Key to Ancient Umbria

Umbria From the Roman Conquest

to the Social Wars

Key to Ancient Umbria: Home         Site Map: Umbrians 

Late Umbrian and Early Latin Inscriptions     Umbrian Magistracies       Via Amerina      Via Flaminia

Incorporation into the Roman State

Autonomous Communities

As discussed  in my page on the Roman conquest, there is evidence that at least some centres in modern Umbria retained their autonomy, albeit under Roman hegemony, after the conquest and retained it until the general enfranchisement that followed the Social War (90 BC).  It is usually assumed that relations between Rome and each of these autonomous centres was governed by bilateral treaty, albeit that evidence for this exists only in very few cases.

Umbrian Communities

There is evidence for a bilateral treaty with Rome for:

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

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

Less clear-cut evidence supports the hypotheses that Ameria (Amelia) and Tuder (Todi)  also retained their independence after the conquest. 

As set out in my page on ‘Forms of Government’, there is epigraphic evidence from the period between the Roman conquest and the Social War for magistracies with Umbrian titles at:

  1. Iguvium (above);

  2. Asisium (Assisi);

  3. Mevania (Bevagna);

  4. (probably) Tadinum (Gualdo Tadino); and

  5. (probably) Fulginia (at or near Foligno).

The presence of these magistracies probably implies local autonomy, at least until the time of the respective inscriptions.  In fact, with the exception of Fulginia (see below) this autonomy probably continued until the enfranchisement that followed the Social War.

Hispellum probably belonged to Mevania until 40 BC.


According to Cassius Dio (as summarised by John Zonaras):

  1. “In [265 BC, the Romans] made an expedition to Volsinii to secure the freedom of its citizens; for they were under treaty obligations to them” (‘Roman History’, 10:42).

From this, we know that Volsinii a bilateral treaty with Rome at this time.  In fact, the nobles of the city had sent for Roman assistance in order to quell a slave revolt.  This insurrection led to the destruction of the old city (on the site of modern Orvieto.  The surviving population was moved to the ‘new’ Volsinii, on a much less defensible site on the shores of Lake Bolsena.  There is no evidence to suggest that there was any change in the legal form of the relationship between Rome and Volsinii at that point.

The settlement seems to have remained unwalled for almost a century, probably because the Romans wanted to make sure that its inhabitants could never again defy them.  However, an impressive circuit of walls some 4.5 km long was finally built ca. 180 BC, enclosing an area much larger that that used for habitation.  The commercial and strategic importance of Volsinii must have increased in this period after  the building of:

  1. Via Clodia, in ca. 196 BC ; and

  2. Via Cassia, in ca. 154 BC.

Pierre Gros (2013, referenced below, at p. 90) suggested that these developments were probably linked to the formation of a colony, albeit that any such colonisation is otherwise undocumented .


After the defeat of Volsinii in 280 BC and its destruction in 265 BC, Perusia seems to have taken on its role as the leading Etruscan city, and prospered under Roman hegemony.  According to Livy, in 216 BC, during the war against Hannibal:

  1. “... [to] the garrison the Romans had at Casilinum ... was added a cohort of Perusians, in number 460 [men], who had been summoned [there] ...” (‘Roman History, 23:17:11).

William Harris (referenced below, at p. 89) suggested that the Perusians  provided this military support under the terms of their treaty with Rome.

Vettona (Bettona) probably belonged to Perusia until 40 BC.


At the other end of the spectrum, the Romans established two Latin colonies in Umbrian territory  soon after the conquest:

  1. Narnia, in 299 BC; and

  2. Spoletium, in 241 BC.

As noted above, it is possible, although by no means certain, that a colony was formed at Volsinii (in Etruria) in ca. 180 BC.

Roman Praefecturae (Prefectures)

We have documentary evidence that two centres in modern Umbria were  constituted at some point as Roman prefectures:

  1. Festus (see below), in his epitome of the ‘De verborum significat’ (an encyclopaedic lexicon by Marcus Verrius Flaccus from the time of the Emperor Augustus), included Sabine Nursia (now Norcia, in modern Umbria) among a list of prefectures; and

  2. a passage by Cicero, in a speech delivered in ca. 80 BC, recorded Fulginia as a  prefecture. 

It is also possible that three other Umbrian centres were once so constituted:

  1. Interamna Nahars (Terni);

  2. Plestia (near modern Colfiorito); and

  3. Tadinum;

Before discussing these individual centres, it is necessary to consider what this designation actually meant.

Read more:

P. Gros, “La Nuova Volsinii: Cenno Storico sulla Città”, in:

  1. G. della Fina and E. Pellegrini (Eds), “Da Orvieto a Bolsena: un Percorso tra Etruschi e Romani”, (2013 ) Pisa, (pp. 88-105)

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