)

By 208 BC, Hannibal’s Italian campaign was running out of steam, and he was essentially confined to Bruttium and Lucania in southernmost Italy.  However, his fortunes temporarily improved in that year, when both consuls, Marcus Claudius Marcellus and  Titus Quinctius Crispinus, were killed in a Carthaginian ambush near the Roman colony of Venusia.  Furthermore, the Romans became aware that Hannibal’s brother, Hasdural, was planning to invade Italy and come to his aid.  Thus, according to Livy:

  1. “Inasmuch as a very dangerous year seemed impending, and the state had no consuls, everyone turned to the consuls-elect [Caius Claudius Nero and Marcus Livius Drusus Salinator] and wished that as soon as possible they should cast lots for their provinces ... The provinces assigned to them were not locally indistinguishable, as in the preceding years, but separated by the whole length of Italy:

  2. to [Claudius Nero] was assigned the land of the Bruttii and Lucania facing Hannibal; and

  3. to [Livius Salinator, Cisalpine] Gaul, facing Hasdrubal, who was reported to be already nearing the Alps”, (‘History of Rome’, 27: 35: 5-10).

The aim of the consuls was to prevent Hannibal and Hasdrubal from joining forces at any cost.

Hasdrubal duly arrived in the Po valley and attempted the siege of Placentia, from whence he sent letters to Hannibal proposing that they should meet in Umbria.  This might have been a diversionary action: the letters were intercepted, as perhaps was the intention,  and Hasdrubal did not cross the Apennines but headed directly for the Adriatic.  Livy recorded that:

  1. “[Livius Salinator’s] camp was near Sena [Gallica], and about 500 paces away was Hasdrubal”, (‘History of Rome’, 27: 46: 4).

Moreover, Claudius Nero assembled a detachment that he led in secret on a forced march of some 250 miles, in order to secretly reinforce the army at Sena Gallica.  Hasdrubal saw through the ruse and marched north during darkness as far as the Metaurus river, before turning inland in search of a ford.  However, the Roman army caught up with him before he could find a crossing.  The site of the subsequent battle is uncertain, although the result is not: with his cause lost, Hasdrubal decided to die fighting, and most of his men met the same fate.  According to Livy:

  1. “... when word was brought to Livius, ... that the Cisalpine Gauls and Ligurians, who either had not been present in the battle or had escaped in the midst of the carnage, were moving away [in disarray] ... , so that they would all be wiped out if a single regiment of cavalry should be sent [against them], he replied: ‘No! let there be some survivors, to carry the news both of the enemy's disaster and of our valour’”, (‘History of Rome’, 27: 49: 4-9).

An indication of the result of  events since Hannibal’s arrival in Italy came in 206 BC, when, according to Livy, the Senate received:

  1. “ ... deputations from Placentia and Cremona, who came to complain of the invasion and wasting of their country by their neighbours, the Gauls.   They reported that a large proportion of their settlers had disappeared, their cities were almost without inhabitants, and the countryside was a deserted wilderness.  The praetor Mamilius was charged with the defence of these colonies; the consuls, acting on a resolution of the Senate, published an edict requiring all those who were citizens of Cremona and Placentia to return to their homes before a certain day”, (‘History of Rome’, 28: 11: 8-12).

We have no record of the results of this action, but the security situation in the Po valley was about to deteriorate further.

Mago’s Invasion (205 -3 BC)

Livy recorded that, in 205 BC, as Scipio Africanus prepared the base on Sicily for an invasion of Carthage, Mago, another of Hannibal’s brothers, arrived with an army in a fleet of 30 warships that managed to land, unopposed, at the Roman base at Genua (modern Genoa, on the Ligurian coast).  According to Livy:

  1. “His army grew in numbers every day; the Gauls, drawn by the spell of his name, flocked to him from all parts [and]... the Senate was filled with the gravest apprehensions.  It seemed as though the joy with which they had heard of the destruction of Hasdrubal and his army two years before would be completely stultified by the outbreak of a fresh war in the same quarter, quite as serious as the former one, the only difference being in the commander.   They sent orders to the proconsul M. Livius to move the army of Etruria up to Ariminum ... [and] M. Valerius Laevinus led [another army] to Arretium”, (‘History of Rome’, 28: 46: 6-9).

Mago remained in Liguria until 203 BC, when he marched into the Po valley to confront four Roman legions from Ariminum.  In the battle that followed (in an unknown location), the Romans gained an advantage.  Livy recorded that:

  1. “As long as Mago kept his station in front, his men retreated slowly and in good order.  However, when they saw him fall, seriously wounded and carried almost fainting from the field, there was a general flight.  The losses of the enemy amounted to 5,000 men, and 22 standards were taken.  The victory was a far from bloodless one for the Romans: they lost 2,300 men, ...  The battle would have lasted longer had not Mago's wound given the Romans the victory”, (‘History of Rome’, 30: 18: 13-5).

Mago and the remnants of his army managed to retreat to the coast.  By that time, Mago (like Hannibal, who was still in southern Italy) had received orders to return to Carthage in anticipation of Scipio’s invasion, but he died of his wounds while still at sea. 

The war in Italy was over, and total victory followed with Scipio’s victory at Carthage itself in 201 BC.

Hamilcar in Cisalpine Gaul (200- ca. 197 BC)

Hamilcar was a Carthaginian general, who had served under Hasdrubal and/or Mago [above] and had remained in Italy, apparently as a free-lance thorn in the Roman side. As we shall see, Livy’s sources had him alternatively killed in 200 BC or captured and taken to Rome in 197 BC. 

Livy recorded that, in 200 BC:

  1. “... rumours suddenly arose of an outbreak of the Gauls, the last thing that was expected.  The Insubres and Cenomani, in conjunction with the Boii, ... had taken up arms under Hamilcar ... They had stormed and sacked Placentia and ... destroyed most of the city by fire, leaving hardly 2,000 men  amid the smoking ruins.  Thence, crossing the Po, they advanced with the intention of sacking Cremona [apparently taking the 2,000 survivors from Placentia with them as prisoners].  Hearing of the disaster that had overtaken their neighbours, the townsmen [at Cremona] had time to close their gates and man their walls ... Lucius Furius Purpurio, the governor of the province, had discharged [most] of his army by order of the Senate, retaining only 5,000 [men]; with these troops he was encamped in the vicinity of Ariminum, in the part of the province nearest Rome.  He thereupon sent a message to the Senate [requesting reinforcement]”, (‘History of Rome, 31: 10: 2-18).

When these reinforcements arrived:

  1. “... Lucius Furius proceeded by forced march from Ariminum against the Gauls who were still besieging Cremona ... [After a hard-fought battle,] the Gauls, suffering heavy losses in every quarter, suddenly broke and in complete rout fled to their camp [which the Romans attacked]. ... Less than 6,000 Gauls escaped; more than 35,000 were killed or captured ... Hamilcar, the Carthaginian general, and three noble Gallic commanders fell in the battle. About 2,000 captives from Placentia were recovered and restored to the colonists”, (‘History of Rome, 31: 21: 1-6).

Despite the outrage of the consul, Caius Aurelius Cotta, who argued that Furius had acted without his authority:

  1. “Lucius Furius, the praetor, triumphed over the Gauls while still in office and deposited in the treasury 320,000 asses of bronze, and 100, 500 pieces of silver.  There were [however] no captives led before his chariot, no spoils displayed, no soldiers in his train: everything but the victory was in possession of the consul”, (‘History of Rome’, 31: 49: 2-4).

There was further fighting in the area in 199 BC, but Livy noted that the consul of 198 BC Sextus Aelius Paetus Catus, who was responsible for this theatre:

  1. “... accomplished nothing worth remark. ... he spent almost the whole year in compelling the people of Cremona and Placentia to return to the colonies, whence they had been driven by the mishaps of war. ... Gaul was unexpectedly quiet that year ...”, (‘History of Rome, 32: 26: 1-4).

When Caius Cornelius Cethegus and Quintus Minucius Rufus were elected as consuls for that year, it was at first assumed that one would be given the province of Macedonia and the other Italy.  However, probably because Titus Quinctius Flamininus, one of the out-going consuls, wanted to retain the Macedonian command, the Senate:

  1. “...  voted that both [incoming] consuls should have Italy as province, and prolonged the term of Titus Quinctius until a successor, authorised by decree of the Senate, should have arrived.  To the consuls, two legions each were assigned, and the task of prosecuting the war with the Cisalpine Gauls who had revolted against the Roman people”, (‘History of Rome’, 32: 28: 8-9).

Livy then recorded (32: 29: 5) that Cornelius took the direct road (presumably Via Flaminia)  towards the Insubres while Minucius marched on Liguria, and having taken surrenders there, moved on to the territory of the Boii.  Each claimed success in his respective theatre: 

  1. The Fasti Triumphales record that, in 197 BC, Minucius celebrated a triumph

  2. “ ... over the G[auls and the Ligurians, on the] Alban [Mount, ...]

  3. Livy explained the reason for the form of this celebration:

  4. “Quintus Minucius, simply offering a motion when he saw the whole Senate opposed to him, declared that he would celebrate his triumph on the Alban Mount, both by virtue of his consular imperium and with the precedent of many distinguished men. ... [He] triumphed over the Ligures and Gallic Boi on the Alban Mount.  This triumph was of lesser note because of the place where it was held, the gossip about his exploits, and because all knew that the cost of it was taken, not duly requisitioned, from the treasury, ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 33: 23: 3-8) .

  5. Unfortunately, the entry in the Fasti Triumphales  prior to that of Minucius is lost, and the only surviving account of a triumph in the same year awarded to Cornelius is that of Livy:

  6. “Caius Cornelius was granted a triumph with the consent of all.  The people of Placentia and Cremona contributed to the applause given the consul, expressing their gratitude to him and testifying that they had been freed by him from the peril of siege, and many even that they had been rescued from slavery after they had been prisoners in the hands of the enemy. ... while still in office, [he had] triumphed over the Insubres and Cenomani.  In the procession, many standards were displayed, much Gallic spoil was carried in captured carts, many noble Gauls were led before his chariot.  Some say that Hamilcar, the Carthaginian general was among them;  but what especially attracted attention was the throng of colonists of Cremona and Placentia, following his car with caps of liberty upon their heads.  He carried in the triumph 237,000 asses of bronze, and 79,000 pieces of silver; his gifts to the soldiers were 70 asses of bronze each, twice that amount to each centurion and thrice to each cavalryman”, (‘History of Rome, 33: 23: 1-7) . 

  7. This record is problematic, not least because it records that the people of Placentia and Cremona attributed the raising of the siege at Cremona and the capture of Hamilcar to Cornelius in 197 BC rather than to Furius in 200 BC.   Livy was obviously reluctant to accept the second of these assertions.  Nevertheless, as T. James Luce (referenced below, at p. 130) pointed out, it seems that similar details had been reproduced in an elogium to Cornelius in the Forum Augustum.  He observed that:

  8. “[Cornelius’ career] was a creditable [one], to be sure, but it is difficult to believe that Livy’s brief account prompted Augustus to [include him among the men commemorated in the Forum Augustum].”

  9. It seems to me to be more likely that both Livy and Augustus were misled by an embellished account of these events  that had been put into circulation by Cornelius’ descendants. 

In short, it seems to me that the raising of the siege of Cremona and the death of Hamilcar took place in 200 BC.  It is, however, likely that Cornelius was awarded a triumph over the Insubres and Cenomani in 197 BC. 

As Stephen Dyson (referenced below, at p. 36) observed:

  1. “The defeat of Hamilcar ... did not solve the Gallic problem ...; [nor did it] restore frontier stability.  In many ways, the work of the 220s had been undone [in the period 218-197 BC].  ... It would take six more years to reverse this situation and once more make [the Romans’] hold on the Po secure.”

Conquest of Cisalpine Gaul (196-1 BC) 

Lucius Furius Purpurio, the triumphant praetor of 200 BC (above), was elected consul in 196 BC, together with Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the eponymous son of the consul who had triumphed in Gaul in 222 BC.  Both consuls were sent into Gaul.  Marcellus defeated the Insubres, but faced some sort of setback against the Boii.  The consuls then united their forces and:

  1. “... penetrated first the Boian territory as far as Felsina, plundering as they went.  This city and all the forts in the neighbourhood and all the Boi surrendered, except the men of military age, who were in arms in the hope of plunder: they had at this time retired into the pathless forests.  The[Roman] army was then led against the Ligures, and the Boi [i.e those that  had not surrendered] followed [them] by secret paths ... they encountered the Roman column along the edges of the Ligurian territory.  A battle began ... the Romans fought with so much greater desire for slaughter than for victory that they left the enemy hardly a messenger to tell of the defeat  By reason of these achievements, when the letters of the consuls were received in Rome, the Senate decreed a thanksgiving of three days.  A little later the consul Marcellus arrived in Rome, and was voted a triumph with the complete agreement of the senators: still in office, he triumphed over the Ligures and Comenses.  He left the hope of a triumph over the Boii to his colleague, because he personally had suffered defeat at the hands of that people, but had been victorious when associated with his colleague”, (‘History of Rome, 33: 37: 3-10) .   

In fact, the Fasti Triumphales record that Marcellus was awarded a triumph over the Insubrian Gauls, but no mention is made of a triumph awarded to Furius.

Although the Boii had lost their centre of operations at Felsina (later Bononia, modern Bologna), they remained in the fight.  Thus, neither the consul Lucius Valerius Flaccus (in 195 BC), nor his successor, Tiberius Sempronius Longus (in 194 BC), was able to make decisive progress in pacifying them.  Indeed, the latter found himself defending his camp against a sustained Boian attack.  According to Livy:

  1. “... there were varied fortunes on both sides, now defeat and now victory; yet about 11,000 of the Gauls fell and 5,000 of the Romans. The Gauls [then] retired into the interior of their country, while [Sempronius] led his legions to Placentia”, (‘History of Rome, 34: 47: 7-8). 

However, Valerius Flaccus, who remained in Cisalpine Gaul as proconsul, had more success against the Insubres: according to Livy:

  1. “ ...  in the vicinity of Mediolanum, [he] fought a pitched battle with the Insubrian Gauls and the Boii, who, led by Dorulatus, had crossed the Padus   to rouse the Insubres to arms, and defeated them.  10,000 of the enemy fell” (‘History of Rome’. 34: 46: 2).

They seem to have entered into a formal alliance with Rome at this time, to which Cicero probably refereed in this passage:

  1. “But some treaties are in existence, as for instance those with ... the Insubres, ..., in which there is a special exception made that no one of them is to be received by us as a citizen of Rome” (‘Pro Balbo’, 32) .

The situation deteriorated in 193 BC when the Ligurians also entered the fray.  The Romans were hurriedly assembling a large force to quell this disturbance under the command of the consul Quintus Minucius Thermus when:

  1. “... dispatches from [the ex-consul] Tiberius Sempronius Longus [who seems to have settled in Placentia at the end of his consulship, were received].  In these, he wrote that 10,000 of the Ligures had entered the territory of Placentia and had laid it waste with slaughter and fire up to the very walls of the colony and the banks of the Po; the nation of the Boii was also considering a rebellion. For these reasons the Senate decreed that a state of emergency existed ...”, (‘History of Rome, 34: 56: 10-11) .

They also directed the other consul, Lucius Cornelius Merula, to proceed to Cisalpine Gaul, and arranged for all available forces, to be put the his disposal including the soldiers that had been recently discharged by their  predecessors.  Merula thus found himself in command of an army that included Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the consul of 196 BC, and Tiberius Sempronius Longus.  He inflicted a major defeat on the Boii near Mutina but was denied a triumph, apparently because of criticism of his conduct reported to the Senate by Claudius Marcellus.

The consuls of 192 BC, Lucius Quinctius Flamininus and Cnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, mounted a pincer attack against the Boii (from Liguria and from Ariminum respectively), which had the effect of prompting significant Boian defections.  Then, in 191 BC, Livy reported that:

  1. “... Publius Cornelius [Scipio Nasica], the consul, fought in pitched battle with the army of the Boii with notable results.  [Although the surviving reports are exaggerated,] it is clear that this was a great victory, first, because the [Boian] camp was captured, second, because the Boii [completely] surrendered immediately after the battle, and third, because a thanksgiving was proclaimed [at Rome] and full-grown victims sacrificed”, (‘History of Rome’, 36: 38: 5-7) .

Livy then recorded that Cornelius:

  1. “... accepted hostages from the nation of the Boii and deprived them of about one-half their land, to which, if it chose, the Roman people could send colonies. Then, departing to Rome to the certain expectation of a triumph, he disbanded his army and ordered them to be in Rome on the day of the triumph; on the day after his arrival he himself convened the senate in the temple of Bellona, and when he had discoursed about his achievements he demanded that he be permitted to ride into the City in triumph”, (‘History of Rome, 36: 39: 3-5) .

This demand met resistance but was eventually granted: the Fasti Triumphales record that Cornelius was awarded a triumph against the Boian Gauls.  Stephen Dyson (referenced below, at p. 19) observed that:

  1. “A long and bitter war had come to an end. ... Their long resistance and the richness of their land had sealed the fate of the Boii as a political entity.  The Romans [now] renewed their aim of turning most of the land up to the Po into an extension of Roman Italy.”


In 197 BC, the Romans turned their attention to the Ligurians and to two neighbouring  Gallic tribes, the Boii and the Insubres: according to Livy:

  1. “[The consul] Quintus Minucius Rufus marched up [the Tyrrhenian coast] to Genoa [and] began the war with the Ligurians.  The towns of Clastidium and [the now unknown] Litubium, both belonging to the Ligurians and two [now unknown] cantons of the same people, the Celeiates and the Cerdiciates, surrendered.  And now, all the states on this side of the Po except the Gallic Boii and the Ligurian Ilvates were under his control; it was reported that 15 towns and 20,000 men had surrendered.  From there, he led his legions into the territory of the Boii”, (‘History of Rome’, 32: 29: 6-8).

This seems to be something of an overstatement, at least as far as the Insubres and the Boii are concerned,  However, it is the last time that we hear of the Ligurian Ilvates in the surviving sources, so one assumes that they did not remain independent for very long.

In 194 BC, Valerius Flaccus, who remained in Cisalpine Gaul as proconsul:

  1. “ ...  fought a pitched battle in the vicinity of Mediolanum with the Insubres and the Boii ... and defeated them.  10,000 of the enemy fell” (‘History of Rome’. 34: 46: 1-2).

Cicero later recorded that:

  1. “... some treaties are in existence, as for instance those with ... the Insubres, ..., in which there is a special exception made that none of them is to be received by us as a citizen of Rome” (‘Pro Balbo’, 32) .

It is likely that this treaty was agreed after the victory of 194 BC.  Meanwhile, the consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus, who had marched into Boian territory, found himself defending his camp against a sustained Boian attack.  According to Livy:

  1. “... there were varied fortunes on both sides, now defeat and now victory; yet about 11,000 of the Gauls fell and 5,000 of the Romans. The Gauls [then] retired into the interior of their country, while [Sempronius] led his legions to [the Latin colony of] Placentia”, (‘History of Rome, 34: 47: 7-8). 

According to Livy:

  1. “Some say that [Sempronius’ consular colleague, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus] then  ... marched through the territory of the Boii and the Ligurians, plundering as he went ...; although others say that, without accomplishing anything worth recording, he returned to Rome to hold the elections”, (‘History of Rome’, 34: 48: 1).

There is not necessarily a contradiction here: the ‘other’ sources might well have felt that raids on the the Boii and the Ligurians were not worth recording.  Nevertheless, as we shall see, it seems that the Ligurians and the Boii took a different view.

Quintus Minucius Thermus  in Liguria (193-1 BC)

On his election as consul in 193 BC, Minucius was given Liguria as his province.  According to Livy:

  1. “Although the consuls did not anticipate war that year, a letter came from Marcus Cincius, the military prefect at Pisae, announcing that 20,000 Ligurians, per omnia conciliabula uniuersae gentis (from all of their villages), were in arms. and had devastated the fields around [the allied Etruscan city state of] Luna and then  entered the territory of Pisae and overrun the whole of the coastal strip”, (‘History of Rome, 34: 56: 1-2) .

John Briscoe (referenced below, 1981, at p. 136) argued that:

  1. “Given the size of the [Ligurian] army, [it had probably been raised from among] all the Cisalpine Ligurians ...”

Minucius was still in the process of raising an army with which to confront the Ligurians when:

  1. “... dispatches arrived from [the ex-consul] Tiberius Sempronius Longus [who seems to have settled in Placentia at the end of his consulship].  In these, he wrote that 10,000 Ligurians had entered the territory of Placentia and had laid it waste with slaughter and fire up to the very walls of the colony and the banks of the Po; the Boii was also considering a rebellion.  For these reasons the Senate decreed that a state of emergency existed ...”, (‘History of Rome, 34: 56: 10-11) .

Livy recorded that, by the time that Minucius arrived at Arretium, where he had an army waiting to deal with the Ligurians:

  1. “Pisae was already besieged by about 40,000 men, and many more were pouring in every day, attracted by the prospect of war hope of booty. ...  Minucius [collected the army at  Arretium and marched ...] towards Pisaae: since the Ligurians had moved their camp across the river, to a site no more than a mile from Pisae, Minucius was able to march into the city that he had, without doubt, saved by his arrival.  The next day he too crossed the river, and encamped about 500 paces from the Ligurians.  From this base, he was able to defend the territory of [Rome’s Etruscan allies] ... , but he did not dare to [engage the Ligurians in battle] with raw troops ...  The Ligurians ... [were therefore able] to raid the borders of  [Etruscan] territory...”, (‘History of Rome, 35: 3: 1-6) .

Meanwhile, the other consul, Lucius Cornelius Merula, marched into the territory of the Boii in order to relieve Placentia.  He inflicted a major defeat on the Boii near Mutina (on the border between Boian and Etruscan territory) but was denied a triumph (‘History of Rome’, 35: 4: 1 - 35: 6-9, and 35: 8: 1-8) .

Livy then moved back to Minucius, who was camped outside Pisae, presumably trying to train his raw recruits:

  1. “For a long time nothing worth recording occurred among the Ligurians; but at the end of [193 BC], situations of grave peril arose on two occasions:

  2. first, Minucius’ camp came under a Ligurian attack that was defeated only with difficulty; and

  3. a little later, [Minucius and his men were ambushed] in a narrow pass, and visions of the Caudine disaster [of 321 BC] ... appeared before their eyes”, (‘History of Rome, 35: 11: 1-3) .

Fortunately, Minucius and his men were saved by the 800 Numidian cavalrymen who were serving  with the auxiliaries. 

Minucius’ imperium was prorogued at the end of the consular year, and he continued the Ligurian campaign as proconsul.  Finally, in 192 BC, he:

  1. “... engaged in a pitched battle with the Ligurians.  He killed 9,000 of them and ... drove the rest back  into their camp, which was vigorously attacked and defended until nightfall.   The Ligurians secretly withdrew during the night, and the Romans entered the abandoned camp at daybreak; little booty was found there, because the Ligurians had sent home most of the [Etruscan] booty. Minucius then... marched into Ligurian territory and laid waste their citadels and towns with fire and sword.   The booty of Etruria, which had been sent on by the raiders, now sated the Roman soldiers.”, (‘History of Rome, 35: 21: 7-11) .

Livy now turned the narrative back to Cisalpine Gaul: the consuls of 192 BC mounted a pincer attack against the Boii:

  1. Lucius Quinctius Flamininus, from Liguria in the west; and

  2. Cnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, from Ariminum, on the Adriatic coast in the east.

This had the effect of prompting a significant number of the Boii to abandon the fight.

In 191 BC, Livy reported that:

  1. “... the consul Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica engaged with the army of the Boii with notable results ... [and secured] a great victory: the [Boian] camp was captured;  the [remaining Boian rebels surrendered; and a thanksgiving was proclaimed [at Rome] ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 36: 38: 5-7) .

Livy then recorded that Scipio:

  1. “... accepted hostages from the Boii and deprived them of about half of their land ... He then left for Rome, ... having disbanded his army and ordered them to be in Rome on the day of the triumph.  On the day after his arrival, he himself convened the Senate in the temple of Bellona and, when he had reported his achievements, he demanded that he be permitted to ride into the City in triumph”, (‘History of Rome, 36: 39: 3-5).

Although Scipio had acted in a high-handed manner, his demand was not unreasonable: as Stephen Dyson (referenced below, at p. 19) observed :

  1. “A long and bitter war had come to an end. ... Their long resistance and the richness of their land had sealed the fate of the Boii as a political entity.  The Romans [now] renewed their aim of turning most of the land up to the Po into an extension of Roman Italy.”

However, Scipio’s plan for a triumph hit a stumbling block: according to Livy:

  1. “Publius Sempronius Blaesus, tribune of the people, declared that, while Scipio should not be refused the honour of a triumph, it should be postponed: Ligurian wars were always connected with Gallic wars, because these neighbouring tribes exchanged assistance.  If, after defeating the Boii, Scipio had  crossed into Liguria with his victorious army, or [at least] sent some of his troops to Minucius, who was  detained by a war of uncertain prospects for a third year, this war with the Ligurians could have been finished”, (‘History of Rome, 36: 39: 6-7).

Nevertheless, the triumph was eventually granted: the Fasti Triumphales record that Scipio  was awarded a triumph against the Boian Gauls in 191 BC.

Livy now moved back to Minucius, who (as noted above) continued as proconsul in Liguria into 191 BC.  It was at this point that:

  1. “... a Ligurians army that had been raised in accordance with a lex sacrata ... made a sudden attack on his camp”, (‘History of Rome’, 36: 38: 1).

His men managed to keep the Ligurians out during the night and:

  1. “As soon as it was light, they made simultaneous sorties from two of the ... gates [of the besieged camp].  But the Ligurians were not repulsed at the first attempt, as he had expected;  [indeed], they maintained the struggle for more than two hours  ... At length, as detachment after detachment issued from the camp and fresh troops relieved those who were exhausted with fighting, the Ligurians ...  fled.  Over 4,000 of the enemy were killed, while the Romans and their allies lost fewer than 300 men”, (‘History of Rome’, 36: 38: 2-5). 

It seems that Minucius now judged that he had finished his work in Liguria: according to Livy, at the start of the consular year of 190 BC:

  1. “...  since he had reported [to the Senate] that the province was completely subdued, and that the whole nation of the Ligurians had surrendered ... , he was ordered to remove his army from Liguria”, (‘History of Rome’, 37: 2: 4).

He duly returned to Rome:

  1. “... with hopes of triumphing  ... , [but] the Senate refused [his request] ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 37: 46: 1-2).

We then hear that the Senate ordered him:

  1. “... to remove his forces out of Liguria  into the country of the Boians and to give up the command to Scipio, [now] proconsul, since  he had  reported that the province of Liguria was completely subdued and that the whole nation of the Ligurians had surrendered, (‘History of Rome’, 37: 2: 4).

According to Gellus:

  1. “... in the speech which is entitled ‘de Falsis Pugnis’ (on Falsified Battles), Cato complained about Quintus Minucius Thermus: he relayed that, because the decemviri had not satisfactorily attended to Minucius’ provisions, he had ordered them to be stripped and scourged ...  Even slaves would bitterly resent such an injustice ; what feeling will men such [ these], who came from good families and who were endowed with high character, have as long as they live?”, (‘Attic Nights’, 10: 3: 17)

Many scholars (see, for example, Jessica Clark, referenced below, at p. 115) suggest that Cato, given its title, this speech might have been delivered in a debate about whether Minucius’ request for a triumph should be accepted.

Romanisation of the Po Valley

Reinforcement of Placentia and Cremona (190 BC)

Livy’s record of the reinforcement of the colonies of Placentia and Cremona in 190 BC well-illustrates the toll taken by the events in the recent past:

  1. “Lucius Aurunculeius, the praetor, introduced to the Senate the deputies of Placentia and Cremona, in Cisalpine Gaul.  When they complained of the want of colonists, some having been carried off by the casualties of war, others by sickness, and several having left the colonies because of their disgust at the vicinity of the Gauls.  [In response,] the Senate decreed, that Caius Laelius, the consul,... should enrol 6,000 families, to be distributed among these colonies, and that Lucius Aurunculeius, the praetor, should appoint commissioners to conduct the colonists.  Accordingly, Marcus Atilius Serranus, Lucius Valerius Flaccus, son of Publius, and Lucius Valerius Tappo, son of Caius, were nominated to that office”, (‘History of Rome’, 37: 46: 9-11).

The process was completed soon after:

  1. Not long after, as the time of the consular elections drew nigh, the consul, Caius Laelius, came home to Rome from Gaul.  He:

  2. enrolled the colonists as a supplement to Cremona and Placentia, according to a decree of the Senate that had been passed in his absence; and

  3. proposed (and, on his recommendation, the Senate voted) that two new colonies should be established in the lands which had belonged to the Boians, (see below)” (‘History of Rome’, 37: 47: 1-2).

Foundation of Bononia  (189 BC)

Livy recorded that, in 189 BC:

  1. “... Lucius Valerius Flaccus, Marcus Atilius Serranus, and Lucius Valerius Tappo, triumvirs, settled a Latin colony at Bononia, according to a decree of the Senate.   3,000 men were led to that place.  70 iugera were given to each horseman, 50 to each of the other colonists.  The land had been taken from the Boian Gauls, who had formerly expelled the Tuscans” (‘History of Rome’, 37: 57: 12-15).

Edward Salmon (referenced below, at p. 101) observed that this was one of the two new Latin colonies planned in 190 BC (above).  However, he observed that original plan for two colonies had been:

  1. “... over-optimistic: 

  2. By offering very large allotments of 50 iugera each, [the Roman authorities] attracted 3,000 colonists for one new foundation on the site of the Etruscan settlement of Felsina at the northern end of the principal pass over the Apennines  They planted this colony in 189 BC, giving it the optimistic name of Bononia (modern Bologna).

  3. However, not even the prospect of 50 iugera of free land could attract  sufficient settlers for the second Latin colony, and it accordingly was never founded.”

Via Aemilia (187 BC)

In 187 BC, the consuls Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Caius Flaminius (the son of the consul of 223 and 217 BC) were given joint command against a threatened attack on Rome by the Ligurians, whose territory was centred around modern Genoa.  Aemilius had his camp at Placenta, while Flaminius had his at Pisae.  Their pincer action succeeded and, thereafter:
  1. “... because [Flaminius] had brought it to pass that the province was free from war, [and so] that he might not leave his army idle, he built a road from Bologna to Arretium”,  (‘History of Rome’, 39: 2: 6)

  2. “Leaving the Ligurians pacified, [Aemilius] led his army into Gallic territory, and built a road from Placentia to Ariminum, in order to make a junction with the [original] Via Flaminia”, (‘History of Rome’, 39: 2: 10).

While thesecond Via Flaminia  never again appears in recorded history, the Via Aemilia became central to the Romanisation of the Po valley.

Foundation of Parma and Mutina (183 BC)

Latin colonies: Ariminum (268 BC); Placentia & Cremona (218 BC, reinforced 190 BC); Bononia (189 BC)

Citizen colonies: Parma & Mutina (183 BC)

Map from this page in the website L’Eco di Parma

Livy recorded that:

  1. “ ... Mutina and Parma, colonies of Roman citizens, were established [in 183 BC].  2,000 men in each case were settled on the land that had recently belonged to the Boii and previously to the Etruscans,: the allotments at Parma were 8 iugera each, at Mutina 5.  The board of three that founded them consisted of: Marcus Aemilius Lepidus; Titus Aebutius Parrus; and Lucius Quinctius Crispinus”, (‘History of Rome’, 39: 5: 6-8).

Both colonies were located between Bononia and Placentia on the Via Aemilia.  As Edward Salmon pointed out, the head of the founding commission, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, was the consul of 187 BC who had built this road during his consulship.

Epigraphic evidence suggests that the citizen settlers at both colonies were assigned to the Pollia, as discussed below.

Po Valley: Centres assigned to the Pollia underlined in blue

Latin colonies: Ariminum (268 BC); Placentia & Cremona (218 BC, reinforced 190 BC); Bononia (189 BC)

Citizen colonies: Parma & Mutina (183 BC)

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

Liguria: Centres assigned to the Pollia underlined in blue

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

Livy recorded that, in 173 BC:

  1. “There was a quantity of land taken in the wars with the Ligurians and the Gauls which was lying unappropriated, and the Senate passed a resolution that it should be distributed amongst individual holders. In pursuance of this resolution the City praetor appointed ten commissioners to supervise the allotment: M. Aemilius Lepidus; C. Cassius; T. Aebutus Carus; C. Tremellius; P. Cornelius Cethegus; Quintus and Lucius Apuleius; M. Caecilius; C. Salonius; and C. Menatius.  Each Roman citizen received ten iugera, each of the Latin [settlers], three”, (‘History of Rome’, 42: 4: 3-4).

    Read more:

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

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

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

    A. Ziolkowski, “The Temples of Mid-Republican Rome and Their Historical and Topographical Context”, (1992) Rome

    T. J. Luce, “Livy, Augustus and the Forum Augustum”, in:

    1. K. A. Raaflaub and M. Toher (Eds.), “Between Republic and Empire: Interpretations of Augustus and His Principate”, (1990) Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, at pp. 123-38

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

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

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

    E. Salmon, “Roman Colonisation under the Republic”, (1970) New York

    H. Rackham (translator), “Cicero: ‘On the Nature of the Gods’”, (1933), Cambridge (MA)

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