Ancient History & Civilisation

6. THE END OF PRE-ROMAN ITALY

The fate of Magna Graecia was decided when Pyrrhus left Italy and sealed when it was known the king would never return. Rome merely had to put the finishing touches to the work of pacifying and organizing Italy. In the south the Lucanians were defeated, but received no severer punishment than the settlement of a Latin colony at Paestum (273); the Bruttians were deprived of half their forest-land though they retained some autonomy; Velia, Heraclea, Thurii and Metapontum became allies of Rome in 272, if not earlier; Croton and Locri were brought back to the Roman fold;21 the Epirote garrison of Tarentum surrendered at the approach of a consular army (272); the garrison of Campanian mercenaries in Rhegium, who had mutinied and seized the town like the Mamertines in Messina across the Straits, was stormed by Cornelius Blasio, and 300 survivors were executed in Rome (270);22 finally Apulia and Messapia were brought into alliance (267–266), the Sallentini in the heel of Italy were defeated, and land was confiscated from Brundisium which received a Latin colony some years later (244); by their possession of Rhegium and Brundisium the Romans held the keys to both the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas.

The exact status of these Greek cities which came into alliance with Rome is uncertain; perhaps they were generously treated as ‘equals’ and were granted protection without return, for unlike the other members of the Italian confederacy they did not have to supply troops. Shortly afterwards, however, they provided a quota of ships, which at first formed a transport service rather than a fighting force. These socii navales retained full autonomy, apart from Tarentum, which though granted the status of a socius navaliswas punished for its part in the recent war by having to offer hostages and to receive a Roman legion in its citadel. This was Rome’s first standing garrison, designed to watch over southern Italy and to shut the door against any other Greek condottieri.

The Romans also settled accounts with their old enemies and rivals in central and northern Italy. A brief revolt by the Samnite Caraceni in 269 led to severe consequences. The Samnite League was dissolved and the tribal states were broken up into fragments. In fact thereafter they were seldom referred to under the general name of Samnites (which was often applied only to the Pentri); each community was named after its own town. They became isolated states, separate ‘allies’ of Rome. Further, they had to cede much territory to Rome and held less than half of what they had occupied at the beginning of the Samnite Wars. On some of this land two Latin colonies were planted as watchdogs: at Malventum (now renamed Beneventum) against the Hirpini in 268 and at Aesernia against the Pentri in 263. Further, a group of Picentes, who also had revolted, were punished by transportation to an area on the western borders of Samnium (ager Picentinus), thus confining the Samnites still further. In Etruria a Latin colony was settled at Cosa on land ceded by Vulci (273). In 265 an incident at Volsinii demonstrated the internal unrest in Etruria. Commerce had declined, the mines were becoming exhausted and expansion was prevented by Rome, so that the nobles became less wealthy and their retainers less necessary. (Arretium, however, retained a position in the industrial world by producing pottery in place of metal work.) The serfs of Volsinii turned against their masters who appealed to Rome for help. The Romans stormed the city and established the aristocracy in a new town on Lake Bolsena; the serfs perhaps were enslaved (264).23 In Umbria, which had never attained to a real unity, some of the Senones may have lingered at Sarsina until the town was taken by Rome in 268. At the same time the northern frontier was strengthened by sending a Latin colony to Ariminum in the ager Gallicus, where the Apennines reach the Adriatic coast (268).24 In the same year the Sabines were granted full franchise in place of half-citizenship. Finally, the warlike Picentes, who had become Roman allies in 299, revolted in 269 as we have seen, and were quelled the next year. Some were transported to the hills behind Salernum and Paestum; only Asculum retained a treaty of alliance, while the rest of Picenum was incorporated into the Roman state with half-franchise. Their future behaviour was watched over by a Latin colony at Firmum (264). The neighbouring Greek city of Ancona retained its alliance with Rome. Thus the whole of peninsular Italy was brought into the Roman confederacy. An epoch was ended and the history of Roman Italy begins.

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