Key to Umbria
 

Roman Position in and around Etruria in 312 BC

Veii: had fallen in 396 BC , when its territory confiscated

Capena and Falerii: had been subdued in 395-4 BC

Volsinii: had agreed 20 year truce in 392 BC, although there is no evidence for its renewal before 312 BC

Sutrium and Nepi: these Latin colonies had been founded in ca. 383 BC

Caere: had agreed a 100 year truce in 353 BC

Tarquinii and Falerii: ad agreed a 100 year truce in 353 BC

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

Livy noted that, in 312 BC, after almost 40 years of peace in Etruria:

  1. ... the rumour of an Etruscan war sprang up.  In those days, there was no other race ( apart the risings of the Gauls) whose arms were more dreaded, not only because their territory lay so near, but also because of their numbers.  Accordingly, ... [the Romans prepared for war, in case] the Etruscans should first take the field.   However, the Etruscans followed the same policy, preparing for war but preventing it from breaking out.  [Thus], neither side went beyond their own frontiers”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 25: 1-5).

This was the first indication that a new phase of hostilities in Etruria was on the horizon.

As discussed on the previous page, this was the point at which the Second Samnite War was finally turning in Rome’s favour.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 344) suggested therefore that the Etruscans perhaps:

  1. “... chose 312 or 311 BC to make their move [against Rome] because they wished to preserve the balance of power in central Italy ...”

However, as we shall see, the Romans were able to deal with both the Etruscans and the Samnites at the same time by assigning one consul assigned  to each theatre of war.  As it turned out, this Etruscan War ended in 308 BC, some four years before the Samnites finally sued for peace.

Sources

Our surviving sources for the course of this Etruscan war are:

  1. Diodorus Siculus (Diodorus of Sicily), a Greek historian writing in the period 60-30 BC; and

  2. Livy, who probably began writing in the Augustan period (27 BC - 13 AD).

Both agree that this war:

  1. began  when ‘the Etruscans’ laid siege to Sutrium, in either 311 BC (Livy) or 310 BC (Diodorus); and

  2. ended in 308 BC, when the Romans agreed one-year truces with ‘all of the Etruscans’. 

The accounts of the war between these to dates given by Diodorus and by Livy are often difficult to reconcile, and there is no intrinsic reason to privilege either of them over the other: thus, for example, William Harris (referenced below, at p. 53) cautioned that:

  1. “Nothing whatever can be demonstrated by Diodorus’ silences, since he excerpted and abbreviated in an erratic manner”;

and:

  1. “... [while] we do not have much reason to suspect the annalistic  basis of Livy’s account ... [it is often the case that]:

  2. victories were exaggerated and sometimes invented;

  3. enemies were sometimes multiplied;

  4. the order of events was often confused;

  5. all manner of literary decoration was added; and

  6. a few bad mistakes ... entered the literary tradition.”

The fasti Triumphales, which come down to us in an inscription from ca. 12 BC and represent a subsidiary source, recorded the award triumphs during this war to:

  1. Quintus Aemilius Barbula,in 311 BC; and

  2. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus,  in 310/9 BC.

As we shall see:

  1. Diodorus recorded no Roman triumphs in the period; while

  2. Livy recorded only the second of these.

Again, the fasti cannot be privileged over the other sources: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below,  2007, at p. 489), for example, observed, there is nothing to suggest that:

  1. “... the compilers of [the fasti ] had access to better material than [Livy].”

Events of 311 BC

The consuls of this year were Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus and Quintus Aemilius Barbula. Diodorus (‘Library of History’, 20: 26: 3) placed both consuls in Samnium in 311 BC, and made no reference to any Roman activity in Etruria.  However, the ‘fasti Triumphales’ record that, in this year:

  1. Caius Junius  Bubulcus Brutus was awarded a triumph over over the Samnites; and

  2. Quintus Aemilius Barbula was awarded a triumph over the Etruscans.

Livy is our only surviving narrative source for Roman activity  in Etruria in this year.  According to his account:

  1. “The consuls divided the commands between them: to Junius the lot assigned the Samnites, to Aemilius the new war with Etruria”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 31: 1).

This division of responsibilities was needed because:

  1. “... omnes Etruriae populi (all the peoples of Etruria) except the Arretini [people of Arretium, modern Arezzo] had  ... set in train a tremendous war, beginning with the siege of Sutrium, a city in alliance with Rome and forming as it were the key to Etruria”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 32: 1). 

In fact, as described on the previous page, Sutrium had enjoyed Roman protection since at least 386 BC and had probably been constituted as a colony of the Latin League soon after.  Edward Salmon (referenced below, 1970, at p. 51) pointed out that it had been one of the seven such colonies that retained their status under Roman hegemony after the Latin War of 338 BC.  Thus, although Livy describes it here as an ally of Rome, it was almost certainly formally constituted as a colony.  Livy (‘Roman History’, 27: 9 - 27:10) included it among the 18 (out of 30) extant Latin colonies that refused to meet their military obligations to Rome in 209 BC. 

Aemilius duly marched there at the head of an army.  Aafter what Livy characterised as a Roman victory over the besieging Etruscans:

  1. “... both armies retired to their camps.  Thereafter, there was nothing worth recording done at Sutrium in that year”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 32: 1-11).

Conclusion

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 404-5) reviewed the evidence for or against the veracity of these records.  He concluded that:

  1. “... there is no compelling reason to reject the Etruscan campaign of this year.  Whether the fasti Triumphales were correct to record a triumph for Aemilius Barbula is more doubtful: Livy’s narrative suggests that he accomplished little, and ... it is easier to believe that a triumph was invented for this year than that it was ignored [by Livy].”

Events of 310 BC and 310/9 BC

Dating Convention

As we shall see, the consular year that we call 310 BC began with the election of Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (for the second time) and Caius Marcius Rutilus as consuls.  However, at least according to Livy, Marcius was wounded in battle during his term of office, at which point his functions were assumed by a dictator, Lucius Papirius Cursor.  Livy clearly assumed that Papirius’ dictatorship ended before the start of the next consular year (which, for reasons that will become clear, we call 308 BC), when:

  1. “In recognition of his remarkable conquest of Etruria, Fabius was continued in the consulship, and was given [Publius Decius Mus] for his colleague”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 41: 1).

Diodorus (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 homonymous 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 Gaius 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).

However, in the fasti Capitolini:

  1. Fabius’ second year as consul, with Marcius as his colleague, was 444 years ‘Ab Urbe Condita’ (after the foundation of Rome);

  2. Papirius served as dictator (without consuls) in 445; and

  3. Fabius’ third year as consul, with Decius as his colleague, was in the year 446.

They also recorded three other years in which a dictator ruled without consuls for what would normally have been an entire consular year: the other three of these ‘dictator years’ were 421; 430, when Papirius was again the dictator in question; and 453 AUC (333 BC; 324 BC; and 301 BC).  The earliest of our surviving sources make no reference to this constitutional phenomenon: according to Andrew Drummond (referenced below, at p. 562):

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

As Dexter Hoyos (in Yardley and Hoyos, referenced below, at pp. xi-xii), pointed out, modern scholars agree that, in reality:

  1. “Such magistrate-free years ... cannot have existed: [thus, for example, the consular] year that we call [310 BC was almost certainly] followed by the [consular] year that we call [308 BC].  [However.] rather than disrupt long-standing conventions, [they] generally us the traditional dates ... and employ a double numeral to designate the actual year before each fictitious year ...”

In other words, assuming that Papirius actually did take over Marcius’ consular responsibilities at this time, then:

  1. the end of his term as dictator would have ended during Fabius’ second year as consul (conventionally 310 BC); and

  2. the ‘dictator year’ recorded in the fasti (309 BC) never existed. 

Thus, in the sections below, I have split Livy’s account of the events of Fabius’ second year as consul into two successive parts, which I denote:

  1. 310 BC (before the appointment of Paprius as dictator); and

  2. 310/9 BC (after the appointment of Paprius as dictator).

Events of 310 BC

As noted above, this section deals with the events that took place while Marcius was still on active service and thus before Papirius’ appointment as dictator.  Since Diodorus made no mention of the dictatorship, I have included all of the events that he recorded in this prior period. 

Diodorus


Approximate route for Fabius’ campaign of 310 BC,  following Diodorus

I have suggested the direct route from Sutrium, via Umbria, to Perusia, along the later route of Via Amerina

Asterisks = approximate sites of the four battles described by Diodorus

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

Diodorus recorded four separate battles in this consular year: since he did not mention Papirius’ dictatorship, I discuss them all in this prior period, when both consuls remained active. 

Diodorus  began with both consuls campaigning together at Sutrium:

  1. “When the Etruscans had taken the field against the Roman colony of Sutrium, the consuls, coming out to its aid with a strong army, defeated them in battle and drove them into their camp”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 1).

At that point, since both consular armies were in Etruria:

  1. “... the Samnites were 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).

He then described three further engagements in Etruria after Marcius’ departure:

  1. First, as the Etruscans moved to reinforce the army besieging Sutrium, Fabius outflanked them by slipping away from to the north:

  2. “While the Etruscans were gathering in great numbers against Sutrium, Fabius marched without their knowledge through the country of their [Umbrian] neighbours into upper Etruria, which had not been plundered for a long time.  Falling upon it unexpectedly, he ravaged a large part of the country; and, in a victory over those of the inhabitants who came against him, he slew many of them and took no small number of them alive as prisoners”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 2-3). 

  3. On the map above, I have assumed the most direct route from Sutrium to Perusia, along the line of the later Via Amerina (through Umbrian Ameria and Tuder, modern Amelia and Todi).  Diodorus was unspecific about where this first battle in upper Etruria took place: I have assumed that. like the battle that followed, it took place near Perusia.

  4. Fabius then fought a much more important battle near Perusia:

  5. “Thereafter, defeating the Etruscans in a second battle near the place called Perusia and destroying many of them, he overawed the nation, since he was the first of the Romans to have invaded that region with an army.  He also made truces with the peoples of: Arretium and [Cortona]; and likewise with those of Perusia”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 4-5). 

  6. He then marched south and:

  7. “... taking by siege the city called Castola, he forced the Etruscans to raise the siege of Sutrium”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 5).   

  8. Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at: p. 36, note 37; and p. 34, Figure 1) suggested that ‘Castola’ might have been the ancient fortified site at Monte Casoli, near modern Bomarzo, marked on the map above.  If so, then the most convenient route from Perusia would have been back along Via Amerina to the vicinity of Tuder and then along the Tiber valley (as marked on the map above).

Livy


Livy’s account of Fabius’ campaign of 310 BC, before the appointment of the dictator

Large black asterisk = battle that ended the siege of Sutrium (9: 35)

Green route = that taken by Fabius’ brother to the territory of the Camertes Umbros (9:36)

I have suggested that he descended to  the later route of Via Amerina and turned east at Tuder, to follow

Via Todina (see P. Camerieri, referenced below, at p. 102, Figure 10)and crossed the Apennines at Plestia

*? = territory possibly raided after Fabius descent from the Ciminian Mountain (9:36)

Red asterisk = Livy’s preferred site for the definitive defeat of the Etruscans (9:37)

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

Livy: Fabius‘ First Engagement at Sutrium 

Livy (unlike Diodorus) made no reference to any activityon the part of Marcius in Etruria in 310 BC: he simply recorded that, at the beginning of the consular year, Fabius:

  1. “ ... took over the campaign at Sutrium: he was given Caius Marcius Rutulus as his colleague.  Fabius brought up replacements from Rome, while a new army came from Etruria to reinforce the enemy [army besieging the colony]”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 33: 1-2).

After a digression to record contemporary events at Rome, Livy noted that Fabius defeated the besieging army, which:

  1. “... faced about and fled headlong towards its camp.  But the Roman cavalry ... presented themselves in front of the fugitives, who then  ... [fled] to the Silva Ciminia (Ciminian Forest).   The Romans, having slain many thousand Etruscans ... , took possession of [their] camp ... [and] then began to consider the feasibility of a pursuit”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 35: 7-8).

Thus,  Livy claimed that Fabius lifted the siege of Sutrium at this point (while Diodorus had him first marching north before returning to relieve the siege at Sutrium by mount a diversionary siege at Castola).

Livy: The Ciminian Forest


Sutrium and the Ciminian Forest

Roman roads (from left to right: Cassia; Amerina; Flaminia) probably indicate earlier lines of communication

Adapted from John Ward Perkins (referenced below, p. 141, Figure 2)

Livy now digressed in order to describe the Ciminian Forest, which was to feature prominently in his subsequent account of this phase of the war:

  1. “In those days, the Ciminian Forest was more inuia atque horrenda (impenetrable and terrifying) than the forests of Germany are today, and no-one [presumably he meant no Roman], not even a trader, had visited it up to that time: to enter it was a thing that hardly anyone but [Fabius] was bold enough to do: the recollection of  [the Roman catastrophe in 321 BC at] the Caudine Forks  was still too vivid with all the rest”,  (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 1). 


We know little about the extent of this forest in Livy’s day, and still less about its extent in the 4th century BC.  However, in his in-depth study of the local topography, John Ward Perkins (referenced below, at pp. 140-2) made a number of interesting observations in relation to it.  For example:

  1. “... after leaving Sutrium, [the later Via Cassia] skirted the southwestern slopes of Monte Cimino, through country that  probably still lay within the borders of the great Ciminian Forest in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC” (see pp. 140-1).

This road probably followed an ancient route through the forest from Sutrium to Volsinii.  Furthermore, the twin colonies of Sutrium and Nepet had been founded on sites on its southern border:

  1. “The colonies of Sutrium (Sutri) and Nepete (Nepi) are said to have been established as early as the [380s or 370s BC] ... on the sites of important earlier settlements:

  2. Sutrium commanded the Sutri gap, the only practicable road up into central Etruria, between the Monti Sabatini and Monte Cimino [i.e. the proto-Cassia], through country that was still densely forested; and

  3. Nepete, which occupied an impregnable position on a narrow tongue of land between two gorges barely five miles from Falerii Veteres, controlled the narrow belt of easy country [that was destined to to carry the Via Amerina], between:

  4. on the west, the impenetrable thickets of the Ciminian Forest; and

  5. on the east, the almost equally impenetrable gorges of the streams that drain eastwards towards the Tiber.

  6. Both sites were key points in Rome's slow but remorseless northward advance” (see p. 142).

Thus, when Fabius subsequently decided to march northwards into Upper Etruria, his obvious route would have involved either the proto-Cassia (towards Volsinii) or the proto-Amerina (which crossed the Tiber into the territory of the Umbri) and followed the river towards a convenient crossing to Perusia).  As we shall see, according to Livy, he took neither. 

Livy: Reconnaissance of the Ciminian Forest and the Territory of the ‘Camertes Umbros’

Before Fabius could set out into this dreadful forest in order to pursue the fleeing Etruscans, he needed reconnaissance.  Fortunately:

  1. “... one of those present, the consul's brother Marcus Fabius:

  2. some say that it was [his half-brother,] Fabius Caeso;

  3. others that it was Gaius Claudius, a son of the same mother as the consul;

  4. offered to explore and return in a short time with definite information about everything.  He had been educated at Caere  [and thus] ... knew the Etruscan language well.  It is said that his only companion was a slave [who was]... acquainted, like his master, with the language. ... They went dressed as shepherds and [although they were] armed with rustic weapons, ... [they received greater protection from] the fact that [the locals did not believe] that any stranger would enter the Ciminian defiles”,  (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 2-6).

It seems that these intrepid scouts exceeded their remit: according to Livy:

  1. “They are said to have penetrated as far as the ‘Camertes Umbros’ (the Umbrian people of Camertium), where ... they  were introduced into the [local] senate, with whom they negotiated  in the consul's name de societate amicitiaque (for an agreement of friendship and alliance). ... [The younger Fabius] was bidden to carry  back to the Romans [an assurance] that 30 days' provisions for their army would be waiting for them if they came into that region, and that the young men of the Umbrian Camertes would be armed and ready to obey their orders”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 7-8).

In the map above, I have assumed that the younger Fabius first climbed to the top of the Ciminian Mountain, since, as we shall see, this was the route that Fabius himself was to take.  I have also assumed that:

  1. the territory of the Umbrian Camertes was around Camertium/ Camerinum (modern Camerino); and

  2. the most convenient route from the top of the Ciminian Mountain would have involved:

  3. descending to the point at which the proto-Amerina crossed the Tiber;

  4. continuing along the river to Tuder; and

  5. turning east there along to the ancient route designated by Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, at p. 102, Figure 10) as the Via Todina to the Apennine pass at Plestia (modern Colfiorito,  just to the southwest of Camerino).

Livy clearly had at least two sources for this expedition, since he mentioned two conflicting records of which of Fabius’ brothers had been involved.  He obviously had less than complete confidence in their accuracy in other respects, since he recorded that:

  1. it is said” that the younger Fabius’ only companion was a slave; and

  2. more importantly, that the two men “are said to have” penetrated as far as the ‘Camertes Umbros’.

Nevertheless, Frontinus, who was writing in the 1st century AD, used one of these sources for one of his examples of a Roman military strategy that had involved ‘Finding Out the Enemy’s Plans’:

  1. “During the war with Etruria, when shrewd methods of reconnaissance were still unknown to Roman leaders, Quintus Fabius Maximus commanded his brother, Fabius Caeso, who spoke the Etruscan language fluently, to put on Etruscan dress and to penetrate into the Ciminian Forest, where our soldiers had never before ventured.  He showed such discretion and energy in executing these commands that, after traversing the forest and observing that Umbros Camertes were not hostile to the Romans, he brought them into an alliance”, (‘Strategies’, 1: 2: 2).

Guy Bradley (referenced below, at p.  108) pointed out that:

  1. “Camerinum, on the other side of the Apennines, is a surprisingly remote destination for a spying mission through the Ciminian Forest. ... Some [scholars, but not Bradley himself] have [therefore] ... explained this passage as originating in a reference to Clusium [modern Chiusi], a city much nearer to the Ciminian Forest, which, according to Livy [‘History of Rome’, 10: 25: 11], was once called ‘Camars’.”

However, there is no doubt that the Camertes of the eastern Apennines had secured a famously ‘equal’ treaty with Rome at an early date:

  1. According to Livy, in 205 BC:

  2. “The Camertes, even though they were joined with the Romans in a treaty on equal terms (foedus aequam), nevertheless sent an armed cohort of 600 men [to fight against the Carthaginians]” (28:45).

  3. Cicero also mentioned this treaty in his speech ‘pro Balbo’ (ca. 70 ), when he referred to the fact that Caius Marius had awarded Roman citizenship to:

  4. “... cohortis duas universas Camertium civitate (two whole cohorts from the city of Camertium), [despite knowing] that Camertinum foedus sanctissimum atque aequissimum (the treaty that had been made with Camertinum had been most solemnly ratified, and was in all respects a most equitable one)” (46, with the translation into English by Kathryn Lomas, referenced below, at p. 43). 

  5. An inscription (CIL XI 5631) from Camerino records that, in 210 AD, the Camertes thanked the Emperor Septiums Severus for confirming their foedus aequum with Rome (albeit that this would obviously have been a purely symbolic gesture).

Those scholars who doubt that the younger Fabius crossed the Apennines suggest that the Romans made this treaty with the Camertes  in 295 BC, at the time of the Battle of Sentinum.  However, it is surely significant that there is no surviving evidence that Chiusi/ Camars was the beneficiary of a favourable treaty at any time.

However, Guy Bradley (as above) and Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 459-60), among others, have argued in favour of Livy’s information that the younger Fabius reached the territory around Camerinum in 310 BC.  The Camertes would certainly have been an attractive candidate for such a treaty, since they controlled a  strategically important territory, which Cicero (in his speech ‘pro Sulla’ in 63 BC) implied was of a similar extent to that which the Romans subsequently took from Picenes and the Gallic Senones:

  1. “Where ... was Sulla? ... Was he in agro Camerti, Piceno, Gallico (in the Camertine, Picenian, or Gallic lands), which ... that frenzy [i.e. the Catilinarian conspiracy] had infected most particularly ?”, (paragraph 53).

The Camertes might well have agreed to the treaty at this point because they feared the intentions of their Gallic neighbours (as argued, for example, by William Harris, referenced below, at p. 56).  However, Fabius would have been equally anxious to deter the Gauls from joining the fray as he prepared to march a Roman army into upper Etruria for the first time in its history.  Thus, it is entirely possible that the younger Fabius set out for Camerinum via the Ciminian Forest. 

Livy: Fabius Himself Crosses the Ciminian Forest

By the time that news of his brother’s success reached Fabius at Sutrium:

  1. “... the enemy's sentries ... had been stationed at the entrance to the pass [which was presumably one of the dreaded Ciminian defiles]”,  (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 10).

Thus, although (according to Livy) Fabius had lifted the siege of Sutrium by this time, the Etruscans still apparently controlled the route northwards through the forest.  However, having received news from his brother, Fabius and his army slipped away northwards under cover of darkness.  By dawn on the following day:

  1. “... he was on the crest of the Ciminian Mountain”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 11).

I suspect that he had waited for news from his brother before moving northwards, not because he needed to know how to cross the forest (which he and his army accomplished in a few hours during the night), but rather because he wanted to know that, as marched into upper Etruria, the understanding with the Camertes was in place.

When the sun rose over the Ciminian Mountain that morning, while the Etruscan army was still behind him, Fabius looked down:

  1. “ ... over the rich ploughed fields of Etruria, [which] he sent his soldiers to plunder.  After the Romans had [accumulated] enormous booty, they were confronted by certain improvised bands of Etruscan peasants, called together in hot haste by the chief men of that country, but with so little discipline that, in seeking to regain the spoils, they had nearly become spoils themselves.   Having slain or driven off these men and wasted the country far and wide, the Romans returned to their camp, victorious and enriched with all manner of supplies”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 11-13).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 451)  reasonably suggested that this camp was still at Sutrium:

  1. “There, as it happened, [he] found five legates, with two tribunes of the plebs, who had come to order [him], in the name of the Senate, not to cross the Ciminian Forest.  Rejoicing that they had come too late to be able to hinder the war, they returned to Rome with tidings of victory”,  (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 14).

I will return to the significance of this passage below.

According to Livy:

  1. “This expedition of the consul, instead of putting an end to the war, only gave it a wider range.  For the district lying about the base of [the mountain] had felt the devastation, and this had aroused not only Etruria to resentment but also the neighbouring parts of Umbria”,  (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 1).

This is the first time that Livy recorded any Umbrians in conflict with Rome: on the map above, I suggest that:

  1. the Umbrian territory that Fabius might have raided from the Ciminian Mountain included that along the route towards Tuder, which the younger Fabius had probably already explored; and

  2. the Etruscan territory involved is unlikely to have extended  as far as Volsinii, since this important city was not mentioned in relation to the events that followed.

(As noted above, Diodorus also had Fabius slipping away from Sutrium, crossing Umbrian territory and ravaging upper Etruria.  However, unlike Livy: he mentioned neither the Ciminian Mountain nor the Ciminian forest; and he recorded no Roman hostilities against the Umbrians at this time.)

Livy’s Preferred Version of Fabius’ Second Battle

Livy gave two possible locations for the battle that followed: in his preferred version (marked with ared asterisk on the map above), Fabius fell back on Sutrium before:

  1. “... a [new enemy] army [arrived there] that was larger than any [that the Etruscans] had raised before.  Not only did they [then] move their camp forward out of the woods but, in their eagerness for combat, they even came down into the plain ... in battle formation.  At first, after forming up, they stood still in their positions, leaving room for the Romans to draw up opposite.  Then, finding [that Fabius was] in no haste to engage them, they advanced up to the rampart [of the Roman camp].  When they saw that even the Roman sentries had retired within the works, they began shouting to their generals that their rations for the day should be sent out to them from the camp [as they prepared to] attack the enemy's stockade.  ... [However, Fabius chose not to give battle, but rather to allow his men to eat and to rest, presumably because they had only recently arrived.]  Then, on the signal being given a little before dawn,... the Romans, rushing out [from their camp] in battle-formation, fell upon their enemies, who were lying all about the field.  [This surprise Roman attack put the enemy to flight, and their] camp, being situated in the plain, was captured the same day.  ... On that day, the enemy lost 60,000 slain or captured”, (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 2-11).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 480) noted that this figure of 60,000:

  1. “... is a much larger figure than that usually reported by Livy [after Roman victories]”

As we shall see below, Livy also noted that some sources located ‘this famous battle’:

  1. “...  on the other side of the Ciminian Forest, near Perusia.”

However, he concluded that, whether it was fought to the north or to the south of this forest:

  1. “... 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).  They obtained truces for 30 years”, (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 12).

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 33) argued that Livy’s preferred version of events contained a number of internal contradictions:

  1. “The concentration of all these events in the restricted area between the Ciminian Mountain and the Tiber [see the map above] is suspect. ... [It would, for example, have rendered pointless] the sending of emissaries to the Camertes, [whose territory] was so far from the theatre of war.  [It also seems odd that]:

  2. a war that had been conducted in southern Etruria should be followed by the surrender of three northern centres, Perusia, Cortona and Arretium, particularly since Livy explicitly affirmed that the last of these had not taken part in the siege of Sutrium; and

  3. ... the devastation of the territory immediately below the Ciminian Mountain had caused the uprising of the nearby Umbrians, [since their territory was on the other side of the] Tiber” (my translation).

Furthermore, as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 454 pointed out, Diodorus had recorded that, according to Diodorus, the truces with Arretium Cortona and Perusia followed a victory at Perusia rather than one at Sutrium.

Livy’s Alternative Version of Fabius’ Second Battle


Livy’s account of Fabius’ campaign of 310 BC, before the appointment of the dictator

Large black asterisk = battle that ended the siege of Sutrium (9: 35)

Green route = that taken by Fabius’ brother to the territory of the Camertes Umbros (9:36)

I have suggested that he descended to the proto-Amerina and turned east at Tuder, to follow

Via Todina (see P. Camerieri, referenced below, at p. 102, Figure 10) and cross the Apennines at Plestia

*? = territory possibly raided after Fabius’ descent from the Ciminian Mountain (9:36)

Red asterisk = Livy’s alternative site for the definitive defeat of the Etruscans (9:37)

I have assumed that, in this case, he would have followed the route scouted by his brother as far as Tuder

and then continued along the Tiber valley to Perusia

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

As noted above, Livy acknowledged that:

  1. “Some historians relate that this famous battle was fought on the other side of the Ciminian Forest, near Perusia, and that Rome was in a panic lest the army should be surrounded and cut off in that dangerous defile by the Etruscans and Umbrians rising up on every hand”, (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 11).


Livy did not deny that there had been the disquiet at Rome, but he related it to Fabius’ earlier surprise raid on upper Etruria from the summit of the Ciminian Mountain, after which he returned safely to his camp at Sutrium, only to find:

  1. “... five legates, with two tribunes of the plebs, who had come to order [him], in the name of the Senate, not to cross the Ciminian Forest.  Rejoicing that they had come too late to be able to hinder the war, they returned to Rome with tidings of victory”,  (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 14).

There are at least two problems with this passage, as it stands:

  1. It seems odd (at least to me) that an encounter with what Livy described as:

  2. “... improvised bands of Etruscan peasants”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 12);

  3. would now be characterised as a war (bellum): as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 475) remarked:

  4. “... one might have expected [Livy] to use the word expeditionem [expedition, campaign]”;

  5. and noted that this had been Livy’s earlier usage:

  6. Hac expeditione consulis motum latius erat quam profligatum bellum

  7. “This expedition of the consul, instead of putting an end to the war, only gave it a wider range,  (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 1)

  8. Furthermore, it seems odd that the legates regarded as a victory an expedition that had actually escalated the war and brought more men, both Etruscan and Umbrian, to Sutrium. 

It is surely more likely that the legation arrived in Fabius’ camp, not after his initial raid on upper Etruria, but after the definitive victory over the Etruscans that followed it.  In other words, if this record of the legation from Rome is correct, then Livy probably placed it too early in his account: it belonged more naturally after the ‘famous battle’, which was therefore fought (as Livy’s alternative sources suggested) on the far side of the Ciminian Forest.

Two later accounts in Livy’s narrative lend further support to this hypothesis:

  1. In his account of the contemporary events in Samnium, Livy recorded that the Samnites had received reports that the Romans’ fears of a disastrous ambush had actually been realised:

  2. “... the fears excited in Rome when Quintus Fabius marched through the Ciminian Forest, [were mirrored in] the rejoicings ... [of the Samnites] ... when they heard a report that [Fabius’] army had been intercepted and besieged.  They looked back at [their own victory over the Romans in 321 BC at the] Caudine Forks  ... [and gloated that], once again, the Romans] had been led into pathless forests and hemmed in there ... However, their joy soon began to be mixed with [resentment] that Fortune should have transferred the glory of the Roman war from the Samnites to the Etruscans.  So, they hastened to bring all their strength to bear upon crushing Caius Marcius [in Samnium]; and resolved that, should Marcius avoid an encounter, they would march forthwith into Etruria, through the countries of the Marsi and the Sabines”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 4-8).

  3. As things turned out, Marcius did engage with them; this was the engagement in which he was wounded.

  4. As a result (as noted above), the Romans appointed Lucius Papirius Cursor as dictator.  He:

  5. “... took command of the legions that had been raised [in Rome] during the scare connected with the [Fabius’] expedition through the Ciminian Forest ”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 1).

It seems unlikely (at least to me) that:

  1. news of  a surprise Roman raid across the Ciminian Forest would have had such a profound effect on the Samnites; and

  2. the Romans  had time to raise new legions before they heard of Fabius‘ safe return to Sutrium soon after. 

It is surely more likely that these reactions followed news that, having crossed the Ciminian forest, Fabius was preparing to press his advantage by marching further into upper Etruria, where a major battle was anticipated.  

This alternative version of events meets at least two of the objections raised by Simone Sisani in relation to Livy’s preferred version (above):

  1. Fabius might well have arranged for an understanding with the Camertes before he crossed the Tiber into upper Etruria, not least because it would have reduced the risk that the Gallic Senones would attempt to take advantage; and

  2. the shock of this first appearance of a hostile Roman army in Upper Etruria, followed by a significant Roman victory,  might well have prompted Perusia, Cortona and Arretium to sue for peace.

Reconciliation of the Accounts by Diodorus and Livy

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 454-5) pointed out that, if we:

  1. accept the Diodorus’ first three battles between the Romans and the Etruscans in 310 BC; and

  2. adopt Livy’s alternative version of Fabius’ second battle after he had lifted the siege of Sutrium (i.e. we locate it at Perusia);

then, we arrive at the following tentative reconstruction:

  1. “Fabius:

  2. marched to relieve Sutrium;

  3. defeated the Etruscans there;

  4. crossed the Ciminian Forest;

  5. defeated another Etruscan army in what Livy called a ‘famous battle that (pace Livy) was probably fought near Perusia; and

  6. then [agreed truces] with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia.”

He did not rule out Livy’s record of:

  1. “... the exploits of Fabius’ brother; [or the sending of] an embassy from Rome to Fabius; ... All this would make a coherent narrative....”

Furthermore, he was inclined (at p. 457) to accept Diodorus’ fourth battle, which involved the capture of ‘Castola’, because, in his view:

  1. “...a reference to so obscure a site is most unlikely to have been invented.”

Finally, he opined (at p. 459) that:

  1. “There is no reason to doubt the general import of [Livy’s indications that] the Romans fought with some of the Umbrians in this year, [while at least one Umbrian centre,] Camerinum, allied itself with Rome.”

Events of 310/9 BC

As noted above, this section deals with the events that took place after Papirius, as dictator, assumed Marcius’ responsibilities in Samnium.  Since Diodoorus made no mention of papirius; dictatorship in this year, I included all of his account of Fabius second consulate in the section above.  

Fasti

As noted above, the fasti Capitolini record that Papirius served for the second time as dictator throughout the ‘dictator year’ 309 BC (designated here as 310/9 BC).  Furthermore, the ‘fasti Triumphales’ record that, in this year:

  1. Papirius, as dictator, was awarded a triumph over the Samnites; and

  2. Fabius, as proconsul, was awarded a triumph over the Etruscans.

In fact, as explained above, the likelihood is that, if these triumphs were actually awarded at all, they belong to the later part of the consular year 310 BC: there is certainly no other evidence that Fabius served as proconsul in a period between his second and third consulships.  In other words, they probably belong to the period that I designate 310/9 BC.

Livy: Papirius as Dictator

Livy is our only surviving source for the events of Papirius’ second dictatorship (albeit that he placed them in Fabius second consulate). 

Papirius’ Appointment as Dictator 

Livy first set out the circumstances that necessitated the appointment of a dictator in 310 BC: when the consul Marcius engaged with the Samnites at an unspecified location:

  1. “... the battle was fiercely contested on both sides, but without a decision being reached.  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, that  [Marcius] himself had been wounded.  These reverses were, as usual, further exaggerated in the telling, and the Senate, in great dismay, decided to appoint a dictator”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 8-10).

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.”

However, Oakley acknowledged (at note 1) that some scholars doubt that a dictator was appointed in 310 BC.  This possibility cannot be ruled out, particularly since:

  1. Livy said no more about Marcius’ fate (at least in the surviving manuscripts); and

  2. as noted above, the fasti Capitolini credited Papirius with a ‘dictator year’ in each of 325/4 BC and 310/9 BC, which might indicate a doublet.

Livy then turned to the process by which Papirius was appointed:

  1. “Nobody could doubt that Papirius Cursor, who was regarded as the foremost soldier of his time, would be designated. ... Since the other consul, Fabius, had a private grudge against Papirius, ... the Senate decided to send a deputation of former consuls to him [presumably at his camp at Sutrium ... 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 ...  [Fabius, in his initial response,] fixed his eyes on the ground and retired without a word. ... Then, in the silence of the night, as custom dictates, he appointed Lucius Papirius as dictator.  [However,] when the envoys thanked him ... , he continued obstinately silent, ... so that the agony his great heart was suppressing was clearly seen”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 10-5).

It seems that this animosity had first erupted during Papirius’ previous term as dictator in 325/4 BC, when he had campaigned in Samnium with Fabius as his Master of Horse (second-in-command).  According to Livy, when Papirius needed to return briefly to Rome, he:

  1. “... warned [Fabius]  ...  not to engage in battle with the enemy in his absence.  [However, when, after Papirius’ departure, Fabius] ascertained from his scouts  ... that the enemy were [not expecting imminent hostilities] ... he put [the Roman] army in fighting trim and, advancing upon a place they call Imbrinium, engaged in a pitched battle with the Samnites.  This engagement was so fortunate that no greater success could have been gained even if [Papirius] had been present ... [Fabius thus] found himself ... in possession of extensive spoils.  He piled the enemy's arms in a great heap ... and burnt them, perhaps in fulfilment of a vow to one of the gods, or perhaps (if one chooses to accept the account of Fabius  himself) to prevent [Papirius] from reaping the harvest of his glory ...  [Fabius sent the] dispatch ... reporting the victory to the Senate rather than to [Papirius, which further] argues that he had no intention of sharing the credit with him.  At all events, [Papirius] so received the news that, while everyone else was rejoicing at the victory, he showed obvious signs of anger and discontent.  And so, having hastily dismissed the Senate, he rushed out of the Curia, repeatedly asserting that, should [Fabius be seen to have] flouted orders with impunity  ...[he would have] defeated ... the prestige of the dictatorship and military discipline more decisively [than he had defeated] the Samnite legions”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 3-11).

The repercussions of this quarrel continued through books 31-5, until Papirius, who had a legal right to demand Fabius’ execution, succumbed to pleas for his reprieve:

  1. “[Although] Quintus Fabius is found guilty, since he fought against the orders of his general, he is granted [his life] as a boon to ... [those]  who plead for him  ... Live, Quintus Fabius, more blest in this [desire] of your fellow citizens to save you, than in the victory over which, a little while ago, you were exulting!  Live, though you dared a deed that not even your [eminent father] would have pardoned, had he been in the place of Lucius Papirius!  You shall again be on good terms with me when you will ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 35: 5-7).

Given the length of this account, we might reasonably assume that Livy himself believed that Papirius and Fabius had been at loggerheads at this time.  However:

  1. he was not completely certain about his sources: for example, in his description of Fabius’ original offence, he noted that:

  2. “I find it stated by certain writers that Fabius fought two battles against the [Samnites] while [Papirius] was absent and gained two brilliant victories.  [However], the oldest historians give [only one such] battle; and the story is omitted altogether in certain annals”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 7); and

  3. he had taken the dialogue that set out each man’s point of view at great length from conflicting partisan sources. 

We might therefore reasonably wonder whether the putative animosity between Papirius and Fabius in both 325/4 and 310/9 BC was largely a product of these putative partisan accounts (as discussed further below).

Papirius’ Engagement with the Samnites at Longula

Livy recorded that, immediately upon his appointment, Papirius:

  1. “ ... took command of the legions that had been raised [at Rome] during the scare connected with [Fabius’] expedition through the Ciminian Forest [see above], and led them to Longula [an unknown location, presumably in Samnium.  There, having also taken] over Marcius’ troops, he marched out and offered battle, which the enemy seemed willing to accept.   But, while the two armies stood armed and ready for the conflict, ... night overtook them.  Their camps were within a short distance of each other and they remained quiet for some days, not through any distrust of their own strength or any feeling of contempt for the enemy”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 1-4). 

Livy’s account of events in Samnium apparently came to an abrupt end at this point.  However, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 499) pointed out that:

  1. “It is quite likely that [the lines quoted above] were not originally the end of Livy’s description of this part of Papirius’ campaign, but were [instead] leading up to an account of a battle that was about to take place.”

If so, then this part of the narrative has been lost or (as we shall see) perhaps misplaced.

Apparent Lacuna/ Lacunae in Livy’s Narrative

After this putative lacuna, the surviving manuscripts continue with:

  1. +Nam et cum Umbrorum exercitu acie depugnatum est; .... non tolerarunt pugnam+”

  2. “+ For, in an engagement with the Umbrians ... [the enemy] were completely routed.”

  3. “+et ad Vadimonis lacum+ Etrusci lege sacrata coacto exercitu...

  4. “+And, at the lacus Vadimonis+, the Etruscans, employing a lex sacrata, had raised an army ...”

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 497-500) began his analysis of this passage  by characterising it as:

  1. “... one of the most desperate cruces [passages whose correct reading is difficult to determine] of Livy’s first [ten books].”

He noted that some manuscripts use obeli (replicated above by my plus signs) around part of the passage in order to flag doubts about the correct reading, and he noted, with approval, that Charles Walters and  Robert Conway had used this notation in their ‘Oxford Classical Text’ (OCT, 1919) edition of the Latin text.

Benjamin Oliver Foster went further in his translation of 1919: rather than obelise this passage, he omitted it completely.  Thus, line 4 ended in Samnium (as above) and was immediately followed by:

  1. “[Meanwhile], the Etruscans, employing a lex sacrata, had raised an army ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: my square brackets - see below).  

In his recent translation of the OCT edition, John Yardley (referenced below) followed Foster here by omitting the obelised passage, which was instead reproduced in Latin at p. 289.  However, even these two translations are not completely secure, since they both replace the opening ‘nam’ (for) with ‘interea’ (meanwhile, which I have put in square brackets above): see Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 500, note 1) for the origin of this substitution. 

Various other emendations have been suggested in order to retain the obelised passage while achieving continuity and coherence: for example, Canon Roberts (1905) offered the following emended translation:

  1. “[Meantime, the Romans were meeting with success in Etruria]: + For, in an engagement with the Umbrians, the enemy were unable to keep up the fight with the spirit with which they began it and, without any great loss, were completely routed.  An engagement also took place at Lake Vadimon+, where the Etruscans had concentrated an army raised under a lex sacrata ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 4-5). 

I have placed square brackets around the opening phrase here, since it is particularly doubtful: see Robert Ogilvie (referenced below, at p. 167) and the comments by Stephen Oakley (referenced below. 2005, at pp. 497-8) on Ogilvie’s suggestion.  I have also retained the obeli around the translation of this doubtful passage.

Thus, there is no consensus as to the status of the obelised passage.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 500) observed that it would be attractive follow Foster (for example) by simply deleting it, and to assume that it had been preceded by a lacuna that had originally contained:

  1. an account of the battle at Longula; and

  2. a preface to the account the major battle between the Romans and an Etruscan army that had been raised under a lex sacrata

However, as he pointed out, the obelised passage occurs in all of the surviving manuscripts and: 

  1. “... it is hard to see why this insertion would be made.”

He therefore suggested two other possibilities for this passage:

  1. “.... it is a now-isolated fragment of narrative, [since] ... there are [now] lacunae before and after it”; or

  2. it belonged somewhere else, perhaps, following William Anderson (referenced below, at pp. 101-3) at the end of 9:39 (a possibility that I discuss below).

He pointed out that neither of these possibilities would resolve all of the difficulties.

I discuss obelised passage relating to an engagement with the Umbrians in the section below on the events of 308 BC.

Victory over an Etruscan Army Raised Under a Lex Sacrata, perhaps at the Lacus Vadimonis

As noted above, the obelised passage continued:

  1. “... et ad Vadimonis lacum (and, at the lacus Vadimonis)”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5). 

If this reference to the lacus Vadimonis actually belonged here in Livy’s original, then the Romans decisively defeated a formidable Etruscan army on its shores in 310/9 BC.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005,  at p. 499, para. e) observed that Livy did not record the name of the Roman commander at this battle, observing that:

  1. “One would rather have expected Fabius ... to have been in charge on the Etruscan front, but he is nowhere mentioned, [and this] strengthens the case for believing  that the text is lacunose.”

In other words, it is likely that Livy described the context in which this battle took place, but this putative passage no longer survives, except possibly partially in the obelised passage relating to its location.

Assuming for a moment that this decisive battle actually took place, the first question is whether or not it did so at the lacus Vadimonis.  The redoubtable George Dennis (referenced below) took the surviving manuscript record at face value: thus, in his book about his travels in Etruria in the 1840s, he observed that:

  1. “If you follow the banks of the Tiber for about 4 miles above Orte, you will reach the ‘Laghetto/ Lagherello/ Lago di Bassano’, which [takes its name from] a village in the neighbourhood.  [This was] the Vadimonian Lake of antiquity, renowned for the defeat of the Etruscans on two separate occasions:

  2. first ... in [310/9 BC], when the might of Etruria was irrecoverably broken after a desperate and hard-contested  battle; and

  3. again in [283 BC], when Cornelius Dolabella utterly routed the allied forces of the Etruscans and Gauls on its shores.

  4. .... Whoever visits Lake Vadimon [today] will comprehend how it [came about that these two] decisive battles were fought upon its shores.  The valley here forms the natural pass into the inner or central plain of Etruria ...  [The lake occupied] a low, level tract ... hemmed in between the heights and the Tiber. ... Even now, [these heights] are densely [wooded], as no doubt they were in ancient times, this being part of the celebrated Ciminian forest.”

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at pp. 35-6) also accepted a battle at the lacus Vadimonis in 310/9 BC.  He asserted that the engagement that brought this phase of the Etruscan War to a close:

  1. “... must have seen the Romans arrayed against the Etruscan and the Umbrians, [and might well have taken] place during [Fabius’] return towards Sutrium, near the lacus Vadimonis, not far from [Diodorus’ Castola (see above)]: it is there that [according to Diodorus] the Romans defeated the troops that still guarded Sutrium, thereby raising the siege and [presumably] meriting Fabius’ triumph” (my translation).

Thus Sisani (see his Figure 1, at p. 34) had Fabius return from Perusia along the proto-Amerina until, immediately after crossing the Tiber, he followed its right bank upstream to the lacus Vadimonis and then to Diodorus’ Castola (which he placed at the ancient fortified site at Monte Casoli, near modern Bomarzo, some 8 km west of the lake).

However, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005,  at p. 498, para. b) observed that:

  1. “[While] it is quite certain that there was a battle at this lake [between the Romans and an alliance of Etruscans and Gauls] in 283 BC, nowhere else do we read of a battle [between the Romans and the Etruscans] on this site in 310/9 BC.  And, although this notion of an [earlier battle here] against the Etruscans [alone] is not, in itself, absolutely incredible, the unreliability of Livy’s general account of events in this year, and particularly of those [described in the obelised passage], means that one should be very cautious indeed about accepting it.”

Oakley considered at p. 500) the possibility that there had been a second lacuna after ‘et ad Vadimonis lacum’, which would at least resolve the difficulty that he had articulated at p. 499, paragraph (g):

  1. “... one does not expect the opening of the narrative of [a great battle against the Etruscans] to be linked in [a literary device such as ‘et .... et ...’] with a trivial campaign against the Umbrians.”

In other words, the obelised passage might have been in Livy’s original, followed by a now-lost passage that described:

  1. a relatively trivial campaign against the Etruscans at the lacus Vadimonis; followed by

  2. the introduction to a major engagement somewhere else with an Etruscan army that had been raised under a lex sacrata

However, this would mean that Livy’s account of 310/9 BC was even more crowded. Oakley cited (at p. 498,  note 3) a number of other scholars who had therefore simply discounted a second major battle at the lacus Vadimonis or anywhere else, before concluding that:

  1. “If the [obelised] reference to [the lacus Vadimonis] really does belong in the text, then either Livy or his annalistic sources may have either accidentally produced a doublet or deliberately invented another reference to the lake.”

In short, while Livy may have located the battle described below on the shores of the lacus Vadimonis, the doubts about the accuracy of the surviving manuscripts leave the matter open to question. 

Those translations that omit the obelised passages move directly from Papirius’ apparent stand-off with the Samnites at Longula to this Roman victory over the Etruscans, which took place under an unnamed Roman commander and at an unspecified location:

  1. “Meanwhile, the Etruscans, employing a lex sacrata, had raised an army in which vir virum legisset (each man had chosen another).  [For this reason, this army] joined battle [with the Romans] with greater forces and greater valour than ever before. ... The battle began with swords and, furious at the outset, waxed hotter as the struggle continued, for the victory was long undecided.  It seemed as though the Romans were contending, not with the so-often defeated Etruscans, but with some new race.   ... [As a result], the Romans came to such extremity of distress and danger that their cavalry dismounted and made their way over arms and over bodies to the front ranks of the infantry.  Like a fresh line springing up amongst the exhausted combatants, they wrought havoc in the companies of the Etruscans. Then the rest of the [Roman] soldiers, following up their charge, ... at last broke through the [Etruscan] ranks.  At this, their stubbornness began to be overcome ... and [they eventually] took to flight.  That day, for the first time, [a Roman army] broke the might of the Etruscans ... Their strength was cut off in the battle, and their camp was taken and plundered in the same attack.”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5-11, from the translation of Benjamin Oliver Foster).

It remains to consider whether this really was yet another battle fought in Fabius’ year as consul, whether at the  lacus Vadimonis or at another (now-unknown) location in Etruria.  As noted above, Simone Sisani (for example) accepted both its authenticity and its location on the shores of the lake.  However, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 456) regarded it as a doublet of Fabius’ important victory that led to the truces agreed with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia: since Livy had located this battle at Sutrium, wrongly in Oakley’s opinion, he needed:

  1. “... a victory in north Etruria, beyond the Ciminian Forest, which Fabius was known to have won and which [Livy had not yet] recounted.”

However, two features of the battle that Livy described here distinguish it from those that he had described earlier:

  1. the Etruscans had raised an army using a lex sacrata, and

  2. each man who fought in this army had been chosen by another.

Each of these features had a particular significance:

  1. Festus provided a definition of the phrase lex sacrata:

  2. Sacratae leges sunt, quibus sanctum est, qui[c]quid ad'versus eas fecerit sacer alicui deorum sicut familia pecuniaque’, (‘De verborum signifcatione’, 422 Lindsay)”

  3. “Sacred laws are laws that have the sanction that anyone who breaks them becomes ‘accursed’ to one of the gods”, (translation by Timothy Cornell, referenced below, 1995, at p. 449, note 68).

  4. The earliest occasion on which Livy mentioned recruitment under such a law was in 431 BC, when the Aequi and the Volsci prepared to invade Rome:

  5. “After a levy had been held under a lex sacrata, which was the most powerful means that [these peoples] possessed of compelling men to serve, the armies of both nations advanced [towards Rome]”, (‘History of Rome’, 4: 26: 5-6).

  6. The next occasion was the Etruscan levy of 310/9 BC that is under discussion here.  Thereafter,

  7. there is no explicit reference in the surviving Livian manuscripts to conscription under a lex sacrata until 191 BC, when:

  8. “... the Ligurians had assembled an army under a lex sacrata and made a sudden attack upon the camp where the proconsul Q. Minucius was in command”, (‘History of Rome’, 36: 38: 1).

  9. However, there is evidence that the Samnite army that was mustered at Aquilonia in 293 BC, in the closing phase of the Third Samnite War, was conscripted in this way.  This army was confronted by one of the consuls of that year, Lucius Papirius Cursor (the homonymous son of the dictator of 310/9 BC), whose colleague, Spurius Carvilius Maximus, besieged nearby Cominium.  According to Livy:

  10. “A levy was conducted throughout Samnium under a new rule: if any man of military age:

  11. had not assembled [at Aquilonia] on the General's proclamation; or

  12. had departed without permission;

  13. his life would be Iovi sacraretur (forfeited to Jupiter)”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 3-5).

  14. Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 394) pointed out that Livy does not:

  15. “... explicitly state that the Samnites recruited by means of a lex sacrata [on this occasion].  However, there are [a number of] reasons for thinking that this was the impression that he intended to give.”

  16. One of these reasons is the fact that, according to Pliny the Elder, Carvilius:

  17. “... erected the statue of Jupiter that is seen in the Capitol after he had conquered the Samnites, who fought in obedience to a lex sacrata: [this statue was] ... made from their breast-plates, greaves, and helmets ...”, (‘Natural History’, 34: 18).

  18. As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 391) observed, this passage:

  19. “... can hardly refer to any other year but [293 BC] ...”.

  20. Turning now to the selection procedure of vir virum legere (each man choosing another) that was apparently employed in Etruria in 310/9 BC, it is noteworthy that the only other example of this procedure in the surviving Livian manuscripts also relates to the muster at Aquilonia in 293 BC:

  21. “After the foremost men among the Samnites [mustered at Aquilonia] had been bound by a dreadful oath, ten were selected by the General, who then asked vir virum legerent (each man to choose another) [and so on], until they had made up the number of 16,ooo.  These [16,000 men] were called the ‘Linen Legion’ from the material with which the place where they had been sworn was covered.  They were provided with resplendent armour and plumed helmets to distinguish them from the others”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 12-3). 

  22. In fact, as we shall see, the Linen Legion was almost certainly named for the linen tunics that its members wore in battle. 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 394) asserted that the fact that the procedure of vir virum legere was used for the Etruscan army that had been raised under a lex sacrata in 310/9 BC:

  1. “... leaves no doubt that the selection and binding of one man by another was an ancient and fundamental part of recruiting lege sacrata.”

However, it seems to me that this was not necessarily the case: after all, there is no indication that this selection procedure was used in the three other armies that had been recruited under leges sacratae: those of:

  1. the Aequi and the Volsci in 431 BC; and

  2. the Ligurii in 191 BC.

I think that it is more likely that:

  1. leges sacratae of this kind simply indicated the forced conscription of all eligible men of military age; while

  2. the procedure of vir virum legere added a further dimension: each of the men selected in this way from the pool of forced conscripts:

  3. became the comrade-in-arms (or metaphorical blood-brother) of the man to whom he owed this honour; and

  4. was thus honour-bound to share that man’s fate in the battle ahead. 

If this is correct, then Livy’s account suggests that:

  1. all the eligible Etruscan men of military age had been forcibly conscripted under a lex sacrata in 310/9 BC; and

  2. those that were to fight in the forthcoming battle were selected from this pool of conscripts by the procedure of vir virum legere.

Furthermore, since the Etruscan general who was to lead them in this battle would have been the first to choose a comrade, the entire body of selected men was, in effect, sworn to follow him to the death.  This was the likely reason that, according to Livy (above):

  1. “It seemed as though the Romans were contending, not with the so-often defeated Etruscans, but with some new race.”

These characteristics of this particular battle need to be borne in mind in the discussion below, when the possible doublets in Livy’s account of the Roman battles that were fought in Fabius’ second consulate are discussed below.

Papirius’ Samnite Victory and Triumph

According to Livy, immediately after this Roman victory in Etruria:

  1. “The war in Samnium ...  was attended with equal danger and an equally glorious conclusion.”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 1).    

However, he does not say where this ‘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 [or not it] ... should also be placed at Longula.”

The details of this engagement are discussed in my page on the Samnite League.  For the present discussion, it is significant that Livy began his account of it by noting that the Samnites:

  1. “... had made their battle lines glitter with new and splendid armour”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2). 

The Romans gained a decisive victory over this magnificently-attired army, following which:

  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).  

As noted above, the ‘fasti Triumphales’ also recorded that Papirius, as dictator, was awarded a triumph over the Samnites.

One detail of Livy’s description of this magnificently-attired Samnite army is particularly relevant to the present discussion: Livy reported that it contained:

  1. “... two corps:

  2. the shields of one were inlaid with gold, ... and their tunics were of many colours;

  3. the shields of other were inlaid with silver, ... and their tunics were made of dazzling white linen ... ”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2-5).

Later in this account, Livy noted that the men in linen tunics (who fought on the Samnite right):

  1. “... had consecrated themselves, as was their custom, and, for that reason, were resplendent in white clothing and equally white armour”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 9).

It seems that, in the act of ‘consecrating themselves’, these men had sworn to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender.  For this reason, as Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (who was Papirius’ master of horse) led the charge against them, he declared that: 

  1. “... he offered [them] in sacrifice to Orcus [a god of the underworld] ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 10).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 397) observed that, in this passage:

  1. “Junius, in a grim jest, pronounces that he will do the sacrificing [of the consecrated men], but on behalf of Rome” (my italics).

Thus, according to Livy, the Samnite army that the dictator Papirius defeated in 310/9 BC shared important characteristics with the Samnite army (including its Linen Legion) that his homonymous son was to defeat at Aquilonia in 293 BC.

This is bound to raise the question of whether Livy or his sources ‘borrowed’ details of the latter battle in order to add colour to the former.  Edward Salmon (referenced below, 1967, at pp. 245-6 and note 1) was of this opinion:

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

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 461) expressed a similar (albeit more nuanced) opinion :

  1. “Even though Diodorus ignored Papirius’ campaign against the Samnites [in 310/9 BC], 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 ...”

Oakley returned to this theme at pp. 505-6, where he set out in detail the many similarities between surviving descriptions of the two victories.  Most important among them were the facts that:

  1. each Papirius faced an army that:

  2. had been recruited according to special rituals (his para. a);

  3. included two cohorts of  men, one of which was made up of consecrated men who wore linen tunics (his para. e); and

  4. wore similar elaborate armour (his para. b); and

  5. the spoils of war from each campaign were used to adorn the public places of Rome (his para. d).

Oakley concluded (at p. 506) that:

  1. “There is no difficulty in believing that two Papirii Cursores won important victories over the Samnites, but it is harder to have confidence that these two victories were won in such similar circumstances ... [Furthermore,] Livy’s awareness of the similarities only increases the suspicion that ... the details of one victory were merged with those of the other.  If this did happen, then it is more likely that a large quantity of Samnite arms was brought to the city in 293 BC than in 310/9 BC, since:

  2. the victory ...at Aquilonia was more celebrated and more important [in strategic terms];

  3. the description of the triumph [that followed it] is one of the more reliable features of [Livy’s Book 10]; and

  4. Livy’s testimony for that year is reinforced by that of Pliny [the Elder - see above].”

Livy also noted a pattern of internal tension between the dictator and his fellow-officers that was reminiscent of his (alleged) quarrel with Fabius in his earlier dictatorship (discussed above).  Thus, from the moment that battle commenced in 310/9 BC:

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

When Junius’ charge broke the consecrated army on the enemy right, these internal tensions became manifest: Papirius:

  1. “... cried:

  2. ‘Shall ... the dictator's division follow the attack of others  [rather than] carry off the honours of the victory ?’ 

  3. This fired the [rest of the Roman] soldiers with new energy; nor did ... the lieutenants [display] less enthusiasm than the generals: Marcus Valerius on the right and Publius 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”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 10-4).

Edward Salmon (referenced below, 1967, at p. 246) observed that, by naming Valerius and Decius as well as Papirius and Junius in the context of this battle, Livy had:

  1. “... no fewer than four of the most renowned generals of the Roman Republic participating in it... ; and the suspicions that tale arouses are not allayed by the revelation that Livy’s main reason for mentioning the engagement at all is to account for certain Roman ritual practices [described at 40: 16-7].”

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 520) commented that:

  1. “It is most doubtful that genuine notices survived recording the exploits of either  [of the ex-consuls, Valerius and Decius]; and since, in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, consulars are found quite often as military tribunes or legates, ... this comment [regarding their participation] is likely to be no more than an annalistic reconstruction reflecting the conditions of the era.”

Referring specifically to the participation of Decius, he commented (at p. 342) that:

  1. “He is ... said to have been a legate of Papirius in 310/9C, but this may be one of the many invented details that cluster around Livy’s narrative for this year.”

Finally he noted (at p. 526) that, by having Valerius and Decius participating in Papirius’ victory, he paves the way for Livy to assert that, in Etruria, Fabius gained:

  1. “... a success more brilliant even than the dictator's: 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 consul and the other praetor”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 18-21).  

I return below to this comparison between the triumphs of Papirius and Fabius in 310/9 BC.

Second Capitulation of Perusia and Fabius’ Triumph over the Etruscans

Having described Papirius’ triumph over the Samnites, Livy turned to a battle in Etruria:

  1. “In the same year, the consul 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 Oakey (referenced below, 2005, at p. 455) asserted that

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

It also seems odd that Livy did not record the Senate’s answer to ’the Etruscan deputations that had come to Fabius seeking friendship’.  The Romans’ apparently easy victory over Perusia seems equally odd: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 455) observed:

  1. “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. ”

Simoni Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 35) agreed, and suggested that  the memory of Livy’s second version of Fabius victory of 310 BC, which located it to the north of the Ciminian Forest, 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).

310/9 BC: Dictatorship of L. Papirius Cursor: Discussion

As noted above, Livy’s account of the Etruscan War prior to the appointment of Papirius as dictator can be broadly reconciled with Diodorus’ parallel account, up to and including the truces agreed with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia:

  1. Diodorus:

  2. “Thereafter, defeating the Etruscans in a second battle near the place called Perusia and destroying many of them, he overawed the nation, since he was the first of the Romans to have invaded that region with an army.  He also made truces with the peoples of: Arretium and [Cortona]; and likewise with those of Perusia”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 4-5). 

  3. Livy:

  4. “... the Romans were the victors [in a battle that was located either at Sutrium or Perusia].  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).  They obtained truces for 30 years”, (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 12).

Thereafter, the accounts of Diodorus and Livy diverge:

  1. Diodorus (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 5) recorded that Fabius laid siege to a now-unknown Etruscan city called Castola, which forced the Etruscans to raise the siege of Sutrium.  Castola must therefore have been   of sufficient importance to have merited the service of the Etruscan army that was (according to Diodorus) still besieging  Sutrium.

  2. Livy recorded an engagement with the Umbrians (discussed in the following section) and three others that were discussed above:

  3. An unnamed Roman commander defeated an Etruscan army that had been raised under a lex sacrata  and selected by the procedure of vir virum legere (which probably implied self-consecration).  The battle took place in Etruria, possibly at the lacus Vadimonis, and:

  4. “That day, for the first time, [a Roman army] broke the might of the Etruscans ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 11).

  5. It is not clear which Etruscan cities had taken part in this engagement, but there is no indication that any of Arretium, Cortona or Perusia had broken its recently-agreed truce.

  6. Papirius defeated a Samnite army that included a corps of men who:

  7. “... had consecrated themselves, as was their custom, and, for that reason, were resplendent in white [linen] clothing and equally white armour”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 9).

  8. The honour of breaking through this corps belonged to the master of horse, Junius, while two other consulars, Valerius and Decius, ‘seizing a share of glory’, led cavalry charges against the enemy flanks.  At this, the Samnites crumbled and Papirius was awarded a triumph.

  9. Fabius defeated:

  10. “... the remnants of the Etruscan forces near Perusia, which, together with other cities, had broken the truce.  [He] gained an easy and decisive victory.  ... Having sent on before him to the Senate ... the Etruscan deputations at had come to him amicitiam petentibus (seeking friendship), [he] was borne in triumph into Rome”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 18-20).  

If we start with Livy’s account of Papirius’ decisive victory in Samnium:

  1. Edward Salmon (referenced below, 1967, at pp. 245-6 and note 1) was of this opinion:

  2. “... if not entirely fictitious, was, at most, merely a local success that helped maintain Roman diversionary pressure on the western borders of Samnium.”

  3. Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 461) expressed a similar (albeit more nuanced) opinion :

  4. “Even though Diodorus ignored Papirius’ campaign against the Samnites [in 310/9 BC], it would probably be an excess of scepticism to reject it out of hand; ...  Nevertheless, the details of the fighting offered by Livy are unlikely to be sound... [and] it is possible that [they] are all unauthentic ...”

Turning now to Fabius’ engagements in Etruria:

  1. Diodorus’ record a final battle that Fabius fought after the surrender of Arretium Cortona and Perusia: he laid siege to the now-unknown Castola and thereby raised the Etruscan siege of Siutrium.  Both Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 457) and Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at: p. 36, note 37; and at p. 34, Figure 1), for example, accepted this account of what was presumably a ‘mopping up’ exercise.

  2. However, many scholars have pointed out that Livy’s account of the events of Fabius’ second consulship is impossibly crowded and, in particular, his two engagements during Papirius’ dictatorship are often questioned.  Thus, for example:

  3. While Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at: p. 36, note 37; and p. 34, Figure 1) was inclined to accept the possibility that Fabius defeated another Etruscan army at the lacus Vadimonis on his march south from Perusia, he rejected Livy’s record of Fabius’ last and ‘easy’ victory at Perusia as a doublet.

  4. Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 457) asserted that:

  5. “... much of Livy’s Etruscan narrative after 37: 12 [in which30 year truces were agreed with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia] duplicates what he recounts between 35:1 and 37:12  ...; all of it is likely to be fictional.”

In other words, the likelihood is that, during Fabius’ second year as consul:

  1. Papirius, as dictator, did little more than ‘hold the fort’ in Samnium during a period when Marcius (Fabius’ colleague) was incapacitated in some way.

  2. Fabius himself :

  3. defeated an Etruscan army that was besieging Sutrium;

  4. secured an alliance with the Umbrian Camertes in order to protect his flank from the Gallic Senones; and then

  5. met with considerable success in upper Etruria. 

  6. The ‘famous battle’ that ended in a decisive victory, after which he agreed 30 year truces with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia, probably took place near Perusia.

Clearly, Papirius’ achievements had been elaborated in some of Livy’s  sources, a situation that is also reflected in the entries in the ‘fasti Triumphales’ in the ‘dictator year’ 309 BC. in which:

  1. Papirius, as dictator, was awarded a triumph over the Samnites; and

  2. Fabius, as proconsul, was awarded a triumph over the Etruscans.

In fact, as explained above, the likelihood is that, if these triumphs were actually awarded at all, they belong to the later part of Fabius’ second consulate: there is certainly no other evidence that he served as proconsul in a period between his second and third consulships.  There is certainly likely that Fabius’ second consulate culminated in the award of a triumph: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 456) pointed out, he:

  1. “... was the most important Roman general of the Samnite wars and, among his exploits, his campaign in [his second year as consul]  had a significance second only to his great victory [over the Samnites, Gauls and Etruscans] at Sentinum in 295 BC.”

However, this record of Papirius’ triumph, as dictator, over the Samnites must be open to question.

The obvious conclusion is that partisan sources that recorded Papirius’ achievements in 310/9 BC reproduced elements of surviving accounts of the victory and triumph of his homonymous son in 293 BC.  Indeed, as is often pointed out, passages in Livy’s account of these later  events betray his awareness of this possibility:

  1. He started his account by observing that: 

  2. ‘The triumph that [the younger Papirius] celebrated while still in office was a brilliant one for those days.  ... The spoils of the Samnites attracted much attention; their splendour and beauty were compared with that of the spoils that his father had won [in 310/9 BC], which were familiar to all through their being used as decorations of public places”, (‘History of Rome, 10: 46: 2-4).  

  3. He noted that the younger Papirius dedicated the temple of Quirinus, presumably at the time of his triumph, and added:

  4. “I do not find in any ancient author that it was he who had vowed this temple in the crisis of a battle, and certainly he could not have completed it in so short a time; it [must have been] vowed by his father when dictator [in 310/9 BC]: the son dedicated [the completed temple] when consul, and adorned it with the spoils of the enemy.  There was such a vast quantity of these spoils 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: 7-8).

  5. He had the younger Papirius urging his men not to be intimidated by the magnificence of the enemy armour by pointing out that: 

  6. “My father ... annihilated a Samnite army all in gold and silver [in 310/9 BC], and those [enemy] trappings brought more glory to the victors as spoils than ... to the wearers.   It might, perhaps, be a special privilege granted to my name and family that the greatest efforts that the Samnites ever made should be frustrated and defeated under our  generalship, and that the spoils that we brought back should be sufficiently splendid to serve as decorations for the public places of Rome”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 39: 9-13).

As Stephen Oakley  (referenced below, 2005, at p. 506) pointed out:

  1. “There is no difficulty [in principal] in believing that two Papirii Cursores won important victories over the Samnites, but it is harder to have confidence that these two victories were won in such similar circumstances ... [Furthermore,] Livy’s awareness of the similarities only increases the suspicion that ... the details of one victory were merged with those of the other.  If this did happen, then it is more likely that a large quantity of Samnite arms was brought to the city in 293 BC than in 310/9 BC, since:

  2. the victory ...at Aquilonia was more celebrated and more important [in strategic terms];

  3. the description of the triumph [that followed it] is one of the more reliable features of [Livy’s Book 10]; and

  4. Livy’s testimony for that year is reinforced by that of Pliny [the Elder - see above].”

It seems to me that we can also see partisanship at work in Livy’s sources for Fabius’ achievements in this period, probably in reaction to the putative lionisation of the elder Papirius.  Thus, for example:

  1. Livy laid great stress on Fabius’ longstanding  quarrel with the elder Papirius and ‘the agony thathis great heart was suppressing’ when he appointed him as dictator;

  2. he expanded on the dictator’s propensity to steal his colleagues’ glory by having Junius destroy the corps of consecrated men in the Samnite army of 310/9 BC and by giving the consulars Valerius and Decius other major roles in securing the Roman victory; and

  3. he had a now-unnamed commender, presumably Fabius, defeat an Etruscan army that had been raised the procedure of vir virum legere, a procedure that was implied for the selection of the corp of self-consecrated Samnites who wore linen tunics during Papirius’ contemporary victory.  This detail was almost certainly borrowed in both cases from sources that described the selection of the Samnite Linen Legion in 293 BC.

However, the most explicit indication of Livy’s reliance on partisanship in his sources, as mediated by his own views, comes in his account of Fabius’ triumph, having gained:

  1. “... a success more brilliant even than the dictator's: indeed the glory of conquering the Samnites was largely diverted [from Papirius to his] lieutenants, Publius Decius and Marcus Valerius, of whom, at the next election, the people, with great enthusiasm, made the one consul and the other praetor”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 18-21).  

I suggest that Livy felt that he could not ignore the existing sources that lionised the success of the elder Papirius in 310/9 BC, but that the main purpose of chapters 9: 38-40 was to correct their excessive bias.  Having done so, he could begin chapter 41 by asserting that:

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

308 BC: Consulship of Fabius and Publius Decius Mus


Livy’s account of the movements of the consuls Decius and Fabius in 308 BC

Underlined in black = Latin colonies: Sutrium and Nepet (338 BC)

Underlined in blue = centres with formal treaties with Rome:

Falerii (343 BC); Camerinum (310 BC); Ocriculum (308 BC - see below)

Underlined in yellow = centres with truces with Rome:

Caere (100 years, 353 BC); Tarquinii (40 years, 308 BC - see below);

Arretium, Corona, Perusia,  (30 years, 310/9 BC)

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

As noted above, Fabius and Decius were elected as the consuls for this year.

Diodorus

Diodorus recorded that, when Charinus was archon at Athens (i.e. in 308-7 BC):

  1. “In Italy, the Roman consuls went to the aid of the Marsi [in southern Italy], against whom the Samnites were making war.  [They] were victorious in the battle and slew many of the enemy.  Then, crossing the territory of the Umbrians, they invaded Etruria, which was hostile, and took by siege the fortress called Caerium.  When the people of the region sent envoys to request a truce, the consuls made truces:

  2. for 40 years [in the case of] the Tarquinians; but

  3. for only one year with all of the other Etruscans”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 44: 8).

The identity of ‘Caerium’ is unknown, but it was presumably one of the ‘strongholds belonging to the people of Volsinii’ that, according to Livy (below), were captured by Decius in 308 BC.

Livy

Livy recorded that:

  1. “The consuls [of 308 BC] cast lots for the commands, Etruria falling to Decius and Samnium to Fabius:

  2. [Fabius put down pro-Samnite revolts in the territory of the Marsi and the Paeligni]. 

  3. Decius ... was also successful in war: 

  4. [first] he frightened the people of Tarquinii into furnishing corn for the army and seeking a truce for 40 years; and 

  5. then, he captured by storm a number of strongholds belonging to the people of Volsinii [Orvieto].  Some of these he dismantled, lest they should serve as a refuge for the enemy ...

  6. By devastating far and wide, [Decius] made himself so feared that nomen omne Etruscum (all who bore the Etruscan name) begged him to grant them a foedus (treaty).  They were denied this privilege, but truces for a year was granted them, [in return for which] they were required to furnish the Roman army with a year's pay and two tunics for each soldier”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 41: 3-8).

  7. Then, as we shall see, Decius fell back towards Rome while Fabius marched from Samnium to engage with and defeat an Umbrian army that was camped at Mevania.

Reconciliation of these Sources

We might reasonably follow Livy by placing Fabius in Samnium and Decius in Etruria at the start of the consular year. 

Decius in Etruria

Livy had Decius’ campaign begin at Tarquinia.  Since the truce between the Romans and the Tarquinians had ended in 311 BC, it seems likely that they had participated in the Etruscan army that threatened Sutrium at that time.  Thus, after the Etruscans’ defeat in the ‘famous battle’ near Perusia, it is entirely possible that Decius was able to bully them into supplying his army and agreeing a new 40 year truce (as Livy stated).  Diodorus also recorded the agreement of this truce, albeit that he did not record the circumstances in which it was agreed.  Livy’s record that Decius then marched north in to the territory of Volsinii is equally unsurprising: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 531) observed, Volsinii was now probably:

  1. “... the centre of Etruscan resistance to Rome.”

Oakley also observed that the Volsinian strongholds that, according to Livy, Decius captured might have included Diodorus’ ‘Caerium’ .  In other words, the brief accounts by Diodorus and Livy of Decius’ engagements in Etruria in 308 BC are broadly consistent and comprehensible.


Both Diodorus and Livy agreed that this Etruscan War ended with the agreement of one-year truces with:

  1. ‘all of the other Etruscans’ (Diodorus); or

  2. ‘all who bear the Etruscan name’ (Livy).

This suggests that they both relied on one or more then-extent sources that made this claim.  However, any such claim is difficult to take at face value: for example, there is no evidence that Caere, with whom (according to Livy) Rome had agreed a truce of 100 years in 353 BC, had participated in either the siege of Sutrium in 310/9 BC or the fighting in upper Etruria that followed it.  Why, then, did nomen omne Etruscum (all who bore the Etruscan name, including, for example, Caere) feel so intimidated by Decius’ depredations in 308 BC that they sought a treaty with Rome and, when this was refused, settled for a truce of only a year? 

It is interesting to note that Livy used the expression omne nomen Etruscum in connection with the Etruscan War of  the 350s, in which only Tarquinii, Falerii and Caere were mentioned by name.  In 356 BC, the consul Marcus Fabius Ambustus:

  1. “... who was operating against the Faliscans and Tarquinians, met with a defeat in the first battle. ... This led to a rising of omne nomen Etruscum and, under the leadership of the Tarquinians and Faliscans, they marched to the salt-works”, (‘History of Rome’, 7: 17: 3 and 6).

William Harris (referenced below, at p. 46 observed that:

  1. “Not much trust is to be placed in the statement by Livy that the whole Etruscan nomen took part in the fighting against Rome [at this time]. .... the  only reliable element in this narrative is the result:

  2. the truce of 100 years [that the Romans made with Caere in 353 BC]; and

  3. ... the truce of 40 years  that [they] made with Tarquinii and Falerii in 351 BC ...”.

In other words, the phrase omne nomen Etruscum in this context seems also to have been applied to those who were directly involved in the conflict in question, on this occasion to Tarquinii, Falerii and Caere.  Thus, the similar expression that he used in 308 BC would relate to all those affected by Decius’ depredations, presumably with the exception of Tarquinii.  This is probably why Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 531) assumed that the one-year truces of 308 BC had been agreed with:

  1. “... Volsinii and other Etruscan states.”

It would be reasonable to assume that these other states included a number that, like Tarquinii, and Volsinii, had not had truces in place at the start of 308 BC.  Whether or not any or all of Arretium, Cortona and Perusia broke their recently-agreed 30 year truces at this point is impossible to say.

Conclusion: Roman Activity in Umbria in 308 BC

The only  significant divergence between the accounts of Diodorus and Livy relates to events in Umbria:

  1. Diodorus had a Roman army crossing Umbrian territory in order to invade Etruria; while

  2. Livy had it marching into Umbria after the invasion of Volsinian territory, with the sole purpose of engaging with the Umbrians at Mevania.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 531) suggested the part of this apparent difference might be resolved by assuming that:

  1. “... the Romans marched through Umbria, fought the Etruscans, and returned once more to Umbria.”

In other words, the only significant difference between the two accounts is that Diodorus either ignored or was unaware of Livy’s source(s) for Fabius’ victory over the Umbrians at Mevania.

Livy: Battle at Mevania

As noted above, Livy is our only surviving source for this battle.  He began his account of it as follows:

  1. “The tranquillity that now obtained in Etruria [after the agreement of the one-year truces mentioned above] was disturbed by a sudden defectio (insurrection) of the Umbrians, who had escaped all the distress of war, except that [a Roman] army had passed through their territory ”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 8).

Earlier Incursions of Umbrian Territory

These incursions into Umbrian territory were presumably those that Livy and/or Diodorus had recorded in 310/9 BC:

  1. According to Diodorus, early in Fabius’ consulship, Fabius drove the Etruscan army that was then besieging Sutrium back into its camp and then outflanked the Etruscan reinforcements that were sent to reinforce  them by slipping away into Umbrian territory in order to mount a surprise attack in upper Etruria:

  2. “While the Etruscans were gathering in great numbers against Sutrium, Fabius marched without their knowledge through the country of their [Umbrian] neighbours into upper Etruria, which had not been plundered for a long time.  Falling upon it unexpectedly, he ravaged a large part of the country; and, in a victory over those of the inhabitants who came against him, he slew many of them and took no small number of them alive as prisoners”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 2-3). 

  3. According to Livy, Fabius’ covert departure involved crossing the Ciminian forest and climbing to the top of the Ciminian Mountain, from whence he looked down:

  4. “ ... over the rich ploughed fields of Etruria, [which] he sent his soldiers to plunder.  After the Romans had [accumulated] enormous booty, they were confronted by certain improvised bands of Etruscan peasants ... Having slain or driven off these men and wasted the country far and wide, the Romans returned to their camp, victorious and enriched with all manner of supplies”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 36: 11-13).

  5. This expedition was apparently initially counter-productive, since:

  6. “... instead of putting an end to the war, it only gave it a wider range.  For the district lying about the base of [the mountain] had felt the devastation, and this had aroused not only Etruria to resentment but also the neighbouring parts of Umbria”,  (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 1).

  7. As discussed above, if we take these two accounts together, we might reasonably assume that, having descended from the Ciminian Mountain, Fabius crossed the Tiber and marched north through Umbrian territory (perhaps along the proto-Amerina), before recrossing the river into upper Etruria.

  8. We then come to Livy’s ‘famous battle’: although he placed it at Sutrium, he conceded that some of his sources claimed that it was:

  9. “... fought on the [north] side of the Ciminian Forest, near Perusia, and that Rome was in a panic lest the army should be surrounded and cut off ... by the Etruscans and Umbrians rising up on every hand”, (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 11).

  10. Diodorus (like some of Livy’s sources) located this battle near Perusia, and this would account for the fact that, after the victory, Fabius agreed truces with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia.  It would certainly be unsurprising if the Umbrians, across whose territory the Romans had marched to reach the site of the battle, had indeed sent men to support their Etruscan neighbours.


Muster of an Umbrian and Etruscan Army ?

According to Livy, after Decius’ campaign in Etruria in 308 BC, the Umbrians (for whatever reason) decided to take on the might of Rome:

  1. “Calling up all their fighting men, and magna parte Etruscorum ad rebellionem compulsa (driving the great part of the Etruscans to rebel), they mustered so large an army that they boasted ... that they would leave Decius behind them in Etruria and march off to the assault of Rome”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 9). 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 528) suggested that Livy had inserted this passage in order explain why he had described this Umbrian revolt at greater length than any other event of 308 BC: 

  1. “[Livy’s] justification for this elaboration is provided by:

  2. the Umbrians’ encouraging [of] the Etruscans to rebel;

  3. ... their [intention of] outflanking Decius; and

  4. ... [their threat] to march on Rome itself.” 

It is interesting that, in the first of these bullets, Oakley had the Umbrians ‘encouraging’ rather than ‘driving’ the Etruscans to rebel.  John Yardley (in Yardley and Hoyos, referenced below, at p. 350) went further, characterising any Etruscan involvement in this revolt as:

  1. “... very dubious: the Etruscans had just come to terms [with the Romans], and Livy treats the ensuing hostilities as purely with the Umbrians.”

Thus, if the sequence of events was as Livy described it, then we should probably discount any meaningful involvement of the newly-pacified Etruscans in this Umbrian revolt. 

An Umbrian Plan to Invade Rome ?

Livy placed the threat of an Umbrian invasion of Rome at the heart of his narrative:

  1. “When this purpose of [the Umbrians] was reported to ... Decius, he hastened by forced marches from Etruria towards [Rome], and encamped in the ager Pupiniensis (territory of the Pupinia), eagerly waiting for word of their approach”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 9-10). 

According to Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 541-2), the ager Pupiniensis was northeast of Rome, on the northern bank of the the river Anio/Aniene (as indicated on the map above).  John Yardley (in Yardley and Hoyos, referenced below, at p. 350) described it as:

  1. “... a small tract of land outside [Rome’s] eastern gate, on the road [that ran eastwards] to Gabii”.

Livy continued:

  1. “At Rome no-one made light of [a possible] Umbrian invasion.  Their very threats had excited fear in those who had learnt from the Gallic disaster [of ca. 390 BC ] how unsafe was the city that they inhabited”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 11).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 542) commented that:

  1. “Since Rome was now protected by her massive ‘Servian’ walls, such fears are likely to be no more than annalistic reconstruction.”

It is certainly true that the Romans are unlikely to have feared an Umbrian invasion, even if the Umbrians had issued explicit threats to this effect: after all, Livy never claimed that the Etruscas had managed to excite such fear in Roman hearts in 310 BC, when it had laid siege to Sutrium, one of the two ‘gates and barriers’ protecting Rome (see above).  However, the fact that (at least in Livy’s sources) Decius fell back on the ager Pupiniensis to the east of Rome suggests that the Romans feared an invasion from Samnium, probably because:

  1. “... envoys were dispatched to carry word to Fabius ... , that, if there were any slackening in the Samnite war, he should lead his army into Umbria with all speed”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 12).

In other words, it is possible that, for whatever reason, the Romans decided that Fabius would deal with the Umbrians while Decius would be deployed east of the city in case the Samnites attempted to exploit Fabius’ absence by marching on Rome.

However, if the Umbrians were not intent upon invading Rome, why did they decide to raise an army after Decius had pacified Etruria ?  It seems to me that the most likely explanation is that Decius’ success in Etruria had not been as complete as Livy suggested, and that the Umbrians were planning to reinforce their still-hostile Etruscan neighbours.  If so, then the Romans might have lost confidence in Decius at that point and turned instead to Fabius, who had recently campaigned in upper Etruria with great success. 

Roles of Decius and Fabius ?

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 532) observed that, in 308 BC:

  1. “Livy makes Fabius ... fight victoriously: first at [Nuceria Alfaterna, in Campania]; then against the Samnites and the Marsi; next against the Paeligni; and finally in Umbria.  This may be correct, but it is surprising to have [him] fighting in three different areas, and Livy or his sources may have assigned to him campaigns fought by others.  For instance, on may speculate that credit for the Umbrian victory should go to Decius alone.”

However, as noted above, Livy had Decius falling back on the ager Pupiniensis as Fabius marched from Samnium to Mevania, presumably to guard against the possibility that, in Fabius’ absence, the Samnites might march on Rome.  I find it hard to see why this specific location found its way into the narrative in circumstances other than those described by Livy.

I suggested above that Decius’ success in Etruria in the period before the Umbrian insurrection had not been as complete as Livy suggested, and that the Umbrians mustered at Mevania in 308 BC in order to reinforce their still-hostile Etruscan neighbours (rather than, as Livy claimed, to march on Rome).  If so, then the one-year truces agreed with some Etruscan cities in 308 BC would have post-dated Fabius’ victory at Mevania, when any residual hostilities in Etruria may well have fallen away.  If this is correct, then it is likely that the credit for at least some of these one-year truces should go, at least in part, to Fabius.   This would be broadly consistent with Diodorus’ recorded that:

  1. “... crossing the territory of the Umbrians, [a Roman army] invaded Etruria, which was hostile, and took by siege the fortress called Caerium.  When the people of the region sent envoys to request a truce, the consuls made truces:

  2. for 40 years [in the case of] the Tarquinians; but

  3. for only one year with all of the other Etruscans”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 44: 8).

Umbrian Defeat at Mevania

According to Livy, as Decius fell back towards Rome, Fabius:

  1. “... advanced by long marches to Mevania [modern Bevagna], where the forces of the Umbrians lay at that time... [His unexpected arrival] so dismayed [them] that:

  2. some were in favour of falling back on their fortified cities; and

  3. others [urged] giving up the war [altogether].

  4. But one plaga (district), which its inhabitants called Materina, not only [dissuaded its more faint-hearted allies] but also brought them to an immediate engagement.  Fabius was [still] entrenching his camp when they attacked him.  As soon as he saw them rushing madly upon his ramparts, he recalled his soldiers from their work and drew them up [into battle formation], as time and the nature of the ground permitted.  [Reminding them of] of the honours that they had [already] won, some in Etruria and some in Samnium, he bade them:

  5. to end this trivial sequel to the Etruscan War; and

  6. to take revenge upon the [Umbrians] for their impious threat that they would assault the city of Rome.

  7. The soldiers received these words with such alacrity that, ... before the command could be given, they hurled themselves ...  against the enemy. ... Wherever they met with resistance, they attacked with shields rather than with swords, swinging them from the shoulder and knocking down their enemies with the bosses.  The slain were outnumbered by the prisoners, and a single cry was heard all along the [Umbrian] battle line: that they should lay down their arms.  And so, while the battle was still going on, facta deditio est a primis auctoribus belli (the men who had first advocated war surrendered”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 13-20).

Obelised Account of a Roman Engagement with the Umbrians in 310/9 BC

As noted above, a doubtful passage in Livy’s account of the events of 310/9 BC described a Roman engagement with the Umbrians, in which:

  1. “... the enemy were unable to keep up the fight with the spirit with which they began it and, without any great loss [presumably of Roman lives], were completely routed”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 4). 

If this passage is properly rendered and in the correct place in Livy’s narrative, then it contradicts Livy’s claim (above) that, at the time of the muster of 308 BC, the Umbrians:

  1. “... had escaped all the distress of war, except that [a Roman] army had passed through their territory”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 8).

As discussed above, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 500) observed that it would be attractive to resolve this and other difficulties in the text by simply deleting this passage.  However, as he pointed out, it occurs in all of the surviving manuscripts and: 

  1. “... it is hard to see why this insertion would be made.”

He mentioned the work of William Anderson (referenced below, at p. 102), who suggested that this passage was:

  1. “... misplaced, and was intended as an explanation (either by Livy or more probably by an annotator) of the words in [9: 39: 11].  The reference [in the obelised passage] will then be to the battle described in [9: 41: 15-20], in which the Umbrians, with the aid of a very large contingent of Etruscans, fought with Fabius [near Mevania] and were very easily routed.  The words [in this obelised passage] are fully borne out by the description of the battle in 9:41”

  2. Without this change, the passage in question reads:

  3. “That day [in 310/9 BC] broke, for the first time, the power of the Etruscans after their long-continued and abundant prosperity.  The main strength of their army was left on the field, and their camp was taken and plundered”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 11)

  4. With this change, it would read:

  5. “That day [in 310/9 BC] broke, for the first time, the power of the Etruscans after their long-continued and abundant prosperity.  For, in an engagement with the Umbrians, the enemy were unable to keep up the fight with the spirit with which they began it and, without any great loss [presumably of Roman lives], were completely routed. The main strength of their army was left on the field, and their camp was taken and plundered.”

In other words (if I have understood this hypothesis correctly, Livy was looking ahead here to 308 BC, when the power of the Etruscans was broken for the second time following the rout of their Umbrian allies: his statement in his later account of this second engagement that the Umbrians had previously  ‘escaped all the distress of war’ with the Romans was vindicated.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 500) observed that moving this Roman engagement with the Umbrians to 39:11 as Anderson had suggested:

  1. “... makes reasonable sense, but is ... extremely bold, especially as there appears to be nothing missing at this point from [Livy’s] account of the fighting on the northern front.”

It is certainly true  that the obelised passage reads like a summary of Livy’s description at 9: 41: 15-20 of the  Umbrians’ ignominious defeat at Mevania in 308 BC.  However, as discussed above, Livy did not suggest that any Etruscans (and, still less,that  ‘a very large contingent of Etruscans’) shared this defeat and, in my view, this makes Anderson’s suggestion untenable.

It seems to me that the most likely explanation for the many difficulties that surround this obelised account of an ignominious defeat that the Romans inflicted on the Umbrians is that, wherever it belonged in Livy’s original narrative, it represented a doublet of the Umbrians’ ignominious defeat at Mevania in 308 BC.

Aftermath of Fabius’ Victory at Mevania

As noted above, Livy ended his account of Fabius’ victory at Mevania as follows:

  1. “The slain were outnumbered by the prisoners, and a single cry was heard all along the [Umbrian] battle line: that they should lay down their arms.  And so, while the battle was still going on, facta deditio est a primis auctoribus belli (the men who had first advocated war surrendered”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 19-20).

Since Livy said in consecutive sentences that:

  1. the surviving Umbrian combatants (who outnumbered the dead) laid down their arms during the battle; and

  2. the men who had first advocated war surrendered during the battle;

we might reasonably assume that he equated these two categories.   In other words, he held all of the tribes who fought at Mevania responsible for starting the war.  I think that he was returning here to his opening observation that:

  1. “The tranquillity that [had] obtained in Etruria was disturbed by a sudden insurrection of the Umbrians, who had escaped all the distress of war, except that [a Roman] army had passed through their territory ”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 8).

In other words, the Umbrian combatants had started the war without just cause, and Fabius had now taught them the error of their ways.


Livy then gave an enigmatic account of what followed:

  1. “On the next day and those that followed, the other peoples of Umbria also surrendered; the Ocriculani [the people of Ocriculum] were received into friendship by sponsio (with a promise of ratification by the Senate)”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 20).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 546), in his gloss on the phrase ceteri Umbrorum populi (the other peoples of Umbria), observed that:

  1. “We cannot be certain to which people Livy is referring.”

However, it seems to me that, in the light of the discussion above,  these ‘other peoples’ cannot have participated in the battle at Mevania.  If this is correct, then they would have each fallen into one of two categories:

  1. those that had initially sent men but, on Fabius’ unexpected arrival, had ignored the leaders of the people of Materina by withdrawing them before the Umbrian attack on his camp; or

  2. those that had not sent men to Mevania in the first place.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 546), observed that:

  1. “The contrast made in this passage between Ocriculum and the other Umbrian towns suggests that its agreement with Rome is likely to have been favourable.”

This suggests (at least to me) that the Ocriculani belonged in the second of these two categories and that, like the ‘Camertes Umbros’ in 310/9 BC, they had offered (and perhaps extended) their help to the Romans in their war with the Etruscans.  The Romans would presumably have welcomed any such offer: Ocriculum (modern Otricoli) was the Umbrian settlement closest to Rome, and its strategic position on the Tiber,on the borders of Umbrian, Faliscan and Sabine territory, would have made it an obvious candidate for a favourable treaty with Rome.

Muster of an Umbrian League ?

According to Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2002, p. 493):

  1. “The words ‘concitata omni iuventute sua’ [calling up all their men of fighting age, which Livy, at 9: 41: 9,] used to describe the calling up of the armies of the Umbrians, do not leave room for doubt: we must be dealing with the dilectus [recruitment levy] of the entire nomen umbro [tribes of the Umbrian name] working within a league, as is also suggested by the use of the simple ethnic [‘Umbrian’] to describe the force opposing Fabius ...” (my translation).

Taking Sisani’s second point first, I doubt that Livy’s use of the ethnic description ‘Umbrian’ is of any particular significance: after all, he often referred to ‘the Etruscans’ (for example) when he probably meant only those Etruscan city states that were engaged in hostilities against Rome at a particular point in time.  Thus, as Stephen Oakley observed:

  1. “... the Romans may not have fought all the Umbrians [in 308 BC] and perhaps clashed only with the more southerly states.”

As noted above, the unnamed Umbrian centres that surrendered in the days following the battle are unlikely to have participated  in it.  It is possible to identify some specific centres that might well not have taken part:

  1. the ‘Camertes Umbros’, given their recent treaty obligations;

  2. the Ocriculani, who would surely not have been singled out for favourable treatment had they done so; and

  3. the people of Nequinum (modern Narni), whom the Romans attacked in 300-299 BC (see the following page).

Moving on then to Sisani’s substantive point, it seems to me that, although the passage he cited us that some Umbrian tribes called up all of their fighting men on this occasion, what it does not tell us (pace Sisani) is that the entire nomen umbro did so.  It seems to me that the Umbrian centres that are most likely to have sent men to Mevania would have been those like Mevania that were relatively close to the Tiber and upper Etruria.

Having said that, Livy claimed that:

  1. “[The Umbrians] mustered so large an army, that they boasted ... that they would leave Decius behind them in Etruria and march off to the assault of Rome”, (‘Roman History’, 9: 41: 9). 

If this is taken at face value, then a large number of Umbrian tribes must have sent all their fighting men to Mevania.  However, as we have seen, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 528) suggested that Livy probably invented a number of other details  in line 9 in order to exaggerate  the importance of this revolt:

  1. “... the Umbrians’ encouraging [of] the Etruscans to rebel; ... their [intention of] outflanking Decius; and ...  [their threat] to march on Rome itself.” 

If so, then he or his source(s) might also have invented:

  1. the muster of a particularly large Umbrian army on this occasion; and

  2. the fact that it was drawn from what must have been a relatively large number of Umbrian tribes, each of which demonstrated its commitment and determination by contributing all of their men of fighting age.

In other words, Livy probably needed to exaggerate the size of this Umbrian army in order to justify one of his main claims (which is repeated three times in his narrative): that it could credibly threaten an invasion of Rome.

Looking more widely, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at pp. 27-8) listed all eight occasions recorded in our surviving sources on which the Umbrians engaged with the Romans in the period of the conquest (from 310/9 to 266 BC).  He concluded (at p. 28) that:

  1. “... from [this evidence], it is a reasonable deduction that the Umbrian peoples were not united by any strong, central government and that they did not present a strong united force to counter the menace of Rome: witness the manner in which Rome had separate dealings with [at least]: Camerinum [in 310/9 BC]; Ocriculum [in 308 BC]; Nequinum [modern Narni, in 299 BC]; and Sassina [modern Sarsina, in 266 BC].”

It is also surely significant that, while the ‘fasti Triumphales’ recorded two Roman triumphs that were won in Umbrian territory (over ‘the Nequinates’  in 299 BC and over ‘the  Sassinates’ in 266 BC), they contain no record of  a Roman triumph over ‘the Umbrians’ collectively (while several triumphs were awarded for victories over, for example, ‘the Etruscans’ and the ‘Samnites’).  Thus, William Harris (referenced below, at p. 101), for example, concluded that:

  1. “Although the Umbrian peoples naturally allied themselves for military purposes [in the pre-Roman period, as they had, for example in 308 BC], there is no evidence worthy of the name that there was an Umbrian League of any importance [that was placed politically] above the individual states.”


Read more:

P. Camerieri, “Il Castrum e la Pertica di Fulginia in Destra Tinia”, in: 

  1. G. Galli (Ed.), “Foligno, Città Romana: Ricerche Storico, Urbanistico e Topografiche sull' Antica Città di Fulginia”, (2015) Foligno,  at pp. 75-108

J. C. Yardley and D. Hoyos, “Livy: Rome's Italian Wars: Books 6-10”, (2013), Oxford World's Classics

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume III: Book X”, 2007 (Oxford)

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)

S. Sisani, “Lucius Falius Tinia: Primo Quattuorviro del Municipio di Hispellum”, Athenaeum, 90.2 (2002) 483-505

G. Bradley, "Ancient Umbria", (2000) Oxford

K. Lomas, “Roman Italy, 338 BC - 200 AD: A Sourcebook”, (1996, reprinted 2003) London

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

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

R. Ogilvie, “Notes on Livy IX”, Yale Classical Studies, 23 (1973) 159-68

W. Harris, “Rome in Etruria and Umbria”, (1971) Oxford

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

E. Salmon, “Samnium and the Samnites’, (1967) Cambridge

J. B. Ward Perkins. “Etruscan and Roman Roads in Southern Etruria”, Journal of Roman Studies, 47:1/2 (1957), 139-43

W. B. Anderson, “Contributions to the Study of the Ninth Book of Livy”, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 39 (1908) 89-103

G. Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria”, (1848) London


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

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

Between 1st and 2nd Samnite War (341 - 328 BC)    

Second Samnite War I: 328 - 314 BC     Second Samnite War II: 314  - 304 BC

Etruscan War  (311 - 308 BC)      Between 2nd and 3rd Samnite Wars (304 -298 BC)

Third Samnite War      End Game (290-241 BC)


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