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Ancient texts

Liv. (8.3-13)

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2nd Samnite war

War against the Latins

340-338 bc


Bending history
In 341 bc the Samnites requested for peace. The senate decided to renew the piece treaty, while stating that it had not been the Romans who broke the treaty in the first place! Yet it had been the Romans who attacked the Samnites. This is how the Romans created their "just wars".

Samnites ask Rome for help
In the mean time several Latin cities had become more and more seditious and tried to free themselves from Roman rule. At several occasions they had refused to deliver troops for the Roman wars. They even attacked the Samnites on their own account. Now it were the Samnites who asked Rome for help.

Latin demands
The Roman senate summoned the 10 most important leaders of the Latins. They declared through Annius to accept a friendships treaty only if they would be treated like equals and half of the senators in Rome would be Latins and one of the consuls would be Latin as well. Consul T. Manlius proudly refused even to consider the proposal and threw Annius literally out of the senate building. A new war was a fact. This time the Samnite would fight alongside the Romans.

The dream
Both consuls moved their legions to the neighborhood of Capua. Here both consuls are said to have had the same dream: "One of the consuls has to devote himself to Dii Manes (Mother earth)". After consulting the priests and after inspection of sacrificed animals they decided the consuls whose army began to give way should sacrifice himself.

Son of the consul beheaded
Because the Latins organized their army the same way the Romans did and because they had on many occasions fought together and to avoid confusion the order was issued no one was to leave his post to fight with the enemy.

T. Manlius the son of the consuls and was in command of a reconnaissance troop encountered the Latin Geminus Maecius, who challenged him to a single combat fight. T. Manlius accepted and killed the Latin.(Here this translation states : "Manlius standing up in his stirrups", while the stirrups were first used in the middle ages. The original text " Manlius consurrexisset"= "Manlius gathered himself up) When he returned with the spoils stripped from the defeated Latin and proudly showed them to his father the consul, his father had him beheaded because of his disobedience.

Self sacrifice of Decius Mus
Livius places the battle near the base of mt. Vesuvius, but if fact it happened 70 km north of the volcano. Before the battle, both consuls had an animal sacrificed and the haruspex on the side of Decius told him the sacrifice was accepted, but the "Roman" side of the liver was slightly damaged. This meant it was P. Decius Mus who had to sacrifice himself. He devoted himself with the help of a pontifex to the death. He put on his gabian cincture an dashed himself on horseback in the midst of the enemy, who were confused , though the consul was killed by many darts. This would have brought the victory to the Romans, who wanted to revenge their consul.

Subjugation of Latium
In the next two years Latium is completely subjugated and the cities depending on the (dis)loyalty to Rome awarded or punished. Here we see how cities gain or loose Roman citizenship others are dismantled and the peoples removed. Divide and rule. This would become one of the most important pillars of the Roman empire, yet to be, but this was the first serious step in the building of it. This way they secured the availability of sufficient manpower for their warfare.

    Orestes and Iphigenia    

Sacrifice of Iphigenia
Glyptothek München


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