The history of Rome is complex, even in the early Republic. Sometimes it’s hard to keep all the details straight so we thought it might be a good time to try something new.
The Partial Recap series will be a scripted overview of each decade of Roman history. First cab off the rank is the decade of the 460s BCE. This is the last complete decade we’ve covered in our Foundation of Rome series, and we’ll be working through the previous decades over the next few months.
Part of the benefit of these episodes will be to help refresh the memory of the key events of each year. We’re also trying out a scripted style that easy allows us to share a transcript, which is a good step forward in terms of accessibility for our podcast. As technology progresses, we’re hoping to automate accurate transcripts for our conversational episodes.
Join us for a Partial Recap of the 460s BCE!
The Partial Recap – The 460s BCE
“A view to the East over the Roman Forum with the Temple of Saturn on the left and the Palatine Hill on the right, showing the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Arch of Titus, Santa Francesca Romana, and the Colosseum.”
Detail from the photograph by Nicholas Hartmann, June 1976. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons. Used under license.
FR – Welcome to the Partial Recap for the 460s BC!
PG – I’m Dr G
FR – and I’m Dr Rad
PG – and this is our highlights edition of the 460s in Rome. We’ll take you through from 469 to 460 in an epitome of our normal episodes.
FR – Perfect for those mornings when you don’t want some lengthy rhetoric with your coffee
PG – Get ready for a recappuccino.
In 469, the consuls were Titus Numicus Priscus and Aulus Verginius Caelimontanus.
- There were some domestic issues that surfaced as the plebeians were pushing for progress with the agrarian law – looking for a fairer share of the land.
- They were quickly distracted by issues with the Volscians. The Volscians start making incursions into Roman territory and the consuls journey forward to meet the threat.
- Numicius heads off to the belly of the beast – Volscian territory – and his forces pillage and capture coastal settlements as they go. Antium, a major Volscian city, is in their sights.
- Verginius goes to deal with Aequians in the east. The Aequians are enemies of Rome and allies of the Volscians. After a bit of a rocky start, he defeats them in combat. He then turns around to deal with the Sabines. Turns out Rome is surrounded by enemies!
- Meanwhile, back in Rome, the plebeians decide not to vote in the annual elections. They are tired of the lack of progress on the agrarian law, so what is even the point anymore? The agrarian reform the plebeians have been pushing for would mean a fairer distribution of public land for all Roman citizens. The elite patricians have been stalling, knowing it’ll mean a loss for them.
In 468 BCE, the consuls were Titus Quintius Capitolinus Barbatus (consul for the second time) and Quintus Servilius Priscus.
- Unrest between Rome and their neighbours continues. Rome is facing issues with the Sabines to the north east, and the Volscian-Aequian alliance which stretches from the south to the east.
- Servilius is off campaigning against the Sabines. They stay well protected behind their walls as the Romans destroy their lands.
- Quintius takes on the Volscian-Aequian alliance and meets them on the battlefield. It’s tough, but with some quick thinking (and lying) on his part, as well as charging into battle on foot himself, the Romans pull through on the first day.
- The fighting continues the next day and the Romans are massively outnumbered. But one again, the generalship of Quintius saves the day. The Romans seize the enemy camp and the city of Antium!
- These amazing deeds secure a triumph for Quintius.
Want to hear more about the politics and dramas of 469 and 468? Check out our Episode 88: Battle after Battle
In 467 BCE, the consuls were Titus Aemilius Mamercus (cos. From 470 BCE) and Quintus Fabius Vibulanus.
- Fun fact: the consul Quintus Fabius is the sole survivor of his family from the infamous battle of Cremera in c. 477 BCE. Long live the Fabii!
- Aemilius Mamercus is drawing some heat from his fellow patricians because he seems open minded when it comes to the issue of agrarian reform and land allotment. The plebeian mood is one of optimism.
- However, the patricians as a whole are still resistant. Fabius has a cunning plan to settle the dispute. He suggests they use the new land they have captured near Antium to appease the plebeians.
- This suggestion is well-received as three past consuls are ushered in as triumvirs for assigning land to the people (triumviri agro dando). The lucky gentlemen are: Titus Quintius Capitolinus (cos. 471), Aulus Verginius (cos. 469) and Publius Furius (cos. 472).
- The plebeians aren’t in a hurry to leave Rome and don’t appreciate being banished from Rome, so the Senate allows Rome’s allies (the Latins and Hernicians) and some Volscians (who have been suitably cowed) to sign up for some land
- The consuls have other fish to fry. Aemilius attempts to fight the Sabines. Again they aren’t interested in engaging in open battle and they watch as their territory is ravaged by the Romans
- Fabius ventures into Aequian territory only to find that they are very willing to strike a deal with the Romans, perhaps a little too willing….
In 466 BCE, the consuls were Spurius Postumius Albinus Regillensis and Quintus Servilius Priscus (Structus), who had previously been consul in 468 BCE.
- It’s a bit confusing but it seems there are some issues with the newly acquired territory and the Latin allies who have moved south aren’t happy about it. Could it be that Rome has offered her allies a bum deal?
- Quintus Fabius is no longer consul, but he’s pretty invested in the whole southern territory thing because it was his suggestion, so he heads down to chat to the Aequians to find out whether they are actually violating the new treaty or not.
- He soon realises from the suspicious behaviour of the Aequians that he is in trouble and that these guys are up to something
- The Romans dispatch the fetiales (deploy the war priests!) and declare unless those responsible for the wrongdoing are expelled from Antium there shall be a just war waged upon them by Rome with the full support of the Roman gods.
- The Aequians prefer war – although combat is delayed by a plague that strikes the Roman forces (awkward divine sign?)
- Once the Romans can get out of bed (this might take until the following year, sources disagree), both the consuls are sent to deal with the faithless Aequians. After a tough battle, the Romans win the day, leaving some very disgruntled Aequians behind.
- The Romans round out the year with a temple dedication to Dius Fidius (sometimes known as Sanctus) – a mysterious god that may have been Sabine in origin.
You can learn more about the years 467 and 466 by tuning into Episode 89 – A Fabian Abroad
In 465 BCE, the consuls were Titus Quintius Capitolinus (who was on his third consulship!) and Quintus Fabius Vibulanus (consul for the second time). Quintius Servilius serves as the Prefect of the City.
- The Romans are all a-flutter as the Aequians are already back in action and raiding nearby territory!
- Titus Quintius Capitolinus heads out and rebukes his men for being so scared, quickly setting up patrols of the borderlands – unfortunately he keeps missing the enemy
- Meanwhile Fabius is enjoying a lot of success against the Aequians and captures some booty
- With that settled, the courts can re-open back in Rome and it’s time for a census. Livy records 104 714 citizens, not including orphans and widows.
In 464 BCE, the consuls were Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis and Spurius Furius Medullinus Fusus.
- There are ongoing issues with the Aequians and the new territory in Antium – some problems relating to offering land to people you just took it away from perhaps…
- Rome’s allies, the Hernicians, bring word that all is not well in the new colony
- Trouble seems to rapidly accelerate! Martial law is declared and Postumius is given dictatorial powers
- Fighting breaks out unexpectedly in the middle of the night when the Aequians launch an attack on Antium and things are looking very dicey for the Romans. Spurius Furius gets injured in the battle.
- Fortunately, Titus Quintius Capitolinus (just off the back of his third consuldhip) turns up with the flower of the Roman youth and the allies just in time. The year finishes in a bit of a stalemate with a lot of loss on both sides.
Catch all the details of 465-464 BCE in our Episode 91 – The Furious Romans
In 463 BCE, the consuls were Lucius Aebutius Helva and Publius Servilius Priscus.
- The year does not begin auspiciously. There are some bad omens which has everyone concerned.
- Soon, a serious plague breaks out in Rome and the surrounding areas
- It wipes out almost all livestock and a quarter of the senators died – including both the consuls, meaning we see the use of some interregna as a result
- The Aequians and the Volscians decide to take advantage of this weakness to attack Roman territory
- Whether it was due to the enhancement of natural defences or supernatural forces, the Aequians and Volscians decide not to go through with the assault on the city, and with the help of their allies, Rome lives to fight another day.
- As the year wraps up, the plague starts to pass – almost a little too neatly. Was this just a year without enough military action and so the annalists got creative?
Dig into the details of this year with our Episode 92 – The Pestilence of 463 BCE
In 462 BCE, the consuls were Lucius Lucretius Tricipitinus and Titus Veturius Geminus Cicurinus.
- Rome’s allies, the Hernicians need help as they have Volscians and Aequians camped on their border. Hernician territory is south-east of Rome and lies between the Aequians in the east and the Volscians in the south, so it’s not surprising they find themselves in a tight spot!
- The plebeian tribunes aren’t interested in foreign diplomacy and are busy pursuing domestic issues. The tribune Sextius Titus is trying to reignite support for the land allotment bill – but the populace want to wait for a better time for agrarian reform as it looks like Rome will have to go to war.
- The Senate find no problems signing people up for this new war
- The Romans keep one army at home with Quintus Fabius (cos. 465), send one against the Volscians, and send another to help their allies. That’s three armies.
- Nothing much happens out in enemy territory but…
- The Volscian-Aequian forces manage to get around the Roman forces, causing a bit of panic in the city. Fabius is quick to calm everyone down and the bandits aren’t brave enough to attack the city itself
- On their way home, the Volscians-Aequian force run into Lucretius and are severely defeated – the Volscians are reportedly wiped out
- Veturius is awarded an ovatio and Lucretius a triumph, but this celebration is delayed due to some new trouble at home
- As we slide from 462 into 461, the tribunes are trying to take advantage of the absence of the consuls. Gaius Terentilius Harsa in particular pushes for reform. He believes that Rome needs to move away from the informal legal system that they have been using. The informal system relies on tradition and only a few (elite) people understand how things work. What Harsa wants is a system that is more transparent and where case law is written down. On top of that, Harsa also lobbies to place a limit on the amount of power that a person can hold.
- Harsa suggests putting together a college of 5 men to write down some laws and limit the imperium of the consuls.
- The patricians are completely freaked out. The Prefect of the City, Quintus Fabius, steps in and violently opposes Harsa’s ideas. How dare Harsa stir up trouble with the consuls out of town and a war going on? Fabius paints the tribunes as enemies of the state, and Harsa’s colleagues back off.
- As things calm down, Lucretius can safely return to have his triumph.
- He organised a large lost and found with all of the booty that he recaptured during his campaign out on the Campus Martius.
We explore the thorny details of 462 in Episode 93 – Divide and Conquer
In 461, the consuls were Publius Volumnius and Servius Sulpicius.
- The plebeian tribune Harsa’s proposals from 462 have struck a chord with the people. And the new tribunes continue to push for legal reform, particularly Aulus Verginius.
- However, disaster clearly lies ahead, as all sorts of prodigies take place – spectres, earthquakes, a talking cow and a rain of flesh that doesn’t smell or rot. Even the soothsayers were stumped.
- There’s only one thing to do in such a situation: consult The Sibylline Books, a collection of ancient wisdom. The wise message: The Romans are warned to be wary of foreigners that might enslave the Romans and to avoid factionalism
- The tribunes aren’t deterred by this “wisdom” and accuse the patricians of trying to buy time.
- Rome’s allies, the Hernicians show up to warn the Romans that the Volscians are preparing for another war. The Senate wants to levy troops, but the tribunes call foul – seeing this as just another stalling tactic.
- The tribunes take matters into their own hands, call an assembly of the people to put forward ideas for their approval. The most Important proposal – to have a group of 10 men elected by the people to draft a set of public and private laws. These laws would be publicly accessible and everyone would be bound by them.
- The consuls are provoked by this situation and go on the offensive, attacking the tribunes and pointing out that it is not their job to propose new laws. The consuls accuse the tribunes of just being after more power for themselves.
- The consuls attempt to hold a levy to build up the armed forces, but the tribunes arrive and to prevent it from proceeding. Things get violent pretty quickly.
- And the senators repay the favour – physically preventing the tribunes from holding a vote on the law about the laws
- The senators are keen to drive home the point that the tribunes have no authority beyond helping the poor. As far as the senate is concerned, the tribunes have no legal or sacral basis to propose new laws.
- The consuls and older patricians start to take a step back from getting physically involved, but the young patricians are prepared to do no such thing, particularly the feisty Caeso Qunctius.
- Caeso a gift from the gods – physically strong, a distinguished soldier, rhetorically gifted and known for getting aggressive with the tribunes.
- The tribunes find Caeso an intimidating prospect, except for Aulus Verginius, who brings Caeso up on capital charges.
- Caeso has lots of supporters who come forward to try and save him, including his dad, Cincinnatus, who asks for clemency based on his own deeds for the Republic.
- However, Marcus Volscius Fictor, another tribune, comes forward and reveals that Caeso was responsible for the murder of his brother. The crowd is so angered by this tale, that Verginius considers putting Caeso in gaol just to keep him safe.
- The patricians manage to strike a deal instead – Caeso is released in return for a large sum of money that will be forfeit if he fails to show for his trial.
- Caeso promptly disappears, leaving his dad behind to pay the money that was pledged.
461 is a big year! We delve into the nuance of it all in Episode 94 – Flesh Rains Down Upon Thee
In 460 BCE, the consuls were Publius Valerius (a previous consul from 475 BCE and friend to the people) and Gaius Claudius, a die-hard patrician. This is one of the most complex years in the Early Republic!
- Marcus Volscius Fictor and Aulus Verginius return as tribunes, and they are pretty pleased that Caeso is out of the way.
- The rest of the young patricians start to use a new strategy against the tribunes – moderation all the way unless the law about the laws comes up – then the aggression hits 11
- The tribunes decide to devise a conspiracy, forging threatening letters to themselves, supposedly from Caeso, who has taken refuge with the Volscians and Aequians. The tribunes read out these letters in front of the Senate and beg for protection.
- The consul Gaius Claudius is quick to see through the tribunes and sends them packing. He then berates the senate for creating the tribunate and allowing such people to falsely accuse an excellent young man like Caeso of murder.
- The tribune Verginius takes his grievances about the threats to the people and manages to secure some support from them
- With the tribunes and plebeians in a suitably paranoid state, an unexpected attack comes from Appius Herdonius – a noble Sabine – and his band of either slaves, exiles, clients or a mixture of them all
- Herdonius & Co sneak into Rome by night and capture the Capitol and citadel. Herdonius invites the plebs and slaves to join him – looks like the Sibylline books were right after all!
- The consuls are concerned that this is the beginning of a civil conflict. But the city is in danger, so they take a chance and arm the plebs as they need forces and they needed them right away
- The tribunes, on the other hand, are crying “fake news” and urging the plebs not to fight until they secure their rights in return.
- Claudius is furious with the plebeians and makes no secret of it, but the consul Valerius manages to talk them into joining the fray with promises that the Senate will look into the law about the laws, just as soon as they have all saved the city – priorities people!
- The Romans get ready for a lengthy siege, and get some unexpected help from Lucius Mamilius, the dictator of Tusculum. Mamilius noticed the Sabine ships and rushed on over to help. What a man!
- The fighting is fierce, and in the final push, Valerius is tragically killed. But at least the Sabines are defeated. The Sabine leader Herdonius dies a heroic death.
- In the aftermath, the plebeians give some of their own money towards the funeral of the great Valerius.
- But the tribunes aren’t going to let the issue of the law drop
- The remaining consul, Gaius Claudius, uses some delaying tactics to stall them, most notably the fact that he has no colleague
- The patricians eventually bring in a man who is capable of dealing with these meddlesome tribunes – Cincinnatus!
- Cincinnatus is brought in from his humble farm and promptly lectures the Senate for letting the tribunes get out of control
- A stand-off quickly ensues between Cincinnatus and the tribunes as they each try to push their own agendas through
- Cincinnatus scores points with everyone in Rome for his strict but fair attitude. He’s sure that the only way to really whip Rome back into shape is to bring in a dictator – those tribunes are out of control
- In the short term, a deal is struck in which the consuls agree not to make the plebeians go on campaign and the tribunes let the codification of the laws drop… for the time being
- However, the senate also tries to limit the amount of time a magistrate could hold office. But the tribunes are not willing to bend on this issue. The tribunes Verginius and Volscius are quickly reinstated – again
- The patricians want to follow suit and bring Cincinnatus back for a second consulship but he refuses to stoop to the level of the plebs.
There’s a lot going on in 460 and to really come to the grips with the detail takes some doing. Tune into the following episodes for all the details:
- Episode 95 – Introducing Caeso Quinctius
- Episode 96 – Letters and Rumours
- Episode 97 – Surprising Sabines
- Episode 98 – Cincinnatus Suffect Consul
FR – And that was the 460s in Ancient Rome… or was it?
PG – Remember, this has just been the highlights from the ancient sources, so if you want to delve into the complexities of the different evidence from this period, check out our narrative episodes.
FR – Thanks for joining us for this Partial Recap!