Theodor Mommsen.

The History of Rome, Book II From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy online

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in Tarentum neither reason nor honour characterized the government,
and they had simply been trifling in a very childish fashion with
very serious matters. No declaration of war against Rome took place;
in its stead they preferred to support the oligarchical party in the
Sicilian towns against Agathocles of Syracuse who had at a former
period been in the Tarentine service and had been dismissed in
disgrace, and following the example of Sparta, they sent a fleet
to the island - a fleet which would have rendered better service
in the Campanian seas (440).

Accession of the Etruscans to the Coalition -
Victory at the Vadimonian Lake

The peoples of northern and central Italy, who seem to have been
roused especially by the establishment of the fortress of Luceria,
acted with more energy. The Etruscans first drew the sword (443), the
armistice of 403 having already expired some years before. The Roman
frontier-fortress of Sutrium had to sustain a two years' siege, and in
the vehement conflicts which took place under its walls the Romans as
a rule were worsted, till the consul of the year 444 Quintus Fabius
Rullianus, a leader who had gained experience in the Samnite wars, not
only restored the ascendency of the Roman arms in Roman Etruria, but
boldly penetrated into the land of the Etruscans proper, which had
hitherto from diversity of language and scanty means of communication
remained almost unknown to the Romans. His march through the Ciminian
Forest which no Roman army had yet traversed, and his pillaging of a
rich region that had long been spared the horrors of war, raised
all Etruria in arms. The Roman government, which had seriously
disapproved the rash expedition and had when too late forbidden the
daring leader from crossing the frontier, collected in the greatest
haste new legions, in order to meet the expected onslaught of the
whole Etruscan power. But a seasonable and decisive victory of
Rullianus, the battle at the Vadimonian lake which long lived in
the memory of the people, converted an imprudent enterprise into a
celebrated feat of heroism and broke the resistance of the Etruscans.
Unlike the Samnites who had now for eighteen years maintained the
unequal struggle, three of the most powerful Etruscan towns - Perusia,
Cortona, and Arretium - consented after the first defeat to a separate
peace for three hundred months (444), and after the Romans had once
more beaten the other Etruscans near Perusia in the following year,
the Tarquinienses also agreed to a peace of four hundred months (446);
whereupon the other cities desisted from the contest, and a temporary
cessation of arms took place throughout Etruria.

Last Campaigns in Samnium

While these events were passing, the war had not been suspended in
Samnium. The campaign of 443 was confined like the preceding to the
besieging and storming of several strongholds of the Samnites; but
in the next year the war took a more vigorous turn. The dangerous
position of Rullianus in Etruria, and the reports which spread as
to the annihilation of the Roman army in the north, encouraged the
Samnites to new exertions; the Roman consul Gaius Marcius Rutilus was
vanquished by them and severely wounded in person. But the sudden
change in the aspect of matters in Etruria destroyed their newly
kindled hopes. Lucius Papirius Cursor again appeared at the head of
the Roman troops sent against the Samnites, and again remained the
victor in a great and decisive battle (445), in which the confederates
had put forth their last energies. The flower of their army - the
wearers of the striped tunics and golden shields, and the wearers of
the white tunics and silver shields - were there extirpated, and their
splendid equipments thenceforth on festal occasions decorated the rows
of shops along the Roman Forum. Their distress was ever increasing;
the struggle was becoming ever more hopeless. In the following year
(446) the Etruscans laid down their arms; and in the same year the
last town of Campania which still adhered to the Samnites, Nuceria,
simultaneously assailed on the part of the Romans by water and by
land, surrendered under favourable conditions. The Samnites found new
allies in the Umbrians of northern, and in the Marsi and Paeligni of
central, Italy, and numerous volunteers even from the Hernici joined
their ranks; but movements which might have decidedly turned the scale
against Rome, had the Etruscans still remained under arms, now simply
augmented the results of the Roman victory without seriously adding to
its difficulties. The Umbrians, who gave signs of marching on Rome,
were intercepted by Rullianus with the army of Samnium on the upper
Tiber - a step which the enfeebled Samnites were unable to prevent;
and this sufficed to disperse the Umbrian levies. The war once more
returned to central Italy. The Paeligni were conquered, as were also
the Marsi; and, though the other Sabellian tribes remained nominally
foes of Rome, in this quarter Samnium gradually came to stand
practically alone. But unexpected assistance came to them from
the district of the Tiber. The confederacy of the Hernici, called
by the Romans to account for their countrymen found among the Samnite
captives, now declared war against Rome (in 448) - more doubtless from
despair than from calculation. Some of the more considerable Hernican
communities from the first kept aloof from hostilities; but Anagnia,
by far the most eminent of the Hernican cities, carried out this
declaration of war. In a military point of view the position of the
Romans was undoubtedly rendered for the moment highly critical by this
unexpected rising in the rear of the army occupied with the siege of
the strongholds of Samnium. Once more the fortune of war favoured the
Samnites; Sora and Caiatia fell into their hands. But the Anagnines
succumbed with unexpected rapidity before troops despatched from Rome,
and these troops also gave seasonable relief to the army stationed
in Samnium: all in fact was lost. The Samnites sued for peace, but
in vain; they could not yet come to terms. The final decision was
reserved for the campaign of 449. Two Roman consular armies
penetrated - the one, under Tiberius Minucius and after his fall under
Marcus Fulvius, from Campania through the mountain passes, the other,
under Lucius Postumius, from the Adriatic upwards by the Biferno - into
Samnium, there to unite in front of Bovianum the capital; a decisive
victory was achieved, the Samnite general Statius Gellius was taken
prisoner, and Bovianum was carried by storm.

Peace with Samnium

The fall of the chief stronghold of the land terminated the twenty-two
years' war. The Samnites withdrew their garrisons from Sora and
Arpinum, and sent envoys to Rome to sue for peace; the Sabellian
tribes, the Marsi, Marrucini, Paeligni, Frentani, Vestini, and
Picentes followed their example. The terms granted by Rome were
tolerable; cessions of territory were required from some of them,
from the Paeligni for instance, but they do not seem to have been of
much importance. The equal alliance was renewed between the Sabellian
tribes and the Romans (450).

And with Tarentum

Presumably about the same time, and in consequence doubtless of the
Samnite peace, peace was also made between Rome and Tarentum. The two
cities had not indeed directly opposed each other in the field. The
Tarentines had been inactive spectators of the long contest between
Rome and Samnium from its beginning to its close, and had only kept up
hostilities in league with the Sallentines against the Lucanians who
were allies of Rome. In the last years of the Samnite war no doubt
they had shown some signs of more energetic action. The position of
embarrassment to which the ceaseless attacks of the Lucanians reduced
them on the one hand, and on the other hand the feeling ever obtruding
itself on them more urgently that the complete subjugation of Samnium
would endanger their own independence, induced them, notwithstanding
their unpleasant experiences with Alexander, once more to entrust
themselves to a -condottiere-. There came at their call the Spartan
prince Cleonymus, accompanied by five thousand mercenaries; with whom
he united a band equally numerous raised in Italy, as well as the
contingents of the Messapians and of the smaller Greek towns, and
above all the Tarentine civic army of twenty-two thousand men. At
the head of this considerable force he compelled the Lucanians to make
peace with Tarentum and to install a government of Samnite tendencies;
in return for which Metapontum was abandoned to them. The Samnites
were still in arms when this occurred; there was nothing to prevent
the Spartan from coming to their aid and casting the weight of his
numerous army and his military skill into the scale in favour of
freedom for the cities and peoples of Italy. But Tarentum did not
act as Rome would in similar circumstances have acted; and prince
Cleonymus himself was far from being an Alexander or a Pyrrhus. He
was in no hurry to undertake a war in which he might expect more blows
than booty, but preferred to make common cause with the Lucanians
against Metapontum, and made himself comfortable in that city, while
he talked of an expedition against Agathocles of Syracuse and of
liberating the Sicilian Greeks. Thereupon the Samnites made peace;
and when after its conclusion Rome began to concern herself more
seriously about the south-east of the peninsula - in token of which
in the year 447 a Roman force levied contributions, or rather
reconnoitred by order of the government, in the territory of the
Sallentines - the Spartan -condottiere- embarked with his mercenaries
and surprised the island of Corcyra, which was admirably situated as
a basis for piratical expeditions against Greece and Italy. Thus
abandoned by their general, and at the same time deprived of their
allies in central Italy, the Tarentines and their Italian allies,
the Lucanians and Sallentines, had now no course left but to solicit
an accommodation with Rome, which appears to have been granted on
tolerable terms. Soon afterwards (451) even an incursion of
Cleonymus, who had landed in the Sallentine territory and laid
siege to Uria, was repulsed by the inhabitants with Roman aid.

Consolidation of the Roman Rule in Central Italy

The victory of Rome was complete; and she turned it to full account.
It was not from magnanimity in the conquerors - for the Romans knew
nothing of the sort - but from shrewd and far-seeing calculation that
terms so moderate were granted to the Samnites, the Tarentines, and
the more distant peoples generally. The first and main object was not
so much to compel southern Italy as quickly as possible to recognize
formally the Roman supremacy, as to supplement and complete the
subjugation of central Italy, for which the way had been prepared by
the military roads and fortresses already established in Campania and
Apulia during the last war, and by that means to separate the northern
and southern Italians into two masses cut off in a military point of
view from direct contact with each other. To this object accordingly
the next undertakings of the Romans were with consistent energy
directed. Above all they used, or made, the opportunity for getting
rid of the confederacies of the Aequi and the Hernici which had once
been rivals of the Roman single power in the region of the Tiber and
were not yet quite set aside. In the same year, in which the peace
with Samnium took place (450), the consul Publius Sempronius Sophus
waged war on the Aequi; forty townships surrendered in fifty days; the
whole territory with the exception of the narrow and rugged mountain
valley, which still in the present day bears the old name of the
people (Cicolano), passed into the possession of the Romans, and here
on the northern border of the Fucine lake was founded the fortress
Alba with a garrison of 6000 men, thenceforth forming a bulwark
against the valiant Marsi and a curb for central Italy; as was also
two years afterwards on the upper Turano, nearer to Rome, Carsioli
- both as allied communities with Latin rights.

The fact that in the case of the Hernici at least Anagnia had taken
part in the last stage of the Samnite war, furnished the desired
reason for dissolving the old relation of alliance. The fate of the
Anagnines was, as might be expected, far harder than that which had
under similar circumstances been meted out to the Latin communities
in the previous generation. They not merely had, like these, to
acquiesce in the Roman citizenship without suffrage, but they also
like the Caerites lost self-administration; out of a portion of their
territory on the upper Trerus (Sacco), moreover, a new tribe was
instituted, and another was formed at the same time on the lower Anio
(455). The only regret was that the three Hernican communities next
in importance to Anagnia, Aletrium, Verulae, and Ferentinum, had not
also revolted; for, as they courteously declined the suggestion that
they should voluntarily enter into the bond of Roman citizenship and
there existed no pretext for compelling them to do so, the Romans were
obliged not only to respect their autonomy, but also to allow to them
even the right of assembly and of intermarriage, and in this way
still to leave a shadow of the old Hernican confederacy. No such
considerations fettered their action in that portion of the Volscian
country which had hitherto been held by the Samnites. There Arpinum
and Frusino became subject, the latter town was deprived of a third
of its domain, and on the upper Liris in addition to Fregellae the
Volscian town of Sora, which had previously been garrisoned, was now
permanently converted into a Roman fortress and occupied by a legion
of 4000 men. In this way the old Volscian territory was completely
subdued, and became rapidly Romanized. The region which separated
Samnium from Etruria was penetrated by two military roads, both of
which were secured by new fortresses. The northern road, which
afterwards became the Flaminian, covered the line of the Tiber; it
led through Ocriculum, which was in alliance with Rome, to Narnia, the
name which the Romans gave to the old Umbrian fortress Nequinum when
they settled a military colony there (455). The southern, afterwards
the Valerian, ran along the Fucine lake by way of the just mentioned
fortresses of Carsioli and Alba. The small tribes within whose bounds
these colonies were instituted, the Umbrians who obstinately defended
Nequinum, the Aequians who once more assailed Alba, and the Marsians
who attacked Carsioli, could not arrest the course of Rome: the two
strong curb-fortresses were inserted almost without hindrance between
Samnium and Etruria. We have already mentioned the great roads and
fortresses instituted for permanently securing Apulia and above all
Campania: by their means Samnium was further surrounded on the east
and west with the net of Roman strongholds. It is a significant
token of the comparative weakness of Etruria that it was not deemed
necessary to secure the passes through the Ciminian Forest in a
similar mode - by a highway and corresponding fortresses. The former
frontier fortress of Sutrium continued to be in this quarter the
terminus of the Roman military line, and the Romans contented
themselves with having the road leading thence to Arretium kept
in a serviceable state for military purposes by the communities
through whose territories it passed.(4)

Renewed Outbreak of the Samnite-Etruscan War -
Junction of the Troops of the Coalition in Etruria

The high-spirited Samnite nation perceived that such a peace was more
ruinous than the most destructive war; and, what was more, it acted
accordingly. The Celts in northern Italy were just beginning to
bestir themselves again after a long suspension of warfare; moreover
several Etruscan communities there were still in arms against the
Romans, and brief armistices alternated in that quarter with vehement
but indecisive conflicts. All central Italy was still in ferment and
partly in open insurrection; the fortresses were still only in course
of construction; the way between Etruria and Samnium was not yet
completely closed. Perhaps it was not yet too late to save freedom;
but, if so, there must be no delay; the difficulty of attack
increased, the power of the assailants diminished with every year
by which the peace was prolonged. Five years had scarce elapsed since
the contest ended, and all the wounds must still have been bleeding
which the twenty-two years' war had inflicted on the peasantry of
Samnium, when in the year 456 the Samnite confederacy renewed the
struggle. The last war had been decided in favour of Rome mainly
through the alliance of Lucania with the Romans and the consequent
standing aloof of Tarentum. The Samnites, profiting by that lesson,
now threw themselves in the first instance with all their might on the
Lucanians, and succeeded in bringing their party in that quarter to
the helm of affairs, and in concluding an alliance between Samnium and
Lucania. Of course the Romans immediately declared war; the Samnites
had expected no other issue. It is a significant indication of the
state of feeling, that the Samnite government informed the Roman
envoys that it was not able to guarantee their inviolability, if
they should set foot on Samnite ground.

The war thus began anew (456), and while a second army was fighting
in Etruria, the main Roman army traversed Samnium and compelled the
Lucanians to make peace and send hostages to Rome. The following
year both consuls were able to proceed to Samnium; Rullianus conquered
at Tifernum, his faithful comrade in arms, Publius Decius Mus, at
Maleventum, and for five months two Roman armies encamped in the land
of the enemy. They were enabled to do so, because the Tuscan states
had on their own behalf entered into negotiations for peace with Rome.
The Samnites, who from the beginning could not but see that their only
chance of victory lay in the combination of all Italy against Rome,
exerted themselves to the utmost to prevent the threatened separate
peace between Etruria and Rome; and when at last their general,
Gellius Egnatius, offered to bring aid to the Etruscans in their own
country, the Etruscan federal council in reality agreed to hold out
and once more to appeal to the decision of arms. Samnium made the
most energetic efforts to place three armies simultaneously in the
field, the first destined for the defence of its own territory, the
second for an invasion of Campania, the third and most numerous
for Etruria; and in the year 458 the last, led by Egnatius himself,
actually reached Etruria in safety through the Marsian and Umbrian
territories, with whose inhabitants there was an understanding.
Meanwhile the Romans were capturing some strong places in Samnium and
breaking the influence of the Samnite party in Lucania; they were not
in a position to prevent the departure of the army led by Egnatius.
When information reached Rome that the Samnites had succeeded in
frustrating all the enormous efforts made to sever the southern
from the northern Italians, that the arrival of the Samnite bands in
Etruria had become the signal for an almost universal rising against
Rome, and that the Etruscan communities were labouring with the utmost
zeal to get their own forces ready for war and to take into their pay
Gallic bands, every nerve was strained also in Rome; the freedmen and
the married were formed into cohorts - it was felt on all hands that
the decisive crisis was near. The year 458 however passed away,
apparently, in armings and marchings. For the following year (459)
the Romans placed their two best generals, Publius Decius Mus and the
aged Quintus Fabius Rullianus, at the head of their army in Etruria,
which was reinforced with all the troops that could be spared from
Campania, and amounted to at least 60,000 men, of whom more than a
third were full burgesses of Rome. Besides this, two reserves were
formed, the first at Falerii, the second under the walls of the
capital. The rendezvous of the Italians was Umbria, towards which the
roads from the Gallic, Etruscan, and Sabellian territories converged;
towards Umbria the consuls also moved off their main force, partly
along the left, partly along the right bank of the Tiber, while at
the same time the first reserve made a movement towards Etruria, in
order if possible to recall the Etruscan troops from the main scene
of action for the defence of their homes. The first engagement did
not prove fortunate for the Romans; their advanced guard was defeated
by the combined Gauls and Samnites in the district of Chiusi. But
that diversion accomplished its object. Less magnanimous than the
Samnites, who had marched through the ruins of their towns that they
might not be absent from the chosen field of battle, a great part of
the Etruscan contingents withdrew from the federal army on the news
of the advance of the Roman reserve into Etruria, and its ranks
were greatly thinned when the decisive battle came to be fought on
the eastern declivity of the Apennines near Sentinum.

Battle of Sentinum -
Peace with Etruria

Nevertheless it was a hotly contested day. On the right wing of
the Romans, where Rullianus with his two legions fought against the
Samnite army, the conflict remained long undecided. On the left,
which Publius Decius commanded, the Roman cavalry was thrown into
confusion by the Gallic war chariots, and the legions also already
began to give way. Then the consul called to him Marcus Livius the
priest, and bade him devote to the infernal gods both the head of
the Roman general and the army of the enemy; and plunging into the
thickest throng of the Gauls he sought death and found it. This
heroic deed of despair on the part of one so eminent as a man and so
beloved as a general was not in vain. The fugitive soldiers rallied;
the bravest threw themselves after their leader into the hostile
ranks, to avenge him or to die with him; and just at the right moment
the consular Lucius Scipio, despatched by Rullianus, appeared with the
Roman reserve on the imperilled left wing. The excellent Campanian
cavalry, which fell on the flank and rear of the Gauls, turned the
scale; the Gauls fled, and at length the Samnites also gave way,
their general Egnatius falling at the gate of the camp. Nine thousand
Romans strewed the field of battle; but dearly as the victory was
purchased, it was worthy of such a sacrifice. The army of the
coalition was dissolved, and with it the coalition itself; Umbria
remained in the power of the Romans, the Gauls dispersed, the remnant
of the Samnites still in compact order retreated homeward through the
Abruzzi. Campania, which the Samnites had overrun during the Etruscan
war, was after its close re-occupied with little difficulty by the
Romans. Etruria sued for peace in the following year (460); Volsinii,
Perusia, Arretium, and in general all the towns that had joined the
league against Rome, promised a cessation of hostilities for four
hundred months.

Last Struggles of Samnium

But the Samnites were of a different mind; they prepared for their
hopeless resistance with the courage of free men, which cannot
compel success but may put it to shame. When the two consular armies
advanced into Samnium, in the year 460, they encountered everywhere
the most desperate resistance; in fact Marcus Atilius was discomfited
near Luceria, and the Samnites were able to penetrate into Campania
and to lay waste the territory of the Roman colony Interamna on the
Liris. In the ensuing year Lucius Papirius Cursor, the son of the
hero of the first Samnite war, and Spurius Carvilius, gave battle on
a great scale near Aquilonia to the Samnite army, the flower of which
- the 16,000 in white tunics - had sworn a sacred oath to prefer death
to flight. Inexorable destiny, however, heeds neither the oaths nor
the supplications of despair; the Roman conquered and stormed the
strongholds where the Samnites had sought refuge for themselves and
their property. Even after this great defeat the confederates still
for years resisted the ever-increasing superiority of the enemy with
unparalleled perseverance in their fastnesses and mountains, and still
achieved various isolated advantages. The experienced arm of the old
Rullianus was once more called into the field against them (462), and
Gavius Pontius, a son perhaps of the victor of Caudium, even gained
for his nation a last victory, which the Romans meanly enough avenged


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