Key to Umbria

Roman Conquest of Italy (Topic):

Livy: Lucius Papirius Cursor and

Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (325/4 - 310/9 BC)

Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact

Dictator Year 325/4 BC

Appointment of Papirius as Dictator for the First Time

The consuls of this year, which was, by Livy’s reckoning, the 2nd year of the Second Samnite War, were:

  1. Decimus Junius Brutus Scaeva, who suppressed a rebellion of the Vestini; and

  2. Lucius Furius Camillus, who marched into Samnium in order to prevent the Samnites from aiding the Vestini. 

According to Livy, soon after Furius arrived in Samnium, he: 

  1. “... became dangerously ill and was forced to relinquish his command; Lucius Papirius Cursor, who was by far the most distinguished soldier of the time, [took over his command] as dictator, ... with Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus as his master of the horse”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 29: 8-9).

Feud between Papirius and Fabius

Papirius presumably took over Furius’ camp in or on the border of Samnium.  According to Livy, his :

  1. “... expedition into Samnium was attended with ambiguous auspices ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 1).

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 707) explained:

  1. “... the army had set out without its being clear whether or not the auspices were favourable.”

Livy then immediately drew attention to the main theme of his account of this year:

  1. “... but the flaw in [the taking of the auspices] took effect, not in the outcome of the war (which was waged successfully), but in the animosities and madness of the imperatores [Papirius and Fabius]”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 1).

Fabius’ Offence

Livy recorded that:

  1. “As Papirius was setting out for Rome ... to take the auspices afresh, he warned Fabius not to engage in battle with the enemy while he himself was absent.  However, when Fabius [subsequently] ascertained from his scouts ... that the enemy were  ... [behaving] as if there had been not a single Roman in Samnium, ... he put the army in fighting trim and, advancing upon a [now-unknown] place they call Imbrinium, engaged in a pitched battle with the Samnites.  This engagement was so successful that no greater success could have been gained, had [Papirius] been present; ... It is said that [20,000 Samnites] were killed that day”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 2-7). 

Livy now addressed the inconsistency that he had found in his sources for this incident:

  1. “I find it stated by certain writers that Fabius fought the enemy twice while Papirius was absent, and twice gained a brilliant victory.  The oldest historians give only this single battle, and in certain annals the story is omitted altogether”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 7).

He then returned to the main narrative: whether there had been one or two engagements:

  1. “[Fabius] found himself, after so great a slaughter, in possession of extensive spoils.  He piled the enemy's arms in a great heap ... and burnt them:

  2. This may have been done in fulfilment of a vow to one of the gods; or

  3. if one chooses to accept the account of [the historian Fabius Pictor, see below]:

  4. in order to prevent Papirius from reaping the harvest of his [i.e. Fabius’] glory and inscribing his name on the arms or having them carried in his triumph. 

  5. Fabius sent the dispatch reporting the success to the Senate rather to [Papirius], which certainly suggests that he had no mind to share the credit with Papirius.  At all events, [Papirius] so received the news that, while everyone else was rejoicing at the victory, he showed only signs of anger and discontent”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 30: 8-10).

And so, a feud was born. 

Papirius’ Retribution

Fabius had committed at least two grievous offences: he had engaged the enemy while the auspices were uncertain; and (more importantly for what was to follow) he had ignored the explicit command of a dictator.  Papirius wanted the death penalty and Rome was in crisis.  Matters came to a head when:

  1. “... Roman people ... entreated and adjured him to remit the punishment of Fabius for their sake.  The tribunes, too, fell in with the prevailing mood and earnestly besought Papirius to allow for human frailty and for the youth of  Fabius, who had suffered punishment enough.  Now, [Fabius] himself, now his father, Marcus Fabius Ambustus, forgetting their previous animosity, threw themselves at Papirius’ feet and attempted to avert his anger”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 35: 7).

None of these supplicants denied that Fabius was guilty as charged.  However, Papirius probably had no choice but to agree to his reprieve.  Thus, he pronounced:

  1. “Live, Quintus Fabius, more blest in this desire of your fellow citizens to save you than in the victory over which you were exulting a little while ago !  Live, though you dared a deed which not even your own father would have pardoned, had he been in the place of Lucius Papirius ! [7] With me, you shall be reconciled when you will”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 35: 7).

Subsequent Events of Papirius' Campaign in Samnium

When he was forced to return to Rome to  retake the auspices, Fabius defied his orders by engaging with the Samnites in his absence at the now-unknown centre of ImImbrinium,

“we do not even know whether , an event that marked the start of a famous feud between the two men (see below).  The dispute ended up before the Senate, with Fabius found guilty by reprieved from execution.  According to Livy:

  1. “When the dictator [i.e., Papirius Cursor] had:

  2. placed Lucius Papirius Crassus in charge of the City;  and

  3. forbidden Quintus Fabius, the master of the horse, to exercise his magistracy in any way;

  4. he returned to the camp [in Samnium]”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 36: 1). 

Crassus as Praefectus Urbi

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 745) argued that Livy’s description of Crassus appointment:

  1. “... can only mean that [he] was appointed praefectus urbi [Urban Prefect/Prefect of Rome].  This office was not elective: prefects [of this kind] were appointed by the consuls (or a dictator) when all the senior magistrates were absent from Rome.”

Like Stephen Oakley (as above), Corey Brennan (referenced below, at p. 73) pointed out that the office of praefectus urbi is not attested in the Republic after the mid-5th century BC.  He also noted (at p. 72) that

  1. “The primary role of the early praetors was probable the defence of the City.”

Thus, one would have expected Papirius Cursor to rely on the serving praetor for the defence of Rome.  However, he suggested  (at p. 73) the circumstances in which Papirius might have turned instead to Crassus on this occasion:

  1. “Crassus was a relative of the dictator ... [His appointment] as praefectus urbi might be explicable if:

  2. the consul [Furius, whom had Papirius replaced in Samnium] was too ill to act [as defender of Rome]; and

  3. Papirius had taken the praetor  into the field as a substitute for the disgraced Fabius, who was debarred ... from further action.

  4. [In these circumstances,  Papirius might well have] put a man he could trust in charge of the City, and ordered all the regular magistrates [there] not to interfere.”

He acknowledged (at p. 72)  that this record of Crassus’ appointment as praefectus urbi might not be genuine, but pointed out that:

  1. “... at the very least, [it shows that] such an appointment was conceivable in the later historical period.”

We hear no more about the appointment of a praefectus urbi until 47 BC, when Marcus Antonius (whom Caesar, as dictator,  had appointed as master of horse with responsibility for Rome and Italy while he himself continued the civil war in Spain) appointed his  uncle, Lucius Caesar, to take charge in Rome while he (i.e. Mark Antony) dealt with a mutiny of Caesar’s veterans in Campania.

Marcus Valerius as Legate ?

Livy provides a name for the legate who replaced Fabius:

  1. “It happened in that year that, every time that Papirius left the army, there was a rising of the enemy in Samnium.  But ,with the example of Fabius before his eyes, Marcus Valerius, the lieutenant who commanded in the camp, feared the dread displeasure of Papirius more than any violence of the enemy.  And so, when a party of foragers had fallen into an ambush and ... had been slain, it was commonly believed that [Valerius] might have rescued them, had he not quailed at the thought of those harsh orders”, (History of Rome’, 8: 35: 10-11).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 744) observed that:

  1. “Presumably Livy and his sources imagined that this legate to have been either:

  2. Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvus (consul for the first time in 348 BC); or

  3. his son, Marcus Valerius Maximus (consul for the first time in 312 BC).

  4. But, it is most unlikely that there was authentic evidence for the role of a Marcus Valerius in the events of this year.

Papirius’ Victory 

Livy then embarked on an elaborate account of how the dispirited Roman army was defeated by the Samnites and how Papirius then went to considerable lengths to direct the treatment of his wounded men and to restore their morale.  He then:

  1. “... engaged [again] with the Samnites, ... and  routed and dispersed them to such an extent that this was the last time they joined battle with him.  His victorious army then  ... traversed their territory without encountering any resistance ... Discouraged by these reverses, the Samnites sought peace of Papirius and agreed to give every [man in his army] a garment and a year's pay.  Papirius directed them to go before the Senate, but they replied that they would attend him thither, committing their cause wholly to his honour and integrity.  So the army was withdrawn from Samnium”, (‘History of Rome 8: 36: 8-12).

Livy then recorded that

  1. “Papirius, having entered the City in triumph, would have laid down his office, but was commanded by the Senate first to hold a consular election.  He announced that Caius Sulpicius Longus had been chosen for the second time, together with Quintus Aulius Cerretanus.  The treaty [with the Samnites] was not completed, owing to a disagreement over terms, and the Samnites [instead] left the City with a truce for a year; nor did they scrupulously hold even to that, so encouraged were they to make war, on learning that Papirius had resigned”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 37: 1).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 697) observed that:

  1. “Livy’s account [at 8: 36: 1-12] of Papirius’ ultimate victory over the Samnites is told as a pendant to his story of the quarrel [with Fabius, which had taken up most of 8: 30 - 8: 35], and its details seem to be largely his own or his sources’ invention.  It is just possible, that the Samnites did sue for peace and were granted indutae at the end of the year, but the continued fighting [in the following consular year, to which Livy alluded] ... scarcely enhances the credibility of the report.”

Furthermore, since the only specific location mentioned in this account is the now-unknown Imbrinium, as Oakley pointed out (at p. 696):

  1. “... we do not even know whether Papirius and Fabius were fighting in the Liris Valley  or in Campania.”

Papirius’ Role in the Consular Elections

Livy did not explain why the Senate asked Papirius to hold the consular elections before resigning his dictatorship, a task that would normally have fallen to one of the serving consuls

  1. It is possible that Furius had died during his consular year: the only later reference in our surviving sources that might refer to him is in 318 BC, when Livy (‘History of Rome’, 9: 20: 5) recorded that the praetor Lucius Furius gave laws to the Campani (see below).  According to Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 267):

  2. “This [praetor] is otherwise unknown.  It is possible that he was a Camillus ... or a Medullinus.”

  3. He added that it is:

  4. “... even conceivable that he should be identified as the consul of 338 and 325 BC ...”

  5. and noted  (at pp. 534-5) that:

  6. “Since  all seven of the men who held the praetorship between 317 and 241 BC and whose year of office is known had already been consul, this phenomenon can hardly have been unusual and may even have been regular.”

  7. However, even if our Lucius Furius Camillus survived his second year as consul, he might have been severely incapacitated for most of it.

  8. There is no particular reason to think that Junius was detained by the military situation in the Vestini, but we cannot exclude the possibility that he had pressed on into northern Samnium.

In other words, we should probably accept Livy’s record that Papirius presided over the election of the new consuls,Caius Sulpicius Longus (II) and  Quintus Aulius Cerretanus before resigning his dictatorship.

Papirius’ Dictator Year (324 BC) ??

Livy placed the whole of the narrative above within the year in which Lucius Furius Camillus  and Decimus Junius Brutus Scaeva held the consulship.  However, as explained in my page on Dictator Years (334/3; 325/4; 310/9; and 302/1 BC), some sources claim that Papirius continued as dictator without consul for an entire year between: the end of the consulship of Furius and Junius; and the start of the consulship of Sulpicius and Aulius:

  1. the relevant entries in the fasti Capitolini are missing but the ‘Chronography of 354 AD’ (which largely depended on them) 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]; and

  6. the fasti Triumphales, which are  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 Samnites, on 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, apparently the services of his master of the horse but with no consuls and with Marcus Valerius as legate.  We should thus combine these sources as follows (indicating 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. -Master of Horse: Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus (resigned)

  8. -Praefectus Urbi: Lucius Papirius Crassus

  9. -Legate: Marcus Valerius

  10. 323 BC:

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


Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 696-7) acknowledged that the whole of Livy’s account of the events of the dictator year 325/4 BC is heavily elaborated.  However, he argued that:

“... it is ... quite reasonable to believe that [Papirius and Fabius] really did quarrel”;

...”it is possible that [Fabius did defeat a Samnite army], and such a position is supported by the obscurity of Imbrinium ...”;

“... it is perhaps just possible that that the Samnites did sue for peace and were granted [truces] at the end of the year (but the continued fighting in 323 BC  ... scarcely enhances the credibility of the report)”; and

“ ... the basic facts that [Papirius] won a victory and celebrated a triumph need not be doubted ...”

Fabius Pictor

Timothy Cornell and Edward Bispham (in T. Cornell (Ed.), referenced below, 2013. at Volume III, pp. 33-4, entry F17) argued that the historian Fabius to whom Livy referred (at 8: 30: 9) must have been Fabius Pictor.  As they pointed out (in Volume I, at pp. 162), he was born in ca. 270 BC and died after 216 BC and was probably a great grandson of Marcus Fabius Ambustus and a great nephew of Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus. 

In relation to this specific episode, they argued (in Volume III, at p. 34) that Fabius Pictor was responsible for:

  1. the opinion that Livy attributed to him (that Fabius burned the Samnite armour to make sure that Papirius did not make steal his glory and display the captured armour in his triumph); and

  2. (probably) the information that corroborated this: namely the fact that Fabius had reported his victory, not to Papirius, but to the Senate.


  1. “When, in an earlier passage, [Livy] says that the oldest writers recorded only one battle, he must referring to Fabius [Pictor]. and probably to [him] alone.”

They summarised:

  1. “... Fabius Pictor must have narrated the whole episode [in his own account, and it] was probably commemorated by his family: the intimate details, especially concerning the high-spirited and even reckless attitude of his great uncle, seem characteristically Fabian ... [It is possible that Fabius’] letter to the Senate was preserved in the archive of the gens Fabia.  The best explanation of the evidence as we have it is that the story was a family tradition, written up by Fabius Pictor, but leaving no record in official archives; this would explain Livy’s comment that, in some annals, the whole incident was left out.”

Dictator Year 310/9 BC

The consuls of this year, which was, by Livy’s reckoning, the 16th year of the Second Samnite War, were: 

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

  2. Caius Marcius Rutilus who campaigned in Samnium. 

According to Livy, just before Fabius’ victory over the Etruscans at Perusia, Marcius suffered a military setback in Samnium, in which:

  1. “... 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).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 460-1) argued that Marcius’ setback should be accepted, since:

  1. “... the annalistic tradition is unlikely to have invented a Roman defeat ... .”

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”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 38: 10).  

Appointment of Papirius as Dictator for the Second Time

Formally, the appointment needed to be made by one of the consuls, but the senators were uncertain whether a messenger could be safely sent to Samnium, where hostilities continued and, if so, whether any such messenger ] would find  Marcius  alive.  They therefore had no alternative but to ask Fabius to make the appointment.   However, according to Livy, since Fabius still:

  1. “... had a private grudge against Papirius, ... the Senate decided to send a deputation of former consuls to him [presumably at his camp in Etruria, ... in order to] induce him to forget those quarrels in the national interest.  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 30-year 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. 

Events of Papirius Second Dictatorship

Papirius’ First Engagement with the Samnites 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 [an unknown location, presumably in Samnium.  There, having also taken] over Marcius’ troops, he marched out and offered battle, which the enemy on their part seemed willing to accept”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 1-2). 

Livy’s account of the subsequent engagement ended abruptly (at least in the surviving manuscripts):

  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: they did not doubt their own strength, but neither did they underestimate that of the enemy”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 3-4). 

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 499) pointed out that:

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

He hardened this conclusion at p. 500:

  1. “The arguments in favour of a lacuna after [“they remained quiet for some days, not through any distrust of their own strength or any feeling of contempt for the enemy’] ... are ... overwhelming.”   

Manuscript Corruption

After this putative lacuna, Livy’s narrative continues:

  1. “For (nam), a battle was fought with the Umbrians: they were unable to maintain the fury with which they began it, and they fled before they had suffered any great loss.  And, at the lacus Vadimonis, the Etruscans had concentrated an army raised under a lex sacrata ...” (‘‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 4-5, my translation).

The fact that the introductory word ‘nam’ (for) has no connection with the preceding paragraph  indicates that these manuscripts are deficient at this point.  In some cases, the scribes were obviously aware of this: as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 497) pointed out,  a small number of them placed obeli  († ... †) around the words †nam et cum Umbrorum  ... et ad Vadimonis lacum† in order to flag that this passage seemed to them to be to be corrupt.  In their modern edition of the Latin text, Charles Walters and  Robert Conway (referenced below) also placed obeli  around these words.  However, John Yardley, in his translation based on this edition (referenced below) flagged their existence  as † ...† but omitted their translation, but reproduced the original Latin in a note at p. 289).

Engagement with the Umbrians

The single complete sentence within the obeli reads:

  1. “For, in an engagement with the Umbrians, the enemy were unable to keep up the fight with the spirit with which they began it, and, [without having suffered] any great loss, were completely routed.  ”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 4).

As it stands, the narrative does not reveal:

  1. who ‘the Umbrians’ were (or even whether they were recognisably an army, as opposed to an unorganised band of some sort);

  2. where this rout took place; or

  3. who commanded the Roman army that effected it.

Furthermore, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 298-9) identified two other problems with this passage:

  1. In his paragraph (a), he noted that it clearly contradicts a later passage in which Livy claimed that:

  2. “The tranquillity that ... obtained in Etruria [in 308 BC] was disturbed by a sudden revolt of the Umbrians, [who had, up to that point] escaped all the distress of war, except that a [Roman] army had [previously] passed through their territory”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 41: 8).

  3. In his paragraph (c), he noted that the battles itself:

  4. “... is recounted with extraordinary brevity: this might be expected at the end of the narrative of a year or of a long campaign, but it is something of a surprise in the middle of the account of the campaigns of 310/9 BC.  Sandwiched between ...  a campaign against the Samnites and then one against the Etruscans, the Umbrians make a most odd appearance.”

In the context of this discussion of Livy’s account of the relationship between Papirius, the most important to make is that he did not attribute this minor victory to either of them.

Engagement with the Etruscans at the Lacus Vadimonis

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

According to the surviving manuscripts:

  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 - see below] 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 below, there are a number of problems with this account.

Was an Etruscan Army Defeated at this Time at the Lacus Vadimonis?

In view of the manuscript deficiency at the start of this passage, some scholars doubt whether this battle, if it took place at all, did so at the lacus Vadimonis.  However, this is not inherently unlikely: as George Dennis (referenced below) observed:

  1. “Whoever visits the [likely site of the] Vadimon will comprehend how it was that decisive battles were fought upon its shores.  The valley here forms the natural pass into the inner or central plain of Etruria.  It ... [occupies] a low, level tract, about a mile wide, hemmed in between the heights [of the mons Ciminius] and the Tiber ... ; ... these heights ... are, even now, densely covered with wood, as no doubt they were in ancient times, this being part of the celebrated Ciminian forest.”

The site was only 40 km north of the Latin colonies of Sutrium and Nepete, which defended the road to Rome and, although Fabius had recently defeated an Etruscan army near Perusia in upper Etruria, there might well have been a continuing Etruscan presence to his rear.  

Did the Romans Win Two Major Battles Against the Etruscans in 310/9 BC ?

Although there is no basis for dismissing Livy’s account of this second major battle against the Etruscans in 310/9 BC simply on the basis of its putative location, we still need to consider whether it should be rejected on other grounds.  For example, could yet another significant Roman victory over the Etruscans really have featured among what Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at pp. 35-6), for example, described as:

  1. “... the events of the [apparently] interminable 310/9 BC” (my translation).

Furthermore, these two victories to not seem to bear any obvious relationship to each other:

  1. Just  before Papirius’ appointment as dictator, Fabius had fought a ‘famous battle’ near Perusia in which, according to Livy (‘History of Rome’, 9: 37, he:

  2. defeated the largest army that the Etruscans and Umbrians had ever sent against the Romans; and

  3. imposed 30-year truces on Arretium, Cortona and Perusia, three of the leading city-states of upper Etruria.

  4. Now, an unnamed Roman commander had broken the power of the Etruscans for the first time at the lacus Vadimonis and wiped out the main strength of their army.

Diodorus Siculus gave what seems to be a more coherent explanation of these events:

  1. “Defeating the Etruscans in a second battle near the place called Perusia and destroying many of them, [Fabius] 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 [Cortona], and likewise with those of Perusia; and [then], taking by siege the [now-unknown] city called    Castola, he forced the Etruscans to raise the siege of Sutrium”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 4-5).   

It seems to me that, since Castola was close enough to Sutrium to cause the Etruscans to abandon the siege of the latter city, it must also have been near the lacus Vadimonis: Simone Sisani (referenced below, at p. 36, note 37) suggested that might have been located at the ancient fortified site that has been excavated at Monte Casoli, near modern Bomarzo, some 15 km west of the likely site of the lake (see the map above).  Thus, it is possible that Livy or his source(s) embellished an account of what had been a relatively unimportant engagement with the Etruscans there  that Diodorus or his source(s) attributed, not necessarily correctly, to Fabius.

Which Roman Commander Secured this Putative Second Victory ?

As we have seen, the Roman commander who was responsible for this victory:

  1. “... broke the power of the Etruscans for the first time ... The main strength of their army was left [dead] on the field ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 5-11).

In view of the glory that would have attended such an achievement, it is  extremely surprising that, at least in the surviving manuscripts, Livy did not identify him.  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).

This conundrum had apparently occurred to one of the scribe responsible for one of the surviving 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 ... [This] 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.”

It is possible that Livy  simply had no information as to the identity of this victorious commander, although it is hard to see how it could have been anyone other that Fabius or Papirius.  It seems to me that Livy’s silence on the matter arose from the fact that he was struggling to reconcile discordant sources:

  1. those 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); while. 

  2. those that favoured Fabius might well have :

  3. named him as the victorious commander and described the battle as a trivial mopping-up operation; or

  4. denied that it happened at all.

There is, in fact, another indication that much of Livy’s account came from sources who favoured Papirius: 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 had secured against the Samnites in 293 BC.

Papirius’ Victory over the Samnites

Livy then effected a smooth transition from Etruria back to Samnium:

  1. “Equally hard fighting and an equally brilliant success characterised the campaign which immediately followed against the Samnites”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 1).

However, he did not say where this brilliant campaign took place.  Instead, he embarked on a long description of the splendid armour worn by the Samnites, before referring to Papirius at the head of the Roman army only at  9: 40: 8.

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.”

In other words, it is possible that:

  1. a now-lost passage after 9: 39: 3 completed Livy’s account of Papirius’ engagement at Longula; and

  2. Papirius now engaged with a splendidly-attired Samnite army at another unnamed location in Samnium.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 499, paragraph (d)) observed that:

  1. “Line 40:1 ... does not pick up [line] 39: 3 at all well: [in particular], the mention of the new preparations of the Samnites seems very sudden.”

This certainly suggests that Livy was speaking about two different occasions at 9: 39: 1-3 and at  9: 40: 1-14.  However, if this is correct, then Livy seems to have launched into the second engagement without having described where and in what circumstances it took place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. two legates:

  3. Marcus Valerius Maxiumus Corvus; and

  4. Publius Decius Mus.

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

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

When Junius’ charge broke the enemy right, Papirius:

  1. “... cried:

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

  3. This fired the [rest of the Roman] soldiers with new energy; nor did ... the [legates display] less enthusiasm than the generals: Valerius on the right and Publius Decius on the left, both men of consular rank, ... charged obliquely against the enemy's flanks.  [The Samnites took flight and] the fields were soon heaped with both dead soldiers and glittering [enemy] armour”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 10-14).

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

Papirius’ Victory the Samnites (perhaps at Longula)

Livy recorded that the war in Samnium that followed this Roman victory over an Etruscan army that had been raised under a lex sacrata:

  1. “... ...involved as much danger, and reached an equally glorious conclusion”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 1).    

However, he does not say 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 Livy’s account of this second glorious battle in my page ...  However, a number of scholars have raised doubts about its authenticity.  For example:

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

  2. “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 ...”

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

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

In other words, it is likely that much of Livy’s exuberant description of the elder Papirius’ victory over a consecrated Samnite army that was sworn to fight to the death can be safely discounted.

Diodorus and Livy each mentioned another engagement in Etruria thereafter:

  1. As noted above, Diodorus recorded that, after his victory at Perusia, Fabius finally raised the siege of Sutrium by drawing the besieging army to ‘a city called Castola’, where he defeated it.  He did not refer to Papirius’ putative dictatorship, but, if this engagement is accepted, it would have taken place during this period.

  2. Livy referred to a major Roman victory over an Etruscan army during Papirius’ putative dictatorship but (at least in the surviving manuscripts) he did not name the Roman who was in command.

I discuss both of these records below.

Read more:

S. Stoddart and C.  Malone, introduction to the catalogue:

  1. F. Fulminante (Ed), “Cambridge in Umbria. Umbria in Cambridge”, (2013) Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

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

A. Loppi, “Il Lago Vadimone: si Trovava a Vasanello”, Cronos (October 2009)

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

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

A. Baker, “The Gladiator: The Secret History of Rome's Warrior Slaves”, (2000) London

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

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

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

W. Walters and R. Conway (Eds), “T. Livi: Ab Urb Condita, (1919) London

W. E. Heitland “The Roman Republic, Volume 1”, (1909) Cambridge

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

H. Müller, revision of the edition by W. Weissenborn (below), “T. Livi: Ab Urb Condita: Libri VIII-IX”,  (1890), reproduced, together with with an English translation by B.O. Foster, in

  1. Livy” (1919) London

W. Weissenborn (Ed.), “T. Livi: Ab Urb Condita: Buch VI-X”,  (1869), Berlin

M. Hertz (Ed.), “T. Livi: Ab Urb Condita: Vol. I”,  (1857), Leipzig

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

Return to Site Map: Romans