Ancient History & Civilisation


The city was destroyed; its internal stability was shaken; there was no army of defence; the alliance with the Latins and Hernici had collapsed; the Gauls might return. But in these dark days the spirit of the Roman people did not waver. Wise leadership and the patriotism of the citizen body saved Rome. The internal struggle of the orders reached fever pitch in 367, but concessions were granted just in time to avoid disaster. So Rome set her shoulder to the gruelling task of reconstruction at home and abroad; that she accomplished so much is due largely to the wise direction of Camillus. The main work was to rebuild and protect the city. As earthworks had proved useless against the Gallic attack, a solid stone wall some twelve feet thick and twenty-four feet high, backed by the earlier agger which was now raised to the same height, was constructed around the whole city, including the Aventine, a distance of 5½ miles; traces of this so-called Servian wall still survive. It was perhaps not begun till 378 and was constructed of large blocks of tufa from the Grotta Oscura near Veii; the masons’ marks suggest that Rome, like any contemporary Greek city, imported a special building staff of Greek contractors, though the labour may have been supplied by the Roman army.18 The modernization of the army and the adaptation of the constitution to meet the pressing demands of the plebs, whose military services were more vital than ever, will be discussed later. How Rome addressed herself to her external problems is now the question.

Once again the Romans were forced to fight on many fronts and to face the hostility of Etruscans, Hernici, Aequi, Volsci and Gauls; and although there was no general revolt of the Latins as in 496 or 340, individual cities were restless and discontented. The traditional account of these wars is accepted in outline by some modern historians, but by others it is completely rejected: for instance, the verdict of K. J. Beloch is that ‘in the thirty years after the Gallic catastrophe Rome had not to wage any great wars’.19 The tradition is confused and confusing: great battles are won with little or no apparent result; cities are taken and retaken with monotonous regularity; the indefatigable Camillus is here, there and everywhere; vanquished foes reappear in full force the year after their defeat and even Livy begins to wonder whence the Volscians derived their inexhaustible supply: ‘unde totiens victis Volscis suffecerint milites’ (vi, 12, 2). The chronology is confused; many incidents are obviously duplicated and some are mere inventions dictated by national or family pride. But if due allowance is made for the unevenness of the annalistic tradition, and for the fact that many of these wars were merely glorified border raids, it may be conceded that the main lines of Rome’s recovery are clearly defined. With this warning in mind the traditional account may be briefly followed.

The Etruscans, who were the first to take advantage of Rome’s weakness by attacking Sutrium and Nepete in 389, were quickly beaten back by Camillus (Livy (vi, 3, 9) wrongly recounts similar events in 386). It was at this time that the territory of Veii was annexed and formed into the four new tribes and now, if not earlier, Sutrium and Nepete received their Latin colonists. Rome’s willingness to share these two outposts against Etruria with her Latin allies is the measure of her weakness and her wisdom. For the next thirty years Etruria gave little trouble.20 Of the Latin towns Tibur severed relations with Rome, though it did not break into open war until 360. Praeneste, which had probably remained outside the League, and Velitrae were ready to join hands with the Volsci. Tusculum, which was surrounded by Roman territory, showed slight hesitation in 381; but when the Romans approached it and found everything quiet they granted it peace and soon afterwards full Roman citizenship. Aricia, Ardea, Lavinium and Lanuvium remained loyal, as did some Latin cities in Volscian territory: Cora, Norba and Signia, together with Setia, which received a colony in 382. It is recorded that the Latins in alliance with the Volsci were defeated in 386 and 385 and again in 377 after they had captured Satricum; thereafter they remained quiet. The Hernici, who joined in the disturbances of 386, shared in the defeat and remained inactive for twenty-three years. The neighbouring Aequi had already been vanquished at Bola in 388. It was the Volsci who gave most trouble. They were led by the men of Antium and Satricum and supported by Velitrae; but these western towns were separated from the eastern ones of the Liris valley by the colonies at Circeii and Setia. The war ended with the destruction of Satricum and the forced re-entry of Antium and Velitrae into the League, but the details are doubtful. It is said that the Volsci who advanced to Lanuvium were defeated by Camillus at Marcion (or Maecium) in 389 and at Satricum in 386, and by A. Cornelius Cossus in 385, when a colony was planted at Satricum. Further Roman victories are recorded in 381 and 377; in the course of the war, which was not completed till 338, Satricum was said to have been captured no less than four times and Velitrae was repeatedly besieged.21

During the decade following 377 Rome enjoyed comparative peace abroad, but suffered at home from the disturbances which led up to the Licinian reforms; the annalists had sufficient domestic news without having to elaborate the border fighting. At the end of the 360s foreign affairs again predominate. With their internal difficulties now alleviated the Romans turned to the Hernici. After a defeat in 362 they captured Ferentinum in 361; three years later the Hernici asked for peace and were readmitted to alliance with Rome, but on less favourable terms than before. The Latin cities of Velitrae, Tibur and Praeneste were also restless and even employed Gauls as mercenaries against Rome; these were defeated near the Colline Gate in 360. By 358 Rome had reasserted her authority over the Latins, who had to renew the old treaty of Spurius Cassius, probably on less favourable terms. Naturally they were no longer allowed to appoint a commander in turn; the new League was under the nominal control of two annual praetors who were subordinate to the Roman consuls in the federal army. The defaulting cities were forced to re-enter the League; Velitrae, Antium, Tibur, Nomentum, Pedum, Privernum and Praeneste had all toed the line by 354. Antium was deprived of part of its territory, which was not incorporated into the League but was annexed by Rome and formed into two new tribes (the Pomptina and Poplilia; 358) as the Veientane territory had been. This raised the total number of tribes to twenty-seven.

The renewal of the Latin League appeared as a threat to Etruria. In 359 the men of Tarquinii took up arms, and they were aided two years later by Falerii. In 353 Caere joined Tarquinii, but was quickly defeated by Rome and was accorded a hundred years’ truce. Tarquinii and Falerii were brought to heel in 351 and were granted a forty years’ truce. Eight years later Falerii exchanged the truce for a permanent alliance with Rome. The details of these Etruscan wars are uncertain, but the result is important. For forty years Rome was free from danger on her northern front while she was busy asserting her authority in central Italy. Rome’s treatment of Caere is controversial. At some time Caere received civitas sine suffragio, which meant that it shared the private privileges and obligations of Roman citizenship (commercium, conubium and militia). It was later regarded as the first municipium to receive this privilege, which was granted as a reward for protecting the Vestal Virgins during the Gallic invasion of 390. Another tradition, which suggests that this treatment was regarded as a punishment (for some unspecified revolt in the third century?), reflects conditions of a later period when civitas sine suffragio was considered an inferior form of citizenship. If this latter tradition be accepted, Caere probably received a contract of hospitium with Rome in 390, a treaty of alliance for 100 years in 353, and civitas sine suffragio perhaps between 353 and 338 or not until c. 274.22

For thirty years after the sack of Rome the Gauls, according to Polybius, refrained from further attack; when they returned Rome was safe behind her new-built walls. Livy, however, recounts various battles against the Gauls in 367, 361 and 360; in one of these T. Manlius Torquatus fought a duel with a gigantic Gaul and robbed him of his torque or collar. Doubtless the Gauls who had penetrated as far south as Apulia occasionally raided Latium, but the traditional Roman victories in the field may be questioned.23 In 332–331 when the Celtic advance on the Danube was checked by Alexander the Great, the Romans concluded a thirty years’ treaty with the Senones. The Gallic effort was slackening. They could not capture walled towns and began to question their ability to repeat the performance of Allia. For fifty or more years they had been a serious menace, but they had presented no real hin -drance to Rome’s revival. Indeed, by weakening Etruria, by forcing on Rome the role of Italian martyr, and by making the Italic tribes more conscious of their ethnic unity and their indebtedness to Rome, the Gauls hastened the recovery of the city they had laid low. After a number of transitory raids and one or two major episodes they withdrew beyond the Apennines, but they left behind an uncomfortable memory from which the Romans never quite shook themselves free.

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