Episode 82 – Fabian Demise

We return to the history of Rome from the founding of the City and that can only mean one thing – the Fabian family are back front and centre. And, yes, that episode title is a bit of a spoiler! We’re talking about the Fabian demise.

So where were we in the history?

We step back into the narrative with a little bit of orientation. Who does Rome really know about in the region and just how much have they learnt about the people to the north? Veii seems to have been a revelation for Rome. It turns out Veii have the support of peoples further north (watch out, these are our Etruscans!).

We launch into the year c. 477 BCE with the consuls Gaius Horatius Pulvillus and Titus Menenius Lanatus. Getting back into the groove, Dr R and G compare the narratives of Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus.

The truce between Rome and Veii established at the end of c. 478 BCE starts to crumble just at the same time as the Volscii to the south east begin to stir. It isn’t long before Rome realises they need to fight a war on two fronts. This means two things:

  • discussions over public land get pushed off the table;
  • the scene is set for the Fabian tragedy to come.

The Fabian Frontier

The Fabians are stationed at the fortress at Cremera, just outside the territory of Veii. They are waiting for support from Rome while they hold the defences. We won’t spoil all the details in this write up, but let’s say things don’t go well.

There are a variety of issues flagged in our sources. Dionysius offers an account that factors in divine displeasure, only to dismiss the intensity of this reading as mostly implausible. Dr R explores the possibilities for narrative embellishment from the early Roman historiographer Quintus Fabius Pictor (f. 200 BCE). The dominant narrative that comes through to us positions the Tyrrhenians (the peoples of Veii and further north) as cleverly luring the Fabian forces out from the fortress. The Romans become trapped in unfavourable locations that allow for long-range attacks.

We dive into the battles that dominate this year, the strategies deployed by the different forces, and the ultimate consequences for the consuls. We talk lots of military strategy and a good deal about religion!

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Here for your listening pleasure: Fabian Demise

Fabian demise Fabii Cremera
The Chimera of Arezzo, c. 400 BCE. Found in Arezzo, an ancient Etruscan and Roman city in Tuscany. This piece is now held at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence. Image credit to Carole Raddato / WIkimedia Commons

Additional sound credit offered to SoundBible and PsychoBird for our screaming eagle in this episode.

Drs R and G laugh and spar their way through the ancient Roman world!

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