Key to Umbria
 

Fresco (4th century BC) from Tomb 114 of the Andriulo Necropolis near Paestum

Now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Paestum

From the website I Sanniti

This fresco is often taken to portray the Samnite victory at the Caudine Forks (321 BC)

Florus famously summarised everything that a Roman needed to know about:

  1. “... the Samnites:

  2. if you would know their wealth, [know that their fighting men were] clad, even to the point of ostentation, in gold and silver armour and multi-coloured raiment;

  3. if you would learn their cunning, [know that] they usually ambushed their enemies [i.e. armies that invaded their territories] from their defiles and mountains;

  4. if you would know their rage and fury, [know that] they were driven on by leges sacratae and human sacrifices to destroy our city; and

  5. if you would know their obstinacy, [know that] they had been confounded by a treaty that [they broke] six times [leading them to six disasters].

  6. However, in 50 years, under the leadership of two generations of the Fabii and Papirii, the Romans so thoroughly subdued and conquered them and so demolished the very ruins of their cities that, today, one looks in vain to see where Samnium is on Samnite territory, and it is difficult to imagine how there can have been material [here] for 24 triumphs over them.  Yet, [Rome] sustained a most notable and signal defeat at their hands at the Caudine Forks in [321 BC]...” (‘Epitome of Roman History’, (1: 16: 7-9).

Three elements of this Roman tradition relating to the Samnites are discussed in this section:

  1. that their warriors wore ostentatious armour;

  2. that their armies were driven by a set of rituals that involved leges sacratae and (allegedly) human sacrifice; and

  3. that their defeat, which took some 50 years, was largely the work of two generations of the Fabii and Papirii. 

In relation to the contributions of the Papirii and the Fabii, we should note that the surviving parts of the fasti Triumphales record some 30 Roman triumphs over the Samnites in the period 343 - 272 BC, of which:

  1. Lucius Papirius Cursor, whose first term of consul was in 326 BC, triumphed over the Samnites:

  2. as dictator in 325/4 BC, when the young Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (see below) was his master of the horse;

  3. as consul for the third time in 319 BC; and

  4. as dictator for the second time in 310/9 BC, when Fabius (below) was consul;

  5. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus:

  6. -triumphed over the Samnites in his first term as consul in 322 BC;

  7. -triumphed over the Etruscans in his second term as consul in 310/9 BC BC (the year in which Papirius triumphed over the Samnites); and

  8. -triumphed over the Samnites in his fifth term as consul in 295 BC (following his victory at the Battle of Sentinum);

  9. Lucius Papirius Cursor (the son of the Papirius above), triumphed over the Samnites:

  10. -in his first term as consul in 293 BC (following his victory at the Battle of Aquilonia); and

  11. -in his second term as consul in 272 BC; and

  12. Quintus Fabius Maximus Gurges (the son of the Fabius above), triumphed over the Samnites:

  13. -in his first term as consul in 292 BC; and

  14. -in his second term as consul in 275 BC.

As we shall see, Florus seems to have gleaned his information about the opulent armour of the Samnite army and the ritual that surrounded it for detailed accounts of those that faced:

  1. the dictator Papirius, in 310/9 BC; and

  2. his homonymous son, in 293 BC.

Opulent Samnite Armour

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 504-5) noted that Livy had stressed the opulence of the Samnite armour in both 310/9 and 293 BC:

  1. In 310/9 BC, Livy began by noting that the Samnites that faced the elder Papirius:

  2. ... had made their battle lines glitter with new and splendid arms.  [The army was split into] two corps:

  3. the shields of one were inlaid with gold, ... and their tunics were of many colours ... [They had] gilded sheaths and golden baldrics ... ; while

  4. the shields of other were inlaid with silver, ... and their helmets were crested, to make their stature appear greater.  Their tunics were made of dazzling white linen. ... [and they] had silver sheaths and silver baldrics ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2-5).

  5. In 293 BC, he noted that the younger Papirius:

  6. “... had not only inherited his father's glory but enhanced it by his management of a great war and a victory over the Samnites, second only to the one which his father had won.  It happened that the Samnites [confronting him] had taken the same care and pains to adorn their soldiery with all the wealth of splendour as they had done on the occasion of the elder Papirius' victory”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 1-2).

  7. Later in this account, Livy referred to part of this splendidly-attired army that was :

  8. “... called the legio lineata (Linen Legion].  They were provided with resplendent armour and plumed helmets to distinguish them from the others”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 12).

I will return to the significance of the linen tunics worn by part of the Samnite army below: for the moment, we should focus on the stress that he placed in each account on the unusually resplendent Samnite armour. 

Livy later commented in each account on the uselessness of this armour:

  1. In 310/9 BC, he noted that the Roman generals had stressed to their men that:

  2. “... a soldier should be rough to look on, not adorned with gold and silver, but putting his trust in iron and in courage: indeed those other things were more truly spoil than arms, shining bright before a battle, but losing their beauty in the midst of blood and wounds.  Manhood they said, was the [appropriate] adornment of a soldier; all those other things went with the victory, and a rich enemy was the prize of the victor, however poor he may be”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 5-6).

  3. In 293 BC, Livy had the younger Papirius proclaim to his men that:

  4. “[The Samnites’] plumes did not inflict wounds, their painted and gilded shields would be penetrated by the Roman javelin, and an army resplendent in dazzling white would be stained with gore when the [Roma] sword came into play”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 39: 11-12).  

  5. To underscore this message, Papirius pointed out that:

  6. “A Samnite army all in gold and silver had once been annihilated by his father, and those trappings had brought more glory as spoils to the victors than they had brought as armour to the wearers.  [Indeed]. it might be a special privilege granted to [the gens Papiria] that the greatest efforts that the Samnites had ever made should be frustrated and defeated under their generalship, and that the spoils that they brought back [to Rome] should be sufficiently splendid to serve as decorations for the public places in the city”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 39: 13).

Finally in each account, Livy emphasised the fate of the opulent Samnite armour:

  1. In 310/9 BC, he recorded that the elder Papirius:

  2. “... celebrated a triumph, in which by far the finest show was afforded by the  captured armour.  So magnificent was its appearance that the shields inlaid with gold were divided up amongst the owners of the moneychangers' booths, to be used in decking out the Forum: from this is said to have come the custom of the aediles adorning the Forum whenever the chariots of the gods, were conducted through it. Thus, the Romans made use of the splendid armour of their enemies to do honour to the gods; while the Campani, because of their contempt and hatred of the Samnites, equipped the gladiators who entertained them at their feasts in [captured Samnite armour]...  and called them Samnites”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 15-18).

  3. In 293 BC, Livy recorded that the triumph that the younger Papirius:

  4. “... celebrated while still in office was a very brilliant one for those days.  ... The spoils of the Samnites attracted much attention; their splendour and beauty were compared with those thathis father had won, which were familiar to all through their being used as decorations of public places. ... Papirius also dedicated the temple of Quirinus.  I do not find in any ancient author that it was he who vowed this temple in the crisis of a battle, and certainly he could not have completed it in so short a time; it was vowed by his father when dictator, and the son dedicated it when consul, and adorned it with the spoils of the enemy.  There was such a vast quantity of these that, not only were the temple and the Forum adorned with them, but they were [also] distributed amongst the allied peoples and the nearest colonies to decorate their public spaces and temples”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 46: 2-8).

  5. Furthermore, Pliny the Elder recorded that the other consul of 293 BC, Spurius Carvilius Maximus:

  6. “... erected the statue of Jupiter that is [still] 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).

  7. I deal with the lex sacrata below: what is relevant here is that Carvilius’ statue was also made from captured Samnite armour.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 506) observed that, although these and other parallels:

  1. “... may simply [indicate that Livy deployed] the same topos on two separate occasions, it is quite likely either:

  2. that the the two campaigns have become confused in our sources; or

  3. that details have been transferred from one battle to the other.

  4. There is no difficulty in believing that two Papirii Cursores won important victories over the Samnites, but it is harder to have confidence that:

  5. the two victories were won in such similar circumstances; and

  6. after each, the city of Rome was adorned with a notable haul of decorative Samnite armour.

  7. Livy’s awareness of the similarities only increases the suspicion that, at some point, ... the details of one victory were merged with those of the other.”

He then set out the reasons for his conclusion that:

  1. “... it is more likely that a large quantity of arms was brought to [Rome] in 293 rather than in 310/9 BC.”

In other words, much of the detail in Livy’s account of the victory and triumph of the elder Papirius in 310/9 BC, including the opulence of the captured Samnite armour that he sent to Rome, probably came from records of the victory and triumph of the younger Papirius and his colleague Carvilius in 293 BC.

Having said that, it does not follow that the Samnite armour captured in 293 BC was particularly opulent: as Edward Salmon (referenced below, at p. 103) observed:

  1. “Combat troops do not carry gold- or silver-plated shields into battle and, even if they did, Samnium could never have afforded to outfit two whole armies with such shields ...”.

He also addressed (at pp. 103-4) Livy’s description of other aspects of the Samnites‘ armour: 

  1. “The shape of the shield was this: the upper part, where it protected the breast and shoulders, was rather broad, with a level top; below it was somewhat tapering, to make it easier to handle.   The solders] wore a sponge to protect the breast, and [only] the left leg was covered with a greave.”

He concluded

  1. at p. 103, that:

  2. “Livy is describing shields , not of Samnite soldiers, but of gladiators known as Samnites”; and

  3. at p. 104, that the protective sponge and the use of a single greave also belonged to gladiatorial armour.

This takes us to Livy’s remark that, after the victory of 310/9 BC:

  1. “The Romans made use of the splendid armour of their enemies to do honour to the gods; while the Campani, because of their contempt and hatred of the Samnites, used it for arming the gladiators who entertained them at their feasts and whom they called Samnites”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 17-18).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 524) observed that:

  1. “This passing comment implies, perhaps correctly, that the Campani had served as allies in this campaign.”

It is, of course, possible that the gladiators who entertained at Campanian banquets generally wore opulent armour.  Thus, as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 507) pointed out, the historian who originally described the armour of the Samnite armies of 293 BC (whether Livy himself or one of his sources):

  1. “... may have been trying to use the evidence provided by gladiators called ‘Samnites’ in an attempt to reconstruct the armour of ... Samnite [armies in the 4th century BC].”

In other words, the likelihood is that the victories of the younger Papirius and his colleague Carvilius in 293 BC were actually notable for the quantity of the armour that was captured, and that references to its opulence were later elaborations.  Furthermore, it seems to me that these elaborations were designed to add further glory to the Papirii: note, for example, that , although Pliny the Elder implied that the Samnite breast-plates, greaves and helmets that were used for Carvilius’ statue were special because they had been worn by men who fought in obedience to a lex sacrata, he did not claim that this armour had been particularly opulent.

Leges Sacratae

As noted above, Florus advised that:

  1. “... if you would know [the Samnites’] rage and fury, [know that] they were driven on by leges sacratae and human sacrifices to destroy our city;

According to Festus:

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

  2. “Sacred laws are laws ordaining that anyone who violates them shall be given (sacer) to one of the gods, along with his family and property”, (my translation).

Events of 431 BC

Livy first described the use of such to recruit enemy armies in his account of the events of 431 BC: when the Aequi and the Volsci prepared to invade Rome:

  1. “... [they] raised under the lex sacrata, which was the most powerful means they possessed of compelling men to serve.  [These two newly raised armies] advanced and joined forces on the mons Algidus, [in Latium], where they entrenched themselves, each in a separate camp.  Their generals showed greater care than on any previous occasion in the construction of their lines and the exercising of the troops.  The reports of this increased the alarm in Rome and, in view of  the facts that:

  2. these two nations, after their numerous defeats [at the hands of the Romans],  were now renewing the war with greater energy than they had ever done before; and

  3. a considerable number of the Romans fit for active service had been carried off by the epidemic;

  4. the Senate decided upon the nomination of a dictator [Aulus Postumius Tubertus]”, (‘History of Rome’, 4: 26: 4-6).

Postumius orchestrated what proved to be the Romans’ definitive victory over the the Aequi and the Volsci and:

  1. “After placing the consul [Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus] in command of the camp, he entered the City in triumph and then laid down his dictatorship”, (‘History of Rome’, 4: 29:4).

Events of 310/9 BC

Livy did not mention laws of this kind again until he described the events of 310/9 BC, when an unnamed Roman commander somewhere in Etruria (possibly at the lacus Vadimonis) faced an army that:

  1. “... 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 ... ”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5-11).

I return to the selection of men by the procedure of vir virum legere below.  For the moment, I would like to concentrate on the other parallels between the years 431 and 310/9 BC.

The year began with the election of the consuls:

  1. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (for the second time), who conducted a war in Etruria; and

  2. Caius Marcius Rutilus, who campaigned Samnium.

According to Livy,  Marcius engaged with the Samnites at an unspecified location, in a battle that was:

  1. “... fiercely contested on both sides, but without a decision being reached.  Yet ... the report gained ground that the Romans had been worsted ... and, most conspicuous of their misfortunes, Marcius himself was wounded. These reverses as usual were further exaggerated in the telling, and the Senate...  determined on the appointment of a  dictator”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 4-10).

As discussed above, this dictator was none other than the elder Papirius. 

Period Prior to the Dictatorship

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 ... ”

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 454-5) pointed out that, in the most likely reconciliation of the surviving sources, by the time that Papirius became dictator, Fabius had almost certainly:

  1. crossed the Ciminian Forest into upper Etruria, which had never faced a hostile Roman army before;

  2. defeated an Etruscan army near Perusia; and

  3. then agreed 30-year truces with with each of Arretium, Cortona and Perusia.

Appointment of Papirius as Dictator

Livy now turned to the process by which (according to his sources) Papirius was appointed as dictator:

  1. “Nobody could doubt that Papirius Cursor, who was regarded as the foremost soldier of his time, would be designated.  ...  Since ... Fabius, had a private grudge against Papirius, ... the Senate decided to send a deputation of former consuls to him [presumably at his camp in Etruria ... in order to] induce him to forget those quarrels in the national interest.   ... in the silence of the night (as custom dictates),  [Fabius] appointed Papirius dictator.  When the envoys thanked him ... , he remained obstinately silent, ... so that it was clearly seen what agony his great heart was suppressing”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 10-5).

Papirius’ Initial Campaign in Samnium

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 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). 

  2. Textual Lacunae

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 perhaps misplaced.

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.

Oakley considered the possibility (at p. 500) 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, in Livy’s original, the obelised passage might have been 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 elsewhere in Etruria 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.

Etruscan Army Raised under a Lex Sacrata in 310/9 BC ??

In the light of the above considerations, it will be clear that we do not know whether, after Fabius had agreed 30-year truces with with each of Arretium, Cortona and Perusia, there was another major battle against an Etruscan army of any kind.  Furthermore, if there was such a battle, then we have no basis for deciding:

  1. how it came about;

  2. whether or not it was fought on the shores of the lacus Vadimonis; or

  3. who was in command of the Roman army.

If we then resume Livy’s narrative after the putative lacunae in the surviving manuscripts, we learn that:

  1. “... 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 greater forces and  greater valour, than ever before.  ... the victory was long undecided, [and] it seemed as though the Romans were contending, not with the so often defeated Etruscans, but with some new race”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5-6).

The odd thing is that there is nothing in Livy’s account of the battle itself that suggests the input of a Roman commander, whether named or unnamed:

  1. “There was no sign of flight on either side: as the frontline soldiers  fell, the second line moved up to replace them so that the standards remained defended.  When the last reserves were finally called upon, the danger to the Romans became so extreme that their cavalry dismounted and clambered over weapons and bodies to reach the front ranks of the infantry.  [Fortunately], the emergence of this fresh line of men ... wrought havoc among the Etruscans.  Then the rest of the [Roman] soldiers... at last broke through their ranks.  At this, ... they took to flight”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 7-10).

Livy then allowed himself to reflect on this extraordinary battle:

  1. “That was the day that first broke the might of the Etruscans, after their long years of  prosperity.  Their strength was cut off in the battle, and their camp was taken and plundered in the same attack”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 11).

With that, his narrative abruptly switched to Samnium, and there is nothing to suggest that this putative victory had achieved anything of any long-term strategic importance.

Subsequent Events in Samnium

According to Livy, while this now-unknown Roman commander was breaking the power of the Etruscans:

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

However, Livy does not say where this ‘glorious conclusion’ took place: Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 461) observed that the putative lacunae at 39: 4 (above):

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

As noted above, Livy began his account of  this battle by describing the Samnites’ opulent armour, drawing on material that probably belonged to the victory of his homonymous son over the Samnites in 293 BC.  During the battle, the elder Papirius was supported by:

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

  2. two legates:

  3. Marcus Valerius Maxiumus Corvus; and

  4. Publius Decius Mus.

His description of the battle contains the important fact (which I discuss further below) that Junius faced a Samnite corp that was made up of men who had ‘consecrated themselves’ to victory.  However, at this point, I want to focus on another aspect of Livy’s description:

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

When Junius’ charge broke the enemy right, 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 [legates display] less enthusiasm than the generals: 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: 10-14).

In other words, there was significant tension between Papirius and his senior colleagues, and only they are recorded as making any significant contribution to the victory.  I return to this Livian theme of Papirius‘ difficult relations with  colleagues below.

Nevertheless, as we saw above, whatever his actual contribution, Papirius:

  1. “... as decreed by the Senate, ... celebrated a triumph, in which by far the finest show was afforded by the captured [Samnite] armour”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 15).  

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ also recorded that Papirius, as dictator, was awarded a triumph over the Samnites in 310/9 BC/  However, as noted above, it is likely that Livy’s reference to the captured armour that was displayed during this triumph actually referred to the triumph that Papirius’ homonymous son celebrated over the Samnites in 293 BC.

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.

Note, however, that Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 394, note 1) cited the view of  Salvatore Tondo (referenced below,at p. 85,  which I have not been able to consult directly, in which he argued that:

  1. “[The phrases] lex sacrata, ritus sacramenti and vir virum legere represent three separate concepts” (my translation of the original Italian)

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

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

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

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

In other words, it is likely that much of Livy’s exuberant description of the elder Papirius’ victory over a consecrated Samnite army that was sworn to fight to the death can be safely discounted.  This is bound to raise the question of whether Livy or his sources ‘borrowed’ details of the the victory of the younger Papirius in 293 BC in order to add colour to what was probably a much less impressive victory won by his father in 310/9 BC.

Subsequent Events in Etruria

Having described Papirius’ triumph over the Samnites, Livy immediately turned to a description of what he characterised as Fabius’ decisive victory over the Etruscans:

“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 Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 455) asserted that

“... 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:

“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:

“... 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). 

Triumphs of Papirius and Fabius in 310/9 BC

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ record that, in this year:

Papirius, as dictator, was awarded a triumph over the Samnites on 15th October; and

Fabius, as proconsul, was awarded a triumph over the Etruscans on 13th November.

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 no earlier evidence that he subsequently served as proconsul, and it is almost certain that he held his second and third consulates in consecutive years.

Livy recorded the award of both of these triumphs:

After Papirius, victory over the magnificently attired Samnite army:

“... 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).  

Soon after Papirius’ victory in Samnium, Fabius easily defeated the remnants of the Etruscan army near Perusia, following which an Etruscan delegation came to him seeking friendly relations with Rome.  Having sent this delegation to Rome ahead of him, Fabius:

“... was borne in triumph into the City ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 20).

As noted above, the easy victory that Livy described here was almost certainly a doublet of the ‘famous battle’ in which:

“... 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); and

pace Livy’s preferred sources, this battle was almost certainly fought near perusia in 310/9 BC.

We might reasonably assume that Fabius was indeed awarded a triumph after a victory that led to 30 year truces with three of the leading city-states of upper Etruria.  However, as discussed above, Edward Salmon (referenced below, at pp. 245-6 and note 1), for example, reasonably argued that:

“The crushing victory that ...  [of the elder Papirius], if not entirely fictitious, was, at most, merely a local success that helped maintain Roman diversionary pressure on the western borders of Samnium.”

In other words, there has to be considerable doubt about the triumph over the Samnites that both Livy and the fasti recorded.  I wonder whether Livy had :

some sources that greed with those on the basis of which the fasti had placed Fabius’ triumph a month after that of Papirius; and

other sources that placed Fabius’ famous battle before Papirius’ appointment as dictator.

If so, he (or yet other sources) might well have assumed that there had been a subsequent ‘mopping-up” operation in upper Etruria before Fabius finally received his triumph.  In other words, the putative invention of papirius’ triumph was the main reason for the putative invention of Fabius’ easy victory over the remnants of the Etruscan army at Perusia.

Events in Etruria During t






The surviving Livian manuscripts refer to four occasions on which the Romans faced enemy armies that had been recruited under leges sacratae:

  1. In 293 BC, consuls Lucius Papirius Cursor (the son of the dictator mentioned above) and Spurius Carvilius Maximus, faced an army of men who had been conscripted on pain of death under what Livy called a lex nova and Pliny the Elder designated as a lex sacrata.

  2. Thereafter, we hear nothing more about leges sacratae of this kind until 191 BC, when, according to Livy:

  3. “... 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”, (‘Roman History’, 36: 38: 1).

  4. It seems odd that the Ligurians made use of a practice that is otherwise known only among the tribes of peninsular Italy: John Patterson (referenced below, at p. 20) suggested that it arose because :

  5. “... the Romans in general, and Livy in particular, saw some similarities between the Samnites and the Ligurians, two fierce opponents of Rome.”

Thus, when Florus (as above) claim that:

  1. if you would know their rage and fury [of the Samnites, know that] they were driven on by leges sacratae  ... to destroy our city; ...”

he was presumably relying (inter alia) on the examples the Samnite armies faced by:

  1. the elder Papirius, in 310/9 BC; and

  2. his homonymous son, in 293 BC.

Papirius’ Victory the Samnites (perhaps at Longula)

After leaving Papirius at Longula, Livy described a major Roman victory that the consul Fabius gained in Etruria.  He then returned to Samnium, where:

  1. “... the war ... 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 [it] ... should also be placed at Longula.”

Livy’s account of this battle is characterised by the emphasis he put on:

  1. the appearance and demeanour of the Samnite army, part of which had sworn to fight to the death; and

  2. the rivalry between Papirius and his senior colleagues.

In fact, these are the only things that he described in any detail.

Livy began by recording that the Samnites:

  1. “... had made their battle lines glitter with new and splendid armour.  There were two corps:

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

  3. the shields of other were inlaid with silver, ... and their tunics were made of dazzling white linen ...

  4. The latter corp fought on the [Samnite] right wing, while the other corp took up position on the left”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2-5).

He observed that, by contrast:

  1. “The Roman ... generals had taught [their men] that a soldier should be rough to look on, not adorned with gold and silver but rather putting his trust in iron and in courage”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 5).

With observations of this kind ringing in the ears of his men:

  1. “Papirius led [them] into battle.  He took up his own post on the [Roman] right, and committed the left to his master of the horse, [Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus].  From the first moment, there was a mighty struggle with the enemy, and a struggle no less sharp between Papirius and Junius to decide which wing [of the Roman army] would inaugurate the victory”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2-9).

Livy then provided an important detail of the Samnite corps that confronted Junius:

  1. “It so happened that Junius was the first to make an impression on the Samnites ... He ...  faced the [Samnite] right, where [the men] 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).

These were the men whom Livy had already described as wearing dazzling white linen tunics and carrying shields inlaid with silver.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 397) pointed out that this was probably the origin of the title ‘Linen Legion’ (the designation that Livy gave to a Samnite legion that fought a Roman army led by Papirius’ (the homonymous son in 293 BC  - see the discussion section below): in the act of ‘consecrating themselves’, the men in white linen tunics had almost certainly sworn:

  1. to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender; and

  2. to kill any of their colleagues who attempted to flee from the battle. 

For this reason, as Junius led the charge against them, he declared: 

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

Oakley 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).

When Junius’ charge broke the enemy right, the internal tensions that Livy had already flagged became manifest: when Papirius saw Junius’ charge:

  1. “... he 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).





Samnite Muster of 293 BC

The consuls elected for 293 BC were Lucius Papirius Cursor (homonymous son of the dictator of 310/9 BC); and Spurius Carvilius Maximus.  According to Livy, the younger Papirius :

  1. “... had not only inherited his father's glory but enhanced it [as consul] by his management of a great war and a victory over the Samnites, second only to the one which his father had won [in 310/9 BC]”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 1). 

As we shall see, Livy’s subsequent and extensive account of the events of 293 BC is dominated by the theme of the allegedly parallel circumstances in which the Papirii (father and son) engaged with the Samnites in (respectively) 310/9 and 293 BC.

Sources

Livy

Livy claimed that the pattern of Roman military activity in this year was determined by the Samnites:

“As it happened, the Samnites had:

  1. invested as much effort and preparation [in 293 BC as they had in 310/9 BC], equipping their men with similarly opulent armour; and also

  2. summoned the aid of the gods by initiating the soldiers by means of an oath administered in an ancient ritual”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 2-3).

Having set the scene in this introductory passage, Livy recorded that:

  1. “A levy was conducted throughout Samnium under a new law, according to which, the head of any man of military age who:

  2. had not assembled on the proclamation of the commanders; or

  3. had departed without permission;

  4. would be Iovi sacraretur (forfeited to Jupiter)”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 3-4).

In other words, all Samnite men of military age were conscripted on pain of decapitation, in accordance with a “new law”.

It was at this point that Livy first mentioned Aquilonia in the present context:

  1. “Then, the whole of [this forcibly conscripted] army was summoned to Aquilonia, and 40,000 men, the full strength of Samnium, assembled there”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 5).

However, this cannot have been the entire Samnite army since Livy recorded that, after his victory at Aquilonia and his triumph in Rome, the consul Papirius:

  1. “... led his army into the neighbourhood of [the Auruncan town of] Vescia, as that district was still infested by the Samnites, and there he wintered”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 46: 9).

Cassius Dio and Zonras

According to a surviving fragment of a passage by Cassius Dio:

  1. “The Samnites, enraged at what had occurred [at Sentinum in 295 BC], and feeling it disgraceful to be continually defeated, resorted to extreme daring and recklessness, with the intention of either conquering [the Romans] or being utterly destroyed.  They [therefore]:

  2. assembled all their men that were of military age, threatening with death any one of their number who should remain at home; and

  3. bound themselves with frightful oaths, each man swearing

  4. not to flee from the contest himself; and

  5. to slay anyone else who should attempt to do so”, (‘Roman History’, 36: 29).

The Byzantine chronicler Zonaras, who wrote in the 12th century and whose ‘Epitome’ usually depended on Cassius Dio, probably summarised the rest of this passage in the following record:

  1. “The Samnites, enraged at what had occurred, resorted to recklessness with the intention of either conquering or being utterly destroyed, threatening with death the man who should remain at home.  So, they invaded Campania [with this forcibly-recruited army]; but the consuls ravaged Samnium, which was now destitute of soldiers, and captured a few cities. Therefore the Samnites, abandoning Campania, made haste to reach their own land and joined battle with one of the consuls.  They were defeated by a ruse and, in their flight, met with terrible reverses, even losing their camp.  Furthermore, the fortress towards which they were advancing in the hope of providing assistance was also lost.  The consul called a triumph and turned over to the treasury the money realised from the spoils”, (‘Epitome of History’, 8: 1: 8-9 - search for ‘Campania’ in this link).


Adriano La Regina (referenced below, 2004, at pp. 193-4) observed, two years after their defeat at Sentinum, the  war with Rome was, for the Samnites:

  1. “ ... in an exclusively defensive phase: their army was mustered in expectation of an imminent invasion, ... which might be launched from any of Cales, Sora, Saticula or Luceria, or perhaps from more than one base. .... The fact that the Samnites were now in desperate conditions is shown by the [extreme measures that were taken to ensure that all their men of fighting age presented themselves for action, on pain of death]” (my translation]


Samnite Levy under a Lex Sacrata ?

Livy described the means by which the Samnites  managed to raise a substantial new army despite having recently lost so many fighting men:

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

  2. had not assembled [at Aquilonia in accordance with] the edict of the imperatores (military commanders); or

  3. had departed without permission;

  4. his life would be Iovi sacraretur (forfeited to Jupiter).  The whole of the army was summoned to Aquilonia [by this means], and 40,000 men, the full strength of Samnium, were concentrated there”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 3-5).

This is confirmed by the statement above by Cassius Dio that:

  1. “The Samnites ... assembled all their men that were of military age, threatening with death any one of their number who should remain at home ... , (‘Roman History’, 36: 29).

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

  1. “... 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.”

One of these reasons was the fact that, according to Pliny the Elder, Carvilius:

  1. “... erected the statue of Jupiter that is [still] 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).

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

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

In other words, the armour that was used for Carvilius’ statue had probably been taken from Samnites who had been conscripted at Aquilonia and, if so, then we learn from Pliny that they had been conscripted under a lex sacrata

Ancient Ritual Sacrifice and the Samnite Oath 

According to Livy, at the centre of the Samnite camp at Aquilonia:

  1. “... a space of about [200 x 200 Oscan] feet ... was boarded off and covered with linen cloth.  A sacrifice was conducted in this enclosure, following the words from an old linen book.  The aged priest, Ovius Paccius, who officiated, announced that he was taking this rite from an old Samnite ritual that their ancestors had used when they had formed their clandestine plan to take Capua from the Etruscans”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 5-7). 

Thus, this ritual went back at least to 423 BC, when the Samnites had taken ‘Volturnus, now called Capua’ from the Etruscans (‘History of Rome’, 4: 37: 1-2).

Samnite Oath

According to Livy:

  1. “When the sacrifice [above] was completed, the commander [presumably, in this case, the commander-in chief] sent a messenger to summon all those who were of noble birth or who were distinguished for their military achievements.  They were admitted into the [sacred] enclosure one by one.  As each was admitted, he was led up to the altar, more like a victim than like one who was taking part in the service, and he was bound on oath not to divulge what he saw and heard in that place.  Then, he was compelled to swear [another] oath, which was couched in the most terrible language, in which he called a curse on himself, his family, and his race if he:

  2. did not go into battle where the commanders should lead him;

  3. ... fled from battle; or

  4. did not immediately kill anyone whom he saw fleeing.

  5. At first, there were some who refused to take this [second] oath; they were massacred beside the altar and their dead bodies, lying amongst the scattered remains of the [animal victims of earlier sacrifices], were a plain hint to the rest not to refuse”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 7-12).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 393) suggested that this passage relating to an oath that followed the ancient ritual should be related to an earlier passage, in which Livy asserted that the Samnites:

  1. “... had also called in the aid of the gods by submitting the soldiers to a kind of initiation into an ancient form of oath”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 5-7). 

If so, then this earlier passage should have said that only some of the soldiers (i.e. only those of noble birth and/or of military distinction) had been initiated by the administration of what is often referred to as the Samnite Oath.

Ritual Used at Capua in 423 BC

According to Livy (who is our only surviving source for the circumstances in which the Samnite capture of Capua had been effected): 

  1. “An incident is recorded under [423 BC] that, although it took place in a foreign country, is still important enough to be mentioned [in a history of Rome]: namely, the capture by the Samnites of Volturnus (an Etruscan city that is now called Capua) ... after the Etruscans (who had been weakened by a long war) had granted them joint occupancy of the city and its territory: during a festival, after the original inhabitants had been overcome by wine and sleep, the new settlers had attacked them in the night and massacred them”, (‘History of Rome’, 4: 37: 1-3).

Livy did not describe any ritual that attended the Samnites’ actions in this account.  However, as we have seen, he did so in his account of the ritual used at Aquilonia in 293 BC: when Ovius Paccius had performed sacrifices in the linen-covered enclosure there, he pronounced that he was using the words from an old linen book that described: 

  1. “... the old ritual of the Samnite religion that [our] ancestors used after they had formed their clandestine plan to take Capua from the Etruscans”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 6-7). 

Ancient Ritual Sacrifice and the Samnite Oath: Discussion 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 397) discussed a number of oddities contained in Livy’s account of this ritual sacrifice and the subsequent administration of the Samnite Oath:

  1. they took place in a linen tent;

  2. great secrecy surrounded them; and

  3. the oath was sworn (at least initially) by only the most distinguished of the men who had been conscripted under the lex sacrata.

He noted that a number of hypotheses that have been postulated in order to account for these oddities, and suggested that the most satisfactory of these argued that Livy or his source(s) had enlivened a relatively sober:

  1. “... account of a Samnite levy conducted by means of a lex sacrata by [incorporating into it] details derived from the clandestine oaths sworn (or imagined by later historians to have been sworn) at the time of the Samnite capture of Capua, an operation for which secrecy [would have been] appropriate and in which comparatively small numbers [would] have been involved.”

As we have seen, Livy had put a reference to the ancient ritual that had been used at Capua into the mouth of Ovius Paccius, which suggests that he had found at least this much information in his source(s).   Having considered what sources of this kind might have existed in Livy’s time, Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 1974, at p. 205) concluded that:

  1. “... there is nothing unlikely in the suggestion that Cato's 'Origines' [for example] contained an account of the Samnite occupation of Capua ... , including details of the [conspiracy there] that are reflected in Livy's narrative of the [muster at] Aquilonia.”

If such sources did indeed exist, and if their incorporation into Livy’s narrative explains the oddities listed above, then they would have recorded that:

  1. the Samnite settlers at Capua had held some sort of assembly in 423 BC, at which they hatched their conspiracy to capture the city;

  2. a sacrificial ritual had inaugurated the proceedings;

  3. this assembly (or, at least, the rituals attending it) had taken place in a linen tent;

  4. those attending it had been sworn to secrecy;

  5. the leaders chosen for the conspiracy had sworn an oath that was the forerunner of that sworn by the élite among the conscripts of 293 BC and

  6. the details of these arrangements had been (or were believed to have been) recorded in a linen book.

Linen Legion

According to Livy:

  1. “After the foremost men among the Samnites had been bound by [the Samnite Oath], the commander [presumably the comander-in-chief] selected ten of them, each of whom he asked to choose another [and so on] until they had made up the number of 16,ooo.  These were called legio linteata (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: 12-13). 

In other words, this cohort of 16,000 men that was known as the Linen Legion was selected from among the élite men who had sworn the Samnite Oath, by the method of vir virum legere (each man choosing another).  More precisely:

  1. the commander-in-chief of the army chose 10 of them; and

  2. each of these chose another, each of whom chose another, and so on, until the required number had been chosen.

It seems to me that each of these chosen men became the comrade-in-arms of the man who had chosen him, and was thus committed to ‘protect his back’ in the forthcoming battle.  (Sensibly, the commander himself had ten such comrades-in-arms).

Livy then recorded that:

  1. “The rest of the army consisted of a little over 20,000 men, but they were not inferior to the Linen Legion in their personal appearance, their soldierly qualities, or the excellence of their equipment.  This [i.e., the 16, ooo men who had been selected for the Linen Legion plus the 20,000 or so who had not] was the number of those in the camp at Aquilonia: [they represented] the total [military] strength of Samnium”, (‘History of Rome, 10: 38: 13).

Thus, it seem that the army contained a second corps of men that had not been selected in any particular way: it was simply made up of all the conscripted men who had not been selected for the Linen Legion.  (It is entirely possible that some of them had sworn the Samnite Oath).

Livy referred again to the Linen Legion in his account of the following battle; as it reached its climax:

  1. “At last the dread of gods and men had yielded to a greater terror, the ‘linen cohorts’ were routed;  iurati iniuratique (the sworn and the unsworn) fled; the only thing that they feared now was the enemy”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 41: 9-10). 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 428) glossed the phrase iurati iniuratique (the sworn and the unsworn) as follows:

  1. “Only a portion of the Samnite army had sworn the [Samnite Oath.  However, all of] the men of the Linen Legion had sworn to kill any Samnites whom they saw fleeing.”

In other words, once this legion had been routed, the dreadful oath had been forgotten, so that sworn and unsworn alike now feared only the Romans.

Origin of the Designation ‘Linen Legion’

According to Festus:

  1. Legio Samnitium linteata appellata est quod Samnites intrantes singuli ad aram velis linteis circumdatam non cessuros se Romano militi iuraverant’, (‘De verborum signifcatione’, 102 Lindsay”

  2. “The Samnite Linen Legion is so-called because [its members], arriving one by one before an altar surrounded by linen veils, had vowed not to retreat before the Roman army” (my translation).

This is consistent with Livy’s assertion that the 16,ooo men who had been selected by the procedure of vir virum legere: 

  1. “... were called the ‘Linen Legion’ from the material with which the place where they had been sworn was covered”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 12). 

However, Timothy Cornell (reference below, 1974, at p. 201) asserted that this explanation for the name of this legion:

  1. “... is not only absurd but superfluous, since the real reason for the name was perfectly obvious and well known to the annalists, as Livy shows in 9: 40: 9.”

This Livian passage (discussed further below) related to a battle against the Samnites in 310/9 BC, in which Lucius Papirius Cursor, the homonymous father of the consul of 293 BC, had faced an army that contained a corps of men who:

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

Livy had previously explained that this army was made up of:

  1. “... two corps:

  2. the shields of the one were inlaid with gold,

  3. [those] of the other [were inlaid] with silver.  ...  The tunics of ...[this second corps were made of] linen of a dazzling whiter”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2-3).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 397) was of the same opinion: he suggested that Livy’s description of the clothing of the consecrated ‘silver legion’ in 9: 40: 3:

  1. “... suggests a more natural derivation: the legion was named for the linen tunics that its members wore.”



Papirius’ Victory the Samnites (perhaps at Longula)

After leaving Papirius at Longula, Livy described a major Roman victory that the consul Fabius gained in Etruria.  He then returned to Samnium, where:

  1. “... the war ... 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 [it] ... should also be placed at Longula.”

Livy’s account of this battle is characterised by the emphasis he put on:

  1. the appearance and demeanour of the Samnite army, part of which had sworn to fight to the death; and

  2. the rivalry between Papirius and his senior colleagues.

In fact, these are the only things that he described in any detail.

Livy began by recording that the Samnites:

  1. “... had made their battle lines glitter with new and splendid armour.  There were two corps:

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

  3. the shields of other were inlaid with silver, ... and their tunics were made of dazzling white linen ...

  4. The latter corp fought on the [Samnite] right wing, while the other corp took up position on the left”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2-5).

He observed that, by contrast:

  1. “The Roman ... generals had taught [their men] that a soldier should be rough to look on, not adorned with gold and silver but rather putting his trust in iron and in courage”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 5).

With observations of this kind ringing in the ears of his men:

  1. “Papirius led [them] into battle.  He took up his own post on the [Roman] right, and committed the left to his master of the horse, [Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus].  From the first moment, there was a mighty struggle with the enemy, and a struggle no less sharp between Papirius and Junius to decide which wing [of the Roman army] would inaugurate the victory”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2-9).

Livy then provided an important detail of the Samnite corps that confronted Junius:

  1. “It so happened that Junius was the first to make an impression on the Samnites ... He ...  faced the [Samnite] right, where [the men] 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).

These were the men whom Livy had already described as wearing dazzling white linen tunics and carrying shields inlaid with silver.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 397) pointed out that this was probably the origin of the title ‘Linen Legion’ (the designation that Livy gave to a Samnite legion that fought a Roman army led by Papirius’ (the homonymous son in 293 BC  - see the discussion section below): in the act of ‘consecrating themselves’, the men in white linen tunics had almost certainly sworn:

  1. to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender; and

  2. to kill any of their colleagues who attempted to flee from the battle. 

For this reason, as Junius led the charge against them, he declared: 

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

Oakley 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).

When Junius’ charge broke the enemy right, the internal tensions that Livy had already flagged became manifest: when Papirius saw Junius’ charge:

  1. “... he 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).






As noted above, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 393) suggested that Livy’s early passage asserting that the Samnites:

  1. “... had also called in the aid of the gods by submitting the soldiers to a kind of initiation into an ancient form of oath”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 5-7). 

must, at least, look forward to the passage at lines 5-12 that descrived the ancient sacrificial ritual and the swearing of the Samnite Oath.  He further suggested (at pp 393-4) that might also look forward to the description at line 12 of the selection of a cohort of men who had sworn the oath by the procedure of vir virum legere.


It seems to me that these putative sources might well have also recorded that the conspirators (or perhaps their leaders) had been chosen by the procedure of vir virum legere and/or wore linen tunics, which would have provided Livy further material that could be incorporated into his account of the muster  at Aquilonia. 



Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 1995, at p. 259) asserted that the practice of:

  1. forcibly conscripting men; and then

  2. compelling them to swear such terrible oaths;

was not unprecedented among non-Latin tribes:

  1. “In times of crisis, [peoples such as the Volsci and the Samnites would use leges sacratae to] raise armies by means of a compulsory levy, and the soldiers so-enrolled would be sworn to follow their leaders to the death.”

It is certainly true that, in Livy’s account of the Samnite levy of 293 BC:

  1. the men who were ordered to Aquilonia were conscripted on pain of death, almost certainly under a lex sacrata; and

  2. the most distinguished among them were forced, on pain of death, to swear an oath of obedience to their commanders under the sanction of a dreadful curse. 

However, it seems to me that the surviving sources are neither sufficiently plentiful nor sufficiently detailed to support the second part of this hypothesis: that men conscripted under leges sacratae were always forced to swear that they would fight, if need be, to the death.  Indeed, some of the men who were forcibly conscripted at Aquilonia were not subsequently compelled to swear the terrible oath.


Triumphs of Papirius and Carvilius

Papirius

According to Livy:

  1. “On [Papirius’] approach to Rome, a triumph was granted to him by universal consent.  This triumph, which he celebrated while still in office, was a very brilliant one for those days.  ... The spoils of the Samnites attracted much attention; their splendour and beauty were compared with those that [Papirius’] father had won, which were familiar to all through their being used as decorations of public places.  ... All the silver and bronze [realised by the younger Papirius from the sale of prisoners] was stored in the treasury, while none of it was given to the soldiers.  This created resentment among the plebs, because a tax was gathered to provide for the soldiers' pay: whereas, if Papirius had not been so anxious to get the credit of paying the price of the prisoners into the treasury, then there would have been enough to make a gift to the soldiers and also to furnish their pay.  Papirius also dedicated the temple of Quirinus.  I do not find in any ancient author that it was he who vowed this temple in the crisis of a battle, and certainly he could not have completed it in so short a time; it was vowed by his father when dictator, and the son dedicated it when consul, and adorned it with the spoils of the enemy.  There was such a vast quantity of these that, not only were the temple and the Forum adorned with them, but they were [also] distributed amongst the allied peoples and the nearest colonies to decorate their public spaces and temples”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 46: 2-8)

Carvilius

According to Livy, Carvilius had campaigned relatively successfully in Etruria after he had left Samnium:

  1. “After these successes, he went home to enjoy his triumph, a triumph less illustrious than [that of papirius] in regard of the Samnite campaign, but fully equal to it considering his series of successes in Etruria.  He brought into the treasury  [part] of the proceeds of the war, and disposed of the rest partly in contracting for the building of a temple to Fors Fortuna, near the temple of this goddess that  King Servius Tullius had dedicated, and partly as a donative to the soldiers ... . This gift was all the more acceptable to the men after the niggardliness of his colleague.”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 46: 13-15)


Splendid Enemy Armour Becomes Spoils for Rome

Livy observed that, in 293 BC, the Samnites; 

  1. “... had taken  care ...  to adorn their soldiers with as much ... splendour as they had done on the occasion of the elder Papirius' victory [in 310/9 BC”], (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 1-2).

He also had the younger Papirius himself urging his men not to be intimidated by the magnificence of the enemy armour: 

  1. “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).

Livy made a direct reference to the fact that: 

  1. ‘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).  

Finally, he noted that the younger Papirius dedicated the temple of Quirinus, presumably at the time of his triumph, and added:

  1. “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).

As we saw above, the magnificent enemy spoils displayed by the elder Papirius during his triumph of 310/9 BC had similarly adorned the Forum.


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.


The details of the military engagements that followed (which Oakley summarised at p. 380) need not concern us here: briefly, in co-ordinated engagements:

  1. Papirius drove the Samnites from Aquilonia;

  2. Carvilius first besieged Cominius in order to prevent potential enemy reinforcements from heading to Aquilonia and thereafter took the city.

For Livy, this was the point at which the Samnites were finally defeated:

  1. “Subsequently, [Papirius and Carvilius] held a council of war ... to settle whether the time had come for the withdrawal [of one or both Roman] armies from Samnium.  [However], they decided that it was best to continue the war, and [indeed] to carry it on more  ruthlessly as the Samnites became weaker, in order that they might hand over to the consuls who succeeded them a thoroughly subdued nation.  As the enemy no longer had an army in any condition to fight in the open field, the war could only be carried on by attacking their cities: the sack of those that they captured would enrich the soldiers, while the enemy, compelled to fight for their hearths and homes, would gradually become exhausted”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 44: 6-8).

The fasti Triumphales record that, towards the end of the consular year, both consuls were awarded triumphs over the Samnites. 

The defeat of the army conscripted at Aquilonia in that year had been a joint operation, as evidenced , for example, by the fact that, according to Livy, after both Aquilonia and Cominium had fallen:

  1. “The rejoicings in [the armies of Papirius and Carvilius] were all the greater because of the success achieved by the other.  The consuls, by mutual agreement, gave up the captured cities to be sacked by the soldiery. ... Amidst their own mutual congratulations and those of their soldiers, [they] united their camps.  ... the consuls sent despatches to Rome giving an account of their operations ... the contents of these despatches were received with every manifestation of delight ... and four days' thanksgiving was declared as an expression of the public joy ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 44:1 - 45:2).



Timothy Cornell (reference below, 1974, at p. 200) asserted that:

  1. “... the method by which the Linen Legion was chosen (vir virum legere) is a feature of a lex sacrata”


We might now usefully return to Livy’s assertion that the 16,ooo men who had been selected by the procedure of vir virum legere at Aquilonia: 

  1. “... were called the ‘Linen Legion’ from the material with which the place where they had been sworn was covered”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 12). 

Timothy Cornell (reference below, 1974, at p. 201) pointed out that, in fact, in the earlier part of Livy’s account:

  1. “The oath of allegiance had been taken only by the aristocrats, and not by [all of] the 16,000 men of the Linen Legion, [some of whom] were selected later and by a different method (vir virum legere).  One would have expected the oath to be administered to all 16,000, and to have formed an essential part of the process of selection.”

Note also that, according to Livy 9: 40: 9 (above), in 310/9 BC, the men in linen tunics who fought on the Samnite right had all  “consecrated themselves”.  I think that this had also been the case in the Linen Legion that was selected at Aquilonia, because  there was more to procedure by which they had been selected than Livy’s ‘matter of fact’ description of it might suggest.  Specifically, I think that each of the selected men became the comrade-in-arms (or metaphorical blood-brother) of the man to whom he owed this honour, and that he was thus honour-bound to share this man’s fate in the battle ahead.  Since the first ten men selected for the legion had all sworn the dreadful oath in the linen-covered sanctuary, then so too had all of the other 15,990 (albeit that some of them, perhaps the majority, had sworn it indirectly). 

If this is correct, then we might reasonably expand Livy’s definition: the name of the ‘Linen Legion’  of 293 BC derived from the linen of the tunics worn by its 16,000 men, which marked them as having been sworn (either directly or indirectly) in the linen-covered sanctuary at the centre of their camp at Aquilonia.  If this is correct, then the army mustered at Aquilonia, probably under a lex sacrata, contained:

  1. 16,ooo men who had been selected for the Linen Legion, al of whom had had either directly or indirectly sworn the dreadful oath; and

  2. some 24,000 men, some of whom (perhaps the majority) who had not.



Tesse Stek (referenced below, at p. 51) observed :

  1. “... it is not entirely sure that Livy refers to a sanctuary proper [at Aquilonia ... However,] in a recent study [by Simone Sisani, referenced below, 2001], Pietrabbondante has .. been identified with Livy’s Aquilonia.  If this is correct, which is difficult to prove, this means that the traditional sanctuary at Aquilonia/ Pietrabbondante was to some extent respected by the later construction phases.” 

Etruscan Army Confronting the Romans in 310/9 BC

While the elder Papirius was defeating the Samnites in 310/9 BC, an unnamed Roman commander was confronting the Etruscans (as mentioned above).  According to Livy (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5), our the only surviving source:

  1. this army had been raised under a lex sacrata; and

  2. the men who were serving in it had been selected in a process in which each man had chosen another until the required number of men had been reached.

It seems to me that the implication of this was that this description falls into two distinct parts:

  1. As with the Samnite army raised in 293 BC, this army had been recruited under a lex sacrata that involved a meaningful penalty (perhaps execution) for eligible men who evaded conscription.

  2. This lex sacrata might or might not have defined the process of selection, under which the Etruscan general presumably selected one of the assembled men as his comrade in arms, after which, this man chose another and so on until the desired complement was reached.

In either case, the result would have been an army of men who were bound to follow their general (who was also, indirectly, their comrade in arms) to the death.  If this is correct, then presumably the men who had been conscripted under the lex sacrata but not selected for the army that confronted the Romans were either held in reserve or sent home.


Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 394) asserted that the similarity between this selection procedure and that used for the Samnite Linen Legion (certainly in 293 BC and probably 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, I am not sure that this was necessarily the case: after all, there is no indication that this selection procedure was used for the either armies of the Aequi and the Volsci in 431 BC or by that of the Ligurians in 191 BC, all of which had been recruited under leges sacratae.





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

A. La Regina, “Pietrabbondante e il Sannio Antico”, Almanacco del Molise (2014) Campobasso

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

J. Patterson, “Samnites, Ligurians and Romans Revisited”, (2013), online at https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/245055

S. Roselaar, “Public Land in the Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History of Ager Publicus in Italy, 396 - 89 BC”, (2010) Oxford

T. Stek, “Cult Places and Cultural Change in Republican Italy”, (2009) Amsterdam

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume IV: 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

J. Scheid, “Rome et les Grands Lieux de Culte d’ Italie”, in:

  1. A. Vigourt et al. (Eds), “Pouvoir et Religion dans le Monde Romain: en Hommage à Jean-Pierre Martin”, (2006) Paris, pp. 75-88

G. Forsythe, “A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War”, (2005) Berkeley Ca.

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

S. Sisani, “Aquilonia: una Nuova Ipotesi di Identificazione”, Eutopia, New series 1-2 (2001) 131-47

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

F. Coarelli, “Legio Lineata: L' Iniziazione Militare nel Sannio”, in :

  1. L. del Tutto Palma, “La Tavola di Agnone nel Contesto Italico: Convegno di Studio, Agnone, 13-15 aprile 1994” (1996) Florence, at pp. 3-16

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. La Regina, “I Sanniti”, in

  1. G. Pugliese Carratelli, (Ed.), “Italia: Omnium Terrarum Parens” (1989) Milan, at pp. 301-432

T. Cornell, “Notes on the Sources for Campanian History in the 5th Century BC”, Museum Helveticum, 31:4 (1974) 193-208

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

E. T. Salmon, “Roman Colonisation under the Republic’, (1970) Ithaca (New York)

E. T. Salmon, “Samnium and the Samnites’, (1967) Cambridge

S. Tondo, “'Il ‘Sacramentum Militiae’ nell' Ambiente Culturale Romano-Italico', Studia et Documenta Historiae et Iuris, 29 (1063) 1–123.

K. J. Beloch, “La Conquista Romana della Regione Sabina”, Rivista di Storia Antka e Science Affini, 9 (1904) 269-77 


  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 - 312 BC     Second Samnite War II: 311  - 304 BC

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

Third Samnite War      End Game (290-241 BC)


  1. Return to the History Index