ROMAN CONQUEST OF ITALY

ROMAN CONQUEST OF ITALY


Roman soldiers

After the establishment of the Roman Republic, the next period of Roman history is characterized a long campaign of conquest, in which Rome extended its dominion from the banks of the Tiber to the shores of the Italian peninsula. Rome slowly expanded its territory in the centuries after the Republic was founded through skirmishes with rival states. The Etruscan states to the north were annexed in the fifth century B.C. and the Samnites and Greek colonies to the south were absorbed in the forth and third century B.C.

Important conflicts laying the way for the creation of the Roman Empire included the annexation of Etruscan Veii, the first city state annexed by Rome, in 396 B.C." the looting of Rome by the Gauls in 390 B.C." and the defeat of the Samnite alliance in 295 B.C. Geese famously warmed the Romans of the Gallic invasion in 390 B.C.

Through military expansion, colonization, and the granting of citizenship to conquered tribesmen, Rome annexed all the territory south of the Po in present-day Italy during a hundred period before 268 B.C.. Latin and Italic tribes were absorbed first, followed by Etruscans and the Greek colonies in south.

One notable battle that the Romans lost took place in 280 B.C. in northwest Greece. King Pyrrhus of Epirus crossed the Adriatic with force of 20,000 men and some elephants and fought and defeated the Romans but took such heavy losses he exclaimed: “Another such victory and we are lost!” From then such as win became known as a “Pyrrhic victory."

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Notes on the Roman Conquest of Italy

Development of Latin Colonies. 1) Constant thread here is the planting of Roman and especially Latin colonies. 2) Rome is like a virus -- doesn't kill the host, but replicates itself. Each colony a little Rome. 3) Each colony has a strategic purpose, a uniform layout (points in common to Roman army camp). [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

Geography of the enemies of Rome
1. Early enemies: Etruscans (north), Sabines (northeast), Aequi (east), Volsci (south).
2. Latium and Etruria. Cisalpine Gaul. Campania and Samnium. Umbria and Picenum. Lucania and Apulia.
Sources: Livy 1-10 covers up to 292. Livy 11-20 (covering 291-220) is lost. Plutarch and Appian.
Rule over the Latins in regal Rome? No.
1. Rome was just another colony of Alba, like the other 29 Latin cities.
2. But the annalists repeatedly make Rome stand alone against the combined might of the Latins.
3. This is mostly retrojection from the fourth century (when it really happened).
4. Livy 1.50.3: Tarquinus Superbus ruled over omne nomen Latinum i.e. all of Latium.
5. If we accept the implication of the 1st Carthaginian treaty, Rome had a protectorate in Latium c. 500 B.C.
"The Carthaginians shall not injure the people of Ardea, Antium, Lavinium, Circeii, Terracina, or any other Latins who are allies of Rome." Polyb. 3. 22.


Italic tribes south of Rome

Basis upon which Rome could claim leadership
1. Founded by Servius Tullius? Livy: ea erat confessio caput rerum Romam esse (1.45.3, cit. Alföldi 85).
a. The Latins were supposed to have paid for the building of the temple.
b. Plan and appearance are known from depictions.
c. But no architectural traces survive. Probably originally just a grove, first temple in 5th B.C.
2. Most, even the hyper-skeptic Beloch, accept the date; Alföldi does not.
1. He dates it in the period 490-456 B.C.
2. He believes it was founded as a deliberate rival to the cult of Diana at Aricia.
3. No doubt that the cult is political. Transfer from Aricia to the Aventine is an attempt to make Rome the center of the alliance.

4. Rome was not powerful enough to claim the cult center until after Lake Regillus, Alföldi says.
5. The Aventine is outside the pomerium. Is this why or because the cult was there? Alföldi says it is why.
1. Aventine probably becomes part of the city when the Servian Walls enclose it?
2. Alfoldi says the Aventine still remained outside the pomerium.
6. Against Alföldi is the archaic dedication law, preserved in DH (4. 26).
1. It mentions Servius Tullius by name.
7. For Alföldi, other downdatings go along with Diana:
1. Ceres cult goes from 496 to after 428.
2. Gabii capture and the shield treaty go from Tarquinius Superbus to after 460.
3. First Carthaginian treaty goes from before 450 to 348 B.C.
a. This ignores corroborative force of the Pyrgi tablets.
8. Ogilvie: the early colonies cannot have been colonies in the true (later) sense.
1. I.e. Pometia, Signia, Ecetra, Velitrae, etc.
2. Calls them "building blocks of the Latin League."
9. Main Point of this episode concerns Rome's technique for the alliance/protectorate.
1. Has a cult at its center. Syncretism remains a tool for amalgamation of Italy.
2. But 5th century Rome and later has improved methods for diplomacy (esp. treaties).


Expansion of the Romans in Italy

The foedus Cassianum. 493 B.C. (DH 6. 95; Livy 2.33; Sourcebook 20)
1. Genuine, voluntary action by the formerly rebellious Latins in response to new external threats.
2. Other local "empires" centered around Tibur (Livy 7.19) and Praeneste (6.29); both join Hernici in 361.
3. Renewal of the Foedus Cassianum in 358 follows extended discontent of the Latins.
a. The new treaty more firmly dictates subordination of the allies.
4. Foedus Cassianum remains the legal basis for the definition of Latin Rights (ius Latinum).
a. But there is a growing tendency towards separate treaties with individual cities.
5. The Hernici are the first non-Latins to get the Latin rights.
6. Rome has no alliances outside Latium until after 338; Capua may be the first case.
All early Roman treaties either foedus aequum or foedus iniquum?
a. Foedus iniquum supposedly = help Rome in any war she says, even wars of aggression.
1. Badian points out that the term foedus iniquum is not attested as a tech term.
b. B says in essence that the foedus aequum was the common form.
1. Even though in reality the other party was agreeing to be subject to some degree.
c. Example: the treaty with the Aequi in 467 (DH = Sourcebook, 21).
1. Language of subjection is unlikely to be historical.
2. Responsibility to provide troops is the core.
Focus on Veii as example of Roman practice in this period?
If theme is Roman leniency, Veii is a bad example - it was utterly destroyed in 396.
Defeated Veii becomes part of Rome (ager Veiens); 4 new tribes reflected increased citizen numbers.

Roman Military System

The conquest of Italy was due, in great measure, to the efficiency of the Roman army. The strength of the Roman government, too, depended upon the army, which was the real support of the civil power. By their conquests the Romans became a nation of warriors. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Roman Army: Every citizen between the ages of seventeen and forty-five was obliged to serve in the army, when the public service required it. In early times the wars lasted only for a short period, and consisted in ravaging the fields of the enemy; and the soldier’s reward was the booty which he was able to capture. But after the siege of Veii, the term of service became longer, and it became necessary to give to the soldiers regular pay. This pay, with the prospect of plunder and of a share in the allotment of conquered land; furnished a strong motive to render faithful service.


Superiority of the warrior class

Divisions of the Army: In case of war it was customary to raise four legions, two for each consul. Each legion was composed of thirty maniples, or companies, of heavy-armed troops,—twenty maniples consisting of one hundred and twenty men each, and ten maniples of sixty men each,—making in all three thousand heavy-armed troops. There were also twelve hundred light-armed troops, not organized in maniples. The whole number of men in a legion was therefore forty-two hundred. To each legion was usually joined a body of cavalry, numbering three hundred men. After the reduction of Latium and Italy, the allied cities were also obliged to furnish a certain number of men, according to the terms of the treaty. \~\

Order of Battle: In ancient times the Romans fought in the manner of the Greek phalanx, in a solid square. This arrangement was well suited to withstand an attack on a level plain, but it was not adapted to aggressive warfare. About the time of Camillus, the Romans introduced the more open order of “maniples.” When drawn up in order of battle, the legion was arranged in three lines: first, the hastati, made up of young men; second, the principes, composed of the more experienced soldiers; and third, the triarii, which comprised the veterans, capable of supporting the other two lines. Each line was composed of ten maniples, those of the first two lines consisting of one hundred and twenty men each, and those of the third line consisting of sixty men each; the maniples, or companies, in each line were so arranged that they were opposite the spaces in the next line.

This arrangement enabled the companies in front to retreat into the spaces in the rear, or the companies in the rear to advance to the spaces in front. Behind the third line usually fought the light-armed and less experienced soldiers (rorarii and accensi). Each maniple carried its own ensign; and the legion carried a standard surmounted with a silver eagle. \~\

Armor and Weapons: The defensive armor of all the three lines was alike—a coat of mail for the breast, a brass helmet for the head, greaves for the legs, and a large oblong shield carried upon the left arm. For offensive weapons, each man carried a short sword, which could be used for cutting or thrusting. The soldiers in the first two lines each had also two javelins, to be hurled at the enemy before coming into close quarters; and those of the third line each had a long lance, which could be used for piercing. It was with such arms as these that the Roman soldiers conquered Italy. \~\

Military Rewards and Honors: The Romans encouraged the soldiers with rewards for their bravery. These were bestowed by the general in the presence of the whole army. The highest individual reward was the “civic crown,” made of oak leaves, given to him who had saved the life of a fellow-citizen on the battlefield. Other suitable rewards, such as golden crowns, banners of different colors, and ornaments, were bestowed for singular bravery. When a general slew the general of the enemy, the captured spoils (spolia opima) were hung up in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius. The highest military honor which the Roman state could bestow was a triumph,—a solemn procession, decreed by the senate, in which the victorious general, with his army, marched through the city to the Capitol, bearing in his train the trophies of war. \~\

Military Roads: An important part of the military system of Rome was the network of military roads by which her armies and munitions of war could be sent into every part of Italy. The first military road was the Appian Way (via Appia), built by Appius Claudius during the Samnite wars. It connected Rome with Capua, and was afterward extended to Beneventum and Venusia, and finally as far as Brundisium. This furnished a model for the roads which were subsequently laid out to other points in Italy. The Latin Way (via Latina) ran south into the Samnite country and connected with the Appian Way near Capua and at Beneventum. The Flaminian Way (via Flaminia) ran north through eastern Etruria and Umbria to Ariminum. From this last-mentioned place, the Aemilian Way (via Aemilia) extended into Cisalpine Gaul as far as Placentia on the river Po. Another important road, the Cassian Way (via Cassia) ran through central Etruria to Arretium, and connected with the Aemilian Way in Cisalpine Gaul. Along the western coast of Etruria ran the Aurelian Way (via Aurelia). These were the chief military roads constructed during the time of the republic. So durable were these highways that their remains exist to the present day.

Early Roman Wars with the Volscians, Aequians, and Etruscans


Coriolanus

The Foreign Enemies of Rome: While these struggles were going on to relieve the distress of the poor plebeians, the frontiers were continually threatened by foreign enemies. The chief enemies of Rome at this time were the Volscians, the Aequians, and the Etruscans. The Volscians occupied the southern plains of Latium, near the seacoast. The Aequians held the slopes of the Apennines on the northeast. The Etruscans held all their original territory on the right bank of the Tiber, except the hill Janiculum. On every side Rome was beset by foes; and for many years her armies fought in defense of their homes, and almost within sight of the city. By the treaties which Sp. Cassius had formed, the Romans, the Latins, and the Hernicans made common cause in repelling these attacks. There is no continuous history of these frequent wars, but the Roman historians have preserved the memory of them in certain legends, which were sacred to the Romans themselves, and which we should not forget if we would understand the character and spirit of the Roman people. \~\

Coriolanus and the Volscians: The Volscian wars have left us the story of Coriolanus, which tells us that this young patrician opposed the distribution of grain among the plebeians; that he was threatened by the common people and fled to the Volscians, and led an army against his native city; that his mother and his wife went to the Volscian camp and pleaded with him to cease his wars upon Rome; that Rome was thus saved, and a temple was built to commemorate the patriotism of the Roman women. \~\

Cincinnatus and the Aequians: The memory of the Aequian wars is preserved in the story of the Roman patriot Cincinnatus, who was called from his country home to rescue the Roman army, which was surrounded by the Aequians, and threatened with destruction in a narrow defile in Mt. Algidus, near the Alban hills; and who with great speed and skill defeated the Aequian army, compelling it to “pass under the yoke” as a sign of submission, and then returned the next evening to Rome in triumph. The “yoke” consisted of a spear supported in a horizontal position by two spears fixed upright in the ground. \~\

The Fabii and the Etruscans: With the Etruscan wars is linked the story of the Fabian gens, which was one of the greatest patrician houses of Rome; and which, having volunteered to carry on the war against the Etruscans at its own expense, was, with the exception of one person, utterly destroyed by the enemy. The Fabian gens was therefore honored for having sacrificed itself in the defense of Rome. These stories should be read, not as an accurate narration of facts, but because they show the kind of virtues that the early Romans most admired.

Beginning of the Roman Conquest

To understand the course of the Roman conquests, we should first keep in mind the extent of her territory at the beginning of this period. Much of the land about the Tiber, which she had lost with the expulsion of the kings, she had gradually recovered. So that now her territory included lands not only in Latium, but also in Etruria toward the north, and in the Volscian country toward the south. The Roman territory at the beginning of this period was not large, but it was compact and well organized into twenty-seven local tribes-twenty-three in the country and four in the city. The most formidable and dangerous neighbors of Rome at this time were the Etruscans on the north and the Samnites on the south. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

The reforms which had been carried on since the fall of the decemvirs gave fresh hope to the plebeians, and inspired the whole Roman people with new life and vigor. The armies in the field also began to be successful, and Rome recovered much of her lost ground in Latium. The triple league formed by Spurius Cassius between the Romans, Latins, and Hernicans, had resulted in checking the Volscians and Aequians. The Romans now felt encouraged to attack the Etruscans in the hope of recovering the territory which they had lost years before, when the Tarquins were expelled. Fidenae, the Etruscan city a few miles north of Rome, was captured, and the way was opened to attack Veii, the strongest city of Etruria. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Siege and Capture of Veii (405-396 B.C.): The people of Veii were not disposed to meet the Romans in the open field, but retreated within their walls. It therefore became necessary to lay siege to the city. The great Etruscan walls were too strong to be taken by assault; and the Roman armies stationed themselves around the city for the purpose of starving the people into submission. The Roman soldiers were not permitted to return home and cultivate their farms, as they were wont to do; and so, for the first time, they were given regular pay for their services. For ten years the siege continued, when it was brought to a close by Camillus, who was appointed dictator. Veii was deprived of its inhabitants, and its walls inclosed a vacant city. The capture of Veii was the greatest victory which the Romans had yet achieved, and Camillus was given a splendid triumph, when he returned to Rome. The lands of southern Etruria also fell into the hands of the Romans; and four new rural tribes were added to the Roman domain. \~\


Conquest of Italy between 400 and 264 BC


Timeline of the Early Roman Conquest 509 B.C.: Treaty between Rome and Carthage.
496 B.C.: Victory at Lake Regillus by A. Postumius Albus (Rome over the Latin League).
493 B.C.: Treaty with the Latin League, foedus Cassianum (Sourcebook # 20).
491 B.C.: Coriolanus turned away from Rome.
484 B.C.: Tusculum regained from the Aequi.
483-474 B.C.: War with Veii.
479 B.C.: Defeat of the Fabian gens on the Cremera hill. Siege of Rome?
474 B.C.: Trad'n of 40 years peace with Veii.
467 B.C.: Treaty with the Aequi a foedus iniquum? (Sourcebook # 21)
458 B.C.: Defeat of L. Minucius by the Aequi near Mt. Algidus (Cincinnatus).
444 B.C.: Treaty with Ardea.
431 B.C.: Aequi defeated at Mt. Algidus (garrison there, 418).
428 B.C.: Cossus the consul wins spolia opima from Lars Tolumnius of Veii.
425 B.C.: Fall of Fidenae (weakened by loss of support from Veii).
396 B.C.: Peace with the Volsci?
396 B.C.: Camillus takes Veii by undermining the walls (?). 4 new tribes. Ager Veiens contiguous with Rome.
393 B.C.: Aequi ejected from Tibur. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

Timelines and Notes on the Gaulic Sacking of Rome and Its Aftermath
390 B.C.: Gallic invasion (Insubres, Senones) through Etruria. Gallia Cisalpina its legacy.
Battle of Allia (ater dies, July 18); 10,000 Romans die on north bank of Tiber.
389 B.C.: Decisive defeat of the Aequi.
387 B.C.: Construction of Servian Wall (under Camillus?).
390-377 B.C.: Numerous revolts in the Latin League.
361 B.C.: Hernici lose Ferentinum. Tibur and Praeneste join the Hernici against Rome.
360 B.C.: Gallic incursion around Alba; Rome besieged.
359-351 B.C.: War between the Latin League and the Etruscans.
358 B.C.: Hernici forced back into the alliance. Foedus Cassianum renewed (or now 1st concluded?).
354 B.C.: Alliance of Rome with the Samnites.
353 B.C.: Caere granted civitas sine suffragio (citizenship w/o vote or eligibility for office) or just a truce.
348 B.C.: Second Treaty with Carthage. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

The Gallic sack
a. Fiction: that Camillus was recalled from Ardea to save Rome.
b. That Manlius and the sacred geeses saved the Capitoline.
c. Fact: Gauls accepted gold (provided by Massilians, acc. Justin ) to retire.
d. Attack on Cisalpine Gaul by the Veneti helped save Rome (Polybius 2.18).
e. Main point: precipitates crisis in the Latin League, which lasts to 358.

Aftermath of the Gallic invasion.
1. The Servian Wall
2. Reforms of the army. Throwing spears and swords replace thrusting spears. Scutum (round shield).
3. Maniples (greater flexibility in reinforcement, disposition of troops).
d. Rome failed to help Samnium vs. Tarentum.

Samnites

20120223-Samnite_soldiers_from_a_tomb_frieze_in_Nola_4th_century_BCE.jpg
Samnite from a tomb frieze, Nola, 4th century BC
The Samnites were rivals of the ancient Romans before the Romans were powerful. Known for their military skill, they were based in the craggy mountains in Abruzzi and Modise and occupied much of southern and central Italy. They were among the last hold outs against the Romans and for a while seemed like the group most likely to dominate Italy. In the 4th century B.C. they controlled Pompeii and other cities. Little is known about them in part because they were one of Rome’s fiercest enemies and the Romans wiped out many reference to them.

The Samnites are better seen as a loosely defined alliance than a tribal group. They spoke an Oscan language and were divided into tribal states. They controlled a large area of southern Italy from 600 to 290 B.C., occupying the area around Pompeii around the 6th century B.C.

Although the Samnites are known mainly as warriors they were also skilled artists. In 2004 a 2300-year-old, yellow tuff sarcophagus was founded in at the remote site of Galita del Capitiano near Sarno and Salerno in southern Italy. Believed to belong to a Samnite warrior, it contained marvelous colored frescos, with shades of blue, red and yellow, depicting scenes of victories and triumphant returns with horsemen, bagpipers and unarmed soldiers.

The Samnites worshiped their own pantheon of gods. Their goddess of love was Mephitis. In June 2004, archaeologists from Italy’s Basilicata University uncovered remains of a Samnite temple dedicated to Mephitis under a Roman temple dedicated to Venus. The archaeologists found offerings to Mephitis and a basin and terra cotta pipes indicating the site of a ritual bath.

The bath and amulets, Emmanuel Curti, chief archaeologist at the site, told the Washington Post indicate the Samnite practice of ritual prostitutions in which young women rich and poor alike, submitted to sex as a site of passage. “To our post-Victorian minds, the practice seems strange. But we can’t look at society through our eyes, Probably the practice became professional at some point. This was, after all, a port city.”

Samnite Military

Samnite soldiers carried axes, short stabbing swords, spears and shields and wore three-disk corselet armor. They fought in flexible checkerboard formations which made sense for fighting in the mountains and employed guerilla tactics such as lighting quick hit and run attacks that gave their enemies no time to prepare or pursue them. The Samnites were fierce and courageous fighters who often chose to die rather than surrender, leaving thousands dead on the battle field.

The Romans adopted many Samnite tactics. Initially the Romans employed Greek-like phalanx tactics, which were suited more for fighting on plains, against the Samnites in their mountainous homeland and suffered and number of defeats. Later the Romans adopted checkerboard formations---a major military advance for the future rulers of the Western world---and Samnite-style weapons and fared much better.

Samnites Versus Rome


Samnite ruins in Aeclanum

Beginning in 343 B.C. the Samnites fought three wars against the Romans. Taking advantage of a moment when the Samnites were busy fighting the Greeks , the Romans invaded their territory and tried to set up colonies near Naples, but the Samnite struck back. At one point Samnite troops trapped a Roman army in a mountain pass and forced it surrender.

The humiliated Roman Senate eventually orchestrated a counterattack. Preparation for renewed war included the construction of the Appian Way, a road that runs south from Rome toward Naples.

The decisive third war between the Samnites and Romans occurred in 295 B.C. when the Romans had taken control of many of the main trade routes in southern Italy and were moving on Samnite territory. The Samnites formed an alliance with Gauls, Etruscans, Umbrians and lesser groups and met the Roman army at Sentinum, near present-day Sassofferrato in the Marches.

The Romans prevailed, in part because they were able to stop the Etruscan and Umbrian troops and prevent them from coming to aid the Samnites. By all accounts the fighting was fierce. Livy recorded 8,700 casualties on the Roman side, the size of Samanite force was not clear. Some scholars have said that around 25,000 people might have died at Sentinum. The Romans were more interested in peace and stability than in occupations and conquest. They signed an alliance with the Samnites that allowed them to rule themselves and maintain autonomy for 200 years.

The Samnites continued to fight after that and were not eliminated as a threat until Roman generals Sulla and Crassus defeated them in 82 B.C. Their reputation remained. Samnite fighting---in which combatants carried large oblong shields, a sword or spear, and was protected by a visored helmet, a greave on the right leg and a protective sleeve on the right arm---was one of the most popular gladiator events.

First Samnite War in Campania (343-341 B.C.)

In extending their territory, the Romans first came into contact with the Samnites, the most warlike people of central Italy. But the first Samnite war was, as we shall see, scarcely more than a prelude to the great Latin war and the conquest of Latium. The people of Samnium had from their mountain home spread to the southwest into the plains of Campania. They had already taken Capua from the Etruscans, and Cumae from the Greeks. Enamored with the soft climate of the plains and the refined manners of the Greeks, the Samnites in Campania had lost their primitive valor, and had become estranged from the old Samnite stock. In a quarrel which broke out between the old Samnites of the mountains and the Campanians, the latter appealed to Rome for help, and promised to become loyal Roman subjects. Although Rome had previously made a treaty with the Samnites, she did not hesitate to break this treaty, professing that she was under greater obligations to her new subjects than to her old allies. In this way began the first contest between Rome and Samnium for supremacy in central Italy—a contest which took place on the plains of Campania. \~\


Samnites and Romans

Battles of Mt. Gaurus and Suessula: Very little is known of the details of this war. According to a tradition, which is not very trustworthy, two Roman armies were sent into the field—the one for the protection of Campania, and the other for the invasion of Samnium. The first army, it is said, met the Samnites at Mt. Gaurus, near Cumae, and gained a decisive victory. The Samnites retreated toward the mountains, and rallied at Suessula, where they were again defeated by the two Roman armies, which had united against them. So brilliant was the success of the Romans that the Carthaginians, it is said, sent to them a congratulatory message and a golden crown. Although these stories may not be entirely true, it is quite certain that the Romans obtained control of the northern part of Campania. \~\

Mutiny of the Roman Legions: This success, however, was marred by a mutiny of the Roman soldiers, who were stationed at Capua for the winter, and who threatened to take possession of the city as a reward for their services. They submitted only on the passage of a solemn law declaring that every soldier should have a just share in the fruits of war, regular pay, and a part of the booty; and that no soldier should be discharged against his will. \~\

Rome withdraws from the War: The discontent of the soldiers in the field soon spread to the Latin allies. The Latins had assisted the Romans and had taken a prominent part in the war; and while the Roman army was in a state of mutiny, they were the chief defenders of Campania against the Samnites. The Campanians, therefore, began to look to the Latins instead of the Romans, for protection; and they too shared in the general defection against Rome. Under these circumstances, Rome saw the need of subduing her own allies before undertaking a war with a foreign enemy. She therefore made a treaty with the Samnites, withdrew from the war, and prepared for the conquest of Latium. \~\

Timeline and Notes on the First Samnite War

343-341 B.C.: First Samnite War?
341 B.C.: Treaty between Rome and the Samnites. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]


fighting in the Samnite war

First Samnite War (Livy 7.29-8.2; Diodoros silent) 343-341.
1. Dismissed by some moderns as wholly unhistorical (doublets from 2nd Samnite War).
a. Accepted by Salmon.
b. Motive for invention: justify later harsh treatment of Campania.
2. Begins 343 with appeal to Rome by Capua for help vs. raiding Samnites.
a. Capuans were also Oscan speakers; their quarrel with the Samnites was intramural.
b. But the Samnites were primitive and warlike; Capuans luxurious, sophisticated.
3. A major Q: why did Rome agree to fight the Samnites?
a. Economic motives (Homo)? See intro to Sourcebook # 16.

Terms of the 2nd Carthage treaty (348) indicate Roman economic interests were not very ambitious, or at least not guiding foreign policy:
b. More agressive plebeian military leaders.
c. An agressive alliance of plebeians and patricians (Salmon, 203 ff. )
d. Allowed to speculate on this as example of Roman active imperialism. Why?
e. Ethnic disparity clearly rules out strength in numbers defense.
4. First Samnite War came to little.
a. Rome made separate terms with the Samnites.
b. Capua allied with other Latin cities.
c. That was prelude to widespread Latin revolt beginning in 340.
d. Rome failed to help Samnium vs. Tarentum.

Great Latin War (340-338 B.C.)

The Demands of the Latins: The relations between Rome and the Latin cities had been different at different times. In very early times, we remember, Rome was at the head of the Latin confederacy. Later she was united to the Latin league by a treaty of equal alliance, formed by Sp. Cassius. This treaty had been dissolved, and was afterward renewed. But the Latins believed that Rome wished to resume her old position as head of Latium; and this they were not willing to permit. They therefore decided that the time had now come to demand absolute equality with Rome; and if this were refused, to declare their independence. They at first sent an embassy to Rome, demanding that Romans and Latins should be united in one republic, on terms of perfect equality, and that one consul and half of the senate be chosen from the Latins. This proposal was scornfully rejected. One senator, Manlius, declared that he would stab the first Latin who was admitted to the senate. Meeting with such a rebuff, the Latins renounced their allegiance to the “Roman Jupiter” and commenced their war for independence. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

The Parties to the War: When Rome withdrew from the first Samnite war, and formed a treaty with Samnium, the Latins continued to fight in behalf of the Campanians. The Latins and Campanians, therefore, continued their friendly relations, and became the common enemies of Rome and Samnium. By such a curious turn of fortune, Rome was able to fight her previous allies, the Latins, with the aid of her previous enemy, the Samnites. Battle of Mt. Vesuvius and the Defeat of the Latins: As Latium was now a hostile country, the Roman armies, under Manlius Torquatus and Decius Mus, were obliged to march around the northeastern boundaries of Latium, to join the Samnite forces. When they had formed a union in Samnium, they invaded Campania. They soon gained a decisive victory near Mt. Vesuvius. Driven from Campania, the Latins continued the war with resolute courage, but without avail. Tibur, Praeneste, Aricia, Lanuvium, Velitrae, and Antium were conquered in succession; and in the third year the last city, Pedum, also surrendered, and the Latin revolt was at an end. (For these cities see map, p. 46.)

Stories of Manlius and Decius: There are two famous stories which are told in connection with this war, and which illustrate two traits of the Roman character—stern authority and patriotic devotion. The first story is told of Titus Manlius, the son of the consul commanding the army. The young Manlius, contrary to his father’s orders, left the ranks to fight a single combat with one of the enemy’s champions. The enemy was slain, and Manlius carried the spoils in triumph to his father. But the father, instead of congratulating his son on his success, condemned him to death for disobedience of orders. From this time the “Manlian orders” became a synonym for the severest discipline. The other story is told of Decius Mus, the consul, who, in response to a miraculous vision, sacrificed his own life that the Roman army might prevail. \~\


Great Latin War


Timeline and Notes on the Great Latin War

340 B.C.: Latin allies demand full voting rights, Roman citizenship?
Roman & Samnite (?) victory at Trifanum over rebellious Latins.
338 B.C.: Final settlement of Latium (Sourcebook # 22).
334 B.C.: Colony at Cales (border between Campania and Samnium).
331 B.C.: Treaty between Rome and the Sinones. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

Great Latin War (Livy 8. 3-14) 340-338
Begins with a Latin attack on Paeligni (between Rome and the Samnites).
Livy makes the Latins demand full citizenship and voting rights -- no more ius Latinum.
1. Latins, Campanians (Capuans et al.), and Volsci vs. Romans and Samnites.
a. Decisive battle is Roman victory at Trifanum, 340.
b. Latin league collapses with fall of Tibur, Antium, Pedium in 338.

2. Note use of divide and conquer strategy (Rome gave terms to Capua and detached it).
3. The settlement (Livy 8.14) is a study in the political organization of Italy. Leave it for Geoff.
4. But note that it excludes the Samnites.
a. Livy 8.10 hints at a tradition alleging that the Samnites failed to provide prompt support
at the battle of Mt. Vesuvius (340 B.C., where Decius Mus performed devotio).
b. This looks like a justification for the Roman decision to exclude Samnium from the settlement.

Pacification of Latium

Rome’s Policy of Pacification: The chief result of the great Latin war was the breaking up of the Latin confederacy, and the adoption of a more efficient method of governing the Latin towns. The repeated revolts of the Latins had shown the danger of dealing with a number of towns united in a league, or confederacy. The only safety seemed to lie in destroying the league and dealing with each city by itself. This was the Roman policy of isolation. It was also evident that all the cities were not equally fit to exercise the right of Roman citizenship; and upon this was based the distinction between perfect and imperfect citizenship. The subject towns of Latium and those of Campania were thus treated in various ways. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Towns fully Incorporated: In the first place, many of the towns of Latium were fully adopted into the Roman state. Their inhabitants became full Roman citizens, with all the private and public rights, comprising the right to trade and intermarry with Romans, the right to vote in the assemblies at Rome, and the right to hold any public office. Their lands became a part of the Roman domain. The new territory was organized into two new tribes, making now the total number twenty-nine. \~\

Towns partly Incorporated: But most of the towns of Latium. received only a part of the rights of citizenship. To their inhabitants were given the right to trade and the right to intermarry with Roman citizens, but not the right to vote or to hold office. This imperfect, or qualified, citizenship (which had before been given to the town of Caere) now became known as the “Latin right.”

Latin and Roman Colonies: In order to keep in subjection a refractory town, or to form an outpost on the frontier, it was customary to send out a body of citizen soldiers, who occupied the town. These were known as military, or Latin, colonies, and were made up of persons who possessed the Latin right. At the same time Rome established on the seacoast maritime, or Roman, colonies, as they were called, composed entirely of full Roman citizens. \~\

Dependent Allies: There were certain other towns which were not incorporated with Rome at all. They were allowed to retain their local government, but were compelled to make a treaty, by which they were obliged to cede their public lands to Rome, and to lend their support in time of war. \~\

This wise method of treating the various subject communities cemented more closely the Latin cities to Rome; and was the beginning of an important policy, which was more fully carried out in the subsequent organization of Italy and of the Mediterranean world. \~\


Battle of the Cuadine Forks in the Samnite Wars


Second Samnite War (326-304 B.C.)

Renewal of the Struggle for Central Italy: The question as to who should be supreme in central Italy, Rome or Samnium, was not yet decided. The first struggle had been interrupted by the Latin war; and a twelve years’ peace followed. The Samnites saw that Rome was becoming stronger and stronger. But they could not prevent this, because they themselves were threatened in the south by a new enemy. Alexander of Epirus, the uncle of Alexander the Great, had invaded Italy to aid the people of Tarentum, and also with the hope of building up a new empire in the West. Rome also regarded Alexander as a possible enemy, and hastened to make a treaty with him against the Samnites. But the death of Alexander left the Tarentines to shift for themselves, and left the Samnites free to use their whole force against Rome in the decisive struggle now to come for the mastery of central Italy. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Cause of the War again in Campania: The direct cause of the second Samnite war, like that of the first, grew out of troubles in Campania. Here were situated the twin cities of Palaepolis (the old city) and Neapolis (the new city), which were still in the hands of the Greeks, but under the protection of the Samnites. Many disputes arose between the people of these cities and the Roman settlers in Campania. Palaepolis appealed to the Samnites for help, and a strong garrison was given to it. The Romans demanded that this garrison should be withdrawn. The Samnites refused. The Romans then declared war and laid siege to Palaepolis, which was soon captured by Q. Publilius Philo. \~\

Battle at the Caudine Forks (321 B.C.): In the early part of the war the Romans were nearly everywhere successful. They formed alliances with the Apulians and Lucanians on the south, and they also took the strong city of Luceria in Apulia; so that the Samnites were surrounded by the Roman army and their allies. But in spite of these successes, the great Samnite general, Pontius, inflicted upon the Romans one of the most humiliating defeats that they ever suffered. The Roman consuls in Campania, deceived by the false report that Luceria was besieged by the whole Samnite force, decided to hasten to its relief by going directly through the heart of the Samnite territory. In passing through a defile in the mountains near Caudium, called the “Caudine Forks,” the whole Roman force was entrapped by Pontius and obliged to surrender. The army was compelled to pass under the yoke; and the consuls were forced to make a treaty, yielding up all the territory conquered from the Samnites. But the Roman senate refused to ratify this treaty, and delivered up the offending consuls to the Samnites. Pontius, however, refused to accept the consuls as a compensation for the broken treaty; and demanded that the treaty should be kept, or else that the whole Roman army should be returned to the Caudine Forks, where they had surrendered. Rome refused to do either, and the war was continued. \~\

Uprising of the Etruscans: After breaking this treaty and recovering her army, Rome looked forward to immediate success. But in this she was disappointed. Everything seemed now turning against her. The cities in Campania revolted, the Samnites conquered Luceria in Apulia and Fregellae on the Liris, and gained an important victory in the south of Latium near Anxur. To add to her troubles, the Etruscans came to the aid of the Samnites and attacked the Roman garrison at Sutrium. The hostile attitude of the Etruscans aroused Rome to new vigor. Under the leadership of Q. Fabius Maximus Rullianus, the tide was turned in her favor. Many victories were gained over the Etruscans, closing with the decisive battle at Lake Vadimonis, and the submission of Etruria to Rome. Capture of Bovianum and End of the War: Rome now made desperate efforts to recover her losses in the south. Under the consul L. Papirius Cursor, who was afterward appointed dictator, the Romans recaptured Luceria and Fregellae. The Samnites were defeated at Capua and driven out of Campania. The war was then carried into Samnium, and her chief city, Bovianum, was captured. This destroyed the last hope of the Samnites. They sued for peace and were obliged to give up all their conquests and to enter into an alliance with Rome. \~\


Samnite-style gladiator armor


Timeline and Notes on the Second Samnite War

326-304 B.C.: Second Samnite War.
311-304 B.C.: War with the Etruscans.
310 B.C.: Roman victory at Ciminian Hills takes heart out of Etruscan rebellion.
311 B.C.: Roman Navy nascent (duoviri navales).
306 B.C.: Bogus third treaty between Rome and Carthage (Livy 9.43).
304 B.C.: Roman victory at Bovianum Vetus in Samnium. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

Second Samnite War 326-304
1. Ignited after Neapolis was taken by the Samnites, retaken by Rome at Capua's behest in 327.
a. Capuan exiles at Neapolis suburb (Palaipolis) had invited the Samnites in.
2. Rome had already signalled hostility to Samnium by allying with Tarentum.
a. Rome had founded Fregellae in Campania in 328 (Livy 8. 22).
b. It was an affront to the Samnites bcse it looked like a fortress against incursions into Campania.
3. In 321. Rome tried to attack Samnium directly from Capua across the Apennines. Livy 9.1

4. The Caudine Forks. No battle, just a surrender by the Romans.
a. Livy says the Romans were lured towards Luceria by false reports of a Samnite attack there.
b. An agreement was made by the consuls under duress on the spot.
c. Livy has Rome immediately repudiate the treaty and continue fighting.
d. Actually the peace lasted, 321-316; Samnites got Fregellae.
e. Later (316) the Romans would claim it was not valid (source of Livian version).
1. Probably because it was not concluded with proper ceremonies.
6. Rome restarted the war by colonizing Luceria (Livy 9.26) and seizing Satricum.
7. Another setback followed in 314 with the Roman defeat at Lautulae in 315.
a. Livy (9.23) turns it into a Roman victory; prefer Diodoros (19.72.8).
b. Capua defects. Livy reports it as a plot by Capuan nobles.

c. Major Roman victory at Caudium (Livy 9.27), Campania is quickly secured.
d. Via Appia links up Rome and Capua. (312-244)
1. When finally completed in 244 it went south all the way to Tarentum.
7. Samnites ally with Etruscans, plus Marsi, Hernici, Paeligni.
a. But the Etruscans suffer a major defeat almost immediately (Ciminian Hills, 310).
b. One by one the allies of the Samnites drop away and make separate peaces with Rome.
c. War ends with Samnite defeat at Bovianum Vetus in 304?
d. Possibly a Livian invention (9. 44). Treaty of 341 (Livy 8.2) was renewed.
Striking thing about the Second Samnite War
a. Steadfast support of the Latin League. Best proof that this is not product of an imperialist policy.


Manius Curius Dentatus and the Samnite Ambassadors


Third Samnite War(298-290 B.C.)

The Italian Coalition against Rome: Although Rome was successful in the previous war, it required one more conflict to secure her supremacy in central Italy. This war is known as the third Samnite war, but it was in fact a war between Rome and the principal nations of Italy—the Samnites, the Umbrians, the Etruscans, and the Gauls. The Italians saw that either Rome must be subdued, or else all Italy would be ruled by the city on the Tiber. This was really a war for Italian independence. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Cause of the War in Lucania: Rome and Samnium both saw the need of strengthening themselves for the coming conflict. Rome could depend upon the Latins, the Volscians, and the Campanians in the south. She also brought under her power the Aequians and the Marsians on the east. So that all her forces were compact and well in hand. The Samnites, on the contrary, were obliged to depend upon forces which were scattered from one end of the peninsula to the other. They determined first to win over to their side the Lucanians, who were their nearest neighbors on the south, but who had been the allies of Rome in the previous war. This attempt of the Samnites to get control of Lucania led to the declaration of war by Rome. \~\

The War carried into Etruria: The Samnites now made the most heroic efforts to destroy their hated rival. Three armies were placed in the field, one to defend Samnium, one to invade Campania, and the third to march into Etruria. This last army was expected to join the Umbrians, the Etruscans, and the Gauls, and to attack Rome from the north. This was a bold plan, and alarmed the city. Business was stopped, and all Roman citizens were called to arms. The Roman forces moved into Etruria under the consuls Q. Fabius Rullianus and Decius Mus, the son of the hero who sacrificed himself in the battle at Mt. Vesuvius. The hostile armies were soon scattered, and the Samnites and Gauls retreated across the Apennines to Sentinum (map, p. 81). \~\

Battle of Sentinum (295 B.C.): Upon the famous field of Sentinum was decided the fate of Italy. Fabius was opposed to the Samnites on the right wing; and Decius Mus was opposed to the Gauls on the left. Fabius held his ground; but-the Roman left wing under Decius was driven back by the terrible charge of the Gallic war chariots. Decius, remembering his father’s example, devoted himself to death, and the Roman line was restored. The battle was finally decided in favor of the Romans; and the hope of a united Italy under the leadership of Samnium was destroyed. \~\

End of the Italian Coalition: After the great battle of Sentinum, the Gauls dispersed; Umbria ceased its resistance; and the Etruscans made their peace in the following year. But the Samnites continued the hopeless struggle in their own land. They were at last compelled to submit to Curius Dentatus, and to make peace with Rome. Another attempt to form a coalition against Rome, led by the Lucanians, failed; and Rome was left to organize her new possessions. \~\

Notes on the Third Samnite War (298-290 B.C.)
1. Samnites seize opportunity of Roman distraction with the Gauls (Senones).
a. Hence the major battles of this war take place in Umbria.
2. Latin colony at Narnia (299 B.C.) was intended as outpost against Gallic incursions.
3. Samnites invade Lucania; Rome agrees to help (no prior commitments in this region).
4. Defeat of Romans under L. Scipio Barbatus at Camerinum in Southern Umbria.
4. Turning point is Roman victory at Sentinum in northern Umbria, 295 B.C.. (Livy 10. 27-30)
a. Occasion of the devotio of Decimus Mus, repeating the deed of his father in 340.
b. note Gauls and Samnites fighting together at this battle.
5. Samnites fight on, but are on the defensive in Samnium until 291 B.C..
a. They were forced to accept "allied" status.
6. This still does not look like a Roman war of aggression. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

Results of the Samnite Wars


Greek helmet found in many Samnite graves

Rome’s Position in Central Italy: The great result of the Samnite wars was to give Rome the controlling position in central Italy. The Samnites were allowed to retain their own territory and their political independence. But they were compelled to give up all disputed land, and to become the subject allies of Rome. The Samnites were a brave people and fought many desperate battles; but they lacked the organizing skill and resources of the Romans. In this great struggle for supremacy Rome succeeded on account of her persistence and her great fortitude in times of danger and disaster; but more than all else, on account of her wonderful ability to unite the forces under her control. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Increase of the Roman Territory: As a result of these wars, the Roman territory was extended in two directions. On the west side of the peninsula, the greater part of Campania was brought into the Roman domain; and the Lucanians became the subject allies of Rome. On the east side the Sabines were incorporated with Rome, receiving the partial right of citizenship, which in a few years was extended to full citizenship. Umbria was also subdued. The Roman domain now stretched across the Italian peninsula from sea to sea. The inhabitants of Picenum and Apulia also became subject allies. \~\

The New Colonies: In accordance with her usual policy, Rome secured herself by the establishment of new colonies. Two of these were established on the west side—one at Minturnae at the month of the Liris River, and the other at Sinuessa in Campania (map, p. 80). In the south a colony was placed at Venusia, which was the most powerful garrison that Rome had ever established, up to this time. It was made up of twenty thousand Latin citizens, and was so situated as to cut off the connection between Samnium and Tarentum. \~\

Conquest of Southern Italy

Greek Cities in Southern Italy: All the peninsular portion of Italy was now under the practical dominion of Rome, except the Greek cities in the south. These cities were the centers of Greek art and culture. Situated upon the coast, they had engaged in commerce, and on account of their wealth they were subject to the depredations of their less civilized neighbors, the Lucanians and Bruttians. With no great capacity for organization, they were accustomed, when assailed, to appeal to some stronger power for help. They had sometimes looked to Greek princes, as in the case of Alexander of Epirus. But now, when Thurii was threatened by the Lucanians, this city threw itself upon the mercy of Rome. Rome promptly interfered, and placed garrisons not only in Thurii, but also in other cities along the coast, as Croton, Locri, and Rhegium. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]


Pyrrhic War

Rome and Tarentum: The most important of the Greek cities of Italy was Tarentum. This city was now alarmed at the rapid advances made by Rome on the southern coast. Hemmed in on all sides by the Roman outposts, Tarentum found it necessary to decide whether she should open her gates to Rome, or maintain her independence with the aid of some Greek ally. She had already a commercial treaty with Rome, which prevented the ships of the latter power from passing the Lacinian promontory. But this treaty would not prevent the Roman armies from threatening the city by land. \~\

Cause of the Rupture: While this question was yet undecided, a Roman war fleet, on its way to the coast of Umbria, anchored in the harbor of Tarentum. The people were angered by this breach of the treaty, and immediately attacked the fleet. Five of the Roman vessels were captured, and the crews were either put to death or sold into slavery. A Roman embassy which was sent to Tarentum to demand reparation was grossly insulted. The Romans thereupon declared war, and sent an army to subdue the insolent city. \~\

Tarentum calls upon Pyrrhus: There was now but one course open to the people of Tarentum, and that was to appeal to Greece for protection. Pyrrhus was at this time king of Epirus. He was a brilliant and ambitious leader, and aspired to found an empire in the West. When Tarentum appealed to him for help, he was ready not only to aid this city, but to rescue all the Greek cities of Italy from Rome, and also all the cities of Sicily from the power of Carthage. The war which the Romans began against Tarentum was thus turned into a war against Pyrrhus, who was the ablest general of his time. \~\

War with Pyrrhus (280-275 B.C.)

Pyrrhus (319/318–272 BC) was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic period. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians, of the royal Aeacid house (from c. 297 BC), and later he became king of Epirus (r. 306–302, 297–272 BC). He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome. His battles, though victorious, caused him heavy losses, from which the term Pyrrhic victory was coined. He is the subject of one of Plutarch's Parallel Lives. [Source: Wikipedia]

Pyrrhus lands in Italy: Pyrrhus landed in Italy, bringing with him a mercenary army raised in different parts of Greece, consisting of twenty-five thousand men and twenty elephants. Tarentum was placed under the strictest military discipline. Rome, on her part, made the greatest preparations to meet the invader. Her garrisons were strengthened. One army was sent into Etruria, to prevent an uprising in the north; and the main army, under the consul Valerius Laevinus, was sent to southern Italy. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Battle of Heraclea (280 B.C.): The first battle between the Italian and Greek soldiers occurred at Heraclea, not far from Tarentum. It was here that the Roman legion first came into contact with the Macedonian phalanx. The legion was drawn up in three separate lines, in open order; and the soldiers, after hurling the javelins, fought at close quarters with the sword. The phalanx, on the other hand, was a solid mass of soldiers in close order, with their shields touching, and twenty or thirty ranks deep. Its weapon was a long spear, so long that the points of the first five ranks all projected in front of the first rank. Pyrrhus selected his ground on the open plain. Seven times the Roman legions charged against his unbroken phalanxes. After the Roman attack was exhausted, Pyrrhus turned his elephants upon the Roman cavalry, which fled in confusion, followed by the rest of the Roman army. The Romans, though defeated in this battle, displayed wonderful courage and discipline, so that Pyrrhus exclaimed, “With such an army I could conquer the world!”


Pyrrhus assualts Lilybaeum

Embassy of Cineas: The great losses which Pyrrhus suffered convinced him that the Romans could not be conquered with the forces which he had under his command; and that he had better turn his attention to the Carthaginians in Sicily. He therefore resolved to use his victory as a means of obtaining an honorable peace with the Romans. His most trusted minister, Cineas, who is said to have conquered more nations with his tongue than Pyrrhus had with his sword, was sent to Rome with the proposal to make peace, on condition that the Romans should relinquish their conquests in southern Italy. So persuasive were the words of Cineas, that the Roman senate seemed ready to consider his offer. But the charm of his speech was broken by the stern eloquence of Appius Claudius, the blind old censor, who called upon the senate never to make peace with an enemy on Roman soil. Failing in his mission, Cineas returned to his master with the report that the Roman senate was “an assembly of kings.” To give force to the claims of Cineas, Pyrrhus had pushed his army into Campania, and even into Latium; but finding the cities loyal to Rome, he withdrew again to Tarentum. \~\

Battle of Asculum (279 B.C.): In southern Italy, Pyrrhus received the support of the Greek cities, of the Bruttians, the Lucanians, and even the Samnites. In the next year he marched into Apulia, in the direction of the Roman stronghold Luceria. The hostile armies met at Asculum, a few miles south of Luceria. The battle of Asculum was a repetition of Heraclea. The Roman legions charged in vain against the Greek phalanxes; and were then routed by the elephants, which they could not withstand. But again, although the Romans were defeated, the great losses of Pyrrhus prevented him from following up his victory. \~\

Pyrrhus in Sicily (278-276 B.C.): Pyrrhus resolved to turn his back upon Italy, where his victories had been so barren, and go to the rescue of the Greek cities in Sicily, which were subject to Carthage. Leaving his general, Milo, at Tarentum, he crossed over to Syracuse, and gained many victories over the Carthaginians. He drove them to their stronghold in Lilybaeum, at the western extremity of the island; but this city he failed to capture. He then called upon the people of Sicily to build a fleet, but they murmured at his severe command. Believing that such a people was unworthy of his aid, he returned to Tarentum. In the meantime the Romans had recovered nearly all their lost ground in southern Italy. \~\

Battle of Beneventum and Departure of Pyrrhus (275 B.C.): Before abandoning Italy, Pyrrhus determined once more to try the fortunes of war. One of the consular armies, under Curius Dentatus, lay in a strong position near Beneventum in the hilly regions of Samnium. Pyrrhus resolved to attack this army before it could be reënforced. He stormed the Roman position, and was repulsed. The Roman consul then pursued him to the plains and gained a complete victory. Baffled and disappointed, Pyrrhus retreated to Tarentum; and leaving a garrison in that city under his lieutenant, Milo, he led the remnants of his army back to Greece. \~\

Timeline and Notes on the War with Pyrrhus (280-275 B.C.)

282-272 B.C.: War with Tarentum and Pyrrhus.
280 B.C.: Victory of Pyrrhus at Heracleia.
279 B.C.: Third Treaty with Carthage against Pyrrhus.
Victory of Pyrrhus at Asculum (Pyrrhic victory).
278-276 B.C.: Pyrrhus in Sicily.
275 B.C.: Roman victory over Pyrrhus at Beneventum in Samnium.
273 B.C.: Amicitia between Rome and King Ptolemy II Philadelphos.
272 B.C.: Death of Pyrrhus in Epiros.


Pyrrhus and his elephants

War with Pyrrhus (282-272).

1. Important as first major military/diplomatic contact between Rome and mainland Greeks.
2. Tarentum a local power in southern Italy (Calabria). Tarentines are Greeks (colonists from Sparta).
3. Summoning of Pyrrhus was not unprecedented or unexpected. Metropolis and apoikie, ethnic tie.
a. Tarentines had a pattern of summoning aid from Greek kings when threatened.
4. Greek world at this time is embroiled in struggles over the pieces of Alexander the Great's empire.
a. Pyrrhus is at loose ends, on the outs in internal Macedonian power struggles.
b. This is the (tail end of the) age of the mercenary in the Greek world; war has its rewards. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

5. How did the war with Tarentum and Pyrrhus start?
a. Romans went in to help Thurii (across the gulf from Tarentum) against the Lucanians.
b. Motive was not imperialistic -- but violated a treaty with Alexander of Epirus.
6. Three major battles in the war with Pyrrhus.
a. Heraclea in 280. Costly victory for Pyrrhus (esp. because of elephants). Plut. Pyrr. 16-17
b. NB That Pyrrhus' attempt to win allies in Campania and Latium failed.
1. The settlement of 338 is holding.
c. 2nd major battle, at Ausculum in Apulia (279). Plut. Pyrr. 21.
1. Main point is efficacy of the Roman military camp (crudely fortified with agger and ditch).

2. Pyrrhus: "If we win one more battle against the Romans we will be utterly destroyed."
d. Third treaty between Rome and Carthage, 279 B.C. (Polybius 3. 25).
1. Essentially it says no alliance with Pyrrhus against the other.
2. Note how the treaty acknowledges the lack of Roman naval power:
"No matter which of the two states requires help, the Carthaginians shall supply the ships..."
3. Carthaginians were concerned Pyrrhus would cross to Sicily, which he did (278-276).
4. No report of active Roman assistance to Carthage in Sicily.
5. But Rome took care of business (the Samnites) at home.
e. Third major battle: Roman victory at Beneventum in Samnium (272).
By 272 Rome has solid control over all peninsular Italy, the Greek south coming last.

Final Reduction of Italy


Death of Pyrrhus

Fall of Tarentum (272 B.C.): After the departure of Pyrrhus, Rome had no real rival left in Italy. The complete reduction of the peninsula speedily followed. Tarentum was besieged, and after a stubborn resistance of four years, Milo agreed to surrender, on condition of being allowed to withdraw his garrison to Epirus (272 B.C.). The city was allowed to retain its local government, but was obliged to pay an annual tribute to Rome. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

The Lucanians, Bruttians, and Samnites: Some of the people in the south of Italy were still loath to accept the supremacy of Rome, and kept up a kind of guerrilla warfare for some time. But the Lucanians and Bruttians were soon obliged to submit, and all the cities on the coast finally came under the Roman power. A temporary revolt of the Samnites was also crushed. The Roman power in the south was secured by strong colonies, planted at Paestum in Lucania (273 B.C.) and at Beneventum in Samnium (268 B.C.). \~\

Picenum and Umbria: With the south pacified, Rome soon brought into submission the Italian remnants on the eastern coast. The chief city of Picenum, Ancona, was taken by storm (268 B.C.), and the whole country was reduced. Farther to the north, the chief city of Umbria, Ariminum, was also taken (266 B.C.), and the territory yielded to Rome. \~\

Reduction of Etruria: A spirit of defection still existed in some parts of Etruria. The most haughty of the Etruscan cities was Volsinii, which was selected as an example. Its walls were razed to the ground, and its works of art were transferred to Rome. After the fall of this city, all the other towns not already allied to Rome were willing to submit; and Rome ruled supreme from the Rubicon and Macra to the Sicilian strait.

Sovereign Roman State

To understand properly the history of Rome, we must study not only the way in which she conquered her territory, but also the way in which she organized and governed it. The study of her wars and battles is less important than the study of her policy. Rome was always learning lessons in the art of government. As she grew in power, she also grew in political wisdom. With every extension of her territory, she was obliged to extend her authority as a sovereign power. If we would comprehend the political system which grew up in Italy, we must keep clearly in mind the distinction between the people who made up the sovereign body of the state, and the people who made up the subject communities of Italy. Just as in early times we saw two distinct bodies, the patrician body, which ruled the state, and the plebeian body, which was subject to the state; so now we shall see, on the one hand, a ruling body of citizens, who lived in and outside the city upon the Roman domain (ager Romanus), and on the other hand, a subject body of people, living in towns and cities throughout the rest of Italy. In other words, we shall see a part of the territory and people incorporated into the state, and another part unincorporated—the one a sovereign community, and the other comprising a number of subject communities. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]


Pyrrhic dance

The Roman domain proper, or the ager Romanus, was that part of the territory in which the people became incorporated into the state, and were admitted to the rights of citizenship. It was the sovereign domain of the Roman people. This domain land, or incorporated territory, had been gradually growing while the conquest of Italy was going on. It now included, speaking generally, the most of Latium, northern Campania, southern Etruria, the Sabine country, Picenum, and a part of Umbria. There were a few towns within this area, like Tibur and Praeneste, which were not incorporated, and hence not a part of the domain land, but retained the position of subject allies. \~\

The Thirty-three Tribes: Within the Roman domain were the local tribes, which had now increased in number to thirty-three. They included four urban tribes, that is, the wards of the city, and twenty-nine rural tribes, which were like townships in the country. All the persons who lived in these tribal districts and were enrolled, formed a part of the sovereign body of the Roman people, that is, they had a share in the government, in making the laws, and in electing the magistrates. \~\

Roman Colonies and Subject Communities

The colonies of citizens sent out by Rome were allowed to retain all their rights of citizenship, being permitted even to come to Rome at any time to vote and help make the laws. These colonies of Roman citizens thus formed a part of the sovereign state; and their territory, wherever it might be situated, was regarded as a part of the ager Romanus. Such were the colonies along the seacoast, the most important of which were situated on the shores of Latium and of adjoining lands. \~\

The Roman Municipia: Rome incorporated into her territory some of the conquered towns under the name of municipia, which possessed all the burdens and some of the rights of citizenship. At first, such towns (like Caere) received the private but not the public rights (civitas sine suffragio),—see page 64,—and the towns might govern themselves or be governed by a prefect sent from Rome. In time, however, the municipia obtained not only local self-government but also full Roman citizenship; and this arrangement was the basis of the Roman municipal system of later times. \~\

The Subject Territory: Over against this sovereign body of citizens living upon the ager Romanus, were the subject communities scattered throughout the length and breadth of the peninsula. The inhabitants of this territory had no share in the Roman government. Neither could they declare war, make peace, form alliances, or coin money, without the consent of Rome. Although they might have many privileges given to them, and might govern themselves in their own cities, they formed no part of the sovereign body of the Roman people. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

The Latin Colonies: One part of the subject communities of Italy comprised the Latin colonies. These were the military garrisons which Rome sent out to hold in subjection a conquered city or territory. They were generally made up of veteran soldiers, or sometimes of poor Roman citizens, who were placed upon the conquered land and who ruled the conquered people. But such garrisons did not retain the full rights of citizens. They lost the political rights, and generally the conubium (p. 64), but retained the commercium. These colonies, scattered as they were throughout Italy, carried with them the Latin language and the Roman spirit, and thus aided in extending the influence of Rome. \~\

The Italian Allies: The largest part of the subject communities were the Italian cities which were conquered and left free to govern themselves, but which were bound to Rome by a special treaty. They were obliged to recognize the sovereign power of Rome. They were not subject to the land tax which fell upon Roman citizens, but were obliged to furnish troops for the Roman army in times of war. These cities of Italy, thus held in subjection to Rome by a special treaty, were known as federated cities (civitates foederatae), or simply as allies (socii); they formed the most important part of the Italian population not incorporated into the Roman state. \~\

This method of governing Italy was, in some respects, based upon the policy which had formerly been adopted for the government of Latium. The important distinction between Romans, Latins, and Italians continued until the “social war”. \~\

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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