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Roman Conquest of Italy (Topic):

Dictator Years (334/3; 325/4; 310/9; and 302/1 BC)


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Introduction

Two entries in the list of magistrates in the Augustan fasti Capitolini record that:

hoc anno dictator et magister equitum sine consulibus fuerunt

In this year there was a dictator and a master of horse, without any consuls

The years in question, using the so-called Varronian chronology (discussed below) were:

  1. 445 AUC (309 BC): Dictator, Lucius Papirius Cursor (II); Master of Horse, Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II); and

  2. 453 AUC (301 BC): Dictator: Marcus Valerius Corvus (II); Master of Horse, Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (resigned); Marcus Aemilius Paullus (elected in his place)

Three similar entries in the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’, which seems to have been largely based on the fasti Capitolini, record that:

hoc anno dictatores non fuerunt

this year, there were no dictators

The years in question were: 421 AUC (333 BC); 430 AUC (324 BC); 445 AUC (309 BC).  Comparison of the entries for 309 BC in the fasti Capitolini and in the Chronography of 354 AD suggest that all three entries in the latter had been incorrectly transcribed: for example, Thomas Broughton (referenced below,at p. 141) suggested:

hoc anno dictatores, non fuerunt (consules)

this year, dictators [held office]: there were no (consuls)

In other words, if we assume that all three entries (as corrected) in the the ‘Chronography of 354 AD reflected entires in the fasti Capitolini, then the fasti Capitolini originally recorded four occasions on which a dictator and his master of horse ruled for an entire year without consuls: 421 AUC (333 BC); 430 AUC (324 BC); 445 AUC (309 BC) and 453 AUC (301 BC).

Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 2015, at pp. 108-9 pointed out:

  1. “These [four] ‘dictator years’, as they are called, do not appear in Livy or in any other historical account ...”

Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at p. 556) argued that:

  1. “... the earliest reasonably certain appearance [of dictator years] is in the chronological systems of [Titus Pomponius] Atticus and, later, [Marcus Terentius] Varro, which were the principal models for the the Capitoline fasti.  That it was Atticus who developed the new chronological system, in his liber annalis of 47 BC, is [also] reasonably certain.”

Timothy Cornell (as above), like most scholars, argued that these years:

  1. ... are actually a blatant antiquarian fabrication by the scholars who produced the so-called Varronian chronology.”

I discuss the putative ‘invention’ of the dictator years below, after I have looked at each of them in more detail.

Unfortunately, much of modern Roman history was written using the ‘Varronian’ chronology of the fasti before the fictitious nature of the dictator years was fully recognised.  Therefore, in order to avoid the need to ‘re-date’ history by eliminating them, modern scholars merge themem into the preceding consular years, using the designations: 334/3, 325/4; 310/9; and 302/1 BC. 

Dictator Year 334/3 BC

Conflicting Chronologies

Livy

This dictator year was inserted into a short period in which the Romans were at war with the Sidicini, which, according to Livy, began in the start of the consulship of Lucius Papirius Crassus and Caeso Duillius and extended over this and the following two consular years.  His list of magistrates holding office in this period was as follows:

  1. Second Year of the war:

  2. Consuls: Marcus Valerius Corvus (IV), who was awarded a triumph over the Ausones of Cales, and Marcus Atilius Regulus [Calenus]

  3. -Dictator: Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus who was appointed to hold elections for the following year in the consuls’ absence:

  4. Master of the Horse: Quintus Publilius Philo

  5. Third and final year of the war:

  6. Consuls: Titus Veturius Calvinus and Spurius Postumius Albinus

  7. -Dictator: Publius Cornelius Rufinus, who (according to Livy)  was appointed to serve alongside both consuls when the Sidicini raised a huge army and the Samnites seemed likely to come to their aid

  8. Master of the Horse: Marcus Antonius

  9. When concerns were raised about the regularity of the appointment of the dictator, he and his master of horse  resigned

  10. Fifth interrex: Marcus Valerius Corvus, who finally presided over the election of consuls for the following year

Livy’s next record of a triumph came five consular years after that of Marcus Valerius Corvus (above), when both consuls, Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus Privernas (II) and Caius Plautius Decianus, triumphed over the Volscians of Privernum.

Sources that Include the Fictitious Dictator Year

The relevant entries for the period above in the fasti Capitolini are missing.  However:

  1. the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record the consulships of this period as follows:

  2. 336 BC (V):

  3. -Consuls: Crasso [Lucius Papirius Crassus] et Hella [Caeso Duillius]

  4. 335 BC (V):

  5. -Consuls: Caleno [Marcus Atilius Regulus Calenus] et Corvo [Marcus Valerius Corvus] (IV)

  6. 334 BC (V):

  7. -Consuls: Caudino [Spurius Postumius Albinus (Caudinus)] et Calvino [Titus Veturius Calvinus]

  8. 333 BC (V):

  9. -this year, dictators [held office]: there were no (consuls)

  10. the fasti Triumphales, which are fortunately complete at this point, record:

  11. in 335 BC (V):

  12. -triumph of Marcus Valerius Corvus, as consul for the 4th time, over the Ausones of Cales (which agrees with Livy)

  13. in 329 BC (V):

  14. -triumphs of Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus Privernas and Caius Plautius Decianus over the Privernates (which, because of the insertion of the dictator year in 33 BC (V), is six rather than five years after Valerius’ triumph at Cales).

  15. This indicates that the triumphs of Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus Privernas (II) and Caius Plautius Decianus came six Varronian years after that of Marcus Valerius Corvus, these six comprising of:

  16. Livy’s five consular years; plus

  17. a dictator year, presumably corresponding to the dictator year that the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ recorded in 333 BC (V)

Reconciled Chronology

It is important to bear in mind that:

  1. while the fasti Triumphales indicate a dictator year in the period 335-329 BC (V), our only source for the assumption that it was inserted as 333 BC (V) comes from the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’, which is not an infallible guide (for example, it does not record a dictator year in 301 BC (V)); and

  2. we have no direct evidence for the identities of either the dictator to whom this year was assigned or his master of horse.  Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at p. 565, note 93), in his fundamental paper on the dictator years, reasonably followed:

  3. “... the usual assumption that Livy’s dictator of  [334/3 BC, i.e. Publius Cornelius Rufinus, was also the dictator] assigned to 333 BC (Varronian) in the fasti Capitolini.”

  4. In other words, the historian who invented the fictitious dictator years in the late Republic probably recorded that Publius Cornelius Rufinus ruled as dictator in 333 BC (V), with Marcus Antonius as his master of horse. 

Having said that, there is, as we shall see, a reasonable body of (admittedly circumstantial) evidence that supports these assumptions.

On this basis, these sources can be reconciled as follows (with consuls who were awarded triumphs indicated in bold):

  1. 335 BC:

  2. Consuls: Marcus Valerius Corvus (IV) and Marcus Atilius Regulus

  3. -Dictator: Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus, who was appointed to hold elections for the following year in the consuls’ absence:

  4. Master of the Horse: Quintus Publilius Philo

  5. 334/3 BC:

  6. Consuls: Titus Veturius Calvinus and Spurius Postumius Albinus

  7. -Dictator: Publius Cornelius Rufinus, , who (according to Livy)  was appointed to serve alongside both consuls when the Sidicini raised a huge army and the Samnites seemed likely to come to their aid

  8. Master of the Horse: Marcus Antonius

  9. When concerns were raised about the regularity of the appointment of the dictator, he and his master of horse  resigned 

  10. 329 BC:

  11. Consuls: Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus Privernas (II) and Caius Plautius Decianus

Publius Cornelius Rufinus

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 587-8) pointed out, this is the only reference to this Publius Cornelius Rufinus in our surviving sources.   However, he was presumably the grandson of [Publius ?] Cornelius  Rufinus, son of Cnaeus, grandson of Publius, who was recorded in the fasti Capitolini record as consul for the second time in 277 BC.  There is no reason

We know considerably more about this consular Publius Cornelius Rufunus: although the entry for his first consulship in the fasti Capitolini no longer survives, the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record it in 290 BC.  We also know how his career in public life ended: Livy recorded that, in 275 BC, the censor

  1. “... Fabricius removed the former consul Publius Cornelius Rufinus from the Senate because he owned more than ten pounds of silverware”, (Periochae, 14:4).

It also seems that he had held the dictatorship before his expulsion: according to Valerius Maximus:

  1. “Every generation has recounted ... that Cornelius Rufinus, who had held (with the highest distinction) two consulships and a dictatorship, was expelled from the Senate ... because he had accumulated silver plate weighing 10 pounds”, (‘Facta et Dicta Memorabilia’, 2: 9: 4, my translation).

Unfortunately, we know nothing more about this dictatorship, although we might reasonably assume that:

  1. given his military record, Cornelius was appointed to it to deal with a military emergency; and

  2. this emergency arose after his first consulship and before 284 BC, in a period for which the entries in the fasti Capitolini do not survive.


The consular Publius Cornelius Rufus was an ancestor of Lucius Cornelius Sulla, the dictator of 82-80 BC (see below): thus Plutarch (who made use, inter alia, of Sulla’s autobiography) recorded that:

  1. “Lucius Cornelius Sulla belonged to a patrician or noble, family, and one of his ancestors, Rufinus, is said to have been consul, although he was renowned less for this honour than for the dishonour that he incurred: he was found possess more than ten pounds of silver plate, contrary to the law, and was for that reason expelled from the Senate.  His posterity became at once obscure and continued so; nor did Sulla himself enjoy a wealthy parentage”, (‘Life of Sulla’, 1: 1).

Velleius Paterculus recorded that:

  1. “[88 BC] was the year in which Quintus Pompeius [Rufus] and Lucius Cornelius Sulla entered upon the consulship.  Sulla was  ...  sprung of a noble family, the 6th in descent from the Cornelius Rufinus who had been one of the famous generals in the war with Pyrrhus [i.e., the consul of 290 and 277 BC].  As the renown of his family had waned, Sulla had long acted as though he had had no thought of seeking the consulship”, (‘Roman History’, 2: 17: 1-2).

In other words, as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 588) deduced:

  1. “... eight generations separate [Publius Cornelius Rufinus, the dictator of 334/3 BC] from the great dynast [Lucius Cornelius Sulla, the dictator of 82 - 80 BC].”

As Arthur Keaveney (referenced below, at p. 5) pointed out, the fall from grace of P his grandson:

  1. “... seems to have led to the partial political eclipse of the family ... [such that], by the time of Sulla, it was regarded as being of little consequence.”

Marcus Antonius

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 588) pointed out, this is the only reference to this Marcus Antonius in our surviving sources.   He comes in a long period in which the gens Antonia is otherwise effectively unrecorded: our surviving sources record:

  1. only two earlier members of the gens Antonia:

  2. Titus Antonius Merenda, a decemvir in ca. 450 BC; and

  3. his son, Quintus Antonius Merenda, a military tribune in 422 BC. 

  4. Thereafter, apart from Livy’s master of horse of 334/3 BC, the only other members of this gens who are known to have held public office are:

  5. Marcus Antonius, a tribune of the plebs in 167 BC (Livy: ‘History of Rome’, 45: 32: 2);

  6. Marcus Antonius the consul of 99 BC, who was one of the most distinguished orators of his time.  He was an adherent of Sulla and was killed by Sulla’s enemies in 87 BC;

  7. Caius Antonius Hybrida, the second son of Marcus Antonius, the orator, who was one of Sulla’s lieutenants in the Mithradatic War: despite a number of subsequent setbacks, he served as consul consul with Cicero in 63 BC and, after his exile after the Cataline conspiracy of that year, seems to have been recalled by Caesar, and is recorded as a senator in 44 BC and as censor in 42 BC.

  8. Marcus Antonius, the grandson of Marcus Antonius, the orator, nephew of Caius Antonius Hybrida and setp-son of Cornelius Lentulus Sura, whom Cicero executed without trial in 63 BC after the Cataline conspiracy.  He became one of Caesar’s lieutenants in Gaul and, during Caesar’s second dictatorship of 47 BC, he served as master of horse, governing Rome and Italy during Caesar’s absence in Africa for most of 47 BC.   He served as consul with Caesar in 44 BC and emerged after Caesar’s murder as one of the triumvirs who ran what was left of the Republic.  His fellow-triumvir, Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus), defeated him at Actium in 31 BC and he committed suicide in the following year.

Given this history, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Livy and his source(s) had probably been misled as to the identity of the master of horse of 334/3 BC. 

As discussed below, scholars have often drawn attention to the strange coincidence that the latest of these M. Antonii had served as master of horse in 47 BC, during Caesar’s second dictatorship.  As Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 1996, at p. 469) pointed out:

  1. “If Atticus wrote a spurious account of the [year-long, consul-free] dictatorships of 333, 324, 309, and 301 BC [see above], then he provided the Caesarian [propagandists] with the historical 'precedents' with which they could counter criticism of the unconstitutional nature of Caesar's second dictatorship in 47 BC.  The appearance of [Atticus’] work in this exact year [in which Caesar ruled for the first time as dictator for an entire, consul-free year, with Marcus Antonius as his master of horse] is simply too convenient [to have been merely coincidental].”

In other words, it is (for example) hard to escape the conclusion that, in identifying the master of horse of Publius Cornelius Rufinus in his dictatorship of 334/3 BC as Marcus Antonius, Livy was almost certainly relying on a fraudulent source that was also the basis of the ‘invention’ of the dictator year of 333 BC (V).  (Obviously, as discussed below, the possibility that this putative fraudulent source was Atticus himself cannot be ruled out.)

Livy’s Account of the Dictatorship of 334/3 BC

I discuss Livy’s account of the events of this period in more detail in my page on Between First Two Samnite Wars II (337 - 328 BC)).  In the section below, I summarise the parts of Livy’s narrative that might throw some light on the reason why Atticus or one of his sources chose to place the first of the newly-invented dictator years in 333 BC (V).

Prior Events

According to Livy, soon after their election, the new consuls of 334/3 BC, Titus Veturius Calvinus and Spurius Postumius Albinus:

  1. “... took over the army from their predecessors and, entering the territory of the Sidicini, laid it waste as far as their city walls”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 1).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 573-4) suggested that the city in question was Teanum Sidicinum, and that the fact that the Romans failed to attack it in either this or the previous consular year indicates that it was particularly well-fortified. 

In other words, it seems that Teanum Sidicinum had been besieged for over a year, but that the Romans only hope of taking it was to starve the inhabitants into submission.  It seems unlikely that the could have held out much longer and according to Livy:

  1. “At this juncture ... :

  2. [they] raised exercitus ingens (a huge army) and seemed likely to make a desperate struggle on behalf of their last hope [of avoiding submission to Rome]; and

  3. the rumour circulated that Samnium was [also] arming ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 1-2).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 574) argued that:

  1. “The rumour that the Samnites were restless is ... wholly credible: they must have viewed the with alarm the colonisation of [nearby] Cales [in 334 BC], the Roman threat to the Sidicini, and the increasing Roman grip on the whole area.  The build-up to the Second Samnite War had begun.”

Dictatorship of Publius Cornelius Rufinus (334/3 BC)

According to Livy, because of the danger that the Sidicini and the Samnites would join forces in attempt to end the Romans’ grip on this area:

  1. “... the Senate authorised the consuls to nominate a dictator.  They appointed Publius Cornelius Rufinus, and Marcus Antonius was made master of the horse”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 2-3).

However, Cornelius’ appointment was immediately vitiated: according to Livy:

  1. “... concern was subsequently raised about the regularity of their appointment [i.e. that of both Cornelius and Antonius] and they resigned their office”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 4).

It aseems that this was not enough to correct the situation:

  1. “When a pestilence ensued [the vitiation of Cornelius’ dictatorship], it was supposed that all the auspices were affected by that irregularity [in the ritual of his appointment], and the state reverted to an interregnum”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 4).

In other words, according to Livy, the deficiencies in the ritual that had attended Cornelius’ appointment precluded the consuls from presiding over the election of their successors, a situation that necessitated the appointment of an interrex for this purpose.  The importance of this for our present discussion is that it indicates that, in Livy’s narrative,  the award and vitiation of Cornelius’ dictatorship took place very late in the consular year of 334/3 BC.

Vitiation of Dictatorial Appointments

Mark Wilson (referenced below, at pp. 434-5 and note 34) pointed out that the vitiation of dictatorial appointments was generally caused by:

  1. “... a mistake or bad omen impinging on the consul’s taking of the auspices for the naming of the dictator.”

Vitiations of this kind seem to have been quite rare: Wilson listed only five cases in Livy’s narrative that explicitly involved such an occurrence, although he observed that there were a fews other cases in which the reported resignation of a dictator might actually have been a vitiation.  The five explicit vitiations in his list involved:

  1. C. Claudius Inregillensis [337 BC];

  2. P. Cornelius Rufinus [334/3 BC - see below];

  3. M. Claudius Marcellus [327 BC];

  4. Q. Fabius Ambustus [321 BC] and

  5. L. Veturius Philo [217 BC].

It is surprising that:

  1. the two earliest of these, both of which were discussed above) took place within three years of each other, and they both related to dictators who had been appointed in the context of the threat from the Sidicinii; while

  2. in the other three cases, the dictator sin question had not been required for any military purpose: they  had all been elected simply to hold elections in the consuls’ absence from Rome). 

Livy’s Account of Cornelius’ Appointment and the Vitiation of His Dictatorship 

Mark Wilson (referenced below, at p. 413) pointed out that:

  1. “The dictator’s first act was to appoint a magister equitum: he did nothing else before [doing this]; even a decision by the augurs that [he had not been] properly appointed came after [he] had already performed this act.”

However, Livy’s account of the way in which Marcus Antonius was appointed is not consistent with this process, as Wilson described it:  according to Livy:

  1. “... the Senate authorised the consuls to nominate a dictator.  They appointed Publius Cornelius Rufinus, and Marcus Antonius was made master of the horse”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 2-3).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 588) pointed out the discrepancy:

  1. “Livy’s [description of these appointments] is elliptical: the master of horse must have been nominated  by the dictator, not by the consuls.”

Tis was not simply an isolated slip; Livy used similar phraseology in his description of the position of Marcus Antonius after the vitiation of the dictatorship:

  1. “... concern was subsequently raised about the regularity of their appointment [i.e. that of both Cornelius and Antonius] and they resigned their office”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 4).

However, Livy did correctly capture these procedural nuances in his description of the similar situation that had arisen three years earlier, on the eve of the war with the Sidicini.  The background on this occasion was the fact that the Sidicini had attacked a stronghold of the Aurunci, who were allied to Rome and the serving consuls had been slow to respond.  According to Livy:

  1. “This news made the Senate angry with the consuls ... They therefore ordered a dictator to be appointed.  The nomination fell to Caius Claudius Inregillensis, who named Caius Claudius Hortator as his master of horse.  A religious difficulty was then raised about the dictator and, when the augurs reported that there seemed to have been a flaw in his appointment, the dictator and his master of  horse resigned”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 15: 5-6).

The fact that Livy’s description of the vitiation of the dictatorship of 337 BC is more accurate than his description of the vitiation of the dictatorship of 334/3 BC suggests that, in the second case, he had drawn on a less reliable source.

Reliability of Livy’s Narrative

The concerns raised in the two sections above must raise the question of whether Livy’s accounts of the dictatorships of Caius Claudius Inregillensis and Publius Cornelius Rufinus should be accepted without question:

  1. In the case of Caius Claudius Inregillensis, who is otherwise unrecorded in our surviving sources, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 576) argued that his obscurity makes it most unlikely that anyone should have invented a dictatorship for him, and he was therefore inclined to accept its authenticity.  However, he considered that Livy’s explanation of  the reasons for Claudius’ appointment was suspect, and noted that:

  2. “... this was a period in which there were many dictatorships, and it is easy to believe that only the bare notice of this one survived without any indication of its purpose.”

  3. In other words, Livy’s record that the Senate had mandated the appointment of a dictator because of dissatisfaction with the consuls’ performance might well have been a late elaboration of a scant but reliable indication of a short-lived dictatorship during the war with the Sidicini. 

  4. In the case of Cornelius and Antonius, who (as we shall see) are similarly obscure, it seems unlikely that their military experience added much to that  of the consuls, Veturius and Postumius.  In any case, Veturius and Postumius were approaching  the end of their time in office, so the Senate had the option of ensuring that at least one of the consuls who replaced them had the experience that was needed to deal with the expected emergency: after all, according to Livy (‘History of Rome’, 8: 16: 3-5), the Senate had adopted this course of action in 335 BC, when they ensured the election of Marcus Valerius Corvus as consul for the fourth time in what were arguably less threatening circumstances than those of 334/3 BC.  In fact, this is probably exactly what they did do: according to Livy:

  5. “... Marcus Valerius Corvus, the fifth interrex from the beginning of the interregnum, finally achieved the election to the consulship of Aulus Cornelius [Cossus Arvina] (for the second time) and Cnaeus Domitius [Corvinus]”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 4-5).

  6. A senator who was appointed as interrex was only allowed to serve for a period of 5 days: if he was unable to complete hold elections within period, he was replaced by another, a process that continued until the elections were completed.  Thus, in this case, within about 25 days of the vitiation of the dictatorship of Publius Cornelius Rufinus, the Romans had a consul, Aulus Cornelius Cossus Arvina, who had already triumphed over the Samnites (as consul for the first time in 343 BC).  Once again, one is tempted to suggest that Livy or his source(s) had elaborated reliable record that had contained only a bare notice of of a short-lived dictatorship during the war with the Sidicini, without any indication of its purpose.  Considerations of this kind might underlie the summary by Andrew Drummond (referenced below, at  p. 565) of Livy’s account of theCorneliius’ dictatorship:

  7. “In [334/3 BC], the dictator, charged perhaps with holding the elections, is swiftly forced from office on the grounds of a fault in his appointment.”

Indeed, it is at least possible that the bare notice of a single, immediately-vitiated dictatorship during this war had found its way into Livy’s account of the events of both 337 and 334/3 BC.

End of the War with the Sidicini

In fact, at least one of the consuls who were elected after the vitiation of Cornelius’ dictatorship did have the necessary experience to deal with the threat from the Sidicini and the Samnites

As it happens, the threat from the Sidicini had evaporated by the time that he and his colleague took office:  according to Livy:

  1. “Coming, as it did, when all was tranquil, the rumour of a Gallic war worked like an actual rising, and caused the Senate to have recourse to [yet another] dictator”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 6).  

He also recorded that the Samnite threat persisted, and:

  1. “... for [that] reason, the Roman army was not withdrawn from the territory of the Sidicini”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 17: 8).

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 574) pointed out that we hear no more about the Sidicini until 297 BC, early in the Third Samnite War, when the Romans used Sidicine territory as one of their bases from which to invade Samnium.  Oakley suggested that

  1. “... we should probably assume that some kind of treaty had brought an end to the fighting [that had begun in 336 BC].”

If so, then this putative treaty must have been agreed during 334/3 BC:

  1. It is possible that the Samnites were already distracted by the threat posed by Tarentum on their southern border, and that this discouraged the Sidicini from trying to break out of Teanum Sidicini:

  2. in this scenario, it is possible that the Sidicini agreed to a cessation of hostilities with Romans, at which point, the need for a dictator would have disappeared.   

  3. Alternatively, it is possible that Livy or his source(s) had invented the huge army raised by the Sidicini and that the Romans had simply decided that Teanum Sidicinum was beyond their reach and that they should therefore  gree a cessation of hostilities:

  4. in this scenario, if Cornelius had indeed been appointed as dictator, his function would have been to preside over the forthcoming consular elections while the incumbent consuls were still keeping the Samnites under surveillance from  the territory of the Sidicini.

Dictator Year (333 BC Varronian)

The historian who invented the dictator years in the late Republic would have provided at least a short indication of what the dictators in question had achieved in their putative years in office without consuls.  Unfortunately, since:

  1. the relevant entries in the fasti Capitolini for the years of 334 and 333 BC Varronian no longer survive; and

  2. the fasti Triumphalis, which are complete at this point, record no triumph in either  of them;

we have to rely on the much later ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ for what little information we have: the relevant entries record:

  1. 334 BC Varronian:

  2. Consuls: Caudino [Spurius Postumius Albinus (Caudinus)] et Calvino [Titus Veturius Calvinus]

  3. 333 BC Varronian:

  4. this year, there were no [consuls].

In other words, we can identify the dictator and master of horse who allegedly ruled without consuls in each or 324, 309 and 301 BC,we have no such information for 333 BC. 



If this is correct, then our late Republican historian must have:

  1. described the retaking of the auspices in order to facilitate Cornelius’ reappointment; and

  2. indicated what he and his master of horse then achieved in their dictator year. 

I suspect that he invented the huge army raised by the Sidicini, together with its defeat at the hands of Cornelius and Antonius.  It is even  possible that he invented a triumph over the Sidicini: as noted above, there is no sign of any such triumph in the fasti triumphales, but they were compiled perhaps a decade after the fasti Capitolini, at a time when no-one would have derived any advantage from inserting a fictitious achievement associated a Marcus Antonius into the official records.

Reconciliation of the Accounts of Livy and the Inventor of the Dictator Year of 333 BC

Livy would presumably have been aware of the work of his contemporary who invented the consul-free year of 333 BC Varronian.  However, any attempt to deduce what he took from this source can be no more that speculation.  For what it is worth, I think he took:

  1. Publius’ short-lived dictatorship, which he placed at the end of the consular year (but not his reappointment after the retaking of the auspices);

  2. the identification of the master of horse who served with him as ‘Marcus Antonius’; and

  3. the huge army of raised by the Sidicini (but not its defeat by Cornelius and his master of horse).

However, I think that he had other sources that, as Stephen Oakley suggested (above), constituted a:

  1. “... bare notice of [the short-lived dictatorship of Caius Claudius Inregillensis, who named Caius Claudius Hortator], without any indication of its purpose.”

This bare notice might also been unspecific about the precise year to which it belonged.  Some combination of these possibilities might explain why Livy recorded to vitiated dictatorships in the period of Rome’s short war with the Sidicini in 337 - 334/3 BC.

Dictator Year 325/4 BC

Conflicting Chronologies

Livy

I discuss Livy’s account of the events of this period in my page on Second Samnite War I (328 - 316 BC).  embedded in this narrative is as follows:

  1. First year of the Second Samnite War (Varronian 326 BC):

  2. Consuls: Caius  Poetelius Libo Visolus (III) and Lucius Papirius Cursor

  3. Proconsul: Quintus Publilius Philo (one of the consuls of the previous year), who continued the war with Neapolis and its allies from Nola and Samnium:

  4. -he was  the first consul to have his period of command extended in this way; and

  5. -when Neapolis fell during his extended command, he became the first man to triumph as proconsul.

  6. Second year of the Second Samnite War (Varronian 325 BC):

  7. Consuls:

  8. -Lucius Furius Camillus (II), who campaigned in Samnium; and

  9. -Decimus Junius Brutus Scaeva, who campaigned against the Vestini.

  10. Dictator: Lucius Papirius Cursor: replaced Furius(who was taken ill) in Samnium

  11. -Master of Horse: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, who  almost immediately clashed with Papirius, with the result that he was prosecuted for insubordination and relieved of his duties.

  12. Papirius then left his uncle, Lucius Papirius Crassus, in charge at Rome:

  13. -probably reviving the ancient post of praefectus urbi for him; and

  14. -possibly  because the serving praetor, who would normally have had this responsibility, effectively replaced Fabius as Papirius’ second-in-command in Samnium.

  15. This putative praetor might be identified as Marcus Valerius, whom Livy sibsequently named as Papirius’ legate in Samnium.  Papirius then scored a significant victory over the Samnites, after which the Romans agreed a one-year truce with them that they honoured in the breach.  Papirius was awarded a triumph and would have then resigned, but the Senate asked him to undertake one further task as dictator: it seems that, for whatever reason, neither Furius nor Junius was able to hold the elections for the consuls for the following year, so this task fell to Papirius, who then resigned.

  16. Third year of the Second Samnite War (Varronian 323 BC):

  17. Consuls: Caius Sulpicius Longus (II) and Quintus Aulius Cerretanus

Sources that Include the Fictitious Dictator Year

The relevant entries in the fasti Capitolini are missing.  However:

  1. the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record the consuls as follow:

  2. 326 BC: Libone [Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus] (III) et Cursore [Lucius Papirius Cursor] II

  3. 325 BC: Camello [Lucius Furius Camillus] (II) et Bruto [Decimus Junius Brutus Scaeva]

  4. 324 BC: this year, there were no consuls

  5. 323 BC: Lanto [Caius Sulpicius Longus ??] (II) et Ceretano [Quintus Aulius Cerretanus]

  6. the fasti Triumphales, which are also complete at this point, record triumphs awarded:

  7. in 326 BC: to Quintus Publilius Philo, the first proconsul [ever awarded a triumph], over the Samnites and [Neapolitani];

  8. in 324 BC: to Lucius Papirius Cursor, dictator for the first time, over the Samniteson the nones of March (i.e., immediately before the start of the next consular year).

Clearly, both the fasti Triumphalis and the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ contain an invented year in which Lucius Papirius Cursor continued his dictatorship, presumably with a now-unknown master of the horse but with no consuls.

Reconciled Chronology

We should thus combine these sources as follows (indicating consuls awarded triumphs in bold):

  1. 326 BC:

  2. Consuls: Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus and Lucius Papirius [Cursor]

  3. Proconsul at Neapolis: Quintus Publilius Philo

  4. 325/4 BC:

  5. Consuls: Lucius Furius Camillus (II) and Junius Brutus Scaeva

  6. Dictator replacing Furius: Lucius Papirius Cursor

  7. 323 BC:

  8. Consuls: Caius Sulpicius Longus (II) and Quintus Aulius Cerretanus

Dictator Year 310/9

Sources that Ignore the Fictitious Dictator Year

As we shall see, according to Livy, the sequence of magistrates at this time was:

  1. 310 BC (assumed here from the parallel entries in the fasti):

  2. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (II), who triumphed over the Etruscans, and Caius Marcius Rutilus

  3. Dictator, replacing Marcius: Lucius Papirius Cursor (II), who triumphed over the Samnites

  4. -Master of Horse: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II)

  5. 309 BC:

  6. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (III) and Publius Decimus Mus

Diodorus Siculus (who made no mention of Papirius’ dictatorship) also placed Fabius’ second and third consulship in consecutive years, as we can see from his designations of the contemporary eponymous archons of Athens (search on ‘Charinus’):

  1. “When Demetrius of Phalerum was archon in Athens [309-8 BC], in Rome Quintus Fabius received the consulship for the second time and Caius Marcius for the  first”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 27: 1).

  2. “When Charinus was archon at Athens [308-7 BC], the Romans gave the consulship to Publius Decius and  Quintus Fabius”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 37: 1).

Sources that Include the Fictitious Dictator Year

The fasti Capitolini give:

  1. 310 BC:

  2. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (II) and Caius Marcius Rutilus

  3. Dictator: Lucius Papirius Cursor (II)

  4. -Master of Horse: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II)

  5. 309 BC: the dictator and master of horse [continued] without consuls

  6. Dictator: Lucius Papirius Cursor (II)

  7. -Master of Horse: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II)

  8. 309 BC:

  9. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (III) and Publius Decimus Mus

The ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record record the consuls as follows:

  1. 310 BC: Tulliano [Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus] (III) et Rutilius [Caius Marcius Rutilus]

  2. 309 BC: this year, there were no consuls

  3. 308 BC: Mure [Publius Decimus Mus] (II) et Rulliano [Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus] (IV)

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ record triumphs in 309 BC to:

  1. Lucius Papirius Cursor, as dictator, over the Samnites, on the ides (15th) October; and

  2. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, as proconsul, over the Etruscans, on the ides (13th) November.

The implication here is that Fabius served as proconsul in Etruria in the year between his second and third years as consul. 

Reconciled Chronology

Clearly, both the fasti Triumphalis and the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ contain an invented year in which Lucius Papirius Cursor continued as dictator, with Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus as his Master of the Horse), ruled without consuls.  We should thus combine these sources as follows (indicating triumphs in bold):

  1. 310/9 BC:

  2. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (II) and Caius Marcius Rutilus

  3. Dictator, replacing Marcius: Lucius Papirius Cursor (II)

  4. -Master of Horse: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II)

  5. 308 BC:

  6. Consuls: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (III) and Publius Decimus Mus

Fabius in Etruria

As set out on my page Second Samnite War II (311 - 304 BC), the most useful description of Fabius’ engagements in Etruria is by Diodorus Siculus ( (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 1-5).  Livy, who acknowledged that he was at the mercy of a variety of discordant sources, produced a much more confused version of these events (as described in my page Livy: Fabius‘ 2nd Consulship (310/9 BC)).  Both sources agree that Fabius immediately marched to the Latin colony of Sutrium, on the northern edge of Roman territory, which was besieged by an Etruscan army.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 454) demonstrated that their respective accounts of his subsequent engagements in Etruria  for the period up to the appointment of a dictator (see below) can be reconciled by assuming that he:

  1. marched to relieve Sutrium and defeated the Etruscans there;

  2. crossed the Ciminian Forest (as reported only by Livy);

  3. sent envoys to the ‘Camertes Umbros’ (the Umbrian people of Camertium or Camerinum, modern Camerino) who spoke in the consul's name, de societate amicitiaque (of an agreement of friendship and alliance) that the Camertes accepted (as reported only by Livy);

  4. defeated a peasant army in upper Etruria;

  5. defeated a  significant Etruscan army near Perusia (Diodorus).

Livy placed this last major engagement  near Sutrium, but he acknowledged that other sources claimed that:

  1. “... this famous battle was fought on the other side of the Ciminian Forest, near Perusia ... But, wherever it was fought, the Romans were the victors.  And so, ambassadors from Perusia and Cortona and Arretium, which, at that time, were effectively capita Etruriae populorum (the chief cities of the Etruscan people), came to Rome to sue for peace and a foedus (treaty).  [Instead], they obtained truces for 30 years”, (History of Rome’, 9: 37: 12).

Diodorus also recorded truces with Perusia, Cortona and Arretium, although he did not specify their duration.

Marcius in Samnium

According to Diodorus, both consuls marched on Sutrium soon after their election and:

  1. “... defeated [the Etruscans] in battle and drove them into their camp”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 1).

Shortly thereafter, the Samnites, taking advantage of the presence of both consuls in Etruria, begin:

  1. “... plundering with impunity the Iapyges [in southeastern Italy] who supported the Romans.  The consuls, therefore, were forced to divide their armies ... Marcius, set out against the Samnites ...”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 2).

As noted above, Livy credited this engagement at Sutrium to Fabius alone. Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 457) argued that, in this case, Livy’s testimony should be accepted. since:

  1. “.... Diodorus is not [usually] a good guide on consular provinces and, with war on two fronts, one would not have expected both consuls to have set off for Etruria.” 

Livy and Diodorus agreed that (in Livy’s words) Marcius:

  1. “... captured Allifae [in the valley of the Volturnus] from the Samnites by assault.  Many other forts and villages were also either wiped out in the course of hostilities or fell to the Romans”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 1).

It is possible that Allifae did indeed fall into Roman hands at this point, although, if so, then the Samnites soon recovered it.  Diodorus made no further mention of Marcius. 

Appointment of a Dictator

According to Livy, when the Etruscans seemed to be gaining the upper hand in Etruria (before the ‘famous battle’), the Samnites:

  1. “... fearing that Fortune might transfer the glory of the Roman war from the Samnites to the Etruscans, hastened to bring all their strength to bear upon crushing Marcius ... [They engaged him at an unspecified location].  The battle was fiercely contested on both sides, but without a decision being reached.  Yet, although it was doubtful which side had suffered most, the report gained ground that the Romans had been worsted ... and, most conspicuous of their misfortunes, Marcius himself was wounded. These reverses ... were further exaggerated in the telling, and the Senate...  determined on the appointment of a  dictator”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 4-10).

Diodorus mentioned neither Marcius’ demise nor the consequent appointment of a dictator.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 460-1) pointed out that Marcius probably did suffer a reverse at this time, since:

  1. “... the annalistic tradition is unlikely to have invented a Roman defeat; ... [Furthermore, since ] the appointment of a dictator was a regular Roman response to military difficulty in this period, ... there is  no compelling reason to doubt the dictatorship of Papirius, even if Livy’s account of panic at Rome after the defeat of Marcius derives only from his own imagination or that of his sources.”

He acknowledged (at note 1) that some scholars have doubted that a dictator was appointed at this time, but pointed out that:

  1. “In this period, the appointment of a dictator was a regular Roman response to military difficulty ...”

Choice of Lucius Papirius Cursor as Dictator

According to Livy, once the Senate had decided to appoint a dictator:

  1. “Nobody could doubt that Papirius Cursor, who was regarded as the foremost soldier of his time, would be designated.  However, [he would have to be appointed by one of the consuls].  The senators were uncertain:

  2. whether a messenger could be safely sent to Samnium, where hostilities continued; and

  3. [even if a messenger should reach the Roman camp there, whether he would find] Marcius ... alive”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 10-13). 

They therefore decided to ask Fabius to make the appointment. 

Fabius’ Reaction

As discussed above, Fabius had served as Master of Horse during Papirius’ first dictatorship of 325/4 BC, and he had been lucky to escape with his life when he had blatantly disobeyed Papirius’ orders.  It seems that he still:

  1. “... had a private grudge against Papirius and, in case this enmity might hinder the general welfare, the Senate decided to send a deputation of former consuls to him [presumably at his camp in Etruria, ... in order to] induce him to forget those quarrels in the national interest.  The ambassadors [duly] went to Fabius  and delivered the resolution of the Senate, with a discourse that suited their instructions”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 10-13). 

Fabius, who had recently defeated the Etruscans in upper Etruria and agreed truces with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia, was presumably still at his camp in this region.  His initial response to the ambassadors’ request were unsettling:

  1. “Fabius, his eyes fixed on the ground, retired without a word ... Then, in the silence of the night, as custom dictates, he appointed Papirius dictator.  When the envoys thanked him ... , he continued obstinately silent, ... so that it was clearly seen what agony his great heart was suppressing”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 13-15).

Cassius Dio, gave a shorter account of these events:

  1. “The men of the city put forward Papirius as dictator and, fearing that Fabius might be unwilling to name him on account of [their mutual hostility], they sent to him and begged him to place the national interest before his private grudge.  Initially, he gave the envoys no response, but when night had come (according to ancient custom it was absolutely necessary that the dictator be appointed at night), he named Papirius, and by this act gained the greatest renown. (‘Roman History’, 8: 36: 26).

It seems likely that these accounts had a common source, albeit that Livy accepted or invented some elaborations relating to Fabius’ strange behaviour.

Ill-Omened Curia

After his appointment, Papirius named Caius Junius Bubulcus as his master of the horse.  However:

  1. “When he began to lay a law confirming his authority before the Comitia Curiata, the proceedings were cut short by an evil omen: the first vote to be counted was that of the ward called Faucia, which was notorious for two calamities that had both been incurred in years when this same curia had the right of  the first return:

  2. the capture of Rome [by the Gauls in 390 BC]; and

  3. the [shameful] Caudine Peace [agreed with the Samnites in 321 BC].

  4. [Indeed, the historian] Licinius Macer makes this ward unlucky also for a third disaster, that of the Cremera [i.e. the Veientine ambush of the Fabii by the river Cremera in 477 BC]”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 15-16).

This seems to have required the session to be halted until the following day, when :

  1. “... Papirius sought the auspices afresh and carried the law through”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 1).

Putative Events of Papirius’ Second Dictatorship


Papirius at Longula

Livy recorded that, immediately upon his appointment as dictator, Papirius:

  1. “ ... took command of the legions that had been raised [at Rome] during the scare connected with [Fabius’ earlier campaign in Etruria], and led them to Longula.  There, having also taken] over Marcius’ troops, he marched out and offered battle, which the enemy ... seemed willing to accept”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 1-2). 

However, this engagement did not last very long:

  1. “... while the two armies stood armed and ready for the conflict, ... night overtook them.  [They retired to their respective camps], which were within a short distance of each other, and remained [there] for some days: each side did not doubt its own strength, but neither did it underestimate the enemy”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 3). 

I have placed it at modern Longano on the map above, following the tentative suggestion of Gianfranco De Benedettis (referenced below, at pp. 89-90)

Livy’s narrative then switched abruptly to events in Etruria which suggests either that:

  1. there is a lacuna in the text in the surviving manuscripts, and the narrative that described the subsequent engagement of the Roman and Samnite army is missing; or

  2. the narrative continued at 9: 40: 1-14 (where, as discussed below, Papirius’ victory over the Samnites is described).

Another Roman Victory in Etruria ?

According to the surviving Livian manuscripts, after an easy Roman victory over ‘the Umbrians’:

  1. “An engagement also took place at the lacus Vadimonis, where the Etruscans, using a lex sacrata (sacred law), had raised an army cum vir virum legisset (in which each man had chosen another).  This army fought with more men and with greater courage than ever before.  So savage was the feeling on both sides that ... [the outcome] long hung in the balance.  [It seemed to the Romans that they were engaging] with some new, unknown people, rather than with the Etruscans (whom they had  so often defeated).  ...  [However, an unexpected Roman tactic] threw the Etruscan standards into confusion  ...  and [the Romans] at last broke through their ranks.  Their determined resistance was now overcome and  ...  they soon took flight.  That day, for the first time, broke the power of the Etruscans after their long-continued and abundant prosperity.  The main strength of their army was left [dead] on the field, and their camp was taken and plundered”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5-11).

As discussed in my page Livy: Papirius‘ 2nd Dictatorship (310/9 BC), a small number of the surviving manuscripts have obeli  († ... †) around the description of the engagement with the Umbrains and the words: “An engagement also took place at the lacus Vadimonis”, in order to flag that this passage seemed to the respective transcriber to be to be corrupt.  However, I argue there that, if this major engagement with an Etruscan army actually took place, then there is (in my view) no reason why it could not have taken place at the lacus Vadimonis, some 40 km north of Sutrium.

In view of the glory that would have attended such a victory, it is  extremely surprising that, at least in the surviving manuscripts, Livy did not identify the victorious Roman commander.

It seems to me that we must first consider why Livy apparently omitted to name the Roman who secured this magnificent victory.  In my view, this omission is unlikely to be simply the result of missing text: Livy’s account of the battle implies that the men on both sides fought spontaneously, without needing direction from above:

  1. “So savage was the feeling on both sides that, without discharging a single missile, the soldiers began the fight with swords from the start.  ... There was not the slightest sign of yielding anywhere: as the men in the first line fell, those in the second took their places to defend the standards.  At length, the last reserves had to be brought up, and matters had come to such an extremity of exhaustion and danger that the Roman cavalry dismounted and ... made their way ... to the front ranks of the infantry.  They appeared [there] like a fresh army amongst the exhausted combatants, and immediately threw the Etruscan standards into confusion.  The [Roman infantry], worn out as they were, nevertheless followed up the cavalry attack, and at last broke through the Etruscan ranks ...  They soon took to  flight ... , [leaving] the main strength of their army [dead] on the field, and their camp was taken and plundered”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 6-10).

It is possible that Livy  gave no discernible role to the Roman who commanded this battle because he had no information as to his identity.  However, it seems to me that he we more probably struggling to reconcile too many discordant sources.


This conundrum had apparently occurred to the scribe who was responsible for one of the surviving manuscripts: Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 499, paragraph (e)) noted that he inserted the phrase ‘interim ab fabio consule in Etruria res feliciter gestae’ (Meanwhile, the consul Fabius was meeting with success in Etruria) before ‘et ad Vadimonis lacum’.  Oakley agreed that:

  1. “One would rather have expected Fabius to have been in charge on the Etruscan front; but  he is nowhere mentioned ... ”.

Instead, as Oakley pointed out:

  1. “Scholars tend to assume that Papirius was in command ...”

However, in Oakley’s view, this hypothesis:

  1. “... is absurd, [since it has Papirius]  moving from [Longula] to Lake Vadimo and then back to Samnium [see below].”   

He added (at paragraph (f)) that, even if one accepts this hypothesis:

  1. “... there remains the difficulty that there ought to be  some [indication] of how he moved from Longula to Lake Vadimo.”

In my view, those of Livy’s sources that favoured Papirius might well have credited him with an excursion from Longula to Lake Vadimo and back to Samnium (however absurd this might have been).   There is, in fact, another indication that much of Livy’s account came from sources who favoured the gens Papiria: as discussed below, his record that:

  1. “The Etruscans, using a lex sacrata (sacred law), had raised an army cum vir virum legisset (in which each man had chosen another).”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5);

had probably been taken from an account of the more reliably authentic victory that Papirius’ homonymous son secured against the Samnites in 293 BC (as discussed in my page Lege Sacratae (293 and 310/9 BC).  On the other hand, those those of Livy’s sources that favoured Fabius might well have named him as the victorious commander and described the battle as a trivial mopping-up operation after the ‘famous battle’ near Perusia.  Indeed, Diodorus Siculus described such an engagement:

  1. “Thereafter, defeating the Etruscans in a second battle near the place called Perusia [Livy’s ‘famous battle’] and destroying many of them, he overawed the [Etruscan] nation since he was the first of the Romans to have invaded [upper Etruria] with an army.  He also made truces with the peoples of Arretium and Croton [i.e. Cortona,  ... and] Perusia; and, taking by siege the city called Castola, he forced the Etruscans to raise the siege of Sutrium”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 4-5).

The location of the Etruscan city of Castola is now unknown, but (as discussed in my page Livy: Papirius‘ 2nd Dictatorship (310/9 BC)), there is no inherent reason why it could not have been near the lacus Vadimonis

In other words, I think that:

  1. Diodorus’ account of Fabius’ ‘mopping up’ operation at Castola shortly after Papirius’ appointment should probably be accepted; and

  2. Livy based his account of this battle  on a source in which it was attributed to Papirius, albeit that he chose not to identify the victorious commander as either Papirius or Fabius.

If, as Diodorus implied, this victory is seen as the culmination of Fabius’ campaign in upper Etruria, then the dayon which it was won might reasonably described (as Livy’s source described it) as the day that:

  1. “... for the first time, broke the power of the Etruscans after their long-continued and abundant prosperity”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 11).

After a thorough examination of all the surviving evidence, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 456-7) concluded that:

  1. “Whichever explanation one adopts [for Livy’s record of this Roman victory won by an unnamed commander at the lacus Vadimonis], the important points are that:

  2. much of Livy’s Etruscan narrative after 37: 12, [where he recorded Fabius’ imposition of 30-year truces with Perusia, Cortona and Arretium] duplicates what he [had recounted before to appointment of Papirius]; and

  3. all of it is likely to be fictional.

Papirius’ Victory the Samnites (perhaps at Longula)

Livy then returned to the war in Samnium, which, according to Livy:

  1. “.. involved as much danger, and reached an equally glorious conclusion [as the victory that had broken the power of the Etruscans for the first time]”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 1).    

However, it is not clear where this ‘second glorious conclusion’ took place: Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 461) observed that the putative lacuna at 39: 4 (above):

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

I discuss this ‘glorious’ engagement in my page Livy: Papirius‘ 2nd Dictatorship (310/9 BC)In summary, Papirius was supported in the battle by:

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

  2. two legates:

  3. Marcus Valerius Maxiumus Corvus; and

  4. Publius Decius Mus.

They faced a magnificently-attired  Samnite army, one corp of which was made up of men who were distinguished (inter alia) by their linen tunics, and who had ‘consecrated themselves’ to victory. 

According to Livy:

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

When Junius’ men charged and broke the Samnite corp of consecrated men, Papirius:

  1. “... cried: ‘Shall ... the dictator's division follow the attack of others [rather than] carry off the honours of the victory ?’  This fired the [rest of the Roman] soldiers with new energy; nor did ... the [legates display] less enthusiasm than the generals: Valerius on the right and Decius on the left, both men of consular rank, ... charged obliquely against the enemy's flanks.  [The Samnites took flight and] the fields were soon heaped with both dead soldiers and glittering [enemy] armour.  At first, the frightened Samnites found a refuge in their camp, but presently even that had to be abandoned, and, before nightfall, it had been taken, sacked and set on fire”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 10-14).

Immediately after this glorious victory:

  1. “... as decreed by the Senate, [Papirius] celebrated a triumph, in which by far the finest show was afforded by the captured armour.  So magnificent was its appearance that the shields inlaid with gold were divided up amongst the owners of the money-changers' booths [in Rome], to be used in decking out the Forum”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 15-6).  

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

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

As  (as discussed in my page Lege Sacratae (293 and 310/9 BC), the details that were probably taken from the victory of the younger Papirius in 293 BC include:

  1. the magnificent armour worn by the Samnites, which was destined to fall into Roman hands after their inevitable defeat; and

  2. the presence of the Samnite corp of consecrated men who wore linen tunics (which was redolent ofthe Linen Legion that formed part of the Samnite army of 293 BC).

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

  1. “The crushing victory that [Papirius] is said to have scored in [310/9 BC)] ... is recognised, even by Livy, to contain features borrowed from his son’s victory [in 293 BC].  ... The victory [of the elder Papirius], if not entirely fictitious, was, at most, merely a local success that helped maintain Roman diversionary pressure on the western borders of Samnium.”

In other words, it is likely that much of Livy’s exuberant description of Papirius’ glorious victory over the Samnites can be safely discounted.

Fabius Final Engagement in Etruria ?

According to Livy:

  1. “In the same year [as Papirius’ victory discussed above], Fabius fought a battle with the remnants of the Etruscan forces near Perusia, which, together with other cities, had broken the truce.  [He] gained an easy and decisive victory.  After the battle, he marched up to the walls of the city and would have taken the city itself had not ambassadors come out and surrendered the place.  [He] placed a garrison in Perusia, and ... sent on before him to the Senate in Rome the Etruscan deputations that had come to him amicitiam petentibus (seeking friendship) ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 18-20).  

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 455) highlighted two problems with Livy’s account:

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

  2. “This is [Livy’s] only report of the surrender of a major Etruscan settlement in the war of 311-308 BC ...[and] it is doubtful whether ... the Romans had an army strong enough to capture or force the surrender of any of the major Etruscan cities [at this time].  One cannot prove finally that this section is a doublet ..., but this does seem extremely probable.”

It also seems odd that Livy did not record the Senate’s answer to ’the Etruscan deputations that had come to Fabius seeking friendship’.  Simoni Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 35) also doubted the authenticity of this passage, and suggested that the memory of Livy’s non-preferred version of Fabius ‘famous’ victory of 310 BC, which located it near Perusia:

  1. “... must have been so strong as to push Livy to include it [again] at the end of the interminable 310 BC, thereby duplicating the facts of the engagement that, shortly before, had taken place near the Ciminian Forest and had led to the truces with the centres of northern Etruria” (my translation).

In other words, Livy  almost certainly drew on yet another version of the ‘famous battle’ (which he had not recognised as such) to describe another engagement in the “interminable 310 BC”.  This would be consistent with the observation of  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 456-7) already discussed, that:

  1. “... much of Livy’s Etruscan narrative after 37: 12, [where he recorded Fabius’ imposition of 30-year truces with Perusia, Cortona and Arretium] duplicates what he [had recounted before to appointment of Papirius]; and all of it is likely to be fictional. “

Triumphs of 310/9 BC

Livy recorded that, after his glorious victory in Samnium, Papirius:

  1. “... as decreed by the Senate, celebrated a triumph, in which by far the finest show was afforded by the captured armour.  So magnificent was its appearance that the shields inlaid with gold were divided up amongst the owners of the moneychangers' booths, to be used in decking out the Forum”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 15-16).  

He continued:

  1. “In the same year, the consul Fabius fought a battle with the remnants of the Etruscan forces near Perusia  [as described above] ... Having placed a garrison in Perusia and having sent [p. 325]on before him to the Senate in Rome the Etruscan deputations which had come to him seeking friendship, the was borne in triumph into the City, after gaining a success more brilliant even than [that of Papirius]; indeed the glory of conquering the Samnites was largely diverted upon the lieutenants, Publius Decius and Marcus Valerius, of whom, at the next election, the people with great enthusiasm made the one [Decius] consul and the other [Valerius] praetor”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 18-20).  

In Livy’s account, the highlight of Papirus’ triumph was the display of the magnificent armour that he and his army had captured from the Samnites.  Livy returned to this theme in his account of the victory of the younger Papirius over the Samnites in 293 BC, after which:

  1. “... a triumph was granted to him by universal consent.  This triumph, which he celebrated while still in office, was unusually brilliant one for those days. ... The spoils of the Samnites attracted much attention; their splendour and beauty were compared with those that [his] father had won, which were familiar to all through their being used as decorations of public places”, (‘‘History of Rome’, 10: 46: 2-4).

Perhaps surprisingly, Livy provided no information at all about Fabius’ triumph.  What he did say is that Fabius celebrated it:

  1. “... after gaining a success more brilliant even than that of Papirius; indeed the glory of conquering the Samnites was largely diverted upon the legates, Decius and Valerius, of whom, at the next election, the people with great enthusiasm made the one [Decius] consul and the other [Valerius] praetor”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 19-21). 

He confirmed these appointments in his following sentence:

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

Dictator Year (310/9 BC)

As noted above, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 456-7) argued that:

  1. “... much of Livy’s Etruscan narrative after 37: 12, [where he recorded Fabius’ imposition of 30-year truces with Perusia, Cortona and Arretium] duplicates what he [had recounted before to appointment of Papirius]; and all of it is likely to be fictional.”

He also observed (at p. 461) that:

  1. “... the details of the [Papirus’ victory over the Samnites] offered by Livy are unlikely to be sound: many recur in a very similar guise in his account of the victory of [Papirius’ homonymous] son at Aquilonia in 293 BC, and it is therefore possible that those [recorded for 310/9 BC] are all unauthentic ...”

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

  1. “The crushing victory that [Papirius] is said to have scored in [310/9 BC)] ... is recognised, even by Livy, to contain features borrowed from his son’s victory [in 293 BC].  ... The victory [of the elder Papirius], if not entirely fictitious, was, at most, merely a local success that helped maintain Roman diversionary pressure on the western borders of Samnium.”

In other words, although Livy correctly rejected the putative year without consuls, he accepted much of the narrative that had been invented to describe the events that it embraced.


Livy recorded that, after his victory, the younger Papirius dedicated the temple of Quirinus, noting that:

  1. “I do not find in any ancient author that it was he who vowed this temple in the crisis of a battle, and certainly he could not have completed it in so short a time.  It was vowed by his father when dictator: the son dedicated it when consul and adorned it with the spoils of the enemy.  There was such a vast quantity of these that, not only were the temple and the Forum adorned with them, but they were distributed amongst the allied peoples and the nearest colonies to decorate their public spaces and temples”, (‘‘History of Rome’, 10: 46: 6-8).

According to Pliny the Elder:

  1. “... the Temple of Quirinus (or, in other words, of Romulus himself) one of the most ancient [temples] in Rome” (‘Natural History’ (15:36).

Thus, the temple that was:

  1. vowed by the elder Papirius Cursor  in 325/4 or 310/9 BC; and

  2. dedicated by the younger Papirius in 293 BC;

was presumably built on the site of an ancient predecessor on the Quirinal Hill.

Dictator Year 302/1

Sources that ignore the Fictitious Dictator Year

As we shall see, according to Livy, the sequence of magistrates at this time was:

  1. 302 BC (assumed here from the parallel entries in the fasti):

  2. Consuls: Marcus Livius Denter and Marcus Aemilius [Paullus]

  3. Dictator: Caius Junius Bubulcus, who triumphed over the Aequi and then resigned his office

  4. -Master of Horse:  Marcus Titinius

  5. Dictator: Marcus Valerius Maximus [Corvus], who triumphed over the Etruscans and the Marsi and then resigned his office

  6. -Master of Horse:  either or both of:

  7. Marcus Aemilius Paullus (Livy’s preferred candidate)

  8. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus

  9. 301 BC:

  10. Consuls: Marcus Valerius Maximus [Corvus] (elected on resigning the dictatorship) and Quintus Appuleius Pansa

Surprisingly, the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ record consuls in each of these years:

  1. 302 BC:

  2. Dextro [Marcus Livius Denter] et Marcus Aemilius Paullus (which agrees with Livy)

  3. 301 BC:

  4. Corvo [Marcus Valerius Corvus] (II) et Rulliano [Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus] (II) 

Sources that Include the Fictitious Dictator Year

The fasti Capitolini record:

  1. 302 BC:

  2. Consuls: Marcus Livius Denter and Marcus Aemilius Paullus

  3. Dictator: Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus

  4. -Master of Horse:  Marcus Titinius

  5. 301 BC: the dictator and master of horse [continued] without consuls

  6. Dictator: Marcus Valerius Corvus (II)

  7. -Master of Horse:

  8. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (resigned)

  9. Marcus Aemilius Paullus

  10. 300 BC

  11. Consuls: Marcus Valerius Corvus and  Quintus Appuleius Pansa

The fasti Triumphales record triumphs:

  1. in 302 BC, to Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus (II), as dictator, over the Aequii; and

  2. in 301 BC, to Marcus Valerius Corvus (IV), as dictator for the second time, over the Etruscans and the Marsi

Reconciled Chronology

Clearly, both the fasti Capitolini and the fasti Triumphalis contain an ‘invented year in which Marcus Valerius Corvus and his Master of Horse, Marcus Aemilius Paullus, ruled without consuls.  We should thus combine these sources as follows:

  1. 302/1 BC:

  2. Consuls: Marcus Livius Denter and Marcus Aemilius Paullus

  3. Dictator: Caius Junius Bubulcus

  4. -Master of Horse:  Marcus Titinius

  5. Dictator: Marcus Valerius Corvus (IV)

  6. -Master of Horse: either or both of:

  7. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (resigned)

  8. Marcus Aemilius Paullus

  9. 301 BC: Consuls: Marcus Valerius Corvus (elected immediately on resigning the dictatorship) and Quintus Appuleius Pansa

Events of 302/1 BC

I discuss the historical context in my page on the period Between 2nd and 3rd Samnite Wars (304 -298 BC)

Appointment of Caius Junius Bubulcus as Dictator  

Livy recorded that, during the consulship of Livius  and Aemilius:

  1. “... the Aequi resumed hostilities [with Rome]: they resented the planting of a colony within their borders, which was to be a stronghold of Roman power ... [and] made a desperate effort to capture it, but were beaten off by the colonists.  In their weakened condition, it seemed almost incredible [to the Romans] that the Aequi could have resumed the war, relying solely upon themselves: this fear of an indefinitely extended war necessitated the appointment of a dictator”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 6-8). 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 45) suggested that the appointment of a dictator:

  1. “... was probably occasioned by the absence elsewhere of the consuls.”

However, as we shall see, they were to appoint a second dictator this year,: one therefore wonders whether another explanation for the consuls. apparent reluctance to engage in military matters is needed.

On this occasion, Caius Junius Bubulcus Brutus:

  1. “... was nominated, and he took to the field with Marcus Titinius as Master of the Horse.  He crushed the Aequi in the very first battle and, a week later, he returned in triumph to Rome.  There, he dedicated the Temple of Salus that he had:

  2. vowed as consul [in 311 BC]; and

  3. [begun to build] as censor [in 307 BC]”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 8-9). 

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ also record that Caius Junius Bubulcus triumphed over the Aequi in 302 BC, and Stephen Oakley (as above) argued that there is no reason to doubt Livy’s account of this short dictatorship. 

Appointment of Marcus Valerius Corvus as Dictator  

Later in the year:

  1. “... several incidents created alarm in Rome:

  2. Intelligence was received of the renewal of hostilities by the Etruscans, owing to disturbances in Arretium. The genus praepotens (powerful family) of the Cilnii had created widespread jealousy through their enormous wealth, and an attempt was made to expel them from the city.

  3. The Marsi also were giving trouble: a body of 4,000 colonists had been sent to [the new Latin colony or] Carseoli, and they were prevented by force from occupying the place.

  4. This threatening aspect of affairs [led to the appointment of a dictator]”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 2-3). 

As noted above, one wonders why these consuls relied so heavily on dictators in dealing with external affairs. 

Livy recorded that:

  1. “... Marcus Valerius Maximus [Corvus] was nominated dictator, and he named Marcus Aemilius Paulus Master of the Horse.  (I think that this is more probable than that Quintus Fabius [Maximus Rullianus] was made Master of the Horse and, therefore, in a subordinate position to Valerius, in spite of his age and the offices he had held; but I am quite prepared to admit that the error arose from the cognomen Maximus, common to both men)”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 3-5). 

I return to the likely identity of Valerius’ Master of Horse below.

Valerius as Dictator: Rebellion of the Marsi

Livy dealt first with the rebellion of the Marsi.  Some scholars doubt that the Marsi actually rebelled at this point, since Carseoli was on the territory of the Aequi.  However, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 45) pointed out that the foundation of the broadly contemporary colony at Alba Fucens (see above), which was much closer to the border between the Aequii and the Marsi, could have provoked unrest among both peoples.   If the Marsi did rebel at this point, they were easily dealt with:

  1. “[Valerius] took the field and routed the Marsi in one battle.  After compelling them to seek shelter in their fortified cities, he took [the now-unknown towns of] Milionia, Plestina, and Fresilia within a few days.  The Marsi were compelled to surrender a portion of their territory, and then the old treaty with Rome was renewed”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 5-6). 

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ record that Marcus Valerius [Maximus] Corvus, having already served as consul on four occasions, triumphed over the Etruscans (see below) and the Marsi as dictator for the second time.

Valerius as Dictator: Unrest at Arretium

According to Livy, immediately after Valerius’ success against the Marsi:

  1. “The war was ... turned against the Etruscans”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 6). 

The implication of Livy’s passage above is possibly that the Romans had a duty to maintain the position of ancient Etruscan family of the Cilnii under the terms of the 30-year truce that had been agreed in 310/9 BC.

Valerius Resolved the Problem without  a Major Battle ?

Livy  noted that:

  1. “Some of my authorities state that Valerius pacified the Etruscans without any important battle being fought, simply by settling the discord in Arretium and reconciling the Cilnii with the plebs”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 5: 13). 

However, he seems to have preferred a much longer version that he found in other (unspecified) sources.

Valerius Broke the Power of the Etruscans for the Second Time ?

According to Livy’ preferred (but unspecified) sources, the Roman intervention at Arretium gave rise to a major Etruscan war.

This longer record began with:

  1. “An unfortunate incident [that] occurred during this campaign: [Valerius] had left the camp for Rome to take the auspices afresh ....”

Livy did nor record the location of this camp, although the implication seems to be that it was near Arretium.  I presume that Valerius had to take the auspices again because he was embarking on a new campaign.  In his absence: 

  1. “ ... the Master of the Horse had gone out to forage.  He was surprised and surrounded, and after losing some standards and many of his men, he was driven in disgraceful flight back to his camp”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 6-7). 

This is obviously redolent of the situation of 325/4 BC, when Fabius had disobeyed the orders of Papirius in similar circumstances.  Indeed, Livy used this record to support his contention that the unidentified Master of Horse could not have been Fabius:

  1. “Such a precipitate flight is contradictory to all that we know of Fabius; for it was his reputation as a soldier that, more than anything else, justified his epithet of Maximus, and he never forgot the severity of Papirius towards him [in 325/4 BC - see above], and could never have been tempted to fight without the Valerius’ orders”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 3: 8). 

He then used a trope that had also characterised the circumstances in which Papirius had been appointed as dictator in 310/9 BC: as with the news that the consul Marcius Rutilus was missing, presumed dead, in 310/9 BC, now:

  1. “The news of this defeat [of the Master of Horse in 302/1 BC] created a quite unnecessary alarm in Rome, where measures were adopted as though an army had been annihilated ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 4: 1). 

However, on this occasion, the matter was soon resolved without any rancour between the dictator and his Master of Horse:

  1. “... when [Valerius] returned to the camp, he found that, owing to the careful arrangements which the Master of the Horse had made, everything was quieter than he had expected.  The camp had been moved back into a safer position; the cohorts who had lost their standards were punished by being stationed outside the rampart without any tents; and the whole army was eager for battle that they might all the sooner wipe out the stain of their defeat”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 4: 3-5). 

Again, Livy seems to be drawing a parallel with an earlier dictator year: when Papirius’ army had been shamed in battle in 325/4 BC, the soldiers had been similarly anxious to make amends through victory.

After this minor incident, Valerius:

  1. “...  at once advanced his camp into the territory of Rusellae.  The enemy followed him ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 4: 6). 

An advanced party under Cnaeus Fulvius almost fell into an Etruscan ambush, after which

  1. “... the advancing line [of Etruscans] appeared to Fulvius to be too large a body for his men to withstand, and he sent a hasty message to Valerius asking for help; in the meantime he met the attack single-handed”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 4: 12). 

Valerius was determined to wait until he had the advantage, despite the facts that he received:

  1. “... message after message  ... telling him that all the legions of the Etruscans were taking part in the fight and that his men could no longer hold out against them, and he could see for himself from his higher ground  that the advanced party was in a critical position: he felt quite confident that Fulvius could still sustain the attack and, as he was himself near enough to save him from all danger of defeat, he decided to wait until the Etruscans became utterly fatigued, and then to attack them with fresh troops”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 5: 4-5). 

When Valerius judged that the time was right:

  1. “...  fresh troops took up the fighting, and the result did not long remain in doubt. The routed enemy sought their camp ... [and most of them died in the attempt]”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 5: 8-9). 

Livy asserted that:

  1. “In this battle the power of the Etruscans was broken up for the second time”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 5: 12). 

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 78) pointed out, this refers back to the events of 310/9 BC, when an unnamed Roman commander (whom Oakley assumed to have been Fabius) allegedly broke the power of the Etruscans for the first time.

After undertaking to provide a year's pay for the army and a two months' supply of corn, they obtained permission from the Dictator to send envoys to Rome to sue for peace. [13] A regular treaty of peace was refused, but they were granted a two years' truce. The Dictator returned in triumphal procession to the City.

No sooner had M. Valerius laid down the Dictatorship than he was elected consul. [14] Some have thought that he was elected without having been a candidate and, therefore, in his absence, and that the election was conducted by an interrex. There is no question, however, that he held the consulship with [Quintus] Apuleius Pansa.


‘Invention’ of the Four Dictator Years

‘Varronian’ Chronology and Dictator Years

Modern historians attribute the invention of the four dictator years that are recorded in the fasti to the annalists of the late Republic.  It probably all started when Marcus Terentius Varro worked out (probably in ca. 47 BC) that Rome was founded in the third year of the 6th Olympiad (Ol. 6.3):  this year ran from July 754  to July 753 BC and, since the birthday of Rome traditionally fell on 21st April, Ol. 6.3 implied the foundation date 21st April 753 BC (AUC 1 = 753 BC).   Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at pp. 552-3 and note 20) pointed out:

  1. chronologies that include the dictator years seem to have the foundation date in:

  2. Ol. 6.3 = 754/3 BC (Atticus and Varro - see below); or

  3. for reasons that are unclear Ol. 6.4 = 753/2 BC (fasti Capitolini); while

  4. Livy, for example, who did not recognise the dictator years in his narrative, seems to have assumed a chronologies the foundation date in:

  5. Ol. 7.2 = 751/0 BC; or,

  6. on one or perhaps two occasions, Ol. 7.1 = 752/1 BC.

The subject of Roman dating is fiendishly complicated, so it is fortunate that we only need to concern ourselves with the period that is conventionally designated as 335-300 BC (V), which includes all four of the so-called dictator years:

  1. although the entry in the fasti Capitolini for Valerius’ 4th consulship no longer survives, we can deduce what it contained because the associated fasti Triumphales, which use the same dating convention, and they record that he triumphed over the Ausones of Cales, as consul for the 4th time, in 419 AUC (335 BC);

  2. as noted above, they originally included fictitious dictator years in 421 AUC (333 BC); 430 AUC (324 BC); 445 AUC (309 BC) and 453 AUC (301 BC), although the first two of these entries are now lost); and

  3. they record Valerius’ 5th consulship in 454 AUC (300 BC).

On this reckoning, Valerius’ assumed his 5th consulship 34 years after his 4th.  However, Livy recorded 30 pairs of consuls who held office in consecutive consular years. 

Date of the Invention of Dictator Years

The only evidence that Varro used the chronology that was named for him dates to 37 BC, when he noted that:

  1. “...Caius Licinius [Crassus] ... was tribune of the plebs, 365 years after the expulsion of the kings”, (‘On Agriculture’, 1: 2: 9).

Cicero placed Licinius’ tribunate in the year in which :

  1. “... Lucius Mancinus and Scipio's brother, Quintus Maximus, were consuls ...”, (‘Laelius: on Friendship’, 26)

The fasti Capitolini, which probably recorded the first consuls of the Republic in AUC 245 = 509 BC, place the consulship of Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus  and Lucius Hostilius Mancinus in AUC 609 = 145 BC, 364 years later (and thus 365 years after the expulsion of the kings).  Therefore, Varro had probably incorporated the dictator years in his calculation.

Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at p. 562) argued that:

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

Titus Pomponius Atticus is best remembered as Cicero’s friend and correspondent.  His ‘liber annalis’ no longer survives, but this was probably the work in which, according to his biographer, Cornelius Nepos:

  1. “... he characterised the Roman magistrates; there is no law, nor peace, nor war, nor illustrious action of the Roman people that goes unrecorded in it at its proper period, and (what was extremely difficult) he has interwoven into it the origins of families, so that we may ascertain from it the pedigrees of eminent men”, (‘Lives of Eminent Commanders: Titus Pomponius Atticus’, 18).

We learn

  1. from Solinus that, among various opinions as to the date of the foundation of Rome:

  2. “  ... Pomponius Atticus and Marcus Tullius[Cicero] hold out for the 3rd year of the 6th Olympiad [i.e., 1 AUC = 753 BC) ”, (‘Polyhistor’, 1.27); and

  3. from Cicero, that:

  4. “... Livius [Andronicus] exhibited his first performance at Rome in the consulship of M. Tuditanus, and C. Claudius the son of Caecus ... and, according to the account of my friend Atticus, (whom I choose to follow) in 514 AUC.”

The fasti Capitolini record that the consuls Caius Claudius Centho and Marcus Sempronius Tuditanus held office in 514 AUC = 240 BC.   Therefore, Atticus, like Varro before him, had probably incorporated the dictator years in his calculation.  As Drummond observed (at p. 563):

  1. “Certainly they remained unknown to, and alien to, the rest of the Roman annalists down into the Augustan period.”

Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at pp. 559-60) pointed out that Diodorus Siculus seems to have relied of Varronian chronology to date the Second Samnite War: according to Livy (‘History of Rome’, 8: 25: 2-3), it started in 326 BC (V), when the new consuls, Caius Poetelius Libo Visolus and Lucius Papirius Cursor, formally declared war on the Samnites.  Diodorus’ first mention of the war related to 318 BC:

  1. “In Italy, the Romans were now in the 9th year of their war with the Samnites.  Although, in the previous period, they had fought with large forces, at this time they accomplished nothing great or worthy of mention by the incursions that they were making upon the hostile territory; yet they did not cease attacking the strongholds and plundering the country. In Apulia also they plundered all Daunia and won back the Canusians, from whom they took hostages. They added two new tribes to those already existing: Falerna and Oufentina”, (‘Library of History’, 19: 10: 1-2).

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 263) pointed out, Diodorus’ mention of the events at Canusium and the creation of the Falerna and Oufentina tribes shows that his sources were similar to those used by Livy

  1. Livy (‘History of Rome’, 9: 21:1) placed these events in the consulate of Marcus Folius Flaccinator and Lucius Plautius Venox, the 7th pair of consuls after Poetelius and Papirius.

  2. As Oakley (as above) pointed out, Diodorus must have dated them by using a chronology that included the fictitious dictator year of 325/4 BC.

A similar situation arises in Diodorus’ record of the end of the war:

  1. “The Romans and the Samnites interchanged envoys and made peace after having fought for 22 years and 6 months; and one of the consuls, Publius Sempronius [Sophus], invading the country of the  [Aequi] with an army, captured 40 cities in a total of 50 days and, after forcing the entire tribe to submit to Rome, returned home and celebrated a triumph with great applause”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 101: 5).

Livy placed 19 pairs of consuls between: Poetelius and Papirius; and Sempronius, and we know from  the fasti Triumphales that Sempronius celebrated his triumph over the Aequi midway through his consular year. Thus, by his reckoning, the war had lasted for for 20 years and 6 months: Diodorus must have included the fictitious dictator years of 325/4 BC and 310/9 BC (during which, Lucius Papirius Cursor was the dictator in question).  Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at p. 562) argued that:

  1. “Diodorus, writing sometime after Caesar's murder, [was apparently using a very recent production that employed the chronological scheme of Varro and Atticus.”

Sulla

According to Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at p. 570):

  1. “The tenure of office by a dictator after the consul responsible for his appointment had returned to private life and the reckoning of that tenure as an additional year by Atticus and others are so anomalous that some deeper motivation seems required beyond mere misunderstanding or the need to fill a supposed chronological gap. Nor is it difficult to supply that motivation if ... [it is accepted] that the dictator years were invented, or at least were revived, only in 47 BC.

The fasti Capitolini record that, in 202 BC, Caius Servilius Geminus was appointed as dictator to hold elections.   He was to be the last dictator to be recorded for some 120 years,: then, in 82 BC, when we read that, after the serving consuls, Caius Marius and Cnaeus Papirius Carbo had been killed in office during the civil war, the victorious Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix was appointed as dictator, with Lucius Valerius Flaccus as his master of Horse:

  1. “ ... in order to organise the state.”

In contrast to the dictatorships of the earlier period, Sulla’s carried no formal time-limit.  It is therefore possible that the earlier ‘dictator years’ had been invented to justify his unprecedented office.



Why Were the Dictator Years Invented in the Late Republic ?

Andrew Drummond (referenced below, 1978, at p. 571) concluded his important paper on the dictator years by suggesting that:

  1. “It is difficult to believe that the sudden appearance (or reappearance) of [dictator years in 47 BC] is independent of the controversy of 48 BC, or that Atticus would show sufficient independence to ignore fictions so convenient to Caesar and his lieutenant, [Mark Antony].”

The controversy to which Drummond referred surrounded Caesar’s proposed second dictatorship, and specifically the fact that:

  1. “... he wished to hold the office at least until the remnants of the opposition [to him] had been crushed, and may already have envisaged its use as the permanent formal basis and expression of his control of the Roman state.”

Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 1996, at p. 469) observed that:

  1. “If Atticus wrote a spurious account of the annual dictatorships of 333, 324, 309, and 301 BC [Varronian], he provided the Caesarian innovators with the historical 'precedents' with which they could counter criticism of the unconstitutional nature of Caesar's second dictatorship in 47 BC.  The appearance of [Atticus’] work in this exact year (as Drummond points out) is simply too convenient [to have been merely coincidental].”

Caesar’s First Dictatorships  (49 BC)

Caesar received his first dictatorship in 49 BC, after having crossed the Rubicon, an act that probably marked the end of the Roman Republic.  The consuls Claudius and Cornelius and many other leading Romans immediately left Rome to join Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey) in Greece, so Caesar arrived in the city, he found it effectively without a government.  He arranged to be appointed as dictator by what remained on the Senate in order to hold the consular elections and then duly resigned, his task having been completed with his own election as consul and that of his friend, Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus.  He then left Italy at the head of his army in order to deal with Pompey, leaving his consular colleague in charge at Rome.  The fasti Capitolini for this period record:

  1. 49 BC:

  2. Consuls: Caius Claudius Marcellus [Maior] and Lucius Cornelius [Lentulus Crus]

  3. Dictator: Caius Julius Caesar, [without a magister equitum, in order to hold elections]

  4. 48 BC:

  5. Consuls: Caius Julius Caesar (II) and Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus

So far, so good: the norms of Republican tradition had arguably been respected as far as the circumstances allowed.

Caesar’s Second Dictatorships  (47 BC)

Caesar’s second dictatorship was potentially more controversial: news of Pompey’s defeat at pharsalus and his subsequent assassination reached Rome in the middle of the consular year.  After Caesar had arranged matters in Greece,  after which, according to Plutarch:

  1. “... he crossed to Italy and went up to Rome, at the close of the year, [and was, for] a second time ... chosen dictator, although that office had never before been for a whole year”, (‘Life of Caesar’, 51:q).

As we shall see, this is misleading, since Sulla had been appointed as dictator for an indefinite period in 82 BC, for the purpose of reforming the constitution, albeit that he had duly resigned two years later when the task that he had set himself was done.   As Andrew Drummond (above) pointed out, the problem this time was that no-one could be sure how he would use his new power and whether he really would relinquish it after a year.  Plutarch also noted that, after Caesar’s appointment as dictator for the second time, he left Italy in order to the remnants of Pompey’s army:

  1. “... but he chose Mark Antony as his master of horse and sent him to Rome.  This office is second in rank when the dictator is in the city; but when he is absent, it is the first and almost the only one, since only the tribuneship continues when a dictator has been chosen; all the other offices are abolished”, (‘Life of Mark Antony’, 8:3).

According to Cassius Dio, Caesar:

  1. “... entered upon the dictatorship at once, although he was outside of Italy, and chose Mark Antony as his master of horse although he had not yet been praetor: the consuls [Caesar himself and Vatia] also proposed the latter's name, although the augurs very strongly opposed him, declaring that no-one could be master of horse for more than six months.  But, for this course, they brought upon themselves a great deal of ridicule, because, after having decided that the dictator himself should be chosen for a year, contrary to all precedent, they were now splitting hairs about the master of the horse”, (‘Roman History’, 42: 21: 1-2).

It is possible that this account is indicative of an undercurrent of opposition to the constitutional outrage of a dictator and his master of horse appointed for a year (with no indication initially that they would function alongside consuls), and that the newly ‘discovered’ consul-free ‘dictator years’ of the late 4th century BC provided some sort of answer to these criticisms.

It seems that Mark Antony soon discovered the inherent problem in this concentration of powers in Italy in his hands: according to Cassius Dio, he found himself facing growing unrest at Rome and a potential mutiny of Caesar’s veterans, who were concentrated in Campania awaiting discharge and compensation:

  1. “Fearing that they might begin some rebellion, [Mark Antony] turned over the charge of the city to Lucius Caesar [consul of 64 BC, Julius Caesar’s cousin and Mark Antony’s uncle], appointing him city prefect, an office never before conferred by a master of the horse, and then set out himself to join the soldiers”, (‘Roman History’, 42: 21: 1-2).

Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 1996, at p. 469) point this resurrection of an ancient office coincided with the publication of Atticus’ liber Annalis’, and that

  1. “The last recorded use of this office is possibly to be dated to [the dictator year 325/4 BC (see below), when] Livy records the incident in which Lucius Papirius Crassus was left in charge of the City ... [by the dictator, his relative, Lucius Papirius Cursor].  It would have been simple enough for an imaginative annalist to equate [Lucius Caesar] with the earlier dubious examples of a praefectus urbis. [Lucius Papirius Crassus].  Even if the praefectura urbis was not discussed in detail in the liber Annalis’, Atticus' knowledge of the early period [or that of another scholar of his circle such as Varro] could have provided the ideas upon which this kind of [constitutional] adaptation was based.” 

The implication is that the discovery of the praefectus urbi of 325/4 BC was yet another invention associated with Atticus and his circle that might help to legitimise the constitutional outrages of 47 BC.

However, even with the aid of his uncle, Mark Antony was unable to deal with either the unrest in Rome or the mutiny in Campania.  Caesar had to return to Italy before the year was ended (probably in September) and hold consular elections, and 46 BC saw the election, as consuls, Caius Julius Caesar (III) and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.  The fasti Capitolini for this period record:

  1. 47 BC:

  2. Dictator: Caius Julius Caesar [(II), magister equitum] Marcus  Antonius [in order to manage public affairs] - It seems that Mark Antony’s name was removed from the fasti (perhaps after his defeat by the future Emperor Augustus in 30 BC) but subsequently reinstated.

  3. Consuls in the same year: Quintus Fufius Calenus and Publius Vatinius

  4. 46 BC:

  5. Consuls: Caius Julius Caesar (III) and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.  

Thus, after the highly unusual dictatorship of 47 BC, constitutional proprieties had been notionally restored.

Caesar’s Subsequent Dictatorships 

Thereafter, precedents and legal niceties would have counted for little, and Caesar was able to serve as dictator and/or consul and to choose his colleagues as he wished.  As late as October 46 BC, Cicero expected that he would arrange for consular elections to be held before marching to Spain to finish the war with the Pompeians: thus, he asked Atticus to:

  1. “Write and tell me, pray, what Celer reports Caesar to have settled about the candidates: does the great man think of going to [Spain] or to the [Campus Martius for the elections] ?  And, finally, I should very much like to know whether there is any positive necessity for my being at Rome for the Comitia”, (Letter to Atticus, 12: 8).

In fact, Caesar no longer felt the need to go through the motions of elections in order to appoint magistrates: according to Suetonius

  1. “He held his 3rd and 4th consulships [in 46-5 BC] in name only, content with the power of the dictatorship  conferred on him at the same time  ... Moreover, in both years, he substituted two consuls for himself for the last 3 months, in the meantime holding no elections except for tribunes and plebeian aediles, and appointing praefecti instead of the praetors, to manage the affairs of Rome during his absence”, (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 76: 2).

Clearly, among other innovations, Mark Antony’s resurrection of the post of the praefectus urbis had taken hold, and Caesar was content to employ it without any reference to republican precedents: according to Cassius Dio, when Caesar :

  1. “... finally set out himself [fro Spain, he entrusted] the City to [his master of horse, Marcus Aemilius] Lepidus and a number of praefecti (some think eight, although six is more commonly believed)”, (‘Roman History’, 43: 28: 2)

Thus, if the four fictitious  years in which a dictator and his master of horse had ruled without consuls had been invented to provide precedents from the 4th century BC for Caesar’s controversial use of the dictatorship, they had probably been of use for this purpose only during the first nine months of 47 BC.

Intellectual Climate of 47 BC

In April 46 BC, as news reached Rome that Caesar had defeated the last remnants of Pompeain resistance in Africa, Cicero wrote to another intellectual who had already abandoned the Pompeian cause and been forgiven by Caesar, Marcus Terentius Varro.  Both men now faced the ill-will of both sides, and both needed a new outlet for their talents.  Thus, Cicero advised:

  1. “... let us abide by our resolve to live together in pursuit of those studies of ours, from which we formerly sought only pleasure, but now seek also the preservation of our lives.  And, if anyone wishes for our services, not merely as architects but also as workmen to build up the constitution, let us not refuse to assist, but rather hasten with enthusiasm to the task.  And if, on the other hand, no one will employ us, let us compose and read ‘Republics’.   Like the most learned of the ancients, if we cannot serve the State in the Senate-House and Forum, we must do so in our libraries and investigate its customs and laws” (‘Epistulae ad Familiare’, 9: 2: 5).

It was in this climate that Atticus had written his ‘liber Annales’ discussed above: as Kathryn Welch (referenced below, 1996, at p. 469) observed:

  1. “If Atticus wrote a spurious account of the annual dictatorships of 333, 324, 309, and 301 BC, he provided the Caesarian innovators with the historical 'precedents' with which they could counter criticism of the unconstitutional nature of Caesar's second dictatorship in 47 BC.”

There seems to have been another source of demand for the services of men of letters: at a time when society had been turned upside down, men from the oldest families were anxious to re-establish their patrician credentials.  Thus, according to Cornelius Nepos, Atticus had interwoven into his work an account of:

  1. “... the origins of families, so that we may ascertain from it the pedigrees of eminent men.   [He had also] given similar accounts, separately, in other books;

  2. at the request of Marcus Brutus, he specified in order the members of the Junian family, from its origin to the present age, stating who each was, from whom he sprang, what offices he held, and at what time. 

  3. at the request of Marcellus Claudius, he gave [a similar] account of the family of the Marcelli; and

  4. at the request of Scipio Cornelius and Fabius Maximus, [he gave another similar account of the families] of the Fabii and Aemilii.

  5. Nothing can be more agreeable than these books to those who have any desire for a knowledge of the actions of illustrious men”, (‘Lives of Eminent Commanders: Titus Pomponius Atticus’, 18).

As we shall see, the third of these requests is particularly relevant in the present context.  Since the families of the Fabii and Aemilii were closely intertwined, it is likely that this was a single  request by Scipio and Fabius: this was, for example, the view of Ernst Badian (referenced below, at p. 9], who noted that:

  1. “... Atticus] was asked by a Fabius Maximus [almost certainly the suffect consul of 45 BC] and a Cornelius Scipio to trace the descent of the Fabii and the Aemilii.  ... [It] has been conclusively shown (as should have been clear long ago from the form of the name, ‘Scipio Cornelius’) that the Scipio who joined Fabius was not Q. Metellus Scipio [who was never referred to as Scipio Cornelius], but the one known as Salvitto; and it was, it seems, his adopted son Scipio Pomponianus (we do not know whether related to Atticus), whose descent lines, as set out in [the statues of his claimed ancestors in] his atrium, aroused the ire of M. Messalla Rufus as being somehow flagrantly dishonest.  We can hardly doubt that the shocking concoction [of this fake genealogy] was based on the work obligingly supplied to Salvitto by Atticus, whose own family derived its descent from Pompo, the son (or father) of [the Roman king] Numa (so his biographer clearly and matter-of-factly implies).”

Both Fabius and Scipio Salvitto were, by this time, nonentities, but they were Caesarian nonentities (unlike Qunitus Metellus Scipio, who was neither).  Ann Marshall (referenced below, at p. 315) argued that:

  1. “The genealogy for Fabius and Scipio gave Caesar a weapon in his war of propaganda as he set up his dictatorship.”

However, it seems to me much more likely that Fabius and Scipio (like Brutus and Claudius) commissioned this genealogy from Atticus for their own personal aggrandisement.

At about this time, Cicero wrote to another of his friends, Papirius Paetus, who had apparently been ignorant of his family’s patrician past: 

  1. “... how did it come into your head, my dear Paetus, to say that there was never a Papirius who was not a plebeian?  For, in fact, there were patrician Papirii, of the lesser houses, of whom:

  2. the first was Lucius Papirius Mugillanus, censor with Lucius Sempronius Atratinus, having already been his colleague in the consulship, in the 312th year of the city.  But in those days, [members of your gens] were called Papisii.

  3. After him, 13 sat in the curule chair before Lucius Papirius Crassus, who was the first to drop the form Papisius [for Papirius].  This man was named dictator, with Lucius Papirius Cursor as master of the horse, in the 415th year of the city [340 BC], and four years afterwards [336 BC] was consul with Kaeso Duilius.

  4. [Lucius Papirius Cursor, presumably Crassus’ erstwhile master of horse], came next to him, a man who held a very large number of offices [consul five times from 326 BC and dictator in 325/4 and 310/9 BC].

  5. Then comes [Lucius Papirius Maso], who rose to the aedileship [according to Stephen Oakley, referenced below, 2007, at p. 487, probably the grandfather but conceivably the great grandfather of Caius Papirius Maso, the consul of 231 BC]; then a number of Masones. 

  6. The busts of these I would have you keep: [they were] all patricians.  Then follow the Carbones and Turdi.  These latter were plebeians, whom, in my opinion, you may disregard (‘Epistulae ad Familiare’, 9: 21).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 485) suggested that:

  1. “The considerable familiarity with the gentile history of the Papirii that Cicero displays [in this letter] may derive from perusal of Atticus’ writings.  Even if it does not, it shows what information on families was available to the diligent researcher of the mid-1st century BC.”

Since Cornelius Nepos is unlikely to have failed to mention a specific work on the gens Papiria if one had existed, the implication seems to be that Cicero might well have gleaned his information from Atticus’ ‘liber Annales’.

Why Were the Dictator Years Inserted in 333, 325, 309 and 301 BC ?

In order to throw light on this most important question, we need to look in more detail at the events (real or invented) of each of these years in turn.




Read more:

F. Pina Polo, “Losers in the Civil War between Caesarians and Pompeians. Punishment and Survival, in

  1. K.-J. Hölkeskamp  and H. Beck (Eds.), “Verlierer und Aussteiger in der Konkurrenz unter Anwesenden: Agonalitat in Der Politischen Kultur Des Antiken Rom”, (2018) Wiesbaden, at p. 147-68

M. Wilson, "The Needed Man: Evolution, Abandonment, and Resurrection of the Roman Dictatorship" (2017) thesis of City University of New York

T. Cornell, “Crisis and Deformation in the Roman Republic: the Example of the Dictatorship”, in

  1. V. Gouschin and P. Rhodes (Eds), “Deformations and Crises of Ancient Civil Communities” (2015)  Stuttgart, at pp. 101-26

J. Divjak and W. Wischmeyer, “Das Kalenderhandbuch von 354: der Chronograph des Filocalus (Vol. II)”, (2014) Vienna

G. De Benedettis, “La Provincia Samnii e la Viabilità Romana ”, (2011) Studi e Ricerche (online) 

J. Gardner, “The Dictator”, in 

  1. M. Griffin (Ed.), “A Companion to Julius Caesar”, (2009) Malden, MA and Oxford, at pp. 57-71

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

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

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume III: Book IX”, (2005) Oxford

T. C. Brennan, “The Praetorship in the Roman Republic”, (2000) Oxford

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume II: Books VII and VIII”, (1998) Oxford

K. Welch, “Atticus, a Banker in Politics?”, Historia, 40 (1996) 450-71

A. Marshall, “Atticus and the Genealogies”, Latomus, 52.2 (1993) 307-17

K. Welch, “The Praefectura Urbis of 45 B.C. and the Ambitions of L. Cornelius Balbus”, Antichthon, 24 (1990) 53-69

A. Keaveney, “Sulla: The Last Republican”, (1987) London and New York

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

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

E. Badian, “The Clever and the Wise.: Two Roman Cognomina in Context”, in:

  1. N. Horsfall (Ed.), “Vir Bonus Discendi Peritus: Studies in Celebration of Otto Skutsch's Eightieth Birthday”, (1988) London, at pp 6-12

G. Maslakov, “Tradition and Abridgement: a Study of the Exempla tradition in Valerius Maximus and the Elder Pliny”, (1979), thesis of Macquarie University, Sydney

T. R. S. Broughton, ‘The Magistrates of the Roman Republic. Volume I (509 - 100 BC)”, (1951) New York


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