It’s around 431 BCE and Rome is busy contending with her neighbours in pretty much every direction. Turns out that it’s not easy trying to establish yourself as an independent state! It might just be time for a dictator. Enter: Aulus Postumius Tubertus.
Episode 133 – Postumius Tubertus, Dictator
Rome is taking the need to put troops on the field seriously with a levy of the citizens held under the conditions of the lex sacrata, which is considered to be the most strict conditions requiring compliance in line with the gods. Who are they scared of? Only the most enduring thorns in their sides, their southern neighbours the Volsicians and the Aequians! It isn’t long before Rome is convinced that they need a dictator to sort out this mess.
Getting to the point of having a dictator in place though is quite another story. In this episode we explore some intriguing details relating to the consuls, the tribunes of the plebs, and the interference of a certain patrician. Beyond them is the actual battle itself, which takes on grand overtones with comparisons made to Homer’s Iliad. This year is also tinged with a sense of tragedy with a story involving the dictator Aulus Postumius Tubertus and his son.
Hold on to your hats, dear listener, this is going to be epic!
Things to tune in for:
- Familiar locations like Mount Algidus
- Some beef between the consuls!
- Intense levies
- Battle plans!
- The heroism of Vettius Messius
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We’ve gone back to where it all began (or so the Romans would say…)
We delve into the history, myth, and complexities of the ancient Roman kings. You can support our work and get a very cool ancient Roman history book in return by pre-ordering a copy of Rex: The Seven Kings of Rome from the Highlands Press. Due for release in late January 2023.
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What did early Roman soldiers wear on the field? It’s a good question, while we might assume leather was important protective gear, some elites likely had more sophisticated armour. Above is a bronze helmet of the Montefortino type. Considered to be the oldest type of metal Roman helmet. This example dates from the third century BCE and is now in the British Museum.
- Titus Quinctius L. f. L. n. Poenus Cincinnatus (Pat)
- Gaius/Gnaeus Iulius – f. – n. Mento (Pat)
- Aulus Postumius – f. – n. Tubertus (Pat)
Master of the Horse
- Lucius Iulius (Vopisci f. C. ?n) Iullus (Pat)
- Marcus Fabius (Vibulanus) (Pat)
- Marcus? Geganius (Macerinus) (Pat)
- Spurius Postumius Albus (Regillensis) (Pat)
- Quintus Sulpicius (Camerinus Praetextatus) (Pat)
- Quintus Servilius Priscus
- Aulus Cornelius Cossus
- Vettius Messius
- Dr Rad reads Livy ab Urbe Condita 4.26-29.
- Dr G reads Diodorus Siculus 12.64-65.1; Ovid Fasti 6.723f; Valerius Maximus 2.7.6; Plutarch Cam. 2; Gellius 17.21.17
- Broughton, T. R. S., Patterson, M. L. 1951. The Magistrates of the Roman Republic Volume 1: 509 B.C. – 100 B.C. (The American Philological Association)
- Cornell, T. J. 1995. The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC) (Taylor & Francis)
- Forsythe, G. 2006. A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War(University of California Press)
- Ogilvie, R. M. 1965. A Commentary on Livy, Books 1-5 (Clarendon Press)
- Wilson, M. 2021. The Evolution of the Roman Dictatorship (University of Michigan Press)
Sounds effects in this episode are sourced from BBC, Pixabay, and Pond5. Thanks to the highly talented Bettina Joy de Guzman for our theme music.
Roman soldiers and their general by vukkostic.
This painting imagines a Roman army much more organised and sophisticated than that of the early Republic. Nevertheless, it evokes the spirit of Roman warfare which is very much at play in this episode.
We’ve tried to edit this one to help with all the Roman names!
Dr Rad 0:16
Welcome to The Partial Historians.
Dr G 0:20
We explore all the details of ancient Rome.
Dr Rad 0:23
Everything from the political scandals, the love affairs, the battles waged, and when citizens turn against each other. I’m Dr. Rad.
Dr G 0:34
And I’m Dr. G. We consider Rome as the Roman saw it by reading different authors from the ancient past and comparing their stories.
Dr Rad 0:43
Join us as we trace the journey of Rome from the founding of the city.
Dr G 0:58
Hello, and welcome to a brand new episode of The Partial Historians. I am one of your hosts, Dr. G. And sitting with me, across the vast distance of cyberspace
Dr Rad 1:13
Is Doctor Rad. Hello, everyone. Hello,
Dr G 1:17
hello. We’re in for a thrilling time, I think in this episode. So we’re going to be looking at 431 BCE. And you might think to yourself, that doesn’t sound very exciting, just another number. But just us join
Dr Rad 1:33
us for this episode as we continue to trace the history of Rome from the founding of the city at the moment, predominantly with Livy by our side.
Dr G 1:44
Yeah, look, Dionysus of Halicarnassus, which is the main source that I’ve been reading for a long while now has dropped off the wagon, and will remain missing for a few more years before finally disappearing altogether.
Dr Rad 2:00
All right, well, before we get into force, anyone and all the excitement that awaits us strategy, should we do a brief recap to see what was happening in Roman history in our previous episode?
Dr G 2:08
Hmm. So in our previous episode, we covered two years, and it was 433 and 432. And realistically, it was mostly about a pestilence and the getting over of said pestilence.
Dr Rad 2:25
I think we can all relate to.
Dr G 2:27
Yes, yes. touches their heartstrings. That does, indeed, and Rome gets through it, but it seems that there might be rising tensions from their neighbors, people who are seeing Rome’s malaise as an opportunity potentially
Dr Rad 2:44
Indeed, you’ve got the fall scans in the aqueous rearing their ugly heads, and they seem to be potentially allying with the Etruscans. More specifically, perhaps the people from they because Rome has had some beef with a in the past decade over territory.
Dr G 3:05
Yeah, and Veii is super close to Rome, just a little bit to the north. And so it’s perhaps unsurprising that these two are often at loggerheads with each other. Yes, absolutely.
Dr Rad 3:14
So we’ve got that lingering in the background. We’ve got Livy valiantly trying to continue to forge a conflict within Rome itself between the patricians and plebeians In our previous episode. So let’s see how it all plays out shall we in 431 BCE?
Dr G 4:51
431 BCE What a time to be alive in ancient Rome. We have consuls this year
Dr Rad 4:59
we do in case you have forgotten, it was thought that with potential trouble with external places on the horizon, only consuls would do, because God forbid you have military turbulence with constant power and one of them’s a plebeian and I mean, it’s clearly going to result in a defeat.
Dr G 5:20
We can’t take that risk. And Rome doesn’t they put in Titus Quinctius, son of Lucius, grandson of Lucius, Poenus Cincinnatus, who is a patrician and yes, is related to the famous since I was
Dr Rad 5:36
gonna say it’s a famous name. It’s a famous name.
Dr G 5:40
So famous family and this appears to be one of his son.
Dr Rad 5:43
Okay, excellent. And then we’ve got another famous name I believe is our other consul.
Dr G 5:48
We do we have a Gaius or a Gnaeus, debate rages Julius Mento
Dr Rad 5:55
I’m sorry, did you just offer me a breath mint?
Dr G 5:59
I did. It’s delicious.
Dr Rad 6:01
What a weird cognomen.
Dr G 6:04
Yes, and I’d love to tell you more about it. But I’m out of my rabbit hole of cognomen. Nah, I’m good. I don’t have anything to tell you on that.
Dr Rad 6:13
I can actually tell you what it means strategy. Oh, good. It means “long chin”.
Dr G 6:20
Oh, goodness. Well, well. What happens when a Mento and a Flaccinator end up in the same room?
Dr Rad 6:29
I feel like it is something something very peppermint tea that would happen. Not just to get long chin’s always remind me of peppermint. That’s fantastic. Yes. strong flavors. Definitely.
Dr G 6:40
The fresh maker.
Dr Rad 6:41
Dr G 6:43
All right. So I mean, we’ve focused on Mento. But it’s really the Gaius Julius element of the name that perhaps would ring bells for everybody. And it’s not our guy were way too early for him. Yes.
Dr Rad 6:57
And it just in terms of the debate raging around his freedom. And so apparently, Gnaeus is not a name commonly used by the Julians, as again. So that’s why I think there is some debate about that first name, whereas Gaius we know is definitely used by them.
Dr G 7:17
Definitely, definitely. But as a foreshadowing of the year ahead, I’ve got some other people holding power that are perhaps worthy of note, we do get a dictator in this, as far as I’m aware that
Dr Rad 7:33
the 430s is a time for dictators. They are literally flooding us with dictators at the moment.
Dr G 7:40
It’s a stunning time to be a dictator. And we have Aulus Postumius Tubertus.
Dr Rad 7:47
Mmmm a familiar name again, the Postumii,
Dr G 7:52
indeed, I don’t know if we’ve seen this specific guy before, but we’ve definitely seen the family
Dr Rad 7:57
just the family. Yeah.
Dr G 7:58
And if you have a dictator, you can always bet your sunshine, that you’re also going to have a Master of the Horse. And this is Lucius Iulius Vopisci, or Vopisci, Iullus.
Dr Rad 8:15
Dr G 8:16
Dr Rad 8:17
Is he related? Do you think to one of our consuls?
Dr G 8:22
Ahhh I don’t. I don’t know. I mean, they they come from the same gens. So I mean, they must be extended relations of some Yes. But all of the other names don’t really match up. So that suggests they come from different family lines. But this guy we have seen before he was apparently a military tribune with consular power in 438. Okay. Okay. So I don’t remember him. But we’re getting into that period where all Roman names start to sound the same.
Dr Rad 8:50
So we’re only now getting to that period? We’re getting to that period?
Dr G 8:55
Just now just recently.
Dr Rad 8:56
Yeah. Okay. Fair enough. Fair enough.
Dr G 8:58
We have some legates as well. So I think this is an indication usually we don’t find out who the legates are. They are a military or some sort of military commander. So we don’t tend to hear about them. They’re usually around. But something has to sort of be quite narratively significant for the legates to get mentioned by name. And we have a few of them mentioned by name this year. So that gives us a bit of a heads up that there’s something on the horizon. So we have Marcus Fabius Vibulanus, you may have heard of him before military tribute with consular power in 433.
Dr Rad 9:36
Ahh Fabulous Fabian
Dr G 9:37
Yes. Marcus, we think, Marcus Geganius Macerinus.
Dr Rad 9:44
I’ve definitely heard of him before.
Dr G 9:46
He was consul in 447, 443 and 437.
Dr Rad 9:51
Yes, I remember.
Dr G 9:52
Well, lots of lots of consulships under his belt. So this guy comes with a huge sort of pedigree so I like it. You is not as high up in the in the chain of greatness as being a consul but this guy would be highly respected as a military commander under a consul. And then we have Spurius Postumius Albus Regillensis.
Dr Rad 10:14
I’ve definitely heard that name before.
Dr G 10:16
sounds super familiar because just a couple of years ago, he was also a military tribute with consular power. So we’ve got a whole bunch of legates who have previously held command, essentially. So they’re bringing in the big guns. And that’s not all. I’m turning the page. We have Quintus Sulpicius Camerinus Praetextatus. Who was a consul or military tribute with consular power in 434.
Dr Rad 10:51
So he was from the year of chaos as it shall henceforth be called.
Dr G 10:55
Yeah, where we don’t know who was who holding what, which position necessarily. It was so bad.
Dr Rad 11:00
Exactly. Exactly. All right. Well, I think this is our cast our cast of 1000s.
Dr G 11:06
Yeah, and I hope listeners that you’ve been paying careful attention because all of those names uniquely matter.
Dr Rad 11:12
Exactly then at all interchangeable. All right, so let me tell you what these guys are getting up to and why there are so many names mentioned specifically in the year 431. So as we know, war is looming. I guess that means I have to go back to my British accent from pre war was on the horizon. zactly it’s not looking good chaps, quickly, we got to hell, the levy god dammit.
Dr G 11:38
Roll up, roll up, join the greatest army on earth,
Dr Rad 11:42
Your country needs you. Yes, that’s exactly what happened. So a levy is held by the consuls, and it’s held under a lex sacrata, because it’s generally held to be the most effective way of gathering soldiers. Why do you ask? Well, I’ll tell you, because whoever did not obey the call, to enlist, was considered sacer to the gods or forfeit to the gods. So, yeah, this, this ties into the idea that fighting was kind of a religious duty of a Roman citizen, particularly I suppose, at this point in time when Rome does not have a standing army.
Dr G 12:25
Yeah, service to the gods. Well, it makes sense in many respects, and we we’ve got a lot of priesthoods that are connected with either being able to read the signs to indicate whether it’s an appropriate time to go to war, you’ve also got the fetiales who go out to ensure that the wars just in the eyes of the gods, there is a lot of sense in which Rome doesn’t engage in any military action unless they really certain that things are looking appropriate through a divine perspective. So you certainly don’t want men in your ranks who are not approved from divine sanction.
Dr Rad 13:02
Indeed, exactly. So what’s going to happen is that the aid grants and the moleskin say, certainly postponed for a war for a year, but they’re very punctual. And that year rolls around because they are getting ready. They have put forward very strong armies from both of their locales, they have met up at Mount Algidum, or Algidus, which we have mentioned several times as a point of conflict, it’s just seems to be the place where battles happened. But they have set up separate camps. So they’re not in they’re close to each other. But they’re not entirely in the one camp that will become important later on, which is why I’m specifically mentioning it now. And then they start to drill them in hard. So it’s Train, train, train. The Romans presumably can see this and appreciate it because it makes them more concerned about the situation according to Liddy, so concerned that it’s time for dictator.
Dr G 14:02
Oh, wow. That just happened also quickly, they’re like, I saw them training over there. And I’m now really quite concerned and a console is not going to be enough for this situation.
Dr Rad 14:13
I really feel like if I were to characterize room in the 430s, at least as it’s coming through in the sauces, it’s that once they pop that cherry with one dictator, they can’t help but keep going forward again. And again. It’s just like, you know, it’s kind of a bad habit. Really, it’s a reflex.
Dr G 14:32
Well, this is interesting, actually, because I’ve just started reading Wilson’s book on the evolution of the dictator. And part of the argument that he is setting up is to assert that the dictator has always been a feature of the Roman Republic. And is indeed, you know, it comes into being with the Republic itself very early on in the piece. And so, in a way in this early period is part of the way that Romans do business. If They see a situation where they’re like, no, no, we need one person in charge for this, even if it’s just for a limited time, they have that position in reserve, knowing that they could use it at any time. So that it’s this kind of part of the way that they may be their business as usual practice in this early period of the Republic, because we’re certainly entering in this phase where we’re seeing a lot of them. And we’re going to continue to see a lot of them for quite some time.
Dr Rad 15:29
Oh, yeah. And look I suppose it’s a bit like if you’re in a plane, and the plane starts to get into trouble, you’re not going to be like, wait, wait, let’s see how this plays out. You’re going to pull the parachute Goddamnit, get the hell out of there. So I understand the instinct. But it does seem like in the 430s, they’re particularly prone to calling on a dictator. I guess, it ties into this bigger picture that we’ve often talked about that Rome is not in its best way at this point in time. It’s not it’s not his best self, in this time and the Republic?
Dr G 16:01
No, and it’s really I think, part of what we’re learning through this process of the 430s. And even the previous decade, and potentially, the decades to come, I haven’t read that far ahead, I’m trying to keep it fresh for myself, is that Rome is really trying to establish itself. And it’s a consolidation period. And this means conflicts because they need to figure out where they sit in the pecking order of Central Italy. And it’s just going around in circles.
Dr Rad 16:30
I think that’s definitely what we can see. Now, interestingly, in the future, of course, it’d be the Senate that always gets the power to decide when is room officially in a state of emergency at this point in time, although the Senate are the people that are like, you know, what, I think we need a dictator, they’re training awfully hard. It’s not like they’re official right at this point in time as it would kind of become their their business, if you like, in a few centuries time. Now, it might seem a little bit odd that the Romans are so nervous at this point in time, because of course, they have trounced the Aequians and the Volscians countless times in the past. I mean, I actually honestly could not tell you how many times we have related a story where the Aequians and the Volsicans have been defeated by Rome.
Dr G 17:21
And look at some of them have been at Mount Algidum as well now to guide us, which is this spot in the Alban hills to the south east of Rome, which is traditionally linked to Aequian territory. So it’s, it’s not like this hasn’t, it feels like we’re a bit on a repeat. We’re like a DJ doing. And it’s like, here we are, again, guys. It’s ah Mount Algidus. And who knows what’s gonna happen here, but probably Rome.
Dr Rad 17:49
Exactly. Well, the reason why they’re a little bit more nervous than usual, perhaps in spite of their amazing track record, is that not only do those Aequians and Volscians seems to be training very hard. I don’t know what that means. But they they’re doing the whole
Dr G 18:05
I hope this means that they have their shirts off.
I think it does. I think they’re doing the pumping iron montage, you know, it’s all looking pretty scary
Too to doo. Too to doo.
Dr Rad 18:15
Exactly. And “Eye of the Tiger” is playing, you know, they’re running up and down stairs, it’s not good. Anyway, on top of that, though, of course, we have to remember what Rome has just emerged from which is a pretty serious plague. A lot of young Roman men have died during his time. So I guess we’re in feels like it’s not at full strength.
Dr G 18:34
And the ones that are left with them, they got like little chicken legs that like I haven’t been able to get back to leg day. I don’t know what to tell you not feeling confident going into this.
Dr Rad 18:42
These thighs are not intimidating enough. But this is my favorite detail. And I am so excited to share this with you. The little cherry on top of why the Romans are a bit more nervous than usual. Why they call on a dictator is that the consuls do not get on at all.
Dr G 19:04
Oh, they voted these two guys in and they’re like these guys are like nup can’t stand him
Dr Rad 19:09
Dr G 19:09
The man’s a jerk
Dr Rad 19:10
They’re like the odd couple, but without the sweet, sentimental moments where actually they do care about each other.
Dr G 19:17
Okay, so they don’t get along and it seems like they’re gonna be unable to come to any unified decision if it comes to war.
Dr Rad 19:23
Exactly now this is another little intriguing detail that let me throw this out there. He reports that some writers have recorded that the consuls actually went to war and fought a battle at Mount Algidus and were defeated, hence the dictator being appointed. But that’s all he’ll give me. So I’m using my flesh rabbits. Some writers who the who?
Dr G 19:47
It sounds pretty awkward for the consuls, though. Like they tried to get their shit together even though they didn’t like each other and it really didn’t work out. Now everyone’s like, you know what? Just go well,
Dr Rad 19:59
there is one thing that they agree upon one thing and that is no dictator, no dictator, dictator, when it cancels, we want to be in charge.
Dr G 20:12
This is going to be a real slap in the face. I think for Cincinnatus son of the legendary Cincinnatus, twice dictator.
Dr Rad 20:19
Exactly, exactly. And so we’re like, yeah, they’re resisting the constants are like no no no dictator. We don’t want a dictator no stop talking to a Senate. We don’t want to hear it right now. But the information about the Aequians and the Volscians and their forces is just getting more and more concerning. Rome is getting increasingly worried the council’s are still not listening to the advice of the Senate.
Dr G 20:43
The reporters on the ground at Mount Algidus are drawing sketches of how well muscled the enemy is and sending those sketches back to Rome and people are getting increasingly concerned being like, those guys are developing muscle at a rate I’ve never seen before. They’re getting bigger day by day, we have to do something before they explode.
Dr Rad 21:01
Exactly, if we don’t go to battle, they’re training will mean that they are so much better than they need to be. They’re gonna be unstoppable. Exactly. So at this point in time, one Quintus Servilius Priscus, who was a very respected elite Roman man for the previous positions that he had held within the state appeals to none other than the tribune of the plebs. Yeah, that’s right, a patrician turning to the tribune of the plebs, desperate times in deed. He says, You guys are annoying. Can you please be annoying right now and use your authority to force the consuls to name a dictator?
Dr G 21:46
Dr Rad 21:47
Dr G 21:48
Dr Rad 21:49
I know. Now the tribunes of course say, hey, people need us we’re wanted. They like me. They like me. And they see this as a golden opportunity to increase their own power, because the tribute is the worst. So they start chatting amongst themselves being like, conspire, conspire, because how are we going to use this to our advantage? They then declare that the tribunes all think that the consoles should obey the Senate, and that if they keep resisting, they should be thrown in prison. Oh, that’ll teach them. Yeah, absolutely. The consuls, understandably, are outraged that the tributes have been used against them. They’re like that is no bigger slap in the face. Than you guys turning to our arch nemesis, the tribune of the plebs.
Dr G 22:46
Like this is insulting. And I also do not want to go to jail.
Dr Rad 22:50
Well, perhaps they have a point in the sense that they’re like, if you actually allow this to happen, like allow the consuls to be thrown in prison for not doing what they’re told by other people like the tribune of the plebs, then you are just undermining the authority of the office. Now. I do hate the patricians, but they do have a point about a dangerous precedent, because we know that the Romans are all about precedent.
Dr G 23:19
Yes, this is really interesting, actually, because this is going to feed into the one story that I have for this year, which doesn’t come until much later.
Dr Rad 23:27
Okay. Anyway, so it’s finally decided by a lot. I mean, after that objection is noted. They’re like, great, whatever. They decide by a lot that Titus Quintus as in Cincinnatus. 3.0, is going to be the one who’s going to be allowed to pick the dictator. And so he turns to Aulus Postumius Tubertus, who was his father-in-law, who was very well respected and very strict, apparently
Dr G 23:55
has a bit of a reputation.
Dr Rad 23:57
And he of course, then chooses Lucius Iulius as his Master of the Horse, as you said earlier.
Dr G 23:57
Dr Rad 24:05
Now, I’m just going to flag here. There have been questions raised about the legitimacy and timing of this dictatorship. did happen in this year? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it was a year earlier. Maybe it was invented.
Dr G 24:19
This is a chaotic time for the chronology. There is no doubt about that. So it wouldn’t surprise me that everything that we’re sort of talking about that we’re assigning to particularly years could be anywhere between a particular decade to be honest.
Dr Rad 24:33
I think this stuff happened. But yes, I can see that the timing might be the issue.
Dr G 24:39
I think this story about Tubertus certainly has some legs and there is some lingering sort of aftermath of this, of this whole situation. So even if it’s not in this year, I’m just going to foreshadow that. It seems like people across the board believe that it happened.
Dr Rad 25:00
I agree, I agree Anywho. So a levy is declared. And this is a serious levy. This is not just like your regular levy. This is one where all legal business is stopped in the city because everyone should be doing their bit to get ready for war. In fact, it’s so serious that men who might normally be able to claim some sort of exemption from military service, for whatever reason, are told we don’t have time to deal with your cases, buddy. You’re just gonna have to put your name down and turn up on the day. If you don’t, you’re going to be treated like a deserter.
Dr G 25:40
What about my tennis elbow?
Dr Rad 25:42
Dr G 25:43
I can’t possibly swing a sword.
Dr Rad 25:45
Too much time on the courts, pal. Get your arse in line. Yes. So basically, because this is like a state of emergency. No cases of exception are going to be considered not even like after everything’s said and done. It’s not like you can turn up with your little medical note and be like, I know I didn’t turn up but my doctor did say that I can’t have balls fly at my face. You know, that kind of thing. Yeah. Now they also they also enroll people from the her nations and the Latins. Their ally
Dr G 26:17
Dr Rad 26:18
Classic allies exactly. Now they then kind of divide and conquer. So Gnaeus Julius, the consul, and Lucius Iulius, the Master of the Horse are both assigned to Rome. So that makes sense, but the constants up if they don’t get along. Now, this is supposed to ensure that if there are any sudden issues that arise, they’ll be able to be handled by these two guys who are being left in charge. And their main priority is obviously to make sure that the needs of the army are being met, and that the city are supporting that goal. So far, so good, all makes sense. Now, at this point in time, our dictator promises that there will be games glorious games, if Rome wins, and he is basically repeating a promise apparently made by the Pontifex Maximus at the time, one Aulus Cornelius Cossus perhaps? Yeah, he said there would be great games if everyone was victorious. So we’re all on board with the whole let’s, let’s celebrate if we win. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Now, the dictator Postumius, he splits his army up with a consul that he’s been paired with, who is – I don’t really know what to call him – I don’t want to call him Cincinnatus. I guess Quintus. I’ll call him Quintus
Dr G 27:37
You could call him Poenus, because that’s one of his names and it doesn’t come up. It hasn’t come up very much so far.
Dr Rad 27:44
No, it’s actually an odd name “sideways”. It has something to do with some connection with Carthage or being a Carthaginian or something like that.
Dr G 27:52
Yeah. So I mean, maybe call in Poenus Cincinnatus.
Dr Rad 27:56
Okay. Poenus Cincinnatus, so they’ve divided up the army, and they’re going out to deal with the Aequians and the Volsicians. Now, the Romans had noticed the way that the Aequians and Volsicians were kept separately, but close together, so they do the same thing. So you’ve got Postumius with his own camp, and Quinctius Poenus with his own camp. Now the locations that levy gives me apparently do not make sense. I haven’t set this up. Personally, I am using Ogilvie an academic who apparently knows a bit more than I do about geography. So Livy says that the stimulus was closer to Tusculum. And that Quinctius Poenus was nearer to Lanuvium. However, apparently, Lanuvium is separated by the Alban Hills from Tusculum. And therefore not really near the site of battle. So don’t really know what that means. Yeah, that’s fine. It’s all relative. Who knows what this means?
Dr G 28:53
I think this requires us to take a trip to Rome in order to investigate the geography for ourselves.
Dr Rad 28:59
Absolutely, Patrons, get on it. We need to sort out this geography. Once the Roman camps are set up. Small scale skirmishes begin between the Romans and the Aeuqian and Volscian forces and Postumius is like, Yeah, and you know what, why not? Why not skirmish away. Go ahead, indulge yourself, knock yourself out. You know what, maybe this is the way that we’re going to just win the war. So he’s just like, Yep, this is how we’re going to do it. Just like low level, low pressure engagements at slow and steady. Yeah. And it does seem to have that kind of effects because eventually the Aequians and the Volscians become increasingly desperate, so much so that they decide to hatch an evil plan. They’re going to ambush the consul’s camp in the nighttime.
Exactly. Unfortunately for them, the alarm is raised before they do that much damage.
Dr G 29:59
If it’s like a classic comedic situation being like, you know what we’ll do, we’ll do this. Oh no, the alarm system!
Dr Rad 30:06
Exactly like they’ve, you know, they’ve made some headway but not much. So Quinctius Poenus he springs into action. He immediately is like, Well, more guards, more security quickly, schnell schnell. And so everybody springs into action. And of course, our dictator Postumius immediately sends over reinforcements to help out his colleague in arms, and they are put under the command of a lieutenant Spurius Postumius Albus, our old friend.
Dr G 30:38
Dr Rad 30:39
So Postumius and part of his army, they now move themselves to a location where they can’t be seen during the battle that is going on. So this way, I think they’re setting themselves up obviously for like an ambush of the enemy at an opportune moment. Sneaky.
Dr G 30:58
Where did those guys go? I don’t know. That has gone.
Dr Rad 31:01
Yeah, exactly. Now, of course, since he’s no longer present in the camp that he had set up, he has to leave behind a lieutenant in charge, and this is Quintus Sulpicius. So that’s one of our other lieutenants. Now he’s out another lieutenant, we’re taking them off becomes another one, because another one Marcus Fabius, our fabulous Fabian, another lieutenant, he is placed in charge of the cavalry. But no, he is ordered to wait until daybreak to do anything, because it’s way too hard to use your cavalry in the nighttime.
Dr G 31:39
Yeah, do not charge the horses in the dark. Yeah, it will go wrong.
Dr Rad 31:43
So Postumius is obviously justifying the choice of himself as dictator, because he’s just doing everything right. He then decides he’s going to actually attack the enemy camp, because of course, they have depleted the forces in their camp in order to attack the Roman camp of the consular. Clever. Yeah. So once again, I’ve got another Lieutenant for you, Marcus Gaganius. And some of the cohorts are sent to ambush the camp. And again, yes, finds that the people at the camp were completely fixated on like, what was happening with the attack on the consul’s camp, so they’re sitting there eating popcorn, they’ve got their 3D glasses on. They weren’t really paying attention to security of their own campsite. So when he attacks, he seems to take it pretty easily, and is therefore able to send up a smoke signal that he had pre arranged with Postumius to be like, job done. Tick, tick.
Dr G 32:40
Dr Rad 32:41
Dr G 32:42
So far, so smooth.
Dr Rad 32:43
Yeah. So Postumius sends out word to everybody. It’s all good. Everybody the camps been captured. We’re making great progress here. And then daybreak, which means enter the cavalry. And…
Dr G 32:56
I was gonna say, the charge of the horse.
Dr Rad 32:58
Exactly, exactly. And also, our friend Quinctius Poenus, he now feels that he can properly engage with the enemy. I think he feels that things have definitely turned in their favor. Daybreak. It’s a bit easier, obviously, you know, to deal with the situation. And plus dubious of course, is going to ambush the enemy from behind. So it’s looking pretty grim for the aqueous and the vowel skins. I mean, they seem to be trapped from a lot of different directions.
Dr G 33:27
I was gonna say this is more than a pincer movement. They’ve got them surrounded.
Dr Rad 33:31
However, it’s time for a hero, Dr. G.
Dr G 33:34
Dr Rad 33:35
Dr G 33:36
We don’t we don’t have one already?
Dr Rad 33:38
No, a hero on the other side.
Dr G 33:40
Dr Rad 33:41
Yeah. So one Volscian called Vettius Messius.
Dr G 33:47
Vettius Messius? Amazing. I love this guy already.
Dr Rad 33:51
I know. So Ogilvie has suggested that he is crafted very much in the form of a Homeric hero. And so he steps in. He’s not maybe it’s because he’s so well. He’s been doing a lot of training. Anyway, so he steps in. He’s not a super elite guy. He’s not from the most powerful volsky and family you’ve ever heard of, but he has earned respect from his people. Through his many impressive deeds, which live he does not take the time to tell me about dammit, yeah. But he is the one that starts rallying the Aequians and the Volscians. He’s like, Come on, guys. We can’t give in. I know things will desperate. But this is not the time to surrender we have to fight on. Now. Whilst he might be a bit of a Homeric hero type character that’s stepping into our story here. Ogilvie thinks that he is a genuine person, or at least like there’s some basis for him in reality, because messiness is apparently an Oscan name.
Dr G 34:59
Dr Rad 35:01
Yeah, it’s like a it’s like related to the name Mettius, which we’ve seen before, like Mettius Fufetius, another favorite name of ours from our past episode. And you can apparently find the name Vettius in Etruria and also Sabine country.
Dr G 35:20
Oh, interesting. Okay, so he’s got a name that’s not doesn’t sit in within the sort of like the Roman history of names. It sits in that surrounding area of Italy. So, you know, if they’ve made him up, at least they got the detail right about where his name might have come.
Dr Rad 35:38
Exactly. So the fight against the Romans is now renewed because they have their hero standing up for them.
Dr G 35:47
I need a hero.
Dr Rad 35:48
Yes, exactly. So they start attacking the Romans who are under our friend, I’m just gonna call him Albus. The other Postumius, because otherwise, it’s way too confusing. So our friend Albus is being attacked and the Romans are actually being driven back such is there further in this fight. But this is when the dictator Postumius’ men show up and there’s really fierce fighting happening. The Romans are determined, but Messius is there, and they’re just as determined it’s up. It’s crazy. Dr. G, so many people get hurt, so many people die. This is the mark of a great battle. And Roman leaders even get hurt. So it would seem
Dr G 36:34
Oh, that’s rare.
Dr Rad 36:36
So it would seem that our lieutenant Postumius Albus is the only one who is sort of taken for the battle because his head has been badly injured by a stone.
Dr G 36:48
Oh, no. Alright.
Dr Rad 36:50
The dictator, Postumius, he’s fighting on but he’s received a pretty serious shoulder injury, and Fabius – and I don’t really understand how this works, and to be honest, I don’t want to have it explained to me – Fabius apparently his thigh. He’s somehow been injured in a way that’s pinning him to his horse.
Dr G 37:11
Dr Rad 37:12
Dr G 37:12
Oh, that’s not good.
Dr Rad 37:14
I don’t I’m
Dr G 37:15
Not good for him and not good for the horse.
Dr Rad 37:16
I’m kind of hoping that means the horse gently fell over. But I don’t think that’s the case. And Quinctius Poenus has sustained a serious injury is one of his arms. I actually think that Livy means that he’s lost one of his arms.
Dr G 37:33
Well, that is pretty serious.
Dr Rad 37:35
Now, apparently, this is an this whole episode bears an uncanny resemblance to some of the happenings of the Iliad.
Dr G 37:45
Dr Rad 37:46
So I’m once again going to cite Ogilvie who’s highlighted that the injury sustained in the arm by Quinctius Poenus is very much like one sustained by Agamemnon, whereas the injury sustained by Fabius with the whole leg thing and being pinned, that is like Diomedes, and Iulius’ damaged side and shoulder is also very similar to the other mentioned, we have to the the shoulder injury, and Hector was the one that got hit in the head with a stone and taken from the battlefield in this particular battle.
Dr G 38:27
Now, I don’t want to ruin this theory, because obviously, Ogilvie is an excellent scholar and bless his soul. He was with us for too short a time. But when you’re in an ancient battle, and you’re on the battlefield, and you’ve got your ancient weapons, and you’ve got your horses, and you’ve got your rocks, how similar over time, are the injuries likely to be?
Dr Rad 38:53
I hear what you’re saying, I just thought I’m gonna flag it because it does seem like a very strange coincidence. So we’ve got all these elite men on the battlefield. And the injuries that they sustained are very much like this particular battle in the Iliad.
Dr G 39:10
Yeah, I hear you. I hear you. I’m just gonna I’m gonna maintain my my small dose of skepticism.
Dr Rad 39:17
Oh, sure. Yeah, for sure. I totally get where you’re coming from. But yeah, it’s just one of those things where it’s like,
Dr G 39:22
Is Livy trying to tell us that this battle is equivalent to the Iliad?
Dr Rad 39:30
No, I don’t see I think that Livy has a tendency to make these Republican battles much more epic than they actually were. I see. I think that’s definitely the case. Anywho So, Mercy is keeping up the fainting along with his band of courageous use of the vault scans. They end up trampling over the carcasses of slain Romans in their battle to make it back back to the Volscian camp. Because the Romans had seemingly captured the Aequian camp previously. Of course, they are pursued by the Romans. So they are followed by the dictator and the other Roman forces were another fierce and full on battle ensues at the camp itself. And it’s apparently at this moment that Quinctius Poenus throws his standard into the stockade of the camp, encouraging the Romans to go and fetch, go get it, boy.
Dr G 40:32
The Romans love that kind of thing. We’ve seen some examples of this before where it’s like, you know, there’s nothing quite like holding on to the standard. And I know that Livy will be all across those kinds of narratives as well due to later moments in history.
Dr Rad 40:46
Exactly. And finally, this is apparently what enables them to break into the camp from one direction. And then from another direction, you’ve got the Romans making headway under the dictator. And this is where the Volscians just give up. They throw aside their weapons and they’re like, you win, we surrender. We give up.
Dr G 41:04
Oh, no, this is a bad time. It’s like so they’re surrounded. And they, they give up.
Dr Rad 41:09
They do. So the camp is taken. Sadly, the men who are captured are sold into slavery, although Livy has an intriguing detail that senators were not sold into slavery.
Dr G 41:13
Hmm. Okay, all right. All right. But what do we know about Messius, then? Is he sold into slavery? Is he a senator of…
Dr Rad 41:36
Alas, I do not know, Dr. G. His fate is lost to history.
Dr G 41:40
It’s a very mess-ius affair all round.
Dr Rad 41:42
It is Indeed. So the Romans capture a lot of booty because they’ve taken these two camps. They give a portion to their allies, the Latins and the Hernicians. Mostly stuff that seemingly was taken from them in the first place. But I guess it’s the thought that counts.
Dr G 41:59
Here, have this back.
Dr Rad 42:00
Yeah, the rest is sold at auction by Postumius. Postumius then leaves Quinctius Poenus is in charge of the camp. And he goes back to Rome to do the right thing because of course, he is an all around awesome guy and lay down his power as a dictator. Now that mission accomplished.
Dr G 42:20
I’ve done that thing, and I no longer need to be the supreme leader of all of Rome.
Dr Rad 42:26
Exactly. Now, there is a weird little postscript to this whole affair, which is that there is a possibility that Aulus Postumius, our dictator’s son, had been a part of this conflict.
Dr G 42:41
Oh, oh, I have a story on this. I will jump in. And then potentially you’ll just correct me anyway, because my story myself, I don’t have many sources. But the sources that I do have suggests something really quite interesting. So this is coming from Valerius Maximus sort of compiles lots of interesting tidbits of the past. And he talks about Postumius Tubertus, this dictator – really particular name, so he stands out in any material he appears in – as being like one of the great dictators, and really sort of amps up this guy. And I will read out the quote, I think, because it is there’s a lot of flourish here, which I think is worth noting. “So there I too Postumius Tubertus and Manlius Torquatus (another guy that comes up later in history) strictest guardians of war-like concerns. I feel hesitation as I include you in memorial narratives, because I perceive that overwhelmed by the weight of the glory you have deserved, I shall reveal the insufficiency of my abilities, rather than present your virtue in its proper light.” So he’s kind of like, I don’t think I can tell this story and do it justice: this is how great you are. “For you, dictator Postumius, you had a son, Aulus Postumius, whom you had been gotten to propagate the succession of your line, and innermost rights, whose infant blandishments you had fostered in your bosom with kisses, taught him letters as a boy, arms as a young man, blameless, brave, loving you as he loved his country. But because he went forth from his post, and routed the enemy of his own motion, and not by your bidding, you ordered the victor, to be beheaded. And your fortitude availed to the using of your parental voice, for the execution of this command. For I am well assured that your eyes overspread with darkness and broader stay, could not look upon them. might work of your spirit.” So like we’ve got this story where it’s like, his son is part of the command structure somehow in this battle, and we don’t have him listed anywhere in the official records, but apparently sees an opportunity, takes the initiative as a commander. And because he wasn’t given the direct order, by the dictator, his father, he shouldn’t have executed he shouldn’t have gone forward with with moving into the battle. And because he comes back victorious, maybe the son thinks, you know, all will be forgiven, you know, all they did was see an opportunity and go for it. And isn’t that you know, the mark of virtus of a Roman military commander? And the answer to that is: very much not. Everything is about the structure of command, and the structure of command must be preserved at all times. And it becomes the duty of the dictator, to then perform the order to execute his own son. Horrifying.
Just like Brutus, eh!
Well, I feel like this is kind of the moment where we can see how, at the end of the Regal period where we have that situation with Lucretia upholding what is this sort of ideal feminine virtue within the constructs of patriarchy, and the toxicity of that moment, we can see the same sort of toxic element of Roman patriarchy now playing out and how it works for the men. Because this is a moment where a military commander, having won the day his son has contributed to that, but because it hasn’t happened in the right sequence, he has to perform this execution. And it’s a tragedy all around.
Dr Rad 46:54
Absolutely. So that’s pretty much the story that I get as well that Postumius who obviously has this connection, this family connection to the great Postumius who had helped to secure that victory at Regillus. You’ve also got obviously other Postumii involved in the battle. But yes, in this moment of triumph, he has to come home and execute his son by having him beheaded, because he left his post when he was specifically ordered not to. The only detail that I can add on is that Livy does not believe that this is the case. Now, I love his reasoning for it. And okay, yes, this isn’t this is the translator talking but I think it captures – I’m gonna run with it. He says that no one wants to believe this story. And the diversity of opinion allows one to reject it.
Dr G 47:49
Is this Livy, not naming his sources again?
Dr Rad 47:52
It is. But I just love the idea that look, everybody has an opinion about this story. And we all think Postumius, is an amazing guy, and nobody wants to believe he would execute his own son. So let’s just say didn’t happen.
Dr G 48:04
I don’t want to believe.
Dr Rad 48:06
Yeah, one of the reasons that he cites is that there is a similar story, as you’ve alluded to, which we’ll come to again later on with a guy called Titus Manlius. So Titus Manlius, his his son had also defied his father’s orders and entered into a fight when he wasn’t supposed to. And even though he won the fight, his dad felt it was necessary to assert the authority of a console and therefore had him bound to a stake and his head cut off. And this therefore gave rise to a particular saying about Manlian discipline. Now, Livy thinks that, I guess because this happened later, perhaps, that it would make any sense for them to have the saying of Manlian discipline, if Postumius was the one who did it first. And also Manlius was known to be so strict that he was given the surname, Imperiosus, Imperiosus, or “The Despotic” and Postumius wasn’t given anything like that. So even though he was known to be, like, strict and stern, as a Roman man was supposed to be, particularly he’s in a position of authority. Maybe he didn’t go quite that far.
Dr G 49:20
Yeah, it’s I wonder, then when where the story kind of derives from and wonder if maybe what we’re getting here is – and this is just pure speculation, there’s no way to prove this one way or the other – whether this is part of a family story of the Postumii that is told amongst themselves in order to explain the death of a young man somewhere in their line. And that somehow that’s worked its way into sort of a greater imagination at some point, but maybe doesn’t make it into all of the records.
Dr Rad 49:54
There’s definitely confusion about it. And so I wouldn’t be surprised as you say, if this is some sort of family lore or oral history or something like that.
Dr G 50:02
Well, all I can say is that Valerius Maximus clearly leans into the narrative and gets super emotional in his recap of it. So definitely one of the people that’s sort of sitting on the opposite side of the fence to Livy on this one.
Dr Rad 50:19
Although I think they do share in common their admiration for Postumius, this particular Postumius amongst other Postumiuses. So I do have a tiny little bit of detail to finish off the year, which is hilariously anticlimactic, but I’m gonna throw it at you anyway. So now that all this is all wrapped up, Gnaeus Julius comes back. And he makes the official dedication to the Temple of Apollo, which had been promised to the god back in 433, allegedly, when there was that year of really bad plague. Now, he did not wait for his colleague Quinctius Poenus, to come back for them to draw lots about who had the right to do the dedication, because Quinctius, of course, is still out minding the camp that was left behind by the dictator.
Dr G 51:10
These two really don’t get along, do they?
Dr Rad 51:12
Oh, boy, oh boy is Quinctius upset when he comes back and finds that this is what has happened. Because of course, you can’t undo a dedication of a temple.
Dr G 51:22
Yeah, if the gods say it’s okay to do it. You go ahead with it. Yeah. Really awkward.
Dr Rad 51:27
Yeah. So he therefore makes a formal complaint to the Senate who do nothing.
Dr G 51:34
Dr Rad 51:35
Yeah. Which I just thought again, sometimes, even in the midst of doing something, it’s not every day that someone these days would dedicate a temple. And yet, the toxic workplace, the HR that does nothing.
Dr G 51:51
I can’t believe you would undermine me like that. I’m gonna put in a complaint.
Dr Rad 51:55
Dr G 51:56
Why have I never heard back?
Dr Rad 51:58
And did so I thought that was just a hilarious little side note to add to wrap up the year 431 before we head into the Partial Pick. All right, Dr. G, tell us what the Partial Pick is all about
Dr G 52:17
The Partial Pick. Well, we evaluate Rome by its own criteria, which means sometimes they do fabulously. And sometimes they do terribly. They can win up to 50 Golden Eagles across five categories out of 10 each. So first cab off the rank is military clout.
Dr Rad 52:37
Oh, yeah. I mean, this has got to be a high one. I think
Dr G 52:42
they did route them in the end after fierce fighting in many quarters.
Dr Rad 52:48
And they don’t really seem to have ever put a foot wrong.
Dr G 52:51
That’s true. Yeah. Hit the cavalry. That was a good move.
Dr Rad 52:56
Yep. sneak attacks. Working as a team. Yeah.
Dr G 52:59
Throwing a standard into a camp. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, despite I mean, all of the commanders seem to get injured in fantastically Homeric ways. But aside from that, or good, I mean, this as long as the scars are on the front, still. Okay.
Dr Rad 53:15
Absolutely. So is it a 10? Or is that too high?
Dr G 53:19
No, I think it might be a 10. Because everybody loves this dictator. It seems like the legacy of the narrative is like this guy was great.
Dr Rad 53:27
Yeah. Okay, so we’re on a 10. Good start, or we’ve already beaten that previous goal. Let’s just stop.
Dr G 53:35
Dr Rad 53:37
I think we have agreed in the past that when war is happening, it tends to imply that diplomacy is not,
Dr G 53:42
but they do give the spoils to the Latins and the Hernicians that were their spoils in the beginning. That seems a pretty nice thing to do.
Dr Rad 53:53
I guess there’s a certain diplomacy involved in that. But I again, I’m only going to give them the one Dr. G.
Dr G 54:01
Always having to convince you on the diplomacy.
Dr Rad 54:04
They’re not they’re not a very diplomatic people. They’re just not.
Dr G 54:06
That’s true. That’s yeah, yeah. Expansion.
Dr Rad 54:09
No, I mean, they they’re just fighting, I think a defensive or at this point in time.
Dr G 54:14
Yeah. There’s no claiming of territory, really. Virtus?
Dr Rad 54:17
Yes. I think that would be a yes.
Dr G 54:20
Incredible amounts of virtus on display.
Dr Rad 54:23
Dr G 54:23
Wounded shoulders being pinned to horses, conking a stone in their head. It’s all happening. And also that final tragic story, whether we believe it or not, is actually a huge example of the way that Romans think about virtus as well. Like, what is the most important thing for a Roman man, and part of it is to prioritize Rome over anything else.
Dr Rad 54:49
And there’s nothing more precious than a son.
Dr G 54:52
Dr Rad 54:53
Dr G 54:54
So that that is a big thing to do.
Dr Rad 54:56
Dr G 54:56
And it seems that like it was super important that he did it. In order to maintain the structures as they stand.
Dr Rad 55:04
So is that going to be a 10? out of 10? Again?
Dr G 55:07
I feel like it yeah.
Dr Rad 55:08
Okay. All right. Let’s do it.
Dr G 55:09
Dr Rad 55:11
Yeah. Who would have known that the execution of children is what would bring us to this point?
Dr G 55:18
It was old enough to be in battle. I don’t think I mean, he was a child in the sense that you know, that his father did it. But, uh, you know, anyway, yeah. The citizens score.
Dr Rad 55:29
But there’s not much specific mention of citizens, apart from the fact that there’s no Get Out of Jail Free card in this battle.
Dr G 55:37
No, it’s not a it’s not a great levy to be part of. No,
Dr Rad 55:41
but on the other hand, there are no specific complaints. So
Dr G 55:49
Are complaints permitted under a dictator?
Dr Rad 55:52
Well, he’s not always in charge. There’s no specific complaints mentioned in the lead up to him being appointed, you know whether consuls are bickering.
Dr G 56:04
Yeah, look, I don’t want to say that the absence of evidence means that it’s definitely not happening, but
Dr Rad 56:13
Oh, no, I don’t think it’s great. I would, I would wait, I would fall on the side of it not being a great time because there’s conflict. Nobody’s accepting any excuses. Room is victorious. Okay. It could be a lot worse, but
Dr G 56:29
People definitely have to die for that to happen. It’s not like they get out unscathed.
Dr Rad 56:33
Exactly. So when are we going to say like a three? Yeah, maybe a two or three? Yeah. Okay. Well, let’s say three. That means that room has a grand total of 24 Golden Eagles. They’re so close to getting a pass.
Dr G 56:53
One day soon.
Dr Rad 56:55
But you know, that’s a massive improvement from our previous episode, which was one.
Dr G 56:59
Yeah, look, they’ve come a long way in just a year. It’s amazing what a couple of great battles and a dictator will do for you.
Dr Rad 57:05
Exactly, exactly. Well, thanks so much for telling me all about another glorious Postumius to add to my collection.
Dr G 57:15
It’s been an absolute pleasure. And thank you so much for sharing all of these details about 431. I knew so little going in, and now I feel so enriched.
Dr Rad 57:23
Don’t thank me. Thank Livy.
Dr G 57:30
On behalf of Dr. Rad and myself, I want to send a huge thank you to all of our listeners and supporters. As you may know, we have our new book, our first our only currently book coming out very soon it is called “Rex, The Seven Kings of Rome”. And if you’re interested in pre ordering a copy, you’ll need to head over to Highlands dash press.com to secure your copy. You’ll be supporting an indie publisher, which is very much in keeping with what we’re all about, as well as indie podcasters. And in keeping with our thanks to our patrons, we want to send a shout out to the following people as well. Alex, Amanda, Zara Ben CW Dariel David M. David R. David T. Dendrio, Dorian, Alicia and Erin, thank you so much for your support. And thank you for listening in.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai