The Second Samnite War: Phase 1 (327 - 321 BC)
by Gordon Davis
Between 343 BC and 290 BC the Romans and Samnites engaged in a series of fierce wars throughout central Italy. The two peoples, along with the Celts of the Po Valley to the north, were ascendant powers at this time, eclipsing older power blocks such as Hellas Megale and the Etruscan city-states. The fighting of 327 – 321 BC between Rome and Samnium was the opening phase of the second war between these two states and it was far more intense in both the breadth of territory covered and the number of battles fought than the first war of 343 – 341 BC. The present article attempts to provide a detailed military history of the fighting of this seven-year period. Following the end of the fighting in 321 BC, a peace of five years came into effect between the Romans and Samnites – a fact which argues for the conflict described being considered a separate war in itself, although it has traditionally been adjoined to the Second Samnite War, whose fighting lasted down until 306 BC. There has been little in the way of detailed commentary on the military operations of the Romano-Samnite Wars, which ravaged Italy during the second half of the 4th century BC. This reticence to delve into what is certainly an interesting period in Rome’s rise, is perhaps best explained by a lack of existing ancient sources and modern scepticism towards the annalistic traditions that do describe this period. But while some parts of the ancient account should be treated with suspicion, much of the commentary is no doubt historical and a worthwhile military history is possible, at least in a larger strategic sense.
As to the war itself, it becomes evident that the alliance of 341 BC between the Samnites and Rome had simply been a marriage of convenience, masking a mutual mistrust and fear of each other. While events in the 330’s BC served to divert the attention of both sides, this situation was only temporary. A long shared border had come into being, running from the middle Liris valley to southern Campania and the underlying aggressive tendencies of both powers made further conflict all but inevitable. As in 343 BC, a major catalyst for renewed war occurred in the rich and tempting fertile plain of coastal Campania. Rome early on displayed her military might by seizing most of southern Campania. The contest then moved inland to the middle Liris valley, where over several years the Romans and Samnites clashed over the strategic colony at Fregellae. The fighting in this area ended in 322 BC, with the Romans successfully holding onto their new colony but unable to deal any knockout blow. Meanwhile, from 325 BC to 322 BC the Romans also fought their way across central Italy and managed through carrot and stick to adhere a good portion of Apulia to its hegemony. This was a strategy of encirclement and isolation, which the Romans pursued with the aim of securing an eventual capitulation from the Samnites. The one notable failure of this policy down to 321 BC was the inability to make headway with among the Lucani, who despite some early favourable indications, in the end remained firmly neutral. The last chapter in this phase of the war, the disastrous Roman invasion of central Samnium from southern Campania in 321 BC, likely should be understood at least partially as a Roman attempt to complete the encirclement of the Samnites. The endeavour, however, ended badly for Rome and resulted in a peace treaty being forced upon the Roman state by the victorious Samnites. The Romans were compelled to give up colonies on the frontier and were faced with immediate revolts of allies in Apulia and the middle Liris valley. The next several years of “peace” were witness to Roman efforts to salvage and re-affirm its hegemony outside of Latium. To sum up, the seven years of war saw the Romans leverage their military superiority by making steady and incremental advances, ending with a great disaster which saw them lose much of their gains of the preceding years. Correspondingly, the Samnites, unsuccessful in making advances against the Romans in Campania and on their frontiers, were able to secure the status quo ante bellum by a obtaining a great military success in the difficult terrain of their home mountains.
A short comparison of the belligerents is necessary before diving into the details of the war. Rome in 327 BC was a civilized city-state, deeply influenced by Greek culture, in control of a vast swath of Tyrrhenian Italy. Politically, the state was very well organized, ruling over other cities and people by way of individual treaties of alliance that provided local autonomy, but bound them to Rome’s foreign policy and obligating them to provide soldiers in time of war. Economically, the Roman state was also very robust. Its hegemony comprised many fertile districts, including Latium and northern Campania. Sea and land trade throughout its territories was significant and growing. The Roman state, most importantly to the present conflict, enjoyed abundant and ever-growing reserves of manpower for service in its legions. Militarily, the Romans were a first-rate power. They were by the mid-4th century BC in the process of developing a completely unique and very effective fighting formation: the manipular legion. On the flat plains the Romans were a formidable adversary, while in the mountains their complex formations tended to become less efficient. The quality and morale of the common soldiery was very high, due to constant yearly campaigning and their arms and weapons were of good quality. In generalship, the Romans sacrificed efficiency somewhat by opening the top command to a fairly wide group of nobility, but a good portion of Roman generals were at least competent and a few were of the highest calibre.
The Samnites were a collection of rustic sabellian mountain tribes that occupied a large tract of territory in the central Apennines. These tribes were tied together by religious and military bonds but were not possessed of any robust central organizing authority. Primary allegiance was to the tribe, or touto, which along with the constituent pagus comprised the main centers of local political life. Aggressive enterprises such as raids or migrations were mostly ad-hoc, cooperative affairs, centered around charismatic leaders, instead of being centrally-organized policies of the tribal confederacy. The Samnites were not possessed of any great cities, instead living in homesteads, villages and small towns. Living up in the mountains and far from the coastal trade, the Samnite economy was rudimentary. Agriculture and pastoralism were practiced in the upland valleys and plateaus. For the most part the country was devoid of minerals, although some small pockets did exist. Some of the mountain valleys, however, could actually be quite fertile and this gave the Samnites a significant manpower base in time of war. Militarily, the Samnites were a highland people, whose fighting formations centered around the tribe, clan and pagus. Their fighting units were small and flexible, well-tuned to the mountain country but perhaps less well suited to well-organized war of the flat plains. The Samnites were hardy warriors, but the arms and armour outside of that carried men of the nobility was probably often less robust than the average Roman soldier, giving them a disadvantage against the heavy infantry of the littoral states. In conclusion, the Romans in 327 BC enjoyed a marked superiority over the Samnites economically, politically and militarily.
The first recorded contact between the Romans and Samnites occurred in 354 BC, when a treaty of equals was signed between the two peoples. An important aspect of this treaty was the setting down of spheres of influence, demarcated in all likelihood by the middle Liris River. Direct confrontation between Rome and the Samnite tribes was not so much of a worry at this early stage, as the Liris valley and indeed part of Latium was then still the domain of several smaller independent peoples, most importantly the Volsci. The first Romano-Samnite War occurred eleven years later in 343 BC, over control of the rich and verdant plain of northern Campania. The Romans won the early rounds of that contest, but quickly renewed the lapsed treaty with Samnium in the face of an uprising of smaller Tyrrhenian peoples, which threatened both powers. The ensuing contest, commonly known as the Latin War, saw the Romans and Samnites make common cause: an endeavour which was crowned with success. The ensuing decade of the 330’s BC was a period of uneasy peace between Rome and the Samnites. The remaining independent states of Tyrrhenian Italy were ground down and subjugated, mostly by the Romans, including the Latins, Aurunci, and the Volsci of Latium and the Liris valley. These conquests had the effect of creating a long, shared border between the powers: a situation which soon created frictions. For a time during the 330’s BC, the Samnites were mostly concerned with their southern border, as an Epirote King in the employ of Greek Taras, Alexander the Molossian, marched across southern Italy in an almost-successful attempt to carve out an empire for himself. Alexander’s death in battle c. 331 BC removed this threat. A democratic party at Taras, having gained power, quickly took advantage of popular discontent for unending war to reverse the city’s long-standing policy, concluding a peace with the neighbouring Lucani and the Samnites. This allowed the Samnite tribes to again turn their attention back to Tyrrhenian Italy and their border with the Romans. In only a few years time, the two great hegemonic powers of central Italy were once again at war.
327 BC – The War Begins
The second war between the Romans and Samnites began in the year 327 BC, following fourteen years of uncomfortable peace. The most immediate causes of this conflagration were twofold. Firstly, the Romans brazenly planted a new colony at Fregellae in 328 BC on the left, or Samnite, bank of the middle Liris River, stirring up great indignation. Secondly, a serious crisis broke out in southern Campania over control of the rich but isolated Greek city of Neapolis. This coastal metropolis, harbouring a significant Oscan population and accepting council from its ally Taras, dug in its heals in the face of fierce accusations of it harbouring enemies of Rome. Faced with un-specified demands for redress, the Neapolitans decided to favour the Samnite cause and spurned the Roman embassies sent to the city. Efforts at securing the allegiance of the city by coercion having failed, the Romans made the decision to seize Neapolis by force of arms. The 2nd Romano-Samnite War now began.
Raised to the consulship in 327 BC were the plebeian Q. Publilius Philo and his patrician colleague L. Cornelius Lentulus. Both were advised by the senate to march south into Campania: Publilius against Neapolis and Cornelius against Samnite Campania. The strategy set upon was a repeat of the successful operations of 343 BC during the First Romano-Samnite War, when Roman armies operating on the coastal plain and farther inland along the middle Volturnus supported one another and drove the Samnites out of the coastal plain. Publilius enrolled his legion at Rome, took on allies and headed south for Campania, likely along the coastal route. Cornelius meanwhile, was able to take command of a Roman legion that had been garrisoned on Volscian territory at the south end of the Monti Lepini, probably at or nearby to the recently captured stronghold of Privernum. He was therefore able to move fast. His most direct route to Campania would have brought him through the strategic pass east of Privernum and out into the Liris valley, near to the colony at Fregellae. Seeing no serious Samnite threat against that frontier post, Cornelius continued south along the middle Liris valley and passed through the Sidicine gap to reach friendly territory at Cales. Here he would have made camp, taking on supplies and reinforcements from the colony and receiving information on enemy movements. He found out that a general mobilization had been ordered by the Samnites, but no enemy army had yet taken the field nearby. Moving quickly, Cornelius had therefore managed to catch the Samnites unprepared on the frontier. He was to make them pay for it.
Publilius, meanwhile, very likely took the coastal route, down through Latium and over the difficult mountains passes south of Tarracina. He threaded the Lautilae pass, apparently without any difficulties from the hostile Aurunci and soon gained the more easily-traversable plains of northern Campania. He may have stopped at Cales to touch base with his colleague and re-supply but soon hastened on to arrive in the vicinity of Neapolis, where he fortified a camp and took stock of the situation. It was not favourable. The Roman general received the disconcerting news that a force of four thousand Samnites and two thousand Nolans had been allowed into the city, and its commander was in control there, backed by a pro-Samnite group. In addition, the Samnites and Neapolitans were clearly supported by other cities of southern Campania in opposition to Rome and were also backed by Taras and likely Syracuse as well. With matters brought to the very brink of war, a last ditch embassy is reported by Livy to have been sent directly to the Samnites, but it proved unsuccessful. The solemnities of declaring war were dutifully observed and the symbolic bloodied spears were cast into enemy territory.
Since no Samnite field army menaced him and the Neapolitans refused to leave their walls to give battle, Publilius moved to envelop Neapolis in a close siege. The Romans were supported by nearby friendly cities such as Acerrae, Capua and Cales and were covered to an extent by Cornelius’ operations further east. Capturing a strong-walled city like Neapolis, however, was a daunting task for the plebeian general. Not possessed of a navy, the Romans were unable to contest the seaward side of the city against the Neapolitan fleet, possibly strengthened by a squadron of ships promised by Taras . Therefore, Neapolis continued to receive a steady stream of supplies to hold out with. Naval armaments were available from Rome’s ally Carthage, but no intervention by that maritime power was made, or recorded to have been asked for. Starving out the garrison being an impossibility, Publilius could have resorted to direct assaults. If he did so, he was unsuccessful. Not since the siege of Veii, over seventy years previous, had Rome engaged in such a large and formidable siege. The undisputed masters of siege craft at this time were the Greeks and Carthaginians, who had been besieging each other across the island of Sicily for over two centuries. Engineers expert in conducting sieges were closely guarded commodities, but this does not preclude the Romans from gaining such expertise. The city, however, was not to fall by assault. Publilius ended out the year encamped before Neapolis. For his efforts thus far, he was awarded the first pro-consulship that the Romans ever bestowed on a field commander.
While Publilius struggled to overcome the walls of Neapolis, his colleague to the east was not content to remain motionless. Cornelius, apprised of Samnite mobilizations but seeing no stir from the enemy nearby, moved into Samnite Campania, which in this case most likely means he headed east across the Sidicine gap and into the middle Volturnus valley.  Encountering no serious opposition, the Roman consul took recourse in the old tried and true option for such situations and plundered with fire and sword the Samnite lands thereabouts. Laden with booty, the consul eventually crossed back into Roman territory to end out his campaign. While accomplishing little of note, Cornelius had fulfilled his intended role by guarding the frontier and diverting Samnite attention from the siege of Neapolis. He apparently conducted his campaign with prudence, avoiding the same trap as that sprung by the Caudines on his relative A. Cornelius Cossus. That consul had been badly routed thirteen years before while attempting to thread a pass nearby to Saticula at the south end of the same valley.
Aside from placing a strong garrison into Neapolis in 327 BC, we hear little about Samnite movements in this first year of the war. Leaders such as Gavius Pontius and Papius Brutulus do not appear in the annals and aside from throwing four thousand soldiers into Neapolis, no major Samnite military movements are recorded. What were the Samnites up to then? Firstly, it should be noted that that political apparatus of the Samnite league was far less organized than the well-oiled city-state model of Rome. Therefore, the process of gathering support for the war, deliberating strategy and affecting a general mobilization could very well have occupied the Samnites for the balance of 327 BC. What operations did occur therefore would likely have been local affairs and consisted of raids across the frontier and the covering of the Roman field armies with small forces from nearby communities. Especially at border towns like Fregellae and from the Monti Trebulani we can expect Samnite raids to have occurred in 327 BC and throughout the war, but the results were minimal and not sufficient to be noted. As far as the individual Samnite tribes are concerned, the force sent to garrison Neapolis was most likely primarily Caudine and possibly Gavius Pontius had a hand in organizing it, but this is speculation. The Pentri were concerned with Fregellae and with their towns at the north end of the middle Volturnus plain, but did not move in force. The Caraceni and Hirpini, relatively remote from the immediate hostilities, were perhaps too far away to be drawn into the war so quickly upon its inception. The Samnites, in conclusion, appear to be moving slowly and fitfully in 327 BC. Their decisive movements in southern Campania seem to clash with the lack of preparation on the inland border, highlighting the loose nature of the mountain federation. We do not see the Samnites acting with clarity and in unison in the first year of the war.
To sum up the events of 327 BC, the Samnites gained the biggest success by bringing a rich coastal city into their hegemony this year. The Romans, meanwhile were able to respond vigorously, cauterizing the wound at Neapolis and staging a limited invasion across the Samnite frontier, effecting some amount of damage on exposed enemy border lands. At this time both sides were sending out embassies to drum up allies for the severe contest only just begun. Taras and the Greeks were firmly in detente with Samnium and were to remain so for the course of the war. An initial Roman diplomatic success at this time among the Lucani was quickly quashed by efforts from the Greeks and Samnites, leaving southern Italy if not favourable to the Samnites, at least neutral. The Samnites could therefore concentrate their attention elsewhere. A significant Roman diplomatic coup was only to occur in the following year, along the east coast of Italy, where anti-Samnite sentiment was found to be significant and deep-rooted, especially among the Messapic peoples.
326 BC: The Fall of Neapolis
Clearly the Romans were not happy with the outcome in southern Campania and in 326 BC they showed their determination to achieve results by operating three armies in the field.  On the diplomatic front, each side continued efforts to gather allies to their side. An important development is Livy’s report of alliances being concluded by Rome in Apulia, on the east coast of Italy. The Roman strategy being pursued here was to isolate the Samnites in a cordon of enemies and the successful initiative in Apulia can be related to less fruitful efforts to pursue Lucanian alliances south of Samnium. The Samnites countered these efforts with a diplomatic success of their own in 326 BC, concluding an alliance with the Sabellic Vestini, whose territory lay astride the strategic Aternus River valley. This valley was a vital corridor for any Roman army making its way around northern Samnium to reach the eastern littoral and the treaty should be viewed specifically in this context. The allegiance of the Vestini to the Samnites greatly alarmed the Romans, over worries that other Sabellic tribes such as the Marsi, Paeligni and Marrucini might join the Samnites as well. Roman embassies were quickly rushed into the mountains to counter this threat. While such machinations occurred in central Italy and the east, it was again the shared frontier in the west and in coastal Campania that the war continued undiminished.
Raised to the Roman consulship in 326 BC were the formidable patrician L. Papirius Cursor and the plebeian C. Poetelius Libo. At least one of their legions was raised at Rome, while one of the consuls may have picked up Cornelius’s legion in the field, stationed most likely either at Cales or Fregellae. Both consuls were ordered to attack Samnium and their primary objectives were to devastate the Samnite frontier and like Cornelius the year before, draw enemy attention and resources away from Publilius while he conducted his siege. The few relevant notices in the annals indicate that their operations are to be located among the river valleys of the inland Romano-Samnite border. While it is possible that the consuls moved between the adjacent valleys independently or even worked in tandem, the sensible course of action would have been to split the valleys of the middle Liris and Volturnus between them. This would have spread the devastation over a wider area and allowed better prospects for plundering and sustaining themselves off the land. Once again, the Samnites are not heard from in this area. This is not necessarily to say that they didn’t put forces into the field. They may have decided to shadow at a distance one or either of the Roman armies and they may also have been pursuing a tactical strategy of prudently waiting for the right time and place to engage. Baiting Roman armies into more difficult and mountainous terrain was a course of action that brought martial success to more than one Samnite general in their wars with Rome. Another possibility is that a lack of organization or resolve existed among the Samnites up to this point.
At least one consular army is reported by Livy to have entered into the middle Volturnus valley. Here, Roman forces stormed and captured three Samnite communities: Callifae , Rufrae and Allifae These were Pentrian towns strung out along the north and east valley rim. The latter two towns guarded a strategic entrant into central Samnium that wound its way around the north end of the Mons Matese. The towns, or at least their citadels, would have been located up on the mountain-sides and have been fortified by rough walls of rough polygonal masonry. If the Samnites were not content to capitulate their capture was within the abilities of a determined Roman army to carry, although the assaults would be have been bloody affairs. A second possibility is that the Romans ignored the citadels and simply captured the towns and vici lower down on the plain. Driving past these communities into the upper Volturnus valley, the consuls would next have come upon more Pentrian fortresses such as Venafrum and Aesernia, but they do not appear to have pushed so far this year. Following the capture of the afore-mentioned towns and spreading destruction along the Samnite frontier, the Romans finally re-crossed back into Roman territory to enjoy their spoils.
While such affairs were played out within the inland valleys, Q. Publilius Philo continued his siege of Neapolis along the Tyrrhenian coast, reportedly unmolested by any serious efforts to thwart him. Dionysius makes it clear that there was factional strife within the city between groups favourable to Romans and Samnites. Coupled with this situation, the horrors of a siege and the lack of any Samnite or Greek attempt to cut the cordon, are the factors that most likely led to a breakdown in resolve. Failing to capture Neapolis through blockade or assault, Publilius gained success by the only other available option: treachery. The party in the city favouring the Roman cause hatched a plot with the Romans to allow their forces into the town under cover of night. To increase the chances of success, the Samnite commander of the city was persuaded to lead a significant part of the Samnite garrison outside the city walls on the sea-ward side, under the pretext of embarking them on a coastal raid. When night came on the agreed upon day, the Samnites issued onto the shoreline to await the promised ships. While they milled about the dark shore in confusion, a Roman force was let in through a postern. Chaos ensued and the main gates were thrown open. The alarmed Nolan garrison fled out through a gate at the far end of the city, making for friendly territories to the south, while the Samnites on the shore did the same. Neapolis had fallen to the Romans: a signal success. The city was granted very favourable terms for its switching sides and remained loyal to Rome even down through the Carthaginian Wars and the time of Hannibal, before taking Roman citizenship during the Social War. For his achievement, Publilius was granted the honours of a duly-deserved Triumph
The second year of the war now being complete, the Romans could now enjoy some feeling of momentum, having bested the Greeks and bottled up Samnite interests in the far south of Campania. No effort was made by the other Greek city-states to recapture Neapolis. Syracusan armies were busy fighting Bruttians in the toe of Italy, while Taras was far away and now had to contemplate a Roman presence far closer to home in Apulia. Concurrent devastations of Samnite towns and territory along the inland frontier had demonstrated the might of Rome to the mountain league. Hopes of a Samnite capitulation, however, did not materialize and the war continued. Roman frontier devastations and the fall of Neapolis were perhaps the catalyst that the pro-war party in Samnium needed to spur the league into more decisive action. The conflict now entered a new phase, shifting inland and away from the Tyrrhenian coast towards the inland valleys and the eastern littoral. In the Liris valley, the Samnites and Romans now clashed fiercely over the colony Fregellae and control of the strategic lowland terminus of the Liris and Trerus rivers. Further to the east in central Italy, the Romans matched their diplomacy with military might, as they attempted to open a route across the Apennines to the eastern coast. Sending armies to aid their new alliances in Apulia hinged on Roman success in this enterprise.
325 BC: The War Shifts Inland
Raised to the consulship in 325 BC were the patrician L. Furius Camillus and the plebeian D. Junius Brutus.  There was reportedly much debate among the consuls and senate over how to deal with the Vestini, with some advocating caution, but it was eventually resolved to send Junius with an army to subjugate them and these operations will be dealt with first. Junius enrolled his legion at Rome, took on allied contingents and marched up into the Apennines, only the second time a Roman general had led his army thither.  His route would likely have taken him up through the defiles of the Anio River behind the town of Tibur, the route of the later Via Valeria. Debouching into the upland valley of the Fucine Lake, the consul continued west through another pass into the fertile mountain valley of the Sabellic Paeligni. That he got this far without issue indicates that the Romans had concluded agreements with the Marsi, Paeligni, and perhaps the Aequi, conventions that were to hold firm for this war. Possibly they were simply updates to transit agreements concluded in 340 BC during the Latin War and the Romans probably would have paid for the right-of-way and for supplies in lieu of foraging. At the north-east border of the Paelignian vale the Vestinian territory began. Here the upper Aternus (modern Aterno-Pescara) snaked down from the north-west and entered into a narrow defile through some of the highest mountains of Italy, flowing from thence down to the Adriatic coast. Vestinian territory lay in both the mountains and in the hilly coastal country on both sides of the defile. It was this strategic pass in particular that the Romans aimed to open and it Junius’ task was to pacify its owners. It is possible that the Vestini were bolstered by Samnite forces in 325 BC, but the annals hold that the Samnites were unable to help the Vestini this year, being held down for the most part by Roman attacks in the west. Signing a treaty of alliance, the Vestini could rightfully expect Samnite intervention. The Caracini occupied the valley of the Sagrus (modern Sangro) River in strength, not far to the south. If they were given enough time to organize and march, the Vestini were not far distant.
The Aternus Defile, looking south-east towards the coastal hills of eastern Italy
The exact progress of the Roman generals’ campaign is not clear, but Livy does include some details that perhaps were derived from the family history of the Junii, or from monuments and inscriptions. Livy’s account of the campaign has Junius marching into Vestinian territory and conducting ‘operations of various kinds, which can be construed as some combination of open battle, plundering and small sieges. He apparently was able to march through and campaign on both sides of the Aternus defile, if modern placements of mentioned locales are correct. The consul had to be careful of ambushes in this terrain, and seems to have conducted his scouting in a professional manner, as no major disasters or setbacks are recorded.  Not finding an enemy army initially, Junius proceeded to lay fire and sword to the areas that he passed through, eventually inducing the Vestini to concentrate their forces and accept battle. The exact location is not named but apparently it was a bloody and hard-fought affair.  Still, the Romans had the best of it and the Vestini dispersed and did not risk another set battle-piece. Instead they retreated within the protection of their various strongholds. Junius laid siege to several of these fortifications and he managed to storm and capture two of them: Cutina followed later by Cingilia . These towns must have occupied defensible hill-top positions and their fortified sanctuaries would have consisted of primitive stone-walled enclosures not unlike those occupied by the Samnites and other Sabellian peoples of the mountains. Assaulting such fortifications could not have been easy and Livy indicates there was much blood spilled in attacking them. Laden with spoil from the captured towns, Junius made his way back to Rome at the end of the season. No garrisons are reported to have been left, but the campaign did apparently fulfill its objectives, as Roman armies were able traverse the Aternus defile successfully in future campaigns. It also seems to have set an example for other peoples in the area of what to expect if they attempted to hinder Roman armies trying to pass through their lands. This positive outcome may not have been so clear to the Romans at the end of the year however, as Junius was not granted the honours of a Triumph over the Vestini. Correspondingly for the Samnites, the opening of the route was a signal failure, as they had after one campaign lost a key ally and now would have to contend with Roman armies on their Apulian border in the east.
The fighting conducted by the other consular army in 325 BC is not specifically located by the annalists, but logically it should be placed in the Liris valley.  Three issues with the ancient account should be brought forward at this point. Firstly, the following year 324 BC is a fictitious dictator year in the annals, making a proper chronology difficult to set down. Secondly, perhaps related to the first point, is that the annals are confused about who actually commanded the Roman army in the west in 325 BC. Livy states that L. Furius Camillus took sick and gave up his command to a dictator L. Papirius Cursor and his master of horse Q. Fabius Rullianus (hence the ‘dictator’ year). Thirdly, Livy has Q. Fabius in command for the first battle, not his superior. The present author intends to follow Livy as much as possible in this situation. Another notable point about 325 BC is that the Samnites, under an aggressive but un-named commander , finally took the field with large army in the Liris valley. The score to settle, as Appian states, was the Roman colony at Fregellae on the Samnite side of the Liris river, and from a wider perspective, control of the Liris-Trerus valley, only fourty miles from Rome itself.
The Romans, in order to protect Fregellae, would have moved across to the left bank of the Liris River to start off the campaign. Q. Fabius, in command of the army or perhaps a large sub-contingent, advanced up from the river and in the hilly country beyond came upon the Samnite army. Battle was quickly joined near an otherwise unattested locale named Inbrinium. Livy, possibly drawing from the Fabian family history, provides a few details of this action. The battle was equally contested between the foot in the opening stages. At some point, the Roman cavalry made a powerful charge against the Samnite line, apparently removing their bridles so that no slowing down was possible once at full gallop. The charge was driven home with force and in the resulting confusion, the Roman infantry renewed their assault and the Samnite army broke and fled. The carnage and spoils were reportedly significant, but it was not enough to drive the Samnites to fully withdraw from the valley floor. The campaign continued, with the Romans and Samnites manoeuvring for advantage and occasionally skirmishing. At one point, the Samnites enjoyed a local success by ambushing and slaughtering a large Roman foraging party that had strayed too far from the main host. The two sides again soon clashed in a major engagement, now with Papirius reported as the Roman commander. The Samnites fought determinedly and dealt the consul a significant defeat. The Romans were bruised both morally and physically by this encounter, but not badly enough to drive them off from defending Fregellae. Continuing the ferocious campaign, the Samnites and Romans manoeuvred some more and then met in one final battle somewhere on the river plain. This time the Romans fought hard and gained a victory. Following this final clash of 325 BC, the Samnites withdrew into the towns and mountain fastnesses on their side of the River. Fregellae had been successfully defended and the Romans had established their superiority in the valley. For his hard fighting in 325 BC, Papirius was granted the honours of a triumph . The swirling funnels of black smoke rising from the funeral pyres littering the Liris plain perhaps were another symbol of victory for the famous consul.
The year 325 BC was by all measurements an incremental success for the Roman state. A serious attempt by the Samnites to crush the colony of Fregellae and drive the Romans from the Liris frontier had been met and repulsed. Further east, a route through the central Apennines had been opened up to allow Roman armies to march onto the eastern littoral and reach Rome’s new friends in Apulia. Despite setbacks in the field which showed the martial qualities of the Samnite arms, the larger and better organized Roman military apparatus had the ability to operate armies on three fronts and now the Samnite tribes, particularly the Caraceni and Hirpini, would have to concentrate resources in both east and west to combat their enemy. Livy indicates that following the campaign of 325 BC, the Samnites made peace overtures, which were taken seriously by the Romans. A covenant, however, could not be reached, due to a disagreement over terms.  Instead, a truce for one year was arranged.
323 BC: The Romans Reach Apulia
Although Livy states that the Samnites broke the one-year truce in 323 BC, there is little to indicate that this actually was the case . The new consul assigned to watch the western frontier, the patrician C. Sulpicius Longus, is mentioned to have ‘laid waste’ to Samnium, but this report is so devoid of content as to be meaningless. Likely the truce held in 323 BC, with Sulpicius merely watching the frontier with his legion somewhere in the vicinity of Fregellae. The truce allowed the Samnites time to lick their wounds and plan a new strategy, following the hard battles of the previous year. It also benefited the Romans in that it allowed them a season to march an army across Italy and into Apulia uncontested. The consul who made the journey was the plebeian Q. Aulius Cerretanus. It was the longest march a Roman army had ever taken and the effort must have engendered some hardship. The Romans could not exactly go plundering across the territories of peoples along the way, as to do so would have threatened the agreements that made the route viable. Nevertheless, the Romans arrived safely were able to restore themselves with supplies from their new allies.
The fortress-town of Luceria dominated the Apulian plain only 10 miles west of Arpi
Apulia at this period was not a state, but rather a large and fertile coastal plain occupied by many independent and frequently warring city states. The region was an ethnic mixture of sabellians moving in from the north and west, an older stratum of messapic peoples and a few Greeks. The northern-most portion of Apulia, roughly between the Frento (modern Fortore) and Aufidus Rivers was the sub-region of Daunia. Certain adjacent areas and peoples can also be added to the area of operations on the Adriatic coast, including the lands of the sabellian Frentani and Marrucini to the north, even though no fighting is attested in those areas during this war. These two peoples must have decided to remain neutral or even signed agreements with Roman embassies, especially after the example made by Junius on the Vestini. It was within the confines of Daunia that the Romans carried on their operations during the war down to 321 BC. The flat plains thereabouts were good fighting country for the well-organized Roman legions, and raiding and incursions into Apulia by the mountain Samnites had served to make the area a fertile source of alliances for the Romans. The region did not, however, immediately fall into Roman hands. There was actually some significant sympathy for the Samnites in Apulia. The fact that the region was inhabited by many sabellians partly helps to explain this situation and the Samnites used diplomacy and later military forces to back up friends there. This state of affairs served to make the eastern littoral a rather fluid zone of varying fortunes for both sides as the larger contest between Rome and Samnium progressed.
The cities within Daunia that are reported to have signed treaties of alliance with the Romans at this stage were Arpi and Teanum Apulum and possibly there were others. The status of Luceria, a strategic fortress-town that stood on the Samnite frontier is not clear at this early stage, although Livy implies that is was favourable to the Romans by 321 BC. Of the specific operations undertook by Aulius in this year, there are few details, other than that he was fighting a war with some of the Apulians. The consul may have conducted some operations, conjoining his legion to local forces and moving against towns and city-states that were hold-outs or in control of Samnite-friendly factions. Canusium in Daunia may have been one of them, as it is reported to have gone over to the Romans twice by the following year. There were no large engagements or sieges noted and apparently nothing worthy of a Triumph for the plebeian general. Some towns may have simply been cowed into submission by the appearance of a large Roman and allied army at their doorstep. At the end of the campaign, it is very likely that Aulius left all or part of his legion to winter in Apulia, likely in the vicinity of Arpi, which seemed to be a nucleus of pro-Roman sentiment in the region. New drafts of soldiers could be brought out by incoming consuls, allowing for rotations of veterans out of this distant theatre. Likely no more than one legion would have been campaigning in Apulia during the war, but a Roman legion combined with local armies could be a significant force. As for the Samnites, in 323 BC there is no report of them taking the field in Apulia, and this can be attributed to the truce. No doubt both the Samnites and Greek Taras to the south looked upon the appearance of Roman forces in Apulia with alarm and indignation. The war indeed had become much wider in scope.
The year 323 BC was therefore a quiet year of truce between the Romans and Samnites, with no direct fighting between the powers. The Samnites took the opportunity to replenish their ranks and take council for a strategy to move forward on. Pentrian military power had likely taken something of a hit during the Liris valley battles of 325 BC. A general defensive posture seems to have been set upon at this point, using the natural barrier of difficult mountain terrain as a ‘force multiplier’, if a modern military phrase can be applied. The Romans meanwhile, executed with success their strategy of getting forces into Apulia and thereby moving towards surrounding and isolating their enemy. If Apulia could be secured, the only friendly frontier left to the Samnites would be Lucania to the south. Diplomatic efforts by the Romans towards Lucania had been foiled by the Samnites and Tarantines in 326 BC, but subsequent events show that Rome was not ready to write off Lucania quite yet. For now, during the war of 327 – 321 BC, the subjugation of Daunia was enough to occupy the Romans in this region.
322 BC: Into the Mountains
In 322 BC the truce ended and war between Rome and Samnium was renewed in all its ferocity.  Reports reached Rome that the Samnites had again raised a large army in the west, even to the extent of hiring mercenaries to augment their ranks.  Raised to the consulship in 322 BC were the patrician Q. Fabius Rullianus and the plebeian M. Fulvius Curvus. To Fabius was given the task of subjugating Apulia, while Fulvius was granted the honour of renewing the war against the Samnites in the west. Given the seriousness with which the Romans viewed the situation, it is quite possible that two legions were placed at the disposal of the consul, with at least one legion being enrolled at Rome, while another was picked up on the frontier at Fregellae. With his army concentrated on the border, the consul crossed the Liris and moved into enemy territory. The exact location for this campaign is not mentioned in the annals. The middle Volturnus valley is a possibility but the present author inclines toward the Liris valley once again, with the Romans moving up into the rough hill-country around the Monti della Meta and Monte Cairo. This sensitive area was a metal-bearing region and was studded with Samnite towns such as Arpinum, Cominium, Casinum and Atina. It was an area that the Romans would do well to neutralize at this stage, but the farther the Romans pushed, the more hilly and mountainous the terrain became. This was good fighting country for the Samnites and Fulvius soon got into trouble.
Whether by accident or by faulty scouting, the Roman army was surprised in camp by the arrival of a large Samnite host, which confidently took up positions very near to the Roman outposts. According to Livy, Fulvius, judging his position to be precarious, decided to retreat from his position under cover of night. Possibly this is the case, but the episode sounds very much like Roman cover for a defeat in the field. Only vanquished armies abandon their camps in the dead of night in the Roman annals. In any case, the dictator made his escape but was doggedly pursued by the Samnite cavalry. The Roman march was over difficult terrain and threatened to dissolve into disarray, but Fulvius managed to keep the army intact. When light came the Samnite horse began to charge the rear of the Roman column and the situation became desperate, as places difficult to traverse were met with along the route. Fulvius decided he must stand and fight. He found the best available spot under the circumstances and was able to hurriedly array his forces before the main Samnite army arrived.
When he was ready, the Samnite general wasted no time and gave the dreaded signal. Romans and Samnites gave their blood-curdling war-cries and advanced their standards to battle. The fighting was vicious and unrelenting, with the Romans fighting for their lives and the Samnites sensing a great victory. Neither side would break and the serried ranks of the soldiery surged back and forth in a bloody slaughter, while the cavalry of both sides whirled about the flanks, skirmishing, charging and looking for opportunities to turn the battles’ tide. Livy, perhaps deriving his account from oral traditions or family histories, poignantly describes the epic battle:
“Indeed it is said that on that day from the third hour to the eighth the outcome was so much in doubt, that there was never a second cheer after that which was once given when the armies rushed together; nor were standards either moved forward or withdrawn; nor did the combatants anywhere give ground. Facing each other with every man squarely in his place, they pressed forward with their shields and fought without stopping to breathe or to look behind. The monotonous din and changeless tenor of the battle made it seem probable that sheer exhaustion or the night would put an end to it. And now men's strength was ebbing, and the sword was forgetting its keenness and the generals their strategy...” 
The tide of battle was finally turned late in the day, when Livy reports the Samnite cavalry left the field, foolishly lured away by the undefended baggage of the Roman army. Laden with spoil, they were set upon by their Roman counterparts and put to flight. Reforming, the Roman cavalry now charged the open flanks of the Samnite foot. The onslaught was too much for the tired mountain men and their formation bent, wavered and then broke. The ensuing slaughter was reportedly great and the Samnite general was cut down in flight, but the day was late and the armies tired, so damage to the fleeing Samnites was not as complete as it might have been. Nevertheless, the Romans had secured another important victory in a set battle piece over the Samnites, seemingly pulling success from disaster. No further operations are recorded, so it can be concluded that Fulvius decided not to push his luck and retired back into the flatter country nearby to the Liris river, before crossing over once again to end out the campaign.
While Roman and Samnite blood was being spilled in the foothills above the Liris River, Q. Fabius Rullianus, one of the outstanding Roman generals of the period, conducted operations in Apulia and apparently with success. He presumably made his way to the region with new levies, allowing some portion of the legion wintering there to head home. The objective for the Romans, as stated earlier, was to secure Apulia and Daunia so as to tighten the vise about the mountain league. The Samnites, however, had by 322 BC gained some allies of their own in Apulia and in this year forces were sent to bolster those city-states on the plain that remained opposed to the Romans. Livy is silent as to specifics of the campaign in Apulia and Daunia this year, but Appian relates that no less than eighty-one towns were captured by Fabius during the campaign. No large battles are attested, so manoeuvring, skirmishing, plundering and perhaps some small sieges seem to have been the order of the day. Towns and villages across the plain saw their lands burned and people put to the sword, while Diodorus , indicates that the city state of Canusium was brought over to the Roman cause, perhaps both by Aulius the year before and Fabius in 322 BC, as he states that the city changed sides to the Samnites at least once. Hostages from the city were taken as surety, and the consul was able to carry off an abundance of spoil. For this achievement Fabius was honoured with a triumph over Samnites and Apulians this year, one of three he was to be awarded during his distinguished career.
One must note at this point the lack of any military response from Taras to Rome’s offensive in Apulia, either at this early stage or indeed throughout the Romano-Samnite wars. Certainly they must have been concerned about Roman encroachment in the east, but apparently not enough to take any action beyond diplomacy. Daunia, far to the north or Taras, certainly was beyond the city’s traditional sphere of influence the region, which may partly explain this reticence. The lack of determined action perhaps also indicates concern for more pressing matters closer to home, such as Syracusan warring across the gulf in the toe of Italy, or distrust of the local Messapii, the Lucani, or even their erstwhile Samnite friends. Unfortunately for the Tarantines, the Samnite nation that they allied with fourty years later against Rome was much less powerful than it was at this time. Surely the Samnites in 322 BC would have welcomed a strong Tarentine hoplite army fighting with them on their eastern border. The lack of any detailed ancient surviving history for the region makes it hard to move beyond speculation as to the true state of affairs in the heel of Italy at this time.
The year 322 BC can therefore be summed up as another year of incremental successes for the Romans, with at least a good part of Apulia subjected by Fabius and victory in battle achieved in the west by Fulvius. Once again, we hear from Livy of Samnite peace offerings, even to the extent of sacrificing the chief of their pro-war party, one Papius Brutulus. Again, the resulting negotiations came to nothing, probably due to the continued unwillingness of the Samnites to accept harsh Roman terms. Indeed, the Romans, perhaps exasperated at Samnite resolve, reportedly vowed to turn away any future Samnite embassies and to fight on until the enemy were fully defeated. They had cause to reflect, for despite the many successes accrued to them thus far: the capture of Neapolis, the defence of Fregellae, several significant battlefield victories in the Liris valley and some success in pacifying Apulia, the Samnites remained unbowed and unbroken. In point of fact, the Romans had really only been nipping around the edges of the Samnite league for the past six years, while the immense territory of the central Samnite plateau remained intact and unmolested. If left so, the Samnites were likely to remain determined, even if their enthusiasm for the contest had ebbed. At this point they seemingly dared the Romans to come up from the plains into the mountains. Fulvius’ abortive attempt in 322 BC was the first tentative Roman step in this direction and its final battle had been a close-run affair. The following year was to see another, much greater Roman effort, but this time it was to end in disaster.
321 BC: The Caudine Forks
Upon the break-down of peace negotiations for a second time, the Romans took stock of the situation and decided to again stage a major invasion of Samnium.  Elected to the consulship in this fateful year were the patrician Sp. Postumius Albinus and the plebeian T. Veturius Calvinus. The consuls decided to maximize the power of the thrust by combining their legions and allies into one large host. Instead of the Liris valley, the consuls resolved to attack farther south in Campania and there are some cogent reasons to make sense of this decision. Firstly, the hills and mountains behind the Liris river did not offer a convenient entrant into Samnium, aside from a few easily defended high passes. The easiest entrants into central Samnium: the upper Volturnus valley, the Calor gap and the Isclero valley, beckoned instead from Campania. Secondly, attacking in the south of Campania served the containment and isolation strategy being pursued by Rome up to this point. The southern-most portion of Campania still friendly to the Samnites would itself be isolated and neutralized and the Samnites cut-off from the sea. More tribes of the nearby Lucani might be expected to cross over and favour Rome if the enterprise were to meet with success. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, a powerful thrust might take the Caudini out of the war. Their chief town of Caudium lay in the valley of the Isclero and behind it lay the open plateau of central Samnium, beckoning to be ravaged and plundered.
The Roman generals enrolled their legions at Rome or picked them up from the frontier along the way. They both made their way to Campania and encamped nearby to the allied city of Calatia. Some local Campanian contingents may have been added on at this point. The Samnites, seeing the Romans concentrate such a large force in southern Campania, responded accordingly by themselves gathering a field army, no doubt the largest contingent being formed of Caudini, whose tribal territory the Romans were directly threatening. The Samnite meddix tuticus for 321 BC is named in the annals as Gavius Pontius. He was a Caudinian noble whose home town was Telesia, a community which stood post over the nearby Calor gap. Livy’s assertion that Pontius sent spies to lure the Romans into a trap, by letting on that the Samnites were besieging Luceria in the east, may or may not be true. It has been suggested that this notice was to provide a mea culpa for the haste which caused the subsequent blunder. Certainly the Samnite commander saw the likely avenues of invasion of an army based at Calatia and set a close watch upon the enemy’s movements. From the moment that the Roman army began to issue into the long and narrow pass which runs from Suessula into the Isclero valley, the Samnites could move their forces accordingly. They had savaged a Roman army trying to enter the same basin from the other Caudine ‘Fork’ twenty-two years before during the First Samnite War. This time, Pontius decided on a slightly different strategy. Instead of attacking the Roman army while it issued through the defile, the Samnites this time waited for the Romans to completely pass through it, before springing their trap. Once the Romans, meeting no opposition, began to move on confidently towards the town of Caudium on the other side of the small valley, the Samnites who had been lying in wait upon the heights moved down and occupied both Forks in strength, hastily building rough fortifications across them.
Postumius and Veturius were therefore guilty of a lack of prudence and proper scouting. They had not learned from the defeat of A. Cornelius Cossus in 343 BC, whose army had been smashed only several miles away, at the other Caudine Fork. On a larger level, their predicament is a good example of the difficulties faced by the Romans in trying to thread their way up into the Apennines, which were often a maze of entrants, re-entrants and cul-de-sacs, often blanketed by heavy forests and cut through by fast-running rivers. This type of geography was very different from the flat plains of Latium and Campania, where the phalanx and legion worked best. Over time, the Romans would learn the required lessons, adjust their formations and tactics and become experienced at fighting in the mountains, but the learning process would involve many setbacks large and small.
The consuls were soon made aware that their communications and line of retreat into Campania were blocked. They fortified a camp in the well-watered valley, likely close to the Isclero river, and held council to consider their options. The possibilities were to continue east past the nearby town of Caudium into the heart of Samnium, which would allow them to make for Apulia or to the north around the Mons Taburno and through the Calor gap to the frontier. This route was roundabout and led past several enemy fortresses, but was worthy of consideration. It is not inconceivable that the consuls were only barely knowledgeable about these potential routes, as no Roman commander had yet set eyes upon this part of Samnium. Their other option was to try to break out through either of the Caudine Forks. The Romans obviously were in great danger and the pressure on the consuls was not alleviated by the complete lack of communication with Campania.
Livy indicates that the consuls eventually decided to try to break out through either of the two forks, instead of moving deeper into the hill-country of central Samnium to the east. The legions issued from the camp, formed up and advanced their standards against the Samnite fortifications. In undoubtedly some hard and desperate fighting, they were nowhere successful. Each assault, however determined and ferocious, was bloodily repulsed. Fighting through a fortified defile is an incredibly difficult endeavour, as the Persians had found out at Thermopylae in 480 BC. Soundly defeated and weakened by this course of action, the fate of the Roman army was now all but sealed. The victorious Samnites, likely being reinforced from all quarters as news spread of the enemies’ predicament, moved now to hem the Romans into their camp. Such a large army, likely between 10,000 and 15,000 spears, required great quantities of sustenance to survive, and supplies would have run out within days. No relieving force would be forthcoming either, as communications were fully severed. In the besieged camp, councils of war held by Postumius and Veturius were apparently bitter and contentious affairs, while the soldiers tore at their beards and hunger gnawed at their bellies. In such situations an army must soon give away to dissolution or mutiny. The last sensible course of action inevitably became clear. The consuls sent messengers to ask for terms.
The resulting negotiations must have been an angering and humiliating experience for the Romans, who until now had been confident in their superiority and in ultimate victory over the mountain league. Now they were to be force-fed terms handed down to them from a hated foe, a situation not endured since Brennus had cast his sword into the scales almost seventy years before. Although there is some scholarly dispute over the exact details of the terms imposed, the main outcome of the negotiations seem to have been, firstly, that the Roman must acknowledge that the Samnite were the victors in the war; secondly, that all Roman armies would depart from Samnite territory and the colonies of Fregellae and Cales be evacuated, and thirdly, that a foedus aequum, a treaty of equals, was to be signed between both parties and that the Romans and Samnites were henceforth to live in peace, each according to their own laws.
In order to enforce these terms, the Samnites demanded and received as surety six-hundred equite hostages from the Romans – men of noble birth whose welfare the Roman state was bound to protect. This being the case, the consuls and senate had no choice but to accept the Samnite terms and modern scholarship has concluded that this is exactly what occurred. All references in the annals to a subsequent repudiation of the treaty are rejected. In a final humiliation, the entire Roman army in the Isclero valley was stripped of its arms and with tunic only forced to pass under a symbolic yoke of spears, then through the massed ranks of the Samnite soldiery. Starving, broken, taunted and with some even killed for a hostile glance, the ragged host was driven in a massive herd out of the defile. It then slowly made its way past nearby Calatia and Capua and through the intervening lands back to Rome. Stunned at the wretched sight of their once-proud army, the Romans immediately went into mourning.
The peace having come into effect and with the sword of Damocles hanging over the captive sons of the nobilitas, the Romans reluctantly moved to honour their commitments. The colonies at Fregellae and Cales were evacuated and the territory of Fregellae and Teanum Sidicinum was handed over to the Samnites. Luceria is also conjectured by some as being given to the Samnites in 321 BC. Livy does mention it being in Samnite hands in the following year, but his notices for 320 BC are largely rejected by modern scholars. Conquests in southern Campania and Apulia lay outside of the treaty and remained within the Roman hegemony. Any other Roman occupation existing on Samnite territory was given up. The new treaty would have been set down on bronze tablets and oaths made in the presence of the gods. Seeing the Romans dutifully honour their commitments and after a judicious interval, the Samnites would then have handed back the Roman hostages. The ‘Caudine Peace’ as some call it, was to remain in effect until a new began in 316 BC.
The Caudine Forks can truly be adjudged a grand setback of the Romans and a great military and strategic coup for the Samnites. The drop in Roman prestige and commensurate rise of the Samnites was to result in more Roman difficulties, as peoples in Apulia and some Volscian communities in the Liris valley withdrew their allegiance to Rome and either sided with the victorious mountain league or made a bid for independence. Still other peoples, who before may have rode the proverbial fence, now inclined towards the Samnite sphere. The Romans were to struggle with uprisings for the next five years and indeed such efforts were a necessary pre-condition if hostilities were eventually to be renewed: quite likely the Roman aim even as the terms were chiselled into the bronze. The unwanted treaty flew fully in the face of their comprehension of the true state of affairs: the Roman army had been humbled, but the state was not hobbled. The Romans remained more powerful, in terms of organization and outright military and economic power, than the Samnites. To move on from this debacle and to preserve the lives of the six-hundred equites, Roman pride had to be swallowed and by slow revolutions the crumbled base for prosecuting further war must be laid anew, including a thorough analysis of what had gone wrong and adjustments made. The Samnites, meanwhile, could for the time being bask in their victory and the positive tide of new opportunities and alliances that came with it. They had to use the peace to prepare for further war, which any sensible party could see was almost an inevitability.
Indeed, war continued on in some quarters, even though this did not comprise direct hostilities, as both sides moved to shore up their strategic situation. A serious uprising among the Volsci, no doubt with Samnite encouragement, needed to be quelled by the Romans. Daunia, not part of Samnium, remained beset by war and both Diodorus and Livy make clear that Roman armies continued to operate there. Hostilities even spread eventually to Lucania during the peace, as the Romans attempted by force what diplomacy had been unable to secure: the complete surrounding of Samnium in a vise of enemies. So, although some regions might have seen an end to the slaughter of war and ravages of marauding armies, it was only a passing relief and for many there was no relief at all. For these unfortunates the storm continued in all its fury, even “..while the ashes of the slain were still warm.” as the saying went.
Phase 2 >
Show Footnotes and
. Primary sources for the campaign of 327 BC are Livy (8.22-23) and Dionysius (15.5-10)
. The Romans had campaigned aggressively against the Auruncii and mulcted territory from them during the 330’s BC. It was from Auruncian territory that the Roman colony at Cales and the Ager Falernus was created. The Aurunci were very discontented at this time and in future were to join with the Samnite against Rome.
. Syracuse in 327 BC was in the hands of the oligarchy of the Six Hundred. The city during this period was at peace with Carthage but was occupied warring against the Bruttians in southern Italy, in support of Geek cities such as Croton. Syracuse was therefore only tangentially concerned with affairs in Tyrrhenian Italy, but would have been alarmed at the conquest of a major Greek city by barbarians. Its relations with Taras were good at this time. Its longstanding policy vis-a-vis Rome had been unfriendly since the days of Dionysius I and II.
. The Romans had decommissioned the captured Volscian Antiate fleet in 338 BC, cutting beaks from the ships and displaying them triumphantly in the forum. Any small fleet the Romans did possess in 327 BC was only capable of the coastal defence of Latium.
. It is also possible that Cornelius operated in the middle Liris region as well, hitting at Samnite communities between the river and the Apennines.
. The primary source for the campaign of 326 BC is Livy (8.23 – 29)
. Possibly modern Calvisi
. Modern Presanzano
. Modern Castello del Matese
. Triumphal Fasti, May 1, 325 BC
. The primary source for the campaign of 325 BC is Livy 8.29-36
. The first time had been in 340 BC, when T. Manlius Torquatus had led his army into the mountains to reach the Samnites, at that time Rome’s allies
. Another Junius did run into trouble in these mountains fourteen years later in 311 BC, being ambushed and heavily defeated while executing a campaign against the Caraceni in the Sangrus valley.
. There were very few Roman soldiers who did not receive some wound in this engagement, Livy relates.
. Cutina has variously been connected with the modern towns of Civitaquana and Paganica.
. Cingilia has been variously identified with modern day Civita Aretenga and Penne
. Livy indicates that an objective for Furius was to cover his colleague’s offensive in the central Apennines. Campania was too far south for a covering operation. Therefore, it is likely that the consul was engaging Samnite forces in the Liris-Trerus basin. A notice from Appian (The Samnite History 4.1) states that the between 326 and 321 BC the Samnites and Romans came to blows at Fregellae on the Liris River and it was in 325 BC that Livy has the Samnites finally putting an army in the field. On a final note, the one place-name that Livy does provide, the otherwise un-attested Inbrinium, can be translated as ‘between two rivers’. Perhaps these two rivers were the Liris and Trerus, only a mile or so distant from Fregellae at their meeting point.
. Perhaps Papius Brutulus
. Perhaps the fresh maniples of the Principes or Triarii were sent in at this point. Cavalry charges would have been an excellent way to allow the lines if the triplex acies to interchange
. Tr. Fasti, March 5, 323 BC
. The Samnites were likely ready to give up claims to Fregellae and Neapolis at this point. Perhaps a Roman demand for the Samnites to agree to become subjects of the Romans, instead of the old treaty of equals, was a major sticking point.
. The primary source for the events of 323 BC is Livy 8.37
. In no way was this a uniform truth, however. Not all sabellians were pro-Samnite and not all messapii were pro-Roman. The intricacies of the political situation in Apulia is unknown to us.
. Likely aided by Taras.
. The primary source for the campaign on 322 BC is Livy 8.38-40
. This is entirely possible. Although Samnium was far from economically rich, there did exist a Samnite nobility that could have supported the hiring of mercenaries for a short time. If the case, it is a clear indication of the relative weakness of the Samnite league vis-a-vis the Romans
. Livy found much confusion in his sources over whether it was M. Fulvius or a dictator A. Cornelius Arvina, who commanded in the west this year. He states that Cornelius may have only been made dictator for duties at home, and in this report he is backed up by the Triumphal Fasti, who credit Fulvius with a Triumph (Feb 17, 321 BC). The present author on balance chooses to credit Fulvius with the command in 322 BC.
. Livy 8.38.10-12
. Appian, The Samnite History, 3.5. We may safely assume that the high count indicates that many of these settlements were villages.
. Diodorus, 19.10
. The great fertility of the region, in grains and cattle, likely made it easier for the Romans to find willing recruits for this remote theatre.
. Triumphal Fasti, Feb 18, 321 BC
. The primary sources for the campaign of 321 BC are Livy (9.1-7), Dionysius (16.1-2) and Appian (3.6-11)
. There is much scholarly debate about the exact location of the Caudine Forks. The present author sides with Salmon (1967) that one fork, the defile used by the Romans in 321 BC, was the one that led past Suessula into the Isclero valley. The author proposes that the other fork was the defile that followed the Isclero river up from the Volturnus valley by Saticula into the Isclero valley.
. Livy indicates that Rome’s did not hear news of the debacle until it was far too late.
. There is also debate among scholars of whether the peace was actually a treaty (foedus) or only a truce (sponsio)
. Salmon (1967). It is quite possible that Luceria always had been Samnite, as the tradition is not clear on the matter. All the is certain is that it was much disputed during the larger conflict.
. Dionysius (Fragment, 15.2)
Copyright © 2010 Gordon Davis.
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About the author:
Gordon Davis is an amatuer military historian, residing in Toronto, Canada. He is especially
interested in the Early Roman Republic and Napoleonic History. He maintains two historical
Published online: 10/09/2010.
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