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Gauls occupy Rome

Third war against Veii

405-395 BC

When the armistice of 20 years had ended, Rome and Veii, lying too close to one another, went to war once more.

The city of Veii was too strong and too well protected by walls to take it by storming. This time the Romans besieged the city. This was a break with the Roman tradition (and of most other peoples) to fight a summer campaign and then return home. Besieging means staying around the besieged city until they give up or you breach their defenses. Summer and winter. Many of the soldiers were in fact farmers, who now couldn't attend their pieces of land.
Their protests didn't help, because of the soldiers pay; the senate stated they were paid and had to stay.

Of course the peoples tribunes protested, but they found their match in yet another Appius Claudius, who made a lengthy speech and convinced the people this war had to be fought till the end. It must have been clear to the senate that one of the two cities had to disappear and it is obvious they preferred to destroy Veii.

Little help
Veii was an Etruscan city, yet the other cities did not come to their aid. In 402 however, two other peoples did. The Capenates and the Falicians; two cities near Veii. They feared, with good reason that if Veii fell, they might be next in line to be conquered by Rome. They attacked the Romans near Veii. The Veients sent out their army and the Romans got trapped between the two armies.

Two of the Roman commanders disliked each other very much. Sergius refused to ask Verginius for help and Verginius refused to help when Sergius did not ask for it. So the Romans lost quite a few men.

The senate decided to replace these incompetent tribunes and organize new elections immediately, the two consular tribunes at first refused to resign and had to be forced to by threatening to appoint a dictator. New levies were held and a new war tax raised. When, due to the levies, not enough candidates came forward for the function of peoples tribune, the senate ordered them to be co-opted.

But nevertheless the peoples tribunes started proceeding against the two consular tribunes of the last year. They were fined 10,000 ases each. Another consequence was the first ever election of a plebeian in the function of consular tribune : P. Licinius Calvus. He did quite well and the next year(399) five of the six tribunes were plebeian.

Bad portents
As to be expected the patricians didn't like this development and when a severe winter was followed by a pestilential summer they grabbed their chance. The sibylline books were consulted and after a lot of mumbo jumbo the priests declared that the gods were angry because of the plebeians in such a high function. They pushed forward the highest patricians in rank and achieved all new elected consular tribunes to be patrician. The way Livius reports about this clarifies also his position in the matter: where he at other occasions shows his doubts about prodigies, here he shows no doubt at all.

Strong believe in prodigies by the Romans:
An aged Vientiane announced the Romans would never conquer Veii until the water had been drawn form the Alban lake The Romans didn't know to believe this or not and sent an embassy to the oracle of Delphi. When the embassy returned and told the oracle confirmed the the claim of the old man, the Romans actually dug a tunnel into the Alban lake to prevent their fields being flooded by the water of the Alban lake.

Remains of Veii
According to Livius Veii wasn't destroyed by the Romans. But nothing is left of the city. Only the remains of the temple, that stayed in use after the conquest, are still recognizable.(click to enlarge)

    temple of Apollo    
of the temple of
    Impression of the ancient building
without altering
the remains    
    gutter for the blood
Gutter for
all the blood
    altar for the sacrifices
remains of the
altar for
    lots of blood were spilled here
Lots of blood
were spilled here
    reconstruction of the tympan
of the tympan
    Veii has been destroyed
Veii has been
thoroughly destroyed
    All there is left of Veii
A couple of
stones no more
is left

A new player
The incursion of a new player prevented most of the other Etruscan cities to change their minds and come to the aid of Veii: The Gauls entered Etruria and the Etruscans now had problems of their own.
Still Falicians and Capenates gave the Romans a hard time.

A dictator
In the tenth year of the war the Romans appointed a dictator: M. Furius Camillus. He appointed P. Cornelius Scipio as his master of the horse. Beside the usual measures he ordered a tunnel to be dug under the city, like had been done in the conquest of Fidenae in 435. Strange no one had thought of that before. Veii was taken and who survived was sold into slavery. The money realized was paid into the public treasury. The other booty was left to the soldiers who could keep as much as they could carry. Later Camillus ordered ten percent back because he had vowed that percentage to Apollo. Because of this he lost a lot of his popularity.

The statue of Juno was solemnly transported from Veii to Roma. The statue was said to have nodded, when asked if she would like to come to Roma.


Apollo with the lyre
Glyptothek München


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