The Early Republic: consolidation in Latium and the Third Samnite war (303-290 BCE)

Remains of the Roman amphitheatre of Arretium (Arezzo).

A prominent element in the Roman policy of expansion was the founding of colonies in the territories of defeated peoples. The Second Samnite war (327-304 BCE) had seen the founding of the Latin colonies of Suessa, Aurunca, Pontiae and Interamna, which were followed in 303 BCE by Alba Fucens in the territory of the Aequi, and Sora in the territory of the Volsci. Sora had proved to be a fiercely contested town. The Romans had captured or recaptured it in 345 BCE, 314 BCE and 305 BCE, but previous attempts at colonisation had not been successful. The new Latin settlement at Sora, however, would survive. At the same time the founding of Alba Fucens drew the ire of the Aequi. With some justification they saw the new colony as a Roman stronghold (arx in Latin) on their ancestral lands and attacked it in 302 BCE. However, Alba had been populated with 6,000 colonists and was therefore a sizeable settlement. As a consequence, the colonists managed to defeat the attack. The Romans then appointed Gaius Junius Bubulcus dictator. He inflicted a heavy defeat on the Aequi and then added lustre to his triumph by inaugurating the temple of Salus.[1]

Prelude to the Third Samnite war

In the years prior to the third great conflict with the Samnites the Romans were only involved in smaller wars. In 301 BCE they quelled a brief rebellion by the recently subjugated Marsi and intervened in a kind of civil war in the Etruscan city of Arretium (Aritim). The common people there had risen against the pro-Roman clan of the Cilnii, who happened to be the ancestors of the emperor Augustus’ trusted friend and advisor Maecenas.[2] Livius’ account of the Roman intervention is extremely confusing, and our historian admits that there were multiple versions of the story.[3] Nevertheless, the intervention was a success and the Cilnii remained in power. Tradition dictates that Marcus Valerius Corvus had been appointed dictator to fight in the two aforementioned conflicts. It was claimed that at the time he was already well into his seventies or even eighties. For his victories his was awarded a triumph. Corvus then supposedly served as consul for the fifth and sixth time, in 300 and 299 BCE respectively, before dying many years later aged at least 100.[4]

Equipment of a warrior from Picenum.

In 300 BCE several important laws were passed by the popular assembly. A Lex Ogulnia increased the number of pontifices from four to eight and the number of augures from five to nine. The new law furthermore stipulated that half of the pontifices and five out of nine augures had to be plebeians.[5] Obviously only rich plebeians profited from this preferential treatment. Then the aging consul Marcus Valerius Corvus had the people adopt the all-important Lex Valeria, which guaranteed the right of provocatio and possibly complemented older laws from 509 BCE and 449 BCE.[6] The Lex Valeria granted Roman citizens a right to appeal to the people if they were threatened with coercion (coercitio) by a magistrate. The right of provocatio was subsequently extended at the start of the second century BCE by three Leges Porciae. The right could from then on be invoked up to a mile outside the city and also applied if a citizen was threatened with flogging. The legislation of 300 BCE was passed by the people in the assembly of the districts (tribus) and to these districts the tribus Aniensis and tribus Terentina were added in 299 BCE. The total number of tribus was now 33.

Meanwhile the Romans continued their northward expansion. In 299 BCE they took the city of Nequinum in Umbria and founded the Latin colony of Narnia there. A year later the Latin colony of Carseoli was founded in the territory of the Aequi. 4,000 colonists were settled here.[7] The conflict with the Aequi now came to an end. Although old and tenacious enemies of the Romans, it was clear that the Aequi were on their last legs in terms of strength and independence, quite unlike the Celts in the Po valley, especially the Senones. According to the Greek historian Polybius, after fierce conflicts in the fourth century, a peace treaty had been signed by these Celts and Rome in ca. 332-331 BCE.[8] The treaty had held well, but now the Etruscans and Celts were trying to court each other, and this ultimately led to an alliance. The two people were probably fearful of Roman expansion to the north. There can be little doubt that the Etruscans were motivated by fear, but in the case of the Celts hunger for war and booty may also have played a part. In any case, we know that they were paid by their new Etruscan allies. The Romans were of course alarmed by these developments and for their part made an alliance with the inhabitants of Picenum on the other side of the Apennines.[9]

The Third Samnite war – the beginning (298-296 BCE)

Samnite armour.

In 298 BCE the Third Samnite war broke out. Just like the two previous wars it was caused by opportunism. This time it was the Lucani who asked the Romans for aid against their powerful neighbours. The Romans basically had no reason to pledge their support: although the Lucani had been allies at the start of the Second Samnite war, they had defected within the year. The Romans had subsequently fought against them and had in 317 BCE taken the Lucanian city of Nerulum. Now, however, it was standard Roman policy to protect weaker peoples against stronger enemies. There was nothing noble about this policy: it was intended to prevent the stronger parties from becoming even stronger. In this case the comitia centuriata had very few doubts and voted in favour of a third war against the Samnites.[10]

It was a decision that led to a war on two fronts: one against the nascent Etruscan-Celtic coalition in the north and another against the Samnites in the south. It was very important for the Romans to keep these enemies separated from each other. At Volaterrae (Velathri) in Etruria, the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus[11] – Scipio Africanus’ great-grandfather – fought a battle against the Etruscans, who at that point apparently had not received any Celtic reinforcements yet. The battle proved to be particularly bloody and both sides suffered heavy casualties. Although the result was a draw, the Etruscans left the battlefield during the night, so that Scipio could claim that he had won a victory. His colleague Gnaeus Fulvius won a resounding victory over the Samnites at Bovianum. This Bovianum was quite likely the new Bovianum: old Bovianum, the capital of the Samnite Pentri, had been captured and presumably destroyed by the Romans during the Second Samnite war. A new Bovianum had been founded elsewhere, which was now attacked by Fulvius. Livius does not mention that the city was taken, so we may assume it was probably not. Fulvius’ campaign was, however, considered a great success and the consul was awarded a triumph.[12]

The Tomb of Scipio Barbatus (Vatican Museums).

Although hardly impressive, Scipio Barbatus’ minor victory at Volaterrae was apparently enough to convince the Etruscans to open peace negotiations. It is not impossible that the Celts who had been hired to do the dirty work in the war against Rome had taken the money, but then refused to fight, as is suggested by Livius.[13] The peace on the Etruscan front enabled both consuls of 297 BCE to focus on the war in Samnium. The two commanders sent there were very experienced. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus held the office for the fourth time, Publius Decius Mus for the third time. In 308 BCE the two men had also served as consuls together, which may have been the result of a political alliance between the gens Fabia and the gens Decia.[14] Fabius’ entourage now included his son Fabius Gurges as a military tribune and Scipio Barbatus as a legate.

Not far from Tifernum, a settlement in the eponymous mountain range, the Romans under Fabius clashed with the Samnites and won a hard-fought victory. It was basically Scipio who won the day for Rome: he had taken the hastati of the first legion on a flanking manoeuvre and had suddenly appeared on the hills behind the Samnite battle line. The Samnites assumed that the whole army of the other consul had arrived and Fabius was more than happy to let them believe this was the case. The Samnite army fled the battlefield and was said to have suffered 3,400 dead and 830 men taken prisoner. Roman losses are not mentioned, but these must have been significant. The consul Decius had in the meantime had a fairly easy time. At Maleventum he had routed the Apuli, who at the time were allies of the Samnites. 2,000 enemies had reportedly been killed. The two consular armies then marched unopposed through Samnium for five months and thoroughly devastated the region. After their terms of office had expired, the imperium of the two consuls was prorogued, so that they could continue the war as proconsuls. There can be little doubt that many highly experienced veterans of the previous conflict with the Samnites were serving in the two armies. An easy Roman victory in the third conflict seemed to be just a matter of time.[15]

The Via Appia, named after Appius Claudius Caecus.

The Samnites, meanwhile, were desperate. They were loath to engage the Romans on the battlefield and in 296 BCE lost city after city to their opponents, who appeared to be unbeatable. Fortunately for the Samnites, they did enjoy some diplomatic success. A certain Gellius Egnatius had succeeded in forging a large anti-Roman coalition, which did not just comprise Samnites and Etruscans, but also many Umbrians and the Celtic Senones. Livius claims that the latter were in it for the money.[16] When the Romans heard about the coalition they immediately sent the consul Appius Claudius Caecus to Etruria with two legions and 12,000 allies. After Claudius’ arrival in the region a couple of Etruscan cities (we do not know which ones) left the coalition again, but the consul mainly suffered minor defeats. His colleague Lucius Volumnius then came to the rescue, but tradition dictates that Claudius was most unhappy with the other consul’s intervention. There was even an argument between the two men: Volumnius claimed Claudius had sent him a letter with a request for aid, but Claudius vehemently denied this. Proud Roman consuls could very well fend for themselves!

Fortunately for the Romans the consuls buried the hatchet in time. At an unknown location in Etruria, the two Roman armies then confronted a combined Etruscan and Samnite force. The Samnites were led by Gellius Egnatius and had apparently succeeded in reaching Etruria after a long march through the Apennines. During the battle Claudius promised to build a temple for the war goddess Bellona if she would grant the Romans victory. After a hard struggle the Romans did indeed defeat their adversaries. These were said to have lost 7,800 men, while 2,120 Etruscans and Samnites were taken prisoner. These losses may have been exaggerated, but what really mattered was that the anti-Roman coalition had failed, at least for now. The dark cloud did have one silver lining for the Samnites, as Volumnius had been forced to cancel his campaign in Samnium to come to Claudius’ aid. This gave the Samnites some breathing space and allowed them to conduct raids, which included attacks in the vicinity of the Latin colony of Cales. The consul, however, soon returned to the region and struck back hard. At the river Volturnus he managed to surprise and defeat his enemies. The Samnite general Statius Minatius was captured. To increase their influence in the region, the Romans subsequently decided to found the Roman coastal companies of Sinuessa and Minturnae.[17]

Remains of the temple of Bellona. Behind it are three columns of the temple of Apollo.

The Third Samnite war – Sentinum (295 BCE)

For the year 295 BCE the Romans elected two experienced consuls. Again Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus and Publius Decius Mus held the highest office of the Republic together. Strictly speaking their election violated Roman law. After all, the two men had held the consulship just two years previously and for almost fifty years the Lex Genucia had stipulated that a period of ten years (decennium) had to elapse between two consulships. In times of need, however, the law could be set aside, and given the large anti-Roman coalition, this was evidently a time of need. Lucius Volumnius’ imperium was prorogued, so that he was available for the war as well. Appius Claudius Caecus served as praetor; at the time this office was often held after the consulship. Apparently there was some discussion about which consul would be granted Etruria as his province. This was in part a struggle of patricians against plebeians, and in the end the Senate and people granted the assignment to Fabius, a patrician. Livius by the way admits that this is just one version of the story and that other writers reported that the two consuls worked together from the start. There is in any case no doubt that Fabius and Decius eventually collaborated.[18]

Fabius marched to Etruria with reinforcements, took command of Claudius’ army, but soon returned to Rome for consultations. Scipio Barbatus was left behind with the second legion. According to Livius this legion was stationed at Clusium, “formerly called Camars”.[19] Polybius, however, gives us the name Camerinum[20], and linguistically it makes much more sense that this was the city that was previously called Camars. In 310 BCE the Romans had concluded an alliance with the Umbrian city of Camerinum (modern Camerino in the Marche), which makes it fair to assume that the second legion was stationed there. Scipio now found himself under attack from a large force of Senones. The Roman commander made a huge tactical blunder, which allowed the Celts to get behind his troops. The second legion must have been cut up badly, although Livius also mentions traditions that claim that Roman losses were not that heavy.[21] Scipio in any case survived the battle. He would go on to hold other commands and served as censor fifteen years later.

Some Celtic war gear.

Scipio’s defeat was presumably humiliating rather than serious, but it did require a determined response from the consuls. A sizeable Roman army now marched towards the enemy. It comprised 4 legions (ca. 20,000 men), a large number of cavalry (ca. 1,200 men), 1,000 elite Campanian horsemen and a large number of cohorts of Latins and other allies (over 20,000 men). In addition there were two smaller armies led by two propraetors. These armies invaded Etruscan and Umbrian territories and with these actions the Romans managed to rip the grand coalition apart. The Etruscans and Umbrians abandoned the Samnites and Senones and rushed back to their homes and hearths to save as much as possible. At Sentinum (not far from modern Sassoferrato in the Marche), the decisive battle then took place between the Romans on the one hand and the Samnites and Senones on the other. The two armies must have been of about equal size, but the Romans had great difficulty in getting their enemies to actually fight. After two days of skirmishes, the Samnites and Senones finally accepted the offer to do battle.

The battle of Sentinum remained undecided for a long time. At some point the Roman and allied cavalry gained the upper hand, but the Celts then responded by deploying a secret weapon: chariots. Celtic chariots were important status symbols for noble Celtic warriors, but they were in fact used in battle too. A chariot was manned by a driver and a warrior. The former controlled the vehicle, while the latter hurled javelins, jumped off the cart to engage in combat and then jumped on it again and drove away if he was hard-pressed.[22] The horses used by the Romans panicked when they heard the rattling of the Celtic vehicles and the Roman horsemen and their allies were driven off. The rout of the cavalry subsequently increased the pressure on the Roman, Latin and Italian infantry.

Publius Decius Mus had deployed the fifth and sixth legion on the left wing, opposite the Senones. His wing bore the brunt of the fighting: losses here were at least four times higher than on the other wing. When his lines were about to collapse, the consul decided to sacrifice himself. He devoted himself to the deities of the underworld and then charged home. Decius was quickly killed, and thus he followed in his father’s footsteps: the older Decius had sacrificed himself in a similar fashion in 340 BCE during the Latin war. Although one of their commanders had now fallen, the Roman lines held, and on the right wing Fabius managed to push back the Samnites. He then ordered the elite Campanian horsemen to attack the Celts in the rear, followed by the principes of the third legion. The consul promised to build and dedicate a temple to Jupiter Victor if the attack succeeded. And the attack did succeed. The Samnites were destroyed at their camp and their commander Gellius Egnatius, who also happened to be the architect of the grand coalition, was killed in the fighting. The Senones for their part proved to be no match for the furious Campanians and vengeful Roman infantry. According to Livius the Samnites and Celts together lost 25,000 men, not including another 8,000 men taken prisoner. But Roman losses were significant as well: 8,700 Romans, Latins and other allies had fallen. The consul Fabius was awarded a triumph for his victory.[23]

Samnite warrior.

The Roman victory at Sentinum was followed by other successes. Of the Samnites that managed to flee the battlefield some 1,000 were slaughtered when they marched through the territory of the Paeligni, who were Roman allies. One of the propraetors defeated troops from Perusia and Clusium, while the proconsul Volumnius enjoyed several successes in Samnium. However, there were setbacks as well. Perusia rebelled and had to be subjugated again using brute force. The Samnites for their part were still anything but defeated. Volumnius had by now been joined by Appius Claudius’ army, and at Caiatia the two commanders confronted their adversaries. Livius reports that 16,300 Samnites were killed and another 2,700 taken prisoner. The Romans reportedly lost 2,700 men.[24] Perhaps these numbers are inflated, but there can be no doubt that the battle of Caiatia was a violent and bloody affair.

The Third Samnite war continues (294-293 BCE)

In spite of their significant successes in battle the Romans would need another five years to end the Third Samnite war. The Samnites were simply tough fighters who did not give up easily. The year 294 BCE started badly for Rome when the new consul Lucius Postumius Megellus fell ill and as a consequence was unable to travel to Samnium. His colleague Marcus Atilius Regulus did set out for the area, and on the border of Samnium his camp was attacked by the enemy. Although the Samnites were repulsed after some fierce fighting, Roman losses were considerable. 730 Romans and allies were said to have been killed, whereas Samnite losses amounted to about 300 killed. Among the Roman dead was Regulus’ quaestor, one Lucius Opimius Pansa.[25]

Theatre of the Third Samnite war (source: Ancient World Mapping Center. “À-la-carte”; CC BY 4.0).

Lictors, the aides of the consuls.

News of the attack on the Roman camp caused the consul Postumius to depart for Samnium even before he had fully recovered from his illness. The consul was a veteran of the Second Samnite war and immediately won a few successes by taking a couple of towns. His colleague Regulus was less fortunate. While on his way to Luceria in Apulia, which was under siege from the Samnites, Regulus’ army clashed with a Samnite force. The battle ended in a draw, but again Roman losses were higher. The first clash was followed by a second confrontation, which was about to turn into a Roman defeat when a large part of the Roman army fled. It was then that the consul, emulating the great king Romulus from Rome’s legendary past, promised to dedicate a temple to Jupiter Stator if the Roman supreme god stopped the Roman flight. The promise was followed by a Roman Pyrrhic victory. Again the Romans had lost more men than the Samnites, 7,800 vs. 4,800, but they did manage to take 8,000 enemies prisoner. These prisoners were then sent under the yoke.[26]

Meanwhile another Samnite army had assaulted the Latin colony of Interamna. The attack had ended in failure, and while the Samnites were pillaging the surrounding area, they were suddenly surprised by the consul Regulus. Regulus now finally won a resounding victory, and that unfortunately made him overconfident. The consul asked the Senate for a triumph, but his request was – obviously – denied because of the significant losses he had suffered during previous engagements. His colleague Postumius had done a much better job. After ending his campaign in Samnium early, Postumius had marched to Etruria. The Etruscans were unable to mobilise any effective resistance. The consul devastated the territory of Volsinii (Velzna) and defeated its army. Rusellae (Rasela) was also defeated and then captured by the consul. Volsinii and the large Etruscan cities of Arretium (Aritim) and Perusia (Perusna) subsequently asked for peace. The Romans granted them a 40-year armistice, but also ordered the cities to pay a fine of 500,000 asses. The consul had won considerable successes, but the Senate refused to award him a triumph, a decision that was influenced by Postumius’ bad relationship with a large number of senators. The angry consul then decided to hold his own private triumph, which caused his popularity with the Senate to plummet even deeper.[27]

In 293 BCE a badly documented war broke out with the Sabines, the last in Roman history. Since about the founding of the city the Sabines had been part of the history of Rome. There had been Sabine kings, and one of the most important patrician families, the gens Claudia, was of Sabine stock. On the other hand, there had also been many wars between the Romans and Sabines, especially in the fifth century BCE. The following decades had been relatively peaceful, and we do not know the background of the new conflict that erupted in 293 BCE. It is possible that the Romans simply wanted to get rid of their old enemies for good and wanted to take away their final bit of independence. The new consul Spurius Carvilius took the city of Amiternum by storm. Amiternum was located deep in the mountains and Livius erroneously calls it a Samnite city[28], which it was most definitely not. It is very likely that the Sabines living so deep in the Apennines had always remained hostile towards the Romans.

Imperial Roman legionaries forming testudo with their shields (Trajan’s column, Rome).

Together with Lucius Papirius, his fellow consul and the son of the famous Papirius Cursor, Carvilius then launched a campaign in Samnium. While the former started the siege of Cominium, the latter advanced on Aquilonia. The distance between the two Roman camps was just 20 miles, and the two armies kept close contact and coordinated their actions. These actions included fierce fighting at Aquilonia, where the consul had ignored bad omens and almost paid the price for it. In the end, however, the infamous ‘Linen Legion’ of the Samnites (legio linteata) was defeated. The Romans then successfully stormed the enemy camp and the town of Aquilonia itself. It was Scipio Barbatus who led the assault. He had his men deploy in testudo formation and directed them to the walls under a hail of rocks. In the meantime the other consul took Cominium. Both towns were thoroughly pillaged and then set ablaze. The Samnites had lost thousands of men dead, wounded and taken prisoner, but still they refused to surrender. The two consuls therefore continued their campaign and took several more towns. One of the settlements they conquered was Herculaneum on the Gulf of Naples, which became famous after the Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE.[29]

It should not come as a surprise that both consuls were awarded a triumph. Papirius returned to Rome and therefore held his triumph first. The Romans watched in amazement as enormous amounts of loot were paraded through the city, reportedly 2,533,000 pounds of copper and 1,830 pounds of silver.[30] Carvilius had to wait a little longer for his triumph, as he had been sent to Etruria to deal with some rebellious cities and their allies the Falisci. We do not know which cities were involved in the rebellion, but it is possible that the cities that had been granted long armistices the previous year (see above) were among the participants. Carvilius’ new campaign was a success, and after his return to Rome he too was allowed to celebrate his triumph. The amount of copper he paraded during the triumph – a mere 380,000 pounds – looked a bit pale compared to what his colleague had confiscated.

The Third Samnite war – the final years (292-290 BCE)

Rome had by now become a very large city and the territory inhabited by her citizens was huge. Livius claims that 262,321 Roman citizens were counted during the 293-292 BCE census. That number is very high, and we may never know who exactly were counted (and whether the numbers recorded are correct).[31] The Roman population must have dwindled soon after, for in 293 BCE Rome was struck by a terrible plague. According to Livius the Romans then sent a delegation to Epidauros on the Peloponnesos, which was famous for its temple of Asklepios (Asclepius or Aesculapius in Latin). People from all over the Greek world came to Epidauros to find cures for their afflictions, and apparently they were quite often healed. The Roman delegation had been ordered to acquire a statue of Asclepius, but it appears that it only managed to obtain a snake. The snake happened to be Asclepius’ sacred animal: the healing god is always depicted with a snake-entwined staff, which is still a symbol of medicine and physicians. Once back in Rome the snake escaped from the ship and slithered down a hole on the Tiber island. On that spot the Romans decided to build a temple dedicated to Asclepius.[32] Nowadays we find the church of San Bartolomeo all’Isola here.

View of theTiber island. The building with the tower is the church of San Bartolomeo all’Isola.

The war against the Samnites had in the meantime entered its final phase. We are poorly informed about the events during this phase, as Books 11-20 of Livius’ work have been lost. Fortunately we do have excerpts from these books (Periochae), so we know that in 292 BCE the consul Quintus Fabius Maximus Gurges fought against the Samnites without success. The Senate contemplated recalling him, but thanks to an intervention by his father, the famous Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, the consul was allowed to keep his command, with his father serving as one of his legates. This was a smart move, as Fabius Gurges subsequently beat the Samnites and was awarded a triumph. Gaius Pontius, one of the most talented Samnite commanders, was paraded in the procession. Pontius was a veteran of the Second Samnite war and had been the chief architect of the disgraceful Roman defeat at the Caudine Forks (321 BCE). It was clear that he had no reason to expect clemency, and after the triumph he was decapitated.[33]

Asclepius, the Roman god of healing (Capitoline Museums, Rome).

The Senate decided to prorogue Fabius Gurges’ imperium so that, in 291 BCE, he could direct the siege of Cominium as proconsul. Obviously this was a different Cominium from the one devastated in 293 BCE. In the meantime the impetuous Lucius Postumius Megellus had once again been elected consul. Technically this was a violation of the Lex Genucia, as less than ten years had passed since his last consulship. Postumius was eager to get Fabius Gurges out of the way as quickly as possible. As consul he outranked Gurges, so he decided to chase the proconsul from his camp and took over his command and army. When the Senate protested, Postumius bluntly informed the senators that the consul governed the Senate, not the other way round. Postumius may have lacked tact, but he was a very successful commander. He first took Cominium and then went on to conquer Venusia on the border of Apulia and Lucania.[34] Not much later a Roman colony was founded there.

The next year, in 290 BCE, the Third Samnite war came to an end. This was mainly due to the efforts of the consul Manius Curius Dentatus. Dentatus was the first and only scion of the gens Curia ever to reach the consulship. According to tradition he had been born with a full set of teeth, which explains the nickname Dentatus (‘toothed’). Although he would win his most lasting fame in the later war against king Pyrrhos of Epirus, Dentatus’ achievements in 290 BCE were anything but negligible. The consul first defeated the Samnites and then the Sabines. The latter people were now finally fully subjugated. Since he had beaten two peoples, Dentatus was allowed to celebrate two triumphs.[35]

Construction of temples

Temples C (right) and D (left), dedicated to Feronia and the Lares Permarini.

To conclude this post I will briefly take stock of the many temples that were built and inaugurated in the period discussed here. The Roman successes in foreign wars had led to much booty, which was used to finance the construction of a large number of new temples. These were not just sanctuaries for the deities they were dedicated to, but also status symbols for the victorious generals. Of some of the temples we can still find traces in modern Rome. A famous example is the temple of the war goddess Bellona, which had been promised in 296 BCE by the then-consul Appius Claudius Caecus. Only the temple podium has been preserved and can be found behind the Theatre of Marcellus and next to the paltry remains of the temple of Apollo (see the image above). If we study the aforementioned church of San Bartolomeo all’Isola on the Tiber island closely, we will notice a few remnants of the temple of Asclepius on the right side. The source of the well in the choir of the church also dates from the Roman era. And then we have the remains of the temple of Feronia in the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina (image on the right). This temple was closely linked to Manius Curius Dentatus’ victory over the Sabines in 290 BCE. Feronia was Sabine fertility goddess, who also had a famous sacred grove at Capena, north of Rome, in the territory of the Falisci.

Church of Santi Cosma e Damiano, with the ‘Temple of Romulus’.

Much less has been preserved of the other temples that I would like to mention. Sometimes we do not even know the locations. In the Imperial age there was presumably a temple on the Palatine Hill dedicated to Jupiter Victor[36], but there is no evidence that this building was a successor to the temple promised by Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus in 295 BCE at Sentinum and built by his son Fabius Gurges in 289 BCE. That temple may have stood on the Quirinal Hill, although we cannot be certain.[37] There is considerable debate about the location of the temple of Jupiter Stator, promised in 294 BCE by Marcus Atilius Regulus. Citing Fabius Pictor, Livius states that Romulus had previously only dedicated a fanum or shrine to Jupiter Stator and that it was Regulus who now began construction of a proper temple.[38] The temple was probably built against the Palatine Hill, just south of the Via Sacra.[39] However, others claim that the temple of Jupiter Stator stood on the Forum Romanum, on the spot where we now find the so-called ‘Temple of Romulus’, which is part of the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano.[40]

The temple of Quirinus, the deified Romulus, was inaugurated in 293 BCE by Lucius Papirius. It had, however, been promised by Lucius’ father, the famous Papirius Cursor, when he was serving as dictator, presumably in 310-309 BCE.[41] The temple was obviously situated on the Quirinal Hill and we can pinpoint its location quite well. The building stood on the summit, along the ancient street known as the Alta Semita, about where we now find the Giardini del Quirinale.[42] While serving as aedile in 295 BCE, the aforementioned Fabius Gurges used the fines he had collected from adulterers to finance the construction of a temple for Venus ‘which stands near the Circus [Maximus]’.[43] We must probably locate this temple of Venus Obsequens (‘Venus the Obedient’), the first of its kind, on the north-eastern slope of the (Large) Aventine. According to an alternative tradition it was built in 291 BCE using the loot from the Third Samnite war.[44] In 294 BCE Lucius Postumius Megellus dedicated a temple to Victoria, the goddess of victory.[45] This temple stood on the Palatine Hill, next to the temple of Magna Mater, which was built later.[46] Lastly I would like to mention the temple of Fors Fortunae, built in 293 BCE by the consul Spurius Carvilius in the vicinity of a temple which was reportedly built in the sixth century BCE by king Servius Tullius.[47] Both temples stood on the other side of the Tiber, in present-day Trastevere, not far from the river.[48] We must probably locate the remnants of the two buildings underneath the huge complex of San Michele a Ripa.


Primary sources

  • Dionysius van Halicarnassus, Book 17.1-17.5;
  • Livius, Ab urbe condita, Book 10;
  • Livius, Periochae 11;
  • Polybius, Book 2.19.

Secondary sources

  • Stephen Allen, Lords of Battle, p. 44 and 134-135;
  • Dominique Briquel, De Etrusken, p. 83-84;
  • Andrea Carandini (ed.), The Atlas of Ancient Rome, part 1 and part 2;
  • Andrew Lintott, The Constitution of the Roman Republic, p. 37-38;
  • Philip Matyszak, Chronicle of the Roman Republic, p. 69-75;
  • Timothy Venning, A Chronology of the Roman Empire, p. 74-77.


[1] Livius 10.1.

[2] Dominique Briquel, De Etrusken, p. 83-84.

[3] Livius 10.3-10.5.

[4] Philip Matyszak, Chronicle of the Roman Republic, p. 69-70. This source assumes that Corvus lived between 386 BCE and 285 BCE. Other sources give his years of birth and death as ca. 370 and 270 BCE.

[5] Livius 10.6.

[6] Livius 10.9; Andrew Lintott, The Constitution of the Roman Republic, p. 37-38.

[7] Livius 10.3, 10.9-10.10 and 10.13.

[8] Polybius 2.19; Stephen Allen, Lords of Battle, p. 44.

[9] Livius 10.10.

[10] Livius 10.12; Dionysius of Halicarnassus 17.1-17.3.

[11] Barbatus means ‘bearded’. Plinius the Elder claims that in 300 BCE the first barbers arrived from Sicily in Rome. Prior to that Roman men did not shave (Historia Naturalis 7.211).

[12] Livius 10.12-10.13. Timothy Venning, A Chronology of the Roman Empire, p. 75 does believe that the city was taken.

[13] Livius 10.10.

[14] Venning, p. 75.

[15] Livius 10.14-10.16.

[16] Livius 10.18.

[17] Livius 10.18-10.21; Matyszak, p. 72.

[18] Livius 10.24 and 10.26.

[19] Livius 10.25.

[20] Polybius 2.19.

[21] Livius 10.26. The author does not believe the version that the enemies were Umbrians.

[22] Allen, p. 134-135.

[23] Livius 10.26-10.30, Polybius 2.19.

[24] Livius 10.30.

[25] Livius 10.32-10.33.

[26] Livius 10.34-10.36.

[27] Livius 10.36-10.37. Livius also mentions the versions of the annalists Claudius Quadrigarius (first century BCE) and Fabius Pictor (third century BCE). Claudius’ version paints a far less flattering picture of Postumius and a far more flattering one of Regulus.

[28] Livius 10.39.

[29] Livius 10.39-10.45.

[30] Livius 10.46.

[31] Livius 10.47.

[32] Livius, Periochae 11.

[33] Livius, Periochae 11.

[34] Dionysius of Halicarnassus 17.4-17.5.

[35] Livius, Periochae 11.

[36] Andrea Carandini (ed.), The Atlas of Ancient Rome, part 1, p. 253; part 2, Tab. 80.

[37] The Atlas of Ancient Rome, part 1, p. 452.

[38] Livius 10.37.

[39] The Atlas of Ancient Rome, part 2, Tab. 19C, 61D, 73.

[40] The Atlas of Ancient Rome, part 2, Tab. 100b, a.t. 19.

[41] Livius 10.46. Cursor served as dictator in 325 BCE as well.

[42] The Atlas of Ancient Rome, part 1, p. 452; part 2, Tab. 180-181, a.t. 10.

[43] Livius 10.31.

[44] The Atlas of Ancient Rome, part 1, p. 328 and 428-429.

[45] Livius 10.33.

[46] The Atlas of Ancient Rome, part 1, p. 224; part 2, Tab 65.

[47] Livius 10.46.

[48] The Atlas of Ancient Rome, part 2, Tab. 250.

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