Episode 83 – If Only I Had Some Grain

After the tragic demise of the Fabii gens, what happens next? The rivalry between Rome and her northern neighbour Veii continues! ‘If Only I Had Some Grain’ captures the spirit of this episode.

We cover the years c. 476 BCE and part of c. 475 BCE. Is this a sign that our narrative is quickening up? Quite possibly!

In this episode we face two strands of narrative:

  • The developing grain crisis in Rome
  • The military consequences of the forces of Veii (aka the Tyrrhenians) on the Janiculum

Our Consuls

c. 476 BCE:

  • Servius Servilius Structus Ahala (also known as Spurius or Servius Servilius)
  • Aulus Verginius Tricostus Rutilus.

c. 475 BCE:

  • Publius Valerius Publicola
  • Gaius Nautius Rutilus

Comparing Military Narratives

Dr Radness delves into the details from Livy. The people of Veii have been holding the Janiculum, which overlooks Rome from across the Tiber. Meanwhile the Romans hatch a plan to lure them away from their defensive stronghold. There is a devious ploy involving cows. And Servilius faces an attack…

Dr G follows Dionysius’ account. He begins with the grain and the forces of Veii falling back north to their own City. Together we consider some questionable military tactics and the potential troubles with moving troops at night.

If Only I Had Some Grain, Grain, Glorious Grain!

As the situation with Veii settles down, the Roman gaze turns inward to contemplate recent disasters. But the accelerating grain crisis cannot be ignored. While Livy’s narrative picked up on this developing issue in c. 477 BCE, now our sources converge on the issue.

According to Dionysius, the patrician approach to solving this problem is twofold. First: purchase grain from neighbouring areas. Second: distribute the grain at reasonable prices to the citizens in the City. Livy gets more specific by noting that Rome buys grain from Campania.

We discuss the viability of this narrative given that it sounds suspiciously like a much later Roman policy…

Patrician and Plebeian Stoush

As soon as military threats are off the table, Rome quickly turns back to domestic issues. This means that public land (ager publicus) is back on the agenda! As soon as you can say Quintus Considius and Titus Genucius we’re deep among some tribunes of the plebs. And boy are they fighting for the rights of the common folk.

The tribunes blame Titus Menenius Lanatus (consul of c. 477 BCE) for the destruction of the Fabii and the loss of the fortress at Cremara. The way this situation plays out is particularly intriguing!

As the year ticks over into c. 475 BCE, the new tribunes Lucius Caedicius and Titus Statius pick up the fight. They bring Servilius to trial on the charge of gross military negligence. It turns out that pursuing the enemy up a hill can have more than just military consequences!

Find out all the details by listening in here:

Episode 83 – If Only I Had Some Grain

If Only I Had Some Grain Ancient Rome Veii 475 BCE 476 B.C.

An ancient Roman aqueduct in a grain field near Rome, Italy. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Francesco Z


Looking to follow along with the source material for this episode? Check out:

  • Livy Ab Urba Condita Libri 2.51-2 (Books from the Foundation of the City)
  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 9.25-33

We also make liberal reliance on Broughton:

  • Broughton, T. R. S. with Patterson, M. 1951. The Magistrates of the Roman Republic: Volume I 509 B.C. – 100 B.C. (The American Philological Association)
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Drs R and G laugh and spar their way through the ancient Roman world!

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