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Ancient texts

Liv.(7.29-8.13)

First war against the Samnites

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343-338 bc

Another Gallic giant
In the period before the first war against the Samnites and the Latins (from 350 to 344) there were several battles with the roaming Gauls. Livius tells us a story about M. Valerius (Corvus) who would have fought a single fight against another Galic giant, just like Manlius Torquatus. He would have been helped by a raven, hence his new cognomen Corvus (=latin for raven). Which of the two stories is true is uncertain, maybe the Manlius clan tried to clear their name after Manlius Capitolinus. The Gauls fleeing after the defeat of their champion is very unlikely and after the second fight they didn't.

Virtus

Capua attacked
The Samnites, a fierce people had concluded a friendships treaty with the Romans in 354 bc. Now they were attacking the Sidicines, according to Livius, simply because they were stronger. Other campanian cities came to their aid. Amongst them Capua. Now the Samnites turned their attack to Capua and drove the Capuans back into their city.

Capua askes for help
Capua sent envoys to Rome and asked for their help. The Roman senate offered to sent an ambassador to the Samnites, but refused to send an army to defend Capua because of the treaty with the Samnites. What then followed is a beautiful example of the Roman way of creating a "just" war:

Another just war
Capua surrenders to Rome According to Livius the envoys surrendered the city of Capua to the Romans. More likely the Romans demanded their surrender in exchange for help. But even if the initiative came really from the Capuans Rome could and should refuse this surrender, because of the treaty with the Samnites. But now they had an opportunity to extend their territory and a "just" war,because in their eyes they now were defending their own territory.

Rome follows the correct procedure
Pro forma Rome sent ambassadors to the Samnites and when the Samnites refused to stop the attack on Capua, the fetials to declare war. Then consul M. Valerius Corvus marched with his army near Capua where he battled with the Samnites. It was a hard and bitter fight and the Roman victory was far from decisive.





Roman habit of running into traps
The other consul A. Cornelius Cossus lead his Army near Saticula into a narrow valley where the Samnites occupied the surrounding heights and his army thus was trapped. A tribune P. Decius saw there was another height above the Samnites and with permission he went there with a two thirds of a lightly armed legion to occupy the peak. This time the Roman army could escape and turn their near defeat into a victory. Livius reports 30.000 enemies killed, which is probably an exageration. The Romans were not used to operate in mountenous territory and several times they would run into a trap and not always they did get away with it like this time.

Virtus goddess of virtue
National Museum München

 

Samnites defeated
The Samnites gathered a new army and attacked the city of Suessula. Help was asked from Valerius, who left his luggage and a strong guard behind and moved in forced marches to Suessula. Here he built a camp at a well defendable place. His camp was much smaller than usual because he brought only men and horsed. The Samnites concluded there was only a weak force in the camp. On both sides there was now scarcity of everything and the Samnites started to foraging with small parties the surrounding fields leaving their camp poorly defended. Valerius now stormed the Samnite camp and slaughtered there after the foraging Samnites.

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