Key to Ancient Umbria

Literary Sources for Umbria, Etruria and the Alta Sabina after the Social Wars

Propertius (ca. 50 - 12 BC)

Sextus Propertius was probably born in Assisi, although he spent most of his life in Rome, where he was appreciated as a love poet.  His surviving works are contained in four books of autobiographical Elegies, many of which are directed to his mistress, Cynthia.

Propertius on Umbria

Book 1, Elegy 22 directly addresses Propertius' Umbrian provenance, and refers to the ravages caused by the the Perusine War (41 BC): “You ask, always in friendship, Tullus, what are my household gods, and of what people am I.  If our country’s graves, at Perusia (Perugia), are known to you, Italy’s graveyard in darkest times, when Rome’s citizens dealt in war (as, to my special sorrow, Etruscan dust, you have allowed my kinsman’s limbs to be scattered, you cover his wretched bones with no scrap of soil), know that Umbria rich in fertile ground bore me, where it touches there on the plain below”.

Book II, Elegy 19 contains a reference to river god Clitumnus and to the white bulls that were raised by the banks of the river that was named for him:  “I'll go hunting ... where Clitumnus covers the beautiful stream with his own woods, and his wave bathes the snow-white heifers”.

Book IV, Elegy 1a contains an account of Propertius' provenance, in the form of an account given to him by an astrologer, Horos, in order to demonstrate his clairvoyant skills:  

  1. “... now I turn to your stars: .... Ancient Umbria gave birth to you, at a noble hearth: am I lying?  Or has my mouth revealed your country?  Where misty Mevania wets the open plain, and the summer waters of the Umbrian lake steam, and the wall towers from the summit of climbing Assisi, that wall made more famous by your genius?  Not of an age to gather them, you gathered your father’s bones, and yourself were forced to find a meaner home since, though many bullocks ploughed your fields, the merciless measuring-rod stole your wealth of land.  Soon the bulla of gold was banished from your untried neck, and the toga of a free man assumed in front of your mother’s gods ...”.

This passage is important in at least two respects:

  1. In geographical terms, it places the Lacus Umber between “misty Mevania” in the plain and “climbing Assisi”.

  2. In historical terms, it is clear that Propertius’ family had lost its lands to the colonisation of the area that occurred in his childhood (at the time of the Perusine War, in ca. 40 BC).  His father seems to have been killed in this turmoil, leaving his mother to raise him to manhood.

In Book IV, Elegy 1, Propertius included a self-congratulatory passage (in which compares himself to the Greek poet, Callimachus) that suggests that he came from Assisi:  “Bacchus, hold out to me leaves of your ivy, so that my books might make Umbria swell with pride, Umbria fatherland of the Roman Callimachus! Whoever sees the towers of Asisium (Assisi) climbing from the valley, honour those walls according to my genius!”

Virgil (70 - 19 BC)

Publius Vergilius Maro, who was born in Mantua, was arguably the greatest Roman poet.  His works include:

  1. the “Ecologues” (Pastorals):

  2. the “Georgics” (on Husbandry); and

  3. the “Aeneid”, a Homeric saga of the foundation of Rome by the descendants of the Trojan Aeneas, which was written at the behest of the Emperor Augustus and unfinished at Virgil's death.

Virgil on Ameria

In the Georgics, Virgil cites Ameria as a producer of willow, used in viniculture: farmers use periods of bad weather to prepare “willow-bands Amerian for the bending vine” (I: 264-5).

Virgil on the Clitumnus

In the Georgics, Virgil lists the most remarkable aspects of rural life in Italy, which include the raising of sacred bulls by the Clitunno: "here are your snowy flocks, Clitumnus and, the noblest sacrifice, your bulls, which, drenched in your sacred stream, have often led Roman triumphs to the gods’ temples."  (II:146-8).

In his commentary on the Georgics, which was written in the late 4th or early 5th century AD, the grammarian Maurus Servius Honoratus places a gloss on the geography of the area :

  1. The river Clitumnus is in Mevania, which[he surprisingly asserts] is partly in Umbria and partly in Tuscany.

  2. The white cattle on its banks are “Mevanienses” (from Mevania).

  3. Clitumnus et deus et lacus in finibus Spoletinorumin” (the Clitumnus and [its] deity and lake [presumably references to the sanctuary and pool at the source] are [in the territory of/ on the border with] Spoletium).

Livy (59 BC - 17 AD)

Titus Livius is the most important of the Roman historians.  His "History of Rome from its Foundations" was originally in 142 books, although only 35 survive.  Fortunately, the first 10 books, which cover the period from the foundation of Rome to the conquest of central Italy in 295 BC, survive in tact.   There are on-line English translations of Books 1-8; and of the surviving parts of Books 9-26; and of Books 27-36.  There is also an on-line translation of the  fourth-century summary known as the Periochae, which contains summaries of some of the lost books.

Livy on Umbria and Etruria in the Social War (91-88 BC)

Aulus Plotius defeated the Umbrians and the praetor Lucius Porcius [Cato] the Etruscans.  Both nations had revolted” (Periochae, Book 74).

Strabo (ca. 63 BC - 21 AD)

Strabo, who was born in Pontus, wrote principally in Greek.  He is best remembered for his "Geography" (ca. 7 BC), which described (in 17 books) the world as he knew it .

Strabo on Via Flaminia

“ ... upon subjugating the Ligures, Gaius Flaminius constructed the Flaminian Way from Rome through Tyrrhenia and Ombrica as far as the regions of Ariminum ...” (5:1).

Strabo on the Umbria and the Sabine Country

In Book 5, chapter 2, paragraph 10, Strabo gives a detailed description of this part of central Italy after the construction of Via Flaminia:

“Alongside Tyrrhenia, on the part toward the east, lies Ombrica:  it takes its beginning at the Apennines and extends still farther beyond as far as the Adriatic; for it is at Ravenna that the Ombrici begin, and they occupy the nearby territory and also, in order thereafter, Sarsina, Ariminum, Sena, Camarinum.  Here, too, is the Aesis River and Mount Cingulum, and Sentium, and the Metaurus River, and the Temple of Fortune.  Indeed, it is near these places that the boundary between the Italy of former days and Celtica passed ... But as it is, now that the whole of the country as far as the Alps has been designated Italy, we should disregard these boundaries, but none the less agree ... that Ombrica, properly so‑called, extends all the way to Ravenna; for Ravenna is inhabited by these people.  From Ravenna, then, to Ariminum the distance is, they say, about 300 stadia; and if you travel from Ariminum toward Rome along the Flaminian Way through Ombrica, your whole journey, as far as Ocricli and the Tiber, is 1350 stadia.

This, then, is the length of Ombrica, but the breadth is uneven. The cities this side the Apennine Mountains that are worthy of mention are:

  1. first, on the Flaminian Way itself:

  2. Ocricli, near the Tiber and the Larolon; and

  3. Narnia, through which the Nar River flows (it meets the Tiber a little above Ocricli, and is navigable, though only for small boats);

  4. then, Carsuli; and

  5. Mevania, past which flows the Teneas (this too brings the products of the plain down to the Tiber on rather small boats);

  6. and, besides, still other settlements, which have become filled up with people rather on account of the Way itself than [on account of] of political organisation; these are:

  7. -Forum Flaminium; and

  8. -Nuceria (the place where the wooden utensils are made); and

  9. -Forum Sempronium.

  10. Secondly, to the right of the Flaminian Way, as you travel from Ocricli to Ariminum, is

  11. Interamna; and

  12. Spoletium; and

  13. Aesium; and

  14. Camertes (in the very mountains that mark the boundary of the Picentine country);

  15. and, on the other side of the Flaminian Way:

  16. Ameria; and

  17. Tuder (a well-fortified city); and

  18. Hispellum; and

  19. Iguvium, the last-named lying near the passes that lead over the mountain.

Now as a whole Ombrica is blessed with fertility, though it is a little too mountainous and nourishes its people with spelt rather than with wheat. 

The Sabine country also, which comes next in order after Ombrica, is mountainous, and it lies alongside Ombrica in the same way that Ombrica lies alongside Tyrrhenia; ...  These two tribes begin, then, at the Tiber and Tyrrhenia, and extend to that stretch of the Apennine Mountains near the Adriatic which slants slightly inland, although Ombrica passes on beyond the mountains, as I have said, as far as the Adriatic. So much, then, for the Ombrici.

Strabo on Riverine Transport to Rome

In Book 5, chapter 3, paragraph 7, Strabo records that:

  1. “the Romans are afforded a wonderful supply of materials ...  and [are served] by the rivers that bring these down:

  2. first, the Anio, which flows from Alba [in Latinum] ...  to its confluence with the Tiber;

  3. then the Nar and the Teneas [Topino], the rivers which run through Ombrica [Umbria] down to the same river, the Tiber; and also

  4. the Clanis, which... runs down thither through Tyrrhenia [Etruria] and the territory of Clusium.

Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 AD)

Caius Plinius Secondus was a noted antiquarian in Rome, but his encyclopaedic ‘Natural History’ is his only surviving work.   In it, he drew together (in 37 books) an amazing variety of facts relating primarily to geography, anthropology and botany.   Pliny died during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Pliny the Elder on the Augustan Regions of Italy

Book 3, Chapter 6 of the Natural History contained Pliny's account of the administrative districts defined by the Emperor Augustus:

  1. “We will now describe [the extent of Italy] and its different cities; in doing which ... we shall follow the arrangement of the late Emperor Augustus, and adopt the division which he made of the whole of Italy into 11 districts,

  2. taking [the coastal communities] ... according to their order on the sea-line .... ; [while]

  3. [for the inland communities within each region, following] the alphabetical order  that has been adopted by that Emperor, giving special mention to the colonies that he identified in his enumeration”.

For his alphabetical lists, Pliny seems to have drawn on lists of communities published by Augustus that were arranged according to tribes. 

The communities that were designated as colonies in in these lists were almost exclusively those that Augustus himself had created;  earlier colonies (i.e. those created under the Republic or by the Gracchi or Sulla) were mostly included without comment in the lists.

Pliny the Elder on Umbria, the Augustan Sixth Region

Book 3, Chapter 19 of the Natural History contained Pliny's account of Umbria, the Augustan Sixth Region.  The borders of this region were defined by the Esino and Metauro rivers and by the border cities of of Senogallia (Sinigaglia), Fanum Fortunae (Fano), Pisaurum (Pesaro). 

This region extended across the Appenines and thus included a swathe of territory in the Marches that is outside modern Umbria.  The part of the sixth region that was within modern Umbria, included:

  1. two colonies:

  2. Hispellum (Spello); and

  3. Tuder (Todi); and

  4. the following tribes:

  5. the Amerini (from Ameria, modern Amelia);

  6. the Asisinates (from Asisium, modern Assisi);

  7. the Arnates (from Arna, modern Civitella d' Arno, near Perugia);

  8. the Carsulani (from Carsulae);

  9. the Fulginiates (from Fulginiae, modern Foligno);

  10. the Foroflaminienses (from Forum Flaminii, modern San Giovanni Profiamma, near Foligno);

  11. the Iguvini (from Iguvium, modern Gubbio);

  12. the Interamnates surnamed Nartes (from Interamna Nahars, modern Terni);

  13. the Mevanates (from Mevania, modern Bevagna);

  14. the Narnienses, whose town used formerly to be called Nequinum (from Narnia, modern Narni);

  15. the Nucerini (from Nuceria, modern Nocera Umbra), “both those surnamed Favonienses and those called Camellani”;

  16. the Ocriculani (from Ocriculum, near modern Otricoli);

  17. the Plestini (from Plestia, which was near modern Colfiorito);

  18. the Spoletini (from Spoletium, modern Spoleto);

  19. the Suillates (possibly modern Sigillo);

  20. the Tadinates (from Tadinum, modern Gualdo Tadino);

  21. the Trebiates (from Trebia, modern Trevi);

  22. the Tifernates surnamed Tiberini (from Tifernum Tiberinum, modern Città di Castello);

  23. the Urbinates ... surnamed ... Hortenses (Urbinum Hortense, which may have been on the archeological site of Collemancio, near Cannara, Perugia); and

  24. the Vettonenses (from Vettona, modern Bettona).

Pliny adds that “in this district there exist no longer the Feliginates who possessed Clusiolum above Interamna ...”: this is sometimes said to be the site of Sant’ Eraclio, above Cesi.

Pliny the Elder on Etruria, the Augustan Seventh Region

Book 3, Chapter 8 of the Natural History contained Pliny's account of Etruria, the Augustan Seventh Region.  The people from the seventh region who lived within the borders of modern Umbria

  1. the Volsinienses (who had been expelled by the Romans from the site of modern Orvieto and by Pliny’s time lived at modern Bolsena); and

  2. those of Perusia (modern Perugia).

Pliny the Elder on the Nursini, in the Augustan Fourth Region

Book 3, Chapter 17 of the Natural History contained Pliny's account of the disparate Augustan Fourth Region.  This included the territory of the Sabini (Sabines), which in turn included that of the Nursini (from Nursia, modern Norcia).  These are the only people listed in this region who lived within the borders of modern Umbria.

Pliny the Elder on Carsulae

Book 17, Chapter 35 discusses the cultivation of vines.  At line 86, he says, “At ‘Carsulano’, they adopt a middle course by pruning away only the rotten parts of the vine and those that are beginning to wither, leaving the rest to bear fruit ... This exemption from frequent pruning is the only nutriment they give; but unless the soil is very rich, the vine will very soon degenerate to a wild state under this method of cultivation”.  (Some authorities, including the link given here, translate ‘Carsulano”’ as Carseoli. but others translate it as Carsulae).

Pliny the Elder on Gubbio

Book 23, Chapter 49 records: “As to oil of Selga, we have already spoken of it as being strengthening to the tendons which is the case also with the herbaceous oil that the people of Iguvium sell, on the Flaminian Way.

Statius (45 - 96 AD)

Publius Papinius Statius, who came from Naples, was the court poet of the Emperor Domitian.  His surviving works include a collection of 32 poems in 5 books entitled “Silvae” (“Forests”) and two epic poems: the Thebaid, which describes the struggle of the brothers Polyneices and Eteocles for the throne of the ancient Greek city of Thebes; and the incomplete “Achilleid” which is the start of a biography of Achilles (cut short by Statius’ death.

Statius on Mevania and the Clitumnus

In a poem celebrating the recovery from illness of his friend Rutilius Gallicus (Silvae, Book I; IV, search on Mevania), Statius ponders on the need to make an appropriate sacrifice in thanks:

  1. “Poor as I am, where shall I find a tribute

  2. Fit to give as an offering for you?  Not though Mevania

  3. Emptied its valleys, Clitumnus supplied its snow-white

  4. Bulls, would that suffice me.  Yet often a clod of soil,

  5. Grain, a little salt, regardless of the rest, delight the gods”.

Pliny the Younger (ca. 63 - 113 AD)

Caius Plinius Caecilius Secondus (the nephew and adopted son of Pliny the Elder) was prominent in public life in Rome, particularly under the Emperor Trajan (98 - 117 AD).  He is known mainly from his many letters, which were mostly written in the last 15 years of his life and which were probably intended for publication.

Pliny the Younger on the Clitumnus

Pliny gave an important description of the source of the River Clitunno (Clitumnus) in his Letter LXXXVIII to Romanus:

  1. “Have you ever seen the source of the river Clitumnus?  If you have not ... , go there as soon as possible.  I saw it yesterday, and I blame myself for not having seen it sooner. 

  2. At the foot of a little hill, well wooded with old cypress-trees, a spring gushes out, which, breaking up into different and unequal streams, forms itself, after several windings, into a large, broad basin of water, so transparently clear that you may count the shining pebbles, and the little pieces of money thrown into it, as they lie at the bottom.  From thence it is carried off not so much by the declivity of the ground as by its own weight and exuberance.  A mere stream at its source, immediately... you find it expanded into a broad river, fit for large vessels even, allowing a free passage by each other, according as they sail with or against the stream.  The current runs so strong, though the ground is level, that the large barges going down the river have no occasion to make use of their oars; while those going up find it difficult to make headway even with the assistance of oars and poles: and this alternate interchange of ease and toil ... is exceedingly amusing when one sails up and down merely for pleasure.  The banks are well covered with ash and poplar, the shape and colour of the trees being as clearly and distinctly reflected in the stream as if they were actually sunk in it.  The water is cold as snow, and as white too. 

  3. Near it stands an ancient and venerable temple, in which is placed the river-god Clitumnus clothed in the usual robe of state; and indeed the prophetic oracles here .... testify to the immediate presence of that divinity.  Several little chapels are scattered round, dedicated to particular gods, distinguished each by his own peculiar name and form of worship, some of them also presiding over different fountains.  For, besides the principal spring, which is ... the parent of all the rest, there are several other lesser streams, which, taking their rise from various sources, lose themselves in the river; over which a bridge is built that separates the sacred part from that which lies open to common use.  Vessels are allowed to come above this bridge, but no person is permitted to swim except below it. 

  4. The Hispellates, to whom Augustus gave this place, furnish a public bath, and likewise entertain all strangers at their own expense.  Several villas, attracted by the beauty of this river, stand about on its borders.  In short, every surrounding object will afford you entertainment.  You may also amuse yourself with numberless inscriptions upon the pillars and walls, by different persons, celebrating the virtues of the fountain and the divinity that presides over it.  Many of them you will admire, while some will make you laugh ...”

Pliny the Younger on Tifernum Tiberinum

In his Letter XXXVIII to Fabatus, (his wife’s grandfather), Pliny described Tifernum Tiberinum (Città di Castello), which was then a village near his country estate: speaking of an imminent trip to see Fabatus, he wrote: “We shall make only one short stop, for we intend turning a little out of our way to go into Tuscany: not for the sake of looking upon our estate ... but to perform an indispensable duty.  There is a town near my estate, called Tifernum Tiberinum, which, with more affection than wisdom, put itself under my patronage when I was yet a youth.  These people celebrate my arrival among them, express the greatest concern when I leave them, and have public rejoicing whenever they hear of my preferments.  By way of requiting their kindnesses ... I have built a temple in this place, at my own expense, and as it is finished, it would be a sort of impiety to put off its dedication any longer”. 

In an earlier letter to the Emperor Trajan, the temple was still in the planning stage and Tifernum was not explicitly named: “After your late sacred father [the Emperor Nerva] had ... exhorted and encouraged the public to acts of munificence, I implored his permission to remove the several statues that I had of the former emperors to my corporation [i.e. to the municipal authorities of Tifernum Tiberinum], and  .... to add his own to their number.  ... He was pleased to grant my request, and ... I immediately ... wrote to the decurii [magistrates] to request that they would allot a piece of ground upon which I might build a temple at my own expense; and they ... offered me the choice of any site I might think proper.  However, [various distraction, including the death of Nerva] prevented my proceeding with that design.  But I have now ... a convenient opportunity of making an excursion ...  My first request, then, is that you would permit me to adorn the temple I am going to erect with your statue, and next .... that you would indulge me with leave of absence ... for 30 days.  I cannot give myself a shorter time, as the town and the estate of which I am speaking lie more than 150 miles from Rome”.

In his Letter LII to Domitius Apollinaris, Pliny describes the location of his villa on this estate, which was “at the foot of a hill ... Behind, but at a great distance, is the Apennine range. ... But though there is plenty of water, there are no marshes; for the ground being on a slope, whatever water it receives without absorbing runs off into the Tiber.  This river ... is navigable only in the winter and spring, at which seasons it transports the produce of the lands to Rome: but in summer it sinks below its banks, leaving the name of a great river to an almost empty channel: towards the autumn, however, it begins again to renew its claim to that title”.  He goes on to describe the “Tuscan villa” on this estate, a description that suggests that it was in the Augustan Sixth Region (Etruria), just over the border from Tifernum Tiberinum (Città di Castello, in the Augustan 5th Region, ancient Umbria).

The following extracts from this second letter make it clear that the villa was magnificent:

  1. “The greater part of the house has a southern aspect, and seems to invite the afternoon sun ... into a broad and proportionately long portico, consisting of several rooms ...

  2. From the extremity of the portico a large dining-room runs out, opening upon one end of the terrace ....

  3. Almost opposite the centre of the portico ... stands a summer-house ... together with a common dining-room that I use when I have none but intimate friends with me.   A second portico looks upon this little area ...

  4. There is, besides, another room ... Its sides are encrusted with carved marble as far as the dado, while above the marble a foliage is painted with birds among the branches ...

  5. From a corner of the portico you enter a very large bedchamber opposite the large dining-room ...

  6. Leaving this room, you pass through a good-sized, pleasant undressing-room into the cold-bath-room ... Adjoining the cold bath is one of a medium degree of heat ... [which] consists of three several compartments, each of different degrees of heat ... Over the undressing-room is built the tennis court ...

  7. Not far from the baths is the staircase leading to the enclosed portico, three rooms intervening.  ...

  8. At the upper end of the enclosed portico, and indeed taken off from it, is a room that looks out upon the hippodrome, the vineyards, and the mountains; adjoining is a room which has a full exposure to the sun, especially in winter, and out of which runs another connecting the hippodrome with the house.  This forms the front.

  9. On the side rises an enclosed portico ... From the middle of this portico you enter a dining-room ...  Along that side of the dining room where there are no windows runs a private staircase for greater convenience in serving up when I give an entertainment;

  10. at the farther end is a sleeping-room ...

  11. Underneath this room is an enclosed portico resembling a grotto ...

  12. After you have passed both these porticoes, at the end of the dining-room stands a third ... [,which] leads to two different apartments, one containing four chambers, the other, three .... “

Pliny sums up: “[Now] you see now the reasons why I prefer my Tuscan villa to those which I possess at Tusculum, Tiber, and Præneste.  ... I enjoy here a cosier, more profound and undisturbed retirement than anywhere else, as I am at a greater distance from the business of the town and the interruption of troublesome clients.  ... And may the gods continue that happiness to me, and that honour to my villa”.

Pliny the Younger on Roman villas in Umbria

In his Letter to Pompeia Celerina, his mother-in-law, (I:4), Pliny exclaimed: “What treasures you have in your villas at Ocriculum, at Narnia, at Carsola and Perusia! Even a bathing place at Narnia!”

In his Letter XCIII to Gallus, Pliny reports: “”My wife’s grandfather desired I would look over his estate near Ameria.  As I was walking over his grounds, I was shown a lake that lies below them, called Vadimon, about which several very extraordinary things are told”.

Pliny the Younger on Passennus Paulus

In his Letter XIV to Romanus, Pliny tells a story about “Passennus Paulus, a Roman knight, of good family, and a man of peculiar learning and culture besides, [who] composes elegies, a talent which runs in the family, for Propertius is reckoned by him amongst his ancestors, as well as being his countryman”.

Pliny seems to have become closer to Passienus Paulus by the time of his Letter XXII to Severus:  “I have been much alarmed by the ill state of health of Passienus Paulus, as indeed I had many and just reasons. He has a most excellent and generous heart, of which I have the happiness to share the warmest friendship. In his writings he very successfully emulates the ancients, whose spirit and manner he has closely imitated, and happily restored ; especially that of Propertius, to whom he is no less related by genius than by blood, as he particularly resembles that poet in his chief excellency”.

Tacitus (ca. 55-117 AD )

Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, the author of the “Histories” (105-9 AD) and the “Annals” (113 AD), was close to the Emperor Vespasian and the later Flavian emperors.  The city of Terni claim that he was born there, although there is no proof of that.

Tacitus on plans to divert the Nar

According to the “Annals”: “A question was then raised in the Senate by Arruntius and Ateius [in 15 BC]: whether, in order to restrain the inundations of the Tiber, the rivers and lakes which swell its waters should be diverted from their courses.  A hearing was given to embassies from the municipal towns and colonies.

  1. The people of Florentia (Florence) begged that the Clanis might not be turned out of its channel and made to flow into the Arnus (Arno), as that would bring ruin on themselves.

  2. Similar arguments were used by the inhabitants of Interamna.  The most fruitful plains of Italy, they said, would be destroyed if the river Nar (for this was the plan proposed) were to be divided into several streams and overflow the country.

  3. Nor did the people of Reate, remain silent. They remonstrated against the closing up of the Veline lake, where it empties itself into the Nar, ‘as it would burst in a flood on the entire neighbourhood.  .... Regard must be paid to the different religions of the allies, who had dedicated sacred rites, groves, and altars to the rivers of their country.  Tiber himself would be altogether unwilling to be deprived of his neighbour streams and to flow with less glory.’

Either the entreaties of the colonies, or the difficulty of the work or superstitious motives prevailed, and they yielded to Piso's opinion, who declared himself against any change” (1:79).  

Plutarch  (ca. 46 - 120 AD)

Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus was a Roman historian of Greek descent who lived in the Greek province of Boeotia.  His best-known work is the “Parallel Lives”, a series of biographies of famous Greeks and Romans, arranged in pairs to illuminate their common virtues and vices. The surviving sections contain 23 pairs, each of which compares a Greek and a Roman figure, as well as four unpaired single lives.

Plutarch on Tuder in the Civil War (83 BC)

In his Life of Crassus (6: 4-5), Plutarch describes the rivalry between Pompey and Crassus, both of whom fought for Sulla against Marius: “For although Pompey was the younger man,  ... Sulla paid him honours ... rising at his approach, uncovering his head, and saluting him as Imperator.   All this inflamed and goaded Crassus, although it was not without good reason that Sulla thus made less of him.  For he was lacking in experience, and his achievements were robbed of their favour by the innate curses of avarice and meanness which beset him.  For instance, when he captured the Umbrian city of Tuder [after he had laid siege to Marius’ forces there], it was believed that he appropriated to himself  most of the spoil, and charges to this effect were laid before Sulla.

Suetonius  (ca. 70 - 130 AD)

Caius Suetonius Tranquillus was prominent in Roman public life, particularly under the Emperors Trajan and Hadrian.  He was a prolific biographer, and book "The Twelve Caesars" has survived almost in tact.

Suetonius on the Clitumnus

In his "Life of Caius (Caligula)" (paragraph 43), Suetonius recorded the Emperor Caligula (37-41 AD) as: " having gone to Mevania (Bevagna) to visit the river Clitumnus and its grove".

Florus (ca. 70 - 140 AD)

Publius Annius Florus is known under several names:

  1. his first name is sometimes given as Lucius rather than Publius; and

  2. his family name is sometimes given as Anneus rather than Annius.

Although this could be because there were several authors with almost identical names, most scholars agree that there was only one, Publius Annius Florus.  He is best known for the ‘Epitome of Roman History’, with concentrates on the wars waged by Rome from its foundation until the time of the Emperor Augustus.  In some manuscripts, it is described as an epitome of Livy, this is not its only source.

Florus on Umbria and Etruria in the Social War (91-88 BC)

In a chapter entitled “War against the Allies”, Florus recorded that:

  1. “All Latium and Picenum, all Etruria and Campania, and finally all Italy rose against their mother and parent city.  The flower of our bravest and most trusted allies were led, each under their several standards, by the most eminent leaders from the country towns .... The devastation wrought by Hannibal and Pyrrhus was less serious.  Lo! Ocriculum, Grumentum, Faesulae, Carseoli, Aesernia, Nuceria [Alfaterna] and Picentia were utterly laid waste by fire and sword” (2: 6-11).

Florus on Spoletium in the Civil War (83 BC)

  1. “One could endure the punishment of individuals, but the most renowned towns of Italy were put up to auction — Spoletium, Interamnium, Praeneste, Florentia” (2:9). 

(“Interamnium” is probably Interamna Praetutiana, modern Teramo rather than Interamna Nahars, modern Terni).

Appian (ca. 95 - 165 AD)

Appianus of Alexandria was a Roman lawyer and historian of Greek descent who was born in Alexandria, where he held public office before moving to Rome in ca. 120.  His “Roman History” was written in Greek before 165 and was made up of 24 books, many of which survive.  Five of the later books grouped as the “Civil Wars”describe the events that led to the end of the Roman Republic.

Appian on Umbria and Etruria in the Social War (91-88 BC)

  1. “Even the Italians, in whose especial interest [the tribune Marcus Livius] Drusus was devising these plans, were apprehensive about the law providing for the colonies, because they thought that the Roman public domain (which was still undivided and which they were cultivating, some by force and others clandestinely) would at once be taken away from them, and that in many cases they might even be disturbed in their private holdings.  The Etruscans and the Umbrians had the same fears as the Italians, and when they were summoned to Rome [in 91 BC] ... by the consuls (for the ostensible purpose of complaining against the law of Drusus but actually to kill him), they cried down the law publicly and waited for the day of the comitia.  Drusus learned of the plot against him and did not go out frequently, but transacted business from day to day in the atrium of his house, which was poorly lit.  One evening, as he was sending the crowd away, he exclaimed suddenly that he was wounded, and fell down while uttering the words.  A shoemaker's knife was found thrust into his hip” (1:36) . 

  2. “While these [revolts] were transpiring on the Adriatic side of Italy, the inhabitants of Etruria and Umbria and other neighbouring peoples on the other side of Rome heard of them and all were excited to revolt.  The Senate ... voted that those Italians who had adhered to their alliance should be admitted to citizenship, which was the one thing they all desired most.  They sent this decree around among the Etruscans [and presumably among the Umbrians] , who gladly accepted the citizenship.  By this favour the Senate made the faithful more faithful, confirmed the wavering, and mollified their enemies by the hope of similar treatment.  The Romans did not enrol the new citizens in the 35 existing tribes, lest they should outvote the old ones in the elections, but incorporated them in 10 new tribes, which voted last.  So it often happened that their vote was useless, since a majority was obtained from the 35 tribes that voted first.  This fact was either not noticed by the Italians at the time or they were satisfied with what they had gained, but it was observed later and became the source of a new conflict” (1:49).

Appian on Spoletium in the Civil War (83 BC)

“In the plain of Spoletium, Pompey and Crassus, both Sulla's officers, killed some 3000 of Carbo's men and besieged Carinas, the opposing general [who had retreated to Spoletium]. Carbo sent reinforcements to Carinas, but Sulla learned of their movement, laid an ambush for them, and killed about 2000 of them on the road. Carinas escaped by night during a heavy rain-storm and thick darkness, since although the besiegers were aware of some movement, they made no opposition on account of the storm” (1:90).

It seems likely that the besiegers took their revenge on Spoletium on the following day.

Appian on the Perusine Wars (41-40 BC) 

“ When [Lucius Antonius, the brother of Mark Antony and enemy of Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus] perceived [his enemy’s] design he did not dare to come to an engagement .. so he turned aside to Perusia, a strongly fortified city, and encamped near it, to wait there for [his ally] Ventidius.  Agrippa [Octavian’s general], Salvidienus, and Octavian advanced against him and against Perusia and ... summoned reinforcements  ...  He sent others forward to hold in check the forces of Ventidius, who were approaching.  The latter, however, hesitated ... Lucius did not go out to battle with the forces surrounding him ...; nor did he resume his march ... [Instead, he] sent Manius to Ventidius and Asinius to hasten them to the aid of the besieged army, while also sending Tisienus with 4,000 horse to pillage the enemy's supplies, in order to force him to raise the siege.  Lucius entered within the walls of Perusia so that he might winter in a strong place, if necessary, until Ventidius and Asinius should arrive” (5:32).

“Octavian ... drew a line of palisade and ditch around Perusia 56 stades in circuit, on account of the hill on which it was situated; he extended long arms to the Tiber, so that nothing might be introduced into the place.  Lucius, for his part, built a similar line of countervallation, thus fortifying the foot of the hill.  Fulvia [Lucius’ wife and the sister of Mark Antony] urged Ventidius, Asinius, Ateius, and Calenus to hasten from Gaul to the assistance of Lucius, and collected reinforcements, which she sent to Lucius under the lead of Plancus.  Plancus destroyed one of Octavian's legions, which was on the march to Rome. While Asinius and Ventidius were proceeding ...  to the relief of Lucius ... Octavian and Agrippa, leaving a guard at Perusia, threw themselves in the way.  The former ... retreated: Asinius to Ravenna; and Ventidius to Ariminum.  Plancus took refuge in Spoletium. Octavian stationed a force in front of each, to prevent them from forming a junction, and returned to Perusia, where he speedily strengthened [the siege]” (5:33).

“When the work of Octavian was finished, famine fastened upon Lucius, and the evil grew more pressing, since neither he nor the city had made preparations beforehand.  Knowing this fact Octavian kept the most vigilant watch.  On the day preceding the Calends of January, Lucius thought to avail himself of the holiday, under the belief that the enemy would be off their guard, to make a sally by night against their gates, hoping to break through them and bring in his other forces... But the legion that was lying in wait near by, and  ... Lucius ... was driven back ... “(5:34).

“Ventidius and his officers, ashamed to look on while Lucius was starving, moved to his support, intending to overpower [the besieging army].  Agrippa and Salvidienus went to meet them with still larger forces.  Fearing lest they should be surrounded, they diverged to the stronghold of Fulginium, 160 stades from Perusia.  There Agrippa besieged them, and they lit many fires as signals to Lucius.  [There they awaited events.  The men under siege at] Perusia rejoiced when they saw the fires but, when Ventidius delayed his coming, they conjectured that he, too, was in difficulties, and when the fires ceased they thought that he had been destroyed. Lucius, oppressed by hunger, again fought a night battle ... ; but he failed and was driven back into Perusia.  There he took an account of the remaining provisions, and forbade the giving of any to the slaves, and prohibited them from escaping, lest the enemy should gain better knowledge of his desperate situation ...” (5:35).

“As no end of the famine or of the deaths could be discerned, the [besieged] soldiers became restive ... and implored Lucius to make another attempt [to break out of Perusia] ... Lucius marched out at dawn ...” (5:36).

[After heavy fighting, during which Octavian was able to call up fresh reserves], Lucius  ... sounded a retreat.  Then the troops of Octavian joyfully clashed their arms as for a victory, whereupon [Lucius’ men defiantly returned to the fight].  Lucius ran among them and besought them to sacrifice their lives no longer, and led them back groaning and reluctant.  This was the end of this hotly contested siege ...” (5:37-8).

Octavian allowed Lucius and his army to withdraw. He then: “commanded the Perusians who stretched out their hands to him from the walls, to come forward, all except their town council, and as they presented themselves he pardoned them; but the councillors were thrown into prison and soon afterwards put to death, except Lucius Aemilius, who had sat as a judge at Rome in the trial of the murderers of Caesar, who had voted openly for condemnation, and had advised all the others to do the same in order to expiate the guilt” (5:48).

“Octavian intended to turn Perusia itself over to the soldiers for plunder, but Cestius, one of the citizens, who was somewhat out of his mind ... set fire to his house and plunged into the flames, and a strong wind fanned the conflagration and drove it over the whole of Perusia, which was entirely consumed, except the temple of Vulcan.  Such was the end of Perusia, a city renowned for its antiquity and importance.  It is said that it was one of the first twelve cities built by the Etruscans in Italy in the olden time.  For this reason the worship of Juno prevailed there, as among the Etruscans generally.  But thereafter, those who shared among themselves the remains of the city took Vulcan for their tutelary deity instead of Juno.  On the following day Octavian made peace with all of them, but the soldiers did not desist from tumults against some of them until the latter were killed.  These were the chief personal enemies of Octavian, namely, Cannutius, Gaius Flavius, Clodius Bithynicus, and others. Such was the conclusion of the siege of Lucius in Perusia, and thus came to an end a war which had promised to be long-continued and most grievous to Italy” (5:49). 

Juvenal (died early 2nd century AD)

The Roman poet Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis (Juvenal) is best known for his surviving 16 satirical poems (in 5 books).

Juvenal on the Clitumnus

In Satire XII, entitled “Friendship”, Juvenal describes the sacrifices he made in celebration of the safe return from sea of his friend  Catullus.  These included the sacrifice of a calf to Tarpeian Jove.   Somewhat embarrassed by the poor quality of the animal that he had sacrificed, he explains:

  1. “If my personal resources were ample, a match for my feelings,

  2. We’d be dragging a bull fatter than Hispulla to the slaughter,

  3. One slowed by its very bulk, not nourished in local pastures,

  4. But its lineage the product of the fertile fields of Clitumnus,

  5. And its neck would be bowed for the tall attendant’s blow.  

  6. All this is to mark my friend’s safe return ....” (XII, 10-6).

Cassius Dio (died after 229 AD)

Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus wrote the “Roman History”, in 80 books, after 22 years’ research.  It contains a summary of the history of Rome from its foundation until the 1st century BC and a detailed account of the subsequent period, ending in 229 AD.  About a third of the original work survives.  Some other parts that have been lost are known from other sources, notably the epitomes of two Byzantine historians:

  1. the “Epitome of Dio” by John Xiphilinus (11th century); and

  2. the “Epitome ton istorion” of John Zonaras (12th century).

Cassius Dio on the Perusine War (41-40 BC)

Nursia (Norcia)

“Caesar [Octavian, later the Emperor Augustus] made an expedition against Nursia (Norcia), among the Sabines, and routed the Sabines and the garrison encamped before it, but was repulsed from the city by Tisienus Gallus.

Accordingly he went over into Umbria and laid siege to Sentinum, but failed to capture it. For Lucius [Lucius Antonius, the brother of Mark Antony and enemy of Octavian]... suddenly marched against the city himself, conquered the cavalry force that met him, hurled the infantry back within the walls and took the city ...  On ascertaining this, Caesar left Quintus Salvidienus Rufus to look after the people of Sentinum, and himself set out for Rome.  Now when Lucius learned of this, he withdrew before Caesar's arrival, having had a vote passed authorising him to leave the city in order to begin a war .... Thus Caesar was received into the capital without striking a blow, and when he pursued Lucius and failed to capture him, he returned and kept a more careful watch over the city. 

Meanwhile, as soon as Caesar had left Sentinum and Gaius Furnius, the defender of the walls, had issued forth and pursued him a long distance, Rufus unexpectedly attacked the citizens inside, and capturing the town, plundered and burned it. The inhabitants of Nursia came to terms without having suffered any ill treatment; when, however, after burying those who had fallen in the battle they had had with Caesar, they inscribed on their tombs that they had died contending for their liberty, they were punished by an enormous fine, so that they abandoned their city and at the same time all their territory” (48:13).

Perusia (Perugia)

“While they were thus engaged, Lucius withdrew from Rome (as I have stated) and set out for Gaul; but finding his way blocked, he turned aside to Perusia, an Etruscan city.  There he was intercepted first by the lieutenants of Caesar and later by Caesar himself, and was besieged.  The investment proved a long operation; for the place is naturally a strong one and had been amply stocked with provisions; and horsemen sent by Lucius before he was entirely hemmed in greatly harassed the besieger, while many others besides came speedily to his defence from various quarters.  Many attacks were made upon these reinforcements separately and many engagements were fought close to the walls, until the followers of Lucius, even though they were generally successful, nevertheless were forced by hunger to capitulate.

The leader and some others obtained pardon, but most of the senators and knights were put to death.  And the story goes that they did not merely suffer death in an ordinary form, but were led to the altar consecrated to the former Caesar and were there sacrificed — 300 knights and many senators, among them Tiberius Cannutius, who previously during his tribuneship had assembled the populace for Caesar Octavianus.  Of the people of Perusia and the others who were captured there, the majority lost their lives, and the city itself, except the temple of Vulcan and the statue of Juno, was entirely destroyed by fire.  This statue, which was preserved by some chance, was brought to Rome, in accordance with a vision that Caesar saw in a dream, and it secured for the city the privilege of being peopled again by any who desired to settle there, though they did not acquire anything of its territory beyond the first mile.

[.... Thus,] the citizens of Rome resumed the garb of peace [... and] gave themselves up to merry-making, conveyed Caesar in his triumphal dress into the city and honoured him with a laurel crown, giving him also the right to wear it on every occasion on which it was the custom of those celebrating triumphs to use it. (48:14-6).

Cassius Dio on Augustus’ Temple of Mars and the Clavus Annalis

[Augustus dedicated a new temple] to Mars ...[He decreed] that:

  1. the senate should take its votes there in regard to the granting of triumphs, and that the victors after celebrating them should dedicate to this Mars their sceptre and their crown;

  2. that such victors and all others who receive triumphal honours should have their statues in bronze erected in the Forum;

  3. that in case military standards captured by the enemy were ever recovered they should be placed in the temple;

  4. that a festival should be celebrated besides the steps of the temple by the cavalry commanders of each year;

  5. that a nail should be driven into it by the censors at the close of their terms; and

  6. that even senators should have the right of contracting to supply the horses that were to compete in the Circensian games, and also to take general charge of the temple, just as had been provided by law in the case of the temples of Apollo and of Jupiter Capitolinus.

These matters settled, Augustus dedicated this temple of Mars” (55.10).

Orosius (died ca. 418 AD)

Paulus Orosius was a Spanish Christian.  St Augustine, who was concerned that the sack of Rome (410) was being blamed its adherence to Christianity, asked him to write a historical account that would demonstrate that similar disasters had afflicted mankind since the earliest times.  (St Augustine himself wrote his “City of God for the same purpose).  The result of the request to Orosius was his Historiae adversum Paganos (ca. 417), which he dedicated to St Augustine.

Orosius on Umbria and Etruria in the Social War (91-88 BC)

In Book 5:18:7, following Livy (see above) Orosius wrote: “Porcius Cato praetor Etruscos, Plotius legatus Vmbros plurimo sanguine inpenso et difficillimo labore uicerunt” ([Lucius] Porcius Cato, praetor for the Etruscans,  and [Aulus] Plotius, legate to the Umbrians, succeeded [in putting down the Etruscan and Umbrian revolts, only after] very excessive bloodshed and difficult labour.)