Key to Umbria
 

Introduction

Two entries in the list of magistrates in the Augustan fasti Capitolini record that:

hoc anno dictator et magister equitum sine consulibus fuerunt

In this year there was a dictator and a master of horse, without any consuls.

The years in question, using the so-called Varronian chronology (discussed below) were:

  1. 445 AUC (309 BC): Dictator, Lucius Papirius Cursor (II); Master of Horse, Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II); and

  2. 453 AUC (301 BC): Dictator: Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus (II); Master of Horse:Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (resigned); Marcus Aemilius Paullus (elected in his place)

Three entries in the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record that:

hoc anno dictatores non fuerunt

this year, there were no dictators

The years in question were: 421 AUC (333 BC); 430 AUC (324 BC); 445 AUC (309 BC).  The entries in the fasti Capitolini for 333 and 324 BC no longer survive, but comparison between the entries for 309 BC from these two sources suggests that all three entries in the Chronography of 354 AD had been incorrectly transcribed: Johannes Divjak and Wolfgang Wischmeyer (referenced below, on pages 382 383 and 384) corrected:

hoc anno dictatores <consules> non fuerunt

this year, dictators [held office]: there were no consuls

As Timothy Cornel (referenced below, 2015, at pp. 108-9 pointed out:

  1. “These [four] ‘dictator years’, as they are called, do not appear in Livy or in any other historical account, and are actually a blatant antiquarian fabrication by the scholars who produced the so-called Varronian chronology.”

‘Varonian’ Chronology and Dictator Years

Modern historians attribute the invention of the four dictator years that are recorded in the fasti to the annalists of the late Republic.  It probably all started when Marcus Terentius Varro worked out (probably in ca. 47 BC) that Rome was founded in the third year of the 6th Olympiad (Ol. 6.3):  this year ran from July 754  to July 753 BC and, since the birthday of Rome traditionally fell on 21st April, Ol. 6.3 implied the foundation date 21st April 753 BC (AUC 1 = 753 BC).   Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at pp. 552-3 and note 20) pointed out:

  1. chronologies that include the dictator years seem to have the foundation date in:

  2. Ol. 6.3 = 754/3 BC (Atticus Varro - see below); or

  3. for reasons that are unclear Ol. 6.4 = 753/2 BC (fasti Capitolini); while

  4. Livy, for example, who did not recognise the dictator years in his narrative, seems to have assumed a chronologies the foundation date in:

  5. Ol. 7.2 = 751/0 BC; or,

  6. on one or perhaps two occasions, Ol. 7.1 = 752/1 BC.

The subject of Roman dating is fiendishly complicated, so it is fortunate that we only need to concern ourselves with the period that is conventionally designated as 335-300 BC (Varronian), which includes all four of the so-called dictator years:

  1. although the entry in the fasti Capitolini for Valerius’ 4th consulship no longer survives, we can deduce what it contained because the associated fasti Triumphales, which use the same dating convention, and they record that he triumphed over the Ausones of Cales, as consul for the 4th time, in 419 AUC (335 BC);

  2. as noted above, they originally included fictitious dictator years in 421 AUC (333 BC); 430 AUC (324 BC); 445 AUC (309 BC) and 453 AUC (301 BC), although the first two of these entries are now lost); and

  3. they record Valerius’ 5th consulship in 454 AUC (300 BC).

On this reckoning, Valerius’ assumed his 5th consulship 34 years after his 4th.  However, Livy recorded 30 pairs of consuls who held office in consecutive consular years. 

Unfortunately, much of modern Roman history had been written using the chronology of the fasti before the fictitious nature of the dictator years was recognised.  Therefore, in order to avoid the need to ‘re-date’ history, scholars account for them by merging them into the preceding consular years, using the designations: 334/3, 325/4; 310/9; and 302/1 BC.

Date of the Invention of Dictator Years

The only evidence that Varro used the chronology that was named for him dates to 37 BC, when he noted that:

  1. “...Caius Licinius [Crassus] ... was tribune of the plebs, 365 years after the expulsion of the kings”, (‘On Agriculture’, 1: 2: 9).

Cicero placed Licinius’ tribunate in the year in which :

  1. “... Lucius Mancinus and Scipio's brother, Quintus Maximus, were consuls ...”, (‘Laelius: on Friendship’, 26)

The fasti Capitolini, which probably recorded the first consuls of the Republic in AUC 245 = 509 BC, place the consulship of Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus  and Lucius Hostilius Mancinus in AUC 609 = 145 BC, 364 years later (and thus 365 years after the expulsion of the kings).  Therefore, Varro had probably incorporated the dictator years in his calculation.

Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at p. 562) argued that:

  1. “... the first reasonably certain appearance of the dictator years [in the surviving sources] is in Atticus' ‘liber annalis’ of 47 BC.”

Titus Pomponius Atticus is best remembered as Cicero’s friend and correspondent.  His ‘liber annalis’ no longer survives, but this was probably the work in which, according to his biographer, Cornelius Nepos:

  1. “... he characterised the Roman magistrates; there is no law, nor peace, nor war, nor illustrious action of the Roman people that goes unrecorded in it at its proper period, and (what was extremely difficult) he has interwoven into it the origins of families, so that we may ascertain from it the pedigrees of eminent men”, (‘Lives of Eminent Commanders: Titus Pomponius Atticus’, 18).

We learn

  1. from Solinus that, among various opinions as to the date of the foundation of Rome:

  2. “  ... Pomponius Atticus and Marcus Tullius[Cicero] hold out for the 3rd year of the 6th Olympiad [i.e., 1 AUC = 753 BC) ”, (‘Polyhistor’, 1.27); and

  3. from Cicero, that:

  4. “... Livius [Andronicus] exhibited his first performance at Rome in the consulship of M. Tuditanus, and C. Claudius the son of Caecus ... and, according to the account of my friend Atticus, (whom I choose to follow) in 514 AUC.”

The fasti Capitolini record that the consuls Caius Claudius Centho and Marcus Sempronius Tuditanus held office in 514 AUC = 240 BC.   Therefore, Atticus, like Varro before him, had probably incorporated the dictator years in his calculation.  As Drummond observed (at p. 563):

  1. “Certainly they remained unknown to, and alien to, the rest of the Roman annalists down into the Augustan period.”

Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at pp. 559-60) pointed out that Diodorus Siculus seems to have relied of Varronian chronology to date the Second Samnite War: according to Livy (‘History of Rome’, 8: 25: 2-3), it started in 326 BC (Varronian), when the new consuls, Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus and Lucius Papirius Cursor, formally declared war on the Samnites.  Diodorus’ first mention of the war related to 318 BC:

  1. “In Italy, the Romans were now in the 9th year of their war with the Samnites.  Although, in the previous period, they had fought with large forces, at this time they accomplished nothing great or worthy of mention by the incursions that they were making upon the hostile territory; yet they did not cease attacking the strongholds and plundering the country. In Apulia also they plundered all Daunia and won back the Canusians, from whom they took hostages. They added two new tribes to those already existing: Falerna and Oufentina”, (‘Library of History’, 19: 10: 1-2).

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 263) pointed out, Diodorus’ mention of the events at Canusium and the creation of the Falerna and Oufentina tribes shows that his sources were similar to those used by Livy

  1. Livy (‘History of Rome’, 9: 21:1) placed these events in the consulate of Marcus Folius Flaccinator and Lucius Plautius Venox, the 7th pair of consuls after Poetelius and Papirius.

  2. As Oakley (as above) pointed out, Diodorus must have dated them by using a chronology that included the fictitious dictator year of 325/4 BC.

A similar situation arises in Diodorus’ record of the end of the war:

  1. “The Romans and the Samnites interchanged envoys and made peace after having fought for 22 years and 6 months; and one of the consuls, Publius Sempronius [Sophus], invading the country of the  [Aequi] with an army, captured 40 cities in a total of 50 days and, after forcing the entire tribe to submit to Rome, returned home and celebrated a triumph with great applause”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 101: 5).

Livy placed 19 pairs of consuls between Poetelius and Papirius and Sempronius, and we know from  the fasti Triumphales that Sempronius celebrated his triumph over the Aequi midway through his consular year. This, by his reckoning, the war had lasted for for 22 years and 6 months: Diodorus must have included the fictitious dictator years of 325/4 BC and 310/9 BC (during which, Lucius Papirius Cursor was the dictator in question).  Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at p. 562) argued that:

  1. “Diodorus, writing sometime after Caesar's murder, [was apparently using a very recent production that employed the chronological scheme of Varro and Atticus.”

Why Were the Dictator Years Invented in the Late Republic ?

Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at p. 571) concluded his important paper on the dictator years by suggesting that:

  1. “It is difficult to believe that the sudden appearance (or reappearance) of [dictator years in 47 BC] is independent of the controversy of 48 BC, or that Atticus would show sufficient independence to ignore fictions so convenient to Caesar and his lieutenant, [Mark Antony].”

The controversy to which Drummond referred surrounded Caesar’s proposed second dictatorship, and specifically the fact that:

  1. “... he wished to hold the office at least until the remnants of the opposition [to him] had been crushed, and may already have envisaged its use as the permanent formal basis and expression of his control of the Roman state.”

Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 1996, at p. 469) observed that:

  1. “If Atticus wrote a spurious account of the annual dictatorships of 333, 324, 309, and 301 BC [Varronian], he provided the Caesarian innovators with the historical 'precedents' with which they could counter criticism of the unconstitutional nature of Caesar's second dictatorship in 47 BC.  The appearance of [Atticus’] work in this exact year (as Drummond points out) is simply too convenient [to have been merely coincidental].”

Caesar’s First Two Dictatorships  (49 and 47 BC)

The fasti Capitolini for this period record:

  1. 49 BC:

  2. Consuls: Caius Claudius Marcellus [Maior] and Lucius Cornelius [Lentulus Crus]

  3. Dictator: Caius Julius Caesar, [without a magister equitum, in order to hold elections]

  4. 48 BC:

  5. Consuls: Caius Julius Caesar (II) and Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus

  6. 47 BC:

  7. Dictator: Caius Julius Caesar [(II), magister equitum] Marcus  Antonius [in order to manage public affairs]

  8. Consuls in the same year: Quintus Fufius Calenus and Publius Vatinius

It seems that Mark Antony’s name was removed from the fasti after his defeat by the future Emperor Augustus in 30 BC, but subsequently reinstated.

Caesar received his first dictatorship in 49 BC, after having crossed the Rubicon, an act that constituted an act of war on the Republic.  The consuls Claudius and Cornelius and many other leading Romans immediately  left Rome to join Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey) in Greece, so Caesar found Rome effectively without a government when he arrived.  He arranged to be appointed as dictator by what remained on the Senate in order to hold the consular elections and then duly resigned, his task having been completed with his own election as consul and that of his friend, Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus.  He then left Vatia in charge of Rome while he left Italy at the head of his army in order to deal with Pompey.

Caesar’s second dictatorship was potentially more controversial: news of Pompey’s defeat and his subsequent assassination reached Rome in the middle of the consular year.  After Caesar had arranged matters in Greece,  after which, according to Plutarch:

  1. “... he crossed to Italy and went up to Rome, at the close of the year, [and was, for] a second time ... chosen dictator, although that office had never before been for a whole year”, (‘Life of Caesar’, 51:q).

As we shall see, this is misleading, since Sulla had been appointed as dictator for an indefinite period in 82 BC, for the purpose of reforming the constitution, albeit that he had duly resigned two years later when the task that he had set himself was done.   As Andrew Drummond (above) pointed out, the problem this time was that no-one could be sure how he would use his new power and whether he really would relinquish it after a year.  Plutarch also noted that, after Caesar’s appointment as dictator for the second time, he left Italy in order to the remnants of Pompey’s army:

  1. “... but he chose Mark Antony as his master of horse and sent him to Rome.  This office is second in rank when the dictator is in the city; but when he is absent, it is the first and almost the only one, since only the tribuneship continues when a dictator has been chosen; all the other offices are abolished”, (‘Life of Mark Antony’, 8:3).

According to Cassius Dio, Caesar:

  1. “... entered upon the dictatorship at once, although he was outside of Italy, and chose Mark Antony as his master of horse although he had not yet been praetor: the consuls [Caesar himself and Vatia] also proposed the latter's name, although the augurs very strongly opposed him, declaring that no-one could be master of horse for more than six months.  But, for this course, they brought upon themselves a great deal of ridicule, because, after having decided that the dictator himself should be chosen for a year, contrary to all precedent, they were now splitting hairs about the master of the horse”, (‘Roman History’, 42: 21: 1-2).

It is possible that this account is indicative of an undercurrent of opposition to the constitutional outrage of a dictator and his master of horse appointed for a year (with no indication initially that they would function alongside consuls), and that the newly ‘discovered’ consul-free ‘dictator years’ of the late 4th century BC provided some sort of answer to these criticisms.

It seems that Mark Antony soon discovered the inherent problem in this concentration of powers in Italy in his hands: according to Cassius Dio, he found himself facing growing unrest at Rome and a potential mutiny of Caesar’s veterans, who were concentrated in Campania awaiting discharge and compensation:

  1. “Fearing that they might begin some rebellion, [Mark Antony] turned over the charge of the city to Lucius Caesar [consul of 64 BC, julius Caesar’s cousin and Mark Antony’s uncle], appointing him city prefect, an office never before conferred by a master of the horse, and then set out himself to join the soldiers”, (‘Roman History’, 42: 21: 1-2).

Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 1996, at p. 469) point this resurrection of an ancient office coincided with the publication of Atticus’ liber Annalis’, and that

  1. “The last recorded use of this office is possibly to be dated to [the dictator year 325/4 BC (see below), when] Livy records the incident in which Lucius Papirius Crassus was left in charge of the City ... [by the dictator, his relative, Lucius Papirius Cursor].  It would have been simple enough for an imaginative annalist to equate [Lucius Caesar] with the earlier dubious examples of a praefectus urbis. [lucius Papirius Crassus].  Even if the praefectura urbis was not discussed in detail in the liber Annalis’, Atticus' knowledge of the early period [or that of another scholar of his circle such as Varro] could have provided the ideas upon which this kind of [constitutional] adaptation was based.” 

The implication is that the discovery of the praefectus urbi of 325/4 BC was yet another invention associated with Atticus and his circle that might help to legitimise the constitutional outrages of 47 BC.

However, even with the aid of his uncle, Mark Antony was unable to deal with the unrest in Rome or the mutiny in Campania.  Caesar had to return to Italy before the year was ended and hold consular elections.  In other words, if the four fictitious  years in which a dictator and his master of horse had ruled without consuls had been invented to provide precedents for Caesar’s controversial second dictatorship, they had probably become redundant, at least for this immediate purpose, by about September 47 BC: 46 BC saw the election, as consuls, Caius Julius Caesar (III) and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.  

Thereafter, precedents and legal niceties would have counted for little, and Caesar was able to serve as dictator and/or consul and to choose his colleagues as he wished: the fasti Capitolini for the period that followed record:

  1. 45 BC:

  2. Dictator: Caius Julius Caesar (III), [magister equitum] Marcus Aemilius Lepidus [in order to manage public affairs]

  3. Consuls in the same year: Caius Julius Caesar (IV) (without a colleague) - [resigned]

  4. Consuls in the same year: Quintus Fabius Maximus (died in office), with Caius Caninius Rebilus elected in his place, and Caius Trebonius

  5. 44 BC:

  6. Dictator: Caius Julius Caesar (IV) - [resigned], [magister equitum] Marcus Aemilius [Lepidus II - resigned, in order to manage public affairs]

  7. [Caius Julius Caesar was made dictator for life, with Marcus Aemilius  Lepidus as magister equitum - in order to manage public affairs]

  8. [Caius Octavius, who was later called Imperator Divi Caesar Filius, was designated to succeed Marcus Lepidus as magister equitum], when Lepidus left for war [- but he did not enter office]

  9. Cnaeus Domitius  Calvinus [was designated to become magister equitum] in the following year - but he did not enter office

  10. Consuls: Caius Julius  Caesar (V) - [killed in office, Publius Cornelius Dolabella - elected in his place], [Marcus Antonius]

Despite this, the dictator years survived and (as we have seen) were incorporated into the Augustan fasti Capitolini.

Why Were the Dictator Years Inserted in 333, 325, 309 and 301 BC ?


Dictator Year 334/3 BC

Sources that Ignore the Fictitious Dictator Year

As we shall see, according to Livy, the sequence of magistrates at this time was:

  1. 335 BC (assumed here from the parallel entries in the fasti):

  2. Consuls: Marcus Valerius Corvus (IV), who was awarded a triumph over the Ausones of Cales,  and Marcus Atilius Regulus [Calenus]

  3. 334 BC:

  4. Consuls: Titus Veturius Calvinus and Spurius Postumius Albinus

  5. Dictator: Publius Cornelius Rufinus who was appointed to serve alongside both consuls:

  6. -Master of the Horse : Marcus Antonius

  7. When concerns were raised about the regularity of their appointment, they resigned

  8. 333 BC: Consuls: Aulus Cornelius Cossus Arvina (II) and Cnaeus Domitius Corvinus

  9. The process of the election of consuls was delayed to make way for five interregna (which would have taken a total of 25 days)

  10. 332 BC:

  11. Consuls: Marcus Claudius Marcellus and Caius Valerius Potitus Flaccus

  12. 331 BC:

  13. Consuls: Lucius Papirius Crassus (II) and Lucius Plautius Venox

  14. 330 BC:

  15. Consuls: Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus Privernas (II) and Caius Plautius Decianus, both of whom triumphed over the Privernates

Sources that Include the Fictitious Dictator Year

The relevant entries in the fasti Capitolini are missing.  However:

  1. the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record record the consuls as follows:

  2. 335 BC: Caleno [Marcus Atilius Regulus Calenus] et Corvo [Marcus Valerius Corvus] (IV)

  3. 334 BC: Caudino [Spurius Postumius Albinus (Caudinus)] et Calvino [Titus Veturius Calvinus]

  4. 333 BC: this year, there were no consuls

  5. 332 BC: Calvino [Cnaeus Domitius Corvinus] et Arvinas [Aulus Cornelius Cossus Arvina] (II)

  6. the fasti Triumphales, which are also complete at this point, record:

  7. in 335 BC: triumph of Marcus Valerius Corvus over the Ausones of Cales (which agrees with Livy)

  8. in 329 BC: triumphs of Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus Privernas and Caius Plautius Decianus over the Privernates

Reconciled Chronology

Clearly, both the fasti Triumphalis and the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ contain an ‘invented year in which a dictator (presumably Publius Cornelius Rufinus, with Marcus Antonius as his master of the horse) ruled without consuls.  We should thus combine these sources as follows (indicating triumphs in bold):

  1. 335 BC:

  2. Consuls: Marcus Valerius Corvus (IV) and Marcus Atilius Regulus

  3. 334/3 BC:

  4. Consuls: Titus Veturius Calvinus and Spurius Postumius Albinus

  5. Dictator: Publius Cornelius Rufinus who was appointed to serve alongside both consuls:

  6. -Master of the Horse : Marcus Antonius

  7. When concerns were raised about the regularity of their appointment, they resigned

  8. 332 BC: Consuls: Aulus Cornelius Cossus Arvina (II) and Cnaeus Domitius Corvinus

  9. The process of the election of consuls was delayed to make way for five interregna (which would have taken a total of 25 days)

  10. 331 BC:

  11. Consuls: Marcus Claudius Marcellus and Caius Valerius Potitus Flaccus

  12. 330 BC:

  13. Consuls: Lucius Papirius Crassus (II) and Lucius Plautius Venox

  14. 329 BC:

  15. Consuls: Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus Privernas (II) and Caius Plautius Decianus

Livy’s Record of Events and Around in 334/3 BC

War with the Ausones and Sidicini (336 - 334 BC)


According to Livy:, the year of 336 BC

  1. “..., being the consulship of Lucius Papirius Crassus and Caeso Duillius, was remarkable for a war ... with the Ausones of Cales, who had joined forces with their neighbours, the Sidicini.  The Romans defeated the army of the two peoples in a single and by no means memorable battle”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 16: 1-3).

This single defeat had driven the two armies back into their respective cities of Cales and Teanum Sidicini, but the consuls made no further progress:

  1. “The Senate... did not cease to be concerned over this war, because the Sidicini ... [had caused the Romans problems] so many times before.  They accordingly made every effort to elect the greatest soldier of that age, Marcus Valerius Corvus, to his 4th consulship [in 335 BC], giving him Marcus Atilius Regulus as his colleague ... Valerius took over the victorious army from the previous consuls and marched on Cales, where the war had originated.  He routed the Ausones  and ... attacked [Cales] itself ... [which he easily captured].  ... the legions were led back to Rome, where Valerius  triumphed ... ”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 16: 6-11).

The fasti Triumphalis record the award of a triumph to Valerius over the Caleni (presumably, the Ausones of Cales).  Livy continued:

  1. “... lest Atilius should go without his share of glory, both consuls were directed to march against the Sidicini.  But, before so-doing, on the instructions of the Senate, they named a dictator to preside at the [forthcoming] elections.  Their choice fell on Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus, who selected Quintus Publilius Philo to be master of the horse”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 16: 6-11).

According to Livy:

  1. “... under the presidency of the dictator, Titus Veturius Calvinus and Spurius Postumius Albinus were chosen as consuls [for 334 BC].  Although [the Sidicini remained in the field, the new consuls] nevertheless brought in a proposal for sending out a colony to Cales ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 16: 12-4).

This was the first Latin colony that the Romans had founded since the end of the Latin War (338 BC).  As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 582) observed:

  1. “The site was a strategic one: ... its territory separated the Sidicini ... from [the] Samnites, and, above all, it was only 13 km northwest of Capua, which it was thus able to watch.”

Unsurprisingly, the act of founding this colony did nothing to ease the tension of the border of Samnium and Campania.  Veturius and Postumius:

  1. “... took over the army from their predecessors and, entering the territory of the Sidicini, laid it waste as far as their city walls”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 1).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 573-4) suggested that the city in question was Teanum Sidicinum, and that it is possible that the Romans failed to attack the city itself in either 335 or 334/4 BC because it was particularly well-fortified.

Appointment of Publius Cornelius Rufinus as Dictator (334 BC)

Livy recorded that:

  1. “At this juncture, since the Sidicini had themselves raised an enormous army and seemed likely to make a desperate struggle on behalf of their last hope, and since the rumour circulated that Samnites were [also] arming, the Senate authorised the consuls to nominate a dictator.  They appointed Publius Cornelius Rufinus, and Marcus Antonius was made master of the horse.  However, concern was subsequently raised about the regularity of their appointment, and they resigned their office ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 1-4).

It seems that the appointment of the dictator and his subsequent abdication had taken place towards the end of the consular year.  Thus:

  1.   “... when a pestilence ensued, it was supposed that all the auspices were affected by that irregularity, and the state reverted to an interregnum.  Finally Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus, the fifth interrex from the beginning of the interregnum, achieved the election to the consulship of Aulus Cornelius [Cossus Arvina] (for the second time) and Cnaeus Domitius [Corvinus]”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 4-5).


The tenure of office by a dictator after the consul responsible for his appointment had returned to private life and the reckoning of that tenure as an additional year by Atticus and others are so anomalous that some deeper motivation seems required beyond mere misunderstanding or the need to fill a supposed chronological gap. Nor is it difficult to supply that motivation if ... [it is accepted] that the dictator years were invented, or at least were revived, only in 47 BC.

The fasti Capitolini record that, in 202 BC, Caius Servilius Geminus was appointed as dictator to hold elections.   He was to be the last dictator to be recorded for some 120 years,: then, in 82 BC, when we read that, after the serving consuls, Caius Marius and Cnaeus Papirius Carbo had been killed in office during the civil war, the victorious Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix was appointed as dictator, with Lucius Valerius Flaccus as his master of Horse:

  1. “ ... in order to organise the state.”

In contrast to the dictatorships of the earlier period, Sulla’s carried no formal time-limit.  It is therefore possible that the earlier ‘dictator years’ had been invented to justify his unprecedented office.


Sulla had had two ancestors who had served as dictators: as Arthur Keaveney (referenced below, at p. 5) pointed out:

  1. “The earliest member of his family of whom we have a record is Publius Cornelius Rufinus, who was dictator of 334 BC, but he is a a rather shadowy figure and is, for us, really little more than a name.”

As we shall see, he might have been the otherwise unknown occupant of the office during the dictator year of 334/3 BC.  Keaveney noted that the homonymous son of the dictator of 334 BC 

was:

  1. “... the most celebrated (some would say, the most notorious) member of the family before Sulla himself.”

He served as: consul, in 290 BC; dictator in ca. 285 BC; and consul for the second time in 277 BC, before being expelled from the Senate by the censors of 275 BC.  As  Keaveney pointed out:

  1. “... his disgrace seems to have led to the partial political eclipse of the family ... [and], by the time of Sulla, it was regarded as being of little consequence.”



However, as Arthur Keaveney (referenced below, at p. 139) pointed out:

  1. “... the most telling argument in favour of the view that Sulla’s dictatorship was what he said it was, an instrument for reform, is the fact that, towards the end of 81 BC, without any compulsion whatsoever, he laid it down.”




Dictator Year 325/4 BC

Sources that Ignore the Fictitious Dictator Year

As we shall see, according to Livy, the sequence of magistrates at this time was:

  1. 326 BC (assumed here from the parallel entries in the fasti):

  2. Consuls: Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus and Lucius Papirius [Cursor]

  3. Proconsul at Neapolis: Quintus Publilius Philo, who was awarded a triumph

  4. 325 BC:

  5. Consuls: Lucius Furius Camillus (II) and Junius Brutus Scaeva

  6. Dictator replacing Furius: Lucius Papirius Cursor, who was awarded a triumph over the Samnites and, after presiding over the elections of Sulpicius and Aemilius Cerretanus (below), resigned

  7. -Master of Horse: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus , who was prosecuted for insubordination and resigned

  8. 324 BC:

  9. Consuls: Caius Sulpicius Longus (II) and Quintus Aemilius Cerretanus

Sources that Include the Fictitious Dictator Year

The relevant entries in the fasti Capitolini are missing.  However:

  1. the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record the consuls as follow:

  2. 326 BC: Libone [Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus] (III) et Cursore [Lucius Papirius Cursor] II

  3. 325 BC: Camello [Lucius Furius Camillus] (II) et Bruto [Decimus Junius Brutus Scaeva]

  4. 324 BC: this year, there were no consuls

  5. 323 BC: Lanto [ ?  Caius Sulpicius Longus] (II) et Ceretano [Quintus Aemilius Cerretanus]

  6. the fasti Triumphales, which are also complete at this point, record triumphs awarded:

  7. in 326 BC: to Quintus Publilius Philo, the first proconsul [ever awarded a triumph], over the Samnites and [Neapolitani];

  8. in 324 BC: to Lucius Papirius Cursor, dictator, over the Samnites.


Reconciled Chronology

Clearly, both the fasti Triumphalis and the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ contain an invented year in which Lucius Papirius Cursor continued as dictator, with an unknown Master of the Horse) and no consuls.  We should thus combine these sources as follows (indicating triumphs in bold):

  1. 326 BC:

  2. Consuls: Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus and Lucius Papirius [Cursor]

  3. Proconsul at Neapolis: Quintus Publilius Philo

  4. 325/4 BC:

  5. Consuls: Lucius Furius Camillus (II) and Junius Brutus Scaeva

  6. Dictator replacing Furius: Lucius Papirius Cursor

  7. 323 BC:

  8. Consuls: Caius Sulpicius Longus (II) and Quintus Aemilius Cerretanus


Declaration of War with the Samnites (326 BC)

The Romans engaged in what was, in effect, a proxy war with the Samnites at Neapolis in 328 BC.  According to Livy:

  1. “... time drew near for the elections [at the end of 327 BC], ... it was not for the advantage of the state that [the consul Quintus Publilius Philo], who was threatening the enemy's walls, should be called away [from theatre of war. ... It was therefore decided that], on the expiration of his consulship, he should continue as proconsul until [the Neapolitani] had been defeated.  [Since the other consul, Lucius Cornelius Lentulus], had already entered Samnium, [the Senate directed] him to name a dictator for conducting the elections [for the forthcoming consular year]”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 11-13). 

The subsequent election process proved to be problematic until:

  1. “... at last, the 14th interrex, Lucius Aemilius [Mamercinus Privernas], procured the election of consuls, Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus and Lucius Papirius Mugillanus: in other annals, I find the name of Cursor”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 23: 17).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 664) reasonably argued that the cognomina Mugillanus and Cursor belonged to the same Lucius Papirius.  The new consuls immediately:

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

Opening Phase of the War (326 - 325 BC)

The Romans now fought on Samnite territory for the first time, as both consuls:

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

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

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

Appointment of Lucius Papirius Cursor as Dictator (325 BC)

The consuls of 325 BC were were Lucius Furius Camillus (for the second time) and Decimus Junius Brutus Scaeva.  Junius was assigned to the suppression of the Vestini, who had recently risen up against Rome.  Meanwhile, Camillus marched into Samnium in order to prevent them from aiding the Vestini.  However, according to Livy: 

  1. “... Lucius Furius became dangerously ill and was forced to relinquish his command; Lucius Papirius Cursor, who was by far the most distinguished soldier of the time, [took over his command] as dictator, ... with Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus as his master of the horse.  [Although the two men were famous for their] victories as magistrates, they were even more famous for their quarrelling, which almost went the length of a mortal feud”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 29: 8-10).

This famous feud began when Papirius’:

  1. “... expedition into Samnium was attended with ambiguous auspices ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 1).

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

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

Livy then ‘flashed forward’ again to the imminent quarrel:

  1. “However,  the flaw in [the auspices] took effect, not in the outcome of the war, which was waged successfully, but in the animosities and madness of [Papirius and Fabius]”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 2-7). 

Feud Between Papirius and Fabius

Only now do we  find out how this feud began.  Livy recorded that:

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

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

  1. “I find it stated by certain writers that Fabius  fought the enemy twice while the dictator was absent, and twice gained a brilliant victory.  The oldest historians give only this single battle, and in certain annals the story is omitted altogether”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 7).

He then returned to the main narrative: whether there had been one or two engagements:

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

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

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

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

And so, a feud was born. 

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

  1. “... Roman people ... entreated and adjured him to remit the punishment of Fabius for their sake.  The tribunes, too, fell in with the prevailing mood and earnestly besought Papirius to allow for human frailty and for the youth of  Fabius, who had suffered punishment enough.  Now, [Fabius] himself, now his father, Marcus Fabius Ambustus, forgetting their previous animosity, threw themselves at Papirius’ feet and attempted to avert his anger”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 35: 7).

None of these supplicants denied that Fabius was guilty as charged.  However, Papirius probably had no choice but to agree to his reprieve.  Thus, he pronounced:

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

Appointment of Lucius Papirius Crassus as Praefectus Urbi

According to Livy:

  1. “When the dictator [Papirius Cursor] had

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

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

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

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 745) argued that:

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

Like Stephen Oakley (as above), Corey Brennan (referenced below, at p. 73) pointed out that the office of praefectus urbi:

  1. “... has no positive attestation in the Republic after the mid-5th century BC.”

He also noted that (at p. 72) that

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

Nevertheless, he put forward (at p. 73) the circumstances in which Papirius, as dictator, might have appointed Crassus as praefectus urbi in 325/4 BC:

  1. “Crassus was a relative of the dictator [Cursor: he was probably the dictator of 340 BC who, according to Livy (‘History of Rome’, 8: 12: 2-3)] had named Cursor as his master of horse ... [His appointment by Cursor as praefectus urbi in 225/4 BC] might be explicable if:

  2. the consul [Furius, whom Papirius replaced] was too ill to act [in that capacity]; and

  3. Papirius took the praetor [the more natural candidate] into the field as a substitute for the disgraced Fabius, who was debarred ... from further action.

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

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

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

Papirius’ Victory in Samnium (325 BC)

Livy then embarked on an elaborate account of how the dispirited army was defeated by the Samnites and how Papirius went to considerable lengths to direct the treatment of his wounded men and to restore their morale.  He then:

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

Livy then recorded that

“Papirius, having entered the City in triumph, would have laid down his office, but was commanded by the Senate first to hold a consular election”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 37: 1).

Dictator Year 325/4 BC: Discussion

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 696-7) acknowledged that the whole of Livy’s account of the events of the dictator year 325/4 BC is heavily elaborated:

  1. “... it is ... quite reasonable to believe that [Papirius and Fabius] really did quarrel”;

  2. ...”it is possible that [Fabius did defeat a Samnite army], and such a position is supported by the obscurity of Imbrinium ...”;

  3. “... it is perhaps just possible that that the Samnites did sue for peace and were granted [truces] at the end of the year (but the continued fighting in 323 BC and the moralising purpose to which the alleged breach of the truce later in that year is put scarcely enhance the credibility of the report)”; and

  4. “ ... the basic facts that [Papirius] won a victory and celebrated a triumph need not be doubted ...”

Fabius Pictor

Timothy Cornell and Edward Bispham (in T. Cornell (Ed.), referenced below, 2013. at Volume III, pp. 33-4, entry F17) argued that the historian Fabius to whom Livy referred (at 8: 30: 9) must have been Fabius Pictor.  As they pointed out (in Volume I, at pp. 162), he was born in ca. 270 BC and died after 216 BC and was probably a great grandson of Marcus Fabius Ambustus and a great nephew of Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus. 

In relation to this specific episode, they argued (in Volume III, at p. 34) that Fabius Pictor was responsible for:

  1. the opinion that Livy attributed to him (that Fabius burned the Samnite armour to make sure that Papirius did not make steal his glory and display the captured armour in his triumph); and

  2. (probably) the information that corroborated this: namely the fact that Fabius had reported his victory, not to Papirius, but to the Senate.

Furthermore:

  1. “When, in an earlier passage, [Livy] says that the oldest writers recorded only one battle, he must referring to Fabius [Pictor]. and probably to [him] alone.”

They summarised:

  1. “... Fabius Pictor must have narrated the whole episode, which was probably commemorated by his family: the intimate details, especially concerning the high-spirited and even reckless attitude of his great uncle, seem characteristically Fabian ... [It is possible that his] letter to the Senate was preserved in the archive of the gens Fabia.  The best explanation of the evidence as we have it is that the story was a family tradition, written up by Fabius Pictor, but leaving no record in official archives; this would explain Livy’s comment that, in some annals, the whole incident was left out.”

Dictator Year 310/9

Sources that Ignore the Fictitious Dictator Year

As we shall see, according to Livy, the sequence of magistrates at this time was:

  1. 310 BC (assumed here from the parallel entries in the fasti):

  2. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (II), who triumphed over the Etruscans, and Caius Marcius Rutilus

  3. Dictator, replacing Marcius: Lucius Papirius Cursor (II), who triumphed over the Samnites

  4. -Master of Horse: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II)

  5. 309 BC:

  6. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (III) and Publius Decimus Mus

Diodorus Siculus (who made no mention of Papirius’ dictatorship) also placed Fabius’ second and third consulship in consecutive years, as we can see from his designations of the contemporary eponymous archons of Athens (search on ‘Charinus’):

  1. “When Demetrius of Phalerum was archon in Athens [309-8 BC], in Rome Quintus Fabius received the consulship for the second time and Caius Marcius for the  first”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 27: 1).

  2. “When Charinus was archon at Athens [308-7 BC], the Romans gave the consulship to Publius Decius and  Quintus Fabius”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 37: 1).

Sources that Include the Fictitious Dictator Year

The fasti Capitolini give:

  1. 310 BC:

  2. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (II) and Caius Marcius Rutilus

  3. Dictator: Lucius Papirius Cursor (II)

  4. -Master of Horse: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II)

  5. 309 BC: the dictator and master of horse [continued] without consuls

  6. Dictator: Lucius Papirius Cursor (II)

  7. -Master of Horse: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II)

  8. 309 BC:

  9. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (III) and Publius Decimus Mus

The ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record record the consuls as follows:

  1. 310 BC: Tulliano [Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus] (III) et Rutilius [Caius Marcius Rutilus]

  2. 309 BC: this year, there were no consuls

  3. 308 BC: Mure [Publius Decimus Mus] (II) et Rulliano [Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus] (IV)

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ record triumphs in 309 BC to:

  1. Lucius Papirius Cursor, as dictator, over the Samnites, on the ides (15th) October; and

  2. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, as proconsul, over the Etruscans, on the ides (13th) November.

The implication here is that Fabius served as proconsul in Etruria in the year between his second and third years as consul. 

Reconciled Chronology

Clearly, both the fasti Triumphalis and the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ contain an invented year in which Lucius Papirius Cursor continued as dictator, with Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus as his Master of the Horse), ruled without consuls.  We should thus combine these sources as follows (indicating triumphs in bold):

  1. 310/9 BC:

  2. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (II) and Caius Marcius Rutilus

  3. Dictator, replacing Marcius: Lucius Papirius Cursor (II)

  4. -Master of Horse: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II)

  5. 308 BC:

  6. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (III) and Publius Decimus Mus

Fabius in Etruria


As set out on my page Second Samnite War II (311 - 304 BC), the most useful description of Fabius’ engagements in Etruria is by Diodorus Siculus ( (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 1-5).  Livy, who acknowledged that he was at the mercy of a variety of discordant sources, produced a much more confused version of these events (as described in my page Livy: Fabius‘ 2nd Consulship (310/9 BC)).  Both sources agree that Fabius immediately marched to the Latin colony of Sutrium, on the northern edge of Roman territory, which was besieged by an Etruscan army.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 454) demonstrated that their respective accounts of his subsequent engagements in Etruria  for the period up to the appointment of a dictator (see below) can be reconciled by assuming that he:

  1. marched to relieve Sutrium and defeated the Etruscans there;

  2. crossed the Ciminian Forest (as reported only by Livy);

  3. sent envoys to the ‘Camertes Umbros’ (the Umbrian people of Camertium or Camerinum, modern Camerino) who spoke in the consul's name, de societate amicitiaque (of an agreement of friendship and alliance) that the Camertes accepted (as reported only by Livy);

  4. defeated a peasant army in upper Etruria;

  5. defeated a  significant Etruscan army near Perusia (Diodorus).

Livy placed this last major engagement  near Sutrium, but he acknowledged that other sources claimed that:

  1. “... this famous battle was fought on the other side of the Ciminian Forest, near Perusia ... But, wherever it was fought, the Romans were the victors.  And so, ambassadors from Perusia and Cortona and Arretium, which, at that time, were effectively capita Etruriae populorum (the chief cities of the Etruscan people), came to Rome to sue for peace and a foedus (treaty).  [Instead], they obtained truces for 30 years”, (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 12).

Diodorus also recorded truces with Perusia, Cortona and Arretium, although he did not specify their duration.

Marcius in Samnium

According to Diodorus, both consuls marched on Sutrium soon after their election and:

  1. “... defeated [the Etruscans] in battle and drove them into their camp”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 1).

Shortly thereafter, the Samnites, taking advantage of the presence of both consuls in Etruria, begin:

  1. “... plundering with impunity the Iapyges [in southeastern Italy] who supported the Romans.  The consuls, therefore, were forced to divide their armies ... Marcius, set out against the Samnites ...”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 2).

As noted above, Livy credited this engagement at Sutrium to Fabius alone. Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 457) argued that, in this case, Livy’s testimony should be accepted. since:

  1. “.... Diodorus is not [usually] a good guide on consular provinces and, with war on two fronts, one would not have expected both consuls to have set off for Etruria.” 

Livy and Diodorus agreed that (in Livy’s words) Marcius:

  1. “... captured Allifae [in the valley of the Volturnus] from the Samnites by assault.  Many other forts and villages were also either wiped out in the course of hostilities or fell to the Romans”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 1).

It is possible that Allifae did indeed fall into Roman hands at this point, although, if so, then the Samnites soon recovered it.  Diodorus made no further mention of Marcius. 

Appointment of a Dictator

According to Livy, when the Etruscans seemed to be gaining the upper hand in Etruria (before the ‘famous battle’), the Samnites:

  1. “... fearing that Fortune might transfer the glory of the Roman war from the Samnites to the Etruscans, hastened to bring all their strength to bear upon crushing Marcius ... [They engaged him at an unspecified location].  The battle was fiercely contested on both sides, but without a decision being reached.  Yet, although it was doubtful which side had suffered most, the report gained ground that the Romans had been worsted ... and, most conspicuous of their misfortunes, Marcius himself was wounded. These reverses ... were further exaggerated in the telling, and the Senate...  determined on the appointment of a  dictator”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 4-10).

Diodorus mentioned neither Marcius’ demise nor the consequent appointment of a dictator.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 460-1) pointed out that Marcius probably did suffer a reverse at this time, since:

  1. “... the annalistic tradition is unlikely to have invented a Roman defeat; ... [Furthermore, since ] the appointment of a dictator was a regular Roman response to military difficulty in this period, ... there is  no compelling reason to doubt the dictatorship of Papirius, even if Livy’s account of panic at Rome after the defeat of Marcius derives only from his own imagination or that of his sources.”

He acknowledged (at note 1) that some scholars have doubted that a dictator was appointed at this time, but pointed out that:

  1. “In this period, the appointment of a dictator was a regular Roman response to military difficulty ...”

Choice of Lucius Papirius Cursor as Dictator

According to Livy, once the Senate had decided to appoint a dictator:

  1. “Nobody could doubt that Papirius Cursor, who was regarded as the foremost soldier of his time, would be designated.  However, [he would have to be appointed by one of the consuls].  The senators were uncertain:

  2. whether a messenger could be safely sent to Samnium, where hostilities continued; and

  3. [even if a messenger should reach the Roman camp there, whether he would find] Marcius ... alive”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 10-13). 

They therefore decided to ask Fabius to make the appointment. 

Fabius’ Reaction

As discussed above, Fabius had served as Master of Horse during Papirius’ first dictatorship of 325/4 BC, and he had been lucky to escape with his life when he had blatantly disobeyed Papirius’ orders.  It seems that he still:

  1. “... had a private grudge against Papirius and, in case this enmity might hinder the general welfare, the Senate decided to send a deputation of former consuls to him [presumably at his camp in Etruria, ... in order to] induce him to forget those quarrels in the national interest.  The ambassadors [duly] went to Fabius  and delivered the resolution of the Senate, with a discourse that suited their instructions”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 10-13). 

Fabius, who had recently defeated the Etruscans in upper Etruria and agreed truces with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia, was presumably still at his camp in this region.  His initial response to the ambassadors’ request were unsettling:

  1. “Fabius, his eyes fixed on the ground, retired without a word ... Then, in the silence of the night, as custom dictates, he appointed Papirius dictator.  When the envoys thanked him ... , he continued obstinately silent, ... so that it was clearly seen what agony his great heart was suppressing”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 13-15).

Cassius Dio, gave a shorter account of these events:

  1. “The men of the city put forward Papirius as dictator and, fearing that Fabius might be unwilling to name him on account of [their mutual hostility], they sent to him and begged him to place the national interest before his private grudge.  Initially, he gave the envoys no response, but when night had come (according to ancient custom it was absolutely necessary that the dictator be appointed at night), he named Papirius, and by this act gained the greatest renown. (‘Roman History’, 8: 36: 26).

It seems likely that these accounts had a common source, albeit that Livy accepted or invented some elaborations relating to Fabius’ strange behaviour.

Ill-Omened Curia

After his appointment, Papirius named Caius Junius Bubulcus as his master of the horse.  However:

  1. “When he began to lay a law confirming his authority before the Comitia Curiata, the proceedings were cut short by an evil omen: the first vote to be counted was that of the ward called Faucia, which was notorious for two calamities that had both been incurred in years when this same curia had the right of  the first return:

  2. the capture of Rome [by the Gauls in 390 BC]; and

  3. the [shameful] Caudine Peace [agreed with the Samnites in 321 BC].

  4. [Indeed, the historian] Licinius Macer makes this ward unlucky also for a third disaster, that of the Cremera [i.e. the Veientine ambush of the Fabii by the river Cremera in 477 BC]”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 15-16).

This seems to have required the session to be halted until the following day, when :

  1. “... Papirius sought the auspices afresh and carried the law through”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 1).

Putative Events of Papirius’ Second Dictatorship


Papirius at Longula

Livy recorded that, immediately upon his appointment as dictator, Papirius:

  1. “ ... took command of the legions that had been raised [at Rome] during the scare connected with [Fabius’ earlier campaign in Etruria], and led them to Longula.  There, having also taken] over Marcius’ troops, he marched out and offered battle, which the enemy ... seemed willing to accept”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 1-2). 

However, this engagement did not last very long:

  1. “... while the two armies stood armed and ready for the conflict, ... night overtook them.  [They retired to their respective camps], which were within a short distance of each other, and remained [there] for some days: each side did not doubt its own strength, but neither did it underestimate the enemy”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 3). 

I have placed it at modern Longano on the map above, following the tentative suggestion of Gianfranco De Benedettis (referenced below, at pp. 89-90)

Livy’s narrative then switched abruptly to events in Etruria which suggests either that:

  1. there is a lacuna in the text in the surviving manuscripts, and the narrative that described the subsequent engagement of the Roman and Samnite army is missing; or

  2. the narrative continued at 9: 40: 1-14 (where, as discussed below, Papirius’ victory over the Samnites is described).

Another Roman Victory in Etruria ?

According to the surviving Livian manuscripts, after an easy Roman victory over ‘the Umbrians’:

  1. “An engagement also took place at the lacus Vadimonis, where the Etruscans, using a lex sacrata (sacred law), had raised an army cum vir virum legisset (in which each man had chosen another).  This army fought with more men and with greater courage than ever before.  So savage was the feeling on both sides that ... [the outcome] long hung in the balance.  [It seemed to the Romans that they were engaging] with some new, unknown people, rather than with the Etruscans (whom they had  so often defeated).  ...  [However, an unexpected Roman tactic] threw the Etruscan standards into confusion  ...  and [the Romans] at last broke through their ranks.  Their determined resistance was now overcome and  ...  they soon took flight.  That day, for the first time, broke the power of the Etruscans after their long-continued and abundant prosperity.  The main strength of their army was left [dead] on the field, and their camp was taken and plundered”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5-11).

As discussed in my page Livy: Papirius‘ 2nd Dictatorship (310/9 BC), a small number of the surviving manuscripts have obeli  († ... †) around the description of the engagement with the Umbrains and the words: “An engagement also took place at the lacus Vadimonis”, in order to flag that this passage seemed to the respective transcriber to be to be corrupt.  However, I argue there that, if this major engagement with an Etruscan army actually took place, then there is (in my view) no reason why it could not have taken place at the lacus Vadimonis, some 40 km north of Sutrium.

In view of the glory that would have attended such a victory, it is  extremely surprising that, at least in the surviving manuscripts, Livy did not identify the victorious Roman commander.

It seems to me that we must first consider why Livy apparently omitted to name the Roman who secured this magnificent victory.  In my view, this omission is unlikely to be simply the result of missing text: Livy’s account of the battle implies that the men on both sides fought spontaneously, without needing direction from above:

  1. “So savage was the feeling on both sides that, without discharging a single missile, the soldiers began the fight with swords from the start.  ... There was not the slightest sign of yielding anywhere: as the men in the first line fell, those in the second took their places to defend the standards.  At length, the last reserves had to be brought up, and matters had come to such an extremity of exhaustion and danger that the Roman cavalry dismounted and ... made their way ... to the front ranks of the infantry.  They appeared [there] like a fresh army amongst the exhausted combatants, and immediately threw the Etruscan standards into confusion.  The [Roman infantry], worn out as they were, nevertheless followed up the cavalry attack, and at last broke through the Etruscan ranks ...  They soon took to  flight ... , [leaving] the main strength of their army [dead] on the field, and their camp was taken and plundered”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 6-10).

It is possible that Livy  gave no discernible role to the Roman who commanded this battle because he had no information as to his identity.  However, it seems to me that he we more probably struggling to reconcile too many discordant sources.


This conundrum had apparently occurred to the scribe who was responsible for one of the surviving manuscripts: Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 499, paragraph (e)) noted that he inserted the phrase ‘interim ab fabio consule in Etruria res feliciter gestae’ (Meanwhile, the consul Fabius was meeting with success in Etruria) before ‘et ad Vadimonis lacum’.  Oakley agreed that:

  1. “One would rather have expected Fabius to have been in charge on the Etruscan front; but  he is nowhere mentioned ... ”.

Instead, as Oakley pointed out:

  1. “Scholars tend to assume that Papirius was in command ...”

However, in Oakley’s view, this hypothesis:

  1. “... is absurd, [since it has Papirius]  moving from [Longula] to Lake Vadimo and then back to Samnium [see below].”   

He added (at paragraph (f)) that, even if one accepts this hypothesis:

  1. “... there remains the difficulty that there ought to be  some [indication] of how he moved from Longula to Lake Vadimo.”

In my view, those of Livy’s sources that favoured Papirius might well have credited him with an excursion from Longula to Lake Vadimo and back to Samnium (however absurd this might have been).   There is, in fact, another indication that much of Livy’s account came from sources who favoured the gens Papiria: as discussed below, his record that:

  1. “The Etruscans, using a lex sacrata (sacred law), had raised an army cum vir virum legisset (in which each man had chosen another).”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5);

had probably been taken from an account of the more reliably authentic victory that Papirius’ homonymous son secured against the Samnites in 293 BC (as discussed in my page Lege Sacratae (293 and 310/9 BC).  On the other hand, those those of Livy’s sources that favoured Fabius might well have named him as the victorious commander and described the battle as a trivial mopping-up operation after the ‘famous battle’ near Perusia.  Indeed, Diodorus Siculus described such an engagement:

  1. “Thereafter, defeating the Etruscans in a second battle near the place called Perusia [Livy’s ‘famous battle’] and destroying many of them, he overawed the [Etruscan] nation since he was the first of the Romans to have invaded [upper Etruria] with an army.  He also made truces with the peoples of Arretium and Croton [i.e. Cortona,  ... and] Perusia; and, taking by siege the city called Castola, he forced the Etruscans to raise the siege of Sutrium”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 4-5).

The location of the Etruscan city of Castola is now unknown, but (as discussed in my page Livy: Papirius‘ 2nd Dictatorship (310/9 BC)), there is no inherent reason why it could not have been near the lacus Vadimonis

In other words, I think that:

  1. Diodorus’ account of Fabius’ ‘mopping up’ operation at Castola shortly after Papirius’ appointment should probably be accepted; and

  2. Livy based his account of this battle  on a source in which it was attributed to Papirius, albeit that he chose not to identify the victorious commander as either Papirius or Fabius.

If, as Diodorus implied, this victory is seen as the culmination of Fabius’ campaign in upper Etruria, then the dayon which it was won might reasonably described (as Livy’s source described it) as the day that:

  1. “... for the first time, broke the power of the Etruscans after their long-continued and abundant prosperity”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 11).

After a thorough examination of all the surviving evidence, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 456-7) concluded that:

  1. “Whichever explanation one adopts [for Livy’s record of this Roman victory won by an unnamed commander at the lacus Vadimonis], the important points are that:

  2. much of Livy’s Etruscan narrative after 37: 12, [where he recorded Fabius’ imposition of 30-year truces with Perusia, Cortona and Arretium] duplicates what he [had recounted before to appointment of Papirius]; and

  3. all of it is likely to be fictional.

Papirius’ Victory the Samnites (perhaps at Longula)

Livy then returned to the war in Samnium, which, according to Livy:

  1. “.. involved as much danger, and reached an equally glorious conclusion [as the victory that had broken the power of the Etruscans for the first time]”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 1).    

However, it is not clear where this ‘second glorious conclusion’ took place: Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 461) observed that the putative lacuna at 39: 4 (above):

  1. “... does not allow us to determine whether [it] ... should also be placed at Longula.”

I discuss this ‘glorious’ engagement in my page Livy: Papirius‘ 2nd Dictatorship (310/9 BC)In summary, Papirius was supported in the battle by:

  1. his master of the horse, Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus; and

  2. two legates:

  3. Marcus Valerius Maxiumus Corvus; and

  4. Publius Decius Mus.

They faced a magnificently-attired  Samnite army, one corp of which was made up of men who were distinguished (inter alia) by their linen tunics, and who had ‘consecrated themselves’ to victory. 

According to Livy:

  1. “From the first moment, there was a mighty struggle with the enemy, and a struggle no less sharp between Papirius and Junius to decide which wing [of the Roman army] would inaugurate the victory”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2-9).

When Junius’ men charged and broke the Samnite corp of consecrated men, Papirius:

  1. “... cried: ‘Shall ... the dictator's division follow the attack of others [rather than] carry off the honours of the victory ?’  This fired the [rest of the Roman] soldiers with new energy; nor did ... the [legates display] less enthusiasm than the generals: Valerius on the right and Decius on the left, both men of consular rank, ... charged obliquely against the enemy's flanks.  [The Samnites took flight and] the fields were soon heaped with both dead soldiers and glittering [enemy] armour.  At first, the frightened Samnites found a refuge in their camp, but presently even that had to be abandoned, and, before nightfall, it had been taken, sacked and set on fire”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 10-14).

Immediately after this glorious victory:

  1. “... as decreed by the Senate, [Papirius] celebrated a triumph, in which by far the finest show was afforded by the captured armour.  So magnificent was its appearance that the shields inlaid with gold were divided up amongst the owners of the money-changers' booths [in Rome], to be used in decking out the Forum”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 15-6).  

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 461) observed that:

  1. “Even though Diodorus ignores Papirius’ campaign against the Samnites, it would probably be an excess of scepticism to reject it out of hand; ...  Although it is possible that [it] is an annalistic or Livian invention, no certain arguments for rejecting it have yet been adduced.  Nevertheless, the details of the fighting offered by Livy are unlikely to be sound: many recur in a very similar guise in his account of the victory of [Papirius’ homonymous] son at Aquilonia in 293 BC, and it is therefore possible that those [recorded for 310/9 BC] are all unauthentic ...”

As  (as discussed in my page Lege Sacratae (293 and 310/9 BC), the details that were probably taken from the victory of the younger Papirius in 293 BC include:

  1. the magnificent armour worn by the Samnites, which was destined to fall into Roman hands after their inevitable defeat; and

  2. the presence of the Samnite corp of consecrated men who wore linen tunics (which was redolent ofthe Linen Legion that formed part of the Samnite army of 293 BC).

For this reason, Edward Salmon (referenced below, at pp. 245-6 and note 1) considered that:

  1. “The crushing victory that [Papirius] is said to have scored in [310/9 BC)] ... is recognised, even by Livy, to contain features borrowed from his son’s victory [in 293 BC].  ... The victory [of the elder Papirius], if not entirely fictitious, was, at most, merely a local success that helped maintain Roman diversionary pressure on the western borders of Samnium.”

In other words, it is likely that much of Livy’s exuberant description of Papirius’ glorious victory over the Samnites can be safely discounted.

Fabius Final Engagement in Etruria ?

According to Livy:

  1. “In the same year [as Papirius’ victory discussed above], Fabius fought a battle with the remnants of the Etruscan forces near Perusia, which, together with other cities, had broken the truce.  [He] gained an easy and decisive victory.  After the battle, he marched up to the walls of the city and would have taken the city itself had not ambassadors come out and surrendered the place.  [He] placed a garrison in Perusia, and ... sent on before him to the Senate in Rome the Etruscan deputations that had come to him amicitiam petentibus (seeking friendship) ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 18-20).  

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 455) highlighted two problems with Livy’s account:

  1. “... despite Livy’s comment that [‘Perusia, together with other Etruscan cities, had broken the truce’, this engagement] follows oddly on [the  30 year truces] agreed earlier in the year with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia.”

  2. “This is [Livy’s] only report of the surrender of a major Etruscan settlement in the war of 311-308 BC ...[and] it is doubtful whether ... the Romans had an army strong enough to capture or force the surrender of any of the major Etruscan cities [at this time].  One cannot prove finally that this section is a doublet ..., but this does seem extremely probable.”

It also seems odd that Livy did not record the Senate’s answer to ’the Etruscan deputations that had come to Fabius seeking friendship’.  Simoni Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 35) also doubted the authenticity of this passage, and suggested that the memory of Livy’s non-preferred version of Fabius ‘famous’ victory of 310 BC, which located it near Perusia:

  1. “... must have been so strong as to push Livy to include it [again] at the end of the interminable 310 BC, thereby duplicating the facts of the engagement that, shortly before, had taken place near the Ciminian Forest and had led to the truces with the centres of northern Etruria” (my translation).

In other words, Livy  almost certainly drew on yet another version of the ‘famous battle’ (which he had not recognised as such) to describe another engagement in the “interminable 310 BC”.  This would be consistent with the observation of  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 456-7) already discussed, that:

  1. “... much of Livy’s Etruscan narrative after 37: 12, [where he recorded Fabius’ imposition of 30-year truces with Perusia, Cortona and Arretium] duplicates what he [had recounted before to appointment of Papirius]; and all of it is likely to be fictional. “

Triumphs of 310/9 BC

Livy recorded that, after his glorious victory in Samnium, Papirius:

  1. “... as decreed by the Senate, celebrated a triumph, in which by far the finest show was afforded by the captured armour.  So magnificent was its appearance that the shields inlaid with gold were divided up amongst the owners of the moneychangers' booths, to be used in decking out the Forum”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 15-16).  

He continued:

  1. “In the same year, the consul Fabius fought a battle with the remnants of the Etruscan forces near Perusia  [as described above] ... Having placed a garrison in Perusia and having sent [p. 325]on before him to the Senate in Rome the Etruscan deputations which had come to him seeking friendship, the was borne in triumph into the City, after gaining a success more brilliant even than [that of Papirius]; indeed the glory of conquering the Samnites was largely diverted upon the lieutenants, Publius Decius and Marcus Valerius, of whom, at the next election, the people with great enthusiasm made the one [Decius] consul and the other [Valerius] praetor”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 18-20).  

In Livy’s account, the highlight of Papirus’ triumph was the display of the magnificent armour that he and his army had captured from the Samnites.  Livy returned to this theme in his account of the victory of the younger Papirius over the Samnites in 293 BC, after which:

  1. “... a triumph was granted to him by universal consent.  This triumph, which he celebrated while still in office, was unusually brilliant one for those days. ... The spoils of the Samnites attracted much attention; their splendour and beauty were compared with those that [his] father had won, which were familiar to all through their being used as decorations of public places”, (‘‘History of Rome’, 10: 46: 2-4).

Perhaps surprisingly, Livy provided no information at all about Fabius’ triumph.  What he did say is that Fabius celebrated it:

  1. “... after gaining a success more brilliant even than that of Papirius; indeed the glory of conquering the Samnites was largely diverted upon the legates, Decius and Valerius, of whom, at the next election, the people with great enthusiasm made the one [Decius] consul and the other [Valerius] praetor”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 19-21). 

He confirmed these appointments in his following sentence:

  1. “In recognition of his remarkable conquest of Etruria, Fabius was continued in the consulship, and was given Decius for his colleague.  Valerius was chosen praetor for the fourth time”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 41: 1-2). 


Cornelius Nepos, recorded that:

  1. “[Atticus] has given similar accounts too, separately, in other books; as, at the request of Marcus Brutus, he specified in order the members of the Junian family, from its origin to the present age, stating who each was, from whom sprung, what offices he held, and at what time.  In like manner, at the request of Marcellus Claudius, he gave an account of the family of the Marcelli; at the request of Scipio Cornelius and Fabius Maximus, of those of the Fabii and Aemilii; nothing can be more agreeable than these books to those who have any desire for a knowledge of the actions of illustrious men”, (‘Lives of Eminent Commanders: Titus Pomponius Atticus’, 18)


Dictator Year (310/9 BC)

As noted above, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 456-7) argued that:

  1. “... much of Livy’s Etruscan narrative after 37: 12, [where he recorded Fabius’ imposition of 30-year truces with Perusia, Cortona and Arretium] duplicates what he [had recounted before to appointment of Papirius]; and all of it is likely to be fictional.”

He also observed (at p. 461) that:

  1. “... the details of the [Papirus’ victory over the Samnites] offered by Livy are unlikely to be sound: many recur in a very similar guise in his account of the victory of [Papirius’ homonymous] son at Aquilonia in 293 BC, and it is therefore possible that those [recorded for 310/9 BC] are all unauthentic ...”

Edward Salmon (referenced below, at pp. 245-6 and note 1) similarly argued that:

  1. “The crushing victory that [Papirius] is said to have scored in [310/9 BC)] ... is recognised, even by Livy, to contain features borrowed from his son’s victory [in 293 BC].  ... The victory [of the elder Papirius], if not entirely fictitious, was, at most, merely a local success that helped maintain Roman diversionary pressure on the western borders of Samnium.”

In other words, although Livy correctly rejected the putative year without consuls, he accepted much of the narrative that had been invented to describe the events that it embraced.


Livy recorded that, after his victory, the younger Papirius dedicated the temple of Quirinus, noting that:

  1. “I do not find in any ancient author that it was he who vowed this temple in the crisis of a battle, and certainly he could not have completed it in so short a time.  It was vowed by his father when dictator: the son dedicated it when consul and adorned it with the spoils of the enemy.  There was such a vast quantity of these that, not only were the temple and the Forum adorned with them, but they were distributed amongst the allied peoples and the nearest colonies to decorate their public spaces and temples”, (‘‘History of Rome’, 10: 46: 6-8).

According to Pliny the Elder:

  1. “... the Temple of Quirinus (or, in other words, of Romulus himself) one of the most ancient [temples] in Rome” (‘Natural History’ (15:36).

Thus, the temple that was:

  1. vowed by the elder Papirius Cursor  in 325/4 or 310/9 BC; and

  2. dedicated by the younger Papirius in 293 BC;

was presumably built on the site of an ancient predecessor on the Quirinal Hill.



Cicero Letter to Papirius Paetus (Epistulae ad Familiare’, : 21)

Well, but letting that pass, how did it come into your head, my dear Paetus, to say that there never was a Papirius who was not a plebeian?  For, in fact, there were patrician Papirii, of the lesser houses, of whom

the first was L. Papirius Mugillanus, censor with L. Sempronius Atratinus—having already been his colleague in the consulship—in the 312th year of the city. But in those days they were called Papisii.

After him thirteen sat in the curule chair before L. Papirius Crassus, who was the first to drop the form Papisius. This man was named dictator, with L. Papirius Cursor as Master of the Horse, in the 415th year of the city, and four years afterwards was consul with Kaeso Duilius.

Cursor came next to him, a man who held a very large number of offices; [Note]

then comes L. Masso, who rose to the aedileship; then a number of Massones. The busts of these I would have you keep—all patricians.

Then follow the Carbones and Turdi. These latter were plebeians, whom I opine that you may disregard. For, except the Caius Carbo who was assassinated by Damasippus, there has not been one of the Carbones who was a good and useful citizen. We knew Gnaeus Carbo and his brother the wit: were there ever greater scoundrels? About the one who is a friend of mine, the son of Rubrius, I say nothing. There have been those three brothers Carbo—Caius, Gnaeus, Marcus. Of these, Marcus, a great thief, was condemned for malversation in Sicily on the accusation of Publius Flaccus: Caius, when accused by Lucius Crassus, is said to have poisoned himself with cantharides; he behaved in a factious manner as tribune, and was also thought to have assassinated Publius Africanus. [Note] As to the other, [Note] who was put to death by my friend Pompey at Lilybaeum, there was never, in my opinion, a greater scoundrel. Even his father, on being accused by M. Antonius, is thought to have escaped condemnation by a dose of shoemaker's vitriol. Wherefore my opinion is that you should revert to the patrician Papirii: you see what a bad lot the plebeians were.


Dictator Year 302/1

Sources that ignore the Fictitious Dictator Year

As we shall see, according to Livy, the sequence of magistrates at this time was:

  1. 302 BC (assumed here from the parallel entries in the fasti):

  2. Consuls: Marcus Livius Denter and Marcus Aemilius [Paullus]

  3. Dictator: Caius Junius Bubulcus, who triumphed over the Aequi and then resigned his office

  4. -Master of Horse:  Marcus Titinius

  5. Dictator: Marcus Valerius Maximus [Corvus], who triumphed over the Etruscans and the Marsi and then resigned his office

  6. -Master of Horse:  either or both of:

  7. Marcus Aemilius Paullus (Livy’s preferred candidate)

  8. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus

  9. 301 BC:

  10. Consuls: Marcus Valerius Maximus [Corvus] (elected on resigning the dictatorship) and Quintus Appuleius Pansa

Surprisingly, the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record consuls in each of these years:

  1. 302 BC:

  2. Dextro [Marcus Livius Denter] et Marcus Aemilius Paullus (which agrees with Livy)

  3. 301 BC:

  4. Corvo [Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus] (II) et Rulliano [Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus] (II) 

Sources that Include the Fictitious Dictator Year

The fasti Capitolini record:

  1. 302 BC:

  2. Consuls: Marcus Livius Denter and Marcus Aemilius Paullus

  3. Dictator: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus

  4. -Master of Horse:  Marcus Titinius

  5. 301 BC: the dictator and master of horse [continued] without consuls

  6. Dictator: Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus (II)

  7. -Master of Horse:

  8. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (resigned)

  9. Marcus Aemilius Paullus

  10. 300 BC

  11. Consuls: Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus and  Quintus Appuleius Pansa

The fasti Triumphales record triumphs:

  1. in 302 BC, to Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II), as dictator, over the Aequii; and

  2. in 301 BC, to Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus (IV), as dictator for the second time, over the Etruscans and the Marsi

Reconciled Chronology

Clearly, both the fasti Capitolini and the fasti Triumphalis contain an ‘invented year in which Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus and his Master of Horse, Marcus Aemilius Paullus, ruled without consuls.  We should thus combine these sources as follows:

  1. 302/1 BC:

  2. Consuls: Marcus Livius Denter and Marcus Aemilius Paullus

  3. Dictator: Caius Junius Bubulcus

  4. -Master of Horse:  Marcus Titinius

  5. Dictator: Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus (IV)

  6. -Master of Horse: either or both of:

  7. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (resigned)

  8. Marcus Aemilius Paullus

  9. 301 BC: Consuls: Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus (elected immediately on resigning the dictatorship) and Quintus Appuleius Pansa

Events of 302/1 BC

I discuss the historical context in my page on the period Between 2nd and 3rd Samnite Wars (304 -298 BC)

Appointment of Caius Junius Bubulcus as Dictator  

Livy recorded that, during the consulship of Livius  and Aemilius:

  1. “... the Aequi resumed hostilities [with Rome]: they resented the planting of a colony within their borders, which was to be a stronghold of Roman power ... [and] made a desperate effort to capture it, but were beaten off by the colonists.  In their weakened condition, it seemed almost incredible [to the Romans] that the Aequi could have resumed the war, relying solely upon themselves: this fear of an indefinitely extended war necessitated the appointment of a dictator”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 6-8). 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 45) suggested that the appointment of a dictator:

  1. “... was probably occasioned by the absence elsewhere of the consuls.”

However, as we shall see, they were to appoint a second dictator this year,: one therefore wonders whether another explanation for the consuls. apparent reluctance to engage in military matters is needed.

On this occasion, Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus:

  1. “... was nominated, and he took to the field with Marcus Titinius as Master of the Horse.  He crushed the Aequi in the very first battle and, a week later, he returned in triumph to Rome.  There, he dedicated the Temple of Salus that he had:

  2. vowed as consul [in 311 BC]; and

  3. [begun to build] as censor [in 307 BC]”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 8-9). 

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ also record that Caius Junius Bubulcus triumphed over the Aequi in 302 BC, and Stephen Oakley (as above) argued that there is no reason to doubt Livy’s account of this short dictatorship. 

Appointment of Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus as Dictator  

Later in the year:

  1. “... several incidents created alarm in Rome:

  2. Intelligence was received of the renewal of hostilities by the Etruscans, owing to disturbances in Arretium. The genus praepotens (powerful family) of the Cilnii had created widespread jealousy through their enormous wealth, and an attempt was made to expel them from the city.

  3. The Marsi also were giving trouble: a body of 4,000 colonists had been sent to [the new Latin colony or] Carseoli, and they were prevented by force from occupying the place.

  4. This threatening aspect of affairs [led to the appointment of a dictator]”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 2-3). 

As noted above, one wonders why these consuls relied so heavily on dictators in dealing with external affairs. 

Livy recorded that:

  1. “... Marcus Valerius Maximus [Corvus] was nominated dictator, and he named Marcus Aemilius Paulus Master of the Horse.  (I think that this is more probable than that Quintus Fabius [Maximus Rullianus] was made Master of the Horse and, therefore, in a subordinate position to Valerius, in spite of his age and the offices he had held; but I am quite prepared to admit that the error arose from the cognomen Maximus, common to both men)”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 3-5). 

I return to the likely identity of Valerius’ Master of Horse below.

Valerius as Dictator: Rebellion of the Marsi

Livy dealt first with the rebellion of the Marsi.  Some scholars doubt that the Marsi actually rebelled at this point, since Carseoli was on the territory of the Aequi.  However, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 45) pointed out that the foundation of the broadly contemporary colony at Alba Fucens (see above), which was much closer to the border between the Aequii and the Marsi, could have provoked unrest among both peoples.   If the Marsi did rebel at this point, they were easily dealt with:

  1. “[Valerius] took the field and routed the Marsi in one battle.  After compelling them to seek shelter in their fortified cities, he took [the now-unknown towns of] Milionia, Plestina, and Fresilia within a few days.  The Marsi were compelled to surrender a portion of their territory, and then the old treaty with Rome was renewed”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 5-6). 

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ record that Marcus Valerius [Maximus] Corvus, having already served as consul on four occasions, triumphed over the Etruscans (see below) and the Marsi as dictator for the second time.

Valerius as Dictator: Unrest at Arretium

According to Livy, immediately after Valerius’ success against the Marsi:

  1. “The war was ... turned against the Etruscans”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 6). 

The implication of Livy’s passage above is possibly that the Romans had a duty to maintain the position of ancient Etruscan family of the Cilnii under the terms of the 30-year truce that had been agreed in 310/9 BC.

Valerius Resolved the Problem without  a Major Battle ?

Livy  noted that:

  1. “Some of my authorities state that Valerius pacified the Etruscans without any important battle being fought, simply by settling the discord in Arretium and reconciling the Cilnii with the plebs”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 5: 13). 

However, he seems to have preferred a much longer version that he found in other (unspecified) sources.

Valerius Broke the Power of the Etruscans for the Second Time ?

According to Livy’ preferred (but unspecified) sources, the Roman intervention at Arretium gave rise to a major Etruscan war.

This longer record began with:

  1. “An unfortunate incident [that] occurred during this campaign: [Valerius] had left the camp for Rome to take the auspices afresh ....”

Livy did nor record the location of this camp, although the implication seems to be that it was near Arretium.  I presume that Valerius had to take the auspices again because he was embarking on a new campaign.  In his absence: 

  1. “ ... the Master of the Horse had gone out to forage.  He was surprised and surrounded, and after losing some standards and many of his men, he was driven in disgraceful flight back to his camp”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 6-7). 

This is obviously redolent of the situation of 325/4 BC, when Fabius had disopeyed the orders of Papirius in similar circumstances.  Indeed, Livy used this record to support his contention that the unidentified Master of Horse could not have been Fabius:

  1. “Such a precipitate flight is contradictory to all that we know of Fabius; for it was his reputation as a soldier that, more than anything else, justified his epithet of Maximus, and he never forgot the severity of Papirius towards him [in 325/4 BC - see above], and could never have been tempted to fight without the Valerius’ orders”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 8). 

He then used a trope that had also characterised the circumstances in which Papirius had been appointed as dictator in 310/9 BC: as with the news that the consul Marcius Rutilus was missing, presumed dead, in 310/9 BC, now:

  1. “The news of this defeat [of the Master of Horse in 302/1 BC] created a quite unnecessary alarm in Rome, where measures were adopted as though an army had been annihilated ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 4: 1). 

However, on this occasion, the matter was soon resolved without any rancour between the dictator and his Master of Horse:

  1. “... when [Valerius] returned to the camp, he found that, owing to the careful arrangements which the Master of the Horse had made, everything was quieter than he had expected.  The camp had been moved back into a safer position; the cohorts who had lost their standards were punished by being stationed outside the rampart without any tents; and the whole army was eager for battle that they might all the sooner wipe out the stain of their defeat”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 4: 3-5). 

Again, Livy seems to be drawing a parallel with an earlier dictator year: when Papirius’ army had been shamed in battle in 325/4 BC, the soldiers had been similarly anxious to make amends through victory.

After this minor incident, Valerius:

  1. “...  at once advanced his camp into the territory of Rusellae.  The enemy followed him ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 4: 6). 

An advanced party under Cnaeus Fulvius almost fell into an Etruscan ambush, after which

  1. “... the advancing line [of Etruscans] appeared to Fulvius to be too large a body for his men to withstand, and he sent a hasty message to Valerius asking for help; in the meantime he met the attack single-handed”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 4: 12). 

Valerius was determined to wait until he had the advantage, despite the facts that he received:

  1. “... message after message  ... telling him that all the legions of the Etruscans were taking part in the fight and that his men could no longer hold out against them, and he could see for himself from his higher ground  that the advanced party was in a critical position: he felt quite confident that Fulvius could still sustain the attack and, as he was himself near enough to save him from all danger of defeat, he decided to wait until the Etruscans became utterly fatigued, and then to attack them with fresh troops”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 5: 4-5). 

When Valerius judged that the time was right:

  1. “...  fresh troops took up the fighting, and the result did not long remain in doubt. The routed enemy sought their camp ... [and most of them died in the attempt]”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 5: 8-9). 

Livy asserted that:

  1. “In this battle the power of the Etruscans was broken up for the second time”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 5: 12). 

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 78) pointed out, this refers back to the events of 310/9 BC, when an unnamed Roman commander (whom Oakley assumed to have been Fabius) allegedly broke the power of the Etruscans for the first time.

After undertaking to provide a year's pay for the army and a two months' supply of corn, they obtained permission from the Dictator to send envoys to Rome to sue for peace. [13] A regular treaty of peace was refused, but they were granted a two years' truce. The Dictator returned in triumphal procession to the City.

No sooner had M. Valerius laid down the Dictatorship than he was elected consul. [14] Some have thought that he was elected without having been a candidate and, therefore, in his absence, and that the election was conducted by an interrex. There is no question, however, that he held the consulship with [Quintus] Apuleius Pansa.



Read more:

F. Pina Polo, “Losers in the Civil War between Caesarians and Pompeians. Punishment and Survival”, in


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

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

J. Divjak and W. Wischmeyer, “Das Kalenderhandbuch von 354: der Chronograph des Filocalus (Vol. II)”, (2014) Vienna

T. Cornell and E. Bispham, three sections on Fabius Pictor in:

  1. T. Cornell (Ed.), “The Fragments of the Roman Historians”, (2013) Oxford: 

  2. Volume I (Introduction), at pp. 141-59

  3. Volume II (Surviving fragments, with translations into English), at pp. 31-105

  4. Volume III (Commentary), at pp. 13-49 

G. De Benedettis, “La Provincia Samnii e la Viabilità Romana ”, (2011) Studi e Ricerche (online) 

J. Gardner, “The Dictator”, in 

  1. M. Griffin (Ed.), “A Companion to Julius Caesar”, (2009) Malden, MA and Oxford, at pp. 57-71

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

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

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

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

K. Welch, “Atticus, a Banker in Politics?”, Historia, 40 (1996) 450-71

K. Welch, “The Praefectura Urbis of 45 B.C. and the Ambitions of L. Cornelius Balbus”, Antichthon, 24 (1990) 53-69

A. Keaveney, “Sulla: The Last Republican”, (1987) London and New York

A. Drummond, “The Dictator Years”, Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 27:4 (1978), 550-72


Roman Conquest: Conquest of Veii - Renewal of Latin Peace (406 - 358 BC)

Renewed Latin Peace to 1st Samnite War (358 - 341 BC)

Between First Two Samnite Wars I (341 - 338 BC)    Between First Two Samnite Wars II (337 - 328 BC) Second Samnite War I (328 - 316 BC)


Second Samnite War II (315 - 304 BC):     Main Page

Livy: Fabius‘ 2nd Consulship (310/9 BC)     Dictator Years (334/3; 325/4; 310/9; and 302/1 BC)

Livy: Papirius‘ 2nd Dictatorship (310/9 BC)     Livy: Roman Victory at Mevania (308 BC)


Between 2nd and 3rd Samnite Wars (304 -298 BC)

Third Samnite War (298 - 290 BC)     

Conquest of the Sabines (290 BC)     Wars with Gauls and Etruscans (285 - 280 BC)

End Game (280-241 BC)


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