Key to Umbria

Roman Conquest:

End Game (280 - 241 BC)

Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact

[In construction]

Pyrrhic War (280-75 BC)

According to the Periochae, wars against the  ... Lucanians broke out in 282 BC, when the Romans

  1. “... decided to support the inhabitants of Thurii against them” (‘Periochae’, 11).

This incident  formed part of the growing tension between the Romans and the inhabitants of Tarentum, the important Greek city in southern Italy that regarded  its neighbour  Thurii (also Greek) as within its sphere of influence. Thus, when Thurii turned to Rome rather than to Tarentum for protection from the Lucanians, hostilities became inevitable.

An entry in the ‘Epitome of Cassius Dio’ for ca. 282 BC recorded that:

  1. “The Romans had learned that the Tarentines and some others were making ready to war against them ... and by sending men to the Etruscans, Umbrians and Gauls [had] caused a number of them also to secede, some immediately and some a little later”. 

An entry in the ‘Epitome of Cassius Dio’ for ca. 282 BC recorded that:

  1. “The Romans had learned that the Tarentines and some others were making ready to war against them ... and by sending men to the Etruscans, Umbrians and Gauls [had] caused a number of them also to secede, some immediately and some a little later”. 

Book 13 of the epitome of Livy, which largely deals with the Pyrrhic War (280-75 BC):

  1. “... contains an account of the successful wars against the Lucanians, Bruttians, Samnites, and Etruscans”, (‘Periochae’, 13).

In 280 BC, Tarentum secured the services of the Greek commander Pyrrhus, in what proved to be the start of the so-called Pyrrhic War.  Romans seem to have sent an army into Etruria in order to secure their northern flank ahead of the expected confrontation.  The Fasti Triumphales record that Tiberius Coruncanius was awarded a triumph over the Vulcientes (from the Etruscan city of Vulci) and Vulsinienses (from Volsinii) in 280 BC.

The Umbrians seem to have resisted the efforts of the Tarentines to secure their help in ca. 282 BC (above): according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, they fought for the Romans on this occasion.

Final Defeat of the Umbrians (267 BC)

According to the ‘Periochae’, Rome defeated the “Umbrians and Sallentines” in 267 BC.  This account can be augmented by the Fasti Triumphales, which record that the consuls Decius Iunius Pera and Numerius Fabius Pictor were awarded triumphs in 266 BC for two different victories:

  1. first over the Sassinates (Umbrians from Sarsina, in the Apennines); and then

  2. over the Sallentini and Messapii (from two towns in Calabria).

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. ??) suggests that the revolt of the Sassinates had probably been in reaction to the formation of a Latin colony at nearby Ariminum (Rimini) in 268 BC.

Fall of Volsinii (264 BC)

The Periochae record that Rome finally defeated the Volsinians in 264 BC.  Fortunately, other writers (Paulus Orosius; and John Zonaras, drawing on Cassius Dio) also record this tragic event, which is described in detail in the page on the ancient history of Volsinii/ Orvieto.  It seems that, in response to an uprising by their slaves, the nobles of Volsinii sought the help of Rome.  The Consuls of 265 BC, Quintus Fabius Maximus Gurges and Lucius Mamilius Vitulus duly marched on Volsinii , but Fabius Maximus was killed as he attempted to take the city.  The Romans then besieged it, and it fell to the Consul Marcus Fulvius Flaccus in 265 BC.  He razed it to the ground and settled its pro-Roman citizens on another site, Volsinii Nova, which was probably near modern Bolsena. 

The fasti Triumphales record that the Marcus Fulvius Flaccus was awarded a triumph in 264 BC for his victory over the “Vulsinienses”.   He also seems to have destroyed the Fanum Voltumnae, the federal sanctuary of the Etruscans, which was almost certainly located just outside the city.  He ‘called’ to Rome the presiding deity, Veltune, whom the Romans called Voltumna or Vertumnus, thus marking the end of Etruscan independence.

Destruction of Volsinii (264 BC)

Etruscan Volsinii was almost certainly located on the site of modern Orvieto, which rises on a cylindrical tufa cliff that would have controlled a vast territory in the plain below.  It seems that the Romans agreed a foedus (treaty) with Volsinii after defeating them in 279 BC: thus, according to Cassius Dio (as summarised by John Zonaras):

  1. “In [265 AD], the Romans] made an expedition to Volsinii to secure the freedom of its citizens [i.e. the noble faction that had appealed for their help in suppressing a slave revolt]; for they were under treaty obligations to them”, (‘Roman History’, 10 - search on “Volsinii”).

Cassius Dio also described how the Romans besieged Volsinii , which was eventually forced to surrender in 264 BC.  The consul, Marcus Fulvius Flaccus, then:

  1. “... razed the city to the ground; the native-born citizens, however, and any servants who had been loyal to their masters, were settled by him on another site””, (‘Roman History’, 10 - search on “Volsinii”).

The “fasti Triumphales” record that Flaccus as awarded a triumph in the following year for his victory over the “Vulsinienses”. 

  1. At this point, the history of Etruscan Orvieto effectively ended: there are no significant Roman remains on the site of Orvieto.  The surviving population was moved to the ‘new’ Volsinii, at modern Bolsena, some 20 km to the southwest, on the shores of what became know as the lacus Volsiniensis, which might originally have been part of the territory of the Etruscan city.  Livy had recorded a series of meetings of the ancient Etruscan Federation at the fanum Voltumnae in the period 434-389 BC but he never specified its location.  However, Propertius, in an elegy that took the form of a monologue delivered by a statue of Vertumnus in Rome, had this statue insisting:

  2. “[Although] I am a Tuscan born of Tuscans, [I] do not regret abandoning Volsinii’s hearths in battle” (‘Elegies’ 4.2). 

Scholars reasonably assume that the fanum Voltumnae had been located in the territory of Volsinii, and that a cult statue of Voltumnus/ Vertumnus that had adorned it had been ritually called to Rome after the sanctuary itself was destroyed in 264 BC.  Thus, the events at Volsinii in 264 BC marked not only the end of an ancient Etruscan city: they made manifest the end of anything resembling a confederation of independent Etruscan city states.

Fall of Falerii (241 BC)

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire 

As noted above, Falerii had sought, and probably received, a foedus with Rome in 343 BC.  Thus, Livy noted that it “lived in friendship with Rome for many years” until 293 BC, when it briefly rebelled.  It seems from four fragmentary records that hostilities between Rome and Falerii resumed in 241 BC, at the end of the First Punic War:

  1. Cassius Dio:

  2. “... the Romans made war upon the Faliscans and [the consul] Manlius Torquatus ravaged their country.  ... he was victorious and took possession of ... half of their territory.  Later on, the original city, which was set upon a steep mountain, was torn down and another one was built, easy of access”, (‘Roman History’, 7: fragment 18).

  3. Eutropius:

  4. “[The consuls] Quintus Lutatius and Aulius Manlius ... made war upon the Falisci ... and [were victorious] within 6 days: 15,000 of the enemy were slain and peace was granted to the rest, but half their land was taken from them” , (‘Breviarium’’, 2: 28).. 

  5. Polybius:

  6. “[Immediately after] the confirmation of the peace [with Carthage, the Romans engaged in] war against the Faliscans.  They [captured] Falerii after only a few days' siege”, (‘Histories’, 1:65).

  7. Livy:

  8. “When the Faliscans revolted, they were subdued on the 6th day, and their surrender was accepted”, (‘Periochae’, 20).

The Romans clearly saw this as a significant victory: the “Fasti Triumphales” record that both consuls of 241 BC (Aulus Manlius Torquatus Atticus and Quintus Lutatius Cerco) were awarded triumphs “over the Falisci”.  Further evidence of this victory comes in the form of a bronze cuirass of unknown provenance that is now in the Getty Museum, Malibu, which carries an inscription (AE 1998, 0199) that reads:

Q(uinto) Lutatio C(ai) f(ilio) A(ulo) Manlio C(ai) f(ilio)/ consolibus Faleries capto(m?)

Jean-Louis Zimmerman (referenced below, at p. 40) dated the cuirass to the second half of the 4th century BC.  He suggested (at p. 41) that it had been an heirloom that had been worn by a Faliscan cavalryman who had been killed in the battle of 241 BC, and concluded (at p. 42) that:

  1. “The inscription might have been engraved for a Roman who was entitled to the remains of an opponent whom he had killed in single combat” (my translation).

Thus, there can be no doubt that both consuls successfully attacked Falerii in 241 BC and killed a number of its defenders.  However, the cause of this one-sided war are completely obscure.  It seems unlikely that the Faliscans would have chosen to revolt at precisely the time that the Romans  established their supremacy over the mighty Carthaginians.   A more likely scenario is thus that the Romans mounted a surprise attack on Falerii, which would account for their rapid success in taking the almost impregnable settlement.  Eutropius and Cassius Dio agreed that the Romans had then confiscated half the territory of Falerii.  However:

  1. Eutropius related that the survivors at Falerii were granted peace in 241 BC; while

  2. according to Cassius Dio:

  3. “Later on [i.e., at an unknown date after the battle], the original city, which was set upon a steep mountain, was torn down and another one was built, easy of access.”

It is often assumed that the situation at Falerii was analogous to that at Volsinii, where the inhabitants were forcibly removed to a less defensible site in 264 BC.  It is certainly true that the old city (located at modern Civita Castellana) was largely abandoned at about this time, although a number of its sanctuaries remained in use until ca. 100 BC (see , for example, the recent paper by Nicoletta Cignini, referenced below).  However, this model of forced removal is not supported by the archeological evidence from the so-called Falerri Novi, some 6 km to the west. 

Simon Keay and Martin Millett (referenced below, at p. 364) described its location:

  1. “... on the line of the Via Amerina ... The position of the town is such that both Falerii Veteres and Monte Soracte, sacred to Apollo, were visible to the east ... [It was] conceived as an artificially landscaped plateau that was enclosed within high walls ... in order to present a monumental facade to visitors approaching along Via Amerina to the south.”

They also note (at p. 365) the existence of a processional way from Falerii Novi to the:

  1. “... still-functioning sanctuary of Juno Curitis at the foot of the abandoned site of Falerii Veteres.”

Keay and Millet expressed the view (at p. 364) that:

  1. “Falerii Novi is best understood as a re-foundation expressed in terms of the architectural language of Roman colonies while consciously incorporating key points of reference to the earlier Faliscan settlement.”

Citizen Settlement after the Conquest of Etruria: Conclusions

William Harris (referenced below, at p. 98) observed that the documented confrontations between Rome and the Etruscans in 312 - 279 BC are:

  1. “ ... known to have involved most of the chief [Etruscan city states]:

  2. Arretium; [Caere, although Harris dated Livy’s record here to ca. 273 BC]; Clusium; Cortona; Perusia; Rusellae; Tarquinii; Volaterrae and Volsinii are all mentioned by Livy; and

  3. Vulci appears in the fasti triumphalis [in 297 BC - see above].”

To this list we should add the Faliscan centres of Falerii and Capena.  All of these centres were eventually defeated by Rome, often after engagements that ended with the signing of indutiae (truces) of considerable length.  However, we know of the existence of foedera (long-term bilateral treaties) only in two cases (both noted above):

  1. in 343 BC, Falerii requested and probably received a foedus; and

  2. the Romans intervened at Volsinii in 264 BC on behalf of the nobles there because they were under a treaty obligation to them.

William Harris argued (at p. 85) that, despite the lack of documentary evidence:

  1. “... a good case can be made for believing that Rome contracted foedera with [all of] the Etruscan states ...”

In other words, each of them would have retained its nominal autonomy after the conquest, albeit under the hegemony of Rome.  This would have obliged them to provide military assistance to Rome when requested.  Thus:

  1. Polybius recorded that, during the Gallic Wars (225 BC):

  2. “The allied forces in each Consular army numbered 30,000 foot and 2,000 horse.  The cavalry of the Sabines and Etruscans, who had come to the temporary assistance of Rome, were 4,000 strong, their infantry above 50,000”, (‘Histories’, 2:24: 4-5).

  3. Livy recorded that, as Scipio assembled his forces for his assault on Africa in 205 BC:

  4. “First, the states of Etruria engaged to assist the consuls to the utmost of their respective abilities. The people of Caere furnished corn, and provisions of every description, for the crews; the people of Populonia furnished iron; of Tarquinii, cloth for sails; those of Volaterrae, planks for ships, and corn; those of Arretium [sent a large amount of weaponry].  The people of Perusia, Clusium, and Rusellae furnished firs for building ships, and a great quantity of corn”, (‘History of Rome, 28: 45: 15-9).

There is no evidence of the confiscation of land from the recalcitrant cities of northern Etruria.  To the south, as noted above, it seems that

  1. the entire territory of Veii was confiscated in 396 BC; and

  2. Cassius Dio recorded that Rome confiscated half the territory of Caere in ca. 280 BC. 

There is some indication that other centres of southern Etruria also suffered land confiscations: thus, according to Saskia Roselaar (referenced below, 2010, at p. 42):

  1. “It is usually assumed that, [when Rome’s] last war with the Etruscans ended in 281 BC, the cities of Caere, Vulci, Volsinii and Tarquinii lost part of their land” (my reordering of phrases, retaining the original meaning).

The concentration of later colonies along the coastal strip from Vulci to Caere indicates that this territory formed a part (perhaps a large part) of the new ager publicus.  Furthermore, Cassius Dio recorded that Falerii lost half its land in 241 BC (see, for example, Saskia Roselaar, referenced below, 2010, at p. 320, entry 34). 

However, as we shall see, there is no surviving direct evidence for viritane citizen settlement on any of this confiscated land.

Colonies in Etruria after the Conquest

Latin Colony at Cosa (273 BC)

Livy (‘Periochae’, 14) recorded the foundation of the colony of Cosa in 273 BC.  We know that this was a Latin colony because Livy (‘Roman History’, 27: 9 - 27:10) included it among the 12 (out of 30) extant Latin colonies that did not refuse to meet their military obligations to Rome in 209 BC.  (This was the only Latin colony in Etruria that was founded by the Romans after the latin War).  Pliny the Elder’s account of the centres of this stretch of coast in the Augustan seventh region included:

  1. “... Cosa of the Volcientes, founded by the Roman people ...”, (‘Natural History’, 3: 8)

This suggests that the colony was sited on virgin land that had been confiscated from Vulci, presumably in 279 BC: if so, then is our earliest record of the utilisation of the Etruscan territory that had been confiscated  at around this timeccording to Elizabeth Fentress and Phil Perkins (referenced below, at pp. 378-9):

  1. “Cosa  occupied a virgin site on a promontory between two fine natural harbours ... It dominates the coast from a hill rising some 110 m above the sea ... We do not know much about the initial colony ... Certainly its walls, in splendid polygonal masonry, were built in this period.  These exploit the defences provided by the natural terrain of the hilltop, encircling 14 hectares ... .”

Unfortunately, two of the things that we do not know about the original colony are:

  1. the number of colonists who were  enrolled here; and

  2. the size of the initial land allotments.

Edward Salmon (referenced below, at p. 38) pointed out that the number of initial colonists at those broadly contemporary Latin colonies for which the information is known is in the range 4,000-6,000.  He noted that Cosa received 1,000 new colonists in 197 BC to replace numbers lost in the intervening period (see below) and suggested that this made the archeologists’ estimate of 2,500 original colonists seem low (since the need for reinforcement of 40 % seems excessive).  He therefore suggested that the figure of 4,000 was perhaps more likely.  He observed that:

  1. “Whatever the original total, it seems likely that many of them lived on their [allotted land] holdings, perhaps miles away from Cosa [itself].  Its territory was large and could easily provide for them.”

Saskia Roselaar (referenced below, 2011, at paragraph 28) gave an interesting account of the way in which the colonists interacted with their local neighbours:

  1. “Archaeological evidence suggests that a number of radical changes took place immediately after the conquest and the foundation of the colony [of Cosa].  Most of these point to an active attempt by the Romans to exclude local inhabitants from the colony, making it likely that, in this case, the traditional image of a Latin colony  - with expulsion of local population to marginal areas - is accurate to some degree.  The local inhabitants seem to have moved, on their own accord or by order of the Romans, to marginal areas.  This is attested by the fact that some settlements located mainly to the north and east of the centuriated territory ( e.g. Telamon, Ghiaccioforte, and Poggio Semproniano) remained in use and even became larger, while new settlements emerged in these areas as well.”

The new colony might have protected the surrounding  ager publicus.  However, it was not optimally sited for this function, and no colonies were needed for this purpose on the land recently confiscated from Caere and Tarquinii.  Furthermore, the location of Cosa strongly suggests an important role in maritime defence: as Edward Salmon (referenced below, at p. 79) observed:

  1. “As the Pyrrhic War was drawing to a close, Carthaginian naval power [was becoming] menacing.”

Coloniae Maritimae (ca. 264-41 BC)

Graham Mason (referenced below, at p. 75) noted that:

  1. “Between the end of the Latin War in 338 B. C. and the end of the First Punic War in 241 BC, Rome founded her first ten citizen colonies:

  2. Ostia; Antium; Tarracina, Minturnae; Sinuessa; Sena Gallica;

  3. [followed by the four under discussion here]: Castrum Novum; Pyrgi, Alsium; and Fregenae;

  4. in approximate order of foundation .”

Velleius Paterculus gave the foundation dates of three of these last four:

  1. “[Castrum Novum was founded] at the outbreak of the First Punic War; ... Alsium 17 years later [i.e. in 247 BC]; and Fregenae [in 245 BC]”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 14: 8). 

Graham Mason observed (at pp. 82-3) that all four:

  1. “... were [located] in the ager Caeretanus, a coastal strip ceded by Caere after a failed Etruscan revolt in [ca. 280 BC].”

Each of the ten colonies in Mason’s list appears in one or both lists of coloniae maritimae recorded by Livy: in the case of the four under discussion here:

  1. In 207 BC, when the Romans realised that Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, was about to cross the Alps into Italy and open up a second front in the on-going Hannibalic War:

  2. “... the consuls ... compelled even the men of the ‘colonia maritimae’, who, it was said, had an inviolable exemption [from conscription], to furnish soldiers.  When they refused, the consuls named a date for them to report to the Senate on what basis each state claimed exemption”, (‘History of Rome’, 27: 38: 1-4).

  3. His list of the seven colonies whose representatives came before the Senate on the following day included Alsium (but none of Castrum Novum, Pyrgi and Fregenae).

  4. In 191 BC BC, when the Romans decided to send an army to Greece against King Antiochus:

  5. “Whilst [the praetor Caius Livius Salinator] was doing his utmost to make the fleet ready for sea, he was delayed for some time by a dispute with the citizens of the ‘colonia maritimae’. ... The [eight] colonies concerned [included]: Fregenae; Castrum Novum,; Pyrgi, ...[but not Alsium]”, (‘History of Rome’, 36: 3: 3-5).

There is some uncertainty as to the identity of the Castrum Novum recorded by Velleius Paterculus and by Livy (in 191 BC), since there were two broadly contemporary colonies of this name:

  1. at modern Giulianova, on the Adriatic; and

  2. at modern Santa Marinella, under discussion here.

However ,since, in both of these records, Castrum Novum is listed with other coloniae maritimae on the Tyrrhenian, we might reasonably assume that both sources refer to the colony of this name at Santa Marinella. 

Livy described only the eight coloniae maritimae of his later list as citizen colonies, but there is sufficient overlap between his two lists to suggest that this was true of all ten (including Alsium).  It is usually assumed that they each each received 300 new colonists, each of whom received 2 iugera of land.  In fact, we have documentary evidence for this only at Tarracina (and at three of the eight citizen colonies founded on coastal sites in ca. 194 BC).  However, Graham Mason (referenced below, at p. 80) observed that, despite the absence of information for the other nine:

  1. “... there is no weighty reason to dispute the numbers [300 colonists and 2 iugera per colonist] ... , especially since the [areas enclosed by those] original castrum walls that can be traced at .. [for example,] Minturnae and Pyrgi are about the right size for ...  300 colonists.”

In short, we might reasonably assume that each of Castrum Novum at Santa Marinella, Pyrgi, Alsium and Fregenae was a citizen colony, and that each received some 300 colonists who were each allotted 2 iugera of land.

The timing of the foundations of these four colonies suggests that, at least initially, their function was primarily defensive: in particular, Velleius Paterculus associated the foundation of Castrum Novum with the outbreak of the First Punic War.  Furthermore, the Romans founded very few colonies during the war: indeed, Pyrgi, Alsium; and Fregenae were the only colonies that they founded between 263 BC (Aesernia) and 243 BC (Brundisium), which suggests that, despite the presence of Cosa, this part of the coast was deemed to be at particular risk.  However, military considerations might not have been the single determinant of the decision to found these colonies.  Unlike Cosa, they were citizen colonies, and it might be that, in the longer term, the Romans wished to promote the citizen settlement of this tract of ager publicus.  The colonists would certainly have cultivated the land allotted to them.  However, as Graham Mason (referenced below, at p. 87) pointed out:

  1. “All the ten coloniae maritimae, with only perhaps one exception [presumably Fregenae - see below], were established in areas where careful agriculture at subsistence level or better would and did thrive.  An agrarian role for all these colonies was both possible and essential ... The 2 iugera individual allotments were never meant to be the only land available to the colonists; [they would also have had the use of non-distributed public land].”

In other words, the colonists might well have facilitated the agricultural use of the ager publicus, perhaps creating  a model for future viritane settlers.  This hypothesis is possibly supported by the fact that, as discussed below, Caere itself was constituted at some point as a prefecture (the seat of a Roman prefect who would administer the legal affairs of citizens in the vicinity).

Graham Mason(referenced below, pp. 81-3) summarised:

  1. “[The] ancient references to the sites [of the ten coloniae maritimae], their agricultural fertility and subsequent general prosperity in the later Republic and Empire.   [In the case of] the four  ...  in the ager Caeretanus:

  2. Castrum Novum ... was apparently a new site [and] appears little in history ....

  3. Pyrgi was placed in an area of longstanding Etruscan wealth.  It seems never to have grown large, [but] served as a small port for the area of Caere.

  4. Alsium was never large and has limited historical record ... From the time of Pompey until [after that of] Marcus Aurelius, it was a favoured villa resort area: clearly agriculture on a fair scale was possible.

  5. Fregenae, about midway between Alsium and the mouth of the Tiber, apparently did not thrive and faded somewhat after the founding of Portus [closer to Rome, on the right bank of the Tiber, in 42 AD],   According to Silius Italicus, the site was marshy and unhealthy [and] it did not prosper as a town ...”

The remark by Silius Italicus was to the effect that the Roman army at the Battle of Cannae (216 BC) included a contingent of:

  1. “... Etruscan warriors  ... The choicest of their men were sent by Caere and Cortona ... , and by  ancient Graviscae.  Alsium too sent men .... ; and Fregenae, girt about by a barren plain.” (‘Punica’, 8:458).

This poem, which is not renowned for its historical accuracy, can nevertheless be relied on in relation to its topographical details, which would relate tothe time of writing (in the late 1st century AD.  Thus we  might reasonably assume that the territory of Fregenae had become infertile by this time.  Nevertheless, Pliny the Elder included all four of these coastal centres in his account of the Augustan seventh region (by which time, they would have been constituted as municipia):

  1. “... Castrum Novum; Pyrgi, the river Caeretanus and Caere, which is 4 miles inland ... ; Alsium; Fregenae; and [then] the river Tiber ...” (‘Natural History’, 3: 8).

  1. Read more: 

  2. Return to the History Index