Accession Of The Etruscans To The Coalition-- Victory At The Vadimonian Lake

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

Last Campaigns In Samnium

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

Peace With Samnium

The fall of the chief stronghold of the land terminated the twenty-two years' war.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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