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Triumphs of 310/9 and 293 BC 

Triumphs of 310/9 BC

According to the ‘fasti Triumphales’, in the 445th year after the foundation of Rome:

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

  2. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, as proconsul, was awarded a triumph over the Etruscans on the ides (15th) of November.

However, as explained on my page Second Samnite War II: 311  - 304 BC, these triumphs belong to the ‘dictator year’ 310/9 BC, when: 

  1. Fabius served for the whole year as consul for the second time, with Etruria as his province; and 

  2. Papirius (if he served at all) served as dictator, for the second time, for part of the year (after Fabius’ consular colleague had been reported missing, presumed dead, in Samnium). 

Although, as discussed below, it cannot be established beyond doubt that Papirius actually did serve as dictator for part of this year, Livy accepted that he had and I will initially proceed on that basis.

Triumph of Papirius

Prior Events

As set out in my my page Second Samnite War II: 311  - 304 BC, the last reasonably secure record of the events of 310/9 BC dates to just before Papirius’ (putative) appointment as dictator: Fabius defeated an Etruscan army, almost certainly near Perusia, and agreed 30-year truces with each of the Etruscan city-states of Perusia, Cortona and Arretium.

Livy then recorded Papirius’ first engagement with the Samnites, which took place at the now-unknown centre of Longula.  He left this account abruptly, with the Roman and Samnite armies remaining in their respective camps.  After what is almost certainly a lacuna in the surviving manuscripts, the narrative launched into events in Etruria, where, after a trivial victory against ‘ the Umbrians’, the Romans, under an un-named commander, defeated an army that had been raised under a lex sacrata and mustered at the lacus Vadimonis (close to the border between Rome and Etruria).  The Romans emerged victorious after a hard-fought battle and, according to Livy:

  1. “That day, for the first time, broke the might of the Etruscans ... their [military] strength was cut down in the battle, and their camp was taken and plundered in the same attack”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 39: 11).

Papirius’ Victory and Triumph

The narrative then switched to Samnium, where a war that took place:

  1. “...  immediately [after the Etruscan victory above] was attended with equal danger and an equally glorious conclusion”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 1).

Livy did not locate this glorious engagement, but it might have been a continuation of the earlier engagement at Longula.  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 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).  

Livy added an interesting postscript to this passage:

  1. “So, the Romans made use of the splendid armour of their enemies to do honour to the gods; while the Campanians, in consequence of their pride and in hatred of the Samnites, equipped after this fashion the gladiators who furnished them entertainment at their feasts, and bestowed on them the name of Samnites”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 15-6).

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

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

Triumph of Fabius

Prior Events

As set out above, the last reasonably secure record of the events of 310/9 BC dates to just before Papirius’ (putative) appointment as dictator: Fabius defeated an Etruscan army, almost certainly near Perusia, and agreed 30-year truces with each of the Etruscan city-states of Perusia, Cortona and Arretium.  Livy believed that this victory had been secured south of the Ciminian forest, but he noted that some historians placed it near Perusia.  One of these was Diodorus Siculus, who recoded that:

  1. “... defeating the Etruscans in a second battle near the place called Perusia and destroying many of them, [Fabius] overawed the nation, since he was the first of the Romans to have invaded that region with an army.  He also made truces with the peoples of: Arretium and [Cortona]; and likewise with those of Perusia”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 35: 4-5). 


The accounts of events in Etruria by Diodorus and Livy diverge at this point:

  1. Diodorus did not record Papirius’ subsequent appointment as dictator: he ended his account by noting that Fabius:

  2. “... taking by siege the [now- unknown Etruscan] city called Castola,forced the Etruscans to raise the siege of Sutrium”, (‘Library of History, 20: 35: 5).   

  3. This is the only surviving reference to the existence of the Etruscan centre of Castola.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 457) was inclined to accept Diodorus account precisely because, in his view:

  4. “...a reference to so obscure a site is most unlikely to have been invented.”

  5. As noted above, Livy next described the  victory of an unnamed Roman commander at the lacus Vadimonis, followed by Papirius’ glorious victory in Samnium.  He then continued:

  6. “In the same year, 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).  

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

  8. “... 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.”

  9. “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.”

  10. 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 second version of Fabius victory of 310 BC, which located it to the north of the Ciminian Forest, near Perusia:

  11. “... 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).

Fabius’ Triumph

Livy’s account of Fabius triumph followed on immediately after his suspect description of an easy victory over the remnants of the Etruscan forces near Perusia:

  1. “Having placed a garrison in Perusia and having sent on before him to the Senate in Rome the Etruscan deputations that had come to him seeking friendship, he was borne in triumph into the City ... ”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 19-20).  

It seems more likely that Fabius:

  1. defeated the bulk of the hostile Etruscans near Perusia, where he agreed 30 year truces with Perusia, Cortona and Arretium (Diodorus and Livy, albeit that Livy preferred to locate this battle on the south side of the Ciminian Forest);

  2. defeated the remnants of the hostile Etruscans at Castola (Diodorus); and

  3. then returned to Rome in triumph.

Triumphs of Papirius and Fabius (310/9 BC): Discussion

While Livy noted that the highlight of Papirus’ triumph was the display of the magnificent armour that he and his army had captured from the Samnites.  Perhaps surprisingly, he 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 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: 19-21).  

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 526) pointed out, Livy made no hard break between his accounts of the events of 310/9 BC and 308 BC, so the first line of 9:41 might be considered as a direct continuation form 9: 40: 21):

  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). 



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

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

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

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

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





Triumph of the Consuls of 293 BC

Livy gave almost all of the credit for the Roman victory over the Samnites in 293 to the consul Papirius.  According to Livy, when Papirius had routed the Samnite army at Aquilonia and Carvilius had taken nearby Cominium, and the Romans had sacked both centres, the consuls agreed to continue ravaging Samnium :

  1. “...  so that the they might hand over a thoroughly subdued nation to those that succeeded them.  ...  In pursuance of this plan, they sent despatches to Rome giving an account of their operations and then separated...”, (‘‘History of Rome’’, 10: 44: 6-9),

Papirius was the first to return to Rome, while Carvilius march north,where the Etruscansand the Faliscans had taken advantage of the Roman’s absence in Samnium to resume hostilities.

Livy: Triumph of the Younger Papirius (293 BC)

According to Livy, while Papirius was on his back to way to Rome:

  1. “... a triumph was decreed him with universal consent; and accordingly he triumphed while [still] in office and with extraordinary splendour, considering the circumstances of those times.  ... The spoils of the Samnites were inspected with much curiosity, and compared, in respect of magnificence and beauty, with those taken by his father,... 1,330 pounds of silver was taken in the [defeated] cities.  All the silver and brass were lodged in the treasury, no share of this part of the spoil being given to the soldiers.  The ill humour in the commons was further exasperated, because the tax for the payment of the army was collected by contribution [rather than from the spoils of war] ... There was such a vast quantity of these that, not only were the Temple of Quiringus - see below]  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: 2-8).

Livy also recorded that Papirius: 

  1. “... dedicated the temple of Quirinus. I do not find in any ancient author that it was he who vowed this temple in the crisis of a battle, and certainly he could not have completed it in so short a time; it was vowed by his father when dictator [in 325 or in 310/9 BC], and the son dedicated it when consul, and adorned it with the spoils of the enemy. ”, (‘‘History of Rome’’, 10: 46: 2-8).

According to Pliny the Elder:

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

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


Livy: Triumph of Carvilius (293 BC)

Meanwhile,  Carvilius took the now-unknown Etruscan town of Troilum and also pressured the  Faliscans to sue for peace.  According to Livy:

  1. “After these successes he went home to enjoy his triumph, which was:

  2. less illustrious than [that of Papirius] in regard of the Samnite campaign; but

  3. fully equal to it considering his series of successes in Etruria.

  4. He brought into the treasury 380,000 asses out of the proceeds of the war and disposed of the rest:

  5. partly in contracting for the building of a Temple to Fors Fortuna, near the temple of that deity, that King Servius Tullius had dedicated; and

  6. partly as a donative to the soldiers ... This gift was all the more acceptable to the men after the niggardliness of [Papirius], (‘‘History of Rome’’, 10: 46: 13-15).

Carvilius’ temple to Fors Fortuna was thus built close to an ancient one attributed to Servius Tullius, in what is now Trastevere.

Triumphs of 293 BC: Discussion

Livy’s stress on Papirius’ superior contribution to the victories over the Samnites in this year is probably excessive: according to Pliny the Elder, Carvilius:

  1. “... erected the statue of Jupiter that is [still] seen in the Capitol after he had conquered the Samnites, who fought in obedience to a lex sacrata: [this statue was] ... made from their breast-plates, greaves, and helmets ...”, (‘Natural History’, 34: 18).

The ‘Fasti Triumphales’ of 293/2 BC record:

  1. triumphs against the Samnites for both Carvilius and Papirius, on the 13th of January and the 13th of February respectively; and

  2. make no mention of a triumph won by either of them over the Etruscans or the Faliscans.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 381) suggested that:

  1. since the fasti preserved the actual dates, this order is probably correct; but

  2. Livy is probably correct in claiming that Carvilius also triumphed over the Etruscans (or perhaps the Faliscans).


Interestingly (as noted above), Pliny the Elder recorded that the other consul of 293 BC, Spurius Carvilius Maximus:

  1. ““... erected the statue of Jupiter that is [still] seen in the Capitol after he had conquered the Samnites, who sacrata lege pugnantibus (fought under a lex sacrata): [this statue was] ... made from their breast-plates, greaves, and helmets, and was of such large dimensions that it is visible from the statue of Jupiter Latiaris [on the Alban Mount, some some 20 km from Rome].  He [also] used the filings of the metal for his own statue, which is at the feet of the [statue of Jupiter]”,(‘Natural History’, 34: 18).

This corroborates Livy’s record that much of the the captured Samnite armour of 293 BC was used to adorn public spaces in Rome.  However, Pliny did not comment on its opulence: for him, the most important thing about this armour were that:

  1. it had been worn by Samnites who had been conscripted under a lex sacrata; and

  2. the quantity was sufficient for such a colossal statue.




Samnite Armour in 310/9 and 293 BC

Livy began his account of the events of this consular year 293 BC by asserting that the consul Lucius Papirius Cursor:

  1. “... had not only inherited his father's glory, but had enhanced it by his management of a great war and a victory over the Samnites, second only to the one that his father had won”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 1).

In other words, he immediately drew attention to  the close similarity between:

  1. the victory over the Samnites that he was about to describe, which he credited almost entirely to the consul Papirius; and

  2. the victory that the consul’s homonymous father had secured, as dictator, against the Samnites in 310/9 BC.

His next sentence makes clear that one factor that had characterised both battles (as he described them) was the opulence of the armour that the defeated Samnites had worn:

  1. “And it happened, that [the Samnites] had taken the same care and pains to adorn their soldiers with all the wealth of splendour [in 293 BC] as they had done in [310/9 BC]”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 2).

This section explores the significance of Livy’s emphasis on this particular aspect of these two Papirian victories.

Livy’s Emphasis on the Samnites’ Opulent Armour

Livy began his account of the victory of the elder Paprius in 310/9 BC by launching into an elaborate description of the Samnite armour:

  1. “In addition to their usual preparations for war, [the Samnites] had made their battle-lines gleam with new and splendid armour”, (History of Rome’, 9: 40: 1). 

He then described the uniform of each of these divisions:

  1. the men of one division carried shields that were inlaid with gold and wore multi-coloured tunics;

  2. the men of the other division (who, we later learn, had consecrated themselves) carried shields that were inlaid with silver and wore tunics of white linen.

In the middle of this description, he described aspects of the Samnite armour that seem to have applied to both divisions:

  1. “The shield was made straight and broad at the top to cover the chest and shoulders, but became narrower towards the bottom to allow ease of movement.  The men wore a sponge to protect the breast, and the left leg was covered with a greave.  Their helmets were crested, to make their stature appear greater”, History of Rome’, 9: 40: 2-3).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 504) observed that:

  1. “[This] description of the special armour given to the new Samnite recruits [right at the start of Livy’s account] implies that it will have an importance that crowns the narrative of the year.”

As mentioned above, opulent armour also played a major in Livy’s account of the victory of the younger Paprius in 293 BC.  Again, the Samnite army consisted of two divisions:

  1. the Linen Legion, who had consecrated themselves, were:

  2. “.... provided with resplendent armour and plumed helmets to distinguish them from the others”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 12); and

  3. the ‘others’:

  4. “... were not inferior to the Linen Legion in their personal appearance, their soldierly qualities, or the excellence of their equipment”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 38: 13).

Given this emphasis, we might reasonably ask how likely it is that Samnite armies would really go into battle wearing opulent armour of this kind.

Roman Contempt for the Opulent Samnite Armour

In his account of the battle of 310/9 BC, Livy imagined how the Roman commanders had represented the Samnite’ apparent fetish for opulent armour to their men:

  1. “The Roman soldiers already knew that [their opponents] had been provided with this splendid armour.  [However], they had been told a ducibus (by their officers) that:

  2. soldiers ought to inspire dread, not by being decked out in gold and silver, but by trusting to their courage and their swords; and

  3. the Samnite armour [constituted booty for the Romans] rather than a defence for the wearer, resplendent enough before a battle but soon stained and fouled by wounds and bloodshed. 

  4. They [therefore] knew that courage was the [appropriate] ornament of a soldier, and that all that [Samnite] finery would belong to the victor ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 5-7). 

This is very similar to the way in which Livy imagined that the younger Papirius had reassured his men in 293 BC:

  1. “Papirius ...addressed his troops, and said... much regarding the present equipment of the enemy, more vain and showy than effective: [the Samnites’] plumes would not inflict wounds; their painted and gilded shields would be penetrated by the Roman javelins;  and an army resplendent in dazzling white would be stained with gore when the [Roman] sword came into play.”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 39: 10-13).  

The rest of this imagined address makes it almost certain that Livy was aware of the similarities in his sources for these two battles: he had the younger Papirius remind his men that:

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


Was Samnite Armour Particularly Opulent ?

Edward Salmon (referenced below, 1967, at p. 103) was sceptical: he observed that:

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

He commented on other aspects of the armour worn by the men in the Samnite army of 310/9 BC as described by Livy, and concluded:

  1. at p. 103, that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Baker (referenced below, at p. 54) suggested that these Campanian allies used their share of the spoils of 310/9 BC:

  1. “ ... to equip the very first gladiators who fought in order to provide entertainment at Campanian feasts.  This equipment was adopted by Rome for its own games some four decades later.  [So-called] Samnite armour was both heavy and visually impressive, and remained popular throughout the history of the gladiators.”

Thus, as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 507) pointed out, the historian who originally described the armour of the Samnite army of 310/9 BC (whether Livy himself or one of his sources):

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

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










Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at pp. 395-6) pointed out that Livy does not make it entirely clear in his account of that battle  whether the special armour worn by the Samnites was directly related to the circumstances in which this army had been recruited, and concluded:

  1. “It is possible, but far from certain, that the connection between special recruiting and special arms has a historical reality ... ” (my changed order of clauses).







Relationship Between the Accounts of 310/9 and 293 BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He argued that:

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

Gianluca Tagliamonte (referenced below):

  1. reproduced (at p. 385) a remark by Filippo Coarelli ( referenced below, at pp. 11-2), which was also cited by Oakley (above) and which  I have not been able to consult directly: 

  2. We must assume  that [Livy’s] information on the earlier episode was very scarce, and that this induced Livy to take information relating to the later one in order to complete the gaps”  (my translation); and

  3. concluded himself (at p. 386) that:

  4. “The connections between the two accounts Livy’s cross-references between them allow us to assume that we are dealing a single body of information, the substance of which relates to 293 BC, some of which was used to make up for the deficiency in Livy’s sources for the facts relating to 310/9 BC.  However, we cannot exclude the possibility of that Samnite spoils had been used to adorn Rome sincethis earlier date”, (my translation)..

Oakley returned to this theme at pp. 505-6, where he set out in detail the many similarities between surviving descriptions of the two victories.  Most important among them were the facts that:

  1. each Papirius faced an army that:

  2. had been recruited according to special rituals (his para. a);

  3. included two cohorts of  men, one of which was made up of consecrated men who wore linen tunics (his para. e); and

  4. wore similar elaborate armour (his para. b); and

  5. the spoils of war from each campaign were used to adorn the public places of Rome (his para. d).

Oakley concluded (at p. 506) that:

  1. “There is no difficulty in believing that two Papirii Cursores won important victories over the Samnites, but it is harder to have confidence that these two victories were won in such similar circumstances ... [Furthermore,] Livy’s awareness of the similarities only increases the suspicion that ... the details of one victory were merged with those of the other.  If this did happen, then it is more likely that a large quantity of Samnite arms was brought to the city in 293 BC than in 310/9 BC, since:

  2. the victory ...at Aquilonia was more celebrated and more important [in strategic terms];

  3. the description of the triumph [that followed it] is one of the more reliable features of [Livy’s Book 10]; and

  4. Livy’s testimony for that year is reinforced by that of Pliny [the Elder - see above].”

Livy also noted a pattern of internal tension between the dictator and his fellow-officers that was reminiscent of his (alleged) quarrel with Fabius in his earlier dictatorship (discussed above).  Thus, from the moment that battle commenced in 310/9 BC:

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

When Junius’ charge broke the consecrated army on the enemy right, these internal tensions became manifest: Papirius:

  1. “... cried:

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

  3. This fired the [rest of the Roman] soldiers with new energy; nor did ... the lieutenants [display] less enthusiasm than the generals: Marcus Valerius on the right and Publius Decius on the left, both men of consular rank, ... charged obliquely against the enemy's flanks.  [The Samnites took flight and] the fields were soon heaped with both dead soldiers and glittering [enemy] armour”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 10-4).

Edward Salmon (referenced below, 1967, at p. 246) observed that, by naming Valerius and Decius as well as Papirius and Junius in the context of this battle, Livy had:

  1. “... no fewer than four of the most renowned generals of the Roman Republic participating in it... ; and the suspicions that tale arouses are not allayed by the revelation that Livy’s main reason for mentioning the engagement at all is to account for certain Roman ritual practices [described at 40: 16-7].”

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 520) commented that:

  1. “It is most doubtful that genuine notices survived recording the exploits of either  [of the ex-consuls, Valerius and Decius]; and since, in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, consulars are found quite often as military tribunes or legates, ... this comment [regarding their participation] is likely to be no more than an annalistic reconstruction reflecting the conditions of the era.”

Referring specifically to the participation of Decius, he commented (at p. 342) that:

  1. “He is ... said to have been a legate of Papirius in 310/9C, but this may be one of the many invented details that cluster around Livy’s narrative for this year.”

Finally he noted (at p. 526) that, by having Valerius and Decius participating in Papirius’ victory, he paves the way for Livy to assert that, in Etruria, Fabius gained:

  1. “... a success more brilliant even than the dictator's: indeed the glory of conquering the Samnites was largely diverted upon the lieutenants, Publius Decius and Marcus Valerius, of whom, at the next election, the people, with great enthusiasm, made the one consul and the other praetor”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 18-21).  

I return below to this comparison between the triumphs of Papirius and Fabius in 310/9 BC.



Papirius’ Victory the Samnites (perhaps at Longula)

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. the rivalry between Papirius and his senior colleagues.

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

Livy began by recording that the Samnites:

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

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

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

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

He observed that, by contrast:

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

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

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

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

  1. “It so happened that Junius was the first to make an impression on the Samnites ... He ...  faced the [Samnite] right, where [the men] had consecrated themselves, as was their custom, and for that reason were resplendent in white clothing and equally white armour”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 9).

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

  1. to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender; and

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

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

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

Oakley observed that, in this passage:

  1. “Junius, in a grim jest, pronounces that he will do the sacrificing [of the consecrated men], but on behalf of Rome” (my italics).

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

  1. “... he cried:

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

  3. This fired the [rest of the Roman] soldiers with new energy; nor did ... the lieutenants [display] less enthusiasm than the generals: Marcus Valerius on the right and Publius Decius on the left, both men of consular rank, ... charged obliquely against the enemy's flanks.  [The Samnites took flight and] the fields were soon heaped with both dead soldiers and glittering [enemy] armour”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 40: 10-4).



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

  1. “... the Samnites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. that their warriors wore ostentatious armour;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. his homonymous son, in 293 BC.

Subsequent Events in Samnium

However, as noted above, it is likely that Livy’s reference to the captured armour that was displayed during this triumph actually referred to the triumph that Papirius’ homonymous son celebrated over the Samnites in 293 BC.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 394) asserted that the fact that the procedure of vir virum legere was used for the Etruscan army that had been raised under a lex sacrata in 310/9 BC:

  1. “... leaves no doubt that the selection and binding of one man by another was an ancient and fundamental part of recruiting lege sacrata.”

However, it seems to me that this was not necessarily the case: after all, there is no indication that this selection procedure was used in the three other armies that had been recruited under leges sacratae of the Aequi and the Volsci in 431 BC.

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

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

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

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

Edward Salmon (referenced below, 1967, at pp. 245-6 and note 1) similarly considered that:

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

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


Read more:

G. Tagliamonte , “Arma Samnitium”, Mélanges de l'Ecole Française de Rome: Antiquité, 121:2 (2009) 381-94

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

F. Coarelli, “Legio Linteata: L’ Iniziazione Militare nel Sannio”, in

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

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


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