Key to Umbria
 

Third Samnite War (298-90 BC)

Initial Phase (298-6 BC)


Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

As noted on the previous page, in 299 BC, when Rome was preoccupied with the hostile actions of the Etruscans and the Gauls, they made an alliance with the Picentes, whose territory bordered on that of the Gallic Senones.  According to Livy, in 298 BC, the Romans received information from their new allies that:

  1. “... the Samnites were looking to arms and a renewal of hostilities, and had solicited their help.  The Picentes were thanked, and the Senate's anxiety was diverted, in great measure, from Etruria [and the Gauls] to the Samnites”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 11: 7-9).

Soon after:

  1. “... envoys from Lucania [a town on the border of Samnium and Campania] came to the new consuls to complain that the Samnites, since they had been unable by offering inducements to entice them into an armed alliance, had invaded their territories with a hostile army and by warring on them were obliging them to go to war.   They admitted that the people of Lucania had, on a former occasion, strayed all too far from the path of duty, but they insisted that they were now so resolute as to deem it better to endure and suffer anything than ever again to offend the Romans  They besought the Senate to take the Lucanians under their protection and to defend them from the violence and oppression of the Samnites.  Though their having [already] gone to war with the Samnites was necessarily a pledge of loyalty to the Romans, yet they were none the less ready to give hostages”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 11: 11-13).

After a short discussion:

  1. “The Lucanians received a friendly answer, and the league was formed.  Fetials were then sent to command the Samnites to leave the country belonging to Rome's allies and to withdraw their army from the territory of Lucania.  They were met on the way by messengers, whom the Samnites had dispatched to warn them that, if they went before any Samnite council, they would not depart unscathed.   When these things were known at Rome, the Senate advised and the people voted a declaration of war against the Samnites”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 12: 2-3).



The sources for 298 BC are particularly difficult: there was some Roman engagement in Etruria in that year, which Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 175) characterised as:

  1. “... rather desultory fighting, which had been the norm [in Etruria] since the outbreak of hostilities in [the dictator year] 302/1 BC.”

Both of the consuls of 297 BC (Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus and Publius Decius Mus) fought in Samnium.

Etruscan/ Samnite Alliance

Livy signalled the start of a more significant phase of the conquest of Etruria in 296 BC, when Decius, who remained as proconsul in Samnium:

  1. “... continued his ravages of Samnite territory until he had driven their army ...  outside their frontiers.  They made for Etruria, ... where they insisted upon a meeting of principum Etruriae concilium (leaders of the Etruscan council) being convened. ... The Samnite army had come to them completely provided with arms and a war chest, and were ready to follow them at once, even if they led them to an attack on Rome itself”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 16: 2-8).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 200) asserted that the notion that Decius had driven the Samnite army out of its own territory was absurd. Instead, he suggested that a Samnaie army under Gellius Egnatius (see below) had:

  1. “... marched north  [of its own volition] to help foster the incipient coalition in Etruria and Umbria, and the Romans were either taken by surprise or powerless to stop [it].”

According to Livy, the Samnites’ arguments led to:

  1. “... a very serious war against Rome ... being organised in Etruria, in which many nations were to take part.  The chief organiser was Gellius Egnatius, a Samnite.  Almost all the Etruscan cities had decided on war,  the contagion had infected the nearest Umbrian peoples, and the Gauls were being solicited to help as mercenaries.  All these [forces] were concentrating at the Samnite camp”, (Roman History’, 10: 18: 1-3).

By this time, Lucius Volumnius Flamma Violens, one of the the newly-elected consuls, had already left Rome for Samnium so his colleague, Appius Claudius Caecus led an army into Etruria.  According to Livy he was initially unsuccessful, and Volumnius;

  1. “Leaving the ravaging of the enemy's fields to [the proconsul] Decius he proceeded with his whole force to Etruria”, (Roman History’, 10: 18: 8).

Although (according to Livy) Appius resented Volomnius uninvited presence, he eventually yielded and battle commenced.    

  1. “Volumnius began to engage before Appius ... and by some accidental interchange of their usual opponents, the Etrurians fought against Volumnius and the Samnites ... against Appius.  We are told that Appius, during the heat of the fight, raising his hands toward Heaven ... prayed thus:

  2. ‘Bellona, if you grant us the victory this day, I vow to you a temple.’ 

  3. ... after this vow, as if inspirited by the goddess, he displayed a degree of courage equal to that of his colleague and of the troops.  ... [Appius and Volumnius] therefore routed and put to flight the enemy ... [and] drove them into their camp.  There, by the interposition of Gellius and his Sabellian cohorts (cohortiumque Sabellarum), the fight was renewed for a little time.  But ... the camp was now stormed by the conquerors; and whilst Volumnius ... led his troops against one of the gates, Appius, frequently invoking Bellona Victrix, inflamed the courage of his men, who broke in through the rampart and trenches.  The [Samnite] camp was taken and plundered, and an abundance of spoil was ... given up to the soldiers.  Of the enemy, 7,800 were slain and 2,120 taken [prisoner]”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 19: 16-22).

Ovid recorded that, on 3rd June:

  1. “... Bellona is said to have been consecrated in the Tuscan war, and ever she comes gracious to Latium.  Her founder was Appius: ‘Fasti’, 6).

Livy does not say where this engagement took place.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 21) remarked that this account of it is:

  1. “... notable for the large quantity of annalistic and Livian elaboration to be found in it”.

It is possible that the alliance assembled by Gellius included a Sabine contingent, since the s so-called ‘Elogium’ of Appius, which dates to the Augustan period, recorded that:

  1. “He routed the army of the Sabines and the Etruscans. ... He built a temple of Bellona”, (CIL VI 40943). 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 2o1) observed that Appius’:

  1. “... vow to Bellona guarantees the report in our sources that he fought a major engagement against the Etruscans, Samnites and Sabines; and the need to make the vow suggests that this battle was hard-fought and desperately close.  If, as Livy states, the Romans were victorious, then their victory did no more than stall the build-up of enemy power.”

The theatre of war now moved to Campania, where the Samnites were devastating the territory of Roman allies, and Volumnius was sent to deal with the situation.  According to Livy:

  1. “... it so happened that, just at this time, grave news was received from Etruria.  After the withdrawal of Volumnius' army, the whole country, acting in concert with the Samnite captain-general, Gellius Egnatius, had risen in arms; whilst the Umbrians were being called on to join the movement, and the Gauls were being approached with offers of lavish pay.  The Senate, thoroughly alarmed at these tidings, ordered all legal and other business to be suspended, and men of all ages and of every class to be enrolled for service ... Arrangements were made for the defence of the City, and the Praetor [Publius Sempronius Sophus]  took supreme command”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 21: 1-4).

Fortunately, the crisis was partially relieved when the Senate received:

  1. “... a letter from .. Volumnius informing them that the [Samnite] army that had ravaged Campania had been defeated and dispersed; whereupon, they decreed a public thanksgiving for this success, in the name of the consul.  The courts were opened, after having been shut for 18 days, and the thanksgiving was performed with much joy”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 21: 5-6).

On the other hand, the situation in Etruria continued to deteriorate:

  1. “The attention of the Senate was diverted  ... to the growing seriousness of the outlook in Etruria. There were frequent despatches from Appius warning them not to neglect the movement that was going on in that part of the world; four nations were in arms together (the Etruscans, the Samnites, the Umbrians, and the Gauls) and they were compelled to form two separate camps, for one place would not hold so great a multitude.  The date of the elections was approaching, and Volumnius was recalled to Rome to conduct them, and also to advise on the general policy.  Before calling upon the centuries to vote he summoned the people to an Assembly.  Here he dwelt at some length upon the serious nature of the war in Etruria: he said that, even when he and his colleague were conducting a joint campaign, the war [there] was on too large a scale for any single general  ... to cope with.  Since then, he understood that the Umbrians and an enormous force of Gauls had swollen the ranks of their enemies.   The electors must bear in mind that two consuls were being elected on that day to act against four nations.  The choice of the Roman people would, he felt certain, fall on the one man who was unquestionably the foremost of all their generals.  Had he not felt sure of this, he was prepared to nominate him at once as Dictator”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 21: 11-15).

The scene was set for Fabius’ election as consul for the 5th time.

Battle of Sentinum (295 BC)


Red = Roman allies

Blue = Latin colonies founded between the second and third Samnite wars

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

Dramatis Personae

Livy noted that, in 295 BC:

  1. “... no-one felt the slightest doubt that Fabius would be unanimously elected [as consul]. ... as on the former occasion ... , he again requested that Decius might be his colleague.”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 22: 1-2).

Decius therefore entered his 4th consulship (and his third with Fabius as his colleague).  Since, given the serious nature of the crisis, the services of the consuls of the previous year were also still needed:

  1. “Appius Claudius was returned as praetor; ... [and] the Senate passed a resolution ... that Volumnius' command ] should be extended for a year”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 22: 1-2).

Livy described a number of versions of the way in which these respective assignments were decided.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 283) suggested that the simplest of these was the most likely: Livy had

  1. “... [found] it stated in some authorities that Fabius and Decius both started for Etruria immediately on entering office, no mention being made of their not deciding their provinces by lot, or of the quarrel between the colleagues that I have described”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 26: 5).

Thus, Appius, as praetor, governed Rome in the consuls’ absence and Volumnius continued to operate in Samnium as proconsul. 

Furthermore, we learn from Livy that:

  1. “... two other armies were stationed not far from the Rome, confronting Etruria: one in the Faliscan district [north of Rome]; and the other in the neighbourhood of the Vatican [just across the Tiber, to the west of Rome].  The propraetors:

  2. Cnaeus Fulvius [Maximus Centumalus, the consul of 298 BC]; and

  3. Lucius Postumius Megellus [the consul of 305 BC];

  4. had been instructed to fix their standing camps in those positions”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 26; 15).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 288) observed that this arrangement:

  1. “... is entirely credible: in such a great crisis, with both consuls [and their armies] away in the north, [other] forces would have been needed to guard the approach from Etruria to [Rome].”

As we shall see, Livy also named two other ex-consul who served as propraetor in this war:

  1. Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, the consul of 298 BC, whom Fabius placed in command of the Roman camp at Camerinum (see 10: 25: 11 and 10: 26: 12); and

  2. Marcus Livius Denter, the consul of 302 BC, whom Decius designated as propraetor (see 10: 29: 3)

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at pp. 311-3) explained that propraetorian powers could be established:

  1. by the extension of an existing praetorship into the following year;

  2. by the delegation of power by a serving consul or other magistrate; or

  3. for privati, by the Senate and popular vote.

He observed that, since none of the four propraetors of 295 BC had held curule office in the previous year, the first possibility could be discounted here.  He concluded that

  1. if Livy is to be believed, then Livius had clearly received propraetorian imperium from Decius as consul (p. 311);

  2. while Livy’s wording is unclear, Scipio had probably similarly received his from Fabius (see p. 312 and also Oakley’s note to this effect at p. 305); but

  3. since Fulvius and Postumius had each operated separately from the serving consuls, they had probably been appointed by the Senate and popular vote as privati cum imperium (see p. 313).

Initial Roman Deployment in Etruria and Umbria

It seems that Appius had passed the the winter of 296/5 BC in the north with the army that was now to be transferred to the new consuls.  Thus, according to Zonoras:

  1. “[When Fabius and Decius] had come with speed to Etruria, and had seen the camp of Appius, which was fortified by a double palisade, they pulled up the stakes and carried them off, instructing the soldiers to place their hope of safety in their weapons”, (‘Epitome of Cassius Dio, 8:1: 5)

Livy also reported a version of this anecdote, the point of which was to illustrate Appius’ putative reluctance to engage with the enemy.  However, he placed it in one of the more complicated of his various accounts of these preliminaries, in which Fabius, who had initially underestimated the seriousness of the situation, had insisted on having sole responsibility for Etruria and marched north with only a small army:

  1. “... to the town of Aharna (modern Civitella d’ Arno, just across the Tiber from Perusia), which was not far from the enemy, and from there went on to Appius’ camp.  He was still some miles distant from it when he was met by some [of Appius’] soldiers ... Fabius asked them where they were going, and on their replying that they were going to cut wood, ... he inquired: ‘surely you [already] have a ramparted camp?’  They informed him that they had a double rampart and ditch round the camp, and yet they were in a state of mortal fear [of the enemy].   ‘Well, then,’ he replied, ‘go back and pull down your stockade, and you will have quite enough wood.  They returned into camp and began to demolish the rampart, to the great terror of those who had remained in camp, and especially of Appius himself, until the news spread from one to another that they were acting under Fabius’ orders.  On the following day, the camp was moved and Appius was sent back to [the safety of] Rome to take up his duties as praetor”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 25: 4).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at pp. 284-5) asserted that:

  1. “... the historicity of the tale of the dismantling of the double palisade  ... is ... doubtful. ... Although it cannot be disproved, the idea that the Claudii were not suited to war is a common motif in annalistic narrative, and disputes between Fabius and Appius, [which] are a regular theme of this book, may [also be the product of] annalistic elaboration ... .”

Livy concluded this account by recording that:

  1. “From that time the Romans had no permanent camp: Fabius said that it was bad for an army to remain fixed in one spot, and that frequent marches and changes of position made [the men] became healthier and fitter.  [The army therefore] made marches as long and as frequent as the season allowed, for the winter was not yet over.  As soon as spring set in, he left the second legion at Clusium [modern Chiusi], formerly called Camars, and placed [Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus] in charge of the camp as propraetor”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 25: 10-11).

As we shall see in the following section, it is more likely that Scipio and the second legion were stationed at Camerinum: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 286) pointed out, Livy’s ‘Camars’, which he said was the original name of Clusium, is similar to ‘Camers’, the adjective corresponding to Camerinum.

Roman Defeat at Clusium or Camerinum

Polybius reported an early Roman defeat immediately before the major engagement at Sentinum:

  1. “... the Samnites and Gaul ... gave the Romans battle in the neighbourhood of Camerinum, and slew a large number” (‘Histories’, 2:19: 5).

Livy reported two versions of this engagement, which he located at Clusium.  In the first of these:

  1. “... before the consuls arrived in Etruria, the Senonian Gauls came in immense numbers to Clusium  with the intention of attacking the Roman camp and the legion stationed there.  Scipio, who was in command [as propraetor], thinking to [make up for] the scantiness of his numbers by taking up a stronger position, marched his force on to a hill that lay between his camp and the city.  [Unfortunately,] the enemy appeared so suddenly that he had had no time to reconnoitre the ground, and he continued towards the summit after the enemy had already seized it ... So the legion was... completely surrounded.   Some authors say that the entire legion was wiped out there, not a man being  left to carry the tidings, and that, although the consuls were not far from Clusium at the time, no report of the disaster reached them until Gaulish horsemen appeared with the heads of the slain hanging from their horses' chests and fixed on the points of their spears, whilst they chanted war-songs after their manner”, (‘Roman History’, 10: 26: 7-11).

In the second version, the assailants:

  1. “... were not Gauls at all, but Umbrians.  Nor was there a great disaster; [rather, ] a foraging party commanded by Lucius Manlius Torquatus, a staff officer, was surrounded and, when the propraetor Scipio sent assistance from the camp, ...  the Umbrians were defeated and the [Roman] prisoners and booty were recovered, (‘Roman History’, 10: 26: 12).

Livy then expressed the opinion that:

  1. “It is more probable that this defeat was inflicted by Gauls rather than by Umbrians: dread of a Gallic attack ... were especially present to the minds of the citizens this year (‘Roman History’, 10: 26: 13).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at pp 285-6) pointed out that the Roman sources used by Polybius and Livy are unlikely to have invented a Roman defeat, and that the men who inflicted it might have included Gauls and Umbrians, although he thought that Polybius’ inclusion of Samnites here was probably a mistake.  However, as Oakley pointed out (at p. 286) that the subsequent major engagement:

  1. “... probably took place in Umbria, much closer to Camerinum than Clusium, most scholars believe that Livy was mistaken, and was persuaded by [one or more] aberrant sources to transfer to Clusium a battle that, in fact, took place at Camerinum.”

Oakley also noted (at p. 282) that:

  1. “Camerinum is said to have made an alliance with [Rome] in 310/9 BC [see my previous page], which perhaps continued unbroken.  Roman concern for the protection of Camerinum would explain this [unsuccessful engagement], which almost certainly occurred in her territory.”

Polybius recorded that, in 295 BC:

  1. “... the Gauls made a league with the Samnites and, engaging the Romans in the territory of Camerinum, inflicted on them considerable loss.  [However], the Romans, determined on avenging their reverse, advanced again a few days after with all their legions and, attacking the Gauls and Samnites in the territory of Sentinum, put the greater number of them to the sword and compelled the rest to take precipitate flight to their [respective] homes”, (‘Histories’, 2: 19: 1-4).


Tales of the battle at Sentinum reached Duris, the Greek historian who became tyrant of Samos and who was still alive at this time,  Thus, Diodorus Siculus noted that:

  1. “According to Duri, the Romans slew 100,000 men in the war with the Etruscans, Gauls, Samnites and the other allies in the consulship of Fabius [295 BC]”, (‘Library of History’, fragment, 6: 1)


[14] The force with which the consuls had taken the field consisted of four legions and a large body of cavalry, in addition to 1000 picked Campanian troopers detailed for this war, whilst the contingents furnished by the allies and the Latin League formed an even larger army than the Roman army. [15] But in addition to this large force two other armies were stationed not far from the City, confronting Etruria; one in the Faliscan district, another in the neighbourhood of the Vatican. The propraetors, Cnaeus Fulvius and L. Postumius Megellus, had been instructed to fix their standing camps in those positions.







Livy provides a more detailed account of this decisive Battle of Sentinum.  The Romans, led by the consuls Quintus Fabius and Publius Decius, first set up a diversionary attack on Clusium [Chiusi], which:

  1. “... drew the Etrurians from Sentinum to protect their own region” (10:27). 

The strategist Frontinus was to use this as an example of diversionary tactics in a treatise he wrote in the 1st century AD:

  1. “In the 5th consulship of Fabius Maximus, the Gauls, Umbrians, Etruscans, and Samnites had formed an alliance against the Roman people.  Against these tribes Fabius first constructed a fortified camp beyond the Apennines in the region of Sentinum.  Then, he wrote to Fulvius and Postumius, who were guarding [Rome], directing them to move on Clusium with their forces.  When these commanders complied, the Etruscans and Umbrians withdrew to defend their own possessions, while Fabius and his colleague Decius attacked and defeated the remaining forces of Samnites and Gauls” ‘Stratagems’, 8:3).

This tactic does indeed seem to have been decisive: Livy observes that, had the Etruscans and Umbrians been present at the subsequent engagement at Sentinum,

  1. “... the Romans must have been defeated” (10:27).  

Even without them, the battle was evenly balanced until Decius:

  1. “... spurred forward his horse to where he saw the line of the Gauls thickest and, [deliberately] rushing upon the enemy's weapons, met his death” (10:28). 

The Roman soldiers took heart at this act of heroic self-sacrifice and the tide of battle turned. 

Livy continued:

  1. “Fabius, ... having heard of the [heroic] death of his colleague [Decius Mus], ordered [his men] ... to attack the rear of the Gallic line ..., [further] ordering that, wherever they should see the enemy's troops disordered by the charge, ... [they should] cut them to pieces ... .  After vowing a temple and the spoils of the enemy to Jupiter Victor, he proceeded to the camp of the Samnites, whither all their forces were hurrying in confusion.  The gates not affording entrance to such very great numbers, those [Samnites] who were necessarily excluded attempted resistance just at the foot of the rampart, and here fell Gellius Egnatius, the Samnite general.  ... [Victory followed]: 25,000 enemy soldiers were slain on that day and 8,000 taken prisoner.  Nor was the victory an unbloody one [for the Romans themselves]; of the army of Publius Decius, 7,000 were killed; of the army of Fabius, 1,200.  Fabius, after sending men to search for the body of his colleague, had the spoils of the enemy collected into a heap and burned them as an offering to Jupiter  Victor.  [The body of Decius Mus was recovered] and Fabius, discarding all concern about any other business, solemnised the obsequies of his colleague in the most honourable manner, passing on him the high encomiums which he had justly merited” (10:29).

As Tim Cornell (referenced below, 1995, at p. 362) recorded:

  1. “... Fabius [then] returned to Rome in triumph, with an assured place in the Roman tradition as the hero of the Samnite Wars.  Sentium sealed the fate of Italy [which now inevitable and progressively fell under Roman control].” 

The outcome was equally bad for the Etruscans at Clusium, where:

  1. “... 3,000 of the Perusians and Clusians [were] slain and 20 military standards taken” (10:30).

However, the Etruscans rose again:

  1. “...at the instigation of the Perusians” (10:31),

following which, Fabius:

  1. “... slew 4,500 of the Perusians, and took 1,740 prisoners, who were ransomed at the rate of 310 asses each.  All the rest of the spoil was bestowed on the soldiers” (10:31). 

As Tim Cornell (referenced below, 1995, at p. 362) recorded:

  1. “... Fabius [then] returned to Rome in triumph, with an assured place in the Roman tradition as the hero of the Samnite Wars.  Sentium sealed the fate of Italy.”

Postumius and Atilius (294 BC)

It is clear that he decisive nature the Battle of Sentinum was not immediately apparent, since the Consuls of the following year, Postumius MeGellius and Atilius Regulus (Fabius’ son-in-law), faced considerable difficulties in mopping up the remains of Etruscan and Samnite opposition.  Livy records that:

  1. “Sickness detained Postumius at Rome, but Atilius set out immediately, intending to surprise the enemy in Samnium before they should have advanced beyond their own borders; for such had been the directions of the Senate” (10:32).

The Samnites soon made a bold attempt on the Roman camp, causing serious casualties.

  1. “News of these events being conveyed to Rome, with circumstances of alarm magnified beyond the truth, obliged Lucius Postumius, ... though scarcely recovered from his illness, to set out for [Samnium].  However, before his departure, ... he dedicated the temple of Victory, for the building of which he had provided, when curule aedile, out of the money arising from fines. ...  joining his army [at Sora], he advanced  ... to the camp of his colleague.  The Samnites, despairing of being able to make head against the two armies, retreated from thence, on which the Consuls, separating, proceeded by different routes to lay waste the enemy's lands and besiege their towns” (10:33).

Postumius quickly took Milionia and Ferentium.  However:

  1. “The war was by no means so easy for ... Atilius: as he was marching his legions towards Luceria, to which he was informed that the Samnites had laid siege, the enemy met him on the border of the Lucerian territory” (10:35).

The resulting engagement seems to have been a shambles, with casualties high and morale low on both sides.  The Romans started to retreat, until Atilius:

  1. “.. placing himself in the way of his men, [demanded]: ‘Whither are you going, soldiers? ... not while your Consul lives, shall you pass the rampart, unless victorious.  Choose therefore which you will prefer, fighting against your own countrymen, or the enemy.’ ... The men then began to encourage each other to return to the battle, while the centurions snatched the ensigns from the standard-bearers and bore them forward, pointing out to the soldiers the enemy, coming on in a hurry, few in number, and with their ranks disordered.  At the same time, [Atilius], with his hands lifted up towards Heaven and raising his voice so as to be heard at a distance, vowed a temple to Jupiter Stator, if the Roman army should rally from flight, and, renewing the battle, cut down and defeat the Samnites” (10:36).

Atilius duly returned to Rome.  However:

  1. “On his applying for a triumph, that honour was refused him, because he had lost so many thousands of his soldiers; and also because he had sent the prisoners under the yoke without imposing any conditions” (10:36).


Meanwhile:

  1. “... Postumius, because there was no employment for his arms in Samnium, having led over his forces into Etruria, first laid waste the lands of the Volsinians; and afterwards, on their marching out to protect their country, gained a decisive victory over them, at a small distance from their own walls.  2,200 of the Etrurians were slain; the proximity of their city protected the rest.  The army was then led into the territory of Rusella, and there, not only were the lands wasted, but the town itself taken.  More than 2,000 men were made prisoners, and somewhat less than that number killed on the walls.  But a peace, effected that year in Etruria, was still more important and honourable than the war had been.  Three very powerful cities, the chief ones of Etruria, (Volsinii, Perusia, and Arretium) sued for peace; and having stipulated with the Consul to furnish clothing and corn for his army, on condition of being permitted to send deputies to Rome, they obtained a truce for 40 years, and a fine was imposed on each state of 500,000 asses, to be immediately paid” (10:37).  

Like Atilius, Postumius now faced problems in Rome:

  1. “When [Postumius] demanded a triumph from the Senate in consideration of these services [at Volsinii], ...  he saw that one party, his own personal enemies, another party, the friends of his colleague [Atilius Regulus], refused him the triumph, the latter to console [the fact that he had suffered] a similar refusal, some on the plea that he had been rather tardy in taking his departure from the city; others, that he had passed from Samnium into Etruria without orders from the Senate.  He responded by saying: ‘Conscript fathers, I shall not be so far mindful of your dignity, as to forget that I am Consul.  By the same right of office by which I conducted the war, I shall now have a triumph, [since] this war has been brought to a happy conclusion, Samnium and Etruria being subdued, and victory and peace procured’.  With these words he left the Senate.  On this arose a contention between the plebeian tribunes: some of them declared that they would protest against his triumphing in a manner unprecedented; others, that they would support his pretensions, in opposition to their colleagues.  The affair came at length to be discussed before the people, and [Postumius] being summoned to attend.  [He cited others who] had triumphed, not by direction of the Senate, but by that of the people; he then added that ‘he would in like manner have laid his request before the public, had he not known that some plebeian tribunes, the abject slaves of the nobles, would have obstructed the law.  [He stressed] that the universal approbation and will of the people were and should be with him equivalent to any order whatsoever’.  Accordingly, on the day following, by the support of three plebeian tribunes, in opposition to the protest of the other seven and the declared judgment of the Senate, he triumphed; and the people paid every honour to the day.” (10:37). 

Livy now lapsed into an apologia on the problems he faced in reconciling his sources for these events:

  1. “The historical accounts regarding [294 BC] are by no means consistent:

  2. -Claudius asserts that:

  3. Postumius, having taken several cities in Samnium, was defeated and put to flight in Apulia; and that, being wounded ... , he was driven ... into Luceria; [while]

  4. Atilius  conducted the war in Etruria, and it was he who triumphed. 

  5. -Fabius [Pictor] writes that:

  6. the two consuls acted in conjunction [against the Samnites] in both in Samnium [itself] and at Luceria; and

  7. an army was led over into Etruria, but by which of the Consuls he has not mentioned.

  8. [He also recorded] that, at Luceria, great numbers were slain on both sides; and that,  in that battle, the temple of Jupiter Stator was vowed, the same vow having been formerly made by Romulus, but the ‘fanum’ only, that is, the area appropriated for the temple, had been yet consecrated.  However, in this year, the State having been twice bound by the same vow, it became a matter of religious obligation that the Senate should order the temple to be erected” (10:37).

Since the ‘Fasti Triumphales’ record for 294-3 BC that:

  1. Postumius  MeGellius celebrated a triumph over the Samnites and Etruscans on 27th March; and   

  2. Atilius Regulus celebrated a triumph over the over the ‘Volsones’ (perhaps the Volsinians) and Samnites on the following day;

we can reasonably assume that the account of Fabius Pictor was the more accurate. Thus, given that Atilius Regulus also triumphed over the ‘Volsones’, one wonders if the treaty with the Etruscans as the achievement of Postumius alone.

End Game (293-90 AD)

In 293 BC, the Consuls Spurius Carvilius Maximus and Lucius Papirius Cursor enjoyed considerable success in Samnium.  Livy awarded the major part of this success to Papirius Cursor:

  1. “While he was on his way to Rome, a triumph was decreed him with universal consent; and accordingly he triumphed while in office and with extraordinary splendour, considering the circumstances of those times.  ... The spoils of the Samnites were inspected with much curiosity, and compared, in respect of magnificence and beauty, with those taken by his [eponymous] father,... 1,330 pounds of silver was taken in the [defeated] cities.  All the silver and brass were lodged in the treasury, no share of this part of the spoil being given to the soldiers.  The ill humour in the commons was further exasperated, because the tax for the payment of the army was collected by contribution [rather than from the spoils of war].  The temple of Quirinus, vowed by his father when dictator [in 325 0r possibly in 309 BC] ... [was] dedicated and adorned with military spoils” (10:46).

However, Carvilius went on to gain a substantial victory against the Etruscans and Faliscians.  Livy noted that the residual unrest in:

  1. “... Etruria would have been prosecuted with less vigour, had not information been received, that the Faliscians ..., who had for many years lived in friendship with Rome, had united their arms with those of the Etrurians” (10:45).

As Papirius Cursor travelled to Rome to receive his triumph, Carvilius pressed on to Etruria,where he:

  1. “... set about laying siege to Troilium [otherwise unknown], suffered 470 of the richest inhabitants to [leave the city after] they had paid a large sum of money for permission to leave the place.  The town, with the remaining multitude, he took by storm.  He afterwards reduced, by force, five forts strongly situated, wherein were slain 2,400 of the enemy, with not quite 2,000 made prisoners.  To the Faliscians, who sued for peace, he granted a truce for a year, on condition of their furnishing 100,000 asses in weight,  and that year's pay for his army.  This business completed, he returned home to a triumph, which, though it was less illustrious than that of his colleague in respect of his share in the defeat of the Samnites, was yet raised to an equality with it by his having put a termination to the war in Etruria.  He carried into the treasury 390,000 asses in weight.  Out of the remainder of the money accruing to the public from the spoils, he contracted for the building of a temple to Fors Fortuna, near to that dedicated to the same goddess by king Servius Tullius; and gave to the soldiers, out of the spoil, 102 asses each, and double that sum to the centurions and horsemen, who received this donative the more gratefully, on account of the parsimony of his colleague” (10:46).

However, the ‘Fasti Triumphales’ of 293/2 BC record triumphs against the Samnites for both men, in January and February respectively.

It is interesting that Papirius Cursor now dedicated a temple to Quirinus at Rome that his father had vowed as Dictator, and that Carvilius used a portion of his spoils of war to contract for a temple to Fors Fortuna.  Both of these were ancient deities in the Roman pantheon, and their respective temples were associated with the rivalry between the Roman orders:

  1. According to Pliny the Elder:

  2. “... at the Temple of Quirinus (or, in other words, of Romulus himself) one of the most ancient [temples] in Rome, there were formerly two myrtle trees that grew for a long period just in front of the temple; one of these was called the Patrician tree, the other the Plebeian. The Patrician myrtle was for many years the superior tree, full of sap and vigour; indeed, so long as the Senate maintained its superiority, so did the tree, being of large growth, while the Plebeian tree presented a meagre, shrivelled appearance.  In later times, however, the latter tree gained the superiority, and the Patrician myrtle began to fail just at the period of the [Social War of 90 BC], when the power of the Senate was so greatly weakened: and little by little did this once majestic tree sink into a state of utter exhaustion and sterility” (‘Natural History (15:36).

  3. The temple vowed by Papirius Cursor senior and dedicated by his son was presumably built on the site of an ancient predecessor on the Quirinal.

  4. Livy (above) has Carvilius build his temple close to an ancient one attributed to Servius Tullius, in what is now Trastevere.  Ovid described the popular festival held in her honour on June 24th, and noted that:

  5. “The people worship her, because they say the founder of her shrine [Servius Tullius ] was one of them, and rose from humble rank to the throne, and her worship suits slaves, because Servius was slave-born ...” (‘Fasti’, VI).

Unfortunately, Livy’s account of the final stages of the war is lost, although it can be summarised using the Periochae:

  1. “When Consul Fabius Gurges had unsuccessfully fought against the Samnites [in 292 BC] and the Senate discussed his recall from the army, his father Fabius Maximus [Rullianus asked to save his son from humiliation, and the Senate granted this when he promised to help his son as deputy, something he actually did.  With his advice and assistance, his son, the Consul, defeated the Samnites and celebrated a triumph.  Gaius Pontius, the Samnite commander, walked in the [triumphal] procession and was [then] beheaded” (‘Periochae’, 11).

The ‘Fasti Triumphales’ record his triumph over the Samnites as proconsul in 291 BC, which suggests (since his imperium had been extended) that the account of his initial failure had been exaggerated.

The end for the Samnites came in the following year:

  1. “When the Samnites sued for peace [in 290 BC], the treaty was renewed for the fourth time.  The Consul Curius Dentatus celebrated two triumphs in one year, because he had defeated the Samnites and had also subdued the rebellious Sabines and accepted their surrender” (‘Periochae’, 11).

This is particularly valuable information, because the record in the ‘Fasti Triumphales’ from 291 to 282 BC is missing.  Florus reports on the second of these triumphs, after which territory of the Sabines was incorporated into the Roman state:

  1. “During the consulship of Manius Curius Dentatus, the Romans laid waste with fire and sword all the tract of country which is enclosed by the Nar, the Anio and the sources of the Velinus, and bounded by the Adriatic Sea.  By this conquest, so large a population and so vast a territory was reduced, that even he who had won the victory could not tell which was of the greater importance” (‘Epitome of Roman History’, (1:15).

Gallic War (284-2 BC)

Polybius records that, some 10 years after the Battle of Sentinum, the Gauls besieged Arretium (Arezzo). 

  1. “The Romans went to the assistance of the town and were beaten in an engagement under its walls.  The Praetor [Lucius Caecilius] having fallen in this battle, Manius Curius [Dentatus]was appointed in his place.  The ambassadors that he sent to the Gauls to treat for the prisoners were treacherously murdered by them.  At this the Romans, in high wrath, sent an expedition against them, which was met by the tribe called the Senones.  In a pitched battle this army was cut to pieces, and the rest of the tribe expelled from the county, into which the Romans sent the first colony that they ever planted in Gaul, namely, the town of Sena [Sena Gallica, now Senigallia], so called from the tribe of Gauls which formerly occupied it.  This is the town which I mentioned before as lying on the coast at the extremity of the plains of the Padus [i.e. the Po valley]” (‘Histories’ 2:19: 7).

In reaction to the disaster suffered by the Senonian Gauls, the another Gallic tribe, the Boii made an alliance with the Etruscans and engaged in a battle near the Vadimo Lake:

  1. “Seeing the expulsion of the Senones, and fearing the same fate for themselves, the Boii made a general levy, summoned the Etruscans to join them, and set out to war.  They mustered their forces near the lacus Vadimonis, and there gave the Romans battle; in which the Etruscans indeed suffered a loss of more than half their men, while scarcely any of the Boii escaped.  But yet, in the very next year, the same [Boii and the Etruscans] joined forces once more; and, arming even those of them who had only just reached manhood, gave the Romans battle again; and it was not until they had been utterly defeated in this engagement that they humbled themselves so far as to send ambassadors to Rome and make a treaty” (‘Histories’, 2:20).

It seems likely that Manius Curius Dentatus was awarded a triumph for this victory against the Senonian Gauls in 283 BC: he had certainly been awarded two in 290 BC, and the ‘Fasti Triumphales’ record his later triumph in 275 BC (against the Samnites and King Pyrrhus) as his 4th.  His third triumph must have been in the period 290 - 282 BC, for which the information has been lost, and the victory of 283 BC is the obvious candidate.

The ‘Fasti Triumphales’ record that Quintus Marcius Philippus was awarded a triumph over the Etruscans in 281 BC.

William Harris (referenced below) ploughs through some contradictions in alternative sources to Poybius’ account of these events, but seems to conclude that it is, nevertheless, essentially correct.

Revolt of Volsinii (282-280 BC)

According to the Periochae, wars against the Volsinians and Lucanians broke out in 282 BC, when the Romans “decided to support the inhabitants of Thurii against them”.  This incident  formed part of the growing tension between the Romans and the inhabitants of Tarentum, the important Greek city in southern Italy that regarded  its neighbour  Thurii (also Greek) as within its sphere of influence. Thus, when Thurii turned to Rome rather than to Tarentum for protection from the Lucanians, hostilities became inevitable.

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

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

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

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

Final Defeat of the Umbrians (267 BC)

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

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

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

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

Fall of Volsinii (264 BC)

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

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

Incorporation into the Roman State

From the above account, it is clear that:

  1. Narnia and Spoletium were Latin colonies from the time of the conquest;

  2. Forum Flaminii was a Romand settlement established in 220 BC;

  3. Fulginia became a Roman praefectura, probably in the early 2nd century BC and certainly before the Social War (90 BC).

There is some evidence to suggest that the following were established as a Roman praefecturae:

  1. Interamna Nahars, in the period 290-70 AD;

  2. Nursia (Norcia), in the late 2nd century BC; and

  3. Plestia, perhaps in the early 1st century BC.

At the other end of the spectrum:

  1. Ocriculum (Otricoli) probably remained independent, with its relations with Rome governed by a bilateral treaty that ratified the sponsio (promise given in battle) secured in 308 BC; 

  2. Iguvium (Gubbio) certainly secured a bilateral treaty with Rome, probably in the first half of the 3rd century BC; and

  3. less clear-cut evidence supports the hypotheses that Ameria (Amelia) and Tuder (Todi) retained their independence, presumably subject to bilateral treaties, until the Social Wars.

The evidence is presented in the pages on the history of the respective cities.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third Samnite War      End Game (290-241 BC)


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