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Ancient texts

Liv. (7.17-26)

War against Tarquinii

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    1st Samnite war

356 -351 bc

Plebeian dictator
When Tibur, Tarquinii and Falerii started raiding on Roman territory, Rome reacted in the usual way. The consuls were sent to deal with them. But when the Etruscans combined their forces and tried to take the salt-works a dictator was nominated. The fact in it self was not very remarkable were it not that this dictator (C. Marcius Rutilus) was a plebeian as was his master of the horse (C. Plautius). Of course they could count on a lot of opposition from the patricians.

Again 2 patrician consuls
He defeated the Tarqinians and Faliscans and brought home a lot of prisoners. Livius number of 8000 is probably exaggerated. Marcius is granted a triumph by the people because the senate wouldn't confirm. Also the senate nominated an interrex to prevent the plebeian dictator to organize elections. In spite of Licinus' law and the opposition of the peoples tribunes 2 patrician consuls were elected. In the next 2 years two patricians would be elected. In 352 bc the tension between the two orders was so heavy the senate appointed L. Cornelius Scipio as interrex and ordered him to restore the peace. Plebeian C. Marcius Rutilus was elected as one of the consuls.

Achillus fighting Memnon

Treaty with the Samnites
In 354 bc the Tiburtines and the Tarquinians are defeated. Where the Tiburtines are treated mildly, but the Tarquinians very harshly. The whole nobility was scourged and beheaded in the middle of the forum. This seems not have been enough to stop the surviving Tarquinians to continue to plunder the Roman salt works. According to Livius the city of Caere participated in these raids. But when Rome sent the fetials to declare war. Caere more of less surrendered to Rome and was treated mildly. In this year the Samnites asked for and are granted a treaty of friendship. Soon they were to become Rome's main enemy.

Clearing the debts
Though the maximum interest to be paid on debts in 357 bc was fixed at 1/12 of the debt, for many plebeians it was still impossible to pay off their debts. A commission of 5 men was appointed to deal with the debts. The were seated at banks or tables (mensae) at the forum. Hence they were called mensarii (=bankers). Livius praises them for their impartiality and diligence when they cleared the debts.

Bronze mirror depicting
Achilles fighting Memnon
(Metropolitan New York)

Plebeian censor
In 351 again two patricians are elected consul. Because of the clearing of the debts the plebeians were in a good mood and made no trouble. When the election of censors was announced C. Marcius Rutilus announced he was a candidate. Of course the senate and all the patricians opposed his candidacy but he was elected never the less.


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    1st Samnite war

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