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Roman Conquest:

War with Veii (406 - 396 BC) to the

to the Sack of Rome (390 BC)


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War With Veii (406 - 396 BC)

Prior Event: Fall of Fidenae (435 - 426 BC)

 


According to Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at p. 347):

  1. “In the 6th century BC, Rome was dominated by Etruscan influence and culture, and her relationship with Veii, [which was only about 16 km to the north] must have been particularly close.  However, because both cities wished to control the trade route up the Tiber, they clashed often in the 5th century BC, with Fidenae [an ancient city of Latium on the left bank of the Tiber and the Via Salaria] ... as the focal point for this tension.”

Gary Forsythe (referenced below, at pp. 321-2) pointed out that Rome’s conquest of Fidenae was the most important military event described in Livy’s Book IV, and that:

  1. “Later historians possessed only three basic data concerning this conflict ...:

  2. the statues of four Roman ambassadors slain by King Lars Tolumnius of Veii, [which were] set up in the Roman Forum;

  3. a gold crown in the Capitoline temple dedicated by the dictator [of 437, 434 and 426 BC], Mamercus Aemilius Mamercinus, to mark the victorious conclusion of this war; and

  4. the spolia optima stripped from Lars Tolumnius by Aulus Cornelius Cossus and dedicated in the small shrine of Jupiter Feretrius on the Capitoline in single combat.

  5. According to [Livy, 4: 17-20], Lars Tolumnius was responsible for murdering the four Roman ambassadors in 438 BC, and this led to the outbreak of war in the following year, in which Cossus, serving as a mere military tribune under the dictator Mamercus Aemilius, killed Tolumnius in single combat and thereby vindicated Roman honour by exacting swift revenge upon the king.  The war, however, did not end until 426 BC, then Mamercus Aemilius, serving as dictator again with Cossus as his master of horse, finally captured and annexed the town [Livy, 4: 31-34]”

As John Bishop (referenced below, at p. 187 and note 2) pointed out:

  1. “Livy's quandary is this:

  2. the authority of Augustus and the tradition that only a commander suo auspicio may dedicate in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius; versus

  3. omnes ante me auctores (ome of whom certainly had unimpeachable sources) and the inadvisability of transferring a campaign into the middle of a period of famine and plague, when Cossus was consul (although we must admit that a campaign during famine could be for the purpose of taking food by force).

  4. We cannot tell, of course, whether omnes means all previous writers or merely all previous writers who happen to cite this bit of history.  In the one case the testimony is unimpeachable ; in the latter, there is room for doubt ; one may well think, however, that in such a position Livy would name not only dissenters (but there are none) but also every writer omitting the story. Hence we assume that omnes means every previous writer.  Despite this, many modern scholars ...claim retrojection from 426 B. G. and favour transposition to various dates.”

According to Livy, when the Romans were preoccupied with an epidemic in 435 BC:

  1. “The Fidenates, ... who had [until this time] confined themselves to their mountains and walled villages, actually came down into the Roman territory and ravaged it. As the Faliscans could not be induced to renew the war, either by the representations of their allies or by the fact that Rome was prostrated by the epidemic, the Fidenates sent to invite the Veientine army, and the two [armies] crossed the Anio and displayed their standards not far from the Colline gate. The alarm was as great in the City as in the country districts.   [One of the consuls, Caius Iullius Iullus] disposed his troops on the rampart and the walls while [the other, Lucius Verginius Tricostus] convened the Senate in the temple of Quirinus.  They decreed that Quintus Servilius should be nominated dictator”, (History of Rome’, 4: 21: 7-10).  

He led an army out from Rome that caused the Etruscans to fall back on Fidenae




Livy recorded located a series of meetings of the federation at a place that he called the fanum Voltumnae.  This must have been a federal sanctuary that was dedicated to an Etruscan  deity whose name Livy transliterated as Voltumn.  The first of these meetings  took place in 434 BC, when:

  1. “The capture of Fidenae [by the Romans] created alarm in Etruria. Not only were the Veientines apprehensive of a similar fate, but the Faliscans too had not forgotten the war that they had commenced in alliance with them, though they had taken no part in its renewal.  The two States sent envoys to the twelve cantons and, at their request, a meeting was proclaimed of the national council of Etruria, to be held at the at the fanum Voltumnae.  As a great struggle seemed imminent, the Senate ordered that Mamercus Aemilius should be again nominated dictator. A. Postumius Tubertus was appointed master of the horse.  Preparations for war were made with all the greater energy now than on the last occasion, since the potential danger  from the whole of Etruria was greater than from only two of its towns”, (‘History of Rome’, 4: 23: 4-6).  


403 BC: the fasti Capitolini record that the censors M. Furius [Camillus] and M. Postumius Albinus Regillensis completed the 16th lustrum

401 BC: the fasti Capitolini record Camillus as one of the six Military Tribunes


When the young Marcus Furius Camillus was appointed consular tribune in 401 BC, he stormed Falerii and Capena, which were both allies of [the still undefeated] Veii, but was unable to take either of them. 

398 BC: Consular Tribune I (5: 14: 5)

396 BC:

  1. -Interrex (5: 17: 4)

  2. -Dictator I (5: 19: 2)

  3. -Triumph I: de Veientibus



Fall of Veii (396 BC)

Camillus  was appointed as dictator for the first time in 396 BC, the tenth year of the siege of Veii.  He defeated both Falerii and Capena at Nepete, and then began the final assault of Veii.  His men entered the city via its sewage system.  According to Livy:

  1. “That day was spent in the massacre of the enemy and the sack of the city with its enormous wealth”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 21: 17)

Thereafter, the Romans:

  1. “... began to remove the offerings to the gods [of Veii] and [then] the gods themselves ... [Juno, the erstwhile patron of Veii, was ritually] conveyed to the Aventine Hill, her eternal seat, where ... Camillus had vowed [and] afterwards dedicated a temple [to Juno Regina] ”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 22: 3-8). 

This formal ‘calling’ of Juno from Veii to Rome marked the end of its greatness.

According to Livy:

  1. “His triumph went far beyond the usual mode of celebrating the day; himself the most conspicuous object of all, he was drawn into the City by a team of white horses, which men thought unbecoming for any mortal man, let alone a Roman citizen: they saw with superstitious alarm [Camillus] putting himself on a level ... with Jupiter and Sol, and this one circumstance made his triumph more brilliant than popular. After this, he signed a contract for building the temple of Juno Regina on the Aventine and dedicated one to Matuta the Mother.  After having thus discharged his duties to gods and men, he resigned his dictatorship”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 23: 5-7). 

Aftermath of the Fall of Veii (396 - 391 BC)

Fate of Veii

Veii survived as an insignificant albeit independent centre under Roman hegemony (and was eventually enfranchised as the municipium Augustum Veiens in the Augustan period).  However, as described in my page Political Settlement  I (396 - 358  BC), the whole of its territory was confiscated.

Defeat of Capena and Falerii (395-4 BC)

Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 1995, at p. 313) observed that:

  1. “...  the most consistent and loyal supporters of Veii [had been the people of Capena and Falerii].  These people, who lived in the region to the north of Veii ... , spoke a dialect of Latin [known as Faliscan] and were ethnically distinct from the Etruscans.  [Nevertheless, ..., they] belonged to the catchment area of Veii and [had] never failed to give her active support in the struggle against Rome.” 

Thus, after taking Veii, the Romans unleashed an onslaught on the territories of of these two cities: according to Livy:

  1. “[In  395 BC, the Romans] broke the resistance of the Capenates: they sued for peace and it was granted them”, (History of Rome, 5: 24: 3).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at p. 424) noted that:

  1. “... this passage [by Livy] marks [the] last significant appearance [of Capena] in Roman history.”

Livy then noted that:

  1. “[In 394 BC, the people of Falerii] found themselves ... asking for peace.  ... [This request was granted, but they] were ordered to supply the pay of the troops for that year ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 27: 15) .

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at p. 347) observed that, although Livy’s account of the surrender of Falerii:

  1. “... may be an exaggeration, Rome certainly [confiscated] land from Falerii upon which the Latin colonies of Nepete and Sutrium were later established [see below].  These operations gave [Rome] control of the area between the Tiber and the Ciminian Mountain ... .”

In a sad postscript to these events, Camillus found himself accused of misappropriation of some of the spoils of war and went into exile at Ardea in Latium.

394 BC: Consular Tribune II (5: 26: 1)


Defeat of Volsinii (392 - 391 BC)

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at p. 347) pointed out that Rome’s inroads against the peoples of Capena and Falerii had:

  1. “...brought her sphere of influence closer to that of Volsinii.  The result was a minor clash with that city and one of its [now-unknown] satellites, the Sapientes ... .”

Livy recorded that, in 392 BC:

  1. “... a new enemy appeared in the form of the Volsinians].  Owing to famine and pestilence in the district round Rome, in consequence of excessive heat and drought, it was impossible for an army to march.  This emboldened the Volsinians, in conjunction with the Sapientes, to make inroads upon Roman territory.  Thereupon war was declared against the two states”, (‘Roman History’, 5: 31: 4-5).

In the following year, Lucius Lucretius and Caius Aemilius, two of the six consular tribunes who were appointed during the epidemic:

  1. “... were charged with the campaign against the Volsinians [while two of the other tribunes] were charged with the one against the Sapienates].  The first action took place against the Volsinians; an immense number of the enemy were engaged, but the fighting was by no means severe.  Their line was scattered at the first shock: 8,000 [Volsinians] who were surrounded by the [Roman] cavalry laid down their arms and surrendered.  On hearing of this battle, the Sapienates  ... sought the protection of their walls.  The Romans carried off plunder in all directions from the territory of both the Sapienates and the Volsinians without meeting any resistance.  At last the Volsinians, tired of the war, obtained a truce for twenty years on condition that they paid an indemnity for their previous raid and supplied the year's pay for the army”, (History of Rome’, 5: 32: 2-5).

391 BC: Interrex (5: 31: 2)


Gallic Sack of Rome (ca. 390 BC)

[In construction]

Camillus’ Second Dictatorship

390 BC:

  1. -Dictator II, (5: 46: 8-11)

  2. -Triumph II: de Gallis


The people of Veii appealed unsuccessfully to the Etruscan Federation on four occasions during the Romans’ 10 year siege of their city, before finally succumbing to Rome in 396 BC.  Livy’s account of one of these meetings, that of 403 BC, is particularly illuminating:

  1. “The Veientines, ... tired of the annual canvassing for office, elected a king.  This gave great offence to the Etruscan cantons, owing to their hatred of monarchy and also to their  aversion to the particular individual who was elected.  He was already obnoxious to the nation through his pride of wealth and overbearing temper, for he had put a violent stop to the festival of the games, the interruption of which is an act of  impiety.  When his candidature for the priesthood had been unsuccessful and another was preferred by the vote of the twelve cantons,  in revenge he suddenly withdrew the performers, most of whom were his own slaves, in the middle of the games.  The Etruscans as a nation were distinguished above all others by their devotion to religious observances, because they excelled in the knowledge and conduct of them, so they decided that no [military] assistance should be given to the Veientines as long as they were under a king. T he report of this decision was suppressed at Veii through fear of the king; he treated those who mentioned anything of the kind ... as ringleaders of sedition”, (History of Rome’, 5: 1: 2-8).


  1. Livy last reference to this federal sanctuary related to 389 BC, when:

  2. “... some traders brought [intelligence to Rome] that a conspiracy of the leading men of Etruria from all the states had been formed at the fanum Voltumnae”, (‘History of Rome’, 6: 2: 2).


At the lowest point in Roman  fortunes , the Senate resolved that:

  1. “... the curiate comitia should recall Camillus from exile [at Ardea], and that, as the people commanded, he should immediately be appointed dictator ... envoys were despatched to Camillus at Ardea and ... as I prefer to believe, he did not quit Ardea until he had learnt that the law was passed, since he could not change his residence without the People's command, nor take the auspices in the army till he had been appointed dictator.  [If so, then] the curiate law was passed and Camillus declared dictator, in his absence”, (History of Rome’, 5: 46: 10-11).

Meanwhile, according to Livy:

  1. “... the citadel of Rome and the Capitol were in very great danger [because the Gauls had discovered a path that offered a way that they could ascent without being seen.  However, fortunately for the Romans] they could not elude the vigilance of the geese that, being sacred to Juno, had not been killed [for food].  This was the salvation of them all; for the geese with their gabbling and clapping of their wings woke Marcus Manlius, ... who, catching up his weapons and at the same time calling the rest to arms, strode past his bewildered comrades to a Gaul who had already got a foothold on the crest and dislodged him with a blow from the boss of his shield.  As he slipped and fell, he overturned those who were next to him, and the others in alarm let go their weapons and grasping the rocks to which they had been clinging, were slain by Manlius. And by now the rest had come together and were assailing the invaders with javelins and stones, and presently the whole company lost their footing and were flung down headlong to destruction. ... At dawn the trumpet summoned the soldiers to assemble before the tribunes. Both good conduct and bad had  to be requited.

  2. First Manlius was praised for his courage and presented with gifts, not only by  the tribunes of the soldiers, but by agreement amongst the troops, who brought each half a pound of spelt and a gill of wine to his house, which stood in the Citadel.  It is a little thing to tell, but the scarcity made it a great token of affection, since everyone robbed himself of his own sustenance and bestowed what he had subtracted from his physical necessities to do honour to one man.

  3. Then, the watchmen of the cliff that the enemy had scaled without being discovered were called up. Quintus Sulpicius, the tribune, announced his intention to punish them all in the military fashion; but deterred by the cries of the soldiers, who united in throwing the blame upon a single sentry, he spared the others.  This man was guilty beyond a doubt, and was flung from the rock with the approval of all.

  4. From that time the guards on both sides were more alert: the Gauls, because it had been put about that messengers were passing between Veii and Rome, the Romans, from their recollection of the peril of the night”, (History of Rome’, 5: 47: 1-11).

While Camillus set about an army at Ardea and ordered the master of the horse, Lucius Valerius, to join him with his army from Veii, the Romans who were still under siege on the Capitol was suffering exhaustion and starvation:

  1. “Day after day, they looked out to see if any relief from the dictator was at hand; but at last even hope, as well as food, beginning to fail them, ... and they declared that they must either surrender or ransom themselves on whatever terms they could make ... Thereupon the Senate met and instructed the tribunes of the soldiers to arrange the terms.  Then, at a conference between Quintus Sulpicius the tribune and the Gallic chieftain Brennus, the affair was settled, and 1,000 pounds of gold was agreed on as the price ... The transaction was a foul disgrace in itself, but an insult was added thereto: the weights brought by the Gauls were dishonest and, when the tribune objected, the insolent Gaul added his sword to the weight, ... saying ‘Woe to the conquered’”, (History of Rome’, 5: 48: 5-9).

If Livy is to be believed (which is unlikely), Camillus arrived just before the ransom was paid and drove the Gauls down from the Capitol: 

  1. “They afterwards fought a second, more regular engagement, 8 miles out [from Rome] on the Via Gabia, where they had rallied from their flight.  Again the generalship and auspices of Camillus overcame them ...; their camp was taken; and not a man survived to tell of the disaster”, (History of Rome’, 5: 49: 6).

According to Livy, Camillus:

  1. “... having recovered his country from her [Gallic] enemies, returned in triumph to the city, ... [where he was hailed] as a Romulus and Father of his Country and a second Founder of the Rome.  He had saved the City in war and then indubitably saved it a second time ... by preventing the [proposed] migration to Veil.  However, the tribunes were more zealous for the plan than ever, now that the City lay in ashes, and the plebs were of themselves more inclined to favour it.  This was the reason of his not resigning the dictatorship after his triumph, for the Senate besought him not to desert the state in its hour of uncertainty”, (History of Rome’, 5: 49: 7-9).

Rome and Caere

Among his first acts after his triumph, Camillus secured a decree from the Senate that mandated (inter alia):

  1. “... that the people of Caere should be granted hospitium publicum (a covenant of hospitality) because they had received the holy things of the Roman People and its priests, and thanks to their good offices worship of the immortal gods had not been interrupted”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 50: 3).

However, the other surviving sources do not mention Livy’s ‘covenant of hospitality’, but instead record the granting of civitas sine suffragio (citizenship without voting rights):

  1. According to Strabo (Livy’s contemporary), the Romans:

  2. “... do not seem to have remembered the favour of the Caeretani with sufficient gratitude [after the Gallic sack]: although they gave them the right of citizenship, they did not enrol them among the citizens”, (‘The Geography’, 5: 2: 3).

  3. According to Aulus Gellus, who was writing in the 2nd century AD:

  4. “... the people of Caere were the first municipes without the right of suffrage” (‘Attic Nights’, 16: 13: 7).

Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 1995, at pp. 320-1) noted that some scholars privilege Strabo and Gellus over Livy here,.  However, he argued that:

  1. “... the case [for doing so] rests on antiquarian and legalistic arguments that make sense only in abstract terms. ... The truth is evidently the other way round: Livy’s version is the correct one ...”

The key here is that, as we shall see, when Caere rebelled against Rome in 353 BC and then relented when the Romans declared war against them, the Romans:

  1. “... chose to forget [a recent] injury [choosing instead to remember  a previous] kindness.  So, peace was granted to the people of Caere, and it was resolved that a truce of 100 years should be made with them and recorded on a tablet of bronze”, (‘History of Rome, 7: 20: 8).

I find it hard to see how the Romans could have negotiated a truce with a centre that was incorporated into the Roman state.  If this is correct, then Livy’s account of her reward in 389 BC  (i.e. that Rome simply entered into a reciprocal “covenant of hospitality” with Caere) is probably correct (as Cornell argued on other grounds).  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 202) suggested that the conflict between Rome and Caere in 274 or 273 BC:

  1. “... provides the most plausible context for the imposition of civitas sine suffragio.”


Read more: 

G. Forsythe, “The Beginnings of the Republic from 509 to 390 BC”, in:

  1. B. Mineo (Ed.), “A Companion to Livy”, (2014) Chichester, at pp. 314-26

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

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume I: Book VI”, 1997 (Oxford)

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


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